Posts Tagged ‘Classic Albums’

Unhalfbricking front

1969 was a roller-coaster year for Folk Rock band Fairport Convention. In January of that year they released their second album “What We Did On Our Holidays”, the first one to feature singer Sandy Denny. In May they hit rock bottom with a tragedy that killed two people including one of its members. Miraculously they recovered and released the album that defines Fairport at that time, “Unhalfbricking” was released in July of 1969, several weeks after the fatal accident on the M1 that killed drummer Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklin (“Genie the Tailor”, who designed clothes for west-coast pop and rock elites), Richard Thompson’s recent girlfriend. The event questioned the band’s resiliency, and was followed by an amazing period of recovery that gave birth to Liege and Lief. Franklin was immortalized a month later when Jack Bruce dedicated his debut solo album Songs for a Tailor to her, and Elton John’s Tiny Dancer is likely about her as well with the telling lyrics “Blue Jean Baby, L. A. lady/Seamstress for the band”.

Unhalfbricking climbed to a respectable #12 in the UK album chart, its name penned by Sandy Denny who came up with the made-up word in a game of Ghost the band was playing while traveling in their beat up van to shows. Uncharacteristic for its time, the front cover features a single photograph with no indication of the band or album name. Two people, Sandy Denny’s parents, are standing in front of their house on Arthur Road, Wimbledon. In the background we can see the band lounging in the front yard. Clever positioning of the band members’ heads, one per rectangle in the fence. 

Fairport Convention 1969

Even more uncool is the back cover with a picture of the band engaged in the domestic task of having a meal. The whole package smells of looking back at days of yore, keeping a distance from current trends. A&M Records, who distributed the band’s albums in the US, found the album cover’s concept abnormal and instead decided in a curious creative burst that the average American consumer’s palate might appreciate a photo of three dancing circus elephants with a girl dancing (balancing?) on top. Underestimating the American record buyer’s tolerance for the unknown, the band and album titles were slapped on the US album cover.

The band was going through a Bob Dylan phase at the time, resulting with three covers of his songs on the album. Dylan’s version of Million Dollar Bash, later to appear on the Basement Tapes album but at that point not yet released, The song came to the band through producer Joe Boyd’s song publishing company which had access to Dylan’s new recorded materials. The great mandolin accompaniment is courtesy of Dave Swarbrick, who made a number of excellent recordings with Martin Carthy between 1965 and 1968, and was called by Joe Boyd to guest on a number of songs on “Unhalfbricking”.

Another Dylan cover was for a relatively unknown song, If You Gotta Go, Go Now. Dylan had recorded it in 1965 for his Bringing It All Back Home album but decided not to include it in the album, instead releasing it as a single in the Netherlands in 1967. Manfred Mann covered the song soon after Dylan recorded it in 1965. Fairport Convention gave it an interesting twist by singing it in French, translated to Si Tu Dois Partir.

Fairport Convention was playing a gig at the Middle Earth and thought it would be amusing to do Dylan’s song in French Cajun style, so the band called for volunteers from the audience to help with the translation. Richard Thompson: “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very Cajun, French or Dylan.” The studio version is a better attempt at the Cajun style, featuring Dave Swarbrick on fiddle, Richard Thompson on accordion and Trevor Lucas, who later formed Fotheringay with Denny, on triangle. The band was quite inventive when it came to producing interesting sounds in the studio. Joe Boyd, in his book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s recalls: “Martin created the Cajun washboard sound for ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’ by stacking some plastic Eames chairs and running his drumsticks along them. The percussion break was supposed to feature an empty milk bottle lying on the topmost chair, but when the time came it fell and smashed on the floor. I signalled frantically to keep playing. The crash of broken glass was absolutely in time and worked perfectly, a good omen for the session.” The song was released as a single, reaching the UK singles chart, and got the band its first appearance at Top of the Pops on August 14th, 1969.

The B-side on the single Si Tu Dois Partir went unnoticed at the time but over the years became one of Richard Thompson’s favourite performance songs. It is also my favourite tune on the album, achingly sang by Sandy Denny. It is one of the first in Thompson’s career-long strike of beautiful melancholic songs, the album opener “Genesis Hall”. Thompson on the topic of the song: “Genesis Hall was the name of a building in London that was occupied by squatters. The police went in and were far too brutal in evicting the people. My father was a policeman at the time, and although he was not involved in this operation, I could see the situation from both the squatters’ and police’s points of view. This was conflicting for me, and I tried to express that.”
The August 1969 issue of the underground newspaper International Times mentions an incident that took place in the Drury Lane Bell Hotel involving police and squatters. It happened in March of that year, when Fairport Convention was in the process of recording “Unhalfbricking”:

Thompson covers the song from time to time on his live shows, giving it a fantastic acoustic version. A great example is from the first episode of the BBC Songwriter’s Circle series from 2010.
Several reasons why this song moves me: The lyrics, again so mature for a 20 year old who has not written too many songs up to that point. The sad yet somewhat detached mood in which Sandy Denny sings them. The part where the whole band is soaring with her when they sing “Oh, oh, helpless and slow”. The dual guitar work by Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. Martin Lamble’s drumming, sadly not discussed too often, demonstrating his ability to play very interesting patterns behind the melody as if he was playing a melodic instrument. Only a month after the band finished recording the album Lamble died in that car crash. The band went through a rough period of mourning and healing and came out on the other end with the album that defines British folk rock. 

The third of the Dylan cover’s is Percy’s Song, recorded by Dylan in 1963 for his third album The Times They Are a-Changin‘. The song did not make it into the album and was released some twenty years later on the Biograph collection. The song lyrics are a futile plea to a judge to reconsider a harsh sentence given to a driver in a fatal car accident. Sandy Denny sings a beautiful harmony with Ian Matthews who had left the group after their previous album, and her interpretation is the best I know for this lesser known Dylan tune. Guitar player Simon Nicol said this of Denny’s vocal on the song: “It needs a voice like Sandy’s to get the shades of emotion across, from moodiness to compassion to outright fury. There’s not many singers can do that.”

One song on Unhalfbricking points to the direction the band would take on their next album. A Sailor’s Life is a traditional song brought to the band by Sandy Denny. The song, indexed as Roud 237 in the English Folk Dance and Song Society, was previously covered by Judy Collins on her album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961 and by Martin Carthy on his second album from 1966.

Fairport Convention’s version is a milestone in British folk rock, maybe the first time a serious rock interpretation was given to an old ballad. Sheila Chandra, who was inspired by Sandy Denny’s delivery of the song and later covered it herself, found similarities to Indian music in Fairport Convention’s version: “The track is actually a microcosm of 2,000 years of Indian music – it goes from Vedic chanting on two or three notes right through to full improvisations on a fixed note scale. All in one take. The band have realized that all folk music is based upon a drone, and shares a common root. For instance, the way the violin comes in with an insistent repeat of the drone note is reminiscent of the Indian wind instrument the Shenai, and its distant relative the shawm in Irish music. It all connects.” That violin is played by Dave Swarbrick, his finest contribution to this album.

John Wood, who was the principal sound engineer in the studio, recalls the recording of the song: “Richard and Sandy came in and said ‘we really think we can only do this once’. They already got Dave Swarbrick in to play on it. We put Sandy in a vocal booth (she had an awful cold that day too) and everybody else in a big semicircle. When you want to cut that sort of track, its not easy for people to work if its all sectioned off, so it was very open and that was it, one take, done. No overdubs.” Dave Swarbrick was given no specific instructions as to what to play on the song other than to just come in when the singing stops. He had fond memories from the session as well: “Sandy had a great band to soar over and a great bunch of musicians who were sympathetic. Richard and Sandy worked closely together. Richard was awesome, of course. That should be his middle name. But the band was cohesive and so special, the chemistry worked and the line-up was sensational.”

I have two favourite songs on this album, and one of them is Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” Denny wrote the song early in her career with the original title The Ballad Of Time. She was not yet 20 years of age when she wrote the mature lyrics about the passage of time. She sang it during her short stint with the Strawbs in 1967. Judy Collins gave the song an interpretation in 1968 on her album of the same name and as a B-side on her single Both Sides Now.
The song became one of Denny’s most enduring and beloved songs, and in 2007 it was voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners as their favourite folk rock track of all time. It was the last song to be recorded for Unhalfbricking, and the last drummer Martin Lamble would ever record with the band.

The album was recorded in the early months of 1969 at Sound Techniques and Olympic Studios in London. Sound Techniques was a go-to studio for many great psychedelic, rock and folk British acts of the time, including Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter), Incredible String Band (The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion), Jethro Tull (This Was), John Martyn (Solid Air), Pentangle (Cruel Sister), Pink Floyd (Arnold Layne), Steeleye Span (Parcel Of Rogues) and Fairport alumni Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. John Wood assembled a roster of first-class musicians who acted as the house band for a great variety of recording sessions. Not surprisingly, many of them were associated with Fairport Convention, including Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway on drums, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg and Pat Donaldson on bass, Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue and Simon Nicol on guitars.

Unhalfbricking back

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When Steve Winwood entered the studio in February 1970, time and technology were poised for his graduation from front man in a rock band to full-fledged solo artist. At 21, the Birmingham native was already a seasoned veteran who had played pub gigs at 8, taken center stage with the Spencer Davis Group at 15 and helped pioneer rock’s progressive wing with Traffic before joining Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in Blind Faith. His soul-drenched vocals had reaped hits for all three groups, while his frontline prowess on organ and piano were matched by solid chops as a guitarist, bassist and percussionist. The evolution of multi-track studio recording would enable him to roll his own songs by layering instrumental performances as a one-man band.

Accompanying him to his first sessions was producer and Island Records A&R director Guy Stevens, whose confidence in Winwood was assured by the artist’s role in establishing Island as a preeminent British independent label. Founded in 1958 by Chris Blackwell, Island’s growth relied upon Blackwell’s embrace of Jamaican music, nurtured from his childhood on the island. While promoting his first major hit act, ska pioneer Millie Small, Blackwell witnessed the Spencer Davis Group at a Birmingham television taping and saw a fresh direction in its teenage lead singer and organist.

“He was really the cornerstone of Island Records,” Blackwell would later assert. “He’s a musical genius and because he was with Island all the other talent really wanted to be with Island.” Island’s founder would bankroll Winwood’s departure to form Traffic and would prove an ardent supporter for decades to come.

Blackwell and Stevens were confident that Winwood was ready to stand alone and suggested an album title, Mad Shadows. Initial studio sessions followed the original one-man band premise for the first completed song, “Stranger to Himself.” Written by Winwood with lyrics from Traffic’s Jim Capaldi, the track featured Winwood on piano, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums and percussion. His instincts as an arranger had already been honed extensively with Traffic, enabling him to craft a satisfying dialogue between guitars and keyboards, anchored by in-the-pocket bass and drums.

Next up was “Every Mother’s Son,” with Winwood again covering keyboards, guitars and bass, and Capaldi sitting in on drums and percussion. If producer Stevens was happy with the results, however, Steve Winwood chafed at the isolation of self-contained performances. With Capaldi onboard as drummer and vocal partner, Winwood invited fellow Traffic alumnus Chris Wood to join in on reeds, percussion and organ, effectively reuniting the core trio that had been Traffic’s more durable configuration during an initial two-year run in which guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Dave Mason had proven a fickle partner in his on-again, off-again ties to the band.

At this juncture, Stevens departed the project, presumably on good terms, while taking the tentative album title with him, which he would recycle for Mott the Hoople’s second album, produced and released that same year. Blackwell, meanwhile, stepped in as nominal co-producer while clearly allowing Winwood to retain a dominant role in shaping the material, which still showcased his versatility while reveling in the trio’s interplay. That focus was punctuated by “Glad,” a Winwood instrumental that would open the album with a full-throttle keyboard romp reflecting his enduring affection for jazz and R&B in a hard-driving, uptempo workout with echoes of ’60s soul jazz classics from Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Les McCann as Winwood traded rippling piano flourishes against textured Hammond B-3 organ. Wood’s tenor sax deepens the groove and adds a prescient funk element by using a wah-wah pedal to electronically mute his horn lines.

Apart from the saxophone and flute parts that signified Traffic’s jazz elements, Wood also brought the band vital exposure to material it might otherwise have missed. Winwood would credit the reed player with turning them on to jazz, world music and classical pieces that opened their ears to new directions, but for this album, Wood’s gift would come from deep British roots—the renascent interest in British folk music that emerged during the ’60s. Wood’s interest in the movement had led him to the Watersons’ a cappella recording of “John Barleycorn,” a ballad that can be traced to its earliest Scottish incarnations in the 16th century, its title character linked both to pagan Anglo-Saxon myths and a personification of the hardy grain used in producing whiskey.

Traffic’s arrangement of the song jettisons keyboards, electric guitars and bass in favour of a haunting lattice work of acoustic guitar, flute and spare hand percussion. Winwood’s vocal is by turns hushed and mournful as he presents the allegorical fate of its title protagonist “ploughed,” “sown” and “harrowed in” by efforts to kill him. As men continue to harvest, dry, mill and process their victim, they carry him toward reincarnation and revenge—by the song’s end, “little sir John with his nut-brown bowl proved the strongest man at last,” mortal men now dependent on its distilled  essence.

Winwood’s delicate performance was both dark and sardonic, ancient in its source yet timely in its allusion to addiction—an inevitable nod to a countercultural subculture which Traffic had once romanticized with a psychedelic palette. With its timeless minor-keyed melody, spare setting and Winwood’s pure English vocal intonation, the track is the album’s most distinctive, yet Traffic would otherwise revert to its prior jazz, blues and rock influences, leaving a deeper excavation of British folk rock for Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, the Incredible String Band and other homeland folk-rock pioneers to explore. It’s fascinating to contemplate how Traffic’s stature as a major rock act might have elevated and influenced Britain’s spin on fusing folk tradition with rock innovation had Winwood and his partners committed more fully to the style.

As Traffic’s lyricist, Capaldi alternates between emotional impressionism and oblique romantic salutes, the latter yielding the album’s lone single, “Empty Pages,” released only in the U.S. By the time of the album’s early July 1970 release, the rise of FM radio and rock’s evolving focus on albums over singles vindicated the trio’s disinterest in mainstream single hits, eventually carrying John Barleycorn Must Die to No5 on Billboard’s album chart, the highest position in the band’s career.

Critics were more divided over the album’s emphasis on loose-limbed jamming, with Robert Christgau complaining that Mason’s exit had weakened their songcraft, leaving them to depend on Winwood’s “feckless improvised rock.” Fans, however, were kinder: Beyond its album chart ranking, John Barleycorn Must Die would earn gold record status, teeing up the band for even greater success with The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys the following year.

No photo description available.

Captain Beefheart’s 1970 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, is a classic album.  If you can imagine (for a moment) that ‘Trout Mask Replica’ never happened and the next in The Captain’s discography was ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ the chasm between lovers and haters would be just as strong. For those who could palate ’Trout Mask Replica,’ the follow up album seems somewhat “commercial” but is still very much just as lyrically abstract and equally instrumentally adventurous. The production quality of the album is unquestionably superior to its predecessor. First, gone are the “field recordings” from the Beefheart house in Woodland Hills, CA. The entirety of this follow-up album was seemingly recorded in a proper studio…and was given enough of a budget to spend precious studio time to make sure it sounded much more than a hugger-mugger arrangement of demos/outtakes.

Perhaps it’s the simple and sublimely unique charm of it all, but the “fault” that I have discovered with ‘Trout Mask Replica’ is the fact that it feels more like a scrapbook of those nine months holed up in a claustrophobic house rather than a proper and cohesive autobiography of those times. Please don’t misinterpret those words to mean it is unworthy. After all, I am an ardent supporter and one of the faithful that applaud ‘Trout Mask Replica,’  that represents one of the most landmark recordings in Pop/Rock of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, I listened to it alongside The Mothers Of Invention ‘Uncle Meat’ in a single sitting and there is quite a bit of similarity regarding the structure of each album.

Obviously, the common denominator is Frank Zappa himself who informed the construction and flow of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ He was able to more-or-less realize what HE THOUGHT The Captain was trying to achieve rather than allowing Beefheart to express what he truly wanted (perhaps that was impossible)…but that will never be known. However, the snippets of those “field recordings” and other shenanigans that were grooved into wax seem to be more of Zappa’s perverse nature than it does the overarching concept Beefheart had in mind.

That said, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ has all of the raucous, cantankerous, obstreperous and demanding music of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ yet has a beauty, sheen and digestive quality that I don’t think Zappa ever wanted; he endeavored to make a difficult album even less surmountable by the masses…pushing the boundaries further than The Captain even wanted. ‘Lick…’ is just as free, unencumbered and freewheeling, but unlike its predecessor, possesses more structure, stability and accessibility. However, reflecting on Beefheart’s recorded output, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ is an album that (like ‘Strictly Personal’) is absolutely essential; equally as ground-breaking.

The immediate takeaway is that the songs are more succinct and the music (thanks to the production) is much more intense than the inconsistent sonics of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ The ‘Trout Mask…’ graduates; John French (aka: Drumbo), Mark Boston (aka: Rockette Morton) and Bill Harkleroad (aka: Zoot Horn Rollo) were all on absolute FIRE for this recording. Despite all of the insanity that occurred during the recording of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ that prepared them to achieve the “cohesiveness” on ‘Lick…’ Those three (and no disrespect to Artie Tripp whose contribution is equally significant) were nothing short of telepathic at this point.

The solo guitar piece, ‘One Rose That I Mean’ is nothing short of virtuosity. ‘Peon” is an absolute sublime bass/guitar duet that illustrates a performance between players that have spent an immense amount of time playing (fantastic and unconventional material) together. The soprano sax excursion in ’Japan Is A Dishpan’ is just as “Coltrane” as John Coltrane himself during those years where he was “searching” for something he was not able to harness within the normal bookends of traditional harmony. Well, The Captain seemed to distill that searching in the matter of just shy of three minutes.

I didn’t ever think that I would have so much to say with regard to specific tracks, but the vocals, are “in your face.” This is Beefheart at his absolute most pointed, direct, intense, focused and determined. ‘The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)’ should have been the theme song to the ill-fated civil engineering disaster labeled ‘The Big Dig’ in Boston, MA as a way of expanding roadways in and out of the city to ameliorate perennial vehicle congestion. ‘The Buggy Boogie Woogie’ is absolutely an answer to our current zeitgeist.

Much like the “now assumed” controlled chaos of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ is the Pop/Rock album that is chaos perfected. The music contained therein confirms the so-called “randomness” of the former and cements it by reproducing it to amazing detail. It ossifies that “controlled chaos;” it is thoughtful, repeatable and unable to repeat the sentiment that ultimately created the art.

‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’…’ requires and demands as much a close analysis as its predecessor (not to mention it sounds a whole lot better) and is bereft of much (if not most) of the “filler” that consumes ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ If newcomers to the Beefheart camp need to warm their toes into his most fruitful/experimental period before diving-in head first, listen to ‘Strictly Personal’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ before attempting the glorious miasma that is ‘Trout Mask Replica.’

PS – I know this sentiment might rival a lot of opinions but I appreciate having the ability to compose and share my thoughts in an open forum…all reactions welcome!

words all written by Brent Rusche July 2020.

Albert King live wire/blues power

If you want to understand what makes Albert King such a much loved guitar player and purveyor of the blues then look no further than “Live Wire/Blues Power” his 1968 release. Recorded live at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in June 1968 it is a record that is full of King’s searing guitar and his unique vocals.

King was a regular at the Fillmore, playing there probably more times than any other blues artist. He played three nights at the gig from 25th to 27th June , with support from Loading Zone and Rain. Loading Zone was a local band who released their debut album in 1968, but they never rose above the role of a support band; Rain have been lost to the mists of time.

The opening number is a cover of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ that Albert turns into a funky fanfare for what is to follow. It’s followed by one of King’s defining numbers, the soaring Blues Power which features some of his finest searing guitar, accompanied by a trademark homily; Stax released it in edited form as a single. This is one of the four self penned numbers on the record and not to be confused with the song of the same name written by Eric Clapton and Leon Russell.

‘Night Stomp’ that follows is co-written by King, Raymond Jackson and Al Jackson Jr. Al produced the album and was the drummer and a founding member of Booker T & The MGs. Raymond, no relation to Al, was also from Memphis and wrote many songs for Stax Records.

‘Blues Before Sunrise’, another King original, is the epitome of a slow blues burner, full of fire and ice, one of those numbers to play people who may have some lingering doubt that the blues are for them. A cover of BB King’s ‘Please Love Me’ follows, with its traditional, ‘dust my broom’ riff. Throughout the band of Willie James Exon-Guitar, James Washington-Bass, Rooselvelt Pointer-Bass, and Theotis Morgan-Drums support King in the perfect way, giving him the space to play.

The set closes with King’s ‘Look Out’ with it’s fast ‘walking bass’ line it shows why Albert King was so beloved by the San Francisco rock crowd who adored Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger service, The Steve Miller Band and the Dead…all of them took influence from the blues and Albert King was the real deal.

There’s not a blues guitarist that has not copped King’s licks and fallen under his spell, in part because this became Albert’s first album to make the Billboard chart on 16 November 1968; it only made No.150 but that’s not the point.

Play it LOUD and relish a night with Albert King at the Fillmore.

benefit

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Jethro Tull’s third studio album, ‘Benefit’.

The album featured pianist and organist John Evan for the first time and was the last to include bassist Glenn Cornick. As with its predecessors, it was recorded at Morgan Studios in London. Speaking about the album, Ian Anderson described it as much darker than ‘This Was’ and ‘Stand Up’.

For some reason Jethro Tull are never spoken of in the same hushed tones of awe as Led Zeppelin or King Crimson. Or Deep Purple and Yes. Or Wishbone Ash…

Quite why that is may be down to the fact that their style was very difficult to pigeon hole and emulate, therefore no one has been obviously influenced by them. You never hear of any up and coming bands naming Tull as an influence, they never got name checked by the likes of The Mars Volta or Tool. Tull weren’t embraced by younger generations like the majority of their peers were and perhaps they never will.

“Benefit” was not the huge leap forwards that Stand Up had been from This Was, but what it did was consolidate Tull’s position as one of the best rock bands in the world. It’s a far more moody and darker album than anything they had recorded previously, relying on sweaty riffing and studio trickery to create the ambiance. Unlike a lot of Tull’s albums there’s little in the way of good humored material, with only the satirical “Son”, the strangely poppy “Inside” and the reflective “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me” doing anything to lift the mood slightly.

On the flip side that means that the album is liberally studded with unsung riff-rock, the best example here is the glorious “To Cry You A Song”, and the album closes with one of it’s best tracks, the acoustic “Sossity; You’re A Woman”.

Musically the band is on form throughout and were playing as well as ever. They temporarily recruited keyboard player John Evans, who actually stuck around for the next decade or so, which broadened their sound somewhat, but the keyboards here act as a compliment to the rest of the music and they are utilised only when absolutely necessary.

Ian Anderson said that Benefit was a “guitar riff” album, recorded in a year in which artists like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were becoming more riff-oriented. Anderson also noted that Benefit is “a rather dark and stark album and, although it has a few songs on it that are rather okay, I don’t think it has the breadth, variety or detail that Stand Up has. But it was an evolution in terms of the band playing as ‘a band.'” Overall, Anderson considered the album “a natural part of the group’s evolution”.

According to Martin Barre “To Cry You a Song” was a response to Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today”, “although you couldn’t compare the two; nothing was stolen … The riff crossed over the bar in a couple of places and Ian and I each played guitars on the backing tracks. It was more or less live in the studio with a couple of overdubs and a solo. Ian played my Gibson SG and I played a Les Paul on it

In many ways Benefit is Jethro Tull’s forgotten album, book ended as it is by two of the band’s most popular albums on either side. I get the increasing feeling though that its relative obscurity will (oh dear) benefit it in the end though, because it’s often obscure albums like this that catch the ear of younger generations.

Jethro Tull doing ‘Teacher’ from the ‘Benefit’ album, 1970. On Beat-Club was a German music program that ran from 1965 to the end of 1972. It was broadcast from Bremen, Germany initially on Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen, the national public TV channel. Beat-Club was replaced by the programme ‘Musikladen’ in 1972.

By April 1970, Jethro Tull had already released a pair of studio albums, but their career-defining fourth LP, Aqualung, wouldn’t arrive until March of the following year, at which point it would almost overshadow its predecessor, the underrated Benefit.

On the one hand, group members Ian Anderson (who provided vocals, flute and acoustic guitar), guitarist Martin Barre, bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker were somewhat at odds with their record company, and worn out by extensive touring. On the other, they were enjoying a rare moment of lineup stability (though future keyboard player John Evan was already unofficially on hand), and the success of the previous year’s Stand Up had given them the confidence to carry on experimenting, moving ever further from their Brit-blues roots of 1968’s tellingly named This Was …

So for Benefit, “transition” may indeed have been the operative word, as the band unveiled an eclectic set containing a little bit of the old, a little of the new and some things that would never be repeated.

‘Benefit’ is guitarist Martin Barre’s favourite Jethro Tull album.

John Evan, who played piano and organ on the album “for our benefit”, and subsequently joined the band for ten years, was actually named John Evans. His missing ‘s’ was a deliberate hangover from the pre-Jethro Tull group The John Evan Band, because it sounded ‘cooler’.

Michael Collins, name-checked in the song For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me, was the member of the Apollo 11 space-mission who stayed in the main capsule while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Second Helping Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Second Helping”, was the record that contained their biggest hit single and perhaps greatest rock theme tune of all time, ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ was released on 15th April 1974.  An answer song to Neil Young’s “Alabama” and “Southern Man”. Skynyrd’sfan base had continued to grow rapidly throughout 1973, largely due to their opening support slot on the Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States.Second Helping features Ed King, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington all collaborating with Ronnie Van Zant on the songwriting.

After the success of their debut album, 1973’s Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd), the Second Helping LP was recorded chiefly at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. That was apart from that signature hit, which the band laid down in Doraville, Georgia. Recording sessions started in June 1973, a matter of weeks after they had signed off on the one before. Their producer, as with the first album and 1975’s third release Nuthin’ Fancy, was Al Kooper, whose notoriety already stretched back some 15 years to his teenage success with the Royal Teens. Kooper’s association from the mid-1960s with Bob Dylan was augmented by appearances with hundreds of other artists, not to mention his own recordings from 1969 onwards.

Kooper was also one of the musicians on Second Helping, singing and playing piano on two tracks. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ featured the vocals of Merry Clayton, Clydie King and others. Clayton, famously the powerful female voice of ‘Gimme Shelter,’ was not the only Rolling Stones alumnus on the Skynyrd album. Saxophonist Bobby Keys played on ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions’ (the first single from the set, before ‘Alabama’) and Skynyrd’s cover of JJ Cale’s ‘Call Me The Breeze.

Second Helping outdid its predecessor, which had peaked at No. 27 in the US, by peaking at No. 12. It was certified gold by September 1974 and went both platinum and double platinum on the same day in 1987. “A vast improvement over their first album,” ruled Billboard in their original review at the time, “and a tribute to the combination of skill and good taste.”

On this day in history First released February 4th, 1983) Echo and the Bunnymen released their 3rd album “Porcupine” featuringthe tracks The Back Of Love and favorite, The Cutter, it became the band’s highest charting release.

This album was produced by Ian Broudie, who later went on to form The Lightning Seeds.

Ian McCulloch’s comments, I think Porcupine was a classic autobiographical album, the most honest thing that I’d ever written or sung. I found the material from it really heavy to play – like, really oppressive. That’s the only reason why I didn’t like the album. The songs were great but it didn’t make me happy. A lot of songs are about coming to terms with the opposites in me.

When presented with the finished album, WEA Records rejected it as “too uncommercial”. The band agreed to re-record the album, despite Sergeant’s complaints. Using the original version of the album as a blueprint, the follow-up recording sessions went more smoothly. Drummond brought Shankar back to add strings to the other tracks on the album. It was these sessions that produced the band’s next single, “The Cutter”, which was released in January 1983 and went on to become the band’s first Top 10 hit.

A better listen than its predecessor, Heaven Up Here. Songs are intriguing and elaborate, often featuring swooping, howling melodic lines. Arrangements here owe a lot to 1960s psychedelia and feature lots of reverb, washed textures, intricate production touches, and altered guitar sounds. Ian McCulloch’s vocals are yearning, soaring, and hyper-expressive here, almost to the point of being histrionic, most notably on “Clay,” “Ripeness,” and the title track. Listen to the epic neo-psychedelia of ‘My White Devil’ or ‘Heads Will Roll’ as examples ,

Driving bass and drums lend the songs urgency and keep the music from collapsing into self-indulgence. Parallels between the group’s U.S. contemporaries

The recording session for “The Back of Love” went well, but the relationship between the band members was strained, with them either not speaking to each other or, when they did, arguing.Their manager Bill Drummond was aware of the tensions within the band and so arranged a tour in Scotland for April 1982. This was done in an effort to make the band work harder, write some songs, and to communicate with each other. Drummond’s plan failed to work as following the tour there was still tension between the band members.Two other album tracks – “Clay” and “My White Devil” – were first played during the tour of Scotland.

Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Ian McCulloch – vocals, guitar, piano
  • Will Sergeant – lead guitar
  • Les Pattinson – bass
  • Pete de Freitas – drums

Porcupine deserves a place in the canon of classic rock albums that are regarded as ‘great art’.

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Fanny was founded by guitarist June Millington and her sister, bassist Jean, who had been playing music together since they moved from the Philippines to California in the early 1960s. After playing through several variations of the band, they attracted the interest of producer Richard Perry who signed them to Reprise Records in 1969 as Fanny. The band recorded four albums together before June Millington quit the group, leading to the original line-up splitting. Following a final album, Fanny disbanded in 1975. The Millington sisters have continued to play music together since the split, and with a former drummer, Brie Howard Darling, formed the spin-off group Fanny Walked the Earth in 2018.
Photo ( clockwise from left ): Jean Millington; June Millington; Alice de Buhr and Nickey Barclay.

Stella Mozgawa, Warpaint:Fanny were pioneers, one the first rock bands to feature all women, and the second ever to be signed to a major label when they signed to Reprise in 69. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren. They featured two sisters by the name of June and Jean Millington. They came from California and played dirty rock’n’soul. David Bowie called them the great lost band of the 70’s. This album is filthy, with a really dirty sound.”

With the release of Fanny’s 1973 album Mother’s Pride, Real Gone Music concludes its reissue campaign of the groundbreaking female rock group’s classic Reprise catalog. And while there might be some argument as to whether or not we have saved the best for last . All four Reprise albums the band put out have their champions among Fanny followers there is no question that we have saved the biggest for last, as this expanded edition clocks in with no less than eight bonus tracks! Indeed, Mother’s Pride is perhaps the most controversial entry in the Fanny catalog, as Todd Rundgren agreed to produce the album on the condition that he and he alone oversee the album mix. The result was a record that cemented Fanny’s popularity in the U.K. but failed to make a dent in the charts here in the States. Like our previous Fanny reissues, this release features track-by-track annotation from the band as well as rare photos. Another seminal ’70s rock record from everybody’s favorite “forgotten” all-female rock group, supplemented with rare demos and lost tracks!

The album “Family Entertainment” followed on the heels of Family’s Music in a Doll’s House with the band’s first incarnation: Roger Chapman (harmonica/tenor sax/vocals), Rick Grech (violin/cello/bass guitar/vocals), Rob Townsend (percussion/drums), John “Charlie” Whitney (guitar/pedal steel guitar/keyboards), and Jim King (harmonica/keyboards/soprano sax/tenor sax/vocals).

Family Entertainment was the second album by the British progressive rock band Family, released in March 1969. The cover of the album was a takeoff from the sleeve of the Doors’ second album, Strange Days, Family admitted.

While not totally dismissing their psychedelic leanings, much of the material bears a stronger acoustic influence, in much the same manner as Fairport Convention and Traffic were also exploring. The jazzy sitar lead of “Face in the Cloud” and the even more prominent Eastern-flavored “Summer ’67” somewhat date the affair, and are contrasted by the beautifully noir and trippy “How-Hi-the-Li” and the upbeat “Hung Up Down,” sporting Grech’s unmistakable violin as it wafts over the rural and slightly surreal lyrics.

These sides are set against the edgy “Weaver’s Answer,” which immediately establishes a broader spectrum of styles, most notably given Chapman’s commanding if not slightly intimidating vocals. Guitarist Whitney blistering fretwork yields bite to the Grech-penned “Second Generation Woman,” while “Emotions,” another full-tilt rocker, is infused with an apparent R&B homage.

The first song from the album ”Family Entertainment” that came out in 1969.

This extended version is live from the Beat Club (Hamburg) in 1970. Roger Chapman – Vocals / Percussion John ”Charlie” Whitney – Guitars / Organ Jim King – Piano /Saxophone / Vocals Ric Grech – Bass / Violin / Vocals Rob Townsend – Drums / Percussion Nicky Hopkins – Piano

Family Entertainment was the last album from the group’s original lineup.

Family’s momentum was almost derailed by the departure of bassist Ric Grech for Blind Faith two months after Family Entertainment’s UK release, which caused their first U.S. tour to founder, and Jim King only worsened the situation with his departure later in 1969.

Interested parties should note that Family Entertainment and Music in a Doll’s House were issued in a double-disc package featuring a commendable 24-bit digital remastering rendering all other versions useless — especially the early-’90s pressing on the German Line label. Not only are both LPs included, but the 45s “Scene Through the Eye of a Lens” and “Gypsy Woman” are finally brought into the digital domain. The accompanying 40-page liner booklet is likewise a feast for the eyes.

reDiscover Captain Beefheart’s ‘Doc At The Radar Station’

As the 80s rolled around, many iconic artists from the 60s would struggle to find their place in the decade. Captain Beefheart, however, though boasting a 60s discography that re-wrote what was possible for a mere three-minute song, came back revitalised. The punk and new wave scenes of the late 70s and early 80s had embraced his creative freedoms, while Beefheart himself, after seemingly turning his back on boundary-pushing music, unleashed a late-period Magic Band that asserted his credentials as one of rock’s true visionaries. They super-charged themselves for 1980’s “Doc At The Radar Station”, his penultimate album. Portentously, it boasted an artwork painted by Beefheart himself – the final album to feature his own work on the sleeve, as if signposting Beefheart’s eventual decision to retire from music and pursue painting in the middle of the decade.

The line-up that made “Doc at the Radar Station”, the penultimate studio album from Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, recorded in June 1980. In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

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In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

Doc At The Radar Station marked the first Magic Band credit for New York art-rock icon Gary Lucas – continued evidence of Beefheart’s influence on NYC’s downtown art scene (it’s an influence that never left: the album’s opening track, ‘Hot Head’, is a clear ancestor to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ early outings). Further youthful bite came courtesy of Eric Drew Feldman, a multi-instrumentalist who had joined the fold for 1976’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and who would go on to perform with Pixies and PJ Harvey – two artists who wore their Beefheart influences openly.

A nod to Beefheart’s hallowed Trout Mask Replica-era band came with John French’s return since his defection in 1972. French picked up marimba, slide guitar, bass and drums across ‘Ashtray Heart’ and ‘Sheriff Of Hong Kong’, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that both boast the deceptively unhinged mania that marks much of Beefheart’s 60s output, but with an extra heft thanks to the new blood involved.

This melding of old and new is arguably what makes Doc At The Radar Station such a success: some of the material dates back to the Trout Mask era, while other outings (‘A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond’,’ Flavor Bud Living’, ‘Brickbats’) received initial try-outs during the shelved Bat Chain Puller sessions of 1976. With such a forceful Magic Band attacking top-tier material with gusto, there was no way Doc At The Radar Station could fail.

Indeed, in their review Rolling Stone lauded “music of such heat, strength and passion that many listeners will get trampled”, though also noted that the songs “rarely shatter into headlong chaos without first showing the comely, formal compositions they might have been”. It was an astute observation. Beefheart might have divided his fanbase with his outwardly commercial 70s outings Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams, but it’s true that Doc At The Radar Station also makes clear the genuine songcraft that goes into even his most outlandish material.

It had taken almost two decades, but perhaps the world had finally caught up with him. Rolling Stone reasonably pointed out that, really, the man Don Van Vliet was “bugged by the same things that plague us all: bad relationships, bad technology, bad government”, while The New York Times was sufficiently moved to hail album closer ‘Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee’ as “probably the most extravagantly original and perfectly realised creation of Beefheart’s career”.

Almost three decades on, as a penultimate salvo, Doc At The Radar Station still warrants such positive diagnoses.