Posts Tagged ‘Sundazed’

The Choir: Artifact – The Unreleased Album

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Cleveland garage rock legends’ stellar unreleased 1969 album

Many rock ‘n’ roll fans were introduced to The Choir through the appearance of their 1966 single “It’s Cold Outside” on Pebbles, Vol. 2. In those pre-Internet days, fans learned from the album’s liner notes of the band’s Cleveland roots (and teased Stiv Bators’ 1979 cover), but failed to learn of the connection between the Choir and Cleveland’s greatest-ever pop export, Raspberries. What many found out later is that the Choir’s Wally Bryson, Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley would join with Eric Carmen (who’d unsuccessfully auditioned to sing with the Choir) to form Raspberries. Even less known was that after the Choir initially disbanded in 1968, they reformed a few months later with three new members, including organist Phil Giallombardo, joining keyboard player Kenny Margolis and drummer Jim Bonfanti.

This latter lineup recorded ten tracks in 1969, unsuccessfully shopped the results to labels, released a cover of the Easybeats’ “Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight,” and broke up for good in 1970. Although the title track of this collection was included on a 1976 Bomp EP, and three more turned up on Sundazed’s 1994 collection Choir Practice, the rest of the 1969 project was only recently rediscovered by the studio owner’s son, and is issued here for the very first time. By this point in the Choir’s history their sound was heavier than the garage rock of 1966, anchored by Hammond organ and hard rock, psychedelic guitars. Touches of pop-jazz (ala BS&T) and progressive rock mingled in, but the band retained their melodic roots in the British Invasion, as evidenced here by a cover of the Kinks’ “David Watts.”

Phil Giallombardo cites Procol Harum as a primary influence, but you can also hear the Left Bank’s baroque pop in “Anyway I Can,” Steppenwolf’s roar in “If These Are Men,” Robin Gibb’s fragility in “Have I No Love to Offer,” Santana’s organ magic in the instrumental “For Eric,” and the Lovin’ Spoonful’s good-timey vibes in “Mummer Band.” What’s most bewitching about this material is that three years on from “It’s Cold Outside,” the new lineup touches on the band’s earlier pop roots while seamlessly transitioning to a new, heavier direction that includes explosive drumming, heavy organ and blistering guitar solos. These are finished stereo productions, packaged with a 12-page booklet that includes period photos and a band family tree. It’s hard to imagine how no one took a commercial interest in these tapes at the time, but it’s great to have them now! [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Dick Dale: King of the Surf Guitar

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Dale’s second album dilutes the guitar sting of his debut

Dick Dale’s second album was his first to be issued on the Capitol label, and though his guitar playing is solid (as is his saxophonist’s), the song selection isn’t as inspiring as his debut, Surfer’s Choice. The Blossoms, featuring Darlene Love, back Dale on the title track and the guitarist sings lead on “Kansas City,” “Dick Dale Stomp,” and several other tracks. The covers include R&B, Soul, Folk, Country and International tunes that aren’t always the best showcase for Dale’s immense instrumental talent. Or at least they’re not always arranged to leave space for his guitar. The second half of the album offers more charms, with staccato flat-picked shredding on “Hava Nagela” and “Riders in the Sky,” fancy picking on “Mexico” and a low twangy groove on “Break Time.” Sundazed’s CD reissue adds two bonus tracks, both instrumentals that offer up samplings of Dale’s six-string craft, but on balance there’s more singing and sax than belongs on an album titled “King of the Surf Guitar.” This album leaves you wanting more of Dale’s picking, which just might have been the idea at the time. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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The Five Americans: Progressions

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Third and best album from Dallas-based ‘60s pop-rock vocal group

For their third album, following up their chart breakthrough with “Western Union,” the band thickened their arrangements, deepened their harmony singing, and scored an additional Top-40 hit with the pro-USPS, “Zip Code.” The group continued to write most of their own material, including eight of the album’s original ten tracks, and took over production from Dale Hawkins. The results are a great deal richer and more varied. The opening “Stop Light” lowers the organ from the high sound of earlier albums to bassier church notes. There is country, light psych, bubblegum and blue-eyed soul, and the Kinks-styled “Black is White” adds hot guitar leads to the melodic hook swiped from the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”

The band’s baroque pop, such as on “Sweet Bird of Youth,” fits nicely with songs from the Left Banke’s first two albums, and the folk-rock “EVOL-Not Love” sounds like the Vejtables and Beau Brummels. A cover of the Rascals’ “Come on Up” is played straight, but the Spencer Davis Group’s “Somebody Help Me” is given a group vocal arrangement. Like so many one- hit wonders (though, technically, the Five Americans were three hit wonders), there was more than met the Top-5 eye, and this album shows off their high-quality songwriting, singing and playing. As with their previous album, Western Union, the stereo fidelity here is excellent; these albums were better recorded, and the master tapes better preserved than one would expect. Casual listeners might start off with the group’s Best Of, but fans of ‘60s music will want to hear this full album reissue. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Zip Code
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The Five Americans: Western Union/Sound of Love

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Second album from Dallas-based ‘60s pop-rock hitmakers

This Dallas-based quintet broke into the Top 40 with their bluesy garage rocker “I See the Light” in 1966 and followed the next year with their biggest hit, “Western Union.” Both songs were group originals, which was a trend that continued on this second album. The title track is a catchy pop-rocker with bouncy bass and drums, tight harmony singing and an unforgettable falsetto hook. The rest of their originals are organ and guitar-based with light arrangements, terrific vocals and the occasional country tinge. Highlights include the harmony-rich ballad “Now That It’s Over,” the folk-rock “Sound of Love,” the fuzz bass and beat heavy “Reality,” and the Ohio Express styled bubblegum bonus track, “Lovin’ is Livin’.” The album’s three covers are more interesting for their range of material than their actual performances. “I Put a Spell on You” (written by the album’s producer, Dale Hawkins) suggests the Animals, but isn’t as heavy, nor as sinister as the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Worse, the vocal on Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives” sounds like a goof rather than a finished take. Sundazed has done a tremendous job re-mastering this into a surprisingly crisp CD. Casual listeners might be better off with the group’s Best Of, but fans will relish this full album reissue. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Western Union
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