John Renton – Half In Half Out (1975)

FrontCover1John Renton was a singer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, harmonica, etc.). Born in India, lived for a shirt time in England and then moved to Vancouver, Canada where he first worked as session musician in the 1960s.

During the Sixties he played in locals bands like
The Raja and Three To One before he tried to start a shortlived solo career.

And this album is a pretty good one … a great mixture between Folk-Rock with some Psych elements (“Picture Tree”, “Monday Morning”).

Unfortunately I gave no idea what was happened with John Renton after recording this beautiful album.

A forgotten treasure ot the Seventies (including a great cover) !

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This first and last solo album of this Canadian musician, released by the label “Reprise Records”, was not reprinted on the CD …

So you hear another vinyl rip by myself.

And … Hey … Mr. John Renton … where are you now ?

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Personnel:
Paul Beedham (drums)
Susie Campbell (background vocals)
Hagood Hardy (vibraphone, marimba)
John Hartford (banjo, fiddle)
Jerry Lester  (bass)
John Renton (guitar, vocals, harmonica percussion)
Pat Riccio (keyboards)
Lance Saegusa (guitar)
Don Thompson (flute, reeds)

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Frontcover of the test pressing

Tracklist:
01. In The Middle (Renton/Bay) 2.27
02. When I Talk (Renton) 3.07
03. Monday Morning (Renton/Bay) 2.45
04. City Walking Blues (Renton/Bay) 3.22
05. You Know (Renton/Beckwith) 2.16
06. Half In, Half Out (Renton/Bay) 4,01
07. Darkness And Light (Renton/Bay) 3.45
08. Picture Tree (Renton/Bay) 4.46
09. Down Parade (Renton/Bay) 3.57

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The Leaves – Hey Joe (1966)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Leaves were an American garage rock band formed in San Fernando Valley, California, United States, in 1964. They are best known for their version of the song “Hey Joe”, which was a hit in 1966. Theirs is the earliest release of this song, which became a rock standard.

The band was founded by bass player Jim Pons and guitarist Robert Lee Reiner, who were inspired by hearing The Beatles while students at Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles. Originally called The Rockwells, they were fraternity brothers who formed a group and then taught themselves how to play. Besides Pons and Reiner, the original line-up included John Beck (vocals), Bill Rinehart (lead guitar), and Jimmy Kern (drums); in early 1965, Kern was replaced by drummer Tom Ray.

They began by playing surf and dance music at parties. Their first actual show was in the school gym with Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. In 1965, The Byrds left their residency at Ciro’s on Sunset Strip after making their first hit, and The Leaves (as they were by now known) were chosen to replace them. It was there they were discovered by popular singer and actor Pat Boone, who got them their first record contract, with Mira Records.

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Their first single, “Too Many People”, was a local hit in Los Angeles The Leaves released “Hey Joe” in November 1965, and dissatisfied with the sound, pulled it. They released a second version in early 1966, which flopped. Original guitarist Bill Rinehart left, and The Leaves redid the song again with a fuzztone by new guitarist Bob Arlin. This version of the song became a hit, and debuted on both Billboard and Cash Box on May 21, 1966. It peaked at No. 31 on Billboard and No. 29 on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts, while showing a humbler peak position of No. 43 on Cash Box. The song ran nine weeks on both national charts.

Their debut album Hey Joe followed. It took a run on the Billboard charts for five weeks, beginning on July 30, 1966, peaking at No. 127. The album did not make it onto the Cash Box charts.

Ad.jpgThe band appeared on TV shows – American Bandstand, Shivaree, Shebang – and briefly in a Hollywood film, The Cool Ones (1967). One more album, All the Good That’s Happening, was released before the band broke up in 1967 when Pons left to join the pop group The Turtles; In the early 1970s, Pons played bass with Frank Zappa.[1] Arlin went on to form heavy psychedelic band The Hook[1] and The Robert Savage Group. The band reunited in 1970 before Pons became a member of Zappa’s band. The reunited lineup included Jim Pons on rhythm guitar, John Beck on lead guitar, Buddy Sklar, lead singer from The Hook and The Spencer Davis Group, Al Nichols on bass from the Turtles, and Bob “Bullet” Bailey on drums. The band did some touring and performed at local Los Angeles based nightclubs before disbanding in 1971.

A new generation of music fans discovered the band when their version of “Hey Joe” was included in the classic 1972 garage rock compilation, Nuggets. According to the Nuggets liner notes, the as yet unnamed band was hanging around a tree-shaded pool, smoking, when a newcomer gave the traditional 1960s greeting, “What’s happening?” “The leaves are happening”, came the answer, which struck them all as a good name for a band. (by wikipedia)

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This is one hell of a debut album, especially for a group that only lasted for about a year after its release. The Leaves perform some superb folk-rock in a Byrds/Beatles vein (“Just a Moment,” “Girl From the East”), excellent lyrical garage punk (“Words,” “Tobacco Road”), and solid hard rock (“Hey Joe,” “Too Many People”), and cross swords with the Rolling Stones (“You Better Move On,” “Back On the Avenue” — the latter a ripoff of the Stones’ “2120 South Michigan Avenue”) and Bob Dylan (“Love Minus Zero”).

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The sound isn’t exactly consistent, given the gamut of influences at work here, from Bo Diddley (“Dr. Stone”) to primitive psychedelia (“War of Distortion”), but there isn’t a bad song on the disc, and the CD reissue has about the best sound ever heard on this material, bringing out the guitars in a genuinely crisp and vivid fashion. Maybe the strangest and best track in that regard is their cover of “He Was a Friend of Mine,” which incorporates elements of both the Searchers’ “When You Walk In the Room” and the Byrds’ “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” into its structure and beat — the guitars are a real kick there. The bonus tracks may have come from vinyl sources rather than tape, but they hold up very well for sound quality. Anyone who enjoyed the first two Byrds albums must own this disc. (by Bruce Eder)

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Personnel:
Bobby Arlin (lead guitar)
John Beck (vocals)
Jim Pons (bass)
Tom “Ambrose” Ray (drums)
Robert Lee Reiner (guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Dr.Stone (Pons/Beck) 2.19
02. Just A Memory (Arlin) 2.22
03. Get Out Of My Life Woman (Toussaint) 2.50
04. Girl From The East (Jameson) 3.00
05. He Was A Friend Of Mine (Traditional) 3.24
06. Hey Joe! (Roberts) 2.52
07. Words (Hart/Boyce) 2.24
08. Back On The Avenue (Arlin/Pons/Beck/Reiner/Ray) 3.11
09. War Of Distortion (Arlin) 2.15
10. Tobacco Road (Loudermilk) 2.14
11. Good Bye, My Love (McNally/Pender) 3.09
12. Too Many People (Rinehart/Pons) 3.22
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13. Be With You (Rinehart/Pons) 2.10
14. You Better Move On (Alexander) 2.29
15. That’s A Different Story (Rinehart/Pons) 2.34
16. Love Minus Zero (Dylan) 2.32
17. Funny Little World (Arlin) 2.11

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The Band – Live At The Academy Of Music 1971 (2013)

FrontCover1.jpgThis is my last entry in this year, in this decade … including a New Year´s Eve concert:

During the final week of 1971, The Band played four legendary concerts at New York City’s Academy Of Music, ushering in the New Year with electrifying performances, including new horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint and a surprise guest appearance by Bob Dylan for a New Year’s Eve encore. Select highlights from the concerts were compiled for The Band’s classic 1972 double LP, Rock Of Ages, which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and remains a core album in the trailblazing group’s storied Capitol Records catalog.

For the first time, all four of the concerts’ multi-track recordings have been revisited for ‘Live At The Academy Of Music 1971,’ a new 4CD+DVD collection. The expansive new collection features new stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes, including 19 previously unreleased performances and newly discovered footage of two songs filmed by Howard Alk and Murray Lerner. ‘Live At The Academy Of Music 1971’ takes a deep dive into The Band’s historic shows for a definitive document of the pioneering group’s stage prowess at the apex of their career.

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Live At The Academy Of Music 1971 is presented in a deluxe, 48-page hardbound book (not included) with previously unseen photos, a reproduction of Rolling Stone’s original Rock Of Ages review by magazine co-founder Ralph J. Gleason, an essay by The Band’s Robbie Robertson, and appreciations of The Band and the set’s recordings by Mumford & Sons and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. The collection’s first two discs feature performances of every song played over the course of the four concerts, and the New Year’s Eve soundboard mix on discs 3 and 4 puts the listener in the room for that entire legendary night: Uncut, unedited, taken straight from the master recordings and presented in full for the first time. The set’s DVD (not included) presents the tracks from discs 1 and 2 in 5.1 Surround, plus Alk and Lerner’s filmed performances of ‘King Harvest (Has Surely Come)’ and ‘The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show.’

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The Band’s historic performances at New York City’s Academy of Music on Dec. 28-31, 1971 have been collected before, on one of the ’70s’ best live albums, ‘Rock of Ages.’ But the five-disc ‘Live at the Academy of Music 1971’ (which includes a DVD) paints a more complete picture of the shows. The set gathers songs from their four-concert, three-night stand, just as 1971 turned into 1972. The first two CDs compile highlights from the shows, including 29 songs from ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and ‘I Shall Be Released’ to ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘The Weight’ as well as four from the New Year’s Eve concert where Bob Dylan joined them onstage. The third and fourth discs collect the complete New Year’s Eve concert 27 songs, including the same four with Dylan. Eleven songs in all are repeated from the first two CDs here, which can be both jarring and repetitive as you listen to the exact same performances within different contexts.

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It might all be too much for casual fans, even if 19 of the tracks are previously unreleased. The thrill of Garth Hudson’s massive organ moving from ‘The Genetic Method’ into ‘Auld Lang Syne’ loses some of its power on the New Year’s Eve set when you know it’s coming. Same goes for Dylan’s surprise appearance. Still, the concert-closing version of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ is almost as ferocious as the one Dylan and the Band played during their 1966 tour of the U.K. The DVD simply adds a visual element to some of the cuts from the album. But the Band find the various shadings in the songs without them. Listen to the way they swing through “Get Up Jake’ and pile their instrumental prowess onto the monumental ‘Chest Fever.’ Or even the way they spin the urbane Motown track ‘Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever’ toward their dusty-road Americana, all spiked by horn arrangements from New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint. That’s the sound of a band at the top of its game. (Promo text)

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Not so much an expansion of 1972’s classic double-live album Rock of Ages, but an exhaustive tribute to its source material, the four-CD/one-DVD 2013 box set Live at the Academy of Music 1971 digs deep into the Band’s year-end four-night stint at New York City’s Academy of Music. The original 18-track sequence for the 1972 LP has been abandoned in favor of a double-concert construct, where the first two discs present one version of each of the 29 songs the Band played over the course of these four nights, while the final two discs present the entirety of the New Years Eve concert that capped off this residency; this CD is remixed from the soundboard tapes, and the DVD replicates this New Years Eve concert (note that there is no footage of the NYE concert, so the music is presented with a selection of stills; nevertheless, there are full clips of the Band performing “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” and “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” on December 30, which are welcome). This structure is an appealing one but invites perhaps more duplications than are necessary.

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The 29 songs on the first two disc contain 11 songs from the New Years Eve show — including the four-song encore with Bob Dylan — but the trade-off is the NYE concert is loaded with unheard versions of familiar songs: 16 of the 27 songs are previously unreleased (in contrast, the only unearthed song on the first two discs is a killer version of “Strawberry Wine”). Perhaps some of these performances are ever so slightly rougher than the accompanying ones on the first two discs, but that liveliness is part of the appeal (besides, this is hardly ragged; as enthusiastic as the Band is, they’re also supplemented by Allen Toussaint’s horn section, so they do need to hit their marks to ensure all the elements fit together). Rock of Ages and, in turn, Live at the Academy of Music 1971 do close out the early years of the Band. They’d tour again, supporting Bob Dylan in 1974, and they turned out a few more records before disbanding in 1976, but they never seemed as triumphant as they did at the end of 1971. Although this box is not perfect — it’s hard not to wish there were no duplications on the first two discs, or the last two — it is nevertheless a mighty testament to the Band at the peak of their powers. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Rick Danko (bass, violin, vocals)
Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, vocals)
Garth Hudson (keyboards, accordion, saxophone)
Richard Manuel (keyboards, drums, vocals)
Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals)
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Joe Farrell (saxophone, english horn)
Howard Johnson (saxophone, tuba, euphonium)
Earl McIntyre (trombone)
J.D. Parron (saxophone, clarinet)
Snooky Young (trumpet, flugelhorn)
+
Bob Dylan (vocals, guitar on CD 2: 13 – 16.; CD 4: 13. – 16.)

Danko Rob

Tracklist:

CD 1: Live At The Academy Of Music (Part 1):
01. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (Friday, December 31) (Robertson) 3.50
02. The Shape I’m In (Friday, December 31) (Robertson) 3.49
03. Caledonia Mission (Thursday, December 30) (Robertson) 3.20
04. Don’t Do It (Wednesday, December 29) (Holland/Dozier/Holland) 4.28
05. Stage Fright (Friday, December 31) (Robertson) 4.22
06. I Shall Be Released (Thursday, December 30) (Dylan) 4.01
07. Up On Cripple Creek (Thursday, December 30) (Robertson) 4.40
08. This Wheel’s On Fire (Wednesday, December 29) (Danko/Dylan) 3.48
09. Strawberry Wine (Tuesday, December 28) (Previously Unissued Performance) (Helm/ Robertson) 3.31
10. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) (Friday, December 31) (Robertson) 3.58
11. Time To Kill (Tuesday, December 28) (Robertson) 4.09
12. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Wednesday, December 29) (Robertson) 4.41
13. Across The Great Divide (Thursday, December 30) (Robertson) 3.28

CD 2: Live At The Academy Of Music (Part 2):
01. Life Is A Carnival (Thursday, December 30) (Danko/Helm/Robertson) 4.04
02. Get Up Jake (Thursday, December 30) (Robertson) 3.17
03. Rag Mama Rag (Friday, December 31) (Robertson) 4.04
04. Unfaithful Servant (Friday, December 31) (Robertson) 4.30
05. The Weight (Thursday, December 30) (Robertson) 5.16
06. Rockin’ Chair (Wednesday, December 29) (Robertson) 4.04
07. Smoke Signal (Tuesday, December 28) (Robertson) 5.20
08. The Rumor (Thursday, December 30) (Robertson) 5.04
09. The Genetic Method (Friday, December 31) (Hudson) 7.31
10. Chest Fever (Tuesday, December 28) (Robertson) 5.08
11. (I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes (Wednesday, December 29) (Willis) 4.36
12. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (Wednesday, December 29) (Hunter/Wonder) 3.31
13. Down In The Flood (with Bob Dylan) (Friday, December 31) (Dylan) 5.11
14. When I Paint My Masterpiece (with Bob Dylan) (Friday, December 31) (Dylan) 4.57
15. Don’t Ya Tell Henry (with Bob Dylan) (Friday, December 31) (Dylan) 3.55
16. Like A Rolling Stone (with Bob Dylan) (Friday, December 31) (Dylan) 5.26

CD 3: New Year´s Eve At The Academy Od Music 1971 (Soundboard Mix) (Part 1):
01. Up On Cripple Creek (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 5.11
02. The Shape I’m In (Robertson) 4.10
03. The Rumor (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 5.06
04. Time To Kill (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 4.23
05. Rockin’ Chair (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 4.10
06. This Wheel’s On Fire (Previously Unissued Performance) (Dank/Dylan) 4.03
07. Get Up Jake (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 3.41
08. Smoke Signal (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 5.31
09. I Shall Be Released (Previously Unissued Performance) (Dylan) 4.01
10. The Weight (Previously Unissued Performance) 5.15
11. Stage Fright (Robertson) 4.32

CD 4: New Year´s Eve At The Academy Od Music 1971 (Soundboard Mix) (Part 2):
01. Life Is A Carnival (Previously Unissued Performance) (Danko/Helm/Robertson) 5.12
02. King Harvest (Has Surely Come) (Robertson) 4.00
03. Caledonia Mission (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 3.29
04. The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (Robertson) 4.01
05. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 4.48
06. Across The Great Divide (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 3.52
07. Unfaithful Servant (Robertson) 4.37
08. Don’t Do It (Previously Unissued Performance) (Holland/Dozier/Holland) 4.45
09. The Genetic Method (Hudson) 7.52
10. Chest Fever (Previously Unissued Performance) (Robertson) 6.29
11. Rag Mama Rag (Holland/Dozier/Holland) 4.15
12. (I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes (Previously Unissued Performance) (Willis) 4.40
13. Down In The Flood (with Bob Dylan) (Dylan) 5.43
14. When I Paint My Masterpiece (with Bob Dylan) (Dylan) 4.15
15. Don’t Ya Tell Henry (with Bob Dylan) (Dylan) 4.11
16. Like A Rolling Stone (with Bob Dylan) (Dylan) 5.41

CDs

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Rick Danko
(December 29, 1943 – December 10, 1999)

Levon Helm
(May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012)

Richard Manuel
(April 3, 1943 – March 4, 1986)

Eagles – Learn To Be Still (1994)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971. The founding members were Glenn Frey (guitars, vocals), Don Henley (drums, vocals), Bernie Leadon (guitars, vocals) and Randy Meisner (bass guitar, vocals). With five number-one singles, six number-one albums, six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. Their albums Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and Hotel California rank first and third, respectively, among the best-selling albums in the United States, with 38 million and 26 million album units in sales. The Eagles are one of the world’s best-selling bands, having sold more than 200 million records, including 100 million albums sold in U.S alone. They were ranked number 75 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Learn to be Still is a song written by Don Henley and Stan Lynch and recorded by the Eagles. The song is one of four studio tracks on the live album Hell Freezes Over, which was the first album to be released after the band had reunited following a fourteen-year-long break up.

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“Learn to Be Still” was played live during their Hell Freezes Over tour in 1994 and came out as a single in 1995. It peaked at No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart in the same year.

And this is a pretty good bootleg (soundboard quality) …. recorded live in the USA, Summer 1994. Limited Edition Picture CD.

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Personnel:
Don Felder (guitar, background vocals)
Glenn Frey (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Don Henley (vocals, drums, percussion)
Timothy B. Schmidt (vocals, bass)
Joe Walsh (vocals, guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Desperado (Henley/Frey) 3.41
02. Hotel California (Felder/Henley/Frey) 7.01
03. The Heart Of The Matter (Campbell/Souther/Henley) 5.41
04. New York Minute (Henley/Kortchmar/Winding) 6.16
05. Tell Me Why (Henley/Frey) 4.18
06. Tequila Sunrise (Henley/Frey) 3.00
07. Live In The Fast Lane (Walsh/Henley/Frey) 5.10
08. Take It Easy (Browne/Frey) 4.25
09. Wasted Time (Henley/Frey) 5.05
10. Help Me Through The Night (Walsh) 3.55
11. Get Over It (Henley/Frey) 3.28
12. The Last Resort (Henley/Frey) 7.02
13. Love Will Keep Us Alive (Vale/Capaldi/Carrack) 4.98
14. The Girl From Yesterday (Frey/Tempchin) 3.28
15. I Can’t Tell You Why (Schmidt/Henley/Frey) 4.52
16. In The City (Walsh/De Vorzon) 3.55
17. Learn To Be Still (Henley(Lynch) 4.21

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More from The Eagles:

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The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Rare Junk (1968)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was founded around 1966 in Long Beach, California, United States, by singer-guitarist Jeff Hanna and singer-songwriter guitarist Bruce Kunkel who had performed as the New Coast Two and later the Illegitimate Jug Band. Trying, in the words of the band’s website, to “figure out how not to have to work for a living,” Hanna and Kunkel joined informal jam sessions at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Long Beach. There they met a few other musicians: guitarist/washtub bassist Ralph Barr, guitarist-clarinetist Les Thompson, harmonicist and jug player Jimmie Fadden, and guitarist-vocalist Jackson Browne. As Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the six men started as a jug band and adopted the burgeoning southern California folk rock musical style, playing in local clubs while wearing pinstripe suits and cowboy boots. Their first paying performance was at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California.

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Browne was in the band for only a few months before he left to concentrate on a solo career as a singer-songwriter. He was replaced by John McEuen on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and steel guitar. McEuen’s older brother, William, was the group’s manager, and he helped the band get signed with Liberty Records, which released the group’s debut album, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band during 1967. The band’s first single, “Buy for Me the Rain,” was a Top 40 success, and the band gained exposure on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, as well as concerts with such disparate artists as Jack Benny and The Doors.

A second album, Ricochet, was released later during the year and was less successful than their first. Kunkel wanted the band to “go electric”, and include more original material. Bruce left the group to form WordSalad and Of The People. He was replaced by multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow.

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By 1968, the band adopted electrical instruments anyway, and added drums. The first electric album, Rare Junk, was a commercial failure.

Rare Junk is the third album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, released in 1968. In an attempt to update their sound the band included electric instrumentation on the record, but it still was a commercial failure. (by wikipedia)

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This, the group’s third album release, was actually an odds-and-sods type compilation of leftover tracks and singles that formed a respectable 10-song 30-minute plus LP. As a sign of just how strong the band was, it still represented a step forward from their second album, and is one of the great unknown albums of 1968. (by Bruce Eder)

indeed … a real pretty good album from the early days of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

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Personnel:
Ralph Barr (guitar, clarinet)
Chris Darrow (guitar, mandolin, violin, fiddle, bass)
Jimmie Fadden (tube, jug, mouth harp, harmonica, washtub bass, drums)
Jeff Hanna (washboard, tambourine, drum, guitar, harmonica  …and other rare junk)
John McEuen (piano, banjo, five string banjar)
Les Thompson (guitar, mandolin, bass, tambourine, banjo)
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Rodney Dillard (dobro guitar)
Paul Hornsby (piano)
Bernie Leadon (guitar on 09.)
Johnny Sandlin (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Mournin’ Blues (Sbarbaro) 3.23
02. Collegiana (McHugh/Fields) 2.35
03. Willie The Weeper (Rymal/Melrose/Bloom) 2.22
04. Cornbread And ‘Lasses (Sassafrass Tea) (George/Sullivan) 2.29
05. These Days (Browne) 3.09
06. Sadie Green The Vamp Of New Orleans (Wells/Dunn) 2.22
07. Dr. Heckle And Mr. Jibe (McDonough) 2.34
08. End Of Your Line (Farrel) 2.20
09. Reason To Believe (Hardin) 2.53
10. Hesitation Blues (Oh! Baby Must I Hesitate?) (Smythe/Middleton/Gillham) 3.24
11. A Number And A Name (Gillette/Campbell) 3.18

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Unicorn – Blue Pine Trees (1974)

FrontCover1.JPGAs the old saying goes, appearances can be deceptive. Yes a very hackneyed cliché, but often true. Take Unicorn for instance: signed to premier Progressive Rock label Charisma, produced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd (then basking in the huge success of Dark Side Of The Moon), liberal use of a mandolin and this record emerged to the general public in the great-coat high watermark of 1974. Could this be anything other than super-overreaching, meandering Prog Rock? Well yes it is. If I am being totally honest, I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment at this. Relief because for me some Prog can be taxing in the extreme, disappointment as in the correct dosage it can remarkable listening in its insane over-ambition and sheer audacity. But let us accept and appreciate Blue Pine Trees for what it actually is, rather than what it clearly is not.

Before I heard this new version of Blue Pine Trees I knew next to nothing about Unicorn, bar some wild guessing they were some sort of early ’70s hairy bunch, but it turns out they have an interesting and diverting backstory (most of which, I’ll hold my hands up, I have cribbed from Malcolm Dome’s excellent sleeve-notes). Beginning as a skiffle band called the Senders in the early ’60s, they had a spell in the latter part of the decade backing heartthrob Billy J Kramer after he had been deserted by the Dakotas and also operated in their own right as the Late.

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Finally a year into the new decade they became known as Unicorn at their record label Transatlantic’s insistence and released their debut album Uphill All The Way for which this album was the belated follow up. The band’s line up at this point was Ken Baker on guitar and vocals, Kevin Smith on lead (and that mandolin!) plus a rhythm section of Pete Perryer and Pat Martin.

Having spluttered on at length about what Blue Pine Trees is not, let us concentrate here on what music Unicorn did provide us with on this album. For a start, there is a big Country music influence going on here, but far more like the Country Rock the Byrds experimented with at length towards the end of their original tenure. The twist here though is that the singing of Unicorn (they had fine voices and could sing harmony) was very English sounding, taking the songs imbued with this uniquely US sound somewhere else entirely. They also had a great deal in common with Slim Chance, far more than any Prog behemoths. Of course if you’re resembling in any way Ronnie Lane’s team that can only be a good thing.

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Electric Night is one of those evocative, dreamlike drifters that “the Chance” made a fine art of, but it’s far from a carbon copy and whilst The Farmer is not The Poacher, it is one catchy old hoe-down. But it is carefree Country Rock that truly defined them. Just Wanna Hold You is a lovely ballad in that mode, both sad and touching and the nippy Sleep Song is an excellent example of Unicorn’s strengths in smoky C&W. There’s even a hint of CCR on Holland that gets as close to chooglin’ as a UK band could.

When not indulging in Home Counties And Western or some raggle-taggle Folk Rock Unicorn favoured a restrained approach which had a lot of parallels with low-key indie bands of say 20 years later. This LP does in fact sound pretty up to date to these ears. In The Gym puts me in mind of something in the same sort of area as 10cc or even Beautiful South (I would have to say Unicorn are for me far superior to BS though), wordy, witty Pop music.

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The Ooh Mother single that is among the bonus tracks relies and makes a virtue of the band’s vocal prowess within a complex arrangement. But Nightingale Crescent is the true ace in the pack on this collection for me – a magical take on the kind of kitchen-sink soap-opera the Kinks/Hollies specialised in, there’s even a bit of Badfinger in there plus a Adlittle of Needles And Pin” – mixing Proto-Power Pop, song story-telling and even a little Prog finally to great effect! It is wonderful.

As a footnote, during the recording of this album the band’s tour manager got bass player Pat Martin and drummer Peter Perryer to record with his mate’s young sister and as a result Dave Gilmour got to know about it too.

You’re probably ahead of me already – that 15 year old turned out to be Kate Bush and one of the songs they recorded with her ended up as the flip to the Army Dreamers single, which to her great credit she saw the Unicorn twosome alright royalties-wise even after the six year time-lapse between recording and release.

Unicorn, despite their outward stylistic trimmings, plainly knew the value of a good tune and stuck to what they felt was right by ignoring fleeting trends. Though perhaps a better fit for the then thriving Pub Rock circuit where the brand leaders Brinsley Schwartz were doing something not entirely dissimilar, their take on Country Folk Rock has stood the test of time really well and rather better than the vast majority of outfits seemingly more in tune with the zeitgeist. (by Ian Canty)

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Personnel:
Kenny Baker (guitar, keyboards, vocals)
Pat Martin (bass, vocals)
Pete Perrier (vocals, drums)
Kevin Smith (guitar, mandolin)
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David Gilmour (pedal steel-guitar)

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Tracklist:
01. Electric Night (Baker) 4.58
02. Sleep Song (Baker) 4.59
03. Autumn Wine (Smith/St.John/Waters) 3.04
04. Rat Race (Smith/St.John/Waters) 4.24
05. Just Wanna Hold You (Baker) 5.08
06. Holland (Baker) 3.28
07. Nightingale Crescent (Baker) 3.37
08. The Farmer (Baker) 3.33
09. In The Gym (Baker) 5.29
10. Blue Pine Trees (Baker) 3.49
11. Ooh Mother (Baker) 3.57
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12. Volcano (Baker) 3.18
13. The Ballad Of John And Julie (BBC Session 1974) (Baker) 4.52
14. Bog Trotter (Baker) 4.53
15. Ooh Mother (single version) (Baker) 2.46
16. I’ll Believe In You (The Hymn) (Baker) 3.36
17. Take It Easy (Baker) 2.43

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Crash Test Dummies – The Ghosts That Haunt Me (1991)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Ghosts That Haunt Me is the 1991 debut album by the Canadian folk rock group Crash Test Dummies. It featured their hit “Superman’s Song”.

The artwork featured on the cover, and throughout the liner notes, is by 19th-century illustrator Gustav Doré and is from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The same painting would later be used for black metal band Judas Iscariot’s final album To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding in 2002.

The artworks on the booklet of the album are by 19th-century illustrator Gustav Doré and are from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, except “The Flying Man” by French novelist Nicolas Edme Restif de la Bretonne and is from ‘The Discovery of the Austral Continent by a Flying Man’, 1781. (by wikipedia)

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My introduction to Crash Test Dummies came on June 12, 1994 when I saw them open for Elvis Costello on his Brutal Youth tour. The extent of their exposure at that time was their sole hit, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” and, to a far lesser extent, “Superman’s Song” off of their debut album, The Ghosts That Haunt Me, which was released on this date, April 5, 1991.

Since then, Crash Test Dummies have become a bit of a cult-following type of outfit and I often feel that I’m a cult of one, since I talk to few people who recall them at all (oh, that “Mmm Mmm” song…), much less count themselves among fans. And at this point, even the term “band” is a bit inaccurate, as Brad Roberts is the sole remaining member of a group that debuted 26 years ago. But let’s back up.

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Out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, CTD introduced themselves with a college radio-friendly folk-rock number, the aforementioned “Superman’s Song,” a reflection on the lack of humanity in modern-day society (the video plays it as an elegy for Superman, with fellow supers attending the funeral). The song starts with a solo cello intro and flows into a piano-and-strings arrangement that is unlike most of their work. As such, it’s an odd choice for a lead-off single, since it doesn’t give a real feel for the album – or, indeed, the band’s work overall. Ellen Reid (the last member to remain with Brad Roberts as a Crash Test Dummy until she unofficially retired in the new millennium) provides the piano and harmonizing backing vocals. It’s a great song, just not like any other in their oeuvre.

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Overall, the album is more upbeat than its lead single, at times featuring a bit of a Celtic lilt to the music, courtesy of Ellen Reid and Benjamin Darvill. Though the lyrics on the record are more straightforward and less idiosyncratic than they would become on future releases, songs like “Comin’ Back Soon” hint at some of Brad’s whimsy with lines like, “I’ve all my wisdom teeth / Two up top and two beneath / And yet I recognize / My mouth says things that aren’t so wise…” The song goes on to sing the praises of his sweetheart, who has left him, and who wasn’t a very nice person to begin with.

Much of the album has a bucolic tilt to it, with tracks like “Here On Earth,” and, even more particularly, “The Country Life” extolling folksy wisdom and downhome sensibilities, crying the benefits of rural living over the sturm und drang of city life. “I would learn to ride on rodeo / I’ll wear shiny boots and a cowboy hat so that nobody’d ever know / We’d once been city folks who owned sporty cars and fancy homes…” The way he sings it and the accompanying music convince me he really believes it.

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The Ghosts That Haunt Me is the most traditional album that the Dummies ever made. There’s nothing kitsch or overtly clever about it. Brad is just singing, and while his voice is richly baritone and utterly unmistakable, he isn’t forcing the depth and rumble that would characterize later albums. He wrote all of the songs on the album (with the exception of a cover of The Replacements‘ “Androgynous” and “Thick-Necked Man,” Ben Darvill’s tale of comeuppance) but he wrote them without guile or condescension, something that wouldn’t necessarily hold true on future releases.

I’ve been a big fan of Crash Test Dummies since I first saw them live (I went out the next day and bought both of the albums that were out at the time) though I can certainly understand why the appeal might not be universal. Too, it doesn’t really help that their breakthrough hit (and, thusly, one-hit wonder) was so off-kilter. I remember the first time I saw them and Brad changed the third verse of “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” to something about a kid keeping a tooth or tonsils in a jar. After the song ended, he said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I’ve been told it’s ill-advised to change up a verse in your one big hit, but then I’ve also been told that it’s ill-advised to release a single with no words in the title.”

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That mentality, it seems to me, has sort of characterized the Brad Roberts approach. Every album takes on a different musical style – folk followed by pop followed by hard rock followed by electronica followed by country followed by… you get the picture. It hasn’t helped him commercially, but as a longtime fan, I appreciate the adventurous undertaking of each new release and love the fact that, while I never know just what to expect, I know that, at the root of things, it’s going to center on Brad’s voice and lyrics. And that’s what keeps me coming back. (treacherousfriends.blog)

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Personnel:
Vince Lambert (drums)
Ellen Reid (keyboards, accordion, tin whistle, background vocals)
Brad Roberts (vocals, guitar)
Dan Roberts (bass)
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Steve Berlin (percussion)
Benjamin Darvill (mandolin, harmonica)
Bob Doige (recorder on 10.)
Greg Leisz (pedal steel-guitar on 09.)
Garth Reid (banjo on 02.)
Lynn Selwood (cello on 03.)
Bill Zulak (violin on 01., 04. + 10.)

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Tracklist:
01. Winter Song (B.Roberts) 4.01
02. Comin’ Back Soon (The Bereft Man’s Song) (B.Roberts) 4.28
03. Superman’s Song (B.Roberts) 4.31
04. The Country Life (B.Roberts) 4.02
05. Here On Earth (I’ll Have My Cake) (B.Roberts) 3.04
06. The Ghosts That Haunt Me (B.Roberts) 3.45
07. Thick-Necked Man (Darvill) 3.20
08. Androgynous (Westerberg) 2.37
09. The Voyage (B.Roberts) 3.14
10. At My Funeral (B.Roberts) 4.03

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MC2

Winter Song:

I can’t say that I miss my old dog much
And I’ve never looked back since I left home long ago
But I hoped a trip into the country
Would help remind me all the things I used to know

That’s what I came for
That’s what I hoped for

There once was good blood in the breeze here
We rode across the lake each new year
What have I remembered
What did this used to be

The ice, it used to shine upon our river
It was a mirror that the cold dark water ran way deep beneath
And here were many years of winter drownings
I kept track of these things as they were told to me

And that’s what I came for
That’s what I hoped for

There once was good blood in the breeze here
We rode across the lake each new year
What have I remembered
What did this used to be

The changes of the year were once a blessing
Well this year they’re the seasons of my discontent
But I cannot rewrite my old diaries
I can only recall all the things that came and went