Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Frankie Miller - High Life (1974 uk, excellent pub soulful classic rock, 2003 extra tracks remaster)



After Frankie Miller had recorded his debut album “Once in a Blue Moon”, with pub rockers Brinsley Schwartz, record company Chrysalis decided that what he really needed to bring out the best in his talents was a producer. Miller suggested three, Phil Spector, Jerry Wexler and Allen Toussaint. Never really believing any of them would come to fruition Miller told them his preferred choice was Toussaint. Chrysalis duly shipped a copy of the first album over for Toussaint to hear, without any great expectation of agreement. At that point Toussaint had never worked with a white artist, let alone on an unknown one. Toussaint however was more than a little impressed with Millers soulful delivery and Miller was soon booked on a flight.

The result was the album “Highlife”. An album which many believe to be Frankie Miller’s finest but which he subsequently disowned after Chrysalis ordered a complete remix after the album was recorded. There is no doubt that Miller’s vocal performance is top notch throughout but you also get the feeling that the final sound is just a little too polished and he is a little too high in the mix. The original mix had, on Millers request, been left as rough and gritty around the edges as possible but Chrysalis insisted it was given a ‘Philly’ mix. A sound which Miller hated.

Songs wise the album is a mixture of Miller and Toussaint originals and includes three original versions of Toussaint compositions that went on to be hits for others. Namely ‘Brickyard Blues’ for Three Dog Night, ‘Shoo-Rah’ for Betty Wright and ‘I’ll Take a Melody’ for Hues Corporation.

The title track which opens the album is surely one of the most criminally short songs ever recorded. Quite why it wasn’t extended to the length of a proper song is beyond me. At only 58 seconds it can barely count as anything more than an introduction. Despite this it sets the mood perfectly so maybe that was indeed the intention. Toussaints simple piano intro doesn’t hint on whats to come with ‘Brickyard Blues’ though as Miller launches into a fully fledged soulful blues soaked vocal. It is not difficult to see why he was being referred to as the white Otis Redding by many. An acoustic guitar leads into a more country and rocky track ‘Trouble’. The organ solo is perhaps a little too understated and this is surely one of the songs that would have benefited from a punchier mix. The same can be said of ‘A Fool’. Although to be fair this one does at least feature a more prominent guitar and horn sound in the solo and instrumental passages. Miller is still too high in the mix though throughout the verses and chorus. The organ is back to the fore for ‘Little Angel’. A song which is very reminiscent of the style Millers career would take on his “Full House” and “Falling In Love” albums of the late seventies. Toussaints ‘With You In Mind’ was another perfect opportunity for Miller to emphasise his natural ability to deliver a blues soul vocal with a raw gritty edge. Also recorded by Gladys Knight and Aaron Neville amongst others, Toussaint still maintains this Miller version is the best.

‘The Devil Gun’ written by Miller is the track that is closest to those he recorded later in his career and is the one that straight rock and blues lovers will like the most. Almost a blueprint for the 1975 album “The Rock” it is by far the rockiest track on the album. It is also arguably the best. ‘I’ll Take a Melody’ follows and Miller has quite openly stated that he didn’t really think much of it as a song. That is certainly not evident in his performance though although I’ll agree that the end section may go on just a little too long. ‘Just a Song’ probably has the nicest melody on the album. It starts with a simple vocal over a piano before the horns and the backing vocalists come in for the chorus. It is probably my favourite track, despite most people overlooking it. Like ‘Highlife’ I would have liked to have seen it extended a little longer. ‘Shoo-Rah’ ups the tempo considerably and has a great horn break in the middle. It is a country mile better than the Betty Wright version …. and that was pretty good ! The closing ‘Falling In Love Again’ displays Miller at his gritty best. A build up not dis-similar to a Free track leads into Miller snarling over an understated swirling organ. The song still comes across as something of a menacing threat despite the unhelpful mix. It is pretty obvious why former Free bass player Andy Fraser wanted to build his new band around him as the Paul Rodgers comparisons are clear.

Sadly “Highlife” didn’t provide Frankie Miller with a hit record or become a springboard to worldwide fame and riches despite the critical acclaim it recieved at the time. It did, however, pave the way for several other British singers to go down the Allen Toussaint route. Most notably Jess Roden who like Miller has never been given the accolades he deserves. “Highlife” is without doubt a superb album and is still one of my most played. Whether or not it is his best is open to debate and personally I can’t decide.
by Martin Leedham, February 2011
Tracks
1. Highlife - 0:58
2. Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues) - 3:34
3. Trouble (Frankie Miller) - 3:30
4. A Fool - 2:48
5. Little Angel (Frankie Miller) - 3:12
6. With You In Mind - 3:18
7. The Devil Gun (Frankie Miller) - 3:35
8. I'll Take A Melody - 4:33
9. Just A Song - 2:47
10.Shoo-Rah - 2:47
11.I'm Falling In Love Again (Frankie Miller, Allen Toussaint) - 4:04
12.With You In Mind - 0:57
13.Brickyard Blues (Live) - 3:12
14.The Devil Gun (Live) - 5:04
15.If You Need Me (Demo) - 5:44
16.With You In Mind (Demo) - 4:15
All songs by Allen Toussaint except where stated
Bonus Tracks 13-16

Personnel
*Frankie Miller - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Allen Toussaint - Piano, Organ, Conga
*Joe Wilson - Guitar, Slide Guitar
*Tom Robb - Bass, Conga
*Mike Huey - Drums
*G.C. Coleman - Drums
*Auburn Burrell - Dobra Guitar
*Barry Bailey - Guitar
*Lester Caliste - Trombone
*Clyde Kerr Jr - Trumpet
*Gary Brown - Tenor Saxophone
*John Longo - Trumpet
*Alvin Thomas - Baritone Saxophone

1972  Frankie Miller - Once In A Blue Moon (2013 japan remaster) 

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Nirvana - To Markos III (1969 ireland / greece / uk, beautiful orchestrated psychedelia, 2003 issue)



Nirvana's third and final album for Island (sometimes titled Dedicated to Markos III in discographies) was extremely rare in its first 1969 LP issue, the U.K. release limited to a few hundred promo copies. 

They were still offering the kind of light orchestrated pop-rock that they had on their previous Island records, with some jazz and classical influences. It's a more mature product than their first two albums, but a little tired-sounding, and lacking in the more psychedelic ambition that produced some of their best songs, like "Rainbow Chaser" and "I Believe in Magic."

Although the orchestration, often combining strings with harpsichord, is often sumptuous (if just short of cloying) and the melodies pleasant, not much of this sticks to the bones. The somewhat more soulful, straightforward rock of "Christopher Lucifer" and "It Happened Two Sundays Ago" provides some nice relief, if only because it's different from the wistful fantasy aura that predominated in Nirvana's world. 

This rarity gained easy availability with its 2003 CD release on Universal/Island, which despite remastering still has some noises that sound suspiciously like tiny vinyl bumps at the beginning of "Black Flower," one of the more dramatic and better numbers. Also in the package are extensive liner notes, though these (like those on all the 2003 Universal/Island reissues of Nirvana's first three LPs) contain annoying undue repetition of the text that appears on the liners to the other Universal/Island Nirvana re-releases. 
by Richie Unterberger
Tracks
1. The World Is Cold Without You - 3:45
2. Excerpt From "The Blind And The Beautiful" - 2:38
3. I Talk To My Room - 3:38
4. Christopher Lucifer - 4:06
5. Aline Cherie - 3:03
6. Tres, Tres Bien - 2:54
7. It Happened Two Sundays Ago - 3:08
8. Black Flower - 4:32
9. Love Suite - 6:04
10. Illinois - 3:37
All Music and Lyrics by Patrick Campbell-Lyons, Alex Spyropoulos.

Musicians
*Patrick Campbell-Lyons - Guitar, Vocals
*Alex Spyropoulos - Keyboards
*Roger Cook - Backing Vocals
*Billy Bremner - Guitar
*Lesley Duncan - Vocals

1967  Nirvana - The Story of Simon Simopath (2003 remaster and expanded)  
1968  Nirvana - All Of Us (2003 extra tracks issue)
1972  Nirvana - Songs Of Love And Praise (2005 japan remastrer)

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Ballin' Jack - Ballin' Jack / Buzzard Luck (1970/72 us, great jazz funky psych brass rock, 2006 reissue)



Ballin’ Jack was formed in Seattle by former childhood friends Luther Rabb and Ronnie Hammon. Both of them had gone to school with and been friends with Jimi Hendrix at the city’s Garfield High School.  In the early 60s Luther Rabb played around the NW with several moderately successful outfits on the teen and R&B circuits.   He had even played saxophonist alongside Jimi Hendrix’s in The Velvetones, the first band Hendrix had been involved in.  Ronnie Hammon was a drummer who’d also backed a few Seattle bands-none of them particularly notable.  

In 1967 Rabb and Hammon decided to form their own band.  Rabb, a multi-accomplished musician would leave the saxophone behind and switch to bass guitar.  Hammon continued drumming, thus forming a strong rhythm section.  Almost immeadiately they added Jim Coile on flute and Tim McFarland on trombone. A bit later Jim Walters would come onboard as their saxophonist and Glen Thomas providing the lead guitar.  The name Ballin’ Jack has obscure origins.  It could be based on “Ballin’ the Jack” a 1913 song written by Jim Burris and  Chris Smith.  It could refer to the and the ensuing dance that became popularized by the song.  The expression “Ballin’ the Jack” also has ties to railroad workers who used the expression “to go full speed”.  But the band’s use of the shortened expression probably was chosen for one of two other reasons.  Sometimes the term “ballin’ the jack” implied having a great time.  There’s certainly enough examples of the expression being used in film, on Broadway and popular music….but sometime he meaning was (literally) deep, full-on sex.  Blues great Big Bill Broonzy sang in “Feel So Good”

There’s several ways to interpret the term, but “ballin the jack” was an expression often used in jazz and blues circles to mean deep, full and fast sex.  It may be this veiled, slang reference is the meaning the band intended their name to represent.

Ballin’ Jack found themselves moving to Los Angeles, living in a large house cum-home studio near the Sunset Strip.  Although all of the members had put plenty of time paying dues, their signing to Columbia Records and tour success came almost immediately, partly due to the encouragement of their old friend Jimi Hendrix.  One key to their success is that Ballin’ Jack had been formed not only as a soulful funk unit, but also as one of the “horn bands” that were popular on the fringe of pop music in the late 60s and early 70s.  They found themselves treading the waters of both James Brown and Sylvester Stone along with bands like WAR, Pacific Gas and Electric, Cold Blood, Tower of Power and other rock bands featuring horns that were arising from on the West Coast.  Obviously the most successful of these bands was the more commercial Chicago Transit Authority-later shortened to Chicago-from the Windy City

Many of these bands had begun creating a new hybrid of soul, jazz, funk with strong horn sections. They also followed the current (at the time) move to integrate multi-ethinic players into their line-up. Ballin’ Jack could be counted among this new genre, and their rise had been quick, but Ballin’ Jack they only found modest success outside the Northwest and Bay Area of being an incredibly tight and incredibly well-loved live act.  They played the college circuit, auditoriums  like the Fillmore West and the Fillmore East and a myriad of rock festivals.  In 1970 Billboard Magazine proclaimed

“Ballin Jack’s’ reputation was that live their shows were so good that fans were known to have left afterwards, and that some headliners had actually refused to have them again as an opening act”.

Unfortunatly none of this translated into the kind of album sales and radio play they deserved. The band only lasted five years, but not before becoming a reliable touring draw and Jimi Hendrix insisting they be included as openers for several of his 1970 Cry of Love tour. After .Hendrix’s death that year they would continue to share bills with the likes of B.B. King, Spirit, Elton John, Sly and The Family Stone, The Kinks, and more of the most famous artists of their day.  They even found themselves playing two of America’s most venerated small clubs, The Bottom Line in New York City, and The Troubador in Los Angeles.  The band also played two separate sold-out dates in their hometown, at Seattle’s Paramount Theater in 1973 and 1974 respectively.  In 1973 Ballin’ Jack were featured on Burt Sugarman’s prestigious late-night show The Midnight Special.  One thing that distinguished the show was that bands played live in the TV studio.  No lip-synching.  No backing tracks.  Of course, Ballin’ Jack tore the place up.

In 1974 Ballin’ Jack called it quits due to poor album and single sales, and the band’s running it’s natural course. Co-founder Luther Rabb went on to tour as vocalist with Santana in 1976.  He then began working with Lola Falana and in 1977 released his own solo album Street Angel. Throughout the early to mid 1980’s Rabb was the bass player for

In 1986 Rabb was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him with nerve damage-consequently ending his career as a bassist.  At that point Rabb moved on to management and production until, sadly, he was left paralyzed by a stroke in 2002.  Eventually Rabb died in 2006, but he’s still recognized for his incredible talents in Ballin’ Jack,  Santana, and WAR.  He had kept close contacts with friends and musicians in the Seattle area, where his passing also had a great effect.

Although Ballin’ Jack never found the audience they should have in the 70s it’s ironic that since the band’s demise their music has been used in TV and Radio ads for the ESPN X Games and Found A Child was re-recorded in 2005, by Kon & Amir” and released as 12″ vinyl for sale to hip-hoppin’ live DJ’s.    The Beastie Boys also sampled Ballin’ Jack’s  “Never Let ‘Em Say” on their album Paul’s Boutique.  Their music has also been sampled by Ozamatli, Gang Starr and DoubleXX Posse Cheetah Girls .  Their most famous and most heavily sampled Found A Child was used liberally on Young MC’s international hit, Bust A Move.
by Dennis R. White
Tracks
Ballin' Jack 1970
1. Found A Child (Jim Walters, Luther Rabb) - 2:50
2. Super Highway (Jim Walters) - 2:43
3. Festival (Jim Walters, Luther Rabb) - 4:31
4. Telephone (Jim Walters) - 2:09
5. Only A Tear - 2:11
6. Never Let 'Em Say - 2:45
7. Street People (Jim Walters, Luther Rabb) - 2:00
8. Carnival (Ballin’ Jack) - 6:13
9. Ballin' The Jack (Chris Smith, Jim Burris) - 1:54
10.Hold On - 6:43
Buzzard Luck 1972
11.So Do I (Glenn Thomas, Luther Rabb) - 5:03
12.Good Man - 2:37
13.(Come 'Round Here) I'm The One You Need (Brian Holland, Edward Holland, Jr., Lamont Dozier) - 3:38
14.Stay Awhile - 3:08
15.Trouble (Ronnie Hammon) - 3:31
16.Telling Lies (Jim Walters, Luther Rabb) - 3:45
17.Country Pine (Glenn Thomas, Luther Rabb) - 3:54
18.Playin' The Game - 2:26
19.You And Me (Jim Walters, Luther Rabb) - 3:10
20.Bye,Bye,Bye (Jim Walters, Luther Rabb) - 5:58
All songs written by Luther Rabb except where noted

Ballin' Jack
*Jim Coile - Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Backing Vocals
*Ronnie Hammon - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
*Tim McFarland - Trombone, Piano, Backing Vocals
*Luther Rabb - Bass
*Glenn Thomas - Guitar
*Jim Walters - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Lead Vocals
With
*King Errisson - Congas
*Jimmy Haskell - String Arrangements

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nirvana - The Story of Simon Simopath (1967 ireland / uk / greece, wonderful baroque psychedelia, 2003 remaster and expanded)



In February 1967, an English band called Nirvana released their debut album, The Story of Simon Simopath. Historically, the album was perhaps the first narrative concept LP ever produced. It predated similar works from The Who, The Kinks, and The Small Faces. Nirvana was really the duo of two singer/keyboardists, Patrick Campbell-Lyons from Ireland and Greek composer Alex Spyropoulos. To augment their studio work, they added various players for live gigs and band photos including Ray Singer (guitar), Brian Henderson (bass), Sylvia A. Schuster (cello), and Michael Cole (French horn, viola). As recounted in Campbell-Lyons 2009 autobiography, Psychedelic Days 1960-1969, this Nirvana enjoyed exuberant times in international youth culture while touring and working in England, Greece, France, South America, Morocco, and points in between. Their most memorable gig was on a French television show hosted by surrealist artist Salvador Dali. While the band performed, Dali threw black paint at them.

While the group worked and played on a world stage, the one place they didn't make a splash was the states. For one matter, while they were one of Chris Blackwell's early signings to his fledgling Island Records, his distribution deal with Bell Records didn't pay off for Nirvana. Bell released The Story of Simon Simopath and a few singles with no promotion whatsoever. Even the band didn't know the album had come out. In 1968, the duo recorded their second album, All of Us, which continued the orchestral pop of their debut, but it didn't appear in the U.S. Then, Blackwell rejected their third outing, Black Flower, and thereafter Nirvana disbanded until 1985 when Campbell-Lyons and Spyropoulos reunited for on-again, off-again recording and touring.

Why did Nirvana fly so low under the radar all these years, at least in America? Clearly, the Bell debacle didn't help. It's also true they came out during an era of guitar gods, and their emphasis on harpsichords, pianos, and strings were slightly out-of-step, although organ-based groups like Procol Harum and The Zombies found a comfortable niche for themselves. Some feel Nirvana was too "continental," but it's hard to see how anything with European themes would be ignored in the wake of the British Invasion. Perhaps the real issue was that Nirvana defied easy catagorizing. Their lyrics were full of dreamy portraits and character sketches of young people told with trippy wordplay. Proto-power pop? 
by Wesley Britton, June 27, 2012 
Tracks
1. Wings Of Love - 3:21
2. Lonely Boy - 2:32
3. We Can Help You - 1:59
4. Satellite Jockey - 2:35
5. In The Courtyard Of The Stars - 2:36
6. You Are Just The One - 2:07
7. Pentecost Hotel - 3:08
8. I Never Had A Love Like This Before - 2:51
9. Take This Hand - 2:18
10.1999 - 2:16
11.Wings Of Love - 3:22
12.Lonely Boy - 2:33
13.We Can Help You - 2:07
14.Satellite Jockey - 2:39
15.In The Courtyard Of The Stars - 2:35
16.You Are Just The One - 2:09
17.Pentecost Hotel - 3:13
18.I Never Had A Love Like This Before - 2:50
19.Take This Hand - 2:18
20.1999 - 2:10
21.I Believe In Magic (B-Side To "Tiny Goddess") - 3:25
22.Life Ain't Easy (Previously Unreleased Version) - 3:17
23.Feelin' Shattered (B-Side To "Pentecost Hotel") - 2:22
24.Requiem To John Coltrane (B-Side To "Wings Of Love") - 4:54
All songs written by Patrick Campbell Lyons, Alex Spyropolous
Tracks 1-10 Original Stereo Mix
Tracks 11-20 Original Mono Mix
Bonus Tracks 21-24

Nirvana
*Patrick Campbell Lyons - Guitar, Vocals
*Ray Singer - Guitar
*Alex Spyropoulos - Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
*Michael Coe - French Horn, Viola
*Brian Henderson - Bass
*Peter Kester, David Preston, Patrick Shanahan - Drums
*Sylvia A. Schuster - Cello
*David Preston - Drums
*Patrick Shanahan - Drums

1968  Nirvana - All Of Us (2003 extra tracks issue)
1972  Nirvana - Songs Of Love And Praise (2005 japan remastrer) 

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Osmosis - Osmosis (1970 us, brilliant heavy experimental jazz prog rock, 2017 remaster)



Hailing from the Boston area of the USA, Osmosis was a seven-piece group fronted by the legendary saxophonist and flautist Charlie Mariano and also featured Bobby Knox (vocals), Andy Steinborn (lead guitar), Danny Comfort (bass), Charlie Bechler (keyboards), Lou Peterson (drums) and Bobby Clark (drums, percussion).

On stage, Osmosis were a powerful band, featuring two percussionists. In the studio the group were brave and experimental, arguably becoming one of the first true Progressive bands to emerge in the United States. Their sole album can be compared to the work of British groups such as Van Der Graaf Generator, Soft Machine or King Crimson, whilst also revealing a more jazz orientated side to their character.

Long overlooked, Osmosis has been re-mastered from the original RCA master tapes. The booklet features an essay by Sid Smith featuring an exclusive interview with guitarist Andy Steinborn. This remarkable album was a fusion of early Progressive and Jazz Rock and was released by RCA Records in 1970.
Tracks
1. Of War And Peace (In Part) (Andy Steinborn, Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler, Danny Comfort) - 1:06
2. Beezlebub (Andy Steinborn, Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler) - 3:51
3. Thoughts Aften Stray (Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler) - 2:50
4. Sunrise (Andy Steinborn) - 2:31
5. Shadows (Charlie Mariano, Miki Boni) - 3:34
6. Adrift (Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler, Danny Comfort) - 4:52
7. Sunlight (Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler) - 2:32
8. Scorpio Rising (Bobby Clark) - 2:58
9. Please Let Me Go (Bobby Knox, Charlie Mariano) - 4:24
10.Geoffery's Tune (Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler) - 3:40
11.Of War And Peace (In Full) (Andy Steinborn, Bobby Knox, Charlie Bechler, Danny Comfort) - 7:22
12.Sleep, My Love (Epilogue) (Charlie Mariano) - 1:52

Osmosis
*Charlie Mariano - Soprano, Alto Saxophones, Flute, Nagaswaram
*Bobby Knox - Lead Vocals
*Danny Comfort - Bass
*Lou Peterson - Drums
*Bobby Clark - Percussion, Drums, Vocals
*Andy Steinborn - Guitar, Background Vocals
*Charlie Bechler - Keyboards, Melodica, Tympani, Chimes

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Improved Sound Limited - The Final Foreword (1966-73 germany, fabulous swinging beat psych kraut rock, 2003 remaster)



It is certainly correct, the quote from "Rolling Stone" in August 2002, that the eponymous double album (re-released as LHC 007) was the real debut album of Improved Sound Limited. Still, there were numerous notable releases of the band even before that, all of which have, in different ways, specific and unique "Improved" characteristics which make them forerunners of the future sound. This album attempts to document those early years, as the music developed out of the "beat" culture of the sixties, with some input from the eclectic styles of west coast, psychedelic and underground, before heading in the seventies toward progressive rock and expressive ballads.

Whereas CD No. 4, "Road Trax", contained primarily instrumental music for films by Wim Wenders and Erwin Keusch, CD No. 5 returns to vocals, in the band's chosen language of English, as in previous releases. In an article published on 15 April 1972 in the legendary "Melody Maker", Michael Watts wrote about German bands singing in English: "The most popular of these is 'Frumpy', who won a poll not long ago in a German magazine, but the most accomplished that I've heard is 'Improved Sound Limited'." Be that as it may, this album is both prologue and epilogue. But these pieces without opus numbers are anything but scorned rejects. They run the gamut from the short hidden track by the "Pyjamas Skiffle Group" (as the band called itself around 1961) to "The Very Last Waltz" from 2002. Incidentally, even in the skiffle days, the band's instruments were "Improved". As the photo shows, Johnny and Axel had already traded their standard four-string guitars for the six string electro Spanish variety. Rolf was never satisfied with a wash board as the usual drum ersatz; he had a Sonor drum kit. Only the less discriminating Uli stayed with a self-made, original tea box bass, with two strings of clothes line.

Improved Sound Limited released a total of four singles, two of which are on this CD: "It is You" and "Sing Your Song". The other two singles are not included here, for good reason. One had mono mixes of the nursery rhyme "Hoppe Hoppe Reiter" plus "I'm Exhausted" (the stereo versions are tracks 6 and 11). The fourth single contained rough mixes of "Oedipus" and "Where Will The Salmon Spawn" which are hardly different from the recordings on the eponymous double album LHC 007. Instead, I chose for this album the interesting original versions of both songs, as featured on the soundtrack of the TV show "Kommissar" in the episode "Dr. Meinhardt's Tragic End". Compare the audibly different atmosphere of the two versions.

The track list of "The Final Forward" starts with the band's very first single, "It Is You" (B side: "We Are Alone"). With "It Is You", Improved Sound Limited won the beat music competition of Bavarian Radio in 1966, and with it a recording contract. They garnered the most points from a jury including noted classical composer Werner Egk ("Abraxas") and soundtrack specialist Peter Thomas, as well as tumultuous applause (105 dB!) from the audience.

The single was then produced by Polydor's Gerhard Mendelson, who had tremendous success with the German language productions of Connie Francis, Rita Pavone, Gigliola Cinquetti, Gus Backus and Thomas Fritsch, among others. Unfortunately, the release came six months later, so the promotion effect of BR's airplay was lost. But "the beat goes on...".

Tracks 3 and 4, "Marvin Is Dead" and "Sing Your Song", are songs from the film "Der Bettenstudent", directed by Michael Verhoeven. Behind the snappy title is the bestselling novel "Und so was lebt", in which author Finn Søborg sends up bureaucrats and administrators. The cast was strong: Gila von Weitershausen, Hannelore Elsner, Karl Dall, Stella-Maria Adorf and Christof Wackernagel.

The next songs (tracks 5 to 12), from the film "Engelchen macht weiter - Hoppe hoppe Reiter" with Gila von Weitershausen and Mario Adorf, also resulted from the collaboration with Michael Verhoeven. Film producer Rob Houwer, who had made a deal with Rolling Stones guitarrist Brian Jones to do music for Volker Schlöndorff's film "Mord und Totschlag", was quite taken by the Improved Sounds and asked them for some music (see the booklet for the CD LHC 007). The success of the film, and also of the soundtrack LP and single on the Cornet label, would prove him right. On this CD are all significant pieces of music, omitting only smaller bits such as the backround music in a department store.
Rob Houwer himself remixed the music (four track was then state of the art) for the film and the soundtrack album. It was slightly different from the mix on this album, which sounds less commercial but is preferred by the band. 

But getting back to Michael Verhoeven: he called on the "wonderful band from Nürnberg" (Verhoeven in the AZ, 11 Jan. 1969) for something special for an episode of the TV series "Kommissar" titled "Dr. Meinhardt's Tragic End". They gladly fulfilled his wishes, for example with a section reminiscent of Gainsbourg/Birkin in the middle of "Oedipus", or just a touch of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade Of Pale" in the instrumental version of "Where Will The Salmon Spawn". Neither version has appeared before on any commercial recording. The same goes for the music for the TV series "Krempoli" (tracks 15 to 20), which was also directed by Michael Verhoeven and broadcast throughout Europe. Incidentally, a cameraman on the TV series was Joseph Vilsmaier, later himself a director of such internationally successful films as "Herbstmilch", "Stalingrad" and "Comedian Harmonists". The band immersed itself with enthusiasm and virtuosity in the series' plot and scenes, without sacrificing the unique "Improved" touch. For me, some tracks sound like early demos of songs on the "Road Trax" CD (LHC 017), for example "Down The Dusty Road", "Mexican Hat" or perhaps "Le fleuve tranquille". Also previously unreleased is the title song of a Fischer&Welz-/Kare-Kraus film called "Lass knacken, Ive", with an imaginative story and highly professional production in the tradition of the young Munich filmmakers. The cameraman was Peter Ettengruber, who edited Schlöndorff's film "Baal" starring Fassbinder in the title role. But the changing zeitgeist stood in the way of this film's success. What remains is the wonderful ballad "The Policeman", which with its mellifluence resonating in melancholy (please excuse the pathos!) could only come from one band: Improved Sound Limited.

The quartet built up a fine reputation as a live band. This makes it all the more unfortunate that I have been unable to locate any surviving recordings at the numerous sources contacted, for example a tape of their appearance at Constantin Film's German premiere of Andy Warhol's film "Trash" in Munich, at which the band was praised by Warhol and his star, Joe Dallessandro. 

It is also sad that there are no recordings of their various works for the theater, which drew national attention. Improved Sound Limited provided the music for the German premiere of Fernando Arrabal's "Bella Ciao", by the director of the world premiere at the Théâtre National Populaire in Paris, Jorge Lavelli. The "Frankfurter Rundschau" wrote of an "important, stimulating evening of exciting theater. Improved Sound Limited, which led the tonal troupe in a show/revue which reminds somewhat of "Mahoganny", performed their own compositions just right for the theater." The "Abendzeitung" (Norbert Neudecker) noted "musical numbers which range from highly rhythmic, resonant sounds to schmalzy tango, all extremely attractive and thus appropriate in their ironic context." The "Weserkurier" (Rainer Wagner) reported that the "renowned pop group Improved Sound Limited wrote and played appealing and imaginative songs for this spectacle." The acerbic theater critic Hans Bertram Bock asserted in his review, "the band demonstrated with precision and in responsive collaboration with the other participants their brilliant abilities." The sheet music has survived, any tapes that may have been made have not. But I personally am happy and satisfied with the five CDs (a total of 84 tracks) we have assembled. Concerning the fifth one, I agree with the magazine "Sounds" (Nov. 1973): "Improved Sound Limited reminds at times of the late Beatles, at times of the Byrds. All their songs are very clearly crafted compositions, sound pleasantly fresh and still reflect a lot of experience."

I don't want to conclude my essay without sincere thanks to the band for their cooperation, and also for providing me with numerous recordings and photographs.  I am especially grateful to Johnny Fickert and Bernd and Axel Linstädt for fulfilling my request for a very special encore, "The Very Last Waltz", recorded in 2002. I like it just as much as the old "Improved" songs. I almost wrote "classics", because it seems the more I hear them, the more I like them. I think R.W. Schmidt wasn't far from the mark when he quoted Michael Verhoeven in the April 1969 issue of the then trendy magazine "twen": "These guys are in a class of their own in Germany." And I agree with both his overall opinion and with the last sentence of his article: "To paraphrase Richard Wagner, Improved Sound Limited are the ‚Meistersingers of Nürnberg'."
by Manfred Steinheuer, March 2003
Tracks
1. It Is You (Axel Linstädt, Lothar Johnny Fickert) - 2:07
2. We Are Alone (Axel Linstädt, Lothar Johnny Fickert) - 2:22
3. Marvin Is Dead - 3:40
4. Sing Your Song - 2:26
5. Love Is a Natural Thing - 2:22
6. Hoppe Reiter - 2:04
7. Don't Know Baby If You Are Safe - 2:05
8. Leave This Lesbian World - 3:03
9. Old Captain Cook - 2:17
10.Don't You Feel Any Pain - 1:53
11.I'm Exhausted - 2:24
12.Offering a Highly Sophisticated Way to Ride - 1:54
13.Oedipus - 3:11
14.Where Will the Salmon Spawn - 2:26
15.Krempoli Tune - 1:54
16.Down the Dusty Road - 0:54
17.Mexican Hat - 2:35
18.Are You Kidding - 1:09
19.Return to Fender - 2:47
20.Le fleuve tranquille - 3:50
21.The Policeman - 3:36
22.The Very Last Waltz - 2:20
Music by Axel Linstädt, Lyrics by Bernd Linstädt unless as else stated

The Improved Sound Limited
*Lothar Johnny Fickert - Vocals, Percussion, Flutes, Alto Sax, Rhythm Guitar, Hammond Organ
*Axel Linstädt - Guitars, Keyboards, Ocarina, Vocals, Soprano, Alto Recorders
*Uli Ruppert - Bass, Vocals
*Rolf Gröschner - Drums

1971  Improved Sound Limited - Improved Sound Limited 

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Fashion Pink - Encore (1969-75 germany, splendid kraut prog jazz psych rock, 2005 remastered release)



The band was founded in 1968. Their first gig took place on 12.10.1968, the line-up included Roland Schaeffer (vocals, guitar, saxophone, bass), Eddy von Overheidt (organ, vocals), Helmut Rusch (lead guitar), Jürgen Argast (bass) and Joe Koinzer (drums). Before, Roland and Helmut had played with the Pop Mops and Reaction, and soon after with a trio called Blues Act (1968), although their involvement with Blues Act was short-lived. In summer 1968 they contacted Eddy and Jürgen – and Fashion Pink was born. Eddy von Overheidt had been vocalist and guitarist with The Edwardians, a band who played Rock’n Roll Standards and titles by the Beachboys. Jürgen Argast had played with The Checkmates. The band was complete when Joe Koinzer joined them. He had played titles by John Mayall, Yardbirds and B.B. King with The Snakes. 

Fashion Pink were considered Baden-Baden’s Super Group. Rusch modelled himself on Jimi Hendrix and was the first to play a Fender Stratocaster including a Marshall-tower. Fashion Pink were the first in the region to play so called progressive underground music, mixed with jazz elements and free-jazz intermezzos. However, this line-up was only short-lived, since Helmut was drafted by the German Armed Forces and Jürgen left the band due to differences about the music. He was replaced with Rainer Bodensohn, who had originally learnt to play the guitar, but later on chose the transverse flute as his main instrument and also played bass. Before Helmut left the band in October 1969, Fashion Pink were the first of many bands to give a guest performance with the radio station Südwestfunk (today SWR) in Baden-Baden, and so this promising up-and-coming band recorded songs in Südwestfunk’s recording studio U1. On 15.6.1969, the band including Helmut recorded the titles “Peeling Beans” (composed by Roland Schaeffer) and “Forget it, I got it” (Spooky Tooth). Once he had served his time Helmut went to England, and from there he moved to Toronto in 1980. And, as he tells us in his email:” People call me Colin now.”

The titles of this CD impressively show the development of the band, the influences that worked on it, its models and how the band eventually found their own style, which became even more distinct in the follow-up band “Brainstorm”. The titles 01-07 are the ones that were recorded in Südwestfunk’s studio U1 between 1969-1971. They are published on CD for the first time. The live version of “Watch time flows by” was recorded off the mixing desk during a live appearance in Ludwigshafen in 1971. Titles 09-17 are special, since they had been published on a mini LP (T.A.C. Beiersdorf) recorded by order of the cosmetics company Beiersdorf. Eddy’s father Werner von Overheidt, editor with the Südwestfunk, who was working as a pianist and arranger as a sideline, had got in touch with Beiersdorf (e.g. Nivea), who were looking for a special “gift” for their customers. They thought of gratifying their customers with a so called soundtrack. In early 1971 Fashion Pink recorded the titles themselves and acted as producers. Parts of the titles were to be used in later musical epics. The LP was never publicly released. It was only ever given as a present to Beiersdorf customers and is now available on CD for the first time.

In early 1972 the band changed its name into Brainstorm and tried to get a record contract. Intercord offered the group a contract to publish 2 LPs. In October 1972 they brought out their first LP called “Smile a while”, followed by the LP “Second Smile” in 1973. Meanwhile several of Brainstorm’s recordings have been published under the CD label Garden of Delight. “Stars on stage” was recorded live during a gig in Ludwigshafen on 29.6.1975. Shortly afterwards, Brainstorm dissolved, too, and Schaeffer joined GURU GURU, where he is still active today.
by Manfred Steinheuer, December 2005
Tracks
1. I See You (Roger Mc Guinn, Dave Crosby) - 4:16
2. Dharma For One (Ian Anderson, Clive Bunker) - 11:17
3. Watch Time Flow By (Roland Schaeffer, Eddy Von Overheidt) - 1:39
4. I'm A Man (Steve Winwood, Jimmy Miller) - 3:51
5. There Was A Time (Roland Schaeffer, Leon Thomas) - 10:16
6. Forget It, I Got It (Jimmy Miller, Gary Wright) - 2:59
7. Peeling Beans (Roland Schaeffer) - 3:22
8. Watch Time Flow By (Roland Schaeffer, Eddy Von Overheidt) - 3:14
9. Why Am I So Blind - 2:43
10.Thesen Und Antithesen - 3:35
11.Variation I - 1:55
12.Bass In Race - 1:35
13.You Just Knock Me Out - 0:33
14.Scheiße Durch Den Urwald Getrommelt - 4:06
15.Variation II - 0:34
16.Brainstorming - 5:07
17.Variation III - 1:05
18.Stars On Stage (Roland Schaeffer) - 12:11
All compositions by Roland Schaeffer, Eddy Von Overheidt, Rainer Bodensohn, Jo Koinzer except where stated
Track 18 as The Brainstorm

Personnel
*Roland Schaeffer - Vocals, Guitar, Saxophone, Bass, Vibraphone
*Eddy Von Overheidt - Organ, Vocals, Electric Piano, Clavinet
*Helmut Rusch - Lead Guitar
*Jürgen Argast - Bass
*Joachim "Jo" Koinzer - Drums, Percussion
*Rainer Bodensohn - Bass, Flute
*Harold Wagner - Bass

1970-71  Fashion Pink - To Brainstorm (2000 issue) 
1973  Brainstorm - Second Smile 

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rock Workshop - The Very Last Time (1971 uk, fascinating brass jazz blues groovy classic rock, 2004 remaster and expanded)



It’s probably accurate to claim that Rock Workshop couldn’t exist today. Only during the early seventies did record labels bestow upon bands the flexibility and freedom that led to the creation of such original and often avant-garde albums.

Rock Workshop were just such an innovative project. The band formed in 1971 when guitarist Ray Russell (who had previously worked with Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames) colluded with the legendary singer Alex Harvey. Russell had first met Harvey after standing in for Harvey’s brother Leslie (of Stone The Crows) in the musical ‘Hair’ (at a tender age).

Their shared enthusiasm in producing more left-field material enabled them to recruit a sprawling band of twelve members that included a lively brass section.

Their debut album ‘Rock Workshop’ was recorded over a two-day period in April 1970, and released soon afterwards, though it surprisingly failed to make any substantial impact on the charts. Containing such tracks as ‘Hole In Her Stocking’ and ‘Born In The City’- both delivered with Alex Harvey’s hefty vocals- and it remains fresh even today.

Yet the record label was sufficiently impressed with the debut to fund a second album.

Regrettably, by the time of the recording of the second album, Alex Harvey had effectively left the band in order to pursue his own career (with the first of many Sensational Alex Harvey Band albums being released in 1972).

Replacing Harvey were Al Greed (who had sung on a number of the songs on the first album) and the somewhat mysterious figure of Ginger who only worked with the band on this record.

This release is enhanced by the inclusion of some previously unreleased material, which Russell has recently unearthed, that were recorded in the period between the first and second album.

“Well, these are tracks that I didn’t know that I had. I found the tapes, along with a few photos of Alex, in the bottom of a box in my loft,” he smiles. “I’m actually amazed that the tapes have survived so long as they were left out in my barn for ages!”

Including rehearsals (with Harvey on vocals) of tracks such as ‘Wade In The Water’ and ‘Ice Cold’ along with live material recorded at London’s Goldsmiths College they provide a valuable insight into how the band arranged and performed their material in a live setting.
Tracks
1. Living Reason - 4:13
2. Street War (Parts 1-2) - 9:12
3. Going Home (Ray Russell, Alan Greed) - 5:42
4. What's Mine Is Mine (Ray Russell, Alan Greed) - 2:54
5. Weeping Wood Mandalas - 1:51
6. Forgotten How To Live (Ray Russell, Alan Greed, Ginger Harper) - 4:00
7. Light Is Light (Ray Russell, Alan Greed) - 3:49
8. I Think It's... (Ray Russell, Alan Greed, Alan Rushton) - 4:01
9. Ella Banta Dum Bundy - 6:22
10.Very Last Time - 3:31
11.Is This End... Baby? - 0:51
12.Let My Bluebird Sing (Alex Harvey, Ray Russell) - 4:04
13.Wade In The Water - 3:41
14.Ice Cold (Ray Russell, R. Shepherd) - 3:04
15.Heavy Weather - 4:39
16.Patterns - 2:44
17.Watch Your Step - 4:16
18.Ashen Besher - 5:28
All songs by Ray Russell unless as else stated
Bonus Tracks 12-18

Personnel
*Ray Russell - Guitar
*Harry Beckett - Horn
*Bob Downes - Wind
*Alan Greed - Keyboards, Vocals
*Ginger Harper - Vocals
*Alex Harvey - Vocals (Tracks 11-14)
*Alan Rushton - Drums
*Brian Miller - Keyboards
*Tony Roberts - Wind
*Daryl Runswick - Bass
*Alan Rushton - Drums
*Derek Wadsworth - Trombone
*Phil Wainman - Percussion
*Tony Uter - Percussion

1970  Rock Workshop - Rock Workshop (2002 bonus tracks remaster)  
Related Acts
1969-71  Paul Korda - Passing Stranger (2012 remaster and expanded)
1973  Mouse - Lady Killer   1972-73  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Framed / Next 
1974-75  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - The Impossible Dream / Tomorrow Belongs to Me
1975-76  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Live / The Penthouse Tapes
1976-78  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Stories / Rock Drill
1969  Keef Hartley Band - The Battle Of North West Six (2008 remaster) 
1969  Sweet Pain - Sweet Pain

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tom Waits - The Heart Of Saturday Night (1974 us, magnificent jazz blues art rock, 2009 japan mini LP remaster)



Tom Waits is an urban romantic poet whose lyrics echo the oral Beat poetry pioneered by Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Corso in the Fifties. Like the Beats, Waits has an ear for the underlying rhythms of American speech and an impressive ability to catalog and juxtapose provocative snatches of cityscape while creating a grandly sentimental vision. Waits has the special ability to redeem cliches — to make such phrases as "lonesome ol' town" and "ol' bloodshot moon" at once sincere and sardonic.

While so many singer/songwriters concern themselves with escape from the city, Waits's songs express passionate love for the seamier side of Los Angeles and its environs. Booze, cigarettes and gasoline fuel his world of neon signs, gas stations, diners, bus depots, barmaids and sailors, all of which merge into an evocation of ecstatic nighttime restlessness.

Waits's excellent first album, Closing Time, conjured this vision less directly than The Heart of Saturday Night, which obsessively searches it out. While Heart doesn't contain any song quite as arresting as "01' 55" on the first album, most of its material surpasses the rest of Closing Time. Waits has a marvelously raspy voice, a jazz singer's phrasing, and plays a fair piano. The material on Heart ranges from spoken jazz-poetry to doleful melodic lyricism. "Diamonds on My Windshield," the one entirely spoken cut, celebrates being on the road. A first-person monolog delivered Oscar Brown-style, "Diamonds" reads like poetry:

Oceanside ends the ride
With San Clemente commin up
And Sunday desperados slip by
And cruise with a dry buck
And the Orange drive-in, neon billing
And the theaters filling to the brim
With Slave Girls, Hot Spur, Bucket Full of Sin

Two other songs — the title cut and "The Ghosts of Saturday Night" — also have very strong lyrics. Musically, the most beautiful moment is "San Diego Serenade," a slow waltz with a lovely string arrangement by Mike Melvoin.

Among today's young, white singer/songwriters, only Bruce Springsteen plays with language so abandonedly, though Waits's cool, jazz-flavored pop is utterly dissimilar to Springsteen's hot rock & roll. In his liner notes, Waits lists among his many influences Kerouac, Randy Newman and Frank Sinatra. One that he omits is Hoagy Carmichael, with his laconically sentimental keyboard style.

Beneath the sophisticated brilliance of his lyrics, Waits reveals a haunting innocence — the sense of a loner circling and recircling the same turf, musing out loud.
by Stephen Holden, December 5, 1974
Tracks
1. New Coat Of Paint - 3:22
2. San Diego Serenade - 3:29
3. Semi Suite - 3:29
4. Shiver Me Timbers - 4:27
5. Diamonds On My Windshield - 3:14
6. (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night - 3:50
7. Fumblin' With The Blues - 3:03
8. Please Call Me, Baby - 4:25
9. Depot, Depot - 3:44
10.Drunk On The Moon - 5:09
11.The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone's Pizza House) - 3:18
All songs written by Tom Waits

Musicians
*Tom Waits - Vocals, Piano, Guitar
*Jim Hughart - Double Bass
*Pete Christlieb - Tenor Saxophone
*Tom Scott - Clarinet
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Bob Alcivar - Arranger

1973  Tom Waits - Closing Time (2009 japan SHM remaster) 

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Spirogyra - St. Radigunds (1971 uk, excellent folk prog rock, 2013 remaster)



Spirogyra was one of the more intriguing bands of the early '70s. The quartet of singer/guitarist/songwriter Martin Cockerham, singer Barbara Gaskin, violinist/keyboardist Julian Cusack, and bassist Steve Borrill were obviously short a member, with future Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks coming on board for the recording of St. Radigunds, the group's debut album. 

The group's sound was unusual, with Cockerham's brittle, almost adenoidal vocals counterpointed by Gaskin's crystalline tones. Musically, too, the bandmembers played their instruments off against each other, with soaring, sometimes searing violin rocketing around strummed guitar and striking keyboard work. Stylistically, Spirogyra were determined to clash genres as well, and although much of their sound was grounded in folk-rock, Spirogyra interlaced it with proggier elements and psychedelic leanings.

Thus they never quite fit comfortably into the contemporary Canterbury scene, into which they were often lumped, and effectively drew in a much more diverse audience. This eclectic approach was also reflected in the lyrics, heard in the working man's view of WWII and its aftermath on the strident "The Future Won't Be Long" and the -isms that infect "Time Will Tell," notable in the acid-drenched imagery of "Magical Mary," and found in the poetry-laced lyrics of "Island."

With occasional use of unusual rhythms, intriguing blends of styles, innovative arrangements, and lyrics to ponder, St. Radigunds had it all, and quickly established Spirogyra as one of the most creative and innovative groups of the day.
by Jo-Ann Greene
Tracks
1. The Future Won't Be Long - 4:18
2. Island - 3:43
3. Magical Mary - 6:20
4. Captain's Log - 2:08
5. At Home In The World - 3:06
6. Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide - 5:55
7. Time Will Tell - 5:37
8. We Were A Happy Crew - 5:31
9. Love Is A Funny Thing - 2:10
10.The Duke Of Beaufoot - 8:07
All compositions by Martin Cockerham except Track #7 by Julian Cusack

Spirogyra
*Barbara Gaskin - Lead, Backing Vocals
*Martin Cockerham - Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Julian Cusack - Violin, Keyboards
*Steve Borrill - Bass
With
*Robert Kirkby - Strings, Trumpet, Recorder
*Tony Cox - VCS3 Synth
*Dave Mattacks - Drums
*Bill Bruford - Drums

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