SYREETA-THE RITA WRIGHT YEARS: RARE MOTOWN 1967-1970.
When Rita Wright got a job as a receptionist at Motown in 1965, little did she realise that in the space of seven years her life would be transformed beyond all recognition. This transformation began when Rita Wright became producer Mickey Stevenson’s secretary. It was through him, that Rita met Brian Holland of Holland, Dozier and Holland. He became Rita’s mentor, helping and encouraging her to hone her vocal talents. Soon, this began to pay off, and Rita graduated to singing on demos. Then in May 1967, Rita Wright recorded the song that would become her debut single, I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel.
Seven months later, and I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel was released as a single on Gordy in January 1967. Alas, the single neither won over DJs nor record buyers, and failed to trouble the charts. For Rita Wright, this was a huge blow. It would be another four years before Rita Wright returned with her sophomore single.
Meanwhile, Rita Wright’s recording career continues. The only problem was, that none of these recordings were being released as singles. Most of them make their debut on Syreeta-The Rita Wright Years: Rare Motown 1967-1970 which was released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. These songs feature the early years of Rita Wright’s career. Her story began in Pittsburgh, in 1946.
Rita Wright was born in August 1946, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For the first four years of Rita’s life, the Wright family lived in Braddock. Sadly tragedy struck when Rita was four, and her father was killed whilst serving in the Korean War. This resulted in the Wright family moving between Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Detroit. Eventually, though, the Wright family settled in Detroit.
By the time Rita Wright was a teenager, Detroit had vibrant music scene. She was already singing in local groups around Detroit. The members of these bands all dreamt of releasing a record, and enjoying a hit single. Especially if it was on Detroit’s most successful label,..Motown. Rita Wright was no different. However, when she first arrived at Motown, it was to work as a secretary.
This was in 1965, when Rita Wright was nineteen. Soon, though, she began to climb the corporate ladder. Rita progressed to working as a secretary for producer Mickey Stevenson. Then, Brian Holland of Holland, Dozier and Holland started working with Rita, helping her to hone her vocal prowess. Soon, she was singing on demos. That was how Rita Wright found herself recording the vocal for I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel.
The songwriting partnership of Ashford and Simpson had recently arrived at Motown. They had penned I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel with Brian Holland. He and Lamont Dozier would produce what would become Rita Wright’s debut single. She recorded her vocal on 17th May 1967. Now it was a waiting game.
Nearly seven months passed before I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel was released on the Gordy label 11th January 1968. On the B-Side was the heartfelt ballad Something On My Mind, another Ashford and Simpson composition. When I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel was released, it failed to find an audience in America. Without the all important radio play, Rita Wright’s debut single was dead in the water. Over the Atlantic, it was a different story.
In February 1968, I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel was released in Britain on the Tamla Motown label. The single was played on radio, but didn’t sell sufficient copies to reach the charts. However, I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel had sold enough copies that Rita Wright was something of a cult figure within the UK soul scene. This seemed to augur well for the future.
Following the commercial failure of her debut single, Rita Wright returned to the studio on 16th February 1968. She recorded Beware Of A Stranger which originally, had been assigned to Tammi Terrell, but was reassigned to Rita Wright. Maybe the song was being earmarked as a potential followup to I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel? It certainly would’ve made a good single. This soulful warning shot was written and produced by Ashford and Simpson. With Beware Of A Stranger recorded, any thoughts of releasing it as single were shelved when I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel flopped. Suddenly Beware Of A Stranger, the song which could’ve launched Rita’s career was shelved. Rita didn’t return to the studio until 26th June 1968.
That day, Rita Wright was due to record You Made Me Feel Like Everything Was Alright. It had been written by Stephen Bowden, James Dean and William Witherspoon. When Rita arrived at the studio on 26th June 1968, there was no sign of Ashford and Simpson. Instead, James Dean and William Witherspoon produced the session, where Rita unleashed a soul-baring, powerhouse of a vocal. She breathed life and meaning into the lyrics. Despite that, the song remained unreleased.
Just three weeks later, and Rita Wright recorded It Don’t Mean Nothin’ To Me on 14th July 1968, Stevie Wonder had entered her life. The pair were a couple, and Stevie Wonder cowrote and co-produced her next session. Rita was due to record Lulu Hardaway, Don Hunter and Stevie Wonder’s Ain’t I Gonna Win Your Love. It was produced by Don Hunter and Stevie Wonder. This was the first, but wouldn’t be the last time Stevie Wonder worked with Rita Wright. However, he was absent from the next recording session, on 29th July 1968.
This time around, Rita Wright was recording Robert Hamilton and Joanne Bratton’s That’s What He Told Me. It had been originally assigned to Brenda Holloway, but was later reassigned to Rita. With producer Richard Morris, she recorded a catchy slice of uptempo soul. However, it too remained in the Motown vaults.
Still, Rita Wright continued to record new songs . On the 12th of August 1968, she recorded the Jack Goga and Ivy Hunter composition, Where Is The Love. Producing the session was Ivy Hunter, who coaxed and encouraged a performance out of Rita. It’s a mixture of power and emotion, as Rita questions and wonders Where Is The Love? Having nailed an impressive performance, Rita wouldn’t return to the studio until September.
Rita Wright returned to the studios on 7th September 1968. This time, the session took place in Los Angeles, which would become Motown’s headquarters in 1969. Rita Wright would move to L.A., but in September 1969 was due to record two songs. The first was Helen and Kay Lewis’ penned Where There’s A Will There’s A Way on 7th September 1968. Producing the session, was none other than Hal Davis. He sweetens the song with swathes of lush strings, as the Motown sound is given a smooth L.A. makeover. This really suits Rita’s vocal on this ballad, but sadly, when she returned later in September, there was no sign of Hal Davis.
Rita Wright returned to the studio in L.A. on 19th September 1968. She was due to record Love Child. The rhythm track had been recorded, with strings added the day before Rita arrived. All that remained was for Rita to lay down her lead vocal. As Rita lay down her vocal, The Clan took charge of production. What followed was one of the finest moments of Rita’s early career at at Motown. It was a song that had a much more traditional Motown sound, and was reminiscent of The Supremes. That’s no surprise.
Motown’s golden girl, Diana Ross, entered the studio on 19th September 1968. She spent two days recording her vocal on Love Child and left the studio on 20th September 1968. This left just The Supremes to add their parts.
The Supremes entered the studio on 30th September 1968. By then, The Supremes had been relegated to La Ross’ backing band. They recorded their backing vocals, and the second version of Love Child was complete. However, only one version was going to be released.
Diana Ross and The Supremes won the day. Their version of Love Child was released later in 1968, it reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and two on the US R&B charts. Since then, Rita Wright’s version of Love Child has lain unreleased. If it had been released, it may have been the single that launched Rita Wright’s career? For Rita Wright, it was a case of what might have been
Less that two weeks after recording Love Child, Rita Wright returned to the studio to record (Touched) By The Hand Of Love on 8th October 1968. It was penned by Hank Cosby and Sylvia May, and originally, had been assigned to The Supremes. However, it was reassigned to Rita, who recorded the song with producer Hank Cosby. He had previously worked with The Supremes, and this shows on the arrangement. Rita sounds not unlike Diana Ross, in a song where hooks haven’t been rationed. Despite that, the song was never released. This was becoming a familiar story for Rita Wright. Maybe her fortunes would improve in 1969?
It wasn’t until 25th February 1969 that Rita Wright returned to the studio. That day, she recorded Give Me The Good Things, which had been written by Walter Fields and Jack Goga. He also produced the song. However, Jack Goga wasn’t sure about the vocal, and Rita returned to the studio and recut it on the 14th July and 15th August 1969. It was a case of third time lucky, with Rita nailing the vocal. Her vocal on third take was a mixture of urgency and emotion, from a singer who Motown’s best kept secret.
Over a year had passed since Rita Wright had released her debut single, and there was no sign of her releasing a followup. Rita had recorded with numerous producers, but none of the songs were released. Despite this, Rita got the call to record a new song in August 1969.
On 26th August 1969, Rita Wright returned to the studio, to record It Don’t Mean Nothin’ To Me. This beautiful ballad was penned and produced by Jimmy Roach. He was responsible for an arrangement where the Funk Brothers were accompanied by lush strings and horns. The result was a true hidden soulful gem, which showcases was perfect showcase for the talents of Rita Wright. She was maturing as a singer, but sadly, when it came to releasing singles, Rita remained on the sidelines at Motown.
To make matters worse, Rita Wright hadn’t been recording as many songs as she had during 1968. She recorded eight songs during 1968, but by the start of October 1969, had only recorded two tracks that year. Nor was Rita any nearer releasing her sophomore single. It must have been a frustrating time for the twenty-three year old single. However, Rita got the call to record a new song on the 25th October 1969.
This was Love My Lovin’ Man, which Leonard Caston and Mike Ossman had written. Leonard Caston had recorded the backing track and all that remained was for Rita Wright to lay down her vocal on the ballad Love My Lovin’ Man. Having done so, Rita’s luck changed.
Just over two weeks later, Rita Wright was asked to record May His Love Shine Forever. It had been written by Hank Cosby and Joe Hinton. So on the 12th November 1969, Rita recorded the song with Hank Cosby taking charge of production. It’s a beautiful ballad, where gospel and soul are combined by Rita. She seemed to reach new heights on May His Love Shine Forever, but the song was never released. However, Hank Cosby must have been impressed by Rita’s performance, and the pair were reunited for another session later that month.
This time, Rita Wright would record Since You Came Back, another song penned by Hank Cosby and Joe Hinton. Originally, the song had been assigned to The Supremes. However, it was later reassigned to Rita, and she was scheduled to recored the song on 20th November 1969. That day, Rita added her lead vocal while cooing harmonies were added. Gradually, Since You Came Back, with its joyous, feel-good sound took shape. Producer Hank Cosby had crafted a slice of poppy soul, that Motown seemed to specialise in. Despite having commercial potential, the song was shelved. That had been the story of Rita Wright’s first two years with Motown. Maybe her luck would change as a new decade dawned?
As the seventies dawned, most of Rita Wright’s recording took place in Los Angeles. It had become Motown’s headquarters in 1969. Despite that, Rita continued to record in Detroit. Not any more. From 1970, she was living in LA. That was where she recorded several tracks with Hal Davis, who Rita had worked with in 1968.
During 1970, Rita Wright recorded eight tracks at MoWest in LA with Hal Davis. This included I Want To Go Back There Again, a tender rueful ballad penned by Chris Clark and Berry Gordy. He also cowrote another Bad Boy with William “Smokey” Robinson. Hal Davis sweetens the arrangement, using swings and a piano whilst giving Rita delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of hurt and heartbreak. It’s a song that’s quite unlike the trademark Motown sound. Two of the songs recorded at the Hal Davis sessions, Hurtin’ Me (Became A Habit) and Can’t Stop were penned by Gloria Jones and Pamela Sawyer. They’re tailor made for Rita, who comes into her own under the tutelage of Hal Davis. His arrangements are the perfect accompaniment to her vocals. Gone is the stomping beat, allowing the vocals to breath. Mind, Body and Soul which Ronald Dunbar and Edythe Wayne cowrote, finds Rita delivering a vocal that’s a mixture of melancholia and soulfulness. Again, Hal Davis put all his experience to good use, with dancing strings and harmonies playing a leading role in the arrangement. It’s a similar case on You, which Jeffrey Bowen, Jack Goga and Ivy Hunter cowrote and the Sherie Matthews and Deke Richards composition Can You Feel It, Babe. The other two songs show different sides to Rita Wright.
Another of the songs covered during the Hal Davis sessions was a cover of Laura Nyro’s Save The Country. It becomes a beautiful ballad. Very different is Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Love’s Gone Bad, which is an uptempo track featuring a vocal powerhouse from Rita Wright. She showcases her talent and versatility in the space of two very different songs recorded during the Hal Davis sessions. This was when Rita Wright recorded some of the best music on Syreeta-The Rita Wright Years: Rare Motown 1967-1970, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.
Having worked with a variety of different producers and production teams, it was Hal Davis who was had three decades of experience behind him, that brought out the best in Rita Wright. She reaches new heights of soulfulness with Hal Davis’ guidance. His productions deployed strings and harmonies, which sweetened the nine songs he recorded with Rita between 1968 and 1970. He seemed to bring out the best in Rita, who was always destined for greatness.
That’s apparent throughout Syreeta-The Rita Wright Years: Rare Motown 1967-1970, where Rita breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Sometimes she seems to live the lyrics, and have experienced the hope, hurt, heartbreak and joy. Many of these songs had been written by talented and top class songwriters, including Ashford and Simpson, Gloria Jones and Pamela Sawyer, Hank Cosby and Joe Hinton, Hank Cosby and Sylvia May and Holland, Dozier, Holland. Similarly, Rita was often paired with experienced producers, who play an important part in the sound and belated success of these songs. Many were recorded nearly fifty years ago, but have only made their debut on Syreeta-The Rita Wright Years: Rare Motown 1967-1970.
Belatedly, these musical hidden gems showcase Rita Wright before she went on to enjoy a successful career. Before that, Rita married Stevie Wonder in London, around Christmas 1970. The marriage was short-lived, and by 1972 the couple were divorced. This didn’t stop Stevie Wonder producing Rita Wright’s debut album.
In 1972, Rita Wright had reinvented herself as Syreeta. This was somewhat ironic, as it was the name that Berry Gordy had suggested back in 1967. It became Rita’s stage name, and the name that dawned her 1972 debut eponymous album. Two years later, came the followup Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta. Then in 1977, her third solo album Syreeta One To One, and her collaboration with CC Cameron Rich Love, Poor Love. However, it was in 1979 that Syreeta released a song that would become synonymous with her.
With You I’m Born Again was a duet Syreeta had recorded with Billy Preston for the soundtrack to the movie Fast Break. The single reached number four in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the UK. Belatedly, Syreeta had released a hit single after twelve years of trying.
Sadly, With You I’m Born Again was the biggest single of Syreeta’s career. She released a string of singles, and five further albums. However, Syreeta never reached the same heights. Syreeta’s career continued right up until her death in 2004, aged just fifty-eight. That day, soul music lost one of its most talented and best loved female vocalists, Rita Wright, a.k.a. Syreeta. A reminder of this truly talented vocalist can be found on Syreeta-The Rita Wright Years: Rare Motown 1967-1970, which features a myriad of hidden gems from the early years of Rita Wright’s Motown career.
SYREETA-THE RITA WRIGHT YEARS: RARE MOTOWN 1967-1970.
BOO HEWERDINE-STILL LIVING THE DREAM.
Boo Hewerdine’s life has always revolved around music. That’s been the case for over thirty years. The first job Boo Hewerdine had, was working in the warehouse of Andy’s Records in Bury St. Edmunds. However, Boo Hewerdine always had ambition beyond working in a record shop. Instead, he dreamt of making music.
This first materialised when he formed his first band with a friend. Placebo Thing may have been a short-lived band, but it gave Boo a tantalising taste of life as a musician. Suddenly, he wanted to be making records rather than selling them.
The Great Divide.
Fortunately, he didn’t have long wait. Boo Hewerdine joined The Great Divide in the early eighties. They were another local band, but one that looked as if they were going places.
By 1982, The Great Divide had signed to a local Cambridge label, Wimp Records. Twenty-one year old Boo Hewerdine made his debut on the single Who Broke the Love Bank. Not long after this, The Great Divide caught a break, when Mike Scott of The Waterboys heard the band.
He thought that The Great Divide had potential, so recommended them Ensign Records. Executives at Ensign Records agreed, and signed The Great Divide. They went on to release a trio of singles on Ensign Records. Alas, commercial success eluded these singles. By 1985, Boo Hewerdine was back where it all started for him.
With The Great Divide consigned to musical history, Boo Hewerdine was back working in a record shop in 1985. This time, Boo Hewerdine was behind the counter of the Beat Goes On record shop in Cambridge. While this allowed Boo to be around music, he hadn’t given up on his dream of making a living as a musician. So when Boo met jazz drummer Tony Shepherd, it looked like his time behind the counter could be coming to an end.
Originally, Tony Shepherd was a jazz drummer when he met Boo Hewerdine. While Tony sat in with other bands, he was like Boo, between bands. So the pair decided to form a new band, and The Bible were born. They drafted in Kevin Flanagan another former member of The Great Divide. Before long, The Bible began to make an impression locally.
Soon, The Bible were a popular band locally. They had quickly acquired a cult following. Word began to spread further afield about this new band from Cambridge. This was through word-of-mouth. So it was no surprise that a record company decided to sign The Bible.
The label that signed The Bible was Black Records, a Norwich based independent label. They released The Great Divide’s 1986 debut album Walking The Ghost Back Home. It reached number ten in the UK Indie Charts, and featured two hit singles. Graceland reached number eighty-seven in UK charts, before Mahalia reached number fifteen in the UK Indie Charts. Given the success of Walking The Ghost Back Home, it was no surprise that bigger record labels started to take an interest The Bible.
Eventually, The Bible decided to sign to Chrysalis. They began work on their sophomore album Eureka. The Great Divide had decided to produce the album with Pete Smith and Owen Morris. However, the initial sessions proved unsatisfactory for the band. It was then that their management suggested bringing country rocker Steve Earle onboard to produce Eureka. This worked, and the album was scheduled for release in 1988.
Prior to the release, the reviews of Eureka were positive. Despite this, the album stalled at just seven-one in the UK. For everyone involved, this was disappointing, considering how popular The Bible were. Surely this was a blip?
Just a year later, The Bible enjoyed the most successful single of their career. A rerecorded version of Graceland reached fifty-one in the UK. It looked like things were improving for them. Then Honey Be Good reached fifty-four in the UK. However, when The Bible released their third album Dodo, it failed to chart. Things were set to get even worse.
A year later, and The Bible split-up in 1990. After five years together, and a lineup that’s best described as fluid, it looked like the end of the road for The Bible. It wasn’t.
Since then, The Bible have reformed twice. The first time came in 1994, and the second in 2011. However, then Boo Hewerdine was a successful solo artist.
Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith-Evidence.
Once The Bible split-up, Boo Hewerdine decided to concentrate on his solo career. He knew the direction his career was heading. A meeting a year earlier had influenced the direction his music was about to head in.
This meeting took place in 1989, while The Bible were still together. That was when an A&R executive introduced him to New Country singer Darden Smith. The two realising they had much in common, decided to write and record an album together. Time was short though.
Somehow, Darden Smith and Boo Hewerdine managed to write and record an album in just nine days. This album became Evidence, which was released to critical acclaim in 1989. This was the first, but not the last time Boo would collaborate with other artists. By then, he would be a solo.
The Solo Years.
Now that The Bible had split-up, Boo Hewerdine embarked upon a solo career. This solo career began in 1990. Since then, Boo has released eight albums and a string of E.P.s.
Two years after the demise of The Bible, Boo Hewerdine released his debut album Ignorance in 1992. Critical acclaim accompanied the release Ignorance. It was a much anticipated and highly accomplished album of carefully crafted songs. However, three years would pass before the followup was released.
The reason for the delay, was that by then, Boo Hewerdine was writing for other artists. This included writing for Eddi Reader and Clive Gregson’s 1993 album Wonderful Lie. Since then, Boo has written songs for many successful artists, including KD Lang, Kris Drever, David McAlmont, Natalie Imbruglia and Alex Parks. However, this sometimes curtailed his ability to release albums quickly.
It wasn’t until 1995 that Boo Hewerdine returned with his sophomore album Worlds End. Just like Ignorance, praise and plaudits accompanied the release of World’s End. Buoyed by the response and success of World’s End, Boo released Baptist Hospital in 1996. Some critics felt that was the best album of Boo’s career. With album he seemed to be maturing and growing as a singer and songwriter. Like a fine wine, Boo was maturing with age.
So when Nick Hornby was looking for someone to write the soundtrack to the film adaptation of his book Fever Pitch, Boo got the call. The film was released in 1997, the same year that the film Twenty Four Seven was released. Boo and Neil MacColl had written the soundtrack. The other soundtrack that Boo penned for the television film Our Boy. For Boo, writing for film and television was a whole new world, and one he would return to later. Before that, Boo released a new solo album.
Three years had passed since Boo Hewerdine had released Baptist Hospital in 1996. He returned in 1999 with his fourth album Thanksgiving. It featured a guest appearance by Martha Wainwright. By then, Boo’s music was reaching a wider audience. That wasn’t surprising given the quality of songs on Thanksgiving. The Birds Are Leaving, Hope Is A Name, Our Boy, Homesick Son and A Long Winter showcased a talented singer, songwriter and storyteller. However, in 2002, Boo added another string to his bow.
This came about when Boo Hewerdine was asked to co-produce Eddie Reader’s album Angels and Electricity. Boo had written a number of songs for Eddi, but was now co-producing her albums. Soon, Boo was producing The Corrs, Heidi Talbot and Chris Difford. Along with his work as a songwriter, Boo was constantly busy. Sometimes, his solo career seemed to take a backseat. However, in 2001, Boo’s contribution to music was recognised.
In 2001, Boo Hewerdine was named as the Performing Rights Society’s songwriter in residence at The Song’s The Thing concert series in London. Boo had come a long way from when he was working in a record shop warehouse and about to form his first band. Now he was regarded as one of Britain’s top songwriters. He took to the stage during one of The Song’s The Thing concerts, and got the opportunity to showcase his skills as a singer and a songwriter. However, another opportunity for Boo to showcase his songwriting skills arose during 2001.
This came when Boo returned to the world of soundtracks. One of his songs featured in Christine Lahti‘s My First Mister. For Boo, this meant a whole new audience would hear his music. This couldn’t have happened at a better time, as Boo would released a new album in 2002.
Anon, which was released in 2002, was Boo Hewerdine’s first album of the new millennia. By then, Boo’s star was in the ascendancy. It seemed that every album he released was welcomed with open arms by admiring critics. His new album Anon was no different. Boo was consistently releasing albums of carefully crafted, thought provoking songs. That continued to be the case.
When Eddi Reader entered the studio to record her critically acclaimed album Sings The Songs Of Robert Burns, Boo Hewerdine was drafted in to co-produce the album. The result was one of the most successful albums of Eddi Reader’s career. It found favour with Burns aficionados across the world. Buoyed by the success of Sings The Songs Of Robert Burns. 2003 had been a good year for Boo.
It got even better when Boo’s song Different God was chosen to feature on the soundtrack to the film Intermission. After such a successful year, Boo’s thoughts began to turn to his solo career.
Two years later, and Boo Hewerdine returned with a new album in 2005. This was his sixth album, Harmonograph. Boo it seemed had the Midas touch, and critics heaped praise on Harmonograph. However, Boo it seemed, was in no rush to release a followup.
That wasn’t surprising. Boo Hewerdine now spending more time writing songs for other artists. He was also in demand as a producer. He also recorded a comeback album with The Bible. Money and Time was released in 2007. However, Boo hadn’t turned his back on his solo career.
Still, though, he found time to play live, and when he had the time, headed into the studio. The fruits of his most recent sessions were his seventh album God Bless The Pretty Things. It was released in 2009, and just like the albums the had preceded it, was well received by the critics. They lavished praise on God Bless the Pretty Things, which was a welcome, and some felt overdue addition to Boo’s back-catalogue.
Little did they realise it would be six years before Boo Hewerdine released another album. During that period featured on State Of The Union’s two albums. He wrote much of their eponymous debut album and shared the lead vocals with Brook Williams. This was the case when State Of The Union released their 2012 sophomore album Snake Oil. These albums weren’t the only albums Boo worked on.
When Kris Drever was recording his solo album Last Man Standing, Boo featured on the album. Last Man Standing was released in 2015, the same year that Boo released his long-awaited comeback album.
Open was released in 2015, and found Boo Hewerdine crowned the comeback King. He may have been six years since his last solo album, but the fifty-three year old’s comeback album had been well worth the wait. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Open. However, Boo’s fans wondered when they would hear from Boo again?
Little did they realise it would be so soon. Just a year later, and Boo Hewerdine recently returned with a new E.P. The Born E.P. is the first E.P. that Boo has released since Toy Box No. 2 in 2008. However, the Born E.P. is very different.
The best way to describe the Born E.P. is a very personal collection of songs. It’s a collaboration between Boo Hewerdine and his son Ben. They wrote the five songs at Boo Hewerdine’s father piano.Three of the songs, The Year That I Was Born, Bobby Fischer and Farewell were written by Boo Hewerdine.
Hometown and Swimming in Mercury were written by Boo and Ben Hewerdine. These five songs were recorded at Hub Studios, in Cambridge. Later in 2016, The Born E.P. was released to critical acclaim on Reveal Records. It was the latest addition to Boo Hewerdine’s burgeoning back-catalogue.
For thirty-three years, Boo Hewerdine’s life has revolved around making music, first as a member of The Great Divide and then The Bible. However, after the demise of The Bible, Boo embarked upon a solo career.
Since then, Boo Hewerdine has released eight solo albums and a string of E.P.s. Each of these releases showcase a gifted and talented singer-songwriter, whose music has found an audience not just on both sides of the Atlantic, but in Europe and Australasia. However, there’s much more to Boo than his solo career.
Away from his solo career, Boo Hewerdine has many strings to his musical bow. He’s collaborated with a variety of artist; made guest appearances on numerous albums and has forged a career as a successful producer. Then there’s Boo’s songwriting skills. Not only has Boo written songs for artists, but other artists have dipped into his burgeoning back catalogue, and covered his songs. Similarly, filmmakers have also discovered the musical delights of Boo Hewerdine’s music and his songs have featured on television and films. Boo Hewerdine has come a long way from when he was working in a record shop.
Back then, Boo Hewerdine dreamt of making music, not selling it. For Boo Hewerdine, that dream came true, and he’s spent thirty-three making music. He’s toured the world and released eight solo albums. They showcase Boo Hewerdine, a truly talented singer and songwriter, whose still living the dream.
BOO HEWERDINE-STILL LIVING THE DREAM.
JOHN MARTYN-MUSIC’S MAVERICK.
John Martyn’s life revolved around music. His career began in 1967, when he was just seventeen. Back then, John Martyn was a folk singer. Over the next forty-two years, John Martyn continually reinvented his music. He flitted between folk and folk rock to blues, psychedelia, reggae, rock and trip hop during the five decades John spent making music. He had released twenty studio albums during his lifetime, including classics like Bless The Weather, Solid Air and One World. They’re part of the rich musical legacy that John Martyn left behind in 2009. His story started back in 1948.
John Martyn was born Iain David McGeachy, in 1948 in New Malden, Surrey, England. Both his parents were opera singers, so from an early age John Martyn was exposed to music. When John was five, his parents divorced and much of his childhood was spent at his grandmother’s in Glasgow.
His musical career began aged seventeen, playing a mixture of blues and folk music. Legendary folk singer Hamish Imlach was to prove to be an early influence, even a mentor, to John. Quickly, he became a leading figure on the London folk circuit. Thereafter, things started to move quickly for John Martyn.
Aged nineteen, John signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records in 1967. In October 1967, his debut album London Conversation was released. Just over a year later, his second album The Tumbler was released in December 1968. On The Tumbler album, the style of music was to change, to a much more jazz influenced sound. This would be the start of the evolution of John Martyn’s music.
By the time John Martyn released his third album Stormbringer in February 1970, he had met and and married Beverley Martin. Stormbringer was their first collaboration.
Previously, Beverley had been a solo artist, Beverley Kutner. She had worked with Jimmy Page and Nick Drake. On Stormbringer John’s sound changed again. John played his acoustic guitar through a fuzzbox, phase shifter and Echoplex. This would become part of John’s trademark sound, when he returned to his solo career. Before that, he released one further album with Beverley.
John and Beverley Martyn released one further album together. This was the The Road To Ruin, like Stormbringer released in November 1970. By then, Island Records wanted to market John Martyn as a solo artist. Beverley Martyn did make an appearance on further albums, singing backing vocals. Mostly though, Beverley returned to her career as a solo artist. So did John.
With Island Records now marketing John as a solo artist, he released six studio albums and one live album, 1975s Live At Leeds between 1971 and 1977. the first of these albums was Bless The Weather.
November 1971 saw the release of Bless The Weather. It was hailed as the finest album of John’s solo career. Mostly, it features acoustic music. The exception is Glistening Glynebourne, which showcased John’s echoplex. It would become part of John’s trademark sound. This was a hint of what was to come from John Martyn.
By far, the best album of the seventies was his seminal album Solid Air. Released in February 1973, Solid Air is seen as one of the best albums of the 1970s. The title track was a tribute to Nick Drake, a close friend of Martyn’s who died tragically of an overdose. During the recording of Solid Air, Martyn was to meet bassist, Danny Thompson. The pair collaborated right up until John’s death in 2009. John’s vocal style changed during the recording of Solid Air. At that time, he started to develop a new slurred vocal style. The timbre of this new vocal style resembled a tenor saxophone. Just like the echoplex, this new singing style became a feature of John’s future albums.
His next album Inside Out, was released in October 1973. It featured a much more experimental style of music. There was much more emphasis on improvisation. John’s sound and style it seemed, was constantly evolving.
For his eight album, Sunday’s Child which was released in January 1975, John reigned in his experimental sound. However, Sunday’s Child was a much more eclectic album, with John flitting between country, folk and rock. The result was an eclectic and critically acclaimed album. However, controversy wasn’t far away for John.
In 1975 Island Records refused to release Martyn’s live album, Live At Leeds. So, John resorted to selling signed copies by mail from his home. After the release of Live At Leeds in 1977, John headed to Jamaica on holiday.
What started out as a holiday, ended up with John collaborating with reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. One World, John Martyn’s second classic album, now is seen by some people as the first ever trip hop album. As a result, John Martyn is perceived as the godfather of trip hop and One World a John Martyn classic. After One World, John didn’t release an album for three years.
The eighties were a turbulent time for John Marten, both personally and professionally. By the end of the seventies, John’s marriage had broken down. This led to John pressing “the self destruct button” as he described it. John became addicted to alcohol and drugs. He later said this was avery dark period in his life. Grace and Danger, which was released in October 1980, was the album that came out of this period.
Grace and Danger was autobiographical, describing what he was going through at that time. Chris Blackwell, realising just how personal an album Grace and Danger was, held the album’s release back a year. Partly, this was because of his friendship with both John and Beverley Martyn. Following Grace and Danger, which is one of John’s most underrated and powerful albums, he left Island Records.
After leaving Island Records in 1981, John Martyn joined two albums for WEA. They thought they could transform John’s career, and turn him into a commercially successful artist. The way to do this, they thought, was to move away from John’s traditional sound, to a more mainstream sound. This didn’t appeal to John. So he only stayed at WEA for two albums.
Glorious Fool was released in September 1981, with and Well Kept Secret following in August 1982. This more mainstream sound didn’t prove successful. So John returned to Island Records.
Back at Island Records, John Martyn only released two studio albums. Sapphire released in November 1984, had a poppy sheen. It was quite unlike John Martyn. So was Piece By Piece, which was released in February 1986. Neither album proved particularly successful. So Island Records released a live album
Foundations in 1987. This was much more representative of John Martyn. Sadly, still commercial success eluded John and Island Records dropped Martyn in 1988. This brought to an end a twenty year association with Island Records.
Two years later, John Martyn returned with a new album, The Apprentice. It was released on Permanent Records, and was hailed as a return to form from John Martyn. This would prove ironic and embarrassing for Island Records.
It’s thought that one of the reasons for John Martyn’s departure from Island Records, was that they didn’t like the demos what would became The Apprentice. So when John left Island Records, he set about proving them wrong.
Rather than sign to another record company, John paid for the recording of The Apprentice. He returned “home” to Glasgow, and with his band, recorded The Apprentice at the city’s Cava Studios. This seemed to inspire John, and when the album was complete, John went in search of a record company to release The Apprentice.
Given his track record, there would be no shortage of record companies willing to release a John Martyn album. However, it was Permanent Records that got the honour of releasing what became John’s best album of recent years. Sadly, John never came close to matching the quality of The Apprentice.
The closest he came was Cooltide, which was recorded at Cava Studios, Glasgow. Cooltide was released in November 1990, and featured a jazz sheen. This was well received by critics. They were won over by Cooltide, which critics felt, came close to the quality of The Apprentice. It seemed John’s career was enjoying an Indian Summer.
Despite this, it was another seven years before John returned with an other studio album. His only release was Live, a double album released by Permanent Records in 1994. This showcased what John Martyn live sounded like by the nineties. Nearly two decades after the release of Live At Leeds, and John was still a stalwart of the live circuit. Wherever he went, he still a popular draw. On tour, John embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.
John Martyn loved life. However, he loved life in the fast lane. During some part of his career, drink and drugs became part of John’s daily diet. This lead to addiction. Eventually, this caught up with John in 1996, when his pancreas literally exploded. For most musicians this would’ve marked the end of their career, and a much more sedate lifestyle. Not John.
He returned in 1997 with a new album And, which featured his old friend, and sometime collaborator, Phil Collins. And marked another stylistic change from John Martyn. There was a noticeable trip hop influence on And. That’s not surprising, as John is regarded as inventing the genre on One World. Reviews of And were mixed. The standout track was Sun Shines Better, which was remixed for the hidden track on the album. With its trip hop sound, the remix would become a favourite of DJs playing chill-out sets. Despite approaching his fiftieth birthday, John Martyn was still relevant.
After not releasing an album for seven years, John returned with his second album in just under two years. The Church With One Bell was a covers albums, where John and small band recorded ten tracks during one week at CaVa Sound Studios. John had covered songs by Bobby Charles, Ben Harper, Elmore James, Rev. Gary Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Portishead. This eclectic selection of songs was released 1998.
The Church With One Bell, like many of John’s later albums, divided opinion amongst critics and fans. While some loved the albums, others weren’t so sure. It was a disappointing way for John to celebrate his fiftieth birthday.
Many people found it hard to believe John Martyn was just fifty. He seemed, had been around forever.. His career had began thirty-three years earlier. Since then, he had released eighteen studio albums. As the new millennia dawned, eighteen became nineteen.
Glasgow Walker was John’s first album of the new millennia. It was also the first album John wrote on a keyboard. Usually, John sat down with a guitar to write songs. Not this time. At Phil Collins’ suggestion, John wrote Glasgow Walker at a keyboard. The result was a genre-hopping album.
Seamlessly, John flitted between blues rock, folk-rock, jazz, psychedelia, rock and trip hop on Glasgow Walker, which was released in 2000. For his oder fans, Cool In This Life, a trip hop track came as a surprise. However, it showed that John Martyn was still determined to take his music in a new direction. The result was a much more eclectic sounding album, which won over critics. They felt Glasgow Walker was better than And and matched the quality of Cooltide. John Martyn’s first album of the new millennia one of the his best album of the post-Island Years. As a result, critics and fans eagerly awaited John Martyn’s next album.
Sadly, On The Cobbles proved to be the final album released during John’s life. It had been recorded in studios in Britain, Ireland and America. By then, John was suffering from health problems.
This had been the case for some time. For some time, John seemed to be jinxed. It started when had injured his head on a rock whilst swimming underwater. Then he stumbled as he took to the stage, and broke a toe. Next there was the time John dislocated his shoulder. One night when John driving home after a “celebration,” he had forgotten to put the car lights on. The car crashed and John broke his neck. Somehow, John survived to tell the tale. However, despite this close escape, John chose to ignore shooting pains in his right knee.
When John eventually sought medical advice, the pain was misdiagnosed as deep vein thrombosis. Eventually, John sought a second opinion. It turned out that John had a cyst on his knee. Poison had been pumping around his body for months. Soon, John was being operated on. Three operations later, and John’s right lower leg was amputated from the knee down. John’s fear of doctors had const him dearly. Despite the loss of part of his right leg, John’s career continued.
He recorded On The Cobbles from a wheelchair at various studios. A familiar face returned for the On The Cobbles, bassist Danny Thompson. The pair had been playing together for over thirty years. However, they hadn’t recorded an album together for nearly twenty years. It was fitting that they reunited on On The Cobbles.
When On The Cobbles was released in April 2004, it was John’s twentieth studio album. He was joined by Mavis Staples, Andy Sheppard and Paul Weller. They played their part on an album that was well received by critics. Sadly, On The Cobbles proved to be John Martyn’s swan-song.
Nearly five years later, on 29th January 2009, John Martyn passed away, aged just sixty. He had spent five decades making music, and released twenty studio albums. These albums were the soundtrack to many people’s lives. Especially classics like Bless The Weather, Solid Air and One World. Then there were hidden gems like the jazz-tinged Inside Out, the eclecticism of Sunday’s Child and the breakup album Grace and Danger. When it comes to live albums, Live At Leeds, which John sold from his house, is his best live outing. Each of these albums, are from the Island Years. For many, these were the best years of John Martyn’s recording career.
Especially the period between 1967 and 1980. When John returned to Island Records, he never reached the same heights as first time round. The glossy pop sheen of Sapphire and Piece By Piece seemed far removed from John’s classic albums. After that, John released six albums for various record companies.
Some of these albums divided the opinion of critics. However, The Apprentice and Cooltide marked a return to form of one of music’s true mavericks.
John Martyn never seemed willing to “play the game.” Just like Neil Young and Van Morrison, John Martyn preferred to do things his way. He was too much of a maverick, and wasn’t suited to life as part of the major label machine. Instead, he was happy to divide his time between the road, and the recording studio.
In the recording studio, John Martyn never stood still. Instead, he combined disparate musical genres, often on the one album. This was all part of John’s determination to innovate and push musical boundaries. He flitted between folk and folk rock to blues, psychedelia, reggae, rock and trip hop on the twenty studio album released during during his lifetime. Despite innovating, and creating several classic albums, commercial success eluded John Martyn. Maybe that’s why for much of his career, John spent large parts of the year on the road.
For much of his career, John Martyn’s natural habitat was the road. He was a free spirit, who enjoyed touring, and was happy to spend large parts of the year on the road. Especially, if Danny Thompson was by his side. Hi-jinks, hilarity and hell-raising often ensued. Sometimes, this meant getting out of Dodge in a hurry. However, they lived to tell the tale and laughed about it afterwards. Sadly, all the hell-raising and carousing caught up with John.
During large parts of his career, John was addicted to drink and drugs. This resulted in his pancreas exploding in 1996, and the car crash where he broke his neck. By the late nineties, John’s luck seemed to be running out.
Then when a cyst was misdiagnosed, this eventually resulted in part John’s right leg being amputated. John didn’t even let this get him down. Determination kicked in, and John overcame the loss of his lower right leg. With the aid of a prosthetic leg, John Martyn’s career continued.
In 2007, John and his keyboard player Spenser Cozens cowrote and recorded the score for Strangebrew. Then a newly reinvigorated John returned to the studio for what would’ve been his twenty-first album, Heaven and Earth. Sadly, before the album was complete, John Martyn died on on 29th January 2009. That day, music had lost one of its most talented sons.
Since then, many of John Martyn’s albums have been reissued. There’s also been box sets and best offs released. These reissues have introduced a new generation of music lover’s to John Martyn’s music. No longer is he one of music’s best kept secrets. Instead, John Martyn’s music is belatedly reaching a much wider audience, who are discovering an innovative and influential artist, who even today, continues to influence another generation of artists, seven years after his death,
JOHN MARTYN-MUSIC’S MAVERICK.
THIS IS FAME 1964-1968-VINYL EDITION.
Back in the sixties, many record companies sent their artists to the Fame Recording Studios, in Muscle Shoals. This was home to Rick Hall and the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They had previously transformed ailing careers and worked on million selling albums. Rick Hall was fast becoming the go-to producer for the biggest names in soul. He and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section had worked with some of the biggest names in soul, including Aretha Franklin, Arthur Alexander, Arthur Conley, Candi Staton, Etta James, Otis Redding and Wilson Picket. However, that was just part of he story.
Rick Hall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section had also worked with Jimmy Hughes, Clarence Carter, Art Freeman, Jeanie Greene, Dan Penn, George Jackson, Billy Young, June Conquest and James Barnett. They’re among the artists that feature on This Is Fame 1964-1968. It was recently released on Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records as a double album and will be a welcome release for anyone who loves Southern Soul. They’ll be aware of the Fame Records’ story.
The story starts during late fifties when Rick Hall, Tom Stafford and Billy Sherill founded a record label, and built their first studio above the City Drug Store in Florence, Alabama. However, by the early sixties, this nascent partnership would split-up, resulting in Tom Stafford and Rick Hall needing a new studio.
They decided to move to what had been a tobacco warehouse in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. As if by magic, Rick Hall soon recorded what would be his first hit single, Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On. Wisely, he decided to invest the profit in a better studio, and moved to their current location Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The first hit single Rick Hall recorded in his new studio was Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away. Little did Rick Hall know it back then, but soon his new studio would see artists coming from far and wide to record at Fame.
After Rick’s success with Jimmy Hughes, word got out that Fame was the place to go to record a new single or album. Quickly, everyone from Tommy Roe to The Tams, and from Joe Tex, Joe Simon, George Jackson and Clyde McPhatter right through to Irma Thomas, Etta James and Mitty Collier. Even Aretha Franklin recorded at Muscle Shoals. Indeed, it was at Muscle Shoals that Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin, to record her 1967 album I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You. However, why did all these artists choose to head to Muscle Shoals to Fame?
Part of the reason was the session musicians that worked with Rick Hall. This included the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns. They were some of the hottest and tightest musicians of that era. This included drummer Rodger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Barry Beckett. When they recorded together, they were one of the finest backing bands ever. Between 1961 and 1969, when they departed from Fame to found the rival studio Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. However, for eight years, they helped make Fame Records Southern Soul’s greatest label. They can be heard on numerous singles and albums. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns can also be found on many of the tracks on This Is Fame 1964-1968.
Opening This Is Fame 1964-1968 is Jimmy Hughes’ 1964 single Steal Away. This is fitting, as it’s the single that transformed Rick Hall and the Fame Recording Co’s fortunes. When Steal Away, was released it gradually, began to climb the charts. Eventually, reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B chart. Buoyed by the success of Steal Away, Jimmy Hughes had the confidence to quit his job in Robbins Rubber factory. He recorded his debut album Steal Away, which became the first album to be released bearing the Fame logo. However, Steal Away is also stonewall Southern Soul classic that even fifty-two years later, is truly timeless.
By the time Clarence Carter released She Ain’t Gonna Do Right in 1967, he had enjoyed two hit singles. Clarence had signed to Fame Records in late 1966. His first solo single was Tell Daddy, which reached number thirty-five in the US R&B charts. The followup Thread The Needle reached number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. Later in 1967, Clarence Carter covered Dan Penn and Lindon Oldham’s She Ain’t Gonna Do Right. It was produced by Rick Hall and Staff, and released later in 1967. Sadly, two didn’t become three for Clarence Carter, when She Ain’t Gonna Do Right failed to chart. That’s despite being an irresistible slice of soul-baring Southern Soul.
Otis Clay was one of soul music’s best kept secrets. He had an abundance of talent, and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Proof of this his cover of Don Covay’s That Kind Of Lovin’, which was produced by Rick Hall and Staff. It was the B-Side to Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. When it was released as a single by Cotillion in October 1968 it failed to trouble the charts. This became a familiar story for Otis Clay, who only enjoyed five minor US R&B hits during his career. Sadly, Otis Clay died in January 2016, and That Kind Of Lovin’, is the perfect reminder of one of the most talented Southern Soul men in full flight.
James Barnett only ever released the one single on Fame Records, Keep On Talking. It’s a Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham composition, which was released as a single in January 1966. Alas, commercial success eluded Keep On Talking. Most people expected the single to fade into obscurity. That wasn’t the case though. Later, James Barnett’s Keep On Talking found an audience within the UK Northern Soul scene, where even today, it’s still a favourite of dancers and DJs.
By August 1967, Jimmy Hughes was about to bid farewell to Fame Records. His swan-song was a cover of Hi-Heel Sneakers, which was produced by Rick Hall and Staff. When Hi-Heel Sneakers was released as a single, it failed to chart. This was Jimmy Hughes’ second single that failed to trouble the charts. Record buyers missed out on a barnstorming performance from Jimmy Hughes on this oft-covered song. However, it’s a welcome addition to This Is Fame 1964-1968.
Jeanie Greene was one of the female vocalists who made the journey to Muscle Shoals, and recorded at Fame Recording Studios. One of the songs she recorded was Don’t Make Me Hate Loving You. It was never released until it found its way onto Ace Records’ three CD box set The Fame Studios Story 1961-1973 in November 2011. Nearly five years later, Jeanie Greene’s impassioned plea makes an encore as with the help of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, she combines gospel and Southern Soul. This results in a beautiful and moving ballad.
George Jackson played an important role in the rise and rise of Fame Records. He was a prolific songwriter, whose songs were covered by many artists. However, George Jackson also enjoyed a lengthy recording career. One of the labels he was signed to, was Fame Records where he recorded Back In Your Arms. It’s a heart-wrenching Southern Soul ballad, with gospel tinged harmonies. Incredibly, Back In Your Arms was never released as a single. That’s despite being a beautiful and timeless Southern Soul ballads that one will never tire of. It was the one that got away for George Jackson.
Having enjoyed a hit single with Tell Daddy earlier in 1967, Clarence Carter began working on the followup. He wrote Thread The Needle, which was produced by Rick Hall and Staff. It was released later in 1967 as Clarence Carter’s sophomore single on Fame Records. Thread The Needle reached number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. Stylistically and sonically, Thread The Needle is not dissimilar to Tell Daddy. There’s even a nod to Sam and Dave and even Otis Redding, on what’s another of Clarence Carter’s finest moments at Fame Records.
Art Freeman only ever released two singles on Fame Records.His second and final single, A Piece Of My Heart was Art Freeman’s finest moment. It was released in March 1967, but failed to make any impression on the charts. Nearly fifty years later, and A Piece Of My Heart is a welcome addition to This Is Fame 1964-1968. Quite simply, it epitomises everything that’s good about Southern Soul. It’s also an introduction to another of Southern Soul’s nearly men, Art Freeman who should’ve reached greater heights.
June Conquest’s recording career lasted just eight years. During that period, she released just six singles. This included one single on Fame Records, Almost Persuaded. It was a Rick Hall production, that was released in 1964. When Almost Persuaded wasn’t a commercial success June Conquest was dropped by Fame Records. This seemed somewhat hasty, as June Conquest was obviously a talented vocalist. She doesn’t so much deliver lyrics but live them. Her vocal is a mixture of melancholia, sadness and disappointment on Almost Persuaded, which is a real hidden gem. That’s almost an understatement. It’s much better than that, and is essential listening for anyone who likes their music soulful.
The only single James Barnett released on Fame Records was Keep On Talking. It was released in January 1966, but failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the charts. That was the end of James Barnett’s career at Fame Records. However, tucked away on the B-Side was Take A Good Look. It’s a beautiful Southern Soul ballad, where the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Horns provide an understated backdrop. This allows James Barnett’s vocal to take centre-stage, as he lays bare his soul for all to hear. The result is another tantalising taste of James Barnett, and one of my favourite songs from This Is Fame 1964-1968.
Closing This Is Fame 1964-1968, is Jimmy Hughes’ I Worship The Ground You Walk On. It’s a Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham composition, which was released as a single in 1966. It reached twenty-five on the US R&B charts, and gave Jimmy Hughes’ his fourth hit single. It’s one of his finest moments, with Jimmy Hughes’ vocal akin to a confessional on this beautiful Southern Soul ballad.
It’s nearly five years since Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records began their comprehensive reissue of the music recorded at Fame Recording Studios, in Muscle Shoals. Their most recent release is This Is Fame 1964-1968, which is Kent Soul’s first vinyl release. It’s a double album which features twenty-four songs produced by Rick Hall and featuring the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. With songs from Jimmy Hughes, Clarence Carter, Art Freeman, Jeanie Greene, Dan Penn, George Jackson, Billy Young, June Conquest and James Barnett, This Is Fame 1964-1968 is Southern Soul at its best.
Familiar faces and new names rub shoulders on This Is Fame 1964-1968. There’s singles, B-Sides and unreleased tracks on This Is Fame 1964-1968. That’s not forgetting more than a few hidden soulful gems. They’re among the twenty-four reasons for vinyl enthusiasts to buy This Is Fame 1964-1968. It’s a reminder, if any was needed, of one of Southern Soul’s premier labels, Fame Records, during what was its most successful years.
Key to the success of Fame Records were producer Rick Hall, and his house band the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They can be heard throughout This Is Fame 1964-1968, which is a welcome addition to Ace Records ongoing and lovingly curated reissue program.
THIS IS FAME 1964-1968-VINYL EDITION.
JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN AND BENJAMIN LAZUR DAVIS-LET IT BE YOU.
Signing a distribution deal to Reveal Records in December 2005 was the turning point for Joan As Police Woman. Their new label rereleased their eponymous debut E.P. Meanwhile, Joan As Police Woman headed into the studio and recorded their debut album, Real Life. It was released to critical acclaim in June the 12th 2006 and reached 189 in the UK charts. This was just the start of Joan Wrasse’s latest musical adventure.
Eleven years later, and Joan As Police Woman are about to release their fifth album for Reveal Records. This isn’t just a Joan As Police Woman album. Instead, Let It Be You, which will be released on 21st of October 2016, is a collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies. It’s an album that was inspired by journeys to Africa to study traditional music.
In Joan Wrasse’s case, she headed to Ethiopia to study the country’s indigenous music with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lazur Davies headed to West Africa, where he studied traditional music. It was only when they returned, that the pair met and realised they both shared an interest in African music. Especially, Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns. Soon, the pair decided to write and record an album together. This album became the genre-melting Let It Be You, which is Joan As Police Woman’s first album in just over two years. It’s also the latest chapter in a musical journey that began for Joan Wrasse in 1991.
Back in 1991, Joan Wrasse was twenty-one and about to join a new band, The Dambuilders. This was no surprise to everyone who knew Joan Wrasse, who had been immersed in music since the age of six.
That was when she began taking piano lessons in Norwalk, Connecticut. Two years later, and Joan Wrasse began taking violin lessons. By then, it was obvious that the eight year old was a prodigious talent. Over the next few years, Joan played violin in both school and community orchestras. However, eventually, she musically outgrew Norwalk.
Joan Wrasse left Norwalk, and headed to college. By the time she was eighteen, this prodigiously talented musician was admitted early to the College Of Fine Arts, at Boston University. This was not an everyday occurrence. However, Joan Wrasse was not just any musician. She had an overabundance of talent, which maybe explained her eventual restlessness.
Despite studying classical music under some of the finest tutors, including Yuri Mazurkevich, Joan Wrasse began to tire of classical music. Joan came to realise that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life playing classical music. So Joan joined a punk band, and tried: “to bridge the gap between the guitar and the bass and play the violin really loud.” Little did Joan realise that this was the start of her musical career.
Having started life playing with punk bands, Joan Wrasse joined The Dambuilders in 1989. They were founded in 1989 in Honolulu, in Hawaii, but moved to Boston in the early nineties.
By then, The Dambuilders had signed to the Berlin based Cuacha! label. It released The Dambuilders’ 1989 album A Young Person’s Guide in 1989, and their 1991 sophomore album Greek Lust. It was after the release of Greek Lust, that Joan Wrasse replaced Debbie Fox as vocalist and violinist.
Joan Wrasse made her recording debut on The Dambuilders’ third album Islington Porn Tapes. It was released in 1993, and brought The Dambuilders to the attention of Elektra Records.
They signed The Dambuilders in 1994, and they released their major label label debut later that year. Encendedor was released on Elektra Records’ subsidiary East West Records, and caught the attention of critics. So did the followup Ruby Red, which was released in 1995. That same year, The Dambuilders delivered a barnstorming and memorable performance at Lollapalooza. The Dambuilders seemed to be rising stars of the indie scene.
Despite this, Joan Wrasse began to work with other artists. This is something she still does today. However, in 1996 Joan announced that she was moving to Brooklyn, in New York. For The Dambuilders this was the beginning of the end. Just a year later, in 19997, and The Dambuilders had disbanded. By then, Joan Wrasse’s life had been hit by a tragedy.
By 29th May 1997, Joan Wrasse’s boyfriend Jeff Buckley was working on his new album in Memphis. After working all day, Jeff Buckley went out for a walk, and on the spur of the moment decided to dive in the Wolf River Harbour for a swim. He dived into the river fully clothed, and tragically, drowned. Jeff Buckley’s body was found on the 4th of June 1997. Just like his father Tim, Jeff had died tragically young. For Joan Wrasse, the sudden death of her partner was one of the most traumatic events of her life.
She was grieving, but didn’t know how to grieve. Joan Wrasse it seems, was in shock and struggling to come to terms with the loss of her partner. Somehow, Joan continued to make music.
Those Bastard Souls.
This included with one of Joan Wrasse and Jeff Buckley’s friends, David Shouse. The Grifters’ founder and drummer had founded the indie rock band Those Bastard Souls. It had been founded by David Shouse in 1995, and Joan Wrasse had been the vocalist and violinist. In the aftermath of Jeff Buckley’s death, they began to work on a new album, Debt and Departure.
It was an album that tried to deal with, and respond to the death of Jeff Buckley. Joan Wrasse, his family, friends and bandmates were struggling to come to terms with Jeff Buckley’s death. Debt and Departure allowed the musicians to try and do so, through the means of music. This could’ve and should’ve been cathartic. Alas, it took several years before the album was released.
In 1996, Those Bastard Souls released their debut album, Twentieth Century Chemical in 1996. It wasn’t until 1999 that Debt and Departure was released. By then, Joan decided to form a new band, Black Beetle in late 1997.
Black Beetle was founded by Joan Wrasse, and featured the remaining members of Jeff Buckley’s band. They found themselves in a state of flux after the death of Jeff Buckley. Although they were grieving after the loss of a friend, it was only natural that eventually, they began to wonder what the future hold for them? Eventually, Joan Wrasse decided to take matters into her own hands, and founded Black Beetle. This was a whole new ball game for the twenty-seven year old.
Joan Wrasse had never been a bandleader. She was also the principal songwriter and lead singer. Despite all this being new for Joan, she wrote Black Beetle’s eponymous debut album. It was recorded, but alas, was never released. While this must have been a huge disappointment for Joan, she had coped admirably with all the challenges and met them head on. She had embraced her new role. However, in 1999, Joan was asked to join another band.
Antony and The Johnsons.
During 1999, Joan Wrasse was asked to fill in for Antony and The Johnsons’ violinist during a rehearsal. Joan headed along to the rehearsal, thinking that this was a one off. That was meant to be the case. However, by the end of the rehearsal, Joan had joined the band on a full-time basis.
By the time Joan Wrasse joined Antony and The Johnsons, they had recorded their eponymous debut album. It was released in 2000. Joan featured on Antony and The Johnsons’ sophomore album I Am A Bird Now. When it was released in 2005, it was to critical acclaim and commercial success. Later, I Am A Bird Now won the prestigious Mercury Prize in the UK. However, by then, Joan Wrasse had embarked upon a new adventure.
Joan As Police Woman.
This began in June 2002, after the demise of Black Beetle. It was then that Joan Wrasse decided to embark upon a solo career. She would still work with other artists, but her solo career took prominence.
That was the case over next couple of years. Although Joan Wrasse worked as a solo artist, there was an inevitability that somewhere down the line, Joan would form a new band. That proved to be the case, and Joan As Police Woman was born.
The newly formed Joan As Police Woman released its eponymous debut E.P. in 2004. It was self-released by the band. However, Joan As Police Woman caught a break when they signed a distribution deal to Reveal Records in December 2005 was the turning point for Joan As Police Woman.
Reveal Records rereleased their eponymous debut E.P. on February 27th 2006. For many British music fans, this was the first they heard of Joan As Police Woman. It certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Meanwhile, Joan As Police Woman headed into the studio and recorded their debut album, Real Life. It was released to critical acclaim in June the 12th 2006 and reached 189 in the UK chart. This was just the start of Joan Wrasse’s latest musical adventure.
Nearly two years to the day, Joan As Police Woman released their sophomore album To Survive on the 9th June 2008. Just like Real Life, critical acclaim accompanied the the release of To Survive.It reached fifty-five in the UK, and To Survive found its way onto many of the best of 2008 lists. After just two albums, it seemed as if Joan As Police Woman had arrived.
As if to celebrate, Joan As Police Woman released an album of cover versions via their own website and at their concerts. Cover found Joan As Police Woman covering everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, David Bowie and Nina Simone on what was a captivating album. It showcased Joan As Police Woman versatility and talent. So would Joan As Police Woman’s fourth studio album, The Deep Field.
On January 24th 2011, Joan As Police Woman released The Deep Field on Reveal Records. Just like Cover, The Deep Field featured a variety of different songs. Ballads and uptempo tracks sat side-by-side on what was a slick, polished album that won over critics and record buyers. The Deep Field reached number forty on the UK Charts. For Joan As Police Woman, The Deep Field was their most successful album.
Despite the commercial success of The Deep Field, it was another three years before Joan As Police Woman returned with a new album. The Classic was released on March 10th 2014 to praise and plaudits. Some critics hailed The Classic, Joan As Police Woman’s finest hour. Meanwhile, The Classic began to climb the UK charts, eventually reaching forty-four. The success story that was Joan As Police Woman continued. Their next album, Let It Be You, would be very different from everything that’s gone before.
Let It Be You.
Unlike previous albums, Let It Be You is a collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies. Let It Be You was inspired by Joan Wrasse and Benjamin Lazur Davies’ respective journeys to Africa to study traditional music.
In Joan Wrasse’s case, she headed to Ethiopia to study the country’s indigenous music with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lazur Davies who currently performs with Okkervil River, Cuddle Magic and Bridget Kearney, headed to West Africa, where he studied traditional music. It was only when they returned, that the pair met, and realised they both shared an interest in African music. Especially, Central African Republic Pygmy musical patterns. Soon, the pair decided to write and record an album together. This album became Let It Be You.
For Let It Be You, Joan As Police Woman and wrote ten tracks. They were recorded at various studios, including Vibromonk, ColorStudy, Guilford Sound, Trout Recording and Mochi Studios. At these studios, Joan Wrasse and Benjamin Lazur Davies were joined by drummer Ian Chang and bassist and guitarist Ryan Dugre. The rest of the album was recorded by Joan Wrasse and Benjamin Lazur Davies. He added vocals, bass and keyboards. Joan Wrasse took charge of vocals, strings, guitar and keyboards. Once the ten tracks were recorded, Luke Moellman mixed Let It Be You and then Chris Gehringer mastered the album. Only then was Let It Be You ready for release on 21st October 2016. It’s a captivating genre-melting album.
Broke Me In Two opens Let It Be You. A bit crushed guitar combines with a tack piano before the arrangement is transformed. Suddenly, the arrangement bursts into life, becoming big and bold, as the track seems to head into anthem territory. Drums and keyboards are added and accompany Joan’s powerful, soaring diva-esque vocal. Briefly, it’s akin to rap, before she vamps and revisits her soulful side. Later, the arrangement revisits its understated sound, before returning to the earlier anthemic sound as it reaches a glorious crescendo.
There’s contrasts aplenty in the arrangement to Overloaded. The arrangement is dark, and sometimes futuristic as an ethereal vocal soars above the arrangement. They give way to compressed drums, piano and bass as Benjamin takes charge of the lead vocal. Behind him, a myriad of beeps and squeaks are joined by ethereal, elegiac, soaring harmonies. They’re part of a multilayered mid tempo arrangement, where hooks certainly haven’t been rationed. It’s a memorable, genre-melting song where electronica, avant-garde indie rock and soul have been combined.
A crystalline guitar chirps and chimes on Magic Lamp, as Joan delivers a tender vocal. Soon, drums crack, as the mesmeric guitar plays. They’re joined by slow, dark, dramatic keyboards and a rumbling bass. Gradually, the arrangement begins to unfold and instruments are added at just the right time. This includes drums that crack and quiver and an electric piano. However, it’s the strings and what’s one of Joan’s best vocals that play leading roles, as the song reveals its secrets, subtleties and surprises. The result is a truly irresistible song, that’s a marriage of electronica and indie pop.
Handclaps are to the fore on Let It Be You as drums pound. They’re joined by Joan’s drawling and later, heartfelt vocal. By then, exotic percussion, keyboards and effects laden guitar are added. So is a bass synth that rumbles menacingly. Keyboards feature prominently, and sometimes, there’s an almost futuristic and experimental sound. This isn’t overdone though, as handclaps encourage Joan’s urgent and heartfelt vocal. It’s part of what’s a melodic, memorable and catchy song.
The drums on Hurts So Bad seem to have been processed as lumbering keyboards and the bass provide a backdrop for Benjamin’s needy vocal. Elegiac harmonies and a guitar accompany him as he lays his soul. From 1.11 to 1.30, Joan and Benjamin seem to pay homage to Prince. Their vocals intertwine with keyboards and the rhythm section as sweet soul and funk meets indie pop. This delicious musical potpourri gives way to a hopeful, needy vocal. Meanwhile, drums, keyboards and bass play a supporting role. Later, the delicious musical potpourri makes a welcome return, as Benjamin delivers a soul-baring paean. When his vocal drops out, string provide welcome replacement, before the vocal returns and the carefully crafted Hurts So Bad reaches its emotive crescendo.
There’s a lo-fi sound to the keyboards that open Satellite. They set the scene for Joan’s impassioned, but tender vocal. Soon, drums crack, while the lo-fi keyboards buzz. Contrasts abound, as Joan’s elegiac vocal is joined by an electric piano and harmonies. Gradually, the song is sculpted, and takes shape, as Joan and Benjamin deploy an array of disparate instruments and effects effectively.
Urgent drums crack on Easy Money, as stabs of keyboard punctuate the arrangement. Other keyboards drone, as filters are used on Benjamin’s vocal. Harmonies and handclaps are added, and add to the sense of urgency. Futuristic, sci-fi and dark keyboards are deployed. So are soaring harmonies, as Benjamin’s delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. When it drops out, keyboards pickup the baton, before the song reaches its dramatic and memorable ending.
A bit crusher is put to good use on Violent Dove. It transforms the keyboard sound, as Joan delivers a slow, thoughtful vocal. At .31 the arrangement blossoms. Keyboards, drums and the bass combine, while the bit crusher continues to make its presence felt. Again, contrasts abound, with a variety of disparate instruments and effects playing their part in what’s a spacious, but dreamy arrangement. So does Joan’s vocal. Sometimes, it’s multi tracked. That’s the case later, where synths and stringsare added, and once again, ensuring this dreamy, ethereal song ends on a high.
Hypnotic describes the introduction to Motorway. A myriad of whirs, scrapes and ringing sounds accompany the drums. Soon, so does Benjamin’s vocal. It fills in the gaps in the arrangement. It’s joined by harmonies and percussion, as there’s another nod to Prince. Later, a bass synth plays, and meanders across the arrangement while drums click and crack. They’re part of this alternative symphony. So are the vocal and harmonies, which play leading roles and are key to the sound and success of Motorway.
Station closes Let It Be You, and is the longest track on the album. It lasts 6.11, and allows for some experimentation. Right up until 1.42, just a hypnotic guitar chimes and accompanies Joan’s breathy vocal. A chord change just after 1.43 signals a change. Soon, a bass, electric piano and strings have been added. They play subtly, taking care not to overpower Joan’s impassioned, tender vocal. At 3.28 another chord change signals a change in sound and style. Over the next minute, the arrangement is transformed. A wash of sound feedbacks, as drums pound and a guitar plays. Joan’s vocal becomes ethereal, as drones emerge from the arrangement. The best, and most experimental and innovative soundscape has been kept to last. It’s Let It Be You’s Magnus Opus, and shows another side to Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies.
Let It Be You is the much-anticipated, and genre-melting collaboration between Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies. The wait however, is almost over, with Let It Be You due for release by Reveal Records on 21st October 2016. It’s been worth the wait, and is an album that will appeal to a wide range of record buyers.
No wonder. There’s elements of a wide range of musical genres on Let It Be You. Elements of electronica, indie pop and indie rock are combined with ambient, avant-garde and experimental music. Then there’s the influence of African music. That’s no surprise.
Both Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies journeyed to Africa to study traditional music. Joan Wrasse headed to Ethiopia to study the country’s indigenous music with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lazur Davies headed to West Africa, where he studied traditional music. Incredibly, neither Joan nor Benjamin knew of the other’s plans. That’s despite both living in the borough of Brooklyn, in New York.
It was only when they returned, and happened to meet that they realised they both shared an interest in African music. This lead to the pair deciding to write and record an album together. This album became the genre-melting Let It Be You. There’s an African influence on the album. Especially on staccato bit-crushed guitar line that plays throughout Broke Me In Two. That sound reappears elsewhere on the album. However, care is taken not to overuse it. It’s a similar case with the various effects that are deployed.
Effects are used throughout Let It Be You, and help sculpt and carefully craft the ten tracks. They may last just thirty-seven minutes, but it’s thirty-seven memorable and melodic minutes. The music on Let It Be You is variously beautiful, dreamy, elegiac and ethereal, but also dark and dramatic. Other times, the music is hypnotic and mesmeric, before becoming catchy and truly irresistible. It’s a case of don’t spare the hooks, as Joan As Police Woman and Benjamin Lazur Davies weave their musical magic and continually captivate on what’s hopefully the first of many collaborations, Let It Be You.
JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN AND BENJAMIN LAZUR DAVIS-LET IT BE YOU.
PIED PIPER -THE PINNACLE OF NORTHERN SOUL-VINYL EDITION.
There’s always been a degree of oneupmanship within record collecting circles. That’s still the case today, with some record collectors willing to spend thousands of pounds on a rare record. Especially within the Northern Soul scene. That’s not surprising, and has been for the best part of fifty years.
Within the Northern Soul scene, not all singles are created equal. Some are more collectable than others. Indeed, some singles regularly change hands for several thousand pounds. Similarly, there’s a certain kudos to certain labels. Especially those who are renowned for the quality of music they produced.
Over the years, this has included labels like Chess, Dore, Era Record, Mirwood, Okeh, Revilot, Ric Tic and Shrine Records. Another favourite within the Northern Soul scene are singles produced by Pied Piper Productions. Their productions were released on various labels, and nowadays, have become collector’s items.
That’s why Ace Records have recently released a new vinyl compilation Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. It features twelve tracks from Nancy Wilcox, The Cavaliers, The Hesitations, Lorraine Chandler, Freddy Butler, September Jones, Mikki Farrow and Tony Hester. These tracks are a reminder of the music that Pied Piper produced, in Detroit between 1965 and
Pied Piper was founded in 1965 by Sheldon “Shelley” Haines, a music industry veteran. His first job in the music industry, was as a distributor for King Records. This was the late-forties. By, 1952, Sheldon and Jack Gale, a local DJ, formed the short-lived Triple A record label. It lasted a mere five released. After that, Sheldon became interested in Detroit’s emerging R&B scene.
Soon Sheldon was a familiar face on the Detroit R&B scene. By 1954, Sheldon and songwriter Perry Stevens found themselves working with doo wop group The Spartans, for the Capri label. A year later, Sheldon and Irving Lief formed a production partnership and several record labels. This included labels like Pix, Plaid, Sterling and Studio. Groups and artists like The Coronets, Cool Papa Jarvis and The Jet Tones. The pair also recorded The Womack Brothers, who later, became The Valentinos. Sheldon and Irving’s partnership lasted until 1960, where they recorded artists at their own studio. It wasn’t just artists signed to their own labels, but artists signed to RCA’s Groove imprint. This was a sign of how well thought of the production partnership were. Despite this, Sheldon returned to becoming a distributor in 1961.
For the next four years Sheldon was happy worked as a distributor. Occasionally, he produced artists, and in 1965, made his comeback. Ed Wingate hired Sheldon as Vice President and General Manager of Ric-Tic, Golden World and Wingate record labels. His remit was overseeing marketing, promotion and product control. For his new business venture, Sheldon called the company Pied Piper Productions. The first two single produced by Pied Piper Productions were releases by Bob Santa Marie and Frank Meadow and The Meadowlarks. While they were neither successful nor groundbreaking releases, once Sheldon put together his production team, success wouldn’t be far away.
The two men who masterminded Pied Piper Productions were Jack Ashford and Mike Terry. Jack Ashford had studied music at college. He was a vibes player and a familiar face in Philly’s jazz scene. When he was asked to become a member of Marvin Gaye’s touring band, Jack went from jazz musician to Funk Brother.
Through meeting the Motown musicians, Jack decided to base himself in Detroit. Soon, he became part of Motown’s legendary studio band, The Funk Brothers. Jack’s trademark tambourine sound became a staple of Motown recordings. However, Jack was more than a tambourine player. He studied arrangers, engineers and producer and soon, was able to learn from them. Jack was also a talented songwriter. Essentially, Jack Ashford was a musical all-rounder, which made him perfect for Pied Piper Productions. His partner would be Mike Terry.
Mike Terry played baritone saxophone first in Popcorn Wylie’s Mohawks, then with Joe Hunter’s band. Like many musicians, he gravitated to Motown, which is the sixties, was one of the most successful labels. He was part of the touring and studio bands, and his trademark sound features on numerous Motown recordings. Despite being on Motown’s payroll, Mike, like other musicians, including Jack Ashford, felt the fees they were paid weren’t enough. So the pair left Motown.
Having left Motown, Jack and Mike briefly worked for Ed Wingate’s Golden World label. Mike with George Clinton and Sidney Barnes, formed the Geo-Si-Mik songwriting and production partnership. At the same time, Jack and Mike formed a songwriting and production partnership. One of their songs, Lonely One, for The San Reno Strings album on Ric-Tic came to the attention of Sheldon “Shelley” Haines. He realised this was a partnership to watch.
Sheldon “Shelley” Haines was right. Jack and Mike head to Jack’s hometown Philly, to produce I Can’t Change for The Sensations with Yvonne Baker. This was their first production, which was released on the Junior label. Later in 1965, the pair produced Joe Douglas for the Playhouse label. With Bobby Martin penning the B-Side, this was a single that was made has Philly. Ironically, it wasn’t in Philly Jack made his name as a producer. No. It was in Detroit, where Jack Ashford and Mike Terry masterminded Pied Piper Productions, including the music on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul.
Side one of Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul opens with Nancy Wilcox’s cover of the Jack Ashford and Randy Scott composition More Than A Memory. It was recorded on the 21st July 1966 with producer Joe Hunter. Sadly, the song wasn’t released as a single, and only made its debut on the 2015 Ace Records’ compilation Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. More Than A Memory makes a welcome return on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul, and proves to be the perfect showcase for Nancy Wilcox. She delivers a vocal powerhouse, where she sounds as if she’s lived and survived the lyrics. Alas, even the combined talented of Pied Piper Productions couldn’t transform Nancy Wilcox’s fortunes, and she remains one of soul’s nearly women.
23rd February 1967 was a date The Cavaliers hoped would change their fortunes. They were about to work with Pied Piper Productions, who by then, had established a reputation as a talented production team. The Cavaliers were due to record several tracks, including Larry Banks and Norman Kelley’s Ooh It Hurts Me. Once the session was complete, Ooh It Hurts Me was shopped to record companies. Incredibly, there were no takers, and the various versions of the song lay unreleased in the Pied Piper vaults. This includes the alternate take on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul. It made its debut on Ace Records’ 2015 compilation Pied Piper Follow Your Soul, and returns for an encore on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul. It’s Northern Soul at its most melodic and memorable.
Over the last fifty years, Cleveland, Ohio has produced many talented and successful groups. One of the earliest of the Cleveland bands were The Hesitations. They began work on their debut album Soul Superman in 1967. One of the songs they recorded, was I’m Not Built That Way, a Jack Ashford,Ed Hillert and Joseph Hunter composition. Later in 1967, Soul Superman was released by Kapp Records. One of the highlights of Soul Superman was I’m Not Built That Way, an irresistible Northern Soul stomper.
Rose Batiste recording career began in 1964, and over the next few years, she moved between record labels. Still, commercial success eluded her. She thought this might change when she signed to Pied Piper Productions. One of the songs she recorded was This Heart Is Lonely, which was penned by Jack Ashford, Randy Scott and Andrew Terry. Sadly, the song was never released and lay in the Pied Pier vaults until 2013, when it featured on Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. So good is Rose Batiste’s This Heart Is Lonely, that it makes a welcome return on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul. Melodic and not short of hooks, this uber soulful dancer epitomises everything that’s good about Northern Soul.
Lorraine Chandler wasn’t just a singer, she was also a talented songwriter. Alas, she didn’t write You Only Live Twice. Instead, it’s Jack Ashford, Randy Scott and Andrew Perry composition. When it was recorded in 1967, the arrangement was big, bold and included more than an element of drama. This would make it a future favourite of the UK’s Northern Soul scene. That’s still the case even today, nearly fifty years after the recording of You Only Live Twice.
It wasn’t often that Jack Ashford got the opportunity to dust off his vibes. He did on Freddy Butler’s That’s When I Need You. I’s taken from his 1967 album on Kapp, With A Dab Of Soul. Jazz-tinged, soulful and understated, with a late-night sound, it’s one of the highlights of Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul.
Opening side two of Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul, is The Cavaliers’ We Go Together. It was written by Shelley Haims and Perry Stevens, and was recorded by The Cavaliers in 1966. This isn’t the original version. Instead, it’s an unreleased alternate take featuring a rap into. The addition of a rapped intro was relatively new in 1966. Its inclusion on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul allows listeners to compare and contrast the original and the this alternate take. It’s a welcome release of a song that’s reminiscent of the type of music Chess were releasing during the first half of the sixties. As for the lyrics, they’re best described as innocent, as The Cavaliers combine soul and doo wop during what’s a reminder of another and more innocent musical era.
In 1966, September Jones enjoyed a hit with I’m Coming Home. This wasn’t the only recording she made for Pied Piper Production. One was Voo Doo Madamoiselle, which is very different September Jones’ other recordings. Instead, it’s moody and atmospheric, and is a real find. It wasn’t released until 2014, when it was released as a single on Ace Records’ Pied Piper imprint. However, it makes a very welcome return on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle of Northern Soul, where hopefully, it will reach a much wider audience.
In March 1966, Mikki Farrow released Could It Be as a single on Karate Records. Alas, commercial success eluded what was Mikki Farrow’s only single for Karate Records. However, tucked away on the B-Side of Could It Be, was the Gwen Smith penned Set My Heart At Ease. It’s another track that epitomises everything that’s good about Northern Soul. Braying horns, soulful harmonies and a driving beat accompany Mikki Farrow’s coquettish and sometimes sassy, powerful vocal. It’s a far better song than Could It Be, and begs the question, why wasn’t it chosen as a single?
Singer-songwriter Lorraine Chandler, played an important part in the Pied Piper Productions’ story. Away from her solo career, she wrote and produced other artists signed to Pied Piper Productions. Despite being a talented songwriter, Lorraine Chandler wasn’t averse to covering other people’s songs. Especially when they were as good as I Can’t Hold On. It was penned by Jack Ashford, Ermastine Lewis and Ray Monette. However, this isn’t the original version. Instead, it’s the alternate version that features on the 2013 Ace Records’ compilation Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul. The only difference from the original, is the tempo to this truly irresistible track is quicker.
Back in 1967, September Jones has a released I’m Coming Home was released as a single, on Kapp. Moody, broody and dramatic describes a track written by Jack and Penny Ashford with Joseph Hunter. Waves of harmonies unfold, while September’s vocal is an outpouring of emotion. Nearly fifty years later, and this Northern Soul favourite has stood the test of time.
Closing side two, and indeed Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul, is Tony Hester’s Just Can’t Leave You. It was penned by Tony Hester and was originally released on Giant Records. Later, Just Can’t Leave You Karate Records label in March 1966. It’s a melodic, mid-tempo track with a feel-good sound. Fifty years later, and Just Can’t Leave You is a truly timeless track that should find an audience outside of the Northern Soul scene.
That’s the case with Ace Records’ new vinyl compilation Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. It’s not just those that used to frequent the Blackpool Mecca, Twisted Wheel and Wigan Wheel that Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul will appeal to. This is a compilation that will appeal to anyone who likes their music soulful. Especially those that enjoyed the two previous Pied Piper compilations, 2013s Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul and 2015s Pied Piper Follow Your Soul. Just like these two compilations, there’s ballads and uptempo tracks on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. They’re a reminder of the combined talents of the various members of Pied Piper Productions.
This included former Funk Brothers Jack Ashford and Mike Terry. They discovered that there was life after Motown. Their time at Pied Piper Productions was the first step in what would be long and successful careers.
At Pied Piper Productions, Jack Ashford and Mike Terry worked with Nancy Wilcox, The Cavaliers, The Hesitations, Lorraine Chandler, Freddy Butler, September Jones, Mikki Farrow and Tony Hester, who all feature on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. They were among the artists that were discovered, careers that were rejuvenated and stars were born. Sheldon “Shelley” Haines’ decision to bring Jack Ashford and Mike Terry to Pied Piper Productions was vindicated. For a few short years, they were a potent and successful partnership. Proof of this is the music on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. It’s a compilation that will appeal to anyone who likes their music soulful.
PIED PIPER -THE PINNACLE OF NORTHERN SOUL-VINYL EDITION.
LET IT BE-BLACK AMERICA SINGS LENNON, McCARTNEY AND HARRISON.
In America, The Beatles are the best selling artists in the history of popular music. They sold an incredible, 178 million albums in America alone. What makes this all the more remarkable, was that America were latecomers to The Beatles.
The first Beatles album to be released in America, was Introducing…The Beatles on the 10th of January 1964. Soon, America was making up for lost time as far as The Beatles were concerned. That was the case right through to The Beatles’ swan-song, Let It Be, which was released on the 8th of May 1970. By then, many American artists were covering The Beatles’ songs.
That had been the case since 1964, when The Supremes covered A World Without Love. Soon,everyone from Aretha Franklin to The Four Tops, Junior Parker, The Temptations and Ella Fitzgerald were covering some of the Fab Four’s finest songs. This continued after The Beatles spilt-up in 1970. Everyone from Randy Crawford and Earth, Wind and Fire, The Undisputed Truth and Gary U.S. Bonds all covered Beatles’ songs. These songs feature on Ace Records’ much anticipated new twenty-two track compilation Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. It finds some of the biggest names in jazz, soul, funk and R&B paying homage to The Beatles. These songs were released between 1964 and 2009, and ensured that The Beatles remain one of the most oft-covered bands in musical history.
Opening Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison is Aretha Franklin’s cover of Eleanor Rigby. With the entire Beatles songbook to choose from, the Queen Of Soul decided to cover Eleanor Rigby. It was released as a single in late 1969, reaching number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts. Then as the sixties gave way to seventies, Eleanor Rigby featured on
Aretha Franklin’s first album of the seventies, This Girl’s In Love With You. When it was released on January 15th 1970, it reached number seventeen on the US Billboard 200 and number eight on the US R&B charts. One of its most memorable moments was the cover of Eleanor Rigby. Aretha Franklin reinvents this familiar song, as she delivers a vocal powerhouse. Accompanied by gospel-tinged harmonies, Aretha Franklin transforms Eleanor Rigby, taking it in a direction that The Beatles could never have imagined.
It’s a similar case with Earth, Wind and Fire’s take on Got To Get You Into My Life. When it was released as a single by Columbia in 1978, it reached number nine on the US Billboard 100 and topped the US R&B charts. This was Earth, Wind and Fire’s fifth number one on the US R&B charts. However, when Got To Get You Into My Life was released, Earth, Wind and Fire were between albums. It never featured on one of their studio albums. That’s despite being one their finest moments, where seamlessly, Maurice White and Co. combine elements of soul, funk and jazz.
For Berry Gordy’s burgeoning Motown empire, The Beatles proved a rich source of music to cover. That had been the case since The Beatles first hit America’s shores in 1964. Since then, many Motown artists have covered the Fab Four’s songs, hoping some of their success would rub off on them. This included The Four Tops, who recorded Fool On The Hill for their album The Four Tops Now. It was released in 1969, and featured a ruminative, but soulful cover of Fool On The Hill. It’s one of the finest moments on The Four Tops Now, which reached number seventy-four on the US Billboard 200. This was The Four Tops’ most successful album since Reach Out in 1967.
Even Nina Simone wasn’t immune to the charms of The Beatles. She covered the George Harrison penned Here Comes The Sun, which lent its title to her 1971 album. Here Comes The Sun was released on RCA Victor, and found Nina Simone reworking eight cover versions. This included Here Comes The Sun. Accompanied by an understated, orchestrated arrangement, Nina Simone delivers a beautiful, tender jazz-tinged cover of this familiar ballad.
By 1970, Junior Parker was no stranger to The Beatles’ songbook. When recording his 1970 album for Capitol Records, he covered Taxman, Lady Madonna and Tomorrow Never Knows. When it came to releasing a single from the album, Lady Madonna was chosen. Tucked away on the flip side was a real hidden gem, Junior Parker’s rework of Tomorrow Never Knows. It has an understated, but mesmeric and mystical psychedelic sound. It’s a total transformation of Lennon and McCartney’s song that closed Revolver.
Forty years ago, in 1976, Randy Crawford released her debut album Everything Must Change on Warner Bros. Records. Sadly, the album failed to chart, and it wasn’t until the release of Raw Silk in 1979, that Randy Crawford began to make a commercial breakthrough. However, when she was recording Everything Must Change, Randy Crawford decided to The Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down. In her hands, it becomes a beautiful, heartfelt ballad with soul and jazz stylings.
By the time Gary U.S. Bonds released his Dedication album in 1981, he had been making music for twenty-five years. During this period, Gary U.S. Bonds had influenced two generations of musicians. This included a young John Lennon. Alas, John Lennon never got to see Gary U.S. Bonds cover one of his songs. He had been murdered outside his New York home 8th December 1980.
Less than a year later, Gary U.S. Bonds released Dedication, which featured a cover of It’s Only Love. Just like the rest of Dedication, it was produced by Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt. Their influence can be heard on It’s Only Love, where R&B and rock melt into one. This new sound found favour with American record buyers. Dedication reached number twenty-seven on the US Billboard 200 and thirty-four on the US R&B charts, partly thanks to the songwriting skills of one John Lennon.
When Dionne Warwick recorded her 1969 Soulful album, she made the journey to Chips Momans’ American Studios, in Memphis. She wash neither the first, nor last to make this journey. It was a well trodden path for artists wanting to kickstart failing careers or change direction musically. Soulful was released in 1969, it reached number eleven on the US Billboard 200 and two on the US R&B charts. This meant Soulful was the second most successful album of Dionne Warwick’s twelve album. No wonder. Dionne Warwick sounds reinvigorated, as she unleashes a barnstorming version of We Can Work It Out. It takes on new life and meaning in Dionne Warwick’s hands, as she breathes new life and meaning into the song.
Five years after covering Can’t Buy Me Love in 1964, Ella Fitzgerald covered another Beatles’ song, Savoy Truffle. It was the B-Side to the Richard Perry produced single I’ll Never Fall In Love Again. For her 1969 Reprise Records’ album Ella, the Queen of Jazz dipped into The Beatles’ songbook, and covered Savoy Truffle and Got To Get You Into My Life. The single version of Savoy Truffle features on Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, and showcases the Queen of Jazz versatility and ability to reinvent even the most familiar song.
By 1970, Isaac Hayes was enjoying a rich vein of musical form. This continued with his third album The Isaac Hayes Movement. It followed in the footsteps of Hot Buttered Soul, and reached number eight on the US Billboard 200 and topped the US R&B charts. Without doubt, the highlight of The Isaac Hayes Movement was a cover George Harrison’s Something. It’s reinvented and becomes a near twelve minute epic, where Isaac Hayes marries funk and soul and deploys lush strings and backing vocalist. The result is a musical Magnus Opus from Isaac Hayes, whose rich vein of musical form continued apace.
My final choice from Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, is Bill Withers’ cover of Let It Be. It was produced by Booker T. Jones, and featured on Bill Withers’ 1971 debut album Just As I Am. On its release, it reached number thirty-five on the US Billboard 200 and number nine on the US R&B charts. Bill Withers’ cover of Let It Be is a fusion of soul, jazz and gospel, as he takes the song in new and unexpected directions.
For either fans of The Beatles, or anyone whose interested in soul, funk, blues, R&B and jazz, then Ace Records’ much anticipated new compilation Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, will be a must have. It features some of the biggest names in black music reinventing twenty-two songs from The Beatles’ back-catalogue.
The cover versions on Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were released between 1964 and 2009. This includes Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Junior Parker, Bill Withers, The Temptations and Ella Fitzgerald. That’s not all. Randy Crawford, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Undisputed Truth and Gary U.S. Bonds all covered some of some of the Fab Four’s finest songs. Each of these artists has takes a different approach to these songs.
Sometimes, artists stay true to the original version. Other artists, take the song in a new and totally unexpected directions. It becomes something of a magical mystery tour, as a familiar song takes on new life life and meaning. This can be through a change in style or tempo. Occasionally, a song is deconstructed and then reconstructed. However, regardless of whether an artist stays true to the original, or reworks a Beatles classic, each of the song on Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison works, and works well. That’s why Let It Be-Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney and Harrison is, without doubt, one of the finest compilations of covers from The Beatles’ songbook, and for anyone with even a passing interest in soul or the Fab Four’s music, will be essential listening and a welcome addition to their music library.
LET IT BE-BLACK AMERICA SINGS LENNON, McCARTNEY AND HARRISON.
BETTY HARRIS-THE LOST QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS SOUL.
Betty Harris’ recording career lasted just eight years. It began in 1962 with the release of Taking Care of Business, and was over by 1970. After just three minor hit singles, Betty Harris called time on her career. The Florida born singer decided to retire from music, to raise a family.
That was the last that was heard from Betty Harris until 2005, when she hit the comeback trail. By then, several of Betty Harris’ singles had found a new audience. I Don’t Want to Hear It and I’m Evil Tonight were favourites within the UK Northern Soul circles. Meanwhile, ballads like What’d I Do Wrong and Can’t Last Much Longer were favourites within the deep soul community. Belatedly, Betty Harris’ music was finding a wider audience.
To mark the comeback of Betty Harris in 2005, a compilation of her music was released that year. Entitled The Lost Soul Queen, Betty Harris’ star had been in the ascendancy, and she was regarded by some, as soul royalty. Eleven years later, and that’s still the case.
When Soul Jazz Records’ recently released a compilation of Betty Harris music, it was entitled The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul. That’s despite Betty Harris never living in New Orleans. The nearest Betty Harris came to New Orleans, was recording for one of the city’s top producers, Allen Toussaint.
Betty Harris signed to Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn’s new label Sansu Records in 1964. For the next your years, Sansu was home to Betty Harris. The period between 1964 and 1968 is documented on The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul, which was the most fruitful period of Betty Harris’ career. However, her story began in Florida in 1939.
That was when Betty Harris was born, to the Revs. Rufus C. Crews and Winifred Crews. With both of her parents ministers in the Pentecostal Church, the Crews’ house was deeply religious. It was also one where music played an important part in everyday life.
The Rev. Rufus C. Crews was multi-instrumentalist and singer, who sported a powerful tenor voice. He was also a part time booking agent for a variety of gospel groups and artists. This was a role Rev. Rufus C. Crews would continue, when the family moved to Alabama.
When the Crews moved Alabama, Betty was just four. It would be her home for the next thirteen years, and where her father introduced Betty to Rosetta Sharp, Sam Cooke, The Soul Stirrers, Johnny Taylor and The Blind Boys Of Alabama. Soon, young Betty Crews would be following in their footsteps.
By the age of twelve, the Crews’ family were living in Alabama. They had moved there when Betty was just four. When she was just twelve, Betty Crews had already sung lead in a choir which had supported Brother Joe May. Already, people were taking notice of Betty. Over the next few years, Betty continued to sing gospel. During that period, she spoke to and learnt from, all the gospel singers who stayed over in the Crews’ household. Despite meeting and learning from some of the biggest names in gospel music, Betty soon came to realise that she didn’t want to make a career out of gospel music.
Realising that there was little money to be made in gospel music, Betty Crews wanted to crossover and sing secular music. She was listening to the music coming out of Nashville, Tennessee. This was when Betty realised there was more to music than gospel. So around her seventeenth birthday, Betty began plotting how she could escape from Alabama.
It was around this time that Betty saw an advert in the local paper, advertising jobs for maids in a New Jersey hotel. So Betty packed her bags and headed to New Jersey. Once there, Betty and her future colleagues decided to head out to a local nightclub. That was when Betty made her debut as a singer, and was spotted by producer Zell Sanders.
He recruited Betty Harris to become the lead singer of The Hearts. They released their debut single Like Later Baby later in 1958. It failed commercially, and The Hearts’ recording career came to nothing. Betty’s nascent musical career had hit the buffers.
So in 1960, Betty Harris decided to move to New York. Before long, Betty was singing in some of the Big Apple’s smaller clubs. When she was finished her set, Betty would head to venues like the Apollo, where she would study the technique. One night, when Betty arrived at the Apollo, Mabel Louise Smith. a.k.a. the R&B singer Big Maybelle was about to go on stage. Betty watched and was captivated as Big Maybelle unleashed a vocal powerhouse on Candy. So impressed was Betty Harris met, that later, she headed backstage to introduce herself to Big Maybelle.
Having introduced herself to Big Maybelle, Betty Harris asked if she could study her technique. Big Maybelle agreed, and took Betty out on the road, where she became the young singer’s mentor. It wasn’t just technique and stagecraft that Big Maybelle taught Betty, it was how to conduct herself.
Over the next few weeks, Big Maybelle coached Betty Harris. She also had a powerful vocal, and Big Maybelle helped Betty harness her powerful vocal, and improve her technique. This they continued to do on a two week tour. It began in Chicago and headed to Tennessee, before ending in Chicago. That was where Betty Harris landed a job, and would record her debut single.
The time Betty Harris had spent with Big Maybelle had been time well spent. Big Maybelle made Betty promise that she would continue to sing each day. It was as if the older woman wanted her protege to fulfil the potential she saw in her. Even in what was a relatively short space of time, Betty had improved as a vocalist, and was ready to make the next step in her career
This included recording her debut single. Now living in Chicago, Betty Harris got her break when she recored Taking Care Of Business for Douglas Records. Taking Care Of Business was released in 1962, and failed to make any impression commercially. Betty Harris’ time at Douglas Records was over after just one single.
Fortunately, Betty Harris met Solomon Burke’s manager, Marvin Leonard ‘Babe’ Chivian. He introduced Betty to Bert Sterns, who had produced Solomon Burke’s hit single Cry To Me.
Bert Berns was a songwriter and producer, who was housed within the famous Brill Building. He cowrote a string of classic songs, including Under The Boardwalk and Piece Of My Heart. Among Bert Berns’ various songwriting partners, were none other than Leiber and Stoller. However, Bert Berns wasn’t just a songwriter; he was also a producer, who would transform Betty Harris’ fortunes.
For Betty Harris’ debut for Jubilee Records, Cry To Me was chosen. It gave Solomon Burke a hit single a year earlier. The man who had produced Solomon Burke hit single was none other than Bert Berns. He took a different approach to Cry To Me this time around, dropping the tempo. In Betty Harris’ hands Cry To Me became a heart wrenching ballad, which later, would become a deep soul classic. Before that, Cry To Me was released on Jubilee Records.
Cry To Me reached reached twenty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the US R&B charts. Considering this was merely Betty Harris’ sophomore single, this was a good start to her nascent recording career. For the followup, His Kiss was released on the 4th of January 1964. Although it was another deep soul ballad, His Kiss stalled at the lower reaches of the charts. This was a disappointment for Betty Harris.
Although His Kiss hadn’t come close to matching the success of Cry To Me, Betty Harris was a popular live draw, and even had topped the bill at Apollo Theatre, in New York. Betty who had shared the bill with Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and James Brown seemed to be going up in the world. So the oft-covered Mojo Hannah was chosen to be Betty’s next single.
Mojo Hannah which was released later in 1964, became Betty Harris’ third single for Jubilee Records. It was merely a minor hit, and proved to be Betty Harris’ swan-song for Jubilee Records. What happened next is the subject of debate.
After Mojo Hannah, Betty Harris was still signed to Jubilee Records. Betty had met New Orleans based singer, songwriter, arranger and producer Allen Toussaint. He was about to launch a new record label, with his business partner Marshall Sehorn. That label was Sansu, which was based in New Orleans. Allen Toussaint wanted Betty Harris to sign to the new label. So did Marshall Sehorn, who Betty alleges told her than he had bought her Jubilee Records’ contract out. She alleges that this was not the case, and that she was still under contract to Jubilee Records when her career at Sansu Records began.
To record her Sansu Records’ debut, Betty Harris flew from her home in Florida to New Orleans, where she spent a month living in the city’s Mason’s motel. Much of the time was spent recording with producer Allen Toussaint. He put together a band that featured some of the Big Easy’s top session musicians. The initial sessions didn’t go well. Betty didn’t like recording the songs live, and preferred working with backing tapes. This was a lesson learnt for future sessions. Backing tracks would be recorded, and then the vocals would be added. However, during the first recording sessions, the tracks were recorded live, including What A Sad Feeling which became Betty Harris’ debut single for Sansu Records.
What A Sad Feeling, a soul-baring ballad would be the first of just ten singles Betty Harris released on Sansu Records. It features on The Lost Soul Queen compilation. So does the B-Side I’m Evil Tonight, which features a vocal powerhouse from Betty Harris. Alas, when What A Sad Feeling was released in 1965, it failed commercially. While the single found an audience within New Orleans, elsewhere it was a different story. Sansu Records was just a small independent label, with neither the financial muscle nor marketing expertise to give Betty Harris another hit single. This would be a familiar story.
It wasn’t until 1966, that I Don’t Wanna Hear It was released as Betty Harris’ second single for Sansu Records. Just like What A Sad Feeling, it failed to find an audience outside of the Big Easy. However, later, I Don’t Wanna Hear It would become a favourite with the UK’s Northern Soul scene. Tucked away on the B-Side was Sometime, a ballad, where Betty’s vocal veers between tender to hurt filled and powerful. Strings and harmonies accompany Betty on a track that deserved to fare better than a B-Side.
Later in 1966, Betty Harris returned with the Allen Toussaint penned 12 Red Roses. It was an uptempo fusion of soul and funk. On the flip side was another Allen Toussaint composition, What’d I Do Wrong. This future deep soul classic, was without doubt a much stronger track. Why it wasn’t chosen as a single seems strange? Maybe if Sansu Records had released What’d I Do Wrong as a single, it would’ve found an audience. 12 Red Roses certainly didn’t, and it was now two years since a Betty Harris song even troubled the lower reaches of the chart.
During 1967, Allen Toussaint saw Art Neville and The Neville Sounds playing on Basin Street. Straight away, he realised that here was the band he wanted to play on the Sansu Records’ releases. By then, Sansu were recording at Cosimo Matassa’s state of the art eight-track studio. This was where the Neville Sound was born. Betty Harris would be accompanied by Art Neville and The Neville Sounds.
It wasn’t until later in 1967 that Betty Harris released her fourth single for Sansu Records. The song chosen was the ballad Lonely Hearts, which could only have been recorded in New Orleans. Horns and harmonies accompany Betty, as she delivers an impassioned, heartfelt vocal. On the flip side was Bad Luck, a mid tempo slice of R&B. Just like previous singles, Lonely Hearts made no impression on the charts. However, Betty Harris’ luck was about to change.
For her second single of 1967, the ballad Nearer To You was chosen. It features an atmospheric, Southern Soul arrangement. It’s one of Betty Harris’ finest moments, is helped no end by Allen Toussaint’s arrangement. On the flip side, I’m Evil Tonight made a reappearance. When Nearer To You was released, it entered the US Billboard 100. However, it stalled at a disappointing eighty-five. Nearer To You deserved to fare better, and was a case of what might have been? What if had been released on Atlantic Records or even Stax?
Given the success of Nearer To You, Sansu Records were keen to build on the relative success of the single. So later in 1967, Can’t Last Much Longer was released as a single. On the B-Side was I’m Gonna Git Ya. Only I’m Gonna Git Ya features on The Lost Soul Queen compilation. It features another heart wrenching vocal powerhouse from Betty Harris, while horns and harmonies accompany her. It’s a welcome addition to The Lost Soul Queen compilation. Alas, Can’t Last Much Longer never even came close to troubling the US Billboard 100. That’s despite Betty Harris spending much of 1967 on tour.
During 1967, Betty Harris toured with Otis Redding, Carla Thomas and Bettye Swann. They played tour fifty-three dates, before Otis Redding died in a plane crash. For Betty this was a tragedy for several reasons.
She had become friendly with many of the artists on the tour, including Otis Redding. He had also cofounded a new management company with Phil Walden, Redwal Enterprises. The new company was going to manage some of the biggest names in soul, including Percy Sledge, Sam and Dave and Wilson Pickett. Betty Harris who was about to embark upon a European tour with Otis Redding, had signed a management contract with Redwal Enterprises. After the death of Otis Redding, this came to nothing.
Despite this, Betty Harris’ recording career continued. She released Love Lots Of Lovin’, a duet with Lee Dorsey in 1968. It failed to make any impression on the charts. Neither did the former B-Side What’d I Do Wrong when it was belatedly released as a single later in 1968. On the B-Side was Mean Man, a fusion of funk and soul, where Betty seems to live the lyrics. By then, she was able to bring Allen Toussaint’s to life. He wrote the songs, and she brought them to life. The only thing missing, was commercial success. Still, it continued to elude Betty Harris.
Despite this, Betty Harris released the ballad Hook, Line ‘n’ Sinker as a single later in 1969. Again, commercial success eluded Line ‘N’ Sinker. For Betty Harris, this must have been a frustrating time. On the B-Side of Hook, Line ‘n’ Sinker was Show It, an uptempo dancer. This stomper would find favour within the UK’s Northern Soul scene. However, by then, Betty Harris and Sansu Records had parted company.
In 1969, Betty Harris released Ride Your Pony as a single in 1969. Funk meets soul on what sounds like a novelty dance track. On the B-Side was Trouble With My Lover, which ironically, was a slightly stronger track. Ride Your Pony was the tenth and final single Betty Harris released on Sansu Records.
Only one of the ten singles had charted, and even then, Nearer To You struggled into the lower reaches of the US Billboard 100. The Sansu years hadn’t been the most successful of Betty Harris’ career. However, Allen Toussaint and Betty Harris had one last roll of the dice.
When it came to recording There’s A Break in The Road, Allen Toussaint brought onboard The Meters. They unleashed some of their trademark heavy duty funk. It was the perfect backdrop for Betty Harris, as she delivered a vocal that’s a mixture of power, frustration and sass. The single was originally meant to be released on Sansu. However, Allen Toussaint decided to license There’s A Break in The Road to Shelby Singleton’s SSS International label. It was a larger label, and it might result in a change of fortune for Betty Harris.
There’s A Break in The Road was released in 1969. It was without doubt, one of Betty Harris’ best singles. Despite the undoubted quality, and the decision to release There’s A Break in The Road on SSS International, the single failed to find an audience. It was all too familiar a story for Betty Harris, and marked the end of her recording career for thirty-six years.
In 1970, Betty Harris decided to retire from music, and concentrate on bringing up her family. By then, she was thirty-one, had been making music since the late-eighties. Apart from four minor hit singles, Betty Harris’ career had been a case of what might have been?
Through no fault of her own, Betty Harris had underachieved. Sansu was just a small independent label, with neither the financial muscle nor marketing expertise to promote Betty Harris singles. While each of the ten singles Betty Harris released for Sansu Records sold reasonably well within New Orleans, they never found an audience further afield. That was the case between 1965 and 1969, when Betty Harris released ten singles on Sansu Records. Only Nearer To You charted, but only reached a lowly eighty-five in the US Billboard 100. This must have been hugely frustrating for Betty Harris.
Maybe it was no surprise when Betty Harris turned her back on music in 1970? That was the last that was heard from Betty Harris until 2005, when she hit the comeback trail. By then, several of Betty Harris’ singles had found a new audience. I Don’t Want to Hear It and I’m Evil Tonight were favourites within the UK Northern Soul circles. Meanwhile, ballads like What’d I Do Wrong and Can’t Last Much Longer were favourites within the deep soul community. Belatedly, Betty Harris’ music was finding a slightly wider audience. That’s still the case today.
So it’s no surprise that Soul Jazz Records’ recently released a new seventeen track compilation of Betty Harris music, The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul. It shows the two sides to Betty Harris’ Sansu Records’ years. Ballads and uptempo tracks rub shoulders on The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul. This includes a couple of ballads that would later become deep soul classics, and several uptempo tracks that would find favour on the UK’s Northern Soul scene. These tracks are a reminder of the what proved to be the most productive years of Betty Harris’ career.
During that period, Betty Harris music epitomised everything that was good about the New Orleans’ sound. She was a talented singer, who can breath meaning and emotion into a song. Despite that, Betty Harris isn’t the true Queen Of New Orleans Soul.
Far from it. That honour has been bestowed upon New Orleans’ very own, Irma Thomas. For over fifty years, she has been rightly recognised as the true Queen Of New Orleans Soul. During that period, there have been many challengers to Irma Thomas’ crown. This includes Betty Harris. Alas, she neither enjoyed the longevity nor commercial success that Irma Thomas enjoyed. However, Betty Harris, is a talented and versatile vocalist. A reminder of that is The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul, which is the perfect primer to Betty Harris who is one of New Orleans’ soul music’s best kept secrets.
BETTY HARRIS-THE LOST QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS SOUL.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JEANETTE JONES?
Musical history is littered with artists who could’ve and should’ve gone on to greater things, but for whatever reason, commercial success and critical acclaim passed them by. That, sadly, was the case with Jeanette Jones.
She had talent in abundance, and a voice that was a mixture of power, passion, emotion and sheer soulfulness. Sadly, Jeanette Jones’ recording career was all too brief, and amounts to just one single, Darling, I’m Standing By You. It was released on the Golden Soul label in 1969, and the two years later, was reissued by Kent. Nothing came of the single.
Jeanette Jones’ last recording session was in 1974, when she recorded a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg. Sadly, that was the last time she entered a recording studio. It was also the end of Jeanette Jones’ musical career. For Jeanette Jones, the dream was over.
Since then, Jeanette Jones has remained an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Very little is known of her life pre and post music. Nowadays, it is thought that Jeanette Jones lives quietly in San Francisco.
Details of Jeanette Jones’ early life are sketchy. It’s thought that she was born and brought up in San Francisco. That was where Jeanette Jones first discovered music.
Just like many future soul singers, Jeanette Jones first started singing in church. That proved to be Jeanette Jones’ gateway into music. However, it was with the Voices Of Victory gospel choir that Jeanette Jones’ first came to prominence.
Cora Wilson had formed The Voices Of Victory gospel choir in 1962. Hers was no ordinary choir though. The Voices of Victory gospel choir featured sixty singers, who travelled the West Coast in their own bus. They sang in churches and at gospel conventions. It was an impressive sight and sound. Especially when the soloists enjoyed their moment in the spotlight. By 1965, one of the soloists was Jeanette Jones.
She was the owner of a impressive and powerful voice. When Jeanette Jones stepped into the spotlight, she combined, power, passion and emotion. Given the her vocal prowess, it was no surprise that Jeanette Jones was one of the stars of The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Everyone who heard them realised this. So too would Leo Kulka at Golden State Recorders.
Leo Kulka first encountered Jeanette Jones in November 1965. Cara Wilson had booked Golden State Recorders to record an album by The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. It was to be recorded at Golden State Recorders, and then a limited number of albums would be pressed. They would be sold after concerts. In a way, Cara Wilson was just testing the water, to see if there was a market for albums featuring her choir. However, Leo Kulka felt she was underselling her choir.
As the recording session got underway, at Golden State Recorders, Leo Kulka realised how good The Voices Of Victory gospel choir were. He knew they were recorded as one of the best choirs in the state, and when he heard them in the studio realised that their music deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. So did the voice of one of the choir’s soloists, Jeanette Jones.
Her voice stopped Leo Kulka in his tracks. It was a cut above the rest of the soloists. Jeanette Jones was capable of singing with power, but was always in control as she delivered the lyrics with emotion and sincerity. From the moment Leo Kulka heard Jeanette Jones sing, he promised himself he was going to sign her. So once the recording session was over, Leo Kulka approached Jeanette Jones, with a view to signing her.
Jeanette Jones wasn’t interested in signing a recording contract. She had no intention in crossing over, and instead, wanted to continue to do what she saw as the “Lord’s work” with The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. This must have come as a surprise to Leo Kulka.
Back in 1965, most singers, including gospel singers, dreamt of signing a recording contract. Even if this meant crossing over from gospel to secular music. Jeanette Jones it appeared was the exception. That was until late 1967.
It wasn’t until late 1967, that Leo Kulka next encountered Jeanette Jones. By then, things had changed for Jeanette Jones. Not only had she crossed over, and was singing secular music, but she also had acquired a manager, Jay Barrett.
He didn’t come from a musical background. Instead, he was a banker who was based in Palo Alto. Although a relative newcomer to the music industry, Jay Barrett wasn’t content to be a manager, he also dreamt of forging a career as a songwriter. Jeanette Jones he hoped would go on to record some of these songs. So he went away to work on a proposal.
By then, Jeanette Jones had signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden Soul label. Leo Kulka was vastly experienced, and would be able to guide Jeanette Jones through the early stages of her recording career. Soon, though, Soon, Jay Barrett came up with a proposal. It stated that if Jeanette Jones was willing to record Jay Barrett’s songs, then he was willing to part finance the recording of a demo. This would be recorded Leo Kulka’s Golden State Recorders. Leo Kulka agreed to this, and began preparing for his first session with Jeanette Jones.
The recording session was scheduled to take place in February 1968. No expense was spared, and Leo Kulka began to put together an extensive backing band. There was a problem though. The songs that Jay Barrett had written were unsuited to Jeanette Jones in their present form.
They were poppy, and sounded like a remnant from earlier in the sixties. Soon, though, Leo Kulka had worked out a solution, backing vocalist. So Leo Kulka put in a call to Ramona King and her brother Cleo.
Ramona King’s career began in 1962, when she signed to Eden Records. Since then, she had spent time at Warner Bros. Records, Amy and most recently, Action Records. Leo Kulka explained that he needed backing vocalists to accompany Jeanette Jones and help her add some much needed soulfulness to Jay Barrett’s songs. The Kings agreed, and when the recording sessions began, found themselves at Golden State Recorders.
At that first recording session, Jeanette Jones recorded a couple of Jay Barrett songs, Jealous Moon and Quittin’ The Blues. With the large ensemble accompanying her, the two songs were soon in the can, They were produced by Leo Kulka, with Jay Barrett receiving a co-production credit. The next step, was to try and interest another label in the songs.
Leo Kulka began shopping Jealous Moon and Quittin’ The Blues to various labels. However, none of the labels expressed an interest in releasing the songs. For Leo Kulka, this was a huge disappointment. So he dug deep into his contact book.
The man he decided to consult was Larry Goldberg, an independent producer based in Los Angeles. Larry Goldberg was part talent scout, part producer. Part of his time was spent finding and developing artists. Other times, he shopped his artists to major labels. Just like Leo Kulka, Larry Goldberg was vasty experienced. He also thought he might have the answer to Leo Kulka’s problem.
The answer Larry Goldberg thought, might lie in three backing tracks. This included the Ben Raleigh penned Break Someone Else’s Heart. Another possibility was Andy Badale and Albert Elias’ I Want Action, which had recently given Ruby Winters a hit. The third and final songs was Sam Russell’s Cut Loose, which had been arranged by H.B. Barnum. Having listened to the three pop soul cuts, Leo Kulka agreed that they had the potential to solve his problem. So he gave Jeanette Jones a call, and she made her way to Golden State Recorders.
Although Jeanette Jones was signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden Soul label, she was still singing with the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Maybe she was keeping her options open, given the life of a professional singer could sometimes, be perilous? Careers were often short, unpredictable and unprofitable. Jeanette Jones must have realised this after her first recording session. Now was time to try once again.
Having listened to the trio of backing tracks, Jeanette Jones set about laying down vocals on Break Someone Else’s Heart and Cut Loose and I Want Action. Jeanette Jones had had done her part. Now it was over to Leo Kulka.
His job was to shop the songs to various labels. Given the quality of the songs, Leo Kulka must have been confident of securing a deal for Jeanette Jones. Despite his best efforts, none of the labels he approached were interested in releasing the songs. Lightning had struck twice for Jeanette Jones.
She returned to the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. By the spring of 1969, Jeanette Jones was now fronting the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. They were one of the biggest and most successful gospel choirs on the West Coast. Despite this, Jeanette Jones returned to Golden State Recorders.
Still Jeanette Jones hadn’t given up on her dream of making a career out soul music. So she headed to Golden State Recorders. That was where she first encountered singer-songwriter Wally Cox. Leo Kulka had asked him to write a song that would showcase Jeanette Jones’ conferable vocal talents. He delivered a trio of songs, including Darling, I’m Standing By You. It was tailor made for Jeanette Jones.
At Golden State Recorders, Jeanette Jones prepared to record Darling, I’m Standing By You. It was a career defining moment. Meanwhile, Wally Cox went away and wrote two new songs, The Thought Of You and I’m Glad I Got Over You. These songs had a much more contemporary sound, and could’ve and should’ve transformed Jeanette Jones’ career. Leo Kulka realised this.
So much so, that he was willing to release ‘Darling, I’m Standing By You and The Thought Of You’ on his own record label, Golden Soul. Leo Kulka hoped that the local R&B and gospel an radio stations would pickup on the single. This Leo Kulka hoped, would result in him being able to cut a distribution deal with a major label. That was the plan.
Leo Kulka had 1,000 copies of Darling, I’m Standing By You and The Thought Of You pressed. These copies he hoped would sell out, and the single would be picked up radio stations in the San Francisco area. However, the 1,000 copies of Darling, I’m Standing By You failed to sell, and Leo Kulka was back to square one.
While many people would’ve called it a day, Leo Kulka decided to use the single to shop Darling, I’m Standing By You to major labels. He took the single to Atlantic, but they turned the song down. Motown then passed on Darling, I’m Standing By You. Things weren’t looking good for Darling, I’m Standing By You, and Jeanette Jones’ career.
She had been trying to make a breakthrough since 1967, and was no nearer to doing so. Things however changed in 1971, when the Bihari brother agreed to release some of Leo Kulka’s releases on their Kent Records and Modern Records’ labels. One of the singles they chose to release was Jeanette Jones’ Darling, I’m Standing By You. Maybe, Jeanette Jones’ luck was changing?
Alas it wasn’t to be. Darling, I’m Standing By You failed commercially, and quickly, the single disappeared without trace. For Leo Kulka and Jeanette Jones it was a frustrating time. The single, Leo Kulka felt, hadn’t received sufficient promotion by Modern Records. So it was no surprise when it failed for commercially. By then, Jeanette Jones was beginning to rethink her future.
Following the commercial failure of Darling, I’m Standing By You, Jeanette Jones started to work as a session singer. She also worked with Mike Bloomfield on his Mill Valley Bunch project. They released their one and only album Casting Pearls on Verve Records in 1972. Soon, though, Jeanette Jones began to look beyond music.
Jeanette Jones began to do some voiceover work, and was chosen as the voice of the Swiss Colony Wine radio campaign. It was also around this time, that Jeanette Jones began to do some modelling. This kept her busy, and gradually, Jeanette Jones seemed to lose interest in music. Indeed, she only returned to Golden State Recorders one more time.
This was in 1974, when Jeanette Jones headed to Golden State Recorders to record a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, who a friend of both Mike Bloomfield and Leo Kulka. During that last session, Jeanette Jones cut two tracks penned by Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg. The first was You’d Be Good For Me and What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me? Sadly, after the publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, Jeanette Jones turned her back on music.
Since then, nothing has been heard of her, and the Jeanette Jones’ story is a case of what might have been. She could’ve and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Jeanette Jones certainly didn’t lack talent. Quite the opposite
Jeanette Jones was a hugely talented singer, who had the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. She could combine power and passion, and seamlessly switch between ballads and uptempo tracks. Despite her undoubted talent, sadly, Jeanette Jones never made a breakthrough. It was a case of what might have been.
That is despite Leo Kulka championing Jeanette Jones. He produced her, and then shopped the songs to bigger labels. Sadly, only once did a single get picked up by a bigger record, Darling, I’m Standing By You. Even when that happened in 1971, Modern Records didn’t promote the single sufficiently. Maybe this lead to Jeanette Jones considering her future?
After four years struggling to make a breakthrough, maybe reality kicked in and Jeanette Jones realised that not all dreams come true? It was certainly around this time that Jeanette Jones began to work as a session singer. After this, the only time Jeanette Jones returned to a recording studio was to record a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, Ironically, during that session, Jeanette Jones recorded one of her finest songs What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me? It’s a poignant reminder of a truly talented artist. Alas the Jeanette Jones story is a case of what might have been.
What if Jeanette Jones has signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden State in 1965, when he recorded The Voices Of Victory gospel choir? However, Jeanette Jones wanted to continue doing the “Lord’s work.” Maybe by the time she changed her mind in 1967, it was too late? Music was changing, and changing fast. Suddenly the musical landscape was totally different. There is also the possibility that Jeanette Jones was neither driven nor determined enough to make a career out of music. Deep down, maybe Jeanette Jones knew that enjoying a successful career as singer was a long shot, and very few succeeded? That was ironic, as Jeanette Jones had what it took to enjoy a long and successful career in music, talent.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JEANETTE JONES?
ARISE KING CREOSOTE.
Ever since the birth of modern music, Scotland has constant and consistently produced talented and innovative musicians. That’s been the case since the days of Donovan, John Martyn and Maggie Bell in the sixties, through to the Average White Band and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the seventies. Then in the eighties, Scotland produced The Blue Nile, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, Love and Money, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Associates and Aztec Camera. Scottish music enjoying a rich vein of form. This continued into tube nineties, with The Beta Band, Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub and The Delgados. Each of these artists have, and in some cases, are still releasing albums. However, none of them have released as many albums as Kenny Anderson.
Since 1995, Kenny Anderson has been a one man music making machine. He has released over forty albums under a number of aliases, including the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra, Khartoum Heroes, Kwaing Creasite and Jokes. That however, is just part of the Kenny Anderson story. Kenny Anderson is also a member of Kid Canaveral, and the Scottish-Canadian folk band The Burns Unit. However, it’s as King Creosote that Kenny Anderson has released the majority of his music.
Quite simply, the King Creosote back-catalogue is a veritable musical feast, fit for a king. There’s plenty of tasty treats awaiting discovery within King Creosote’s back-catalogue. Most of these albums were released on Fence Records, which King Creosote founded in 1995.
By 1995, singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson was twenty-eight, and living in Anstruther, a small fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. He was a familiar face within the Scottish music scene. For some time, Kenny Anderson had been contemplating founding his own record label. However, this was a big step and not one to be taken lightly.
Eventually, though, Kenny Anderson and Johnny Lynch of The Pictish Tail decided to take the plunge, and founded Fence Records. Most new labels would’ve been based in Glasgow or Edinburgh, where much of Scotland’s music industry was based. However, city life wasn’t for Kenny Anderson. Instead, he decided to base Fence Records in the place he called home Anstruther. Over the next twenty years, Anstruther would become synonymous with its most favourite resident, King Creosote.
By the time Fence Records had been founded, Kenny Anderson had adopted another moniker, King Creosote. Little did Kenny realise that King Creosote would become one of the most profile artists in the history of Scottish music.
Just three years after dawning the King Creosote moniker, Fence Records released its first album, Queen Of Brush Country in 1998. This was the debut album from King Creosote. It was released on CDR, and nowadays, is a much prized collector’s item. So are many of King Creosote’s albums.
This includes the rest of the albums King Creosote released during 1998. This includes Rain Weekend, Inner Crail To Outer Space, Or Is It? and Gink Scootere. By the time 1998 drew to a close, King Creosote had released five albums. He was a truly prolific and inimitable singer-songwriter.
As 1999 dawned, King Creosote continued to release albums with regularity. 1999: An Endless Round Of Balls (Parties and Social Events) was King Creosote first album of 1999. It was followed by Wednesday, Jacques De Fence and I Am 9, Fence Records’ ninth album. Soon, though, nine became ten when King Creosote released Planet Eggz. Just like all the other albums, it showcased King Creosote’s unique and often quirky songs, which were tinged with humour, hooks and social comment. King Creosote had come a long way in just a couple of years.
With the new millennia dawning, King Creosote seemed determined to steal James Brown’s crown as the hardest working man in music. Or Was It? was King Creosote’s first album of 2000. Soon, though, 12 O’Clock On The Dot and Stinks followed. This meant King Creosote had released thirteen albums in just three years. By then, King Creosote was maturing as a singer, songwriter and storyteller. His carefully crafted songs were beginning to find a wider audience.
G was the first album King Creosote released during 2001. It was one of the best albums the Fife-based singer-songwriter had released. King Creosote seemed to draw inspiration from a variety of sources, on what was a captivating album. Soon, though, King Creosote was back with a very different album, Radge Weekend Starts Here. This was followed by King Creosote Says “Buy The Bazouki Hair Oil.” However, King Creosote’s fourth album of 2001, was Disclaimer, which was another of his finest albums. 2001 had been a busy and successful year for King Creosote, having released five album and been busy playing live.
2002 would be just as busy. King Creosote released a limited edition, five disc box, Squeezebox Set. It featured Fair Dubhs, Favourite Girl, Whelk Of Arse, More Afraid Of Plastic and Losing It on the Gyles. These five albums meant that Fence Records had released twenty-two albums since 1998. They had all been released on CDR, but from 2003, things began to change at Fence Records.
For some time, record companies were watching the progress of King Creosote with interest. They were keen to add the singer-songwriter to their roster. Despite this, King Creosote wasn’t willing to turn his back on Fence Records. So Domino Records came up with a solution.
King Creosote’s albums would be released via Fence Records and Domino Records. It was a deal that gave King Creosote the best of both worlds. He was still signed to an independent label, while Domino Records had the financial muscle and expertise to promote and release King Creosote albums in different territories. Soon, King Creosote would be going global.
King Creosote’s albums would be released on CD, LP and as digital downloads in 2003 when Fence Records joined forces with Domino Records. In the short term, Fence Records continued to release albums on CDR.
During 2003, King Creosote released Now (Nearly 36), Psalm Clerk and Ideal Rumpus Room Guide on CDR. However, King Creosote also released Kenny and Beth’s Musakal Boat Rides in 2003. It was the first album to be released by Fence Records and Domino Records. Kenny and Beth’s Musakal Boat Rides was the album that also introduced King Creosote to a much wider audience. This was the start of the rise and rise of King Creosote.
While many artists would’ve concentrated on albums that could be released worldwide, King Creosote released several albums on CDR during 2004. This included Sea Glass, Red On Green, Three Nuns and Kompanion Çet +1 in September 2004. King Creosote also released Loose Tea On His Wynd, a limited edition LP. There was no sign of King Creosote slowing down. It was if he was making up for lost time.
King Creosote had released his debut album in 1998, when he was thirty-one. Since then, he had been averaging four and five albums each year. 2005 was no different. Balloons was released on CDR, and marked the end of an era. No further CDR albums were released. However, King Creosote was just as busy as ever.
Rocket D.I.Y. was released on April 4th 2005, and immediately hailed one of King Creosote’s best albums. When Vintage Quays was released later in 2005, it was the thirty-fourth album that Vintage Quays King Creosote had released. That number soon rose to thirty-five when KC Rules OK was released on September 19th 2005. It featured songs penned between 1999 and 2003. These songs captured the hearts and minds of critic and record buyers, and would soon be regarded as one of the finest albums in King Creosote’s back-catalogue.
2011 was another busy year for King Creosote. He released his solo album Thrawn, and then collaborated with Jon Hopkins on the album Diamond Mine . It was released in 2011, and was later nominated for the Mercury Prize. This played a part in King Creosote’s music reaching a much wider audience.
This just happened to coincide with King Creosote hitting a rich vein of form. On April the 21st 2013 King Creosote returned with a rerecorded version of one of the hidden gems in his back-catalogue, That Might Well Be It, Darling, It was originally an acoustic album, but King Creosote decided to rerecord the album with a full band.
King Creosote spent six months working with producer Paul Savage at the Chem 19 studio, in Blantyre. Critics believed that this was time well spent. The newly rerecorded version of That Might Well Be It, Darling ,many critics felt, was the best album of King Creosote’s fifteen year recording career. However, wasn’t the only album King Creosote released during 2013.
Later in 2013, King Creosote released the album Sure and Steadfast. It was album that King Creosote had released to raise funds for the Scottish Fisheries Museum, in his home village of Anstruther. Despite being one of Scotland’s top recording artists, King Creosote hadn’t forgotten his roots.
From Scotland With Love.
Further proof of this came in 2014, when King Creosote released From Scotland With Love, which was the soundtrack to a documentary feature film directed by Virginia Heath. The film was commissioned as part of the Cultural Festival, which accompanied the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. King Creosote seemed to have embraced the From Scotland With Love project, and had written and recorded some of the best songs of his career. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of From Scotland With Love, which was heard by a global audience during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
During the Commonwealth Games, a screening of From Scotland With Love took place on Glasgow Green, with King Creosote playing live. That night, an audience from the four corners of the globe were captivated and spellbound by King Creosote’s music. It was a far cry from the days when he was Scottish music’s best kept secret.
Despite releasing the most successful album of their career, King Creosote returned with another limited edition, vinyl release on Fence Records. 3 On This Island was released later in 2014, It may not have been as high profile a release as From Scotland With Love, but it featured nine carefully crafted songs. So did the followup, Småvulgär.
It was released in 2015, on Fence Records. Just like 3 On This Island, Småvulgär featured carefully crafted song which showcased the considerable talents of the truly talented trio. However, their next album, Astronaut Meets Appleman would see King Creosote return to the global stage.
Astronaut Meets Appleman.
Having just released one album, it wasn’t long before King Creosote began work on his next album. For the new album, King Creosote wrote ten new songs. They would become Astronaut Meets Appleman, the forty-sixth album from the uber prolific King Creosote. Recording of Astronaut Meets Appleman, King Creosote took place at various studios across Scotland.
Recording of the latest addition to the King Creosote songbook, Astronaut Meets Appleman took place between July 2015 and February. The sessions began at Analogue Catalogue in July 2015. Then the band headed to Gordon McLean’s at An Tobar, where recording took place between September and October 2015. To complete Astronaut Meets Appleman, King Creosote hooked up with an old friend, at Paul Savage at Chem 19 studios.
Paul Savage was no stranger to King Creosote, and had worked with them several times at Chem 19, on some of their best and most successful albums. This was no surprise. The producer and former Delgado drummer, was now one of the most experienced Scottish producers. He was sure to bring out the best in King Creosote, who made their way to the Blantyre studios.
When King Creosote arrived at At Chem 19, Kenny Anderson brought with him his trusty acoustic guitar, accordion, xylophone and synths. He would also play piano and add vocals. Joining Kenny Anderson, were the other members of King Creosote, drummer Andy Robinson and keyboardist, pianist and bassist Derek O’Neill. They were joined by some of their musical friends. Producer Paul Savage added drums and the sound of a ‘wind turbine; on Melin Wynt. Eventually, after seven months of recording at three different locations, Astronaut Meets Appleman was complete. Now it was ready for release.
Astronaut Meets Appleman was one of the most-anticipated albums of King Creosote’s twenty-one year career. Especially, as it became known that Astronaut Meets Appleman was one of the most eclectic albums of King Creosote’s career. The release of Astronaut Meets Appleman was eagerly awaited, as critics and record buyers awaited discovery of the delights within King Creosote’s latest musical feast.
That’s no exaggeration. Astronaut Meets Appleman which is King Creosote’s forty-sixth album, is without doubt, one of the best albums of a twenty-one year career. During that period, the chameleon-like King Creosote have become one Scotland’s top bands. Anyone wondering why, just need listen to albums like From Scotland With Love and Astronaut Meets Appleman.
They’re among the most accomplished and eclectic albums of King Creosote’s long and illustrious career. He’s now one of the elder statesmen of Scottish music. No two albums are the same. They can feature everything from folk, indie rock, perfect pop and psychedelia. Similarly, King Creosote albums can feature balladry, paeans, rockers and hook-laden anthems. King Creosote are equally happy delivering ballads, as they’re heading into anthem territory. That’s no surprise. Kenny Anderson is a talented singer-songwrter who can breath life, meaning and emotion in his lyrics. That’s the case on ballads and hook-laden and rocky anthems. He’s Mr. Versatile. However, King Creosote isn’t a one man band.
Far from it. Drummer Andy Robinson and Derek O’Neill who played keyboards, piano and bass both play vital roles in the success of the King Creosote story. Especially on recent additions to King Creosote’s burgeoning back-catalogue. It now numbers forty-six albums. However, for a newcomer whose yet to discover the delights of King Creosote, where do they start in this glorious, veritable musical feast? A good starting point is From Scotland To Love and Astronaut Meets Appleman, which are a tantalising taste of the inimitable King Creosote. These albums have introduced Scotland’s musical king to a much wider audience. It’s taken twenty-one years and over forty-six albums. However, at least, Scotland’s musical king are belatedly receiving the critical acclaim and recognition that their music so richly deserves. Arise King Creosote
ARISE KING CREOSOTE.
TED COLEMAN BAND-TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS-VINYL EDITION.
It was in 1921, that the Leedy Manufacturing Company first began marketing the vibraphone in America. Since then, the distinctive sound of the vibraphone has featured on albums by Gary Burton, Milt Jackson, Roy Ayres, Bobby Hutcherson, Tito Puente and Cal Tjader. They’re among just a few of the most high profile “vibes” players. There were many more musicians vibes players, including Ted Coleman.
His career began in Pittsburgh, where he played piano in local clubs. This was Ted Coleman’s introduction to life as a working musician, and was akin to a musical apprenticeship. Ironically, the piano wasn’t Ted Coleman’s first instrument. He was a talented multi—instrumental, whose musical weapon of choice was the vibes. It was the instrument that Ted Coleman would layer make his name playing.
Although Ted Coleman could play piano, synths, steel drums and the marimba, his first musical love was the vibes. Having started off playing piano, Ted switched to vibes. Soon, Ted Coleman became a popular attraction in Pittsburgh and later, New Jersey’s thriving and vibrant music scene. That’s no surprise.
Growing up, Ted Coleman was influenced by Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson. Then when Ted’s father introduced him to the music Cal Tjader, he was hooked on the languid Latin sound of the vibes. Soon, Ted was determined to follow in Cal Tjader’s footsteps.
As Ted Coleman’s career began to take shape, he was influenced by both Roy Ayers and Johnny Lytle. Their music was funkier and had a much more contemporary sound. This would go on to influence Ted Coleman’s career.
By 1979, Ted Coleman living in New Jersey, and had founded his own band, the Ted Coleman Band. They had already established a reputation locally, and were regarded as one of the rising stars of what was a thriving and eclectic local music scene. The next step for the Ted Coleman Band was to record their debut album, Taking Care Of Business, which was recently rereleased on vinyl by BBE. It was recorded back in 1979.
For Taking Care Of Business, Ted Coleman had written seven songs. They would be recorded at G.T. Recording Studio, Long Branch, New Jersey during 1979.
At the G.T. Recording Studio, the Ted Coleman Band began setting up. Its lineup featured drummers Al Woods Jr. and David Nuding, bassist Tim Tindall and rhythm guitarist Ethan Rips. They were joined by lead guitarist George Naha, Albert “Ali” Reyes on bongos and conga player David Stone. Ted Coleman had arranged the seven songs and was going to produce Taking Care Of Business. He also added vocals and played vibes, piano, synths and was responsible for the strings. Tom Elliott was one of two house engineers, ensured the session ran smoothly. Then when Taking Care Of Business was recorded, it was mixed by Ted Coleman. Now the Ted Coleman Band were ready to released their debut album Taking Care Of Business.
With Taking Care Of Business recorded, the next step for the Ted Coleman Band was getting the album released. This was where the New Jersey based JSR label came in. They were a relatively new company, and one that specialised in releasing albums by what they called “working bands.” JSR’s approach was quite simple: they didn’t offer advances neither did they cover recording nor production costs. The Ted Coleman Band weren’t even signed to JSR. What JSR would do, was press copies of Taking Care Of Business, and the Ted Coleman Band could sell them at concerts or via retail outlets. That was the theory.
In 1980, the Ted Coleman Band’s debut album Taking Care Of Business was released via JSR, sporting a cover designed by Ted. He had been involved in every aspect of the release. Doubtless Ted was involved in selling copies of the album, as he had been hands on throughout the project.
Alas, like many private pressings, Taking Care Of Business wasn’t a huge seller. Instead, it found an audience in the New Jersey area, especially among those who saw the Ted Coleman Band live. However, the Ted Coleman Band weren’t going to get rich out of Taking Care Of Business.
That proved to be case. It wasn’t until much later, that the Ted Coleman Band’s debut album began to find an audience. Some lucky record buyers stumbled across copies, and took a chance on Taking Care Of Business. Gradually, word began to spread about Taking Care Of Business. Soon, though, demand began to outstrip supply. That’s often the case with private pressings that belatedly find an audience. Nowadays, an original copy Taking Care Of Business will cost £533 or $649. Fortunately, BBE have recently released Taking Care Of Business.
Opening Taking Care Of Business is Can You Feel It? It bursts joyously into life. The rhythm section, complete with an uber funky bass, is joined by keyboards, Latin percussion and sweeping strings. They accompany Ted’s tender, heartfelt and soulful. When his vocal drops out, a jazzy guitar solo proves the perfect replacement. It’s then replaced by Ted’s vibes solo as the strings dance and the percussion and rhythm section power the arrangement along. The rest of the band enjoy their moment in the sun, and prove to be a talented and versatile band. They accompany Ted when vocal returns, and later, enjoy another opportunity to showcase their skills as almost seamlessly, they combines funk, jazz, Latin and soul to create a joyous slice of feel good music.
Drums pound while a guitar chimes and is joined by bubbling, funky bass on Due Consideration. They’re soon joined by Ted’s vibes and a soon, his vocal. He delivers lyrics that are full of social comment. When the vocal drops out, a jazz guitar and then Ted’s vibes take centre-stage. Ted unleashes a virtuoso performance on the vibes, as the rhythm section take the track in the direction of the dance-floor. That’s where this irresistible hook-laden track belongs.
Straight away, it’s obvious something special is unfolding on If We Took the Time. The rhythm section and guitar provide a funky backdrop, while strings sweep and combine with the vibes. They accompany Ted, as he delivers another heartfelt and soulful vocal. It drops out at 1.09 and the Band get the opportunity to shine. This includes Ted who step forward at 1.32 and delivers another flawless solo. He gives way to a jazzy guitar solo, which steals the show. Soon, it’s replaced by a rocky and effects laden guitar solo. Ted it seems was comfortable playing with some truly talented musicians, and had no qualms about allowing them to take centre-stage. When Ted’s vocal returns, it’s still tender, heartfelt and ruminative, as he delivers lyrics that are still relevant today. Similarly, there’s a timeless quality to this beautiful, laid back fusion of soul, funk and jazz.
Due Consideration Interlude finds the Ted Coleman lock into a funky groove on this instrumental. The rhythm section anchor the arrangement, as strings sweep. Percussion is added to the bouncy, funky arrangement, before Ted, wielding his trusty mallet delivers another solo on this dance-floor friendly jam.
Sweet Bird sees a drop in tempo as the arrangement flows elegiacally along. The rhythm anchor the arrangement, strings sweep above the arrangement, while percussion and keyboards play. Then Ted steps forward and delivers another vibes solo. It’s then replaced by a searing guitar solo that uses as its reference point Seals and Croft’s Summer Breeze. From there, the arrangement meanders melodically along, and as the Ted Coleman Band showcase their considerable skills.
Just vibes play before lush strings join the rhythm section and keyboards on What a Lovely Way. They provide the backdrop for Ted’s dreamy, lovestruck vocal. When it drops out, the vibes are to the fore as the arrangement ebbs and flows. Still, the rhythm section provide a slightly funky sound, as lush strings sweep. Then when the vibes drop out, it’s replaced by a languid, laid-back jazz guitar solo. It’s the best on Taking Care Of Business, and together with the strings, they provide a beautiful, summery sounding backdrop for Ted Coleman’s paean.
Samba De closes Taking Care Of Business the Ted Coleman Band’s debut album. Vibes join with the urgent Latin percussion, before a jazz guitar and strings sweep in. They take the track in the direction of the dance-floor. That’s despite another jazz guitar solo, as the rhythm section, bongos and congas power the arrangement along. Then at 2.25 Ted steps up and plays his vibes with speed and accuracy. He plays with the same urgency as the percussion and rhythm section. When the vibes drop out, the rest of the band get one last opportunity to shine. A piano takes over, then gives way to the guitar, percussion and drums. Even the strings enjoy a moment in the sun, before Ted takes charge and ensures that Taking Care Of Business ends on a high, with this genre-melting instrumental. The Ted Coleman Band it seems, have kept the best until last.
Thirty-six years have passed since the Ted Coleman Band released their debut album Taking Care Of Business in 1980. It’s stood the test of time, and belatedly, found the audience it deserves. There was only one problem, original copies of Taking Care Of Business were prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, BBE have recently reissued Taking Care Of Business on vinyl, and the Ted Coleman Band’s debut album can now be heard by a wider audience.
They will discover an album that’s a glorious fusion of funk, jazz, Latin and soul. There’s even the occasional rocky guitar lick thrown in for good measure on Taking Care Of Business. Mostly, though, the music on Taking Care Of Business is funky, jazz-tinged and soulful. It’s also dance-floor friendly. This is in part to the irresistible Latin rhythms and funky rhythm section. They’re part of the multitalented Ted Coleman Band.
Looking back, it seems that unlike many bandleaders, Ted Coleman wasn’t afraid to surround himself with talented musicians. He gave them a platform to showcase their considerable skills. This they were allowed to do throughout Taking Care Of Business, but especially during the solos. Ted Coleman wasn’t afraid to allow his band to take centre-stage. When this opportunity arose, they grasped it with both hands, and sometimes, came close to upstaging Ted. Especially, lead guitarist George Naha, whose jazzy solos ran Ted close on several occasions. However, Taking Care Of Business wasn’t just the work of one or two men.
While Ted Coleman wrote, arranged, produced and mixed Taking Care Of Business, each and every member of the Ted Coleman Band play their part an important part in the album’s sound and belated success. Thirty-six years after the The Ted Coleman Band released Taking Care Of Business, this timeless, hidden gem is belatedly finding the audience it deserves. It’s a case of better late than never.
Just like so many private presses, Taking Care Of Business never found the audience it deserved. JSR which in 1980, was a relatively new company, neither had the resources nor marketing expertise to promote the album. Neither did the Ted Coleman Band. Fortunately, things have changed, and now record buyers worldwide are able to discover the delights of BBE’s reissue of Ted Coleman Band’s debut album Taking Care Of Business.
TED COLEMAN BAND-TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS-VINYL EDITION.
VERONIQUE VINCENT AND ASKAK MABOUL-16 VISIONS OF EX-FUTUR.
After Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis left Aksak Maboul, many within Belgian music thought that would mark the end of the band. It didn’t though. The Aksak Maboul story was far from over.
Instead, the remaining members of Aksak Maboul decided to continue, and record a new album. The recording sessions for what most people thought would be Aksak Maboul’s third album, were due to begin later in 1980. However, it wasn’t just an Aksak Maboul album. Far from it.
When recording began, it was proved to be a collaboration between the great and good of Belgian progressive music. Joining Aksak Maboul were vocalist Veronique Vincent and The Honeymoon Killers. They spent the best part of three years recording ten tracks. Then in 1983, the project ground to a halt. That looked like the end of this all-star collaboration.
For the next thirty-one years, Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers’ Ex-Futur Album lay in Crammed Discs’ vaults. It was rediscovered in 2014, and released to widespread critical acclaim in October 2014. The Ex-Futur Album was hailed an avant-pop classic. Belatedly, the album found the audience it so richly deserved. This was a cause for celebration.
So is the release by Crammed Discs of the latest release from , Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul, 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. It features a variety of artists reimagining the Ex-Futur Album. This includes Jaakko Eino, Forever Pavot, Marc Collin, Laetitia Sadder, Lena Willikens, Bullion, Flavien Berg, Aquaserge, Capitol K, Hello Skinny and Burnt Friedman. Fittingly, Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul feature twice on 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. It’s a celebration of the music on the Ex-Futur Album which is reimagined and reinvented. However, if the Ex-Futur Album hadn’t been rediscovered, there would be no 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. What were the circumstances surrounding Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers’ Ex-Futur Album? The story begins back in 1977.
That was when Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis founded Belgian avant-garde rock band Aksak Maboul. Marc played keyboards, reeds and percussion, while Vincent played guitar, bass guitar and keyboards. Later, keyboardist Marc Moulin joined Aksak Maboul. Later, so did percussionist and keyboardist Chris Joris. This was the lineup that recorded Aksak Maboul’s debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.
Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.
Work on Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine began in May 1977. Aksak Maboul worked quickly, and recording of Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, finished in May 1977. Mostly, this genre-defying album was the work of Marc Hollander. As a result, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine was credited to Marc Hollander and Aksak Maboul. It was released in 1977, on the Belgian label Kamikaze.
Upon its release, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine was well received by critics. It was a truly adventurous and groundbreaking albums. Genres literally melted into one. This included avant-garde, classical music, electronic, free jazz, progressive rock, rock and world music. There was more than a nod to Frank Zappa, minimalism and Captain Beefheart, on an album that would eventually, become a cult classic.
Since the release of Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine, critics have reappraised the album. Back in 1977, it didn’t find the audience it deserves. In the intervening thirty-seven years, it has. As a result, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine it’s been hailed a cult classic. Everyone from cultural commentators to progressive rock fans have delved deep into Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, discovering its eclectic delights. Little did Aksak Maboul realise the effect their debut album would eventually have. Back in 1977, all Aksak Maboul were interested in doing was recording their sophomore album, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.
Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.
Towards the end of 1977, Aksak Maboul decided to start playing live. This marked the start of a new chapter in the Aksak Maboul story, when changes were afoot.
This was the start of a period when Aksak Maboul’s lineup seemed to be constantly evolving. This began when Marc Moulin and Chris Joris departed the band. Their replacement was percussionist and keyboardist Frank Wuyts. Next to join was
cellist Denis van Hecke. Not long after this, Michel Berckmans, who played oboe and bassoon joined. He had just left Belgian progressive band Univers Zéro. However, this wasn’t the end of the changes in Aksak Maboul’s lineup.
At the start of 1979, Henry Cow had just split-up. So Chris Cutler and Fred Frith were asked to join Aksak Maboul. They agreed to do so, and Aksak Maboul started work on their sophomore album, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.
This involved a trip to Switzerland. Recording of Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits took place at Sunrise Studio, Kirchberg, St. Gallen. It was here that Aksak Maboul pushed musical boundaries even further than they had before.
The music Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits took on a new intensity and complexity. It veered towards avant-garde and experimental music. Again, musical genres melted into one on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. Everything from ambient and chamber rock to punk, tangos and Turkish music. It was a very different album from Aksak Maboul. That wasn’t the end of the differences.
Forever determined to innovate, Aksak Maboul used sampling for the first time on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. However, there was a problem. Samplers were relatively new. They were still prohibitively expensive, and way outside the budget of most groups. That wouldn’t stop Aksak Maboul making use of sampling.
Far from it. Instead, Aksak Maboul had to improvise. This was all part of Aksak Maboul’s determination to forge their own way. They wanted to be trailblazers, rather than following in other group’s wakes. That proved to the case on Un Peu de l’Ame Des Bandits.
When Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits was released in 1980, it was on a different label, Crammed Discs. It had been founded by Marc Hollander. One of its first releases was Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. It was released to favourable reviews. Again, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits was an underground album. This meant it didn’t capture the attention of a wider audience until much later. Those who did hear Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, marvelled at a complex, compelling, eclectic and innovative genre-melting album.
With such a wide variety of musical genres, influences and ideas sitting side-by-side on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, it was an album that could just as easily not have worked. However, it did. With every listen some new subtlety or nuance shawn through. It was a compelling and beguiling album. Critics, cultural commentators and music lovers awaited Aksak Maboul’s next step. They were in for a surprise.
The Honeymoon Killers-Les Tueurs De La Lune De Miel.
“Nothing lasts forever.”The words of Bryan Ferry proved prophetic. In early 1980, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the two original members of Aksak Maboul left the band. They decided to join forces with Yvon Vromman, J.F Jones Jacob, and Gérald Fenerberg of Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel. They called their new band The Honeymoon Killers. The only thing missing was a lead singer. This was where Véronique Vincent came in. She was the final piece in musical jigsaw that was The Honeymoon Killers.
They headed out on tour in 1980 and 1981. This was important. With two bands and a vocalist becoming one, they had to hone their sound. The Honeymoon Killers were one of the pioneers of pre-recorded drum machine loops. They played drum loops on cassette. This was the starting point. Layers of bass, drums, t guitar, bass, drums, percussion and tinny organ sounds were combined. Atop sat vocals. Given the experimental nature of The Honeymoon Killers, it’s no surprise that some of their songs lasted nearly twenty minutes. They were determined to do things their way.
This extended to The Honeymoon Killers’ setlist. They switched seamlessly between from free jazz and French chanson, to punk and rockabilly. Each musical genre was interpreted by he Honeymoon Killers in their own unique way. During these concerts, The Honeymoon Killers found their sound. Now the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers were ready to release some new music.
Later in 1981, the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers released cover of Charles Trenet Route Nationale 7 as a single. It was a hit in France and Belgium. So The Honeymoon Killers headed into the studio, to release what was their sophomore album, Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel.
Having recorded Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel at various studios across Europe, the album was released on Crammed Records in 1982. Reviews ranged from positive to glowing and critically acclaimed. The Honeymoon Killers’ unique and quirky brand of genre hopping music, was winning friends and influencing people.
This proved to be the case. In Belgium, France, Germany and Britain, Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel sold relatively well. It became something of a cult album. Considering this was the first album by the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers, it looked like they were going places. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Never again, would The Honeymoon Killers release another album. Their only singles was 1982s Décollage. Three years later, The Honeymoon Killers. Their legacy was Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel, which is hailed as the best Belgian rock album ever. However, thirty-two years later, The Honeymoon Killers would return.
Although Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the two original members of Aksak Maboul left the band, the Aksak Maboul story wasn’t over. No. Aksak Maboul had began working on their their third album in 1980. For the next three, years Aksak Mobil recorded ten tracks. This wasn’t just an Aksak Maboul album. No. It was a collaboration between the great and good of Belgian progressive music.
Vocalist Veronique Vincent and The Honeymoon Killers joined Aksak Maboul. Right up until 1983, this all-star cast of Belgian musicians worked on what would eventually become the Ex-Futur Album. Sadly, it was never completed, and in 1983, the project ground to a halt.
For thirty-three years, Ex-Futur Album lay unloved in the Crammed Discs vaults. That’s where it was discovered in 2014.
After dusting down the Ex-Futur Album, it was discovered that Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers had recorded ten tracks. Nine of them were penned by Marc Hollander and Veronique Vincent. The exception is a cover My Kind Of Doll. These songs were the long losr Ex-Futur Album, which, it quickly became apparent had the potential to become an avant-pop classic.
So in late October 2014, Crammed Discs released the Ex-Futur Album to widespread critical acclaim. Critics hailed the album a lost avant-pop classic. Belatedly, Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers’ groundbreaking album was finding the audience it deserved. However, that wasn’t the end of the story.
16 Visions Of Ex-Futur.
Since then, Crammed Discs have been compiling a sixteen track compilation of reinterpretations, reworks, remixes and covers of the songs on the Ex-Futur Album. It’s entitled 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur, and features artists from Britain, America and Europe. This includes Jaakko Eino, Forever Pavot, Marc Collin, Laetitia Sadder, Lena Willikens, Bullion, Flavien Berg, Aquaserge, Capitol K, Hello Skinny and Burnt Friedman. Fittingly, Veronique Vincent and Aksak Mabou feature twice on 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur, which I’ll tell you about.
The two most important tracks on any album, are those that bookend the album. 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur is no different. Here, a truly memorable track opens the compilation. That’s a cover of Itken Aina (I’m Always Crying). It comes courtesy of the hugely talented Finnish singer, songwriter and musician Jaakko Eino Kalevi. He delivers a whispery vocal, while the arrangement is a fusion of pop, electronica and even a hint of jazz. This results in captivating that’s sure to whet the listener’s appetite for the rest of 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur.
Forever Pavot covers what was the only cover version on the Ex-Futur-Album, My Kind Of Doll. He reinvents the song, into a three minute genre-melting symphony. Elements of pop, electronica, funk, classical and even reggae are combined by sonic sculptor Forever Pavot. The result is an ethereal, dubby, bubbling epic which wouldn’t sound out of place on a modern day Pet Sounds.
For three decades, Marc Collin has been making music. He’s a musician, producer and also, composes music for films. That’s apparent on his rework of The Aboriginal Variations. Marc Collin has put great thought into the track. What was once an eight minute epic, has been transformed into a much tighter, more minute track. It meanders along, gradually revealing not just its secrets and subtleties. Soon, though, it ebbs and flows revealing both its drama and beauty during what’s a carefully crafted and compelling, cinematic track
Lena Willikens is a name many people may not be familiar with. She’s based in Düsseldorf, Germany and is a DJ, musician and producer. For 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur, she chose to reimagine
I’m Always Crying. It’s totally reinvented and takes on a dreamy, lysergic and wistful sound that’s quite beautiful. This is very different from the original, and is something of a musical masterstroke from Lena Willikens,
Using his Bullion alias, London based Nathan Jenkins takes
Veronika Winken and sets about reinventing it. Most of the vocal is gone, with just a few parts remaining. They augment the Afro-beat guitars, a drum machine and various synths. This includes a sci-fi and pulsating bass synth. Bullion sets about fusing Afro-beat, electronica and funk as synths strings sweep the arrangement along. His rework veers between joyous and cinematic to dark, dramatic and dance-floor friendly.
Flavien Berger, who is regarded as one of the rising stars of French electro chose to cover Je Pleure Tout Le Temps. He stays true to the original, with slow, spartan arrangement accompanying a tender, heartfelt vocal on this ballad. It’s a potent and beautiful combination, and one I would like hear more of. Maybe Flavien Berger should reinterpret the Ex-Futur album?
Aquaserge who are also signed to Crammed Discs, are an experimental pop band, whose music is both influential and innovative. They rework Endormons-Nous, which never featured on the original album. In their hands, it becomes a genre-melting track. Elements of electronica, jazz and pop combine with bursts of rocky guitars and stabs of blazing horns. It’s a case of expect the unexpected, as the tempo rises and and falls. Continually Aquaserge spring surprises on what’s the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour.
While everyone else features just once on 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur, Véronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul feature twice. That’s fitting, as they played a huge part on the Ex-Futur Album. Their first contribution is Saure Gurke 2016, which never featured on the original album. It’s a keyboard driven instrumental with an eighties influence. This has been reworked and is best described as anthem-in-waiting that could fill a dance floor.
Véronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul’s other contribution is Le Troisième Personnage/Paysage Volé. Just like the original, keyboards play a leading role. Sonically and stylistically they’re different. So is Véronique’s vocal. She eschews power for a much more tender vocal. Searing guitars are added to the arrangement, and join the banks of keyboards as this ten minute epic is given a moderne makeover for the 21st Century.
London based musician and producer Capitol K, decided to rework My Kind Of Doll, which becomes Kinda Doll. Gone is the original indie sound, to be replaced by synths, a drum machine and a vocoder. They play their part in what’s an almost futuristic and jaunty slice of slick electro.
While some artists stay true to the original version of a song, that’s not the case with Nite Jewel. It started off as the musical vehicle for California based Ramona Gonzalez. Nowadays, though, when Nite Jewel play live, she’s joined by Emily Jane Kuntz, Corey Lee Granet and collaborator Cole M.G.N. However, Nite Jewel’s version of Chez Les Aborigènes is best described as a conceptual revisitation. This is something Ramona Gonzalez specialises in. Here, Chez Les Aborigènes takes on a robotic and futuristic sound. Synths buzz, beep and squeak, while a drum machine cracks and effects have been added to the vocal. This results in an innovative conceptual revisitation, which breathes new life into the original track.
Hello Skinny is the alias of London based Tom Skinner, a veteran of many groups. He gets the opportunity to showcase his talents on 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. Straight away, it’s obvious something special is unfolding on Hello Skinny’s take on Oh Je Veux! Banks of synths, drums, percussion and a vocal are combined. Reverb is added to the arrangement, and adds the finishing touch. Hooks certainly haven’t been spared, on a track that’s dubby and dance-floor friendly.
Germany has a rich musical heritage. That’s been the case from the days of Krautrock and the Berlin School. Nowadays, Bernt Friedman is regarded as one of the top German electronic artists. Using his Burnt Friedman moniker, he reimagines Je Pleure Tout Le Temps. Although he stays true to the original, Burnt Friedman eschews the understated arrangement favoured by Flavien Berger. Replacing the piano are synths, which fatten the arrangement as drums provide the heartbeat. Although the tempo is similar, the electronic arrangement is bigger and louder. This shows that there are many ways to reinvent a track.
Afflux Skoui is given a dance-floor friendly makeover by Easy and C.O.U. A pulsating bass synths is at the heart of the arrangement, as sci-fi sounds, drums and stabs of dramatic synths combine. Then a scatted vocal plays a brief walk on role. From there, Easy and C.O.U. sculpt a big, bold and dramatic dance-track that’s sure to appeal to DJs and dancers.
Fuir Les Aborigènes by Bérangère Maximin closes 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. It’s another innovative track, where invention is the order of the day. The melody meanders beneath a myriad of everyday sounds, as a sample is played backwards. Later, there’s a sense of urgency in this inventive and innovative track. By then, Bérangère Maximin has pushed musical boundaries to their limits. In doing so, the reinvention of Fuir Les Aborigènes is the perfect track to bookends 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. It ensures that the compilation ends on a musical high.
Two years ago, Crammed Discs decided to release Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers’ Ex-Futur Album. It had lain in Crammed Discs’ vaults for thirty-three long years. When it was released, it was to widespread critical acclaim. The Ex-Futur Album was a lost avant-pop classic, and introduced Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers’ music to a much wider audience. Now just two years later, and Crammed Disc are set to release the companion disc to the Ex-Futur Album, 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. It’s a fascinating concept.
Fourteen artists from Britain, America and Europe were asked to reinterpret, remix or cover one of the songs on the Ex-Futur Album. Some stayed true to the original, including Flavien Berger’s cover of Je Pleure Tout Le Temps. Meanwhile, others artists reinvent a track. In doing so, the track is totally transformed and becomes a new song. That’s the case with Nite Jewel’s rework of Chez Les Aborigènes. Other artists take a different approach.
When Marc Collin reworks The Aboriginal Variations, he transforms it from an eight minute epic to a much shorter, tighter track. It ebbs and flows revealing both its drama and beauty during what’s a carefully crafted and compelling, cinematic track. It’s without doubt one of the highlights of 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur. So is Flavien Berger understated cover Je Pleure Tout Le Temps. This beautiful ballad pays homage to the original track. However, the DJs and producers take a different approach.
There were several DJs and producers of electronic music were involved in the 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur project. Unsurprisingly, they take their chosen track in the direction of the dance-floor. That’s what they know. They’re comfortable with formula for dance music, and would be out of comfort zone trying to record a ballad or indie rock cover. It’s a case of horses for courses, with each artist and producer sticking to what they know best. This works, and works well throughout 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur.
It features sixteen captivating and innovative reworks, remixes and covers from the Ex-Futur Album. This includes two from two of the stars of the Ex-Futur Album, Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul. They feature twice, and this is a reminder if any was needed, of their avant-pop classic. The Ex-Futur Album. It’s is a truly timeless album, and the 16 Visions Of Ex-Futur compilation, with its reworks, remixes and cover versions is the perfect companion to the Ex-Futur Album, which is a long-lost avant pop classic.
VERONIQUE VINCENT AND ASKAK MABOUL-16 VISIONS OF EX-FUTUR.
ADAM HOLMES AND THE EMBERS-BRIGHTER STILL.
Edinburgh based singer-songwriter Adam Holmes, is without doubt, one of the rising stars of Scottish music. His debut album Heirs and Graces was released to critical acclaim in January 2014. Later that year, Heirs and Graces was nominated for the prestigious Scottish Album of the Year Award, and the Best Album at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards. Adam Holmes’ star was definitely in the ascendancy.
By then, songs from Heirs and Graces was being played by radio stations across Britain, Europe and North America. This resulted in Heirs and Graces reaching number five in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. The twenty-four year old singer-songwriter had come a long way in a short space of time.
Just over two years later, and Adam Holmes returns with the much anticipated followup to Heirs and Graces, Brighter Still. This time around, Adam Holmes and The Embers receive equal billing on Brighter Still, which was released on the Gogar label. Brighter Still is the latest chapter in a story that began when Adam Holmes was just fourteen,
That was when Edinburgh born, Adam Holmes, switched from fiddle to guitar. Just over a year later, he began writing his own songs. Over the next few years, Adam Holmes concentrated on honing his skills as a singer, songwriter and musician.
This quickly began to pay off. In 2009, Adam Holmes entered Celtic Connections’ Young Traditional Musician of the Year. He went on to reach the final of what’s one of the most prestigious traditional music competitions in Britain. However, more recognition would come Adam’s way.
Just two years later, Adam Holmes was nominated as the Best Newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2011. By then, Adam Homes’ natural habitat was the pubs and clubs across Britain where folk music was played. Adam would turn up play, and then head to the next venue. This was life for the next couple of years.
People were beginning to take notice of the Edinburgh born troubadour. So it was no surprise that in 2013, Adam Holmes was nominated for the Best Up and Coming Artist at the 2013 Scots Traditional Music Awards. By then, Adam Holmes’ thoughts had turned to his debut album.
In 2013, Adam Holmes entered the studio to record his debut album. Accompanied by his band The Embers, Adam recorded the ten songs that would become Heirs and Graces.
Adam Holmes released his debut album Heirs and Graces in January 2013. It was released to critical acclaim, with Adam Holmes being hailed as an artist with a great future ahead of them. These were prescient and wise words.
Before long, songs from Heirs and Graces was being played by radio stations across Britain, Europe and North America. This resulted in Heirs and Graces reaching number five in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. Soon, though things would get even better for Adam Holmes.
Later in 2014, Heirs and Graces was nominated for one of the biggest and most prestigious awards in Scottish music, the Scottish Album of the Year Award. Not long after this, Heirs and Graces was nominated for the Best Album at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards. The Edinburgh singer-songwriter had come a long way in a short space of time.
Since then, Adam Holmes has continued to hone and develop his own unique style of music. It’s a mixture of musical genres and influences. Elements of Americana, country, folk and R&B can be heard in Adam Holmes music. So can the influences of his fellow countryman John Martyn, plus troubadours like James Taylor and Townes Van Zandt. That’s not forgetting Neil Young, The Band and even Bon Iver and Ryan Adams. The result is Adam Holmes’ take on Americana, where he doesn’t forget his Scottish roots. It’s a potent and heady brew.
This potent and heady brew features on Adam Holmes and The Embers’ new album Brighter Still. It features nine songs penned by Adam Holmes. These songs were recorded in Glasgow.
To get to Gloworm Recording in Glasgow, Adam Holmes and The Embers and journeyed along the M8 from east to west. Once they reached the studio, the band began to setup. The Embers rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Callum McIntyre, bassist Alex Hunter and guitarist Stuart Nisbet who also plays pedal steel. John Lowrie played piano and electric piano; while Colin Train played Hammond organ and like Andy Paul, added backing vocals. Eddi Reader joined Adam on Love Down The Line. Meanwhile, Adam played acoustic and electric guitar, took charge of lead vocals and co-produced Brighter Still with Ian Hutchison. He would engineer the sessions, and later, mix and master Brighter Still. It was recorded live, by Adam Holmes and The Embers.
With Brighter Still complete, it was scheduled for release later in 2016. It marks the return of one of the true rising stars of folk music, Adam Holmes and The Embers.
Opening Brighter Still, is the ballad When The Lights Go Down. Just a lone electric piano plays, before the rhythm section, piano and acoustic guitar create a backdrop for Adam Holmes’ soul-baring, heartfelt, vocal. He gives thanks for the love that he’s found. Meanwhile, washes of Hammond organ are added, while the bass locks into a groove with Callum McIntyre’s subtle drums. They’re responsible the arrangement’s heartbeat. Gospel tinged harmonies are added, and soar above the arrangement, as a piano plays. Together, they provide the perfect backdrop for Adam on this beautiful, radio friendly paean where Adam Holmes and The Embers fuse elements of Americana, country, gospel and soul seamlessly.
People Come, People Go sees the tempo rise. Drums almost gallop, while a subtle, chiming guitar accompanies Adam’s vocal. Already, there’s similarities to Irish troubadour Paul Brady. It’s not just the vocal, but parts of the arrangement. Meanwhile Adam reassures: “everything’s gonna be alright, people come and people go, everything’s gonna be alright.”. Washes of Hammond organ add an atmospheric hue, as the rhythm section and guitars drive the arrangement along. The Embers then add urgent harmonies, as continues to reassure. Later, when the vocal drops out, The Embers enjoy the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents, before Adam returns on this carefully crafted and truly memorable song.
Just an organ plays slowly as Shining Star gradually reveals its secrets. It gives way to an acoustic guitar, piano and then Adam’s vocal. It’s full of emotion about a “Shining Star” he knows. She’s unselfish and strong, “your friends and family lean on you…someday someone is going to treat you right, someone will sing your song.” Soon, the rhythm section and crystalline guitar are joined by a Hammond organ, piano and harmonies. They accompany Adam as the arrangement builds blossoms. Then when the vocal drops out, the rest of the band jam, and add harmonies. It’s a truly irresistible slice of Americana, that features Adam Holmes and The Embers at their best.
The arrangement to One Soul is sparse, with just the drums and piano being joined by the bass. They provide the backdrop for Adam’s vocal. Although it’s full of sadness, but ultimately,he realises there’s nothing he can do for his brother. This is hard to take, as he delivers an impassioned and powerful vocal. Behind him, The Embers frame his vocal. Gradually, the pieces of the arrangement fall into place, including washes of whirling harmonies, a weeping guitar and harmonies. Then when the vocal drops out at 2.26, the rhythm section provides the heartbeat as the piano and then guitar take centre-stage. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ adds an atmospheric backdrop. Soon, though, the baton passes to Adam, and with harmonies accompanying him, he unleashes a vocal that’s a mixture a power, passion and emotion. They play their part in a powerful, poignant and beautiful ballad from Adam Holmes and The Embers.
Straight away, there’s cinematic sound to Nadine. Maybe it’s the way that the drums play slowly and dramatically, as the guitar rings out. They add an atmospheric backdrop. Adam meanwhile, delivers another soul-baring vocal. It sounds as if he’s lived the lyrics and experienced the hurt and heartbreak. So it seems, has the lone backing vocalist. By then, a piano joins the rhythm section and quivering guitar. They’re joined by a Hammond organ as Adam’s vocal drops out. From there, the guitars cut through the arrangement, adding to the drama. So do the drums, piano and ethereal backing vocal. Its reference point is Clare Torry’s vocal masterclass on Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig In The Sky. It plays a crucial part in the sound and success of Nadine, which is a near seven minute dramatic Magnus Opus.
There’s a change of direction on I Want To Be Your Friend. A slinky piano plays as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Adam delivers a heartfelt, hopeful vocal as he sings: “I Want To Be Your Friend.” Tender cooing harmonies respond to Adam’s vocal. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare. Just the piano, guitar and bass remain, as this hopeful ballad reaches a crescendo. It’s another carefully crafted song that showcases the multitalented Adam Holmes and The Embers.
Just an acoustic guitar accompanies Adam’s vocal on Love Down The Line. Soon, a piano, Hammond organ and the rhythm section enter, and play slowly as Adam asks: “are you ready to Love Down The Line?” When his vocal drops out, Eddi Reader takes charge of the lead vocal. She breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics, and then joins with Adam. Then as the vocal drops out, a weeping pedal steel is at the heart of an arrangement that sounds as if it was recorded in Nashville, not Glasgow. It’s the perfect backdrop for Adam and Eddi on another beautiful, poignant ballad.
With just a piano for company, Adam delivers a needy vocal on Joanna. He’s almost pleading as he sings oh Joanna: “won’t you stay, oh Joanna won’t you, did I tell you that I love you, did I tell you not to go?” Meanwhile, the weeping pedal steel, rhythm section and piano accompany Adam, as delivers a needy vocal where his hurt and heartbreak is omnipresent.
Closing Brighter Still is Cutting Loose, where an acoustic guitar and piano accompany Adam. Again, his vocal bristles with emotion as he delivers the lyrics on this ballad. Against a spartan arrangement Adam delivers the lyrics. There’s a mixture of relief, sadness and frustration, as he: “packs his bag…I’m on my way.” This frustration is reflected on the choppy guitar licks that replace his vocal. When it returns, it’s as if Adam has realised that Cutting Loose was the only option left for him. Just like each of his songs, it’s like a mini-drama that he brings to life with the help of The Embers.
Although Brighter Still features just nine songs lasting thirty-six minutes, each of the songs oozes quality. It doesn’t matter whether Adam Holmes and The Embers are singing ballads, or Cutting Loose on the more uptempo tracks, they’re equally at home. These songs were penned by Edinburgh born troubadour, Adam Holmes. He’s only in his mid-twenties, but writes lyrics that bely his relative youth. These lyrics are insightful and cinematic, and are akin to mini-dramas that Adam Holmes and The Embers bring to life.
Adam Holmes breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Sometimes, hurt and heartbreak are omnipresent, while other times, there’s a poignancy and beauty to the lyrics. Other times, there’s hope in the lyrics. There’s also the occasional jam and dramatic epic on Brighter Still. Often, though, disparate genres melt into one on Brighter Still.
Elements of Americana, country, folk, gospel, rock and soul can be heard on Brighter Still. Often the songs on Brighter Still are a melting of musical influences, including the music that has influenced Adam Holmes. This includes troubadours like John Martyn, James Taylor and Townes Van Zandt. There’s also a nod towards Neil Young’s early solo music and The Band. All these artist have influenced Adam Holmes and it seems, The Embers. They’re a tight, talented band who seamlessly can shift between and fuse multiple musical genres. Not every band can do this. However, Adam Holmes and The Embers are not any band.
Instead, a great future awaits Adam Holmes and The Embers. They’re without doubt one of the rising stars of Sottish music. That’s been the case since Adam Holmes and The Embers released their debut album Heirs and Graces in 2014. It found an audience in Britain, Europe and North America. However, Brighter Still, which was recently released on the Gogar label is a game changer of an album. It doesn’t just build on Heirs and Graces, but surpasses it.
That’s no surprise. Adam Holmes and The Embers seem to gave matured as a band since the release of Heirs and Graces. So much so, that Brighter Still is a career defining album from Adam Holmes and The Embers. It’s also the album that should introduce Adam Holmes and The Embers to a much wider audience. Hopefully, they will be won over by Brighter Still, an album of carefully crafted songs, that showcase Adam Holmes and The Embers considerable skills and their unique and irresistible take on Americana. Brighter Still is a potent, heady and irresistible musical brew to drink deep and savour.
ADAM HOLMES AND THE EMBERS-BRIGHTER STILL.
COLOGNE CURIOSITIES-THE UNKNOWN KRAUTROCK UNDERGROUND 1972-1976.
Within Krautrock circles, the words “Pyramid Records” are guaranteed to provoke debate. Especially since the rediscovery of the Pyramid Records’ tapes just over twenty years ago. This should’ve been an exciting discovery.
After all, it wasn’t every day that a hitherto small, unknown private record label’s back-catalogue was discovered? This was what Cologne based Pyramid Records had been. It was founded by British expat Robin Page, around 1972 and was in existence until just 1976. During that period, Pyramid Records only ever released fifteen albums. No more than 50-100 copies of each album was released. These releases were either given away to friends, with the remainder sold in clubs or art galleries. Never were Pyramid Records’ releases sold in Cologne’s many record shops. Maybe that explain why nobody seemed to have heard of Pyramid Records?
Meanwhile, debate and speculation surrounded the Pyramid Records’ story. Nobody seemed to know anything about the label. They soon would though, when Virgin decided to release three compilations from the Pyramid Records’ tapes.
Unknown Deutschland-The Krautrock Archive Volume 1 was released in 1996. Later that year, two further volumes were released. The release of the compilations only fuelled debate and speculation. The genie was out of the bottle.
Since then, every aspect of Pyramid Records has been pored over and debated ad infinitum. This includes who recorded and produced the music, when and where. Some sceptics have even questioned the very authenticity of the music, believing the discovery of the Pyramid Records’ tapes was a hoax, and the work of a studio band? Other sceptics have even questioned the existence of the label itself, believing it was nothing more than a vanity label?
Certainly, Pyramid Records was never going to rivalled Brain Records nor Ohr. It was never meant to. Instead, Pyramid Records was a small, obscure and private label that released music its founder Robin Page believed in and championed. That’s why hardly nobody had heard of Pyramid Records when the Pyramid Records were rediscovered. This was the start of twenty years of controversy, conspiracy theories and speculation.
Adding fuel to the fire, will be the release of Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976. It was released by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records and features seven tracks from the Pyramid Records’ vaults. This includes seven tracks from the Unknown Deutschland series. They make a welcome return, forty-four years after the first Pyramid Records album was released.
The story began in 1969, when Robin Page, a thirty-seven year old artist and leading light in the Fluxus movement, decided to move from England to Cologne, in Germany. He wasn’t the only expat in the city.
Tony Robinson was a South African, who had travelled from Cape Town, to Germany where he would first work with Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Godfather of modern German electronic music at WDR Studio. This was akin to serving an engineering apprenticeship, and would serve Tony Robinson well. When he left Karlheinz Stockhausen’s employ, Tony Robinson went to work at Dierks Studio in Cologne. That was where the future Genius P. Orridge would meet Robin Page.
By then, Robin Page was a successful and established artist. He was a leading light of the Fluxus movement, and was regarded as a groundbreaking artist. Robin Page used humour within his work, which sought to challenge what was regarded as good taste within the art establishment. Before long, Robin Page’s painting found an audience, and became sought after. This had been what Robin Page had dreamt and worked towards since ‘leaving’ art college in Vancouver under something of a cloud. That seemed a long time ago. His new found success and financial security, allowed Robin Page to work towards fulfilling another of his dreams, making music.
Robin Page was serious about making music, and had a studio in the basement to what looked like to anyone passing by, a derelict building. Deep within its bowels, was Robin Page’s studio, and where Pyramid Records first album was recorded. It was then pressed by a Turkish entrepreneur, who just happened to keep his cutting lathe within the same building. Although was more used to producing bootlegs, but was able to cut what became PYR 001, Pyramid Records’ first ever release. It came wrapped in a cover designed by a local art student. History had just been made.
One person presented with a copy of PYR 001, was Toby Robinson who by 1972, had become friends with Robin Page. He was persuaded to provide the material for PYR 002. Essentially, this comprised a recording of sounds bounced from one tape recorder to another. Again, a master was cut, between 50-100 copies were either given away to Robin Page’s friends, or sold in Cologne’s art galleries and clubs. No copies of PYR 001 nor PYR 002 seem to have survived. It’s a similar story with the label’s next two releases.
Neither the master tapes nor copies of PYR 003 and PYR 004 seem to have survived the passage of time. Instead, the first Pyramid Records release to survive is believed to PYR 005. It’s one of just eleven recordings that remain. These recordings were made between 1974 and 1976.
The Pyramid Records’ recordings are said to have been recorded at Dierks Studio, in Stommenin between 1974 and 1976. During this period, Tony Robinson was variously, an assistant, second engineer and technician. Mostly, he worked nightshifts, when many bands came into the studio to practise and record demo tapes. Sometimes, though, when things were quiet, various musicians arrive and take part in impromptu jam sessions. Tony Robinson would press play, and would not just record these sessions, but take part in them. Some of these jam session featured members of various well known German groups, who would morph into a supergroup. They would play through the night, with Tony Robinson taping the sessions. There was a problem though. Each of these musicians were contracted to record companies. It seemed impossible to release the recordings. That was unless each of musicians adopted an nom de plume.
Each musician who played on the jam sessions was given an alias. When the albums were released, there was no clue to some of the musician’s true identity. Some of the aliases were wholly unconvincing, with a myriad of anglicised names featuring on the releases. Considering the sessions had been recorded in Germany, this would’ve been far from convincing. Fortunately, the albums were released in small quantities.
Still Pyramid Records’ continued to release just 50-100 copies of each album. They were pressed by a friend of Robin Page’s who owned a pressing machine. While some of the releases still came wrapped in a hand made cover, others came complete with mass produced cover. The Pyramid Records’ album covers were never regarded as works of art. They were purely functional. What mattered was the music. This seems strange considering Robin Page’s artistic background?
Usually, an artist would’ve realised the importance of an album cover. That doesn’t seemed to have been the case with Robin Page. He could’ve quite easily designed his own album cover. Instead, Robin Page used utilitarian album covers. Their function was merely to protect the album. They were neither memorable, nor design classics like so many Krautrock albums. However, Pyramid Records wasn’t really in business to make money.
Many of the 50-100 copies of each albums were given away, with the remainder being sold in art galleries and clubs. Hence the later accusations of Pyramid Records being a vanity label. That was still to come. Before that, Robin Page called time on his dalliance with the music industry in 1976.
For four years, Robin Page had fulfilled his other dream of making music. He had taken this further by releasing other people’s music. This he only did on a very small scale. Robin Page didn’t see music as a way to make money. Instead, his actions could be construed as a mixture of benevolence and small scale philanthropy. Maybe Robin Page wanted to highlight and champion new and exciting music, including music that other labels wouldn’t release. However, in 1976 Pyramid Records closed its metaphorical doors for the last time.
Later, Robin Page would emigrate to Canada. With him, he took Pyramid Records’ master tapes and the remaining albums. Almost nothing was left of Pyramid Records. It was as if they had never existed.
That was until nearly twenty years later, when Tony Robinson approached Virgin Records with some of Pyramid Records’ master tapes. This resulted in the release of Unknown Deutschland-The Krautrock Archive Volume 1 in 1996. Later that year, two further volumes followed. This further fuelled the mythology and speculation that built up around Pyramid Records.
Since then, the Pyramid Records’ story has been debated ad infinitum. It’s been the source of much speculation by connoisseurs of Krautrock. Sometimes, though they become too caught up in the Pyramid Record’ backstory, and forget about the music that Pyramid Records released between 1972 and 1976. This includes the music on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976. It features seven tracks from The Astral Army, Spirulina, Chrónos, Neil Andersen, Baal, Ten To Zen and Fuerrote. They’re an eclectic selection of genre-melting tracks that showcase the music Pyramid Records released between 1972 and 1976.
Opening Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976, is Interstellar Shortwave by The Astral Army. Their lineup is listed as Gunther Dorn, Herbert Metzger, Otto Bretnacher and Wolfgang Willhauk. They’re obviously aliases, and also talented musicians, who were capable of recording what was a commercial sounding track. It originally featured on Unknown Deutschland-The Krautrock Archive Volume 1. On Interstellar Shortwave, the sound of a shortwave radio, gives way to a glorious slice of hard rocking music. Add to this a hint of punk, electronica and experimental music, and the result is a potent and heady brew. It’s sure to whet the listener’s appetite to the rest of this veritable musical feast.
Originally, Spirulina’s The Message Unknown Deutschland-The Krautrock Archive Volume 2. Straight away, the words spacey, lysergic, dreamy and mesmeric come to find. Pink Floyd seem to have been the reference point for this ten minute epic jam. Spirulina’s rhythm section lock into a groove, and are augmented by washes of organ, keyboards and guitars. Effects are used effectively, in what’s a truly timeless, psychedelic, space rock jam. It features a truly talented band, whose real identities sadly, are unknown.
Amongst the various pseudonyms on Chrónos’ Schaudernacht, one is instantly recognisable. That’s The Mad Twiddler, one of the many aliases of Tony Robinson. He plays guitar, synths and cowrote the track. Tony Robinson’s synths pulsate and bubbles, as his guitar drives the arrangement along. Meanwhile, the drums provide the heartbeat, as the rhythm section lock into a groove. The drums are something of a conundrum. Sometimes, there’s a seventies sound, while other times they’ve a later, post rock sound. Similarly, sometimes, the synths don’t have an authentic seventies sound. Maybe, Schaudernacht was an unfinished track, which was completed at a later date? However, if that was the case, why not fix the several mistakes in the drum parts. Despite this, it’s a captivating, genre-melting track that brings to mind Krautrock’s glory days.
Accompanying Neil Andersen on Feuerwerk is Tony Robinson, who plays guitars and synths. They’re the only musicians credited on the track. Despite that, there’s much more happening, in what’s a complex, multilayered mix. Effects are used, as instruments intertwine and effects are deployed. Sometimes, instruments make a brief appearance, only to disappear and reappear. They combine elements of avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental and improv, to create an innovative and urgent track that mesmerises and is strangely melodic.
Baal’s No God/Astaroth is a collaboration between three members of The Astral Army and Spirulina’s drummer. This is akin to the Pyramid Records’ all-stars. They create what not just the heaviest track on the compilation, but one that’s dark, haunting and otherworldly. At the heart of the arrangement is a kerosene soaked, and drug fuelled, dramatic vocal. It’s delivered above an improvised arrangement, where the rest of the Baal, combine blues, rock and psychedelia with jazz. This results in a heavy, cinematic, otherworldly and unforgettable sounding track.
There haven’t been many groups that feature a trio of synth players. Especially one whose music is improvised. That’s apart from the wonderfully named Ten To Zen. Their contribution to Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 is Innerst. It features a myriad of futuristic and sci-fi sounds. This includes beeps, squeaks, whirrs and buzzes aplenty. They carefully crafted into a cinematic sounding track that would provide the perfect backdrop to a sci-fi short.
Closing Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 is Ganz Wie Du Willst by Fuerrote. Their lineup features some familiar faces, including Neil Andersen and Toby Robinson. The third member of the trio is guitarist Hans Lorenzen, who helps sculpt an epic fourteen minute soundscape. Straight away, Fuerrote’s reference points seem to be Amon Düül II and Popol Vuh. There’s even hints of early Klaus Schukze and Manuel Göttsching as Fuerrote deploy three guitars and two synths. Soon, a multilayered, improvised jam is unfolding. Buzzes and feedback combine with percussion, crashing cymbals and searing guitars. Occasionally, eastern sounds emerge from a soundscape where avant-garde, Berlin School and electronica combine with experimental, psychedelia and rock. Together, they create a Magnus Opus, which is a tantalising taste of further instalments from the Pyramid Records’ vaults.
Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 was recently released by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records. It features seven tracks from the Pyramid Records’ vaults. They’re designed to whet the listener’s appetite for future reissues of albums released by Pyramid Records. These will be very welcome reissues, as the original albums are now extremely rare, and almost impossible to find. Anyone who happens to come across an original Pyramid Records’ release is one of the lucky ones, given how few copies were released.
Between 50-100 copies of each Pyramid Records’ album was released. Only PYR 005 to PYR 015 remain. The first four albums are lost in the mists of time. However, at least the remainder of one of what’s one of the smallest Krautrock labels remains in tact. Much of that music is innovative and way ahead of its time. That was the case with so many of the Krautrock and Berlin School albums released. It was only much later that they find an audience and are receive the recognition they deserve. That should be the case with the music on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976.
Alas, far too many people have become bogged down by the controversy and speculation that surrounds the Pyramid Records’ story. It’s as if they’re determined to disprove that the music was recorded between 1972 and 1976. In doing so, all they’re doing is adding fuel to the fire, and fuelled debate and speculation. That’s a great shame, because for too long, people have become caught up in the Pyramid Records’ mythology. In doing so, they loose sight of the important thing, the music, including that on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976. That’s a great shame.
Maybe now is the time to concentrate on what matters, and that’s the music that Pyramid Records’ released? It’s unlikely that the truth will out. Only two people knew the whole truth. Sadly, Robin Page passed away in 2015. This means the only person that knows the Pyramid Records’ story, is Tony Robinson. Alas, he admits that heavy LSD usage has blurred his memories of Pyramid Records’ years. It seems that the true story of Pyramid Records will never be known. As a result, there will always be doubt in some people’s minds about the Pyramid Records.
Still the sceptics will continue to doubt some aspects of the Pyramid Records’ story. Some of the biggest sceptics will continue to question the very authenticity of the music. They will argue that some, or all of the music was recorded at a later date, by session musicians as some part of elaborate hoax. However, what would these Cosmic Jokers get out of this? That the Pyramid Records’ story is part of some elaborate hoax seems too farfetched.
It seems more likely that the music on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 was recorded between 1972 and 1976. However, it may well be that the once the Pyramid Records were rediscovered, occasionally some work was carried out to complete or sweeten a track. This sweetening maybe transformed an unfinished track into a more cohesive and complete track. An example of where some work may have been carried out a later date, appears to be Chrónos’ Schaudernacht. Some of the drums and synths sounds have a seventies sound, while others have a later sound. That’s the only example on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976.
The rest of the music on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 has been untouched. It’s how it was recorded for Pyramid Records between 1972 and 1976. There’s been no overdubbing, with the music no different to the day when it was recorded by at Dierks Studi by Tony Robinson. He’s the last man standing in the Pyramid Records’ story, which released fifteen albums of mostly innovative, inventive and influential music between 1972 and 1976. Sadly, Pyramid Records doesn’t receive the credit it deserves.
That’s purely because of mythology that surrounds the label. What also doesn’t help, is that all the musicians that played on the various releases used an alias. Maybe the music would receive the credit it deserved if the real identity of some of the musicians involved was known? There’s every chance that some well known musicians played on Pyramid Records’ releases, including those on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976. Regardless of whether that’s the case or not, the music on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 is still innovative, inventive and timeless, and even today, has the potential to influence and inspire another generation of musicians
COLOGNE CURIOSITIES-THE UNKNOWN KRAUTROCK UNDERGROUND 1972-1976.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALICE CLARK?
Far too often, hype and image has triumphed over talent. Meanwhile, commercial success and critical acclaim eludes truly talented artists. Chastened by the experience, many of these artists turn their back on the music industry. They’re content to return to civvy street, free from a world populated by A&R executives, PR companies and radio pluggers. At least the artist knows that they gave it their best shot. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Now they begin the first day of the rest of their life.
This is what happened to Brooklyn born soul singer Alice Clark. Her career began in 1968, and was over by 1972. During that four year period, Alice Clark recorded just fifteen songs during three recording session. This includes two singles and her 1972 album Alice Clark. After commercial success eluded her, Alice Clark career turned her back on music. Since then, Alice Clark has remained one of the soul music’s best kept secrets. She’s also one of music’s music enigmatic figures.
Very little is known about Alice Clark. Indeed, her story is almost shrouded in mystery. All that’s known, is that Alice Clark was born in Brooklyn, and shared the same manger as The Crystals. It was her manager that introduced Alice to singer-songwriter Billy Vera.
The meeting took place at April-Blackwood Music, who at the time, were Billy Vera’s publishers. That afternoon, Billy spent time teaching her some songs that he had written. These songs would be recorded in 1969.
By the time the recording session took place, Alice Clark had taken to occasionally phoning Billy Vera. However, Alice who seems to have been a private person, only ever made small talk. Despite this, Billy remembers: “I got the impression her home life wasn’t that great.” He remembers that Alice: “had kids and belonged to a religious order.” These are the only thing Billy can remember about Alice. However, what nobody who heard Alice as she made her recording debut will forget is…her voice.
For the 1969 session, Jubliee’s studio was chosen. Billy Vera who wrote and would produce the three tracks put together a tight and talented band. The rhythm section featured drummer Earl Williams, bassist Tyrell and guitarists Butch Mann and Billy Vera. They were augmented by trumpeter Money Johnson and backing vocalist Tasha Thomas. This was the band that accompanied Alice Clark on You Got A Deal, Say You’ll Never Leave Me and Before Her Time. Alice Clark delivered confident and assured performances. Two of these songs became Alice’s debut single.
With the three songs recorded, the Rainy Day label decided to release You Got A Deal in January 1968. It was a driving slice of soul, with a feisty, vocal from Alice. Horns and harmonies accompany Alice as she’s transformed into self-assured soul singer. The flip side was Say You’ll Never, a quite beautiful ballad. A number of radio stations began playing the song. Despite this, Alice Clark’s first single wasn’t a commercial success. It was an inauspicious start to Alice’s career.
Nothing was heard off Alice Clark until March 1969. By then, Alice had recorded her sophomore single. This was the George Kerr, Michael Valvano and Sylvia Moy penned You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me). On the flip-side was Arthur Mitchell and Eddie Jones’ Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). The two songs were produced by George and Napoleon Kerr. This GWP Production was released on Warner Bros. Alice Clark was going up in the world.
Alas commercial success continued to elude Alice Clark. You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me), which became a favourite on the Northern Soul scene, features an impassioned, hurt-filled vocal. Just like Alice’s debut single, the B-Side was a ballad Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). It features a heartfelt vocal where the secular and spiritual collide. Just like You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me), Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed) Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed) showcased a truly talented singer. Sadly, very few people realised this. Alice Clark was one of music’s best kept secrets.
For the next couple of years, Alice Clark was cast out into the musical wilderness. Then Bob Shad at Mainstream Records decided to take a chance on Alice Clark. Mainstream Records were moving into the soul market, are were signing artists. He decided that Alice Clark fitted the bill, and signed her to Mainstream Records.
Soon, work began on Alice Clark’s debut album. A total of ten tracks were chosen. This included a trio of Bobby Hebb songs, Charms Of The Arms Of Love, Don’t You Care and Hard Hard Promises. Among the other songs were Jimmy Webb’s I Keep It Hid; Petula Clark and John Bromley’s Looking At Life; Leonard Caston’s Don’t Wonder Why; Juanita Fleming’s Never Did I Stop Loving You and Earl DeRouen’s Hey Girl. The other songs chosen were John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Maybe This Time and Leon Carr and Robert Allen’s It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone. These songs became Alice Clark.
With the material chosen, producer Bob Shad set about putting a band together. Apart from guitarist Ted Dubar, the identity of the rest of the band are unknown. However, Ernie Wilkins was drafted in to arrange the songs on Alice Clark. When it was recorded, the release was scheduled for later in 1972.
By then, three years had passed since a record bearing Alice Clark’s name had been released. You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) had disappeared without trace upon its release in March 1969. Everyone must have been hoping that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Alas, it did.
I Keep It Hid was chosen as the lead single, with Don’t Wonder Why featuring on the B-Side. On its release, I Keep It Hid sunk without trace. Worse was to come. When Alice Clark was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Very few copies of Alice Clark sold. That was a great shame.
During the three years that Alice Clark had been away, she grown and matured as a singer. Despite this, there was to be no followup album. After Alice Clark failed commercially, Alice turned her back on music. Never again did this talented and versatile vocalist return to the studio. Alice Clark was lost to music.
During her four year career, Alice Clark had recorded just fifteen tracks. They’re a mixture of beautiful ballads and uptempo songs. On each and every song, Alice breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Her delivers veers between heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring, to assured, hopeful and joyous. It seems when Alice Clark stepped into a recording studio, she was transformed.
No longer was Alice Clark the quietly spoken young mother that Billy Vera remembers. Suddenly, the God-fearing Alice Clark disappeared, and was replaced by one that wore her heart on her sleeve. She was comfortable sings songs about love and love lost, and could breath life and meaning into songs about hope, hurt, heartbreak and betrayal. Despite her ability and versatility, Alice Clark commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Alice Clark.
Chastened by the experience, Alice Clark turned her back on the music industry. Nobody seems to know what happened to Alice Clark? Mystery surrounds this hugely talented singer, who should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
By 1973, You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) became a favourite on the UK Northern Soul scene. Apart from that, very few people had heard of Alice Clark or her music. It would be a while before this changed.
As the years passed by, a few copies of Alice Clark found their way into bargain bins. Curious record collectors who chanced upon a copy of Alice Clark decided to take a chance on this little known album. Having paid their money, they discovered one of soul music’s best kept secrets,..Alice Clark. They were the lucky ones.
Since then, Alice Clark has become a real rarity. Anyone wanting an original 1972 copy of Alice Clark on Mainstream, will need to search long and hard. If they can find a copy, it will take at least $500 to prise it out of the hands of its owner. It feature a truly talented singer who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed widespread commercial success and critical acclaim. Sadly, for Alice Clark that wasn’t to be.
Instead, commercial success eluded Alice Clark, and in 1972, she turned her back on music. Since then, nothing has been heard of Alice Clark. Mystery surrounds Alice Clark’s life after she turned her back on music. She seems almost to have vanished into thin air. That’s a great shame. Especially given the resurgence in interest in her music and Ace Records recent release of The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972. Belatedly, Alice Clark’s music is finding the wider audience that it so richly deserves. What her newfound fans would like to know is whatever happened to Alice Clark?
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALICE CLARK?
SAM DEES-SOUL MUSIC’S BEST KEPT SECRET.
For many artists their career is a case of what might have been. That’s the case with Sam Dees. He had the talent and potential to become one of the biggest names in soul music. Sadly, Sam Dees didn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim they deserve. Instead, his music is only enjoyed a discerning circle of music lovers. They cherish each of the three albums Sam Dees has released. That’s why Sam Dees is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.”
That’s true. While Sam has written nearly four-hundred songs, he’s only released three albums. Sam’s debut album was 1975s The Show Must Go On. After a gap of fourteen years, Sam returned in 1989 with Secret Admirer which was released on his own label, Pen Pad Records. Another nine years passed, before Sam released 1998s Lovers Do. Since then, nothing has been heard of Sam Dees. As a result, it looks as if Sam Dees will never fulfil his potential. Sam Dees career, it seems is a case of what might have been. Things looked very different when Sam Dees was growing up.
Sam Dees was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in December 1945. He was born into a large family. Sam stood out though. The reason for that was his voice. From an early age, it was obvious that Sam was a talented singer. When he was just nine, Sam was a veteran of talent contests. He’d won numerous talent shows, so decided to form his own group The Bossanovians. By the time Sam was ten, it became apparent Sam had a way with words.
Unlike most ten year olds, Sam was writing poetry and songs. Looking back, Sam Dees was something of a musical prodigy. So, it’s no surprise that he would make a career as a songwriter. Before that, he had dreams of becoming a singer.
Although Sam was a still teenager, he was already travelling from his Birmingham home to perform. This was the equivalent of Sam serving his musical apprenticeship. Then in 1968, Sam caught a break, He got the chance to record his debut single.
Given Sam was an aspiring soul singer, it sees strange that he made his recording debut in Nashville. I Need You Girl was released on SSS International. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. Neither were Easier To Say Than Do nor It’s All Right (It’s All Right), which sam released on Lo Lo Records in 1969. Then as a new decade dawned, Sam’s luck changed.
Since 1968, Clarence Carter had been signed to Atlantic Records. He’d released a trio of albums, to varying degrees of success. His fourth album, Patches, was released in 1970. Produced by Rick Hall, and featuring some of Memphis’ top musicians and backing vocalists, including Chalmers, Rhodes, Chalmers, Patches featured songs from some top songwriters. This included Sam Dees.
He wrote Changes, a heartbreakingly beautiful slice of Southern Soul. For Sam Dees, an up-and-coming singer and songwriter, writing a song for Clarence Carter was something of a coup. He was, after all, signed to Atlantic Records, one of the biggest soul labels. Little did Sam realise that in a few years, he’d be signed to Atlantic Records. Before that, Sam signed to another famous label, Chess Records.
1971 proved to be an important year for Sam Dees. He signed to Chess Records, releasing two singles, the Larry Weiss penned Maryanna and Can You Be A One Man Woman. Despite the quality of music, Sam wasn’t making that important commercial breakthrough. At least other artists were covering his songs.
Rozetta Johnson covered A Woman’s Way. It was the B-Side to her single Mine Was Real. Sam wrote both songs using the nom de plume Lillian Dees. He co-produced the songs with Clinton Moon. Released on Clintone Records, it reached number ninety-four in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-nine in the US R&B Charts. This was the first hit single Sam had written. Despite this, Sam saw himself as a singer first, and then a songwriter.
Having written and produced his first hit single, Sam hadn’t given up hope of forging a successful career as a songwriter. After leaving Chess, Sam signed to Clintone Records as a solo artist in 1972.
By then, Sam was no stranger to Clintone Records. Using the alias Black Haze Express, he had released Won’t Nobody Listen as a single in 1971. A year later, Sam’s solo career began at Clintone Records.
Just like his time time at SSS International, Lo Lo Records and Chess Records, Sam Dees wasn’t exactly prolific at Clintone Records. Far from it. He only released one single on Clintone Records. This was Claim Jumping Man, which was released in 1972. Sadly, Claim Jumping Man didn’t replicate the commercial success of Rozetta Johnson’s Mine Was Real. Despite this, Sam’s career was on the up.
After his brief spell at Clintone Records, Sam Dees signed to Atlantic Records later in 1973. Sam Dees released just two singles for Atlantic Records, So Tied Up and I’m So Very Glad. Despite their undoubted quality, they weren’t the commercial success they deserved to be. At least a song Sam cowrote proved much more successful.
Stop This Merry-Go-Round was was a song Sam, Albert Gardner and Clinton Moon had written. Originally, Bill Brandon took the song to number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. Now, John Edwards a future Detroit Spinner would record the track. His Johnny Taylor styled cover was released on Aware in 1973, reaching number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. Again, Sam was enjoying more success writing songs than singing them. He wasn’t for turning his back on his solo career,
Sam returned to his solo career in 1974. He released two singles, Worn Out Broken Heart and Come Back Strong. Neither were a commercial success, but Come Back Strong proved to be prophetic.
With the last couple of years proving unsuccessful for Sam Dees, 1975 was a big year for him. Sam was about to release his debut album The Show Must Go On. It featured ten tracks. Four were penned by Sam, including The Show Must Go On, Come Back Strong, What’s It Gonna Be and Good Guys. Sam cowrote Claim Jumpin’ and So Tied Up with William Brandon. He also cowrote Just Out Of Reach with James Lewis and Worn Out Broken Heart with Sandra Drayton. Child Of The Streets was a collaboration between Sam and David Cammon. The pair cowrote Troubled Child with Al Gardner. These ten tracks became The Show Must Go On, and were recorded at two studios in Birmingham, Alabama.
To record his debut album The Show Must Go On, Sam headed to home to Birmingham, Alabama. He recorded The Show Must Go On at two studios, New London Studios and Sound Of Birmingham. For the recording sessions, Sam drafted in a small, tight band. The rhythm section featured drummer Sherman “Fats” Carson. bassist David Camon and guitarist Glen Woods. Arrangers included Randy Richards, Ronnie Harris, Skip Lane and Sam. Aaron Varnell arranged the horns on Claim Jumpin.’ Sam played piano and produced The Show Must Go On, which was released in 1975.
Sadly, when The Show Must Go On was released, musical tastes had changed. Disco was now King. Soul albums weren’t selling well. The Show Must Go On wasn’t a commercial success. Neither were the singles The Show Must Go On, nor Fragile, Handle With Care. For Sam Dees, this must have been a huge disappointment. Here he was signed to one of soul’s most prestigious labels, but at the wrong time. Belatedly, however, The Show Must Go On has come to be regarded as a Southern Soul classic, and was the last time we heard from Sam until 1989.
After a gap of fourteen years, Sam returned in 1989 with Secret Admirer which was released on his own label, Pen Pad Records. Another nine years passed, before Sam released 1998s Lovers Do. Since then, nothing has been hear of Sam Dees. As a result, it looks as if Sam Dees will the commercial success and critical acclaim he deserved.
This wasn’t down to a lack of talent. Far from it. Sam Dees is, without doubt, one of the most talented soul singers of his generation. Especially when it came to ballads. Sam Dees breathes life, meaning and emotion into ballads. Other times the betrayal, hurt and loneliness come to life. Sam Dees sings the lyrics as if he’s lived, loved and survived the lyrics. Other times, he sounds as if he’s experienced the hope and joy that love brings. However, other times, it looked like Sam Dees was going to be seventies soul social conscience. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded him. That’s why nowadays, Sam Dees is better known as a songwriter.
Realising he was never going to become one of soul’s superstars, Sam Dees decided to concentrate on writing songs. He’s enjoyed a long and successful career, writing songs for the great and good of soul music. That’s why nowadays, Sam Dees is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.”” However, a better of description of Sam Dees is a man who could’ve and should’ve been King of seventies soul.
SAM DEES-SOUL MUSIC’S BEST KEPT SECRET.
JOHN MILES-THE DECCA ALBUMS.
Every artist dreams of a hit single. Especially one that tops the charts, and goes on to feature on radio playlists for the next forty years. The only problem with this, is that sometimes, the artist becomes synonymous with that one hit single. That’s the case with John Miles.
Forty years ago in 1976, John Miles released his most successful single Music. Since then, every time John Miles’ name comes up in conversation, Music is mentioned. That must be frustrating for the English singer-songwriter. After all, John Miles released ten albums between 1976 and 1999. This includes the four albums for Decca Records. They can be found on the recently released five disc John Miles box set, The Decca Albums. It was released by Decca Records and also includes a BBC Live In Concert recording from March 1978. The Decca Albums box set is a reminder that there’s much more to John Miles than one single.
John Miles was born in Jarrow, in County Durham, England on 23rd April 1949. Growing up, music played a big part in John Miles’ life. While still at Jarrow Grammar School, John joined a local band, The Influence.
Three of the members of The Influence were keyboardist John Miles, drummer Paul Thompson and guitarist Vic Malcolm. Incredibly, they all went on to become successful musicians. Paul Thompson became Roxy Music drummer, while Vic Malcolm became Geordie’s lead guitarist. That was still to come.
In 1969, The Influence released a single on Orange Records, I Want To Live. This was just the start of what would be a long, and eventually successful recording career. Not with The Influence though.They disbanded not long after the release of I Want To Live.
Following his spell with The Influence, John Miles founded The John Miles Set, which featured bassist Bob Marshall. He and John would later form a successful songwriting partnership. That was in the future. Before that, The John Miles Set began to play the club circuit. However, in 1970, John decided to combine a solo career with playing with The John Miles Set.
This was a big step for John Miles. He was still only twenty-one. Already though, people were taking notice of John Miles. This included the owners of Orange Records who had released The Influence’s single. They released Why Don’t You Love Me?, John’s debut solo single in September 1970. While it failed commercially, John was attracting the attention of Decca Records.
They offered John Miles a recording deal for one single. It was akin to an audition, and also allowed Decca Records to test the waters. Josie was released on 7th July 1971. Alas, the single failed to trouble the charts and John was soon looking for a new record company.
Fortunately, Orange Records had just changed hands, and new owner Cliff Cooper was looking to add new artists to his roster. John Miles fitted the bill. Orange Records sent John into the studio, and he recorded Come Away Melinda. It was released as a single in February 1972. Just over a month later, Yesterday (Was Just The Beginning) was released in March 1972. Despite neither single sold in vast quantities, Orange Records kept their faith in John Miles.
Meanwhile, The John Miles Set featured on the British talent show Opportunity Knocks. They won their heat, and found themselves in the All Winner’s Show. For John Miles, this was a boost to his solo carer.
An even bigger boost to John Miles solo career during 1972, was getting the opportunity to support Roy Orbison at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. Gradually, people were beginning to know the name John Miles.
Orange Records continued to keep faith in John Miles. He released a trio of singles during 2013. This included Hard Road in March 1973, Jacqueline in May 1973 and One Minute Every Hour in August 1973. Still, though, commercial success eluded John Miles.
It was a similar story in 1974. Fright Of My Life was released in January 1974, but failed commercially. That was all that was heard of John Miles until he released What’s On Your Mind in November 1974. While it didn’t trouble the charts, John was improving as a singer and songwriter. His songwriting partnership with Bob Marshall was beginning to bear fruit. Similarly, over the last three years John’s band, which featured bassist Bob Marshall and drummer Barry Black, John Miles had matured and evolved into a tight, talented band. Maybe John’s luck would begin to change?
That was the case in 1975. As the year progressed, record companies began to take an interest in John Miles. Both EMI and Decca Records were vying for John’s signature. This was a huge decision for the twenty-six year old. Eventually, though, John decided that Decca Records who were looking to add to their contemporary pop roster, offered more of an opportunity.
By then, Decca Records’ pop roster had become stale, with Tom Jones and Englebert Humpererdinck looking like yesterday’s men. Decca Records was desperately seeking a transfusion of new talent. That was where John Miles came in. He was seen as part of Decca Records’ future. So, after opening for The Ohio Players at the Hammersmith Odeon, John and representative of Decca Records signed a recording contract.
With John Miles signed to Decca Records, the label decided to pair their latest signing, with one of Britain’s top producers, Alan Parsons. He had worked with Pink Floyd on their Magnus Opus, Dark Side Of The Moon in 1973. Since then, he had worked with some of the biggest names in music. So it was a something of a coup that he agreed to produce John Miles new single.
The song they chose Highfly, which in Alan Parsons’ hands, took on an art rock sound. It was released on September 1975, and eventually, reached seventeen in the UK charts and sixty-eight in the US Billboard 200. Exactly five years after he released his debut solo single, John Miles had his first hit single.
After the success of Highfly, John Miles would complete recording of his debut album. It featured nine songs, including six penned by John and Bob Marshall. The exceptions were Music, Lady of My Life and Music (Reprise) which John wrote. They were recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
During November and December John Miles and his band headed to Abbey Road Studios in November 1975. Drummer and percussionist Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall accompanied John. He added lead vocals, and played keyboards, guitar and synths. Andrew Powell took charge of the orchestral arrangements and Alan Parsons produced, what would become Rebel.
As 1975 gave way to 1976, Decca Records began to think about what should be the lead single from Rebel. The song they chose was Music, a near six minute epic. It was released in March 1976 and reached the upper reaches of the charts across Europe. Music reached number three in the UK; number four in Holland; number number one in Switzerland and eighty-eight in the US Billboard 100. Later, Music won John Miles an Ivor Novello award for Best Middle-Of-The-Road Song. Before that, Rebel was released.
Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Rebel, which was hailed as an album of carefully crafted pop songs. Music may have been the standout track, but there was much more to the album, including the John Miles and Bob Marshall penned You Have it All, When You Lose Someone So Young and Lady Of My. They had matured into a talented songwriting team, while John brought each of the songs to life. It was no surprise that when Rebel was released later in March 1976, it reached number nine in the UK and 171 in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, Rebel reached the top twenty in Holland and Germany, and the top thirty in Sweden. For John this the perfect way to begin The Decca Years.
After the release of Rebel, John Miles embarked upon a lengthy tour. It marked the debut of Australian keyboardist Gary Moberley. John had brought him onboard to augment the band’s sound. He would make his recording debut in the summer of 1976, when Stranger In The City was recorded.
Stranger In The City.
During the summer of 1976, John Miles was touring, supporting both Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones. Despite what was a gruelling touring schedule, John Miles still found time to begin work on his sophomore album, Stranger In The City.
This time around, the eight of the nine songs on Stranger In The City were penned by John Miles and and Bob Marshall. The exception was Barry Black penned Do It Anyway. Recording of Stranger In The City began in the summer of 1976.
Despite the success of Rebel, Alan Parsons didn’t return to produce Stranger In The City. Instead, singer-songwriter Rupert Holmes took charge of producing John Miles’ newly expanded band. Recording took place at Mediasound in New York and Utopia Studios in London. That was where the newly expanded lineup of the band got to work.
Drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Gary Moberley. John added lead vocals, and played piano and guitar. However, the album wasn’t completed during the summer of 1976. So John and his band returned in October 1976, before heading off on their European tour.
In January 1977, Manhattan Skyline was released as the lead single from Stranger In The City. It failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. For John Miles and everyone at Decca Records, this was a worrying time. However, in February 1977, Stranger In The City was released.
Reviews of Stranger In The City had been mostly positive. The occasional critic wasn’t convinced that Stranger In The City was as cohesive an album as Rebel. It was a much more eclectic album, with everything from pop to blue eyed soul, funk, rock and soul. Slow Down even married rock and funk with disco. Now that critics had cast their vote on Stranger In The City, the album was released.
When Stranger In The City in February 1977, the album reached just thirty-seven in the UK. However, in America, Stranger In The City proved much more popular, reaching ninety-three in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, the album reached the top twenty in Norway and Sweden. That, however, wasn’t the end of the commercial success.
Slow Down was released as a single in May 1977. It reached number ten in the UK and thirty-four in the US Billboard 200. Given its dance-floor friendly sound, Slow Down gave John Miles a hit in the US Dance Music charts, when it reached number two. The John Miles’ success story continued apace.
Clive Davis at Arista Records was watching events unfold. He had an unrivalled reputation as a talent spotter, and wanted John Miles on Arista Records’ roster. This he soon discovered, would come at a price. That price was in the region of $500,000. Undeterred, Clive Davis wrote the cheque, and John Miles was now signed to Arista Records in America. Back home in Britain, The Decca Years continued.
Following the release of Stranger In The City, John Miles spent much 1977 touring the album. Then in October 1977, John began to record his much-anticipated third album, Zaragon.
For Zaragon, the John Miles and Bob Marshall songwriting team wrote seven new songs. This included the eight minute epic Plain Jane, and the three part suite Nice Man Jack. These seven songs were recorded by John’s original band with Rupert Holmes again taking charge of production.
When recording began in October 1977, there was no sign of keyboardist Gary Moberley. He had left the band. This left just drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall. John added lead vocals, and played keyboards, synths and guitar. This time, it was decided that there should be no orchestral arrangements.
John Miles wanted to be able to replicate the songs live. Just like many progressive rock groups, including Emerson, Lake and Palmer, John had discovered the more complicated the arrangement, the harder it is to replicate live. It seemed John had learned his lesson after two years of trying to replicate the arrangements on Rebel and Stranger In The City. That may not have been the only reason.
Music was changing, with punk, post punk and disco among the most popular musical genres So were people’s opinions on orchestral arrangements. Many critics and record industry insiders thought that albums with orchestral arrangements were yesterday’s sound. For John Miles, he was moving towards rock epics, like Overture, which lasted nine minutes. Keyboards and synths were to the fore, and replaced the lush, orchestral arrangements of previous albums. Over the course of three months, John Miles had reinvented himself. The reinvention of John Miles was complete in December 1977, when Zaragon was handed over to Decca Records.
With Zaragon complete, John Miles was preparing for his next tour. He felt he needed another keyboardist to augment the band. The man he turned to was Brian Chatton, who would head out on tour with John Miles in March 1978. Before that, the lead single from Zaragon was released.
No Hard Feelings, a beautiful piano based was chosen. It was released in late February 1978, but failed to chart. This didn’t bode well for the release of Zaragon.
At least Zaragon was well received by most critics. This mixture of the occasional ballad and rock epics proved to be a popular and potent combination. Especially songs like Overture, I Have Never Been in Love Before, No Hard Feelings and Zaragon. They were among the highlights of Zaragon, which was released in March 1978.
Zaragon was released in UK on Decca Records, and reached forty-three. This was regarded as a success given how music had changed over the last year or so. Elsewhere, Zaragon reached number three in Norway and Sweden. John had built up a loyal following after years of constantly touring Europe. One place where John wanted his commercial success to continue was America.
In America, Zaragon was John Miles’ debut for Arista Records. John was hoping that Zaragon would get his career with Arista Records to a successful start. Especially since Clive Davis had spent $500,000 it took to buy John Miles out of his American recording contract. The pressure was on and John wanted to justify the $500,000 price tag.
Alas, John was out of luck, and Zaragon reached just 210 in the US Billboard 200. It was John’s first album not to chart in America. For John this was a bitter blow. All was not lost though.
Maybe though, a performance on British television and radio would help sales of Zaragon?
BBC In Concert (March 1978).
Back home in Britain, one of the BBC’s most popular music shows on television and radio was Sight and Sound In Concert. It allowed an artist to be heard by a vast audience. Many of them had a voracious appetite when it came to buying albums. A good performance on Sight and Sound In Concert, would given Zaragon and the rest of John Miles’ back-catalogue.
So on 11th March 1978, John Miles and his band headed to Queen Margaret’s College, London. Drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Brian Chatton. Lead by John, they worked their way through a ten song set.
Opening with Nice Man Jack from Zaragon, John Miles returned to Stranger In The City, for Music Man. Then it was a return to Zaragon, for Plain Jane, Overture, Zaragon and No Hard Feelings. Having showcased Zaragon, John returned to his sophomore album Stranger In The City. Stand Up (and Give Me A Reason gave way to Stranger In The City. With just two songs to go, John returned to Zaragon and played Borderline, before closing the show with Slow Down from Stranger In The City. One song was missing, from what had been another accomplished and polished performance from John…Music. What John would given for another song like Music, for his fourth album for Decca Records, MMPH-More Miles Per Hour.
MMPH-More Miles Per Hour.
John Miles’ decision to eschew orchestral arrangements on Zaragon had backfired. It was time to rethink his future musical direction. Maybe it was time for John to return to what had become his trademark sound. That wasn’t the other decision that he would have to make; did Rupert Holmes have a future as John’s producer.
Rupert Holmes had neither built on, nor replicated the success of the Alan Parsons’ produced Rebel. Maybe he should’ve cautioned John Miles about changing direction on Zaragon? What was clear, that neither Stranger In The City nor Zaragon, replicated the quality nor commercial success of Rebel. So a decision was made to bring Alan Parsons back to produce MMPH-More Miles Per Hour.
With Alan Parson back onboard, Andrew Powell returned to take charge of the orchestral arrangements on MMPH-More Miles Per Hour. It comprised eight songs penned by John Miles and Bob Marshall. Recording began in November 1978, at Super Bear Studios, near Nice, in France. That was where John Miles and his band began work. It featured drummer Barry Black and bassist Bob Marshall were joined by keyboardist Brian Chatton. The recording of MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was completed at Union Studios, in Munich, Germany. January 1979. Now John’s thought’s turned to the release of his fourth album.
Just three months later, MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was released in April 1979. Mostly, it was to critical acclaim. MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was a much more cohesive and focused album, which featured carefully crafted songs. They had been sweetened by Andrew Powell’s orchestral arrangements, and definitely benefited from Alan Parsons’ guiding hand. He seemed to able to get the best out of John Miles. Maybe this would result in a change in fortune for John?
Can’t Keep a Good Man Down was released as the lead single from More Miles Per Hour, but failed to chart. When MMPH-More Miles Per Hour was released, it stalled at forty-six in the UK, and failed to enter the US Billboard 200. A small crumb of comfort was that MMPH-More Miles Per Hour reached number six in Norway and ten in Sweden. That was as good as it got.
Neither of the other two singles from MMPH-More Miles Per Hour, Oh Dear, nor (Don’t Give me Your) Sympathy charted. For John Miles, it must have been a frustrating way to end The Decca Years. MMPH-More Miles Per Hour. like all of John’s Decca Records’ albums, deserved to fare better.
After More Miles Per Hour, John Miles parted company with Decca Records. After just four years and four albums, The Decca Years were over. They feature on the recently released five disc box set, The Decca Years. It was released by Decca Records, and includes the four albums John Miles released for Decca Records. The fifth disc features the BBC Live In Concert recording from March 1978. It’s a tantalising taste of John Miles and his tight, talented band at their best. The live disc is a welcome addition, to The Decca Years. So are the bonus tracks that feature on each disc. That’s why The Decca Years is without doubt, a truly comprehensive retrospective of John Miles’ early career.
The Decca Years were also the most productive period of John Miles’ career. Not only was John averaging an album a year, but these albums featured what’s without doubt the best material of a recording career that spanned four decades. Incredibly, the four studio albums that feature in The Decca Years box set, were the most successful of John Miles’ career. Never again did he reach the same heights. That’s despite releasing another six studio albums.
Despite not releasing a studio album since Tom and Catherine in 1999, John continues to play live. He’s also regular at the Proms Concerts across Europe, where he will regularly play his classic single. That’s the song that’s become synonymous with John Miles. However, Music is only part of the John Miles’ story, which is documented on The Decca Years and what’s without doubt, some of the best music of his long and illustrious career.
JOHN MILES-THE DECCA ALBUMS.
PAT THOMAS-COMING HOME-ORIGINAL GHANAIAN HIGHLIFE AND AFROBEAT CLASSICS.
During a long and illustrious career that has spanned six decades, Ghanaian highlife master Pat Thomas, became known as the “the golden voice of Africa.” Now aged sixty-five, and one of the veterans of African music, Pat Thomas continues to make music. That’s no surprise.
All Pat Thomas ever wanted to do was sing highlife. He’s been doing since his career began in 1966. Since then, Pat Thomas has reinvented himself musically several times. He’s recorded everything from big band highlife in the late sixties, right through to the burger highlife of the early eighties. After this, the reinvention of Pat Thomas continued. It’s documented on Strut Records new two disc Pat Thomas retrospective, Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics. It features twenty-three tracks, including two previously unreleased tracks from “the golden voice of Africa.” His story began in 1940.
Pat Thomas was born in Agona, in the Ashanti region of Ghana in 1951. Music was in Pat’s blood. His father taught music theory, his mother was a bandleader and Pat’s uncle was the legendary Ghanian guitarist King Onyina. Given his background, it wasn’t surprising Pat Thomas would later make a career out of music.
Especially since Pat Thomas was surrounded by music. Growing up, he listened to all types of music. However, it was highlife that struck a nerve with Pat. By the time he was in high school, Pat Thomas dreamt of singing highlife. However, he was too young.
This wasn’t going to stop Pat Thomas embarking upon a musical career. So while he was at high school, Pat Thomas started singing covers of songs by Stevie Wonder, Nat King Cole, Miriam Makeba and Jimmy Cliff. While this wasn’t ideal, it was a start. He knew everyone had to start somewhere.
The next chapter in Pat Thomas’ career began in 1966. Pat was only fiteen, but something of a musical prodigy. This was in part, thanks to his uncle. He took Pat under his wing. Soon, he was able to write music, and play guitar and drums. However, it was as a singer that Pat Thomas excelled. Already he was a familiar face in local clubs, and was perceived as one of the rising stars of the local music scene. That’s why he was hired as an arranger by one of the biggest names in Ghanian music, Ebo Taylor.
Ebo Taylor had just returned from London, when he hired Pat Thomas as an arranger. He and Fela Kuti had been studying music in London. Now Pat was home, he was determined to put what he had learnt into practice. This included modernising highlife.
With Pat Thomas onboard, Ebo Taylor embarked upon a journey that eventually, would see the transformation of highlife. It was a meeting of minds. They gave highlife a Western twist. Horns were added. So were guitars and vocals. This once traditional form of African music was about to be transformed by two of Ghana’s most progressive musicians.
Over the next few years, Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor played together in various bands. This included the Stargazer’s Dance Band and the Broadway Dance Band. Pat was the arranger and vocalist, while Ebo played the guitar. They were a formidable duo. That’s apparent on the Pat Thomas penned Go Modern, which the Broadway Dance Band released as a single on the Ambassador label. It opens the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation, and featured not just Pat’s recording debut as bandleader, but his first recording with Ebo Taylor. However, despite their close friendship, Pat Thomas made the decision to journey to Britain.
He wasn’t the first African musician to make this journey. Nor would he be the last. Pat made the Journey to London in 1970. During the time he spent in London, he toured with the Uhuru Dance Band. Then in 1971, Pat returned home and moved to Accra.
That’s where Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor renewed their musical partnership in 1971. That’s when Pat joined the Blue Monks. Again, Pat was the vocalist and Ebo the guitarist. They were resident at the Tip Toe Nite Club, where the Blue Monks would make their mark on Ghanian musical history. They’re now remembered as one of most important and influential Ghanian bands of the early seventies. Just like before, Pat and Ebo went their separate ways, but would later reunite.
Before that, Pat Thomas and The Big 7” released a couple of singles, including Eye Colo in 1972. It features on the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation, and is a reminder of what was a memorable collaboration. They reunited in 1973 to record and release Okomfo Bone as a single. However, the collaboration between Pat Thomas and The Big 7” wasn’t particularly successful, and they parted. Not long after this, Pat was on the move.
This time, Pat Thomas moved to the Ivory Coast. After a while, Pat decided to return home, and once more, reunited with Ebo Taylor. In 1974, they joined Sweet Beans, a group sponsored by the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Later in 1974, Pat Thomas had recorded an album with The Sweet Bean. They were billed as Pat Thomas and The Sweet Beans, and their album False Lover was released on Gapophone Records later in 1974. Three of the songs Pat had written for the album, were Merebre, Revolution and Set Me Free. They feature on the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics retrospective, and are a tantalising taste of what was Pat Thomas and The Sweet Beans’ one and only album. However, for Pat Thomas, this was just the start of his recording career.
Around this time, Pat Thomas recorded three other songs from the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics retrospective. Details of exactly where and the recordings took place is unclear. Even debates surrounds the exact release date. It’s thought that The Ogyatanaa Show Band (Super) Yaa Amponsah and Pat Thomas and The Black Berets Obra E Yebo Yi were released in 1974. Similarly, it’s thought that Pat Thomas cut and released Awurade Mpaebo in 1975. Alas, over forty years later, details are somewhat sketchy. The main thing is that the music has survived, and shows Pat Thomas maturing and evolving musically.
Pat Thomas’ career blossomed during 1976, which was one of the busiest and most important years of his career. Pat released a trio of albums. This included his debut solo album Stay There, which was released on Gapophone Records in 1976. So was the followup Stage Two, which featured We Are Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics and Let’s Think It Over. They feature on the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation, and already, it’s apparent why Pat Thomas would later be called “the golden voice of Africa.”
Having released two solo albums during 1976, Pat Thomas released his live album Wednesday At Tip Toe. That night his performancewas recorded for posterity, and released on Gapophone Records. This was fitting, as Pat had often took to the stage at Tip Toe, when The Blue Monks had a residency. The other album Pat worked on during 1976, was his first collaboration with Marijata.
This was Pat Thomas Introduces Marijata, which was released on Gapophone Records, in 1977. Two of its highlights, Brain Washing and Can Say feature on the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation. A year later, Pat Thomas Introduces Marijata.
This was the first of two albums Pat released with Marijata. The followup was Pat Thomas and Marijata, which was released in 1978. After that, Pat decided to concentrate on his solo career.
That was the plan 1978. However, Pat Thomas was reunited with Ebo Taylor in 1978. Soon, they embarked on a collaboration with another legend of African music, Fela Kuti’s former drummer, Tony Allen.
At the time, Pat Thomas, Ebo Taylor and Tony Allen were at the peak of their powers. They were like an African supergroup. The collaboration came about when Tony Allen was rerecording the soundtrack to Black President in Accra. When Tony had some downtime, he headed to Kumsai to record with Pat and Ebo. Sadly, the sessions never saw the light of day, after they were destroyed in a fire. Sadly it would be, four decades later, before Pat Thomas would collaborate with his old friends.
Later in 1978, Pat Thomas returned with the first in a trilogy of albums, In Action Volume 1-I Am Born Again. Without doubt, the album’s highlight was the beautiful, soulful ballad I Can’t See. It’s a very welcome addition to the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation. The same can be said of Mewo Akoma, a near fifteen minute epic that takes up side two of In Action Volume 2-Asante Kotoko. It was released in 1979. So was the final instalment in the trilogy, In Action Volume 3-I Wanna Know. By then, Ghana was a troubled country.
Ghana was in the throes of a coup d’état lead by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. Many Ghanians fearing their safety, fled the country. Those that remained, their lives were in danger. Nothing was sacred. To make matters worse the military junta set about destroying the Ghanian music industry. They went as far as destroying the master tapes in Gapophone Records’ vaults. Musicians like Pat Thomas looked on helplessly. They were determined not to be silenced. However, they were realists, and knew that it they stayed in Ghana, their loves were in danger. So later in 1979, Pat Thomas left Ghana, and headed for London.
London was only a temporary home for Pat Thomas. He moved to Berlin, where he hooked up with other Ghanian musicians. Augmented by some local musicians, they recorded the album 1980. It featured an eclectic mixture of Afrrobeat, disco and reggae. Proof of that, is Yamona: Disco Hi-Life, which features on the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics retrospective. 1980 became one of the early records of burger highlife scene. This came about, after Ghanians living in Germany became to call themselves burgers. In doing so, a new musical scene was born, and Pat was at the centre of it.
Things were improving for Pat Thomas, after the move to Berlin. He released Asawo Do was released as a single, and it gave Pat a hit in Germany and Ghana. Belatedly, Pat’s music was finding a wider audience. This made it the perfect time to for Pat to release his collaboration with his old friend Ebo Taylor.
Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor had recorded a truly eclectic album, Sweeter Than Honey Calypso ‘Mahuno” And High Lifes Celebration. With a hugely talented band, they fused elements of Afrobeat, calypso funk, highlife, reggae and soul. On of the highlights of this extremely rare and valuable album is Ma Huno. It features on Strut Records’ Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation, and is a reminder of a groundbreaking album. Alas, it didn’t sell in huge quantities. Although was disappointing, Pat soon, began work with a new band, Super Sounds Namba.
Pat Thomas joined another band comprising Ghanian musicians, Super Sounds Namba. They headed to Otodi Studio, in Togo to record their one and only album Super Sounds. It was released in 1981, and nowadays a collectors item. One track stands out, the closing track Who’s Free, which is features on the Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics compilation. It’s a truly poignant track, in light of the political situation in Ghana.
The people who hadn’t fled Ghana certainly weren’t free. They lived under military rule. Musicians who were seen as subversives, who spoke against the government and now military rulers, couldn’t live safely in Ghana. Pat Thomas realised that in 1979, and fled to London. Since then, he had moved to Berlin, but his life was in a state of flux. He couldn’t return home to the political situation changed. For Pat, this was a worrying time. Still, though, he continued to make music.
In 1982, Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas and Uhuru Yenzu collaborated on the album Hitsville Re-Visited. Accompanied by an all-star band, this Ghanian supergroup won friends and influenced people when the album was released in 1982. The following year, Pat released another solo album.
Pat Thomas released In His Style From London-Hot and Cool Highlife in 1983. This was the second live album of Pat’s career. It had been recorded while Pat was touring in 1983. A year later, Pat released an album with one of his oldest friends, Ebo Taylor.
1984 saw the release of Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor released another collaboration. This was their eponymous debut album. It was released on Dannytone Records and featured two of Ghanian music’s most influential musicians. They had been working together on and of for eighteen years. So it was no surprise that they produced an album that was released to critical acclaim. However, the last few years hadn’t been easy. Both men were exiles. Despite this, Pat was about to enter the most productive period of his career.
Between 1985 and 1988, Pat released four studio albums and a collaboration. The first of the studio albums was Asanteman, which was released in 1985. Highlife Greats Mbrepa followed in 1986. By then, Pat Thomas’ star was in the ascendancy. He was a star of the hamburger highlife scene. Everything was going well for Pat Thomas. Despite this, pat made the decision to leave London behind. He moved to Canada, which was home for Pat Thomas for the next ten years.
Now living in Canada, this productive period continued. In 1987, Pat released Pat Thomas and Friends and his solo album Santrofi. The following year, 1988, Pat released a new solo album Me Do Wiase. It was around this time Pat released his Mpaebo album. This was the last album Pat released during the eighties.
Three years later, and Pat Thomas returned with a new album, Sika Ye Mogya in 1991. This was the last album Pat released for five years. No longer was Pat as productive as he had once been. However, in 1996 Pat returned with Nkae, which was his Canadian swan-song. Soon, he would be returning home.
Pat Thomas returned to Ghana in 1997. Soon, Pat Thomas was back where he belonged, at the top of the Ghanaian music scene. His comeback was complete in 2008, when he starred at the Made In Germany burger highlife festival. However, since then, Pat Thomas has stayed and played in Ghana.
While his old friend Ebo Taylor has travelled overseas, and had reinvented himself, becoming an international star, Pat Thomas was happy to remain in Ghana. He had spent eighteen years living overseas. Now he was home. Although he wasn’t playing live as much as he once had, he was still in demand for gala dinners and corporate functions. Nor had Pat recorded an album for a long time. However, in 2013, he got the chance to return to the studio.
Tony Allen got in touch with Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor. He wanted to record an album with them. Pat and Ebo were just as keen. So in January 2014, the three men headed to a studio in Accra. They were joined by what can only be described as an all-star band.
Among the all star band was drummer Tony Allen, bassist Emmanuel Ofori and guitarist Ebo Taylor. They were joined by percussionist Eric Owusu and saxophonist Abaranel-Wolff. He co-produced the album with multi-instrumentalist Kwame Yeboh.. They provided the backdrop for Pat Thomas’ vocals. The resulting album became Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band’s eponymous debut album. It was released by Strut Records in 2015. Now a year later, in 2016, Strut Records have just released the most comprehensive retrospective of Pat Thomas’ long and illustrious career.
Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics documents the career of Pat Thomas, “the golden voice of Africa.” To document such a lengthy career, takes not one, but two CD. They feature a total twenty-four tracks, including two previously unreleased tracks from Ebo Taylor featuring Pat Thomas, No Money. No Love and Sack The Devils. That’s just one part of the story.
There’s also song from Pat Thomas’ time with the Broadway Dance Band, and his collaborations with The Ogyatanaa Show Band, The Black Berets, The Big 7”, The Sweet Beans and Marijata. That takes care of disc one of Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics. Then on disc two, there’s further collaborations with Ebo Taylor, Marijata and a track from Super Sounds Namba’s album Super Sounds. This must make Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics the definitive overview of Pat Thomas’ career. Especially for newcomers to Pat Thomas’ music.
Having said that, it couldn’t have been easy narrowing Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics down to just twenty-four tracks. I’m sure Strut Records could’ve picked any number of other tracks. That’s not surprising. Pat Thomas has enjoyed a lengthy solo career, has been a member of several groups and collaborated with many other artists. There’s definitely enough for Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics Volume 2. Let’s hope so.
Meanwhile, Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics is a welcome release, and a reminder of Ghanaian highlife master Pat Thomas, “the golden voice of Africa,” in his musical prime.
PAT THOMAS-COMING HOME-ORIGINAL GHANAIAN HIGHLIFE AND AFROBEAT CLASSICS.
EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER 2016 REISSUES.
The seventies was a golden age for rock music. Especially progressive rock. One of the giants of British progressive rock were Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were formed in 1970, and went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. That was the case right up until Emerson, Lake and Palmer split-up in 1979.
By then, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had amassed nine consecutive gold discs in America. Just like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were more popular in America, than they were in Britain.
In Britain, two of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s albums were certified gold, while another were certified silver. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were just the latest band to be under appreciated in their home country. That was a great shame.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer were without doubt, one of the most ambitious and innovative of the British progressive rock bands. They released seven groundbreaking studio albums, where they pushed musical boundaries to their limits. That’s not forgetting the two live albums, Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. They’re among the six Emerson, Lake and Palmer albums that have been recently reissued by BMG.
These six albums are Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s first four studio albums. This began with Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1970, and then 1971s Tarkus, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad Surgery. They’re joined by Pictures At An Exhibition and Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. Each of the six albums have been reissued as double albums, with the second disc featuring bonus tracks galore. This reissue program has been overseen by the two remaining members of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. They’re responsible for what is a lovingly curated reissue program, that does justice to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s back-catalogue. Their story began as the sixties gave way to the seventies.
The Emerson, Lake and Palmer story began back in in 1970. That was when Keith Emerson and Greg Lake first met at the Filimore West, in San Francisco. Both of them were at a musical crossroads. Keith was a member of The Nice, while Greg Lake was a member of King Crimson. Nether Keith nor Greg felt fulfilled musically. So, the decided to form a new band.
This new band would feature Keith on keyboards, Greg on bass and a drummer. Their first choice for a drummer was Mitch Mitchell, who was without a band, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up. They agreed to jam together. Then the music press heard about this jam session.
Rumours started doing the rounds that Jimi Hendrix was going to join this new supergroup. That put an end to the jam session. It never took place. Jimi Hendrix had never been asked to join the supergroup. Mitch Mitchell meanwhile, lost interest in the project. This presented a problem. Keith and Greg still didn’t have a drummer. Then Robert Stigwood, who was then the manager of Cream, suggested Carl Palmer’s name.
Carl Palmer was another experienced musician. He’d previously been a member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. At that time, he was a member of Atomic Rooster. So Carl was approached. He was, at first, reluctant to leave Atomic Rooster, which he’d cofounded. However, when he spoke to Keith and Greg he realised that he could be part of something special.
Having left Atomic Rooster, he became the third member of the newly formed supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They made their debut at The Guildhall, Plymouth, on 23rd August 1970. Then on 26th August 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer stole the show at the Isle Of Wight Festival. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer being offered a recording contract by Atlantic Records.
Ahmet Ertegün the President of Atlantic Records realised the potential in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here was a band who wouldn’t just sell a huge amount of records, but could fill huge venues. So, not long after signing Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ahmet Ertegün sent them into Advision Studios, London, where they recorded their eponymous debut album.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
At Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded ten tracks. They became Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Although this was meant to be the birth of a supergroup, the ten tracks on Emerson, Lake and Palmer came across as a series of solo pieces. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a new band, who’d just recorded an eclectic and innovative album.
Although many people refer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer as prog rock band, they’re much more than that. Their music is eclectic. They draw inspiration from a variety of sources on Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This includes folk rock, jazz, psychedelia, rock and classical music. The classical influence is apparent on the opening track, The Barbarian and Knife Edge. Elsewhere, Take A Pebble finds Emerson, Lake and Palmer heading in the direction of jazz, with folk guitar and improvisation playing a part in this band workout. The Three Fates was the first three part suite Emerson, Lake and Palmer wrote and recorded. However, Lucky Man, a folk rock ballad was one of the album’s highlights, and kept until last. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer experimenting.
This determination to experiment, is one of the reasons some of the music on Emerson, Lake and Palmer sounds futuristic. That’s in part to Keith Emerson’s use of the Moog synth. The result was a pioneering, innovative album that would launch Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career.
When critics heard Emerson, Lake and Palmer, they hailed the album as innovative and influential. On its release in the UK in October 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer reached number four. Three months later, on New Year’s Day 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer was released in the US. It reached number eighteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Ahmet Ertegün, the President of Atlantic Records had been vindicated. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were on their way to becoming rock royalty.
Even with Emerson, Lake and Palmer well on their way to becoming rock royalty, they couldn’t have imagined that in 2016, their eponymous debut album would be reissued forty-six years later in 2016. That’s the case though.
The reissue of Emerson, Lake and Palmer features the 2012 remaster of the album on disc one. Then on disc two, is The Alternate Album, which features Steven Wilson’s 2012 Mix. There’s also four bonus tracks, including Take A Pebble, Knife Edge and two different takes of Lucky Man. This is no different to the 2012 Sony reissue. The only difference between the 2012 and 2016 versions, is that 2012 version came with a DVD, which included various mixes. Ultimately, though, it’s up to music fans to choose which version they prefer. It’s a similar case with Tarkus.
It was a case of striking when the iron was hot for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They returned to Advision Studios, in London to record what became their sophomore album Tarkus. It was much more of a “band” album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were now a tight, musical unit. This was very different from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was more like an album of solo pieces. Tarkus saw the birth of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as one of the giants of prog rock.
Tarkus was released in June 1971. That wasn’t originally the plan. Instead, Pictures At An Exhibition was meant to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sophomore album. This was a live album which was recorded in March 1971. It saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer interpret Modest Mussorgsky’s opus Pictures At An Exhibition. it was a groundbreaking album. There was a problem though. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s management didn’t agree. They weren’t sure that what essentially a interpretation of a classical suite was the direction Emerson, Lake and Palmer should be heading. So, Tarkus became the followup to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
On its release in June 1971, critics realised that Tarkus marked a much more united Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were well on the way to finding their trademark sound. Gone were ballads and jazz-tinged tracks. Instead, it was prog rock all the way. Record buyers loved Tarkus. It reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best, and most successful album of their career.
So it’s no surprise that Tarkus has been reissued as a two disc set. The first disc features the 2012 remaster of Taurkus. Disc two features The Alternate Album, which comprises Steven Wilson’s 2012 Mix. There’s also a trio of bonus tracks, including Oh, My Father, Unknown Ballad and an alternate tale of mass. Again, the track listing is no different to the 2012 Sony reissue. The only thing missing from the 2016 reissue, is the DVD. Despite the similarities between the 2012 and 2016 versions of Tarkus, was one of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s finest albums. That was why, following the commercial success of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s were keen to release Pictures At An Exhibition later in 1971.
Pictures At An Exhibition.
Three months before the release of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer arrived at Newcastle City Hall, in Newcastle, England on the 26th March 1971. They were about to record their first live album, Pictures At An Exhibition. This was no ordinary live album.
Instead, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had decided to adapt Russian classical composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. This was one of the first times classical music had been adapted by a rock band. That night in Newcastle, just four of the original ten pieces in Mussorgsky’s suite, along with the linking Promenade were recorded, They were performed live as one continuous piece, with new parts written by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. These new parts linked Mussorgsky’s original themes, which Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s played with enthusiasm and energy. Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition was nearly never released.
It seemed that Pictures At An Exhibition was fated. Problems with their management meant that Pictures At An Exhibition’s release was delayed. It wouldn’t be until November 1971 the album was released. However, at one point it looked as if Pictures At An Exhibition wouldn’t be released. Atlantic Records were reluctant to release what was essentially a classical suite as an album. This they feared, wouldn’t sell well. So the project was put on the back burner, Suddenly, it looked unlikely that Pictures At An Exhibition would be released. That was until Tarkus was certified gold in America. All of a sudden, Atlantic had a change of heart,
Rather than release Pictures At An Exhibition on the main Atlantic label, a decision was made to release the album as a budget priced album. Atlantic Records it seemed were hedging their bets. That seemed a wise move when the reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone magazine was far from impressed with Pictures At An Exhibition. Neither was the self styled Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau, Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition sold well.
When Pictures At An Exhibition was released in November 1971, it reached number three in the UK. In America, Pictures At An Exhibition reached number ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third consecutive gold album. It was recently reissued as a two disc set, and features two live albums for the the price of one.
The first disc features the 2012 remaster of Pictures At An Exhibition, plus bonus tracks. This includes The Pictures At An Exhibition Medley, which was recorded The Mar Y Sol Festival Puerto Rico on 4th December 1972. Then on disc two which was remastered in 2o12, there’s another chance to hear Emerson, Lake and Palmer live. Five nights after they played in Puerto Rico, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded Live At The Lyceum Theatre, London on 9th December 1972. That night, Emerson, Lake and Palmer work their way through fifteen tracks. and in the process, show that live, they were becoming of the top progressive rock bands. Emerson, Lake and Palme were also one of the biggest selling progressive rock bands, and were about to enjoy release another successful album, Trilogy.
Just like previous albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were determined to push musical boundaries on Trilogy, their third studio album. Just like their two previous albums, Trilogy was recorded at Advision Studios, London. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at their innovative best, recording progressive rock, but with a twist.
An example of this was the inclusion of Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. Rather than the usual 3/4 rhythm a Bolero would have, it was turned into a march by using a 4/4 rhythm. Emerson, Lake and Palmer also pioneered the beating heart sound on Trilogy. Pink Floyd would use it to such good effect on Dark Side Of The Moon. So would Jethro Tull on A Passion Play and Queen on Queen II. This sound was first heard on Endless Enigma Part One. It came courtesy of Carl Palmer’s Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal. Once again, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were demonstrating that they were one of the most innovative progressive rock bands. Their efforts were rewarded.
On its release in July 1972, Trilogy reached number two in the US. As usual, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed more success in the US. Trilogy reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another gold disc for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. In the space of just two years Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful progressive rock bands, and were had released what was their most ambitious album, Trilogy.
Trilogy was also recently reissued. Disc one of Trilogy features the 2015 remaster. This time around, there’s no bonus tracks on disc one. However, there is on disc two.
It’s billed as The Alternate Album, that comprises the Jakko M Jakszyk 2015 Stereo Mixes. There’s a total of eleven tracks on disc two. This includes two bonus tracks. An alternate version of From The Beginning opens disc two, while a live version of Hoedown bookends the disc. For both long-term fans and newcomers to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the addition of The Alternate Album offers the opportunity to compare and contrast the two versions. Although it’s an interesting exercise, the original version always wins out. That was how Emerson, Lake and Palmer intended Trilogy to be heard. They were in the middle of the hottest streak of their careers. Incredibly, though things were about to get better for Emerson, Lake and Palmer though.
Of the three previous studio albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded, they complex, innovative, genre-melting affairs. Emerson, Lake and Palmer embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection. They also made use of overdubbing. This made their music difficult to replicate live. The band always felt they came up short live. So Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate accurately live. This was Brain Surgery Salad.
Brian Surgery Salad.
Recording of Brian Surgery Salad took place between June and September 1973. Brain Salad Surgery was a fusion of prog rock and classical music. This is obvious straight away.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer adapted William Blake and Hubert Parry’s hymn Jerusalem and then Alberto Ginastera’s Toccata. Greg Lake wrote Still…You Turn Me On and then cowrote Benny The Bouncer and Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression with Keith Emerson and Peter Sinfield, one of the founding members of King Crimson. Keith Emerson penned Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression and cowrote Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 with Greg Lake also penned Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1. These tracks were brought to life by Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive best.
On Brain Salad Surgery, Keith Emerson played Hammond organ, piano, accordion and a myriad of synths. Greg Lake took charge of vocals, acoustic, electric, and twelve-string guitars. He also played bass guitar. Carl Palmer played drums, percussion, percussion synthesizers, gongs and timpani. Greg Lake produced Brian Surgery Salad, which was released in November 1973. Before that, critics had their say on Brian Surgery Salad,
Mostly, the reviews of Brain Salad Surgery were positive. However, the usual contrarian critics were’t as impressed. They seemed unwilling to recognise that Brain Salad Surgery was the finest hour of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s four album career. Brian Surgery Salad featured Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. Here was a tight, visionary band fusing prog rock, jazz and classical music. It was an ambitious, powerhouse of an album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers, and record buyers on both sides of the Atlantic realised this.
When Brain Salad Surgery, was released in November 1973, it became Emerson, Lake and Palmer most successful album. It reached number two in the UK and number eleven in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in two more gold discs to add to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s collection. They were well deserved though.
Given Brain Salad Surgery was one of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s finest hours, it’s fitting that the album was reissued as a two disc set. Disc one features the 2014 remaster of the album. There’s no bonus tracks on disc one. Then on disc two, is The Alternate Album. It features thirteen bonus tracks. They’ll be of particular interest to completists. This includes alternate versions of Toccata and the various parts Karn Evil 9. There’s also a instrumental of Brian Salad Surgery and first mixes Jerusalem and Still… You Turn Me On. Welcome additions are the original backing track to Karn Evil 9 3rd Impressio and When the Apple Blossoms Bloom in the Windmills of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine. An interesting addition is the excerpts of Brain Salad Surgery which featured on a flexi-disc given away free with NME. However, there’s one thing that must be pointed out. All of the bonus tracks been released before, and featured on the 2014 three CD box set. Essentially, the only different between the 2014 and 2016 reissues, is the DVD that featured on the 2014 remaster is missing. Again, it’s a case of choosing which version of Brain Salad Surgery you prefer. It’s a similar case with Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s second live album, Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.
After the release of Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake and Palmer embarked upon a lengthy and gruelling world tour. It began in November 1973, continued into the first half of September 1974. Night after night, Emerson, Lake and Palmer took to the stage and played a selection of songs from their first four studio albums. Some nights, the tapes were running and the concert was recorded. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were considering releasing another live album. It would be very different from Pictures At An Exhibition, which featured a selection of Modest Mussorgsky’s classic pieces.
This time around, Emerson, Lake and Palmer would get the opportunity to showcase their talents as songwriters. That hadn’t been the case on Pictures At An Exhibition. It would also allow record buyers to hear that live, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were versatile and accomplished musicians. They were equally comfortable playing live, and capable of replicating what was complex music live. That music Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded between 1970 and 1973. Some of this music would find its way onto Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen.
Each night of what seemed to be the tour that never seemed to end, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were improving as musicians. Review after review remarked upon this. Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen would document this.
Rather than record one or two shows, Emerson, Lake and Palmer ensured that tapes were running on a number of nights. This allowed them to cherry pick nine tracks, which included four suites. This included Tarkus, Take A Pebble. Piano Improvisations and Karn Evil. There was also the medley of Jeremy Bender and The Sheriff. Along with Hoedown, Jerusalem, Toccata and Take A Pebble (Conclusion), Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was representative of the first three years of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career. However, having chosen such lengthy tracks, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was going to be unlike most live albums.
Instead, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was a triple album. The nine tracks were spread across three LPs, and in the 2016 Remaster across two CDs. Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen which had been produced by Greg Lake, and scheduled for release in August 1974.
Before that, critics had their say on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. Critics were won over by Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. Many critics expressed surprise that Emerson, Lake and Palmer were so accomplished live. So much so, that there was Emerson, Lake and Palmer eschewed overdubbing on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It was live and uncut, and a true musical document of Emerson, Lake and Palmer live.
When Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen was released on 19th of August 1974, it reached number nineteen in Britain, and ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sixth consecutive gold disc in America. Elsewhere, Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen reached the top ten in the Canadian, German, Finnish and Dutch album charts. The Emerson, Lake and Palmer success story continued. Or so it seemed.
Following the release of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer decided to take a break to work on side projects and solo albums. Nothing was heard of Emerson, Lake and Palmer until 1976.
That’s when they reunited in Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland to record Works Volume 1, which was released on the 17th of March 1977. It was certified gold in America, Canada and Britain. The followup Works Volume 2, was released on 1st November 1977. Although it was certified gold in America, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s were no longer as popular. Sadly, that was the case with many progressive rock bands.
That had been the case since the birth of punk. The punks saw progressive rock as musical dinosaurs. They were the antithesis of everything that punk stood for. As punk and then post punk’s popularity grew, progressive rock’s popularity declined.
On 18th November 1978, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Love Beach. This allowed Emerson, Lake and Palmer to discharge their contractual obligations to Atlantic Records. Although it wasn’t well received by critics, it was still certified silver in Britain and gold in America. However, Love Beach failed to reach the upper reaches of the charts. Love Beach proved to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s swan-song, and the band split-up shortly thereafter.
Nearly fourteen years later Emerson, Lake and Palmer returned on 27th June 1992 with Black Moon. Sadly, the album failed to reach the heights of their previous albums. It was a similar case with In The Hot Seat, which was released on 27th September 1994. In The Hot Seat failed to make an impression on the charts, and it was a disappointing way to end Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s recording career. It had spanned nine studio albums which were released between 1970 and 1994.
For many people, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released some of their finest music during the early years of their career. This includes their first four studio albums, 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971s Tarkus, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad Surgery. That’s not forgetting Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s first two live albums, 1971s Pictures At An Exhibition and 1974s Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends… Ladies and Gentlemen. Each of the six albums have been reissued as double albums by BMG. These six albums feature Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative and groundbreaking best.
That wasn’t surprising, given Emerson, Lake and Palmer were three of the most gifted and visionally musicians of their generation. They were able to seamlessly combine musical genres, and had been since their eponymous debut album.
On their first four studio albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer flitted between prog rock, jazz and classical music, creating genre-melting music. This music was ambitious, complex and innovative. That was no surprise. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had always embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection.
To achieve musical perfection, Emerson, Lake and Palmer made use of overdubbing extensively. They added layer upon layer of instruments. The result were complex, multilayered, orchestral arrangements. The only problem was replicating the songs live.
This Emerson, Lake and Palmer soon realised was impossible. After several attempts to play these songs live, Emerson, Lake and Palmer realised there was no way they could play these songs live. Eventually, they gave up, and cut these songs from their set, as they embarked on extensive tours.
This included their eleven month 1973-1974 tour, which is documented on Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their most accomplished, as they toured North America and Europe. Several of these shows were recorded, and parts of these concerts found their way onto Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s a reminder of just how good a live band Emerson, Lake and Palme were.
After the release of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake and Palmer took a prolonged break. Sadly, Emerson, Lake and Palmer never reached the same heights.
By 1974, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best music of their career. This included four cohesive studio albums and two live albums. Each of these albums were certified gold in America. However, it wasn’t just in America where Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.
Between 1970 and 1974, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful bands on both sides of the Atlantic. They also were popular in Canada, Europe and Australia. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were titans of progressive rock, who were already festival favourites and stadium fillers. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were well on their way to becoming one of the most successful progressive rock bands.
From 1970s Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971 Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition, 1972s Trilogy and 1973s Brain Salad, Surgery and 1974s Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies and Gentlemen it seemed that Emerson, Lake and Palmer could do no wrong. They were one of the most successful bands of the progressive rock era. Their music was innovative, inventive and influential.
Even today, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s music continues to influence a new generation of musicians. Especially, the music Emerson, Lake and Palmer released between 1970 and 1974. During that period, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a visionary band, who created what was without doubt, the best music of their career. The albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded during that four year period, aren’t inventive, innovative and influential, but timeless, epic and ambitious that feature a group at the peak of their creative powers.
EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER 2016 REISSUES.