Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hidden Diamonds - That Petrol Emotion

Our latest Hidden Diamond is a tune called "Sensitize" from the album Chemicrazy by That Petrol Emotion, an Irish band with the exception of their singer, American-born Steve Mack. The band's personnel has shifted since their inception in 1984. The Line-up is rounded out by John Marchini on bass, drummer Ciaran McLaughlin and guitarists Damian O'Neill and Raymond Gorman. This song is a true alt-pop gem, a wickedly clever bit of songwriting by McLaughlin. Although they built a loyal fan base over the five albums and ten years of their career, they never achieved any major acclaim, consequently the band split amicably in 1994. Enjoy.

Friday, May 27, 2011


This is a band that occupied a position in the transitional period between the hard rock-heavy metal of the 70's and the new wave of heavy metal of the 80's. Formed in 1969 by Singer Phil Mogg, Bassist Pete Way, guitarist Mick Bolton and drummer Andy Parker, they were originally called Hocus Pocus, then changed to UFO in honor of the London club in which they were spotted by Noel Moore who signed them to the Beacon Records label. Their eponymously named first album was typical hard rock fare, including a heavy version of Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody". It and the follow-up album, UFO2-Flying, became successful in Japan and Germany, but not so much in the U.S. and the U.K.
Part of the band's early work was in the Pink Floyd-Hawkwind space rock vein, where Bolton in particular was quite comfortable. However Bolton left the band in 1972, and the search began for a more hard rock-oriented replacement.
Guitarists Larry Wallis and Bernie Mardsen came and went, and finally they recruited Michael Shenker, formerly with the German band The Scorpions. Shenker was at the time a highly regarded guitarist  even though he was all of 18 years old.

Next up was a new label (Chrysalis), a new producer (Ten Years After's Leo Lyons) and a new album called Phenomenon. An instant classic released in 1974, it contained such fan favorites as "Doctor,Doctor" and "Rock Bottom". Two subsequent albums, 1975's Force It and 1976's NoHeavy Petting, along with extensive touring greatly raised the band's profile with American audiences and built a large following in England. By this time the band had added Danny Peyronel on keyboards and guitar.

In 1976 Peyronel left and the band recruited keyboardist-guitarist Paul Raymond,who had just left blues-rock band Savoy Brown. They then recorded the next album, Lights Out. Released in 1977,the album was a high point in the band's career,containing songs such as the title track, "Too Hot To Handle" and "Love To Love". It is counted among the best of the 70's hard rock genre and was critically acclaimed. Enjoying new-found success the band came back with the next album, Obsession, released in 1978, followed by a U.S. tour which produced a live album, Strangers In The Night which hit #7 in the U.K. charts in 1979. Unfortunately, Shenker's increasing alcohol abuse and friction with Phil Mogg resulted in his departure from the band after the U.S. tour. He was replaced by Paul "Tonka" Chapman.

The George Martin-produced No Where To Run was released in January,1980 to considerably less success. At this time Paul Raymond left to be replaced by ex-Uriah Heep man John Sloman and then by former Wild Horses member Neil Carter, who was with the band at  1980's Reading Festival. The band-produced album The Wild, The Willing, And The Innocent came out early the following year with a lighter pop-rock sound. The style,being popular at the time, helped the LP to crack the U.K. top 20.
After 1982's Mechanix, Pete Way left the band to form Waysted wth ex-Motorhead Guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke. Billy Sheehan, late of Talas,replaced him and 1983's Making Contact was released. The album tanked. The band broke up that March, but was re-formed shortly thereafter with Mogg, a returning Paul Raymond, guitarist "Atomic" Tommy MacLendon, and ex-Damned bassist Paul Gray.
This line-up released two albums, Ain't Misbehavin' and Misdemeanor, both of which despite having some quality material and inspired playing by McLendon, failed to generate any major interest.
Once again UFO disbanded.

In 1992 Phil Mogg re-formed UFO and since then the band has seen numerous personnel changes including the returns and re-departures at various times, of Shenker, Raymond, Way and Chapman. Their 19th studio album, The Visitor was released in 2009. the band still tour and have released a six CD live box set. they are working on their 20th album, due in June, 2011.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Four Tops

When the subject of Motown comes up, particularly the male vocal groups category, much is said about the Temptations, and rightly so, as they were in fact the record company's premier male vocal group. After them, there is nowhere to go but to the Four Tops. While The Tops may not have had the multiple lead singers, choreography  or Smokey's songs, what they did have was the awesome voice of one Levi Stubbs, a perfect baritone matched by very few. They also had the relentless hit-making machine of writer/production team Holland,Dozier and Holland. Add to that the distinction of having gone over four decades , that's 1953 to 1997, gentle reader, without a single change in personnel,and the cohesion that brings to the table. It takes a tremendous amount of common focus for four individuals to stay together that long and achieve at such a level .

They began their careers as high school students in Detroit, Levi Stubbs (born Levi Stubbins,a cousin of Jackie Wilson and brother of The Falcons' Joe Stubbs) and Abdul "Duke" Fakir attending one school, Renaldo"Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton students at another. They called themselves The Four Aims, and with the help of Payton's songwriter cousin Roquel Davis, they signed to Chess Records in 1956, changing their name to The Four Tops to avoid confusion with The Ames Brothers. While having little success with Chess,they did develop into a polished performing act. A songwriter who had worked with Roquel named Berry Gordy,Jr. convinced the act to sign with his developing record company Motown Records .

Early on,the group sang backup on other acts' records While recording jazz standards on the company's Workshop label. They can be heard,for instance on Martha And The Vandella's "My Baby Loves Me". The songwriting team Holland,Dozier and Holland had an instrumental trck they were unsure what to do with. They decided to craft the track as a mainstream love song with The Tops. They released the track,titled "Baby I Need Your Loving" and it went to #11 on the U.S. Billboard charts, and a big radio hit in 1964. Needless to say, The Four Tops were pulled from their jazz standard duty
and got to work on more material by H-D-H.

The follow-up single,"Without The One You Love" missed the top 40 by thirty positions. The next single,"Just Ask The Lonely", released in 1965, went top 30 pop and top 10 R'n'B. And off they went.
After scoring a #1 in June of 1965 with "I Can't Help Myself(Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)",the group began a long series of successful singles, among them "It's The Same Old Song" and "Something About You". Their records were like a blueprint of what made the Motown Sound, call-and-response vocals, simple but distinct melodies and rhymes and of course the mighty Funk Brothers. H-D-H wrote most of the songs in the higher register of Stubb's baritone to give his vocals a strained intensity in his gospel-rooted leads. They also used female back up vocals by The Adantes to add a high end to the Tops' low harmonies.

By 1967 The Four Tops were the most successful vocal group in  The U.K. , and in The U.S. second only to The Temptations. They got hits with more mainstream covers such as 1967's 'If I Were A Carpenter" and 1968's "Walk Away Renee". These were among the last hits produced by Holand,Dozier and Holland, who left Motown in 1967 over royalty and ownership disputes (a common theme in Berry's Motown,unfortunately). Without H-D-H, the group's, as well of much of Motown's output,began to decline. Work with Ashford&Simpson,Norman Whitfield,Johnny Bristol along with other Motown producers failed to yield any hits.

Their next major hit finally came in 1970 with the Frank Wilson-produced "It's All In The Game" which went top 30 pop and top 10 R'n'B. Pairings with the Jean Terrell-led Supremes, billed as The Magnificent Seven produced a series of albums and a top 20 version of "River Deep,Mountain High". soon after, The Tops left Motown for ABC-Dunhill and began another series of hits including "Ain't No Woman Like The One I've Got" and "Are You Man Enough" which appeared on the Shaft In Africa soundtrack. A 1980 move to Casablanca Records yielded the hit "When She Was My Girl". By 1983 they rejoined Motown, were featured in the label's 25th anniversary tv special and paired with The Temptations for a series of tours that continue occasionally to this day.

Since the late 80,s the group concentrated mainly on live appearances, recording only one Christmas album in 1995. On June 20,1997 Lawrence Payton died at the age of 57 due to liver cancer. After shortly carrying on as a trio,called The Tops, they recruited former temptation Theo Peoples as a replacement. Levi Stubbs had after a time become ill with cancer himself and had to leave the group.
Lawrence Payton took over as lead singer and Ronnie McNair was brought in to fill Payton's spot.
On October 17,2008, the great Levi Stubbs succumbed to cancer in his Detroit home.
July 1,2005 tragedy struck The four Tops once more as Renaldo "Obie" Benson died of lung cancer.
Abdul "Duke" Fakir is the sole surviving member of the still-touring group.

All told, The Four Tops amassed twenty nine top 20 singles and seven top 20 albums pop, R'n'B or both. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990, and were recipients of the 51st Annual Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Not too shabby for
being Motown's "other" male vocal group. Well done,gentlemen...well done.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gary Lewis And The Playboys

All kinds of interesting this group,Gary Lewis And The Playboys...say what you will, they left a hefty chunk o' pop-rock history in their wake. A 60s-era American pop band fronted by Gary Lewis, son of famed actor/comedian Jerry Lewis, much has been said, implied and tabloid-ized about the father's relationship with the son, and the elder Lewis' feelings about Gary's musical accomplishments. Being unable to solidly verify any of this talk, I shall endeavor to concentrate on the band and it's music.
The original members of the group were Lewis on vocals and drums, guitarist David Walker (no relation to the ex-Savoy Brown front man), David Costell also on guitar, bassist Allen Ramsey,and keyboardist John West. It should be noted that this was one of the earliest groups to feature a drummer as front person. ( I feel an A.D.D. Moment coming on, but I'll walk it off)

They auditioned for a gig at Disneyland without revealing the singer's lineage, calling themselves simply Gary and The Playboys at the time. They were hired on the spot,gained quick acceptance, and were soon playing every night. Band leader Les Brown,a long time friend of Gary's father saw the group and told producer Snuff Garret about them. After hearing the band,Garret thought it a good idea to use Gary's famous last name to sell records. Taking them into a studio session financed by Jerry Lewis' wife Patti, they recorded "This Diamond Ring". Garret,trying to maximize the act's chances for a hit, only allowed the band to play on the backing tracks, bringing in experienced session players, among them Leon Russell, Joe Osborne, and Hal Blaine for all overdubs. Session singer Ron Hincklin did the basic vocal track, with Lewis overdubbed twice,and one more track with Hincklin. All in all, drums, tympani.keyboards, and guitar were overdubbed.

Released in early 1965, "This Diamond Ring" got to #1 (one should hope so!). Garret got Jerry Lewis to use his contacts to get the band on The Ed Sullivan Show. The sticking point,however was that Sullivan had a general policy that the acts appearing on the show play live. The amount of studio embellishment on "This Diamond Ring" made that impossible, so as a compromise Sullivan allowed lewis to sing to a backing track while the band pretended to play. The January,1965 appearance made instant stars of the group. Hitting the #1 spot by April,1965, the song sold a million copies and was certified gold. By the end of 1965,however only Lewis and West remained of the original line-up. Later band members included Tommy Tripplehorn (son of actress Jeanne Tripplehorn), Carl Radle,and
Jimmy Karstein. Lewis also played guitar at the group's appearances from time to time. In 1965 Lewis was Cashbox's Male Vocalist of the year,beating out Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra (!).
The group was only one of two of the era's  groups to have seven consecutive top 10 singles (the other being The Lovin' Spoonful). Lewis was drafted into The Army in 1967 and was discharged in 1968. He returned to the business at that point but could not make up for his career's lost momentum, eventually marketing his band as a nostalgia act. All told, Gary Lewis And The Playboys racked up eight gold singles, seventeen top 40 hits, and four gold albums.They appeared on Hullabaloo, American Bandstand, Shindig, The Tonight Show and others. Despite their major U.S. success, They made virtually no progress in The U.K.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mother's Finest

I ask you to indulge me for a bit while I tell a small story. In the mid-80s myself and a few good friends went to a concert in town headlined by Humble Pie. Now I was a die-hard long time loyal show attendee type Humble Pie fan. Couldn't wait to see Steve Marriott and the boys blow the place apart. Well I was in for a disappointment. It was the later days of Humble Pie, Steve Marriott looked to be in poor health, voice weak, movements stiff. The show,needless to say, was less than stellar. My heart was broken to see a rock warrior on his last legs. Consequently, the opening band literally blew them off the stage. They were so good, they would have killed no matter who was headlining. I became an instant fan of this band. They were and are called Mother's Finest.

They are what can be most accurately called a rock-funk band with heavy overtones. Riff-heavy and soulful at the same time,they are a phenomenal stage act.
Formed in Atlanta,Georgia by Glenn Murdock and Joyce Kennedy, the original line-up was rounded out with Gary "Moses" Moore on guitar, drummer B.B. Queen, Gary "Wyzard" Seay on bass and Mike Keck on keyboards. Their debut album,Mother's Finest contained a song called "Niggizz Can't Sing Rock And Roll", an ironic song with a title controversial enough to attract the attenton of certain religious leaders,whose outcry led the band to drop it from their shows.The album is a collector's item.

They opened for the Who on their 1976 tour and got raves from the rock press. The band were guests on the German tv show Rockpalast and from that one oncert established a cult status in Europe that lasts to this day. With all  this rock acclaim, the singles released by the band,among them "Baby Love","Fire", "Love Changes" and "Piece Of The Rock" charted only on the R'n'B charts.

In the late 70s the band turned to  a more soul-oriented approach, while the 80s saw them return to a harder edge, most notably on the magnificent album Iron Age (their best, in my opinion).This trend held with the 90s release Black Radio Won't Play This Record (tragically, truer words were never spoken).  In 2004 their release Meta-Funkin-Physical introduced hip-hop and electronica into the mix.
In an anywhere near perfect world, Mother's Finest would be in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and would be enjoying U.S. acclaim. As it is, they are a criminally under-appreciated

Many personnel changes later, The band, with original members Kennedy,Murdock,Moore and Seay still tour to this day.

A.D.D. Moment...Waltz?

Rock music is many things to many people. It occurs to me that one of those things is invariably, music to dance to. Almost universally rock music has inspiredus to Cha-Cha, Jerk, Twist, Hustle, Waltz, Slam-Dance...hold it! Back up one...what was that? Waltz? You betcha! The Waltz is commonly composed in 3/4 time and sometimes 6/8 with the accent on the first beat. Sort of like 1,2,3...1,2,3 and so on. There are a lots of rock songs composed in this genteel time are a handful:

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Old Grey Whistle Test

Record sales didn't matter. Trends didn't matter. Demographics didn't matter. All that mattered on the Old Grey Whistle Test (heretofore referred to as OGWT) was that they considered you a "serious" act making "worthy" music. This is what set OGWT apart from other British music shows such as Top Of The Pops. The show strove to avoid the mainstream popular acts of the time and instead feature the innovative,earnest and authentically talented artists of the time. The acts were diverse and spanned a great number of genres, and they played live with an occasional prerecorded instrumental track. There was no out-and-out miming on OGWT.

 The sets were decidedly no-frills, plain and sometimes the acts would perform in front of the backside of another show's set. Another thing that contributed to the show's Spartan appearance was that it broadcast from a studio known as Pres-B which was usually used for in vision continuity (station breaks) thus, it was quite small.

The first host was Richard Williams, features editor for Melody Maker. In 1972 disc jockey Bob Harris took over, known for his whispering delivery. Ann Nightingale became the host in 1978 until the show's end. The show ran from 1971 to 1987 and was the prototype for future "serious music shows such as The Tube and Later With Jools Holland.
To follow are some of the acts presented on the show during it's run.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Hit Wonders # 3 - Los Bravos

Here's another one of our precious one hit wonders...Los Bravos. They were formed in Madrid, Spain in 1965. Their one hit was "Black Is Black",an organ-driven mid tempo tune with some pretty nice horn parts and a very Gene Pitney-ish lead vocal by German-born Mike Kogel. It went to #2 in the U.K. and to #4 in the U.S. charts. Los Bravos consisted of Kogel, guitarist Antonio Martinez, organist Manuel Fernandez, Miguel Vinces Danus on bass and drummer Pablo Gomez.
Tragically, Miguel Fernandez commited suicide on May 20,1967 after the death of his wife Lottie Rey in an auto accident. He was 23 years old.

The Meters

Here we have yet another band, rightly acclaimed critically and by their peers, yet criminally under-appreciated commercially. The Meters. They were formed in 1965 with Art Neville on keyboards and vocals, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter and drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. Later they were joined by Cyril Neville on vocals and percussion. They started out as the house band for Allen Toussaint and his Sansu Enterprises label. The Meters are, along with artists such as James Brown, early pioneers of funk, combining tight grooves with the syncopated "second line" rhythms,native to New
Orleans along with strong riffing from the guitar and keyboards.

They scored major hits with the songs "Cissy Strut" and "Sophisticated Cissy" in 1969. The following year their releases of "Look-Ka Py Py" and "Chicken Strut" were also major R'n'B chart hits. All four are considered funk classics. While having a hard time returning to the charts in 1972 after a label shift, the group still worked with artists suh as Paul McCartney, Dr. John, Labelle and Robert Palmer. The Rolling Stones, so taken with their sound, invited the group to open for them on their tours of the U.S. and Europe in '75 and '76. Later in 1976 they released one of their most successful albums, Fire In The Bayou. They appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1977 during the show's second season, and disbanded shortly after.

Art Neville subsequently gained fame as part of The Neville Brothers, while Modeliste went on tour with Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Porter and Nocentelli became in-demand session players and formed bands of their own. After the Wood-Richards tour, Modeliste, displeased in retrospect with the contract the group signed with producers Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn, quit playing drums for several years. He convinced his bandmates to join him in a lawsuit against Toussaint and Sehorn, with all but Modeliste settling out of court. Around that time George Porter formed The Funky Meters with drummer Russell Batiste and Guitarist Brian Stoltz to "play and update the band's music". They were occasionally joined by Neville and Nocentelli, but never by Modeliste.

In 2000 the original members of the group (including Modeliste) reunited for a one-time performance at The Warfield in San Francisco. At this time Modeliste wanted to make the reunion permanent, but the other band members and heir management teams were unwilling. Finally,Quint Davis, producer and director of The New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival, convinced all parties to work it out and headline the Festival in 2005. About two months later, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the band dispersed and there was no permanent reunion.
The Meters continue to perform at various one-off concerts.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Procol Harum

The name comes from a former manager's Burmese cat. It's been said the words mean "beyond these things" in Latin. It doesn't. But it makes for a good story,anyway. Procol Harum has it's beginnings in a rock and roll band from Southend-on-Sea,Essex,U.K. called the Paramounts. In the band were vocalist-pianist Gary Brooker,guitarist Robin Trower, organist Chris Copping and drummer B.J. Wilson.
They had a moderate hit in 1964 with a cover of Lieber and Stoller's "Poison Ivy" (#34,U.K.) but being unable to produce a follow-up,they broke up in 1966. In April of 1967 Brooker formed a band with poet Keith Reid, Matthew Fisher on organ,bassist David
Knights and guitarist Rob Royer.

The group,along with session drummer Bill Eyden, recorded "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" at Olympic Studios in London. It featured a Baroque-like structure, a counter-melody based on Bach's Orchestral Suite #3 in D major ,Reid's mysterious lyrics and Brooker's soulful vocals. It was quite a stew. Released in May of 1967, it went to #1 in the U.K. and to #5 on the U.S. charts. A personnel change bringing in ex- Paramounts Robin Trower on guitar and drummer B.J. Wilson occurred just in time for the follow-up single "Homburg", which charted well in the U.K.(#6) but not at all in the U.S. Their epynomous first album came out in 1968, but it was their next album,A Salty Dog that gained wide spread FM airplay and popularity,particularly the title track. Matthew Fisher, who also produced this album
left the band shortly after it's release.

Another former Paramount, Chris Copping replaced Fisher in 1970. By 1971 Robin Trower, a rocker at heart, left to form his own power trio. He was relpaced by David Ball on guitar. The group would have success in the following years with a symphony-oriented rock sound, many times backed by an actual symphony orchestra. They were one of the first groups to achieve success in this manner, with the album, Procol Harum Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, going to #5 in the U.S. in 1972 and becoming a gold album. The follow-up album, Grand Hotel did moderately well,going to #21 in the U.S. The single "Conquistador" from the Edmonton album peaked at #16 U.S. Other singles
followed along with critical acclaim, as well as well-received albums such as Broken Barricades and Exotic Birds And Fruit. After playing a final night at The Rainbow Theater in london, the band broke up in 1975. Drummer B'J. Wilson died in 1990. He was one of
rock's most unique and innovative drummers.

The band reformed in 1991 and again in 2000. With numerous line-up changes and returning members Procol Harum, always with Gary Brooker at the helm, would tour on and off up to this day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Spinners

They were called The Motown Spinners, and after leaving Motown The Detroit Spinners. This was in the U.K. of course, as a way of distinguishing them from a British skiffle band called The Spinners. In the good old U.S.A. all we needed was simply The Spinners.
Growing up in Royal Oak Township,Michigan, just outside of Detroit, longtime friends decided to form a vocal group in 1954. They would be Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C.P. Spencer and James Edwards, calling themselves The Domingoes. Edwards lasted a whole week, being replaced by Bobbie Smith. Spencer was the next to leave, replaced by George Dixon. by 1961 they had changed their name to the Spinners, inspired by the spinning hubcaps on a moving car (yes,in those days the car had to be moving).

On Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi Records, the group first hit the charts with "That's What Girls Are Made For" with Smith on lead vocals, peaking at #27. Smith would go on to take the lead on most of the group's early records and many of their hits on Atlantic Records. Fuqua made so many contributions vocally and otherwise that he was known  as an "unofficial" Spinner having never formally been a member of the group. James Edwards' brother, Edgar "Chico" Edwards replaced George Dixon in 1963, at which time Tri-Phi was bought out by Fuqua's brother -in-law Berry Gordy.The group was then assigned to Motown Records.

In 1964 the group made it's debut at the famed Apollo Theater and earned instant acclaim, a rare feat at the time, but with the exception of "I'll Always Love You" and "Truly Yours" had no hits from 1965 to 1969. Given their dearth of commercial success, The group members were relegated to being road managers, chaperones and chauffeurs for other groups. G.C. Cameron replaced "Chico" Edwards in 1969 and the group were switched to the Motown-owned V.I.P. label. Finally in 1970 the group released the Stevie Wonder-Syreeta Wright composition "It's A Shame" which hit #14. They charted again with "We'll Have It Made",their final Motown recording.

Reportedly at the suggestion of Aretha Franklin, The Spinners finished out their contract with Motown and signed with Atlantic Records in 1972 , with the exception of Cameron who remained with Motown as a solo artist. Phillipe Wynn was brought in to replace Cameron. Despite being a recording act for about a decade, the group had not one top ten hit...that is, until producer-songwriter Thom Bell took  the helm.
The Bobby Smith-led "I'll Be Around" was their first top ten hit, going to #3 and becoming their first million-seller. In 1973, follow-up singles "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love"(led by Smith) and "One Of A Kind Love Affair"(led by Wynne) set them well on the way as hit-makers and furthered Thom Bell's reputation as a top Philly Soul producer. With Bell the group would notch five top 100 singles with two in the top 10.
Wynne left the group in 1977 to be replaced by John Edwards . they had a few minor hits but failed to reach the top 100 for the next two years. At that point the group parted ways with Bell. Afterwards in 1980 they managed to hit the top 10 #2with remakes of "Working My Way Back To You"(#2) and "Cupid" (#4) . They would release a pair of albums in 1980, but neither were successful.
After some years performing with Parliament-Funkadelic, Phillipe Wynne suffered a fatal heart attack while onstage in Oakland,California July 14,1984.

Former singer G.C. Cameron rejoined the group replacing John Edwards, who left due to illness from 2000 to 2002.
Founding member Billy Henderson died of complications due to diabetes February 2, 2007
Founding Member Pervis Jackson died of cancer August 18, 2008
The group's surviving members Fambrough and Smith are still actively touring with additional members Charlton Washington, Jesse Peck and Marvin Taylor.

Hidden Diamonds - Bruce,Baker and Moore

Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Gary Moore formed a short-lived super group (see the post where I obssessively pick apart that particular designation) in 1993. they released one album, Around The Next Dream,  which reached #9 in the U.K. album charts running for four weeks in 1994. That and the fact that they only toured once in the U.K. only, is probably the reason why this diamond is so hidden. This particular track, "You Can't Fool The Blues" is a nice bit of a blues stomper, although personally I would have rather heard Jack Bruce on lead vocals. Meaning no disrespect to the late Gary Moore, who passed away February 6,2011, I simply feel his greatest talent was being  one of rock's most rightly celebrated guitarists, may he rest in peace. All in all,  more than worth a listen.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Lovin' Spoonful

This band finds it's roots in the Greenwich Village-based folk scene of 1960s New York. John Sebastian, the group's leader, and the son of a well regarded classical harmonica player, got together with  Zal Yanofsky, a guitarist formerly of a folk-rock band called The Mugwumps. Zal's old band also counted as members Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, who would go on to become one half of The Mamas And The Papas. Joining Sebastian and Yanofsky were bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler. Sebastian himself played guitar,autoharp,harmonica and keyboards. He also wrote most of the band's material.

Their first single, the Sebastian-penned "Do You Believe In Magic?" was released in 1965 and became a top ten hit. This was followed by other folk-tinged hits such as "Daydream",which hit #2 and "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice",which went to #10 on the Billboard charts. Probably the most successful pop band to have jug band roots, most of the material on their first album were updated jug band standards.The rest of their albums featured mostly original songs.

The group had seven consecutive top 100 hits, a mark achieved in the 60's by only one other band, Gary Lewis And The Playboys. The only hit  to go to #1, however was "Summer In The City" in 1966. The band was originally
selected to portray television's The Monkees, but producers subsequently opted to put together a total new "band".
John Sebastian wrote the music for  Francis Ford Copolla's second movie, You're A Big Boy Now, with the band playing the music for the soundtrack, which included another hit, "Darlin' Be Home Soon".

After the soundtrack album was released, Zal Yanofsky left the band after a drug bust in San Francisco. A  Canadian citizen, he was fearful of returning to the U.S. Pressured by authorities to name his supplier, he complied. He opened the popular Chez Piggy restaurant in Ontario, now run by his daughter.
Zanofsky was replaced by Jerry Yester,brother of The Association's Jim Yester. At this time the band's material became more pop-oriented.

The new line-up had two moderately successful singles, "Money" and "She's Still A Mystery To Me" as well as the 1967 album Everything Playing. John Sebastian left the group  to go solo early in 1968. The band carried on as a trio with drummer Butler taking over lead vocals and using outside songwriters. Success waned, however and the band broke up in 1969.
The Lovin' Spoonful were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2000. All four original members were present and performed "Do You Believe In Magic".
Zal Yanofsky died In 2002. Steve Boone and Joe Butler still perform under the group name with two additional members Phil Smith and Mike Arturi, along with latter-day guitarist Jerry Yester.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Temptations - The Best And Five Reasons Why

It's Humble Opinion Time. Specifically speaking, my Humble Opinion. You might say, "well then, how humble can it be if he continues to capitalize it?" And I'd say you might have a point at that.
Anyway, it is my feeling that the Temptations, in their classic line-up (pictured above) was the best soul-R'n'B vocal group in rock history. I feel this way for five reasons:
1) Each member had an outstanding lead voice. Even the least of them vocally (yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Otis) could easily be the sole lead singer of any group and make them sound great in the commercial sense, or at the very least distinctive. And speaking of distinctive...
2) Melvin Franklin's voice. The late David Melvin English (Franklin's real name) was the possessor of a voice not merely in the bass range (I use the word merely only for comparative purposes) but in the operatic basso profundo. This range covers two octaves plus a major 4th beginning on bass C and ending on F. Speaking and singing. Not many men in the world have voices in this range. Because of this all of The Temptations' harmonies have powerful low end underpinning that you don't hear with most other groups that have a conventional bass or baritone providing the bottom notes.
3) Songwriters. Bob Dylan (a man who could turn a phrase or two himself) called William "Smokey" Robinson one of America's greatest living poets. Norman Whitfield was an intuitive songsmith who literally guided the group from one winning style to another,more current one. These men gave the group hit after hit after hit.
4) Choreography. The group were along with The Contours and The Pips, Motown Choreographer Cholly Atkins' best pupils. His tutelage combined with the group's (with the possible exception of Franklin,who still made it work) natural gracefulness created a style of stepping that was  never to be duplicated.
5) The Funk Brothers. The Temptations had one of the occupants of a very short list of the best studio bands ever. And the most criminally uncredited until recently. Try as you might, you could not manage to sound bad with this band behind you. And these were the was almost unfair.

Monday, May 16, 2011


The story of Mountain begins with the breakup in 1968 of a rock and blue eyed soul (there's that phrase again) band called The Vagrants .After this band dissolved, the former guitarist, New York City-born Leslie West recorded a solo album entitled Mountain, a reference to the guitarist's immense bulk. (he has since lost a considerable amount of weight) The album was produced by Felix Pappalardi, a former producer of and collaborator with the British supergroup Cream and a bass guitarist. Pappalardi played on the album along with former Remains drummer N.D.Smart. On this lp West's growling bluesy vocals and distinctively heavy-yet-melodic guitar style was showcased,along with the elegant bass playing of Pappalardi. Both West and Pappalardi wrote songs on the album.The result was impressive.

West suggested that they take to the road, and they did ,with the line-up that appeared on the album and the addition of keyboardist Steve Knight. Getting Knight in the band was a conscious attempt to forestall any comparisons to Cream. Adopting the name Mountain, they began to tour, their fourth appearance being at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel,New York. They appeared on volume 2 of the Woodstock live recording release.Soon after Woodstock,N.D. Smart was replaced on drums by Laurence "Corky" Laing. Their first album as a band, Climbing, was released in March of 1970 and led off with what was to become the band's signature song,"Mississippi Queen",which reached #20 in the Billboard Hot 100. The album also contained an exquisite performance of the Jack Bruce-Peter Brown composition "Theme From An Imaginary Western" featuring an outstanding guitar solo from West.

In the middle of a hectic touring schedule to support Climbing, the band recorded it's follow-up Nantucket Sleighride, which was released in 1971. It reached #16 but failed to produce a hit single.At this point while continuing to receive widespread critical acclaim, the band would not again attain major commercial success.Next came Flowers Of Evil, an album containing one side of studio tracks and one side of live songs. For reasons including Papalardi's road weariness and increasing hearing impairment, and the toll of heavy drug use in the band, Mountain broke up. A live album, The Road Goes Ever On, was relesed shortly thereafter in May of 1972.

Pappalardi returned to studio work, while West and Laing joined up with former Cream bassist Jack Bruce and the trio toured and released two studio albums and one live album over the next two years.
Pappalardi and West re-formed Mountain in 1974 with Allan Schwartzberg on drums and Robert Mann on guitar and keyboards. the ensuing tour produced a live double album, Twin Peaks. Corky Laing returned to the band soon after to record a studio album, Avalanche, with David Perry replacing Mann on guitar. This would be the final Mountain album with Pappalardi.
On April 17,1983 Felix Pappalardi was shot  dead by his wife, Gail Collins Pappalardi in their East Manhattan apartment.

Leslie West and Corky Laing reunited, along with Mark Clarke on bass and recorded Go For You Life as Mountain  in 1985, dedicating the album to Pappalardi's memory. West would go on to alternately tour and record solo and with Laing as Mountain until 2008. West is still active in the business today.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Classic Axes 3...Put Another Neck On It : Multi-Necked Guitars

Most guitarists have their hands (and shoulders) full with one neck on a guitar. Others just need more. But actually  more necks , like more strings are really a matter of convenience and efficiency. As early as 1690, luthiers would graft a ukelele-sized guitar to the treble side of a standard sized one simply to transpose or perform on two instruments within a song. During the 18th and 19th centuries you would spot one of these only occasionally,but by around 1890, modern manufacturing methods allowed for widespread availability and use.

Time,as it has a way of  doing, marched on and the instruments evolved to fit the needs of the modern day axe man. Most common is the 12-string on top with the six-string on the bottom. One of the best known wielders of this type is Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. He and His Gibson EDS-1275 playing "Stairway To Heaven" has become the visual definition of Classic Rock. And then there is Cheap Trick's Rick Neilsen and his quintuple neck Hamer.Silly man? Yes. Gifted artist and entertainer? Also yes.

It can be counted on that as long as there are guitarists who continue, as they should, to expand the boundaries of the art, there will be a need to continue to modify their instruments. And that includes adding as many necks as one's arms can reach and one's back can carry. Here are some multi-neck axes and the guitarists who swing them.

Hidden Diamonds ...Soledad

.This is the first of a series of performances that are not widely known but should be.

Let's check out "Soledad" by Eric Burdon and Jimmy Witherspoon...

This is from an album released in 1971 called Guilty and in later re-releases titled White, Black and Blue. It seems that after Jimi Hendrix died soon after a jam session with Burdon and the group War, the singer became prone to collapse on stage. This was purportedly due to a combination of depression and exhaustion. Burdon eventually left the tour midway through and returned home. Not long after arriving, he began work on an album with one of his heroes, blues great Jimmy Witherspoon. The above selection, "Soledad" was written  by Eric Burdon and John Sterling about the nominal London prison.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blue Eyed Soul

Here's another "Music Entertainment Industry Term" that I'm sure we're all familiar with. Blue Eyed Soul. Basically, White performers (usually singers) with the distinctive ability to render rhythm and blues material in an authentic manner. So authentic, in fact that one is hard pressed to determine that the performer is not actually black. Blue eyed soul performers must be white, however they can be male or female and are permitted to have blue, green, brown or pink eyes. Or any combination thereof. The eyes ,furthermore need not have the ability to actually see, but they may not be crossed. Too distracting. Onward...

The phrase was coined in the '60s during the time when racial segregation was still an obvious problem in the U.S. (note my use of the word "obvious") and there was much unrest due to it. Also, since soul music was starting to gain increasing mainstream exposure and popularity, it became a somewhat controversial term.
Philadelphia disc jockey and political activist Georgie Woods ("the guy with the goods") is widely credited for coining the term.

Sometimes when white artists remade black music for mainstream consumption the music became somewhat diluted, causing resentment among many. Others saw any growth in the exposure of the music to be a positive thing. In the U.K. musicians were well documented students of American black music, but few had the authentic sound and delivery. one exception was Steve Winwood of The Spencer Davis Group and later Traffic. Dusty Springfield and Welshman Tom Jones were others. The careers of many blue-eyed soul vocalists involved varying amounts of evolution and change. For example, David Coverdale's early work with the soul band The Fabuloso Brothers, and his eventual stardom as a hard rock/heavy metal singer with Deep Purple and Whitesnake. Others took a reverse trajectory, such as Michael Bolton early on fronting hard rock bands such as Blackjack before becoming the RnB crooner we all know today.

That authentic sound and delivery was to be found in greater abundance in the U.S. with artists such as Wayne Cochran, Mitch Ryder,The Righteous  Brothers, Felix Cavaliere of The Young Rascals on up to Boz Scaggs, Joss Stone, Teena Marie, George Michael and even the so-called "boy bands" like N'Sync and The Backstreet Boys. Also, not to be excluded is rap music where Eminem is the best of a very few white artists.
To follow are some examples of Blue Eyed Soul through the ages.

Tears For Fears

Ah, the 80's...a much maligned decade to be sure, and one must admit, there was some gawd-awful silly music perpetrated in that period. One must also concede,however, the period also gave us some truly impressive examples of musical creativity. Sure, we may have had Shalamar, but we also had the genius of Prince. Kenny G driving you crazy? Just step out of the elevator and put on some Najee. We may have had to suffer the presence of Poison, but we also had good old Van Halen to bang our heads to. And for every Wang Chung, thankfully there was a Tears For Fears .

Two teenage musicians from Bath,Somerset in Northern England were in a new wave band called Graduate who posted a couple of singles thatt did moderately well in parts of Europe. The two, Roland Orzabal and Curtis Smith, left the band in 1981 with the idea of becoming the nucleus of an act using different musicians as needed.
They called the act History Of Headaches, which they later changed to Tears For Fears a name inspired by the concept of Primal Therapy introduced by psychologist Arthur Janov. They were signed to Phonogram Records later that year by A&R man David Bates. Their first single "Suffer The Children" was released, followed by "Pale Shelter in 1982.

The third single "Mad World" was the act's first success, reaching #3 in the U.K. Their first album, The Hurting was released with keyboardist-composer Ian Stanley and drummer Manny Elias as full band members,although orzabal and Smith remained the public face of the band. This could be considered their only true concept album in that every song had references to emotional distress and primal scream therapy. he album had a 65-week chart run and reached #3 and platinum status. In 1984 they released a single that would mark the beginning of international commercial and critical acclaim. Tha single was "Shout".

This paved the way for the release of the album Songs From The Big Chair, which entered the charts at #2 and stayed there for12 weeks. At this point the band abandoned the synth-pop style of the earlier material for a more sophisticated and diverse style that woul become the band's hallmark. Songs From The Big Chair eventually went triple platinum in the U.K. and quintuple platinum in the U.S, where it remained #1 for five weeks in 1985.Other single hits yielded by the album were "I Believe", "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and "Head Over  Heels"

Following the album's release the band went on a year-long tour, during which they met Oleta Adams, a tremendously talented singer-pianist and invited her to collaborate on their next album and join the band.
With appearances at numerous events (the most notable being Live Aid) and award ceremonies along with time in the studio it was not until 1989 that the group's third album, Sowing The Seeds Of Love was released. The songs were mostly collaborations by Orzabal with keyboardist Nikky Holland and with Oleta Adams. It cost a reported 1 million pounds to make. Influences ranged from jazz to blues to the Beatles-esque title track.Other standout tracks were "Advice For The Young At Heart " and "Woman In Chains". 

After Sowing The Seeds Of Love, Orzabal and Smith had an acrimonious parting of ways due to Orzabal's intricate but frustrating approach to recording and Smith's desire to slow down the pace of recrding and touring.Smith's marriage had also broken down. Orzabal continued under the name Tears For Fears, While Smith recorded two albums to disappointing sales. Orzabal released the album Elemental, a collaboration with Alan Griffiths and co-producer Tim Palmer. It was supported by a successful tour and yielded the top 20 hit, "Break It Down Again".

The album Raoul And The Kings Of Spain followed, a more contemplative work where Orzabal delved into his Spanish origins (Raoul was the name his parents considered giving him and is the name of his own son). It featured a new Latin influence and marked his reunion with Oleta Adams on the song "Me And My Big Ideas".The released did poorly by past standards, though minor chart success came via the title track, which cracked the top 40.
In 2000, routine paperwork obligations led the duo to re-establish contact, and long story short, they worked out their differences and re-united. The result was the allbum Every Body Loves A Happy Ending, scheduled for release in 2004, but delayed til 2005 due to a management change. A tour, an anthology release and another solo effort by Curt Smith followed. The band continued to tour as late as 2010.
The group has received two MTV awards and one Brit Award, but surprisingly to this writer, no Grammy awards. A glaring oversight of an act this talented and prolific.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Green Day

We've been talking about music acts that go back to the '60s and '70s for the most part (alright,more like the whole part), so now I think we can look at a band that's a bit more current. After all, like it says at the top, "all things rockin' from then to now". So for a little bit of now, I submit for your consideration a band called Green Day.
I will confess that I am one of those old farts who thought the only good music was the music I grew up with. No more. Thanks to my awesome grandson, Jai, himself a musician and a young man with quite good taste, I now realize that there actually was quality music created after the year 1987. Green Day was the first band Jai had introduced me to,and I am a happier man for it.


They are a band who play what is best described as intelligent punk rock, and were formed waaay back in 1988 by Billy Joe Armstrong on guitar and vocals, bassist  Mike Dirnt, and drummer John Kiffmeyer.
Prior to the release of the band's second album, Kerplunk, Kiffmeyer was replaced by Tre Cool, who is with them to this day. They are credited along with bands like Offspring,NOFX and Rancid with popularizing and reviving mainstream interest in punk rock in the United States. To that end, Their major label debut album Dookie became a major success and sold over 10 million units worldwide.

Green Day's three follow-up releases, Insomniac,Nimrod and Warning did not achieve the same figures as Dookie, but still each attained platinum and double platinum status. The 2004 rock opera (yes,we're talking about a punk rock band) American Idiot re-ignited the band's popularity among a wider audience, selling 5 million copies in the U.S. The group's eighth release, 21st Century Breakdown, released in 2009 has gone platinum and they have just put out a live release, Awesome as F*ck, with sales heading in a likewise direction.
Personally, the song that sealed the deal for me was their song "Good Riddance (The Time Of Your Life). This is a perfectly crafted, country-tinged ballad featuring only Armstrong's vocals supported by acoustic guitar that tugs at the emotions, placing Armstrong solidy among some of rock's finest songwriters. But don't just take my word for it, just ask none other than Glen Campbell who recorded his own version of the song on his new album.

Green Day has sold over 65 million units worldwide and have won four Grammy Awards. A stage adaptation of American Idiot debuted on Broadway in 2010 to favorable reviews and has been nominated for several Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Scenic Design.
All they need is to get their 25 years in and it's The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for these gentlemen.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

From the Deep Purple Family Tree


The original bassist and vocalist for the reknowned Deep Purple left the band to become involved in a couple of fairly interesting projects. First up, bass player Nicky Simper departed the band over a dispute in the band's direction .  This was a mutual decision given that Blackmore, Lord and Paice essentially fired Simper and vocalist Rod Evans desiring musicians of different capabilities. The trade-up in Simper's case turned out to be a good one, given replacement Roger Glover's added production expertise. Simper next joined singer Marsha Hunt's backing band and replaced the guitarist and drummer with Ged Peck and Mac Poole, respectively. Hunt became pregnant and left the act, prompting Simper and Peck to make an adjustment or two. Ashley Holt was brought in as lead singer and Rick Wakeman (yes, that Rick Wakeman) was recruited on keyboards, shortly after to be replaced by Frank Wilson. The band was christened Warhorse.  A listen to the band's initial work reveals perhaps a bit more of a progressive rock leaning, but it's hard to divine just what real "musical differences" seperated Simper and his former band at that point.

Rod Evans' departure from the band saw him relocating 'cross the ocean to California, where he joined forces with ex- Johnny Winter sideman Bobby Caldwell on drums, original Iron Butterfly bassist Lee Dorman, and latter-day Iron Buterfly guitarist Larry "Rhino ' Reinhardt. This band was called Captain Beyond, again cast in a heavy, somewhat Deep Purplish mold. While the songs tended to go on a bit for my tastes, the opening riff  on the tune "Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea Of Air)" is a splendid one that would be right at home on any song in Purple's repetoire. I will point out to any up and coming  rock bands that a song's title need not consist of an entire line of the song's lyrics - but that's just me. Also, "Raging River Of Fear" from the band's debut album is a perfectly rendered monster of a song that should have been the template for all future efforts by the band.

Gene Chandler

One of the leading exponents of the 60s Chicago soul scene, Gene Chandler was born Eugene Dixon on July 6,1937 in Chicago,Illinois. In 1957 he became lead singer of a group called The Dukays. The group
signed with Vee Jay Records with the singer recording with the group as Eugene Dixon and solo as Gene Chandler. The song "Duke Of Earl" was recorded by the Du Kays but was released in 1961 by Vee Jay credited solely to Gene Chandler. It sold a million copies in just one month and spent three weeks at the #1 spot on the Billboard charts.

Chandler adopted the stage persona of The Duke Of Earl complete with top hat, monocle and cape. He appeared singing the hit in full costume in the movie Don't Knock The Twist, starring Chubby Checker in 1962. His stage performances became popular and he next collaborated with Curtis Mayfield On the moderate hit, "Rainbow '65". While the song sold modestly on it's first recording, Chandler recorded the song three more times during his career, scoring hit each time.

Over the next five years, Chandler had more hits including "Good Times", "What Now", "Nothing Can Stop Me" (another Mayfield composition) and others. This string of hits enabled him to escape his "Duke" typecasting and become an established soul star.

Chandler left Vee Jay and signed with Brunswick, Chess, and Constellation Records with recordings alternating among the three. he continued in this style until 1970. At this time his sound changed,keeping up with the times . He recorded "Groovy Situation" which went to #12 on the pop charts and #8 on the
r'n' b charts, making it his second major hit since "Duke Of Earl",not to mention a masterful bass guitar track played by one Richard Evans.

Another notable recording by Chandler is the very courageous attempt at covering James Brown's "There Was A Time". While comparing it to the original is just plain silly, on its own merits he did pretty good for a normal human.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Top Of The Pops

Top Of The Pops, or TOTP was a British charts music tv show that aired on BBC 1 from January 1,1964 to July 6, 2006. Numerous hosts rotated at the show's helm, but the very first was disc jockey Jimmy Saville (above). The format was essentially performances by the top  popular music artists of the day with a countdown of the top 20 best selling records (or,in the later years,CDs) of the week. The show would always end with the week's #1 selling song.
Countless acts have appeared on the long-running show, many appearing multiple times. Status Quo stands as the act with the most appearances on TOTP. The nicknames for the Spice Girls (Baby,Posh Scary,Sporty and Ginger) were coined on the show and stayed with the act their entire carreer. In the beginning acts would mime their songs to a pre-recorded track, but due to various disputes with the Musicians Union, started in later years to alternate between performing fully live and singing live to a backing track and occasionally returning to full on miming. Many times artists who resented  the miming or simply didn't take it seriously would be seen obviously showing in various ways that they weren't singing or playing.
The following are some TOTP performances throughout the decades:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Humble Pie

A lovely little band Humble Pie was, having been formed in 1968 by Ex-Small Faces front man Steve Marriott on guitar and vocals, Greg Ridley, fresh out of Spooky Tooth on bass and vocals, guitarist/vocalist Peter Frampton, formerly of Brit teenybop sensations The Herd, and drummer Jerry Shirley.They signed with Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records and released their first single "Natural Born Boogie" which went to #4 on the British charts.
This was followed by an album, Safe AsYesterday Is, hitting  #19 on the Brit album charts, and one of the first albums to be described as heavy metal in a 1970 Rolling Stone review. The second LP, Town And Country, had a more acoustic sound. At the time all four members  wrote songs and their live shows featured an all acoustic section. 1970 came, and with it the force of nature known as Dee Anthony as Humble Pie's manager. He promptly steered the boys away from the acoustic stuff, and towards a harder sound. The band's next album, this time on A&M records, alternated between progressive and hard rock. It failed to chart, but the band was consistently filling seats and tearing it up on the live circuit, particularly in the U.S.
1971 saw both Rock On, their most successful record to date, and the double album Performance:Rocking At The Fillmore, which went gold and to # 29 on the Billboard charts. This album featured the FM radio hit, "I Don't Need No Doctor", a bone-crushing reworking of the Ray Charles classic. By this time Peter Frampton left the band to become , you know, Peter Frampton.
Frampton was replaced by David "Clem" Clempson, and the band continued it's proto-metal bash 'n' boogie style emphasising Marriott's blues and soul roots as well as his Tina Turner-on-crystal meth voice.The album Hot 'N' Nasty came next in 1972 with two singles, the title track and "Thirty Days In The Hole". This album went to #6, helped along by a relentless touring schedule. The band hired backing vocal group The Blackberries for live and studio support. The trio consisted of Venetta Fields, Clydie King, and Sherrie Matthews, former Ikettes and Raelettes. more albums followed, such as Eat It, Street Rats, and Thunderbox. In 1975 the band broke up, then re-formed in 1980 with Marriott, Shirley, Bobby Tench ,formerly of the Jeff Beck Group on guitar and vocals, and Anthony"Sooty" Jones on bass. This line-up recorded the album On To Victory, and the single "Fool For A Pretty Face" went to #52 on the Billboard Hot 100. Marriott began suffering from various health issues, yet continued to work on projects like his band Packet Of Three, and collaborations with Ridley and Frampton at various times. Drummer Jerry Shirley obtained the rights to the name "Humble Pie" in 1985 and put together a band billed as Jerry Shirley's Humble Pie...the less said about that,the better. Steve Marriott died on April 20,1991 in a house fire.He was 44. His lovely little band kicked ass.

A.D.D. moment - Random Songs

Five completely random songs I like a whole lot......

                                       Kid Charlemagne - Steely Dan

                      Heat In The Street - The Geezer Butler Band

                                So Very Hard To Go - Tower Of Power  

                                                   Freedom - King's X

                             What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted - Jimmy Ruffin

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Otis Redding

When one says the name "Otis", no further identification should be neccessary. To those individuals for which that may not be the case, well then stand up, gather your books, come to the front of the room, it's back to the first grade for you. Off we go...
Otis Ray Redding Jr. was born september 9,1941 in Dawson,Georgia. When he was five years old his family moved to Macon,Georgia where he began singing in the church choir. As a teenager he won the talent show at the Douglass Theater 15 weeks in a row. His earliest influence was fellow Macon resident Little Richard Penniman. Otis himself has said he wouldn't be in the business if it weren't for Little Richard, and that he emulated Richards' style of singing.

After winning a number of local amateur contests, he became the vocalist for Johnny Jenkins And The Pinetoppers, a band that established itself playing mainly colleges. He recorded a single with the group called "Love Twist",which became a regional hit. Sometime later while still with The Pinetoppers, he recorded another single,"These Arms Of Mine", a solid hit, and he was on his way. The singles "Fat Gal" and "Shout Bamalama" followed, recorded under the name Otis Redding And The Pinetoppers on the Confederate and Orbit Labels.
Things really started moving when Otis re-recorded "These Arms Of Mine " for release on the Volt label, a susidiary of the reknowned Stax Records, based in Memphis,Tennessee. His manager at the time was fellow Maconite Phil Walden. He continued to record for Stax/Volt, and built his fan base by extensively touring with support act Sam And Dave, backup band Booker T. & The MGs with the Memphis Horns, and later The Bar-Kays.

Further hits between 1964 and 1966 included, "I Can't Turn You Loose", "Try A Little Tenderness",  and "Respect", which became a huge hit for Aretha Franklin. Otis wrote many of his own songs collaborating with guitarist Steve Cropper of The MGs. He co-wrote another hit with Jerry Butler, "I've Been Loving You Too Long". He enjoyed mainstream success with the song "Tramp",a duet with Carla Thomas.
In 1967 he performed at The Monterey Pop Festival , where exposure of his gifts to a wider audience contributed to his subsequent pop success.

On December 9,1967 Otis and his backup band, The Bar-Kays, performed in Cleveland,Ohio on the local tv show Upbeat. That night they played Leo's Casino, a small club in Cleveland. This was Otis Redding's final performance, for on the next afternoon, his Beechcraft 18 airplane crashed into Lake Monona, killing Redding and all aboard with the exception of Ben Cauley. James Alexander, the second surviving bandmember was on another plane due to the fact that they were a party of eight and the plane could only hold seven. Otis died December 10,1967.  His body was recovered and he was entombed on his private ranch in Round Oak, Georgia.

Recorded three days prior to his death, "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" , was released posthumously,and was his only #1 hit. Redding considered the song unfinished ,whistling through the last section with the intention of composing the remaining lyrics later. Otis was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
Rest in peace , Mr. Pitiful.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Animals

The Alan Price Rhythm And Blues Combo, Price on keyboards, Hilton Valentine on guitar, bassist Bryan "Chas" Chandler, and drummer John Steele, joined forces with singer Eric Burdon in Newcastle upon Tyne early in 1963. The band became known for a rough-edged interpretation of blues and r&b standards and the deep gritty voice of Burdon. They were called "animals" because of their wild stage act, and the name stuck. Moderate hometown success and a connection with Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky prompted them to move to London in 1964, just in time to become part of the British Invasion. Performing hard-edged versons of songs by the likes of Jimmy Reed, Nina Simone and John Lee Hooker,the band's reputation grew and were subsequently signed to Columbia-EMI Records, their first single being 'Baby Let Me Take You Home". But it was their second single, "House Of The Rising Sun",
that became a #1 hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. Their chart career continued , produced by Micky Most, with "Bring It On Home To Me" and the Nina Simone song, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". In 1965 Alan Price left the group citing tour fatigue and a fear of flying. He was replaced by Dave Rowberry who was on hand for the hits "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and "It's My Life". Most of The Animals' were written by Brill Building writers recruited by producer Most. The band, particularly Burdon felt this too restricting. At the end of 1965 they switched to Decca Records (MGM in the U.S.) and producer Tom Wilson who gave them more artistic freedom. John Steele left and was replaced by Barry Jenkins, and their last hit as The Animals was Goffin-King composition "Don't Bring Me Down". Burdon formed Eric Burdon And The New Animals with holdover Jenkins, John Wieder and Vic Briggs both on guitar, and  Danny McCulloch on bass in 1966. The direction changed from blues-rock to Burdon's version of psychedelia. They relocated to California. Hits by this incarnation included "San Franciscan Nights", "I Love You Lil", and two magnificent creations in "Monterey" and  "Sky Pilot"  At times the band also included keyboardist Zoot Money and future Police guitarist Andy Summers. After the release of a rendition of "River Deep Mountain High" the band again dissolved and  Burdon joined forces with Long Beach funk band War in 1969.
The Animals reunited for  short periods of time in '68, '75, '76 and '83. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994. They were one of the roughest, toughest squads in the British Invasion.