Steve Ashley – Stroll On (1974)

FrontCover1Steve Frank Ashley (born 9 March 1946) is an English singer-songwriter, recording artist, multi-instrumentalist, writer and graphic designer. Ashley is best known as a songwriter and first gained public recognition for his work with his debut solo album, Stroll On (Gull, 1974). Taking his inspiration from English traditional songs, Ashley has developed a songwriting style, which is contemporary in content while reflecting traditional influences in his melodies, poetry and vocal delivery.

Stroll On is the debut album by British singer-songwriter Steve Ashley. It was released in April 1974 in LP format on Gull Records and was critically acclaimed in the UK, being awarded “Contemporary Folk album of the Year” in the leading monthly folk magazine, Folk Review.[5] It has been described as “a masterful, beautifully textured and gentle epic” and “a masterpiece of its kind – a beautiful, rich and deeply atmospheric collection of very English songs, like a musical impression of Dickens, Victorian Christmas cards and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex with a running concept concerning seasonal change”.[6] According to the music collectors’ magazine Goldmine, it is “one of the key albums in the SteveAshley01entire history of English Folk Rock”.

An extended version with three additional tracks, Stroll On Revisited, was released in 1999 as a CD on Market Square Records.

In 1971 Austin John Marshall arranged a production and publishing deal for Steve Ashley with Harbrook Music which gave Ashley free access to recording time at London’s Olympic Studios to record his first album. At this time Marshall also played the early demo tapes to music critic Karl Dallas, who interviewed Ashley for Melody Maker.

Acting as producer for Harbrook Productions, Marshall hired Robert Kirby to create string arrangements for many of Ashley’s songs. He also hired a number of musicians to back Ashley, including members of Fairport Convention and Pentangle, plus a section of the London Symphony Orchestra, directed by Kirby. By the late summer of 1971 the first version of Ashley’s debut album was completed and offered to a number of major and independent labels.

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By the spring of 1972 however, the album was still unplaced with a label, and then Ashley was invited by Ashley Hutchings to join the first touring ensemble of The Albion Country Band. This line-up included ex-Fairport members Hutchings, Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks, plus American fiddler Sue Draheim and ex-Young Tradition singer, Royston Wood. Sharing the lead vocal role with Wood, Ashley performed a few of his own songs plus a number of folk songs, including a 17-verse ballad, “Lord Bateman”. The Albion Country Band was signed to Island Records but the band broke up before recording, after just nine months together.

In November 1972, Ashley signed a solo recording deal with Gull Records and, with a few track changes, his long-delayed first album was finally released in April 1974, entitled Stroll On.

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The original track listing was changed prior to release when the deal with Gull was signed and “Silly Summer Games” was re-recorded, while “Love in a Funny Way” was removed along with “Spirit of Christmas” to make way for “Lord Bateman” (with the Albion Country Band).

After its UK release in April 1974 the album was also licensed for release in the Netherlands and Belgium through Dureco; in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland through the German record label Teldec; and in Australia and New Zealand through Astor Records. In 1975 the album was licensed for manufacture and distribution in the United States and Canada through Motown.

“Old Rock ‘n’ Roll”, with “Fire and Wine” on the B side, was issued in 1974 as a single in the UK and in New Zealand.

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Stroll On was met with widespread critical acclaim in the UK. In The Daily Telegraph, Maurice Rosenbaum declared: “Ashley’s own songs are the product of an extraordinary gift for creating material of true folk quality” and, in Melody Maker, Karl Dallas hailed it as “the finest album since folk became contemporary”. At the end of 1974 it was awarded “Contemporary Folk album of the Year” in the leading monthly folk magazine, Folk Review.

Music journalist Colin Harper described it as “a masterful, beautifully textured and gentle epic” and “a masterpiece of its kind – a beautiful, rich and deeply atmospheric collection of very English songs, like a musical impression of Dickens, Victorian Christmas cards and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex with a running concept concerning seasonal change”.

The June 1999 issue of Mojo magazine featured the original Stroll On in its regular full-page series “Buried Treasure”.

Lee Blackstone, writing in RootsWorld, said: “Stroll On: Revisited is a classic album in every sense. The musical guests run the gamut of the English folk-rock scene, but, mind you, this isn’t a case of spoiled broth. Rather, Stroll On manages to be a well-orchestrated calendar album, with the play of seasons the overarching theme… Incredibly, the entire album has worn remarkably well and it bears the stamp of timelessness that the best British folk-rock can conjure… As a debut album, Stroll On is remarkably mature, and Ashley’s magical achievement can now be savored again.”

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Keith Hadad, reviewing the album on Record Crates United, said: “[T]he range of influences on Stroll On is daringly unique. British and American folk and rock traditions have been seamlessly blended in with elements of Irish and classical music as well… Ashley’s starkly echoing vocals [on “Springsong”] sometimes harken back to Celtic choral singing while Kirby’s string arrangement is reminiscent of the Pastoral composers, like Ralph Vaughan Williams. Meanwhile the only percussion present in the song is a tabla being played in the traditional Hindustani style… [it] works beautifully here, making this an absolute highlight of the record.”

Alan Rose, for The Living Tradition magazine, said: “‘Stroll On’ was released in 1974 amid critical acclaim, which all these years later seems eminently justified. The very first track led to his alternative title of ‘The Fire and Wine Guy’, and after twenty-five years its lush harmonies, electric arrangement and sound philosophy ensure that its magic is undiminished… Ashley’s songs are packed with life-affirming, earth-touching sentiments, deceptively simple at first hearing but unfolding at each repeat to display deeper meanings with staggeringly intelligent and original use of language.” (wikipedia)

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Personnel:
Steve Ashley (vocals, guitar, harmonica, whistle)
Richard Byers (guitar, mandolin, background vocals)
B. J. Cole (pedal steel guitar)
Claire Dawson (background vocals)
Brian Diprose (bass)
Barry Dransfield (fiddle)
Thom Friedlein (bass)
Chris Karan (tablas)
Dave Mattacks (drums)
Redd McReady (harpsichord)
Lea Nicholson (concertina)
Dave Pegg (bass, mandolin)
Daryl Runswick (bass)
Danny Thompson (bass)
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Albion Country Band Mk1 1972:
(Ashley Hutchings, Royston Wood, Steve Ashley, Simon Nicol, Sue Draheim and Dave Mattacks) on 10.)

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Tracklist:
01. Fire And Wine (Ashley) 4.36
02. Finite Time (Ashley/Menday) 2.54
03. Silly Summer Games (Ashley) 4.51
04. Springsong (Ashley) 3.30
05. Monkey Puzzle Tree (Ashley) 2.58
06. Farewell Green Leaves (Ashley) 4.28
07. Morris Minor (Ashley) 1.35
08. Candlemas Carol (Ashley) 3.03
09. John Donne Song (Donne/Ashley) 5.24
10. Lord Bateman (Child 53; Roud 40) (Traditional) 8.45
11. Follow On (Ashley) 3.31

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Steve Ashley is a unique performer whose voice can convey great power and great tenderness. He has performed since the 1960s, when he was popular in the folk clubs of West London, and his style might be described as folk-influenced social commentary. He is one of the great treasures of English music. (ukfestivalguides.com)

Still alive & well: Steve Ashley and his website from 2020:
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Eddie Harris – Is It In (1974)

FrontCover1Eddie Harris (October 20, 1934 – November 5, 1996) was an American jazz musician, best known for playing tenor saxophone and for introducing the electrically amplified saxophone. He was also fluent on the electric piano and organ. His best-known compositions are “Freedom Jazz Dance”, recorded and popularized by Miles Davis in 1966, and “Listen Here.”

Is It In is an album by American jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris recorded in 1973 and released on the Atlantic label. It reached number 100 on the Billboard 200 chart. (wikipedia)

Eddie Harris makes a radical turn toward electronic R&B on this popping, enterprising LP of grooves, humorous one-off vignettes, and other eclectic pursuits. Driven by a Eddie Harris02jpgstandard drum kit and tacky-sounding electric bongos, some of Harris’ most irresistible grooves (“Funkaroma,” “Look Ahere”) can be found here. The title track, a Ronald Muldrow/Harris collaboration, is an ingenious self-contained little piece, a chugging machine-driven rhythm, a catchy guitar riff, and a great brief repeated chorus. Harris resurfaces as a competent piano player (with overdubbed electric sax) on the down-home “House Party Blues” and as usual, he plugs another electronic innovation into his sax on “Space Commercial,” an eerie pitch-tracking device designed by Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer. (by Richard S. Ginell)

This is a high quality eclectic jazz set unmistakably from the mid Nineteen Seventies. The grooves are downhome and pure, Is it in and Funkorama are all time party funk classics. Lonely Lonely Nights is a superb slow jam. Great record. (by Gern Stroman)

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Personnel:
Eddie Harris (saxophone, varitone, piano, vocals)
Billy James (drums, percussion)
Ronald Muldrow (guitar, guitorgan)
Rufus Reid (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Funkaroma (E.Harris/James/Muldrow/Reid) 4.57
02. Happy Gemini (S.Harris) 3.00
03. Is It In (Muldrow) 3.35
04. It’s War (E.Harris/James/Muldrow) 6.212
05. Space Commercial (Harris/James/Muldrow) 5.31
06. Look A Here (S.Harris) 3.49
07. These Lonely Nights (S.Harris) 5.47
08. House Party Blues (Harris/Muldrow/Reid/James) 8.04
09. Tranquility & Antagonistic (S.Harris) 4.16

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Eddie Harris (October 20, 1934 – November 5, 1996)

Joe Walsh – So What (1974)

OriginalFrontCover1Joseph Fidler Walsh (born November 20, 1947)[2] is an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. In a career spanning more than 50 years, he has been a member of five successful rock bands: James Gang, Barnstorm, Eagles, the Party Boys, and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Walsh was also part of the New Zealand band Herbs. In the 1990s, he was a member of the short-lived supergroup The Best.

Walsh has also experienced success both as a solo artist and as a prolific session musician, being featured on a wide array of other artists’ recordings. In 2011, Rolling Stone placed him at the No. 54 spot on its list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

In the mid-1960s, after attending Kent State University, Walsh played with several local Ohio-based bands before reaching a national audience as a member of the James Gang, whose hit song “Funk #49” highlighted his skill as both a guitarist and singer. Roger Abramson, a concert producer and artist manager, signed the James Gang to a management agreement with BPI in Cleveland. After leaving the James Gang in 1972, he formed Barnstorm with Joe Vitale, a college friend from Ohio, and Kenny Passarelli, a bassist from Colorado, where Walsh had moved after leaving Ohio. While the band stayed together for three albums over three years, its works were marketed as Walsh solo projects. The last Barnstorm album, 1974’s So What contained significant guest contributions from several members of the Eagles, a group that had recently hired Walsh’s producer, Bill Szymczyk.

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At Szymczyk’s suggestion, Walsh joined the Eagles in 1975 as the band’s guitarist and keyboardist following the departure of their founding member Bernie Leadon, with Hotel California being his first album with the band. In 1998 a reader’s poll conducted by Guitarist magazine selected the guitar solos on the track “Hotel California” by Walsh and Don Felder[5] as the best guitar solos of all time. Guitar World magazine listed it at eighth of the Top 100 Guitar Solos.

Besides his work with his several bands, he has released twelve solo studio albums, six compilation albums and two live albums. His solo hits include “Rocky Mountain Way”, “Life’s Been Good”, “All Night Long”, “A Life of Illusion” and “Ordinary Average Guy”.

As a member of the Eagles, Walsh was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. The Eagles are considered to be one of the most influential bands of the 1970s, and they remain one of the best-selling American bands in the history of popular music. His creative contribution to music has received praise from many of the best rock guitarists, including Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who said, “He has a tremendous feel for the instrument. I’ve loved his style since JoeWAlsh01the early James Gang.” Eric Clapton said that “He’s one of the best guitarists to surface in some time. I don’t listen to many records, but I listen to his.”[8] The Who’s guitarist, Pete Townshend, said “Joe Walsh is a fluid and intelligent player. There’re not many like that around.”

So What is the third studio album by the American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joe Walsh. It was released in late 1974 on ABC-Dunhill Records.

It contains hard rock songs such as “Welcome To The Club” and a remake of the Barnstorm track, “Turn To Stone”. It also contains more introspective material such as “Help Me Through the Night” and “Song For Emma”.

On a few tracks, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Randy Meisner of Eagles contributed backing vocals. Over a year and a half later, Walsh would be drafted into Eagles to replace founding member Bernie Leadon, playing on their best-selling studio album Hotel California.

Two months before the release of the album, Walsh was asked about the album, and he said “I know this album’s going to be an important one for me, but it’s not easy to just crank them out anymore, I’ve got, what, six or seven albums out. I don’t want the next album to sound like a bunch of outtakes from Smoker. I want it to be the difference between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. I’ve held back [the album’s release] until that development was there, even though the record company’s been screaming for it. I want it to be a big, big step… in thoughts, vocals, playing and maturity.”

Single

Don Henley wrote the lyrics for “Falling Down” with Henley providing backing vocals on “Falling Down” and “Time Out”. The album features three of the four members of Eagles; Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner providing backing vocals for “Turn to Stone” and “Help Me Through The Night”. This would be the first time that the band members would appear on an album with the future Eagle.

“Song for Emma” was written as a memorial for Walsh’s almost-three-year-old daughter who had been killed in a car crash on April 1, 1974, four weeks shy of her third birthday. The accident was caused by a drunk driver who hit the Porsche driven by his girlfriend with Emma in the car. Later, Stevie Nicks wrote “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You” for Walsh after visiting Emma’s grave with him.

Producer Bill Szymczyk had the following written on the run out groove of the vinyl “THAT’S NO BANANY, THATS MY NOZE” on the first pressings of the vinyl. (by wikipedia)

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Joe Walsh’s catalog by this point was two albums strong and of a consistently high quality. Despite a change of lineup for So What — a wide range of musicians is used, including the Eagles’ Don Henley — the sound is very similar to previous releases. A number of classic Walsh tracks are featured, including a more polished version of “Turn to Stone,” originally featured on his debut album, Barnstorm, in a somewhat more riotous style. “Help Me Thru the Night,” Walsh’s mellowest song to date, is helped along by some fine lead and backing vocals from the band. So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style. The classic rock genre that the man so well defined with his earlier albums is present here throughout, and it is pulled off with the usual unparalleled Joe Walsh ability. (by Ben Davies)

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Personnel:
Dan Fogelberg – guitar, vocals
Guille Garcia (percussion)
Bryan Garofalo (bass, background vocals)
Ron Grinel (drums)
Russ Kunkel (drums)
Kenny Passarelli (bass, vocals)
J.D. Souther (guitar, background vocals)
Leonard Southwick (harmonica)
Tom Stephenson (keyboards)
John Stronach (vocals)
Joe Vitale (flute, drums, keyboards)
Joe Walsh  (guitar, vocals, synthesizer, bass, piano, mellotron)
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background vocals:
Jody Boyer – Glenn Frey – Don Henley – Randy Meisner

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Tracklist:
01. Welcome To The Club (Walsh) 5.15
02. Falling Down (Walsh/Henley) 5.00
03. Pavanne For The Sleeping Beauty (Ravel) 2.03
04. Time Out (Walsh/Trebandt) 4.25
05. All Night Laundry Mat Blues (Walsh) 1.04
06. Turn To Stone (Walsh/Trebandt) 3.51
07. Help Me Through The Night (Walsh) 3.43
08. County Fair (Walsh) 6.48
09. Song For Emma (Walsh) 4.28

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Growl – Same (1974)

FrontCover1Growl: Formed 1969, United States, Disbanded 1974. Produced by Robert Duffey on Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen’s label, a cross between rock and hard rock. Dennis Rodriguez, Harry Brender, Gene Lucero and Danny McBride were previously in Utopia (not the Todd Rundgren group)….~
Growl is an underestimated blues-inspired hard rock outfit from Los Angeles (?), which recorded its first album as Utopia* (Utopia) in 1969 (released on Kent in 1970; re-issued on vinyl and CD by Akarma). Original line-up of Utopia was: Harry Brander A.Brandis on guitar & vocals, Frank Krajnbrink on guitar, Gene Lucero on bass, Danny McBride on drums and Dennis Rodriguez – lead vocals and harmonica. Rodriguez also wrote most of Utopia’s original compositions. By 1974 Frank Krajbrink was replaced by Mark Small (guitars) and Richard Manuputi took over the vocals.

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The band went to Paramount Studios to record new songs, so for the new album released in 1974 (on Discreet Records) they used 5 songs from “Utopia” and 5 new numbers, among them high-octane version of Paul Butterfield’s “Shake Your Money Maker”, classic “Hound Dog” and quite uninspiring version “I Just Want To Make Love To You” of Willie Dixon (many critics/reviewers mention live version by Foghat, which means that they don’t know the smashing performance by Mungo Jerry).The rest of the songs were written by Dennis Rodriguez (except Working Man credited to Richard Manuputi).
Although Growl doesn’t sound as innovative and original as the headliners of that kind of hard rock (ZZ Top or BTO), it’s a solid and tight band, very macho, which should have been great on stage. Maybe not a must, but I like it. This re-issue on Lion Records (Germany) is quite affordable. (johnkatsmc5.blogspot.com

*This Utopia was not related/connected in any way to Todd Rundgren; the debut album was recorded in 1969, and not 1967…by. Golovanov Alexey…amazon….~

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Personnel:
Harry “A.Brandis” Brender (guitar, background vocals)
Geno Lucero (bass)
Richard Manuputi (vocals)
Danny McBride (drums)
Dennis Rodriguez (guitar, vocals)
Mick Small (guitar)

Alternate frontcover:
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Tracklist:
01. Shake Your Money Maker (James) 3.19
02. Young & Crazy (Rodriguez) 2.13
03. I Wonder (Rodriguez) 3.27
04. Working Man (Manuputi) 4.32
05. Sadie (Rodriguez) 3.26
06. Hound Dog (Stoller/Leiber) 3.06
07. Take My Life (Rodriguez) 2.56
08. Things Ain’t Better (Rodriguez) 3.15
09. Who’s This Man (Rodriguez) 3.20
10. I Just Want To Make Love To You (Dixon) 3.02

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Modern Jazz Quartet – Blues On Bach (1974)

FrontCover1Blues on Bach is an album by American jazz group the Modern Jazz Quartet recorded in 1973 and released on the Atlantic label. The album includes five John Lewis arrangements of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, interspersed with four original blues pieces “on” [the name] “Bach” — in keys (and with titles) that spell out in order the name B-A-C-H.

The five pieces arranged from Bach originals are: “Regret?” from “The Old Year Has Now Passed Away”; “Rise Up in the Morning” from “Sleepers Wake”; “Precious Joy” from “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”; “Don’t Stop This Train” from a selection in “Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach”; and “Tears from the Children” from the Prelude 8 in E-flat minor from Book I of the “The Well-Tempered Clavier”).

For the four blues pieces, the “spelling” of the titles follows the system Bach and his German contemporaries used, in which the letter B indicates B-flat, and the letter H is B-natural. So, the four blues pieces that spell the name B-A-C-H are in the keys of B-flat (major), A (minor), C (minor) and B (major). (by wikipedia)

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This album has an interesting concept, alternating four original blues with five adaptations of melodies from classical works by Bach. The Modern Jazz Quartet had long been quite adept in both areas, and despite a certain lack of variety on this set (alternating back and forth between the two styles somewhat predictably), the music is largely enjoyable. Vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist John Lewis (doubling here on harpsichord), bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay were still all very much in their musical prime during the 21st year of the MJQ’s existence. (by Scott Yanow)

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Do not neglect hearing this recording especially “Blues in H” as one of the better performances by this group. Creativity in composition by John Lewis is what makes the recording so good for me. Compare this with their recording in Sweden in 1960’s for a live performance. You had to see and hear this group rather than merely listen to it. I was privileged to have had that chance in 1990. “Blues on Bach” will change your mind about the relevance of this group’s contribution to jazz – it was much more lasting than many others say. Interplay with the double bass and piano with Mr. Milt Jackson was worth the time. Read the obituary for Mr. Jackson in the New York Times. This group made an introduction to world music if you want to say something profound about it. (by Freddie Frumko)

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Personnel:
Percy Heath (bass)
Milt Jackson (vibraphone)
Connie Kay (drums)
John Lewis (piano, harpsichord)

Alternate frontcovers:
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Tracklist:
01. Regret? (Lewis) 2.07
02. Blues In B Flat (Lewis) 4.58
03. Rise Up In The Morning (Lewis) 3.25
04. Blues In A Minor (Lewis) 7.54
05. Precious Joy (Lewis) 3.15
06. Blues In C Minor (Jackson) 8.00
07. Don’t Stop This Train (Lewis) 1.48
08. Blues in H (B) (Jackson) 5.47
09. Tears From The Children (Lewis) 4.25

Music inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach

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More from the Modern Jazz Quartet:
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Wishbone Ash – Wishbone Four (1974)

SignedFrontCover1Wishbone Four is the fourth studio album by British rock band Wishbone Ash, released in 1973. It was a departure from their previous album, Argus, in that it lacked that recording’s overall cohesion and atmosphere and the loose conceptual framework of a stately, pastoral and warring medieval England. Containing only hints of the extended twin-lead guitar harmonies, Wishbone Four’s stylistic variety found its footing in acoustic folk elements in half of the eight-song set (“Ballad of the Beacon”, “Everybody Needs a Friend”, “Sorrel” and “Sing Out the Song”), two aggressive and melodic starters on each side of the vinyl release (Side 1: So Many Things to Say” and Side 2: “Doctor”), and the band’s first use of horns on the semi-autobiographical “rave-up” touring song “No Easy Road”.

Although the sombre, sensitive and rather more fragile acoustic songs contained the wistful intro elements that featured on the previous album, the lead guitars lacked the slow climb of the band’s trademark duelling crescendos and energetic fretwork expected from the band at the time, tending to a more subtle and subdued interplay on the longer tracks. Wishbone Four was popular among fans upon its release as it implied musical growth and a willingness to experiment in the band’s divergence of a successful formula (similar at the time to the effect of Led Zeppelin III’s contrast to that band’s previous efforts).

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Wishbone Four was also the first release not produced by Derek Lawrence but by the band themselves. There’s the Rub, the band’s next and fifth studio album’ was the first album to feature guitarist-vocalist Laurie Wisefield, who would be a major part of the band’s creative direction for the next 11 years, as founding member Ted Turner left the band after the subsequent Wishbone Four tour. (by wikipedia)

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The progressive aspirations were put aside for Wishbone Four, the group’s most solid-rocking album, though the folk-based element is still there, more solid than ever. “Ballad of the Beacon” is a genuinely beautiful song, and might have come from any number of electric folk-rock bands — the fact that it came from Wishbone Ash indicates just how serious they were in wanting to explore some of these sounds. Their most mature and successful album. (by Bruce Eder)

This album contains one of the best Wishbone Ash songs, Rock & Roll Widow. But before you get to this last song, you get such gems as Ballad Of The Beacon, So Many Things To Say, and No Easy Road. After Argus, this is the Wishbone Ash album to own. (Bryan Adkins)

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Personnel:
Andy Powell (guitar, vocals)
Martin Turner (bass, vocals)
Ted Turner (guitar, lap-steel-guitar, vocals)
Steve Upton (drums, percussion)
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Graham Maitland – piano on 03.)
George Nash (keyboards on 04.)
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horn section on 03.:
Phil Kenzie – Dave Coxhill – Bud Parks

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Tracklist:
01. So Many Things To Say 5.06
02. Ballad Of The Beacon 5.05
03. No Easy Road 3.49
04. Everybody Needs A Friend 8.25
05. Doctor 5.54
06. Sorrel 5.04
07. Sing Out The Song 4.25
08. Rock ‘N Roll Widow 5.53

Music by Wishbone Ash;
Lyrics by Martin Turner, except “Rock ‘n Roll Widow” by Steve Upton

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Black Sabbath – California Jam 1974 – The Complete Master (2020)

FrontCover1The massive Cal Jam took place in Ontario, California in the Spring of 1974, the event was done in part with ABC television who would broadcast parts of the festival. The bill of Deep Purple, ELP, Sabbath, as well as Black Oak Arkansas and the Eagles drew a staggering 250,000 music fans to the day long event. While the Deep Purple set has been released on both audio and video, precious little of the Sabbath set has made its way to fans on video, but thankfully the soundboard audio of the band’s entire performance has been circulating for some time. There have been several previous releases of this recording, Metal Mess (Oh Boy 1-9016), Bagdad (German Records GR-032), Live USA (Imtrate IMT 900-098), Iron Man Vol 2 (Bananna BAN 053-B), Canadian Nightmare (Aulica A 120), Canabis Confusion (Chase The Dragon CTD 005), and most recently on the third disc of 1974 (No Label). The soundboard audio source is excellent, instruments and vocals are cleanly heard with perfect balance, by far the best sounding document of the tour. It is however, a bare bones kind of recording that robs it of that concert ambiance, the band is in excellent form and rise to the occasion and gives the largest crowd they had played to at this point something to remember.

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I pulled out my copy of the No Label release 1974, disc 3 which features this recording for comparison. This new Zodiac title sounds a notch louder but much clearer than the no label. The No Label has a layer of noise that is not found on the Zodiac which is certainly from a better generation recording and thus is a nice upgrade. There are a few other items of interest, this version includes a snippet of the introduction, a stage introduction of “Black Sabbath” whereas the No Label begins with the opening riff of Tomorrows Dream. There is a tape stretch three minutes into Sweet Leaf that is not found on the No Label as well.

Geezer ButlerTomorrows Dream is the opening number, its short and sweet it sets the stage for the lumbering “Sweet Leaf” but for me things heat up as the band go into “Killing Yourself To Live”. The new song is played perfectly, it also includes some kind of swirling noise effect that is interesting to say the least. Ozzy demands “Smoke it” then as if doing it himself “Get High” that is followed by some stoned laughter. “War Pigs” does not have the storm sounds and the siren typically found at the beginning of the song, most probably due to it being a festival set. You can clearly here Bill Ward’s count in to “Snowblind”, Tony plays a beautiful yet mournful solo that is perfect for the bleakness of the song.

Ozzy introduces a new song and says he can’t say too much as they are “on the telly”, the band then play another long “Sabbara Cadabra” complete with all the jams and solos, but this time due to time constraints “Black Sabbath” is not included. There are no keys on the song, unlike the Scandinavium Occultism (Tarantura TCDBS-8) release, with no crowd noise it does sound a bit thin in places. The jam is the same as the Providence one, they play the “Supernaut” jam and the funky jam is great due to Geezer being clear in the mix, we can fully enjoy his contribution. Iron Man is played in full within the Sabbra Cadabra jam, Ozzy’s voice sounds particularly interesting during the “I Am Iron Man” intro and while the music does not sound affected, his vocals for the beginning of the song sound as if he has some kind of warped vocal effect as the music lumbers across the stage, yes it is very heavy.

Again Iommi rips out a great solo just prior to the “Sabbra Cadabra” reprise, Ozzy gives him a solo introduction as the band breaks into the latter. During this part of the song the bass is even more bass heavy, thankfully it clears in time for “Paranoid”. Ozzy thanks the large audience for the “great time” and they play the set finishing “Paranoid”. The band finish with a high energy and simply rousing version of “Children Of The Grave”, one can feel the energy bristling from the notes, if you have ever seen the video you know how the energy was translating to the audience. This set really showcases how great a live band Sabbath was in their prime.

Black Sabbath

As a bonus Zodiac has included a 1:22 interview with Ozzy pre and post show, he seems legitimately moved by the experience of playing to the massive crowd. He also speaks of how well organized the event is. I have seen these interviews before, most notably on the old History Of Black Sabbath VHS tape. A nice addition to this set.

The packaging is typical for Zodiac, full color inserts wonderfully showcasing the band onstage at the California Jam, the front cover is similar to the No Label 1974, an overhead shot of the band looking dwarfed by the massive crowd. Of course a picture CD and numbered sticker are included. A very nice release by Zodiac of Black Sabbath’s classic Cal Jam 1974 performance in front of a quarter million fans. (collectorsmusicreviews.com)

Recorded live at the “California Jam I”, Ontario Motor Speedway, CA, USA 6th April 1974

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Personnel:
Geezer Butler (bass)
Tony Iommi (guitar)
Ozzy Osbourne (vocals)
Bill Ward (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Tomorrow’s Dream 3.23
02. Sweet Leaf 6.08
03. Killing Yourself To Live 6.14
04. War Pigs 8.14
05. Snowblind 5.38
06. Sabbra Cadabra 5.09
07. Jam / Guitar Solo #1 (Iommi) 6.49
08. Sometimes I’m Happy 2.55
09. Drum Solo (Ward) 2.44
10. Supernaut 2.04
11. Iron Man 5.48
12. Guitar Solo / Jam #2 (Iommi) 6.54
13. Sabbra Cadabra (Reprise) 2.11
14. Paranoid 4.34
15. Embryo / Children Of The Grave 5.00
16. Interview 1.23

Music written by Geezer Butler – Tony Iommi – Ozzy Osbourne – Bill Ward

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Focus – Hamburger Concerto (1974)

FrontCover1Focus are a Dutch progressive rock band formed in Amsterdam in 1969 by keyboardist, vocalist, and flautist Thijs van Leer. The band has undergone numerous formations in its history. Since December 2016, it has comprised van Leer, drummer Pierre van der Linden, guitarist Menno Gootjes, and bassist Udo Pannekeet. Past members include guitarist Jan Akkerman, drummer Hans Cleuver and bassists Martijn Dresden, Bert Ruiter and Bobby Jacobs. They have sold one million RIAA-certified albums in the United States.

After the addition of Akkerman to van Leer’s rock trio in late 1969, the band named themselves Focus and were the pit band for the Dutch production of the rock musical Hair. Their debut album Focus Plays Focus (1970) gained little attention, but their follow-up album Moving Waves (1971), and its lead single “Hocus Pocus”, earned the band international recognition. Their success continued with Focus 3 (1972) and Hamburger Concerto (1974), the former containing their second hit single, “Sylvia”. After two additional albums recorded with various musicians, Focus dissolved in 1978. They reunited in 1985, 1990, 1998 and 2002.

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In 2002, van Leer reformed Focus with a new line-up. The albums Focus 8 (2002), Focus 9 / New Skin (2006) and Focus X (2012) were well received, and Focus continue to perform worldwide. Their most recent album is Focus 11 (2018). They received a renewed interest after Nike used “Hocus Pocus” in its 2010 World Cup commercial Write The Future. Focus remain one of the most successful and influential rock bands from the Netherlands.

Hamburger Concerto is the fourth studio album by the Dutch progressive rock band Focus, released in April 1974. It peaked at #20 on the UK charts. The title track is based on Variations on a Theme by Haydn by Johannes Brahms. The composition also incorporates the first two verses of the Dutch Christmas carol O Kerstnacht, schoner dan de dagen at around 15 min. (by wikipedia)

The 1973–1975 line-up on the Dutch television show Top Pop in April 1974, with drummer Colin Allen on far right:
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Focus had well proven their ability to write rocking instrumentals by the time of this release. Their catalog, although consisting of four albums, rarely had a dull moment between them. Hamburger Concerto is equally consistent, much of it being prime Focus material. The Akkerman-written “Birth” and “Early Birth” are examples of Focus fully flexing their muscles, featuring superb guitar work and amazing all-round musicianship, as well as sporting some superb riffs. The usual lengthy instrumentals are present also, as well as some manic vocals from the manic but genius Thijs Van Leer. Although Hamburger Concerto is not as unerring as Moving Waves or Focus III, anyone who enjoyed the previous releases would undoubtedly find great satisfaction from this album. (by Ben Davies)

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Personnel:
Jan Akkerman (guitar)
Colin Allen( drums)
Thijs van Leer (keyboards, flute, vocals,  harpsichord, synthesizer, recorder, mellotron, accordion)
Bert Ruiter (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. Delitæ Musicæ (Akkerman) 1.12
02. Harem Scarem (van Leer) 5.52
03. La Cathedrale de Strasbourg (van Leer) 4.56
04. Birth (Akkerman) 7.45
05. Hamburger Concerto 21.16
05.1. Starter (Traditional)
05.2. Rare (Akkerman)
05.3. Medium I (van Leer/Akkerman)
05.4. Medium II (Akkerman)
05.5.Well Done (van Leer)
05.6. One for the Road (Akkerman)
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06. Early Birth (Akkerman) 2.54
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07. 07 – Hamburger Concerto (live) (taken from the bootleg “Live In Japan”, 1975) 21.16

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More Focus:

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Almost Brothers – A Band Of Roadies (2014)

FrontCover1On one hand, the vibe of A Band Of Roadies comes as no surprise: after all, the band comprised members of the Allman Brothers Band’s road crew circa ’73-’74, along with some other players from the Macon, GA music scene at the time. This mix of covers and originals – infused with bluesy, jazzy grooves and adventurous jams – is exactly what you might expect from offshoots of the ABB family.

What is a pleasant surprise, however, is the fact that this is a great album made by some solid players. After all, just because they lugged the Allmans’ gear, it doesn’t guarantee they could play it … but A Band Of Roadies stands on its own hind legs as a cool chunk of early 70s bluesrock recently rediscovered.

If you’re familiar at all with ABB history, you’ll recognize some of the band members: the late Twiggs Lyndon – the Allmans’ original road manager – plays guitar; longtime road crew member Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell (who passed away in 2011) mans the drums, along with soundman Michael Artz; Buddy Thornton (who handled front-of-house sound for the Allmans) plays bass. Virginia Speed’s talents on piano earned her a job as a keyboard tech for the ABB; her killer Steinway work and lead vocals on the classic “Fever” demonstrate just how good she was. And Dave “Trash” Cole was actually working on the farm that the Allmans owned in Juliette, GA when Lyndon discovered he was also a wicked guitar picker. Cole was hired on as an ABB guitar tech – and he was a natural for the Almost Brothers lineup.

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The Almost Brothers were birthed from the need to do pre-gig sound checks in the absence of the actual ABB members. As Chuck Leavell writes in the liner notes, “As we began to tour behind the release [of Brothers And Sisters ] in 1973 there were times when, for various reasons, the band wouldn’t or couldn’t make sound checks.” (Ahhhh … those “various reasons” …)

The Almost Brothers progressed from warming up gear (and often the crowd when the doors opened early) for the Allmans to playing their own gigs in and around the Macon area. When the ABB took 1974 off so Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts could burrow into their respective solo projects, the Almost Brothers got serious about playing in an effort to keep some money coming in.

The 10 cuts on A Band Of Roadies were recorded over a long weekend during that time period – the band was basically helping to break in the newly-revamped Capricorn Studios. The original masters of those sessions have disappeared, but the two-track studio tapes were recently unearthed. The format allowed for no re-mixing – simply basic EQ touchup and editing; but the raw, in-the-moment feel of this music makes up for any sonic flaws.

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The addition of band buddy Joe English on congas for the piano-driven blues romp “Driving Wheel” and the instrumental “Knurled Knob” (penned by Thornton) is a happenstance crystal ball view of what the Allmans’ sound would evolve into when percussionist Marc Quiñones joined them 17 years later.

Dave Cole’s vocals throughout the album are soulful – more Bobby Whitlock-style than Gregg Allman – and he and Lyndon complement each other well on guitar. They stand shoulder to shoulder on the signature riff of Memphis Slim’s “Stepping Out” before taking turns putting their own spins on the number. (A bit of pickin’ porn for you: Twiggs Lyndon was playing the late Duane Allman’s ’59 Tobacco Burst Les Paul for these sessions … listen for that tone.)

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The Allmans had their classic one-two punch of “Don’t Want You No More” into “It’s Not My Cross to Bear”; the Almost Brothers here take off on the shape-shifter instrumental “Modular Motion” before banging down a couple gears to grind out a cover of “Drifting”. Virginia Speed’s solo on Capricorn’s big ol’ Steinway here is a classic – unhurried, lovely and just raunchy enough to be sexy.

Cole leads the band through his self-penned “Is It Wrong” – a much gentler tune than the rest of the album, but a great, spacious opportunity for the band to get loose and glide. Swooping bass lines by Thornton weave around Speed’s rippling piano; the guitars bounce in and out of harmony lines; and guest Scott Boyer (from the band Cowboy) contributes some sweet pedal steel.

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“Complicated Shoes”, “Rainbow Chase” and “Compactor” are more Buddy Thornton instrumentals that prove what kind of players the Almost Brothers really were. Don’t expect aimless noodling over standard blues progressions; these songs all feature complex grooves that challenge the rhythm section, cool melodies and themes that allow Speed to work the keyboard, and perfect launchpads for Lyndon and Cole to blast off.

All in all, A Band Of Roadies is a great listen, regardless of the Allman connection. The fact that this music was created from a mix of service to the job at hand and a passion for the music that surrounded them makes the story of the Almost Brothers one that causes you to smile and shake your head. In another time; another setting … who knows what might have become of this band?

In the moment, it was set it up; get it right; tear it down; do it again. (by Brian Robbins)

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Liner notes by Chuck Leavell:
Back in “The Day”, when the Allman Brothers Band had recorded the “Brothers and Sisters” album and we were riding high with the LP reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Album Charts
and the song “Rambling Man” reaching No. 2 on the Singles chart, our road crew were riding high with us.
They were all very talented in their respective positions, and all very dedicated to us,
and to the fans that came to see us.
They were recognized by our peers and theirs as being the best road crew in the world,
and in my opinion that was certainly the case.
As we began to tour behind the release of the record in 1973, there were times when for various reasons the band wouldn’t or couldn’t make sound checks.
Our crew would sometimes do them for us, which was a great help and ensured that we would be comfortable when we hit the stage.
As time went on, they began to play more on their own, adding in some other players
that were in the Macon, Ga. area at the time.

The result of this was The Almost Brothers.
I can remember them rehearsing quite a lot, working up some cover tunes and writing some of their own. They were all having a great time, and were honing in their musical skills.
They became very popular around town, and created a reputation for themselves,
playing in some clubs and various other settings.
Fortunately, they also recorded some of their material, and after all these years,
our then house sound engineer, Buddy Thornton, has uncovered those two track tapes,
cleaned them up as much as possible with his expert skills, and herein is the result.
Listening to these recordings bring back some great memories for me, and all the musicians involved put their hearts and souls into the Almost Brothers.
They were all great folks to work with and I am so glad that we have this recording
to document this piece of history.
You can hear the fun they were having and the passion they put into their own band…so, listen and enjoy!

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Personnel:
Michael Artz (drums)
Joseph ‘Red Dog’ Campbell (drums)
Dave ‘Trash’ Cole (guitar, vocals)
Joe English (percussion)
Twiggs Lyndon (guitar)
Virginia Speed (piano, vocals on 07.)
T.T. Thornton (bass)
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Scott Boyer (steel-guitar on 09.)

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Tracklist:
01. Driving Wheel (Sykes) 4.01
02. Knurled Knob (Thornton) 2.59
03. Love You (Like A Man) (Smither) 4.33
04. Stepping Out (Slim) 2.23
05. Modular Motion/Drifting 5.34
05.1 Drifting (Thornton)
05.2. Drifting (Brown/Moore/Williams)
06. Complicated Shoes (Thornton) 2.43
07. Fever (Cooley) 3.54
08. Rainbow Chase (Thornton) 5.14
09. Is It Wrong (Cole) 4.46
10. Compactor (Thornton) 4.40

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AlmostBrothers

Jose Feliciano – And The Feeling’s Good (1974)

FrontCover1José Monserrate Feliciano García (born September 10, 1945), better known simply as José Feliciano [xoˈse feliˈsjano], is a Purto Rican-American musician, singer and composer, best known for many international hits, including his rendition of The Doors’ “Light My Fire” and the best-selling Christmas single, “Feliz Navidad”. His music is known for its fusion of styles: Latin, jazz, blues, soul and even rock, created primarily with his unique, signature acoustic guitar sound. His oftentimes mellow easy listening influences are easily recognizable in many songs heard around the world.

In the United States, he first received widespread popularity in the 1960s, particularly after his 1968 album Feliciano! reached number two on the music charts. Thus far, he has released over fifty albums, worldwide, in both English and Spanish. (by wikipedia)

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This nice album from 1974 contains Feliciano’s last Top-100 hit to appear on thye US Charts: “Chico and the man”. This song was used as the soundtrack for the TV series by the same name and reached widespread popularity, eventually being performed by such artists as Sammy Davis Jr. The album especially contains a wonderful rendition of “Golden Lady”, a Stevie Wonder song and, in my opinion, one of the best things ever recorded by Jose’ Feliciano, a soul samba cover totally reinvented “a-la-only-jose-can-do”
Nice set also for “Essence of your love”, “Stay with me” and “Virgo”. This last piece is noteworthy for being one of the few instrumental pieces recorded by Jose’ on electric guitar in a “Hendrix way” (by Markjm)

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Personnel:
Duke Bardwell (bass)
Janna Merlyn Feliciano (handclaps, vocals)
José Feliciano (guitar, vocals, mellotron)

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Tracklist:
01. Hard Times in El Barrio (José Feliciano/Janna Feliciano) 3.01
02. I’ve Got to Convince Myself (Toussaint) 2.44
03. You’re No Good (Ballard) 3.09
04. Differently (Graham) 4.18
05. Virgo (José Feliciano) 3.13
06. Golden Lady  (Wonder) 4.18
07. Stay With Me (José Feliciano/Janna Feliciano) 2.44
08. Chico And The Man (José Feliciano) 2:55
09. And the Feeling’s Good (Fox/Gimbel) 3.17
10. Essence Of Your Love (José Feliciano) 3.21

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