ALL ABOARD! 25 TRAIN TRACKS CALLING AT ALL MUSICAL STATIONS.

ALL ABOARD! 25 TRAIN TRACKS CALLING AT ALL MUSICAL STATIONS.

Nowadays, most compilations seem to be genre specific. They feature only soul, funky, jazz, psychedelia, pop or rock. Some compilations go even further, and focus on a sub genre of music. 

That’s because nowadays, many people seem to gravitate to one genre of music. It can be anything from Philly Soul to fusion and jazz funk to Acid House, to dancehall, dub and Northern Soul. Often, compilers of sub genre compilations take things even further, focusing on a label or period time. These compilations are compiled for labels by enthusiastic and knowledgeable people, and include some fantastic music. 

One label who have been doing this for nearly forty years are Ace Records. During that period, they’ve released countless compilations. Many of these compilations are genre specific. Not all though.

Other compilations can only be described as eclectic. Some have a theme. That’s the case with Ace Records forthcoming compilation, All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. This twenty-five track is described as: “25 tracks with a train theme or rhythm from across the musical spectrum.” There’s everything from blues, funk, gospel, jazz, pop, psychedelia, R&B, reggae and soul on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. Everyone from Rufus Thomas, Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield, James Carr, The Shangri-Las, Chuck Berry, Luther Ingram, Neil Sedaka, Little Walter and The Ethiopians feature on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. It’s been compiled by Vicki Fox, and will be released on Ace Records on 28th August 2015. For anyone who likes their music eclectic, this is a musical journey not to be missed. Here’s why. 

The opening track on any compilation is always the most important. Compiler Vicki Fox realises this, and chose Harold Jackson and The Jackson Brothers’ The Freedom Riders. It’s a truly poignant track, one that’s named after a brave group of people, The Freedom Riders. They protested against segregation on the American railroads and buses. By ignoring the strict rules on segregation, they risked being thrown off buses or railroads. On occasions, they were badly beaten. So, in 1961, jazz pianist Harold Jackson and Dimples Jackson penned Freedom Riders. It was released on Edsel in June 1961, and is a  poignant, dramatic reminder of a brave group  of civil rights activists who fought for what many take for granted, equality.

Mention blues harmonica players, and most people think of Little Walter, Otis Rush, Big Walter Horton, Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson. Not many people will mention Cyril Davies. That’s unless they frequented the London R&B scene in the early sixties. Back then, Cyril Davies and His Rhythm and Blues All Stars were a familiar face. They released Country Line Special in 1963, on Pye International. This Cyril Davies penned track was part of Pye Internationl’s R&B series. Country Line Special also featured on The E.P. The Sound Of Cyril Davies, which showed that a British blues man could play the blues harp.

Peggy Lee wasn’t just a singer. She was songwriter and actress, and enjoyed a long and successful career. In 1943, Peggy Lee collaborated with Dave Barbour and His Orchestra on It Takes A Long Long Train With A Red Caboose (To Carry My Blues Away). It’s a swinging slice of jazzy blues, delivered in Peggy Lee’s unmistakable style.

In 1965, Dusty Springfield was one of music’s rising stars. She was signed to Phillips in Britain, and was about release her sophomore album, Everything’s Coming Up Dusty. It featured Won’t Be Gone Long, which was originally covered by Aretha Franklin. Aided and abetted by Doris Troy and Medeline Bell on backing vocals, Dusty delivers a vocal that’s a mixture enthusiasm, anticipation and joy. 

It’s no exaggeration to call James Carr one of the greatest Southern Soul singers ever. His career started in 1964, at Goldwax Records. That’s where he released the best music of his career, including his 1968 single Freedom Train. This is two minutes of joyous, hook laden music with a message. It’s vintage James Carr, and features him at his very best. Sadly, James Carr’s time at the top didn’t last long. By the early seventies, James was drifting between record companies. Soon, releases became infrequent. Eventually, James Carr became one of soul music’s forgotten men. He was almost penniless, and still suffering from mental health problems. However, there was a resurgence in interest in his music in the late nineties. A new generation discovered the music of the greatest Southern Soul singers ever. Freedom Train is a tantalising taste of James Carr at his very best.

Success came quickly to The Shangri-Las. They were formed in 1963, and in 1964, released their classic single Leader Of The Pack. It gave The Shangri-Las commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1965, The Shangri-Las covered Jeff Berry and Ellie Greenwich’s The Train From Kansas City. It was produced by Shadow Morton, and released on Red Bird. The Train From Kansas City brings with it a problem. A boyfriend is heading home, only to find that his girlfriend is engaged to another. This musical soap opera comes to life thanks to The Shangri-Las and Shadow Morton.

Chuck Berry first came to the attention of record buyers in the 1955. Sixty years later, and he’s still going strong. Now aged eighty-eight, he’s regarded as one of the founding fathers of rock ’n’ roll. He penned The Downbound Train, which was the flip side of his 1956 single No Money Down. It reached number eight in the US R&B charts, and featured on his After School Session album. The Downbound Train sees Chuck painting pictures of his worst nightmare, while his Combo create a blistering rockabilly beat. It’s a captivating track a musical legend.

Although Luther Ingram had been releasing singles since the mid-sixties, commercial success had eluded him. Then in 1971, he cowrote Respect Yourself for The Staple Singers. This was a game-changer. Two years later, in 1972, Luther enjoyed the biggest hit of his career with a cover of (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right. However, the year before, 1971, Luther released I’ll Love You Until The End as a single on the Koko label. It wasn’t a commercial success. Tucked on the B-Side was Ghetto Train. It’s an anthemic, soulful stomper, that deserves to be heard by a wider audience.

It always pays to check the B-Side of a single. There’s always the possibility that a hidden gem may be hidden away. That’s what happened when people flipped over Neil Sedaka’s 1959 single Oh Carol. It was released on RCA Victor. Tucked away on the B-Side was One Way Ticket (To The Blues). Since then, it’s been mistakenly regarded as one of Neil Sedaka’s hit singles. While that may not be the case, it’s one of his best songs.

“Get onboard the Psychedelic Train” is the opening line of Derrick Harriott and The Chosen Few’s 1970 single. It was penned and produced by Derrick, and is a fusion of funk and reggae with a psychedelic twist.

Sharon Tandy’s Hurry Hurry Choo Choo is without doubt, one of the most sassy and soulful songs on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. Incredibly, Hurry Hurry Choo Choo was relegated to the B-Side of Sharon’s 1968 Atlantic single Love Is Not A Simple Affair. Thankfully, it’s given an airing on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations, and for that, we should be truly grateful.

Up The Line shows just why Little Walter is regarded as one of the best blues harp players ever. Little Walter unleashes a blistering solo midway through the track. Accompanied by a crack band of bluesmen, Up The Line is Little Walter at his best. It was released as a single in 1963. By then, Little Walter was signed to Checker, an imprint of Chess Records, which was home to some of the giants of blues music. This included the man they called, Little Walter.

Lou Adler discovered Caroline Day, and had high hopes for her. However, Caroline Day only ever released one single. That was Teenage Prayer. On the flip side was Steam. It was written by William Powell and produced by Charles Wright. Sadly, Teenage Prayer passed record buyers by. That’s despite the Wrecking Crew providing the musical backdrop, and Darlene Love and The Blossoms adding harmonies. 

A year after releasing their debut single, The Ethiopians released a single that would become a rocksteady classic. That’s Train To Skaville. It was released in Jamaica on the WIRL label in 1967. In Britain, Train To Skaville was released on the Rio label. Since then, Train To Skaville has come to be regarded not just as a rocksteady classic, but a reggae classic.

While the opening track of a compilation is the most important track, the closing track comes a close second. Vicki Fox, the compiler of All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations has chosen Daddy Long Legs’ Death Train Blues. It’s a blistering slice slice of bluesy New York garage from the Daddy Long Legs’ sophomore album, Evil Eye On You. It was released in 2012, and is bed described as three minutes of raw power from the New York based trio. This proves the perfect way to close All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations, as it leaves the listener wanting more.

As compilations go, All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations is one of the best of 2015, and one of the most eclectic. There’s everything from blues, funk, garage rock, gospel, jazz, pop, psychedelia, R&B, reggae and soul on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. It’s a mixture of familiar faces, classics and hidden gems from Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield, James Carr, The Shangri-Las, Chuck Berry, Luther Ingram, Neil Sedaka, Little Walter and The Ethiopians. They’re just a few of the names on All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations.

I could just as easily have mentioned tracks from Rufus Thomas, Cliff Carlisle, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bobby Wayne and James Brown and The Famous Flames. That shows the sheer quality of All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations. This truly eclectic compilation that will be released by Ace Records on 28th August 2015, and will be appreciated by anyone with eclectic tastes in music. 

Compiler Vicki Fox certainly has eclectic taste in music. On All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations Vicki Fox takes the listener on a musical journey full of twists, turns and surprises aplenty. Seamlessly, All Aboard! 25 Train Tracks Calling At All Musical Stations flits between musical genres, taking the listener on a musical journey they’ll want to take time and time again.

ALL ABOARD! 25 TRAIN TRACKS CALLING AT ALL MUSICAL STATIONS.

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ROGER WATERS-AMUSED TO DEATH.

ROGER WATERS-AMUSED TO DEATH.

Following the departure of Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd, bassist Roger Waters became the group’s creative force. This was the case from Pink Floyd’s third album, Ummagumma, which was released in 1969, right through to 1983s The Final Cut. After  the release of The Final Cut, Roger Waters left Pink Floyd. It was a bitter breakup. However, things had been coming to a head for some time.

Richard Wright, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd had been sacked from the band. As a result, he didn’t feature on The Final Cut. It was the only Pink Floyd album that he didn’t feature on. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

Pink Floyd had been a group divided since 1978. That was when the members of Pink Floyd found out the perilous state of their finances. Some of the investments made on their behalf went south. Amid accusations of financial negligence, Pink Floyd needed to recoup some of the money they had lost. So, Roger Waters presented the other members of Pink Floyd with two propositions. 

The Wall.

The first was the script to The Wall, Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album. Roger Waters’ other proposition was The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. After giving both propositions some consideration, The Wall won out, and The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking became Roger’s 1984 solo debut album. However, from that day on, things weren’t well within Pink Floyd.

Keyboardist Richard Wright’s contribution to The Wall was criticised by Roger Waters. He was accused of not contributing enough and being uncooperative. Eventually, a deal was struck that Rick Wright would remain a member of Pink Floyd until The Wall was complete. That was just as well.

When The Wall was released in 1979, on 21st March 1983, it was to critical acclaim. Soon, The Wall became Pink Floyd’s biggest selling album. Incredibly, The Wall outsold even Dark Side Of The Moon. In Britain, The Wall reached number three and was certified double platinum. Across the Atlantic in America, The Wall reached number one on the US Billboard 200, selling twenty-three million copes, resulting in the album being certified platinum twenty-three times over. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

Elsewhere, The Wall reached number one in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Holland and New Zealand. This resulted in The Wall being certified eleven times platinum in Australia; diamond in France; seven times platinum in Germany; fourteen times platinum in New Zealand; three times platinum in Switzerland, two times diamond in Canada; fourteen times platinum in New Zealand. If The Wall was Rick Wright’s swan-song, it was a profitable one. Roger Water’s final album with Pink Floyd never came close to being the same commercial success.

The Final Cut.

Nearly four years passed before the release of The Final Cut. This was the first Pink Floyd album without Rick Wright. Most of the lyrics and music was penned by Roger Waters. Just like The Wall, The Final Cut was a very personal album for Roger. It was exploring what Roger believed was the betrayal fallen servicemen, including his father, who died while serving during World War II. The only other member of Pink Floyd to contribute to The Final Cut was David Gilmour. He cowrote Not Now John. Mostly, The Final Cut was Roger Water’s work. It was scheduled for release on 21st March 1983.

On the release of The Final Cut, it was accompanied by a short film. It was produced by Roger Waters and directed by Willie Christie. The film featured four songs from The Final Cut, The Gunner’s Dream, The Final Cut, The Fletcher Memorial Home and Not Now John. However, despite the final and what was a powerful and moving album, The Final Cut didn’t win favour with critics and cultural commentators. Reviews were mixed, as the release date loomed.

When 21st March 1983 came around, The Final Cut was released. The Final Cut reached number one in Britain and number six on the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a platinum disc in Britain and The Final Cut was certified double platinum in America. Elsewhere, The Final Cut hadn’t sold in the same vast quantities as The Wall. However, at least The Final Cut was certified gold in Austria, France and Germany. Pink Floyd didn’t even bother touring The Final Cut. Instead, they turned to their various solo projects.

The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking.

In Roger Waters’ case, this was The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. This was the project he had presented Pink Floyd with in 1978. It was another concept album from the pen of  Roger Waters. It’s set in California, and focuses on a man in the throes of a midlife crisis. He’s on a road trip through California, where he dreams of committing adultery with hitchhikers. Other times, he’s beset by fears and paranoia. All this takes place between 04:30:18 AM to 05:12 AM. To bring this to life, Roger called upon some of his musical friends.

This included guitarists Eric Clapton and Ry Cooder. They were joined drummer and percussionist Andy Newmark, percussionist Ray Cooper and saxophonist David Sanborn. Pianist Michael Kamen co-produced The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. It was recorded between February and December 1983. Once the recording was complete, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking was released on 30th April 1984.

Before the release of The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, the critics had their say. Reviews were mixed. Some critics were impressed with The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. Others hated it, and didn’t shy away from saying so. One of the fiercest critics was Rolling Stone magazine. They gave The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking their lowest rating. This was a huge body blow for Roger Waters. He wanted his solo career to get off to a successful start.

When The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking was released on 30th April 1984, it stalled at number thirty-one on the US Billboard 200, where it was certified gold. In Britain, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking reached just number thirteen in Britain. The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking hadn’t been the success Roger had hoped. 

Things went from bad to worse for Roger. He was due to The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking in 1984 and 1985. The tour began in Stockholm on June 16th 1984. Eric Clapton was part of Roger’s new band. They were going to play new songs, songs from The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking and Pink Floyd classics. However, quickly, it became apparent that the tour wasn’t a success. 

Ticket sales were poor, and some of the concerts at larger venues were postponed. It was only when Roger began playing smaller venues, that the sold out signs went up. Eventually, when the tour was over, Roger Waters realised he had lost £400,000 on the tour. That was a conservative estimate. To add to Roger’s problems,  the ghost of Pink Floyd was still making its presence felt.

Following the release of The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, Roger Waters announced that Pink Floyd would not be reuniting. The only problem was, he hadn’t discussed this with the other members of Pink Floyd. He also wanted to dismiss Pink Floyd’s manager Steve O’Rourke. In his place, Roger employed Peter Rudge to look after his affairs. For the other members of Pink Floyd, all this came as a surprise. However, Roger Waters wasn’t finished.

He wrote to EMI and Columbia, and told them that he had left Pink Floyd, and wanted to be discharged from his contractual obligations. Roger Waters had left Pink Floyd, and in the process, tried to wreck the possibility of the band rising like a phoenix from ashes. This was bound to end up in either tears, or court.

Later, Roger Waters said that, if he other members of Pink Floyd made an album using the band’s name, he thought that they would be in breach of contract. This could result in their royalty payments being suspended. Further, Roger alleged that the other members of Pink Floyd had forced him from the band, by threatening to sue him. While all this was going on, Pink Floyd and its members past and present were in a state of flux. Nobody was making music. A resolution had to be found. So, Roger Waters headed to the High Court in London.

Roger Waters wanted to dissolve Pink Floyd, and also prevent the use of the band name. He believed the band were “a spent force creatively.” However, he was in for a surprise. 

His lawyers discovered that the Pink Floyd partnership had never been formally confirmed. It was therefore impossible to dissolve something that never existed in the first place. Despite this, Roger Waters returned to the High Court. 

This time, he was trying to stop the other members of the band using the Pink Floyd name. Again, he lost out, and Dave Gilmour stated that “Pink Floyd would continue to exist.” With that, the leadership of Pink Floyd passed from Roger Waters to Dave Gilmour. Roger Waters returned to his solo career.

Radio K.A.O.S.

With Pink Floyd returning to the studio, so did Roger Waters. He had penned another concept album Radio K.A.O.S. It was based upon key policies of late eighties politics, especially monetarism. Roger also takes aim at the then Iron, now rusty Lady, Margaret Thatcher. He was an outspoken critic of Thatcher on The Final Cut. Four years on, and he was equally outspoken. Other subjects Roger tackles include the Cold War, eighties popular culture and world politics. These subjects are seen through the eyes of Billy.

On Radio K.A.O.S., Billy is a mentally and physically disabled man from Wales. His brother Benny, is sent to prison after protesting against the government after he loses his job as a miner. This Benny is told, is the result of market forces. With Benny in prison, there’s nobody left to look after Billy. So he has to live with his uncle David in Los Angeles. Radio K.A.O.S. eavesdrops on Billy’s Billy’s mind and worldview, as he converses with Jim a DJ at a fictitious L.A. radio station, Radio K.A.O.S. This story is brought to life by Roger and what he called his Bleeding Heart Band.

Between October and December 1986, Radio K.A.O.S. was recorded at the Billiard Room, London. Accompanying Roger, was a large band. This included many well known names, including guitarist Andy Fairweather Low, vocalist Paul Carrack and saxophonist Mel Collins. Clare Torry who featured on Great Gig In The Sky, from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, featured on two tracks. Surely with such an all-star band accompanying Roger, Radio K.A.O.S. would be released to critical acclaim and commercial success?

The first most people knew about Radio K.A.O.S. was a press release from EMI, on on 6 April 1987. It announced that Roger Waters’ sophomore solo album, Radio K.A.O.S. would be released on 15th June 1987, and originally, it was hoped that this rock opera would become a film, stage show and live album. First of all, Radio K.A.O.S. would be released as a studio album.

Just like The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, reviews of Radio K.A.O.S. were mixed. At least Rolling Stone were more positive about Radio K.A.O.S. However, it was a long way from Pink Floyd’s glory days.  

So were the sales of Radio K.A.O.S. It stalled at number fifty in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-five in Britain. Elsewhere, Radio K.A.O.S. didn’t sell in vast quantities. To rub salt into the wound, five months later, on 7th September 1987, Pink Floyd returned with their first album since Roger Waters left, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. This coincided with the Radio K.A.O.S. tour

The Radio K.A.O.S. tour began in mid-August 1987, and finished at the end of November 1987. Everywhere he went, copies of Pink Floyd’s comeback album, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason were for sale. It had been released on 7th September 1987, reaching number three in Britain and in the US Billboard 200. A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was certified gold in Britain, and four times platinum in America. Having sold four million copies in America alone, the success continued throughout the world. Gold and platinum discs came Pink Floyd’s way. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, through Europe, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was a huge success. As the Radio K.A.O.S. winded its way across the globe, Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason continued to outsell Radio K.A.O.S. Roger’s solo career wasn’t the commercial success he had hoped.

Later, Roger admitted that he wasn’t a fan of Radio K.A.O.S. He felt the album sounded “too modern.” That was down to Roger and Ian Ritchie’s production. It spoiled Radio K.A.O.S. for the man who masterminded the project. Maybe that’s why Radio K.A.O.S. wasn’t a huge commercial success? However, Roger hoped that his next album would see him rubbing shoulders with his old comrades commercially.

The Wall-Live In Berlin.

To celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall eight months earlier, Roger Waters performed The Wall-Live In Berlin on 21st July 1990. Roger Waters financed the project, and put together an all-star cast. Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, The Scorpions, Snowy White and Bryan Adams were just some of the names that made a guest appearance. The concert was staged in what had been no man’s land between East and West. 350,000 people watched the sellout show which recorded and filmed. It would be released a month later on 21t August 1990.

This was a really fast turnaround. The Wall-Live In Berlin was recorded, produced, mastered and marketed within a month. This was a big ask. Ultimately, it proved too ambitious.

Having financed the project himself, the plan was that once Roger Waters had recouped his expenses, the profits from the live album and film, profits would go the Memorial Fund For Disaster Relief, a British charity founded by Leonard Chesire. However, it was a case of the best laid plans of mice and men.

Sales of The Wall-Live In Berlin were disappointing. In Britain, The Wall-Live In Berlin reached number twenty-seven. Across the Atlantic, the album stalled at just number fifty-six in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, sales were disappointing. They failed to meet the projections. This had disastrous consequences for the charity.

With the sales not meeting expectations, the charity incurred heavy losses. This resulted in the trading arm of the charity, Operation Dinghy, being wound-up a couple of years later. By then, Roger Waters had released his third studio album, Amused To Death.

Amused To Death.

Just like his two previous albums, Amused To Death was a concept album. Roger had been working on Amused To Death since 1987. It’s recently been remastered, reissued and remixed.

The inspiration for Amused To Death came from Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves To Death. By the time the concept was complete, it revolves around the a monkey who randomly switches between television channels. As channels change, different subjects are discussed. Among them are the Gulf War, World War I, the bombing of Jordan and Libya, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. A total of fourteen tracks feature on Amused To Death. It was recorded between 1987 and 1992.

Recording Amused To Death at various London studios. This includes The Billiard room, Olympic Studios, CTS Studios, Angel Studios and Abbey Road Studios Just like Roger’s two previous solo albums, Amused To Death features a large backing band.

Some feature throughout Amused To Death, others feature on just one or two tracks. Many are well known names. Among them are guitarists Jeff Beck, Andy Fairweather Low, Steve Lukather and B.J. Cole, bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Jeff Porcaro. John “Rabbit” Bundrick plays Hammond organ, while vocalists include Don Henley and Rita Coolidge. Once the tracks were recorded, it was mixed in QSound.

There was a reason for this. It was to enhance the spatial feel of the album. Especially, the sound effects used on Amused To Death. There’s a rifle range, sleigh bells, cars, planes, horses, crickets and dogs. They come to life on Amused To Death. It was produced by Roger and Patrick Leonard. Given the problems with production on Radio K.A.O.S. he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. It had proved a costly mistake, one they weren’t going to repeat.

After five years of work, Amused To Death was released on 7th September 1992. Given the reception The Pros and Cons Of Hitchhiking and Radio K.A.O.S. received, Roger awaited the reviews with baited breath. Reviews were favourable of what was a cerebral, poignant and thoughtful album. Certain songs stood out.

In The Ballad of Bill Hubbard which opens Amused To Death, a sample of veteran Alfred “Raz” Razzel describing how he found William “Bill” Hubbard severely wounded on the battlefield. Several times Alfred tried to take William to safety. Eventually, he was forced to leave him in no man’s land. It’s a poignant and moving opening track. Unlike What God Wants.

It features a child saying “I don’t mind about the war. That’s one of the things I like to watch–if it’s a war going on. “Cos then I know if, um, our side’s winning, if our side’s losing.” Who would’ve believed a generation would see war as entertainment? This is examined by Roger in Perfect Sense.

Fittingly, Roger examine war as entertainment in Perfect Sense. By 1992, CNN was broadcasting the Gulf War live. Perfect Sense, a two part song sees Roger examine this latest and disturbing phenomenon. Later on Amused To Death remembers two other conflicts.

On The Bravery of Being Out of Range, Roger remembers an air strike in Jordan. It’s a poignant track, one that resonates. So does Late Home Tonight, Part I. It features the same scenario from two very different points of view. It’s the 1986 US air strike against Libya from perspective of two married women and a young American F-111 pilot. While the result of the bombings on both songs is death and destruction, there’s a sense of hope on Watching TV.

Roger duet with Don Henley Watching TV. It’s a song which deals with the media’s influence on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. They were a force for good, and told the world what was happening to those who dared to protest for democracy. This scenario is the latest to come to life courtesy of Roger Waters and his band on Amused To Death. Its reviews were better than his two previous albums.

After the favourable reviews, Amused To Death reached number eight on the British charts. This resulted in a silver disc, marking sales of 60,000. While it was a far cry from his days with Pink Floyd, it showed that Roger Waters’ solo career was on the right track. 

In America, this proved to be the case. Amused To Death reached number twenty-one on the US Billboard 200. He even enjoyed a hit single, when What God Wants, Part I reached number four on the Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. After three albums and eight years, Roger Waters was forging a successful solo career. Record buyers awaited Roger Waters’ fourth studio album.

They waited a year. A year became two, three, four and five. Five became ten, and ten became twenty. Then twenty became twenty-three. Roger Waters has never released another studio album. He’s now approaching his seventy-second birthday, and with each year that passes, a new album seems increasingly unlikely. However, his former comrade in arms, David Gilmour will soon release a new album, Rattle That Lock. By then, Roger will be seventy-two. Maybe Rattle That Lock will inspire Roger to release his long awaited fourth album? 

Until then, Sony Music have reissued Amused To Death. It’s available on a variety of formats. The reissue of Amused To Death is an opportunity to either acquaint or reacquaint yourself with what was Roger Waters’ finest solo album. It was a case of third time lucky for Roger Waters, when he released the underrated Amused To Death in 1992. If I was to compare Amused To Death to a Pink Floyd album, it would be More. Both Roger Waters’ Amused To Death and Pink Floyd’s More are vastly underrated albums, that for far too long, many music aficionados will have overlooked. If that’s the case, the recent reissue of Amused To Death is the opportunity to right a wrong. Roger Waters would approve of that, in more than one way.

ROGER WATERS-AMUSED TO DEATH.

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JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE-VINYL EDITION.

JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE-VINYL EDITION.

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

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

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

Meshes Of Voice, which was initially released in 2014, will be reissued on vinyl on 14th September 2015, on Susanna’s label SusannaSonatta. A lot has happened since Meshes Of Voice was recorded in March 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belatedly, Meshes Of Voice  which was initially released in 2014, will be reissued on vinyl on 14th September 2015,. Hopefully, Meshes Of Voice won’t be the last collaboration between Jenny Hval and Susanna. After all, what could be better than another collaboration between two of the most talented and successful Norwegian singer-songwriters? They’re like yin and yang on Meshes Of Voice. Their voices are made for each other. They bring out the best in each other, and drive each other to greater musical heights. That’s apparent on Meshes Of Voice, which is a tantalising taste of two of the finest Nordic vocalists Jenny Hval and Susanna as their career unfolds. Maybe, Meshes Of Voice is just the beginning, and further collaborations between Jenny Hval and Susanna will follow? 

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

JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE-VINYL EDITION.

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LED ZEPPELIN-CODA-DELUXE EDITION.

LED ZEPPELIN-CODA-DELUXE EDITION.

Led Zeppelin enjoyed ten years at the top. During their ten years at the top, Led Zeppelin released eight albums. They released their debut album Led Zeppelin in January 1969. Just over ten years later, Led Zeppelin released In Through The Out Door in August 1979. These eight albums sold over 100 million copies and resulted in Led Zeppelin being crowned the biggest band in the world. However, that era was about to end in tragedy.

A year after the release of In Through The Out Door, Led Zeppelin began preparing for the 1980 North American tour. The tour was scheduled to begin on 17th October 1980. It would be the first time Led Zeppelin had toured North America since 1977. So Led Zeppelin were keen to make an impression. Rehearsals began a month earlier.

On 24th September 1980, Rex King, Led Zeppelin’s assistant, picked John Bonham up at his home. Rex was to drive John to the rehearsals at Cray Studios. However, en route, John asked to stop for “breakfast.” Breakfast for John Bonham was a ham roll and four quadruple vodkas. Once he had his breakfast, Rex took John to the studios, where the rehearsals began.

John continued to drink throughout the day. Rehearsals continued into the evening. Then when the rehearsals were over, Led Zeppelin headed to Jimmy Page’s house. Still, John continued to drink. Just after midnight, John had fallen asleep, and had to be helped to bed. By then, John had drunk 1.4 litres of 40% vodka. Just after midnight, John, who had fallen asleep, was put to bed. Despite putting him on his side, John Bonham would be found dead the following day.

By 12.45pm, on 25th September 1980 there was no sign of John Bonham. So, Led Zeppelin’s new tour manager, Benji LeFevre and John Paul Jones went to investigate. They found John Bonham dead. He was only thirty-two. Because of the circumstances of John’s death, an inquest was called.

Before the inquest, an autopsy discovered that John Bonham had died of from asphyxiation. He had choked on his own vomit, after drinking the equivalent of forty shots of 40% vodka. At the inquest on 27th September 1980, a verdict of accidental death was recorded. By then, John Bonham had been cremated on the 10th October 1980, and his ashes were buried in St Michael’s Church in Rushock near Droitwich, Worcestershire. For the biggest band in the world, it was the end of an era.

The three remaining members of Led Zeppelin had a huge decision to make. They were meant to be beginning a lucrative North American tour. However, theJimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were mourning the loss of their friend. The last thing on their mind was music. 

Despite this, rumours in the music press suggested the tour would continue with a replacement drummer. Names mentioned to play drums on Led Zeppelin’s North American tour included Carmine Appice, E.L.O.’s Bev Bevan, Jethro Tull’s Barriemore Barlow and Free’s Simon Kirke. Cozy Powell who had just parted company with Rainbow earlier in 1980, was said to be a contender. Ultimately, this was mere speculation. The other three members of Led Zeppelin had come to a decision.

Led Zeppelin’s North American tour was cancelled. Then on 4th December 1980 Led Zeppelin’s future became clear. The three remaining members of Led Zeppelin issued a press release. It stated: “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” At the bottom of the press release, it was signed “Led Zeppelin.” After eleven years,Led Zeppelin were no more.

That seemed to be the end of Led Zeppelin. The three members of Led Zeppelin went their separate ways. Then in 1981, Robert Plant founded The Honeydrippers. He was joined by Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. The Honeydrippers’ lineup was fluid, with friends of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page joining a variety of other musicians. This kept Robert Plant and Jimmy Page busy. However, in 1982 a ninth Led Zeppelin album would be released. 

Led Zeppelin still owed Atlantic Records an album. This dated back to when Led Zeppelin formed their Swan Song label in 1974. However, this wasn’t the official reason.

According to Jimmy Page, the three members of Led Zeppelin had noticed how popular bootleg recordings were. They were selling in vast quantities. Given they were unauthorised releases, Led Zeppelin weren’t benefiting from the releases. So the remaining members of Led Zeppelin decided that they should reissue some of the unreleased material in the vaults.

With Led Zeppelin having been together for eleven years before John Bonham’s death, there was plenty of unreleased material. There was more than enough for one album. That’s apparent on Warner Bros’ recent reissue of Coda. Not only does it feature the eight tracks on the original version of Coda, but two further discs of unreleased material. There’s eight tracks on disc two, and another seven tracks on disc three. Forty-three years later, and the Led Zeppelin vaults are the gift that keep on giving. Back in 1982, John Paul Jones saw the release of Coda as an opportunity for Led Zeppelin to showcase some of the hidden gems that lay unreleased in the vaults.

Just before the release of Coda, John Paul Jones explained why the album was being released. After all, some of the eight tracks had been recorded some time ago? “They were good tracks. A lot of it was recorded around the time punk was really happening.” Most of the music was released John Paul Jones explains. “There wasn’t a lot of Zeppelin tracks that didn’t go out. We used everything.” Some of the music that hadn’t been released would feature on Coda, which was a fitting title to what was Led Zeppelin finale.

When looking for a title for Led Zeppelin’s ninth and final album, a musical term was chosen…Coda. It proved to be a fitting description of what the album was. A Coda, the three remaining members of Led Zeppelin explained, “was a passage that ends a musical piece following the main body.” In the case of Led Zeppelin, In Through The Out Door was the last album in their main discography. Coda was an addendum, featuring tracks recorded between 1970 and 1978.

For Coda, the three remaining members of Led Zeppelin searched through the band’s vaults. They were looking for songs that would be fitting farewell for their fallen comrade. After much consideration, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones decided on eight tracks. They became Coda.

Disc One.

Opening Coda, was the bluesy We’re Gonna Groove, which was recorded on 9th January 1970, at the Royal Albert Hall, London. However, the guitar parts were later removed, and over-dubbed in the studio. 

Poor Tom was originally meant to feature on Led Zeppelin III. It was penned by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Once the recording of Led Zeppelin III was complete, Poor Tom was omitted from the final album. It’s vintage Led Zeppelin. 

Another track from the Royal Albert Hall Concert on 9th January 1970, is a cover of Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby. Willie Dixon originally wrote the song for Otis Rush. Later, it became a favourite of Led Zeppelin, who reinvent the track. 

Closing side one of Coda, was Walter’s Walk which was recorded on 15th May 1972. It’s thought that the vocals were over-dubbed at a later date. Originally, Walter’s Walk was meant to feature on Houses Of The Holy, but was omitted from the final album. Ten years later, it’s rediscovered and comes to light on Coda.

The majority of side two of Coda are outtakes from the In Through The Out Door sessions. This includes Ozone Baby,  a Page and Plant composition. It’s followed by Darlene, which is credited to the four members of Led Zeppelin. Just like Ozone Baby, Darlene failed to make it onto In Through The Out Door, which despite mixed reviews, still managed to sell six million copies in America alone.

Bonzo’s Montreux, which was recorded in September 1976, at the Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland features drumming masterclass from John Bonham. Despite the years of excess, he puts the pretenders to his throne to shame. After the recording of Bonzo’s Montreux, Jimmy Page added a myriad of electronic effects. This adds to what’s one of the highlights of Coda. Why it doesn’t close Coda, seems a strange decision? That would’ve been a fitting homage to John “Bonzo” Bonham.

Instead, the Page and Plant penned Wearing Baby closes side two of Coda. It features Led Zeppelin kick loose, and remind the listener why the sold over 100 million albums in just ten years. Led Zeppelin in full flight was a joy to behold. Sadly, Coda was their swan song. What did critics think of Coda?

Just like previous albums, critics weren’t impressed by Led Zeppelin. It was a familiar story. Reviews were mixed. Some critics panned Coda. They described the album as a mixed bag of songs. Others saw it as Led Zeppelin fulfilling their contractual obligations. However, if the truth be told, Led Zeppelin were never flavour of the month among critics and cultural commentators. Many of them never gave Led Zeppelin the credit that they deserved. Especially during the punk era. Rock groups like Led  Zeppelin were seen as musical dinosaurs, who were to be slain by a new breed of gunslinger critics. Ironically, many of the same critics later rewrote musical history, when they changed their mind about Led Zeppelin. Sadly, when Coda was released, Led Zeppelin had few fans in the music press.

Sadly, when Coda was released on 19th October 1982, it wasn’t a huge success. That’s despite reaching number four in Britain, and number six in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Coda being certified platinum in America, and silver in Britain. When this was translated into sales, Coda sold one million copies in America and 60,000 in Britain. It was a far cry from 1971s Led Zeppelin IV which sold twenty-three million copies in America alone. Then 1973s Houses Of The Holy sold eleven million and 1975s Physical Graffiti sold a further sixteen million copies. In the space of three albums, American record buyers bought fifty copies of Led Zeppelin albums. It’s no wonder that Coda was seen as a commercial failure.

That was the case elsewhere. No longer were Led Zeppelin topping the charts. Only in Australia, Canada and New Zealand did Coda enter the top ten. Led Zeppelin’s time had been and gone. 

The group who for several years had been the biggest band in the world were history. After Coda, the three members of Led Zeppelin went their separate ways. In the case of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, they spent the next few years on The Honeydrippers. However, never again did Led Zeppelin record another album. 

That was fitting. Led Zeppelin’s success was down to the four members of the band, not just three. The music on Coda was proof of this. Each and every track features the four members of Led Zeppelin. That’s the case on the three disc version of Coda which was recently released by Warner Bros. 

From the opening bars of We’re Gonna Groove on disc one, right through to the Rough Mix of Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light) that closes disc three, the four members of Led Zeppelin play their part in the sound and often, the success of the music. 

Disc Two.

Disc two features just eight tracks. They take up around half of the available time on the disc. Three of the tracks on disc two, feature alternative versions of songs from Coda. There’s an alternate take of We’re Gonna Groove, a mix construction in progress of Bonzo’s Montreux and an instrumental mix of Poor Tom. The inclusion of this version of Bonzo’s Montreux is an interesting one. Usually, recordings like this would never be released. They’re reference tracks only. So, it allows listener to see how the track evolved. that’s the case throughout disc two.

Other tracks include a mix of Sugar Mama and Baby Come On Home. Both were recorded in October 1968, when Led Zeppelin were recording their eponymous debut album.  Hey, Hey, What Can I Do was the B-Side of Led Zeppelin’s 1970 single Immigrant Song. a rough mix If It Keeps On Raining is an early mix of When the Levee Breaks, from Led Zeppelin IV. The other track is Travelling Riverside Blues, which was recorded during a BBC Session. That’s not the end of Coda. There’s still disc three to go.

Disc Three.

Just like disc two, the seven tracks feature alternative versions of songs from Coda.There’s a rough mix of Bring It On Home from Led Zeppelin II, and Walter’s Walk, which which was recorded in 1972 for the Houses Of The Holy album. However, Walter’s Walk was never released until it featured on Coda. The version on disc three is just a rough mix. That’s the case with

St. Tristan’s Sword, Desire (The Wanton Song) and Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light) which was recorded for the 1975 album Physical Graffiti. These tracks are work in progress, and allow listeners to compare and contrast with the finished article.

Four Hands (Four Sticks) was recorded in 1971, and featured on Led Zeppelin. It was also the B-Side to the single Rock ’N’ Roll. However, the version on disc three is the Bombay Orchestra version. It was recorded in 1972, and features the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. They also feature on Friends, which was recorded at the same time. Both tracks feature a very different side of Led Zeppelin and are a welcome addition to disc three of Coda, which closes the Led Zeppelin remaster series.

It’s taken just over a year for Atlantic and Warner Bros. to rerelease the nine Led Zeppelin albums. These nine albums were released between 1969 and 1982. During that period, Led Zeppelin sold over 100 million albums and became the biggest band in the world. However, like all good stories, the Led Zeppelin story had to come to an end. 

When the end came, there was a twist in the tale. The four members weren’t going to live happily ever after. No. Drummer John Bonham, the hardest living member of Led Zeppelin died of asphyxiation on the 25th September 1980. He had choked on his own vomit, after drinking the equivalent of forty shots of 40% vodka the day before. That day, Led Zeppelin died too.

Less than three months later, on 4th December 1980, the other three members of Led Zeppelin announced that the biggest band in the world were no more. They had overlooked the fact that they owed Atlantic Records one album.

So, just under two years later, on the 19th November 1982, Led Zeppelin released Coda. It was a selection of unreleased tracks. While Coda was hardly Led Zeppelin’s finest hour, just like In Through The Out Door, it featured fleeting moments of genius. However, it was a far cry from their first six albums. 

From Led Zeppelin right through to Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin could do no wrong. However, on Presence and In Through The Out Door, no longer were Led Zeppelin invincible. There was a chink in their armour. What’s more all the years of hard living caught up with Led Zeppelin. 

By the time they were recording In Through The Out Door, Jimmy Page was struggling with heroin addiction, and John Bonham was battling alcoholism. Sadly, just over a year after the release of In Through The Out Door, John Bonham lost his battle with alcoholism on 25th September 1980. The day, that John Bonham died, so did Led Zeppelin.

The ideal ending to the Led Zeppelin story would’ve been of the three remaining members of the band pieced together a critically acclaimed album featuring unreleased tracks. Sadly, that would only happen in the movies. Instead, Coda proved to be what critics called a musical mixed big, that became Led Zeppelin’s least successful album. Coda became a Coda to Led Zeppelin’s eleven year career, where they sold over 100 million albums.

LED ZEPPELIN-CODA-DELUXE EDITION.

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GIL SCOTT-HERON-SMALL TALK AT 125TH AND LENNOX-VINYL EDITION.

GIL SCOTT-HERON-SMALL TALK AT 125TH AND LENNOX-VINYL EDITION.

There’s been many an important day in Chicago’s musical past. That’s not surprising. The Windy City has given the world some of the biggest names in music. This includes Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock,  Nils Lofgren, Patti Smith, Ray Manzarek of The Doors and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder  were all born in Chicago. So was musician, novelist poet and political activist Gil Scott-Heron. Sadly, despite all he achieved, Gil Scott-Heron is to some extent, one of  Chicago’s forgotten musical heroes. Gil Scott-Heron’s story began in 1949.

April Fool’s Day in 1949 was an important day in Chicago’s musical history. That was the day Gil Scott-Heron was born. His mother Bobbie Scott-Heron was an opera singer. She sang with New York’s Oratorio Society. Gil’s father was Gil Heron was a Jamaican footballer, who at one time, played for Celtic Football Club. Sadly, Bobbie and Gil’s marriage ended when Gil was young. 

After this, Gil was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, Lillie Scott, who lived in Jackson,Tennessee. Then when Gil was just twelve, Lillie Scott died. Gil returned to New York to live with his mother. She was now living in the Bronx. Originally, Gil enrolled at the DeWitt Clinton High School, but later, moved to the Fieldston High School.

This came after impressing the head of the English department. He’d read one of Gil’s essays and recommended that Gil received a full scholarship. This proved a poisoned chalice. The education he was receiving was better. However, he was only one of five black students. He felt alienated. Another problem was the socioeconomic gap. Other students came from a much more affluent background. Gil was the son of a single mother. It was at this period, that Gil became socially and politically aware. His eyes were opened to inequality, injustice and racism. This would shape his music in later years. Before that, Gil headed to university.

Lincoln University was where Gil headed after high school. Gil was recommend to head to Lincoln University by Langston Hughes. He was also at Lincoln University and was a member of Gil’s first band, the Black and Blues. After two years at Lincoln University, Gil decided to take time out to write a novel.

During this period, Gil Scott-Heron wrote two novels. His first novel was a thriller entitled The Vulture, was published in 1970. Whilst writing The Vulture, Gil saw The Last Poets in Lincoln in 1969. 

After watching The Last Poets, Gil approached the band and asked: “can I form a band like you guys?” The seed had been sown. Maybe, music rather than writing would be the direction Gil’s career headed?

Having been impressed with The Last Poets and now considering a career in music, Gil had a lot on his mind as he headed back to New York. He found a new home in Chelsea, Manhattan. Once he’d settled in, Gil decided to make his dream a reality. So he looked for a record company. Gil just so happened to approach a label tailor-made for his music, Flying Dutchman Productions.

After his departure from ABC/Impulse Bob Thiele decided to found his own label. Over the last few years, Bob had worked with some of the most innovative and creative musicians in the history of jazz. Bob realised that often, large record companies aren’t the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, meaning they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. So when Bob parted company with Impulse, who he’d transformed into one of jazz’s pioneering labels, he founded Flying Dutchman Productions. This was the label that Gil Scott-Heron approached. There was a problem though.

While Bob wanted to sign Gil, there was a problem, funding. The funding that Phillips, the Dutch record label had given Bob wasn’t going as far as he’d hoped. Despite this, when he met Gil he was impressed by the poet, musician, and author. So what Bob did, was fund an album that was a fusion of poetry accompanied by understated, percussive arrangements.

This was Small Talk At 125 and Lenox, which will be reissued on 180 gram vinyl on OST Recordings. Recording of  Small Talk At 125 and Lenox took place in the summer of 1970. Rather than record his debut album in a studio, Gil decided to record the album live. So, with percussionists David Barnes, Eddie Knowles and Charles Sanders accompanying him, Gil recorded fourteen tracks he had written. They became Small Talk At 125 and Lenox.

Prior to the release of Small Talk At 125 and Lenox, critics had their say on Gil Scott-Heron’s debut album. Straight away, comparisons were drawn with the group who’d inspired Gil, The Last Poets. To some extent, this was a fair comment. 

When one listens closely to tracks like Whitey On The Moon, plus what was the original version of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, it’s apparent that Gil was taking what The Last Poets had been doing to the next level. With just a trio of percussionists accompanying Gil, Small Talk At 125th and Lenox was a potent and explosive mix of social comment and humour. Given that The Last Poets had enjoyed a degree of success, surely so should Gil?

Sadly, when Small Talk At 125th and Lenox was released, it wasn’t a commercial success. However, a small crumb of comfort was, that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised found its way onto radio play lists. That was encouraging for Bob and Gil. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised introduced a wider audience to Gil Scott-Heron’s scathing take on politics, social comment and satire. This was first heard on Small Talk At 125th and Lenox.

The first thing you realise, is that Small Talk At 125th and Lenox is quite unlike most of the music being released in 1971. The nearest comparison is The Last Poets. However, Gil took what The Last Poets were dong as a starting point, and took it much further. The result, Small Talk At 125th and Lenox is a potent, powerful and explosive mix of social and political comment. It’s a reflection of where America was, socially and politically. Racism still blighted America. Gil took this personally. It was like a personal affront. He felt obliged to speak up for those without a voice. On Small Talk At 125th and Lenox, Gil Scott-Heron also rails and rages against corruption, hypocrisy, inequality, poverty and racism. Gil Scott-Heron a long-term political activist and advocate for change warns against inactivity. He longs for change, and is determined to make America a better country. His manifesto for change was Small Talk At 125th and Lenox. 

After introducing his band, fittingly, Gil Scott-Heron begins his set with the song that would become synonymous with him, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Accompanied by just bongos and congas, Gil delivers his unmistakable proto rap. His delivery is impassioned, as he encourages the audience to make a difference. Change won’t happen if they’re at home sitting on their sofas watching television. Instead, they’ve got to go out there and make it happen.

Having set the tone for the evening, Gil Scott-Heron goes on to combine satire and passion. Racism, poverty, corruption and inequality inspire Gil. So does hypocrisy on Brothers, The Rainbow Conspiracy on Comment #1 and the money spent on the space race on Whitey On The Moon. Gil rages against money spent on the space race, while deprivation is rife within housing projects. Gil’s anger and disgust is apparent. His delivery is inspired and impassioned. Just like other tracks on Small Talk At 125th and Lenox, Gil delivers the lyrics as if they’re a personal affront. 

That’s the case on Evolution (and Flashback) and Enough. Both tracks see Gil examine the progress of black America since slavery. On Evolution (and Flashback), anger and frustration fills his voice as he delivers the lyrics. Later, as he mentions the arrival of Dr. Martin Luther King, there’s a sense of in Gil’s voice. It doesn’t last though. It’s as if the dream has died. especially when Gil ruefully says: “the bitter truth lives on.” Then on Plastic Pattern People compares life in the Northern and Southern states of America. Inequality and racism were rife in the South in the late sixties and early seventies. Again, Gil sees this as a personal affront. He rails against inequality, racism and injustice, as he provides a voice for the poor and oppressed. However, on a couple of tracks, Gil Scott-Heron draws inspiration from daily life.

Like all good poets, Gil finds inspiration in everything and anything. An example is Omen. He was found inspiration for Omen in the New York subway, when he saw a painting publicising Kinji Fukasaku’s film The Green Slime. Then on Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, Gil found inspiration on the street corner. It’s as if he’s been eavesdropping on everyday conversations. He recounts what people were saying, right down to what they had for lunch. Then on a trio of tracks, Gil the poet becomes Gil the vocalist.

On The Vulture, Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul? and Everyday, which closes Small Talk At 125th and Lenox sits down at the piano and sings. With just the trio of percussionists accompanying him, Gil is transformed. He proves to be a talented   and soulful vocalist. Especially on Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul?, which takes a diversion in the direction of jazz. Everyday proves the perfect way to close Small Talk At 125th and Lenox. Especially with gospel tinged harmonies and handclaps accompany Gil’s heartfelt, soulful vocal.

Throughout a fourteen album career, Gil Scott-Heron provided a voice for the disenfranchised. Fearlessly, Gil highlights the social and political problems that blighted America. He encouraged Americans to join together and change America for the better. This pioneering poet and protest singer made a difference politically. Gil made people aware of the problems people were facing and urged them to take action. His career began with Small Talk At 125th and Lenox, which introduced the world to Gil Scott-Heron, novelist, poet, political activist, singer and songwriter.

For the next five decades, Gil Scott-Heron tried to make a difference with his music. His 1971 debut album, Small Talk At 125th and Lenox, is a mature and accomplished album. Gil combines power, passion, emotion, sadness, frustration, anger and confusion. In a way, his youthfulness helps Gil brings the lyrics to life. Gil was a young man and was aware of and possibly, had experienced the inequality and injustice he sings about. 

Gil rails and rages against  corruption, hypocrisy, inequality, poverty and racism. Gil Scott-Heron a long-term political activist and advocate for change warns against inactivity. He longs for change, and is determined to make America a better country. His manifesto for change was Small Talk At 125th and Lenox. 

This potent, powerful and explosive mix of social and political comment was a reflection of where America was, socially and politically. Racism still blighted America. Gil took this personally. It was like a personal affront. He felt obliged to speak up for those without a voice on Small Talk At 125th and Lenox which will be reissued on 180 gram vinyl on OST Recordings.

GIL SCOTT-HERON-SMALL TALK AT 125TH AND LENNOX-VINYL EDITION.

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GONG-YOU.

GONG-YOU.

Prolific. That’s a good way to describe the various lineups of Gong. Since Gong formed in 1967, Gong and the various offshoots of Gong have released thirty-four studio albums. Of these albums, three standout from the crowd, the Radio Gnome Trilogy. The last instalment in the Radio Gnome Trilogy was You, which was released in 1974. It was the recently released by Charly, and concludes what was a groundbreaking trio of albums. No wonder. Gong were a pioneering group, featuring musical mavericks and innovators. Their story begins in France, in 1967, 

That’s when The Franco-British band were founded by Daevid Allen, an Australian musician, and Gilli Smyth a professor of the Sorbonne. They were joined by vocalist Ziska Baum and flautist Loren Standlee. This was the first lineup of Gong. However, it wouldn’t be the last.

Since then, Gong’s lineup is best described as fluid. Around thirty musicians have come and gone. Some left of their own accord. Others left in acrimonious circumstances. However, in 1967, when Gong were formed almost accidentally, it looked like a brave new world.

In 1967, Australian musician, Daevid Allen, was a member of Soft Machine. Daevid had been spending time in Paris, France. However, the time came to return to London, where Soft Machine were based. When Daevid arrived in London, there was a problem with his visa. He was denied entry into Britain, and returned to Paris where he met Gilli Smyth a professor of the Sorbonne, one of France’s most prestigious universities.

Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth decided to form a band, which they named Gong. The pair, who were both vocalists, were joined by another vocalist, Ziska Baum, and flautist Loren Standlee. This was the first of numerous lineups of Gong, a group who six decades and forty-eight years later, are still going strong. That’s quite remarkable, given their turbulent history. 

A year after Gong formed, France was in the throes of a student revolution. Police and students clashed on the streets during May 1968. This was a worrying time for the members of Gong. So much so, that Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth fled from Paris, and eventually, settled in Deià, in Majorca. 

This resulted in the first changes in Gong’s lineup. After fleeing Paris, the band’s lineup changed. Rumour has it, that Daevid and Gilli discovered saxophonist Didier Malherbe living in a cave in Deià. He would soon join Gong, when they headed to France to record the soundtrack to Jerome Laperrousaz movie about motor cycling, Continental Circus.

Continental Circus.

For the recording of Continental Circus, Gong returned to France. Continental Circus was  the soundtrack to Jérôme Laperrousaz’s film about motor cycle racing. By the time Gong arrived in France, things were much calmer. It was a different country to one the one that Gong  had been forced to flee from. 

Since they left France for Deià, the first changes in Gong’s lineup took place. Vocalist Ziska Baum and flautist Loren Standlee. However, saxophonist Didier Malherbe had joined Gong, who were now reduced to a trio. This was the lineup that recorded the soundtrack to Continental Circus.

The sessions took place at the Château d’Hérouville in France. There, Gong recorded the four tracks that became Continental Circus. One of then, What Do You Want? was familiar to anyone who had bought Camembert Electrique. It seemed to have been “inspired” by Fohat Digs Holes in Space. However, once recording of Continental Circus was complete, and Gong returned home. they were a very different band. Sadly, the release of Continental Circus was delayed. However, at least Continental Circus soundtrack kickstarted Gong’s nascent career. Record labels started to take an interest in Gone.

They were signed to Jean Karakos’ newly formed BYG label, on a multi-album deal. Their first album for BYG was Magick Brother. However, it would be a while before Continental Circus  wars released.

Magick Brother.

Recording of Magick Brother, which is regarded as Gong’s debut album, took place in Paris. Between September and October 1969, recording of Magick Brother, took place at Studio ETA and Studio Europa Sonor. The same personnel that featured on Continental Circus, featured on Magick Brother, which was produced by Jean Georgakarakos and Jean-Luc Young.

They guided Gong through the recording of their debut album. Just like on Continental Circus, Daevid Allen played guitar and added vocals. Gilli Smyth was credited as adding vocals and a “space whisper.” Didier Malherbe played saxophone and flute. Augmenting Gong, were some top session musicians.

With Gong lacking a rhythm section, drummer Rachid Houari was brought onboard. So were Earl Freeman, Dieter Gewissler and Barre Phillips, who played contrabass on various tracks. Free jazz pianist, Burton Greene, a native of Chicago, was also brought onboard. The final piece of the jigsaw, was Tasmin Smyth. Her vocal features on Mystic Sister/Magick Brother. Tasmin and the rest of the guest artists, played their part in Gong’s debut album Magick Brother, which was released in March 1970.

On the release of Magick Brother in March 1970, Gong’s debut album was well received by critics. Gong were hailed as an innovative group, one who weren’t afraid to push musical boundaries. Their music was a fusion of musical influences and genres. Everything from psychedelia, free jazz, pop, rock and prog rock can be heard on Magick Brother. The future Kings of the potheads had made their presence felt.  However, as was their want, Gong’s music wouldn’t stand still. continue to evolve. This would result in the first classic album of their career, and their first PhP album, Camembert Electrique. 

Camembert Electrique.

Camembert Electrique is remembered as the first album in Gong’s PhP phase. The pothead pixies made their debut on Gong’s trailblazing sophomore album. 

Gong were one of the earliest prog rock bands. Unlike other prog rock bands their music was a fusion of musical genres. Elements of psychedelia, jazz, avant garde, and pop are combined. Other times, the music is ethereal, spacey and atmospheric. Always though, there’s an intensity throughout Camembert Electrique, as Gong take you on a trailblazing journey. The  destination is planet Gong. Providing the soundtrack to the journey was the now legendary radio gnome, which dips in and out of Camembert Electrique. Radio gnome plays its part in a truly groundbreaking album which was recorded in 1971.

Gong had some new additions to their lineup when work began in May 1971. The first of the new additions was bassist and guitarist Christian Tritsch. Drummer Pip Pyle slotted into the rhythm section. Eddy Luiss played Hammond organ and piano. They joined guitarist and vocalist Daevid Allen, vocalist and space whisperer Gilli Smyth and  Didier Malherbe on saxophone and flute. This was the the lineup of Gong that headed to  Michel Magne’s Strawberry Studios, in north west Paris where they recorded Camembert Electrique, which was mostly, written by Daevid Allen.

Eight of the tracks on Camembert Electrique were written  by Daevid Allen. He wrote the other two tracks with new additions to Gong’s lineup. Bassist and guitarist Christian Tritsch cowrote And You Tried So Hard. These songs became Camembert Electrique, which Gong began recording in May 1971.

For Gong’s sophomore album Camembert Electrique, Gong headed to Michel Magne’s Strawberry Studios, in north west Paris. Gong couldn’t have picked a better studio. It was stocked with the latest equipment. This was the perfect location for a groundbreaking band. Over ten days in May 1971, Gong recorded what was the basis for the ten tracks that became Camembert Electrique. Two months later, Gong returned to the studio. 

In July 1971 returned to Strawberry Studios, to finish recording of Camembert Electrique. Just like the sessions in May, everything was off the cuff. There was an experimental side to Gong. The used tape recorders that played backwards. Tape loops added bursts of laughter. Gong were making music with a smile on their face. To do this, they fused musical genres and influences. Elements of psychedelia, jazz, avant garde, and pop shine through on Camembert Electrique, which was eventually completed in September 1971, when Gong returned to Strawberry Studios. Little did they realise that they had recorded their first classic album, Camembert Electrique.

Camembert Electrique was released in 1971. Critics hailed the album a classic. It’s now regarded as a cosmic rock classic, that marked the debut of the pothead pixies (PhP). They made their debut on Gong’s trailblazing, genre-melting sophomore album Camembert Electrique. As debut albums go, Gong had released one of the most groundbreaking. Now somewhat belatedly, Continental Circus was released.

Continental Circus.

Continental Circus was released in April 1972, and was the soundtrack to Jérôme Laperrousaz’s film about motor cycle racing. There was air of mystery about the album. No musicians were listed on the cover of Continental Circus. Instead, it was credited credited to Gong avec Daevid Allen. However, it was obvious that this was a Gong album.

Especially to the critics. Gong’s adventurous, innovative streak shawn through. On Continental Circus World, Gong combined dialogue and sound effects. To that they add looped snipped from the film. It plays throughout the track. This was just another example of Gong at their innovative best. They were determine to push musical boundaries. Despite this, reviews of Continental Circus were mixed. Some critics were won over by the music on Continental Circus. However, the music went over the head of other critics. They didn’t “get” Gong. That had been the case with Camembert Electrique. So what would they think of Flying Teapot, the first album in the Radio Gnome trilogy?

Flying Teapot.

Flying Teapot marked the start of a trilogy of truly groundbreaking albums. Over a two year period, Gong released the Radio Gnome trilogy. These three albums would see Gong become part of musical history.

When work began on Flying Teapot, Gong were a very different band. Their lineup featured eight musicians, including guitarist Steve Hillage and Tim Blake. However, still, Daevid Allen penned most of the six tracks. He wrote two tracks and cowrote three other tracks. Gail Smyth cowrote Witch’s Song/I Am Your Pussy with Daevid Allen. Other members of Gong played a part in the songwriting process. Especially, Tim Blake. He wrote The Octave Doctors And The Crystal Machine and cowrote Zero The Hero And The Witch’s Spell with Daevid Allen and Christian Tritsch. These songs became Flying Teapot.

Recording of Flying Teapot began in January 1973, at The Manor Studios, Oxford with producer Giorgio Gomelsky. The newly expanded lineup of Gong combined their combination traditional instruments, sound effects and tape machines effectively. The result was an album that would become part of Gong mythology.

When Flying Teapot was released on 25th May 1973, the album was hailed as one of the most ambitious, groundbreaking albums of 1973. Psychedelia, prog rock and space melted into one on Flying Teapot. It was a meeting of the sixties, seventies and 21st Century cosmic music. The album that had been inspired by Russell’s teapot would late become both a cosmic rock and prog rock classic.

Angel’s Egg.

Having released one of most ambitious albums of 1973, Gong returned back to the studio almost straight away. This time, Gong headed France, in August 1973, where they used the Manor Mobile at Pavillon du Hay. 

A total of fourteen songs were to be recorded. Many were just short, musical sketches, lasting a minute long. They had been penned by the various members of Gong. Just like previous Gong albums, Daevid Allen played an important role. He wrote two tracks and cowrote five other tracks. Other members of Gong were beginning to play a more important part of the songwriting process. Especially Steve Hillage, who wrote two tracks and cowrote two others. These songs came to life thanks to Gong and their myriad of instruments, effects and producer Giorgio Gomelsky. Once the fourteen songs were completed, they were mixed at The Manor, in Oxfordshire. Angel’s Egg was released as 1973 drew to a close.

Angel’s Egg was released on 7th December 1973. It wasn’t just the music that was groundbreaking. Gong decided that the album should come complete with a booklet introducing record buyers to  the world of Gong. In the booklet, was a in-depth explanation of Gong mythology. The booklet was akin to a who’s who of Gong. It also included Angel’s Egg’s lysergic lyrics. Then there was the cast of characters and their backstory. Finally, there was an introduction to Gong speak. All this was wrapped in a gatefold sleeve. While this impressed record buyers, what the critics were interested in, was the music. How did Angel’s Egg compare to Flying Teapot?

Gong had set the bar high with Flying Teapot. However, Angel’s Egg, which introduced record buyers to Bloomdido Bad De Grass, Shakti Yoni, Sub. Capt. Hillage and Pierre de Strasbourg. These were the names that members of Gong adopted on Flying Teapot. Just like Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg was hailed as a genre classic by critics. They embraced Gong’s ability to push musical boundaries, and open the doors of perception with their fusion of psychedelia, prog rock and space rock. The second instalment in the Radio Gnome Trilogy was given the seal of approval by critics and released on 7th December 1973. Now the pressure was on Gong to complete the Radio Gnome Trilogy with a fitting followup to Flying Teapot and Angel’s Egg.

You.

In the summer of 1974, Gong began work on the final instalment in the Radio Gnome Trilogy, You. It featured eight tracks that the members of Gong had written. Thoughts for Naught, A P.H.P.’s Advice, A Sprinkling of Clouds, Perfect Mystery and The Isle of Everywhere were written by Daevid Allen, Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett, Didier Malherbe and Pierre Moerlen. Magick Mother Invocation, Master Builder and You Never Blow Yr Trip Forever were penned by Daevid Allen, Tim Blake, Miquette Giraudy, Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett, Didier Malherbe, Benoit Moerlen, Pierre Moerlen, and Gilli Smyth. The eight songs were recorded at The Manor Studios, in Oxfordshire.

That was where Gong began work on the recording of their fifth album You. The rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Pierre Moerlen, bassists Mike Howlett and guitarists Steve Hillage. They were joined by percussionists Mireille Bauer and Benoît Moerlen, while Didier Malherbe took charge of wind instruments and vocals. Tim Blake played Moog and EMS synthesisers and Mellowdrone and Miquette Giraudy added backing vocals. Founding members Daevid Allen added vocal guitar and Gilli Smith poems and space whispers. Bringing all this together, was new producer Simon Heyworth. Once the eight tracks on You were complete, the album was mixed.

Rather than mix You at one studio, two were used. Side one was mixed at Pye Studios, Marble Arch and side two at The Manor. Once You was complete, it was ready for release in October 1974.

Some critics felt Gong had kept the best until last. You was the third instalment in the Radio Gnome Trilogy. It found Gone at their most innovative and inventive. Genres were combined, and melted into one. Elements of psychedelia, prog rock, space rock, jazz, pop and rock shine through, as Gong deploy their unique and unmistakable combination of instruments and effects. This creates an album that’s totally unique and unmistakable.

After all, what album featured a gnomic narrative, where pothead pixies and octave doctors are introduced to flying teapots. Then there’s the journeyman Zero the Hero. They’re a figment of Gong’s collective fertile imagination. They come to life thanks to narrator and vocalist Daevid Allen and space whisperer Gilli Smyth. Along with the rest of Gong, they take the listener on a genre-jumping, lysergic journey. While each and every member plays a part in Gong’s Magnus Opus, two members of Gong stand out.

Guitarist Steve Hillage is at the heart of the action. Having settled into his role in Gong, he unleashes inventive, virtuoso performances. His barnstorming solo cut through arrangements. They prove the perfect accompaniment, and foil to Didier Malherbe. The French multi-instrumentalist drenches some of You’s arrangements with musical hailstorms. Steve and Didier stand shoulder to shoulder, as Gong record their finest hour.

Meanwhile, the rest of Gong combine drama, surrealism and urgency. Like much of the rock music released in 1974, there’s a sense of theatre. However, where Gong differ, is they’ve a sense of humour. They’re determined not to take themselves too seriously on You, third and final instalment in the Radio Gnome Trilogy.

Gong had kept the best of the Radio Gnome Trilogy until last. While Flying Teapot and Angel’s Egg were groundbreaking albums, Gong went one better on You. It featured Gong at their most ambitious, innovative and inventive. That’s why You is considered one of Gong’s finest albums. Fittingly, the three instalments in the Radio Gnome Trilogy, Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg and You have recently reissued by Charly. This trilogy features the musical mavericks as they transform a recording studio into a laboratory.

Just like with Flying Teapot and Angel’s Egg, the music on You was experimental. Much of the music was off the cuff. They used tape recorders that played backwards. Tape loops added bursts of laughter. Whispery and theatrical vocals were added. So were effects. These effects transformed the sound of the original instrument. When all this was brought together by producer Simon Heyworth, the result was a prog rock classic.

You however, features more than prog rock. As  Gong make music with a smile on their face, they fused musical genres and influences. Elements of avant garde, cosmic rock, experimental, free jazz, pop, psychedelia and space rock. When this is combined, the result is music that unique and inimitable, and could only have been recorded by a group a group of musical mavericks like Gong. Their 1974 Magnus Opus You, is a fitting finale to the Radio Gnome Trilogy, which features Gong at their innovative and inventive best.

GONG-YOU.

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TONY BANK-A CHORD TOO FAR BOX SET.

TONY BANK-A CHORD TOO FAR BOX SET.

Too often, Tony Banks is referred to as “the keyboard player from Genesis.” This is doing the sixty-five year old a huge disservice. Tony Banks is a multi-instrumentalist, whose just as comfortable playing guitar as his playing piano, Hammond organ, synths or Mellotron. Seamlessly, Tony Banks could switch between musical instruments. That and his ability to innovate, played an important part in Genesis’ success. However, while Genesis dominated a large part of Tony Banks’ career, it’s just part of the story.

By the Genesis split-up in 1998, after thirty-one years together, Tony Banks was already an established solo artist. He released his debut album A Curious Feeling in 1979. After that, Tony Banks released another eight albums. They showed the different sides to Tony Banks.

As well as solo albums, Tony Banks released soundtracks and orchestral albums. Then there’s the albums Tony recorded with his  Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. projects. These albums showed Tony Bank’s versatility and ability to innovate. Tracks from each of these ten albums feature on the Chord Too Far box set, which was recently released by Estoteric Recordings. 

The Chord Too Chord Too Far box set is a four disc box set. It documents Tony Banks’ five decade solo career. Annoyingly, the Chord Too Far box set isn’t in chronological order. That would’ve made sense, and really done justice to Tony Banks thirty-six year solo career. Instead, A Chord Too Far jumps between albums and decades. This is disappointing. It would’ve made sense to start with Tony Banks debut solo album A Curious Feeling, which was released in 1979, and worked through the ten albums, reaching 2012s Six: Pieces for Orchestra. That’s what most people, myself included would’ve done.

A Curious Feeling.

For the past twelve years, Tony Banks had concentrated on making Genesis one of the biggest bands. He had cofounded the band in 1967, and by 1979, the only original members of the band were Tony and Mike Rutherford. The most recent departure was guitarist Steve Hackett, who left in 1977. This left Tony, Mike and Phil Collins, whose first album was a trio was 1978s …And Then There Were Three… The following year, Tony released his first solo album, A Curious Feeling

Before heading off to Polar Music Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, Tony Banks had written eleven tracks. They became A Curious Feeling. It was a concept album. The concept for the album was Daniel Keyes’ short story Flowers for Algernon. Recording of A Curious Feeling took place during the spring and summer of 1979. Accompanying Tony were drummer Chester Thompson and vocalist Kim Beacon, while Tony Banks and David Hentschel produced A Curious Feeling. It was released on 8th October 1979.

When A Curious Feeling was released, the reviews were scathing. This was no surprise. 1979 was the height of the post punk era. Critics slated anything that represented the musical establishment. Tony never stood a chance, despite the quality of music on A Curious Feeling. Six tracks, including From the Undertow, Lucky Me, After The Lie, You, For a While, and The Waters Of Lethe, which feature on A Chord Too Far, show how wrong the critics were about A Curious Feeling.

Despite the protestations of the gunslinger critics, A Curious Feeling reached number twenty-one in Britain and number 171 in the US Billboard 200. Tony Banks was vindicated in his decision to release his debut album. However, it would be five years before he released the followup. 

The Wicked Lady.

After a gap of five years, Tony Banks released the first of two albums during 1983. The first was a remake of the soundtrack to Wicked Lady. It had originally been released in 1945, and featured Margaret Lockwood. An estimated 18.4 million million people saw The Wicked Lady, which was based on Magdalen King-Hall’s novel The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton. Thirty-eight years later, and Tony Banks collaborated with the National Philharmonic Orchestra on the remake of The Wicked Lady.

While Tony Banks featured on side one of the remake of The Wicked Lady, the National Philharmonic Orchestra featured on the second side. This unlikely collaboration found favour with critics. 

When The Wicked Lady was released in April 1973, critics were impressed by the Tony Banks produced soundtrack. Especially, the second side. Its drama and complexity found favour with critics. However, the only track on A Chord Too Far from side two is The Wicked Lady. The other two tracks are The Chase and Kit. Even this trio of tracks show that Tony’s vision and creativity had been put to good use. However, later in 1983, Tony released the followup to A Curious Feeling, The Fugitive.

The Fugitive.

Just like A Curious Feeling, Tony wrote the nine tracks on The Fugitive. This time around, Tony recorded The Fugitive closer to home. The Farm in Surrey, Genesis’ studio, was the venue for the recording of Tony’s sophomore album. To coproduce The Fugitive, Stephen Short was drafted in. Recording began in 1982.

Tony began recording the album at home, on an eight-track studio in 1982. He laid down the basic tracks. Then in 1983, recording began at The Farm. This time around, Tony took charge of the vocals. He was joined by Genesis’ touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer, bassist Mo Foster and drummer Steve Gadd. On Charm, no drummer was used. Instead, Tony used a Linn LM-1 drum machine. Eventually, the nine tracks were complete, and The Fugitive was released in late June 1983. By then, Genesis were preparing release their eponymous album in October 1983.

It was a battle of the albums, one that The Fugitive lost. Reviews of The Fugitive were mixed. Some critics like the sparseness of the arrangements, and were won over by Tony’s vocals. Up until then, they were a well kept secret. They can be heard on And the Wheels Keep Turning, Thirty Three’s, By You, At the Edge of Night and Moving Under on A Chord Too Far. The three songs are an introduction to one of Tony Bank’s most underrated albums.

The Fugitive was released in late June 1983, and stalled at number fifty in the British charts. After just two weeks, The Fugitive disappeared from the charts. Since then, The Fugitive has become a rarity. So did Tony Banks solo albums. Genesis were on the cusp of worldwide domination, where commercial success and critical acclaim was omnipresent.

Soundtracks,

So it wasn’t until 1986 that Tony Banks next released an album.  Soundtracks featured tracks from two soundtracks that Tony Banks had been involved with. The first was Starship. It was released in December 1984, and is also known as Lorca and the Outlaws. Quicksilver was the other soundtrack. Tony was just one of a number of artists who contributed tracks to Quicksilver. Tracks from both these albums made their way onto Soundtracks.

When Soundtracks was released in March 1986, reviews were mixed. Critics noted that the quality of music was mixed, with the poppier sounding tracks lacking that all important hook. Given the reviews, it was no surprise when Soundtracks wasn’t a commercial success. Despite that, five tracks from Soundtracks feature on A Chord Too Far. They’re Shortcut to Somewhere which features former Marillion frontman Fish, Rebirth and Lion of Symmetry which features Toyah Willcox. You Call This Victory features Jim Diamond and Redwing. These five tracks include the highlights of what proved to be Tony Banks’ final soundtrack album. For his next album, Tony was inspired by the success Mike Rutherford was enjoying with his “other” band.

Bankstatement.

When he wasn’t busy with Genesis, Mike Rutherford was busy with his new group, Mike and The Mechanics. They were enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. This inspired Tony Banks to form his own band, Bankstatement.

Essentially, Bankstatement were a trio featuring Tony, Alistair Gordon and Australian born singer-songwriter Jayney Klimek. Each of the three vocalists shared vocal duties. They were augmented in the studio by a band that included former Genesis guitarist Steve Hillage. He co-produced Bankstatemen with Tony. Recording took place during 1988 and 1989. A total of eleven songs penned by Tony Banks were recorded. These songs became Bankstatement, which was released in August 1989.

On the release of Bankstatement, the album was well received by critics. They recognised the quality of what was carefully crafted pop songs. Despite the reviews, neither Bankstatement, nor the three singles charted. Two of the singles Throwback and I’ll Be Waiting feature on A Chord Too Far. So do Queen of Darkness and Big Man. However, there’s an error on the back cover of A Chord Too Far. This Is Love isn’t a track from Bankstatement. It was a single released from The Fugitive in 1983. Following the commercial failure of Bankstatement, the project never released a followup. Tony’s next album was his third solo album.

Still.

Five years had passed since Tony released The Fugitive, his second solo album. Since then, he had been busy with Genesis and released an album with Bankstatement. A solo album was overdue. So in 1990, Tony Banks began recording what would become Still.

Unlike Tony’s two previous solo albums, Tony didn’t write each of the ten tracks. He wrote seven and cowrote Red Day On Blue Street and I Wanna Change The Score with Nik Kershaw. Tony cowrote Another Murder of a Day with Fish from neo progressive rock band Marillion. They were just two of the guest vocalists on Still.

The other two vocalists were Jayney Klimek and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. Along with Nik Kershaw and Fish, recording of Still got underway in 1990, and was completed in 1991. The album was scheduled to be released later in 1991.

Originally, Still was going to be called Still It Takes Me by Surprise, after one of the tracks on the album. However, it was shortened to Still, and released in April 1991. Reviews of Still were mixed. However, Giant Records had high hopes for Still. They promoted the album heavily. Despite their best efforts, Still didn’t sell well in Britain. That was the case a year later, when Still was released in America in April 1992. Since then, Still is regarded by some as Tony Banks best albums. There’s plenty of opportunity to decide if this is the case. Eight tracks from Still, including Red Day On Blue Street, Angel Face, Still It Takes Me By Surprise, I Wanna Change The Score, Water Out Of Wine, Another Murder Of A Day, Back To Back and The Final Curtain feature on A Chord Too Far. Following Still, Tony Banks would reinvent himself several times.  

Strictly Inc.

The latest reinvention of Tony Banks came in 1995, when he released Strictly Inc. It was a collaboration between Tony and Jack Hues, the lead singer of Wang Chung. They were joined by a rhythm section of drummer John Robinson, bassist Nathan East and guitarist Daryl Stuermer. Jack Hues played guitar and Tony took charge of keyboards. Ten tracks were recorded between 1994 and 1995. Strictly Inc. was released later in 1995.

Strictly Inc. was released on 11th September 1995. Critics weren’t impressed by Strictly Inc. The highlight of the album critics said, was Tony’s keyboard playing. Layers of keyboards were stacked one on top of another, melting seamlessly into one. They were augmented by Jack’s vocals. However, critics felt that vocals were no match for Tony’s keyboards. Unsurprisingly, when Strictly Inc. was released it failed commercially. That was despite Strictly Inc. bearing the band member’s names.

That was against Tony Bank’s wishes. He wanted Strictly Inc. not to feature the band member’s names. While this would’ve added an air of mystery, it would’ve also meant that cynical critics couldn’t take a swipe at Tony. They weren’t impressed by Strictly Inc. Nor were record buyers. So much so, that Virgin Records never bothered to release Strictly Inc. in America. For those yet to discover Strictly Inc., A Chord Too Far is an opportunity to do so. Walls of Sound, Never Let Me Know, Charity Balls, Something to Live For, A Piece of You and An Island in the Darkness all feature on A Chord Too Far. Strictly Inc. proved to be Tony Bank’s last album.  Given the response of critics to Strictly Inc., Tony decided to reinvent himself again. 

Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

In the nine years between Tony Banks releasing Strictly Inc. and the release of Seven: A Suite For Orchestra in March 2004, a lot had happened. Genesis had split-up in 1998. After thirty-one years together, the trio went their separate ways. Five years later, Tony began work on Seven: A Suite For Orchestra in 2003.

Seven: A Suite for Orchestra was a first for Tony Banks. He had never released a classical album. Tony penned the seven suites, and played piano on Spring Tide, The Ram and The Spirit of Gravity. Accompanying him were the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mike Dixon. Producing Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was Tony and Nick Davis, who Tony knew from his work engineering and producing Genesis. The pair finished Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was completed in 2004, it was released in March 2004.

When Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was released in March 2004, some critics were surprised by this stylistic departure from Tony Banks. However, Tony had written soundtracks and orchestral pieces before. He took this further on Seven: A Suite For Orchestra. For those who have yet to hear the album, two tracks from Seven: A Suite For Orchestra, Black Down and The Ram feature on A Chord Too Far. It would be eight years before Tony returned with the followup to Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

Six: Pieces For Orchestra.

It wasn’t until April 2012 that Tony Banks returned with his second classical album, Six: Pieces For Orchestra. Eight years had passed since the release of Seven: A Suite For Orchestra. However, Tony had been busy.

He wrote the six suites on Six: Pieces For Orchestra. Again, Tony and Nick Davis coproduce Six: Pieces For Orchestra. It features the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. They’re conducted by Paul Englishby. Two soloists play an important part in this evocative, haunting and bewitching album. Martin Robertson plays the alto saxophone on the opening track Siren. Charlie Siem plays violin on Blade. Fittingly, these tracks feature on A Chord Too Far, and feature two of Tony Banks’ finest classical works.

With the story of Tony Banks’ solo career brought up to date, that’s also the story of the A Chord Too Far box set. This four disc, forty-eight track box set documents Tony Banks’ thirty-six year solo career. It features the twists and turns that Tony Banks’ solo career has taken.

Who would’ve thought that after Tony Banks released A Curious Feeling in 1979, he would go on to release soundtracks, orchestral albums and form two bands, Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. However, he did. Then there’s the small matter of Tony’s two other solo albums, 1983s The Fugitive and 1991s Still. These albums are just part of Tony Bank’s long and varied career.

Sadly, of the three members of Genesis, Tony Banks didn’t come close to enjoying the commercial success that came Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford’s way. However, Tony Banks was a musical maverick, who for the last thirty six years has flitted seamlessly between musical genres. He’s a true musical adventurer, whose music is celebrated on the A Chord Too Far box set.

A Chord Too Far is the perfect introduction to Tony Banks’ nine album career. It goes beyond Tony Banks’ solo career, looking at soundtracks and orchestral works. The forty-eight tracks feature some of the best music that Tony Banks has released. Other tracks, like the albums they’re taken from will divide opinion. This includes 1986s Soundtracks and 1995s Strictly Inc. Neither were Tony Banks most successful, nor according to critics, his finest hour. However, tracks from both albums were included, and allow the opportunity listeners to reappraise both albums. They’re part of the musical journey that is Tony Banks’ career. It’s documented and celebrated on A Chord Too Far which was recently released  by Esoteric Recordings. This four disc box set, celebrates the career of a pioneering musician, who continually, pushed musical boundaries and by his own admission, sometimes took things, A Chord Too Far.

TONY BANK-A CHORD TOO FAR BOX SET.

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TEN YEARS AFTER-TEN YEARS AFTER.

TEN YEARS AFTER-TEN YEARS AFTER.

Between 1968 and 1974, Ten Years After were one of the most successful British bands. They released their eponymous debut album, Ten Years After in October 1967, which was recently reissued by Universal Music. Ten Years After failed to make an impression on either side of the Atlantic. However, Ten Years After showcased the band’s considerable skills. So, it was no surprise that when Ten Years After released their live album Undead in 1968, it was a game-changer. 

Ten Years After were well on their way to commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. Six of Ten Years After’s studio albums and their two live albums reached the top forty in Britain. However, America had an insatiable appetite for Ten Years After.

That was the case from 1968s Undead. It was heard by legendary promoted Bill Graham. He championed Ten Years After in America. From 1968s Undead to 1974s Positive Vibrations, Ten Years After were frequent flyers in the US Billboard 200. Ten Years After could do no wrong in the eyes of the American record buying public.

Even when Ten Years After left Deram, and signed to Columbia, Deram released an album of unreleased tracks and alternate takes. Alvin Lee and Company reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200 in 1972. Ten Years After were just the latest band to make it big in America. However, forty-one years after the split-up for the first time, people are still unsure how to describe Ten Years After’s music?

Often, Ten Years After’s music is described as blues rock. While there’s elements of blues rock in Ten Years After’s music, there’s also elements of folk, pop, psychedelia and rock. The reason why it’s so hard to categorise Ten Years After’s music, is they were continually experimenting, and pushing musical boundaries. Ten Years After were pioneers. That had been the case since they released their eponymous debut album in 1967. It was released a year after Blues Trip became Ten Years After. However, the Ten Years After story began in 1960.

That’s when Ivan Jay and the Jaycats were formed. They consisted of musicians from the Nottingham and Manfield area. This included vocalist Ivan Jay, guitarist and vocalist Alvin Lee and bassist Leo Lyons. In 1962, Ivan Jay became The Jaycats and later, Ivan and The Jaymen. Just as the name changed, so did the lineup.

Ivan Jay was the lead vocalists until 1962. He was replaced by Ray Cooper, who also played rhythm guitar. Drummer Pete Evans  joined in 1962, but left in 1965, to be replaced by Dave Quickmire. Then in 1965, Ric Evans became The Jaybirds drummer. The following year, 1966, The Jaybirds were on the move, and changed their name.

Like so many bands, The Jaybirds headed to London, where they became The Ivy League. Later, in 1966, keyboardist Chick Churchill joined The Ivy League. They soon came to the attention of future Chrysalis founder, Chris Wright. He became The Ivy League’s manager, who changed their name to Blues Trip. However, the quartet made their debut as Blues Yard.

Chris Wright got the newly named Blues Yard the job of opening for Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. That was their one and only concert as Blues Yard. Not long after this, Blues Yard became Ten Years After. This was the start of the rise and rise of Ten Years After.

Through the Chrysalis Booking Agency, Ten Years After secured a residency at the Marquee. This was a prestigious residency. Suddenly, people were taking notice of Ten Years After. However, it was their appearance at the Windsor Jazz Festival in 1967 that resulted in Ten Years After signing to the Deram, a subsidiary of Decca.

Now signed to Deram, Ten Years After began work on their eponymous debut album. Deram didn’t bother getting Ten Years After to record a single. Even then, it was obvious that Ten Years After were more of an albums band. So Ten Years After were sent into the studio to record their debut album.

For their eponymous debut album, Ten Years After chose a mixture of cover versions and new songs. Cover versions included Paul Jones’ I Want to Know, Al Kooper’s I Can’t Keep from Crying, Sometime, Willie Dixon’s Spoonful and the blues standard help me. Alvin Lee penned Feel It for Me, Love Until I Die and Don’t Want You, Woman. He also cowrote Adventures of a Young Organ with Chick Churchill and Losing the Dog with Gus Dudgeon. These ten tracks became Ten Years After.

Recording of Ten Years After took place at Decca Studios, London during September 1967. The rhythm section featured drummer Ric Lee, bassist Leo Lyons and guitar and vocalist Alvin Lee. Augmenting the rhythm section was keyboardist Chick Churchill. Producing Ten Years After were two experienced and practised producers, Mike Vernon and Gus Dudgeon. Once Ten Years After was completed, it was released in October 1967.

When Ten Years After was released in October 1967, the album was well received by critics. Many described the album as purely blues rock. That wasn’t quite the case.

Granted blues rock was the most obvious influence on Ten Years After. That was the case on I Want Know. Ten Years After seemed to be following in the direction of John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. However, tracks like I Can’t Keep from Crying, Sometimes had a moody psychedelic hue. Adventures Of A Young Organ saw Ten Years After head in the direction of jazz. There’s a return to the blues on Spoonful. Loosing The Dogs is the perfect showcase from Alvin Lee’s virtuoso performance on guitar. Elements of Americana, blues and country shine through on the track that close side one of Ten Years After.

Side two of Ten Years After featured a trio Alvin Lee penned tracks. Feel It for Me and Love Until I Die are blues rock. Don’t Want You, Woman  is an understated blues ballad. Help Me which closes Ten Years After, is an oft-covered blues classic. It comes to life in the hands of Alvin Lee and co. They sound as if they’re from Mississippi Delta, rather than the Midlands of England. However, despite the undeniable quality of Ten Years After, commercial success eluded the album.

Ten Years After was released on October 27th 1967. The album failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. While this was a disappointment for Ten Years After and everyone at Deram, critics forecast a bright future Ten Years After.

And so it proved to be. From the release of their second album, the live album Undead in 1968, Ten Years After were riding a wave of commercial success and critical acclaim. Championed by Bill Graham, Ten Years After became one of British music’s most successful exports. Twelve of Ten Years After’s albums charted. America had an insatiable appetite for their music. That was the case whether it was studio albums, live albums or compilations. America couldn’t get enough of Ten Years After. Back home, it was a similar story.

Eight of Ten Years After’s albums charted. Their most successful period was between 1969 and 1971. This started with the release of Stonedhenge in February 1969. It reached number six. Sssh was released in October 1968, and reached number four. So did Cricklewood Green, which released in may 1970. Watt was released in January 1971, and reached number five. After that, Ten Years After stalled in the upper reaches of the top forty. It was in America where Ten Years After were most successful. That was the case until 1974, when Ten Years After split-up. 

For six years Ten Years After could do no wrong, and were one of the biggest bands on both sides of the Atlantic. The album that launched Ten Years After on to the road to commercial success and critical acclaim is Ten Years After, which was recently reissued by Universal Music.

The newly reissued version of Ten Years After features both the mono and stereo versions of the album on disc one. Disc two features eleven bonus tracks, including versions of Portable People, The Sounds, Spider In My Web, Hold Me Tight and (At The) Woodchopper’s Ball. They’re a welcome addition, and will especially be of interest to completists. This newly reissued version of Ten Years After is one of three reissues. Undead and Stonedhenge have also been released. These reissues are a reminder of one of British music’s most successful exports, as they embark upon what would prove to be a career where commercial success and critical acclaim were constant companions to Ten Years After.

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UNLOCK THE LOCK-THE KENT RECORDS STORY VOLUME 1 1958-1962.

UNLOCK THE LOCK-THE KENT RECORDS STORY VOLUME 1 1958-1962. 

In 1944, Jules Bihari, a Hollywood based musical entrepreneur, founded Modern Music with his brothers Saul, Joe and Lester. Little did anyone realise, that within a few years the nascent Modern Music would become one of the most successful independent labels. Commercial success visited Modern Music in 1945.

This came after Jules Bihari booked some studio time. Hadda Brookes, the Queen Of The Boogie, entered the studio and recorded Swinging The Boogie. It was released later in 1945, and paved the way for the commercial success that came Modern Music’s way.Three years later, in 1948, Modern Music changed its name to Modern Records. By then, Modern Records had a problem.

Modern Records were releasing so many singles that it was becoming difficult to get all their records played on radio. Radio stations were wary of playing too many records by the same label. They were scared they’d be accused of accepting payola. For labels like Modern Records, this presented a problem. So they had to work out a way round the problem.

Their way of doing this, was to setup a subsidiary company. Often this subsidiary company only released one type of music, like blues or R&B.

Modern Records’ first subsidiary company was Colonial. It was founded in 1948. A year later, in 1949, Modern Records founded their second imprint RPM Records. More companies were founded in the early fifties.

Flair Records was founded in 1952. The same year, the Bihari brothers launched Meteor Records in Memphis. It seemed that the Bihari brothers were building an empire. 

Five years later, the Bihari brothers founded the budget label Crown Records in 1957. Then in 1958, the Bihari brothers launched what was, without doubt, their greatest, and most famous label, Kent Records, whose music is celebrated on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962. This two disc, forty-eight track compilation was recently released by Ace Records, and tells the story Kent Records’ first four years. Just like previous labels the Bihari brothers founded, it was a case of needs must.

The Bihari brothers decision to form Kent Records came through necessity. Many of the labels they had formed previously, including Colonial, Crown, Flair and Rhythm and Blues had folded. They were currently residing in the great musical graveyard in the sky. Adding to the Bihari brothers’ problems, was the fact that neither RPM nor Modern Records were the success they once were.

RPM released Don Cole’s Snake Eyed Mama in December 1957. Meanwhile, Modern Records had released Van Robinson’s Come On Let’s Dance. Neither single proved particularly successful, and RPM and Modern Records were mothballed by the Bihari brothers. The  Bihari brothers were about to launch another new label.

Kent Records was launched by the Bihari brothers in early 1958. However, Kent Records had been launched four years earlier, in 1954 by Lee Silver. He named his nascent label after a brand of cigarettes. Kent Records however, didn’t enjoy the same success as its namesake. After releasing two singles by The Four Guys, Lee Silver called time on his label. His final act was to sell it to the Bihari brothers. They kept the label until it was needed. By 1958, Kent Records’ time had come.

With RPM and Modern Records being mothballed, this allowed the Bihari brothers to get rid of under performing artists. They ruthlessly culled RPM and Modern Records’ rosters, keeping the most successful artists.

B.B. King, Danny Floers and Don Cole made the move from RPM to Kent Records. Etta James and Jesse Belvin were promoted from Modern Records to Kent Records. With its leaner roster of artists, Kent Records was about to release its first singles in 1958. These singles feature on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962.

Disc One.

Kent Records celebrated its launch by releasing a trio of singles in early 1958. These singles had been recorded nearly a year earlier, in 1957. The Bihari brothers had been keeping the tracks for their new venture. With a stockpile of music recorded, the Bihari brothers launched their latest label.

Danny Boy’s cover of All Of Me was delivered in a doo wop style, and sported the catalogue number Kent 300. This made it the single that launched the Bihari brothers’ most famous label. The other two singles were B.B. King’s Why Do Everything Happen To Me and The Barker Brothers’ Hey Little Mama. The version of  Hey Little Mama on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 is a previously unreleased take. It’s one of nine alternate takes that have never been released before. For Kent completists, this will by musical gold. However, the Bihari brothers hadn’t struck gold.

Kent Records’ first three releases failed to make much of an impact commercially. This was a bitter blow. The Bihari brother could’ve done with a hit single. Especially given their recent lack of success. So their next single was by one Kent Records’ biggest names, Etta James. 

She released a sassy version of Baby, Baby” Every Night later in 1958. It was released with the catalogue number Kent 304.

However, Etta James’ flirtation with Kent Records was brief. Her then partner, Harvey Fuqua convinced her that she would be better signing to Chicago based Chess Records, who his own group The Moonglows were signed to. As a result, Kent Records lost one of their crown jewels. 

With one of their most promising artists having left their new label, the Bihari brothers turned to another of their big names, Don Cole. His single Sweet Lovin’ Honey was Kent Records’ next release. Sadly, despite being Don Cole’s best release, Sweet Lovin’ Honey went the same was as Snake Eyed Mama. While commercial success eluded Don, the Bihari brothers didn’t turn their back on him. However, they decided to back an up-and-coming artist.

This was Lee Denson. He was twenty-six, but still hadn’t made a commercial breakthrough. However, The Bihari brothers thought he might prove popular in the teen market. So Lee Denson recorded High School Hope as a single. On the flip side was Devil Doll which ironically, was the stronger of the two sides. It features on Hey Little Mama on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962. High School Hop wasn’t a commercial success. Later in 1958, Jesse Davis released South’s Gonna Rise Again as a single. On the B-Side was Red Hot Rockin’ Blues. While the single was credited to Jesse Davis, it was actually Lee Denson recording using an alias. This allowed the Biharis two bites of the cherry. Neither bore fruit.

Still, the Bihari brothers continued to release singles during 1958. Flash Terry and His Orchestra released On My Way Back Home. The version on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 is an extended version of On My Way Back Home. Still commercial success eluded the Biharis.

With the Bihari brothers still searching for a hit, they licensed Sonny Knight’s Madness. He had a proven track record, and enjoyed a commercial success in 1957 with Confidential. Lightning didn’t strike twice, and the search for a hit went on.

As 1958 drew to a close, Floyd Dixon and His Orchestra released Change Your Mind as a single. It seemed someone had slipped up, as the flip side Dance The Thing, which features on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962  had a better chance of charting. While hits eluded many on Kent Records’ roster during 1958, one of its crown jewels was busier than ever during 1959.

B.B. King proved to be Kent Records’ most prolific artists during 1959. He released five of the thirteen singles Kent Records released. Among the singles were The Fool, Mean Ole Frisco and Worry Worry. The versions of Mean Ole Frisco and Worry Worry on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 are previously unreleased versions. While B.B. King brought some success Kent Records’ way, the Bihari brothers brought back the woman who gave them their first hit single, Hadda Brookes.

Fourteen years earlier, the Queen Of The Boogie released Swinging The Boogie on Modern Music. It was a commercial success, and launched the Bihari brothers nascent label. Their latest label was needing a shot in the arm, so Hadda returned and recorded The Thrill Is Gone, which later, would become synonymous with B.B. King. Her five minute reinvention of The Thrill Is Gone failed commercially, as it was too long for commercial radio. The version of The Thrill Is Gone is an alternate take. However, there was a small crumb of comfort for the Bihari brothers. Hadda Brookes was going to release an album on Kent Records during 1959. The Thrill Is Gone was the musical equivalent of an amuse bouche. Other artists however, concentrated on singles.

This included Jesse Belvin, who previously, had moved from Modern Records to RCA-Victor. Jesse was one of Modern’s rising stars, but couldn’t refuse the opportunity to sign to RCA-Victor. With Jesse enjoying a successful career at RCA-Victor, the Bihari brothers decided to release his 1957 cover of (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. Strings and backing vocals were over-dubbed. However, despite the Biharis best efforts, (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons couldn’t compete with Jesse’s RCA-Victor single Guess Who? With an old face failing to bring that elusive hit to Kent Records, the Biharis turned to George Motola.

Previously, George Motola proved to be a reliable source of hist for the Bihari brothers. George produced The Senders, who released two singles on Kent Records during 1959; The Ballad Of Stagger Lee was the first, and Everybody Needs To Know was the followup. The versions on  decided that Kent Records offered him a better chance of fame and fortune. This proved to be a big mistake. Jesse only released one single on Kent Records, (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. It wasn’t the commercial success he had hoped for, Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 are previously unreleased versions. Neither single sold well. However, the Bihari brothers weren’t for giving up. It was early days.

Disc Two.

As a new decade began, a new era unfolded at Kent Records. The label had been formed two years ago, in 1958. While Kent Records enjoyed a degree of success, the Bihari brothers’ latest venture hadn’t been the huge success many forecast. 1960 was going to be an important year in the Kent Records’ story.

With Kent Records needing hits, they turned to their biggest name, B.B. King. He released ten of the twenty singles that Kent Records released during 1960. This included Good Man Gone Bad and You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now, Five of the ten singles had been released before. However, this didn’t matter. B.B. King still had the Midas touch. 

His cover of Big Joe Turner’s Sweet Sixteen Parts 1 and 2 gave B.B. King his biggest hit since 1953. It came close to topping the US R&B charts. Four of B.B. King’s other singles reached the top thirty in the US R&B charts. Kent Records had the hits they so desperately needed. However, could anyone else on Kent Records’ roster add to the commercial success?

Hadda Brooks, who had returned to Kent Records in 1959, was one of the bigger names on Kent Records. She released Tomorrow Night in 1960. Jimmy Witherspoon signed in 1960, and released his Sings The Blues album on Crown Records. It featured his take on Hank Williams’ Your Cheating Heart. Sadly, the single wasn’t promoted, and sunk without trace. This didn’t please Jimmy Witherspoon.

The Bihari brothers seemed to be concentrating their efforts on releasing budget priced albums on their Crown Records imprints. It had been founded in 1959, and was their latest budget label. Among the artists whose albums were released on Crown Records, were B.B. King and Jimmy Witherspoon. These albums were available everywhere, from gas stations to corner shops. This didn’t please B.B. King and Jimmy Witherspoon. Especially, when their singles weren’t being promoted properly. This wasn’t helping Kent Records. However, at least Kent Records had enjoyed a successful year. Would 1961 be as successful?

During 1961, Kent Records released just nine singles. Four of them were by B.B. King. This included Bad Case Of Love. The version featured on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 is an alternate take, where B.B. King fluffs a line. He laughs it off, but ever the professional, records the song that gave him a minor hit single. This was the only single Kent Records enjoyed. That’s despite Jules Bihari’s best efforts.

As the search for a hit continued, Jules Bihari decided that Tony Allen and The Wanderers might bring a hit Kent Records’ way. Tony Allen and The Champs enjoyed a hit with Night Owl in 1955. Six years later, in 1961, Tony Allen and The Wanderers released If Love Was Money. Later in 1961, Dreamin’ was credited to Tony Allen and Group. Neither single was a commercial success. It seemed Tony Allen’s Midas touch had deserted him. This proved a familiar story for the Biharis.

Apart from B.B. King’s Bad Case Of Love, 1961 wasn’t  a good year for Kent Records. Commercial success eluded its roster, including Charlie Owens and The Sensational Ink Spots, who released Diane. It wasn’t the type of release that usually sported the Kent Records’ logo. However, Jules Bihari must have been hoping it would strike a nerve with older music fans. That wasn’t to be. This left the Biharis hoping 1962 would prove a better year for Kent Records.

After the disappointment of 1961, the Biharis released seventeen singles between January and June 1962. This included four from B.B. King. The remainder were a mixture of releases by unknowns and reissues. That’s not forgetting the a couple of cash-ins on dance crazes.

In the early sixties, dance crazes were all the rage. The Biharis wanted a slice of the action. So, Joe Houston and Teddy Reynolds were brought onboard to record albums for Kent Records. Both were approaching veteran status, but this didn’t stop them cashing in on The Twist’s popularity. Joe Houston’s recorded Doing The Twist and Teddy Reynolds’ Do You Wanna Twist. Both owe a debt of gratitude to the Hank Ballard penned The Twist. That wasn’t the end of Kent Records’ dalliance with Twist inspired tracks. Little Joe Hinton released The Whip Twist, and Around this time, recorded Get In The Car, which wasn’t released until it featured on a compilation in 1999. Even B.B. King released a dance track, Mashing The Popeye. It didn’t give B.B. King his first hit of 1962. Hits were proving hard to come by.

So the Biharis raided Kent Records vaults. They reissued Etta James’ 1958 recording, Crazy Feeling Aka Do Something Crazy. Another reissue came from 1953, and featured a young Bobby “Blue” Bland. He’s accompanied by Ike Turner and His Orchestra on Love You Baby. Neither single proved particularly successful, so in February 1962, Bill Ray was signed to Kent Records.

Billy Ray only released one single for Kent Records. However, Playboy, and its flip side Texas Queen oozed quality. Despite this, Playboy passed record buyers by. That was the case with two groups that released one single apiece.

The Classicals one and only single was Camel Caravan. It was released on Kent Records in 1962. So was The Newports’ Wonder Of Love. Sadly, neither single was a commercial success, and their time at Kent Records was short. That was the case with the other three artists on disc two of Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962.

Hal Davis is responsible for the first of this trio. Although he’s best known as a songwriter, who formed a formidable partnership with Burt Bacharach, he was also a singer. He released a heartfelt version of George Motola and Rickie Page’s Without You. It owes much to Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller and Ben E. King’s Stand By Me.  Despite this, Without You failed to find an audience. Neither did Pat Hunt’s cover of Goodnight My Love, nor Bobby Sanders Maybe I’m Wrong, which he penned himself. 

Just like a lot of the singles released by Kent Records between 1958 and 1962, there was nothing wrong with the quality of music. That’s apparent when one listens to Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962, which was recently released by Ace Records. Often, the singles were released at the wrong time. Good examples are Pat Hunt’s cover of Goodnight My Love, Etta James’ Crazy Feeling Aka Do Something Crazy and Bobby “Blue” Bland’s Love You Baby. They had been recorded up to nine years earlier, and released when the Biharis were searching for hits. A few years earlier, and these singles might have been a commercial success. However, music was changing. Another problem was the lack of money spent on promotion.

Similarly, with the Biharis concentrating their efforts and resources on their budget label Crown Records, singles released on Kent Records were, many artists felt, not being promoted properly. This included B.B. King and Jimmy Witherspoon. They felt that their singles never stood a chance. To some extent, that proved to be the case. However, B.B. King was Kent Records’ biggest selling artist.

B.B. King was one of Kent Records crown jewels. He was the man who first brought commercial success Kent Records’ way. This resulted in a B.B. King releasing around twenty singles between 1958 and 1962. That’s why it’s fitting that ten tracks by B.B. King feature on Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962. The other thirty-eight tracks include some of the biggest names who were signed to Kent Records. This includes Hadda Brooks, Etta James, Jesse Belvin and Don Cole. They had already been signed to the Bihari brothers previous labels, and the Bihari brothers hoped that they could repeat that commercial success. Sadly, lightning didn’t strike twice, despite the quality of the music Kent Records was releasing. That was the case for the period Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 covers.

For the first four years of Kent Records’ existence, it released around fifty singles by familiar faces and new names. Sadly, Kent Records didn’t enjoy the commercial success its releases deserved. Despite that, Kent Records went on to become the Bihari brothers most successful and long running label. 

Kent Records lasted three decades, and forty years after Kent Records closed its doors for the last time, is still fondly remembered by R&B fans. They’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 by Ace Records. Unlock The Lock-The Kent Records Story Volume 1 1958-1962 is the first instalment in the Kent Records’ story, and is a tantalising taste of the music released by the Bihari brothers greatest label.

UNLOCK THE LOCK-THE KENT RECORDS STORY VOLUME 1 1958-1962. 

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ZACHARY CALE-DUSKLAND.

ZACHARY CALE-DUSKLAND.

Before embarking upon a solo career, Louisiana born singer-songwriter Zachary Cale was a member of several college bands. By Zachary’s own admission, most were short-lived, and none of them were particularly successful. However, they taught Zachary Cale about stagecraft and songwriting. So when Zachary embarked upon a solo career, he was more than ready. He was ready to step out of the shadows, and take centre-stage.

Zachary however, knew that the road ahead wasn’t paved with gold. He had been around long enough to know that. Even getting spotted by a record company was tough. So much so, that the Zachary recorded his first five albums and sold them at gigs. His “debut” My Autumn’s Done Come was released in 2003. The following year, 2004 Zachary released Of Endless Spirit and The Sick List. Then in 2005, Zachary released House Of Cards and Keys To The City. These albums were Zachary’s calling card, and hopefully, would result in him being picked up by a record company. This happened later in 2005.

Later in 2005, Zachary Cale was about to release his debut album, Outlander Sessions on New World of Sound Records. He was twenty-seven, and living in New York. This was a long way from Louisiana, where he was born in 1978. Outlander Sessions reflected Zachary’s personal journey.

Outlander Sessions was the first instalment in Zachary Cale’s musical autobiography. He examines subjects like “distance, isolation and alienation brought on by love.” Zachary also looks at his journey from rock guitarist to acoustic troubadour. That’s what Zachary Cale had become.

No longer were Dead Moon, Unwound and Pere Ubu inspirations. Instead, Tim Hardin, Townes Van Zandt and Peter Laughner inspired the now finger picking Zachary Cale. He announced his arrival in 2005, when Outlander Sessions was released on the New World of Sound Records. This was the start of ten year journey.

Since 2005, Zachary Cale has toured Britain, Europe and America several times, cofounded the independent label All Hands Electric and released four further solo albums. His most recent album, Duskland was recently released on the No Quarter Records. Duskland shows how far Zachary Cale has come.

Following the release of Outlander Sessions in 2005, Zachary Cale was invited to play at the CFA in Berlin. The Contemporary Fine Arts were hosting an art installation which was created by Jonathan Meese and Tal R. They needed someone to provide a musical accompaniment. Zachary fitted the bill, and proved a resounding success. 

So much so, that once the installation left Berlin, Zachary was asked to accompany it. He found himself playing at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, before moving on to the Frankfurt Art Fair. For Zachary, this was like a mini European tour. Even better, when the installation was setup at the Bortolami Dayan Gallery in New York, where Zachary lived, he was asked to perform. This brought his music to the attention of a much wider audience. So it made sense that later in 2005, Zachary began recording his sophomore album, Walking Papers.

Walking Papers.

Recording of Walking Papers took place in upstate New York.  The studio chosen, was one of the most famous studios in musical history. Bearsville Sound Studios was where The Band, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison recorded some of their best albums. Some four decades later, Zachary Cale made the same journey as these musical legends.

The recording sessions began in the summer of 2005, with engineer Kevin Mcmahon guiding Zachary and his small band. However, Walking Papers wasn’t completed until the summer of 2006. Zachary headed to Bearsville Sound Studios when his schedule permitted. Eventually, Walking Papers was completed by the summer of 2006. It was mixed at Vacation Island by Matt Boynton in 2006. With Walking Papers completed, it was a case of finding a label willing to release the album.

That was easier said than done. With the music industry in a constant state of flux, Zachary struggled to find a label. This was no reflection on his music. Instead, it was the state of the music industry. Eventually, two years after Walking Papers was complete, Zachary found a solution to his problem.

With no sign of a record label willing to release Walking Papers, Zachary decided to found his own record label. His partners in the All Hands Electric label were visual artist Ryan Johnston and musician and graphic designer, Alfra Martin. Together, they cofounded All Hands Electric. Their new label released Walking Papers in the autumn of 2008.

Walking Papers wasn’t the first album released by All Hands Electric. That honour fell to Zachary’s other project, Illuminations. 

Illuminations were an outlet for Zachary’s inner rocker. They combined Cosmic Americana, country soul, power pop, post rock and rock and roll on See-Saw. It was the first album released on All Hands Electric. See-Saw showcased a talented band with bags of potential. There’s a nod to Big Star, Gram Parson and The Wipers on See-Saw, where the Illuminations make their debut.

Sadly, See-Saw wasn’t a commercial success, and Illuminations didn’t released any more music until 2011. Before that, Zachary would release another two albums.

The first of these was Walking Papers. It was a very different album to Outlander Sessions. Gone was the lo-fi sound. Replacing it, was a much fuller, bigger production. This was well received by critics. They compared Zachary’s guitar playing to of John Fahey and his songwriting style to Townes Van Zandt. This wouldn’t be the last time Zachary was compared to the great and good of music.

Noise Of Welcome.

Three years passed before Zachary Cale released his third album, Noise Of Welcome. It featured another twelve tracks from the pen of Zachary Cale. These songs were recorded at a variety of locations, including the Vocation Island studios, where parts of Noise Of Welcome was mixed. Once the rest of Noise Of Welcome was mixed at Seaside Lodge, all thoughts turned to the release of Zachary Cale’s third album.

Another year passed before Noise Of Welcome was released in 2010. All Hands Electric weren’t rushing the release of Noise Of Welcome. They were determined that Zachary Cale had every chance of making a commercial breakthrough. 

When the release of Noise Of Welcome was announced, it was All Hands Electric’s thirteenth release. This proved not to be unlucky for Zachary Cale. Noise Of Welcome was well received by critics. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Noise Of Welcome. It was an eclectic album, where Zachary combined tender acoustic ballads, electric country, instrumentals and perfect pop that’s been inspired by The Kinks. It’s a captivating combination of music, that found a champion in Dan Bejar.

Not longer after this, singer-songwriter Dan Bejar heard Noise Of Welcome. He started championing Zachary Cale. Soon, people were starting to take notice of the New York based singer-songwriter. Despite what many of his new fans believed, Zachary Cale was no newcomer to music. He was an experienced singer, songwriter and musician,  who would soon, begin recording his fourth album.

Blue Rider.

For his fourth album, Zachary Cale had written eight new songs. These songs were with a small, tight band. Two of the four musicians who played on Blue Rider, only played on one track each. For the rest of Blue Rider, there was a much more minimalist sound. It seemed Zachary was determined to constantly reinvent himself.

That proved to be the case. When Blue Rider was released in September 2013, critics heard another side of Zachary Cale. His trademark vocal delivered folk ballads and country rock. Other tracks are instrumentals, featuring Zachary’s guitar. These tracks are the perfect showcase for Zachary’s picking style. They were part of another eclectic album, one that won over critics. 

Just like Noise Of Welcome, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Blue Rider. Critics compared Zachary Cale to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Donavon, Nick Drake and John Martyn. Other critics compared Zachary’s picking style to John Fahey. Belatedly, Zachary Cale had come to the attention of critics. That’s despite ten years of touring and recording.

Previously, Zachary Cale had released nine albums, four on  record labels and toured Britain, Europe and America, playing some of the biggest festivals. He had opened for Michael Chapman, Kurt Vile, Robin Hitchcock, Martha Wainwright and The Black Swans. However, only now was Zachary Cale winning friends and influenced people. While it had taken ten years, it was starting to pay off. So, Zachary began work on his fifth album Duskland.

Duskland.

Following the success of Blue Rider, Zachary Cale’s thoughts turned to his fifth album. He penned nine new tracks, and these new songs became Duskland, which was recorded at Vacation Island.

When recording of Duskland began, Zachary Cale was accompanied by a tight and talented band. Some of the band had worked with Zachary on previous albums. While some musicians feature throughout Duskland, some musicians feature on just one of two tracks. 

That’s the case with the rhythm section. Three drummers play on Duskland. This includes Ryan Johnson who adds a rhythm machine and xylophone, while Otto Hauser and Erman Schmidt both play drums and percussion. However, Erman also plays the piano. They’re joined in the rhythm machine by bassist James Preston and Zachary on acoustic guitar, electric, 12-string and slide guitar. Zachary also adds piano, synths and vocals. They were augmented by pianist Robert Boston, organist Phil Glauberzon and trumpeter Carter Yasutake. Brady Sanson on lap steel and Philip Sterk on pedal Steel add a country influence. Alfra Martini adds harmonies throughout Duskland. Together, this tight, talented band played Duskland which was recorded, mixed and mastered by Matt Boynton. Once Duskland was completed, it was released on No Quarter on 7th August 2015. Duskland, which I’ll tell you about, is Zachary Cale’s fifth album in ten years.

Sundowner opens Duskland. The rhythm section and pericsion combine to create a slow, dreamy backdrop. Zachary adds washes of post rock slide guitar. They quiver and shiver, before Zachary delivers the lyrics. They’ve a cinematic quality, which he brings to life. That’s the case from Zachary sings the opening lines: “sundown on the western plain, all is calm, you know I feel no pain.” Later, as he sings: “branded as a fugitive, dressed as an innocent man, sirens ricochet,” scenes unfold before your eyes. It’s like a  short story set to music. Meanwhile, Zachary’s vocal veers between distraught, wistful and hopeful, as he strums his acoustic guitar. Behind him, a moody, atmospheric soundscape unfolds, creating the perfect backdrop to this cinematic song.

It’s just drums and Zachary’s chiming, mesmeric acoustic guitar that rings out on Blue Moth. Soon, Zachary’s delivering an impassioned vocal. He’s accompanied by a prowling bass, as he tells how he’s always drawn back, like a “moth to flame.” Is is it a tale of true love or infatuation? Most likely, it’s true love. That becomes apparent as Zachary sings: “when every dull pain that takes host in my brain, is washed away when in the face of my love.”

I Left the Old Cell has a sparse, pared back introduction. It’s just Zachary playing his acoustic guitar. That’s until his country-tinged vocal enters. Soon, washes of lap steel add to the country sound. Meanwhile, Zachary delivers a tortured, thoughtful vocal. He reflects on the life he’s lead, and things he’s done wrong, and is determined not to make them again. “So many lives I’ve lived, I’ve got to bury them now, no surprises this time round, beneath this crown.”

Just a rhythm machine, acoustic guitar and synths combine  on Evensong. The arrangement grows in power, as if it’s determined to grab your attention. That proves to be the case. Especially, when Zachary adds a melancholy vocal. It’s accompanied by harmonies and a firmly strummed guitar. Sadness and frustration fill Zachary’s vocal. There’s also an air of mystery as he sings: “a game of chance has placed you here, yet isolation brings no tears, you’ve  come to terms with those fears.” These poignant, thoughtful lyrics leave you to wonder who they were about, and what the circumstances were?

Basilica is the only instrumental on Duskland. It’s best described as a two minute soundscape. Zachary plays his acoustic guitar, before percussion, drums and a weeping pedal steel combine. They’re joined by synths and a wistful trumpet. The result is a quite beautiful, melancholy soundscape.

The tempo is slow, as Zachary unleashes a choppy guitar solo on Dark Wings. Soon, he’s joined by the rhythm section and Hammond organ. Zachary’s vocal is akin to a confessional. He confesses his sins, the mistakes he’s made and the wrong turnings he’s taken. Cooing harmonies are added, as a tormented Zachary confesses: “my heart is not at peace.” By then, Zachary sounds like John Lennon on this heartfelt confessional. 

Slow, deliberate and moody describes the introduction to I Forged the Bullet. Anger and determination fill Zachary’s voice, as he sings: “I Forged the Bullet, the one that will strike you dead, I built the coffin, that one day will be your bed.” With a Nu Country arrangement for company, Zachary Cale becomes a musical outlaw, with one thing on his mind…revenge.

From the distance, Changing Horses’ arrangement unfolds. Drums rumble, guitars play as the arrangement grows in power. It takes on a country rock sound, as Zachary delivers a drawling vocal. He becomes a sage, warning that: “you can’t change horses now, you can’t undo what’s already done…you can’t turn back the clock on this one.” Nor is it possible to: “vanish without trace.” The way Zachary delivers the lyrics, it’s as if he was forsaken for another. Anger, frustration and sadness fills his voice as he delivers the lyrics. That’s until he sings: “but all that you want, is somewhere to live out your years, beyond the charade.” By then, he’s empathising and sympathising with her plight. Just like other tracks on Duskland, Zachary Cale proves a talented storyteller, whose cinematic lyrics are like a short story set to music.

Closing Duskland is Low Light Serenade, seven-and-a-half minute epic. It opens with Zachary picking his acoustic guitar and delivering a lived-in vocal. Straight away, Zachary sounds like Bob Dylan. Behind him, the rhythm section provide a slow heartbeat and washes of lap steel are unleashed. Soon, a wistful trumpet plays. Meanwhile, Zachary, delivers his Dylan-esque vocal, bringing the evocative and cinematic lyrics to life. Zachary sings of a homecoming: “only to return to familiar shores.” This allows the character in the song to heal. “Now’s the time for healing, before you upon that trail, you tend to all your wounds.” This proves a poignant, thoughtful and moving way to close Duskland, Zachary Cale’s fifth album.

For Zachary Cale, Duskland marks a coming of age. It’s without doubt, the best album of his career. Everything it seems has been leading to Duskland. 

As albums go, Duskland is the most accomplished of Zachary Cale’s career. He’s been releasing albums since 2003. He released his first five albums without a label. Instead, he sold them at concerts. Then in 2005, Zachary released Outlander Sessions on New World Of Sound Records. Since then, Zachary Cale has released three further albums between 2008 and 2013. With each album, Zachary Cale improved, and matured as a singer-songwriter and musician. Now thirty-seven, Zachary Cale has come of age with the most eclectic album of his career.

On Duskland, Zachary Cale seamlessly flits between Americana, country, country-rock, Neo Folk and rock. He’s just as comfortable singing country, as he is singing Neo Folk. Zachary Cale is a truly versatile singer, one whose capable of writing incisive, cerebral and cinematic lyrics. They tell stories, stories of people’s lives, their happiness, hopes, hurt and heartbreak. These songs come to life on Duskland. It’s a career defining album from Louisiana born troubadour, Zachary Cale who musically comes of age on Duskland, which is a near flawless opus.

ZACHARY CALE-DUSKLAND.

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LED ZEPPELIN-IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR-DELUXE EDITION.

LED ZEPPELIN-IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR-DELUXE EDITION.

On 15th August 1979, Led Zeppelin released their eighth studio album In Through the Out Door. By then, they were one of the biggest selling bands in the world. Their first seven studio albums and their 1976 live album The Song Remains The Same, had sold eighty-three million copies in America alone. Worldwide Led Zeppelin’s albums had sold over 100 million copies. However, little did the four members of Led Zeppelin realise that In Through the Out Door, which was recently reissued as a two CD Deluxe Edition, marked the end of an era. 

In Through The Out Door was the last album to feature the original lineup of Led Zeppelin. Not for the first time, tragedy was about to touch Led Zeppelin. Things hadn’t been going well for Led Zeppelin since the 5th August 1975.

Before Led Zeppelin embarked upon an American tour, Robert Plant decided to take his family on holiday to Rhodes. Robert decided to hire a car so he could see the Island. Disaster struck on 5th August 1975, when the car spun off the road and crashed. He was taken to hospital where doctors discovered that Robert had broken his ankle and elbow. This resulted in the American tour being postponed. 

Presence.

With the American tour cancelled, Robert Plant began the lengthy period of recuperation. His convalescence began in Jersey, where Robert began writing some of the lyrics for Presence. When Robert moved Malibu, he continued to write the lyrics for Presence. By then, he was joined by Jimmy Page. The pair began to knock the lyrics into shape. Soon, the Page and Plant songwriting partnership had enough material for an album.

and Robert’s recuperation looking like being lengthy, he he decided to write the lyrics for Led Zeppelin’s next album. This made sense. However, with Robert confined to a wheelchair,  it wasn’t going to be easy for him to record his vocals.

Despite this, the early recording sessions for Presence took place at Hollywood’s SIR Studio. That’s where they spent the next month, working on the songs that became Presence. After a month, Led Zeppelin flew to Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios, in Munich, Germany, which was perceived as the studio to record an album. Led Zeppelin were just the latest to make their way Musicland Studios.

As Led Zeppelin setup, onlookers something was missing. John Bonham’s drums and percussion were present. So were John Paul Jones four and eight string basses. Jimmy Pages’ array of guitars were setup in his corner of the studio. All Robert Plant brought was his trusty harmonica. Then it became clear what was missing, keyboards. It looked like Led Zeppelin were going to record an album without keyboards.

That’s what Led Zeppelin proceeded to do. Presence Plant and Page decided, should mark a change in Led Zeppelin’s sound. This should make Led Zeppelin’s return to hard rock. The riffs were much simpler, as Led Zeppelin moved towards guitar based jams. This was very different to some of the complex arrangements on Physical Graffiti. Another change was the lack of keyboards. Originally, they were meant to be absent. However, it was a case of needs must. Keyboards had to be used for the chorus on Candy Store Rock. Mostly, though, Presence was a much more stripped back, simpler  and spontaneous album than previous Led Zeppelin albums. There was a reason for this.

Led Zeppelin had to work quickly. The Rolling Stones were scheduled to record Black and Blue. So, Led Zeppelin had to work quickly. They laid the tracks down quickly. There was an element of spontaneity in the sessions. Once the tracks were laid down, three nights were spent adding overdubs. By the 25th November 1975, Led Zeppelin’s yet unnamed album was recorded and mixed. It hadn’t been the ideal sessions for Led Zeppelin.

Usually, Led Zeppelin would spend much longer than eighteen days recording an album. However, they were against the clock. 

If the album wasn’t recorded in time, Led Zeppelin would have to find another studio. They were determined not to have to do this, so they spent eighteen to twenty hours a day recording. Sometimes, members of Led Zeppelin fell asleep while mixing the album. Whoever was left awake, was left to mix the track. Somehow, Presence was recorded the album in eighteen days. Later, Robert Plant felt this showed.

With Robert Plant confined to a wheelchair, this made delivering his trademark vocals difficult. He couldn’t unleash the same power. As a result, Robert later though his vocal was  “pretty poor”…and “sounds tired and strained.” Robert also felt “claustrophobic” as Led Zeppelin recorded in Musicland’s basement studios. He was also still suffering from the accident that happened three months earlier. Despite this, Robert soldiered on and the Presence sessions were finished on time.

Somehow, Led Zeppelin had managed what many thought was impossible, and recorded and mixed an album in eighteen days. It was ready for release in early 1976.

Before Presence was released on 31st March 1976, critics had their say about Led Zeppelin’s latest album. Previously, many critics hadn’t been fans of Led Zeppelin. It didn’t matter that they were one of the most successful bands in the world, certain critics enjoyed panning new Led Zeppelin albums. So, it was no surprise that Led Zeppelin tended to avoid the press. No wonder. Just like previous albums, Presence wasn’t well received by critics. Some critics remarked that the songs were all similar. Gone was the diversity of previous albums. Other critics called Presence inaccessible, and a difficult album to like. While Led Zeppelin had had bad reviews before, this didn’t bode well for the release of Presence.

Presence wasn’t released until 31st March 1976. The album had been delayed while the sleeve was completed. By the time Presence was released, it had racked up the highest ever advance orders in Britain. This resulted in Presence reaching number one and being certified gold upon its release, and later, was certified platinum. Across the Atlantic, Presence eventually reached number one in the US Billboard 200. It was the slowest selling of Led Zeppelin’s seven album career. Eventually, Presence sold just three million copies, and was certified triple-platinum. Considering Physical Graffiti had sold sixteen million copies, Presence was seen as a failure in America. Elsewhere, sales of Presence were slow.

In Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and Sweden, Presence entered the top ten. Presence didn’t sell as well in Canada, where Led Zeppelin had always been popular. Gold and platinum discs were in short supply. Apart from Britain and America, Presence didn’t sell enough copies elsewhere. Nor did the single released from Presence.

Candy Store Rock was chosen as Presence’s lead single. It was perceived as one of Presence’s highlights. However, it failed to chart in any of the countries it was released in. For Led Zeppelin, Presence was a disappointing album commercially. Especially given Led Zeppelin were at the peak of their powers. What was even more galling was that Led Zeppelin were unable to tour. If they had headed out on tour, maybe sales of Presence would improve? Given Robert Plant’s injuries, this wasn’t possible. So Led Zeppelin decided to complete the concert film The Song Remains The Same.

The Song Remains The Same.

Ever since late 1969, Led Zeppelin had been planning a documentary film about the band. A performance was filmed at the Albert Hall in London, on 9th January 1970. However, the sound quality wasn’t satisfactory, so the idea was shelved temporarily.

Then on 20th July 1973, Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant made contact with actor and director Joe Massot. He had previously filmed George Harrison’s Wonderwall. Joe was a friend of Peter Grant, and Jimmy Page. So when Peter Grant approached Joe about filming Led Zeppelin, he didn’t take much convincing. A month later, Joe was in New Your filming Led Zeppelin.

On 27th, 28th and 29th July 1973, Led Zeppelin were playing at    Madison Square Garden. The three nights were filmed on 35mm film with a twenty-four track quadraphonic mobile recoding studio. This cost $85,000, which the four members of Led Zeppelin financed. After the three shows at Madison Square Garden, progress slowed. This didn’t please Peter Grant.

He decided to bring another direction onboard Peter Clifton to complete the project in July 1974. So, Peter Grant sent someone to Joe Massot’s house to collect the film. Joe Massot however, was owed money, and decided to hide the film. This he thought would ensure he was paid. Instead, Joe’s editing machine was taken as collateral. Before long, it was stalemate and Joe served a writ.

Once the writ had been served, Led Zeppelin’s lawyers paid Joe Massot the money he was owed. He delivered the films, and Peter Clifton was given the job of completing the film.This included Led Zeppelin recreating the Madison Square concerts at Shepperton Studios in August 1974. Eventually, The Song Remains The Same was completed after three years work.

A premiere of The Song Remains The Same took place at Atlantic Records. The label’s founder and president, Ahmet Ertegun is reported to have fallen asleep during the screening. This didn’t bode well for the release of The Song Remains The Same.

On 20th October 1976, the film and soundtrack to The Song Remains The Same was released. Critics weren’t impressed with the soundtrack. They felt the album was over-produced, clumsy and awkward. Even the four members of Led Zeppelin weren’t fans of The Song Remains The Same. Jimmy Page felt that The Song Remains The Same: “wasn’t necessarily the best live stuff we have. I don’t look upon it as a live album…it’s essentially a soundtrack.” Given the subsequent recreating of the Madison Square concerts and subsequent, there’s more than an element of truth in this. However, record buyers had the casting vote.

When The Song Remains The Same was released, it reached number one in Britain and number two in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, The Song Remains The Same reached the top ten in the album charts in Canada, Japan and New Zealand. The Song Remains The Same was certified gold in France and Germany, platinum in Britain and four times platinum in America. With around five millions sales, The Song Remains The Same had been a success for Led Zeppelin. However, 1977 proved to be the most difficult years of Led Zeppelin’s career.

With Robert Plant fully recovered, Led Zeppelin were ready to embark upon their American tour. Things however, didn’t go to plan. In February 1977, Robert Plant was diagnosed with laryngitis. This resulted in the opening date being postponed from February to April 1977. This further impacted upon ticket sales.

When Led Zeppelin announced their 1977 American Tour, the tickets sold well. However, they didn’t sell in the same quantities they had two years earlier. Back then, Led Zeppelin were at the peak of their popularity. Two years later, Led Zeppelin tickets weren’t selling as well. The postponement impacted upon the band.

With Led Zeppelin’s equipment being shipped to America, the band had no equipment to practice with. For a month, Jimmy Page never picked up a guitar. So when Jimmy played the first few shows, he stepped on-stage with a degree of trepidation. However, the shows went to plan, until Led Zeppelin reached Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati concert was marred by a group of ticketless fans forced their way into the stadium. Within minutes, all hell broke out. It was like a mini riot at the Riverfront Coliseum. This wasn’t the end of the controversy/

Two months later, in June 1977, Led Zeppelin were due to play in Tampa. The concert began, but didn’t finish. A thunderstorm forced the cancellation of the concert. Then the following month, Led Zeppelin were embroiled in controversy.

 

On 23rd July 1977 Led Zeppelin were playing in Oakland, California. The concert was promoted by Bill Graham. After the show, Led Zeppelin’s manger Peter Grant lead a group, which included John Bonham. They badly beat up one Bill Graham’s employees. This was just the latest example of darkness descending during the 1977 American tour. However, the events of three days later meant everything else paled into insignificance.

A couple of days after the events at Oakland, Robert Plant’s five year old son Karac contracted a stomach infection. Then on the 26th of July 1977 came the news, Karac Plant had died. His death was sudden and came without warning. Robert Plant was totally distraught. He struggled to come to terms with the death of Kovac. 

Following the death of Kovac, Robert Plant returned home. He was struggling to cope. The press and media covered the story closely. All Robert wanted to do, was be around his family. John Bonham proved supportive of Robert. Music no longer interested Robert. At one point he applied, and was accepted for a career in education. Led Zeppelin it seemed were history. So it appeared were drugs.

Before the death of his son, Robert Plant, like the rest of Led Zeppelin lived the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. They were regarded as one of the hardest living bands in rock music.

Ever since the early days, Led Zeppelin were one of the hardest living bands in rock music. They embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Especially on tour. Led Zeppelin lived the rock ’n’ roll dream. Drink, drugs and debauchery was commonplace. So was destruction. The four members of Led Zeppelin weren’t averse to wrecking hotel rooms. Having trashed a room in the Tokyo Hilton, Led Zeppelin were banned from the chain for life. Hotel rooms weren’t just trashed. Television sets out of hotel windows. Another time, John Bonham rode a motorcycle the Continental Hyatt House, which Led Zeppelin nicknamed Riot House. However, it wasn’t just on tour Led Zeppelin embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

When neither touring nor recording, Led Zeppelin lived the life becoming a rock star. Members of Led Zeppelin lived in mansions, drove fast cars and in Robert Plant’s case, flamboyant clothing and expensive jewellery. Robert Plant was every inch the rock star. He enjoyed the finer things in life, including holidays to the most glamorous of destinations. Robert Plant planned to give all this, and the rock ’n’ lifestyle up.

Later, Robert Plant claimed that following the death of his son, he quit the various drugs he was taking. Robert eschewed treatment, and went cold turkey. However, by the time Led Zeppelin began recording In Through The Out Door, he was addicted to heroin.

In Through The Out Door.

Sixteen months after the death of Robert Plant’s son, Led Zeppelin returned to the studio in November 1978. This was exactly three years since Led Zeppelin began recording their previous album Presence. Recording of Presence had taken just eighteen days. This time, Led Zeppelin would spend three weeks in November and December of 1978 recording In Through The Out Door. That’s quite incredible, given one member of Led Zeppelin was an alcoholic, and another a heroin addict.

By the time recording of In Through The Out Door began, John Bonham was an alcoholic. while Jimmy Page was addicted to heroin. This resulted in Led Zeppelin being split in two. 

Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were clean. Although the pair had enjoyed the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, they were clean. Neither were addicted to drink nor drugs when recording of In Through The Out Door began. They became the driving force of Led Zeppelin. Meanwhile, John Bonham and Jimmy Page became increasingly reliable. This resulted in John Paul Jones playing a bigger role in writing the songs that became In Through The Out Door.

Previously, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant proved a formidable songwriting partnership. That’s one of the reasons why by 1977, Led Zeppelin sold over 100 million albums worldwide. For In Through The Out Door, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant only penned one track, Hot Dog. They cowrote In The Evening, Fool In The Rain, Carouselambra and I’m Gonna Crawl with John Paul Jones. South Bound Saurez and All My Love. These seven tracks became In Through The Out Door, which was recorded in three weeks.

Gone were the days when Led Zeppelin spent months over an album. Instead, recording took began in November 1978 at Polar Studios, in Stockholm, Sweden. At Polar Studios, Led Zeppelin split in two. Jimmy Page and John Bonham teamed up. Sometimes, one or both of them failed to turn up for recording sessions. This meant that Robert Plant and John Paul Jones had to pick up the slack.

Bassist John Paul Jones was a happy man when the sessions began. Keyboards were back on In Through The Out Door. He played keyboards, piano, synths and mandolin. Jimmy Page added acoustic and electric guitars, and deployed his newly acquired Gizmotron effects device. He also produced In Through The Out Door. Recording took three weeks, with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones recording during the day. This allowed Robert Plant and John Paul Jones to tighten songs.However, when darkness descended, drummer John Bonham and guitarist Jimmy Page entered the studio. After three eventful weeks, recording of In Through The Out Door was complete in December 1978. Now the four members of Led Zeppelin could head home for Christmas. Little did they realise that the In Through The Out Door session were their final recording sessions together.

Once the holiday season was over, Led Zeppelin’s thoughts turned to their eighth album, In Through The Out Door. Hipgnosis who had designed previous Led Zeppelin albums needed to come up with an album cover. Each of their previous album covers were unusual. In Through The Out Door was no different. 

Storm Thorgerson Hipgnosis’ inspiration for In Through The Out Door’s album cover came from the bootleg albums which were popular around 1978-1979. Many came wrapped in a plain brown sleeve, with the title of the album stamped on it by a rubber stamp. This Storm Thorgerson and Led Zeppelin decided would be perfect for their eight album. It was entitled In Through The Out Door, which was Led Zeppelin trying to describe what they had been through in the last few years.

The last few years had been tough on Led Zeppelin. Obviously, the death of Robert Plant’s Karac son had been the worst experience of this period. However, during this period, Led Zeppelin were tax exiles, and were living far from their friends and family. This was also taking its toll on Led Zeppelin. This meant In Through The Out Door was the perfect description of what Led Zeppelin had been through. Maybe, Led Zeppelin’s luck would change when In Through The Out Door was released?

Originally, In Through The Out Door was scheduled to be released before Led Zeppelin played two concerts at the 1979 Knebworth Festival. However, when Led Zeppelin took to the stage on the 4th of August 1979, In Through The Out Door had been postponed. Instead, it was released on 15th August 1979.

Before the release of In Through The Out Door, critics had their say. Many of the reviews were poor. Despite this, In Through The Out Door reached number one in Britain and in the US Billboard 200. In Through The Out Door was certified platinum in Britain and six times platinum in America. Across the border, In Through The Out Door reached number one. This was also the case in Australia, where In Through The Out Door was certified platinum. Elsewhere, In Through The Out Door reached the top twenty in Austrian, French, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish album charts. In  West Germany, In Through The Out Door reached number twenty-eight. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success for Led Zeppelin.

Not for the first time, Led Zeppelin made history on the week beginning 23rd October 1979. In Through The Out Door, and each of Led Zeppelin’s previous albums charted in the US Billboard 200. Led Zeppelin repeated this feat a week later, on 3rd November 1979. Considering that critics had panned In Through The Out Door, Led Zeppelin were having the last laugh. However, were the critics correct to pan In Through The Out Door?

Opening In Through The Out Door is In The Evening. Jimmy Page’s low, droning washes of guitar combines with John Paul Jones’ bass. He uses his myriad of pedals to twist and torment the original sound. Meanwhile, John Bonham’s drums rumble in the distance. Gradually they grow in power, before Led Zeppelin unite. Robert Plant’s gritty, needy powerhouse of vocal is accompanied by blistering guitars. They quiver, soaring above the arrangement, as effects aplenty are deployed. Robert Plant struts his way through the arrangement. At 3.48, the arrangement explodes, and Led Zeppelin kick loose. After that the tempo drops, and a moody bluesy sound takes shape. That’s just a curveball, as Led Zeppelin return to their hard rocking sound. This Led Zeppelin doing what they do best

There’s no letting up on South Bound Saurez. This is just one of two Led Zeppelin tracks that Jimmy Page didn’t write or co-write. South Bound Saurez is built around John Paul Jones’ driving, honky tonk piano. Soon, a muted guitar and the rhythm section join the fray. Robert delivers a gnarled vocal, on a track that briefly borrows from A Whole Lotta Love. That’s no bad thing, as that’s a Led Zeppelin classic. Here, they unleash what’s a slice of good time rock ’n’ roll. This is just one of two Led Zeppelin tracks that Jimmy Page didn’t write or co-

Fool In The Rain marks a change of time signature. Led Zeppelin play in 12/8 time. This gives the song a Latin feel, John Paul Jones’ keyboards are at the heart of the arrangement. At first it’s the piano. The rest of the band play around him. Meanwhile, Robert delivers a deliberate, heartfelt vocal. Later, John Paul Jones flits between piano and keyboards, while a scorching guitar bounds along. Midway through song, the Latin influence becomes more apparent. A myriad of percussion and whistles are deployed, as Led Zeppelin show their versatility, one one of the hidden gems of their discography.

Jimmy Page’s guitar is counted in on Hot Dog. Soon, he’s unleashing blistering licks. John Paul Jones adds boogie woogie piano. Meanwhile, the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Robert’s vocal is a country-tinged vamp. The rest of Led Zeppelin add harmonies, before searing, scorching guitars punctuate the arrangement. This results in country music with a Led Zeppelin rocky twist.

As Carouselambra unfolds, synths are to the fore. They’re then joined by crunchy, scorching guitars combine and the rhythm section. They create a wall of sound. It dominates the arrangement. So much so, that it almost overpowers Robert’s vocal. Even the drums are dwarfed by the synth driven arrangement. At one point, the arrangement sounds like a carousel. That’s before this near eleven minute epic charges on, taking a prog rock twist. There’s twists and turns aplenty as Led Zeppelin show their creativity and imagination. Stylistic changes, and changes in tempo are deployed effectively. Similarly, Jimmy Page unleashes some of his best, crystalline licks, despite his battle against heroin. Led Zeppelin were down, but far from out.

All My Love sees the tempo drop and synths play a leading role as the song takes shape. The synth is accompanied by drums, chiming guitars and Robert’s impassioned vocal. Again, there’s a prog rock influence on All My Love. It was written in honour of Robert Plant’s son Karac. He delivers a vocal that’s heartfelt and emotive. When it drops out, the synths take charge. Then when Robert’s vocal returns, he combines the same emotion as he delivers a paean to his late son.

I’m Gonna Crawl closes In Through The Out Door. Again, the synths opens the song. The tempo has dropped, as the rhythm section and a chiming guitar combine. The drums create a mesmeric backdrop for Robert’s tormented vocal. He’s infatuated and unleashes a soul-baring vocal on this dramatic, rocky ballad. It features another vocal powerhouse from Robert, who in the space of two tracks, shows his versatility as a vocalist. Along with the rest of Led Zeppelin, they take what would be their final bow, on this dramatic, rocky ballad.

Little did the four members of Led Zeppelin realise it, but the In Through The Out Door sessions were the last time they would record together. 

On 25th September 1980 John Bonham was found dead. The previous day, he had drunk the equivalent of forty shots of 40% vodka. The day began, when John was heading for rehearsals, downed four quadruple vodkas. He continued to drink throughout the day. At the end of the day, Led Zeppelin headed to Jimmy Page’s house. When he went to bed, John had drunk 1.4 litres of 40% vodka. Despite putting him on his side, John Bonham was sick and choked on his own vomit. The next day, John Bonham was found dead, aged just thirty-two. In Through The Out Door was his swan-song.

In Through The Out Door also proved to be Led Zeppelin’s final studio album. Their final album, Coda which was released in 1982, was a compilation of unreleased tracks. Led Zeppelin’s final album was In Through The Out Door. 

While In Through The Out Door wasn’t their finest moment, it wasn’t a a terrible album. Especially considering that Jimmy Page was addicted to heroin and John Bonham was an alcoholic. Led Zeppelin dug deep, and came up with an album that sees them flit between musical genres. There’s everything from blues, country, Latin, prog rock and rock. Not just any rock, but Led Zeppelin at their heaviest. Sadly, if In Through The Out Door didn’t feature Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best, what a fitting finale it would’ve been to the 100 million selling band. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

What put a lot of people off In Through The Out Door was the use of synths. Keyboards had long played an important part in the Led Zeppelin sound. Synths were something that divided opinion. Especially on In Through The Out Door, which was recently reissued by Atlantic Records, as a two CD Deluxe Edition. The second disc features an alternative version of In Through The Out Door. It comprises demos and alternate tracks. This will appeal to Led Zeppelin completists. However, whether In Through The Out Door will appeal to newcomers to Led Zeppelin is another thing?

They would be better beginning with Led Zeppelin and working their way through Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses Of The Holy and Physical Graffiti. These six albums feature Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best, and show just why Led Zeppelin have sold over 100 million albums. Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best were, and are, one of the greatest bands in the history of rock. Led Zeppelin were at the top for ten years, and their swan song was  In Through The Out Door, may not have been their greatest album, but is one of their most eclectic, and shows fleeting moments of their previous genius.

LED ZEPPELIN-IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR-DELUXE EDITION.

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VAN HALEN-DELUXE-VINYL EDITION.

VAN HALEN-DELUXE-VINYL EDITION..

Not many bands enjoyed the longevity that Van Halen enjoy. They were released their debut album Van Halen in 1978. It was hailed as one of the greatest debut albums in musical history. Soon, Van Halen was climbing the charts, reaching number nineteen. As Van Halen’s popularity grew, sales of their debut album sold. 

By 1999, when Van Halen were put on hold, their eponymous debut album had sold ten million copies. Van Halen was certified diamond, something that happens to only a handful of albums. However, by then Van Halen were one of the most successful and biggest selling bands in musical history.

After the release of Van Halen in 1978, the California based band released another ten albums. Each and every one of these albums were certified multi-platinum. In America alone, Van Halen’s next ten studio albums sold an incredible forty-million copies. Their most successful studio album released during this period was 1984.

Released on 9th January 1984, 1984 took the world by storm. It was certified diamond in America and five times platinum in Canada. In Europe, 1984 was certified platinum in Germany and gold in France and Britain. That’s no surprise. Van Halen were at their hard rocking best on Van Halen, unleashing classics like Jump, Panama and Hot For Teacher. It seemed that Van Halen could do no wrong.

That proved to be the case. Right through to 1995s Balance, Van Halen’s studio albums sold millions. So did their 1993 live album Live: Right Here, Right Now. It sold two million copies in America along. Van Halen were enjoying a glittering, multi-platinum career. That’s despite fall-outs, changes in lineup and a love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

When Van Halen released Van Halen III on March 17th 1998, it failed to match the commercial success of previous albums. It was “only” certified gold. Four years later, when Van Halen released A Different Type Of Truth on February 7th 2012, it was to controversy.

Seven of the songs on A Different Type Of Truth had been demoed in the late seventies, early eighties. However, they were never released. So, when the songs featured on A Different Type Of Truth, Van Halen’s fans weren’t happy. They voted with their feet.

No longer were Van Halen selling millions of albums. Very few groups were. On the release of A Different Type Of Truth, it reached number two on the US Billboard 200 and sold 411,000 copies. This wasn’t even enough for a gold disc. The only place that A Different Type Of Truth was certified gold, was in Canada. It was changed days for Van Halen, one of rock’s biggest, most successful and hardest living bands.

Rock ’n’ roll’s great survivors comeback wasn’t the success that they had hoped. Van Halen couldn’t leave it there. Not after thirty-eight years together. Surely, they would release one more album. They did. 

It wasn’t another studio album. Instead, Van Halen released the second live album of their career. Forty-one years since they changed their name to Van Halen, they released Tokyo Dome Live in Concert on March 31st 2015. Tokyo Dome Live in Concert was no ordinary live album. Instead, it’s a twenty-five track double album featuring some of Van Halen’s biggest singles and best known songs. Two weeks later, and Tokyo Dome Live in Concert is climbing the American charts It’s already reached number twenty in the US Billboard 200 charts. However,  over the last few days, a much wider audience will have heard Tokyo Dome Live in Concert.

When Tokyo Dome Live in Concert was recently on vinyl released by Rhino so were remastered version two of Van Halen’s classic albums, Van Halen I and 1984. Two weeks later, and Rhino released a four disc vinyl box set Deluxe, which features Van Halen I, 1984 and Tokyo Dome Live in Concert. For newcomers to Van Halen, this is the ideal starter pack. Van Halen I and 1984 feature Van Halen at the peak of their powers. Tokyo Dome Live in Concert allows the listener to experience what Van Halen live sounds like. Just like Van Halen and 1984, it’s’s a reminder of  Van Halen at the peak of their powers. The story began back in the early seventies.

It was in 1977, that Van Ha;en signed to Warner Bros. Records. Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Bros. Records saw Van Halen perform at the Starwood in Hollywood. The two men were so impressed with Van Halen that they signed the group within a week. At last, Van Halen were starting to go places.

Van Halen were no overnight success story. Instead, they had paid their dues. Brothers, Eddie and Alex Van Halen had formed a band in the early seventies. Like many bands, they found it difficult to settle on a name. Initially, they were called The Broken Combs, then changed the name to The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, The Trojan Rubber Co. had a settled lineup.

Their lineup featured Alex on drums and Eddie on guitar. They were joined by bassist Mark Stone and vocalist David Lee Roth, who they had hired a sound system from. Eddie had initially failed the audition. However, Eddie and Alex were realists. Money was tight, so if they brought David onboard, they would save having to hire a sound system. They also thought that David might improve as a vocalist. However, in 1974, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name and its lineup.

1974 was a pivotal year for The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, bassist Mark Stone had been replaced by bassist Michael Anthony. His audition was unorthodox. Only after Michael took part in an all night jam session, was he hired. So, Michael left local band Snake and joined The Trojan Rubber Co. Soon, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name to Mammoth, and then Van Halen. For the next three years, Van  Halen spent honing their sound.

Van Halen played wherever they could. Backyard parties, clubs and dive bars, they weren’t proud. Far from it. They certainly were loud. Too loud some thought.

When Van Halen went to audition at Gazzarri’s, a bar on Sunset Strip, that was down on its luck, the owner Bill Gazzarri, told them they were “too loud, and refused to hire them.” However, Van Halen’s new managers stepped in. Mark Algorri and Mario Miranda had just taken over the booking at  Gazzarri’s. So, Van Halen were installed as the house band. Not long after this, Van Halen entered the studio for the first time.

The four members of Van Halen headed to Cherokee Studios, which had recently housed Steely Dan. At Cherokee Studios, Van Halen recorded their demo tape. It would become their calling card, and see them play some of L.A.’s top clubs, including the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go.

Soon, Van Halen were a permanent fixture in L.A.’s top clubs. That’s where they continued to hone their sound. It’s also where they came to the attention of Kiss’ Gene Simmons. 

Gene Simmons had heard good things about Van Halen. So, he went to check out Van Halen. According to what he had heard, they were one of the rising stars of L.A.’s music scene. When Gene Simmons arrived at the Gazzarri club in the summer of 1976, he was won over by Van Halen. He knew they were going places.

So, Gene Simmons took Van Halen to Village Recorders in L.A. to produce a new demo tape. Overdubs then took place at Electric Ladyland in New York. Things were looking good for Van Halen. The only thing Van Halen baulked at, was Gene’s suggestion to change the band’s name to Daddy Longlegs. That was a step too far.  The next step was for Gene to take the newly recorded demo tape to Kiss’ management.

When Kiss’ management heard the demo, they were pretty disparaging about Van Halen. According to Kiss’ managers, Van Halen “had no chance of making it.” These words would come back to haunt them, after Van Halen sold over forty-two million albums in America alone. However, with Kiss’ management not interested in signing Van Halen, Gene Simmons bowed out of the story. He would be replaced a year later by Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman.

Down but not out, Van Halen returned to the club circuit. For the next year, they continued to hone their sound on the club circuit. One night, in the middle of 1977, Van Halen were playing at the Starwood in Hollywood. There wasn’t much of an audience. However, little did Van Halen know, that two very special guests were in the audience, Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Bros. Records. The pair liked what they heard and less than a week later, Van Halen had signed to Warner Bros. Records. Mo Ostin dispatched Van Halen to Sunset Sound Records with producer Ted Templeman, where recording of Van Halen  began.

Van Halen. 

Like many bands recording their debut album, Van Halen were fearless. They had no apprehension. Mind you, this wasn’t exactly a new experience. Van Halen had been in studios before, recording two different demo tapes. However, this was for real. The band had written nine tracks. The other two were covers of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and John Brim’s Ice Cream Man. These eleven tracks would eventually become Van Halen’s debut album, Van Halen.

Recording of Van Halen began in the middle of September 1977. Van Halen’s rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony set about proving the album’s pulsating heartbeat. A week was spent recording Eddie’s guitar parts. Another two weeks were spent recording David’s vocals and the backing vocals. By  early October 1977, recording of Van Halen was all but complete. The decision was made not to do much in the way of over-dubbing. This meant Van Halen was much more like hearing Van Halen live. How would critics respond to this?

Before the release of Van Halen, critics had their say. For everyone at Warner Bros. Records, they held their breath. Back in 1978, critics could be venomous. It was hardly rock critic’s finest hour. They were in the throes of a love affair with punk. Many critics took great pleasure in trashing rock albums. The critics didn’t hold back when it came to Van Halen. Most of the reviews were negative. One of the worst reviews came from the so called doyen of critics, the contrarian Robert Christgau. The equally contrarian Rolling Stone were not fans of Van Halen. At least they admitted that Van Halen were going places. Mostly, the reviews panned Van Halen. However, soon, critics would be eating their words.

When Van Halen was released on 18th February 1978, it began climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200 charts. This was just the start of the rise and rise of Van Halen.

Three singles were released from Van Halen. A cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100. Runnin’ With The Devil Stalled at number eighty-four in the US Billboard 100. The final single released from Van Halen was Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love. It failed to chart. While the singles failed to replicate the success of Van Halen, it showcased the band at their hard rocking best.

Literally, Van Halen strut and swagger through the eleven tracks on their debut album Van Halen. It’s no surprise that rock and heavy metal fans were won over by Van Halen. It’s a track full of  some of Van Halen’s biggest songs, including  Runnin’ With The Devil, Eruption, You Really Got Me, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Jamie’s Cryin’ and Ice Cream Man.  Van Halen’s rhythm section of Alex and Michael provide the backdrop to Eddie’s blistering guitars  and David’s lived-in vocal. From the opening bars of Runnin’ With The Devil, right through On Fire, Van Halen win friends and influence people. The band who just a year ago, were being hailed L.A.’s best bar band, were on their way to becoming a one of the biggest bands on planet rock.

Six years later, everything Van Halen had touched turned multi-platinum. The four albums Van Halen released between 1979s Van Halen II, to 1982s Diver Down had transformed Van Halen’s fortunes. These four albums had sold an estimated fourteen million copies. Then there was Van Halen, their debut album. It was belatedly being referred to as a classic album.

With Van Halen one of America’s biggest selling bands,  critics were forced to rethink their opinion on the band’s eponymous debut album. Belatedly critics had realised the error of their ways. Not for the first time, critics were forced to do an about turn. They realised that Van Halen was a classic rock album. Now they were referring to Van Halen as one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest debut albums. No longer were Van Halen seen as a bar band who caught a lucky break. Not when their albums were selling by the million. This included Van Halen.

As Van Halen got ready to release their sixth album 1984, Van Halen reentered the US Billboard 200, reaching number 117. Over the next fifteen years, Van Halen consistently sold well. By 1999, when Van Halen were put on hold, their eponymous debut album had sold ten million copies. Van Halen was certified diamond, something that happens to only a handful of albums. Meanwhile, Van Halen was continuing to sell well throughout Europe and Canada by 1999.

Van Halen had been certified gold in Britain, Finland, France and Germany. In Canada, Van Halen was certified platinum four times over. When sales were added up, Van Halen had sold just over eleven million copies. However, Van Halen wasn’t the band’s biggest selling album. That honour fell to 1984.

1984.

During the six years since Van Halen released their eponymous debut album, Van Halen were without doubt, the biggest bands in planet rock. Van Halen were certainly the highest paid band in rock music. No wonder. Each album reached a higher chart placing than its predecessor. So, it’s no surprise that Van Halen had sold fourteen million albums in America alone. 1984, however, was a game-changer, in more ways than one.

Behind the scenes, all wasn’t well within Van Halen. David Lee Roth, Van Halen’s charismatic frontman would quit after 1984. In some ways, the writing had been on the wall.

During the recording of Van Halen’s previous album, Diver Down, released in 1982, David, Eddie and producer Rod Templeman had clashed. The problem was, Eddie wanted to make keyboards a prominent part of the Van Halen sound. David and Rod disagreed. Thinking that Van Halen was a democracy, the two men thought the matter was settled. They were wrong.

Despite this, Eddie went ahead and recorded much of Diver Down at his home studio. When the band heard it, it was keyboard heavy rock rubbed shoulders with Van Halen’s trademark sound. Presented with what seemed like a fait accompli, David began to reconsider his position. He was far from happy with Eddie’s sudden discovery and love of synths. For a rock ’n’ roller like David, this was sacrilege. However, David decided to continue with Van Halen…meantime.

Recording of 1984 took place during 1983 at 5150 Studio, in Studio City, California. Van Halen cowrote all of 1984s songs. Michael McDonald however, received a credit for I’ll Wait. Van Halen’s rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony’s thunderous bass set about providing the 1984’s heartbeat. Eddie Van Halen played guitar and keyboards. For the last time, David Lee Roth added vocals. Once 1984 was completed, it was that time again, time for critics to have their say on Van Halen’s sixth album.

When reviews of 1984 were published, mostly, they were positive. As usual, there was the odd dissenting voice. One Napoleonic critic described 1984 as a one sided album. For him, the second side received the consolation prize. What he failed to see, was that side one set the bar high. 

From the instrumental 1984, through the the Van Halen classics Jump and Panama, Van Halen could do wrong. They were well on their way to hitting a home run. Top Jimmy and Drop Dead Legs rounded off side one, and left you wanting more of Van Halen’s heavy rocking music. Everything just dropped into place. Even the synths had their place,  and played their part in a classic album. The fun didn’t stop there.

Hot For Teacher was the perfect way to start side one. An anthemic track, it gave way to I’ll Wait, one of the singles from 1984. Girl Gone Bad was another fist pumping anthem, that showcased what Van Halen were capable. By the time House Of Pain closed 1984 it was apparent that Van Halen had released the second classic album of their career.

1984s fusion of keyboard heavy rock, combined Van Halen’s trademark hard rocking sound proved a winning combination. These two sides of Van Halen resulted in a classic album that would become the biggest selling album of Van Halen’s career.

On its release on January 9th 1984, 1984 started climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number two in the US Billboard 200. This was the highest chart placing of  Van Halen’s six album career. It also became the biggest selling album of  Van Halen’s career. Eventually, 1984 sold twelve million copies. 1984 became Van Halen’s second album to be certified diamond. Elsewhere, 1984 was a huge seller.

In Canada, 1984 was certified five times platinum. Over the Atlantic, 1984 was certified gold in Britain and France. Meanwhile, 1984 was certified platinum in Germany. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

Four singles were released from 1984. Jump reached number one in the US Billboard 100. I’ll Wait then reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100. Panama became the third single to be released from 1984. It reached number two in the US Billboard 200. The final single released from 1984, was Hot For Teacher, which stalled at number fifty-six in the US Billboard 200. By then, 1984 had become Van Halen’s most successful album of their career, and their second classic album. However, it was the end of an era.

Following the release of 1984, David Lee Roth left Van Halen. The disagreements with Eddie Van Halen had taken their toll. Relations had been strained since the recording of Diver Down. Eddie was pro synths, David a died in the wool rock ’n’ roller, wasn’t in favour of this stylistic departure. When the pair couldn’t resolve their disagreements, David called time on his career with Van Halen. 

David had had a good run. Especially since he was originally seen as a stopgap singer. He had failed the original audition. However, David lasted six albums. They sold thirty-six million copies. Not bad for what one critic referred to as a bar band. It would be another twenty-two years before David Lee Roth rejoined Van Halen.

That was during the 2006 reunion of Van Halen. This was their second reunion. However, it took another six years before they recorded an album. A Different Kind of Truth was released in 2006, it was to controversy.

Seven of the songs on A Different Type Of Truth had been demoed in the late seventies, early eighties. However, they were never released. So, when the songs featured on A Different Type Of Truth, Van Halen’s loyal fans weren’t happy. They voted with their feet.

No longer were Van Halen selling millions of albums. Very few groups were. On the release of A Different Type Of Truth, it reached number two on the US Billboard 200 and sold 411,000 copies. This wasn’t even enough for a gold disc. It was changed days from when Van Halen and 1984, released ten and twelve million copies respectively. Music might have changed but Van Halen were still a hard rocking band capable of playing blistering rock music. They do this on their recent live album Tokyo Dome Live in Concert.

Tokyo Dome Live in Concert.

It was on February 5th 2015 that one of the worst kept secrets in music was conformed. Van Halen were about to release the second live album of their career, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert. The concert had been recorded on June 21st 2013, when Van Halen were touring their A Different Type Of Truth album. However, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert was going to be no ordinary album.

Tokyo Dome Live in Concert the announcement read, was going to be a double album, featuring twenty-five tracks. It was released on 31st March 2015, then as part of the Deluxe box set on 13th April 2015. 

After its release, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert started climbing the charts. Quickly, it had reached number twenty in the US Billboard 200. That was early days. Once Van Halen fans hear snippets of Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, the album will keep climbing the charts.

Quite simply, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert features some of Van Halen’s best known songs. Classics and old favourites sit by side, as the original, and classic lineup of Van Halen roll back the years. They might be older, and somewhat worse for years of hard living, but they’re still one of best rock bands on planet rock. That’s the case from the moment they take to the stage.

Opening disc one of Tokyo Dome Live in Concert is Unchained from 1981s Fair Warning. After that, they turn to Runnin’ With The Devil and from their 1978 debut album Van Halen. From there, they turn to She’s The Woman, the first track from 2012 A Different Type Of Truth album. Later, the return to their first classic album Van Halen, for I’m the One and You Really Got Me. Other highlights include Everyone Wants Some from 1981s Woman and Children First, Somebody Get Me a Doctor from Valen II and Hear About It Later from 1981s  Fair Warning. However, Van Halen aren’t finished yet.

Having worked their way through twelve tracks, they return with another thirteen. These tracks are taken from Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning and 1984.  

Dance The Night Away from 1979s Van Halen II kicks disc two of Tokyo Dome Live in Concert. It’s the first of three tracks from Van Halen II. The others are Beautiful Girls and Women in Love. Before then, Van Halen unleash I’ll Wait from 1984, And The Cradle Will Rock from Women and Children First and the anthemic Hot For Teacher. That’s the first of the track from the eighties.

It’s not the last. Romeo Delight from Women and Children First and Mean Street from Fair Warning follow. Then it’s back to the seventies, when Van Halen’s star were on their way to becoming one of rock’s biggest bands.

Beautiful Girls gives way to Ice Cream Man from 1978s Van Halen. Then it’s time for one of Van Halen’s hands in the air anthems, Panama. Van Halen are on a roll. So, they return to their debut album Van Halen, and unleash Eruption and Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love. That leaves Van Halen’s most famous single to close Tokyo Dome Live in Concert. For twenty-five tracks and over two hours, Van Halen at their hard rocking best swagger and strut their way through their second live album, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert. It’s the final album on the four disc box set Deluxe, which was recently released by Rhino.

For anyone unfamiliar with Van Halen’s music, the Deluxe box set is the perfect introduction to their music. It features their two classic albums, Van Halen and 1984. They’re without doubt, the two best albums Van Halen released. 

Van Halen is now recognised as one of the greatest debut albums in rock music history. That is a big statement to make, and looked unlikely back in 1978. Critics slated Van Halen. However, they were in the throes of a love affair with punk and post punk. Later, when the critics reevaluated Van Halen, they realised how wrong they were. By then, it was a multi-platinum album. Eventually, Van Halen sold ten million copies. Somehow, Van Halen surpassed this with 1984.

By 1984, Van Halen had been given a musical makeover by Eddie Van Halen. He introduced synths on 1982s Diver Down. This didn’t please David Lee Roth. Eddie however, wasn’t going to change his mind. So, following the release of 1984, David left Van Halen. The original and classic lineup of Van Halen were no more.

It wasn’t until 2012s A Different Kind of Truth that the original lineup of Van Halen returned to the studio.  A year later, Van Halen were touring A Different Kind of Truth. On June 21st 2013, Van Halen were in Tokyo, ready to record the second live album of their five decade career, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert. It was released on March 31st 2015, and as part of the Deluxe box set on 13th April 2015. Tokyo Dome Live in Concert sees Van Halen, one of the hardest rocking bands in the history of rock, roll back the years. They dig deep into their back-catalogue and unleash a string of classics and old favourites. This includes tracks from Van Halen and 1984, the other two albums on the vinyl edition of the Deluxe box set, which is the perfect introduction to Van Halen, one of the biggest and best selling bands in America’s illustrious  musical history.

VAN HALEN-DELUXE-VINYL EDITION..

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BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE-MANY A MILE.

BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE-MANY A MILE.

There’s much more to Buffy Sainte-Marie than music. That’s just part of the story. Buffy Sainte-Marie is an educator, social activist and visual artist. She was born on February 20th 1941, on the Piapot Cree First Nation Reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada. However, Buffy was later adopted by Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie.

Buffy Sainte-Marie was brought up by her adoptive parents Massachusetts. That’s where Buffy was first exposed to music. She would later make a career out of music, and in 1965, released Many A Mile on Vanguard Records. It’s recently been reissued by Vanguard Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Looking back, it seems almost inevitable that Buffy Sainte-Marie would make a career out of music.

Growing up, Buffy taught herself to play piano and guitar. By the time she was a teenager, Buffy was already writing songs. However, when Buffy left high school, she didn’t embark upon a career in music straight away. Instead, she headed to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Buffy studied for a degree in Oriental philosophy. After graduating, Buffy decided to enrol for a second degree. This time, it was a teaching degree. So by the time Buffy departed the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she had two degrees to her name. By then, Buffy’s musical career was underway.

From the early sixties, Buffy was touring around Canada and America. She played everywhere from coffee houses and concert halls to folk festivals. Two places Buffy played frequently were the Yorkville district of Toronto and Greenwich Village in New York. They were the focal points of the Canadian and American folk scenes. Just like Greenwich Village, the folk scene in Yorkville was vibrant. Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. Just like Buffy, they would go on to enjoy long and illustrious careers. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

In 1963, Buffy suffered from every singer’s worst nightmare, a throat infection. The doctor prescribed Codeine. Unfortunately, Buffy became addicted to Codeine. However, she eventually beat her addiction, and wrote a song about her experience, Cod’in. It would later, be covered by numerous artists, included Janis Joplin, Donavon, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Gram Parsons. By then, Buffy’s recording career would’ve begun. Before that, she was about to become the homecoming queen.  

1964 saw Buffy return to a return trip to where she was born, the Piapot Cree reserve in Canada. She was warmly welcome to her spiritual home. So much so, that she was “adopted”  by the youngest son of Chief Piapot, Emile Piapot and his wife. This reinforced Buffy’s interest in her of her people. She would make them proud a year later.

It’s My Way.

By 1964, Buffy found herself signed to Vanguard Records, which by then, was folk’s premier label. Although she was just twenty-three, Buffy was more than ready to record her debut album, It’s My Way.

For It’s My Way, Buffy had penned twelve tracks. Some she had written many years previously. Others, including Cod’in and Universal Soldier were recent compositions. Buffy was inspired to write Universal Soldier. This came about when Buffy saw the first injured veterans arriving back from Vietnam. The US government were denying that their injuries had happened in Vietnam. This prompted Buffy to pen Universal Soldier in The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto. A year later, in 1965, Universal Soldier gave Donavon a hit single. However, in 1964, Buffy was hoping that her debut album It’s My Way would be a commercial success.

When It’s My Way was released later in 1964, it was to widespread critical acclaim. The songs were a scathing inditement on modern society. They were variously powerful, moving and disturbing. Buffy Sainte-Marie seemed to have struck a nerve. Sadly, this didn’t result in a commercially successful album.

It’s My Way failed to chart. It would only be much later that Buffy Sainte-Marie’s debut album found the audience it deserved. Since then, Buffy Sainte-Marie’s much heralded debut album is regarded as an important musical document. It marked the arrival of a singers-songwriter who would provide a voice for those that didn’t have one.  Buffy Sainte-Marie continued to do this on her sophomore album Many A Mile.

Many A Mile.

Despite the commercial failure of It’s My Way, Buffy Sainte-Marie was regarded as one of the rising stars of folk music. By 1965, she was playing in Canada, America and occasionally abroad. Other artists were beginning to cover her songs, including Donavon, who covered Universal Soldier in 1965. However, what Buffy wanted was to release a successful album.

Just like It’s My Way, Buffy wrote many of the songs on Many A Mile. She penned a total of seven songs, including what would become Buffy’s most famous song, Until It’s Time for You To Go. It would be covered by everyone from Elvis Pressley to Françoise Hardy and Neil Diamond. However, in 1965, it was just one of seven songs Buffy had written for her sophomore album Many A Mile. The others were cover versions.

Among the cover versions were adaptations of traditional songs, including Must I Go Bound, Los Pescadores, Groundhog, On the Banks of Red Roses, Maple Sugar Boy, Lazarus and Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies. Other tracks included covers of Bukka White’s Fixin’ To Die and Patrick Sky’s Many A Mile. These tracks were recorded with producer Maynard Solomon.

When recording of Many A Mile began, Buffy was accompanied by bassist Russ Savakus. Daddy Bones played guitar on The Piney Wood Hills. Patrick Sky made a guest appearance on Many A Mile. Once the fourteen tracks were recorded, Many A Mile was released later in 1965.

Before Many A Mile was released, critics had their say on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s sophomore album. They were impressed by the mixture of traditional songs, cover versions and original material that Buffy had chosen. They were brought to life by Buffy, and producer Maynard Solomon.

For Many A Mile, producer Maynard Solomon decided less is more. His productions are sparse and understated. It’s just bass, guitar and taking centre-stage, Buffy’s vocal. Maynard Solomon’s arrangements aren’t polished. This is deliberate. Instead, they’re roughly hewn. This is fitting, given the material on Many A Mile. 

Five of the tracks on Many A Mile are traditional songs. They were arranged by Buffy. Some of these songs have been passed from generation to generation. When they were first sung, they didn’t have a lavish arrangement. Instead, it would be just traditional instruments, and later a guitar that would accompany the songs. So, Buffy stays true to their roots. With the roughly hewn, sparse arrangements and Buffy’s vocal taking centre-stage, it’s a captivating combination. This includes on Groundhog, where Buffy plays a mouthbow.  It’s a traditional stringed instrument from South Africa. Mostly, though, it’s just guitars and a bass that accompany Buffy.

That’s the case on the seven tracks she wrote. The standout track is Until It’s Time For You To Go. It oozes quality, and it’s no surprise that numerous artists covered this track. Another of Buffy’s compositions on Many A Mile would become a familiar song. That’s The Piney Wood Hills. Buffy later rewrote the song, and it became I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again. It became a favourite of country artists, and is another of Buffy’s most famous songs. Each of the songs she wrote for Many A Mile are brought to life by Buffy.

Buffy doesn’t so much deliver lyrics, she lives them, breathing life, meaning and emotion into them. She does this on each of the fourteen tracks, including the ballads and five traditional songs. Stylistically, she veers between folk, country, blues and Americana, proving that she’s a versatile and talented singer. One of the many highlights is her reading of Bukka White’s Fixin’ To Die. This blues takes on new meaning in Buffy’s hands. Given the quality of Many A Mile, surely it would become Buffy’s breakthrough album?

On its release in 1965, Many A Mile failed to chart. This was disappointing for Buffy and everyone at Vanguard Records. However, success wasn’t far away for Buffy Sainte-Marie.

In 1966, Buffy’s third album, Little Wheel Spin and Spin, proved to be her breakthrough album. It reached number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 200. A year later, and 1967s Fire and Fleet and Candlelight then stalled at number 126 in the US Billboard 200. However, by 1968, Buffy had rewritten That’s The Piney Wood Hills.

The newly rewritten song became I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again. It lent its name to Buffy’s fifth album, which reached just number 171  in the US Billboard 200. Then in 1971, I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again was released as a single and gave Buffy a hit in Britain, Canada and America. While I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again only reached number eighty-six in Canada and ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100, it reached number thirty-four in Britain. By then, Buffy was an experienced singer-songwriter.

Buffy had already released seven studio albums and the soundtrack to Illuminations by 1971. Other artists were covering Buffy’s songs, and enjoying commercial success with her songs. By 1971, Buffy was already a regular on Canadian and American television. She had featured on  American Bandstand, Soul Train, The Johnny Cash Show and The Tonight Show. Buffy Sainte-Marie had come a long way since the release of her sophomore album Many A Mile in 1965. It was recently reissued by Vanguard Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Many A Mile showcases the considerable talents of Buffy Sainte-Marie, whose much more than a singer, songwriter and musicians.

BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE-MANY A MILE.

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LONNIE LISTON SMITH AND THE COSMIC ECHOES-VISIONS OF A NEW WORLD.

LONNIE LISTON SMITH AND THE COSMIC ECHOES-VISIONS OF A NEW WORLD.

Bob Thiele understood musicians. He understood that often, a large record company wasn’t the best environment for musical pioneers and mavericks to thrive. This understanding came from a lifetime in the music industry. His career started in 1969. Thirty years later, in 1969, and Bob Thiele was one of the most powerful men in music.

After eight years running Impulse, and transforming it into one of jazz’s premier labels, Bob Thiele found himself at loggerheads with Larry Newton, the head of ABC Records. It looked as if Bob’s time at ABC was coming to an end. Bob Thiele’s departure from ABC Records was announced 29th April  1969. The man that had run ABC Records’ Impulse and Bluesway was about form  his own record company. 

Flying Dutchman Productions was no ordinary label though. It was a company where innovators, pioneers and mavericks were welcome. Bob Thiele knew, that within the right environment, innovative and maverick musicians could thrive, creating music that’s influential and forward-thinking. So, Bob Thiele went in search of innovators, pioneers and mavericks.

Over the next few years, Flying Dutchman Productions became home to everyone from Ornette Coleman, through Gil Scott Heron, Leon Thomas, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Louis Armstrong and Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes, who signed to Flying Dutchman Productions in 1972.

Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes debut for Flying Dutchman Productions was Astral Travelling. This groundbreaking album was released in 1973, and was the first of five albums Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes released for Bob Thiele’s new label. This was the start of an exciting adventure for the cosmic jazz visionary.

By the summer of 1975, Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes were about to release their fourth album Visions Of A New World, which was recently reissued by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. It was the followup to Expansions, which was Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes breakthrough album. Expansions which was licensed to RCA, sold well, reaching number eight-five in the US Billboard 200, twenty-seven in the US R&B charts and number two in the US Jazz charts.. Radio and club DJs were also spinning tracks from Expansions. Given the success of Expansions, it wasn’t surprising that Bob Thiele sent Lonnie Liston Smith and His Cosmic Echoes into the studio to record Visions Of A New World. For the thirty-five year old Lonnie Liston Smith, he was about to grasp the nettle. This success was what he had been working toward all his life.

For Lonnie Liston Smith, it was almost written in the stars that he’d become a musicians. Lonnie was born in 1940, into a musical family. His father was a member of Richmond Gospel music group the Harmonising Four. Growing up, members of gospel groups The Soul Stirrers and Swan Silvertones were regular visitors to the Smith household. With all this music surrounding him, Lonnie learned piano, tuba and trumpet in High School and college. After college, he headed to Morgan State University.

Inspired by Trane, Bird and Miles Davis, Lonnie embarked upon a degree in musical education. Throughout his time at University, Lonnie continued playing the pianist in local clubs and singing backing vocals. He played with alto saxophonist Gary Bartz and trombonist Graham Moncur. This was all part of Lonnie’s musical eduction. Having completed his BSc in musical education at Morgan State University, Lonnie walked straight into a job.

On leaving Morgan State University, Lonnie got a job with the Royal Theatre’s house band. For a young musician, this was would help turn them into a musical all-rounder. After all, they had to be able to accompany a wide range of artists. For Lonnie, this was the next stage in his musical education. The next part of  his musical education took place in New York.

Having moved to New York, Lonnie was luck enough to get a gig playing piano in Betty Carter’s band. This helped Lonnie get his name known in the Big Apple. Then in early 1965, Lonnie caught a break. He joined Roland Kirk’s band and made his recording debut on March 14th 1965. That was when Here Comes The Whistleman was recorded live in New York Lonnie only played on the title-track, Making Love After Hours, Yesterdays and Step Right Up. Then Lonnie featured on Roland andAl Hibbler’s 1965 live album A Meeting Of The Times. After this Lonnie, joined one of jazz’s top bands.

Over the last few years, The Jazz Messengers had established a reputation for young musicians looking to make a name for themselves. Lonnie joined in 1965. He shared the role with Mick Nock and Keith Jarrett. However, with The Jazz Messengers ever evolving lineup, Lonnie only played three in concerts. These three concerts just so happened to be at the legendary Village Vanguard. For Lonnie, despite the prestigious venue, this must have been a disappointing time. Luckily, he was rehired by Roland Kirk. 

Lonnie  rejoined Roland Kirk’s band in time to play on his 1968 album Now Please Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith. This established Lonnie’s reputation as the go-to-guy for a pianist. It was the start of period where Lonnie worked with some of the most innovative and inventive jazz players. Musical boundaries were about to be pushed to their limits as Lonnie joined Pharaoh Saunders’ legendary free jazz band.

Pharaoh Saunders had worked closely with John Coltrane right up to his death in 1967. The following year, Pharaoh formed a new band. Their music is best described as free jazz. Musical boundaries were pushed to their limits and beyond. Recognising a fellow believer in free jazz, Pharaoh asked Lonnie to join his band. Lonnie went on to play on three of Pharaoh’s best albums. The first of this trio was 1969s Karma. It was followed in 1970 with Jewels of Thought and 1971s Thembi. The other Pharaoh Saunders album Lonnie played on was 1970s Summun Bookman Umyun. which was released on Impulse. Just like the three albums Pharaoh recorded for Flying Dutchman, it was a groundbreaking album.

During this period, Pharaoh and his band were constantly pushing boundaries and rewriting the musical rulebook. Their music was truly groundbreaking. Even Lonnie was challenged. On Thembi, Pharaoh asked Lonnie to play the Fender Rhodes. This was the first time that Lonnie came across an electric piano. However, he rose to challenge and wrote Thembi’s opening track Astral Travelling. Later, Astral Travelling would become synonymous with Lonnie Liston Smith and The Echoes. Before that, Lonnie would play with some of jazz’s mavericks.

One of these mavericks was Gato Barbieri. He’d just signed to Bob Thiele’s nascent label Flying Dutchman Productions. It was establishing a reputation for providing musicians with an environment where innovative and creative musicians could thrive. Bob believed musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, meaning they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. So, Bob signed Gato to Flying Dutchman. Lonnie played on his 1969 debut album The Third World. Bob’s next signing was Leon Thomas and played on his debut album Spirits Known and Unknown. Soon, Lonnie was a regular at Flying Dutchman sessions.

When the time came for Gato to record his 1971 sophomore album Fenix, Lonnie was called upon. He played on Fenix and joined Gato’s band. Lonnie played on Gato’s 1972 album El Pampero. He also toured throughout Europe with Gato. Then came the opportunity of a lifetime. After El Pampero, Lonnie got the chance to work with another jazz legend.

Lonnie was a member of Gato Barbieri’s band when Miles Davis got in touch. He wanted Lonnie to join his band. At this time, Miles’ music was changing direction. The direction it was heading in was funk. Electronic instruments were the flavour of the month for Miles and he was exploring their possibilities. However, Miles was doing this outside the studio environment. That’s why there are very few recordings of Lonnie playing alongside Miles at that time. That came later, when Lonnie would later work with Miles. Meanwhile, Lonnie decided to embark upon his solo career, and record his debut album Astral Travelling.

When recording of Astral Travelling began, Lonnie had put together some of the most talented and innovative musicians. The Cosmic Echoes’ rhythm section included bassist Cecil McBee, drummer David Lee and guitarist Joe Beck. Sonrily Morgan and James Mtume played percussion and conga, Gee Vashi tamboura and Badal Roy tabla. George Barron played tenor and soprano saxophone. Lonnie played piano and electric piano on Astral Travelling which was produced by Bob Thiele. Astral Travelling was released in 1973.

On its release in 1973, Astral Travelling was released to critical acclaim. This was no surprise. Lonnie Liston Smith had worked with some of the biggest names of jazz. It was akin to a musical apprenticeship. Astral Travelling saw Lonnie move from sideman to bandleader. Accompanied by some of the best and most innovative musicians, he had created an ambitious and groundbreaking album. Although Astral Travelling failed to chart, it sold reasonably well upon its release. This bode well for the future. 

The followup to Astral Travelling, Cosmic Funk was released in 1974. Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes’ genre-hopping sophomore album was released to widespread critical acclaim, and sold reasonably well. However, Cosmic Funk wasn’t going to make Lonnie Liston Smith rich. At least word was spreading about this musical visionary. Soon, Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes would be enjoying both commercial success and critical acclaim.

By the time Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes released Expansions in early 1975, Bob Thiele had take Flying Dutchman Productions’ releases to RCA. While this safeguarded Flying Dutchman Productions’ future, RCA weren’t a charity. They wanted sales. Sales was what they got. Expansions reached eight-five in the US Billboard 200, twenty-seven in the US R&B charts and number two in the US Jazz charts. This made Expansions one of Flying Dutchman Productions’ most successful albums. 

Meanwhile, club and radio DJs were spinning tracks from Expansions. Belatedly, Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes were the flavour of the month among DJs, dancers and discerning record buyers. So, it’s no surprise that Bob Thiele sent Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes into the studio again, where they recorded Visions Of A New World.

For Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes’ fourth album, Visions Of A New World, Lonnie penned seven tracks, including Lonnie’s hopeful anthem, A Chance For Peace. The other track, Devika (Goddess) was written by Dave Hubbard and Sarina Grant. These eight tracks were recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York.

At Electric Ladyland Studios, Bob Thiele and Lonnie Liston produced the eight tracks that eventually became Visions Of A New World. Accompanying Lonnie were The Cosmic Echoes. Their rhythm section featured bassist Greg Maker, drummer Art Gore and Wilby Fletcher and guitarist Reggie Lucas. Percussionists included Michael Carvin, Ray Armando, Angel Allende who added bongos and Lawrence Killian who also played congas. Flautist Donald Smith also added vocals on three tracks. The horn section included soprano saxophonist Dave Hubert, trombonist Clifford Adams and trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater. This was a very different lineup of The Cosmic Echoes that featured on Astral Travelling. Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards was the only constant. This constantly evolving lineup didn’t affect the success of Visions Of A New World.

Just like previous albums, critics hailed Visions Of A New World as a groundbreaking album. Lonnie Liston Smith was seen as a musical pioneer, capable of creating innovative and influential music. That music was way ahead of the musical curve. So, it’s no surprise that when Visions Of A New World was released in the summer of 1975, it reached number seventy-four in the US Billboard 200, fourteen in the US R&B charts and number four in the US Jazz charts. Visions Of A New World was Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes’ most successful album. Here’s why.

Opening Visions of a New World is one of Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes’ best known songs, the anthemic A Chance For Peace. Straight away, the rhythm section and guitar lock into a funky, bubbling groove. They’re aided and abetted by Lonnie’s keyboards, plus a myriad of percussion, congas and bongos. They provide the backdrop for Donald Smith’s impassioned, hopeful vocal. Stabs of blazing horns soar above the arrangement, as musical genres seamlessly, melt into one. Then when  Lonnie steps out of the shadows, he delivers a masterclass on the keyboards. It’s Hendrix-esque. Meanwhile, the rest of the band are content to let Lonnie take centre-stage, as the uber funky arrangement flows and bubbles along. Then when Donald’s vocal returns, he combines power and passion, breathing hope and meaning into Lonnie’s lyrics. They prove as relevant in 2015, as  they were forty years ago in 1975.

Love Beams sees the tempo drop, and a smooth, sensual arrangement unfold. That’s the case from the moment “Love Beams” is sung. The rhythm section combine with percussion and Lonnie’s crystalline keyboards. A smooth, sultry horn sounds, before dropping out. From there, Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes take the listener on a journey to a faraway, exotic location, on this sensual, dreamy sounding track.

Subtle flourishes of Lonnie’s keyboards open Colours of the Rainbow. They’re soon joined by Donald Smith’s powerful, impassioned vocal. It soars above the arrangement, as percussion accompanies Lonnie’s keyboards. They fill the spaces on what’s a quite beautiful, hopeful sounding song.

Devika (Goddess) was written by Dave Hubbard and Sarina Grant. Just Greg Maker’s lone bass opens the track. It’s soon joined by drums and percussion and keyboards. However, it’s when Dave Hubbard unleashes his soprano saxophone, the track begins to unfold. Its smooths soulful sound provides the perfect accompaniment to the rest of The Cosmic Echoes. Aided and abetted by Lonnie, they create a bubbling, funky arrangement. Dave’s saxophone steals the show. Partly, it’s because of his ability to improvise. He repeats the rhythm, constantly changing things around. Lonnie delivers a brief solo, and with the help of the rhythm section, keeps the funky vibe bubbling. Lonnie then passes the baton, allowing  other members of the band to showcase their skills. Then Dave delivers a quivering solo, picking up where he left off, as he plays a starring role on Devika (Goddess).

With its slow, dreamy sound Sunset again, conjures up images of somewhere warm and exotic. Lonnie’s keyboards are to the fore, while the rhythm section and percussion combine. Tender harmonies are added as the arrangement literally meanders lazily along. Space is left within the cinematic arrangement, as if inviting the listener to paint pictures with their imagination. That’s not difficult given the quality of the musical backdrop.

Visions of a New World (Phase I) has a big, bold introduction. It comes courtesy of Lonnie’s rumbling piano. Soon, it gives way to Donald Smith’s impassioned vocal. It’s delivered powerfully, and soars high above the arrangement. For two minutes, Lonnie and Donald combine. However, a change is coming.

It comes on Visions of a New World (Phase II). The tempo rises as a funky rhythm section join Lonnie’s keyboards. They take the arrangement in the direction of fusion. Later, horns are added. As one, they blaze above the arrangement. It’s augmented by percussion, bongos and congas. This is very different from Visions of a New World (Phase I). The tempo has risen, and the experimental, free jazz sound is replaced by a hard, driving slice of fusion. It features Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes stretching their legs, and showcasing their considerable skills.

Closing Visions of a New World was Summer Nights. Lonnie’s keyboards dominate the introduction, before the rest of the band are counted in. They create a slow, smooth and meandering arrangement. It comes courtesy of Lonnie’s keyboards, percussion, bongos and congas. Providing a subtle heartbeat are the rhythm section. When all this is combined, the sultry sounding Summer Nights glides along, and proves the perfect way to close Visions of a New World. Summer Nights features Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes at their creating timeless music.

Forty years after Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes released their most successful album, Visions of a New World, the album sounds just as good, as it did in 1975. Visions of a New World is a timeless album. That’s the case with so much groundbreaking music. 

Not only was Visions Of A New World groundbreaking, but commercially successful. That isn’t always the case. Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes first two albums didn’t sell in vast quantities. Neither 1973s Astral Travelling, nor 1974s Cosmic Funk charted. It wasn’t until the release of Expansions in early 1975 that commercial success came Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes’ way. However, Bob Thiele held his nerve, and continued to believe in Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes.

Bob Thiele was rewarded when Expansions reached eight-five in the US Billboard 200, twenty-seven in the US R&B charts and number two in the US Jazz charts. Other labels wouldn’t have been as patient as Bob Thiele. However, he believed in Lonnie Liston Smith, a music innovator who was way ahead of the musical curve. His patience was rewarded again, when Visions Of A New World became Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes’ biggest selling album.

When Visions Of A New World was released in the summer of 1975, it reached number seventy-four in the US Billboard 200, fourteen in the US R&B charts and number four in the US Jazz charts. Visions Of A New World was Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes’ became most successful album. No wonder. The music on Visions Of A New World oozed quality.

Elements of free jazz, funk, fusion, rock, smooth jazz and soul are combined on Visions Of A New World. As a result, the music was innovative and guaranteed to influence other musicians. Lonnie Liston Smith was a leader, not a follower. He released five albums on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions. Each of these albums feature a musical visionary at the peak of his creative powers.

One of Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes’ finest albums is Visions Of A New World, which was recently reissued by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. Visions Of A New World, which is a truly timeless album, along with Astral Travelling, is the perfect introduction to cosmic jazz pioneer, Lonnie Liston and The Cosmic Echoes. 

LONNIE LISTON SMITH AND THE COSMIC ECHOES-VISIONS OF A NEW WORLD.

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SWAMP DOGG-I’M NOT SELLING OUT/I’M BUYING IN.

SWAMP DOGG-I’M NOT SELLING OUT/I’M BUYING IN.

During the sixties, Jerry Williams was for most part, a regular guy. He was a successful singer, songwriter and producer. Mostly, Jerry Williams was content to help other people become stars. He wrote songs, played on their albums and produced their music. Then, as the sixties drew to a close, Jerry Williams dropped acid. It was a life changing experience.   

The Doors of Perception, as Aldous Huxley said, had been opened. Jerry Williams changed. Psychedelics became his drug of choice. This stimulated his creativity. However, he desperately needed an outlet for this heightened creativity. So he adopted an alter ego Swamp Dogg. He was obsessed by sex, drugs, politics, culture and class. All these subjects came out in his music. His music was funny, prickly, gritty, acerbic and angry. Often, politicians felt the wrath of Swamp Dogg. For the newly enlightened Jerry Williams, his debut album Total Destruction Of Your Mind introduced the world to Swamp Dogg, whose 1981 album I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In was recently reissued Takoma, an imprint of Ace Records.

When Total Destruction Of Your Mind was released in 1970, the album failed to chart. It seemed, that record buyers didn’t seem to understand Swamp Dogg’s unique brand of gonzo soul. Then when Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe was released as a single, it reached number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. This was a small crumb of comfort. Sadly, most people had overlooked a groundbreaking album. Total Destruction Of Your Mind featured Swamp Dogg at his most creative.

At the time, Swamp Dogg was compared to Sly Stone. The two men vied for the title of the most creative and innovative man in soul music. Their careers took very different directions during the first half of the seventies. However, by then, Swamp Dogg had been making music since he was twelve.

The future Swamp Dogg was born Jerry Williams in March 1942, in Portsmouth, Virginia. From an early age, Jerry Williams was immersed in music. His parents weaned their son on country music. However, the young Jerry Williams wasn’t just listening to music he released his first single when he was twelve.

Little Jerry Williams released HTD Blues (Hardsick Troublesome Downout Blues) on the Mechanic label in 1954. Despite his tender years, Little Jerry Williams penned his debut single. He wasn’t just a songwriter though. Soon, Jerry Williams would become a multi-instrumentalist. 

By the time Jerry Williams turned eighteen, his musical career began in earnest. He released singles on a regular basis. His 1964 single I’m The Lover Man, which was a Jerry Williams composition, was picked up by the Loma label. While it wasn’t the success many forecast, commercial success came in 1966.

When  Jerry Williams released Baby You’re My Everything, in 1966, it reached number thirty-two in the US R&B charts. This was the first of a string of singles Jerry Williams released for Calla. They didn’t match the success of Baby You’re My Everything. So Jerry Williams forged a career as a songwriter, musician and producer. He was content to turn other musicians into stars. 

Jerry Williams was happy to carve out a niche as a songwriter, musician and producer until the late sixties. Much of the time, Jerry Williams worked at Atlantic.Then came the day Jerry Williams dropped acid. No longer was Jerry Williams willing to remain a star-maker, he wanted to become a star. That was when Jerry Williams’ outrageous alter ego, Swamp Dogg was born.

Total Destruction Of Your Mind was released on the Canyon label in 1970, and introduced the world to Swamp Dogg. While the album didn’t sell in vast quantities, critics realised that Swamp Dogg was a mixture of musical maverick and innovator. Soon, comparisons were being made with Sly Stone, who was enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim.

Back in 1966, when Jerry Williams enjoyed a hit with Baby You’re My Everything, Sly and The Stone didn’t even exist. They were formed in 1967, while Swamp Dogg was enjoying a successful career as a producer. When Sly and The Stone released their debut album, it would’ve taken a brave man to forecast that by 1970, Sly Stone would be one of the biggest names in music. 

Sly and The Family Stone released their debut album in A Whole New Thang in October 1967. However, the album failed to chart. This was an inauspicious start for Sly Stone’s new band. Things weren’t going to plan.

Then in April 1968, Dance To The Music reached number 142 in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B charts. Things were looking up. However, when Sly and The Family Stone released Life in September 1968, it stalled at number 195. This wasn’t what had been forecast for a man who was being hailed as one of music’s innovators.

Things improved in 1969, when Sly and The Family Stone released Stand! It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200, and number three in the US R&B charts. This resulted in Sly and The Family Stone’s first platinum disc.Around this time, Swamp Dogg had a chemical awakening, when he dropped acid.

A year later, and Swamp Dogg released his Total Destruction Of Your Mind. This was when Swamp Dogg was first compared to Sly Stone. They were both mavericks and innovators, capable of releasing groundbreaking music. However, their fortunes varied hugely. 

Total Destruction Of Your Mind didn’t sell well upon its release. However, when Sly and The Family Stone released their Greatest Hits album in November 1970, it sold five million copies, and was certified platinum five times over. For the next five years, this was a familiar pattern.

In November 1971, Sly and The Family Stone released There’s A Riot Goin’ On was certified platinum. There’s A Riot Goin’ On was hailed an instant classic. Gone was the psychedelic soul of previous Sly and The Family Stone albums. Replacing it was a darker, funky and soulful sound. Meanwhile, Swamp Dogg had signed to a major.

Swamp Dogg signed to Elektra in 1971. They saw the potential in Swamp Dogg. Executives at Elektra realised Swamp Dogg, they was one of music’s innovators. Elektra expected great things from Swamp Dogg. What they got was an album that entered the musical history books.

When Swamp Dogg released Rat On, his Elektra debut in 1971, it featured what’s now seen as one of the worst album covers ever. Rat On featured Swamp Dog sitting on top of a giant rat. This was slightly off-putting, and possibly, detracted from the music. Rat On, which featured Swamp Dogg at his creative zenith, didn’t sell well. As a result, Swamp Dogg was dropped by Elektra. It was a case of what might have been.

Sadly, Swamp Dogg’s dalliance with a major label was brief. Now he was back to square one. He released his next two albums on smaller labels. 1972s Cuffed, Collared and Tagged was released on Cream Records, while 1973s Gag A Maggott was released on Stone Dogg. Neither album sold well. Meanwhile, Sly Stone was one of the most successful men in music. 

The success story that was Sly and The Family Stone continued apace. Fresh released in June 1973, gave Sly and The Family Stone their third consecutive number one in the US R&B charts. Just like Small Talk, which was released in July 1974, Fresh was certified gold. Good news also came Swamp Dogg’s way in 1974. Island Records wanted to sign him.

After releasing his last two albums on smaller labels, Swamp Dogg was back where his talents belonged, at one of the music’s bigger labels. Island Records was then home to everyone from Bob Marley to John Martin. Joining that list was Swamp Dogg in 1974. Sadly, his time was brief.

Have You Heard This Story?? was released on Island Records in 1974. It was Swamp Dogg’s fifth solo album. However, it was a familiar story. Commercial success eluded Swamp Dogg and he was dropped by Island Records. Meanwhile, Sly and The Family Stone had split-up. This looked like the end of the road for Swamp Dogg’s creative rival. 

Sly Stone, was determined to carry on.While 1975s High On You and 1976s Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back were credited to Sly and The Family Stone, it featured a very different lineup. The other change was Sly Stone himself. Years of hard living had caught up with him. He was no longer the musical giant he once was. Neither High On You nor Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back reached the heights of Sly and The Family Stone’s previous albums. However, Sly Stone had had a good run. Between 1969 and 1974, Sly and The Family Stone sold eight million albums. With Sly Stone out of the running, the coast was clear for Swamp Dogg to unleash his creativity. 

Ever since the release of Total Destruction To Your Mind, Swamp Dogg had been releasing groundbreaking and genre-melting music. However, none of the albums sold well. With Sly Stone no longer making music, there was a musical void needing filled. Swamp Dogg was ready to fill that void.

In 1976, Swamp Dogg released not one, but two albums. This included the ironically titled ?? Greatest Hits ??? on the Stone Dogg label. The irony was, that Swamp Dogg had only one minor hit single, and the album  contained mostly, new material. This appealed to Swamp Dogg’s humour. However, the album didn’t sell well. Neither did You Ain’t Never Too Old To Boogie, which released on DJM. Swamp Dogg’s decision to jump onboard the disco bandwagon hadn’t paid off. After seven solo albums, Swamp Dogg was at a musical crossroads.

Each of the seven albums Swamp Dogg released didn’t sell in huge quantities. Quite the opposite. However, it didn’t help that many of the albums were released on small labels. That was the case with the two albums Swamp Dogg released in 1977. An Opportunity… Not A Bargain!!! was released on the Wizard label, while Finally Caught Up With Myself was released on Musicor. Again, neither album sold well. These albums were the last albums Swamp Dogg released during the seventies.

It wasn’t until 1980, that Swamp Dogg resurfaced. He decided to record a disco album. So he put together an experienced band, which featured many musicians who were familiar with the “disco” sound. They recorded Doing A Party Tonite, in L.A. where Swamp Dogg had been living for a couple of years. Once the album was recorded, Cream Records agreed to release the album.

By the time Doing A Party Tonite was scheduled for release in 1980, disco was dead. This presented Cream Records with a problem. However, they decided to release Doing A Party Tonite, but only in France. When it hit the shelves of French record shops, Doing A Party Tonite failed to ignite the excitement of record buyers. It was one of the least successful albums of Swamp Dogg’s career. Swamp Dogg was down, but not out.

While Swamp Dogg was a talented and experienced singer, songwriter, musicians and producer, he couldn’t catch a break. This must have been soul destroying. Swamp Dogg was thirty-eight, and had been making music since 1954. He hadn’t a lot to show for thirty-six years of music. He only had two minor hits to his name. However, in 1981, Swamp Dogg released the eleventh album of his career, I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In.

It had been four years since Swamp Dogg released an album in America. His dalliance with disco had proved disastrous commercially. So, Swamp Dogg decided to return to more familiar musical territory.

For what was Swamp Dogg’s comeback album, he penned Swamping Salutations, Wine, Women And Rock ‘N’ Roll, The Love We Got Ain’t Worth Two Dead Flies, A Hundred And and Sexy Sexy Sexy # 3. Swamp Dogg cowrote the other four tracks. He cowrote Low Friends In High Places and otal Destruction To Your Mind Once Again with Tony Davis. California Is Drowning And I Live Down By The River was a Swamp Dogg and Yvonne Williams composition. They joined with Maurice McCormick and O. Jessie to pen Just A Little Time Left. These nine tracks became I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In.

When recording of I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In began, Swamp Dogg was joined by a band featuring West Coast musicians. The rhythm section featured drummers Carlos (Corky) Carraby and Willie Ornelas, bassist Kenny Lewis and guitarist Bob Ettol, who also played sitar. They were joined by percussionist King Errisson and Nate Morgan on electric piano and organ. Flautist Dashiell Humdy also played tenor saxophone. He was joined in the horn section by trombonists lvin Stanton and Terry Carter; plus trumpeters Gabriell Flemings, Hank Ballard, Jr. William Barnes. Swamp Dogg played piano and co-produced I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In with Yvonne Williams. Once the album was completed, it was ready for release later in 1981.

When Swamp Dogg released I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In, it came complete with the Swamp Dogg cookbook. This gimmick was Swamp Dogg’s way of making the album stand out from the crowd. Sadly, this didn’t work, when I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In failed to attract the attention of critics and record buyers. Swamp Dogg’s comeback album hadn’t been the success he had hoped for. To rub salt into Swamp Dogg’s wounds, Chrysalis who owned Takoma, sold the label in 1982. For Swamp Dogg, this as a disappointing period in his career, one that produced an underrated album I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In.

When Swamp Dogg released I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In, it came complete with the Swamp Dogg cookbook. This gimmick was Swamp Dogg’s way of making the album stand out from the crowd. Sadly, this didn’t work, when I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In failed to attract the attention of critics and record buyers. Swamp Dogg’s comeback album hadn’t been the success he had hoped for. To rub salt into Swamp Dogg’s wounds, Chrysalis who owned Takoma, sold the label in 1982. For Swamp Dogg, this as a disappointing period in his career, one that produced an underrated album I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In.

Opening I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In is Swamping Salutations. It’s just a thirteen second welcome from Swamp Dogg. He combines with the rhythm section and guitar, to give the listener a taste of what’s about to unfold.

Wine, Women and Rock ’N’ Roll literally bursts into life, picking up where Swamping Salutations left off. The rhythm section and searing guitars combine with a boogie woogie piano. They provide the backdrop for Swamp Dogg, as he delivers a joyous vocal about the good things in life. In Swamp Dogg’s case, that’s “Wine, Women and Rock ’N’ Roll.” Accompanied by harmonies and a tight band, Swamp Dogg unleashes a slice of upbeat, good time music.

The tempo drops on It’s Just A Little Time Left, and a much more serious Swamp Dogg takes centre-stage. A piano and acoustic guitar set the scene for Swamp Dogg, as he delivers lyrics full of social comment. Gradually, the arrangement grows, as a bass, Hammond organ and piano enter. They’re then joined by horns.Together, they frame Swamp Dogg’s impassioned, heartfelt vocal. When his vocal briefly drops out, the band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs. Then when Swamp Dogg returns, hope fills his voice as he sings of his hopes for the future, a future that includes a better, more equal America.

The Love We Got Ain’t Worth Two Dead Flies sees Swamp Dogg joined by Esther Phillips. Swamp Dogg had tried to rejuvenate her career a few years earlier. By 1981, Esther Phillips was signed to Mercury. Esther’s voice is still instantly recognisable. It’s much more lived-in, but Esther and Swamp Dogg, feed off each other during, the jaunty, disco lite arrangement. While Esther delivers a feisty, sassy vocal stabs of horns are added. Meanwhile, the rhythm section adds a funky backdrop. A distant Fender Rhodes is panned left, and a piano panned right. They frame Esther’s vocal, as she rolls back the years on what’s a real hidden gem from her discography.

Straight away, it’s obvious that Low Friends In High Places is one of I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In’s highlights. A pounding, dramatic rhythm rhythm section and sitar set the scene for Swamp Dogg’s angry, frustrated vocal. Not for the first time, he turns his attention to nepotism and corruption. Sadness, fills his voice as he delivers the lyrics. Stabs of piano and braying horns punctuate the arrangement. Harmonies augment Swamp Dogg’s impassioned, angry vocal, on a track where hooks haven’t been rationed.

A Hundred And bursts into life, taking I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In in the direction of the dance-floor. Soon, gospel soul, funk and disco are combining. Accompanying the vocal are a bass and funky guitar. They join the drums in powering the arrangement along. Add to that, piano, swathes of dancing strings and rasping horns, and everything is in place for an irresistible disco track. This is because the album was recorded when disco was still popular. Much had changed by the time I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In was released. Disco had “died” two years earlier. However, thirty-four years later, and A Hundred And would still fill a dance-floor.

The album that launched Swamp Dogg’s career Total Destruction To Your Mind. The track was also one of the highlights of the album. Eleven years later, and Swamp Dogg picks up the story on Total Destruction To Your Mind. Nothing has changed he believes. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, guitar, piano and sitar provide a funky, dance-floor friendly backdrop. Later, stabs of horns are added. They add to the what’s a fusion of Blaxploitation, disco and soul. It’s a captivating combination of musical genres, which a few years earlier, might have given Swamp Dogg that elusive hit single.

Just a tack piano opens the dramatic sounding California Is Drowning And I Live Down By The River. They were penned by Swamp Dogg and his wife Yvonne Williams. As flourishes of piano play, an angry, frustrated vocal about California’s failings is unleashed. By then, a boogie shuffle is developing. The bass walks the arrangement along, while drums create a hypnotic beat. Boogie woogie piano and stabs of horns are added. This is the perfect for lyrics that are a mixture of frustration, anger, cynicism and satire. They’ve Swamp Dogg’s name written all over them.

Sexy Sexy Sexy # 3 closes I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In. It sees Swamp Dogg head to the dance-floor again. There’s a nod to Joe Tex, as Swamp Dogg vamps and struts his way through the lyrics. More in jest though. It’s as if Swamp Dogg is poking fun at the overblown soul men of the seventies, They took themselves too seriously. Not Swamp Dogg. With the

rhythm section combining with keyboards and a guitar, they provide a funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly arrangement. So do the tabs of horns punctuate the arrangement. They accompany Swamp Dogg, as his one and only album for Takoma I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In, draws to a close.

Sadly, when I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In was released in 1981, the album failed commercially. There’s a reason for this. A number of the songs on I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In have a disco sound. That’s not a surprise. They were recorded during the disco era. However, by the time I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In was released in 1981, the disco era was over. 

Despite this, when Swamp Dogg approached Takoma with an album that featured four disco tracks, they agreed to release the album. That’s surprising, as disco albums were no longer selling. So much so, that very few labels even released disco. However, I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In was more than disco.

Alongside disco, was funk, gospel, R&B and soul. The few people who bought I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In, discovered an album that was huge fun. It was just as eclectic as previous Swamp Dogg albums. However, just like previous Swamp Dogg albums, I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In sold badly. Unlike Sly Stone, Swamp Dogg never reached the heights his talents deserved.

That’s despite Swamp Dogg and Sly Stone both being hugely talented, creative and innovative musicians. They both released groundbreaking music. However, Sly Stone spent most of his career signed to small labels. Only twice did he release an album on a major label. Sadly, neither were a commercial success. Swamp Dogg never got the chance to redeem himself. Instead, he was cut loose, and ended up drifting from label to label.

By 1981, Swamp Dogg was signed to Takoma, which is now an imprint of Ace Records. Takoma recently reissued I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In, which finds Swamp Dogg combining social comment and hooks. The result is I’m Not Selling Out/I’m Buying In, an underrated album of good time music from soul music’s social conscience, Swamp Dogg.

SWAMP DOGG-I’M NOT SELLING OUT/I’M BUYING IN.

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ASTRID WILLIAMSON-WE GO TO DREAM.

ASTRID WILLIAMSON-WE GO TO DREAM.

Despite just releasing her sixth album, We Go To Dream, Astrid Williamson is still one of music’s best kept secrets. That’s despite a career that’s spanned three decades. Astrid Williamson’s career began in Glasgow, where the Shetland born singer was studying music.

Astrid Williamson was born in 1971, and brought up in the beautiful Shetland Islands, in Scotland. On leaving school, Astrid Williamson headed to the the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy Of Music. By the time she graduated, in the early nineties, Astrid Williamson had cofounded Goya Dress with Simon Pearson and Terry de Castro.

Goya Dress were a Glasgow based indie rock band. The lineup featured bassist Terry de Castro, drummer Simon Pearson and Astrid Williamson on guitar, piano and vocals. They signed to Nude Records, and released the first of four E.P.s in 1995.

Now signed to Nude Records, Goya Dress released their Bedroom Cinema E.P in 1995. It was produced by Tristin Norwell, and was well received  by critics. So, later in 1995, Goya Dress released their sophomore E.P. 

For their sophomore E.P. a new producer was drafted in. Mark Freegard was the man chosen to produce the Ruby E.P. It featured a string quartet, which was arranged by Astrid. Her classical training was coming in useful. While the Ruby E.P. was very different to much of the music released in 1995, Goya Dress were seen as rising stars of the indie scene.

Rooms.

1996 proved to be the biggest year of Goya Dress’ career. That was the year they released their debut album Rooms. It was produced by John Cale. Nude Records it seemed were backing Goya Dress every step of the way.

The decision to bring onboard John Cale seemed a masterstroke. Previously, the former Velvet Underground bassist had worked with countless bands, including many up-and-coming bands. He came with a wealth of experience, and was a progressive and pioneering producer. If anyone could bring out the best in Goya Dress, it was John Cale.

Rooms was released in 1996. Critics were won over by Goya Dress’ distinctive style. Their brand of indie rock struck a nerve with critics. Things were looking good for Goya Dress.

When Rooms was released in 1996, the album wasn’t a commercial success. Nor was the lead single Crush. For Goya Dress and Nude Records this was a huge disappointment. However, nobody knew who disappointed Goya Dress were.

Later in 1996, Goya Dress released their Glorious E.P. This proved to be Goya Dress’ swan-song. Not long after the release of the Glorious E.P. Goya Dress split-up, and Astrid embarked upon her solo career.

Boy For You.

After Goya Dress split-up, Astrid Williamson decided to embark upon a solo career. She signed to Nude Records, the label Goya Dress had been signed to. Then Astrid as she was now billed as, began work on her debut album.

Astrid penned the ten tracks that would become Boy For You. With her band in tow, which at the time, featured the two other former members of Goya Dress, Astrid headed into the studio. Producer Malcolm Burn guided Astrid through the recording of her debut album Boy For You. It was released in 1998.

Before the release of Boy For You, critics had their say on Astrid’s debut album. It was described as beautiful, ethereal and haunting. Boy For You was a captivating and spine tingling album. Sadly, it wasn’t a huge commercial success. Nor were the singles I Am The Boy For You and Hozanna. However, it was only Astrid’s debut album. There was plenty of time for success to come her way.

Astrid Williamson’s next recording was with Stephan Eicher on his album Louanges. It was released in 1999. By then, the Swiss singer-songwriter was an experienced artist. Louanges was Stephan Eicher’s tenth album. So, Astrid was able to learn from the veteran singer. This was the case with her next recording.

In 2000, Astrid was asked to sing backing vocals on Twisted Tenderness. This was the third release by Electronic. They were formed in 1988, by former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner of New Order. Astrid was rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in music. This was good experience for her sophomore album. 

Astrid.

There were five years between the release of Boy For You in 1998, and Astrid in 2003. By then, Astrid was recording as Astrid Williamson, to avoid confusion with a group also called Astrid. However, it wasn’t just a new name Astrid had.

While Boy For You was released on Nude Records, Astrid was released on Astrid’s own label, Incarnation Records. Astrid had founded the label after leaving Nude Records. It would release Astrid’s next two albums, including Astrid, which was recorded in Brighton.

Recording of ten of the tracks on Astrid took place at the Milkhouse, Brighton. Astrid was produced by Robert White. Gone was the band that featured on Boy For You. They were replaced by multi-instrumentalist Robert White. He took charge of synths and programming. The only other musician to feature on Astrid was Terry Bickers, who played guitars and harmonica. Astrid looked like the start of a new era for Astrid Williamson.

History seemed to repeat itself when Astrid was released in 2003. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim. While Astrid was a stylistic departure for Astrid Williamson, her new sound suited her. Sadly, when Astrid was released in 2003, it wasn’t a huge success. While fans of Astrid Williamson bought her sophomore album, she was struggling to win over new fans. That wasn’t going to be easy, given she was on a small label. However, with artists relying more and more on the internet, the future was bright for Astrid.

Day Of The Lone Wolf.

Another three years passed before Astrid Williamson released her third album, Day Of The Lone Wolf in 2006. By then, Astrid had signed a contract where her Incarnation Records licensed its releases to One Little Indian. They were one of the bigger independent labels, and had the marketing power that Astrid needed.

The licensing deal wasn’t the only change Astrid had made. She decided to produce her third album. This made sense. Astrid had been around studios for eleven years and watched various producers at work. However, she kept former producer Robert White onboard as engineer. He was always there if she needed guidance. However, Astrid’s decision to produce Day Of The Lone Wolf was noticeable.

Just like Astrid, Day Of The Lone Wolf didn’t feature a large band. That was a thing of the past. Especially since Astrid was able to play guitar, piano and synths. She was also able to program. This opened up a world of opportunities. Rather than use musicians, Astrid could program virtual instruments. This was, after all, the era of digital audio workstation. Albums could be recorded at home. However, Astrid didn’t turn her back on “real” musicians. She brought in a rhythm section, strings and percussion. They added some soul to Day Of The Lone Wolf. It was ready for release in 2006.

Prior to the release of Day Of The Lone Wolf, critics had their say on Astrid Williamson’s long-awaited third album. No wonder it had taken so long to record. Astrid Williamson had written, arranged, produced and played many of the instruments on Day Of The Lone Wolf. She also added her haunting, breathy and ethereal vocals. Critics hailed Day Of The Lone Wolf as Astrid Williamson’s finest album. One track stood out, the haunting Superman 2.

It just happened to be the lead single from Day Of The Lone Wolf. The followup was Shhh. Sadly, neither of the singles nor Day Of The Lone Wolf were hugely successful. While Astrid Williamson’s fan-base was expanding, she still wasn’t enjoying the commercial success her talent deserved. However, Astrid Williamson wasn’t going to give up. 

Here Come The Vikings.

Now based in Brighton, Astrid sought inspiration from home, for the title of her fourth album. During the late 8th and 9th centuries, the Shetland Islands were colonised by the Vikings. Astrid’s fourth album title seemed to be referencing her homeland’s past. So could the closing track, The Stars Are Beautiful. On a clear night in unspoiled and beautiful Shetland Islands, The Stars Are Beautiful. This was one of ten tracks that became Here Come The Vikings.

Written and produced by Astrid Williamson, Here Come The Vikings featured the Shetland siren at her sensual best. Against a backdrop of guitars and piano, Astrid’s vocal veers between seductive, needy, hopeful and frustrated as she sings about love, lust, loss and regret. She even quotes poet Walt Whitman on Sing the Body Electric, which closes Here Come The Vikings. It’s an album of sensual, emotive and cerebral pop that should’ve brought Astrid Williamson to the attention of music lovers everywhere.

Just like Astrid Williamson’s previous albums, Here Come The Vikings was released to widespread critical acclaim. Astrid Williamson, it seemed improved with age. She was the musical equivalent of a fine wine, and Here Come The Vikings was a vintage. 

Despite its undoubted quality, still chart success eluded Astrid Williamson with Here Come The Vikings. While each album sold well, it seemed that Astrid Williamson was destined to be forever a singer that flew under the musical radar. That was unless she signed to a major. Sadly, that was beginning to seem unlikely. Either that, or Astrid Williamson changed direction musically.

Pulse.

After four albums where Astrid Williamson carved a niche combining pop and alt rock, a performance at the 2010 Brighton Festival saw the Shetland born singer change direction musically.

This came about when Astrid saw Leo Abrahams perform as part of Brian Eno’s Pure Scenius project at the 2010 Brighton Festival. She was captivated by the former Roxy Music guitarist’s performance. From that moment on, Astrid knew she had to work with Leo. 

So, Astrid sent the first of dozens of demos to Leo Abrahams. Eventually, he relented and agreed to work with Astrid. The result was Astrid Williamson’s fifth album Pulse.

Pulse featured ten tracks penned by Astrid Williamson. These soundscapes were produced by Astrid Williamson and Leo Abrahams. The result was Pulse, where Astrid Williamson changes direction musically, a genre-melting album. It was released in 2011, a year after Astrid met Leo.

When critics heard Pulse, they were impressed by Astrid Williamson’s “new sound.” It was variously ethereal, eerie, haunting, intimate, lush, mesmeric and spacey. Elements of ambient, dream pop, electronica, folk, shoe gaze and techno are combined over ten tracks. While it was very different to Astrid Williamson’s previous albums, it oozed quality and introduced her music to a new audience on its release in 2011. However, since then, Astrid Williamson’s loyal fan-base have wondered what direction her next album will take? Will it feature the old or new Astrid Williamson? After four years of waiting, We Go To Dream, was recently released licensed to One Little Indian who released Astrid Williamson’s sixth album.

We Go To Dream.

Four years after the release of Pulse, Astrid Williamson made a very welcome return with We Go To Dream. It features eleven new tracks. Each of these tracks were penned by Astrid Williamson. She recorded these tracks with a small, but talented band.

Given that Astrid Williamson is almost a one-woman band, she doesn’t need to bring onboard many musicians. Astrid plays autoharp, fiddle, guitars, piano, Rhodes Piano, synths and adds vocals. She also arranges strings. The rhythm section features drummer Christian Parsons, bassist Richard Yale and Steve Parker on electric guitar. James Orr takes care of drum programming, and plays synths and keyboard Jamie Orr. Violinist Cye Woods makes a guest appearance on Vermillion, a beautiful ballad. It’s one of the We Go To Dream’s many highlights, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening We Go To Dream is the title-track. It showcases Astrid Williamson’s “new sound.” A myriad of beeps and squeaks are joined by slow, pounding, mesmeric beats and a slow, wistful piano. They set the scene for Astrid’s tender, breathy vocal. It’s joined by strings. As they sweep, a bass probes and a roll or drums are added. Astrid’s phrasing is slow and deliberate as if she’s considering every word. Her vocal is multi-tracked, so she adds spacey harmonies. By then the arrangement has grown, and has become a beautiful, dreamy soundscape featuring the new Astrid Williamson.

A buzzing bass synth is joined by beeps and squeaks on Loaded Like a Gun. Soon, an eerie vocal is sung through a vocoder. It’s aided and abetted by thunderous beats. They accompany Astrid as she heads for the dance-floor. Soon, Astrid becomes a dance-floor diva. Synths, keyboards and beats are combined. Add to this, a healthy supply of poppy hooks and Astrid’s cerebral lyrics. Her lyrics chastise violence and false prophets, as a dance-floor anthem unfolds. This is an anthem with a difference, as the lyrics have a substance, something lacking in most dance music.

Washes of spacey synths shimmer into the distance on Hide In Your Heart. They’re soon joined by broken beat drums, keyboards and waves of lysergic, space-age synths. They provide the perfect backdrop for the haunting beauty of Astrid’s dreamy vocal. Later, snarling synth are added to the broken beat drums. One thing stays the same…the quality of Astrid’s vocal as she sings: “I just wanna hide, hide in your heart, we should be together.” Seamlessly, disparate musical genres, including broken beat, dream pop and electronica combine as Astrid Williamson showcases her versatility.

There’s another change of direction on Vermillion, a truly beautiful ballad. It features Astrid delivering a heartfelt, breathy vocal. She’s accompanied by an autoharp, piano, guitar and Rhodes Piano. They’re all played by Astrid. The only other musician to feature on Vermillion is violinist Cye Woods. She adds beautiful, haunting strings. They prove to be the perfect foil for Astrid. So does the autoharp and harmonies. Each of these instruments play their part in what’s without one of the highlights of We Go To Dream. I’ll go much further, and say that Vermillion is one of the most heartachingly beautiful songs Astrid has recorded during her seventeen year recording career.

Big, bold, spacey beats are joined by otherworldly synths on Ambienza. They’re soon joined by a dreamy, ethereal vocal from Astrid. It floats in and out of the arrangement. So do spacey keyboards. Reverb is added, creating the spacey sound. The reverb is also added to Astrid’s vocal, giving a similar spacey sound. It’s cocooned amidst washes of synths, while the mesmeric beats and keyboards add to Ambienza’s ambient, lysergic and dreamy sound. 

It seems with each track, Astrid Williamson changes direction. This shows how versatile she is. Scattered however, features Astrid at her best. It’s a piano lead ballad with some of the best lyrics on We Go To Dream. They’re about being unable to escape the “control” of an unhealthy relationship. As Astrid sings: “I wish I was braver, I wash I were wise, but my heart still turns over, when I look in your eyes.” They’re part of a captivating, thoughtful song; one that made all the better for the understated arrangement. It allows Astrid’s vocal to take centre-stage, and the listener to focus on the lyrics. Their among the best Astrid has ever written. She seems to be maturing as a songwriter with every album.

Say Goodbye sees Astrid head to the dance-floor again. This is a song that sounds as if it was recorded in Munich, by Giorgio Moroder. Drums take the tempo to 124 beats per minute. This is dance-floor friendly. Synths, keyboards and bass are added. They provide the backdrop for Astrid as she metamorphoses into a dance-floor diva. She jumps on what’s like a musical roller coaster. There’s occasional rises and falls in the tempo. The best example is at the end, where the arrangement is stripped bare, leaving just keyboards and Astrid’s pensive vocal. Not only is Say Goodbye dance-floor friendly, but ripe for a remix.

Against a haunting, minimalist arrangement, Captured begins to unfold. Astrid scats before a piano plays slowly and poignantly. Soon, beats are added and a fiddle. It adds an atmospheric sound. By then, Astrid is adding an impassioned, hopeful vocal, singing: “set me free.” She does this against an arrangement that’s atmospheric, haunting and spacey. Just like Say Goodbye, Captured could be remixed and transformed into something even Astrid never imagined.

Synths almost tick as Astrid delivers an ethereal vocal Home. Soon, a curveball is added. Thunderous beats are added. So are strings and keyboards. By then, Astrid’s vocal is a scat, before being swept away atop the choppy keyboards and pounding beats. She’s singing: “take me home again, wrap me up again, take me home again.” As Astrid sings hopefully, strings sweep urgently and another uplifting and dance-floor friendly anthem unfolds. 

My Beautiful Muse is very different from Home. It’s a thoughtful ballad, where electronica, folk and pop combines. The lyrics are quite beautiful. Especially the poignancy of: “standing there in your cast of dress, don’t ever think that you are less, cause falling in love, is not something that can be bought.” Astrid delivers the lyrics against a melancholy arrangement. Drums are to the fore, while swells of strings also play a leading role. Augmenting the drums and strings are electric guitars and keyboards. They frame Astrid’s heartfelt, sage like vocal.

Closing We Go To Dream is Saint Saviour. It’s a thoughtful, piano lead ballad. It’s built around the lyrics: “oh Saint Saviour, what do you know? won’t you take me now, or will you let me go.” Poignant, thoughtful, wistful and ultimately beautiful, it’s the perfect way to close We Go To Dream.

It’’s always risky leaving four years between albums. There’s the possibility that the artist will be forgotten about. While that’s happened to many up-and-coming bands, it wasn’t going to happen to Astrid Williamson. She had just reinvented herself with Pulse, her fifth album, released in 2011. 

Pulse was the most eclectic album of Astrid Williamson’s career. Everything from ambient, dream pop, electronica, folk, shoe gaze and techno were combined by Astrid Williamson. She takes this even further on We Go To Dream. It’s without doubt, the most eclectic album of Astrid Williamson’s six album career.

From the opening bars We Go To Dream, right through to the closing notes of Saint Saviour, Astrid Williamson combines a disparate and eclectic selection of musical genres. There’s the folk, pop and rock or Astrid’s first four albums. However, there’s diversions via ambient, broken beat, dream pop, Euro disco, electronica, house and even a hint of psychedelia. There’s something for everyone. 

For DJs and dancers, there’s anthems like Loaded Like a Gun, Say Goodbye and Home. Then there’s the ambient sound of We Go To Dream, Ambienza and Captured. Captured has a haunting sound, while Hide In Your Heart is best described as dreamy. However, Astrid Williamson comes into her own on We Go To Dream’s ballads. Vermillion, Scattered My Beautiful Muse and Saint Saviour features Astrid Williamson at her very best, not just as a vocalist, but as a songwriter. She’s come a long way since Boy For You.

When Astrid Williamson released Boy For You, she was just twenty-seven. Boy was released to critical acclaim in 1998, and showcased the ethereal beauty of Astrid Williamson’s vocal. Back then, it was obvious that Astrid Williamson was a hugely talented singer-songwriter. Many critics thought that it was only a matter of time before commercial success came Astrid Williamson’s way. 

While Astrid Williamson has enjoyed a degree of success, she’s never reached the heady heights her considerable talents deserve. If talent equated to commercial success, then Astrid Williamson would be chart-topper. She’s a talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. However, that’s not the way the music industry works.

The widespread commercial success that Astrid Williamson deserves has so far, eluded her. That’s why Astrid Williamson decided to reinvent herself on Pulse. Astrid Williamson continues   that reinvention on We Go To Dream. It’s without doubt, the most eclectic album of Astrid Williamson’s career.

So much so, that We Go To Dream is a magical mystery tour through musical genres. Seamlessly, Astrid Williamson flits between and fuses disparate musical genres on We Go To Dream. Effortlessly, Astrid Williamson squares the musical circle on We Go To Dream, which features something for everyone. We Go To Dream is also one of the best albums of 2015, and features the welcome return of Astrid Williamson, the Shetland born chanteuse with the ethereal voice.

ASTRID WILLIAMSON-WE GO TO DREAM.

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BONNIE DOBSON-DEAR COMPANION.

BONNIE DOBSON-DEAR COMPANION.

There aren’t many songwriters whose first attempt to write a song, results in a classic. That’s what happened to Bonnie Dobson. The first song she wrote was Morning Dew. It was covered by Fred Neil in 1964. After that, Morning Dew has been covered by Einstürzende Neubauten and The Grateful Dead, to Nazareth, The Jeff Beck Group and Robert Plant. Morning Dew should’ve been providing Bonnie Dobson with a healthy income. However, in 1967, lost title to Morning Dew.

Despite Fred Neil covering Morning Dew in 1964, three years later, in 1967, Tim Rose claimed to have to have penned the song. This was the start of a prolonged dispute that lasted several decades. 

That’s how long it took for Bonnie Dobson to reclaim ownership of the song she wrote, and the royalties she was entitled to. By then, Bonnie Dobson had turned her back on music.

This happened in 1969, when Bonnie Dobson withdrew from music.  She moved to England in 1969, and retired from music.  Bonnie decided to return to university, where she studied politics, philosophy and history. Academic life seemed to suit Bonnie.

Once she finished her degree, Bonnie ended up  at working at the Philosophy Department of the University of London’s Birbeck College. That was home to Bonnie for the rest of her working life. By the time she retired, Bonnie was head of administration. It was only after she retired, that Bonnie Dobson thought about making a comeback.

Forty-four years after turning her back on music, Bonnie Dobson returned with a new album in 2013. Take Me For A Walk In The Morning Dew marked the comeback of Bonnie Dobson, fifty-three years after she released her debut album. 

Bonnie Dobson’s recording career began in 1960, when she released her debut album She’s Like A Swallow. By then, Bonnie Dobson was only twenty. However, she had been immersed in music since she first saw Pete Seeger at a summer camp. That was a life changing experience for Bonnie Dobson not just musically, but politically. 

On her return home, Bonnie Dobson, who was just thirteen, formed a folk group with her friends. This was the first chapter in the Bonnie Dobson story. Seven years later, and Bonnie Dobson found herself recording her debut album at Rudy Van Gelder’s Engelwood Cliffs’ studio. The resultant album, She’s Like A Swallow, was released on Prestige Records in 1960 to critical acclaim. Sadly, She’s Like A Swallow wasn’t a commercial success. Despite this, Prestige still believed in Bonnie, so sent her into the studio again.

 Not long after the release of She’s Like A Swallow, Bonnie Dobson began work on her sophomore album Dear Companion, which was recently reissued by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records. This is a welcome and overdue reissue of an album by a musical pioneer, who was one of the first female folk singers of the sixties folk boom. She had been immersed in music since she was thirteen. 

It was on November 13th 1940, that Bonnie Dobson was born. Bonnie family would influence her future career. Her father was a trade unionist and Bonnie’s elder sister was a fan of folk music. By eleven, so was Bonnie.

Her first introduction to live folk music, was seeing Pete Seeger at summer camps in Ontario and Quebec. This was during the McCarthy era. Pete Seeger had been blacklisted after refusing to testify at the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  He couldn’t work within America. So he headed to Canada, and soon became a popular draw. This included at summer camps. That’s where Bonnie first heard Pete Seeger. 

Having attended the summer camps for a couple of years, eventually, Bonnie met Pete Seeger. This was a huge moment in her life. Pete Seeger was an important influence not just musically, but politically. Bonnie who was just thirteen, hooked. So was her sister. 

Soon, Bonnie’s sister formed a folk group with her friends. They called their nascent group The Travellers. They were influenced by The Weavers and Pete Seeger, whose music was extremely political. For the daughter of a trade unionist, this struck a nerve. 

Although Bonnie’s was only thirteen, she was already politically aware. Growing up, she was aware of the injustice that surrounded her. The union songs her father sung and Pete Seeger’s songs spoke to Bonnie, and for her. Soon, she would playing the folk songs she had heard other people sing.

Whilst still in high school, Bonnie was already singing in folk clubs. She accompanied herself on guitar. Then on Fridays, Bonnie would sing a folk song in school assembly. After graduating high school, Bonnie headed to university.

The University of Toronto was Bonnie destination. Despite being so politically aware, Bonnie enrolled on an English literature course. The course didn’t work out. Bonnie was deeply unhappy. Luckily, salvation came in the form of an invite to play at a folk club in Denver, Colorado.

So, in May 1960, Bonnie made her way to the Exodus Folk Club, in Denver, Colorado. This gig resulted in Bonne being offered the opportunity to support Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. For a relative newcomer to the folk scene, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. However, things were about to get even better for Bonnie.

It wasn’t just a case of supporting Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Bonnie got the opportunity to work with blues greats Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis and Big Joe Williams. For Bonnie, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. She criss-crossed America playing two shows a day, supporting some of the biggest names in folk and blues music. 

Eventually, Bonnie reached what many people regarded as America’s folk capital, New York. Greenwich Village was the centre of New York’s folk scene. That is where Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, blues legend Leadbelly and more recently, Bob Dylan had played. The most important venue was the Folklore Centre. So, Bonnie made her way to the Folklore Centre.

At the Folklore Centre, Bonnie met the owner Izzy Young. He had booked some of the biggest names in music. Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Emmylou Harris, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee had all played at the Folklore Centre. Izzy, having met Bonnie, booked her to play. However, Bonnie met some friends and missed the gig. Despite this, Bonnie would later make her Folklore Centre debut, following in the footsteps of many a musical great. She also followed in the footsteps of many a musical legend by signing to Prestige Records.

After playing a concert at Philadelphia’s Folk Song Society, Kenny Goldstein recommended Bonnie Dobson to Prestige Records. This was a huge honour. Prestige Records had been home to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Eric Dolphy and Sonny Rollins. These were big shoes to fill, but Bonnie Dobson relished the challenge.

She’s Like A Swallow.

Like so many albums recorded during this period, Bonnie Dobson headed to Rudy Van Gelder’s Engelwood Cliffs’ studio. Rudy’s studio was state-of-the art. He was determined to constantly improve his facilities. No expense was spared, in an attempt to capture the sound as accurately as possible. With Kenny Goldstein acting as producer, Bonnie Dobson headed Rudy Van Gelder’s Engelwood Cliffs’ studio.

Recording of what became She’s Like A Swallow took just four hours. During that period, fourteen songs were recorded. They were songs that Bonnie had chosen. This was unusual. Often, artists had no say in the material they recorded. Bonnie, however, chose what she wanted to record. These songs became She’s Like A Swallow. It was released in 1960.

Before the release of She’s Like A Swallow in 1960, the album was well received by critics. They were won over by Bonnie Dobson’s impassioned vocals and the understated arrangement. Critics were also impressed by Bonnie’s choice of songs. She had chosen well, and brought the lyrics to life beautifully. The critics forecast a bright future for Bonnie Dobson.

With critical acclaim ringing in her ears, Bonnie Dobson must have felt positive about the release of She’s Like A Swallow in 1960. It was released on Prestige Records, but didn’t sell in vast quantities. Despite this disappointment, executives at Prestige Records kept faith in Bonnie Dobson. They sent her into the studio to record her sophomore album Dear Companion.

Dear Companion.

Just like She’s Like A Swallow, Bonnie was allowed to chose the twelve tracks that became Dear Companion. They were an eclectic selection of songs; songs that showcased Bonnie’s versatility as a singer. There was everything from blues and folk ballads to French-Canadian and Yugoslavian songs. These songs were recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio.

Bonnie Dobson made the now familiar journey to Rudy Van Gelder’s Engelwood Cliffs’ studio. As studios went, Rudy Van Gelder’s Engelwood Cliffs’ studio was state-of-the art. He was constantly upgrading the studio. No expense was spared, so he could capture the sound as accurately as possible. As Rudy engineered the Dear Companion sessions, Kenny Goldstein took charge of production. Before long, the twelve songs were laid down, and  Bonnie Dobson’s sophomore album was ready for release.

Prior to the release of Dear Companion in 1961, critics had their say on Bonnie Dobson’s sophomore album. They were impressed by Dear Companion, and its disparate selection of songs. Each were brought to life by Bonnie Dobson. She was a combination of singer and storyteller. Bonnie who was a rising star of the folk scene, was quickly coming to the attention of the press and media.

In 1961, Time magazine wrote an article on the blossoming folk scene. The article spoke of how a folk boom was underway, and Bonnie, Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Carolyn Hester were trailblazers. They were making inroads into the previously male dominated folk scene. A great future was forecast for these musical pioneers. One of them, Bonnie Dobson, was about to release her sophomore album, Dear Companion, which I’ll tell you about.

Dear Companion opens with the title-track. It’s a traditional lament, from British Columbia. As Bonnie delivers Cecil Sharp’s lyrics, she accompanies herself on guitar. Her vocal is full hurt and despair, as she plucks at her guitar. She brings to life the hurt and betrayal in the lyrics.

My Mother Chose My Husband is a song that was translated from French to English. Two guitars feature in the arrangement. One is panned right, while the other is panned left. It’s much quieter, to allow space for Bonnie’s vocal. It soars above the arrangement, as Bonnie delivers a realistic portrayal of the lyrics. In an instant, the listener is transported back to an era, when marriages were arranged, much to the chagrin of the participants. This becomes very real in My Mother Chose My Husband.

Girl Of Constant Sorrow is a song that’s evolved over the years. When Bonnie decided to cover the song, she wrote a new verse, the second one. Again, the arrangement features just Bonnie and her guitar. She plays it with  a degree of urgency, as she delivers the lyrics. There’s a sense of sadness and melancholia in her voice as she sings of returning home. She’s not making the triumphant return she hoped. Instead, it’s a case of what might have been. There’s no “ruby for my finger”…nor a “a lovely ribbon for my hair.”

Vranyanka is a Yugoslavian folk song, where the a young man pleads with his lover to open the door, as “he burns with love for her.” Accompanied by guitar and whistle, Bonnie delivers the lyrics to this folk dance in Yugoslavian. This delivers a beautiful, heartfelt and ethereal vocal. It’s one of her best, and shows her versatility as a singer.

Ben’s Lullaby is the only song on Dear Companion penned by Bonnie Dobson. She was already a talented songwriter by the time Dear Companion was released. The inspiration for the song came from the son of a friend who was just fourteen month’s old. As she delivers the lyrics to Ben’s Lullaby, Bonnie sings unaccompanied. Her vocal is tender, soothing and reassuring, which is perfect for a lullaby.

Bob Coltman wrote The Bonnie Lass Of Kenmore Town He’s written many songs. However, this traditional folk ballad is one of his finest. Its cinematic lyrics are brought to life by Bonnie. She plays guitar and delivers what can only be described as a heartfelt, emotive vocal. Her vocal changes depending upon the lyrics. She brings to life the hope, sadness, betrayal and the ultimate twist in the tale. It’s like a mini soap opera put to music.

A wistful flute and guitar combine on  When I Was In My Prime. They provide the backdrop for Bonnie’s vocal. It’s tinged with sadness and regret, as Bonnie reflects on what might have been, and how different her life could’ve been?

Ah! Si Mon Moine is a song from Novia Scotia. Bonnie delivers the lyrics in French. She’s accompanied by her trusty guitar. It’s responsible for a jaunty arrangement. This is perfect as Bonnie sings about the young girl who tries to get a monk to dance with her. Despite offering him gifts, he stays true his vows and his faith. 

Blues Jumped A Rabbit was a song that Bonnie was taught to play by Brownie McGhee. She’s accompanied by two guitars. They provide a backdrop that’s a fusion of blues and folk. That describes Bonnie’s impassioned, ethereal vocal. She combines power and passion on what’s without doubt, her finest vocal.

Dink’s Song is another song where Bonnie sings unaccompanied. That’s not an easy to do. However, Bonnie makes it seem ridiculously easy as she delivers a captivating vocal. There’s a longing and loneliness in her voice. All she wants to do, is sprout wings, and fly off in search of true love.

Vertsa Dievcha is Czech folk song. Bonnie was taught the song by Hennie Kubik and her mother. Hennie duets with Bonnie, and also featured on The Bonnie Lass Of Kenmore. Here, Bonnie and Hennie deliver joyous vocals, against a backdrop of guitars. That’s despite the song being about a man breaking up with his partner.

Closing Dear Companion is The Cruel Mother. It’s another folk ballad. It tells the story of an unmarried mother who kills her two children. They come back to haunt her, and she’s doomed to burn in hell. Accompanied by just her guitar, Bonnie dawns the role of storyteller, and brings to life the lyrics to this gruesome tale. It brings to a close Bonnie Dobson’s critically acclaimed sophomore album.

Critical acclaimed accompanied the release of Dear Companion in 1961. Despite the quality of music, Dear Companion wasn’t a commercial success. Prestige kept faith with Bonnie Dobson. They knew that success wasn’t far away.

That proved to be the case. In 1962 Bonnie released Bonnie Dobson At Folk City. This was Bonnie Dobson’s breakthrough album. It featured one of Bonnie’s best known songs, Morning Dew, which was covered by Fred Neil in 1964. He was just the first of many artists to cover Morning Dew.

It was recorded by some of the biggest names in music. This included Einstürzende Neubauten, The Grateful Dead, Nazareth, The Jeff Beck Group and Robert Plant. Morning Dew should’ve been providing Bonnie Dobson with healthy income. However, in 1967, lost title to Morning Dew.

In 1967, Tim Rose claimed to have to have penned the song. This was the start of a prolonged dispute that lasted several decades. 

Bonnie Dobson wasn’t going to give up without a fight. After several decades, Bonnie Dobson reclaim ownership of Morning Dew. Belatedly, she received the royalties she was entitled to. Sadly, then, Bonnie Dobson had turned her back on music.

Two years after the dispute about Morning Dew began, Bonnie Dobson announced she was retiring from music. Whether the dispute with Tim Rose was the cause of Bonnie withdrawing from music isn’t know. However, in 1969, she returned to university. 

Bonnie Dobson decided to move to England, and finish what she started nearly a decade earlier. Back then, Bonnie was studying at the University of Toronto. Then Bonnie decided to embark upon a musical career. Ten years later, and her career was over. S it was the perfect time to return to university. 

When she enrolled at university, Bonnie Dobson decided to study politics, philosophy and history. She was only twenty-nine. Quickly, she discovered that academic life suited her.

Once Bonnie finished her degree, she  began work at the Philosophy Department of the University of London’s Birbeck College. That was home to Bonnie for the rest of her working life. By the time she retired, Bonnie was head of administration. 

Now aged seventy-five, and happily retired, Bonnie is busier than ever. In 2013, Bonnie Dobson released her first new album for forty-five years, Take Me For A Walk In The Morning Dew. It saw Bonnie pickup where she left off in 1969. However, eight years earlier, in 1961, Bonnie released one of her finest albums Dear Companion.

Dear Companion was Bonnie Dobson’s sophomore album, which was recently released by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records. It finds Bonnie Dobson at her most versatile. There was everything from blues and folk ballads to French-Canadian, Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian songs. Each and every one of these songs are brought to life by Bonnie Dobson. She’s a combination of singer and storyteller on Dear Companion, where she veers between folk, blues and country. As she does, the songs come to life. Not every singer can do that. However, Bonnie Dobson was a pioneer of the sixties folk scene.

Along with Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Carolyn Hester, Bonnie Dobson was one of the stars of the sixties folk scene. Sadly, she retired from music in 1969, having released just five albums. However, it was at Prestige where Bonnie Dobson released the best music of her career. This includes Bonnie Dobson’s two studio albums, She’s Like A Swallow and Dear Companion, and then her live album Bonnie Dobson At Folk City. These albums show just what Bonnie Dobson was capable of? 

One wonders if legal problems hadn’t disrupted Bonnie Dobson’s career in 1967, if she would still have retired two years later, aged just twenty-nine? We’ll never know. Nor will we know what heights Bonnie Dobson may have reached? Instead, Bonnie Dobson’s career is a case of what might have been. At least Bonnie Dobson recorded albums of the quality of She’s Like A Swallow and Dear Companion before she retired. They’re a reminder, if any were needed, of what Bonnie Dobson was capable of.

BONNIE DOBSON-DEAR COMPANION.

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ADMIRAL FALLOW-TINY REWARDS.

ADMIRAL FALLOW-TINY REWARDS.

Often, the hardest thing about forming a new band is coming up with a name. It can be a long and tortuous process. Especially, in the internet age. A new band have to ensure the dot com address hasn’t been taken. If it has, it’s a case of starting the process all over again. Either that, or negotiating with the owner of the dot com to buy the address. That can be an expensive and time consuming process. So for most bands, it’s case of starting again.

That’s been the case since the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Even the biggest band of all changed their name. The Beatles started life as The Blackjacks, before briefly becoming The Quarrymen and then The Silver Beatles. It wasn’t until July 1959 that The Silver Beatles became The Beatles. Since then, countless other bands have had a similar struggle to come up with a suitable name. 

In 2007, Glasgow based singer-songwriter Louis Abbott decided to formed a new band with  Kevin Brolly, Philip Hauge, Sarah Hayes and Joe Rattray. They settled on the name Brother Louis Collective. Two years later, and the Brother Louis Collective changed its name to Admiral Fallow. The rest as they say, is history.

Since then, Admiral Fallow have toured the world, and played at some of the biggest and most prestigious venues and festivals. Admiral Fallow have also released a trio of albums. Their most recent album Tiny Rewards, was released recently on Nettwork. Tiny Rewards is the latest chapter in the Admiral Fallow story. It began in 2007.

That’s when Glasgow based singer, songwriter and  Louis Abbott decided to formed a new band. This wasn’t going to a traditional indie band. Instead, Brother Louis Collective were going to fuse orchestral and indie pop. To bring this about, Louis was joined by four other Glasgow based musicians. This included the rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Philip Hauge and bassist Joe Rattray. They were joined by a two musicians who would help create the orchestral sound. Sarah Hayes played flute, piano and accordion, while Kevin Brolly added clarinet, keyboards and percussion. Along with Louis Abbot, they became Brother Louis Collective.

With a lineup in place, the Brother Louis Collective set about honing their sound. The five friends quickly began to define their sound. Through the rest of 2007 and throughout 2008, the Brother Louis Collective were gaining a reputation as a popular live act. So in early 2009, Brother Louis Collective decided to record their debut single.

For Brother Louis Collective’s debut single, These Barren Years was chosen. The B-Side was Gypsy Woman. These Barren Years was well received upon its release in March 2009. The single brought the Brother Louis Collective’s music to a wider audience. With the Brother Louis Collective’s recording career up and running, the band decided to change their name.

Usually, bands change their name early on in their career. However, after nearly two years, the band realised something wasn’t quite right. That was the name. This resulted in a rethink, and Brother Louis Collective became Admiral Fallow. 

Given that the Brother Louis Collective already were a popular live band, and were attracting the attention of critics, a change of name could’v backfired on Admiral Fallow. All the time they had spent during the last two years could’ve been in vain. 

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Instead, the last two years had been time well spent. The newly named Admiral Fallow had spent much of the last two years playing live. This allowed them to hone and tighten their sound. It also allowed the band to grow their fan-base. Already they were a popular draw wherever they played. So, it made sense for Admiral Fallow to record their debut album.

Boots Met My Face.

In June 2009, Admiral Fallow made the short journey from Glasgow to Blantyre, in Lanarkshire. That’s where former Delgados Paul Savage and Emma Pollock’s studio is situated. Admiral Fallow were following in the footsteps of many successful Scottish bands. 

At Chem 19 Studios, Admiral Fallow met former Delgados’ drummer Paul Savage. By 2009, he had established a reputation as a successful and talented producer. Paul was the go-to-guy producer for many Scottish bands, including up-and-coming bands. This made him the perfect person to produce Admiral Fallow’s debut album.

While Admiral Fallow were an experienced live band, they had only recored one single. Recording an album was very different. So, producer Paul Savage guided Admiral Fallow through the recording process. In total, ten tracks were recorded at Chem 19 Studios. 

The ten tracks were written by Louis Abbott. He describes the songs as autobiographical, and document his childhood and youth. Each song is based upon a person or event. This includes Subbuteo, where Louis remembers being beaten up in Edinburgh, where he grew up. A lyric from Subbuteo also provided the album title, Boots Met My Face.

With Boots Met My Face recorded, Admiral Fallow started looking for a record label to release their debut album. However, that search was put on hold briefly, as Admiral Fallow played a band-storming set at Scotland’s biggest music festival.

Although Admiral Fallow had only been together two years, they were chosen to headline the Sunday night T Break stage at T In The Park. For a Scottish group, this was a huge honour, one they must have hoped would help in Admiral Fallow’s search for a record label.

That took a while. In March 2010, Admiral Fallow opened for fellow Scot King Creosote at the Fence Collective’s Homegame Festival. Then in April 2010, Admiral Fallow supported The Futureheads in Glasgow, This was perfect timing.

In April 2010, Admiral Fallow released their debut single Squealing Pig on Lo-Five Records. That however, was a mere aperitif. 

Later in April 2010, came the release of Boots Met My Face. It was released to critical acclaim. A great future was forecast for Admiral Fallow, who were about to head out on the festival circuit.

Admiral Fallow renewed their acquaintance with King Creosote at the Glasgow West End Festival. They then played the Wee Chill, Rockness and Insider festivals. However, it was at T In The Park that Admiral Fallow made a triumphant return. This time, Admiral Fallow were playing the prestigious BBC Entroducing stage. A lot had happened to Admiral Fallow since they took T In The Park by storm a year earlier. There seemed to be no stopping Admiral Fallow.

They had played their first Scottish tour in August 2010. Then later in 2010, Admiral Fallow opened for another Scottish band, Frightened Rabbit. Then in October 2010, Admiral Fallow released the second single from Boots Met My Face, Subbuteo. This was the perfect way to round off 2010. 2011, looked like being a big year for Admiral Fallow.

In February and March of 2011,Admiral Fallow hit the road, and completed their first tour of Britain. This was to coincide with the reissue of Boots Me My Face. Then on 13th March the band flew to Austin, Texas for SxSW 2011. Given this is one of the most prestigious American festivals, this was a huge boost for Admiral Fallow. During their time in America, Admiral Fallow were embraced by American critics. The critics forecast a great future for Admiral Fallow. They weren’t wrong.

Tree Bursts In Snow.

Just like Boots Met My Face, Tree Bursts In Snow was recorded at Chem 19 Studios. This time however, some guest artists would join Admiral Fallow. Among them were former Frightened Rabbit vocalist Gordon Skene, Jo Mango, Kenny Reid, Tom Gibbs and Tom Stearn. These guest artists featured on three of the ten tracks that became Tree Bursts In Snow.

Before the release of Tree Bursts In Snow on 21st May 2012, Louis Abbot explained what the title meant. Tree Bursts In Snow Louis explained is: “the sound and the image of an artillery shell exploding into a cluster of snow-drenched trees.” It was a poignant picture that Louis Abbot was painting. Especially as he went on to speak about gun crime in America and: ”the effect that losing friends through violence, in particular during times of war or conflict has on young men and women.” Louis had thought deeply about this, and on Tree Bursts In Snow combined social comment and poppy hooks.

When Tree Bursts In Snow was released, critics were won over by Admiral Fallow’s sophomore album. Superlatives were exhausted praising the Glasgow’s band’s unique brand of orchestral and indie pop. Admiral Fallow’s star was in the ascendancy, and would be during the rest of 2012. 

During the 2012 festival season, Admiral Fallow played The Great Escape, Glastonbury Festival, Latitude, Cambridge Folk Festival, Green Man and the  End of The Road festival. There were also appearances at Sligo Live and Crossing Border. Later in 2012, Admiral Fallow were asked to open for Scottish indie pop royalty Belle and Sebastian. Admiral Fallow also opened for Paul Heaton and The Low Anthem. All this was good experience for Admiral Fallow, who were quickly becoming one of Scotland’s most successful musical exports.

That’s been the case in the last three years. Admiral Fallow have gone from strength to strength. They’ve continued to play live, and are now recognised as one of the best Scottish live bands. However, in late 2013, Admiral Fallow cut back on the live shows they were playing. They had an album to record. That album would become Tiny Rewards, which was released on 25th May 2015.

Tiny Rewards.

Admiral Fallow’s weren’t going to rush their third album. Work began in late 2013. Admiral Fallow wrote the music and Louis Abbott wrote the lyrics for Tiny Rewards. This was Admiral Fallow’s third album, and second album for Canadian label Nettwerk. 

Unlike previous albums, Tiny Rewards wasn’t recorded at just one studio. Three studios, Angelic, Red Kite and Voltaire Road Studios were used. So were the familiar surroundings of Chem 19 Studios. That’s where Paul Savage took charge of “additional production.” However, Paul Savage wasn’t in charge of production. This time around, Admiral Fallow and Cameron Blackwood produced the twelve tracks that became Tiny Rewards.

At the three studios, Tiny Rewards’ twelve tracks were recorded by Admiral Fallow and friends. The rhythm section featured guitarist and vocalist Louis Abbott, drummer and percussionist Philip Hauge and bassist Joe Rattray. They were joined by a two musicians who would help create the orchestral sound. Sarah Hayes played flute, piano and accordion, while Kevin Brolly added clarinet, keyboards and percussion. They’re joined by cellist Jackie Baxter, violinist Kristian Harvey and guitarist Stu Goodall. Once Tiny Rewards was recorded, it was mixed by Paul Savage and mastered by in London by Mandy Parnell. 

Only then was Tiny Rewards ready for release. The big day was 25th May 2015. That’s when Tiny Rewards was released to widespread critical acclaim. Tiny Rewards was hailed as Admiral Fallow’s finest hours. Here’s why.

Opening Tiny Rewards is Easy as Breathing. A pounding rhythm section, stabs of keyboards and searing guitars create a dramatic wall of sound. In the midst of the arrangement, a piano carries the melody. It’s present when Louis Abbott delivers a soul-baring vocal. He doesn’t so much deliver lyrics, but lives them. Behind him, the thunderous, mesmeric arrangement has an anthemic sound. During the break, the arrangement is stripped bare. Just wistful harmonies, and piano accompany Louis before Admiral Fallow kick loose. By then, it’s easy to imagine East As Breathing becoming a festival favourite.

A drum machine and synths are deployed on Evangeline, as Louis delivers a slow, melancholy vocal. Soon, chiming, crystalline guitars, bass and keyboards are added. They fill out the arrangement, as slowly and dramatically Louis delivers the lyrics. By then, Admiral Fallow sound like a 21st Century version of The Smiths. Later, Sarah Hayes’ backing vocals are the perfect foil for Louis. They’re reminiscent of Lorraine MacIntosh of Deacon Blue. As the arrangement continues to grow, electronica and indie pop combine head-on. It’s a potent partnership, one that’s not short of poppy hooks.

Beeps courtesy of a synth and drums combine with a myriad of  disparate sounds on Happened in the Fall. They create a lo-fi, left-field and almost robotic arrangement. Very different, is Louis’ despairing vocal. As his vocal drops out, a guitar rings out, and cuts through the arrangement. Then  Louis, accompanied by Sarah Hayes, delivers a tender, hurt filled vocal as he sings: “ it Happened in the Fall” When Louis poignant vocal drops, a blistering guitar gives way to a wistful piano and strings. They frame Louis’ vocal as accompanied by harmonies, memories come flooding back.

From the opening bars of Good Luck, it’s obvious something special is unfolding. A piano and drums combine, before a scorching guitar is unleashed. Then a roll of drums signals the arrival of Louis’ vocal. Slowly and deliberately he delivers the lyrics. Harmonies augment his vocal, as the arrangement grows in power and drama. Admiral Fallow aren’t afraid the unleash their inner rocker. Similarly, they’re not afraid to vary the tempo. This grabs the listener’s attention, and forces them to listen. A pleasant surprise comes when Sarah takes charge of the vocal. She’s a talented and versatile vocalist. Later, though, the baton passes to Louis. He takes charge of the vocal. Aided and abetted by harmonies, a storming, hook heavy anthem unfolds.

Against the chatter of a radio playing, a piano plays and Holding The Strings begins. Drums provide the heartbeat as Louis delivers an emotive vocal. Ethereal harmonies, keyboards, a crystalline guitar and the rhythm section combine. Soon, the tempo is rising and the arrangement takes on a rocky hue. Dramatic flourishes and variations in tempo are used, before the rhythm section and guitar drive the arrangement along. Louis seems to have reserved one of his best vocals. With Sarah encouraging him every step of the way, he breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics, delivering the lyric “we are old” poignantly.

As a piano and drums combine on Sunday, the track takes on an almost hypnotic sound. Then when Louis’ vocal enters, it’s obvious he’s singing about being at a festival. “Far from being alone, surrounded by tents and future friends.” Soon, the track takes a dark twist. Especially, lyrics like; ”take those pills, you bought to take the guilt.” This leaves the listener to wonder what caused the guilt? Was it one night stand? From there, the arrangement becomes a lysergic merry-go-round. It also takes on  rocky and sometimes dramatic sound. Meanwhile, Louis and Sarah combine, bringing to life the guilt on the day after the night before, as they leave the festival behind, and return to their respective lives. 

On the count of “5,6” a drum and crystalline guitar combine on  Building As Foreign. They’re joined by Louis’ vocal and a prowling bass. Like so many of Admiral Fallow’s songs, the lyrics are based upon Louis childhood. That becomes apparent straight away:“how we ended up here, with the start we had is amazing.”  He goes on to remembers “measuring his height by the door,” his first football strip, and “first kiss.” Accompanied by ethereal harmonies, pounding rhythm section and searing guitar, memories come flooding back for a wistful, grateful Louis.

A lone guitar opens Salt. It’s just two minutes long, but is a quite beautiful song. The arrangement is understated. Just a chirping, mesmeric guitar accompanies Louis. He’s accompanied by Sarah. She’s a perfect foil for Louis. They’re like yin and yang. They compliment each other, on what’s a beautiful ballad. It shows another side to Admiral Fallow.

Drums pound and crack, while washes of keyboards sweep in on Some Kind of Life. Slowly, the arrangement unfolds. Admiral Fallow don’t rush. They drop in a piano and bass. After a minute, Louis’ heartfelt vocal enters. As he sings: “I left the house and started the next chapter,” confusion and uncertainty fills his voice. Has, and is, he doing the right thing? Behind him, the rest of Admiral Fallow create one of the best arrangement. It unfolds in waves, as Louis delivers an emotive, soul-searching vocal. He describes this as a “never ending tussle with the mind.” By then, the arrangement has grown in drama and power.  When Louis’ vocal is added, Some Kind of Life takes on anthemic sound. It’s also one of the highlights of Tiny Rewards.

The drums that open Liquor and Milk are similar to those on Building As Foreign. However, this time, it’s mesmeric, deliberate stabs of piano that accompany the drums. They frame Louis’ vocal as he reminisces. Accompanying him is Sarah, her vocal equally impassioned and emotive. Their vocal take centre-stage, as the drums and piano provide the accompaniment. Later, strings and percussion are added, as the arrangement reaches a crescendo.

Carousel see the tempo rise slightly. Admiral Fallow jump on the merry-go-round. It’s has a much more upbeat sound. Driving along the arrangement along are the piano and drums. They accompany Louis. However, Sarah steals the show, combining power and emotion. Meanwhile, a bass, keyboards and drums power the arrangement along. Louis and Sarah combine, hopefully singing: “get yourself out from under the weather, stick another pin in that map you drew, get yourself out from under the weather, and I long for this to be the pin you want to do.”

Melancholy. That describes the slow, deliberate introduction to Seeds, which closes Tiny Rewards. Louis, accompanied by the piano, delivers a wistful, deliberate vocal. Drums rumble, while keyboards and piano combine with a clarinet. They set the scene for Louis and Sarah. As they sing: “we sow seeds wherever we go,” there’s an element of hope amidst the melancholia. It grows, as the arrangement builds, and Tiny Rewards draws to a close.

Three years after the release of their sophomore album Tree Bursts In Snow, Admiral Fallow returned recently with Tiny Rewards. It was released on the Canadian label Nettwerk. Tiny Rewards was well worth the three year wait. 

With its mixture of anthems, future festival favourites, heart wrenching ballads and cinematic tracks, Tiny Rewards is a captivating album. Lyricist and vocalist Louis Abbott is aided and abetted by Sarah Hayes. Together, they bring the lyrics to life, breathing life, meaning, emotion and sometimes, melancholy into the twelve tracks. Other times, there’s a hopeful, sound on Tiny Rewards, which is a career defining album from Admiral Fallow.

Six years after the Brother Louis Collective became Admiral Fallow, the Glasgow based band are now one of Scottish music’s most successful exports. No wonder, given the quality of music on Tiny Rewards. It manages to surpass the quality of Tree Bursts In Snow. Many people thought Tree Bursts In Snow was an album Admiral Fallow would struggle to surpass. However, after three years hard work and the a little from help from their friends, Admiral Fallow return with Tiny Rewards, the eclectic album of their career.

Tiny Rewards sees Admiral Fallow jump onboard the Carousel and combine disparate musical genres. Everything from electronica, folk, indie pop, indie rock, orchestral, pop, psychedelia  and rock is combined by Admiral Fallow. The result is Tiny Rewards, the finest, and most captivating and eclectic album ofAdmiral Fallow’s career.

ADMIRAL FALLOW-TINY REWARDS.

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VAN HALEN-VAN HALEN, VAN HALEN II, WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, FAIR WARNING AND DIVER DOWN-VINYL EDITION

VAN HALEN-VAN HALEN, VAN HALEN II, WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, FAIR WARNING AND DIVER DOWN-VINYL EDITION.

In the history of rock ’n’ roll, Van Halen are one the most successful bands. They released twelve studio albums between their 1978 debut Van Halen, and their 2012 swan-song A Different Kind Of Truth. These albums sold an incredible 50.5 million copies in America alone. Four of Van Halen’s albums topped the US Billboard 200 charts. Van Halen were one of the biggest bands in planet rock. Rock ’n’ roll’s great survivors had outsold and out-rocked two generations of bands.

That too many people, was incredible. Van Halen were a notoriously hard living band. They burnt the candle at both ends, replicating the excesses of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Just like Icarus, members of Van Halen sailed to close to the sun. Unlike Icarus, Van Halen lived to tell the tale, and in the process, released some of the best rock of a generation. That was the case from Van Halen released their debut album Van Halen in 1978.

When Van Halen released Van Halen in 1978, it wasn’t well received by critics. That’s somewhat ironic, as Van Halen reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200. Gradually, critics changed their minds about Van Halen. Suddenly, they began to regard Van Halen as one of the best debut albums in the history of rock ’n’ roll. That’s the case today, with critics hailing Van Halen as a classic, and one of the greatest debut albums ever released. That’s why it’s fitting that Rhino are recently released a remastered vinyl edition of Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Diver Down and Fair Warning. 

However, it’s not just Van Halen that Rhino are reissuing. Instead, Van Halen’s first five albums have been remastered and will be reissued on 10th July 2015. These five albums were released between 1978 and 1982. During this period, Van Halen were one of the hardest working and successful bands in the world. Having released Van Halen in 1978, they followed this up with Van Halen II in 1979. As a new decade dawned, Van Halen released Women and Children First in 1980, then Fair Warning in 1981 and and Diver Down in 1982. Each of these albums have been remastered, and document the first five years of Van Halen’s recording career. By then, Van Halen were already an experienced band.

The Van Halen story began in the early seventies, when brothers, Eddie and Alex Van Halen had formed a band. Like many bands, they found it difficult to settle on a name. Initially, they were called The Broken Combs, then changed the name to The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, The Trojan Rubber Co. had a settled lineup.

Their lineup featured Alex on drums and Eddie on guitar. They were joined by bassist Mark Stone and vocalist David Lee Roth, who they had hired a sound system from. Eddie had initially failed the audition. However, Eddie and Alex were realists. Money was tight, so if they brought David onboard, they would save having to hire a sound system. They also thought that David might improve as a vocalist. However, in 1974, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name and its lineup.

1974 was a pivotal year for The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, bassist Mark Stone had been replaced by bassist Michael Anthony. His audition was unorthodox. Only after Michael took part in an all night jam session, was he hired. So, Michael left local band Snake and joined The Trojan Rubber Co. Soon, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name to Mammoth, and then Van Halen. For the next three years, Van Halen spent honing their sound.

Van Halen played wherever they could. Backyard parties, clubs and dive bars, they weren’t proud. Far from it. They certainly were loud. Too loud some thought.

When Van Halen went to audition at Gazzarri’s, a bar on Sunset Strip, that was down on its luck, the owner Bill Gazzarri, told them they were “too loud, and refused to hire them.” However, Van Halen’s new managers stepped in. 

Mark Algorri and Mario Miranda had just been installed as Van Halen’s managers. They had also just taken over the booking at Gazzarri’s. So, Van Halen were installed as the house band. Not long after this, Van Halen entered the studio for the first time.

The four members of Van Halen headed to Cherokee Studios, which had recently housed Steely Dan. At Cherokee Studios, Van Halen recorded their demo tape. It would become their calling card, and see them play some of L.A.’s top clubs, including the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go.

Soon, Van Halen were a permanent fixture in L.A.’s top clubs. That’s where they continued to hone their sound. It’s also where they came to the attention of Kiss’ Gene Simmons. 

Gene Simmons had heard good things about Van Halen. So, he went to check out Van Halen. According to what he had heard, they were one of the rising stars of L.A.’s music scene. When Gene Simmons arrived at the Gazzarri club in the summer of 1976, he was won over by Van Halen. He knew they were going places.

So, Gene Simmons took Van Halen to Village Recorders in L.A. to produce a new demo tape. Overdubs then took place at Electric Ladyland in New York. Things were looking good for Van Halen. The only thing Van Halen baulked at, was Gene’s suggestion to change the band’s name to Daddy Longlegs. That was a step too far.  The next step was for Gene to take the newly recorded demo tape to Kiss’ management.

When Kiss’ management heard the demo, they were pretty disparaging about Van Halen. According to Kiss’ managers, Van Halen “had no chance of making it.” These words would come back to haunt them, after Van Halen sold over 50.5 million albums in America alone. However, with Kiss’ management not interested in signing Van Halen, Gene Simmons bowed out of the story. He would be replaced a year later by Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman.

Down but not out, Van Halen returned to the club circuit. For the next year, they continued to hone their sound on the club circuit. One night, in the middle of 1977, Van Halen were playing at the Starwood in Hollywood. There wasn’t much of an audience. However, little did Van Halen know, that two very special guests were in the audience, Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Bros. Records. The pair liked what they heard and less than a week later, Van Halen had signed to Warner Bros. Records. Mo Ostin dispatched Van Halen to Sunset Sound Records with producer Ted Templeman, where recording of Van Halen I began.

Van Halen. 

Like many bands recording their debut album, Van Halen were fearless. They had no apprehension. Mind you, this wasn’t exactly a new experience. Van Halen had been in studios before, recording two different demo tapes. However, this was for real. The band had written nine tracks. The other two were covers of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and John Brim’s Ice Cream Man. These eleven tracks would eventually become Van Halen’s debut album, Van Halen.

Recording of Van Halen began in the middle of September 1977. Van Halen’s rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony set about proving the album’s pulsating heartbeat. A week was spent recording Eddie’s guitar parts. Another two weeks were spent recording David’s vocals and the backing vocals. By  early October 1977, recording of Van Halen was all but complete. The decision was made not to do much in the way of over-dubbing. This meant Van Halen was much more like hearing Van Halen live. How would critics respond to this?

Before the release of Van Halen, critics had their say. For everyone at Warner Bros. Records, they held their breath. Back in 1978, critics could be venomous. It was hardly rock critic’s finest hour. They were in the throes of a love affair with punk. Many critics took great pleasure in trashing rock albums. The critics didn’t hold back when it came to Van Halen. Most of the reviews were negative. One of the worst reviews came from the so called doyen of critics, the contrarian Robert Christgau. The equally contrarian Rolling Stone were not fans of Van Halen. At least they admitted that Van Halen were going places. Mostly, the reviews panned Van Halen. However, soon, critics would be eating their words.

When Van Halen was released on 18th February 1978, it began climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200 charts. This was just the start of the rise and rise of Van Halen, who critics had changed their mind about,

Gradually, critics changed their minds about Van Halen. Suddenly, they began to regard Van Halen as one of the best debut albums in the history of rock ’n’ roll. That’s the case today, with critics hailing Van Halen as a classic, and one of the greatest debut albums ever released. From that album, a trio singles were chosen.

Three singles were released from Van Halen. A cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100. Runnin’ With The Devil Stalled at number eighty-four in the US Billboard 100. The final single released from Van Halen was Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love. It failed to chart. While the singles failed to replicate the success of Van Halen, it showcased the band at their hard rocking best.

Literally, Van Halen strut and swagger through the eleven tracks on their debut album Van Halen. It’s no surprise that rock and heavy metal fans were won over by Van Halen. It’s a track full of  some of Van Halen’s biggest songs, including  Runnin’ With The Devil, Eruption, You Really Got Me, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Jamie’s Cryin’ and Ice Cream Man.  Van Halen’s rhythm section of Alex and Michael provide the backdrop to Eddie’s blistering guitars  and David’s lived-in vocal. From the opening bars of Runnin’ With The Devil, right through On Fire, Van Halen win friends and influence people. The band who just a year ago, were being hailed L.A.’s best bar band, were on their way to becoming a one of the biggest bands on planet rock. 

Van Halen II.

When Van Halen entered Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, on 11th December 1978, the the four members of the band must have wondered what had happened in the last ten months? They had gone from bar room band, to a million selling rock band. All of a sudden, they were one of the biggest bands in the America. They were being touted as the saviour of American rock. This was hard to comprehend. It also meant that Van Halen were under pressure to record a fitting followup to Van Halen.

Recording of what became Van Halen II began on 11th December 1978. Nine of the ten tracks were penned by Van Halen. Many of the tracks weren’t new songs. Instead, they featured on the Gene Simmons’ sessions. However, given Van Halen were under pressure to record their sophomore album, it’s no surprise that they chose to dust off these songs. The other track chosen for Van Halen II was Clint Ballard Jr.’s You’re No Good. These ten track were produced by Ted Templeman. By January 1979, Van Halen II was complete, and ready for release.

Given the negative reviews of their debut album, the four members of Van Halen must have awaited the reviews of Van Halen II with bated breath. Mostly, reviews of Van Halen II were positive. That’s apart from the “usual suspects,” who still, failed to be won over by Van Halen. They were in the minority. The majority of critics were impressed by Van Halen II’s upbeat, feel good sound. Especially tracks like Dance The Night Away and Beautiful Girls, which some critics referred to Van Halen II as perfect party music. One track however, was very different to the rest. 

This was the instrumental, Spanish Fly. It was perceived as the followup to Eruption on Van Halen. Spanish Fly however, is only a minute long, and featured Eddie Van Halen on an acoustic guitar. Rather than fingerpick, he uses a plectrum. This makes things doubly hard. Despite this, he delivers a guitar masterclass. Eddie deploys a variety of techniques, including finger tapping and tremolo picking. Those who had marvelled at Eruption, would be spellbound by Eddie’s performance on Spanish Fly.

That would be the case with Van Halen’s performance on Van Halen II. When Van Halen II was released on March 23rd 1979, copies of Van Halen II sold quickly. It was one of 1979s must have rock albums. Soon, Van Halen two reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it sold five million copies in America, and was certified platinum five times over. Across the border, Van Halen II was certified double platinum in Canada. Meanwhile,  in France Van Halen II was certified gold. It seemed Van Halen could do no wrong. 

While that was the case with Van Halen’s first two albums, their singles were selling as well. While Dance The Night Away reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100, Beautiful Girls stalled at number eighty-four. Just like many other rock bands before them, Van Halen looked like being an album’s band. Maybe that would change with their third album?

Women and Children First.

Just a year after Van Halen began recording their sophomore album, the band began work on their third album, Women and Children First. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Van Halen story.

On Van Halen’s first two albums, Van Halen had added cover versions. This included a cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and John Brim’s Ice Cream Man on Van Halen. Then on Van Halen II, Van Halen covered Clint Ballard Jr.’s You’re No Good. However, when recording of Women and Children First began in December 1979, cover versions were a thing of the past. 

Women and Children First, Van Halen’s third album was their first album featuring just songs written by the four members of the band. Maybe Van Halen had realised that putting cover versions on albums was costing the band royalties? There was certainly no need to resort to cover versions? The four members of Van Halen were talented songwriters, capable of writing their own material.  So when Van Halen entered the studio to record Women and Children First, they came with ten new songs they had penned. This however, wasn’t the only change that became apparent.

As recording of Women and Children First began, onlookers in the studio realised that Van Halen’s music was becoming heavier. This wasn’t just a stylistic change, and to some extent, a thematic one. Some of Van Halen’s later songs had a degree of darkness. Mostly, though, Van Halen were still the same hard rocking, good time band. However, what became apparent was that their way of recording was changing.

Unlike Van Halen and Van Halen II, Women and Children First saw Van Halen rely more upon overdubs. Backing vocals weren’t used as extensively. They were on Could This Be Magic?, and Nicolette Larson was drafted in to sing the choruses and backing vocal. This was the one and only time a female backing vocalist featured on a  Van Halen album. Another first was the keyboard driven And the Cradle Will Rock. Although it sounds like a guitar, it’s a Wurlitzer electric piano with a phase shifter used to transform the sound. It seemed that Van Halen had the confidence to experiment more on Women and Children First. Given that Van Halen were working with such an experienced producer as Ted Templeman, this was the perfect opportunity to try new things. He could show Van Halen how to make their ideas work.

Despite the stylistic change and change in their way of recording, producer Ted Templeman didn’t try to reign in Van Halen. He must have known that Van Halen wanted to broaden their horizons musically. They had always been a hard rocking band, and weren’t willing to sacrifice what many felt was their true sound. Maybe Van Halen had sacrificed some of their true sound on their first two albums. Now that they had their foot in Warner Bros’ door, they could show their true colours. This may not have pleased everyone.

Van Halen finished recording Women and Children First in February 1980. At last, those within Warner Bros. could hear Women and Children First. Some were aware of Van Halen’s music changing stylistically. This didn’t please everyone. Van Halen were one of Warner Bros.’ biggest success stories. By changing their style, this could alienate their audience. Not everyone who had bought Van Halen, and Van Halen II, would be receptive to a heavier Van Halen. Would this be the case within Warner Bros?

Once the executives at Warner Bros. heard Women and Children First, they were able to form an opinion. Most of those whose opinion mattered liked Van Halen’s new sound. They realised that Van Halen wanted to evolve as a band. They couldn’t keep rehashing Van Halen, and Van Halen II. Instead, they had to move forward. However, it was a big risk. Van Halen, and Van Halen II were million selling albums. There was a lot at stake. If Women and Children First flopped it would prove costly. 

Van Halen had two hurdles to overcome before they would know if Women and Children First had been a success. The first was the critics. 

As the critics their say, everyone at Warner Bros. and the four members of Van Halen awaited the verdict. Eventually, the reviews were published. Many critics remarked upon Van Halen’s heavier sound. They also noted that the four members of Van Halen had written the ten tracks on Women and Children First. Although Women and Children First was quite different from Van Halen II, it was well received by critics. They felt Van Halen were maturing as a band and songwriters. Proof of this were tracks like Could This Be Magic? and Everybody Wants Some!!, which reinforced Van Halen’s reputation and credentials as a good time party band. Having cleared the first hurdle, now record buyers had the final say. 

Only if Women and Children First sold in similar quantities to Van Halen and Van Halen II could the album be declared a success. Women and Children First was released on March 6th 1980. Straight away, Women and Children First was selling well. Soon, Women and Children First reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it sold three million copies in America, and was certified triple-platinum. Elsewhere, Women and Children First was certified double platinum in Canada and gold in France. As Van Halen and everyone at Warner Bros. breathed a sigh of relief, still Van Halen weren’t selling singles in vast quantities.

The only single released from Women and Children First, was And The Cradle Will Rock. It stalled at number fifty-five in the US Billboard 100. Van Halen it seemed, were never going to be a singles band. However, what really mattered was that Women and Children First had sold well. That was certainly the case. Worldwide, Women and Children First sold over three million copies. Van Halen’s decision to change direction had paid off.

Fair Warning.

By the time that Van Halen began recording their fourth album, Fair Warning, Van Halen were a divided band. The band’s two main men were at loggerheads. David Lee Roth wanted Van Halen to return to the sound of the first two album. He wasn’t in favour of the heavier sound, which he felt didn’t appeal to as many people. The proof of this was the sales of Women and Children First. 

Eventually, Women and Children First sold over three million coupes. Van Halen eventually sold ten million copies and Van Halen II five million copies. David felt it Van Halen continued with the heavier sound, they risked alienating record buyers. Van Halen co-founder didn’t agree.

Eddie wanted Van Halen to continue their heavier sound. Women and Children First was the first time they showcased this sound. He felt that the way forward was longer songs with much more complicated song structures. This would allow Van Halen to shine as musicians, especially Eddie, who was seen one of the best guitarists of the late-seventies and early eighties. Given Eddie was one of the best guitarists of his generation, he felt his guitar playing should take centre-stage. David Lee Roth disagreed, and disagreed with Eddie’s other proposal. 

The other change Eddie proposed was a continuation of the darker themes that Van Halen began exploring on Women and Children First. For David Lee Roth, this wasn’t what Van Halen were about. They were, in many people’s eyes, a good time rock ’n’ roll band. However, that wasn’t the direction Eddie wanted Van Halen to take. Instead, it looked as if Eddie wanted Van Halen to become the Led Zeppelin of the eighties. With David and Eddie at loggerheads, work began on Van Halen’s fourth album Fair Warning.

Just like Women and Children First, Van Halen penned the ten tracks on Fair Warning. Recording of these ten tracks began in late 1980. Quickly, it became apparent that Eddie’s ideas had prevailed. The music was fast, rocky and sometimes dark. This allowed Van Halen’s rhythm section to showcase their skills Fair Warning. Especially Eddie, who unleaded a series of fierce, blistering solos on tracks like Mean Street, Hear About It Later, Unchained and So This Is Love? David who seemed to have pst the argument, added his trademark vocals. Producer Ted Templman had the job of bringing Fair Warning together. The result was the hardest rocking album of Van Halen’s career, Fair Warning.

Before Fair Warning was released on April 29th 1981, the critics had their say on Van Halen’s hardest rocking album. Reviews of Fair Warning were mixed. Most of the critics embraced Fair Warning. They were impressed by Eddie’s virtuoso skills. Aided and abetted by his box of sound effects, Eddie unleashes a series of blistering solos. Along with the other two members of the rhythm section, he was key to Van Halen’s new, hard rocking style. Together, they provided the backdrop for David’s vocals. He brought to life the lyrics, as Van Halen continued to evolve musically.

It seemed Fair Warning had won over most of the critics. However, while most of the reviews of Fair Warning praised Van Halen’s fourth album, there were still some doubters. They felt that Van Halen were heading down the wrong road. On Women and Children First and Fair Warning, Van Halen’s music had become much harder. This had cost Van Halen precious sales on Women and Children First. Would this be the case with Fair Warning?

On the release of Fair Warning on 29th March 1981, sales were slow. Fair Warning was the slowest selling Van Halen album of their four album career. Eventually, it reached number six in the US Billboard 200. While this was the same as Van Halen II and Women and Children First, sales were way down. Fair Warning sold “just” two million copies. This was a million less than Women and Children First, and three million less than Van Halen II. To make matters worse, none of the singles charted.

Four singles were released from Fair Warning during 1981. The first was So This Is Love. It failed to chart. So did Mean Street, Push Comes To Shove and Unchained. This wasn’t unexpected, as Van Halen weren’t a singles band. However, it further reinforced David Lee Roth’s argument.

Given that Fair Warning was Van Halen’s slowest selling and least successful album, many onlookers wondered whether Van Halen would rethink their sound. It seemed record buyers weren’t embracing Van Halen heavier sound. Maybe it was time to come round to David Lee Roth’s way of thinking?

Diver Down.

After the release of Fair Warning, Van Halen headed out on tour. They spent months promoting Fair Warning. Still, Fair Warning sold slowly, and failed to match the sales of previous albums. Once the tour was over, Warner Bros. started pressurising Van Halen into recording their fifth album.

That wasn’t what Van Halen wanted to hear. They wanted to take some time out, and then spend time writing and recording their fifth album. That wasn’t to be though.

Not long after the Fair Warning tour ended, David Lee Roth came up with an idea. He wanted Van Halen to record a single and release it just after the New Year. He had the very song in mind, Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman. While this wasn’t the most obvious choice for a single, the rest of Van Halen agreed. 

So the four members headed to Sunset Sound and recorded their cover of Oh, Pretty Woman. After working out an arrangement with producer Ted Templeman, Van Halen recorded Oh, Pretty Woman. Once it was finished, Oh, Pretty Woman was released early in the New Year.

Just after New Year 1981, Van Halen’s version of Oh, Pretty Woman was released. Van Halen weren’t known as a singles band. However, Oh, Pretty Woman succeeded where better Van Halen songs failed, and reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100 and number one on the US Mainstream Rock charts. Ironically, this became the most successful single of Van Halen’s career. However, the success of Oh, Pretty Woman backfired on Van Halen.

Having just enjoyed the biggest selling single of their career, Warner Bros. started pressurising Van Halen into recording their fifth album. Van Halen didn’t get the time to write and record their fifth album.

Eventually, Van Halen relented. That’s despite having been on tour for months. For the last four years, Van Halen had been recording and touring albums. It was like a merry-go-round, one that Van Halen needed to get off. Especially since the last year hadn’t been easy.

Eddie and David were still at loggerheads. Although Eddie had won the day, David had been vindicated. Sales of Fair Warning were way down. It sold a million less than Women and Children First. This was costing Van Halen and Warner Bros. money. So, Van Halen could hardly refuse Warner Bros.’ request to begin recording their fifth album. However, that wasn’t Warner Bros.’ only request.

Given Fair Warning hadn’t been as successful as previous Van Halen albums, someone at Warner Bros hit on the idea that Van Halen should include some covers on what became Diver Down. The reasoning for this was, that if people recognised some of the songs on the album, they would be more likely to by it. Especially if these songs had been hits before. So, Van Halen went in search of covers.

Having already recorded and released Oh, Pretty Woman, Van Halen got to work on their fifth album, Diver Down. In addition to Oh, Pretty Woman, Van Halen had chosen four other cover versions. This included The Kinks, Where Have all the Good Times Gone and Martha and The Vandellas’ Dancing In The Streets. They were augmented by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen’s Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) and Dale Evans’ Happy Trails. Apart from the five cover versions, Van Halen had seven new songs. Three of the songs weren’t so new.

Hang ‘Em High started life as Last Night, a track from Van Halen’s 1977 demo. Happy Trails was another song from the 1977 demos, which had been included as a joke. Now the joke was on Warner Bros. The other song was Cathedral, a song Van Halen had been playing for a couple of years. During that period, the song had continued to evolve. These three songs would become part of Diver Down, which was recorded in two studios in Los Angeles.

Recording of Diver Down began in January 1982. Two studios were used by Van Halen. The first was Sunset Sound, where Van Halen had recorded previously. Other sessions took place at Warner Bros. Recording Studios, which before the corporate rebinding, was known as Amigo Studios. At these two studios, Van Halen and Ted Templeman got to work. Things weren’t going to plan as Van Halen began recording eleven of Diver Down’s twelve songs.

During the recording of Van Halen’s previous album, Diver Down, released in 1982, David, Eddie and producer Rod Templeman had clashed. The problem was, Eddie wanted to make keyboards a prominent part of the Van Halen sound. David and Rod disagreed. Thinking that Van Halen was a democracy, the two men thought the matter was settled. They were wrong.

Despite this, Eddie went ahead and recorded much of Diver Down at his home studio. When the band heard it, it was keyboard heavy rock rubbed shoulders with Van Halen’s trademark sound. Presented with what seemed like a fait accompli, David began to reconsider his position. He was far from happy with Eddie’s sudden discovery and love of synths. For a rock ’n’ roller like David, this was sacrilege. Despite this, David and Eddie managed to work together.

Over the next three months, Van Halen worked their way through the twelve tracks. Some were easier to record than others. Sometimes, things didn’t go to plan. Some of the covers were difficult to adapt, so that they took on Van Halen’s sound. One of the most problematic was Dancing In The Streets. The problem was Eddie couldn’t work out a guitar riff. Eventually though, Van Halen figured out an their take on Dancing In The Streets. Gradually, Diver Down began to take shape. By March 1982, Diver Down was completed. It would be released on April 14th 1982.

This meant there wasn’t long before Van Halen completed Diver Down and its release on April 14th 1982. By then, some of the members of Van Halen were beginning to realise that Diver Down wasn’t their finest moment. Eddie Van Halen would later say: “I’d rather have a bomb with one of my own songs than a hit with someone else’s.” However, Van Halen had folded too quickly for a band who had already sold over fifteen million albums. They had been cajoled into recording cover versions. For the hard rocking Van Halen, this almost subservient attitude was surprising. Or was it?

When critics were sent advance copies of Diver Down, they were struck by the album cover. It portrayed the diver down flag, which is used to indicate that a scuba diver is diving within that area. If ever it  was a case of “a picture paints a thousand words.” David Lee Roth explained that “there was something going on that’s not apparent to your eyes…it’s not immediately apparent to your eyes what is going on underneath the surface.” That could easily be replaced by the press and record buyers weren’t aware what was going on behind the scenes. They never knew that Van Halen were pressurised to record Diver Down. Would the pressure Warner Bros. under, could come back to bite them?

Having received advance copies of Diver Down, critics were determined to have their say. Most were impressed by Diver Down. Some weren’t enamoured with the cover versions. This was quite unlike Van Halen. However, mostly, the reviews of Diver Down were positive. Things were looking up for Van Halen.

On its release on 29th April 1982, Diver Down reached number three in the US Billboard 100. This was the highest chart position of Van Halen’s first five album. Eventually, Diver Down sold four million copies, which was double the amount of Fair Warning. This was pretty good for album that included cover versions and a trio of tracks from Van Halen’s past. However, the success didn’t stop there.

Dancing In The Street was the second single to be released from Diver Down. It stalled at number thirty-eight in the US Billboard 100. The other four singles, Secrets, Little Guitars, The Full Bug and Where Have All the Good Times Gone failed to reach the US Billboard 100. At least they reached the US Mainstream Rock charts. However, times had changed, with Van Halen having enjoyed two hit singles from Diver Down. For a band who hadn’t been known as a singles band, this was changed times for Van Halen. 

That had been the case throughout the last five years. Between the release of Van Halen in 1978, and Diver Down in 1982, Van Halen had been on a musical roller-coaster. Before signing to Warner Bros., Van Halen were just a bar band, albeit the biggest and best bar band in Los Angeles. Their career had began in a blaze of glory, with Van Halen, which went on to sell ten million copies. Van Halen II then sold five million copies. Suddenly, Van Halen were one of the biggest rock bands in the world. From there, the next three years were one filled with twists and turns.

After releasing Van Halen and Van Halen II, which are considered two of Van Halen’s finest albums, the next two years saw Van Halen’s music evolve. It become harder and rockier on Women and Children First. By then, Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth were at loggerheads as to the future direction of the band. 

While Eddie wanted Van Halen’s music to take on a harder, rockier sound, David wanted Van Halen to continue the populist sound of their first two albums. Eddie won the day. However, it proved to be a Pyrrhic victory. Sales decreased on Women and Children First. The drop in sales continued on Fair Warning, where Van Halen’s music becomes even harder and rockier. After Fair Warning sold three million less than Van Halen II, Warner Bros. decided to intervene.

Ironically, Warner Bros.’ suggestion that Van Halen combine cover versions and original material on Diver Down, resulted in the most successful album since Van Halen II. Diver Down sound four million copies. For most bands, this would’ve been a cause for celebration. Not Van Halen. They soon realised that they had folded too easily. They shouldn’t have given in to Warner Bros., as they were an experienced and successful band. If they had taken the time to write and record the album they wanted, they may have reached the scaled the same heights as their next album. 

Two years later, in 1984, and Van Halen’s first five albums were well on their way to selling twenty-four million copies. However, their sixth album, 1984. was a game-changer, in more ways than one.

Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, was proof that if Van Halen were given time to write and record an album, they could come up with something very special. 1984 was a fusion of keyboard heavy rock, combined Van Halen’s trademark hard rocking sound. Thos proved a winning combination. These two sides of Van Halen resulted in a classic album that would become the biggest selling album of Van Halen’s career.

On its release on January 9th 1984, 1984 started climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number two in the US Billboard 200. This was the highest chart placing of  Van Halen’s six album career. It also became the biggest selling album of  Van Halen’s career. Eventually, 1984 sold twelve million copies. 1984 became Van Halen’s second album to be certified diamond. Elsewhere, 1984 was a huge seller.

In Canada, 1984 was certified five times platinum. Over the Atlantic, 1984 was certified gold in Britain and France. Meanwhile, 1984 was certified platinum in Germany. Van Halen had recorded the album everyone knew they were capable of. It came at a cost.

Behind the scenes, all wasn’t well within Van Halen. David Lee Roth, Van Halen’s charismatic frontman would quit after 1984. In some ways, the writing had been on the wall. David left on a high. However, maybe, Van Halen might have released an album of the quality of 1984 two years earlier?

Given the time they wanted and needed, Van Halen’s fifth album would’ve been of a similar quality. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Instead, Diver Down was an album that Eddie Van Halen openly admitted to disliking. Eddie was quite open when he said: ”I’d rather have a bomb with one of my own songs than a hit with someone else’s.” It as obvious that he didn’t see Diver Down as his finest hour. That’s the case.

While Diver Down is a good, but not great album, it’s nowhere near as good as Van Halen, Van Halen II and Women and Children First. They’re three of the first five Van Halen albums that have been remastered by Rhino. They were reissued on vinyl on 10th July 2015. The others are Fair Warning and Diver Down. Of these two albums, Fair Warning is the best of the two. However, for the newcomer to Van Halen, then s Van Halen, Van Halen II and Women and Children First are the perfect introduction to Van Halen, who were well on their way to becoming one of the biggest selling bands in rock music.

From Van Halen’s 1978 debut album Van Halen, and their 2012 swan-song A Different Kind Of Truth, the former Los Angeles bar band’s twelve studio albums sold 50.5 million copies in America alone. Four of Van Halen’s albums topped the US Billboard 200 charts. Two albums were certified diamond, having sold ten million copies. This includes Van Halen and 1984, two classic albums from Van Halen, who are still one of the biggest bands on planet rock. Van Halen are one of rock ’n’ roll’s great survivors, who have outsold and out-rocked two generations of bands.

VAN HALEN-VAN HALEN, VAN HALEN II, WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, FAIR WARNING AND DIVER DOWN-VINYL EDITION

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IAN LEVINE’S SOLID STAX SENSATIONS.

IAN LEVINE’S SOLID STAX SENSATIONS.

The Stax Records’ story began in 1957, when Jim Stewart founded Satellite Records. Four years later, in 1961, Satellite Records changed its name to Stax Records. That day, one of what become one of the most successful independent soul labels was born.

This success lasted fourteen years. Then on December 19th 1975 Stax Records and its sister label Volt Records were forced into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Less than a month later, on January 12th 1976, a bankruptcy judge ordered that Stax Records close its doors for the last time. The last person to leave Stax Records was engineer and producer Terry Manning. It was the end of an era.

Since then, countless compilations of Stax and Volt Records have been released. Many play it safe, and stick with the tried and tested. They showcase Stax and Volt’s bigger names, including Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, The Soul Children, Johnny Taylor, William Bell, Judy Clay, The Dramatics and The Bar-Kays. However, often, what veterans of Stax and Volt compilations long for, is a compilation where the compiler has dug much deeper. They got their wish recently.

Stax Records, an imprint of Ace Records, recently released Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations. It’s the followup to a compilation Ian Levine compiled back in 1974. That was Solid Soul Sensations, which was the first ever Northern Soul compilations. It featured tracks from the Scepter and Wand back-catalogues. On its release, Solid Soul Sensations was a huge success in Britain, reaching number eleven. A followup was planned, but somehow, Ian Levine never got round to it, until recently. 

While Solid Soul Sensations was released on vinyl, and featured just sixteen tracks, the newly released Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations has been released on CD and features a mighty twenty-five tracks. On Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, Ian digs deeper into the Stax and Volt vaults than other compilers. He’s eschewed the familiar, and tried and tested. 

Instead, Ian has chosen tracks from some of the lesser known names to have recorded on Stax and Volt. This includes Bobby Whitlock, Joni Wilson, Annette Thomas, The Stingers, Reggie Milner, Paul Thompson, The Newcomers and John Gary Williams. Familiar faces include William Bell, The Dramatics, Barbara Lewis and David Porter. However, the tracks from these “familiar faces” aren’t the ones most people would expect. That’s what makes Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations such a captivating compilation.

Opening Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is Bobby Whitlock’s And I Love You. It was the B-Side of Raspberry Rug, which was released on Hip Records, an imprint of Stax Records. And I Love You was produced by Don Nix and Donald “Duck” Dunn. However, Raspberry Rug sunk without trace. Later, the hidden gem that is And I Love You was discovered by the Northern Soul crowd. By then, Bobby Whitlock had been a member of Derek and The Dominoes, and collaborated with Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. Bobby also release four solo albums between 1972 and 1976. The best of these albums are Bobby Whitlock and Raw Velvet. They’re the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets.

The Rance Allen Group feature three times on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations. They released I Know A Man Who as a single in 1973, on Gospel Truth Records. This was an imprint of Truth Records. Soul and gospel combine as Rance Allen delivers an impassioned vocal powerhouse. 

Gonna Make It Alright was hidden away on the B-Side of The Rance Allen Group’s 1973 single I Got To Be Myself. As a result, I Got To Be Myself passed most people by. Not any more, this uplifting, joyous gem makes a welcome comeback on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations.

Ain’t No Need Of Crying is the third and final track from The Rance Allen Group. It’s a David Porter composition, which was released as a single on Stax Records’ gospel imprint Truth Records in 1974. It features a beautiful, heartfelt vocal where soul and gospel combine seamlessly.

Charlene and The Soul Serenaders’ Can You Win was originally released on Paradox in 1970. When Stax Records heard the single, they decided to take a chance on the single. However, promos were sent out to DJs, Love Changes and Can You Win as a double-A-side on Volt. These singles are now a real rarity. Then when the single was released, Can You Win was the B-Side. Since then, it’s become a favourite in the UK’s Northern Soul scene.

Tony Hester and Richard Wylie cowrote You’re My Only Temptation. It was recorded by Roz Ryan and produced by Don Davis, and released on Volt in June 1970. Despite its smooth, soulful and melancholy sound, You’re My Only Temptation passed record buyer by. This proved to be Roz’s one and only single for Volt. Mind you, what a single it was. Later, Roz would go on to enjoy a successful career as an actress.

Proud As Punch released their one and only since on Stax in 1970. That was So Easy To See, On the B-Side was If You Look Into My Eyes in 1970. It was written by Ted Tierce and produced by Don Nix. With its big, bold and jaunty arrangement, it’s a delicious slice of blue-eyed soul.

The Stingers are another group who only released one single on Stax, Do The Cissy. On the flip-side was Refuse To Be Lonely. It was produced by future member of M.F.S.B. Lenny Pakula. He also cowrote the track with Palmer Lakes and Robert Seville. In The Stingers’ hands, Refuse To Be Lonely is transformed into a stomper, Philly style.

Originally, The T.S.U. Tornadoes were the house band at Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide Records. They later, became Archie Bell’s backing band. However, in 1969, they released My Thing Is A Moving Thing. This was the first of two singles The T.S.U. Tornadoes released on Volt. On the flip-side of My Thing Is A Moving Thing is the the Leroy Lewis penned I Still Love You. It has Northern Soul written all over it, and is a real find by Ian Levine.

A real rarity is Ilana’s single Where Would You Be Today. It was released on Volt in 1971, and proved to be her only single. Accompanied by female backing vocalists Ilana delivers an under soulful vocal of a single that’s almost impossible to find. When copies of  Where Would You Be Today become available, they’re beyond the budget of most record buyers. So its inclusion on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is to be welcomed. It’s one of my highlights of Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations.

Before signing to Volt, Margie Joseph was briefly signed to Okeh. That’s where she released her debut single Why Does A Man Have To Lie? After that, Margie Joseph signed to Volt, and released One More Chance as a single in 1969. It was produced in New Orleans by Larry McKinley. Margie Joseph delivers what’s without doubt one of the most soulful ultimatums as she sings I’m gonna give you One More Chance to prove your love.”

After leaving Atlantic Records in 1968, Barbara Lewis signed to Enterprise, an imprint of Stax Records. Two years later, in 1970, Barbara released what was the final album of her career, The Many Grooves Of Barbara Lewis. It featured The Stars, which features Barbara at her soulful best, delivering a heartfelt, hopeful vocal. It’s a tantalising taste of what Barbara Lewis is capable of.

One of the most underrated albums released on Stax was John Gary Williams’ 1973 eponymous album. It was released on Stax, and featured John Gary Williams’ 1973 single The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy. His melancholy vocal is tinged with disbelief as he sings “The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy.” Social comment and soulfulness, it doesn’t get much better than that.

My final choice from Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is David Porter’s If I Give It Up, I Want It Back. This is the opening track on what’s regarded as the finest album of David’s career, Victim Of The Joke?….An Opera. It was released in 1973. However, If I Give It Up, I Want It Back had been released two years earlier, in 1971 on Stax. Sadly, the single failed commercially. However, by the time Victim Of The Joke?….An Opera was released in 1973, David Porter was enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim his talent as a singer deserved. 

Over the years, I’ve bought countless Stax compilations and box sets. Sometimes, compilers stick to the tried and tested. They never stray far from Stax and Volt’s biggest names. This means a compilation packed full of tracks from Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, The Soul Children, Johnny Taylor, William Bell, Judy Clay, The Dramatics and The Bar-Kays. Usually, they’re these artists biggest hits. Occasionally, however, a compiler goes of piste and digs deeper. This includes veteran DJ Ian Levine.

For Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, the veteran and venerable DJ has dug deep in the Stax vaults. He’s also dipped into the Volt, Truth, Hip and Enterprise vaults, and found twenty-five tracks that eschew the familiar and predictable. The result is Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, a compilation that’s all killer, and no filler. That’s no surprise.

Ian Levine’s life has revolved around soul for over forty years. He’s lived and breathed all things soul. From his days spinning Northern and Modern Soul at the Blackpool Mecca, Ian Levine knew where the soulful secrets were hidden. He’s decided to share a few of them on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, which was recently released by Stax Records on Ace Records. It’s one of the best Stax compilations money can buy. Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is also the perfect way to dig deeper into Stax’s discography.

Especially for those whose budget can’t stretch to the trio of box sets that were reissued earlier this year. They feature every single released by Stax and its various imprints between 1958 and 1975. However, they’ll set you back in excess of £200. Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations won’t break the budget, and is a welcome introduction to some of the best kept, soulful secrets in the Stax Records’ vaults.

IAN LEVINE’S SOLID STAX SENSATIONS.

Stax-Soul-Sensations

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