Posts Tagged ‘Esoteric Recordings’


Think of the Edgar Broughton Band and you immediately remember the hairy freak combo that emerged out of the tail end of psychedelia, to join Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies at the apex of the early 70s festival underground. Five albums cut for Harvest between 1969 (Wasa Wasa) and 1975 (Oora) contain some of the most dramatically out there rock of the age, and some of the most brilliantly conceived, as well – who else would medley the Shadows “Apache” with Captain Beefheart’s “Drop Out Boogie”?

Less feted are the albums that the band produced over the next seven years  three studio sets and a live album to prove that even at the end of the decade, the Broughtons were a concert force to be reckoned with. Those records are the ones you’ll find here… Bandages (1975), Live Hits Harder! (1979), Parlez Vous English? (1979) and Superchip – the Final Silicone Solution (1982). And if you’re not familiar with them, let this be your introduction.

Bandages is the runt of the litter, recorded as the band struggled with both management problems and their new label… which just happened to be owned by their management. It definitely has its moments, but coming after the minor disappointment of Oora, it suggested that the band had reached the end of its tether. And so it had – the following year saw the Broughtons embark on their farewell tour.

A live album was planned, but it was three years before the tapes emerged as Live Hits Harder!, a savagely enjoyable collection even if, for Broughtons aficionados, it was recorded five years too late. Released only in Switzerland, it dribbled into the UK on import, and the story was over. Which means, nobody could have predicted what would happen next, as the band reformed at the end of 1978 and set to work on what can only be described as one of their masterpieces.

Parlez Vous English? was everything its most spirited predecessors are, but seen through a sheen that recognized all that had changed since the band was last in the studio, on record and in society. Released under the abbreviated name of the Broughtons, it’s an electrifying album, sharp and witty, demanding and demonstrative. The record did nothing chart wise, but it proved that the Broughtons were back.

And then they were gone again, vanishing for three years before re-emerging with the final album in this box, the conceptual Superchip.

Again the band had been paying attention to what was occurring outside of their studio. Synths burble and bleep all over, with the opening “Metal Storm” alone truly remarking upon the band’s former chaos. But it works. The lyrics are as crafty as ever, and Edgar’s always going to sound like Edgar, no matter what’s going on around him. And those are the elements that drag the electronics out of their then-customary roost in alienation and ice, to give Superchip an energy and an atmosphere that only John Foxx, of the contemporary wave of synth warriors, had even come close to capturing. It remains a joy.

It’s also the only album in the box to include a bonus track, the period b-side “the Virus,” but that’s barely a deficiency. Three of the four albums here demand a place in your collection, regardless of how many Broughton discs you already own; and the fourth (Bandages) will swiftly prove itself to be more than makeweight as well. Indeed, of all the early-mid seventies proggy favourites who persisted in making albums after punk scorched the ears… and that’s everyone from Caravan to ELP, from Genesis to Yes… the Broughtons truly were one of the precious few that were worth still listening to.

As a young teen fan watching “Top Of The Pops”, getting into The Move was natural, It was rewarded with an intense admiration of albums such as “Shazam” and then later Roy Wood’s “Message From The Country”. Back then, affordable compilations covering the career of The Move were few and far between save for the rather good “Greatest Hits Vol. 1” released on budget label Pickwick (SHM952), partly in “electronically created stereo”.
The advent of the CD and the release of several anthologies and expanded album reissues has kept admirers of The Move pretty content over the last decade but, for me, there hasn’t been a single disc compilation that ticked all the boxes in covering their career from “Night Of Fear” up to “California Man”. That is until now. “Magnetic Waves Of Sound: The Best Of The Move” (ECLEC22554) is a remarkable release in that the 21 tracks on the CD are twinned with another 21 audio-visual treats on the accompanying DVD including the bands full infamous “Colour Me Pop” performance and a pristine promotional film for “I Can Hear The Grass Grow”. The folks at Esoteric Recordings (an imprint of Cherry Red Records) have done an admirable job in not only including every single issued by The Move on the CD, but also in selecting wisely album track nuggets such as “Kilroy Was Here”, “What?” and the classic “Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited”. An observation (but not a criticism) is that I’d have loved to see “Beautiful Daughter” included within the CD too,
All the hits are there and then some. The attractiveness and value of “Magnetic Waves Of Sound: The Best Of The Move” has been rewarded with impressive pre-orders and, at the time of writing, an entry into the Official Album Chart Update at a healthy #54, The Move and their role in the sparking creativity of The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) is a well known fact but this superb double disc collection gives both the avid fan and the casual music buyer a wonderful journey through the hit laden career of not only one of THE best bands of their time. This collection is also an appreciation of the stellar songwriting output of the one and only Roy Wood as well as those immovable contributions of Bev Bevan, Carl Wayne, Chris ‘Ace’ Kefford, Trevor Burton, Rick Price and, of course, Jeff Lynne.

Continuing its series of reissues dedicated to the Birmingham rockers The Move, Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint has just issued a CD/DVD collection that chronicles the band’s many facets and iterations between 1966 and 1972.  Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of The Move, featuring 21 tracks on CD and a further 21 live performances and promotional films on DVD, is certainly not the group’s first anthology, but it’s doubtless among the finest.

Over the course of just four studio albums – all but one of which, 1971’s Message from the Country, has been reissued and expanded by Esoteric – the band made a dizzying number of transformations.  Pop-psychedelia, mod soul, hard riff-rock, country, cabaret, folk, and rockabilly were all part of The Move’s repertoire.  The band went through five line-ups, with singer/songwriter/guitarist Roy Wood and drummer/vocalist Bev Bevan the two constants; Wood and Bevan would, of course, go on to form the original Electric Light Orchestra with Jeff Lynne, the Idle Race leader who joined The Move in 1970.  Lead singer Carl Wayne’s 1966-1970 yielded the lion’s share of the group’s hits, while the seemingly rotating bass chair went from Chris “Ace” Kefford to Trevor Burton to Rick Price before the Wood/Lynne/Bevan triumvirate abandoned a permanent bass slot for The Move’s final incarnation.

All ten of the band’s U.K. charting singles are here, from 1966’s Tchaikovsky-quoting “Night of Fear” through 1972’s fifties retro-style “California Man,” as well as “Do Ya,” The Move’s only U.S. hit.  (It was famously re-recorded by Electric Light Orchestra for 1976’s A New World Record.)  A healthy selection of B-sides and album tracks are peppered throughout the set, as well.  All of the tracks showcase not only the band’s great stylistic diversity but the strength of Roy Wood’s melodic pop sensibility.  Though The Move could rock (the harsher sound of “Hello Susie” is still jarring in this chronological context), their singles were more often than not compact pop creations, including the controversial “Flowers in the Rain” (subject of a High Court lawsuit that forced Wood to forfeit all of his royalties, then and now, from the composition), the urgent “Fire Brigade,” shimmering “(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree” and baroque “Blackberry Way.”  Move records were reliably filled with lush harmonies and unusual, dramatic instrumentation, sometimes courtesy of then-assistant producer Tony Visconti. Indeed, The Move were progressive before the word had entered the rock lexicon.

The final tracks on the CD portion of Magnetic Waves of Sound, culled from the Message from the Country era, were recorded as Lynne, Wood, and Bevan created Electric Light Orchestra.  As such, they complement the debut of ELO (the band’s only album with Wood (though he played, uncredited, on a couple of tracks from ELO 2).  “Ella James” was selected as the first single from Message, though it was quickly withdrawn and replaced with the jauntier “Tonight,” which was more redolent of the “classic” Move sound. The brisk, breezy “China Town” has Wood and Lynne trading vocals, with the latter already bringing a Beatles influence into the band and Wood bringing his best George Harrison-esque slide lines.

The second disc of this set – The Move on the Air: TV Broadcasts 1967-1970 – is an essential part of this package but could easily stand on its own, with 21 clips on DVD.  Note that this disc is region-free/NTSC, playable everywhere.  Quality is variable, particularly because the original aspect ratios have been converted to widescreen, leading to some “stretching” of the image.   The images are otherwise sharp and detailed, and the audio equally fine.  The centerpiece is a ten-song set from The BBC’s Colour Me Pop (in color, naturally) recorded on January 4th, 1969 featuring not only hits like “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” “Flowers in the Rain,” and “Blackberry Way” but also covers such as Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind,” Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Goin’ Back,” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Christian Life.”  Three songs from this set are lip-synched, while the remainder showcases the four-piece band after Chris “Ace” Kefford’s departure in its potent live prime.  Other strong, primal performances have been culled from broadcasts of Top of the Pops and Germany’s Beat Beat Beat and Beat Club.

Magnetic Waves of Sound is housed in a digipak containing both a fold-out poster and a 20-page booklet featuring a new essay by Mark Paytress as well as credits, a chart of the band line-ups, and discography.  Ben Wiseman has remastered, and sound quality is identical to the remasters, and comparable for the tracks new to this series.  The first eleven tracks on the CD are happily all presented in their original mono mixes.  This set is a fine addition to Esoteric’s stellar program dedicated to the underrated Brumbeat band.


  1. Night of Fear (Deram DM 109-A, 1966) (*)
  2. I Can Hear the Grass Grow (Deram DM 117-A, 1967) (*)
  3. Wave the Flag and Stop the Train (Deram DM 117-B, 1967) (*)
  4. Kilroy Was Here (from Move, Regal Zonophone LRZ 1002, 1968) (*)
  5. (Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree (from Move, Regal Zonophone LRZ 1002, 1968) (*)
  6. Walk Upon the Water (from Move, Regal Zonophone LRZ 1002, 1968) (*)
  7. Flowers in the Rain (Regal Zonophone RZ 3001-A, 1967) (*)
  8. Fire Brigade (Regal Zonophone RZ 3005-A, 1968) (*)
  9. Wild Tiger Woman (Regal Zonophone RZ 3012-A, 1968) (*)
  10. Blackberry Way (Regal Zonophone RZ 3015-A, 1968) (*)
  11. Curly (Regal Zonophone RZ 3021-A, 1969) (*)
  12. Hello Susie (from Shazam, Regal Zonophone SLRZ 1012, 1970)
  13. Cherry Blossom Clinic (Revisited) (from Shazam, Regal Zonophone SLRZ 1012, 1970)
  14. Brontosaurus (Regal Zonophone RZ 3026-A, 1970)
  15. When Alice Comes Back to the Farm (Fly Records BUG 2, 1970)
  16. What? (from Looking On, Fly Records FLY 1, 1970)
  17. Ella James (Harvest HAR 5036-A, 1971)
  18. Tonight (Harvest HAR 5038-A, 1971)
  19. China Town (Harvest HAR 5043-A, 1971)
  20. California Man (Harvest HAR 5050-A, 1972)
  21. Do Ya? (Harvest HAR 5086-A, 1972)


  1. I Can Hear the Grass Grow (Promotional Film)

HR TV Germany Beat Beat Beat – June 26, 1967

  1. Walk Upon the Water
  2. I Can Hear the Grass Grow
  3. Night of Fear

BBC Top of the Pops – February 15, 1968

  1. Fire Brigade

BBC Colour Me Pop – January 4, 1969

  1. I Can Hear the Grass Grow
  2. Beautiful Daughter
  3. Christian Life
  4. Flowers in the Rain
  5. The Last Thing on My Mind
  6. Wild Tiger Woman
  7. Goin’ Back
  8. Fire Brigade
  9. Something
  10. Blackberry Way

Radio Bremen TV Germany Beat Club – February 1968

  1. Fire Brigade
  2. Wild Tiger Woman
  3. Blackberry Way

Radio Bremen TV Germany Beat Club – August 1969

  1. Curly

Radio Bremen TV Germany Beat Club – April 1970

  1. Brontosaurus

Radio Bremen TV Germany Beat Club – December 1970

  1. When Alice Comes Back to the Farm

Esoteric Recordings is proud to announce the release of a new re-mastered four-disc deluxe expanded boxed set limited edition (comprising 3 CDs and a DVD) of Axe Victim the legendary 1974 debut album by Be Bop Deluxe.

Recorded in the Spring of 1974 at several studios in London, AXE VICTIM was released by EMI’s Harvest label in June 1974 to much critical praise and introduced Be Bop Deluxe to the record buying public. The album featured the band’s first line-up of Bill Nelson (vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, piano), Ian Parkin (rhythm & acoustic guitars, organ), Rob Bryan (bass guitar, vocals) and Nicholas Chatterton-Dew (drums).

Axe Victim was a fine debut and was championed by DJ John Peel (who had been an advocate of Bill Nelson’s work since the release of the rudimentary self-released album “Northern Dream” in 1971) as one of his favourite releases of 1974. Although Bill Nelson was still finding his creative feet, Axe Victim featured some fine material including the classic ‘Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape’, along with other fine material such as ‘Night Creatures’, ‘Third Floor Heaven’ (which featured Babe Ruth vocalist Jenny Haan guesting), ‘Jets at Dawn’ and the superb ‘Darkness (L’Immoraliste)’.

This expanded reissue has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes and features an additional 41 bonus tracks drawn from stunning new 5.1 surround sound & stereo mixes of the album from the original multi-track tapes by award winning engineer Stephen W. Tayler, along with two complete BBC Radio One sessions from November 1973 and May 1974 (including the previously unreleased “lost” John Peel session from November 1973), both sides of the rare Smile Records single ‘Teenage Archangel’ b/w ‘Jets at Dawn’ released by the band in 1973 prior to being signed to EMI. Also included is the complete previously unreleased Be Bop Deluxe audition session for Decca Records from December 1973 (mixed from the original 16 track tapes by Stephen W Tayler) & previously unreleased out-takes from the original album sessions.

Another highlight of this limited-edition boxed set is the lavishly illustrated 68-page book with many previously unseen photographs and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson. Additionally, the set includes a facsimile Record Store poster and postcards. This special deluxe limited edition boxed set of Axe Victim is a fitting celebration of a wonderful debut album and a tribute to the creative vision of Bill Nelson.



Esoteric Recordings is pleased to announce the release of Open Your Heart – The Island Recordings 1972 – 1976, a new re-mastered four-disc clamshell boxed set (comprising 3 CDs and a DVD) by the legendary Jim Capaldi.

Aside from his work as a founder member with the acclaimed band Traffic (a group for which Jim co-wrote most of their classic songs with Steve Winwood), Jim Capaldi was also a successful solo artist, enjoying a series of hit albums and singles in his own right. His solo career began with the album Oh How We Danced, recorded whilst Traffic was on hiatus whilst Steve Winwood was recovering from peritonitis. Mainly recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, the album featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section of Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass) and Barry Beckett (keyboards), along with a host of guests such as Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, Paul Kossoff, Dave Mason, Ric Grech, Jim Gordon, Mike Kellie (Spooky Tooth) & Trevor Burton (The Move / Steve Gibbons Band). Featuring tracks such as Eve, Don’t Be A Hero and Open Your Heart, Oh How We Danced was a superb debut solo release.

Jim’s second solo album was the 1974 release Whale Meat Again, an album that tackled a variety of lyrical subjects, including environmental issues. Once more he utilised the services of Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Barry Beckett, along with Steve Winwood. Featuring tracks such as It’s Alright, Whale Meat Again and Summer is Fading, the album was another classic.

With the disbanding of Traffic in 1974, following a troubled US tour, Jim embarked on his next solo project (and final album for Island Records of the 1970s), Short Cut Draw Blood. The album would prove to be one of his most successful, featuring the singles It’s All Up to You and Love Hurts (a cover of the Everly Brothers hit), both of which enjoyed chart success. Aside from these tracks the album also featured the emotive Boy with a Problem, featuring Paul Kossoff on guitar, and other classics such as the album title track, Goodbye Love and Seagull. Once again Jim Capaldi assembled a stellar cast of musicians to contribute to the album such as Steve Winwood, Chris Spedding, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Barry Beckett and Chris Wood.

This boxed set has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes and features an additional 6 bonus tracks, (four previously unreleased on CD), all drawn from single releases and also includes a bonus DVD (NTSTC / Region Free) featuring previously unreleased live appearances by Jim Capaldi on BBC TV’s “Old Grey Whistle Test”; a session from November 1975 (featuring Steve Winwood on piano) and a 50 minute concert by Jim Capaldi & the Space Cadets at the BBC TV Theatre in March 1976. The boxed set also includes an illustrated booklet with a new essay. Open Your Heart – The Island Recordings 1972 – 1976 is a fitting tribute to a fine and much missed musician.

Esoteric Recordings are pleased to announce the release of a newly re-mastered and expanded 50th anniversary edition of the first solo album by the legendary Peter Green.

Peter’s work with Fleetwood Mac needs no introduction. His acclaimed guitar playing and writing graced several albums and a succession of hit singles before he departed the group in 1970. He embarked on the recording of his first solo album only a month after leaving Fleetwood Mac,

The End of the Game would be an entirely instrumental affair, quite different in feel from Green’s work with Fleetwood Mac. Released to very little fanfare, unjustly so as it was an imaginative work with Green’s instantly recog-nisable guitar playing. “The End Of The Game” and it was as much a departure from “The Green Manalishi” as that same track had been from the rest of Fleetwood Mac’s entire output. Through three tracks per side, Green pursued a far looser strand of improvisational rock comprised of wholly instrumental outings that were entirely un-bluesy, extemporaneous free rock borne on the wings of Green’s guitar with its expansive tone evoking the loosest of feels, often drenched with emotional wah-wah pedal use of hair triggered sensitivity. The rhythm section of Bluesbreaker and ex-Anysley Dunbar Retaliation bassist Alex Dmochowski and Geoffrey Maclean on percussion allow Green all the room to explore through distended lines of fragile but strongly poetic counterpoint as the addition of twin keyboardists Zoot Money (grand piano) and future Hot Tuna keyboardist Nick Buck (organ, electric piano) sporadically appear only to colour in a clutch of fine points which Green has left wide open as he is in a constant state of unhurried transit and always onto the next subtly-turned phrase.

The album rises up to a slow fade and into the raucous nine minute wah-wah led jam of “Bottoms Up.” As the title suggests, it’s carried along by a heavy bass line that sallies forth unswervingly to provide Green with a woody and thriving backdrop to begin the odyssey of successive circular wah-wah guitar configurations. Electric piano lines twinkle and fall like stars once Green lets up to recollect before another sweet and extensive wah-wah outpouring and the band is solidly back to stabilise Green’s ever-migrating wah-wah guitar textures. “Timeless Time” passes by silently like a gentle current under the land bridge that links the two jamming continents of side one together. The elongated “Descending Scale” opens with jumpy off-beats of piano clusters and busy though sensitively played drums like a send up of a jazzbo warm up until Green throws the whole discordant array into a high pitched wah-wah crescendo that reverberates into another unresolved conclusion that soon all but quietly slips away but for the accompanying half-erased instrumentation.

Side two begins with “Burnt Foot” and Dmochowski’s over-recorded, punctuation bass pummeling over the taking care of bizniz jazz drums that cascade all around Green’s riffing quietly traipsing in the background until it breaks down into a drum solo of sizzling cymbals with no drum skin spared from a multitude of lightning quick flourishes. Dmochowski’s bass returns to erratically shift gear into a gritty jam with Green’s churning wah-wah fanning out into a 359 degree arc of groove before its premature breakdown and subsequent fade. “Hidden Depth” opens with strategically played and watery-echoed wah-wah, with the returning piano and organ choppy in the intro and then straightening out with interplaying tones as emotions and riffs that suggest the breaking of a new dawn. Nick Buck’s organ colourations take on the same role of melancholy as Rick Wright’s from “Mudmen” or Tom Constanten’s emerging springtime renewal in “Quadlibet For Tenderfeet” off side one of “Anthem Of The Sun.” And all the while, Green’s restrained guitar of reversed pick-ups rings out truly unheard of tones with a natural delight for spaciousness and innuendo. All is peaceful until broken by a quick cut into the screeching wah-wah opening of the title track, ”The End Of The Game” which closes the album aggressively hectic and free form — loosely strung together not by rhythms but phrasing and a requited, unspoken understanding between the players.

The following year saw the release of a single ‘Heavy Heart’ b/w ‘No Way Out’, which received some airplay and saw Green perform ‘Heavy Heart’ on Top of the Pops. A collaboration with Nigel Watson followed early in 1972 for Green’s final single for Reprise Records, ‘Beasts of Burden’ b/w ‘Uganda Woman’.

This new and expanded Esoteric Recordings edition has been newly remastered from the original Reprise master tapes, features four bonus tracks (drawn from the two non-album singles) which appear on CD for the first time. It also features a booklet with new essay and an exclusive interview with Zoot Money on the making of the album.

Spirit were a highly regarded rock band that achieved modest commercial success, charting 11 albums in the U.S. between 1968 and 1977. Founded in Los Angeles in 1967 by musicians who had a mixture of rock, pop, folk, blues, classical, and jazz backgrounds, and who ranged in age from 16 to 44, the group had an eclectic musical style in keeping with the early days of progressive rock; they were as likely to play a folk ballad featuring finger picked acoustic guitar, a jazz instrumental full of imaginative improvisation, or a driving rhythm tune dominated by acid rock electric guitar playing.

Most people got to know the band Spirit because of their belated and ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit alleging that Led Zeppelin plagiarized part of “Stairway to Heaven” from their tune “Taurus”. That’s a very sad legacy for a quirky crew of visionaries whose guitarist was mentored by Jimi Hendrix and who created an original sound that embraced everything from psychedelia to jazz rock. They deserve to be remembered as more than a legal anecdote.
Spirit is almost certainly the only band of the psychedelic era whose story actually starts in the 1930s. That’s when their oldest member, drummer Ed Cassidy (born 1923), began his musical career. By the mid ’60s, he had played everything from big-band music to country, and had backed up jazz giants like Gerry Mulligan, Roland Kirk, and Cannonball Adderley. After playing with a young Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal in pioneering L.A. blues-rock band The Rising Sons, Cassidy looked closer to home for musical mates. It turned out that his girlfriend Bernice Pearl (whom he would marry in 1965) had a teenage son who was something of a guitar prodigy.

Randy Wolfe was just 13 when he started playing with his future stepfather in The Red Roosters. Pearl’s brother Ed was the owner of the Ash Grove, the legendary Los Angeles club where some of the greatest folk and blues figures appeared on a regular basis, so Wolfe had gotten guitar tips from the likes of Sleepy John Estes and Mance Lipscomb early days. Two other founding members of Spirit were from the Red Roosters too: singer Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes. But the band abruptly ended when Cassidy, Pearl, and Wolfe moved across the country to Queens, New York in 1966.

Wolfe, then just 15 but already showing signs of greatness, ended up performing with Jimmy James & The Blue Flames, led by an unknown but wildly gifted guitarist making a name for himself on the Greenwich Village scene. The man the world would soon come to know as Jimi Hendrix took Wolfe under his wing, teaching him some tricks of the trade and even giving him his stage name: Randy California, to distinguish him from another Randy in the band.

It was pretty heady stuff for a kid California’s age. And when he wasn’t playing in the Village, he was giving guitar lessons to his neighbor Walter Becker, who would go on to form Steely Dan. But the egocentric behavior that would come to plague California in years to come is said to have started in his days as a Blue Flame. Depending on which story you believe, California stayed behind when Hendrix made the trip to England that would eventually lead to stardom One night at the Café Au Go Go, California starts playing slide using the neck of a sawn-off 7-Up bottle while James/Hendrix guns down a fat riff. Suddenly the kid reaches across to his boss’s guitar and spins the volume control down to zero. Hendrix throws a fit, flings his Stratocaster across the room and walks out on to the street. A tentative invitation from Jimi for Randy to join him on his maiden visit to London is withdrawn.

In either case, Cassidy, his wife, and his stepson moved back to L.A. in 1967, where the Red Roosters regrouped as Spirits Rebellious, bringing jazz keyboardist John Locke into the fold as well. Shortening that name to Spirit, they delineated their new, ambitious agenda to forge a free-flowing sound that could incorporate jazz, rock, folk, and anything else they cared to explore. Southern California in 1967 was about as hospitable an environment for such ambitions as one could want.

Like a lot of bands in those days, Spirit lived communally, sharing a house in Topanga Canyon. One of their housemates happened to be a young record collector named Barry Hansen, who would find fame in the ’70s as radio personality Dr. Demento. But at the time, his deep musical knowledge made him a guiding light for the band, and he oversaw the demo that got them signed to Ode Records, the imprint of producer Lou Adler.

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Spirit (1968)

Adler, who had recently become a key architect of the era’s West coast sound through his work with The Mamas & The Papas, produced Spirit’s self-titled 1968 debut album, Though the band was unhappy with the orchestral arrangements Adler gave some of the tunes, the record would eventually come to be regarded as one of the great sonic statements of its day. From the very first track, the album exploded with eclecticism and offbeat inspiration.

The lead-off track to Spirit’s 1968 debut album comes out of nowhere and sounds like nothing else out there at the time. The closest relatives to the style of the song would probably be Love or the Doors, but with a touch of Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention thrown in. Even that doesn’t quite tell the story of the sound here.

It’s psychedelic to be sure, Fresh Garbage is a quirky, almost comedic variant on the ecological themes of the time, and it shifts organically from Latinate rhythms to distorted rock riffs to straight-ahead jazz and back again, with California’s liquid but larger-than-life guitar lines leading the way. From the moody, orchestrated art-rock landscape of Mechanical World to the hooky psych pop of Uncle Jack  ‘Spirit’ is pretty much a perfect debut, with Ferguson and California seamlessly sharing lead vocal duties and the band establishing a singular sonic fingerprint. Though no real hits emerged from the record, it did manage to make its way to No. 31 on the U.S. album chart.

‘Girl in Your Eye’ Very much of its era, lets loose with a flood of sitar-laced sounds. The song, however, is strong enough to hold its own and conquer any ‘period piece’ daggers you want to throw at it. A beautiful melody carries this one along while the sitar gives way to a biting guitar solo from unsung six-stringer Randy California who drives this deeper into lysergic territory. Come along for the ride, the weather’s fine.

The Family That Plays Together (1968)

The second album, The Family That Plays Together, followed in December 1968.

One of the album’s deeper cuts, the shimmering instrumental “Taurus,” would make headlines more than four decades later. On December 26th, 1968, an unknown Led Zeppelin, preparing for the release of their own debut album, played their first American show, opening up for Spirit. In 1971, Zeppelin, who had been known to insert the riff from “Fresh Garbage” into their early shows and would eventually become notorious for appropriating other artists’ material without credit or compensation, released a little tune called “Stairway to Heaven” bearing an acoustic guitar intro uncannily similar to “Taurus.” But the copyright infringement suit that was finally filed in 2014 failed.

Spirit’s innovations continued apace on The Family That Plays Together released at the end of ’68. Besides encompassing everything from Jewish —California’s nod to his background based on a Hebrew hymn—to the delicate chamber pop of Drunkard the album contained the band’s only real brush with mainstream fame. I Got a Line on You is probably the most straightforward rocker in the Spirit catalog, and undeniably among the most infectious, with its surging momentum and stinging guitar. It became the band’s only Top 40 single and helped the album make it to No. 22, a career peak.

Unlike the vocal-free atmospherics of “Taurus,” “I Got a Line on You” featured harmony galore, straddling the line between the soulful hard rock that was on the rise at the end of the Sixties and the lingering traces of peace-and-love trippiness that still informed California’s supple guitar work. California’s voice is gutsy and melodic, helping to propel the single to success.

‘Dream Within a Dream’ from the second album is one of the few that retains the more psychedelic overtones from their debut disc. showcasing the incredible guitar work of Randy California. Perfectly produced by the legendary Lou Adler, this Jay Ferguson composition has it all — a great arrangement, stellar instrumental interplay and beautiful lyrics. The harmonies have an almost Association-like feel to them, but California’s piercing guitar running throughout makes it unique.

Clear Spirit (1969)

In 1969, the band made its foray into the film world, scoring Model Shop for French New Wave director Jacques Demy of Umbrellas of Cherbourg fame. Spirit made an appearance in the movie as well, and Ferguson was even given a few lines. But the film was a flop and the soundtrack album didn’t see the light of day until 2005.The work Spirit did on the score wasn’t a total loss at the time, though; a number of tracks were re-purposed for the band’s third album, “Clear” which consequently ended up being the most intriguingly atmospheric of their releases. In retrospect it also paved the way for Spirit’s true tour de force.

Spirit flaunted California’s parallel love of sci-fi. The song was named after George Orwell’s dystopian classic, and in its own way, the music is just as chilling. “1984/Knocking on your door,” California intones at the start of the track before it segues into an angular, almost mechanical bass line that sounds totally New Wave – more than a decade ahead of its time, as if the year 1984 really were knocking at Spirit’s door.

Not included on the band’s third album, ‘Clear,’ ‘1984’ was released as a single in late-1969 and tried to warn us of a future that may have seemed distant then, but was obviously not too far off. Another killer Randy California guitar solo makes this one a home run and its catchy-as-can-be chorus should have made this a hit. It didn’t and it wasn’t, but it’s still one of the band’s finest moments

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Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)

The band hired David Briggs, who had worked on Neil Young’s albums, to produce its fourth LP. Sessions for that album commenced in April 1970, but they were interrupted when California suffered a fractured skull due to a fall from a horse and spent a month in the hospital. A single, Ferguson’s “Animal Zoo,” emerged in July and grazed the bottom of the charts, Another great track from the band’s fourth LP, a pretty straight ahead pop-rock and roll, at times coming off like a cross between the Kinks and Paul Revere and the Raiders, of all things. That’s a compliment by the way! This gem from the pen of Jay Ferguson has an ultra-catchy chorus that should have made this a big hit, but it ultimately took six months to complete the LP, released as Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus in November.

Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus can justifiably be considered Spirit’s Neil Young’s producer David Briggs, the band really strutted its stuff, tapping more fully than ever into California’s six-string bag of tricks, his and Ferguson’s complementary songwriting gifts, and the whole ensemble’s empathetic interplay.

The case for California’s as a guitar-hero status requires no more substantiation than his work on ‘Sardonicus’. Harnessing feedback, overdrive, slide, and sustain with the precision of a master jeweler while investing it all with his left-field psychedelic shaman vibe, California creates a guitar language that’s informed by the innovations of his old mentor Hendrix but exists in a self-created space all its own. And on tunes like the folkish environmental lament “Nature’s Way” and horn-punctuated, (named for Cassidy’s clean-shaved cranium), California and Ferguson were pushing their compositional powers to their peak. Toss in forward-looking excursions like John Locke’s cosmic electro-jazz journey Space Child and it all adds up to the brightest moment in Spirit’s career, not to mention hippie-era rock in general.

The year, the band released its magnum opus, “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus”. Ambitious, multi-layered and sprawling – at the time, Rolling Stone raved that the album “lay languidly upon the very steps to Parnassus” – it produced the single “Nature’s Way,” which became a Spirit staple. It’s not hard to see why. Over a driving acoustic guitar, California pleads, “It’s nature’s way of telling you something’s wrong” – sounding favorably like fellow Angeleno Arthur Lee of Love, one of Spirit’s closest contemporaries. The coughing at the end of the song is reminiscent of the coughing at the start of Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf,” released a year later,

Mr. Skin – which became the title of the b-side of “Nature’s Way.” Starting with a staccato organ-and-guitar salvo, the song eases into a brass-punctuated, cowbell-happy jam that mythologizes Cassidy’s alter ego. The song proved to be so popular among fans,

In between the recording and release of ‘Sardonicus’, Randy California fall from a horse, fracturing his skull. He was down for the count for a while, and during that time, he started snorting epic amounts of cocaine and going a bit crazy (or crazier) to boot. Mark Andes has stated that California was forever changed by this period, and not for the better. There had already been friction between the guitarist and his bandmates before, but after the accident things worsened drastically, almost coming to the point of an onstage punch-up before Andes and Ferguson finally quit to start the much more conventional-sounding (and briefly successful) Jo Jo Gunne.

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Feedback (1972)

California found his way into a rehab program. Cassidy and Locke, suddenly finding themselves without a band, hooked up with singer/bassist Al Staehely and his guitar-playing brother Chris in a band that released 1972’s extremely mediocre “Feedback” as a Spirit album but resembled that band in name only. When California was match fit once more, he set to work on his first solo album, the weirdly wonderful Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds  which reunited him with his stepfather.

“Spirit of ’76” (1975)

After the dissolution of that unit, Cassidy traveled to Hawaii and got back in touch with California. Joined by Mark Andes, who had left Jo Jo Gunne, they began playing dates by September 1974; Locke also performed with them at the start of 1975, but neither he nor Andes stayed permanently. Instead, California and Cassidy hired another bass player, Barry Keene, and carried on. They recorded an album that they shopped, signing to Mercury Records, which released the double-LP “Spirit of ’76” in May 1975. It made the lower reaches of the charts.

When the stepdad/stepson team returned for the 1975 album Spirit of ’76, and like The Grateful Dead, Spirit decided to snub the trends of the decade and stick with what it knew best: psychedelia. While “Lady of the Lakes,” a single and standout track from Spirit of ’76, didn’t help Spirit become psychedelic standard-bearers like the Dead, the song’s easygoing vibe and swirling Americana weren’t that far from the concurrent work of Garcia and company.

They quickly followed in October with Son of Spirit, another modest seller. For Farther Along, released in June 1976,

Son Of Spirit (1976)

The following year, California and Cassidy toured Europe with ‘Kapt. Kopter’ bassist Larry “Fuzzy” Knight as Spirit, but California’s behavior was still disturbingly erratic and his drug problems seemed undiminished. He ended up in rehab again, and didn’t play music for two years. He dropped out of sight, seeking sanctuary in Hawaii, but Cassidy managed to reconnect with him eventually. With a new bassist in Barry Keane, they reemerged as Spirit in 1975.
The mid-’70s version of Spirit released two odd but excellent albums, ‘Spirit of ’76’ and ‘Son of Spirit’. It was a distinctly different band from the ’60s iteration, bearing a casual, stoner approach more in line with California’s solo album, but unlike the ‘Feedback’-era band, this was a lineup fully worthy of operating under the Spirit moniker.

Son of Spirit and Farther Along (1976)

All the original members of Spirit mended their fences and reunited for the 1976 album ‘Farther Along’, adding Andes‘ guitarist brother Matt to the roster for good measure. Unfortunately, the magic was missing. The production was too ’70s-slick, and the songs seemed to be courting commercial success more than answering the call of the muse as Spirit had done in the past. The public rightly turned a deaf ear, and the reunion didn’t last past the one album.

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Future Games (1977)

Randy righted the ship somewhat with 1977’s ‘Future Games’, a trippy, homemade sounding album that was really more of a solo session than a Spirit record, despite the name on the album cover. Spirit released Future Games, it was a safe bet the album was going to be weird. And it was. His interest in science fiction took an obsessive turn, with several of the songs even having pronounced Star Trek themes, including “Gorn Attack,” “The Romulan Experience” and, even more blatantly, “Star Trek Dreaming.”

Future Games (A Magical Kahauna Dream), the fourth Spirit album on Mercury, released in January 1977, found California standing alone and bare-chested on the front and back covers, and he played all the instruments on the record.

Potatoland (1981)

Randy California and his stepfather, Ed Cassidy, became the touring Spirit who kept the tradition alive until California’s untimely passing in 1997. The strengths and the weaknesses of creative freedom are evident on “Potatoland: Adventures of Kaptain Kopter & Commander Cassidy in Potato Land”, a concept album with a theme that is far removed from the intuitive cool that was The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. The material by California and drummer Cassidy is somewhat tremendous – “Open Up Your Heart” has wonderful Beach Boys/Beatles harmonies, there is some elegant playing, and a trippy melody. The production is also first-rate.

The music, however, is for the most part exemplary: at times a terrific listening experience resplendent in Randy California’s trademark guitar-oriented pop. Spirit needed a bit of discipline and direction at this juncture; but the zany nature of California’s Kaptain Kopter and potato obsessions inhibiting this stellar music from reaching a wider audience.

Other Albums

But another ill-advised reunion occurred on 1984’s ‘The 13th Dream’, on which all the original members convened one last time to desecrate the memory of the classic tunes they’d crafted together years before. The record consisted mostly of generic-sounding AOR-style versions of early Spirit material. The fact that members of The Doobie Brothers contributed to the tracks should offer some idea of the overall vibe. 1989’s ‘Rapture in the Chambers’, featuring everybody but Ferguson, suffered from similar problems, and lacked worthwhile material to boot.

California and the ageless, ever-faithful Cassidy kept Spirit going through the ’90s with a variety of bandmates, touring extensively and releasing a couple more unexceptional albums. But the Spirit story came crashing to an abrupt end on January 2nd, 1997. California, then 45, was swimming in the ocean with his 12-year-old son near their Hawaii home, when a tidal wave took them by surprise. Guitar hero California died a real-life hero, pushing his son to safety before being overtaken by the ocean. His body was never recovered, but in a strange way that’s probably fitting for a man who spent much of his life pushing the boundaries of his world to see what lay on the other side.

Cassidy died of cancer in 2012

Compilations, It Shall Be: The Ode & Epic Recordings 1968-1972; and Time Circle

Spirit’s catalog was regularly reissued in various editions over the first decade of the 21st century, but it wasn’t until 2018 that they received a proper box set treatment. In March, Esoteric Recordings released It Shall Be: The Ode & Epic Recordings 1968-1972; The five-disc set gathered their first five albums (including both mono and stereo mixes of their self-titled debut), and the soundtrack to the 1968 film The Model Shop. Each disc was packed with outtakes, demos, and alternative mixes from 1991’s Time Circle compilation. It also included a booklet with a critical and historical essay by Malcolm Dome, as well as archival interviews with California and Cassidy.

Mike McCartney (a.k.a. Mike McGear)’s 1974 album McGear was produced by his brother Paul McCartney who also wrote or co-wrote the majority of the tracks.  Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch, and Denny Seiwell also appear on McGear, which has been dubbed by some fans as a “lost Wings album.”  Now, McGear has now been newly remastered from the original master tapes in a compact but lavish box set and expanded with 21 bonus tracks, including 13 that have never been released, plus rare single edits that make their CD debut here.

The album featured a selection of tremendous songs such as ‘Rainbow Lady’, ‘Simply Love You’, ‘Givin’ Grease a Ride’ and ‘The Man Who Found God on the Moon’. McGear also featured an inspired cover of the Roxy Music song ‘Sea Breezes’, the evocative ‘The Casket’ and the hit single ‘Leave It’. Among those is the non-album single “Dance the Do” featuring the Bonzo’s Vivian Stanshall. The set also includes a DVD featuring interviews with Mike McCartney recorded at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre and the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, as well as the 1974 promotional film for “Leave It.”  A 32-page booklet and foldout poster are also included.  The LP reissue is just the original album.

Esoteric Recordings is pleased to announce the release of a newly re-mastered and expanded 3 disc clamshell box set edition of the album, “McGear” by MIKE McGEAR, featuring 2CDs and a DVD. Originally released in 1974, McGear was the second solo album by Mike McGear (McCartney) and was a more “serious” record than his work with the Liverpool satirical trio Scaffold, or his work with Roger McGough on the “McGough & McGear” album.

“McGear” was charming, eccentric and unique in equal measure and was one of the great unsung albums of its time. Now acclaimed, but unavailable on CD for over twenty years, this long awaited expanded three disc edition reissue of “McGear” has been compiled with the full involvement of Mike (McGear) McCartney.

Available today in the U.K. and next Friday in North America.

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One of the pioneers of Progressive Music – or Prog Rock as it’s more widely known – is a UK band from the early years of Rock’s infancy. Their name is Van der Graaf Generator. This band still works together with their last album, Do Not Disturb, released back in 2016. Overall, this influential band released thirteen albums from 1968 through 2016 (thus far).  Their first album, “The Aerosol Grey Machine”, welcomed the band to the public.

The album was originally intended as a solo album by the band’s lead singer and main songwriter, Peter Hammill. When the band signed with Charisma Records, a deal was worked out whereby The Aerosol Grey Machine would be released under the Van der Graaf Generator name, in return for Mercury Records releasing Hammill from his earlier contract with it.

The Aerosol Grey Machine. Originally issued in 1969, The Aerosol Grey Machine adequately sets the stage for the great Van der Graaf Generator classics to follow. This 50th Anniversary Edition of this debut will feature new remastering and the addition of rare and previously unreleased bonus tracks to round out the  planned 2CD reissue.

For this reissue, eight extra tracks that include two previously unreleased 1967 demos, two single issues, and four BBC Sessions live performance tracks from a November 1968 session. A booklet with photos, notes, credits, an essay, and a new Pete Hammill interview.  Also included will be a replica Pete Hammill-designed poster from 1968.

A 180g-weight vinyl LP is also planned for reissue that will include the new remaster of the classic debut. It will come with a packed in 7″ vinyl single of the rare and withdrawn “People You Were Going To” with a B-side of “Firebrand”. The LP will be presented in a classic gateway sleeve with the UK artwork that was unissued.

Esoteric Recordings proudly announcing the release of a new re-mastered 50th Anniversary Limited Edition boxed set of the classic debut album ‘Aerosol Grey Machine’ – available for order now, and to be released April 26th via Esoteric Recordings.
Features the re-mastered album, an additional CD of rare & previously unreleased tracks, demos & BBC sessions, a facsimile 180g vinyl LP of ‘The Aerosol Grey Machine’ (cut at Abbey Road Studios), housed in the impossibly rare unreleased British gatefold sleeve design, a 7-inch single of the very rare withdrawn release ‘People You Were Going To’ b/w ‘Firebrand’, a lavish book with an essay by Sid Smith & exclusive interview with Peter Hammill, and a replica 1968 poster designed by Peter Hammill.

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As promised, Esoteric Recordings have announced the release of a new re-mastered four disc deluxe expanded boxed set limited edition (comprising 3 CDs and a DVD) of the legendary 1975 album ‘FUTURAMA’!
Features the original album remastered from the original studio tapes, and an additional 36 bonus tracks drawn from a stunning new 5.1 surround sound & stereo mixes by award winning engineer Stephen W Tayler, out-takes, BBC Radio In Concert & John Peel Sessions, rare promo videos, a lavishly illustrated 68-page book with an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson, a facsimile Record Store poster for FUTURAMA, replica track sheets, and postcards.

Also available as a 2CD Edition. Released April 26th!

This November, Esoteric Recordings will reissue a four-disc box set edition of English prog rock group Be-Bop Deluxe‘s 1976 album Sunburst Finish

3CD+DVD box set • Remastered • Unreleased tracks • 5.1 mix
It was the band’s third album and featured the line-up of Bill Nelson (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Charlie Tumahai (bass, vocals), Andy Clark (keyboards) and Simon Fox (drums).

The first CD in this four-disc box delivers a newly remastered version of the original stereo mix, along with a bonus cut of the seven-inch version of  ‘Ships in the Night’, which was the band’s one and only top 30 hit in the UK. The second disc offers a brand new 2018 stereo remix of the album along with six previously unreleased bonus cuts, while the third and final CD brings together BBC Radio One radio sessions – ‘In Concert’ and John Peel (both from early 1976).

The DVD (region free, NTSC) includes a new 5. 1 surround sound mix by engineer Stephen W. Tayler and offers the new stereo mix and remastered original mix in hi-res. Some video content closes this disc: an appearance on BBC TV’s The Old Grey Whistle Test and a previously unreleased 1976 Harvest Records promotional video for ‘Ships in the Night’.

As can be seen by the image above, the presentation looks good; the set includes a 68-page book with unseen photos and an essay of recollections by Bill Nelson. You also get a replica tour programme, postcards and poster.

The Sunburst Finish box set is released on 16th November 2018. A 2CD edition features the first two CDs from the four-disc box set.

Sunburst Finish, the 1976 album from art rock quartet Be-Bop Deluxe, falls into this valley set between the major musical movements in the band’s native England. Prog rock and proto-metal were on the wane with the rising signs of punk and post-punk about to dominate the cultural conversation. Like the lyric of the album’s hit single “Ships In The Night,” it felt like a square peg stuck in a cultural landscape of round holes. Heard today, it feels like the perfect record for that time period. Singer/guitarist Bill Nelson adhered to a musical complexity that resulted in multi-tiered tunes like “Sleep That Burns,” which moves from ambling rock to cocktail jazz to full on bombast in a mere five minutes, and the searing rock of “Blazing Apostles” and the ether-drunk psychedelia of “Crying To The Sky.” this album has been fresh on the mind of longtime fans of Be-Bop Deluxe and new listeners thanks to a recent deluxe reissue of the album released by Cherry Red Records that marries a re-mastered version of the original recording with a new stereo mix, a batch of bonus tracks and radio sessions from the time. It’s a lovely package that does justice to an oft-overlooked album (at least here in the U.S.).

Here’s our unboxing video demonstration of the stunning new deluxe reissues of Sunburst Finish, in both the 3CD/1DVD limited edition and the 2CD formats!, couldn’t agree more with Bill, who says it looks “absolutely top notch” and is “a really fantastic package that does the album proud”.