Posts Tagged ‘Rockbeat’

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Live From Ebbets Field

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Live from the Denver ozone in 1973

For many rock listeners, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s 1971 debut, Lost in the Ozone, was a taste-expanding experience. The group’s catalog of country, western swing, boogie-woogie, jump blues and rockabilly was broader than the country excursions of 1960s rock bands like the Byrds, and though others – notably NRBQ – blended multiple genres, the Airmen’s cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln” turned commercial attention into a following. The band hit the road in 1973 in support of their third album, Country Casanova, with a new-used tour bus and ace steel player Bobby Black in tow. The tour schedule was apparently quite grueling, but produced superb shows, including this stop in Denver, Colorado.

The group’s core lineup – George “Commander Cody” Frayne, Billy C. Farlow, Bill Kirchen, John Tichy, Lance Dickerson, Andy Stein and Bruce Barlow – had been steady since their debut, and the chemistry they’d developed in San Francisco Bay Area clubs is evident in this set. They weave together a handful of originals with a wealth of brilliantly selected covers, including sad truckin’ songs, rockin’ rave-ups, Cajun and swing dance numbers, novelty tunes and a cowboy closer. The stereo recording is well preserved, though there are major dropouts on “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)” and “Diggy Liggy Lo,” and the live mix lets some of the instruments and vocals peak in the red.

The set features three tracks from Country Casanova, including the original “Rock That Boogie,” but skips the earlier hit “Hot Rod Lincoln.” The Commander gets a spotlight on Merle Travis’ “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” and the crowd seems quite pleased with the set and six song encore. The 1973 tour has now produced several albums, including the classic Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas and the more recent Tour From Hell. There are a few overlaps in the set lists, but the group’s huge repertoire provides eleven songs here that don’t appear on the other two. There’s a bit of stage banter to give you a feel for the 68-minute show; all that’s missing is the evening’s second set! [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Commander Cody’s Home Page

Flamin’ Groovies: Live 1971 San Francisco

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Historic Flamin’ Groovies live date – closing the Fillmore West 1971

Not only was this live date part of a series of shows closing Bill Graham’s Fillmore West, it was also co-founder Roy Loney’s last show with the Groovies. Having just released Teenage Head, the table seemed set for the Groovies; but a disinterested label, a malicious manager and the loss of guitarist Tim Lynch deflated Loney’s interest, and led to his departure. The Groovies wandered off into the wilderness for several years before returning with two mid-70s albums (Shake Some Action and Now) produced by Dave Edmunds. This 1971 date represents the last exhalation of the band’s initial incarnation.

The band’s early act has been surprisingly well represented on disc, including shows from 1968 and 1970. This 1971 performance turned up in edited form on Norton’s 1997 release In Person!!!!, but on this edition RockBeat restores Bill Graham’s spoken introduction, the band’s uncut cover of the Who’s “Can’t Explain,” and all eleven minutes of “Road House,” including a drum solo! The lack of edits is a plus, but there appear to be more spots of fading and channel dropouts than the earlier release. The artifacts don’t kill the buzz of hearing the Groovies in their prime, but listeners should adjust their expectations.

The night’s set featured several of the Groovies’ early classics, including “Slow Death” and “Teenage Head,” and covers of Chuck Berry, Randy Newman, Johnny Kidd, Rufus Thomas, Bo Diddley, and the national anthem of rock ‘n’ roll, “Louie, Louie.” As Cyril Jordan recounts in the liner notes, the band fell in and out of Bill Graham’s favor, so their surprise at being asked to play one of the Fillmore’s closing shows seems to have translated into musical intensity. Graham may not have always cared about the Groovies, but the Groovies cared about playing the Fillmore, and gave it everything they had, one last time. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Flamin’ Groovies’ Facebook Page

Various Artists: Groove & Grind – Rare Soul ‘63-’73

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Various_GrooveAndGrindRareSoulAstonishing collection of rare soul singles

Those who miss the tactile pleasure of holding an album cover, or even reading the relatively microscopic copy of CD booklets, are likely to break out in a wide smile when they first heft this collection. The four discs are housed in a hard-bound 127-page book that’s stuffed with striking artist photos, label reproductions and detailed song notes by author and journalist Bill Dahl. And all of that is in service of an expertly-curated collection of rare soul sides that stretch from 1963 through 1973. Collections of this magnitude can be as exhausting as they are exhilarating, but by gathering singles from a variety of labels, and organizing them into four themed discs, the programs flow more like a crowd-pleasing jukebox than the well-curated anthology at the set’s heart. Even better, by mating obscurity with quality, every track becomes both a surprise and a delight.

These discs are stuffed, clocking in at nearly five hours of music. Disc 1 surveys urban soul from the major markets of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit and Los Angeles. Disc 2 focuses on vocal groups, disc 3 on southern soul, and disc 4 on funkier sounds. The roster mixes well-known and obscure artists, but even in the case of famous names, the sides are not likely the ones you know. Betty LaVette’s “Almost,” Ike & Tina’s “You Can’t Miss Nothing That You Never Had,” Kenny Gamble’s “Hard to Find the Right Girl,” Candi Staton’s “Now You’ve Got the Upper Hand,” Betty Wright’s “Mr. Lucky,” Eddie Floyd’s “Hey Now,” Carla Thomas’ “Every Ounce of Strength,” and Margie Joseph’s “Show Me” all suffered the same lack of circulation and chart renown as their more obscure set-mates. Even the familiar “Love on a Two-Way Street” is rendered here in the obscure Lezli Valentine All Platinum B-side that marked the song’s debut.

Finding these singles is impressive, but documenting them in such detail is a task only the most devoted fans would undertake. The material came from the collections of rare-records dealer Victor Pearlin, musician Billy Vera and the set’s producer James Austin; the audio restoration was performed by Jerry Peterson. The results are good, though the original productions weren’t often as refined as those from Stax, Atlantic or Motown. There’s occasional vinyl patina, but that’s part of the show when you dig this deep, and it never gets in the way of the songs or performances. This anthology is a tremendous gift to the crate diggers of soul music, filling in gaps they didn’t even realize were in their collections. Casual fans will dig these sides as well, even without dirt-laden fingertips from a thousand record swaps, back rooms and thrift store racks. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Psycho Sisters: Up on the Chair, Beatrice

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

PsychoSisters_UpOnTheChairBeatriceAn unexpected communiqué letter from the mid-90s

Susan Cowsill (of the Cowsills) and Vicki Peterson (of the Bangles) wrote and toured together in the mid-90s as the Psycho Sisters, but when Peterson returned to performing with the Bangles, and Cowsill launched a solo career, they left behind only a rare single of “Timberline” (b/w “This Painting”), concert memories, and performances backing Steve Wynn and Giant Sand. Two decades later the pair found coincidental breaks in their schedules and wound the clock back to 1992 with this debut album composed of seven originals written during the years of their initial collaboration, a trio of cover, and a CD booklet illustrated with period photos.

Not surprisingly, the album plays like a long-delayed communiqué from the ’90s. Peterson’s superb co-write with her future brother-in-law, Bob Cowsill, “Never, Never Boys,” could have been one of the better pages of the Bangles’ songbook. Peterson’s electric guitar and the vocal arrangement reach back to the Bangles’ folkier, pre-stardom sound, and the lost-boys theme snapshots a time before Peterson and Cowsill’s marriages. The opening cover “Heather Says” reaches back even further to the Cowsills’ last album, 1971’s On My Side. Written by Waddy Wachtel, the song’s story of a grade-school bully lends the adult voices a tone of youthful confusion, and the Cowsills’ original harmonies provide baroque inspiration for this duet.

Cowsill and Peterson were in their mid-30s at the start of the Psycho Sisters, and their songwriting highlights a period of transition from carefree youth to more responsible adulthood. Their thirst for boys turned into a yearning for men, and unsettled relationships turned from fun to unfulfilling. The songs are stocked with problematic couplings, but their breakups are less about wounds than growth. A take on Peter Holsapple’s “What Do You Want From Me” kisses off and moves on, and Harry Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy,” whose cheery tone (and oh-so-dreamy singer) probably trumped its snarky lyrics in the ears of a teenage Susan Cowsill, gains new meaning when sung by women.

One’s twenties often reveal the certainty of your teenage years to have been laughable. You realize that you only thought you knew everything in your teens, but now, in your twenties, you really do. Your thirties repeat the cycle, but with a hint of doubt that hasn’t yet blossomed into full introspection; if your twenties reveal the truth of your teens, what do your thirties reveal of your twenties? These songs reflect the growing shades of grey brought about by age, and sung by their authors in their fifties, these songs gain both a nostalgic tint and extra decades of emotional patina. It’s a rarity to hear artists reflect upon their earlier reflections, and a treat to find Cowsill and Peterson still singing in artistic harmony. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Psycho Sisters’ Facebook Page

Various Artists: Surf-Age Nuggets

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Various_SurfAgeNuggetsMonster wave of obscure ‘60s surf gems

It’s no accident that this deluxe 4-CD set uses the word “Nuggets” in its title; this is an apt reference to Lenny Kaye’s landmark 1972 compilation of psychedelic and garage rock. An even better touchstone, however, is Bomp’s follow-on series of Pebbles releases, which dug deeper into the world of one-off local and indie releases. In that sense, Surf-Age Nuggets is the Pebbles (with a touch of Las Vegas Grind) to earlier anthologies of major label releases, hit singles and nationally-known acts. Producer James Austin (who previously helmed Rhino’s Cowabunga! The Surf Box), focuses here on the impossibly rare and ephemeral: obscure singles that barely managed local distribution, with just a hint of rarities from a couple of well-known names. The result is a magnificent musical essay on the scene that flourished in the wake of surf music’s brief rise to commercial popularity.

Dozens of earlier collections have explored this DIY wave, but never in the luxuriousness of this set. Not only are the discs stuffed with 104 tracks (including a sprinkle of period radio spots and a 16-minute bonus montage hidden at the end of disc four), but the collection is housed in a wide 11 x 6 hardcover with a 60-page book of liner, song and band notes, full-color photographs and reproductions of picture sleeves, posters, period ads, comics and other ephemera. Although the material was sourced primarily from early ‘60s vinyl, unlike the first-state (that is, pops-and-clicks intact) condition of many collections of vintage singles, mastering engineer Jerry Peterson worked some very special voodoo in cleaning up the digital transcriptions. The complete lack of surface noise is a bit eerie, but the results remain largely true to the powerhouse mono vibe of a vintage 45.

The selections are guitar-centric, beat-driven and up-tempo; a formula whose thousands of variations have yet to get old. This is the sound of four guys getting together in a garage, working up covers and a couple of originals, scoring a gig and getting a crack at recording. Being true to the period, what’s here isn’t all strictly surf music; there’s plenty of reverb-drenched Dick Dale-styled staccato picking, but instrumental rock was a bigger lineup into which musicians crowded from every state. California surf bands provided inspiration, but the twang of guitar slingers like Duane Eddy, Link Wray and Lonnie Mack also held sway. Most of these acts had brief careers, but this collection is more than a set of surf songs; it’s a soundtrack to an era in which surf culture captured the national attention, even among those who didn’t surf or listen to surf music. This is a document of a time when radios had only an AM band, and teen culture was on the rise. Paddle, turtle, hangout and catch this tasty wave! [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Jack Kerouac with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims: Blues and Haikus

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Period performances of Jack Kerouac with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims

Although Jack Kerouac was the “voice of his (beat) generation,” it was his his writing – rather than his speaking – voice that’s well-known. His three albums of spoken word poetry and prose, two from 1959 and one from 1960, received little circulation or critical notice upon their initial issue, and have only been spottily reissued ever since. Rhino’s 1990 box set The Jack Kerouac Collection included all three albums, as does the recent The Complete Collection, and individual album reissues have been available as imports. Rock Beat now adds domestic reissues of Kerouac’s first two albums (originally released on the indie Hanover-Signature label), Poetry for the Beat Generation and Blues and Haikus.

Where Poetry for the Beat Generation was an impromptu session with Steve Allen tinkling piano melodies behind Kerouac’s recitations, Blues and Haikus is more of a conversation between Kerouac and his accompanists, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. Rather than reciting across background music, Kerouac trades riffs with Cohn and Sims, each responding to the tone, rhythm and content of the other. Even Cohn’s piano sounds more responsive to Kerouac than did Allen’s improvised backings. Kerouac sounds more comfortable in this environment; as Gilbert Millstein’s original liner note suggest, this second effort is less tentative and more authoritative than Kerouac’s previous recorded outing. Kerouac even feels free enough to warble part of “Hard Hearted Old Farmer,” and his expressiveness transcends his limitations as a singer.

This is more polished effort than was Poetry for the Beat Generation, and in that sense, it’s also more performed than simply exhaled. Each is worth hearing, particularly if you’re a fan of Kerouac’s writing, but this one is the more musical experience, and one that you’re more likely to return to. Like its predecessor, this album drew little attention or sales upon its original release, and became a collector’s item over the years. But with Kerouac’s legacy having only grown over the decades, it’s available once again to fans. RockBeat’s reissue augments the album’s original four tracks with two lengthy bonuses from the original sessions, and includes the original liner notes by New York Times reviewer (and early Kerouac proponent) Gilbert Millstein. If you’ve enjoyed reading Kerouac’s writing, you’ll be further enlightened by the voice and rhythm he gives to these readings. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen: Poetry for the Beat Generation

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Period performances of Jack Kerouac reciting poems to the piano of Steve Allen

Although Jack Kerouac was the “voice of his (beat) generation,” it was his writing – rather than his speaking – voice that became well-known. His three albums of spoken word poetry and prose, two from 1959 and one from 1960, received little circulation or critical notice upon their initial issue, and have only been spottily reissued ever since. Rhino’s 1990 box set The Jack Kerouac Collection included all three albums, as does the recent The Complete Collection, and individual album reissues have been available off and on as imports. Rock Beat now adds domestic reissues of Kerouac’s first two albums (originally released on the indie Hanover-Signature label), Poetry for the Beat Generation and Blues and Haikus.

Poetry for the Beat Generation teams Kerouac with jazz pianist (and television personality) Steve Allen for fourteen poems, several of which were unpublished at the time. The album was inspired by an impromptu pairing of Kerouac and Allen atNew York’s Village Vanguard, and the subsequent single-take studio session lasted only an hour. Allen’s improvised backings are lyrical and nearly sentimental in their melodiousness, more background late-night tinkling than challenging bop. Kerouac’s recitations roam more freely, powered by the strength of his rhythmically riffed words. His poems are percussive stories that break through any regulation of punctuation, paragraph or stanza, and his New England-accented voice is animated and rye.

Originally recorded for Dot, the album was dropped by label-head Randy Wood, reportedly due to concerns about the edginess of the content. But having your counter-culture expression suppressed in the 1950s wasn’t exactly news, and the album quickly found distribution through an independent label. Yet even with Kerouac’s literary fame in full flower (he’d published On the Road in 1957 and The Subterraneans and The Dharma Bums in 1958), his debut album was little known, and for many years, a rarity. RockBeat’s reissue includes the album’s original fourteen tracks and liner notes by New York Times reviewer (and early Kerouac proponent) Gilbert Millstein. If you’ve enjoyed reading Kerouac’s writing, you’ll be further enlightened by the voice and rhythm he gives to these readings. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: Dallas – The Music Story

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

1985 spin-off album from the classic nighttime TV soap

The nighttime soap opera Dallas dates to an era before music coordinators ruled television soundtracks and used the network exposure to turn obscure indie bands into well-known music stars. Instead, a program’s soundtrack was the province of a composer (in the case of Dallas, it was Jerrold Immel) and spin-off albums were novelty byproducts of the show’s fame, often populated by the show’s cast (Donny Most, anyone?). The latter is the ticket on this 1985 release, featuring music purpose-written to the show’s themes, and starring cast members (Steve Kanaly, Howard Keel and Jenilee Harrison) alongside then-contemporary country stars Karen Brooks, Crystal Gayle, Gary Morris and Johnny Lee. With the show starting its slide down the ratings ladder, this could have been a quickie knock-off, but the productions are solid, and the songwriting is good.

The opening track offers a disco march arrangement of the show’s famous theme, and the cast tunes include Lorne Greene-like spoken efforts from Kanaly and Keel, and an unsteadily warbled double-tracked melody fromHarrison. Much better are the country stars, recorded inNashvilleby Scott Hendricks, produced by Jim Ed Norman and Barry Beckett, and featuring A-list studio players Eddie Bayers, John Hobbs, Paul Worley, Billy Joe Walker and others. Though the songs are linked to the show with subtitles like “Jock and Miss Ellie’s Song,” the lyrics aren’t specific, and play as smooth country. It’s a tribute to these vocalists that their vocals warm the chilly, synth-and-glycerin-guitar mid-80s production sound.

The album spun off the Gayle-Morris duet “Makin’ Up for Lost Time (The Dallas Lovers Song),” which topped the country chart in early 1986, and Johnny Lee’s “The Loneliness in Lucy’s Eyes” rumbled around at the bottom of the Top 100. Several other tracks seem chart-worthy, including Karen Brooks’ Linda Ronstadt-styled “I Wanna Reach Out and Touch You,” the twang, piano and vocal harmony of The Forrester Sisters’ “A Few Good Men,” and even Morris’ solo closer “If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” This is a great deal better than one might expect from a nighttime soap spin-off, serving as both a nice artifact of the show’s popularity, and a decent collection of mid-80s mainstream country. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

MP3 | A Few Good Men
The Ultimate Dallas Website

Dick Dale: At the Drags

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Super-stocked anthology of Dick Dale’s car-related tunes

There are many anthologies, greatest hits collections and album reissues of Dick Dale’s material, but none have done the service of separately collecting his surf and hot-rod oriented tracks into parallel volumes. RockBeat’s issue of King of the Surf Guitar (not to be confused with his 1963 album of the same name) and At the Drags does just that, offering a generous twenty themed tracks each. The dragstrip volume documents Dale’s temporary turn from surf to cars, following in the trend of numerous Southern California acts of the time. The collection is drawn primarily from Dale’s two car-related albums, 1963’s Checkered Flag and 1964’s Mr. Eliminator, and adds the single “Wild Wild Mustang.” Musically this isn’t much different from Dale’s surf catalog, employing his trademark reverb-heavy staccato guitar picking, and backed by members of the Del-Tones, Superstocks and Los Angeles studio hotshots, including Bill Barber, Glen Campbell, Steve Douglas, Plas Johnson, and Hal Blaine. The single “Night Rider” could just as easily be a surf tune in both music and title. A few tracks add sound affects and Dale adds vocals to more than a half-dozen others, adding a Freddy Canon-styled energy to “Hot Rod Racer,” a Jan & Dean treatment of “Big Black Cad,” and rocking a Bo Diddley beat on “50 Miles to Go.” The masters are super-wide stereo, with only tracks 7 and 8 in mono or very narrow stereo. Rock Beat’s tri-fold slip case includes four full panels of liner notes and an eight-page booklet that adds four more pages of song notes (by Alan Taylor and Dave Burke of Pipeline magazine) and a page of musician and production credits. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Dick Dale’s Home Page

Dick Dale: King of the Surf Guitar

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Super-stoked anthology of Dick Dale’s surf-related tunes

There are many anthologies, greatest hits collections and album reissues of Dick Dale’s material, but none have done the service of separately collecting his surf and hot-rod oriented tracks into parallel volumes. RockBeat’s issue of King of the Surf Guitar (not to be confused with his 1963 album of the same name) and At the Drags does just that, offering a generous twenty themed tracks each. The surf volume includes Dale’s signature rendition of the folk song “Miserlou,” alongside popular singles and album tracks such as “Let’s Go Trippin’,” “Surf Beat,” “The Wedge” and the Bo Diddley-styled “Surfin’ Drums.” The latter even features Dale himself playing out the drum break to close the track. Though Dale’s reverb-heavy staccato guitar picking is the collection’s big ticket, there are also a few vocal tracks, including the B-side “Secret Surfin’ Spot,” as featured in the film Beach Party (and covered by Annette Funicello), and the R&B-flavored single “Mr. Peppermint Man.” Backing Dale were both his Del-Tones and a number of Los Angeles studio hotshots, including Barney Kessell, James Burton, Neil Levang, Leon Russell, Steve Douglas, Plas Johnson, Hal Blaine and the Blossoms. The twenty tracks collect sides from Dale’s tenures on both Deltone and Capitol, and offer stereo (2, 5, 7-8, 10-11, 14-15, 19-20) together with AM radio-ready mono. Rock Beat’s tri-fold slip case includes four full panels of liner notes and an eight-page booklet that adds four more pages of song notes (by Alan Taylor and Dave Burke of Pipeline magazine) and a page of musician and production credits. [©2012 Hyperbolium]

Dick Dale’s Home Page