Tuesday, 25 August 2015

"Going Back To Colorado/Sunset Ride" by ZEPHYR (featuring Tommy Bolin and Candy Givens). 2015 Beat Goes On (of the UK) 2CD Reissue – Andrew Thompson Remasters - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Take My Love..."

Denver's ZEPHYR made three albums – two of which featuring the mercurial talents of guitarist Tommy Bolin (later with The James Gang and Deep Purple) - while all three had the Janis Joplin gutbucket vocals of Candy Givens and the songwriting talent of her Jazz-Rock hubby David Givens.

This superb 2CD reissue from England's Beat Goes On Records brings together their 2nd and 3rd platters for Warner Brothers – both of which are very different beasts. 1971's "Going Back To Colorado" feels like a Boogie Rock LP trying to get out from under too many styles and influences while its 1972 follow up "Sunset Ride" is far funkier affair with Soft Soul Rock and even Jazz Fusion in places (Tommy Bolin is only on "Going Back To Colorado"). Here are the fret-bending chime-tinkering details for each digital platter...

UK released August 2015 (no US release date as yet) – "Going Back To Colorado/Sunset Ride" by ZEPHYR on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1196 (Barcode 5017261211965) features 2LPs on 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (41:19 minutes):
1. Going Back To Colorado
2. Miss Libertine
3. Night Fades Softly
4. The Radio Song
5.  See My People Come Together
6. Showbizzy [Side 2]
7. Keep Me
8. Take My Love
9. I'll Be Right Here
10. At This Very Moment
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 2nd studio album "Going Back To Colorado" – released March 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers WS 1897 (no UK release). Tiny-framed powerhouse Lead Singer Candy Givens penned "At This Very Moment" - Tommy Bolin co-wrote "Going Back To Colorado", "Keep Me" and "I'll Be There" with lyricist John Tesar (Cathy Givens also had a hand in "Going Back To Colorado") and Bolin solo penned "See My People Come Together" and "Showbizzy". Keyboardist John Faris wrote "Take My Love" – Bassist David Givens wrote "Night Fades Softly" and "The Radio Song" as well as co-writing "Miss Libertine" with his wife Candy Givens.

Disc 2 (41:57 minutes):
1. I'm Not Surprised
2. Someone To Chew
3. High Flying Bird
4. No Time Lonesome
5. Moving Too Fast
6. Sold My Heart
7. Sierra Cowgirl
8. Chasing Clouds
9. Sunset Ride
10. Winter Always Finds Me
Tracks 10 to 10 are their 3rd and last studio album "Sunset Ride" – released 1972 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2603 (no UK release)

There is the now standard card slipcase on the outside lending the whole package a classy feel - while ANDREW THOMPSON has carried out the 2015 remasters at Sound Mastering in London. The 16-page booklet has full album credits (including reproducing the lyric insert that came with US copies of “Sunset Ride”) as well as new liner notes by noted Rock Writer NEIL DANIELS. His excellent and informative paragraphs go into the band’s haphazard history with genres and record companies and how Bolin would go onto guitar-god fame with The James Gang and Deep Purple. Both CDs sound brilliant to me - especially the 2nd CD. Now to the music...

"Going Back To Colorado" was the 2nd and last Zephyr album Tommy Bolin played on – their self-titled debut came out in the USA in December 1969 on Probe CPLP-4510 and May 1970 in the UK on Probe SPB 1006. While it charted at a lowly 48 in the USA – the debut was met with complete indifference in the UK - hence the non-release of the following two albums on Warner Brothers (the original 1970 British Probe Records LP on the Pink Label is a £60+ rarity and is notoriously difficult to find). Although often derided as being a mash-up of too many conflicting styles – for me "Going Back To Colorado" still has many great moments on it – least not of all Bolin's inventive axework and the Janis Joplin-like vocals of Candy Givens (John Faris has his one croaky moment too).

Producer by "Electric Ladyland" Engineer helmsman Eddie Kramer - Side 1 opens with the Bluesy title track and after hearing Bolin's fab slide playing - you begin to think that maybe you've stumbled on a long-lost Boogie and Blues masterpiece. But the neither here-nor-there "Miss Libertine" soon puts a damper on that with its earnest "...all the animals have been killed..." hippy Rock that is seeking a tune but never quite finds it. The unlistenable backwards effects and voices of “Night Fades Softly” only make matters worse – irritating rather than innovating. We get a bit 'shoo-waddy-waddy' Rock 'n' Roll with the "The Radio Song" but things improve with the six-minutes of "See My People Come Together" where Zephyr let Bolin rip on the guitar effects before he goes into a great Rock-Funk groove. Along with Candy Givens' voice and that chugging rhythm section – this track in particular makes me think of the all-girl group FANNY at their best (were on Reprise Records in 1971).

Side 2 opens with a manic drum intro for Bolin's "Showbizzy" – the band sounding like Janis Joplin's Big Brother and The Holding Company having a rock out. "Showbizzy" has some tremendous Bolin axework in the funky/chunky James Gang backing riffs and as he Solos from speaker to speaker. The beautifully structured "Keep Me" feels almost like one of those Charles Stepney arrangements he did with Rotary Connection and Minnie Riperton. The Candy Givens vocal is more laid back and therefore expressive, John Faris giving it some Flute while backing singers Albertine Robinson, Eileen Gilbert and Tasha Thomas make it a more Soulful song. Sounding like lesser Dr. John – John Faris takes his only Lead Vocal on the album for his own composition "Take My Love". This is fabulous stuff – funky accomplished Soul-Rock with the whole band gelling (Faris also plays Saxophone on the song while David Givens plucks sexy Bass lines and Bobby Berge whacks those drums with pleasure). This is the kind of cool Funky Rock track that Soul Boys love - Bolin's Joe Walsh-like guitar flourishes giving the whole sexy swaggering thing aural meat and potatoes. We then get a terrible let down with "I'll Be Right Here" with lyrics about "...crops failing..." and the "...land being blighted..." It’s all very earnest for sure but its melodrama and big backing vocals date the whole song terribly - and somehow it just doesn’t move you - even though its trying its hardest to do so.

You would think with the departure of such a key element to their sound (Bolin's guitar) – that Zephyr would fall apart – yet their 3rd album is better in many ways that the patchy 2nd (Bolin famously replaced Joe Walsh in The James Gang for "Bang" and "Miami" on Atlantic Records in 1973 and 1974 – and then Deep Purple for "Come Taste The Band" in 1975). With Bolin gone – David Givens stepped up to the plate as the principal songwriter giving the album an altogether Funkier Soul-Rock feel (hence the jet and palm-tree Miami look). John Bartley replaced Bolin on Guitars (also sings on "Sold My Heart" and "Winter Always Finds Me") and the Organ and Piano of Dan Smyth replaced Keyboardist John Faris. P. M. Wooten hits the Drums anew while Candy's hubby David Givens remained as Bass.

Both "I Am Not Surprised" and "Someone To Chew" hammer home that Fanny comparison – Candy's vocals deeper in the mix and not so vitriolic while both Smyth and Bartley lay down the funkiest of rhythms – especially on the impressive "Someone To Chew". Opening like an upbeat Van Morrison song - their wistful cover of Billie Ed Wheeler's "High Flying Bird" retains the same Soulful feel Richie Havens gave it when he made the song famous on his "Mixed Bag" LP from 1967. Again Van's shadow is cast over the straight up admiration song "No Time Lonesome" with David and Candy sharing the mike in a husband and wife love-in. Equally lovely is "Sold My Heart" - a very accomplished little ditty that works its happy way into your heart (complete with Little Feat keyboard flourishes).

Neil Daniels is right to get a little overexcited in his liner notes about the brilliant 5:19 minutes of "Moving Too Fast" which features a hair-raisingly great Harmonica solo from Candy - rocking it out with impressive abandon as the slow builder nears its Funky-Rock end. They sound more America than Fanny on "Sierra Cowgirl" where they share vocals as the riding-a-rocking-horse rhythm builds in speed (good lyrics too and a lovely solo on Piano from Candy). "Chasing Clouds" is a co-write between David Givens and Dan Smyth – it sounds nice but steadfastly refuses to take off as a song. “Sunset Ride” is the jazziest piece on the album with crashing Santana cymbals ("Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" on Abraxas) and high backing vocals like an angel’s choir – it's cool in that Rotary Connection way. It ends on the spacey instrumental chimes and treated keyboards of "Winter Always Finds Me" where they sound like a cross between Googie's Air and Weather Report. The vocals arrive after the "Riders On The Storm" pace settles down into its sexy groove – very cool stuff and a bit of a groovy winner frankly...

To sum up - both albums are hugely different – 1971's "Going Back To Colorado" sounding like a Blues Bar Band trying to find its musical feet and occasionally winning – while the Funkier and more Rock-mellow "Sunset Ride" LP from 1972 is musical eons away – and even contains a few undiscovered gems Jazz Funkers the world over will need to own. Either way I'm big-time digging the good bits on both. Sadly both Tommy Bolin and Candy Givens lost their young and talented lives to sloppy drug-related incidents – Bolin aged 26 in 1976 and Candy aged 37 in 1984. What a waste...

At least this rather cool little double-CD set remembers their legacy with style and affection. Well done to Beat Goes On for re-educating us...check this reissue out...

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