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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stone The Crows - Stone The Crows / Ode To John Law (1969-71 uk, impressive soulful blues classic rock, 2015 double disc bonus tracks set)

Stone the Crows was a tough-luck, working class, progressive soul band that came out of the pubs of Scotland in the early '70s. They had everything going for them at the start: not one, but two gritty singers, a talented guitarist, a rhythm section that had played with John Mayall, and the name recognition of having Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant as their producer. Despite favorable reviews by the critics, however, they never managed to sell their hybridized soul music to a large audience. In addition, they lost two of their key members early on, one of whom was tragically electrocuted, and the group broke up after four albums. 

Their biggest contribution to rock was the immense vocal talent of one Maggie Bell. Winner of several Top Girl Singer awards in Britain, Bell had a raunchy, gutbucket voice that, although it fell short of the naked emotion and range of Janis Joplin's, came probably closer to her style than any other female singer. She first attracted notice when she jumped up on stage at a show in Glasgow to wail with Alex Harvey of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Impressed by her talent (and audacity), Harvey hooked her up with his guitar-playing younger brother Les, then fronting a local band called the Kinning Park Ramblers. After playing army bases in Europe for several years as Power, Bell, Harvey, bassist Jim Dewar, keyboardist Jon McGinnis, and drummer Colin Allen (who had played with future bass player Steve Thompson in John Mayall's band), came to the attention of Peter Grant and they changed their name to Stone the Crows, which supposedly is a Scottish variation of "the hell with it." 

Both of their first two albums received good reviews upon release, but sold very meagerly. Then bassist/vocalist Jim Dewar quit the band to join Robin Trower's fledgling group, to be replaced by the non-singing Steve Thompson. Shortly after releasing Teenage Licks, guitarist Les Harvey was electrocuted onstage during a gig at Swansea University. This appeared to end the band, but they carried on, recruiting young Jimmy McCulloch from Thunderclap Newman and released "'Ontinuous Performance." Although the rock press lauded the singing of Bell, her group couldn't seem to emerge from the shadows and they broke up after this last album, with McCulloch flying away to join Paul McCartney in Wings. 
by Peter Kurtz

Disc 1 Stone The Crows 1970
1. The Touch Of Your Loving Hand (James Dewar, Leslie Harvey) - 6:03
2. Raining In Your Heart (James Dewar, Leslie Harvey) - 5:09
3. Blind Man (Josh White) - 5:12
4. A Fool On The Hill (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:09
5. I Saw America (Colin Allen, Leslie Harvey, Mark London) - 17:21
6. Freedom Road (Radio Sesions) (Maggie Bell) - 10:32
7. Hollis Brown (Radio Sesions) (Bob Dylan) - 13:05

Disc 2 Ode To John Law 1971
1. Sad Mary (John McGinnis) - 6:54
2. Friend (James Dewar, Leslie Harvey) - 6:28
3. Love (John McGinnis) - 6:36)
4. Mad Dogs And Englishmen (Colin Allen, Leslie Harvey) - 3:34
5. Things Are Getting Better (John McGinnis) - 6:10
6. Ode To John Law (Colin Allen, Leslie Harvey) - 5:44
7. Danger Zone (Curtis Mayfield) - 6:21
8. The Touch Of Your Loving Hand (Radio Sessions) (James Dewar, Leslie Harvey) - 6:01
9. Raining In Your Heart (Radio Sessions) (James Dewar, Leslie Harvey) - 4:14

Stone The Crows
*James Dewar - Bass, Vocals
*Colin Allen - Drums, Percussion
*Leslie Harvey - Guitar
*Maggie Bell - Vocals
*John McGinnis - Organ, Piano

1972  Stone The Crows - Live In Montreux
1975  Maggie Bell - Suicide Sal (2006 remaster)

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trapeze - Medusa (1970 uk, fantastic tough funky, classic rock, 2008 remaster)

Not only is Medusa the finest offering from '70s outfit Trapeze, it is one of the decade's most underappreciated hard rock recordings. With a lineup that consisted of future Deep Purple, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath members, there seems to be proof that at least a few fellow musicians appreciated this 1971 offering. Fans of his later work might be surprised by Glenn Hughes' soulful vocal delivery, especially on the midtempo blues-rockers like "Black Cloud" and "Your Love Is Alright." Guitarist Mel Galley also deserves mention for his sparse approach to classic rock riffing that is catchy and affective.

Even the ballads are focused, memorable, and unique. There are some melodic moments on the closing title track that sound almost as if a '90s alt-rock crooner composed them. Considering that Medusa predates many similar, and more successful, classic rock LPs from the likes of Bad Company, Nazareth, Foreigner, and others, it's a wonder that the record isn't mentioned more when influential albums of this era are discussed. 
by Jason Anderson

1. Black Cloud (Mel Galley) - 6:11
2. Jury (Glen Hughes) - 8:10
3. Your Love Is Alright (Mel Galley, Glen Hughes, Dave Holland) - 4:55
4. Touch My Life (Mel Galley) - 4:07
5. Seafull (Glen Hughes) - 6:32
6. Makes You Wanna Cry (Mel Galley) - 4:43
7. Medusa (Glen Hughes) - 5:44

*Glen Hughes - Bass, Piano, Lead Vocals
*Mel Galley -  Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Holland - Drums

1974  Trapeze - Hot Wire (2015 remaster)
1975  Trapeze - Trapeze (2015 remaster)
1975  Trapeze - Live At The Boat Club

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Mott The Hoople - Two Miles From Heaven (1969-72 uk, tough classic rock with some glam shades, 2003 issue)

After British Lions broke up, Dale Griffin (and Morgan) went in the studios to put together this compilation of rare and unreleased Mott The Hoople material from Island's vaults.  Mott recorded virtually everything they wrote, and just about any day not spent gigging was spent in the studio.  As a result, there is a lot of unreleased (and unfinished) material in there.

What an absolute peach this collection is. Unreleased tracks, rare b-sides and early versions of songs that would be recorded later on... this album has long been sought after by fans,  and is now at long last available on CD.

It starts with a rare vocal version of the Kinks' You Really Got Me.  Next up is Ian's first stab at social commentary, Road To Birmingham which was the b-side to Rock And Roll Queen, Mott's first single.  Then there's the alternate version of Thunderbuck Ram, with Verden's organ featuring much higher in the mix.  The studio version of Keep a Knockin' is fast and furious, and an absolute belter.

Movin' On is next - slated for the original vinyl but withdrawn at the last minute is a medium-paced rocker that Mick Ralphs would eventually re-record with Bad Company.  Ride On The Sun is beautiful - this again would be re-recorded (as Sea Diver) later on - and is possibly one of Ian's best ballads. 

Growin' Man Blues is another fast rocker which I never grow tired of hearing.  Till I'm Gone is another ballad, beautifully sung by Mick Ralphs (for a version of him sharing the vocals with Ian, check out the Anthology).  One Of The Boys is an acoustic version of the song that would be re-recorded later on.  Black Scorpio (Momma's Little Jewel) is faster than the version that would be recorded for the Dudes album.

Two more bonus tracks close the album, The Debt (which was the b-side to Midnight Lady) and the non-LP single Downtown,  with Mick Ralphs again supplying the vocals for this Neil Young/Crazy Horse cover.

As always with Angel Air, packaging is excellent with excellent and informative sleeve notes by Dale Griffin. Sound quality throughout is excellent (a lot better than the original LP).  Strangely, tho' the running order on the Bald At The Station side is different from the original LP.  No matter - this is an important album in Mott's history.

1. You Really Got Me (Ray Davies) 3.08
2. The Road to Birmingham (Ian Hunter) 3.30
3. Thunderbuck Ram (Mick Ralphs) 4.41
4. Going Home (Mick Ralphs) 3.00
5. Little Christine (Mick Ralphs) 3.06
6. Keep a Knockin' (Richard Penniman) 3.25
7. Black Hills (Mick Ralphs) 1.32
8. Movin' On (Mick Ralphs) 2.44
9. Ride On the Sun (Ian Hunter) 3.38
10.Growin' Man Blues (Ian Hunter) 2.46
11.Until I'm Gone (Mick Ralphs) 3.14
12.One of the Boys (Mick Ralphs, Ian Hunter) 4.19
13.Surfin' U.K. (Mick Ralphs) 2.37
14.Black Scorpio (Ian Hunter, Peter Overend Watts) 3.36
15.Ill Wind Blowing (Ian Hunter) 3.53
16.The Debt (Ian Hunter) 4.15
17.Downtown (Danny Whitten, Neil Young) 3.03

Mott The Hoople
Ian Hunter - Vocals, Piano, Guitar
Mick Ralphs - Guitar, Vocals
Peter Watts - Bass Guitar, Vocals
Dale Griffin - Drums
Verden Allen - Organ

1966/90  Doc Thomas Group And The Silence - The Italian Job / Shotgun Eyes
1969  Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople (2003 bonus tracks remaster)
1970  Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (2003 Extra Tracks Remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Wildlife (2003 japan bonus tracks remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers (bonus tracks remaster)
1972  Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (2006 bonus tracks remaster)
1973  Mott The Hoople - Mott (2006 remaster and expanded)
1974  Mott The Hoople - Hoople (2006 remaster and expanded)

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mott The Hoople - Hoople (1974 uk, power glam rock, 2006 remaster and expanded)

The Hoople was Mott's third album release on CBS/Columbia Records and the band had much to live up to after their two previous studio work outs. All the Young Dudes had taken the group in an exciting new direction under David Bowie's tutelage and the self-produced Mott was so strong that its sequel inevitably faced unjust criticism. However, there were some mitigating circumstances. Organist Verden Allen and founder/lead guitarist Mick Ralphs had both left Mott in 1973. The group considered Joe Walsh, Tommy Bolin and Ronnie Montrose as Ralphs' replacement but opted for Luther Grosvenor, who joined as 'Ariel Bender'. 

These developments changed the character of the band quite significantly firstly because vocalist Ian Hunter was now the undisputed group leader, secondly because Grosvenor was not a musical collaborator as Ralphs had been and thirdly because Ian effectively became sole writer. But Mott's front man had composed some fearsome new songs and The Hoople marked a solid progression. In retrospect, the album deserves greater merit for the diversity and power of Hunter's material. The 'updated' top ten hit single "Roll Away the Stone" and its follow up, "The Golden Age Of Rock ln' Roll", closed and opened the LP, acting as bookends to the eclectic material within. In 1974 there was a strong UK lobby to limit the noise level at rock concerts to 96 decibels and 'Golden Age' was an expression of Hunter's annoyance but also a celebration of the glamorous and buoyant music scene that was thriving at that time. 

Roxy Music's Andy Mackay contributed rousing saxophone to the new single and he also played to great effect on "Pearl 'n' Roy (England)", a tale of social and political frustration referencing the British Conservative Prime Minister of the time, Ted Heath. Mott was renowned for its passion towards guitars and cars. After "Drivin1 Sister" and "I'm a Cadillac" on the Mott album, bassist Overend Watts contributed "Born Late '58," a very credible rocker that Ian thought was a potential single at the time. It was the only Mott track not to feature their front man who was in America when the band cut the song Ian also extended his tales of New York City with "Alice" which trod in the tracks of Mott's "Whizz Kid". Hunter's lyrical outpouring on "Alice" was unprecedented and consequently the song was performed only once in concert. Morgan Fisher, Verden Allen's replacement, fitted the band like a glove, as exemplified by his fantastic organ playing on this cut. 

"Through the Looking Glass" is unique in the Mott canon with its stunning dynamics and orchestral arrangement rising and falling dramatically behind Hunter's expressive vocals. "Trudi's Song", a beautiful ode to lan's wife, inspired by Dylan's Nashville Skyline album, is a gentle contrast to much of The Hoople's hard edge. With the headlines 'Fragments of Madness' and 'Hoople's Blood and Thunder', two British rock journals were clearly startled by Hunter's powerful and highly charged masterpieces, "Crash Street Kidds" and "Marionette". Echoing "Violence" from Mott, "Crash Street Kidds" tells the tale of a street gang who have become so socially disenchanted that they decide they are going to take over Britain. In the end, youth fails with lan's transformed 'dalek voice' and a 'machine gun' heralding the gang leader's demise. Originally conceived as "The Bash Street Kidds", it was to be the album's theme and title but the publishers of the Beano comic (which featured the Bash St characters) would not countenance Hunter's concept. 

The cornerstone of The Hoople is unquestionably "Marionette", lan's five minute mini opera describing the corporate side of rock music and its effect on artists. Crazed violin, frantic saxes, staccato cellos, Quasimodo choruses and manic laughter surround Hunter's nightmare of a rock star driven to submission. Ian was often ahead of the field and within 18 months Queen had written a certain smash hit operetta and 'marionette' was used to describe David Essex in his portrayal of a fading pop star in the movie Stardust. Within nine months Ian Hunter would be confined to a hospital bed. Before then, "The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll" hit #16 in Britain and The Hoople reached #11. Mott played a 6week American tour with Queen as support and became the first rock band to sell out a week of Broadway concerts in New York's theatre land. Hunter's acclaimed book Diary of a rock 'n' roll Star was also published around this time. It was a peak period for the group. 

During The Hoople sessions the band recorded the reflective "Rest In Peace" and a further Spector-style single "Foxy Foxy" for summer release. In the autumn of '74 it was felt that Ariel Bender did not suit Mott as lead guitarist and in spite of his whirlwind energy and the renewed spirit he had injected into the group, Grosvenor left, turned down an offer to join Sparks and formed Widowmaker instead. Bender's replacement was the brilliant Mick Ronson whose recruitment by   Hunter was a masterstroke. 'Ronno' laid down guitar for a single entitled "(Do You Remember) The Saturday Gigs?" and an intended B side, "Lounge Lizzard". The self-referential "Saturday Gigs" was deemed a huge potential hit but it stalled inexplicably at #41 in the UK. 

European concerts with Ronson were highly praised but there were increasing tensions in the band and Hunter's subsequent breakdown led to the cancellation of a sold out British tour. Mott ceased to exist. The Hoople is Mott the Hoople's final creative offering and one of their most under-rated albums lying as it does in the wake of Brain Capers, AH the Young Dudes and Mott. It is still a remarkable record and Hunter's compositions "Crash Street Kidds" and "Marionette" pointed the group in a new and exciting direction that sadly they were unable to follow. Little wonder that Ian had planned to feature a straight jacket on the cover of their next album. 'Fragments of Madness' indeed!
by Campbell Devine

1. The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll  - 3:26
2. Marionette  - 5:08
3. Alice  - 5:20
4. Crash Street Kidds - 4:31
5. Born Late '58 (Overend Watts) - 4:00
6. Trudi's Song - 4:26
7. Pearl 'N' Roy (England) - 4:31
8. Through the Looking Glass - 4:37
9. Roll Away the Stone - 3:10
10.Where Do You All Come From (B-side) (Dale "Buffin" Griffin, Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Peter Watts) - 3:26
11.Rest in Peace (B-side of "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" single) - 3:55
12.Foxy, Foxy (Non-LP single A-side) - 3:31
13.(Do You Remember The) Saturday Gigs (Non-LP single A-side) - 4:20
14.The Saturday Kids (Work in progress mixes) - 6:03
15.Lounge Lizzard (Aborted single b-side) - 4:19
16.American Pie/The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll (Live from Broadway)  (Don McLean, Ian Hunter) - 4:15
All tracks written by Ian Hunter except as noted.

Mott The Hoople
*Ian Hunter - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards
*Pete "Overend" Watts - Bass Guitar, Vocals, Riff Guitar, 12-String Guitar
*Dale "Buffin" Griffin - Drums, Vocals, Percussion
*Ariel Bender (Luther Grosvenor) - Lead Guitar, Vocals, Slide Guitar
*Morgan Fisher - Organ, Synthesizer, Piano
Guest Musicians
*Howie Casey - Tenor Saxophone
*Jock McPherson - Baritone, Tenor  Saxophone
*Mike Hurwitz - Cello
*Lynsey De Paul - Backing Vocals
*Mick Ralphs - Backing Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Graham Preskett - Violin, Tubular Bells
*Sue Glover, Sunny Leslie - Backing Vocals
*Barry St. John - Backing Vocals
*Thunderthighs (Karen Friedman, Dari Lalou, Casey Synge) - Backing Vocals

1966/90  Doc Thomas Group And The Silence - The Italian Job / Shotgun Eyes
1969  Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople (2003 bonus tracks remaster)
1970  Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (2003 Extra Tracks Remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Wildlife (2003 japan bonus tracks remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers (bonus tracks remaster)
1972  Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (2006 bonus tracks remaster)
1973  Mott The Hoople - Mott (2006 remaster and expanded)

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leviathan - The Legendary Lost Elektra Album (1969 uk, amazing beat psych rock, 2016 remaster)

The Brighton band Leviathan, previously known as Mike Stuart Span, featured in one of the very best TV programmes ever about Pop Music. It is also unintentionally very funny indeed. In their episode “Big Deal Group”, part of BBC’s “A Year In The Life” series, “the Span” begin as a group on the up being managed by the hapless Mike Clayton, who demonstrates his acumen early on by signing away an extra 5% of their earnings to a booking agency for seemingly doing nothing much at all. Clearly way out of his depth when it came to the London Showbiz mafia and not exactly a Peter Grant figure, it was no surprise when he and the group parted company after a series of mishaps, including an underwhelming television appearance and unwisely buying a record shop on the royalties from a non-selling single. This left the Mike Stuart Span forlornly rehearsing at a local Youth Club, contemplating a spell working on building sites instead of the glamour in the last dying breathes of Swinging London. Of Clayton, we saw no more.

After this inevitable parting of the ways, something new was needed for the band. Luckily a deal with US label Elektra, home of the Doors and Love amongst others, came out of the blue on the proviso that the group’s name be changed to the more 1969 sounding Leviathan. Though not that enamoured with the new moniker (and the decision on this came right from the top, from none other than Jac Holzman, Elektra president), the band generally welcomed this unexpected upswing in fortune.

The tail end of “Big Deal Band” shows Clive Selwood, John Peel’s mate and now the band’s handler, attempting unsuccessfully to hustle the newly rechristened Leviathan some air time on the Kenny Everett radio show. Presumably it was also Selwood’s idea to release two singles by the band on the same day – the kind of ploy that rarely worked, but I suppose desperate times called for desperate measures. By the time the documentary aired, the band were no more, their dreams of UK and Stateside success dashed when Elektra (and Holzman again being personally involved) rejected their first attempt at making an album. They told them to go back and try again, but by this time Leviathan had run out of money and with nothing forthcoming from the US, that was that.

The LP that they recorded has remained in limbo ever since, apart from a brief vinyl release a short while back, but now we can hear it in all its glory, nearly 50 years after it was recorded. And, despite at times taking rather too strongly an influence from the preeminent UK band of the time Cream, it is a beaut. Though looked upon as a change from the “Psychedelic” Mike Stuart Span to a more “Progressive” sound, it’s not a startling alteration of style. Leviathan do occasionally fall back on the kind of “Blues” jamming that tended to rule in Blighty at the time – but for the most part inventive, catchy Heavy Psych/late period Freakbeat is the order of the day.

Their best single “Remember The Times”, cruelly missed out on the charts despite being on a par with great bands like the Move and there’s a touch of “Sunday Afternoon” era-Kinks in the mix, very agreeable indeed. Though a touch more guitar gung-ho than in their Span years (even further back they started as a Soul band with a full brass section), they still manage to make a catchy concoction of their contradictions (i.e wanting the fame and fortune that success would bring, but also a need to be “taken seriously”). Occasionally they trip over into self-parody, with the multi-section anti-war “War Machine” making one stifle a few giggles but feel a bit mean afterwards, as they were undoubtedly being earnest. “Flames”, another single side, manages to neatly bolt together the Progressive and Pop with a complicated guitar riff dovetailing nicely with a doleful but memorable song. They never lost their Pop smarts, though perhaps “Evil Woman” does go a little too far down the “Clapton Is God” path. “Just Forget Tomorrow”, another side of the ill-fated double single, is another good one. At times they had a bit in common with the Who of the same period, with strong vocals complimenting powerful but fluid instrumentation. Also Leviathan had the advantage of not having to weld their cracking tunes to an unwieldy concept unlike Rog and the boys.

“Leviathan – The Legendary Lost Elektra Album” may well have disappeared without making much of a ripple even if it had seen the light of day back in 1969, knowing the band’s luck, but that is not to blind us from its many good qualities. Though Leviathan were never destined to make the higher reaches of the charts and struggled to even get their records released, they had an innate skill for producing excellent Psychedelic-toned Pop Music and finally, all these years later, we have the proof.
by Ian Canty

1. Remember The Times (Stuart Hobday) - 2:46
2. Second Production (Stuart Hobday, Gary Murphy, Roger McCabe, Brian Bennett) - 4:44
3. The War Machine (Stuart Hobday) - 5:19)
4. Through The Looking Glass (Stuart Hobday, Brian Bennett) - 5:45
5. Blue Day (Stuart Hobday, Brian Bennett) - 6:38
6. Time (Gary Murphy, Brian Bennett) - 4:00
7. Flames (Gary Murphy, Brian Bennett) - 4:47
8. World In My Head (Stuart Hobday, Brian Bennett) - 4:29
9. Evil Woman  (Larry Weiss) - 7:57
10.Flames (Single Version) (Gary Murphy, Brian Bennett) - 3:48
11.Just Forget Tomorrow (Single) (Stuart Hobday, Brian Bennett) - 4:19
12.Remember The Times (Australian Single Version) (Stuart Hobday) - 2:41
Bonus tracks 10-12

*Stuart Hobday  - Vocals
*Brian Bennett  - Guitar
*Roger McCabe  - Bass
*Gary Murphy  - Drums

1964-68  Mike Stuart Span - Children Of Tomorrow (2011 Grapefruit remaster)  
Related Act
1967-68  Jason Crest - The Collected Works

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Doug Sahm - Doug Sahm And Band / Texas Tornado / Groovers Paradise (1973-74 us, spectacular melt of country folk blues and classic rock, 2016 double disc set)

Doug Sahm began his solo career in 1972, after the Sir Douglas Quintet finished its contract with Smash/Mercury and after Atlantic Records co-owner/producer Jerry Wexler convinced him to sign to his label. Wexler gave the Texas maverick the chance to cut a star-studded, big-budget album, shuffling him off to New York where Wexler and Arif Mardin helmed a series of sessions with an ever-revolving cast of musicians featuring Bob Dylan, Dr. John, David "Fathead" Newman, David Bromberg, and Flaco Jimenez, in addition to such Sir Doug stalwarts as Augie Meyers and the rhythm section of bassist Jack Barber and drummer George Rains (all but the latter were in the last incarnation of the Quintet, raising the question of whether the group was indeed finished or not, but such is the nature of Sahm's discography). This group cut a lot of material, which was whittled down to the 12-track album Doug Sahm and Band, released in early 1973.

 At the time, the record received a push from the label and was generally disparaged because of those very all-stars on whose back it was sold, but the years have been kind indeed to the album, and it stands among Sahm's best. Indeed, the heart of the album is not at all far removed from those latter-day Sir Douglas Quintet albums on Mercury, which isn't much of a stretch since Sahm never really strayed from his signature blend of rock & roll, blues, country, and Tejano, but the bigger band and bigger production give the music a different feel -- one that's as loose as the best Quintet material, but off-handedly accomplished and slyly freewheeling. Original reviews noted that there was an overtly country direction on And Band, but that's not really true on an album that has Western swing and rambling country-rock like "Blues Stay Away from Me" and the anthemic "(Is Anybody Going To) San Antone" jutting up against pure blues in "Your Friends" and "Papa Ain't Salty," let alone loose-limbed rockers like "Dealer's Blues" and "I Get Off" or the skipping Tejano "Poison Love," fueled by Jimenez's addictive accordion. 

These are all convincing arguments that the larger band allowed Sahm to indulge in all of his passions, to the extent of devoting full tracks to each of his favorite sounds -- something that was a bit different than the Quintet records, which usually mixed it all up so it was impossible to tell where one influence ended and another began. That's still true on And Band -- for instance, witness the brilliant cover of Willie Nelson's "Me and Paul," a country song goosed by soulful horns and delivered in a delirious drawl from Sir Doug -- but much of the album finds that signature Sahm sprawl being punctuated by style-specific detours where Sahm seizes the opportunity to stretch out as much as his guests seize the opportunity to jam with this American musical visionary. 

These are all characteristics of a jam session, which these sessions essentially were -- after all, on this album he only penned three out of the 12 songs -- but relying on covers also points out how Doug Sahm sounds so much like himself, he makes other people's tunes sound as if he wrote them himself. Again, that's something that was true throughout his career, but here it is in sharper relief than most of his records due to the nature of the sessions. And while it's arguable whether this is better than latter-day Sir Douglas Quintet albums -- or such mid-'70s records as Groover's Paradise or Texas Rock for Country Rollers for that matter -- there's no question that this is music that is vividly, excitedly alive and captures Sahm at a peak. It's pretty much irresistible. 

Doug Sahm recorded much of his second Atlantic album, Texas Tornado, around the release of his first, Doug Sahm and Band, and even used outtakes from those sessions to fill out this 11-track record, so it would seem that the two records would be nearly identical. But, as they say, appearances can be deceiving, and the two albums have fairly distinct characters, at least within the frame of Sahm's music, where all his music is instantly identifiable. The biggest difference between the two records is that a good eight of the 11 songs are Doug Sahm originals -- an inversion of And Band, which relied on covers -- and most of those are produced by Sahm himself, not Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, who helmed its predecessor, and he gives the record a feel that's considerably more streamlined than the cheerfully rambling And Band, while giving it a little grit by more or less concentrating on rock 'n' roll.

That the exceptions arrive early and are as disarming as the "Summer Wind"-styled, Sinatra-esque crooner "Someday" and lite bossa nova groover "Blue Horizon" -- two detours that make more sense in the broader context of the complete Atlantic recordings showcased on Rhino Handmade's double-disc set The Genuine Texas Groover but are bewildering here -- gives the record an off-kilter feel that may cause some listeners to underrate what is not just a typically excellent Sahm set, but one of his strongest selections of songs. Apart from the barnstorming opener, "San Francisco FM Blues," perhaps the best attempt at shoehorning Sahm's untamed Texan feel to AOR, these all come on the dynamite second side that houses the anthemic title track, as perfect an encapsulation of his Tex-Mex fusion as they come, the rampaging roadhouse rocker "Juan Mendoza," one of his best salutes to Latin culture in the 2-step "Chicano," an excellent Sir Douglas-styled groover in "Hard Way," and the gloriously breezy "Nitty Gritty," one of his very best songs (not to mention one of his best performances, highlighted by his call to right-hand man Augie Meyers before his organ solo). 

Unlike Doug Sahm and Band, Texas Tornado is billed to the Sir Doug Band, which is not quite the Sir Douglas Quintet, but with all of his usual gang in place -- not just Meyers but bassist Jack Barber, drummer George Rains, and saxophonist Rocky Morales, among others -- it essentially is no different than a Sir Douglas Quintet album, but really that's splitting hairs since the album is simply first-rate Doug Sahm. It may be recorded toward the end of his peak period -- after this, he turned out two other arguable classics before settling into a comfortably enjoyable groove that he rode out for the rest of his life -- but it still captures him at an undeniable peak and it's undeniably irresistible.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Anyone who finds hippies irritating might want to throw this record across the room -- and that's a good review right there, since it has been long established via intense scientific study that music which somehow motivates people to throw records across the room is usually quite good. No exception to this rule here, as fans of Doug Sahm often choose this as a personal favorite, while it is also one of the better side projects of the Creedence Clearwater Revival rhythm section. If Sahm was writing the review himself in 1974, he would have no doubt described the whole thing as some kind of "trip"; after all, this expression is used three times alone on the back cover of this album, actually less than one might expect considering the stoned-out nature of the accompanying comics. These black-and-white illustrations by Kelly Fitzgerald are a great part of the record's enduring charm, but the music itself is deeper than the coolie hippie vibe.

This is simply a great roots rock album, and like much of Sahm's work it is loaded with complex details as well as loving interplay between the musicians. These tracks indicate a mastery of many basic forms such as blues, rhythm & blues, norteño, country, and Cajun and the players always seem to be probing beyond this to find something new. Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug Clifford produced as well as played, and did a superior job, irrigating the proceedings with a range of available Sahm streams like some kind of master gardener. The use of horns is excellent, not only providing plenty of punch in the arrangements but memorable effects such as the spooky baritone sax solo on "Just Groove Me." A large section of the sonic spread is always reserved for Sahm's lush guitar playing, including lots of rock, country, and blues licks, while bassist Stu Cook sometimes adds additional guitar, expertly mocking the patented hypnotic John Fogerty sound for an effect that is not unlike Sahm sitting in on a Creedence album. Of course, the range of that classic '60s and '70s rock group seems quite limited compared to Sahm, who whips off an expert version of the Tex-Mex instrumental "La Cacahueta," the only track here which he did not compose himself. 

The well-crafted yet daringly personal and unembarrassed songs include haunting country-influenced ballads such as "Her Dream Man Never Came," as well as really top-notch examples of good old rock & roll, the hilarious "For the Sake of Rock 'N' Roll" and the bewitchingly cooking "Devil Heart." The second side of the original vinyl is one of this artist's most perfect set of songs. The final track, "Catch Me in the Morning," is one of several on this album that benefits from a long, satisfying arrangement -- hardly the kind of simple dirt that is often tossed off the shovel in the quest for roots rock. The band tends to move through these pieces with confidence, as if already expecting to have lost the attention of the simpletons in the crowd. At the same time, there are those listeners who will find it hard to believe a simple song, let alone such a magnum opus, could be created from the almost nonexistent message of this song. "Call me in the morning, I am too tired to talk right now," is just about all this song says, and it is one of the marvels of Sahm that he is able to parlay a near-operatic sense of importance into such a typical part of daily life. Giving him an instrumental credit for being a "dreamer" -- nicely enough, it comes right after the credit for bajo sexto -- is one of the most appropriate details, or "trips," on Groover's Paradise. 
by Eugene Chadbourne

Disc 1 Doug Sahm And Band 1973
1. (Is anybody Going to) San Antone (Dave Kirby, Glen Martin) - 3:10
2. It's Gonna Be Easy (Atwood Allen) - 3:31
3. Your Friends (Deadric Malone) - 5:23
4. Poison Love (Elmer Laird) - 4:21
5. Wallflower (Bob Dylan) - 2:40
6. Dealer's Blues (Doug Sahm) - 2:59
7. Faded Love (B. Wills, J. Wills ) - 3:55
8. Blues Stay Away From Me (A. Delmore, H. Glover, R. Delmore, W. Raney) - 4:48
9. Papa Ain't Salty (Grover McDaniel, T-Bone Walker) - 4:30
10.Me And Paul (Willie Nelson) - 3:34
11.Don't Turn Around (Doug Sahm) - 3:28
12.I Get Off (Doug Sahm) - 2:39

Disc 2  Texas Tornado / Groovers Paradise 1973-74
1. San Francisco FM Blues - 3:31
2. Someday - 3:21
3. Blue Horizon - 4:25
4. Tennessee Blues (Bobby Charles) - 5:34
5. Ain't That Loving You (Deadric Malone) - 4:58
6. Texas Tornado - 2:58
7. Juan Mendoza - 2:57
8. Chicano - 2:18
9. I'll Be There (Dave Burgess) - 2:38
10.Hard Way - 2:13
11.Nitty Gritty - 3:08
12.Groover's Paradise - 3:25
13.Devil Heart - 4:26
14.Houston Chicks - 3:52
15.For The Sake Of Rock 'N Roll - 3:21
16.Beautiful Texas Sunshine - 3:17
17.Just Groove Me - 3:27
18.Girls Today - Don't Like To Sleep Alone - 2:31
19.La Cacahuata (Peanut) (Luis Guerrero) - 1:48
20.Her Dream Man Never Came - 3:13
21.Catch Me In The Morning - 5:09
All songs by Doug Sahm except where noted
Tracks 1-11 as The Sir Douglas Band


1964-66  Sir Douglas Quintet - The Best Of ....Plus
1969-73  Sir Douglas Quintet - Mendocino (bonus material reissue)
1973  Doug Sahm - Doug Sahm And Band  

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Mott The Hoople - Mott (1973 uk, electrifying glam rock, 2006 remaster and expanded)

All the Young Dudes actually brought Mott the Hoople success, but you wouldn't know that from its sequel, Mott.  Ian Hunter's songs are a set of road tales fraught with exhaustion, disillusionment, and dashed dreams, all told with a wry sense of humor so evident on Mott's earlier work. This is no ordinary road album where a band whines about the perils of traveling -- it's more of a wry commentary on rock 'n' roll itself, which, as Hunter notes, is a loser's game. Mott doesn't sound that way, though -- it's as winning and infectious as rock 'n' roll gets. 

Even with the undercurrents of ironic despair and restrained hostility, this is a fun record (partially because of that despair and hostility, of course). This sounds better, looser, than All the Young Dudes, as the band jives through All the Way from Memphis and Honaloochie Boogie, beats the living hell outta Violence, swaggers on Whizz Kid, and simply drives it home on Drivin' Sister. 

Apart from the New York Dolls (who, after all, were in a league of their own), glam never sounds as rock as it does here. To top it all off, Hunter writes the best lament for rock ever with Ballad of Mott the Hoople, a song that conveys just how heartbreaking rock & roll is for the average band. If that wasn't enough, he trumps that song with the closer I Wish I Was Your Mother, a peerless breakup song that still surprises, even after it's familiar. It's a graceful, unexpected way to close a record that stands as one of the best of its era. 
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1. All the Way from Memphis - 5:02
2. Whizz Kid - 3:25
3. Hymn for the Dudes (Verden Allen, Ian Hunter) - 5:24
4. Honaloochie Boogie (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 2:43
5. Violence (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 4:48
6. Drivin’ Sister - 3:53
7. Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26th March 1972, Zurich) (Ian Hunter, Dale Buffin, Peter Watts, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen) - 5:24
8. I’m a Cadillac/El Camino Dolo Roso (Mick Ralphs) - 7:51
9. I Wish I Was Your Mother - 4:52
10.Rose (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Peter Watts, Dale Buffin) - 3:56
11.Honaloochie Boogie (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 3:07
12.Nightmare (Verden Allen) - 3:36
13.Drivin' Sister (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 4:30
All songs written by Ian Hunter, except where indicated
Track 10 B-side of Honaloochie Boogie; produced by Mott The Hoople
Tracks 11-12 Demo recordings
Track 13 Live 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon; produced by Dale Buffin Griffin

Mott The Hoople
*Ian Hunter - Vocals, Piano, Guitar
*Mick Ralphs - Vocals, Guitar
*Pete Overend Watts - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Dale Buffin Griffin - Drums, Vocals, Percussion
Additional Personnel
*Paul Buckmaster - Electric Cello
*Morgan Fisher - Backing Vocals, Piano, Synthesizer
*Mick Hince - Bells
*Andy Mackay - Saxophone
*Graham Preskett - Violin
*Thunderthighs (Karen Friedman, Dari Lalou, Casey Synge) - Backing Vocals

1966/90  Doc Thomas Group And The Silence - The Italian Job / Shotgun Eyes
1969  Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople (2003 bonus tracks remaster)
1970  Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (2003 Extra Tracks Remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Wildlife (2003 japan bonus tracks remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers (bonus tracks remaster)
1972  Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (2006 bonus tracks remaster)

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