Tuesday, 18 July 2017

"Already Here/Wovoka/Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes" by REDBONE (July 2017 Beat Goes On - 3LPs onto 2CDs Reissue and Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Come And Get Your Love..."

Preceding September 1972's "Already Here" that opens this 3LPs-onto-2CDs 2017 reissue – REDBONE had already clocked up three albums.

First came the double-opener "Redbone" in February 1970, "Potlatch" followed in November 1970 and then came the real breakthrough LP - "Message From A Drum" in February 1972. It contained the monster hit "Witch Queen Of New Orleans" - a smash for the Native American four-piece as far back as May 1971 (the LP didn't arrive until early 1972). With the same track list but different artwork - the British variant of the "Message From A Drum" LP was actually renamed "The Witch Queen Of New Orleans" for UK audiences after the Epic Records single became their first charter in Blighty as well – peaking at an unprecedented No. 2 in late 1971.

But to the matter in hand - what you get here in July 2017 are studio albums number four, five and six from 1972, 1973 and 1974 remastered and presented in the usual classy manner by England's BGO (Beat Goes On). In fact most people will only really know Redbone through the movies - the American actor Chris Pratt using their Seventies smash "Come And Get Your Love" on his Walkman as he dances through an alien planet landscape in the opening sequence of the huge "Guardians Of The Galaxy" movie in 2014 - giving the song and the forgotten group another lease of life.

Their music and sound fluctuated from their initial 1970/1971 Red Indian Swamp Rock to 1972-1974 War-like Rock-Funk, Seventies Pop and even Santana-esque Soulful flourishes and Return To Forever nine-minute whig-outs. But as the LPs progressed and especially after the huge success of "Come And Get Your Love" - you can hear the band leaving behind the interesting experimentation of old and instead reach for that 'popular music for the masses' handbook and most times come up trumps (though not all). Despite an inevitable commercialization of their unique Native American Funk-Pop on the weak third album presented here - this CD-twofer still makes for a hugely enjoyable listen overall and also has you think – here is a band that and a sound that genuinely deserves 'rediscovery'. To the details…drum rolls please...

UK released Friday, 14 July 2017 (21 July 2017 in the USA) - "Already Here/Wovoka/Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes" by REDBONE on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1277 (Barcode 5017261212771) offers 3LPs Remastered onto 2CDs and play out as follows:

Disc 1 (52:52 minutes):
1. Fais-Do [Side 1]
2. Motivation
3. Power (Prelude To A Means)
4. Speakeasy
5. Condition Your Condition
6. Where Is Your Heart [Side 2]
7. Good Enough For Jesus
8. Poison Ivy
9. Already Here (Brujo)
Tracks 1 to 9 are their fourth studio album "Already Here" - released September 1972 in the USA on Epic Records KE 31598 and January 1973 in the UK on Epic Records S EPC 65072.

10. Wovoka [Side 1]
11. Sweet Lady Of Love
12. Someday (A Good Song)
13. Liquid Teeth
14. We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee
Tracks 10 to 14 are Side 1 of their fifth studio album "Wovoka" - released November 1973 in the USA on Epic Records KE 32462 and November 1973 in the UK on Epic EPC 65500.

Disc 2 (52:32 minutes):
1. Come And Get Your Love [Side 2]
2. Day To Day Life
3. Clouds In My Sunshine
4. 23rd And Mad
Tracks 1 to 4 are Side 2 of their fifth studio album "Wovoka" - released November 1973 in the USA on Epic Records KE 32462 and November 1973 in the UK on Epic EPC 65500.

5. One More Time [Side 1]
6. Suzi Girl
7. Only You And Rock And Roll
8. Blood, Sweat And Tears
9. Cookin' With D'Redbone
10. (Beaded Dreams Through) Turquoise Eyes [Side 2]
11. Beautiful Illusion
12. Interstate Highway 101
13. I'll Never Stop Loving You
14. Moon When Four Eclipse
Tracks 5 to 14 are their sixth studio album "Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes" - released October 1974 in the USA on Epic Records KE 33053 and October 1974 in the UK on Epic Records EPC 80429

LOLLY VEGAS - Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals
TONY BELLAMY - Rhythm Guitar and Vocals
PAT VEGAS - Bass and Vocals
ARTURO PEREZ - Drums and Percussion on "Already Here" only
BUTCH RILLERA - Drums and Backing Vocals on "Wovoka" and "Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes"

RED RHODES of BAMBOO - Steel Guitar on "Speakeasy" on the "Already Here" LP
TERRY FURLONG of THE GRASS ROOTS - Slide Guitar on "Fais-Do" on the "Already Here" LP
ELIJAH HORN SECTION - Brass and Horns on the "Already Here" LP
JOE SAMPLE of The Crusaders - Piano and Vibraphone on the "Wovoka" LP
SHIRLEY WILLIAMS - Backing Vocals on the "Wovoka" LP
BONNIE BRAMLETT, MERRY CLAYTON and CLYDIE KING - Backing Vocals on the "Beaded Dreams..." LP

The outer card slipcase lends these BGO reissues a very classy feel and the 20-page booklet certainly lays on the credits, photos and musical assessments hard and thick. NEIL DANIELS provides the affectionate and enthusiastic liner notes which are dedicated to Lolly Vegas and Tony Bellamy - principal songwriters in the band who sadly passed in 2010 and 2009 respectively. ANDREW THOMPSON once again does the beautifully rendered Remasters from real tapes - great sound that lifts up every song. To the music...

Across three whole albums there is only one cover version – all other material are original Lolly and Pat Vegas compositions with some contributions from Tony Bellamy – an impressive feat. Even the 'you can look but you better not touch' cover of the Lieber/Stoller-penned Coasters nugget "Poison Ivy" gets a radical Funk-up so you're not hearing another slavish R&B interpretation. The "Already Here" album retains much of that 'War' funk ethic with the nine-minute title track being a sort of Return To Forever Jazz Fusion whig-out that's actually a little indulgent. But tracks like the Funky "Motivation" and the 'get your act together' message song "Condition Your Condition" would do The Isley Brothers proud over on T-Neck Records. The Pat Vegas ballad "Power (Prelude To A Means)" is really pretty and with its Philly strings comes on like The Manhattans or even Bobby Womack with a message for the ladies that will benefit them entirely. The other worthy entry is the catchy and Soul-lovely Lolly Vegas shuffler "Where Is Your Heart". It's amazing that Epic chose the lesser "Fais-Do" as a lead off 7" single in August 1972 when I can't help feel this tune had Soul and Pop crossover appeal.

After the over-the-top 'Brujo' fusion work out of the title track to "Already Here" - the deliberately commercial "Wovoka" LP is a Rock-funky album coming from the 'land of spirits'. The title track is a fabulous 'dancing' funker that's got its Saxophone and Guitar heart firmly in the 'Witch Queen' corner. Another shuffler comes with the very catchy "Sweet Lady Of Love" and again this could be The Delfonics or The Dells getting their collective vocal teeth into a deeply Soulful groove. You can hear why someone thought it was a good idea to release "We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee" as a 45 but it feels like a poor man's 'buffalo' and 'reservation' follow-up to "Witch Queen" that never really ignites no matter how worthy its historically uncomfortable lyrics are. Better is the joint Vegas/Bellamy song of "Day To Day Life" where he and his common-law wife keep on rocking. They go native chanting on the equally impressive snake rattles of "Clouds In My Sunshine" – a strange mixture of Native American vibes mixed with the second half of the song that goes pure Philly Soul. The near seven-minutes of "23rd And Mad" comments on city life as it funks through the ‘great boom boom boom’ where all the girls are sexy temptations and the cafes are full of dudes and pimps.

But as good as all they are – the album belongs to one song. At five minutes and one second - the full album cut of "Come And Get Your Love" starts with an almost Gospel refrain before it goes into that familiar opener (edited from the 7” single). It’s a damn shame BGO didn't include the 45-cut of 3:39 minutes that most people are familiar with from the Radio, Commercials and Films as a Bonus Track. But it doesn't stop the Remaster of this fabulous slice of Seventies joy from being a guilty pleasure I’m sure many listeners will return to more than once on this reissue. A billion-dollar movie can't be wrong. "Come And Get Your Love" indeed...

Reaching No. 174 on the US Top 200 in early November 1974 - "Beaded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes" failed to capitalize on the "Wovoka" No. 66 chart placing the year previous. "One More Time" has clever socially-conscious lyrics about not being able to pay the bills and people saying they can kick that itch in their arms - but it gets lost in some obvious "Come And Get My Love" identikit melodies that aren't as good as the previous winner. The too-poppy "Suzi Girl" feels much the same. Things improve with the hooky "Only You And Rock And Roll" - a clavinet-funky little dancer with strings and an eye on the singles chart. "Blood, Sweat And Tears" is a message song while the Sly & The Family Stone funky "Cookin' With D'Redbone" tries hard and just about gets away with it. Much of Side 2 is the same ever so slightly syrupy material with the Stylistics dancer "I'll Never Stop Loving You" even being a possible Northern Soul discovery.

To sum up - the first album "Already Here" is very good, "Wovoka" a total sweetie and that third "Beaded Dreams..." set lets the side down a lot - a victim of chasing chart success without having the tunes to achieve sales. Still with the great audio and fab presentation - fans will need to own it and newcomers will find much to enjoy. Nice one...

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