Celilo – Bending Mirrors (2009)

FrontCover1It’s possible Celilo were aiming for an anonymous feel to this album – for certainly band name, title and cover art (a shot of bare trees and grey skies, with no photo of the band to be seen) all conspire to give little clue of what awaits inside. If the intention is to persuade you to give it a listen with no preconceptions, let’s hope that strategy works, as this is really something of a hidden gem.

Celilo are from Portland, Oregon. Celilo Falls was the nearby fishing grounds used for generations by Native Americans until flooded by the building of a dam in 1957, and Celilo lament this on the song “Wy-am”. All thirteen songs on the album are written and sung by Sloan Martin. Martin slurs many of his lyrics in a manner reminiscent of Adam Duritz of Counting Crows. And in fact, if you had to describe Celilo’s music to someone who hadn’t heard them before, a slightly lighter, countrified version of that band – think Counting Crows with pedal steel – wouldn’t be a bad approximation.

Throughout, the lyrics are poetic and evocative, but invariably indirect. Even with the help of the lyric sheet, you’ll be hard pushed to pin down exactly what some of these songs are about. Certainly they are songs that don’t yield up their meaning on first listen. So, depending on your point of view, you’ll either dismiss them as obscure or look forward to repeated listens to try to tease out further meaning.

But the songs aren’t lyric-heavy or ponderous, thanks to Martin’s gift for melody and the uniformly excellent playing of the band. “Bush Pilot” in many ways encapsulates what the band is all about. The lyrics have a poetic feel, if a little oblique, but by the time they get to the chorus, the lovely melody and swirling pedal steel will undoubtedly capture you. The next track “Piñata” is better still, probably the best on the album. Simple acoustic guitar, just Martin’s voice and a harmony vocal: A busted up piñata lying in the street, Empty of everything that once was sweet, with a delightful melodic hook guaranteed to get stuck in your head. (by backroadsmusic.co.uk)

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The opening song on “Bending Mirrors”, Easter Lily could quite easily have been included in the organised chaos that was Journey Through the Past, Neil Young’s ambitious early 1970s film soundtrack. Initially it has the same sort of jamming immediacy, then settles into a perfectly likeable rock driven anthem with a slight nod towards Dark Side era Pink Floyd. Portland’s Celilo, comprised of Sloan Martin providing lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Damon Dunning and Adam East sharing lead guitar and bass duties, Kipp Crawford on drums, Tucker Jackson with that all important pedal steel and finally David Pulliam on keyboards, together with a handful of guest musicians have come up with a piece of laid back and lyrical Americana that straddles the boundaries between inde rock, psychedelia and country folk.

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At times unavoidably sounding like Neil Young’s kid brothers or occasionally Ryan Adams, Celilo have managed to plough their own furrow, largely due to the writing credentials of former drummer turned frontman Sloan Martin. The themes do vary but the songs are unified by the sensitive arrangements and production prowess of the band and Mike Coykendall (She&Him, Blitzen Trapper and M. Ward) respectively.

If indeed the opening song has the driven rock base of a Young classic, then the bulk of the album settles into almost contemplative ballad mode demonstrating the sensitive side of Martin’s writing such as the achingly confessional love poem Pinata or the soulful Bush Pilot. Martin’s strong point though is in the almost surreal rhetoric he employs in songs such as Little Coquette.

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Personnel:
Kipp Crawford (drums)
Damon Dunning (guitar, bass, background vocals)
Adam East (bass, guitar, background vocals, harmonica)
Tucker Jackson (pedal steel-guitar)

Sloan Martin (vocals, guitar)
Dave Pulliam (keyboards)
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Jasmine Ash (synthesizer on 03.)
Mike Coykendall (guitar on 09.)“
Matt Kendall (Banjo on 02.)
Graham Nystrom (piano on piano on 08.)
Andy Parker (percussion on 03.)
Annalissa Tornfelt (fidle, Background vocals)
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background vocals:
Gaudie Darling – Pia DiSilva

Booklet1
Tracklist:
01  Easter Lily 2.40
02. Wy-Am 4.01
03  Winter Pills 3.43
04  Bush Pilot 3.28
05  Piñata 3.03
06  Cigarette Blues 3.13
07  Donut Queen 3.49
08  Sunken Ships  3.23
09  Sirens Of Metropolis 3.19
10  Pink Sofa 3.26
11  Little Coquette 3.17
12  Clatter Of Hooves  3.43
13  Pleistocene 4.24
All Songs written by Sloan Martin
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Maplewood – Same (2004)

FrontCover1This is the sought-after debut album by Brooklyn’s Maplewood, originally released in 2004. Rising up on a breeze of three-part harmonies and 12-string acoustic guitars, Maplewood evokes a joyride up the Pacific Coast Highway.

Like the scent of night jasmine in bloom, the Maplewood sound wafts from the canyons to the beaches and out into the desert, an ode to a Californian ideal mapped out by such precursors as America, Bread, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gene Clark, ’70s-era Beach Boys, late-period Byrds, The Stone Canyon Band, John Phillips, Neil Young, Hearts And Flowers, and even CSNY. For the five dudes who make up Maplewood, lost gems like “Ventura Highway” and “Make It With You” evolved from guilty pleasure to buried treasure: in such castoff anthems of mellowness, Maplewood managed to find improbable inspiration.

Call it canyon rock, call it breeze rock, Maplewood is like a desert sunrise, like a dappled afternoon up in the orange groves, like a moon-lit walk on the beach and a swig of dandelion wine with the one you love the most. (by forcedexposure.com)

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Maplewood is a low-key indie rock supergroup with members of Champale, Koester, Cub Country, and Nada Surf gathered together in the spirit of ’70s canyon rock. Their self-titled debut brings back hazy memories of groups like America, Bread, and CSNY. The kind of groups who always seemed ready to break out their acoustic guitars and serenade the sweet hippie chicks around campfires and in hazy bars with heartfelt lead vocals and harmonies, ringing open-chord strumming, lazy tempos, and occasional pedal steel for added melancholy. There are also echoes of more modern bands like R.E.M. on “Darlene,” Lambchop on “Bright Eyes,” and Teenage Fanclub on the chiming “Morning Star.” The spirit of Matthew Sweet also hovers over the proceedings, as he’s been treading these light rock boards for quite a while. So there you have all the influences and connections, all of which don’t mean much if Maplewood can’t deliver the songs. Luckily, they do. Tunes like “Indian Summer,” “Little Dreamer Girl,” and the quiet epic “Desert Queen” sound like they were taken right off a Time/Life Sounds of the 70’s comp. The rest are solid and memorable too. They escape being mere revivalists by investing their hearts into the material. There is no winking or obvious lifting of melodies. They create the feel of the sensitive California ’70s with an easy, sweet manner and plenty of laid-back soul. Not bad for a bunch of short-haired, East Coast fellas. Line them up next to the lovely Autumn Defense and let the ’70s begin again. (by Tim Sendra)
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“For me, there is something wonderfully familiar about the sound of Maplewood. Ever since McGuinn started combining those basic elements—chiming 12-string, soaring harmonies, laid-back California cool—so many years ago, the genre itself (call it what you will) earned the right to be called timeless.
Maplewood are a much newer band, but their sound rings as true to me now as when I bought my first acoustic guitar back in the late sixties. I speak from experience when I say that a lot of work can go into something sounding so effortless. Maplewood understood this from the start. I have always been a fan… from the opening bars of “Indian Summer”—a song we were destined to cover (& we rarely do covers )—to this latest collection.
I was an early convert and it’s clear I’m not alone. The sound that Maplewood wears with such ease has never felt better….
If you’re not already a fan, this new record will soon convert you.
Enjoy.”
(Gerry Beckley, America)

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When Maplewood released their self-titled debut in 2004, it was as if a strong, hot Santa Ana wind had blown through New York’s indie-rock scene. Here was a New York band that didn’t care to sound like the Ramones or Television or the Velvet Underground, but rather one that cast its eyes westward, toward the golden shores of California and – unusual for any band in the 21st century let alone one from Brooklyn – to the laidback legacies of the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Flying Burritos, and CSNY.
If fans of the members’ previously well-received bands Nada Surf, Champale, and Koester were a bit thrown off by the breezy turn, it didn’t take long for the harmony-heavy Maplewood sound to catch on, as the group showcased at New York’s CMJ Festival, shared a stage with Liz Phair and Camper Van Beethoven at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, and was soon finding its way into the pages of Spin, The New Yorker, and the Wall Street Journal. Pop Matters declared Maplewood to be “one toke away from the cosmos and harbingers of a movement already afoot. [Their music] makes you want to hit the highway and fly on the ground past the outer limits“. Paste found their first album, which featured guest appearances from members of the Hold Steady and Sparklehorse, to have “a gorgeous, pot-smoking melancholy that perfectly recaptures the easy, breezy sound of vintage FM radio.“ And Newsday proclaimed Maplewood one of New York’s top ten rock bands. (by tapetenrecords)

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Personnel:
Ira Elliot (drums, Percussion, vocals)
Steve Koester (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Mark Rozzo (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Craig Schoen (vocals, bass, guitar)
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Elaine Ahn (cello)
Judd Counsell (drums, percussion)
Kate Hohman (violin)
Joe McGinty (piano)
Geoff Sanoff (chamberlin)
Alan Weatherhead (pedal steel-guitar, wurlitzer)
Jude Webre (bass, wurlitzer)

Booklet01A

Tracklist:
01. Indian Summer (Rozzo) 3.16
02. Darlene (Schoen) 2.32
03. Gemini On The Way (Koester/Rozzo) 3.41
04. Little Dreamer Girl (Koester) 3.38
05. Santa Fe (Koester) 3.14
06. Be My Friend (Rozzo) 2.10
07. Bright Eyes (Koester) 3.23
08. Morning Star (Rozzo) 2.44
09. Sea Hero (Koester) 323
10. Think It Through (Rozzo) 3.12
11. Poconos (Schoen) 2.39
12. Carolina Jasmine (Koester) 4.00
13. Desert Queen (Rozzo) 5.37

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Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson – Lycka (1970)

frontcover1Lycka is a 1970 album released by folk/rock duo Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson, who later became the male half of ABBA. Most of the songs feature lead vocals by Björn. The songs show the influence of Brian Wilson, “Ticket to Ride”-era Beatles and traditional Swedish folk music.
Lycka was produced by Björn and Benny with Bengt Bernhag and engineered by Michael B. Tretow. Benny and Björn played on the tracks with two Swiss musicians, drummer John Counz and bassist Gus Horn. Sven-Olof Walldoff was responsible for the orchestral arrangements, and on the 2006 re-release a few bonus tracks were added, notably early recordings with the two-girl half of the future group ABBA on backing vocals, Anni-Frid Lyngstad who was engaged to Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog who was married to Björn Ulvaeus.
Three years later, Ring Ring became the first proper album release of what would become the most famous Swedish pop band ever (though the original album did not use ABBA as the main name of the group).(by wikipedia)
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ABBA emerged from the Swedish music scene in the early 1970’s.
ABBA were a “Supergroup’. In a “Supergroup” each of the group members has had a prior successful recording career. The group name, ABBA is an acronym of the first intials from each of the group members names (A-Agnetha,B-jorn, B-enny,A-nni-frid). That’s why capital letters are used when spelling out ABBA.
Singer-guitarist Björn Ulvaeus and keyboardist Benny Andersson’s
partnership as a recording duo, writing and production team began in late 1969.
As the duo, Björn and Benny, they released one album, LYCKA, and five Swedish singles. The romantic involvement between Björn & Agnetha and Benny & Frida was a key reason why the four would work together both as a group and a solo artists.

The first recording with all four eventual members of ABBA was called “Hej Gamle Man”, it dates from Mid 1970 and was actually a credited to , Björn and Benny as a duo.
Although Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-frid Lyngstad would sing on many of the songs recorded by Björn and Benny , it wasn’t till 1972 that the first single was released with all four of their names on it. That song was “People Need Love” which would be released on ABBA’s RING RING album.

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On stage, the story was slightly different. the four eventual ABBA members first played on stage together in November 1970 as the group FESTFOLK. It did not go well, but they tried performing together again in 1971 and worked together at other concerts between 1970-1972. They can be seen in this incarnation in 1970 doing “California Here I Come”on TV.This clip can be seen on the Super Troupers documentary. The clip is fascinating , but it perfectly illustrates what was wrong with the FESTFOLK approach,. Instead of doing cabaret style/variety show music they needed to be doing original fresh self-written pop songs that featured the girls singing…..this they soon discovered!…

The cross pollination between the future members of ABBA was a common thing in the years before ABBA. Björn produced some of Agnetha’s early 1970’s albums. Benny produced Frida between 1969-1972. During 1969-72 Frida would sing on some Agnetha’s songs and Agnetha sang on some of Frida’s singles. Many of these early efforts can be found on the PA SVENSKA compilation or on the various solo albums

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Björn and Benny-Lycka Fall 1970 Available on Swedish CD Reissued on Cd 1991, 2006
In some ways this is the birth of ABBA.The title means Happiness!
This is a very interesting album. Björn and Benny wrote the music to all of the songs and some of the lyrics. The whole album is sung in Swedish . Björn doing most of the lead vocals, with Benny providing some backing vocals. The original album featured eleven songs.

This album features the first track to have all future members of ABBA on it and this
is the very first album to have all the music written by Björn and Benny.
Acoustic and Electric Guitar feature prominently here, The electric guitar in particular dominates on “Kalles Visa” .This album is a bit more serious in tone than some of the later B&B songs and early ABBA songs that would follow in the early
and mid-Seventies. None of the songs here (even in translation) have a bubble gum lyrics or sound.
“Hej Gamle Man” (Hello Old Man) was released as the single from this album and proved to be successful, though the album was not overly successful. “Hej Gamle Man” features Agnetha and Frida on backing vocals. It was the first song to feature all four members of Abba. “Kara Gamla Sol” is the only song on the album sung by Benny.
More impressive to me is the great acoustic
guitar workout “Liselotte ” (it features lyrics by Agnetha and Björn); The anthemic “Ge Oss En Chans” has some soulful singing and some great organ. A nice little touch can be found at the beginning of “Lilla Du, Lilla Van’ which has Benny’s piano come in at a low volume. As a whole, this album features some of Björn’s best work.
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The stark brown cover is telling. It’s clear that their is seriousness of purpose and intent in these two young man. Benny’s soon-to-be trademark beard puts in it’s first appearence on a album cover (Benny never had a beard on the Hep Stars album covers). Björn looks a little smug but the trademark smile is there. The Swedish flag on the Guitar seems to say ,”We represent Sweden to the world”.
The LYCKA album was recorded in the Summer of 1970. It was Produced by Björn and Benny with Bengt Bernhag and engineered by Michael B.Tretow.

There was supposed to be a followup album released by Björn and Benny but before
it was anywhere near completion , Agnetha and Frida had joined up with Björn and Benny to change the group from a duo to a quartet. (by felpin80.tripod.com)

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Personnel:
Benny Anderson (vocals, keyboards)
John Cúonz (drums)
Gus Horn (bass)
Björn Ulvaeus (vocals, guitar)
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background vocals (on 07.)
Agnetha Fältskog – Anni-Frid Lyngstad
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Tracklist:
01. Lycka (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/S.Anderson) 3.07
02. Nånting Är På Väg  2:19
03  Kära Gamla Sol (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/S.Anderson) 2.27
04. Det Där Med Kärlek (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/Himmelstrand) 3.02
05. Välkommen In I Gänget (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/Himmelstrand) 3.10
06. Lilla Du, Lilla Vän (Fugelstad/B. Andersson/Ulvaeus) 2.51
07. Hej Gamle Man! (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/A.Anderson) 3.22
08. Liselott (Fältskog/B. Andersson/Ulvaeus) 2.59
09. Kalles Visa (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/Himmelstrand) 2.37
10. Ge Oss En Chans (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus) 3.41
11. Livet Går Sin Gång (B. Andersson/Ulvaeus/S.Anderson) 3.55
abba

Bruce Cockburn – Live (1990)

frontcover1Recorded in Toronto in the summer of 1989, Live is a good collection of Bruce Cockburn’s music, presented in a stripped-down setting. Fronting a tight three-piece unit, which sounds bigger thanks to Fergus Marsh’s stick, Michael Sloski’s eloquent drumming, and his own fingerstyle guitar work, Cockburn delivers a nice overview of his career, dating back as far as the record’s opener, “Silver Wheels,” from 1976. Amid his usual elements of spirituality and state-of-the-world messages, there’s also a lightness and even a sense of humor that is rarely, if ever, seen in his studio work. His choice to close with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the crucifixion scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian is both funny and inspired, while “Rumours of Glory,” with its playful harmonica, gains a joyful bounce, and his lone Top 40 U.S. hit, “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” becomes a crowd-pleasing singalong. Elsewhere Cockburn gives a new look to old tunes, whether it’s solo performances of “After the Rain” and “Call It Democracy,” the stark power of the bodhran, vocal rendition of “Stolen Land,” or the more palatable, jumping blues treatment of “Maybe the Poet.” Even though there are no songs, with the exception of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” that are not available elsewhere, there’s brucecockburn01enough personality in these live versions to recommend the record on its own merit, and not just as a souvenir of a successful tour. (by Brett Hartenbach)
 Over 76 minutes of Music – featuring songs dating from 1976’s In the Falling Dark to 1987’s Waiting for a Miracle albums, “Bruce Cockburn’s Live” features a cross-section of the artist’s best material from the era. Originally released in 1990, “Live” features a stunning version of Cockburn’s Top 40 hit “Wondering Where the Lions Are,” along with 14 other versions of Cockburn classics such as “Call It Democracy,” “Rumours of Glory,” and “Silver Wheels,” plus a bonus cut of the rock radio and MTV hit “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” There’s also a lightness and sense of humor on “Live” that is rarely, if ever, seen in Bruce Cockburn’s studio work – he even closes the set with a version of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. “Live” captures an exceptional performer at the peak of his powers.
This Album was especially produced for the German record market … and so all the lyrics were translated in German.
Recorded live at Ontario Place, Toronto, August 14th and 15th, 1989
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Personnel:
Bruce Cockburn (guitar, vocals, bodhràn, harmonica, chimes
Fergus Jemison Marsh (chapman stick, Background vocals)
Michael Sloski (drums, percussion, background vocals)

booklet01a

Tracklist:
01. Silver Wheels (Cockburn)  6.11
02. World Of Wonders (Cockburn) 4.39
03. Rumours Of Glory (Cockburn) 6.03
04. See How I Miss You (Cockburn) 4.00
05. After The Rain (Cockburn) 3.58
06. Call It Democracy (Cockburn) 3.37
07. Tibetan Side Of Town (Cockburn) 7.47
08. Wondering Where The Lions Are (Cockburn) 5.19
09. Nicaragua (Cockburn) 5.04
10. Broken Wheel (Cockburn) 5.01
11. Stolen Land (Cockburn/Marsh) 3.14
12. To Raise The Morning Star (Cockburn/Marsh) 7.47
13. Maybe The Poet (Cockburn/Marsh/Goldsmith/Crawford) 4.17
14. Always Look At The Bright Side Of Life (Idle) 2.51

 

Paul Brett Sage – Same (1970)

usfrontcover1Paul Brett (born 20 June 1947, Fulham, London) is an English classic rock guitarist. He played lead guitar with Strawbs (though he was never actually a member), The Overlanders, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, The Velvet Opera, Tintern Abbey, Fire, Roy Harper, Al Stewart, Lonnie Donegan, and switched to twelve-string guitar in the 1970s.

His first twelve-string guitar suite, Earth Birth, was released on his own label, Phoenix Future, and was produced by artist Ralph Steadman of Fear and Loathing fame. Critical acclaim led to Brett being signed on a four-album deal with RCA Records. His K-tel Romantic Guitar album went platinum in the UK, but Brett stopped recording soon afterwards. He started recording again in 2000, with long-time friend and fellow twelve-string guitarist, John Joyce.

Brett wrote for music magazines Melody Maker, Sound International and International Musician and continued working in the music industry in the later part of his career. He now writes a regular column for Acoustic, a magazine specializing in acoustic guitars. He is also the Associate Editor and Features Writer for Music Maker and Live in London magazines.

He has appeared on BBC Television’s Antiques Road Show and Flog It in the mid-2000s. (by wikipedia)

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And this is his wonderful debut album from 1970:

Tying together many of the musical threads of their day, Paul Brett Sage was a progressive band in the best sense of the word, with an adventurous sound that was accessible to all, though they never lost sight of their origins. The group grew out of the folk duo of guitarist/singer Paul Brett and percussionist Bob Voice, and their eponymous debut album sees Paul Brett Sage retain a folksy bend, which reaches grand agit-folk heights on “Trophies of War.” Elsewhere, Brett’s fiery licks and solos, particularly on the anthemic “3D Mona Lisa,” paints rock right across the backwoods vista. Evocative flamenco-tinged guitar sizzles around “The Sun Died,” while Brett’s aggressive performance on both 12-string and electric guitar creates a “Warlock” worthy of the modern age. With the band’s prominent use of percussion, Nicky Higginbottom’s haunting flute, their strong melodies, and infectious choruses, Paul Brett Sage hovers between folk, rock, world, and pop; an album that deftly manages to be all things to all people. (by Dave Thompson)

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Alternate frontcover from Italy

Personnel:
Paul Brett (guitar, vocals)
Dick Dufall (bass)
Nicky Higginbottom (flute, saxophone)
Bob Voice (drums, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. 3D Mona Lisa (Royce) 3.18
02. The Sun Died (Brett) 4.00
03. Little Aztec Prince (Voice) 4.22
04. Reason For Your Asking (Brett) 4.09
05. Trophies Of War (Brett) 3.43
06. The Tower (Brett) 5.14
07. The Painter (Brett) 4.11
08. Mediterranean Lazy Heat Wave (Voice) 3.16
09. Warlock (Brett) 5.41

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singles

Single sleeves from UK, France, Germany & Australia

More Paul Brett:

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Cat Stevens – Saturnight (Live In Tokyo) (1974)

frontcover1This is probably one of the rarest albums Cat Stevens ever recorded:

When it comes to charity albums from the ’70s, one thinks of The Concert For Bangladesh (1971) and then The Music For UNICEF Concert: A Gift Of Song (1979). But in 1974, Cat Stevens released Saturnight (Live In Tokyo) on vinyl and only in Japan.

In 2009 sherrill50 posted the following note at the Steve Hoffman Forum: “In 1974, Cat Stevens and his band recorded a live show in Tokyo which A&M Records issued the same year on LP as ‘Saturnight’ – but ONLY in Japan. Sort of the holy grail for Cat’s fans, this has (as far as I know) never been issued on CD, anywhere. Renny pointed out (as I’d also heard) that Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, had a serious dislike for the performance and, as a result, it would probably never be issued.”

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My love for Cat Stevens isn’t what it used to be but I still enjoy his classic albums Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat once in a while. Most of my favourite songs made it onto this live release in a dignified quality, in contrast to the later Majikat live album which was overstuffed with ladies’ choirs and other grotesqueries. In addition to being a not ungifted acoustic guitarist and pianist, Cat has got a warm, gentle voice that somehow reminds me of oak wood. His songs are elegant and uncomplicated, and most of you will probably have heard one of them somewhere. The best ones among them are usually a tad autumnal (Wild World, My Lady d’Arbanville) if not plain sad, like Father and Son and Oh Very Young, though sometimes also hopeful like Peace Train. Ah, the nostalgia. (by for-the-greater-good.blogspot.de)

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Alternate frontcovers

Personnel:
Gerry Conway (drums, percussion, background vocals)
Jim Cregan (guitar)
Alun Davies (guitar, background vocals)
Bruce Lynch (bass)
Suzanne Lynch (background vocals)
Anna Peacock (background vocals)
Jean Roussel (keyboards)
Larry Steele (guitar, percussion, background vocals)
Cat Stevens (vocals, guitar, synthesizer, percussion)

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Tracklist:
01. Wild World (Stevens) 3.03
02. Oh Very Young ((Stevens) 2.28
03. Sitting (Stevens) 3:14
04. Where Do the Children Play (Stevens) 3:52
05. Lady d’Arbanville (Stevens) 3:47
06. Another Saturday Night (Cooke) 2.35
07. Hard Headed Woman (Stevens) 3:54
08. Peace Train (Stevens) 3:58
09. Father And Son (Stevens) 3:41
10. King Of Trees (Stevens) 3:28
11. Bad Penny (Stevens) 3:21
12. Bitterblue (Stevens) 3:12.

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The Band – Music From The Big Pink (1968)

frontcover1Music from Big Pink is the debut studio album by the Band. Released in 1968, it employs a distinctive blend of country, rock, folk, classical, R&B, and soul. The music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, a house shared by Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson in West Saugerties, New York. The album itself was recorded in studios in New York and Los Angeles in 1968,[6] and followed the band’s backing of Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour (as the Hawks) and time spent together in upstate New York recording material that was officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, also with Dylan. The cover artwork is a painting by Dylan.

The Band began to create their distinctive sound during 1967, when they improvised and recorded with Bob Dylan a huge number of cover songs and original Dylan material in the basement of a pink house in West Saugerties, New York, located at 56 Parnassus Lane (formerly 2188 Stoll Road). The house was built by Ottmar Gramms, who bought the land in 1952. The house was newly built when Rick Danko found it as a rental. Danko moved in along with Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel in February 1967. The house became known locally as “Big Pink’ for its pink siding. The house was subsequently sold by Gramms in 1977, and since 1998, it has been a private residence.

Though widely bootlegged at the time, the recordings Dylan and the Band made were first officially released in 1975 on The Basement Tapes, and then released in their totality in 2014 on The Basement Tapes Complete. By the end of 1967 The Band felt it was time to step out of Dylan’s shadow and make their own statement.

The Band’s manager Albert Grossman (who was also Dylan ‘s manager) approached Capitol Records to secure a record deal for a group still informally described as “Dylan’s backing band”. Stanley Gortikov at Capitol signed The Band—initially under the name The Crackers. Armed with news of a recording deal for the group, they lured Levon Helm back from the oil rigs where he had been working, to Woodstock where he took up his crucial position in the Band, singing and playing drums. Helm’s return coincided with a ferment of activity in Big Pink as the embryonic Band not only recorded with Dylan but also began to write their own songs, led by guitarist Robbie Robertson.

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After meeting with producer John Simon, the Band started to record their debut album in Manhattan at A&R Studios, on the 7th floor of 799 7th Avenue at 52nd Street in the early months of 1968. The Band recorded “Tears of Rage”, “Chest Fever”, “We Can Talk”, “This Wheel’s On Fire” and “The Weight” in two sessions. Robertson has said that when Simon asked them how they wanted it to sound, they replied, “Just like it did in the basement.”

Capitol were so pleased with the initial recording session, they suggested the group move to Los Angeles to finish recording their first album at Capitol Studios. They also cut some material at Gold Star Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard. The songs on Big Pink recorded in L.A. were “In A Station”, “To Kingdom Come”, “Lonesome Suzie”, “Long Black Veil” and “I Shall Be Released”.

Dylan offered to sing on the album, but ultimately realized it was important for the Band to make their own statement. Instead, Dylan signified his presence by contributing a cover painting. Barney Hoskyns has written that it is significant the painting depicts six musicians. The cover of Music From Big Pink was intended to establish the group as having a different outlook from the psychedelic culture of 1968. Photographer Elliott Landy flew to Toronto to photograph the assembled Danko, Manuel and Hudson families on the Danko chicken farm. A photo was inserted of Diamond and Nell Helm, who lived in Arkansas. The photo appeared on the cover with the caption “Next of Kin”.

The initial critical reception to the album was positive, though sales were slim. In Rolling Stone, Al Kooper’s rave review of Big Pink ended with the words, “This album was recorded in approximately two weeks. There are people who will work their lives away in vain and not touch it.”  which helped to draw public attention to it (even though Rolling Stone referred to them as “the band from Big Pink” instead of just “the Band”). The fact that Bob Dylan wrote one and co-wrote two of the songs on the album also attracted attention.

In 1968, “The Weight” peaked at #63 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in the US. The song was a bigger hit elsewhere, peaking at #35 in Canada, and #21 in the UK. The album peaked at #30 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart in 1968, and then recharted as a #8 hit on the Top Internet Albums chart in 2000 (see 2000 in music). “The Weight” gained widespread popularity, from the Band’s performance of it at Woodstock on 17 August 1969 and due partially to its inclusion in the film Easy Rider, though it was omitted from the soundtrack because of licensing issues. A cover version by the band Smith was included on the soundtrack album instead.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 34 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The laid-back feel of the album attracted the attention of other major artists. For example, Eric Clapton cites the album’s roots rock style as what convinced him to quit Cream, and pursue the styles of Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, Derek and the Dominos and his debut album. George Harrison was also impressed by the album’s musicianship and sense of camaraderie, and Roger Waters called it the second “most influential record in the history of rock and roll”, after Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and said that it “affected Pink Floyd deeply, deeply, deeply.” (by wikipedia)

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None of the Band’s previous work gave much of a clue about how they would sound when they released their first album in July 1968. As it was, Music from Big Pink came as a surprise. At first blush, the group seemed to affect the sound of a loose jam session, alternating emphasis on different instruments, while the lead and harmony vocals passed back and forth as if the singers were making up their blend on the spot. In retrospect, especially as the lyrics sank in, the arrangements seemed far more considered and crafted to support a group of songs that took family, faith, and rural life as their subjects and proceeded to imbue their values with uncertainty. Some songs took on the theme of declining institutions less clearly than others, but the points were made musically as much as lyrically. Tenor Richard Manuel’s haunting, lonely voice gave the album much of its frightening aspect, while Rick Danko’s and Levon Helm’s rough-hewn styles reinforced the songs’ rustic fervor. The dominant instrument was Garth Hudson’s often icy and majestic organ, while Robbie Robertson’s unusual guitar work further destabilized the sound. The result was an album that reflected the turmoil of the late ’60s in a way that emphasized the tragedy inherent in the conflicts. Music from Big Pink came off as a shockingly divergent musical statement only a year after the ornate productions of Sgt. Pepper, and initially attracted attention because of the three songs Bob Dylan had either written or co-written. However, as soon as “The Weight” became a minor singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre. (by William Ruhlmann)

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Personnel:
Rick Danko (bass, fiddle, vocals)
Levon Helm (drums, tambourine, vocals)
Garth Hudson (keyboard, clavinet, saxophone)
Richard Manuel (keyboards, drums, vocals)
Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals)
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John Simon (horn, saxophone, piano)

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Tracklist:
01. Tears Of Rage (Dylan/Manuel) 5.24
02. To Kingdom Come (Robertson) 3.23
03. In A Station (Manuel) 3.35
04. Caledonia Mission (Robertson) 2.59
05. The Weight (Robertson) 4.39
06. We Can Talk  (Manuel) 3.07
07. Long Black Veil (Wilkin/Dill) 3.06
08. Chest Fever (Robertson) 5.19
09. Lonesome Suzie (Manuel) 4.04
10. This Wheel’s On Fire (Dylan/Danko) 3.14
11. I Shall Be Released (Dylan) 3.19
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12. Yazoo Street Scandal (outtake) (Robertson) 4.02
13. Tears Of Rage (alternate take) (Dylan/Manuel) 5.32
14. Katie’s Been Gone (outtake) (Manuel/Robertson) 2.47
15. If I Lose (outtake) (Poole) 2.30
16. Long Distance Operator (outtake) (Dylan) 3.58
17. Lonesome Suzie (alternate take) (Manuel) 3.01
18. Orange Juice Blues (Blues for Breakfast) (outtake) (Manuel) 3.40
19. Key To The Highway (outtake) (Broonzy) 2.28
20. Ferdinand The Imposter (outtake) (Robertson) 4.00

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The “Big Pink” house in 2006