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Brigitte Bardot, Initiales B.B. (Philips). This three-CD, 55-song box set has almost everything Bardot recorded, virtually all of it from the 1960s and early 1970s. It's not quite everything: it's missing some later singles, as well as rarities like cuts from the soundtrack of Viva Maria, the English version of "Bonnie and Clyde," and the Bardot/Sacha Distel duet "La Bise Aux Hippies." It's true there was probably enough remaining room on the discs to include all of the absent material (for the record, a bunch of the missing rare singles tracks from the late 1960s and early 1970s can be heard on a CD compilation titled simply Brigitte Bardot, on Universal/Mercury 981794). However, it's certainly enough, or even more than enough, for most Brigitte Bardot fans, with just about everything else from her various LPs, EPs, and 45s. It also has four previously unreleased tracks, those being inessential 1962 duets with Jean-Max Riviere and Olivier Despax; the 1963 outtake "La Belle Et Le Blues"; and "Sei Arrivato Amor Mio," an Italian version of her 1973 single "Vous Ma Lady."
Considering her meager (albeit appealing in their own way) vocal talents and the highly uneven quality of her releases, most such fans will be better off with an intelligently selected single-CD compilation, like The Best of Bardot, which focuses on her more pop-rock-oriented work and has all of her best interpretations of Serge Gainsbourg songs. The sporadic flashes of near-brilliance, mostly evident on the wilder late-'60s Gainsbourg collaborations -- particularly "Contact," "Harley Davidson," and "Bonnie and Clyde" -- make one wish that someone had possessed the vision to continue matching Bardot with such strong material. Yet there are some worthwhile, fun performances on here that don't always make the best-ofs, even if you have to swim through a bunch of her corny vaudevillian efforts (particularly in her early days) to get to them. Among those would be the sad, pretty ballads "Une Histoire de Plage" and "Un Jour Comme un Autre"; the faux mod go-go tune "Je Danse Donc Je Suis" (which translates to "I dance, therefore I am"); the breezy "Les Cheveux Dans Le Vent"; the almost sultry jazz-pop of "Les Hommes Endormis"; and the bouncy 1966 EP cut "Gang Gang," which has quite a few solid pop hooks that are almost reminiscent of the '66 Kinks, and would have a well-earned place on an average Bardot best-of comp. There's also the not-inconsiderable bonus of the 32-page booklet, even if you can't read the French notes, as it has a complete discography and is lushly illustrated with photos, many taken from rare picture sleeves.
Chris Farlowe, Handbags and Gladrags: The Immediate Collection (Castle). Zeroing in exclusively on his 1965-69 stint for Immediate Records, this is the best Farlowe anthology, with 27 songs and 77 minutes of music on a single CD. It was this era that saw Farlowe's only significant commercial success as a solo act, and the disc includes all half-dozen of his British chart singles (although only one of those, the chart-topping cover of the Rolling Stones' "Out of Time," was a truly big seller). It also has seven covers of Mick Jagger-Keith Richard songs (which were produced by Jagger as well), though all of these were done much better by the Rolling Stones themselves. To be harsh, as good value (and well-annotated) as this is, 27 songs might be too much for the more casual collector, some of the lesser tracks exposing Farlowe's weaknesses as a blustery blue-eyed soul singer. There are, however, some decent and overlooked cuts as well, like the original version of "Handbags and Gladrags" (though Rod Stewart's subsequent cover of the tune would become the definitive one), and the weirdly imaginative sitar-laden arrangement of the jazz standard "Moanin,'" which gave Farlowe a low-charting single. Too, some of the later efforts find Farlowe toning down his vocal excesses for some uncharacteristically gentle and effective numbers, like "Everyone Makes a Mistake" (which sounds quite a bit like early Rod Stewart), "Dawn," the folk-rockish "Paperman Fly in the Sky," and "The Last Goodbye" (penned by "Handbags and Gladrags" author Mike d'Abo). Odder items include "North South East West," co-written by Farlowe and Albert Lee, a one-time member of Farlowe's backing band; the soul ballad "Baby Make It Soon," co-written by Andrew Oldham and future Alan Parsons Project member Eric Woolfson; and a bizarre cover of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," arranged to sound like (of all things) the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself."
Neil Innes, Taking Off/The Innes Book of Records (Hux). It may be that Neil Innes will always be most acclaimed for his work within the Bonzo Dog Band and the Rutles, particularly in the United States, where nothing else he's done has even gotten the cult audiences that those two bands did. His 1977 solo album Taking Off and its 1979 follow-up Book of Records (here paired together on one CD) might not be his best or funniest work, but they're certainly respectable efforts, even if they do tilt the focus away from his most riotous spoofs and toward his more conventional singer-songwriter talents. On each album, his skill for gently ribbing pastiches of a wide range of pop and rock styles is in abundance, though Taking Off (with fellow Rutle John Halsey doing some of the drums) is more musically satisfying. Taking Off covers a lot of ground in its slightly wacky tunes, from hoe-down country ("Crystal Balls," which opens with the memorable line "I got my hand up the skirt of Mother Nature") and gospel-rock ("God Is Love") to a moving ballad to an inflatable doll ("Randy Raquel), a cheery murder mini-epic ("Drama on a Saturday Night"), and easy listening pop ("La Vie en Rose"), as well as "Shangri-La," which was eventually redone in the 1990s on the Rutles' second album. It doesn't all border on satire, however; much of it's pleasingly melodic, if wry, observational-oriented pop-rock that shows Innes to be a pretty able fellow traveler in the steps of fellow British icons Ray Davies and Paul McCartney. While The Innes Book of Records is similar to Taking Off, it suffers a little in comparison, mostly due to a more mainstream, occasionally AOR-ish dated late-'70s production feel. It still has enjoyably affectionate, if low-key, knock-ups of late-'60s John Lennon-penned Beatles songs ("Montana Cafe" will find favor with Rutles admirers), lightly discofied '70s British pop ("Here We Go Again"), actual disco ("Amoeba Boogie," one of the least effective tracks), the British music hall, reggae ("Human Race"), Tin Pan Alley ("Spontaneous"), and Latin-lite easy listening ("Etcetera"). And there's still room for some pretty funny lyrics, a la "you're so spontaneous, please don't ever change."
Jefferson Airplane, Fly Jefferson Airplane [DVD] (Eagle Vision). This is a refreshingly straightforward, no-nonsense historical overview of Jefferson Airplane that, while not quite a documentary, sticks (unlike so many similar projects) to what the fans really want to see: complete archive clips of the band at their peak in 1966-70 (as well as "Embryonic Journey" from their Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in the 1990s), linked by interviews with band members. While some of this has circulated on other official and unofficial video releases, the dozen performances are first-rate. These include some rarely-seen items like a lip-synch of "It's No Secret" at the Fillmore Auditorium from August 1966 (with original woman singer Signe Anderson still in the lineup); a promo video-like collage of images to accompany "Martha," from a Perry Como television special; a New York City live rooftop blast through "House at Pooneil Corners," done for Jean-Luc Godard and D.A. Pennebaker's obscure film One P.M.; "Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil," done live at the Family Dog; and a promo film for "We Can Be Together." Strictly speaking some good footage doesn't make the cut, like "Today" from Monterey Pop and their segment from the 1970 Dutch festival documentary Stamping Ground. But what's here is fairly plentiful and plenty good, including versions of other of their most famous songs, like "Somebody to Love," "White Rabbit," "Crown of Creation," "Lather," and "Volunteers." The interviews -- conducted shortly before this 2004 release -- include comments by all six of the musicians in the Airplane's most famous lineup (Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden, and Jorma Kaukonen), as well as brief snippets from Dryden's replacement, drummer Joey Covington. Those interviews aren't just window dressing intros -- they're fairly informative and entertaining, with comments on both crucial moments in the band's history and some of the specific clips, well-edited so that extraneous material is avoided (and if you find the alternation of music and talking heads distracting, the DVD gives you the option of just watching the performances). The bonus interviews include worthwhile segments on Bill Graham and their performances at the Woodstock and Altamont festivals, as well as brief chats with their light show operator Glenn McKay and engineer Maurice Ieraci. Liner notes by Jefferson Airplane biographer Jeff Tamarkin also provide useful context for the visuals.
Kenny Lynch, Nothing But the Real Thing (RPM). A couple dozen songs from 1960-69, all (with one exception) taken from Lynch's singles, are on this well-done retrospective of the minor British soul-pop singer. All of his '60s UK chart hits are here -- "Up on the Roof," "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You," "Stand By Me," "What Am I to You," "Puff (Up in Smoke)," "Mountain of Love," and "I'll Stay By You." There's also his weedy early-1963 version of "Misery," the first cover of a Beatles song ever to hit the market. In a way, it's a mini-catalog of some of the poppier styles of the British '60s scene, including American-style soul ("My Own Two Feet"); a Righteous Brothers near-imitation ("Movin' Away"); songs with obvious debts to the Bacharach-David school of composition; an obscure Gerry Goffin-Carole King cover ("The World I Used to Know"); and, weirdest of all, a detour into blues-rock that sounds like the early Rolling Stones trying to rewrite Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" (on the 1963 B-side "Harlem Library"). At other points, there are echoes of the early-'60s Drifters, Phil Spector, Neil Diamond, and corny orchestrated pre-Beatles British pop-rock. And on the later sides, there's a growing measure of sophisticated soul, even laying on a tiny bit of bee-buzzing freaky psychedelic guitar on "Sweet Situation." What's it missing? Well, in a more conceptual sense, a strong musical identity: Lynch's voice is more versatile than distinctive, and though some of the songs are reasonably strong, none of them are really killer. In a specific collector-oriented sense, it by no means picks up all of his '60s output; the only other Lynch CD compilation, the probably-unauthorized 31-track The Very Best of...Kenny Lynch, has 19 songs that don't appear on Nothing But the Real Thing. Still, Nothing But the Real Thing covers Lynch's 1965-69 releases much more extensively (and also includes "Harlem Library," which The Very Best of...Kenny Lynch lacks). With better sound quality and good historical liner notes to boot, it's likely to remain the best Lynch compilation.
Bob Marley & the Wailers, Fy-ah, Fy-ah (JAD/Universal). Despite being encased in a handsome box set featuring a 16-page booklet decorated with nice graphics, the rambling liner notes and other documentation don't give a totally clear idea of when the 68 tracks on this three-CD package were recorded, or (less forgivably) a totally clear context of how they fit into Bob Marley & the Wailers' career. It's more important to enjoy vintage reggae than to get upset about the historical details, however, and all you really need to know is that this material was cut circa 1967-70, mostly for JAD (though there are a half-dozen sides identified as "Wail'n'Soul'm" versions, presumably indicating recordings done for their own Wail'n'Soul'm label). Most important of all, this is really first-rate early reggae music, from a juncture in the group's career that's been too ill-documented, despite having yielded much fine work. While relatively few of these songs will be familiar to many Marley/Wailers fans (an early version of "Stir It Up" and "Soul Rebel" being exceptions), it could be argued that at no other time did the band strike such an even balance between early reggae, lingering American soul influences, tender love songs, and stirring social consciousness. The production is for the most part pretty clear, and always lighter and more basic than the somewhat slicker recordings through which Marley and the Wailers would rise to international stardom in the 1970s. Sometimes there's even a mild pop touch, particularly as non-Jamaican musicians (including guitarist Eric Gale, drummer Bernard Purdie, and jazzman Hugh Masekela) play on some of the cuts. Too, there's a real sense of these singers being a true group, even if Marley wrote the lion's share of the tunes, as there's so much effective give-and-take vocal harmonies among the Wailers (with Rita Marley's voice frequently heard in the mix). There are too many quality songs to specifically cite in one or two paragraphs, but "How Many Times," "Gonna Get You," "Freedom Time," "Fire Fire," "Rocking Steady," "Hypocrites," "Can't You See," and "Mr. Chatterbox" are all among the outstanding ones. As for less expected covers, you have the Archies' "Sugar Sugar," the traditional spiritual "This Train," and pretty nice American pop-influenced tunes written by JAD's Jimmy Norman and his collaborators, while emerging Rastafarianism can be heard in "Selassie Is the Chapel." Eight "versions," less essential than the fully vocalized renditions but nice for collectors to have, fill out the CDs, the last of which ends with a demo of "One Love, True Love" and a "Dub Plate special" of "How Many Times."
The Move/The Small Faces, Colour Me Pop [DVD bootleg] (Silvertone). This probably unauthorized DVD is divided into two segments taken from late-'60s broadcasts on the British TV program Colour Me Pop, one devoted to the Small Faces, the other to the Move. Not a whole lot of Move footage has been seen since the group disbanded (particularly in the United States, where the band never had commercial success), so the availability of this disc is to be welcomed by Move fans, despite its imperfections. The only major flaw in the Move portion is the less-than-stellar image quality, though it's quite watchable and not a major distraction. Apparently taken from a single episode (as the group appears in the same clothes throughout), a guess would place this in early 1969, as one of the songs they play is their big British hit "Blackberry Way" (which made its splash around that time), and as the lineup is the quartet of Carl Wayne, Roy Wood, Bev Bevan, and Trevor Burton, original member Ace Kefford having departed. The stage presentation is straightforward, and not as flashy as some might expect; some earlier Move clips that have surfaced are more kinetic and colorful. But as compensation, the set is live, not lip-synced, allowing us to focus on the band proving themselves as a very capable concert unit. There are some mild surprises that wouldn't be evident from just being familiar with their records: their considerable skill at doing sophisticated three-part harmonies live, the occasional burst of lead vocals from unheralded bassist Burton, and the full sound they achieve with just Wood's guitar, Burton's bass, and Bevan's drums (though Wayne does play guitar on "The Christian Life"). The songs include some of their biggest hits ("Blackberry Way," "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," "Flowers in the Rain," "Fire Brigade") and better non-hits ("Beautiful Daughter" and a very Byrds-y cover of Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing on My Mind"), though "Blackberry Way" audibly suffers from the loss of the mellotron in the recorded version. Probably of most interest to the committed Move fan are a couple of songs they didn't put on their official releases, those being covers of "The Christian Life" and "Goin' Back," almost certainly based on the arrangements the Byrds used when they covered those numbers themselves on late-'60s albums. As for the Small Faces' part of the DVD, incidentally, while the content (the band playing much of their Ogden's Nut Gone Flake album live on Colour Me Pop in June 1968, complete with narration by Stan Unwin}) is enticing, both the image and sound are lamentably rather poor -- far more so than they are for the Move's performance on the same DVD.
The Pilgrims, Telling Youth...The Truth (LRL). Here's a real curiosity of the British Invasion: a band who sound much like hundreds if not thousands of third-string groups in England from the mid-1960s, with one crucial difference -- all the lyrics are of a devout Christian religious nature. Christian-themed rock groups of subsequent eras would often be musically mild and mainstream in stance, but that's not the case with the Pilgrims, who play in a pretty raw, R&B-influenced style on most of these 21 tracks. Recorded between 1962 and 1967 (in fairly primitive circumstances judging from the demo nature of the fidelity), they hover somewhere between amateurism and professionalism, though they're closer to professionalism. Most often they favor the early Rolling Stones-Pretty Things-ish styled of heavily blues-R&B-influenced British Invasion rock with a naive flavor, in the mold of countless obscure English bands of the time, though some of the material has a strong Merseybeat feel, and what sound like the very earliest recordings have a pre-Beatles Joe Meek-ish vibe. It's actually not at all bad -- and not as derivative (though it is pretty derivative) as some archival releases from UK bands with similar influences, as all the material's original. It's not all that great or remarkable either, and while the lyrics -- usually urging putting one's life in the hands of God and Jesus -- are certainly different for this particular thing, they're just as repetitive (and in some respects clumsy) as the basic love-centered lyrics by the standard struggling garage band of the era. Indeed, one's so much more accustomed to hearing lyrics about girls and young love by these kind of bands that the incessant use of words about the Christian faith is kind of jarring.
The Rascals, Come On Up [DVD bootleg] (Silvertone). Footage of the Rascals isn't too easy to come by except in bits and pieces. So this probably-not-above-board compilation of 1965-69 television clips is nice to see, even if the image quality and transfer aren't always up to accepted minimal industry standards. The 20 performances include (sometimes in multiple versions) some of their biggest hits, like "Good Lovin'," "People Got to Be Free," "Groovin'," "I've Been Lonely Too Long," and "A Girl Like You." There are also less celebrated tunes like "I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore" (the earliest clip, from Hullabaloo in 1965), "Come On Up," "Heaven," "Love Is a Beautiful Thing," and covers of "Since I Fell for You" and "Slow Down." Visually, you get to see them change from the uniformed knickers-wearing, just-off-the-New York club-circuit combo to a far more hirsute psychedelic image, though the music always remains soulful. It's a mixture of mimed and more exciting genuinely live performances, making plain some aspects of the group that aren't immediately evident just from hearing their records, like Dino Danelli's muscular drumming, Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish's excellent vocal harmonies, and (in some brief interview segments) their heavy New York spoken accents. Unfortunately the image quality is erratic: the Hullabaloo segments, for instance, are excellent, while others are somewhat marred by shakiness and garish color transfer. It's all watchable, however, the audio coming through better than the video.
The Staple Singers, The Ultimate Staple Singers: A Family Affair (Kent). Considering what a long, popular, and respected career the Staple Singers had, it's surprising that there was no comprehensive compilation prior to this 2004 release that spanned their gospel and soul eras, from the 1950s to the 1980s. You can count on the Ace group of labels to do these things right, however, and this two-CD, 44-song set is a very good summary of their career highlights, even if it inevitably can't include all of their outstanding performances. All of their big soul hits are here, naturally, but what makes this especially available is the presence of much material predating their hookup with Stax in the late 1960s. The earliest recording goes all the way back to 1953, and the first half or so of disc one is all pre-Stax, with gospel sides from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s for various labels, including "This May Be the Last Time" (which famously helped inspire the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time"), "Uncloudy Day," and their cover of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall." Their transition from gospel to soul on Epic in the mid-1960s is also represented by a handful of sides, including Pop Staples' "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)" and their low-charting cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." And while their Stax era is understandably covered with far greater depth than any other, some relatively little-known worthy efforts from that period are here alongside the hits. There are, for instance, socially conscious "message songs" such as "The Ghetto," "Long Walk to DC," "When Will We Be Paid for the Work We Did," and "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas"; unreleased solo sides by Pop Staples and Mavis Staples; and a remix of their "Oh La De Da" single that removes the fake audience noise. A few post-Stax tracks with slicker production are here too (among them their huge 1975 hit "Let's Do It Again"), and while it could be argued that a few more pre-Stax numbers would have been more artistically satisfying, it does round off the documentation of this major group's work, augmented by a detailed history in the 28-page booklet.
Charlie Tweddle, Fantastic Greatest Hits (Companion). Recorded in 1971 and originally released in 1974 in a small pressing of 500 copies (and credited to "Eilrahc Elddewt," i.e. Charlie Tweddle spelled backwards), this mighty eccentric acid folk rarity was reissued on CD thirty years later, complete with a half-dozen previously unreleased bonus tracks cut between 1971 and 1973. Coming perilously close to the "outsider" or at least "incredibly strange music" categories, it's a little like a combination of Wild Man Fischer, busking Bob Dylan imitators, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and the Holy Modal Rounders. Even that doesn't quite do it justice, as it's pocked with the idiosyncrasy (and low fidelity) of many a vanity pressing. Tweddle comes across as a hippiefied country-folk yokel, not as talentless as the worst such singers you'll come across strumming to themselves and passerby in public parks, but not one possessed of conventionally pleasing songwriting or singing abilities either. At times it's like hearing an unwitting self-satire of burnt-out '60s counterculture folk minstrelsy, the eight tracks from the original LP (all are untitled) not so much songs as scraps without beginnings and ends. To the somewhat dissonant clamor are added almost random but in-their-way-goofily-inspired sound effects, whether of pinging sliding guitar notes, animal noises, crickets, ocean waves, and way-too-long pauses between tracks. There are some (not many) bursts of amusing wordplay, though, particularly in the fifth track (it's untitled, remember), where Tweddle declares, "I love Lucy, she's so fat and juicy, like a hog in the mud," pig-like snorts added for emphasis. It's but a warm-up for the weirdness of the 22-minute (untitled, need we remind you) track that originally took up all of side two, starting off with an atom-bomb like explosion and consisting mostly of chirping crickets, with occasional snatches of acid-folk song and other oddments. In its own manner it's an interesting soundtrack to the more acid-fried underbelly remnants of the psychedelic community, though it's leaner on genuine talent and inspiration than period ambience. If weirdness is what you want, though, the six bonus tracks -- some, but not all, also untitled! -- offer more of it, the drawling country-folk continuing to fall between naivete and ineptitude, dressed up by more effects like crow calls, thunderstorms, and muted heartbeats.
The Velvelettes, The Motown Anthology (Motown). For a group that only released a handful of singles (and no albums) during their time with Motown, and never had a truly big hit, the Velvelettes sure recorded a lot of material if you count all the unreleased tracks they laid down for the label. This two-CD set is the proof, presenting not just most of their scant body of previously released Motown sides (some of which didn't see the light of day for decades), but also no less than 32 cuts that make their first appearance here (although half a dozen of these are just alternate versions, alternate mixes, or stereo versions). Does the availability of all this stuff redefine their legacy? Nope -- it, like prior Velvelettes compilations, solidifies their standing as a decent but second-string Motown group, although it's a goldmine of discovery for the serious Motown collector. Though the Velvelettes really weren't much different than the Supremes or the Marvelettes in the caliber of their talents, and they recorded songs by several of the best Motown songwriters, they just didn't get those special classic tunes that would have vaulted them over the hump.
Nevertheless some of those unreleased tracks penned by the likes of Mickey Stevenson, Norman Whitfield, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland, Clarence Paul, and Barrett Strong are fun to hear, particularly the earlier ones from the 1963-64 era, which are good if slightly cookie-cutter slices of the classic early Motown sound as it found its feet. The recordings, whether released at the time or not, did get a little more generic as time went on -- perhaps the label's hopes for the group were flagging in the absence of a breakthrough smash. Padding out the anthology are some peripheral but interesting oddities, including five previously unissued live songs from a February 1964 concert that (in common with some other early live Motown relics) have a rawer, grittier edge than most of what the label cut in the studio. Yet more offbeat are four French-language numbers (including translations of Holland-Dozier-Holland's "You Lost the Sweetest Boy" and Smokey Robinson's "As Long As I Know He's Mine") that likewise find their first release here.
Note, however, that as comprehensive as this double CD is, it doesn't quite round up everything the Velvelettes ever released, as two of their best singles, "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" and "Lonely Lonely Girl Am I," are represented only by previously unavailable alternate versions, rather than the ones that appeared on the original 45s. Of course the fanatic collectors will welcome these, but as "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" is one of the only two Velvelettes songs the non-Motown specialist is likely to be familiar with (the other being the small hit "Needle in a Haystack"), it seems odd to include the alternate. Why not put on the official standard versions of those two songs as well? It's all the more reason to stick with a basic single-CD Velvelettes anthology, such as 1999's The Very Best of the Velvelettes, unless you're a serious devotee of the Motown sound.
Various Artists, Cambodian Cassette Archives: Khmer Folk and Pop Music Vol. 1 (Sublime Frequencies). Pol Pot's horrific regime in Cambodia wreaked destruction in multiple directions, including irreparable damage to the country's culture and musical heritage, as well as the loss of so many lives. It's sadly appropriate, then, that this compilation of Cambodian pop music, spanning the 1960s through the 1990s, had to be pieced together from more than 150 cassettes (described as "ravaged" in the liner notes) found in the Asian branch of the Oakland, CA public library. Though some of this was recorded in Cambodia before Pol Pot's ascension, much of it was likely done from the 1970s onward by expatriates in the United States and other countries (the presence of synthesizers on some cuts makes it pretty certain that they don't predate the '70s). Here is one case where you really can excuse the lack of documentation in a historical archive release: artists are known for only two of the twenty tracks, and even more than half of the song titles are unknown. Despite the mystery surrounding who made this music where (and the inescapably subpar, erratic sound quality), it's an interesting and, to an admittedly variable degree, fun anthology that captures different admixtures of Western pop-rock with more indigenous Cambodian influences. For Western listeners, much of the interest lies in the sheer novelty of hearing unfamiliar collisions, with melodramatic Cambodian vocals, melodies, and operatic orchestration charged by raw psychedelic guitar, cheesy organ, and fusion-like horns. Some of the later-sounding recordings suffer a little from mechanical synths and percussion, though even then there are some intriguing combinations, like "Sat Tee Touy (Look at the Owl)," which sounds a little like Fairport Convention gone disco. It gets even more unpredictable than that, with one sadly untitled, uncredited number (it's track #11 on the CD) fusing girl-group-inflected singing, British Invasion-type melodic drive, hi-life horns, and upper-register nasal vocal tone in quite invigorating fashion. Though we can probably never come close to documenting late-twentieth century Cambodian pop with any reasonable thoroughness, this unusual reissue captures at least a slice of it, performing a valuable artistic and musical service.
Various Artists, Gene Vincent Cut Our Songs: Primitive Texas Rockabilly & Honky Tonk (Ace). In the small East Texas town of Mineola in the 1950s, songwriter Jack Rhodes -- most known for writing material that Gene Vincent covered on his early recordings, as well as penning the country/pop standards "A Satisfied Mind" and "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" -- operated a demo studio in the hotel he ran. Specialized even by rockabilly collecting standards, this CD assembles 30 such recordings Rhodes made circa the mid-to-late 1950s, only four of which actually found release on singles at the time; all of the others came out for the first time on this disc. Yes, it's crude (and pretty crudely recorded, for the most part) and, to a point, generic rockabilly, some of the songs straddling that awkward bridge between honky-tonk and rockabilly itself. Yet it's also more interesting than the average obscure rockabilly anthology, for several reasons. First off, those two singles that actually did get released in the '50s include two highly sought-after, highly regarded items: Elroy Dietzel's "Rock-n-Bones" (covered in a more frenetic version by rockabilly great Ronnie Dawson, and then much later by the Cramps) and Jimmy Johnson's yet rarer original version of "Woman Love," which became the flipside of Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-a-Lula" a few months later. Second, the unreleased stuff includes demos (all by really uncelebrated singers) of a few other songs that Vincent and Dawson later recorded, among them "Bi-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Boo" (redone by Vincent as "Bi-I-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo Go"); "Git It," "Five Days, Five Days," and "Red Blue Jeans and a Pony Tail," also cut by Vincent; and "Action Packed," which became one of Dawson's greatest songs. Third, the tracks themselves have a raw homespun quality, often with the tentative clumsiness of country musicians who aren't quite able to adapt to the rockabilly trend.
Though some of these tunes were picked up by Vincent, and others sound rather like the kind of thing that Vincent recorded in his early sessions, it's easy enough to tell why none of these singers became Gene Vincent: they lacked the youthful ebullience and recklessness via which Vincent, Dawson, and other similar talents transformed hillbilly into rock'n'roll. Play Jimmy Johnson's "Woman Love" and Don Carter's "Bi-Bickey-Bi, Bo-Bo-Boo" back-to-back with Vincent's far wilder versions, and it's like hearing the grandfather on the porch throw away his cane and get magically rejuvenated by the fountain of youth. That doesn't mean that these recordings don't have their own rustic country-blues-honky tonk charm, even if it's rather like hearing guys who can see the promised land but aren't quite up to storming its gates to demand entrance. Plus, not all of the demos lack pure rockabilly energy: Johnny Fallin in particular has genuine fire, and recorded with a band including a couple of latter-day members of Gene Vincent's Bluecaps. Add on Rob Finnis' quite absorbing liner notes, and it's like getting a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the kind of backroom to the music business to which few outsiders ever gain access.
Various Artists, The Story of Treasure Isle (Metro). The story of the Treasure Isle company, which was crucial to the early days of reggae in Jamaica, is so extensive that it can't be comprehensively told in two CDs. Barring a multi-volume retrospective series, however, this double-CD -- with 52 tracks from the 1960s and 1970s, and about two hours and twenty minutes of music -- is a pretty good way to sample highlights of its extensive catalog, even if there might be room for argument on what tracks were selected. Several big names of the ska, rock steady, and early reggae era are here, including Alton Ellis, Phyllis Dillon, U Roy, the Skatalites, Justin Hinds & the Dominoes, and the Paragons (one of whose five tracks is the original version of "The Tide Is High," famously covered by Blondie). There are a lot of less renowned artists too, but there's little if any gap in quality between their offerings and those of their more famous labelmates. Whatever's playing, it's generally superior early reggae/ska/ rocksteady of varying stripes, spreading its wings from early ska instrumentals to rocksteady ballads with lovely soul-influenced harmonies and eccentric reggae covers of rock and pop hits like Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With," the Beatles' "Blackbird" (here retitled "Blackbirds Singing" by the Paragons), and "Angel of the Morning." The program's large enough that singling out highlights depends very much on personal taste. But solid candidates for nuggets that haven't gotten the audience they deserve might include the Paragons' haunting "On the Beach"; Phyllis Dillon's "Woman of the Ghetto," where you can hear the social conscience that would help define modern reggae start to creep in; the risque soul of the same singer's "Don't Touch Me Tomato"; Errol Dunkley's sweetly despondent "Where Must I Go"; and Alton Ellis' self-explanatory "Rocksteady."
Various Artists, Unearthed Merseybeat Vol. 2 (Viper). Like its predecessor, this second volume of "unearthed Merseybeat" is truly archeological in its excavation of 1961-66 Liverpool-area rock. It's not just obscure; it's wholly unreleased, all twenty of the tracks seeing the official light of day for the first time here. Despite the presence of a few name bands (Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Jeans, the Merseybeats), it should be emphasized that this really is for serious collectors: the sound quality is sometimes rough, there are an abundance of cover versions of early American rock'n'roll songs, and nothing here is on the level of the best Merseybeat music, whether by the Beatles, Searchers, or lesser lights. Too, it's not even quite as good as volume one of the series, in part because of the presence of a number of so-so cover versions, in part because volume one likely creamed off the very best unreleased Merseybeat there is to be found.
Nevertheless, it's a reasonably fun listen, and serious historians will relish the chance to hear those early recordings by Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Jeans, and the Merseybeats in particular, as all of those tracks predate anything these bands released. Gerry Marsden and his boys are represented by a brace of 1961 cuts, those being a cover of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and the Marsden original "Why Oh Why," both recorded at a church hall; the Swinging Blue Jeans by live 1961 covers of Duane Eddy's "40 Miles of Bad Road" and the Ventures' "Walk Don't Run"; and the Merseybeats by home-recorded 1962 Everly Brothers tunes. The only other group most British Invasion fans might be likely to recognize are Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo Starr's pre-Beatles band, though Ringo was long gone by the time they did the 1965 version of Carl Perkins' "Lend Me Your Comb" here. While most of the rest serves as evidence of the naive energy '60s Merseybeat outfits brought to rock'n'roll, what's missing, for the most part, is the outstanding original material that made the early recordings by the Beatles and some others from the region so significant. The welcome exceptions are the two mid-1960s numbers by the Kirkbys, which show them to be solid followers of the harmony-laden sounds of the Searchers and early Beatles.
Various Artists, Where Will You Be Christmas Day? (Dust-to-Digital). A holiday compilation with a difference, this assembles a couple dozen Christmas-themed recordings from 1917-1959 that represent roots music of all stripes -- blues, gospel, early jazz, early country, Appalachian folk, and even some ethnic sounds of Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Ukraine. There are some pretty famous names here, like Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, and Lightnin' Hopkins, as well as some not-as-famous but still pretty renowned artists like Rev. J.M. Gates, Buell Kazee, and the Maddox Brothers and Rose. Yet as was the case on the Dust-to-Digital label's extraordinary six-CD box set of 1902-60 spirituals, Goodbye Babylon, there are a host of names here that will be known almost exclusively to serious old-time music collectors. That in itself makes this a pretty interesting and offbeat Christmas anthology. But even if you care nothing for rare record values, it's certainly rawer, more heartfelt, and just more musically interesting than the vast majority of what you'll find in the holiday bin. It's also a reminder of a time when Christmas discs could be relatively joyful and sincere expressions of religion and merrymaking, rather than just excuses to make a quick buck by cashing in on the time of the season. It makes for superior roots music listening whether you're in the holiday spirit or not, but some of the better tracks to keep an ear out for include the Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers' jovial Dixieland jazz-style "Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn," with its thrilling high female background vocal swoops; Leadbelly's highly rhythmic, infectiously joyous "Christmas Is a-Coming"; the exuberant early calypso of Lord Executor's "Christmas Is a Joyful Day"; the shuffling flamenco-like verve of Los Jibaros' "Decimas de Nacimiento"; and the electric blues of Lightnin' Hopkins' "Happy New Year," which verges on rock'n'roll. Being a single-CD compilation, the packaging isn't as elaborate as other Dust-to-Digital productions like Goodbye Babylon, but it's typically thoughtful, with a Christmas card-sized booklet of liner notes, coaster, and postcard. Note, also, how the tracks are sequenced almost like a chronological celebration of holiday themes, starting with Vera Hall Ward's "The Last Month of the Year," moving on through Leadbelly's "Christmas Is a-Coming" and Kansas City Kitty's "Christmas Morning Blues," and wrapping up with Hopkins' "Happy New Year." The four-star rating given this album is for its general musical value; judged by the standards of Christmas/holiday releases, it easily rates the full five stars.
The Mayor of the Sunset Strip [DVD] (First Look Entertainment). As a theatrical release, The Mayor of the Sunset Strip was a fine and creative documentary of Los Angeles radio personality and omnipresent rock'n'roll scenester Rodney Bingenheimer. The DVD version takes full advantage of the extras that can be loaded onto documentary films in this format, with two commentary tracks (each of which has two commentators) and around two hours of outtakes. Like many such DVDs, however, it can be fairly stated that you'll need to be really into the film (or, perhaps, a serious student of the documentary process itself) to enjoy all of the bonus material, though of course it's laudable that it's all there to partake of at one's discretion. One of the commentary tracks features director George Hickenlooper and editor/co-producer Julie Janata, and some viewers might be disappointed that it seldom actually discusses the on-screen action over which their voices are talking. It does have a great deal of information, accessibly given, as to how the documentary was conceived and filmed, and as to how the director views his subject; it just might have been easier to appreciate as a printed Q&A interview than as an audio track over the film itself, that's all. More entertaining, though perhaps not more insightful, is the track with commentary by one of the movie's producers, Chris Carter, and Bingenheimer himself. This has far more direct observations about individual scenes, and while some of their notes can be trivial, overall their repartee is fun to experience, even if Bingenheimer doesn't seem fully cognizant of the ironies in his life that the film reflects. The outtake footage mixes unused interviews (usually with celebrity friends of Bingenheimer's, not with Rodney himself) and cinema verite shots of Bingenheimer going about his business. While there are occasional moments on par with the main film -- like Lance Loud remembering how he pestered Andy Warhol with letters until the great man responded by anonymously divulging his phone number -- actually it emphasizes, whether inadvertently or not, how astute the filmmakers were in the editing and selection of material to use. Much of the interview banter in the outtakes is extraneous (though some of the more serious discussions, like the one with Alice Cooper, are more worthwhile), and the shots of Bingenheimer wandering around concerts backstage and hobnobbing in group photos are sometimes downright dull to sit through. None of this should diminish the considerable value of the main feature, which is not only vastly entertaining to rabid rock'n'roll fans for its mixture of Bingenheimer coverage and rare vintage star footage. It's also a wry, multi-level portrait of celebrity; how a man can rise to celebrity by surrounding himself with celebrity; and how the life of such a man can remain unfulfilled and impenetrable in many respects, no matter how many photo ops he's taken with stars over several generations.
Wattstax [DVD] (Warner Brothers). Sub-billed as a "30th Anniversary Special Edition," the 2004 DVD release of Wattstax restored to circulation the film based around the 1972 Wattstax concert, mixing musical footage with scenes from the African-American Watts community and Richard Pryor comic routines. The DVD version is a notable improvement on previous prints on several scores. The soundtrack has been remastered into Dolby 5.1 digital, but of greater importance, the original director's cut has been used. Actually this doesn't change the movie much, but there's one crucial difference. Legal reasons prevented the use of Isaac Hayes' concert sequence, including "Theme from 'Shaft'" and "Soulsville," in the original release, where a different song ("Rolling Down the Mountain") filmed on a soundstage to mimic the Wattstax environment had to be substituted. Now "Theme from 'Shaft'" is back where it belongs (complete with an introduction by Jesse Jackson), as well as "Soulsville"; the "Rolling Down the Mountain" is still present, too, though only as one of the supplementary extras.
The main bonus features are the two commentary tracks, one featuring Chuck D of Public Enemy and soul historian Rob Bowman, the other quite a multitude of voices, among them Isaac Hayes; Stax executive Al Bell; director Mel Stuart; cameramen; Little Milton; and members of the Bar-Kays, Soul Children, and Temprees. The commentaries are worthwhile and informative, but might occasionally frustrate some viewers in that there's actually not too much direct observation of the on-screen action. The Bowman-Chuck D track focuses on the musical and social significance of the event, with some rather long pauses at times. The other track is more centered on first-hand memories of Stax and the Wattstax concert, with the use of so many commentators necessitating a pseudo-narrator that briefly identifies each voice prior to most of the observations; it's a necessary device, perhaps, but doesn't lend itself to the smoothest of flows. Other, less interesting extras include a longer clip of Albert King's song from the film, "I'll Play the Blues for You" (though this version still doesn't seem absolutely complete), and trailers for both the original 1973 release and the 2003 special edition theatrical re-release. Altogether it's still a rich viewing experience, both for the opportunity to see some '70s soul performers in their prime, and for the film's presentation of a slice of African-American urban life of the era. -- Richie Unterberger
ALBUM REVIEWS: A SELECTION OF RECENT RELEASES, FALL 2004:
Ars Nova, Ars Nova (Sundazed). Ars Nova's first album was intermittently intriguing eclectic psychedelic rock with a slight classical influence, as well as some unusual instrumentation in the bass trombone of lead singer Jon Pierson and the trumpet and string bass of Bill Folwell. The songs --often linked by brief interludes -- are a mixed bag, though, that seem to indicate a confusion over direction, or a bit of a psychedelic throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. There are haunting tunes with a folk-rock base and a faint Renaissance ballad melodic influence; jaunty narratives with a vaudevillian air that bear the mark of then-recent albums such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; and harder-rocking period psychedelic tracks with a bent for unpredictable bittersweet progressions and vocal harmonies. It's unusual, and in some senses attractive. But to be less charitable, there's a sense of listening to a generic psychedelic band that sounds better than many such acts mostly by virtue of benefiting from Elektra's high-class production, here handled by Paul Rothchild of Doors fame. Put another way, the songs themselves aren't as good as their arrangements. "Fields of People," about the best of those songs, might be the most famous one here due to getting covered in an elongated treatment by the Move, who did a better job with it than Ars Nova. The 2004 CD reissue on Sundazed adds historical liner notes by Jon Pierson.
Brigitte Bardot, The Best of Bardot (Mercury). Was Brigitte Bardot a "good" singer, in the conventional sense? No. Was the material she sang in the 1960s especially deep or brilliant? No. But is this 20-track compilation of the cream of her 1963-70 recordings a fun listen? Yes indeed. Although not the owner of conventional high-level vocal skills, Bardot invested her frivolous songs with a contagious sense of playful fun, and a refusal to take the music or herself too seriously. Certainly some of the tunes -- and their breathy delivery -- capitalize on her iconic sex kitten persona. But the guileless joy she projects is reminiscent of some of the early work by France Gall (one of the finest '60s French pop singers), though Bardot's voice is less girlish and more adult in tone. Like the better French pop of the 1960s, the tracks on this disc -- an "extremely selective compilation," the liner notes inform us, of a sixties discography that strung together "fine pearls and cheap imitations, scintillating gems and tawdry kitsch" -- have a likable giddiness that borrows from early '60s girl-group and twist rock'n'roll on the earlier sides, and bears a slight psychedelic influence on some of the later ones. It's a pretty versatile bunch, though, also venturing on occasion into melodic sentimental Continental ballads and (less successfully) theatrical chanson and vaudevillian territory. Some of the standouts, naturally, are found in the seven Serge Gainsbourg compositions, including the eerie Eastern-influenced "Contact" (arguably her most interesting recording), and "Harley Davidson," but also the famous Bardot-Gainsbourg vocal duets "Comic Strip," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Je T'Aime...Moi Non Plus." (The last of these, unreleased at the time it was recorded in 1968 due to nervousness over its sexually explicit nature, of course became a big international hit when Gainsbourg re-recorded it using Jane Birkin as his duet partner.) The numerous tracks to which composers Jean-Max Riviere and Gerard Bourgeois contributed, however, have their share of highlights too, even if they lack the strange edge of Gainsbourg's songs.
Colosseum, Those Who Are About to Die Salute You [Deluxe Expanded Edition] (Sanctuary Midline). Colosseum's 1969 debut album was a notably pioneering endeavor in its combination of British blues-rock with British jazz-rock, even if the writing and singing weren't as impressive as the confident playing. Graham Bond and some of the horn-augmented late-'60s work by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers had explored similar directions, but Colosseum did so with more confidence and a more comfortable blend of the differing styles, adding a nose for well-executed improvisation. The extra material on the 2004 expanded CD edition on Sanctuary Midline is not extraneous, adding six bonus tracks and informative, lengthy historical liner notes. All but one of those bonus cuts are taken from late-'60s BBC radio broadcasts (actually one of the two BBC versions of "Walking in the Park" is undated, but it seems almost certain that it, like the others, was broadcast in 1969). The oddest, and from a collector standpoint perhaps most interesting, of the BBC tracks is "A White Spade from Mayall," a song not included on Those Who Are About to Die Salute You. As the humorous title suggests, it borrows some of its melody from "A White Shade of Pale," also briefly quoting from the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"; perhaps it was felt to be too much of a goof-off to merit consideration for placement on the LP. This and the rest of the BBC material boasts excellent sound, with a few performances of songs that did make it onto the album -- Graham Bond's "Walking in the Park" (perhaps the finest item in the band's repertoire), "Beware the Ides of March," and "Plenty Hard Luck." Rounding off the dig through the archives is the studio outtake "I Can't Live Without You," an acceptable but unthrilling James Litherland song that has a little more of a standard blues-rock feel than much of the early Colosseum discography.
Colosseum, Valentyne Suite [Deluxe Expanded Edition] (Sanctuary Midline). There has been understandable confusion for decades about the overlap and differences between Colosseum's second UK album and their second US album. Their second UK LP was titled Valentyne Suite; their second US album, however, was not only given a different title, The Grass Is Greener, but featured a substantially different track listing, with only four of the eight tracks overlapping with Valentyne Suite (although the version of "The Grass Is Greener" on the US release has a guitar overdub by Clem Clempson, the original part by James Litherland getting lost in the process). The variance can partially be traced back to the US version of Colosseum's debut Those Who Are About to Die Salute You, which included three tracks yet to be issued in the UK, including the first two (but not the third) of the sections comprising "The Valentyne Suite." It's enough of a mess to instigate a booming headache among those trying to assemble Colosseum's complete early output. This deluxe expanded edition of Valentyne Suite, thankfully, completely sorts out this hassle for the CD era. With the sort of logic too uncommon in the record industry, it places the whole of the UK Valentyne Suite album on disc one, and the whole of the US The Grass Is Greener album on disc two, as well as adding a couple of tracks recorded for BBC radio in November 1969. That does mean that four of the tracks are heard twice, and that only the third part of "The Valentyne Suite" ("The Grass Is Greener") is heard on The Grass Is Greener, since the first two parts had already been issued in the US as part of the altered version of Those Who Are About to Die Salute You. But the redundancy is forgivable, considering this finally allows listener to hear all of the band's studio material from this era in the same place, with lengthy liner notes that explain the discographical tangle as well as possible.
Not to be overlooked, of course, should be the music, which in both albums found the band expanding their rock-blues-jazz format in interesting directions that encompassed more improvisation and a richer range of melodic colors, though the songs sometimes could have used some editing. Especially satisfying was the deft insertion of some classical influences from time to time, particularly in parts of the 17-minute "The Valentyne Suite." "The Kettle" was as close as the band got to catchy blues-rock-pop, and the jazzier "Elegy" (in which the vocals almost sound like a foreshadowing of Sting) was also one of their best songs. Both "The Kettle" and "Elegy" were placed on both Valentyne Suite and The Grass Is Greener, but the songs unique to the The Grass Is Greener (all recorded, unlike the rest of the studio material here, with new guitarist Clem Clempson replacing James Litherland) aren't filler. Of these, "Jumping Off the Sun" in particular got Colosseum more in the swing of hard-charging psychedelic-pop-influenced rock than anything else they did, while "Rope Ladder to the Moon" was a cover of a quality song from Jack Bruce's debut solo album, and Ravel's "Bolero" gave them a chance to plunge further into classical material. Finally, disc one adds the aforementioned two November 1969 BBC tracks, including a version of "Lost Angeles" (from The Grass Is Greener) and the fusion instrumental "Arthur's Mustache," which didn't find a place on either of the two albums.
Cream, Disraeli Gears [Deluxe Edition] (Universal). Intense Cream fans and collectors might be disappointed in the two-CD deluxe edition of Disraeli Gears for offering little in the way of previously unreleased material. There is a lot of extra stuff here, however, mind you, which makes it a nice expansion of the group's best and most focused album. There's the original album in both stereo and mono; five demos, and two outtakes of "Lawdy Mama" (all of which previously appeared on the Those Were the Days box set); and nine 1967-68 BBC recordings from the Disraeli Gears era (all of which appear on the BBC Sessions compilation). The only wholly previously unavailable item is an alternate version of "Blue Condition" with Eric Clapton on lead vocal, in both stereo and mono, which actually qualifies as about the least interesting track on the set. And why, pray tell, is the BBC version of "Sunshine of Your Love" -- far and away the album's most popular song -- present on BBC Sessions, but not included here?
That minor complaint aside, this is a fine listen, the main album enduring as the peak of Cream's artistry, as the group blended their original blues-rock with psychedelic pop on well-written songs with a mystical tinge. Almost every song is excellent, and "Sunshine of Your Love," "Dance the Night Away," "Swalbr," "Strange Brew," and "We're Going Wrong" are all among the very best tracks the band laid down. While the extras can't match the album itself, they're all worth hearing for both historical appreciation and actual listening pleasure. The five demos are considerably rougher than the much more polished final record, but offer three songs ("Hey Now Princess," "Weird of Hermiston," and "The Clearout") that didn't make the ultimate cut. None of them really deserved to, but the vituperative "Hey Now Princess" and more whimsical "Weird of Hermiston" are interesting relics of the Jack Bruce-Pete Brown songwriting partnership, while "The Clearout" is a pretty hot instrumental that sounds like a backing track only in need of some good lyrics to make for a worthwhile album cut. Six of the nine BBC recordings are versions of songs from Disraeli Gears itself, while two ("Politician" and "Born Under a Bad Sign") would appear on their subsequent LP Wheels of Fire, and one (the instrumental "Steppin' Out") had been previously cut by Eric Clapton in his Bluesbreakers days. In the usual BBC tradition, these nine tracks aren't up to the level of their studio counterparts, but make for worthy contrast to the better-known versions, with a certain live edge.
Jan Davis, Boss Guitar! The Best of Jan Davis (Sundazed). As Jud Cost aptly points out in his liner notes, Jan Davis combined some of the best aspects of the dark, lean instrumental guitar rock of the Ventures and the Shadows. There were also edges of the more R&B-oriented work of Lonnie Mack, and the more futuristic surf-into-dementia of someone like Davie Allan. Unlike any of these acts, he never did latch onto a piece of obvious hit material, but this collection of rare 1961-66 singles (along with a couple of previously unissued tracks) has plenty of worthwhile moments. The twenty tracks -- most, though not all, instrumental -- vary from the mundane to the near-great, Davis trying his luck at many different approaches, some of them rather off-the-wall, to see what might fly in the marketplace. As for the near-great, the hot rod anthem "Boss Machine" rollicks along like the sleekest of shiny just-off-the-lot roadsters; as for the off-the-wall, "Snow Surfin' Matador" sounds like a female Mexican yodeler trapped in a twilight zone between surf and Tex-Mex border music. Several of the singles seem like themes to television shows about fugitives and lost-in-space travelers that never made it past the pilot stage, with their menacing riffs, goofy sci-fi sound effects and organ, bee-simulating guitar swirls, and cheesy horror-movie yells. A few of them are routine R&B-anchored instrumental workouts, but Davis could always be counted on to come up with something unpredictable, including a pretty cool take on Kai Winding's easy listening instrumental hit "More (Theme from Mondo Cane)" and the mating of guitar twang with light dancing orchestration on "Hop, Skip & Jump."
Bob Dylan, World Tour 1966: The Home Movies Through the Camera of Bob Dylan's Drummer Mickey Jones [DVD] (Studio Works). Upon its release, this 90-minute documentary of sorts sparked immediate outcry among some fans, who felt deceived by a DVD prominently mentioning "World Tour 1966" in the title, on top of a groovy cover picture of Dylan from the same tour. For this does not contain any actual sound footage of Dylan's concerts on that legendary jaunt, on which he was backed by the Hawks, who soon (with the exception of drummer Mickey Jones) became the Band. Instead, it's largely a collection of silent home movie film clips -- most of them indeed from that tour, and some (and certainly not all) including Dylan in the frame -- taken by Jones, who also provides a lot of on-screen and voiceover narration. Once you get past the realization that this isn't really a Bob Dylan concert DVD, however, this really isn't that bad, even if its appeal might be limited to Dylanophiles. It's more notable, frankly, for Jones' narration than the film clips (in color), which are as basic in both content and technique as you might expect from a tour drummer making home movies. For Jones is a pretty good, affable storyteller, and he has a lot to say without (usually) getting boring.
In detail, he recounts his entry into the rock world with Trini Lopez (a segment including some brief silent snippets of the Beatles playing in Paris in January 1964, where Lopez shared the bill while using Jones as drummer) and Johnny Rivers; his subsequent recruitment into Dylan's concert backing band (interestingly, he says he was first under the impression that Dylan wanted him as a drummer for recording sessions); and the highs, lows, and hijinx of the tour itself. Jones gets some of the chronology mixed up (at one point he says he was with Dylan for two years, which seems to be more than doubling the length of his stint), but he has a fair amount of reasonably interesting stories about why Dylan decided to separate his sets into acoustic and electric ones; the musicians' bemused and at times hurt reaction to the booing on the electric sets; how Dylan would make a point of looking over at him before starting "Ballad of a Thin Man" (which of course prominently refers to a "Mr. Jones" in the lyrics); why Dylan decided to hang an American flag over the stage for a French show; Dylan's plan to tour in Russia (?!) before getting sidelined by the famous motorcycle accident; and other trivia of interest to serious Dylan fanatics.
The image quality of the home movies is good considering their age and that they were never intended to be shown publicly. While the scenes from those clips are not too interesting in and of themselves (though they do include some onstage footage, sometimes shot not by Jones but by others with the entourage), they make a suitable backdrop for the drummers' tales. The movies do include a lot of incidental horsing around and travelogue/tourist bits that, along with Jones' descriptions of these less vital aspects of the journey, will likely be the parts that viewers will find most exasperating and least necessary. The DVD also uses some still tour photos to complement Jones' dialogue, which is sometimes prompted by a rather wooden off-screen interviewer. Incidentally, the Dylan songs heard in the background during some of the DVD are not actual Bob Dylan recordings (let alone recordings from Dylan's 1966 world tour), but facsimiles of Dylan songs by the Bob Dylan tribute band Highway 61 Revisited.
Family, BBC Radio Vol. 1 1968-69 (Hux). These 16 tracks are almost wholly composed of BBC versions of songs from Family's first three albums, though one ("Holding the Compass") didn't turn up until their fourth LP; another ("No Mule's Fool") was a 1969 single; and another, "I Sing 'Um the Way I Feel," was a J.B. Lenoir blues tune the band never put on their official records. Some of this material has come out on bootlegs, but the sound on this is notably superior -- it's quite good for a BBC archive release from any era, in fact. And while the arrangements don't differ too drastically from the studio versions, these performances are excellent. There's a bit of a loose live feel, but they demonstrate that the band -- unlike some others of the early progressive rock era -- were capable of re-creating their intricate, disciplined rock-blues-jazz-folk-miscellany interplay in a live setting, without sacrificing any of their gritty energy. Some of these renditions predate the release of the studio versions, sometimes by quite a bit; in the case of "Holding the Compass," in fact, the lyrics would change by the time it made it onto the Anyway album. Some might lament the absence of some particular favorites from their early days; there's no "Hey Mr. Policeman," for example. But really there's nothing to complain about considering the strong selection of songs here, which include such highlights of their early repertoire as "See Through Windows," "Drowned in Wine," the distressingly haunting folk-rockish "The Weaver's Answer," and the wistful "Observations from a Hill."
Name Is Mable (Universal).
Mable John's stint with Motown was sufficiently obscure that even some
of the relatively few soul fans who know of her work at all aren't
that she started her career with the label. She did record a fair
of material while there, and the accurately titled My Name Is
The Complete Collection has all of it, containing all nine songs
showed up on 1960-63 singles (including both the stringless and
versions of "No Love," and both the 1960 and 1963 versions of "Who
Love a Man Like That") and ten previously unreleased outtakes. It's
music, not just as quality early soul by one of the style's more
vocalists, but also as a document of Motown when it was at its
and still looking to nail down the pop-soul groove that would
become its strongest suit. Several of the figures who would be key to
success were involved with these sides, among them (as producers and
Berry Gordy, Mickey Stevenson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Clarence
Paul, Brian Holland, and Lamont Dozier. Too, the then-hitless Supremes
and Temptations supplied backup vocals. What, then, was missing,
that John was a mature, passionately strong gospel-influenced singer?
much, except perhaps truly great songs that would have been obvious
The songs are decent, and though they've been a bit lazily classified
blues by some, you can virtually always hear the classic Motown sound
embryo. "Who Wouldn't Love a Man Like That" doesn't sound much
from the early Miracles' material, for instance, and you could
hear other songs fitting into the early repertoire of fellow Motowners
like Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells without a problem. Some fans might
the funkier stuff that John recorded later in the '60s for Stax (as
on the Stay Out of My Kitchen compilation), but this anthology
strong enough to appeal to general fans of early soul music, not just
John Mayall, The Godfather of British Blues/The Turning Point [DVD] (Eagle Eye). Two John Mayall documentaries are combined into one DVD with this release. The longer of them, The Godfather of British Blues, is an hour-long career-spanning overview produced by the BBC in conjunction with Mayall's seventieth birthday; the other is a 25-minute rockumentary from 1969, at the time he was working on the music that became the album The Turning Point. The Godfather of British Blues is a job well done: a straightforward documentary mixing interviews done at the time of the filming with old photos and some vintage footage, though unfortunately there are less old clips than some viewers might hope for. In addition to Mayall, a bunch of his numerous associates talk about their experiences with the bandleader, including Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Mick Taylor, Hughie Flint, and producer Mike Vernon. It does seem that Mayall was rarely filmed in the old days, however, since the earliest live Bluesbreakers footage here comes from the 1969 Turning Point documentary, and there's actually not too much else. There are a lot of gaps here, but to be fair it would probably take about ten hours just to document the dozens of Bluesbreakers lineups, and frankly it was an appropriate decision to concentrate mostly on his pre-1970 work, which was much more interesting than what followed in the next few decades. Within the 60-minute format this does about as well as it can, integrating the pure documentary segments with briefer clips of his return visit to England to play a seventieth birthday gig, with Clapton doing a guest spot.
The Turning Point, filmed in black and white, is interesting primarily for glimpses of the band rehearsing and playing onstage circa mid-1969, when the drumless, acoustic-oriented lineup that would record The Turning Point itself started performing. It has also brief interview segments with other members of the band and then-recent Bluesbreakers, including, again, Clapton, Fleetwood, McVie, and Taylor. There also brief comments from Peter Green -- rather an event, considering how rare it is to view interview footage with him -- and Aynsley Dunbar. It's mostly for serious Bluesbreakers fans, since none of the performance segments or interviews are too lengthy, and those not well-versed in Mayall's 1960s career don't get enough context to really understand what's going on or how his music's evolved to this particular turning point. But it's a good archival extra to include on the DVD, and combines with the main feature to offer the best visual Mayall retrospective likely to be produced. There aren't any other extras, incidentally, except for a photo gallery of a few dozen photos of Mayall from throughout his career.
The Mothers of Invention, Pixel Dust [DVD] (Silvertone Films). Probably not wholly (or even semi-) authorized, this DVD collects about 50 minutes' worth of footage (mostly in color) of the Mothers of Invention in 1967-68. Actually there are only four sources for these clips, those being a 1967 promo film; a couple songs filmed at the Bitter End in New York in 1967; a brief snippet of the group performing on British TV in October 1968; and the band playing on the German TV program Beat Club on October 6, 1968. Overall the clips capture the band right after their move from song-based material to a more wholly instrumental-based fusion of rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde, horror movie soundtracks, and humorous novelty. There's little singing in any of the scenes, in fact, and what singing is here is sometimes wordless scatting (often in a sardonic high doo-wop influenced manner). The main criticism of what's on offer here is that most of the segments are too short. The promo film is just a montage of fuzzy black-and-white images of the band while part of the recording of "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" plays on the soundtrack; a running caption on the bottom explaining the early Mothers' history in the briefest of terms indicates that this was taken from a TV program broadcast long after the '60s, not from the "promo film" itself. Some of the group's loony humor is captured in the just-slightly-longer portion from the Bitter End, particularly when they seem to be deliberately messing up a mime to "Son of Suzy Creamcheese," though the visuals aren't quite as hilarious as the legend might lead some viewers to anticipate. The British TV clip is the shortest bit, with some shakiness to the image reproduction/transfer. It's the Beat Club performance (with sometimes distracting psychedelic color negative effects, interrupted by a brief Frank Zappa interview segment from 1970) which is most substantial, in fact taking up the majority of the DVD. At that point, the Mothers were well into their more improvisational and experimental late-'60s phase, playing on and on without discrete breaks between songs; even when they go into a snippet of "Let's Make the Water Turn Black" from We're Only in It for the Money, they do it sans vocals. On the whole this is a worthwhile collection for Zappa/Mothers fans, but you can't help feeling both that there's more video footage from this era, and that it could be transferred from better sources if it obtains a more above-board release.
The Nice, The Nice [DVD] (Anonymous Film Archive). This bootleg DVD has 45 minutes of Nice performances, most or all of them from British and German television (some of the sources are not specifically identified), all in black and white. In common with other such products, it's not up to the standards that would be required of an official release; there are varying degrees of blur and shake in the most-likely-several-generations-down copies, though all of it can be viewed without difficulty. Some slack can be cut, however, considered that it's really not easy to access vintage footage of the Nice. Additionally, the clips here -- most or all of them live, not mimed -- reveal the group to be a more visually exciting act than might be evident from only hearing their records. That particularly applies to the young Keith Emerson, who attacks his keyboards with knives during their showpiece cover of "America," plays the organ upside down, and generally acts the mischievous prodigal virtuoso. During part of one lengthy segment (date and location not given, though it's obviously from the band's early career as guitarist Davy O'List is still in the lineup), in fact, he wreaks so much havoc on his organ -- nearly tilting it over, climbing over it mid-song, messing with the circuitry -- that it's almost a keyboardist equivalent to the autodestruction Pete Townshend visited upon his guitar with the Who. The multiple versions of "America" dominate the proceedings, but there also renditions of some of their other most popular numbers, including "Rondo," "Ars Longa Vita Brevis," and (serving as evidence that not everything they did had to be frenetic pseudo-ceremonial rock) an extended cover of folk-rocker Tim Hardin's "Hang onto a Dream." It actually leaves you hungry for more when the screen goes blank, and certainly hoping for the day when this (and other such material, if it could be located) might find legitimate release from higher-grade sources.
Procol Harum, Procol Harum [DVD] (Anonymous Film Archive). Major Procol Harum fans will get enough out of this 75-minute DVD bootleg collection of archive footage to find it worth viewing, though it lacks the professional quality that it could boast if it was done right. The clips (none of the dates and sources identified) span the late 1960s to 1976, taking in footage both live and lip-synced of some of their most familiar songs ("Whiter Shade of Pale," "Conquistador," "Shine on Brightly") and some less heavily exposed numbers. In both color and black and white, the image quality is quite watchable, but obviously not taken from the best available sources; sometimes it's a bit like watching a television set with weak reception or an antenna that isn't doing 100% of what it should. Some fans might be disappointed to find that most of the clips don't feature Robin Trower, but the band does play well throughout, the focus usually being on singer/pianist Gary Brooker. As another problem that should have taken the compilers just a little more effort to fix, much of the footage comes from three lengthy clips, but instead of showing each excerpt start to finish, they're broken up and the sequencing zigzags back and forth between them (and other of the clips, for that matter). As a final insult, the disc comes to an abrupt end by breaking off in the middle of "Souvenir of London" in the 1976 segment. Hopefully someone else will run with the ball and do a documentary or video anthology of the band that gives the material the respect it deserves.
Red Krayola, Singles (Drag City). The very notion of Red Krayola putting out "singles" is a little surreal, since singles are by most definitions the most commercial face of the record industry. After all, if anything was consistent about Red Krayola throughout their career, it was their uncompromising underground uncommerciality. Yet the band actually put out a good number of singles in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and 21 tracks from those releases -- some of them quite rare, and some them actually previously unissued -- are collected on this compilation. While it wouldn't be accurate to categorize this as a best-of, in its own way it reflects the band's evolution as well as almost any anthology could (though it doesn't have anything from their earliest, psychedelic-oriented recordings in the late 1960s), Mayo Thompson being the only constant throughout their ever-changing lineups.
Strictly speaking, not all of this is Red Krayola, as the CD begins with an unreleased 1970 solo Thompson non-LP B-side, and both sides of the very rare 1970 single by Saddlesore (who included both Thompson and another early Red Krayola member, Rick Barthelme). Those three tracks are rather fried Texas acid-country-folk, but by the time of the next Red Krayola seven-inch (the live, unreleased "Wives in Orbit"/"Yik Yak") in 1976, Thompson was already onto the sound that would largely characterize his next two decades or so of work: jerky-tempoed, irregularly-structured, at times jarring indie rock with oblique, discursive lyrics. The most satisfying tracks, perhaps, are those from the 1979-81 Rough Trade singles in which the band also included British punk-new wavers Gina Birch, Lora Logic, and Epic Soundtracks (and on a couple singles, Pere Ubu's Allen Ravenstine). This particularly brand of scratchy, at times even funky new wave will certainly appeal to fans of the Raincoats (Birch's principal band), though it's less accessible to pop ears, a highlight being "Born in Flames," described in the notes as "the Social-Democrats' Song from the eponymous film by Lizzie Borden." The final eight cuts come from 1993-99 singles, Thompson's deconstruct-and-reassemble-the-jigsaw-puzzle approach to rock music remaining in full force, though the jagged edges have slightly softened. Like everything here, these aren't for impatient listeners, but bear their fruits for those looking for intellectual avant-rock with some substance. The liner notes (sample excerpt: "The song title rather clings the existentialistic rejections of the Punk generation to the social norm, that was out of sight in that enthusive and nihilistic community for a short while") are about as obtuse and academic as you'll find on any rock compilation, though.
The Valentinos, Do It Right (Official). This 22-track anthology of Valentinos material is almost certainly unauthorized, though it's on the who-are-they-kidding-with-that-name Official label. While the packaging is substandard (with no discographical information whatsoever other than the song titles), as of 2004 it was really the best soul fans could do if they wanted to hear music by one of the finest 1960s soul vocal groups never to be properly honored with a compilation. That lack of discographical data makes it difficult to determine exactly how large a slice of the Valentinos' work this disc captures, and how much it leaves out. But most of it's first-rate early-to-mid-'60s soul, although the amount of stylistic territory they covered makes it difficult to pin an identifiable character on their sound. Sometimes it seems on the edge between doo wop and soul; at other times it sounds rather like the early Impressions; sometimes it's close in feel to their mentor Sam Cooke; and sometimes it's churchy Northern soul. The standouts, of course, are the original versions of two songs that eventually became more famous in subsequent renditions: "It's All Over Now" (covered by the Rolling Stones, though the Valentinos did it in a jauntier country-influenced manner) and "Lookin' for a Love" (which the group's Bobby Womack would revive for a Top Ten solo hit in 1974). Much of it has a satisfyingly rawer feel to both the vocals and guitar work than lots of comparable soul from the era, which is invaluable to making this more interesting than most comps of soul groups that never had a big hit. The sound quality is mostly pretty good, but some of the material is blighted by swish'n'hiss that wouldn't be acceptable in an above-board release. There are a variety of likely reasons that a sanctioned collection of Valentino sides hasn't appeared -- the difficulty in licensing from several different labels at once, the ownership of their SAR catalog by a company (ABKCO) that has declined to reissue much of its holdings, and the uncommerciality of a group without chart success. But it really is about time someone took on the task, so fans didn't have to settle for half-baked efforts such as these in order to be able to hear some of these rarities at all.
The Ventures, Live 1966 [DVD] (Anonymous Film Archive). With one not-so-notable extra, this is basically a bootleg DVD of the mid-1960s film Beloved Invaders, an 80-minute documentary of a Japanese Ventures tour. (Although this DVD is titled Live 1966, some sources give the date of the film as 1965.) While the film itself is an essential document for Ventures fans in some respects, in other features it's not so impressive. That holds true in ways particular to this specific DVD and to the actual movie, in whatever format it's viewed. As for the DVD, while the image transfer suffers no serious problems hindering watchability, it's obviously not taken from a high-grade source, though at least it's in widescreen format. Also, there are no English subtitles -- a real drawback for non-Japanese speakers, since the opening few minutes have Japanese narration over footage of Japanese life in which the Ventures don't appear. Finally, the non-performance segments of the movie show the Ventures roaming around Japanese streets, traveling the country by train, signing autographs for fans, etc., with considerable spoken dialogue among the band. What's the problem with that? Well, on this disc at least, the dialogue isn't in English, but in overdubbed (and, again, unsubtitled) Japanese voices.
What is good about Beloved Invaders? It has quite a few genuinely live scenes from their concerts, in which they play with real ferocity that shows a harder edge than many of their records. Those clips are quite heavy on Venture-ized cover versions like "Wipe Out," "Pipeline," "Caravan," "The Cruel Sea," and "Apache," but also do include some originals, like their then-recent hit "Walk Don't Run '64." Their stage presence is almost laughably business-like, the band barely moving in their almost studious poses, but Nokie Edwards does at one point peel off a cool peculiarly amplified solo that sounds almost as if it's coming from a high-voltage transistor radio. Most English-speaking fans, frankly, wouldn't lose much if the film was edited down to include little else besides the concert scenes, though there are some cool glimpses of young Japanese bands in action in the opening section. What this really needs, though, is an official DVD release (with English subtitles, if needed) mastered from the best available source, and it's hard to imagine that one won't appear eventually. The one annoying "extra" on this disc is a 1980s-looking clip of the group, dressed in punkish regalia, miming "Wipe Out" while a scantily clad woman prances through various paces. Even more annoyingly, it's placed at the very beginning of the disc prior to Beloved Invaders, an appetizer that leaves a foul taste.
Neil Young, Acoustic Young (Oh Boy, bootleg). All 20 of these songs, according to this bootleg's subtitle, were recorded "live in the USA, autumn 1976." And all 20 of them, right in line with the CD title Acoustic Young, are unplugged -- usually with Young on acoustic guitar, although piano, harmonica, and banjo also occasionally figure into the instrumentation. This might not be the most extraordinary acoustic Young available, official or unofficial, and while the sound quality is decent enough to make this effortlessly enjoyable, it's below the standard demanded by legitimate releases. Nevertheless, it's a very worthwhile listen for serious Young fans, with a good cross-section of acoustic performances of tunes both well known or fairly well known ("After the Goldrush," "Harvest," "Mr. Soul," "The Needle and the Damage Done," "Love Is a Rose," "Sugar Mountain," "The Losing End," "The Old Laughing Lady," "Tell Me Why," "Human Highway") and not as celebrated ("Here We Are in the Years," "White Line," "Give Me Strength," "Too Far Gone"). It's also interesting to hear the inclusion of "Pocahontas," a good two-and-a-half years before its appearance on Rust Never Sleeps. This is the kind of collection that exemplifies why devoted fans want to hear bootlegs: it's not likely to be released because the sound quality's not good enough and there are too many other versions of some of the songs in circulation, but it's nevertheless good and unusual enough to be a pleasurable listen.
Various Artists, Gather in the Mushrooms: The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974 (Castle). These 18 tracks give a pretty good idea of the gentler and spacier side of British rock in the late 1960s and early 1970s, though it's perhaps not as "acid," "folk," or "underground" as the title might portend. It's more an overview of some of the better music from the UK scene to fall in the hazy ground twixt contemporary British folk and the milder side of British folk, with just a few heavy rock and psychedelic influences coming into play once in a while. Not all of the performers are "underground," actually, if underground is taken to mean not well known to commercial audiences: the Pentangle, Sandy Denny, and Bert Jansch all sold decent amounts of records to both folk and rock listeners, and while Sallyangie weren't too successful, half of that brother-sister duo (Mike Oldfield) went on to stardom. But certainly, while other artists are fairly well known to British folk-rock cultists (Trader Horne, with ex-Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble; Forest; Vashti Bunyan; and Shelagh McDonald), names like Magnet, Mr. Brooks, and Fresh Maggots will challenge the memory of both those who were there and those who try to collect this genre retrospectively. Pentangle's "Lyke Wake Dirge" and Denny's "Milk and Honey" (the latter an early, pre-Fairport Convention recording) are more accomplished and powerful than anything else on the disc. But the rest does offer its share of other fine moments, like Lesley Duncan's self-penned "Love Song" (covered on an early album by Elton John); Bunyan's haunting "Winter Is Blue"; Shelagh McDonalds's "Liz's Song," though it's derivative of both Denny and Joni Mitchell; and Comus' disquieting "The Herald," which is about the most psychedelic-influenced track. Most everything else is at the least pleasant, making this a good introductory survey if you're gearing up for digging into the more obscure British folk-rock of the period.
Various Artists, Soul to Soul [DVD] (Rhino). In its original form, the early-'70s concert film Soul to Soul offered a worthy if uneven assortment of footage of Wilson Pickett, Santana, Ike & Tina Turner, the Staple Singers, Les McCann & Eddie Harris, Voices of East Harlem, and Roberta Flack performing in Ghana during their prime, interspersed with scenes of African musicians and Ghanaian life taken during their trip. The DVD release offers such a wealth of worthy extras that it takes literally days to absorb them all, starting with a detailed 22-page small-print booklet that gives a thorough history of this previously ill-documented event. That's just a prelude to the special features, which include no less than four separate commentary tracks, with voiceover recollections by Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers (the only figure to get a commentary track of her own); Les McCann and Kevin Griffin of Voices of East Harlem (who do their commentary track together); original producer Tom Mosk, accompanied by reissue producers David Peck and Jon Kanis; and Ike Turner, on a track that also includes some observations by Michael Shrieve of Santana, Ghanaian drummer Obo Addy, and (again) Griffin and McCann. After viewing the commentary tracks, you'll know more than you ever thought you'd ever know (or perhaps wanted to know) about the musicians' trip to Ghana in early 1971, along with plenty of info about the genesis and realization of the film (from Mosk, Peck, and Kanis) and incidental asides about soul music in general. The bonus studio footage of brief excerpts of the commentaries actually being recorded is extraneous, but the sole outtake from the film itself, of Ike & Tina Turner doing "I've Been Loving You Too Long," is not. It's one of the hotter songs in the package, actually (perhaps the overtly sexual innuendo was considered too hot to make the cut for the initial release), and even this brief clip has a separate Ike Turner commentary track. And there's yet more: disc two of this two-disc set is a CD-only offering presenting the original soundtrack, with the addition of a few songs (including Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour") not on the original version. (Note that the soundtrack CD is not identical to the music heard on the soundtrack of the DVD; Santana, for instance, is not on the soundtrack CD, while some songs heard on the CD are not in the movie.) The only small complaint is that the sequences from the original movie involving Roberta Flack have, unfortunately, been omitted from the DVD release at Flack's request.
Various Artists, Teen Dance Music from China and Malaysia (Thrift Score). If the brief liner notes on the back cover are to be trusted, this CD was assembled by cherry-picking cuts from a batch of late-'60s/early-'70s-looking Southasian pop LPs found at a thrift store. While the cover design's on par with professional releases, there are no details on the specific cuts and artists other than the track listings, and even five of the song titles are given as "Indecipherable." So a state-of-the-art historical document this isn't, with surface noise and even a few skips to indicate that the music's been taken from vinyl rather than better sources. But if you're looking for something novel in the strip-mined field of 1960s rock reissues, this delivers the goods, though no doubt it sounds more exotic to Western ears due to its sheer difference from most pop-rock from North America, Europe, and Australasia. It's an unpredictable, ever-morphing (and largely instrumental) hodgepodge of Ventures-Shadows-style guitar, spy and spaghetti western soundtracks, lounge exotica, cheesy Southasian pop, go-go dance rock, and cheapo organs with an otherworldly shimmer. It's silly and not terribly deep, the Man Chau Po Orchestra even stooping to doing a go-go version of the theme from "Bridge on the River Kwai." Yet on the other hand it's pretty enjoyable, with a spirited fun in spite of this material's possible (or even probable) origins as exploitative quickie easy listening/dance rock LPs. One does wonder if much or any of this teen dance music actually came from China, given that country's historical official resistance to rock, even rock of this sort; perhaps some of the tracks with Chinese-language original packaging actually originated in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or other non-Chinese territories.
ALBUM REVIEWS: A SELECTION OF RECENT RELEASES, SUMMER 2004:
Davie Allan & the Arrows, Devil's Rumble: Anthology '64-'68 (Sundazed). Although Allan's semi-legendary for his '60s fuzz guitar instrumentals, prior to this release they hadn't been easy to hear on CD, with only the odd cut popping up on compilations. Nor had it been too easy to get a handle on his work even if you were willing to dig for the obscure original vinyl releases, as it had been scattered across so many albums and soundtracks, some of them quite obscure. This two-disc, 40-track set finally addressed that gap in as classy a manner as possible, the cuts carefully selected from his '64-'68 recordings for Tower and its Sidewalk subsidiary, drawing from the four actual Davie Allan & the Arrows LPs made during this time; no less than ten soundtrack albums to which they contributed; and a smattering of singles, including a couple of 45 versions of songs that showed up in different versions on the albums. The Top 100 chart hits ("Blue's Theme," "Apache '65," and "Cody's Theme") are all here, but most of it's far lesser known, though you might have heard some of it in the background to numerous biker-hippie exploitation flicks of the period. It reveals Allan as a master of combining surf, the twang of Duane Eddy, the distortions of Link Wray, and psychedelia into a distinctly mid-to-late-'60s instrumental rock sound, leaning hard on mind-melting fuzz guitar.
That's a good thing, but it should be said that even in a compilation as well-packaged as this one, it might be too much at once even for those who like the basic recipe. Allan lacked as much tonal variety, melodic imagination, and killer riffage as Link Wray, perhaps his closest counterpart, though each have their own distinct sound. The percentage of pedestrian tunes is high enough that it can blur together at times, and work against sustaining your interest for 40 songs of the stuff. And Allan leans on his patented fuzz guitar sound real hard, particularly the more time went on, which can grow a bit tiresome even if you're enamored of it. A single-disc compilation would certainly have been more killer, though it would have sacrificed some of this anthology's admirable breadth. Still, there's no shortage of cool'n'creepy cuts, starting with the surf-y update of "Apache" ("Apache '65") and the classic elemental fuzz damage of "Blue's Theme." More notably for those only familiar with those songs, it also takes in far lesser-exposed delights like "The Stompers and the Souls," with its ghostly upper-register squeals and scrapes; the epic surf reverb of "The Loser's Bar"; the far-out fuzz wah-wah of "Cycle-Delic"; the grand, James Bond-theme-quality "Another Cycle in Detroit"; "The Rebel (Without a Cause)," which sounds rather like a tougher version of Britain's Shadows; the sweet fuzz hum of the 45 version of "Devil's Angels"; and the cool update of the classic surf instrumental "Moondawg," titled "Moondawg '65" naturally. The liner notes do a lot to give Allan & the Arrows the place in history they deserve, even including a page of comments by producer Mike Curb.
Oscar Brown Jr., Kicks: The Best of Oscar Brown Jr. (BGP). With 23 tracks from all four of Brown's early-'60s albums for Columbia, this is the finest representation of the singer's work on record. It's true that it doesn't include some worthy post-Columbia material, particularly cuts from the 1964 live recording Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington (such as "Brother Where Are You?"). It's also true that some fans might have minor quibbles with the songs selected for this best-of, which omits numbers like "Rags and Old Iron," "Brown Baby," and "Man, Ernest Boy" that could have made worthy inclusions. Yet it's hard to argue with what is here, including as it does standouts like the oft-covered "Work Song" (in two versions, actually); his vocal adaptations of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue," Duke Pearson's "Jeanine," and Miles Davis' "All Blues"; "But I Was Cool," one of the most humorous jazz vocal pieces ever; and more serious numbers adapting the work of African-American poetry, "Elegy (Plain Black Boy)" and "When Malindy Sings." The four standards taken from In a New Mood are the least interesting numbers, but at least everything else on the CD is a Brown original, or an adaptation of a musical or literary work to which Brown added new words and/or music. Though he was perhaps a bit too theatrical in his singing and songwriting to get as hip a reputation as gutsier, moodier performers like Nina Simone (who covered several Brown songs in her early days), this remains some of the best music to fuse jazz, pop vocals, and African-American consciousness.
Cleaners from Venus, Living with Victoria Grey: The Very Best of Cleaners from Venus (Cherry Red). It's stretching things a little to call this a best-of (or certainly a "very best of"), since this draws from a fairly limited slice of Cleaners from Venus' prolific 1981-1990 output. It focuses on the late-1980s period when Giles Smith was primary CoV singer-songwriter Martin Newell's chief collaborator in the band, and when the group graduated from underground cassettes to more widely distributed LPs. Not that you'd necessarily be able to figure that out from the liner notes, which, while including a thorough discography, neglect to list original release details for any of the tracks on this anthology. It's not a trivial omission, particularly since, as the fairly small circle of Cleaners from Venus know, some of these 18 songs sounded better (and certainly less overproduced) in their original versions on those cassette-only releases. That's particularly true of the songs from their best cassette-only album, Living with Victoria Grey, several of which show up here in slicker, less effective arrangements. All those reservations out of the way, this is still a good, often charming selection of some of the group's more widely circulated tracks -- not that any of them were ever too widely heard. The melodies are infectious, the guitars ringing, the lyrics witty, and the sound indebted to '60s pop-rock without sounding revivalistic (a much rarer feat than it should be). It's one of the few best-ofs from a hitless '80s indie band that actually sounds like a collection of worthy hit singles, rather than songs that just wished they were hit singles, or were trying to be hit singles without the quality to justify such popularity. As a nice bonus, Giles Smith contributes a witty sleeve note, and on the CD's final four tracks, he reads four spoken extracts about his Cleaners from Venus experiences from his autobiographical book Lost in Music (which is well worth reading, by the way).
Donovan, Sixty Four (Donovan Discs). Recorded by Donovan in 1964 (the sleeve art implies it was in the summer of that year), these nine tracks predate the singer's first official releases on Pye Records, and represent the earliest studio recordings of his to have yet come to light. (Although two of the cuts, "London Town" and "Codine," did come out on the Troubadour box set in the early 1990s, the other seven were previously unreleased.) Donovan was at this point an acoustic folk musician, and these performances are pretty similar to the folk recordings he'd make for official release in 1965, though they're perhaps a bit more rooted in the traditional side of things. Though Brian Locking accompanies him on bass on "Crazy 'Bout a Woman," otherwise it's just Donovan and his acoustic guitar. And good it is too, his distinctive style of vocal phrasing and accomplished guitar work virtually fully formed, although the material isn't as striking as the songs that lifted him to stardom in the mid-1960s.
Donovan would in fact re-do a few of these numbers in the studio slightly later on, with Jesse Fuller's "Keep on Trucking" appearing on a 1965 release; "Isle of Sadness" getting remade with the title "Belated Forgiveness Plea," though otherwise the song and performance are quite similar to the later 1965 Pye Recording; and "The Darkness of My Night" getting retitled "Breezes of Patchulie" for his typically ornate mid-1960s folk-rock treatment a bit later on, though this version is purely acoustic, and considerably plainer. As for the best items that Donovan wouldn't release in any form on his early Pye Recordings, those include a good cover of Ewan McColl's classic "Dirty Old Town" and a decent gotta-travel-on-style troubadour folk original, "Freedom Road." The sole other original on the set, "Talkin' Pop Star Blues," would have given the Donovan's-a-Dylan-imitator crowd some additional ammunition had it come out at the time, sounding too close to some of Dylan's early talking blues for comfort. On the whole, though, Donovan has much of his original voice in place here, and this is worthy addition to his body of recordings, in fine official release-quality sound. (This CD is available via Donovan's own website, www.donovan.ie.)
Nick Drake, Made to Love Magic (Island). Hunger for "new" Nick Drake material had reached enough of a fever pitch by the twenty-first century for Island to try and dig up enough for this odd patchwork collection, combining outtakes with remixes of tracks that had been previously issued on the Time of No Reply album. The result is a curious disc that's not quite an anthology of wholly previously unreleased material, and thus of somewhat limited value to Drake collectors, though it contains much good music. The only song here previously unavailable in any form is the 1974 outtake "Tow the Line," a melancholic solo acoustic performance (as are most of the tracks on the CD) that's well up to the standards of Pink Moon and the 1974 tracks that previously surfaced on Time of No Reply. Also new to official release are spring 1968 solo acoustic versions of "River Man" (later to appear on Five Leaves Left with orchestration) and "Mayfair" (a later recording of which was used on Time of No Reply), as well as a March '69 version of "Three Hours" that's longer than the one later cut for Five Leaves Left. There's also a newly discovered take of "Hanging on a Star" (one of the 1974 outtakes used on Time of No Reply) with a different vocal. The differences between these and the familiar studio renditions aren't knock-your-socks-off different, but certainly good and well worth hearing by Drake cultists.
It's the rest of the material that might be the target of criticism from concerned consumers, whether for posthumous tampering or redundancy with previously available albums. Most controversially, two tracks from Time of No Reply -- "Time of No Reply" itself and "I Was Made to Love Magic" (the latter here, for some reason, retitled simply "Magic") -- have been altered to include Robert Kirby's original orchestral arrangements, recorded in 2003. Actually in both instances, the substituted orchestration is integrated very tastefully, but it can never be answered whether Drake himself would have approved or had it done the exact ame way. The remaining cuts are simply remixes or remasterings of six songs that appeared on Time of No Reply, the remixes of the 1974 songs "Black Eyed Dog," "Rider on the Wheel," and "Voices" (originally titled "Voice from the Mountain" when it first appeared on Time of No Reply) being done by the original recording engineer, John Wood. Though those remixes of the '74 tracks in particular are an improvement (the songs on the original release had been mixed onto a mono listening tape), again it's not the sort of thing that will generate revelations unless you're an audiophile. As everything Drake recorded was worth hearing, this CD too is quite worthy judged in isolation, and certainly full of the subdued mystery the singer-songwriter brought to his music. It's just not the goldmine of discoveries for which some might have hoped.
Exuma, Exuma (Repertoire ). Exuma's debut album was a real odd piece of work, even by the standards of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when major labels went further out on a limb to throw weird stuff at the public to see what would stick than they ever had before, or have since. Roughly speaking, it's kind of like a combination of the Bahamian folk of Joseph Spence with early Dr. John at his most voodooed-out, though even that nutshell doesn't really do justice to how unusual this record is. Often it seems more like eavesdropping on a tribal ritual than listening to songs. Some of the tracks, indeed, have little or less to do with conventional "songs" with tunes and lyrics; they're more akin to Mardi Grass street percussion jams, airlifted to the Caribbean islands. Exuma and his accompanists make quite a spooky clamor with their various bells, foot drums, chanting, gasps, sighs, shouts, and other percussive instruments, creating a mood both celebratory and scary. He's not totally averse to using more standard song forms, though, singing about "zombies walking in the broad daylight" in "Mama Loi, Papa Loi"; devising a simple, fairly singable soul melody for "You Don't Know What's Going On," his most famous song due to its inclusion in the movie Joe; and setting "The Vision" to an appealing, if again quite simple, folk melody. Exuma's rough, unschooled vocals cut off any prospect of mainstream accessibility, but they get the job done in getting both his uplifting and ominous spirituality over. It's a little surprising that this stuff hasn't undergone a sizable cult revival; many artists of lesser talent and idiosyncrasy have, and perhaps the 2003 CD reissue on Repertoire, with reasonably informed liner notes, will aid in its rediscovery.
Exuma, Exuma II (Repertoire). Exuma's second album is perhaps a little less strange, and a little more sedate, than his debut (also released in 1970) -- but only a little. It's another combination of folk music from the Bahamas with voodoo-esque ritual not far removed from some of the more extreme New Orleans music influenced by that practice. In places (like "Fire in the Hole," probably the most accessible cut) there's a spiritual lilt to the vocals that might remind some listeners, if only faintly, of some of the Rasta-fired reggae recorded by Bob Marley and others in the '70s. It's hardly just another day at the office for Mercury Records, though, when one of the first lyrics of an album blithely states, "you thought you married a woman, you married a big black bird." Too, "Paul Simon Nontooth" might even be further-out (and creepier) than anything on the first album, being more a zombie revival ritual than a conventional song. There are more tuneful items too, though, like "Baal," where Exuma's raw, scratchy vocals approximate an exotic soul-gospel feel. And even on the more laid-back tracks, there are all sorts of weird, spontaneous-sounding interjections of percussion, yells, and chanting voices, "We Got to Go" even sounding something like a nineteenth-century group trying to play like War, only lacking the modern technology to make the transition complete. Plenty of albums based in folk traditions, and plenty of albums that are very odd, have little variety from cut to cut. That, refreshingly, is something that most definitely can not be said of Exuma II, where you're never quite sure what's around the corner. Overall, however, it's similar enough to the first album that it sounds almost as if it could have been overspill from the same sessions. While it might not be quite as striking as his previous album, certainly anyone who likes that debut will like this as well (and vice versa), and its reissue on CD in 2003 made it more available than it had been for decades.
Fleetwood Mac, Helsinki Carousel [bootleg] (Hiwatt). Given that there are almost ten discs worth of officially released early live and BBC Fleetwood Mac when Peter Green was in the lineup, do you really need to seek out concert bootlegs of the group from the same era? Not unless you're a completist, but if you are one, this two-CD set is at least not totally redundant with the live stuff that's made it onto legitimate releases. The first 18 songs -- all of disc one, and the first five tracks of disc two -- come from a show at the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco in June 1968, hence documenting a slightly earlier period than the ones covered on most of the official live early Mac discs (which tend to come from 1969 and 1970). The sound on this portion is surprisingly good -- extremely clear, almost up to official release quality -- yet also curiously dead, as if it was recorded as the band was in rehearsal prior to a radio-only session (and in fact, the audience is virtually inaudible). Too, the vocals are fainter than they should be, though not buried or indecipherable. It all tends to make it sound less exciting than anticipated. Also, the song selection is a little too much on the conservative blues side, though it does have live versions of some of their better early tracks ("Got to Move," "I Loved Another Woman"), as well as some songs that didn't make it onto their early studio releases (like Freddie King's "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" and a ten-minute instrumental "Jam" whose riff sounds much like Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would"). And as usual, there's a little too much of those early rock'n'roll oldies covers Fleetwood Mac were prone to throw into their live set, including "Willie and the Hand Jive" and three Little Richard numbers.
The final 13 songs on disc two are taken from a spring 1969 concert in Helsinki, and the band actually sound more much lively here. It also helps that by this time, they'd developed some better original material that was moving away from strict blues-rock limitations, playing "Man of the World," "Only You," "Oh Well," "Albatross," and "Coming Your Way," to name a few highlights. There's also energetic straight blues -- Otis Rush's "Homework" is pretty scorching -- including some songs that, again, they never got around to doing in the studio, like the superbly rendered slow blues "Got a Mind to Give Up Living." (There are also, alas, a couple more of those not-so-hot oldies encores, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" and Little Richard's "Jenny Jenny.") The main problem is that the fidelity, though listenable (certainly listenable by late-'60s bootleg standards), isn't that great, and isn't nearly as good as it is on the preceding 1968 Carousel Ballroom tapes. If only the Helsinki portion boasted audio as good as the Carousel section -- and if only the Carousel section boasted songs and performances as good as the Helsinki portion -- this would be a match for any live Fleetwood Mac recordings from the period. No complaints about the length, though, the two CDs totaling almost two-and-a-half hours.
Fleetwood Mac, Dead Bust Blues [bootleg] (Hiwatt). This two-CD bootleg of live performances in New Orleans on January 30, 1970 (on disc one) and February 1, 1970 (on disc two) would be much more valuable had there not been a good three albums worth of Fleetwood Mac live material from the same era circulating for a long time. In fact, the February 1970 shows at the Boston Tea Party that have shown up in numerous permutations on legitimate releases were recorded just days after these New Orleans gigs. So although the sound on this boot is very clear and good -- almost as good as what you'd expect on an official release, in fact -- it's rather redundant with the Boston Tea Party stuff, in both the arrangements and the actual songs performed. Since the sound is just a bit worse than the Boston Tea Party tapes -- it's a little flat, and the vocals are lower than they should be -- the Boston Tea Party releases must be given a substantial edge. If you're even considering getting a bootleg such as this in the first place, however, you probably have far less reservations about duplication and redundancy than the casual buyer who just wants one representative document of the period. If you are that brand of fanatic, this set does have its rewards, principally in the presence of a few songs that don't show up on the Boston Tea Party albums, including "Albatross," the despondent Then Play On standout "Before the Beginning," and most particularly the excellent, anguished slow blues "Got a Mind to Give Up Living." There are, as well, differences in some of the arrangements, "Coming Your Way" lasting a good 11 minutes. (Indeed, as on the Boston Tea Party-related releases, many of the songs are more drawn-out and extended than they should be, suffering in comparison to the more disciplined studio versions.) Plus you get to hear Peter Green clear up any possible speculation about the subject of "Rattlesnake Shake," which he straightforwardly introduces as a song about masturbation. And there are almost entirely different set lists for each night/disc; only three of the songs ("Only You," "World in Harmony," and "Stranger Blues") are represented by different versions on each CD. Certainly it's one bootleg that doesn't short-change the consumer, offering a good two hours and fifteen minutes of music.
The Kinks, Another Great Lost Kinks Album [bootleg] (Eye). The second of a three-part bootleg series of sorts that also includes The Great Lost Kinks Album and The Third (And Last} Great Lost Kinks Album, Another Great Lost Kinks Album, like those other two volumes, has a heaping helping of recordings from the 1960s and early 1970s that aren't in the group's official CD catalog. The bulk of these 25 tracks hail from radio and television performances, and even though the sources aren't always completely documented and the live versions sometimes don't differ very much from the studio arrangements, the fidelity is usually good, and some of the performances quite interesting. Among the better items are a live December 1964 recording of "All Day and All of the Night," aired on the American TV show Shindig!; an unusual June 1965 version of "Long Tall Shorty," on which Dave Davies is backed by the Shindig! house band, including guitarist James Burton; a 1965 BBC radio performance of a song that didn't make it onto their studio releases, "All Aboard" (actually titled "Hide and Seek" and originally recorded by Big Joe Turner and Bill Haley; a separate BBC version of this with vastly better fidelity appears on The Third (And Last) Great Lost Kinks Album. The fun continues with five live songs from a late-'65 German TV appearance; four from an October 1967 BBC radio session that didn't make it onto the official BBC Sessions 1964-1977 compilation, including the classic "Sunny Afternoon"; and, topping things off, five tracks from their January 1973 performance (mistakenly dated as January 1972 on the sleeve) on BBC TV's In Concert, including a cover of Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly" and good updates of the hits "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," "Lola," and 'Waterloo Sunset." This is nothing to rival the Kinks' best studio work, but it's a very useful (and enjoyable) gap-filler for fans determined to assemble as many vintage recordings by the band as they can.
The Kinks, The Third (And Last) Great Lost Kinks Album [bootleg] (LOISIRS). The third (and, if the title is to be believed, last) in this bootleg series of 1960s and early-1970s Kinks rarities is actually more interesting than its predecessor (Another Great Lost Kinks Album), offering another mix of unreleased BBC sessions, studio outtakes, TV appearances, and the like. Packed with 30 songs and 79 minutes of music, the contents are too diverse to summarize in a single review. To begin with, though, there are 17 BBC radio recordings from 1964-1970 that aren't on the official BBC Sessions 1964-1977 compilation. The sound quality on these is usually excellent, and always listenable, including some real desirable rarities, namely two songs which never made it onto 1960s Kinks records in any form: a 1964 cover of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" and a 1965 cover of the far more obscure Big Joe Turner/Bill Haley cut "Hide and Seek." (The latter track is an entirely different version than a separate BBC performance of the same tune that's been bootlegged under the title "All Aboard," in more complete form and vastly better audio to boot.) While the other BBC cuts all have studio counterparts, they include some relatively infrequently traveled songs like "I've Got That Feeling," "You Shouldn't Be Sad," "Never Met a Girl Like You Before," "I Am Free," and "Mr. Churchill Says." Good stuff all, even if the arrangements aren't too different from the familiar studio takes, and some of the 1969-70 Beeb recordings are just different mixes of the official recordings with new vocals.
As for the non-BBC radio items here, the highlights are a late-1963 demo of a frivolously disposable early British Invasion-like song, "Obadiabloo"; an exciting, totally live September 1964 BBC TV version of "Got Live If You Want It"; and two solo Ray Davies songs, "Got to Be Free" and "Marathon," from the 1970 BBC television play The Long Distance Piano Player, Ray's piano and vocal being the only accompaniment. Some of the rest of the set is less interesting (stereo mixes of three Face to Face tracks) or disappointing (the mid-'60s outtakes "Listen to Me" and "She's My Girl," which have poor sound quality and aren't such great songs either). Still, the CD's very well packaged; it and the similarly bountiful bootlegs Another Great Lost Kinks Album and The Great Lost Kinks Album are essential supplements to the official 1960s-early-'70s Kinks discography for fanatical fans of the group. (Incidentally, no label is listed on the spine or disc, but a logo reading "LOISIRS" appears in the upper left-hand corner.)
Curtis Mayfield, Keep on Keepin' On [bootleg] (Big 'Fro). The Big 'Fro label did a valuable if unauthorized service to soul collectors by making available a good amount of unreleased vintage material by soul stars, an area that has received relatively little attention from bootleggers. This CD compiles live, radio, and television performances -- as well as a studio outtakes of "Freddie's Dead" and "Eddie You Should Know Better" from 1972, although no details other than year of recording are supplied for those -- from what was arguably Curtis Mayfield's greatest period of a distinguished career. For all of the tracks hail from 1972-74, a point at which the Superfly soundtrack had vaulted him to superstardom. The sound is good -- in fact, sometimes it's release quality, though some of the concert material is a little below that standard -- and the performances excellent, although they don't hugely deviate from the familiar studio versions. In addition to renditions of a few Superfly highlights ("Pusherman" and two versions apiece of "Superfly," "Freddie's Dead," and "Give Me Your Love"), there are also a few of the better non-Superfly songs from Mayfield's most socially conscious period, including "Keep on Keepin' On," "We Got to Have Peace," "Stone Junkie," and "We People Who Are Darker Than Blue." If nothing else, it offers further proof of Mayfield's mastery of the soul-rock wah-wah guitar, as he uses the effects with as much assurance live as he did in the studio. Although 18 tracks are listed, that's a little deceptive; five of the "cuts" are actually excerpts of interviews with Mayfield, from undocumented sources.
The Misunderstood, The Lost Acetates 1965-1966 (UT). Although the Misunderstood were among the best obscure psychedelic bands -- indeed, among the best obscure '60s rock bands of any kind -- they barely got to record anything before tragic circumstances broke them up. The discovery of this bunch of previously unknown mid-'60s acetates, then, was big news to psychedelic rock aficionados, though most of this actually comes from their garage R&B days rather than the psychedelic peak they attained with their late-1966 lineup. The first nine of these 14 tracks come from sessions spanning mid-1965 to early 1966, and show them as a ferocious, above-average moody raw R&B-based group, somewhat in the mold of a more guitar-oriented Animals. It's tougher and more original than the earlier, slightly poppier garage sides found on the pre-psychedelic sides of the Before the Dream Faded compilation. But it's not nearly as innovative as the brilliant Yardbirds-taken-to-further-extremes freakout songs on Before the Dream Faded that were cut in London when Tony Hill was in the band. In fact, super-amplified steel guitarist Glenn Ross Campbell wasn't even in the band yet when these nine songs were recorded. Still, these cuts are at the least respectable and often exciting, like their rave-up treatment of "Got Love If You Want It" and Hoyt Axton's "Thunder 'N Lightnin'," as well as an earlier, more folk-rockish version of "I Unseen" (which they'd re-record in a far more psych-out fashion in London). Also on the album is their cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Who's Been Talkin'" from a rare 1966 single (predating their move to London) and alternate versions of four great songs they did in the Tony Hill era. These alternate versions -- of "My Mind," "Find the Hidden Door," "Children of the Sun," and "I Unseen" -- actually aren't that different from the ones on Before the Dream Faded, as they utilize the same basic tracks, which were later given some re-tracking and doubling of vocals at Philips-Fontana. Nonetheless, for completism's sake they're good to have, and as a whole the release does a lot to fill in the developmental gaps between the group's first known recordings and their psychedelic incarnation, with excellent annotation by Mike Stax.
Laura Nyro, Spread Your Wings and Fly: Live at the Fillmore East May 30, 1971 (Columbia/Legacy). While a couple of the medleys of soul covers have shown up as bonus tracks on the expanded edition of Laura Nyro's Gonna Take a Miracle, everything else from this 1971 show was previously unreleased. In fact two of the songs, the lengthy Nyro originals "American Dove" and "Mother Earth" (the latter clocking in at eight minutes), appear here for the first time anywhere. It's just Nyro and her piano on this recording, and while the sleeve note apologizes for the sound quality due to deterioration of the tape, actually it sounds pretty good, though not pristine. There are both positive and negative ways of viewing this archival find. On one hand the set list, oddly, contained none of her best-known songs ("Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Sweet Blindness," "Blowin' Away," and "And When I Die" are all missing for starters), which might disappoint some fans. Also, the unplugged reliance on nothing but piano backup makes this less varied and, in some ways, less interesting than the full arrangements she used on her early studio releases. On the other hand the emphasis on lesser-known songs and soul covers -- as well as, for that matter, the use of solo piano arrangements -- means that both the material and the setting give us a glimpse of different sides of the singer-songwriter than are apparent in her more familiar studio albums. Nyro sings in a beautifully high range and her piano accompaniment is sensitive, though whether due to the recording flaws or the way she presented herself in live performance, the words aren't always wholly distinct. It's not on par with her early studio releases, and neither "American Dove" nor "Mother Earth" are great songs; they're okay and certainly in her soulful singer-songwriting vein, but a little meandering. But fans will treasure this as a document of Nyro in a more intimate setting than her early official releases allowed.
The Rolling Stones, Reelin' and Rockin' [bootleg] (Musik Fur Alle). Although this contains very little that hasn't made the rounds on other bootlegs of early Rolling Stones rarities, it does have at least one track that most fans are unlikely to have seen elsewhere: a bona fide studio outtake cover of Chuck Berry's classic "Reelin' and Rockin'," recorded in Chess Studios in June 1964. The problem is that the very insatiable fans most likely to snap this up will almost certainly have all or most of the rest of this already. Still, it's not as if established major labels are above adding just one or two uncirculated items to anthologies to force fans to fork over their hard-earned money. Plus, if you don't happen to have much early unreleased Stones in your collection, this is actually a very useful (and musically quite good) compilation of the most notable unissued studio recordings from their earliest days, with just two of the songs post-dating June 1964.
First, to the item about which avid Rolling Stones followers will be most curious. The outtake of "Reelin' and Rockin'" is okay, but surprisingly languid, the group slowing down the tempo from the Berry original to a more relaxed and blues-funky groove, as if they were casually using it as a warm-up number, rather than kicking out the jams as they did on Berry's "Around and Around." Much of the other 24 tracks are of substantially greater merit, including their March 1963 five-song IBC Studio demo, the recording on which the classic Stones blues-rock sound was first captured, with particularly exciting covers of Bo Diddley's "Roadrunner," Jimmy Reed's "Baby What's Wrong" (here mistitled "Honey What's Wrong"), and Muddy Waters' "I Want to Be Loved" (a different, though very similar, version than the one done for the B-side of their first single). There are also five additional June 1964 Chess studio outtakes that are for the most part almost as good as the material that ended up on the 12 X 5 album, particularly the covers of "Hi- Heel Sneakers," Big Bill Broonzy's "Tell Me Baby," and Howlin' Wolf's "Down in the Bottom" (though the latter, in an unusual example of a bootleg underselling itself, is not listed on the sleeve). If the versions of "Don't Lie to Me" and "Look What You've Done" from this session are different from the officially released ones, however, it's difficult to tell, though "Look What You've Done" does have the "bonus" of a brief spoken announcement of the track title of the beginning.
The rest of the CD's contents aren't as vital, but are always at the least interesting. These include some lo-fi home rehearsal recordings made by an embryonic version of the band in 1961; a brief, and very lo-fi, excerpt of an October 1962 demo of Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover," probably taken from an airing during a radio broadcast; the satirical early-1964 outtakes "Andrew's Blues" and "And Mr. Spector and Mr. Pitney Came Too," which are musically routine and not incredibly funny; their infamous early-1964 Rice Krisipies jingle, which is actually fairly hot (if brief) R&B; and a mildly different alternate version of "Not Fade Away." Moving beyond 1964, there's also the bluesy late-'65 outtake "Looking Tired" (an original) and an early version of "Street Fighting Man" from 1968, "Everybody Pays Their Dues." Overall it's a valuable supplement to the early Rolling Stones' discography, and even if you have some or a lot of it, it might not be as redundant as you expect, since the sound quality on some of the material is definitely superior to versions that have appeared on numerous previous bootlegs.
The Searchers, BBC Sessions (Castle). Though this double-CD collection presents 30 songs recorded by the Searchers for BBC sessions, it actually spans a relatively small portion of their career, from January 1965 to March 1967 (with over half the material coming from 1965 alone). The band recorded yet more BBC sessions, but these are the only ones (except for a few similar duplicate versions, omitted to avoid redundancy) known to survive in releasable form, which is why there's nothing from 1963-64, when they were actually at the peak of their popularity. Incomplete though it is, it's a valuable archival find for serious Searchers fans, even if, like many BBC session compilations, the performances don't vary too much from the familiar studio versions (except for the arrangements often being somewhat more thinly produced). It does have six songs that didn't make it onto their '60s studio releases, though these aren't as major discoveries as might be assumed, since all six of these tracks were actually first issued in the mid-1990s as part of the 30th Anniversary Collection three-CD compilation.
All of these cautions shouldn't let your excitement level drop too much, as this is still reasonably well-recorded, and certainly well-performed, including BBC renditions of all of their chart singles from late 1964 through late 1966 (except "Love Potion Number 9"). Also along for the ride are numerous more obscure B-sides, album cuts, and flops that testify to their versatility, from the folk of "Four Strong Winds" to the rock'n'roll of "Ready Teddy," though as the liner notes admit, the vocal parts at the beginning of "Magic Potion" are certainly shaky. And the six songs with no studio-release counterparts are pretty interesting, including covers of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen," Ike & Tina Turner's "Goodbye, So Long," Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," Mitch Ryder's "See See Rider/Jenny Take a Ride" medley, the Guilloteens' garage-folk-rocker "I Don't Believe," and the band original "I'll Be Loving You." A dozen brief BBC interview inserts with members of the band are here too, and while they don't contain any great revelations, the odd interesting bit of trivia pops up now and then, as when Chris Curtis explains how the band decided to cover Bobby Darin's "When I Get Home."
The Soft Machine, The Soft Machine/Robert Wyatt [DVD][bootleg] (Anonymous Film Archive). Bootleg DVD releases on the Anonymous Film Archive label often spell trouble as far as visual and audio standards, but refreshingly this compilation of rare Soft Machine/Robert Wyatt footage -- running nearly two hours -- isn't bad at all. True, the quality would no doubt be better if it had the transferred-from-the-best-source standards adhered to by most official releases. But while this material obviously wasn't transferred from the best sources, it's quite watchable, and more importantly very interesting (and rarely seen). Five of the six segments are of the Soft Machine, with particularly exciting clips of the band in their early psychedelic phase performing "I Should've Known" and "We Know What You Mean" live in September 1967 on Dutch TV, with accompanying psychedelic graphics and grooved-out dancers. (Not that you'll necessarily know the source from viewing this; unfortunately there's no documentation for when and where the material on the DVD was filmed and broadcast.) A briefer scene of the band circa 1967 (with Daevid Allen in the lineup), apparently rehearsing in a house with some girlfriends in tow, seems to come from an Italian television program. There's a color clip, probably from the very early '70s, of the post-Ayers lineup playing instrumental prog rock-jazz fusion, with Wyatt still on drums. The dullest segment is probably the single Soft Machine performance here by a post-Wyatt aggregation of the band in the early-to-mid-'70s, playing long instrumental fusion pieces (in color). The Dutch TV clips are unnecessarily repeated in a mildly varying form before the single Wyatt segment. But that segment -- an hour-long black-and-white documentary from the late 1990s, Little Red Robin Hood -- takes about half the running time, and it's a quite worthwhile one, including as it does interviews with Wyatt and numerous high-profile associates and collaborators, such as Brian Eno, Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, Phil Manzanera, Lol Coxhill, Carla Bley, Hugh Hopper, and Noel Redding. It does jump around chronologically quite a bit, as well as inserting many arty gray shots of England, and some might wish there were more scenes of talking heads or music (and few vintage clips are employed). Of course if all the footage on this disc could be released legitimately and in better quality, it would be far preferable to this minimally packaged DVD. But as Wyatt's uncommercial cult status makes such an endeavor far from a sure thing, this may be the best such item fans can expect.
Pete Townshend, Wild Action: Solo Live at London Roundhouse April 14, 1974 [bootleg] (Fire Power). Though Pete Townshend had already recorded as a solo artist (on his debut solo album Who Came First and as a contributor to limited-edition records affiliated with Meher Baba), this April 1974 show was his first actual solo concert. While it's wholeheartedly recommended to serious Who/Townshend fans for its sheer historical value, this bootleg is problematic as both a performance and a recording. First, the sound quality, though not bad and reasonably listenable, is far from perfect, sounding somewhere between a subpar soundboard and a good audience recording. Second, the one-man-band setup of this gig wasn't conducive to either the best sound or the best performance of the material, with Townshend playing his guitars (electric and acoustic) and clavinet to the accompaniment of a rhythm box and pre-recorded tapes. Particularly on the numbers where he plays electric guitars, the guitar is too dirty and distorted, as well as edging into the clarity of the vocals; the use of backing tracks and the rhythm box, too, gives a slight sense of artificiality to some of the proceedings. Arguably he might have been better off doing the whole thing on solo acoustic guitar, though the "unplugged" concept didn't really exist back in the mid-1970s. All those serious reservations taken into account, it's still interesting to hear him do solo versions of numerous Who classics -- including "The Seeker," "Substitute," "Happy Jack," "Pinball Wizard," "My Generation," "Magic Bus," and the more obscure "Tattoo"-- with commendable passion. Even more interesting, however, is the presence of several songs Townshend and the Who hadn't recorded, including covers of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country," Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" and "Going to New York," and, most unexpectedly of all, Veronique Sanson's "Amoureuse." Though the sleeve lists "I'm a Man" as one of the tracks, it's not a cover of the Bo Diddley classic, but something even more interesting: the quirky, proto-feminist Townshend original "Join My Gang," which had been covered on an obscure 1966 single by Oscar, though the Who never put out a version of their own. As another odd sidelight, there's also a segment where Townshend plays tapes of early demos of "My Generation" (pre-dating the Who's faster version) to the audience, though it would be better to hear these as sourced from the tapes themselves, rather than as a tape of these played over speakers to a concert audience.
Various Artists, The Best of the Johnny Cash Show [DVD] [bootleg] (K&M). Though Johnny Cash was a country music superstar, it's often not realized that his network TV variety show of the late 1960s and early 1970s often featured rock music. This bootleg DVD may be unauthorized, but the concept is excellent: a compilation of almost two hours of clips of guest spots on The Johnny Cash Show by rock stars (though somehow a segment with Roy Clark slips into the running order). And the roster is a real good one, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Derek & the Dominos, the Monkees (minus Peter Tork), the Guess Who, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Jose Feliciano, Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Wonder, Joe South, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Certainly some of these are obviously lip-synced, or sung to a pre-recorded backing track. But it's of major historical interest at the very least, and some of the performances are indeed very good, with Derek & the Dominos and Mitchell coming off best. The Dylan clips are famous as being among his few filmed appearances of the time, though his actual performances (some with Cash) are only adequate. The segments with Mitchell are surprisingly numerous, including several original songs (among them "Both Sides Now"), apparently filmed at various different times, as well as surprising Mitchell-Cash duets on "Long Black Veil," "I Still Miss Someone," and Dylan's "Girl from the North Country." In fact, there are a number of odd, you'll-never-believe-this-actually-happened combinations of Cash and various guests, whether it's Johnny dueting with Orbison on "Pretty Woman"; Feliciano jamming with Perkins and Merle Travis; or Cash and Perkins taking the stage with Eric Clapton (then fronting Derek & the Dominos). Cash himself is not featured on solo spots, though he's often present as an emcee or a duet partner, as well as sparring with Wonder in a bizarre sequence where Johnny sing-cues shots demonstrating Stevie's versatility on keyboards, harmonica, and drums. The image quality (all in color) is very good, and though perhaps it might be a bit better should this have been a legitimate release, by bootleg DVD standards it's exceptional.
Various Artists, Rocksteady Soul: The Original Cool Sound of Duke Reid's Treasure Isle (Metro). Like its competitor Studio One, Treasure Isle made so much classic early reggae that it's difficult to select the best various-artists Treasure Isle anthology, or indeed to assemble a wholly representative single-CD Treasure Isle compilation. If you're going to either stick or start with just one Treasure Isle collection, though, this 21-song disc is certainly an excellent one. Dates aren't given for most of the tracks (which is hardly unique among reggae comps), but certainly most of this comes from the circa 1966-70 era in which rocksteady was in its prime, though one of the numbers, Dennis Alcapone & Lizzy's "Ba Ba Ri Ba Skank," brings its span all the way up to 1973. Rocksteady is the dominant style here -- indeed, Alton Ellis' classic song that gave the music its name, "Rock Steady," is the first track. Some other big names in early reggae are found here, like John Holt , U-Roy, the Paragons (in fact both the Paragons and U-Roy do the Holt composition "Wear You to the Ball" here), the Melodians, and Phyllis Dillon (whose cover of "Perfidia" is superb). It's a very consistent, engaging listen, frothing over with heartbreaking harmonies, sultry rhythms, and soulful tunes. In fact, in feel it's pretty close to listening to a collection of classic '60s soul ballads, though the slow-rocking rhythms, breeze-blown vocals, and chunky instrumental accents give it a flavor all its own. Reggae would acquire more toughness and lyrical sophistication when it evolved out of rocksteady, and you can hear hints of the coming revolution here and there on some of this material, like Hopeton Lewis' "Boom Shaka Lacka" and Ellis' rude boy-directed "Cry Tough." But arguably reggae music was never as melodious and lovely as it was during the era on which this CD focuses, and certainly this disc contains many fine examples that could be used to support such a thesis.
ALBUM REVIEWS: A SELECTION OF RECENT RELEASES, SPRING 2004:
Ace of Cups, It's Bad For You But Buy It! (Big Beat). The Ace of Cups never released a record, but this 73-minute CD was compiled from late-'60s "rehearsals, demos, TV soundstages, and in-concert tapes," according to the liner notes. (Unfortunately no dates are given for any of the tracks, except the 1966 Denise & Company single "Boy, What'll You Do Then," a garage rock rarity with future Ace of Cups member Denise Kaufman on lead vocals.) It might not be fair to judge a band on recordings that were not originally intended for wide circulation, and did not benefit from truly professional studio production (though the fidelity's fine). However, simply to judge the music that's here, it's frankly pretty erratic, and not a convincing argument that they might have developed into a first-rate band had they gotten a real record deal. Rawness is not always a bad thing, but at its most raw -- particularly on the bluesy garage rockers -- the group often teeter on the line of sloppy amateurism. There's some promise here in some of the unusual song construction -- "Glue" detours into a commercial satirizing consumerism mid-song, and other tunes unpredictably change tempo and stretch out into long instrumental sections -- and in some of the eerie harmonies and melodies, particularly on the fragile tunes like "Music," "Simplicity," and "Taste of One." There's also some plain-speaking toughness reflective of a middle-class generation starting to truly express what was on their mind in popular music, somewhat reminiscent of the most straightforward blues-rockers by a San Francisco band that slightly preceded them, the Great Society. There's also a cool if not quite totally polished rock vocal cover of Mongo Santamaria's jazz classic "Afro Blue," and some interesting gospel-rock fusion of sorts in the most mature-sounding compositions; it's easy to imagine that the group might have headed in that direction had they started to record around 1970. But much of this is interesting, off-kilter ideas in search of some honing. It's admirably eclectic, yet doesn't fully cohere into a satisfying whole; the songwriting and tunes are unusual, but not really compelling; and there's usually a lack of tightness in both the playing and singing, like that of a group that haven't totally mastered their skills (or timing). For all that, as a reflection of the loose genre-blending ethos gathering currency in San Francisco psychedelic rock in the late 1960s, it's not a bad document. And it's certainly well-documented here, the accompanying 20-page booklet including detailed quotes from all five band members.
The Beatles, Around the World [DVD] (RBC Entertainment). On April 28, 1964, the Beatles played on and hosted an hour-long British television special titled Around the Beatles that hasn't been too easy to see since its original broadcast. This not-wholly-kosher-looking DVD contains not only the original special, but also a film of their first American concert in Washington, DC in February 1964, as well as a film of one of their performances in Tokyo in mid-1966. It's the Around the Beatles portion that commands the most attention, though, both because of its relative rarity, and because it was one of the best rock'n'roll television programs of its time, due to the performances of both the Beatles and numerous guests. The Beatles themselves cited Around the Beatles as their favorite television appearance during the filming of what became Let It Be, and it's easy to see why: they, the other artists, and the audience seem to be having a blast. The Beatles, it should be noted, only take the stage to play music for the extended finale, most of the program being devoted to other British Invasion performers, often introduced with a few words by the Fab Four.
Admittedly the special does get off to something of a slow start with an extended, not-too-funny sketch satirizing a scene in Midsummer Night's Dream, the Beatles taking four different parts from Shakespeare's play. After that, though, it's nonstop rock'n'roll, filmed on a soundstage surrounded by tiers of catwalks, the audience starting off at a fevered pitch and staying there. True, the other acts -- Cilla Black, P.J. Proby, Sounds Incorporated, Millie Small, Long John Baldry, and the Vernons Girls -- might be something of a B-team of the British Invasion. But in a way, that makes it even more interesting, as relatively little footage of these artists has been seen (particularly in the US). And all of them perform with admirable, sometimes frenetic energy, Cilla Black doing both her biggest American hit ("You're My World") and a cover of "Heat Wave"; a weirdly awkward Baldry tugging at his suit as if he's trying to wiggle out of an oversized dog collar; and Millie Small doing her global megasmash "My Boy Lollipop." The songs follow each other with barely (or no) pause for breath, leading up to the finale where the Beatles finally hit the stage, and the kids in the audience really raise the roof. Although this isn't a live performance, it was mimed to a soundtrack recorded specifically for the show, meaning that it's not the versions you hear on the records, making for a pretty credible emulation of a genuinely live program. And the Beatles' segment is great, including "Roll Over Beethoven," "Long Tall Sally," "Twist and Shout," "I Wanna Be Your Man," a medley of excerpts from "Love Me Do"/"Please Please Me"/"From Me to You"/"She Loves You"/"I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Can't Buy Me Love," and a rip-roaring cover of the Isley Brothers' "Shout" to close the program (although the Beatles never recorded "Shout" in the studio, this particular version found official release in the 1990s on Anthology 1).
As for the other items on the DVD, the film of the February 1964 Washington, DC concert -- originally broadcast in cinemas on closed-circuit television in March 1964 -- is also both enjoyable and historically valuable, even if the image quality and audio fidelity aren't the greatest. Most of the concert is caught on celluloid in a low-budget, no-frills fashion, though unfortunately it cuts off in the middle of the next-to-last song, "Twist and Shout" (omitting the finale, "Long Tall Sally," altogether). However, little other footage of the Beatles so palpably captures the frenzy of Beatlemania, both in the screaming audience and the exuberant onstage group, though they had to cope with primitive, sometimes malfunctioning equipment. It's especially amusing to watch Ringo and roadies continually turning the drum set around the boxing ring-cum-stage so that everyone in the audience could get at least a few minutes of facing the Beatles straight-on. Most of the group's most famous early songs are played with dynamic force, including "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Please Please Me," "She Loves You," and "All My Loving."
In contrast the Tokyo film is disappointing -- not so much for the performance of the Beatles (though it's not up to the level of the other two parts of the disc) as a substandard transfer to DVD. Filmed in color for Japanese television, this program has long made the rounds on bootleg videos in much better image quality. Certainly seeing it here is better than not seeing at all, as the Beatles are caught at a different phase of their career doing mostly different material, all the way up to "Paperback Writer." The enthusiasm of their performance -- and ability to keep on key and in time -- was lagging a bit as they entered their final touring days, though Paul McCartney at least seems as fired-up as ever. But if you do want to see this, you should really search for a better copy. (In fact, there are two Tokyo shows in circulation -- the one on this DVD is known as the "light suits" version for their clothing, to differentiate it from the other performance, known as the "dark suits" Tokyo show.) In fact, it's likely that should an official release of all three components of this disc be arranged, the image quality of the transfer will be appreciably better for all the films, if the best available copies are scrounged for copying. The Around the World and Washington concert portions, though, don't suffer nearly as much as the Tokyo one -- Around the World in particular isn't far from as good as you'll get considering the age and obscurity of the source material -- and as of this 2003 release, it was the best you could get on DVD if you wanted to see these films.
The Belfast Gypsies, Them Belfast Gypsies (Rev-Ola). The Belfast Gypsies' sole album was a very credible blast of British Invasion-styled R&B-rock, though it sounded slightly out of date by the time it was issued in 1967, about a year after it was recorded. Producer Kim Fowley gives this rough-hewn R&B a manic, freaky edge on cuts like "People, Let's Freak Out," "Suicide Song," and "Secret Police." The Them-like atmosphere is heightened by singer Jackie McAuley, who's very much a Van Morrison-style vocalist ("Gloria's Dream" is a blatant cop of "Gloria"), though not in Morrison's league. Still, it's quite a solid effort, McAuley's organ pacing the band's brittle rock/R&B, with some decent originals and a diverse assortment of imaginative covers, ranging from Donovan to traditional folk to a tongue-in-cheek classical instrumental. Their tense version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is one of the greatest obscure Dylan covers, and the magnificent harmonica on "Midnight Train" is a highlight. In 2003, it was reissued on CD by Rev-Ola with six bonus tracks, five of them barely different EP and 45 mixes of songs from the original LP (though the French EP mix of "Midnight Train" seems to straighten out a varispeed flaw that had afflicted previous pressings). The other bonus track (and sole cut not to have appeared on the original LP), "The Gorilla," is a generic soul-rock instrumental with prominent organ that appeared on a French EP. Note, though, that while that recording did originally appear on a Belfast Gypsies release, it's not actually the Belfast Gypsies performing on the track, which was likely done by some or all members of Shotgun Express (particularly as two of them, including keyboardist Peter Bardens, shared in the songwriting credits).
The Doors, Boot Yer Butt! The Doors Bootlegs (Rhino Handmade). Despite the bald-faced references to bootlegs in the title, this is a totally legit four-CD box set release of live 1967-70 Doors from numerous shows, all of it previously unissued. A la Frank Zappa before them, the surviving Doors here took an opportunity to beat the bootleggers at their own game, releasing material that's circulated on various unavailable live tapes, though putting it in better packaging and (of course) getting a piece of the retail action themselves. All that should be good news for Doors fans, and it kinda is, but the cliched warning "for fans only" applies doubly or triply so to this particular package. For the sound quality here really <I>is</I> of bootleg standard, and not good bootleg standard. Virtually all of it sounds like it came from hissy audience tapes, and the best remastering technology in the world can't make it sound much better than it does on actual under-the-counter boots. Only hardcore devotees are going to want to spring for the set, and even hardcore devotees are going to find it tough to play for repeated pleasure.
All that noted, for the very serious fan-verging-on-scholar, this does offer a lot of unusual live performances, the excerpts spanning the very first known live recordings of the band (on March 4, 1967 at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco) to their second-to-last show with Jim Morrison (on December 11, 1970 in Dallas). Along the way, you get quite a number of songs that don't surface in many live versions on Doors bootlegs, like "Wild Child," "Spanish Caravan," "Who Scared You?," "Blue Sunday," "People Are Strange," and (from the 1970 Dallas concert) several songs from the then-yet-to-be-released L.A. Woman album. There are also a bunch of covers the Doors never put on their albums, including "Little Red Rooster," "I'm a Man," "Money," "Carol," "Rock Me," "Mystery Train," and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," though truth to tell these are generally pretty dire. There are also some pretty offbeat arrangements of more familiar standards, like a "Break on Through" from 1968 with Ray Manzarek subbing for an indisposed Jim Morrison on lead vocals, and a 20-minute "Light My Fire" from 1970 in which Morrison briefly intersperses bits from "Fever" and the Doors' own "Love Hides" in the instrumental break (which also features brief quotes from "My Favorite Things" and "Eleanor Rigby" in Robbie Krieger's guitar solo). And finally, there's some between song-raps as well, including a couple excerpts of such from the infamous March 1969 concert in Miami that eventually dragged Morrison through the courts on charges of lewd public behavior.
Nevertheless, it's often a challenge to cut through the sonic fog to appreciate the tracks to their fullest, though the performances are largely good to excellent. Morrison's vocals in particular often suffer from hollow faintness in the mix, and though two or three times the fidelity improves to verge on decent (the August 1968 "Wild Child," the September 1969 "The Crystal Ship"), those prove to be false alarms, the quality immediately slipping back into cardboard sludge. That's too bad: even if the sound quality was 80-90% of official release standard, it would be an extremely enjoyable survey of live Doors. Even on the 1970 Dallas show -- from an era usually portrayed as a juncture when the band and Morrison were struggling to keep the ship afloat (or, more properly, the band were struggling to keep Morrison afloat) -- they sound vital, running through "Love Her Madly," "The Changeling," and "L.A. Woman" with real intensity, in arrangements differing slightly but notably from the familiar studio versions. Also, considering how much better-sounding stuff exists on isolated bootlegs like those of their March 1967 shows at the Matrix in San Francisco and their June 1970 concert in Seattle, the selection seems to be quirkily perverse, as if some of the better-sounding boots were deliberately avoided. At least it's augmented by decent liner notes featuring comments by Krieger on many of the tracks, and doesn't skimp on quantity at all, adding up to five hours of music.
Noel Harrison, Life Is a Dream (Rhino Handmade). Because he's far better known in the US as an actor than a singer, some might be disposed to view this 26-track compilation of Harrison's 1967-70 recordings as celebrity vocal kitsch. It's not brilliant stuff, no, but it's far worthier (or at least more inoffensive) than many might suspect. First, Harrison did start off as a singer-guitarist long before making his name as an actor, so he did know something about singing a tune and facing the right way into a microphone. Second, he had decent taste in cover material, usually going for folk-rock singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen (who had yet to record when Harrison covered "Suzanne" for a small hit in 1967), Donovan, Arlo Guthrie, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, David Cohen (aka David Blue, whose "In Your Childhood," included here, was never released by Cohen/Blue himself), Bob Lind, and Tom Paxton. And he was supported on this light pop-folk-rock by many of the best Hollywood session musicians of the time, including James Burton, Joe Osborn, Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Earl Palmer, Larry Knechtel, and Bruce Langhorne. He had an ingratiating if modest, slight way with a tune (albeit with a touch of British theatricality and a thin voice that strained to keep level on the high notes), also writing a few songs of his own, sometimes in a style heavily influenced by Donovan (as on "Santa Monica Pier" and "Leitch on the Beach"). Standing a bit above the breezy, mild norm of his Reprise work were "Sign of the Queen," a cover of a Brewer & Shipley composition with psychedelic sitar and reversed cymbal; his self-penned, little-noticed contribution to the late-'60s back-to-basics movement sweeping through folk-rock, "The Great Electric Experiment Is Over"; and what must have been the only cover of Joni Mitchell's "Nathan La Franeer" from that time period. Drawing from his Collage, Santa Monica Pier, and The Great Electric Experiment Is Over LPs, this disc also adds four songs from non-LP singles, the UK 1969 single "Sparrow"/"California Weekend," and previously unissued covers of Lightfoot's "Mountains and Marianne" and Baker Knight's "Another Virgin Spring." (A radio promo ad for Santa Monica Pier and an unidentified music hall-ish outtake also play as unlisted bonus tracks.) His own likable, non-self-aggrandizing liner notes, complete with comments on every song, form another plus.
Lee Hazlewood, Cowboy in Sweden [DVD] (Lee Hazlewood). While this DVD-R of Lee Hazlewood's 1970 Swedish TV special Cowboy in Sweden is almost certainly unauthorized, it does bear a catalog number and possibly a label name ("Lee Hazlewood" appears in tiny lettering on the spine), and it can be found in specialized retail outlets. Directed by Swedish filmmaker Torbjorn Axelman, this 52-minute program was essentially a video complement to Hazlewood's 1970 album Cowboy in Sweden. Much in the manner of his old cohort Nancy Sinatra's late-1960s TV special Movin' with Nancy (in which Hazlewood appeared), it's a string of early music videos in which Lee mimes many of the songs from the LP. We see Hazlewood riding a horse through the Swedish countryside; Lee singing to close-up shots of ambling polar bears; Lee wearing snowshoes, to emphasize that yes, it can get real cold up there in Sweden; Lee in vignette-scenarios where he breaks up with women; etc. Occasionally Hazlewood sticks in some cornball folksy on-screen spoken narration about Swedish life. While there's a hokey dated quality, it's fun viewing, partially for that very reason, but more because the songs are actually pretty good combinations of low-rent Johnny Cash folk-country, pop, and a bit of rock. In fact Hazlewood runs through every song from Cowboy in Sweden over the course of the special, including standouts like "What's More I Don't Need Her," "The Night Before," "No Train to Stockholm," "Forget Marie," "Vem Kan Segla," and "Leather & Lace" (the last two of those duets with Swedish pop singer Nina Lizell). As a blast from the then-recent past, there's also a rendition of the Native American narrative "The Nights," which he'd put on a 1967 album. To break up the Hazlewood content, there are also song-apiece guest turns by his occasional duet partner Suzi Jane Hokum and three obscure soul-pop-rock groups of the period: the George Baker Selection (who do their hit "Little Green Bag"), Steve Rowland & the Family Dogg, and Rumplestiltskin. Unfortunately the image quality, while watchable without difficulty, is a little below-par, as this was obviously taken from a multi-generation-down-the-line copy, raising hopes that eventually a legitimate DVD release will appear that's generated from a better print. There are no extra features (this is a bootleg, after all), but at least there's a track selection option if you want to go right to specific song-scenes.
Jade, Fly on Strangewings (Lightning Tree). While Jade's only album is decent early-'70s British folk-rock, its similarity to the material that Sandy Denny sang lead on with Fairport Convention is so evident that it's rather unnerving. Marian Segal sounded more like Denny than any other British folk-rock singer of the time did, and the songs mixed rock music, more traditional British Isles folk melodic and lyrical elements, and stirring contemporary rock singer-songwriting in much the same way that Fairport did in their What We Did on Our Holidays and Unhalfbricking era. The differences? Well, Jade had a little more of a pop influence than Fairport, occasionally using orchestration, and less of a traditional folk one, never updating trad folk tunes with rock arrangements, as Fairport sometimes did. And of course where Fairport split up the lead vocals among several members, Marian Segal takes almost all of them here, though there are a good amount of vocal harmonies that, again, can't fail but to recall early Fairport. The title track in particular can't fail but to recall Sandy Denny's composition "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." Ultimately the songs, singing, and arrangements don't have as much of an edge as Fairport Convention, and Jade can't help but sound derivative, though they're good at what they do. The inevitable comparisons recede a bit on some songs, such as "Mayfly," with its gallivanting, almost country feel; "Bad Magic," which seems Donovan-influenced with its harpsichord and loosey-goosey blues-rock feel; "Away from the Family," a nod in the direction of the Band; and "Mrs. Adams," which more than any other track is like a modernized old British folk song. The 2003 CD reissue adds two bonus cuts -- covers of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind" -- from an unreleased 1971 single, as well as some Chicago radio ads for some local Jade gigs and lengthy historical liner notes by Marianne Segal (nee Marian Segal) herself.
Kaleidoscope, Pulsating Dream: The Epic Recordings (Acadia). It's a little surprising that a cult band like Kaleidoscope would get honored with an all-out three-CD set, considering the limited market. But here it is, and it certainly leaves no stone unturned, including the entire recorded output of the band while they were on Epic. That essentially covers the entire period of interest to most fans, spanning the band's formation to their breakup in the early 1970s (though they subsequently reunited for some albums that aren't represented here). In addition to everything from their albums Side Trips, A Beacon from Mars, Incredible, and Bernice, it has quite a few tracks that only showed up on non-LP singles or as outtakes on posthumous compilations. And some of those extras aren't even easily found on Kaleidoscope compilations, namely the old-timey psychedelia of the early B-side "Little Orphan Nannie" and the less impressive, heavily bluesy 1968 B-side "Just a Taste." The problem with this compilation is not so much to do with the music as whether it might be suitable for either the completist or neophyte. The completist might well already have virtually all of this on the albums and scattered comps, and resent having to fork out for a three-CD set just to get those two B-sides; the neophyte might find it way too much to start (and end) with, both in length and expense. But -- if you want the complete works of Kaleidoscope in their first and best incarnation, it's all here, down to the crazy psychedelic soul single they did with Larry Williams and Johnny "Guitar" Watson, "Nobody." It's also well annotated, and contains plenty of exhilarating psychedelic world fusion highs, though the band's incredibly eclectic scope means there are some turkeys as well. Plus, some of those non-LP items aren't mere frivolities -- the B-side "Rampe, Rampe," for instance, is a superb Greek-like instrumental that winds itself up into a frenzy.
The Lords, Singles, Hits & Raritaten (Bear Family). Although this 29-song compilation was the best Lords CD to have hit the market at the time of its release in 2001, it's not without its demerits. The Lords' best period by far was 1964-66, and although the first half of this disc covers highlights of that time reasonably well, there's a fair bit of tough-to-bear rock'n'roll-cum-German drinking oom-pah music in the 1967-69 portion. Still, among the early stuff are some fine (if eccentric), heavily accented covers of both rock'n'roll tunes and rocked-up folk and pop standards. The 1966 singles "What They Gonna Do" and "Don't Mince Matter" highlighted their too-infrequent forays into tough original British mod-influenced rock, and are as good as almost anything on the internationally-minded Nuggets II box set (which, inexplicably, has nothing by the Lords). And as hard as it is to admit for those of us put off by crummy later drinkalong singles like "Have a Drink on Me," "John Brown's Body," and "Gloryland" (all on this disc, unfortunately), the Lords did cut some good stuff in the late 1960s that's included here. "Rain Dreams" is outstanding Who-derived mod rock; "Fire" is cool, if weird, disquieting horn rock-psychedelia; "The World Is Falling Down" a nearly demented slice of upbeat pop-psych with mordant lyrics; and poppier tunes like "Gypsy Boy" and "And at Night" have their good points. As for the rarities mentioned in the title, there are Italian versions of "Greensleeves" (with a flatulently produced backing track different, and inferior, to that on the English-sung original) and "Gloryland," neither of them exactly essential listening, though the "Five or Six" Pepsi commercial from '69 (based around the riff from Mel Torme's "Comin' Home Baby") is quite hip. Nonetheless, this does omit numerous worthwhile early B-sides (the exclusion of "No One Knows," one of their very best mod-ish outings , particularly hurts) and LP tracks; there's certainly room for a more thorough retrospective of the band's early years, if Bear Family or someone else is up for it. Incidentally, this album might also show up under another title listed on the sleeve, Smash...! Boom...! Bang...!: The 60s Anthology; the 56-page booklet of liner notes has abundant text with quotes and vintage group photos and picture sleeves, though unfortunately for English speakers, it's all in German.
Peter, Paul & Mary, Carry It On (Warner Brothers/Rhino). Peter, Paul & Mary's multi-decade career is for the most part well summarized, and certainly extremely well packaged, on this four-CD, 90-track box set. As with many such boxes, there's too much on here if you're not a devoted fan, and too much in particular from their post-early-1970s recordings, which take up all of disc four. But it does, of course, have all of their '60s hits, along with many of their better album tracks. Not all of those album tracks are good, but at the very least these show their willingness to take on an extraordinarily wide range of material, from traditional folk songs and children's tunes to covers of emerging songwriters like Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, Laura Nyro, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, and Tom Paxton, sometimes venturing into soft folk-rock. You could, in fact, make something of a secondary greatest hits CD from the best of those tracks that would be almost as good as their actual greatest hits CD, some of those standout songs being Nyro's "And When I Die" (released in mid-1966, when Nyro was virtually unknown), "Early in the Morning," "500 Miles," "The Song Is Love," Reverend Gary Davis' "If I Had My Way," Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Because All Men Are Brothers" (recorded with Dave Brubeck), and Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Others, unfortunately, are only likely to be appreciated by completists, like Noel Stookey's long comedy routine "Paultalk."
As far as the kind of rarities routinely thrown on box sets to entice collectors, there are a fair number, most of them worth hearing, though none of them are among their more essential work. These include a previously unreleased cover of Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In," from the 1965 Newport Folk Festival; a previously unissued version of the traditional tune "Come and Go With Me," recorded live at the White House in 1964; a single-only 1966 version of "The Cruel War," with strings; "Il Faut Qu'il Vienne Le Temps (If I Were Free)," from a French EP; the single version of "Hurry Sundown," minus the horn overdubs of the LP version; three tracks from a 1967 Japanese live album; the live single version of "Day Is Done"; and a few early-'70s solo cuts by Peter Yarrow, Noel Stookey, and Mary Travers, the standout among these being Travers' orchestrated art-songish "Conscientious Objector (I Shall Die)." There are also four bonus tracks -- placed, annoyingly, as songs that precede the official first songs of each CD, meaning you have to go to the beginning of song one and press the reverse button to access them -- predating the trio's recording deal. None of these are that good, but they have considerable historical interest, including a 1960 audition tape of Travers doing "Single Girl" (to be re-recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary on In Concert a few years later); Yarrow doing "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?" live in 1958; Noel Stookey & the Corsairs on their 1956 single "Goodbye Baby," where it sounds like they can't decide whether they're playing rock'n'roll or jazz; and a 1960 tape of Peter, Paul & Mary singing "Canaan Land," recorded at Stookey's apartment.
The biggest extra, though, is a bonus DVD disc included with the box, featuring eight songs from various phases of their career. The first five of those clips, spanning 1963-70, are quite good, including the group singing "If I Had a Hammer" during their famous appearance at the 1963 March on Washington; a 1966 TV clip of "Jane, Jane"; a vibrant '69 rendition of "If I Had My Way," from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour; and a '69 broadcast of "Leaving on a Jet Plane," on which they're joined by the song's author, John Denver. (The three other DVD clips, spanning 1986-2002, are unfortunately not nearly as fun.) The 86-page bound-in booklet is mighty impressive too, jam-packed with vintage photos, historical essays, and appreciative tributes from numerous celebrities, from John Kerry and Bill Cosby to Studs Terkel and Coretta Scott King.
Pink Floyd, Live at Pompeii: The Director's Cut [DVD] (Hip-O). Originally released as an hour-long concert film, Live at Pompeii was soon expanded to about an hour-and-a-half with the insertion of footage of interviews and shots of Pink Floyd working in the studio (as Dark Side of the Moon was taking shape). In its elongated hour-and-a-half version -- the one that forms the main feature of this DVD -- Live at Pompeii is art rock in general, and Pink Floyd in particular, at both its grandest and most pretentious. The group's performance of some of its most renowned material from the late 1960s and early 1970s -- live, effects and all, with first-rate cinematography -- in an empty amphitheater in Pompeii in 1971 was undeniably impressive. Its embellishment with footage from Pompeii and exploding volcanoes might strike some as ostentatious, though others might see at as appropriately far-out imagery to accompany the band's eerie space rock. This DVD, issued in 2003, presents the director's cut, and while no exact specifics are offered in the packaging, it seems quite similar to the expanded version of the film that had circulated in cinemas and home video for years, with the addition of some more contemporary non-Floyd space'n'effects shots. Even if you've seen the prior version and don't particularly care about the new material too much, however, the DVD package is extremely impressive. In addition to the director's cut, it also presents the original hour-long concert film, which focuses mostly on the band's performance (though the loss of the studio/interview sequences does make it inferior to the longer version). There's also an interesting 20-minute interview with director Adrian Maben about the film, in which he talks knowledgeably about the film's conception and realization, noting that Pompeii was an especially effective setting in part because the huge open spaces and large stone structures gave the music a powerful depth. A bunch of other marginal but nifty extra features gild the lily too, including a couple dozen photos from the film, a basic history of Pompeii, movie posters, period Pink Floyd press articles, and even cover reproductions of bootlegs of the music. And should you have a Pink Floyd friend whose first language isn't English -- not that much of a longshot, considering the group's immense global popularity -- it's also formatted for use and subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Mandarin, and French.
The Rolling Stones, Down the Road Apiece [bootleg] (Bad Wizard). As bootlegs go, this is an admirably ambitious production: two 75-minute CDs almost wholly devoted to early live Rolling Stones, from 1961 to 1967. And we do mean live here: there are no BBC or TV performances, just live un-mimed shows before real screaming audiences, with a couple of exceptions. So you get their brief but lively 1964-65 NME Pollwinners Concerts; their show at the Paris Olympia in April 1965; nine songs from a show in Melbourne, Australia in February 1966; eight from another Paris Olympia gig, in March 1966; a solitary song from their July 1966 concert in Honolulu; and, most interesting of all, a good chunk of yet another Paris Olympia gig in April 1967. As for the tracks from March 1965, at a glance you might dismiss these as the long-officially-available material from their UK Got Live if You Want It! EP, but no: although all the songs from that EP are indeed here, they're joined by unreleased live versions of "Down the Road Apiece," "Time Is on My Side," and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," evidently recorded at the same time. Topping off the set are two lo-fi songs from 1961 rehearsals (parts of which have appeared on various boots) by an embryonic lineup of the group -- though the '61 version of "Around and Around" is just a fragment -- and a 1964 studio recording of "Susie Q" that seems identical to the one they released officially that year, though in far worse quality.
True, the sound on most of this isn't great: the sound balance is nearly always below usual release-quality standard, the performances are unrelentingly energetic but sometimes out of time and out of tune, and the teen screams often threaten to overwhelm the band. Even with all that taken into account, though, the fidelity is actually pretty good for unreleased mid-1960s big-star rock'n'roll; sometimes rough, but sometimes downright good, and rarely difficult to listen to. More importantly, this is a valuable aural snapshot of the early Rolling Stones as they sounded live, playing both R&B covers and early Jagger-Richards hits like "The Last Time," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Get Off of My Cloud," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Paint It Black," "Mother's Little Helper," "Play with Fire," and "Lady Jane." There are some surprises along the way, too: a cover of Bo Diddley's "Hey! Crawdaddy" (originally titled "Craw-Dad" when Diddley did it, and which the Stones never recorded for official release) from their Paris 1965 show, "That's How Strong My Love Is" from Australia 1966, medleys of "Get Off of My Cloud"/"Yesterday's Papers" and "Goin' Home"/"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" from Paris 1967, and the then-new hits "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend the Night Together," also from Paris '67.
Yes, at times there are embarrassing slip-ups. In an almost too-perfect moment worthy of Spinal Tap, an aggressive Australian announcer touting shirts from a program sponsor blathers over the last part of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" -- a song that, of course, had Mick Jagger complaining in no uncertain terms about advertising men telling him how white his shirts can be. The band and Jagger slip badly out of time with each other (no doubt due to struggling to hear themselves over the crowd) during the Paris '67 "19th Nervous Breakdown," and while it's admirable that "Ruby Tuesday" was replicated onstage with the recorder part used in the studio version (presumably also played here by Brian Jones), it also has trouble getting things right. The fidelity at times varies widely, sometimes within the same show, so much so that at times one wonders whether all of the material listed for certain concerts really came from the same specified gigs. And fragments of some songs are cut off, particularly and frustratingly from the 1967 Paris show, making one wonder if these were copied off a radio or TV broadcast that itself never taped the entire performance. Still -- this is the Stones, and they do play raucously and enjoyably, sometimes hitting truly excellent peaks, as on the '67 "Paint It Black" and the '65 NME Pollwinners Concert "Around and Around." If only this had their 1966 Honolulu show (the entirety of which has circulated elsewhere), it would be a pretty comprehensive document of the Brian Jones-era unreleased Rolling Stones in concert.
Sharon Tandy, You Gotta Believe It's...Sharon Tandy (Big Beat). This 26-track compilation is a virtually complete collection of the 1965-69 material this South African singer cut during her period as a British resident, including 17 songs from her 1966-69 Atlantic singles (one of them cut as half of the duo of Tony & Tandy); her two 1965 Pye singles; and five previously unreleased tunes she cut at Stax in Memphis in 1966. (Unfortunately her sole Mercury single, from 1966, was unavailable for licensing.) Tandy was a blue-eyed soul singer rather in the mold of Dusty Springfield, both in terms of her voice and her versatility, blending various shades of soul, British pop, and even some tinges of mod-psychedelia. Her voice wasn't as exceptional as Springfield's, and she didn't record songs that were as memorable, though a couple would have been worthy hits. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable anthology of a worthwhile if minor performer, hitting its peak on a couple of songs on which she's backed by British mod band Fleur de Lys, "Hold On" (galvanizing soul-freakbeat) and "Daughter of the Sun" (on which she plays the part of something like a psychedelic witch). That's an avenue that, arguably, Tandy should have pursued further, both because she was good at singing harder soul-rock, and because it might have distinguished her from the numerous sub-Springfield woman '60s pop-rock-soul singers in the British market. There are some other standout tracks here, though, like the straight Stax-like soul of "I Can't Get Over It"; the gentler, fully produced mid-'60s dramatic orchestrated pop of "Perhaps Not Forever" and "Hurtin' Me"; the sexy dance soul of "Hurry Hurry Choo Choo"; the very Sandie Shaw-like "The Way She Looks At You"'; her fine, graceful cover of Lorraine Ellison's soul classic "Stay With Me"; and her cover of the Bee Gees' "World." Stax Records collectors might want to note that Booker T. & the MGs, Isaac Hayes, and the Memphis Horns back Tandy on seven of these tracks (the five 1966 outtakes and the single "I Can't Get Over It"/"Toe Hold"), and that one of those outtakes, "One Way Street," is an Isaac Hayes-David Porter composition that doesn't seem to have been recorded by anyone else. The disc is accompanied by voluminous liner notes, including detailed reminiscing by Tandy herself.
Tony, Caro & John, All on the First Day (Normal/Shadoks). All on the First Day was extremely Incredible String Band-influenced in its minimal folk-rock, particularly in Tony Dore's vocals. While it might be a lot smaller in the range of instruments and thinner in depth of production than the old Incredible String Band records, it's also mighty more tuneful and accessible to conventional pop ears. The threesome have a good knack for catchy tunes with minor chords aplenty, without any of the wavering drone-grate categorizing much of the ISB's output. Although many of the compositions address the hippie mindset of the early '70s -- making love, folky vignette story-songs, apocalypse, and references to nature and fable-like figures aplenty -- they're relayed with just enough irreverent wit to tread the line between clever and indulgent. The homespun male-female harmonies are bolstered by imaginatively unpredictable, if low-budget, weird tinges of electronic effects, slide guitar swoops, violin creaks, wah-wah, Jew's harp, zig-zaggy guitar reverb, and flageolets (a small flute). It's a very likable album, heartily recommended to early-'70s British folk-rock fans looking for something of quality they likely have never heard of before, let alone actually heard. Originally issued in a quantity of a mere 100 copies in 1972, Normal/Shadoks' CD reissue of the album 30 years later adds five bonus tracks and historical liner notes by the group. The five bonus tracks include two decent outtakes from the album, and tracks of slightly later vintage that have a more straightforward (and less interesting) period rock sound.
Truth, Of Them and Other Tales (Epilogue). Although Truth never released an LP while they were together, in 1995 this 68-minute CD was salvaged from 1969-70 recordings. Most of them were made for a soundtrack of an obscure film, with three other tracks coming from a Chicago studio session during the brief time in which Ray Elliott was in the band. Perhaps to the surprise of some listeners aware of Truth's Them connections, there's not much of a hard R&B-blues-British Invasion influence. It's far more reminiscent of late-'60s California guitar psychedelia, along the lines of some of the more economic and harmony-driven bands in that style, like Moby Grape and (more distantly) Love. In this respect, Truth recall Fat Mattress (Noel Redding's group), another act with heavy British Isles roots that took major cues from West Coast harmonized psych, though Truth and Fat Mattress aren't extremely similar. Truth play late-'60s psychedelic rock with a breezy lightness, yet with some guts, anchored by extremely versatile guitar lines by the underrated Jim Armstrong. The songs might not be classic, but they're very pleasant go-with-the-flow period sequences of images, with one vocal (on "Blackboard Words") closely approximating the sound of late-'60s Roger McGuinn. On "Sonic Sitar," the group expands upon the raga-rock explored in the post-Van Morrison Them's best cut, "Square Room," and in fact "Archimed's Pad (Squared Room)" is an impressive instrumental remake of "Square Room" that's an underrated highlight of the whole raga-rock genre, with its hypnotic drawn-out interplay of drones and Indian-influenced guitar melodies. The three songs recorded with Ray Elliott on flute and piano go into jazzier grooves with good effect, adding nice icing to a record that's on the whole better (and certainly more consistent) than either of the late-'60s Them albums on which some of the Truth musicians played.
Scott Walker, In 5 Easy Pieces (Mercury). It's somehow fitting that when Scott Walker got the deluxe box treatment, its track selection and sequencing were idiosyncratic and a bit perverse, much like his career itself was. For this five-CD, 96-track package doesn't follow the usual box set format of a roughly chronological progression through career highlights. Each of the five discs is devoted to a "theme": "bedsit dramas," songs about women, "songs from Europe and America," music used in or inspired by films, and an enigmatic one titled "This Is How You Disappear," apparently devoted to his less commercial work. There's much good music here, from his Walker Brothers days to his relatively little-heard (and uncommercial) recordings of the 1990s. What might vex even committed Scott Walker fans, however, is the mix of material from what most connoisseurs would consider his golden age -- his dark, orchestrated pop of the late 1960s and early 1970s -- with his far less celebrated (at least sales-wise) post-mid-1970s endeavors, where he went down ever more avant-garde avenues in disco, electronic music, and unfathomably tortured art songs. It's safe to say that many fans of his more pop guise have little to no interest in the experimental stuff, and that even champions of his later out-there ventures might find the mood swings inherent in combining both phases unsettling.
In Five Easy Pieces is more listenable than this capsule description might imply, though, because the bulk of it is in fact devoted to his 1965-70 recordings. These are the songs on which his legend rests, even as he would attempt to abandon their approach in subsequent decades -- the golden-throated croon, the lush orchestrations, the melodic brooding pop tunes (whether written by Walker or others), and the juxtaposition of pretty commercial arrangements with oft-dark lyrics about neurotic solitude, intellectual philosophy, and occasional perversion. "In My Room," "After the Lights Go Out," "Hero of the War," "Time Operator," "The Girls from the Streets," "We Came Through," "The Plague," and "The Seventh Seal" are just a few of the classics or near-classics from this period contained in this collection. The material spanning 1978-2000 (the 1971-1977 years are only lightly represented) is more quixotic, and at times downright harsh and unpleasant. It's nearly always original and faithful to Walker's cerebrally quizzical worldview, though, and at times of noteworthy quality, like the ghostly late-'70s Walker Brothers reunion track "The Electrician"; the disembodied ballad "Sleepwalkers Woman" (from his 1983 Climate of Hunter); and his cover of Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away," from the 1996 film To Have and to Hold.
As for the rarities and obscurities that might entice Walker fans who already have a lot of the albums to check this out, there are some but not a huge number. Of most note are the soundtrack recordings, which make the "Scott on Screen" disc of this package (which also includes some songs that were inspired by movies, rather than actually used in soundtracks) in some ways the most interesting for those already familiar with much of his output. Foremost among those are the superb Ennio Morricone-like "The Rope and the Colt," from 1968; the cover of Neil Diamond's "Glory Road," from the 1972 film W.U.S.A.; and various 1990s soundtrack contributions that never got a wide hearing, from retro ballads to most of his contributions to the 1999 movie Pola X. On other discs, you get the nice 1971 B-side "My Way Home," and two reasonably interesting 2000 tracks by Ute Lemper that Walker wrote and co-produced, one of which ("Lullaby (by-by-by)") was only available on the Japanese edition of her Punishing Kiss album.
For all its quantity, however, In Five Easy Pieces manages to miss some of Walker's greatest work, whether because certain tracks weren't deemed to fit into the thematic concepts or for other reasons. Among the notable absentees are "The Old Man's Back Again" (from 1969's Scott 4), a solid contender for his finest original composition ever, and -- more troublingly to the more mainstream of Walker's fans -- any of his biggest hits with the Walker Brothers (even "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More"), which were perhaps considered too pop or normal for this set by Walker or someone else involved. The accompanying booklet, too, is a disappointment for those who count on lavish box sets to provide equally lavish liner notes, which are here limited to basic track listings and brief appreciative quotes from others (mostly musicians from bands that didn't launch until the 1980s or 1990s). So while there's much to dig into and appreciate, even treasure, in this music, ultimately it might be a better and more sensible investment to just go out and buy a bunch of Walker's best individual CDs to get the best and most comprehensive overview of his music.
The Zephyrs, Zephyrazation (Hyacinth). The Hyacinth label's done bootlegs of '60s bands so obscure that it's hard to find legitimate releases by those acts, let alone under-the-counter ones. The Zephyrs certainly qualify on that account, and while an official compilation of their 1963-65 singles would be welcomed, as of 2003 no label had undertaken such a project, though many obscure British Invasion bands of lesser talent had benefited from CD anthologies. So this disc, the core of which has both sides of all of the Zephyrs' singles except their 1963 debut 45, does a service to collectors, although there are some of the shortcomings you'd expect from bootlegs. First, the tracks have obviously been mastered from vinyl rather than original tapes, although they sound pretty good, some faint crackles and pops notwithstanding. Second, it <I>is</I> missing that 1963 single ("What's All That About"/"Oriental Dream"), irking completists. And there are insignificant but telling signs like the misspelling of the band name as "Zephyers" on the back cover, as well as a song listing that reverses the order in which track 10 and track 11 play. But the music matters more than such trifles, and it's fairly good, falling into that category of bands who owed inspiration to Merseybeat, mod, and British R&B without falling squarely into any camp. A song such as "There's Something About You," for instance, sounds kind of like an excellent lost Mindbenders track in its straightahead, upbeat mainstream British Invasion attack. Others, like the tiny UK "hit" "She's Lost You," have a bit of a jazzy R&B mod organ influence, along the lines of another act produced by Shel Talmy, the Untamed. And "I Can Tell" is a cool British R&B punk cover of the Bo Diddley classic, starting off with a true caveman-like ensemble scream, and featuring guitar session work by Jimmy Page. Likable as they were, however, the Zephyrs were missing both a solid identity and those one or two obvious hit songs that would have taken them to another level. The CD's padded out with six cuts by the ho-hum British '70s band Vinegar Joe (including the non-LP B-side "Speed Queen of Ventura"), who had a tenuous link to the Zephyrs via guitarist Pete Gage, who was a member, but not during the time they recorded the singles on this disc.
Various Artists, The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966 Vol. 1 [DVD] (Hip-O). The American Blues Festival Tours in Europe in the 1960s were instrumental vehicles for popularizing the blues on a global level. And they also preserved the legacy of many major performers in a way that few probably realized at the time, since many of the festival participants taped studio segments for German television. This DVD has 17 such performances, most of them apparently totally live, from a rich assortment of blues notables, including Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Otis Spann, Eddie Boyd, Memphis Slim, T-Bone Walker, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Walter Horton, and Sippie Wallace. The black and white footage, thankfully, has been preserved in excellent quality. And while the sets can be hokey approximations of American landscapes, the music is usually good to excellent. Particularly notable is Waters singing "Got My Mojo Working," with Williamson backing him on harmonica and whooping it up with responsive vocals; Wells's "Hoodoo Man Blues," which captures him at his absolute 1966 peak; Rush's "I Can't Quit You Baby," also from 1966; John Lee Hooker's customarily somber "Hobo Blues"; and Willie Dixon's "Weak Brain and Narrow Mind," a good showcase for a figure known more for his behind-the-scenes contributions than his work as a spotlighted artist. These are among the few surviving video documents of these musicians in their 1960s prime or near-prime, and as such are to be treasured, though volume two of this DVD series is slightly better simply by virtue of its searing clips of Howlin' Wolf (who isn't represented on this disc). Also included is a good "bonus track" of Earl Hooker performing live in 1969, and fine liner notes by Rob Bowman that are way above the usual standard for historical music DVDs.
Various Artists, The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966 Vol. 2 [DVD] (Hip-O). Like volume one, this DVD has a wealth of performances, most of them apparently totally live, from a top roster of blues artists. Taped in a small TV studio for German television during European tours of the American Folk Blues Festival, the 16 songs include spots by Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Sunnyland Slim, Victoria Spivey, Lightnin' Hopkins, Roosevelt Sykes, Matt Murphy, T-Bone Walker, and Big Mama Thornton. If anything, this might be even better than volume one, if only because of the three great songs done by Howlin' Wolf in 1964. Howlin' Wolf was one of the very best live blues performers, and these performances shudder with intensity, particularly "Shake for Me," with longtime sideman Hubert Sumlin on guitar. Also especially worthy of praise are Murphy's ultra-fast instrumental "Murphy's Boogie," Dixon's (deliberately) comically stuttering "Nervous," and a lumberjack-wardrobed Big Mama Thornton, whose "Down Home Shakedown" is actually an instrumental showcase featuring her on harmonica, with Walter Horton and John Lee Hooker in support. It's true the low-budget sets can be corny, simplified approximation of American joints and vistas. But that doesn't diminish the excitement of being able to see quality black-and-white footage of these performers at their prime or near-prime, particularly since any footage of the kind is scarce. Also included are two fine "bonus tracks" of Magic Sam performing live in 1969, shortly before his death, and good historical liner notes by Rob Bowman, although these are identical to the ones that appear in volume one, with different illustrations.
Various Artists, Femmes de Paris, Vol. 1 (Anthology's). The "ye-ye" style is inherently frivolous, but if you're in the mood for some good clean kitschy fun with a whiff of naughtiness, this is a pretty respectable 19-song collection of French-sung, women-sung pop-rock from the mid-to-late '60s. True, if you've already started to collect the mini-genre, there's a good amount of repetition between this CD and some other compilations you might already have in your collection, like the Ultra Chicks and Swinging Mademoiselle series. It's at least the third time around, in fact, for a few of these, like Elizabeth's "Je Suis Sublime," Cosette's "Idealisation," and Jacqueline Taieb's "7 Heures du Matin" (which slips in a sly parody of the chorus of "My Generation"). It's also true that this suffers from too many inferior Francophone covers of big American and British hits, like "Nitty Gritty," "Sloop John B" (titled here, oddly, "Fille ou Garcon," i.e. "Girl or Boy"), "Baby Love," and "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'." On the other hand, a couple of the covers are really cool, those being Marie Laforet's "Marie Douceur, Marie Colere" (the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," sung with a Marianne Faithfull-like quaver) and Patricia's dramatic reading of "Nights in White Satin" (retitled "Mes Reves de Satin"). Though Violaine's "Jai des Problemes Decidement" is a pretty good pop-punker with its pounding beat and bleating harmonica, other songs often incline toward a more typically French/continental pop feel, albeit with a go-go sheen. Tiny Yong sounds like a French Sandie Shaw on "Tu Es le Roi des Menteurs"; Michele Arnaud a little like a French female version of the Righteous Brothers on "Les Papillons Noirs"; and Taieb's "Le Printemps a Paris" ("Spring in Paris") is lush orchestrated pop-rock with the kind of buoyancy that makes you want to go right out and take a stroll around Paris's Jardin du Luxembourg.
ALBUM REVIEWS: A SELECTION OF RECENT RELEASES, WINTER 2003-2004:
To focus on the portion that makes this worth buying in the first place, the Beatles' performances are magnificent (and entirely live, not lip-synced, with the exception of Paul McCartney singing and playing guitar live to an orchestral backing track for "Yesterday"). The 1964 shows in particular were the ones that, more than anything else, made them into superstars of an unprecedented scale in America, and include exciting versions of all of their biggest early singles, including "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," "Twist and Shout," "Please Please Me," "From Me to You," and "I Saw Her Standing There." Although they only appeared on one 1965 show, they played six songs on that broadcast, all of them memorable: "I Feel Fine," "I'm Down," "Yesterday," "Act Naturally," "Ticket to Ride," and "Help!" (on which John Lennon briefly messes up the lyrics).
Unfortunately, there's nothing else on the four episodes that you could call ageless entertainment, and some of it's downright excruciating. There's dated comedy from the likes of Myron Cohen, Dave Barry, and, twice, Marty Allen (as half of Allen and Rossi); stilted puppetry from Pinky & Perky: card tricks from Fred Kaps; variety-show singing from Mitzi Gaynor, Tessie O'Shea, and the cast of Oliver! (in which, if you watch out for it, you can spot a pre-Monkees Davy Jones); trad jazz from Acker Bilk; and pop-jazz from Cab Calloway. Comedian Soupy Sales does his minor hit single "The Mouse," and the only other fellow British Invader, Cilla Black, does disappointing versions of "September in the Rain" and "Goin' Out of My Head" on the 1965 broadcast. It's all the kind of entertainment the Beatles were instrumental in eventually making passe, and there's not another pure rock'n'roll act in sight. Of course, the DVD format means it's easy to skip right to the Beatles portions if you wish, and those will indefinitely endure as vital documents of popular culture. The image quality (all in black and white) is good despite occasional wavy lines and flickers; it's unfortunate, though, that the Beatles' 1965 performance was filmed only weeks before the show went to color.
Beatles, Let It Be...Naked
(Apple). When Let It Be was first issued in 1970, it had
controversial Phil Spector post-production, particularly in the
of strings to a few tracks. Let It Be...Naked remixes the
yet again, to keep it more in line with the live unadorned sound the
originally had in mind. This is not, however, the original version/mix
of Let It Be (then titled Get Back) that was prepared
release by Glyn Johns, and which has since circulated on bootleg. It's
newly mixed and mastered, so that there are yet more small variations
Beatlemaniacs to spot and nitpick
over. It does succeed, however, in making the album play as a tighter, coherent, more organic listening experience, though at first it's hard to get used to hearing the album differently than it played in the 33 years prior to the release of this retooled version.
The biggest difference is the removal of Spector's string overdubs from "Across the Universe," "I Me Mine," and "The Long and Winding Road." In every case, the new versions are improved, particularly "The Long and Winding Road," in which the Spector-dubbed orchestration and voices were excessive. In addition, all the somewhat forced-sounding between-song chatter has been removed; the track sequence has been totally re-ordered, pretty intelligently actually (especially now that "Get Back" is first and "Let It Be" last); the magnificent "Don't Let Me Down" (the first released version of which was only issued as "Get Back"'s B-side) added; and the two off-the-cuff jams, "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae," removed entirely. Yet there are more than enough additional differences sprinkled throughout the entire album to keep the Beatle chat groups busy for years. Billy Preston's electric keyboards are way more to the front at times, particularly on "Dig a Pony," where you hear lines in the intro entirely missing from the previous version. "Let It Be" is restored to a version much closer to the original 45 mix than the somewhat bloated, guitar-solo-laden one of the original LP, though even here you hear electric keyboard parts that were previously buried-to-nonexistent. On "Across the Universe"'s fadeout, John Lennon's vocal wafts into the distance in a bare-bones ghostly manner entirely befitting one of his most ethereal songs. And the charming spoken aside "yes I did!" at the beginning of the second verse of "One After 909," all but inaudible on the original LP, comes through loud and clearly on the new edition.
The rejigging's not all for the better, though. The ad-libbed-sounding fade verse of "Get Back" (as heard on the original 45 version) is unfortunately excised entirely. "The Long and Winding Road," though fixed up so that the playing's slicker and thankfully shorn of the orchestration, is actually inferior to the less ornate, more spontaneous-sounding Spector-less version that appeared on Anthology 3. Too, the 22-minute "Fly on the Wall" bonus disc montage of largely previously unofficially released rehearsals and conversations from the January 1969 Let It Be sessions is a disappointment. The juxtaposition of disjointed conversations and snippets of music makes it something you're unlikely to listen to for pleasure, and the musical excerpts of the 21 songs represented are exceedingly brief, only once running more than a minute, and in some cases lasting less than ten seconds. Of course the complete versions of those outtakes are available on bootlegs if you really want them, and some of the best outtakes are available in legit form on Anthology 3. But it certainly would have been nice to hear complete alternate versions of some of the songs on the album, as well as more complete excerpts of items that didn't make it onto the record at all, like "Child of Nature" or their early attempt at "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," the last of which is represented by a mere five-second soundbite here. Likewise, the extracts from the original Let It Be book (which accompanied the first pressing of the LP) that are reprinted in the CD booklet are nice, but why not go whole hog and reprint everything? Even with these considerable flaws, though, Let It Be...Naked does an interesting and worthwhile job of making the album truer to its original vision, and in some ways making it more listenable, powerful, and consistent -- not that it was ever hard to listen to in the first place.
The Bee Gees, Merchants of Dream (Polar Bear). Although much of this material had previously circulated on other bootlegs, this two-CD set is the most comprehensive package of unissued rarities from the Bee Gees' early (1966-68) career. Disc one alone takes in two 1966 demos; the fruity First outtake "Mr. Waller's Wailing Wall"; alternate mixes of several cuts from First (including three alone of "Turn of the Century"); "One Minute Woman" with an alternate vocal; and ten 1967 BBC tracks. Disc two is just as worthy, starting off with what sounds like a complete 1968 live concert in Bern, Switzerland, followed by an instrumental version of "Jumbo," two 1968 Coca Cola jingles, and five '67-'68 BBC performances. There are a few other stray items from this era that only show up on other bootlegs, but this will sate the appetite of almost any Bee Gees fan serious enough to consider finding bootlegs of the group in the first place. Naturally it's not nearly as vital as their studio recordings from the same era, particularly as the sound quality (especially of the live and BBC stuff) is usually well below official release standard. But it's virtually all of listenable fidelity, and there are some goodies, starting with the 1966 demos "Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator" (which was certainly worthy of inclusion on a bona fide album, and is also here in a BBC version) and the odd raga rock of "Deeply Deeply Me." The BBC tracks usually don't differ too notably from the studio arrangements, but as is par for BBC takes, offer some fresh spontaneity for those inured to the studio versions. The '68 Bern live gig is no less than fascinating for students of the group, as the band do some of the songs with orchestral accompaniment. Unfortunately, while the sound is fairly clear for a '68 live unreleased show, the audio balance is very uneven and the vocal mike clarity less than ideal. Still, where else do you get to hear live late-'60s concert recordings of hits like "New York Mining Disaster 1941," "Words," "Holiday," and "Massachusetts," as well as some far lesser known tunes, including surprises like "Gilbert Green" (never included by the band on their official releases, and consistent with the jaunty baroque-pop of their first albums) and unexpected detours into cover versions of the Four Seasons' "C'mon Marianne" and Cream's "Strange Brew"? Overall this collection can be confidently recommended to major fans of the group in their late-'60s incarnation.
The Gosdin Brothers, Sounds of Goodbye (Big Beat). It's enough of a blessing that the Gosdin Brothers' rare 1968 LP Sounds of Goodbye was finally reissued 35 years later. It doubles the pleasure to have the length of the album itself doubled to 24 tracks, with numerous rare 1966-68 non-LP singles and previously unreleased outtakes. This was the period in which the Gosdin Brothers, who started as a far more traditional country and bluegrass act, made their biggest crossover to folk-rock and country-rock, with their early country-rock forays in particular overlooked precursors to the late-'60s Southern California country-rock explosion. On the cuts from the LP, the Gosdins sometimes came off as a somewhat more country-slanted Gene Clark in their subdued, slightly melancholy country-folk-rock, with influences aplenty from the mid-'60s Byrds. It helped that there were plenty of good songs, like the ringing "Love at First Sight" (where the Gosdin Brothers were at their Byrdsiest), "Love of the Common People," the downcast "The Victim," and the gorgeous ballad "She's Gone." The extra cuts aren't up to the consistency of the album material, but again offer some mighty interesting, often high-quality blends of country, rock, and folk, even if the country was always stronger than the rock and the folk. Among the more noteworthy of those bonus cuts are the 1968 single "There Must Be a Someone (I Can Turn To)," covered by the Byrds themselves on the 1969 album The Ballad of Easy Rider; the futuristically mellotron-coated singles "Hangin' On" (which was actually a small 1967 country hit) and "She Still Wishes I Were You"; the strange quasi-protest folk-rock of the previously unissued "Uncommitted Man"; the strong, super-rare 1967 country-rock single "One Hundred Years from Now," produced by then-Byrd Chris Hillman; and the Everly Brothers-sounding "Wishing," produced by early Byrds co-manager Jim Dickson (and also previously unreleased). Exhaustive liner notes by Alec Palo do much to more fully unearth this underappreciated and, until now, under-documented corner of proto-country-rock. Note that this CD does not present the original LP in sequence, followed by bonus tracks; it spreads out the songs from the LP in a new order, interspersed with the bonus material, though of course you can program the songs from the LP to play in the original running order if you wish.
The Guilloteens, For My Own (Misty Lane). Both sides of all five of the Guilloteens' mid-1960s singles are on this collection, adding up to an erratic but generally above-average garage rock listen. Some of the earlier tracks are distinguished from the garage rock norm by Lewis Paul's husky blue-eyed soul vocals, and the folk-rock-pop-punk of "I Don't Believe," a big hit in their native Memphis, could have easily been a nationwide smash given the right exposure. More along the lines of the more typical Pebbles/Nuggets garage sounds is the frenetic sub-Kinks riffing of "Hey You. " The class of the bunch, though, might be the 1966 single "Wild Child," which with its ominous clanging riff and catchy pop-punk chorus is really a very good garage rock obscurity, though it's made it onto relatively few compilations. Some of the rest of the material is just alright stuff that mixes derivative Merseybeat with poppy garage stomp, though "For My Own" again taps into a nice folk-rock-influenced mood, and well-known Southern rock musician Jim Dickinson was responsible for co-writing "Crying All Over My Time." The LP's dragged down a bit, though, by the tamer sub-Lovin' Spoonful pop of their final singles (including a thinly disguised rewrite of "I Don't Believe," retitled "I Love That Girl"). As a bonus track, the record ends with Buddy Delaney & the Candy Soupe's lame "Girl," recorded by ex-Guilloteens bassist Delaney after the group broke up, which is nothing more than a slight rewrite of the Guilloteens B-side "Hey You."
The Gurus, The Gurus Are Hear! (Sundazed). The Gurus Are Hear! was actually advertised in Billboard and Cashbox in 1967, but the album was canceled only a few weeks before its projected release. More than 35 years later, it finally emerged as this Sundazed CD, augmented naturally by five bonus cuts. So is it just as mysterious and exotic as psychedelic collectors suspected? Not exactly, but it's a pretty interesting if slightly contrived and kitschy hybrid of psychedelic rock and middle eastern music. As it turns out, the best of their demented anguished-psychedelia-in-a-falafel-restaurant-bellydancing-room had already been issued on their two singles (both sides of which are included on the album). From those 45s, "Come Girl," "Blue Snow Night," and "Everybody's Got to Be Alone Sometime" are genuinely fine and rather ahead-of-their-time songs. Singer John Lieto howls like a pained cantor while the band plays psychedelia fit for a harem, with oud trills, raga-rock electric guitar, bent notes, and tortured minor keys aplenty, though not bereft of some garage rock energy and hooks. The other songs aren't quite up to that level, aren't terribly varied, and are sometimes quite a bit more pop-oriented and normal-sounding, with "Contact" penned by the Bonner-Gordon team of "Happy Together" fame. But not all of those extra cuts are unmemorable, the band totally overhauling "Louie Louie" into a dervish-swirling dance that must rank as one of the weirdest covers of this covered-to-death song. And you've gotta love a song ("Shaker Life") with the line "come life eternal, shake it out of me, all that is carnal," set to a tune and beat like "Twist and Shout" gone to temple. The less essential bonus tracks include another Bonner-Gordon tune, "They All Got Carried Away," and alternate versions (one of them wholly instrumental) of four songs from the album.
The Hard Times, Blew Mind (Rev-Ola). The Hard Times' sole album was a weirdly variable affair that not only sounded like the band's original raw folk-rockish sound was being emasculated, but also sounded almost as if it could have been the product of several different groups. Much of the LP was soft rock, sometimes over-polished to soft-as-marshmallow consistency, as on their cover of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere." At other points they went into sub-Association sunshine pop, overly precious folk-rock (a cover of Donovan's "Colours" and a strange baroque arrangement of the old Reverend Gary Davis blues "Candy Man," which is miscredited as a Fred Neil-Beverly Ross composition in the sleeve notes), clean-cut Rolling Stones-like R&B ("Fortune Teller," which crept into the bottom of the Top Hundred), and slightly tougher Paul Revere & the Raiders-like pop-rock. It's fairly unremarkable stuff that leans toward the milder sounds of the period's L.A. pop-rock, taking a sharp upswing in quality on the final two tracks. One of those, "Sad Sad Sunshine," is a nice, obscure Al Kooper folk-rock composition bearing a marked Bob Lind influence; so obscure, in fact, that Kooper himself didn't even list it in the comprehensive discography in his autobiography. The other, "Blew Mind," is an utterly unexpected slice of early brooding psychedelia with booming low bell peals, disconsolate bluesy moaning vocals, and periodic rumbles of what sounds like mission-control space radio chatter way in the background.
The 2003 CD reissue on Rev-Ola adds ten bonus cuts, including five non-LP tracks from 1966-67 singles; mono 45 versions of three songs from the LP; and the New Phoenix's single "Give to Me Your Love"/"Thanks" (the flipside just being an instrumental version of the A-side), on which at least some members of the Hard Times played. More so than on most such expanded CD reissues, these bonus tracks do a great service to the band's legacy, as the non-LP singles (all originals except for a cover of Bob Lind's "Come to Your Window") are far gutsier than most of the record, boasting a slightly raw folk-rock feel with echoes of the early Byrds and Beau Brummels, though the songs aren't as good as the early work by those two great '60s bands. The mysterious New Phoenix single "Give to Me Your Love" is pretty respectable psychedelic-influenced folk-rock, a little like some of Stephen Stills's songs for Buffalo Springfield that went in that direction; it's the most solid indicator of the more original phase the band might have evolved into had they been given more time and sympathetic record company support.
Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Plays Berkeley [DVD] (Experience Hendrix). The Jimi Plays Berkeley film, documenting his performances at the Berkeley Community Theatre on May 30, 1970, was about as haphazardly organized as most of the projects from the final year or two of his life were. It endured a post-directorial cut from Hendrix manager Mike Jeffery and, even with the insertion of some footage of period Berkeley rioting and protest, still clocked in at less than an hour. Perhaps it could have been better if more footage was prepared -- and, unfortunately, a few of the songs weren't filmed in complete versions -- but what remains is actually a pretty enjoyable and valuable document of Hendrix in concert. Just a few months prior to his death, he's backed by the reliable Mitch Mitchell on drums and newer trio mainstay Billy Cox on bass, mixing some old classics ("Purple Haze," "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," "I Don't Live Today") with quite a few selections he wouldn't release on record during his lifetime ("Johnny B. Goode," "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)," "Lover Man," "Hear My Train a Comin'"). Jimi seems to be a little tired and fed-up on some of the footage that survives of Hendrix concerts from his final months, but that's not the case here. He seems relaxed and in a pretty good mood, even on the obligatory "Purple Haze," the one song on which he really pulls out his most famed bag of tricks, like playing the guitar with his teeth. There's also "The Star Spangled Banner," not destined to make the lasting impact as the version filmed for Woodstock of course, but impressively executed here. The DVD has an audio-only section of concert recordings from the second set of the night's performances (also available separately as a standard audio CD, Live at Berkeley). It's unclear, though, why neither the CD nor DVD included any material from the first show; as a consequence, some songs seen in the film, like "Hear My Train a Comin'" and "Johnny B. Goode," aren't heard on the audio-only portion. There aren't any other DVD extras, but there's a booklet with extensive liner notes about the genesis of the film.
Jimi Hendrix, Live at Berkeley (Experience Hendrix). On May 30, 1970, Jimi Hendrix performed a couple of sets at the Berkeley Community Theatre, which were filmed for the movie Jimi Plays Berkeley. This CD presents the entire 67-minute second set, and it should be noted that it's not identical to the music you see performed in Jimi Plays Berkeley, which includes some songs ("Johnny B. Goode," "Hear My Train a Comin'," apparently filmed during the first set) not represented on Live at Berkeley in any form. There have been tons of live Hendrix recordings issued since his death, and perhaps this particular one would be more exciting if it hadn't been preceded by so many others, many of which contain other versions of songs included here. Judged on its own merits, though, it's a good, well-recorded live Hendrix show. The demerits are worth noting, too. His run-throughs of classic songs that he had done for years by 1970 ("Stone Free," "Hey Joe," "Foxey Lady," "Purple Haze") aren't as fresh and fiery as the best earlier live versions in existence, and some of the material that at the time of the show was recent and fairly unfamiliar to the audience ("Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)," "Machine Gun," the jam "Pass It On (Straight Ahead)") can meander. On the other hand, he and the Experience really cut into "Lover Man" and a gig-ending, hard-edged "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" like they mean it. Incidentally, this set of material is also available as an audio-only section of the DVD of Jimi Plays Berkeley, simultaneously released with this CD by Experience Hendrix.
Ace Kefford, Ace the Face (Castle). You might think it quite unlikely that even the most enterprising reissue label could manage to come up with a whole album of Ace Kefford material, given that the ex-Move man released just one single under his own name. The most amazingly unlikely '60s rock relics were being discovered several decades after the fact, though, and it turns out that Kefford recorded an entire unreleased album in mid-1968, with Tony Visconti as producer. Nine tracks from that album form the backbone of this compilation, which also includes both sides of the 1969 single by the Ace Kefford Stand; a demo of the A-side of that single, a cover of the Yardbirds' "For Your Love"; three other previously unreleased 1968 outtakes; the A-side of a 1969 single by Big Bertha, in which Kefford played; both sides of the 1976 single by Kefford's subsequent band Rockstar; and even the Lemon Tree's 1968 single "William Chalker's Time Machine," written by Kefford. There's no faulting the diligence of the archivism, but for all the fruitless effort invested in launching a post-Move solo career for Kefford, he really wasn't much of a singer or songwriter. It's true the unreleased album tracks were abandoned before they were finished, but they meander between unremarkable, just-about-passable stabs (usually self-penned) at pop-rock, folk-rock, country-rock, and hard rock with a generic late-'60s British feel. These are often done in a slightly heavier, more serious style than that associated with the late-'60s Move, sung in a husky but slightly croaky soul-rock voice. Subdued echoes of his well-documented fragile mental health hover in the uncertain, troubled tone of songs like "Holiday in Reality," "Trouble in the Air," "Step Out in the Night," and "White Mask." (Jimmy Page, incidentally, makes a little-known session appearance on the cover of Paul Simon's "Save the Life of My Child.") The Ace Kefford Stand material is more fully produced, but on the mundane early hard rock side, including covers of "Born to Be Wild" and "Daughter of the Sun" (the latter much better known via its more psychedelic treatment from Sharon Tandy). The Rockstar tracks, oddly, aren't too bad, and very much in an early-'70s David Bowie-influenced style, particularly "Mummy." What a shame that the best cut on here, the Lemon Tree's whirling (and quite Move-like) psych-pop ditty "William Chalker's Time Machine," doesn't even have Kefford playing on it.
John Mayall & the Bluebreakers, A Hard Road [Expanded Edition] (Deram). Some Mayall fans might be disappointed to find that this radically expanded two-CD edition of A Hard Road actually includes no previously unreleased material, even though it tacks on a whopping 22 additional tracks. It's more a complete document of the Bluesbreakers' recordings with Peter Green, of which A Hard Road was just the most prominent part. It might be an awkward fit for Mayall completists, since much of the bonus material also appears on other Mayall releases, particularly the Looking Back and Thru the Years compilations. For those just looking for a comprehensive overview of the Green-Mayall era, though, it's excellent, with the extra tracks including several non-LP singles (among them the 1967 B-side "Rubber Duck," which had never before appeared on CD); the A Hard Road outtakes that first showed up on the 1971 Thru the Years LP; the Green-sung and -composed "Evil Woman Blues," which was placed on the Raw Blues various-artists anthology; "First Time Alone," the Blues from Laurel Canyon track on which Green guested; and all four tracks from the 1967 EP that paired John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield.
A Hard Road itself was a good if uneven blues-rock album, highlighted by Green's incredible sustain on the instrumental "Supernatural" (a clear influence on Carlos Santana). Green also took some of the lead vocal and songwriting duties, though Mayall remained the dominant singer, whether on covers (the best of them being Freddie King's "Someday After a While (You'll Be Sorry)") or originals (highlighted by the uncharacteristically frantic "Leaping Christine" and the moody "Living Alone"). But some of the non-LP tracks are among the best recordings the Bluesbreakers did with Green in the lineup, like the supremely downbeat Green-written-and-sung B-side "Out of Reach"; the quality outtake (again written and sung by Green) "Missing You"; the hard-edged outtake "Please Don't Tell," cut in March 1967 months after the A Hard Road sessions; and the haunting 1968 B-side "Jenny," actually done in late 1967 after Green had left for Fleetwood Mac, but featuring a return visit from him on lead guitar. Other of the extra tracks are duller and more routine, but at least it accounts for everything done by the Bluesbreakers with Green in tow, with the unimportant exception of a 1967 session on which they backed Eddie Boyd. Note, incidentally, that while Green and Mick Fleetwood briefly played together in the same Bluesbreakers lineup, just two tracks here (the 1967 single "Double Trouble"/"It Hurts Me Too") feature Fleetwood on drums.
The Meters, Zony Mash (Sundazed). Zony Mash rounds up 13 tracks from the Josie era that didn't appear on the Meters' first trio of albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, eight of them from non-LP singles, five of them from the bonus tracks added to Sundazed's CD reissues of those LPs. As such, it's not recommended as one of the first Meters albums to buy if you're just starting to build a collection of the band's work. Actually, however, were this the first album of Josie-era material you were to hear or buy, it wouldn't disgrace the band's legacy by any means. On both vocal and instrumental numbers, the band offer first-rate tight yet rubbery funk-soul. And it's not like this stuff went totally unheard at the time: three of the songs ("A Message from the Meters," "(The World Is a Bit Under the Weather) Doodle-Oop," and "Stretch Your Rubber Band") were small R&B chart hits. Plenty of contemporary soul-funk influences are floating around, like Booker T. & the MGs on "Soul Machine" and the title cut; the wah-wah psychedelia of Hendrix and others; and the rhythms of James Brown. At some moments they sound uncannily like early War, though given the dates of these recordings, it's more likely that War borrowed from the Meters than vice versa. But it's more the Meters' own funkified brand of New Orleans R&B than anything else, even on the graceful cover of Bacharach-David's "The Look of Love."
Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon [DVD] (Eagle Vision). This visual documentary of the making of The Dark Side of the Moon is everything it should be. There are interviews with all four of the band members, as well as some music critics and key associates like engineer Alan Parsons, sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson, and mix supervisor Chris Thomas; some vintage footage of the band working on the material in the studio; and, perhaps most exciting of all to those already familiar with the basic story, some excerpts of bare demos of songs that ended up on the album. It seems like Nick Mason doesn't have as much to say about the project as the others (particularly Waters and Gilmour), but the band's articulate on both the development of the music and, in Waters's case, the lyrical themes. Richard Wright, for his part, has a nice bit where he discusses the Miles Davis-derived source for one of the particularly memorable chords in "Breathe." There are some other stories which aren't overly familiar, like the source of some of the spoken-word aphorisms mixed into the background, the discussion over cover design selection, and "Us and Them"'s roots in material the band recorded for the Zabriskie Point soundtrack. The participation of session vocalists (particularly Clare Torry's scatting on "The Great Gig in the Sky") and saxophonist Dick Parry is also discussed, though unfortunately there's no interview material with any of them. The DVD bonus material adds more extensive interview comments that didn't fit into the main feature.
The Poor, The Poor (Rev-Ola). In addition to collecting both sides of all four of their 1966-68 singles, this also has both sides of the two 1965-66 singles cut by the Soul Survivors, the group from which several future Poor members hailed. With the addition of "Study in Motion #1" (whose source isn't identified in the liner notes), this is indeed the long lost Poor album. However, probably at least in part because it was culled from half a dozen one-off singles spanning about three years, there's not much of a consistent sound or group identity that permeates the collection. The Poor could play extremely well-executed California pop-rock, with varying shades of sunshine pop and folk-rock overtones and very accomplished vocal harmonies. What this lacks are extremely strong songs, whether original material (including the early Randy Meisner composition "Come Back Baby") or outside tunes by each half of Brewer & Shipley (Michael Brewer supplying "Feelin' Down," and Tom Shipley the better-known "She's Got the Time (She's Got the Changes)," also recorded by Brewer & Shipley themselves). It's a pleasing period Los Angeles sound, skirting toward the edge of vaudevillian country-rock in the none-too-impressive "Love Is Real," getting into gutsier pop-psych on one of the better cuts, "My Mind Goes High," and echoing the Millennium school of harmony pop on "Knowing You, Loving You." Frankly, though, the best thing here is the stomping Beatles-Zombies garage rock of one of the Soul Survivors singles ("Can't Stand to Be in Love With You").
The Sonics, Psycho-Sonic (Big Beat). Everyone would agree that the Sonics reached their peak on their 1964-65 recordings for Etiquette. This 29-track compilation has everything they recorded for the label, extended not just to everything from their singles and two albums, but also an alternate take of "The Witch" and live recordings of "Psycho" and "The Witch." Consequently it's the best Sonics release on the market, though you should be warned it's not wall-to-wall greatness. After the first half-dozen or so songs, you might well be ready to buy into their legend as one of the great (and certainly rawest) '60s garage bands, as those tracks include their toughest elementary riff-fueled pounders: "The Witch," "Psycho," "Boss Hoss," "He's Waitin'," and "Strychnine." But too much of the rest is filled out with covers of '50s and '60s rock and R&B standards, and the relentlessly frantic bang-it-out frat punk and throat-tearing vocals get blurry after a while, though at least they threw in a little-covered tune with their version of Adam Faith's "It's Alright." The 2003 CD edition of this anthology, incidentally, is substantially different from Big Beat's first release of the material, though it has identical tracks and the same title. It's taken from first-generation tapes, and also has a 20-page booklet of liner notes with extensive quotes from several band members (including lead singer Jerry Roslie) and others involved in the group's career.
Dusty Springfield, Reflections [DVD] (White Star). Reflections is a straightforward hour-long collection of Springfield television clips, all from the 1960s and/or early 1970s from the looks of things (no dates are given), with some linking commentary material by singers Petula Clark and B.J. Thomas. Although some of these cuts are most likely lip-synced, and none of them actually have a live band or orchestra in the frame with Dusty, it's still an enjoyable collection of performances from her prime. There are renditions of several of her biggest hits, including "Wishin' and Hopin'," "I Only Want to Be with You," "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," "The Look of Love," "Son of a Preacher Man," and "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten," most of them in color (the black-and-white ones most likely are the earliest, and most likely date from the mid-'60s). Perhaps most interesting to fanatics are the less celebrated songs, like Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," and a few numbers she never put on record, those being covers of "Since I Fell for You," the Impressions' "People Get Ready," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the last of those a duet with Engelbert Humperdinck. And as you'd count on, Dusty's seen in plenty of loud-colored '60s outfits, and about as many different wigs. The interviews with Clark and the less logically-selected Thomas aren't fascinating, but they praise appropriate aspects of Dusty's music and persona, and are both brief and smoothly integrated into the flow. What a pity, though, that there are no dates or sources given as to the original broadcasts of any of the 17 clips.
The Who, Tommy[Deluxe Edition] (Geffen). The two-CD deluxe edition of the Who's masterpiece -- a hybrid playable on both SACD and standard CD players -- is bigger, but not necessarily better. Audiophiles with the appropriate equipment will welcome the chance to hear it as remastered and remixed by Pete Townshend himself, in both stereo and (with the exception of five Townshend solo demos on disc two) 5.1 surround sound for SACD. And everyone, of course, gets the chance to hear not just the original album in all its glory on the 75-minute Disc One, but also 17 additional tracks (many, though not all, of them previously unreleased) on Disc Two. It's the additional material that's rather disappointing, for a few reasons. First, most of it really is marginal, even for the kind of fans that thrive on hearing outtakes and demos. A bunch of the cuts are merely vocal-less alternate backing tracks, similar to the ones on the official Tommy album but a little sloppier. As for the two songs previously unavailable in any form, "Trying to Get Through" is a not-terribly-melodic, repetitive hard rock move-the-plot-along number that Townshend and the Who were wise to cut from the final running order, while the 16-second "I Was" is lyric-less vocal cacophony whose purpose is unexplained by the liner notes (which, in fact, don't comment in detail on any of the bonus material). Alternate versions of "Sally Simpson" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" are welcome for aficionados, but not that radically different from the ones that made the final cut, except that they're less tightly organized. The mediocre outtake "Cousin Kevin Model Child" already appeared on the CD version of Odds and Sods, and while "version 1" of "Young Man Blues" and the instrumental "Dogs (Part 2)" (the non-LP B-side of "Pinball Wizard") are cool hard rock tunes, they don't have anything to do with the Tommy project. Finally, though it's nice to hear five Townshend demos of Tommy tunes, hardcore Who fans know that there are at least a couple of dozen such demos. It would have been great to hear all of them (particularly as the sound on the demos here is better than the fidelity in which they're presented on numerous bootlegs), but that probably would have meant a three-CD deluxe edition rather than a two-CD one, which might have been too much for the market to bear. This deluxe edition is still worthwhile for aficionados (though certainly the liner notes could have been more extensive), but the more general Who and rock fan probably won't be missing anything, and will be saving some money, by sticking with the album in its original unadorned version.
Various Artists, Byrds Won't Fly Today (Misty Lane). With the subtitle "18 desperate folk-punk laments from Byrds-a-like obscure U.S. garage groups circa 1965/1967," that slogan acts as truth in advertising for this unusual but worthwhile garage anthology. It's sometimes forgotten that though the Byrds' chart-topping success in 1965 and 1966 was relatively brief, they influenced hundreds if not thousands of bands. Here's some of the evidence, though just as more hard-edged garage rock records aped the most obvious and crudest elements of the British Invasion, so do these obscure non-hits emulate the most basic aspects of the Byrds' jangly guitars and angelic harmonies. Of course, it's nothing you'd compare to the 1965-66 Byrds themselves. For one thing, the lyrics are usually teenage heartbreak laments (though Rock Garden's "The Wind Is My Keeper" is a notable exception in that regard), rather than statements on the order of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" or "Eight Miles High." And there's not just often more of a pop influence than the Byrds had; there's also far less of a knowledgeable absorption of bluegrass, country, Indian, jazz, and psychedelic elements into the folk-rock framework than the Byrds used even on their early albums. But at the very least, these earnest Byrds derivations have a naive charm, though they lack tunes as memorable as the ones the Byrds recorded (even on the Empty Set's tear of a page from the Byrds' book by folk-rocking an obscure Bob Dylan song, "Tomorrow Is a Long Time"). And sometimes, the tracks are actually pretty worthwhile on their own terms. The Ragamuffins' "Four Days of Rain" comes about the closest to the actual Byrds sound, almost replicating to a T their mid-1960s harmonies, guitar chime, earnest lyricizing, and even Michael Clarke's whooshing "The Bells of Rhymney" cymbal patterns. Also worthy of praise is Dalton, James & Sutton's impressively polished, country-inflected "One Time Around," with a pretty convincing stab at Gene Clark's vocal style; the Ragamuffins' Byrdsy arrangement of the oft-covered "Let's Get Together," with a trembling son-of-Gene Clark lead vocal; and the two raw folk-rockers by the Hard Times, who are about the best-known band on this anthology, which gives you some idea of how deep the compilers dug for these relics.
Various Artists, Folk Rock and Faithfull: Dream Babes Vol. 5 (RPM). The word "folk-rock" seems to mean something different to everyone, and many fans might find this compilation of 22 woman-sung 1965-69 tracks to be more accurately pegged as "folk-rock-influenced pop-rock" than "folk-rock." Even it's more featherweight than the Byrds (or for that matter the Mamas & the Papas), it's a pretty interesting and fun collection of rarities, most of them sung by British femmes and produced in the UK (though a couple of Australians sneak in, as does Jackie DeShannon's "Don't Turn Your Back on Me," recorded by the Californian in England). There's nothing here by Marianne Faithfull, despite the sly use of her name in the title. But the wispier and folkier tracks here certainly bear her influence, including those by Nico (her London-recorded cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "I'm Not Saying"), Vashti (represented by her rare 1966 single "Train Song"/"Love Song"), Gay Singleton's "In My Time of Sorrow" (a DeShannon-Jimmy Page composition also recorded by Faithfull, though Singleton's version is good too), Greta Ann's melodramatic "Sadness Hides the Sun," Gillian Hills's "Tomorrow Is Another Day" (the actress's only English-language release), and Trisha's 1965 single "The Darkness of My Night" (a Donovan composition that Donovan apparently never recorded himself, though it's not so hot). Some of these records opt for a far more elaborately arranged approach, though, with the Caravelles' 1967 single "Hey Mama You've Been on My Mind" sounding rather like Eric Andersen as sung by a girl group and produced by Phil Spector, and Gemini's "Sunshine River" (from Australia) pouring on the Byrdsy electric guitars. While some of these cuts are dull, there are other cool items as well, like "Bring It to Me" by Vashti pals Jennifer Lewis and Angela Strange; Judi Smith's gorgeous "Leaves That Come Tumbling Down," another Jackie DeShannon-Jimmy Page co-write; Australian Maggie Hammond's strong cover of "High Flying Bird," even if she does change the key lyric "I'm rooted like a tree" to the less effective "I'm tired as can be"; and Caroline Carter's "The Ballad of Possibilities (Come Along)," another obscure Jackie DeShannon song. The more traditional face of folk music even surfaces with Leonore Drewery's "Rue," probably better known under the title Pentangle used for the same tune, "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme." The folk-rock concept gets stretched pretty far to include Angelina's "Wishing My Life Away," which seems more influenced by Buddy Holly and Joe Meek. But if that's what it takes to get worthwhile rarities like those issued, why not?
Various Artists, 94 Baker Street: The Pop-Psych Sounds of the Apple Era 1967-1969 (RPM). A slight cautionary note here: although all of the artists on this compilation had affiliations with the Beatles' Apple company in the late 1960s, just one (the Iveys, who later became Badfinger) actually recorded for Apple Records. The others -- Focal Point, Grapefruit, Paintbox, Ways and Means, and John Fitch -- wrote songs for Apple's publishing company, without actually releasing material on the Apple label. That clarification noted, this is a decent anthology of obscure late-'60s British rock (ten of the 18 tracks previously unreleased) that's pretty far toward the "pop" side of "pop-psychedelia," as well as bearing a tangential connection to one of the most interesting pop enterprises of the time, Apple. By far the most famous of the performers were the Iveys, and Badfinger fans will be excited by the appearance of five previously unissued Iveys demos here, only one of which ("Maybe Tomorrow") would be re-recorded for official release. Though these aren't as hook-ridden as the best of Badfinger, the promise is there, with a couple of songs boasting a late-'60s mod rock Whoish sound that wouldn't be typical of Badfinger's eventual style. Serious Beatles fans will probably also be familiar with Grapefruit, the band built around songwriter George Alexander (older brother of the Easybeats' George Young). This CD has their minor British hit single "Dear Delilah," the B-side "Ain't It Good," and alternate unorchestrated versions of two songs from their first LP ("Lullaby" and "Another Game"); perhaps unsurprisingly, they sound like a combination of the Easybeats and the Beatles' feyer pop-psych excursions. Also in the Easybeats mold are a couple George Alexander songs given to other artists, Paintbox's "Getting Ready for Love" (on which Easybeats George Young and Harry Vanda actually play) and Ways and Means' "Breaking Up a Dream." Rounding out the collection are a single and three previously unreleased tracks by Focal Point, who do perhaps the most precious and fairytale-like pop-psychedelia here, and the less enjoyable heavy soul-rock of John Fitch and Associates. It's an interesting little-known chapter in Apple/Beatles lore, then, but the presentation could have been better. The liner notes are excellent, but a couple of the Focal Point songs play in an order different than the track listing, and the three numbers by the Misunderstood (all available elsewhere) that appear in the track listing somehow weren't included on the actual CD at all.
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