Friday, 24 February 2017

"The Albums" by BLACKFOOT SUE (2017 7T's/Cherry Red 3CD Mini Box Set of Remasters including "Standing In The Road" and "Nothing To Hide") - A Review by Mark Barry...







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"...Standing In The Road..."

'7t's' is a Cherry Red label and they've been steadily feeding the needs of Seventies Rock, Pop and Glam Rock fans for some time now. Their releases are always well annotated and the Remasters ace - making available again music that many still want but can't find anywhere else.

Birmingham's BLACKFOOT SUE is such a band. Their stop-start muddled career is centred about the monster single "Standing In The Road" which peaked at a deserving No. 4 in a 10-week run during the Pan's People summer of 1972 – and a lone album that arrived as an almost afterthought in the spring of 1973. Most of us who were young then remember with affection the fantastic "Standing In The Road" - its John Kongos/Nazareth stomping Rock vibe as well as that distinctive Jam Records logo and label bag. The debut album "Nothing To Hide" arrived 20 April 1973 - way too late to sustain any momentum the two preceding singles had built up. And worse - the album didn't feature either 45 "Standing In The Road" or "Sing Don't Speak" because of the band's deliberate policy of having the two separate (the "Sing Don't Speak" follow-up single had peaked at No. 36 in December 1972 – their final chart entry). The second album "Strangers" was recorded in 1974 but shelved - eventually turning up on Import Records in the USA in 1977 (not that anyone noticed). And the final platter "Gun Running" made it to a DJM catalogue number but naught else - it too shelved as the band disintegrated.

This beautifully presented and superb-sounding 3CD Mini Box Set from 7T’s aims to bring the lot together - and does so in style. That's the good news - unfortunately it's very easy to hear why albums number 2 and 3 were shelved and why all those non-album track singles were failing - they just weren't that good as their style of music veered from this to that without recapturing the magic of those initial issues. Stylistically the officially-released "Nothing To Hide" LP is a hard-to-nail-down hybrid – Rock one moment – vocal harmonies the next. Chart Pop ends Side 1 only to have monster Atomic Rooster Guitar riffage open Side 2. It's a sort of Hollies meets Budgie meets T.Rex meets The Moody Blues mash-up of genres and voices. But the good stuff is great and along with the better cuts on those rare B-sides is worth the purchase. I just wish the rest lived up to that initial flourish. Here are the in-depth details...

UK released 27 January 2017 (3 February 2017 in the USA)  - "The Albums" by BLACKFOOT SUE on 7T's/Cherry Red GLAMBOX163 (Barcode 5013929056305) is a 3CD Mini Box Set containing Three Albums and Eight Bonus Track Single-Sides - it plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Nothing To Hide" (60:35 minutes):
1. Messiah
2. Country Home
3. Cry
4. My Oh My
5. Now We're Three
6. The Spring Of '69 [Side 2]
7. Glittery Obituary
8. On His Own
9. Too Soon
10. Gypsy Jam
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "Nothing To Hide" - released 20 April 1973 in the UK on Jam Records JAL 104 (no US release). Produced by NOEL WALKER - it failed to chart.

BONUS TRACKS (all tracks non-album):
11. Standing In The Road
12. Celestial Plain
Tracks 11 and 12 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 13, released 2 June 1972
13. Sing Don't Speak
14. 2 B Free
Tracks 13 and 14 are the A&B-sides of their 2nd UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 29, released 10 November 1972
15. Summer (From The Seasons Suite)
16. Morning Light
Tracks 15 and 16 are the A&B-sides of their 3rd UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 44, released 20 April 1973
17. Get It All To Me
Track 17 is the A-side of their 4th UK 7" single on Jam Records JAM 53, released 14 September 1973
The "Nothing To Hide" album track "My Oh My" was its B-side

Disc 2 "Strangers" (38:46 minutes):
1. Care To Believe
2. Touch The Sky
3. Shoot All Strangers
4. Nostalgia Ain't (What It Used To Be)
5. Bye Bye Birmingham
6. Join Together
7. 1812
Tracks 1 to 7 are the aborted album "Strangers" recorded 1974 at CBS Studios in London, UK. It was eventually released 1977 in the USA on Import Records IMP 1007 as "Strangers".

BONUS TRACK:
8. You Need Love - Non-album Track issued as the A-side to DJM Records DJS 326, their 6th UK 7" single released 27 September 1974
(Their 5th UK 7" single was "Bye Bye Birmingham" from the aborted "Strangers" album as the A-side with the "Nothing To Hide" opener "Messiah" as it's B-side on DJM Records DJS 296 - released 8 March 1974)

Disc 3 "Gun Running" (36:41 minutes):
1. Care To Believe (Version 2)
2. Blue Eyes
3. Cruising The Highway
4. Wanted Gun
5. Moonshine
6. Taking The Fire
7. Pick me Up Put Me Down
8. Corrie
9. 4.40 Jive
Tracks 1 to 9 are their aborted 3rd album "Gun Running" recorded July 1975 in the UK. The original master tapes (minus harpsichord) were thought to be lost but have been located - this Remaster representing the first time the album is made available on CD as was intended.

BLACKFOOT SUE was:
TONY FARMER - Bass, Keyboards and Lead Vocals
DAVID FARMER - Drums and Vocals
EDDIE GOLGA - Lead Guitar, Keyboards and Vocals
ALAN JONES - Guitar and Vocals

The 20-page booklet is a gorgeous thing to look at - loads of repro 45s and all those rare Euro and Japanese picture sleeves on almost every page as well as concert posters and memorabilia montages of sheet music and trade paper reviews. Irritatingly the lyrics that were on the rear sleeve are AWOL - but other than that the PHIL HENDRICK liner notes are pleasingly thorough. JAMES BRAGG does the Remasters from original tapes and everything on here 'rocks'. The singles are the best I've ever heard them and the same applies to the albums.

The meat and potatoes here is the singles and debut album "Nothing To Hide". The five-minute "Messiah" thinks it’s the "Boston" debut album three years before the event - all thrashing guitars and big hair Rock - even if the 'messiah takin' me higha' lyrics are a tad cringeworthy. It's a damn shame they didn't thinking of using the Funky-Rock of "Country Home" as the follow-up to "Standing In The Road" - I could hear its hooky commercialism maybe making inroads into the radio of the day (very cool guitar work). The drums and rapid acoustic guitars of "Cry" come out of your speakers with a vengeance sounding not unlike The Hollies with Alan Clarke on Lead Vocals - those voices and clever melody changes. The catchy Boogie of "My Oh My" would have to wait until September 1973 to see a 7" single outing - and then as the B-side to the brilliant "Get It All To Me" - an equally strong A-side. Over on Side 2 I've always liked the Acoustic pretty "On His Own" (a tad hissy) where the band sounds like a grown-up Monkees or Rascals. "Too Soon" opens with guitar pings and space - Blackfoot Sue sounding like Blue Oyster Cult - while "Gypsy Jam" only compounds the style confusion with treated guitars that sound like violin notes - The Flock meets Love Sculpture doing a duet to the instrumental end.

I wish I could say that the two aborted albums represent some kind of treasure trove - despite moments - mostly they don't. The lack of a distinctive Blackfoot Sue sound afflicts "Strangers" where the ridiculous 11-minute "1812" is a re-working of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture - something already done by ELO in 1970. The sappy instrumental "Summer" with its washing waves and fay prettiness is trying to go after the "Albatross" vibe and failing - far better is the jaunty chug of "Morning Light" could easily have been a cool Hollies single.

Blackfoot Sue were like Ashton, Gardner & Dyke with "The Resurrection Shuffle" or Duncan Browne with "Journey" or Matthews Southern Comfort with Joni's "Woodstock - all artists with killer singles they didn't put on their UK albums and paid the price for it. They would shorten to the name to Blackfoot for MCA and thereafter morph into the Yacht Rock act Liner and have a few hits on Atlantic Records.

To sum up - "The Albums" by BLACKFOOT SUE is not quite the magic box you would want it to be - but there's enough hear to warrant purchase. And fans of the band will love the superb presentation and best-ever audio...

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

"The Real…John Barry" by JOHN BARRY (2016 Sony/Legacy 3CD Compilation of Remasters - 1965 to 1995) - A Review by Mark Barry...

 




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"...From Prendergast With Love…" 

The last half-decent CD I had officially issued by Columbia/CBS covering John Barry's magnificent Movie Soundtrack output was "Themeology" - a stunning 23-track 'Best Of' singular CD issued in 1997 – still available to this day and for peanuts money too. "The Real...John Barry" feels like a massive triple-disc 'Expanded Edition' of that much praised CD Compilation - but typically it's a tale of two cities - much to recommend and yet another missed opportunity.

This 2016 'Ultimate Collection' 3CD-set stretches to 54-tracks covering 1965 to 1995 on Columbia, CBS and Epic Records and even after all these decades – has many 'first time on CD' moments that will thrill fans to the core of their dapper beings. It's also very cleverly sequenced – an art form in itself for compilations like this.

That doesn't mean that "The Real…John Barry" isn't without problems. It won't take a Mensa Membership for folks to notice that some of the Bond stuff has copyright dates that doesn't match up – "From Russia With Love" listed as 'recorded prior to 1972' and the title song to "Diamonds Are Forever" and "All Time High" from "Octopussy" done in 1995 – so obviously these are not the United Artists original releases of 1963, 1971 or 1983. But more importantly to me and other fellow lovers of 'Sounds Good' music - this triple-CD set is a 'Columbia/Legacy' Reissue - so therefore comes with genuinely great Remastered Audio despite not advising where, when or by whom these were mastered.

And what a journey of memories this triple is - listening to "Space March" from 1967's "You Only Live Twice" or "Who Will Buy My Yesterdays" from 1970's "Ready When You Are J.B." (a rarity on CD) or the uber-cool of Harry Palmer's "The Ipcress File" (Michael Caine's dapper British spy) will blow most people's socks off.  Not only is the music utterly wonderful – swirling strings and echoed pianos steeped in that fantastic 60ts sound and Barry's knack for hooky melodies – it sounds toppermost of the poppermost.

So even if it is a mishmash or originals vs. re-recordings (and I can't emphasise this enough) - "The Real...John Barry" is a fantastic listen throughout all three discs. Here are the Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bangs and Midnight Cowboys…

UK released 14 October 2016 (28 Oct 2016 in the USA) – "The Real…John Barry" by JOHN BARRY on Sony/Legacy 88985373242 (Barcode 889853732425) is a 3CD/54-Track compilation and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (52:09 minutes):
1. The James Bond Theme (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
2. 007 (original from the 1965 United Artists Original Soundtrack LP "Thunderball")
3. From Russia With Love (re-recording from the 1972 CBS LP "Theme From "The Persuaders!")
4. Goldfinger (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
5. Thunderball (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
6. Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (original from the 1965 United Artists Original Soundtrack LP "Thunderball")
7. Vendetta (original 1966 UK 7" single on CBS Records 202390, A-side)
8. The Danny Scipio Theme (original 1966 UK 7" single on CBS Records 2020390, B-side)
9. Wednesday's Child (original from the 1966 Soundtrack LP "The Quiller Memorandum" on CBS Records)
10. Sleep Well My Darling (original non-album B-side to the 1966 UK 7" single of "Theme To The Quiller Memorandum - Wednesday's Child" on CBS Records 202451)
11. You Only Live Twice [Instrumental] (original from the 1967 Soundtrack LP to "You Only Live Twice" - also A-side of Track 18 on Disc 2)
12. Space March (Capsule In Space) (original from the 1967 Soundtrack LP to "You Only Live Twice")
13. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (original from the 1969 soundtrack "On Her Majesty's Secret Service")
14. Try (original from the 1969 soundtrack "On Her Majesty's Secret Service")
15. Who Will Buy My Yesterdays (from the 1970 UK CBS compilation LP "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits")
16. The More Things Change (from the 1970 UK CBS compilation LP "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits")
17. Diamonds Are Forever (re-recording from the 1995 Epic CD compilation "Moviola 2: Action And Adventure")
18. All Time High (From "Octopussy") (re-recording from the 1995 Epic CD compilation "Moviola 2: Action And Adventure")

Disc 2 (49:35 minutes):
1. The Ipcress File (re-recording from the 1966 UK CBS Records compilation LP "The Great Movie Sounds Of John Barry")
2. A Man Alone (original from the 1965 Soundtrack LP "The Ipcress File" on CBS Records)
3. Barbra's Theme (non-album original B-side to the UK 7" single for "A Man Alone (Theme From The Film "The Ipcress File")"
4. The Syndicate (original from the 1965 Original Cast Recording for "Passion Flower Hotel" on CBS Records)
5. What A Question (original from the 1965 Original Cast Recording for "Passion Flower Hotel" on CBS Records)
6. Zulu (original from 1964 Soundtrack LP to "Zulu" on Ember)
7. Séance On A Wet Afternoon (re-recording from the 1966 UK CBS Records compilation LP "The Great Movie Sounds Of John Barry")
8. The Knack (original from the 1965 Soundtrack LP to "The Knack...And How To Get It")
9. King Rat March (original from the 1965 Soundtrack LP "King Rat" on United Artists)
10. The Wrong Box (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
11. Main Title: The Chase (original from the 1966 Soundtrack LP "The Chase" on CBS Records)
12. Born Free (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
13. The Whisperers (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
14. Dutchman (re-recording from the 1967 CBS LP "John Barry Conducts His Greatest Movie Hits")
15. Theme From "Romance For Guitar and Orchestra" (from the 1970 UK CBS compilation LP "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits")
16. The Lion In Winter (from the 1970 UK CBS compilation LP "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits")
17. Theme From "The Appointment" (from the 1970 UK CBS compilation LP "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits")
18. The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair (B-side to the 1967 UK 7" single for "You Only Live Twice" on CBS Records 2825)

Disc 3 (68:56 minutes):
1. Midnight Cowboy (original 1969 UK 7"single on CBS Records 4468, A)
2. Fun City (original 1969 UK 7"single on CBS Records 4468, B-side)
3. Walkabout (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
4. Afternoon (from the 1970 UK CBS compilation LP "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits")
5. Mary, Queen Of Scots (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
6. Body Heat (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
7. Frances (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
8. Until September (re-recording from the 1995 Epic CD compilation "Moviola 2: Action And Adventure")
9. The Cotton Club (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
10. Out Of Africa (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
11. The John Dunbar Theme (original from the 1990 Soundtrack LP/CD "Dances With Wolves")
12. Journey To The Buffalo Killing Field (original from the 1990 Soundtrack LP/CD "Dances With Wolves")
13. Theme From "Chaplin" (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
14. Moviola (re-recording from the 1992 Epic CD/LP compilation "Moviola")
15. The Specialist (original from the 1994 Soundtrack LP/CD "The Specialist")
16. Coney Island (original from the 1995 Soundtrack CD "Across The Sea Of Time")
17. Cry, Cry The Beloved Country (original from the 1995 Soundtrack CD "Cry, Cry The Beloved Country")
18. End Title (original from the 1995 Soundtrack to "The Scarlett Letter")

The foldout three-way card digipak is hardly anything great to look at but does at least have track lists beneath the three see-through plastic trays. But there's no booklet and correspondingly no real appreciation of the goodies on sale. The AUDIO as I say is fabulous and even though the versions from the 60ts are re-recordings - they're done within grasping distance of the originals so sound amazingly similar. Much of it is in glorious Stereo too. Many of us will recall the Sunsilk adverts which tapped into the superb B-side "The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair" - Roger Moore and Tony Curtis suave in the 70ts TV show "The Persuaders" and think of Rizzo played by Dustin Hoffman in "Midnight Cowboy" as he takes his last ride on that bus into Miami - all of this music sublime. But few of us will know later soundtracks like "The Specialists", "Across The Sea Of Time" and "Cry, Cry The Beloved Country" - and they're discoveries worth savouring.

Also - on a personal note - the "Ready When You Are, J.B. - John Barry Plays His Great Movie Hits" compilation LP released in February 1970 had 12 tracks - and all except "We Have All The Time In The World" is here as far as I can see (CBS Records 63952 in the UK, Columbia CS 1003 in the USA). It's a stunner - a forgotten and lost nugget from the decade's first year that rarely ever gets mentioned outside of Soundtrack circles. But as a musical and evocative listen - it's practically flawless and also offers some exclusive JB tracks like "The More Things Change" and "Afternoon". And as it's never been officially on CD before - it's 'almost' total presence here is welcome news indeed. Using tracks across all three CDs - you can sequence it as follows...

Side 1
1. Midnight Cowboy [Track 1, Disc 3]
2. We Have All The Time in The World
3. Theme From 'Romance For Guitar And Orchestra' from "Deadfall" [Track 15, Disc 2]
4. Who Will Buy My Yesterdays [Track 15, Disc 1]
5. Fun City [Track 3, Disc 3]
6. The Lion In Winter [Track 16, Disc 2]
Side 2:
1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service [Track 13, Disc 1]
2. Theme From "The Appointment" [Track 17, Disc 2]
3. Try (from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") [Track 14, Disc 1]
4. The More Things Change [Track 16, Disc 1]
5. Afternoon [Track 4, Disc 3]
6. Theme From "Born Free" [Track 12, Disc 2]

Downsides - die-hard aficionados will know that beautiful music from "Somewhere In Time" and "High Road To China" and huge dollops more is all missing because they're linked to MCA and other Record companies outside of the Sony remit (you can't have it all). And it's arguable that every one of the Bond CDs - which were expanded and remastered by EMI Capitol in 2003 with huge dollops of previously unreleased tracks in stunning audio - are both must buys and conspicuous by their 'original issue' absence. John Barry's name is so synonymous with James Bond 007 that at least some of it should have been represented here (see my separate reviews for "You Only Live Twice", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "Diamonds Are Forever"). And I wish there was better annotation. All niggles worth pointing out.

It's been said a hundred times before - SONY need to treat their most famous Soundtrack son (John Barry Prendergast) with the respect of a genuinely decent and properly annotated 5 to 6CD retrospective Box Set.

But in the meantime (and on face value) - for less than six post-Brexit pounds you can have the well-endowed 3CD digipak "The Real...John Barry" and wallow in a film-music genius who (along with John Williams) won five Oscars and is still sorely missed...

"Rebirth" by BLONDE ON BLONDE (2017 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Ben Wiseman Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




This Review Along With 500 Others Is Available In My
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CLASSIC 1970s ROCK On CD - Exception Remasters  
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"...A Chance To Be A Spirit..."

You wouldn't expect South Wales (Newport to be exact) to be a hotbed of Sixties and Seventies Prog - but BLONDE ON BLONDE and their four album catalogue would beg to differ. Their Pye Records debut LP "Contrasts" (NSPL 18288) hit the streets in 1969 - their career ending in acrimony, poor sales and an unreleased 1974 last album on Ember that even got to Test Pressing stages.

This superb 2017 CD reissue pair from England's Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red) concentrates on their second and third platters - "Rebirth" from 1970 and it's follow-up "Reflections On A Life" in 1971 - both on Pye's budget label of the time - Ember Records. Each is an 'Expanded Edition' newly remastered from original Ember tapes. Here are the newborn details...

UK released 27 January 2017 (February 2017 in the USA) - "Rebirth" by BLONDE ON BLONDE on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2572 (Barcode 5013929467248) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster with Three Bonus Tracks (Two Previously Unreleased) and plays out as follows (56:26 minutes):

1. Castles In The Sky
2. Broken Hours
3. Heart Without A Home
4. Time Is Passing
5. Circles
6. November [Side 2]
7. Colour Questions
8. You'll Never Know Me/Release
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 2nd studio album "Rebirth" (credited as "Re-birth" on the label) - released May 1970 in the UK on Ember Records NR 5049 (no US issue). Produced by the band - it failed to chart in the UK.

BONUS TRACKS:
9. Circles (Single Version) - Non-Album Track, B-side to "Castles In The Sky", a UK 7" single released 24 April 1970 on Ember EMB S 279
10. Castles In The Sky (Alternate Version - Previously Unreleased)
11. Time Is Passing (Alternate Version - Previously Unreleased)

BLONDE ON BLONDE was:
DAVID THOMAS - Vocals
GARETH JOHNSON - Guitars
RICHARD JOHN - Bass
LESLIE HICKS - Drums

The 20-page booklet is a pleasingly thorough affair with new liner notes from noted writer MALCOLM DOME. He interviews founder members David Thomas and Gareth Johnson for the release who give witty and honest appraisals of what was good (got to support huge bands of the day - The Who, Genesis, Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash and Graham Bond - even opening ahead of a decimated Fleetwood Mac) - and the bad (record company disinterest - a Melody Maker review that killed momentum - songs foisted on them they detested like "Castles In The Sky". You also get the lovely Esa Besalel gatefold artwork (Edward St. Maur took the photos) fully reproduced including the wildly-excited liner notes from British Rock DJ Tommy Vance (ex BBC) and the USA's equivalent John Mendelsohn (contributed to Rolling Stone and Coast Magazine) - both extolling the album's nose-down Psych-Rock approach and delivery (no pretentious 200-piece Orchestra here pal). There are photos of the "Castles In The Sky" UK 7" single in its rare Ember Records label bag (a Demo version) and the even harder-to-find picture sleeve of it that came with certain copies is repro'd on Page 14 along with other black and whites. There's even a Tour poster from 24 and 25 August 1969 that features BOB alongside such notables as Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, Blossom Toes, Family, Traffic and The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band (what a line-up).

BEN WISEMAN – an Audio Engineer who has done loads of superlative work with Esoteric, Universal and many other labels over the years – has taken the Ember tapes and made a damn good fist of the distinctly lo-fi recordings. The shimmering cymbals lead-in – guitars and then voices – “Broken Hours” sounds damn good and with that Psych guitar kicking in – you can so hear why collectors rate their three albums so much. A quality job done on what must have been a difficult transfer...

The "Castles In The Sky" pop single written by Eve King (John King's wife) and Paul Smith (who had penned songs for Simon Dupree And The Big Sound before they later became Gentle Giant) is given short shift by band guitarist Gareth Johnson in the liner notes where he describes it as a 'terrible song' foisted on them by BBC Producer John King and not in keeping with the band's vision. Far better is the rollicking almost Hawkwind drone of "Heart Without A Home" where Johnson gets to wig out on his axes. Vocalist David Thomas gets all 'son leaving home - wanting to be free' on the very Moody Blues "Time Is Passing" - quite possibly another single on an album that doesn't have many. Side 1 ends in a Psych collector's dream - the 'silent world keeps turning around' of "Circles" where huge drums crash and a crudely recorded fuzzed-up guitar tries to get heard (dig that wild solo). I have to say I prefer the album mix of the song to the 45 version - more punch.

There's a rather naive sound to Side 2's opener "November" - Thomas' vocals all echoed for effect - the guitar ever so slightly crude in that homemade way that makes these kind of albums a thrill for collectors who like it unpolished - all feel and passion. The 12-minute racially right-on "Colour Questions" is the album's centrepiece - a sophisticated guitar rumble and rant that feels like "Coming Your Way" from Fleetwood Mac's "Then Play On" album from the year previous. Guitarist Johnson really gets to let rip on various devices - and you can 'feel' his enjoyment. It chops and changes into acoustic/vocal passages and back into wild Prog electric - a monster that would do heavy Van Der Graaf Generator fans a solid. The near 8-minute ballad "You'll Never Know Me/Release" is probably the most sophisticated song on the album - an impressive array of chunky piano chords and clever combo vocals.

"Rebirth" is very much of its time and those expecting Hard Rock or Van Morrison type musings should probably dabble elsewhere. But if you like your Psych with a bit of homemade British Prog thrown in - then this muscular-sounding CD reissue is the baby out the bathwater for you...
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"Vintage Violence" by JOHN CALE (2001 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Darcy M. Proper Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




This Review Along With 500 Others Is Available In My
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
CLASSIC 1970s ROCK On CD - Exception Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
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"...Don't Want To Be Like All The Rest..."

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Given that Welshman JOHN CALE had been with The Velvets for their monster March 1967 debut "The Velvet Underground And Nico" - following in November of that year with the even more challenging "White Light, White Noise" album and then having produced the definitive early Punk/Garage album - The Stooges self-titled debut "The Stooges" (a destroyer of all that comes in its path) - big things were expected of the Bass Player's debut. It would of course be the most mule-rockin', nadge-kickin' debut album ever released.

Instead we got the weedy pop-country mishmash of "Vintage Violence" - and I can remember as a kid when I first heard it thinking 'this is crap'. And he absolutely didn't have the cool in his voice that Lou Reed could so effortlessly conjure up. But time and hindsight have mellowed me - and every few years I try "Vintage" once again. And each time I think - ok - the pretty "Amsterdam" and the Beach Boys pop of "Adelaide" alongside that Country Byrds/melodious Tommy Flanders combo-sound Cale gets on the undeniably good "Ghost Story" - it's not nearly as bad as I had thought - in fact its possibly a misunderstood beast. Here are the post mortem details...

UK released 13 February 2001 (reissued 27 June 2003 and beyond) - "Vintage Violence" by JOHN CALE on Columbia/Legacy 499945 2 (Barcode 5099749994522) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (44:54 minutes):

1. Hello, There
2. Gideon's Bible
3. Adelaide
4. Big White Cloud
5. Cleo
6. Please
7. Charlemange [Side 2]
8. Bring It On Up
9. Amsterdam
10. Ghost Story
11. Fairweather Friend
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut solo LP "Vintage Violence" - released July 1970 in the USA on Columbia CS 1037 - delayed until February 1971 in the UK on CBS Records S 64256. Produced by JOHN CALE and LEWIS MERENSTEIN (recorded in 1969 the same week as "Church Of Anthrax" with Terry Riley - which wasn't issued until February 1971) - it failed to chart in either country. All songs written by John Cale - except "Fairweather Friend" which is by Garland Jeffreys.

BONUS TRACKS:
12. Fairweather Friend (Previously Unreleased Alternate Version)
13. Wall (Previously Unreleased)

The 8-page booklet has new liner notes from MARGARET MOSER - several black and white photos of the young Welshman and the usual re-issue credits (Bruce Dickenson Produced the Reissue with Project Director Paul Matheny) and there's new input from Cale himself. But in some ways it's a slight and frustrating read in what it 'doesn't' say. What was the album’s actual release date (they get the catalogue number wrong as CS 1007 when it was CS 1037) - who plays Harmonica on "Adelaide" - why CBS in England waiting until two months before the "Church Of Anthrax" release with Terry Riley in April 1971 before they released John Cale's "Vintage Violence"? Why the Phil Spector production melodrama on the overly echoed "Big White Cloud" - why even chose it as a single? And why not take this opportunity to reproduce the lyrics?

Still - what we do get for "Vintage Violence" is a gorgeous Remaster courtesy of DARCY M. PROPER - a Sony Audio Engineer who handled the Kansas CD Reissues for "Point Of Know Return" and Leftoverture". The incredible quiet and ethereal "Amsterdam" sounds beautiful and there’s oomph in the jaunty ‘come back again this year’ opener "Hello, There" – a song that feels like it would fit nicely on the Velvets "Loaded" album.

Wikipedia lists it release date as March 1970 – it was first pictured June 1970 in Billboard but didn’t appear on an actual release schedule until July – wasn’t reviewed until September 1970 and is listed as released December 1970 in Martin Strong’s “The Great Rock Discography”. I’ve put it at July 1970 - which is when Billboard gave it an official release date (the material was famously recorded in 1969 in the same week Cale reveals as he recorded "Church Of Anthrax" with Avant Garde artist Terry Riley who was signed to Columbia Masterworks).

Re-listening to the dreadfully coy "Cleo" and the pedal steel guitar "Please" - I hate the first and quite dig the second. He'd strung his band PENGUIN together for the sessions and their playing on "Please" and the Side 2 opener "Charlemagne" add a huge amount to the 'feel'. Having said that there’s part of me that feels much of "Vintage Violence" is firmly in the 'what was he thinking' bracket – but when you hear the undeniably brill melody of "Ghost Story" and the Jeffreys contribution "Fairweather Friend" – it’s impressive.

Worth another punt – I think so...

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

"Dragonfly by STRAWBS [feat Dave Cousins, Tony Hooper, Rick Wakeman and Paul Brett] (2008 A&M Records/UMC 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Paschal Byrne and Ben Wiseman Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Delicate, Tranquil and Tender..."

The first two STRAWBS albums - the self-titled "Strawbs" debut in June 1969 and its more accomplished follow up - February 1970's "Dragonfly" highlighted a band very much on the up - growing in stature with each rapid release - receiving critical acclaim and a fattening fan base - but still finding chart action elusive.

As a rarities buyer in Reckless (London) for nearly 20 years - I can count on one hand the number of times I saw Tan A&M label UK originals of either vinyl LP. Both are forgotten gems filled with music that's daring and reaching. So it's with some pleasure that I come to this superb 2008 CD Remaster - expanding the original 9-track LP with 4 Bonus Tracks. Here are the Visionary Ladies in the Lake...

UK released August 2008 - "Dragonfly" by STRAWBS on A&M Records/UMC 5302680 (Barcode 600753026809) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Four Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (49:29 minutes):

1. The Weary Song
2. Dragonfly
3. I Turned My Face To The Wind
4. Josephine, For Better Or Worse
5. Another Day
6. Til The Sun Comes Shining Through [Side 2]
7. Young Again
8. The Vision Of The Lady In The Lake
9. Close Your Eyes
Tracks 1 to 9 are their 2nd studio album "Dragonfly" - released February 1970 in the UK on A&M Records AMLS 970 (no USA release). Produced by TONY VISCONTI - it failed to chart in the UK. All tracks written by Dave Cousins except "Young Again" by Tony Hooper.

BONUS TRACKS:
10. We'll Meet Again Sometime [Recorded at Trident Studios, London in June 1969]
11. Forever [Non-Album Track, A-side to a UK 7" single on A&M AMS 791 - released July 1970 with the LP cut "Another Day" as the B-side]
12. Another Day
13. We'll Meet Again Someday [Tracks 12 and 13 recorded for the BBC's John Peel 'Top Gear' Radio Show on 7 September 1969]

STRAWBS was:
DAVE COUSINS - Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Dulcimer, 'Chinese Piano' and Percussion
TONY HOOPER - Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Tambourine and Percussion
RON CHESTERMAN - Double Bass
CLAIRE DENIZ - Cello

Guests:
TONY VISCONTI - Recorder on "Dragonfly" and "Young Again"
RICK WAKEMAN – Piano, PAUL BRETT - Lead Guitar and BJARNE ROSTVOLD - Drums - all on "The Vision Of The Lady In The Lake"

The 16-page booklet is a lovely thing to behold and pleasingly in-depth and a nice touch is the Tan Label for the CD aping the original English LP rarity. MARK POWELL of the quality reissue label Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red UK) provides the superb new liner notes chronicling the band's history from 1968/1969 darlings of Progressive Folk with Sandy Denny before she jumped ship for Fairport Convention to the re-jiggered Strawbs on the cusp of 'a new musical rebirth' with 1971's "From The Witchwood". The rare lyric insert that came with original 1970 British LPs has its words reproduced on Pages 8 to 14 - there's a photo of the stand-alone British 45 for "Forever" (a session outtake released one week after the new line-up had recorded the 11 July 1970 Queen Elizabeth Hall gig that would become the live LP "Just Another Collection Of Antiques And Curios") as well as repro of a rare A&M Records trade advert trying to drum up interest in their 'new one'. The beautiful 'Dragonfly' painting/logo done by Roger Saunders that so elevated the artwork of the original LP crops up throughout the text - as do black and whites of Dave Cousins - all neatly wrapped up with the usual re-issue credits.

PASCHAL BYRNE and BEN WISEMAN (of Audio Archiving) did the Remaster and these hugely experienced Audio Engineers have pulled off a winner. Those slightly Psych-sounding keyboards of Rick Wakeman (before he joined the ranks of Yes and helped out David Bowie sessions in 1971) have amazing clarity on the epic 10-minute "The Vision Of The Lady In The Lake". And that loose English Folk Band 'live in the studio' feel to the Danish sessions (recorded in Copenhagen) is captured so well on tracks like "I Turn My Face To The Wall" and the gorgeous opener "The Weary Song" – Chesterman's Double Bass and Claire Deniz's Cello leaping out the speakers in all the right ways.

Musically I'm reminded of The Incredible String Band experimenting with and bending the barriers of Rock with string instruments and wondering why this superb album didn’t make The Strawbs huge. The musical lushness of "The Weary Song" and the Dulcimer beauty of "Dragonfly" that soon expands into an Acid-Folk dream are both utterly brilliant – the remaster beautifully accenting those heavily drawn string notes and percussive bell tinkles – our Dave lying awake at night waiting for those North winds to blow. The piano/string combo of "I Turned My Face To The Wind" has traces of The Moody Blues and Procol Harum in its melody and slightly sad 'mist rolled down the countryside' lyrics. And even though it's a mere 2:36 minutes long - "I Turned My Face To The Wind" manages to feel more epic than its playing time. Back to the sublime with one of Cousins' loveliest airs – the nuptials/betrothing ballad "Josephine, For Better Or Worse". The Remaster on this track is astounding – as clear as I've ever heard this song. Side A ends with "Another Day" where its jolly upbeat nature makes it the most poppy of tracks on a Folk-Rock LP - like they were aiming for a single.

Side 2 gives us the first trace of hiss with "'Til The Sun Comes Shining Through" - a split-vocal peach that floats like Nick Drake or John Martyn over on Island Records. It's hugely romantic 'my love a primrose fair' lyrics are complimented by sweet acoustic guitars and that soaring cello - Visconti making certain to accentuate the lot. "...Laughing as they run..." go the words to "Young Again" - a gorgeous Tony Hooper song that sounds like its sentiments - where simple pleasures make you and I "...young again...". The lyrics to the mammoth "The Vision Of The Lady In The Lake" take up two pages – but if I'm completely honest I've always found the noises in the background as the verses pass more intrusive than complimentary – and that drums/guitar break about six minutes in kills it for me. Others of course will view it as Prog Folk/Acid Folk at its expressive wild best (one man's poison etc). By way of melodic compensation for the indulgence that just went before – we get the 49-second "Close Your Eyes" ditty that ends Side 2 – leaving the listener panting for more (of the same).

All four of the Bonus Tracks have much to recommend – the Lindisfarne bop of the outtake "We'll Meet Again Sometime" would have been a very cool signal with its 'look upon your loveliness' vibe. An acoustic guitar opening quickly followed by Bowie Cello notes introduces the stand-alone British 45 "Forever" - a good song that is perhaps too overly busy for its own good – and stylistically too similar to The Moody Blues. But I must admit it's an amazing piece of well-produced melodrama and a huge fan rarity finally on CD. The two BBC Sessions are pleasingly well recorded – those duet vocals very clear as are the strings and acoustic guitars. But for me it's the version of "We’ll Meet Again Sometime" that feels special – stripped of that over-production – it makes you concentrate on The Hollies vocals and the 'my love reflected in your eyes' the-boy's-in-love lyrics. Very nice...

London's Psych-Folk-Rockers would have to wait until John Ford and Richard Hudson joined the line-up in June 1970 and recorded what would be November 1970's live album "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" to chart in Blighty - a modest No. 27 - but a start nonetheless. July 1971 would give us "From The Witchwood" and February 1972 the breakthrough album "Grave New World" which finally saw them go Top 20 peaking at an impressive No. 11 (see separate review).

Overlooked – unfairly forgotten – a bit of a friggin' masterpiece frankly – The Strawbs' second album "Dragonfly" is all of these things. And how good is it to hear this amazing CD Remaster do that flirting moment of musical brilliance a proper solid. Big respect to all involved...

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