Thursday, January 21, 2066

The place to report broken links and request stuff!

Howdy people...

When notifying about a dead link, please include te link to the actual post, because that would make my work a lot faster (And I mean  A LOT). Thanks in advance to all the dudes and dudettes helping out!

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Apothecary - 1973 - Apothecary


01. Holding You 4:48
02. Sometime, Somewhere 3:46
03. The Christian 3:47
04. Sunset 6:24
05. Say Goodbye To Me 4:05
06. People For Peace 2:40
07. My Love To You 2:53
08. Fly 4:51
09. In The End 4:12

Bass – Bill Block
Guitar – Bruce Riddiough, Mike Houlihan
Percussion – John Kruck, Phill Haase
Synthesizer [Arp] – Denny Tabacchia (track 3)

Whatever else we are or ever hope to be, we are "Everyman."
All life depends on measured breaths and metered beats.
We are linked to each other by the chain of common experience.
Apotecary sings the songs of you and me, claiming their lyrics from the shared experiences of millions of timeless men, picking at your brain with easy lyrics, poking a hole in your soul with their melodies. And as "Minstrels of the Common Man,"nthey ask only that "I think of you and you think of me."
Peg Gidion

I've seen this one posted on several blogs, always with one track cut and one missing, and more than once it has been requested over here. So I called my Cuban connection in Florida, and yes sir!. He had a mint copy of the album. Yesterday night he made me a lossless rip and here it is for your Thanksgiving Day enjoyment. All thanks to Guery my musical soul brother!

I know next to nothing about this band and their background, so I hope someone can add some background info about these guys for our enlightenment. 
All I can say is that I absolutely love this one. It's pretty good, melodic rock. Not really psychedelic, progressive, rural-country but just good melodic rock music. About half of it is acoustic based but not in a finger-picking or solo guy strumming way. Instead the acoustic guitars are piled up on top of each other to make them quiet driving. As far as albums released by Paramount this is at the top as best on the label in my collection.
Get it and play it LOUD!

Stepps - 1976 - Waltz For Tiger Joe

Waltz For Tiger Joe

01 Kolour Kode
02 If I Knew
03 Kryptonite
04 Make Me
05 Flowers
06 End of Play
07 Step Up Behind
08 Cumulus (Improvised Solo)

Bass – Michael Vidale
Guitar – Ian Hildebrand
Keyboards – Alex Ditrich
Percussion – Ralph Cooper
Percussion, Lead Vocals – Bernadine Morgan

I always hope to stumble across a totally forgotten and yet totally amazing piece of music that I had no idea even existed. This doesn't happen nearly as often as I'd like, but when it does happen, it's always a welcome surprise. So it's with great pleasure that I am able to present one such piece of music for you today.

Stepps were a Sydney-based five-piece band who played around town during the second half of the seventies. The band appeared at a variety of venues around Sydney and held down a weekly residency at the Royal George Hotel. Their other notable achievements included a live broadcast concert in 1978 on ABC and airplay on the radio station that used to be known as Double J (the old name for the 'Triple J' radio station for you overseas people and Gen Y kids).

The band decided to self-release an album of their material to promote their music. The band pressed the album themselves and even photocopied the artwork for the cover themselves at a local printing firm. As is often the case with this type of release, not many were pressed – in fact, the run was limited to only 50 copies. The yellow-label privately pressed record is housed in a plain white sleeve adorned only with photocopied pages that are hand-pasted to both sides of the cardboard cover. The material on the album was recorded in 1975 and 1976 in Sydney, and released early in 1976.

The style of music is jazz-rock with an unashamedly optimistic mood. Bernie Morgan's singing is quite beautiful on the songs she features on. Her voice compliments the music perfectly. But it's the musicianship that is the real highlight of the album. In terms of Australian music, obvious reference points (in terms of both musical style and the record as an artifact) are Canberra's Yaraandoo and the Rob Thomsett Group's Haro album. While I haven't given Yaraandoo a proper listen, this album is a much better record than the later mentioned.

The whole first side of Waltz For Tiger Joe is fantastic. The opening track washes over your ears like warm sunshine. It's quintessentially Australian jazz-funk sound is similar in places to Jackie Orszaczky's 1975 LP, and Bernie's singing also reminds me of Kerrie Biddell's best jazz moments. If I Knew is a jazz ballad that changes up into a mostly instrumental fusion number. The first side finishes with the best cut on the album – Kryptonite. Written by the band's guitarist, Ian Hildebrand, the distorted intro gives way to a compelling guitar riff that easily lodges itself in your head. Washes of keys and funky drumming keep this tune grooving all the way through until the players weave their way into a bass-guitar solo interlude that acts almost as a signature for the band. And as the bass player signals his intent to conclude, the other players effortlessly reintroduce that compelling guitar riff.

The band can't top Kryptonite for the rest of the record, but they get close with Side Two's opener Make Me – a great vocal jazz cut with Bernie Morgan at her most prominent post on the whole record. What's great about this number is the way that the music perfectly compliments Bernie's voice, even following her individual words in some parts. It's a great indicator of how effectively the players must have worked together – that coalescence of sounds that's so hard to achieve. The other great cut on Side 2 is End Of Play, composed by Oleg Ditrich, the band's keyboardist (is that a real word?). It's quite a long number, and in typical fusion style, there's plenty of changes to keep it interesting. Bernie adds to the flavour in parts, but it's mostly an instrumental affair. 

All in all, I think this record is fantastic. While particular songs do stand out, the record works really well as a complete album, and will certainly get some play from me this summer!

I was quite surprised to find that this album has been re-released on CD, although it now appears to be out of print. You can buy the album through iTunes here. Note though that the album seems to be touched up compared with the original release.

The thing I just love about finding privately pressed albums is that you often find little mementos that make the record so much more personal. Sometimes the record is signed, and sometimes there are other signs that the record was passed directly from the band (or a member) to someone they know or had a connection with. In this case, I was very lucky to find a hand-written note included in my copy of this record. It's written from Ralph Cooper and Bernie Morgan, the drummer and singer respectively. I'm not sure to whom it is addressed, but it seems likely that they might have been a radio programmer.

A great Aussie Fusion act from Sydney, which never made it to the recordings of a proper album, Stepps performed regularly from mid- to late-70's at local clubs and hotels and even got some rare airplay on TV and radio at the end of their brief road.They recorded the album ''Waltz for Tiger Joe'' (1976, private) on their own forces, but only 50 copies were pressed and handed to friends, so there are no signs it was ever commercially available. Shame, because they played dreamy yet intense Jazz Fusion with some Canterbury edges, similar to National Health and Belgians Cos, fronted by Morgan's wordless voice experiments and the stunning performance of the musicians, leading to great grooves and unexpected breaks. This was far from average Fusion, the album has a constant tendency towards jazzy Prog Rock through all those tempo changes and complex instrumental patterns, which combine Female vocal Pop and Fusion and electric piano-driven Jazz Rock. Great guitar work and some furious piano paces, who also delivers a few impressive synth flights throughout. Pretty long tracks with lots of instrumental room and lovely interplays.

Snakes Alive - 1974 - Snakes Alive

Snakes Alive 
Snakes Alive

01. Abberations (8:52)
02. Snakes Alive (5:18)
03. Theme for Myra (7:18)
04. Dear Suzy (11:23)
05. Fruit Pie (6:27)

Michael Vidale / bass
Peter Nykyruj / drums
Alex Ditrich / keyboards
Boris Peric / guitars
Jonas Thomas / sax, flute, vocals
Colin Campbell / trumpet
Ralph Cooper / percussion

Recorded at EMI 301 Studios, Sydney.
EMI is not mentioned on the label since it was a private pressing of 50 copies only.
This original LP did not have a jacket and came in a plain white sleeve.
Alex Ditrich, Michael Vidale and Ralph Cooper went on to form jazz rock group Stepps.

Australian band SNAKES ALIVE was a short-lived band project consisting of Michael Vidale (bass), Peter Nykyruj (drums), Alex Ditrich (keyboards), Boris Peric (guitars), Jonas Thomas (sax, flute, vocals) and Colin Campbell (trumpet). Their sole album was recorded and privately released in a limited number of copies back in 1974, and have never seen an official label release nor a legit CD reissue

Did not think we'd ever see this one. This was an album released as a demo in a quantity of 50 without a cover. It's mainly known due to its presence online, and someone later had appended a cover. This new CD reissue is maintaining the cover (not sure of the source of the artwork honestly) and is adding one bonus track. Here's what the label says (using Google Translate): "A work that was recorded as an item in the collector as an Ultra / Rare item that was recorded in Australia in 1975 and that only 50 test presses exist. There used to be a small number of pirate CD - R boards of this board - raising before, but this time it is the first regular board using the master taken from the master tape. Like Australia, it is a masterpiece on which a thrilling jazz rock sound with saxophone, flute, trumpet etc added to it. Release on paper jacket, SHM-CD!"

In the early 70s, the music world was teeming with jazz fusion bands. The major two schools were a) The technically proficient, as defined by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and Weather Report. And b) The Miles Davis long track deep groove, with many followers in Germany (in particular the MPS label), Poland, Italy, USA and beyond. These were jazzers who were fascinated with rock's rhythms and power. But finding rockers who were fascinated by jazz was a much more rare breed. And that's why they call it jazz fusion. Snakes Alive are a rock fusion band. Of course bands like Mahavishnu come to mind. Even early Zappa and Xhol Caravan. But, you know, Finch did too - for example. There are vocals, but they're sparse. Trumpet, sax, flute, organ, guitar are the solo instruments. And it rocks with a capital R. This is a good one, that's slipped way under the radar.

Apparently this quite forgotten Australian album was never officially released. There were just these 50 private pressing copies made. And there isn't a vinyl reissue yet so if you want to get this one to your record shelf it's a pretty hard (maybe even impossible) task unless you're rich. It seems like there aren't even any unofficial bootlegs available which is pretty odd.

On the musical point of view this record offers some nice jazz-rock with progressive rock influences. The instrumental work is solid and in some points the guitar sounds very impressive. However I don't like the fact that the album includes horns. Luckily they're not dominating the overall sound but I still could do without them just fine.

If you're interested in jazz-rock, jazz-fusion or jazzy prog rock you might wanna check out this incredibly rare album.

German Oak - 2017 - Down In The Bunker

German Oak 
Down In The Bunker 

101. Screaming Skeletons
102. Missile Song
103. Belle's Song
104. Nothing

201. Belle's Song (Extended)
202. Missile Song (Extended)

301. Bear Song
302. Happy Stripes (On Cats)
303. Ghost Guitar
304. Bear Song (Alternative)
305. Harpy & Peregrine
306. Python Vs. Tiger
307. Giant Rock; Boulder Golem

Packaged in a four-panel wallet with a 20-page booklet featuring liner notes in English and German. Track times do not appear on the release, taken from computer.

"Producer's note: At the band's request, the Nazi speeches included on Manfred Uhr's Witch and Warlock German Oak CDs have been removed, and, at [Wolfgang Franz] Czaika's request, the songs have been retitled... Czaika and the band didn't choose the titles given to their songs when Uhr initially released them... On this anthology, the two long songs from the original German Oak album have been pitch corrected to play at the speed that the band recorded them; Manfred Uhr sped them up for the album's initial release..." (liner notes)

"The four tracks from the original German Oak album have been restored from vinyl. The remaining tracks were taken from cassette, and have been treated with similar reverb and compression to those Manfred Uhr used for the original album's issue." (liner notes)

Bass Guitar – Harry Kallweit (tracks: 1-2, 2-2, 3-1, 3-4), Rolf Mors
Drums – Ulrich Kallweit
Lead Guitar – Wolfgang Franz Czaika
Organ – Manfred Uhr (tracks: 1-1, 1-4)
Rhythm Guitar – Norbert Luckas (tracks: 1-1, 1-4)

A krautrock lost classic - once only available for loads of cash or on dodgy bootleg, now lovingly remastered and reissued.

The first and only LP by Düsseldorf’s German Oak isn’t the absolute rarest krautrock record in existence, but it’s up there. Its backstory ticks all the hyperobscurity collector cliché boxes: released during a burgeoning period for strange, indulgent music from the Fatherland (1972), at the behest of an overbearing manager as clueless about the market as his charges. Pressed privately in tiny numbers, most copies remained unsold, until leaking onto the collector market in the 1980s.

Until now, anyone who’d heard (of) its nightmarish proto-industrial space jams, seen its extraordinary black metal demotape-alike sleeve art, and wanted to cradle their own copy could either pay hundreds of quid for an original or much less for a snide reissue. That’s changed thanks to American archive label Now-Again – specifically Now-Again Reserve, their sublabel for unfeasible rarities – who’ve come through with a hulking remastered triple-disc package, extensive bonus material and an illuminating interview with German Oak guitarist Wolfgang Czaika.

Anyone previously familiar with German Oak will notice a few changes. Firstly, it’s not called that any more, it’s titled Down In The Bunker, a reference to the subterranean second world war-era bolthole in which the album was recorded. The song titles have changed, too. German Oak never bothered with such things, so their manager and sometime organist Manfred Uhr chose them. The group’s Malcolm McLaren or John Sinclair figure, if evidently without the marketing nous, Uhr pushed the ‘bunker’ theme to the hilt: the LP’s brief intro and outro pieces, which bookend two epic workouts, were titled ‘Airalert’ and ‘1945 – Out Of The Ashes’ (now ‘Screaming Skeletons’ and ‘Nothing’). This is already chancing your arm in Germany, so the unreleased cuts Uhr dug up for a quasi-bootleg early 90s CD issue – including songs he’d named ‘Swastika Rising’ and samples of Hitler speeches – shone a light on the band they’d done pretty much nothing to encourage. Which is why they’ve retitled everything and excised the dodgy samples.

That said, German Oak’s music is often noxious and creepy enough to feel like an antecedent of some of the underground’s notable fash-flirters: Death In June, Current 93 and Coil seem to be born in the 19-minute ‘Missile Song’, which cycles through clanging metallic percussion, ultra-sparse crypto-jazz drumming, a bass sound beamed in from a deep bath next door, outbreaks of haphazard haunted house onomatopoeia by unnamed instruments. It’s a bit ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’, early Faust, Sun Ra even, but sonically stunning for three rudderless rock trippers who basically just tossed this onto tape with no real thought about what might become of it.

‘Belle’s Song’, at 16-and-a-half minutes, is the original LP’s other main event, and the railroad boogie rhythm at its core cleaves closer to rock convention – the more eccentric end of it though, certainly. Groundhogs fans might well dig on this fuzz and wah and chug, for example, even/especially when Czaika bends his guitar off the map in sick psych style and Ulli Kallweit’s drumming breaks for the border with buoyant freeness in the closing moments.

The extended and alternate takes which fill discs two and three are divertingly gnarly, but don’t indicate much obvious potential for German Oak to have become pored over by obsessive live bootleg collectors, Grateful Dead or Velvet Underground style. The original edits of ‘Belle’s Song’ and ‘Missile Song’ run to 26 and 34 minutes respectively – I’m reviewing the CD version here and am curious as to how the latter fits onto one side of vinyl – and become slightly more and slightly less weird, also respectively, in doing so. ‘Missile’ is gussied up with lengthy periods of hard rock scorch which is perfectly decent in itself, but a distraction from the eldritch immersion created by the edit; ‘Belle’ fleshes out the rubbery reverbed guitar sound that Czaika switches to having departed the boogie rhythm.

The remaining seven songs were recorded in Czaika’s house, and find German Oak getting riffier and more Hendrixian: things like ‘The Bear Song’ (retitled from ‘The Third Reich’ – I call this an example of the great German humour, except not sarcastically) and ‘Python Vs Tiger’ burble along with a pleasingly lumpen tone and the suspicion that a majority of LSD-using experimental rock bands of the era had rehearsals that sounded much like this. Although this release is the very first to have the full collaborative approval of the German Oak members, even this comes with a caveat: Czaika dismisses their entire output in the interview as “musical scrap and waste … sins of our youth”. The ever-swelling reissue market teems with variations on this, of course: one-time, one-shot lost crazies tracked down only to express (sincere or otherwise) astonishment that anyone might now care about their throwaway hobby band. Not many of them are dug up with as much tender care as Now-Again offer, and few of them sound as unearthly and ahead of their time as German Oak.

Julian Cope Review of original album:
In the strange Olympic summer of 1972, the Dusseldorf instrumental group German Oak entered the Luftschutzbunker, or Air Raid Shelter, in order to record their eponymous first LP. Following in the footsteps of the percussive and organic Organisation and the remarkable Dom, German Oak had every reason to believe that this 3rd LP to be recorded by a Dusseldorf band would be warmly received. Unfortunately, German Oak were not only wrong in their assumptions that locals would embrace their music, but even local record shops rejected all the group's attempts to sell the albums in city outlets. Such was their lack of success that 202 of the original 213 copies were stored in the basement of the group's organist until the mid-1980s, when a thirst for undiscovered Krautrock finally brought German Oak back from the dead.

But what is the sound of a group that was so rejected during its time of recording? Well, imagine a brutally recorded, brazen and ultra-skeletal industrial white funk played with all the claw-handed crowbar technique of the Red Crayola recording their famous "Hurricane Fighter Plane," over which is superimposed the what-instrument-could-that-be rumblings of Gunther Schickert's G.A.M. meeting the Electronic Meditation incarnation of early-T. Dream. That is the sound of German Oak. Imagine Faust's reverb-y schoolroom in Wumme being party to a jam between Riot-period Sly Stone on itchy-scratchy bass and the pre-Kraftwerk ensemble Organisation (specifically "Milk Rock"), without their being formally introduced, and with all the hang-ups that this would entail. Again, this is the sound of German Oak.

It is a strangely skin-of-your-teeth genius. It is a toe-curlingly heartfelt method acting of the most in-your-face kind. In places it's a sort of gormless Gong, even a moronic Magma - a Teutonic tribe standing in the ruins of some Roman temple, playing barbarian riffs on classical instruments too sizes too small. Aerosmith's Joe Perry once said: "When all you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." He must have been listening to German Oak.

With German Oak, what seems, after two minutes, to be a simplistic and worryingly trite riff, becomes, after 8 minutes, to be the only real-honest-riff-in-town. Like the legendary death-blues of Josephus' (also 16-minutes-plus) epic "Dead Man", this is music which does not hit you instantly in the face, but is an accumulative groove, building and building on the endless repetition of some bog-standard soul-type "Please Please Please" bass line or rhythm guitar sequence.1

There is a remarkable space within German Oak's music, which may have been caused by their ultra-rudimentary playing, or may have been because they just listened ultra-attentively to each other as each player struggled for the notes. But, whatever the reason, German Oak conjured up a mythical sound in the grand Krautrock tradition. And as a quintet without a lead singer, they were a rare five-piece who never got in each other's way. Throughout the music of German Oak, the bass and the lead guitar are frequently mistakable for each other, until the fuzzy lead will slowly claw itself out of the sonic mire of sound and drag itself arduously and inelegantly to the top of the heap. The drumming is often furious and even overplayed, yet it is often the single constant of the group.

Perhaps German Oak hit the nail on the head when they credited group members as the "Crew" and refused to give full names. Such was their sense of space that they often sounded like a trio and actually never like five people. Perhaps, like Can, they worked in pairs and recorded in parallel as opposed to one live performance. But somehow I doubt it. The recording quality and attention to sound separation is far too slack and haphazard. No, I'm sure the reason that the characterless "crew" credit sums up German Oak's attitude best, is because it conspires to make them all sound like the dwarves whose job it was to hold up the four corners of the Viking world-view. Separately they were nothing - together they were everything.

Wolfgang Franz Czaika, here known only as Caesar, is credited with "Lead- & Rhythmguitar". The busy flourishes of insistent drumming are by Ullrich Kallweit, here known only as Ulli "Drums/Percussion". His brother Harry Kallweit, just known as Harry, contributes "Electric bass/voice". This leaves the tail-gunners' places to be filled by the wonderfully-named Manfred Uhr AKA Warlock on "Organ/fuzz-organ/voice" and Norbert Luckas AKA Nobbi on "Guitar/A77/Noises". And, like the simple Amon Duul 1 credits, the friendly nick-names make the group appear even more mysterious and out-of-reach.

The German Oak LP consisted of two very long Krautgrooves, one on either side, with a short organ themed instrumental intro and outro at the beginning and end. Side One begins like a crusty hunt led by hunt saboteurs, as the one minute and fifty seconds of "Airalert" fades in from the mists of time with a hopeful and entirely amateurly recorded organ. Side One is then given over to the enormous eighteen-minutes of "Down in the Bunker", where feedback whistles and screams and factory interior-sized organ roars, whilst relentless hammering on metal suggests that the workers are in there building something over the din. Portentous manically-bowed cello-style film theme bass guitar and scraping cymbals rise out of the maelstrom to prepare the listener for the onslaught to come. Sonically, it is pure sound, like the primal intro beauty of G.A.M.'s 1976 album, or the pure sound of Guru Gurus's UFO, and the opening section of Ash Ra Tempel's "Amboss".

As though recorded in a deep river gorge from beyond time with dozens of old fridges and cookers strewn across its banks, this proto-industrial sound truly invokes the ancestors. And it is perfectly understandable that German Oak's sleeve notes read: "As we played down there in the old bunker, suddenly a strange atmosphere began to work. The ghosts of the passed whispered." Far from being deluded, German Oak's crew are understating - for this track is alive with the dead, awash with a flood of ur-spirits from the recent past and the days of Yore. Banshee-like glissando guitars and Mani Neumaier-like voices creep up the north side of the track, mount the battlements and howl at us and the members of the group.

Side Two begins with the reverb'd minor key horseback charge of "Raid Over Dusseldorf". The whole bulk of side two is taken up by this furious and rudimentary psychedelic ride, reminiscent of the Chocolate Watchband. Indeed, my friend and Brain Donor guitar cohort Doggen has suggested that it is the rhythm of the horse which heavy rock most often emulates. I would tend to agree with this assertion, as this rhythm can be found everywhere in rock, from the central spine of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" to the middle of David Bowie's "Width of a Circle". And I would even cite Robert Browning's 19th Century poem "How they brought the good news from Aix to Ghent" as an example of how pre-rock'n'roll this rhythm really is.

The final track of the album is the 2-minutes short "1945 - Out of the Ashes", which returns to the organ-led hunting sound of the opening "Airalert" before cross-fading into the tolling of a lone bell.

Though I am rarely a fan of extra tracks being added to CD reissues, we must count ourselves lucky in this case to have been handed the three superb pre-LP German Oak workouts located herein. The five-minute "Swastika Rising" sounds like the Plastic Ono Band meeting both Faust and Organisation; all rudimentary organ, splatter drums and a barely coherent and wandering psychedelic fuzz guitar. Following this, the ten-minute "The Third Reich" starts with a Hitler Rally speech, before slipping inside yet another hypnotic and insistently mesmerising teen Funkadelic groove with scything and Scythian psychedelic guitar. A brazen disabled lead guitar mindlessly scatters seedling riffs across an infertile field of unidirectional bass riffing and extremely formulaic drum fills, played relentlessly and robotically. The final extra track, "Shadows of War", is like an overladen Chinook helicopter struggling to lift off from its pad; the organ chords seemingly weighted down by the reverb'd wodges of clawed bass. Then another Hitler Rally cut-up sends us into a collage of over hasty milk delivery as an obligatory Stuka raid finally cuts us down in a single all-terminal bomb blast.2

I noted in Krautrocksampler that the German postwar youth scene was trying to work itself free of its recent Holocaust history, and German Oak in particular seem to have wrestled with these demons for longer than most. Their sleeve-note dedication seems all-the-more poignant and moving for its pathos and poor translation:

"We dedicate this record to our parents which had a bad time in World War 2."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kathy Smith - 1971 - Kathy Smith 2

Kathy Smith 
Kathy Smith 2

01. Lady Of Lavender 3:47
02. It's Taking So Long 4:57
03. Rock & Roll Star 4:00
04. Willie 3:55
05. Fly Off With The Wind 4:32
06. Seven Virgins 3:49
07. For Emile 3:43
08. Travel In A Circle 5:57
09. Blessed Be The People 4:57

Bass: Gerry Germont, Tony levin
Congas: Daniel Ben Zebulon
Drums, Percussion: Bill La Vorgna, Don Alias, Donald McDonald
Flute: Jeremy Steig
Guitar: Don Sarlin
Keyboards: Jan Hammer, Warren Bernhardt

It was a bit difficult to trace background information on Kathy Smith. She was part of the California folkie scene, playing at local venues and coffeehouses. A legendary venue but rather unknown was Paradox where people like Tim Buckley, Jackson Browne, Steve Noonan, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John McEuen, and Penny Nichols used to play. Nobody found out about the place so it had to close down. The musicians found a new podium at the Troubadour. I am not sure around what time Kathy Smith started to share stages, and hang around with them, but especially with people like Penny Nichols, Pamela Polland and Jackson Browne (a close contact which explains how their songs ended up on her albums. Pamela Polland (also known from her album The Gentle Soul) was going to appear on her debut too). Penny Nichols, who first sang with a bluegrass band with John, Bill & Alice McEuen (until John took Jackson Browne's place in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), then formed a duo with Kathy Smith called the Greasy Mountain Butterballs which toured Vietnam in the fall of 1966. 

Kathy Smith - 1970 - Some Songs I've Saved

Kathy Smith 
Some Songs I've Saved

01. Topanga 2:25
02. What Nancy Knows 4:37
03. A Vision Of Two States 3:47
04. End Of The World 6:25
05. Same Old Lady 4:35
06. Blackbird And The Pearl 4:32
07. Russel : Gemini II 3:28
08. If I Could Touch You 3:02
09. Circles Of Love 3:30

Kathy Smith: rhythm guitar, vocals, guitar
Stormy Forest Freaks: chorus, hand claps
Monte Dunn: lead guitar
Jim Fielder: bass
Bill LaVorgna: drums
Artie Traum: lead guitar, banjo
Eric Weisburg: fiddle
Jeremy Steig: flute
Chuck Rainey: bass
Warren Bernhardt: piano, organ
Collin Walcott: tabla, sitar
Don Sarlin: lead guitar

Rex Reed's review from the April 1970 issue of Stereo Review:

"Once upon a time, Kathy Smith would have been called a folk singer. Now this charming balladeer is aptly representative of the music of today. Just as Judy Collins bridged that musical generation gap from straight-folk to `pop' singer, so now Kathy steps right across it. No longer do these ladies (and gents) tune up their trusty guitars and winsomely wail about `John Riley.' Like Miss Smith, today's folk-pop artists are more likely to be singing their own music, which, in Kathy's case, is lyrically and romantically excellent. Surrounding Kathy's charming, strong, and reflective voice are extremely talented musicians like Jeremy Steig on flute, Monte Dunn on lead guitar, Jim Fielder and Chuck Ramney on bass, and Bill La Vorgna on drums, among others.

"The album has its own particular and unusual style--a kind of neo-Classicism...[with] a very sensual rock beat that can run hot and cool. One of the most fantasy-filled and most beautiful songs on the album is titled `End of the World,' and it is written by Miss Smith. There are shadings of jazz and Villa-Lobos, with Jeremy Steig's flute illuminating the tropical landscape. Some intros reminded me of Judy Collins singing `Bird on a Wire' or Nina Simone singing `Suzanne.' But Kathy swings immediately into her very own song and her very own styling. `What Nancy Knows' is one of the best examples. I'm impressed too with the sheer professionalism of the arrangements and instrumentalists, and Kathy herself is up to matching both elements. She is perfectly willing to use her voice as another instrumental thread to be woven in and out of this honest American musical fabric. Kathy and company are to be paid serious attention."

Originally released in 1970 on the miniscule Stormy Forrest label, Kathy Smith's Some Songs I've Saved is no lost treasure on the level of, say, Linda Perhacs' Parallelograms, no matter how much obscurantist collectors may want it to be. Stormy Forrest was Richie Havens' label, and Havens' signature blend of folk and jazz influences is all over this album musically, with flutes and upright bass alongside the acoustic guitars, strings, and Indian instruments. But Smith is not a particularly soulful or jazzy singer: indeed, if anything, she's oddly stiff and proper, over-enunciating her lyrics in songs like "Same Old Lady" like a much more mannered version of the early Judy Collins, when a looser, more rhythmically freewheeling approach would have worked better. Similarly, the songs are fine examples of the whole chamber folk school of female singer/songwriters from this era, but the arrangements are neither trippily psychedelic nor old-school Elizabethan enough to attract the full attention of the Judee Sill and Vashti Bunyan devotees one would assume to be the target audience for this reissue. At its worst, Some Songs I've Saved is merely drearily competent, and at its best (the opening "Topanga," the delicate ballad "If I Could Touch You"), it's a solid L.A. folk-rock album in the early Joni Mitchell school. Don't approach it expecting a magical lost treasure and you likely won't be disappointed, but Some Songs I've Saved is a fairly slight curio overall.

Cheryl Dilcher - 1977 - Blue Sailor

Cheryl Dilcher 
Blue Sailor

01. Run And Hide 3:38
02. Ellie 3:09
03. Shake Me Up 3:44
04. What Do I Do Now? 3:25
05. Here Comes My Baby 3:59
06. Blue Sailor 4:58
07. Keep On Walkin' 4:04
08. Lovin' Woman 3:06
09. Follow The Love 3:09

Recorded and mixed at The Record Plant, Los Angeles, California, August, 1977

Backing Vocals – Frances Knott, Ginger Blake, Linda Dillard
Bass – Erik Scott
Drums – Craig Krampf
Keyboards – Steve Hardin
Lead Vocals, Twelve-String Guitar, Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Cheryl Dilcher
Organ – Al Kooper (tracks: A2)
Percussion – Joe Lala
Rhythm Guitar – Al Kooper (tracks: A5)
Rhythm Guitar [Additional] – Joey Larsen, Steve De Lacey
Rhythm Guitar [Electric], Lead Guitar – Stephen Restaino
Slide Guitar [Electric] – Lowell George (tracks: B2)
Synthesizer – W. Michael Lewis (tracks: A1)

Not as good as Magic , but still a release from Cheryl, passing through rock, folk, blues and even disco realms. Some all-star guest appearances, including Joe Lala on percussion, Al Cooper on organ and Lowell George on slide guitar. "Follow the Love" rocks hard and the title track is mindblowing!
It's too bad this has been Cheryl's last album (to date). Released in 1977, it contained the obligatory (especially for Butterfly Records) disco song. But, this is a solid pop / rock album. Well worth the effort to search out this hidden gem.

Cheryl Dilcher - 1974 - Magic

Cheryl Dilcher 

01. Magic 2:58
02. Home To Me 3:15
03. Devil Song 4:10
04. It's A Secret 3:33
05. Fantasy 4:43
06. Who's The Captain (Of Rock 'N Roll) 3:20
07. The Good Times 3:27
08. Together 3:16
09. You're The One 2:56
10. Dance 5:29

Bass, Vocals [Background Vocals] – Randy Koontz
Drums, Vocals [Background Vocals] – Joe Aglio
Electric Guitar, Vocals [Background Vocals] – "Rick Robin" Beilke
Saxophone [Sax Solo] – Nino Tempo (tracks: A5)
Steel Guitar [Pedal Steel] – Rusty Young (tracks: A3)
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar [Acoustic 12-string], Songwriter – Cheryl Dilcher

"Congratulations to Cheryl Dilcher for pulling her act together. Her first [actually her second] album was dull, unmusical, and unsuccessful. This time she has gotten an interesting backup group together and, with the able help of producer Jeff Barry, created a provocative and aggressive album." M.A. (Morgan Ames) [High Fidelity, Oct. 1974, p. 129]

Cheryl Dilcher's second [actually, third] album, Magic moves easily between the gloss of a club presentation and the more sparing production of rock music. At first, she sounds a little like Grace Slick, and her guitar work on the instrumental 'Magic' sounds like Yes. Side one starts out strong with 'Magic' and 'Home to Me.' 'Home to Me' is about Los Angeles--'this town of superstars, You have to look like you're from Mars, For anyone to stop and even notice.' The L.A.-Southern California environment is noticeable on several of her other numbers as well, including 'You're the One,' and 'Dance.' 'The Devil Song' and 'It's A Secret' follow and are strong compositions, though very contrasting love songs: One is laid back and the other exultory. Poco's Rusty Young joins in on 'The Devil Song' with a restrained pedal steel guitar arrangement. 'Who's the Captain (Of Rock 'N Roll)' is good on side two, despite its somewhat confused lyrics. Cheryl Dilcher draws upon a number of sources and resources on MAGIC. Her voice and twelve string guitar are excellent, and she bats about .500 on her writing talents. She moves from a white gospel sound to rock and country. Where many female rock artists record introverted, intimate projects, Dilcher appears as an authentic and original rocker. She'll be around for some time to come." D.W. [Listening Post, Oct. 1974, p. 6.]

"Producer Jeff Barry is not only rejuvenated and brought roughly up-to-date by the tough-cookie lyrics of Cheryl Dilcher, but in epics like 'You're the One' he sounds like he never left. She plays well-audible acoustic 12-string on every cut, but lest you be deceived she opens with the raga tongue of this Lp's title tune (MAGIC (A&M SP 3640) to let you know that it's all rock 'n roll, no smoothtalking mellowed-back country hokum for this glitterized refugee from Allentown, Pennsy, no sir; she's even got Rusty Young on pedal steel in 'The Devil Song,' exorcism-rock, and Nino Tempo's conspicuous sax on the real killer, 'Fantasy.' 'Who's the Captain of Rock 'n Roll,' is for Columbus and Vespucci." [Zoo World; the Music Magazine, Aug. 15, 1974, p. 42.]

Cheryl Dilcher - 1973 - Butterfly

Cheryl Dilcher

01. Butterfly
02. Deep Down Inside
03. Sweet Mama
04. Rainbow Farm
05. So Sad
06. Can't Get Enough Of You
07. Irma
08. High
09. Good Morning World
10. Once Upon A Time
11. Chocolate Candy
12. All Woman

Jeff Barry - percussion
Max Bennett - bass
George Bohannon - trombone
Jack Conrad - bass
Cheryl Dilcher - vocals, guitar
Ed Green - drums, percussion
Clarence McDonald - keyboards
Mike Melvoin - keyboards
Art Munson - lead guitar
Chuck Rainey - bass
David Walker - lead guitar

"Every record company should have its own Melanie if it wants one; now A&M has its. Whatever does it for you." M.A. (Morgan Ames) [High Fidelity, Nov. 1973, p. 155]

"In Cheryl Dilcher, A. & M. have Franc's female counterpart. It's possible that she could have made more impact if Melanie, whom she resembles vocally, hadn't got there first. Still, she has the redoubtable Jeff Barry producing her--which could help her on her way. In the meantime she just about deserves A:2 for her efforts, which she can share with Peter Franc." [Hi Fi News & Record Review, Dec. 1973, p. 2633.]

"While butterflies and kittens cavort on the album jacket, Cheryl spews up enough musical sugar to kill a nation of diabetics. There's even a cutesie butterfly mask to wear when you listen to the album and run around outside your house in your skivvies. A&M should have thrown in a luger for good measure. Maybe if we all wish REEEL hard, this'll go away." [Circus, Oct. 1973, p. 53.]

From Allentown, Pennsylvania, a pretty hippy folk/pop singer/songwriter who began in the coffee
circuit. Some of her songs were included in the Hippie Goddesses CD compilation but her albums
on A&M and Butterfly are quite lame.
(Stephane Rebeschini)

Though there's no denying namesake Cheryl Dilcher was cute, when I stumbled across this album at a yardsale I didn't have a clue who she was.  As a result I bought the album based on the Jeff Barry connection.  In carrying a dedicated to Barry, he produced this album and was credited with playing percussion throughout.

Judging by the title and cutesy packaging (butterflies, kittens, etc.) my initial thoughts were that 1973's "Butterfly" was liable to be little more than a collection of cloyingly earnest singer/songwriter tracks; maybe something along the lines of early Janis Ian, Melanie, or Carly Simon.  The other thought was that this would turn out to be throwaway pop - Barry having found a cute, young woman whom he was willing to mentor for awhile.  Well, technically I wasn't completely wrong with the initial assessment.  Listening to the album it turned out that Dilcher actually did sound a bit like a slightly pissed off  Melanie and on tracks like 'Sweet Mama', 'Rainbow Farm' and 'So Sad' her material could have been mistaken for something off of one of Melanie's mid-1970s albums (check out side two's 'Irma' or 'Chocolate Candy' if you doubt the comparison). Like Melanie, Dilcher owned a deep and raspy voice that wasn't the most musical thing you ever heard, but proved to be well suited to her material and grew on you with a couple of spins.   Similarly I wasn't completely off target with respect to Jeff Barry's influence.  Though all twelve tracks were Dilcher originals and nothing here was overtly bubblegum, Barry's commercial touch was evident throughout the set.  

Unknown to me at the time, this one's generated a cult following among psych collectors.  Turns out that 'High' and 'All Woman' were included in a bootleg compilation entitled "Hippie Goddesses".  While it's easy to see why they were included (fuzz guitar and a far more rock oriented attack than the rest of the set), musically those tracks were quite atypical.  Too bad, since they were amongst the collection's standout performances.  

Cheryl Dilcher - 1971 - Special Songs

Cheryl Dilcher 
Special Songs 

01. A Better Day
02. Mercy, Dear Lord, Mercy
03. Three Wishes
04. Richard Never Cries
05. Do I Have To Wait Very Long
06. Song By a Bird
07. Music Box
08. How I'd Like To Go Home
09. Cotton Joe
10. Little Miss No One
11. Happy Times

Cheryl Dilcher - Guitar, Piano, Harpsichord, Vocals
Amedeo Borsetti - Organ, Piano (Electric)
Bette Midler - Voices
David Smith - Flute
David Wagner - Guitar (Bass)
Jim Turner - Voices
John Adelson - Organ, Guitar, Harmonica
John Dee - Producer
Lane Emley - Guitar (Bass)
Mario Garcia - Bongos, Drums

Cheryl Dilcher began her musical career in her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Accompanying herself on the 12-string guitar, she played her self-penned songs at concerts on college campuses in the Lehigh Valley in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of the colleges she played include Lafayette College (Easton), Lehigh University (Bethlehem), and Muhlenberg College (Allentown).
Cheryl played a weekly gig at a small coffeehouse, the Back Fence, in Greenwich Village. This club usually booked three acts a night, and the floor was littered with peanut shells.

In 1967, a self-styled record producer from Red Bank, New Jersey, Johnny Dee (John DeCesare), was looking for a musical act to manage, produce, and record. I lived in the same apartment complex as Johnny and met him and his mother through my mother. I played a left-handed 12-string guitar and he was intrigued. He recorded me on his home reel-to-reel recorder, trying to turn my folky style into R&B by encouraging me to throw in some "baby, baby" to the Neil Diamond song, "Do It."

At the time, he was also managing and promoting a rock band from Matawan, first known as Jay Walker and the Pedestrians but later changing their name to Hole in the Wall (after a restaurant they spotted in New York City). I started hanging with Johnny and the band, going to their local gigs and to the Vantone Sound Studios (14 Northfield Avenue) in West Orange, New Jersey where they cut a single, Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me" backed with the Rolling Stones' "Blue Turns to Grey." He got them a record deal with Epic, and hooked up with producer Jeff Barry. Johnny was headed for the big time with office space at 1650 Broadway, New York City.

Johnny trolled for talent in the New York City clubs and saw Cheryl perform at the Back Fence. He immediately thought she was his ticket to fame and fortune and convinced her to let him manage and record her. He made a demo acetate in 1969 of her singing her songs with her 12-string, and started planning for rehearsals with other musicians prior to recording an album.

By this time, I'd gotten married in February 1968 to a musician I'd met at Monmouth College, West Long Branch, New Jersey. Joe and I performed together locally and at "basket house" coffeehouses in Greenwich Village as the Joint Effort. Johnny sort of managed us but never put any effort into booking or recording us. He liked us and thought we could play and sing harmony on Cheryl's first album so he gave us the acetate to learn the songs.

I transcribed the lyrics and Joe figured out her chords, and we worked on them for several weeks, devising harmonies and finger-picking patterns to complement Cheryl's strumming guitar work. We met Cheryl for the first time at Smile Studios (763 8th Avenue, New York City) for the rehearsal. Joining us was Lane Emley, the lead guitarist from Hole in the Wall.

It soon became apparent that we didn't need two female 12-string rhythm guitarists, so I didn't play. Joe played the finger-picking he'd arranged but Cheryl didn't like it and Johnny decided he wanted more of a rock sound. I figured we'd at least get to do the background vocals.

Johnny, in his inimitable fashion, decided to record Cheryl with part of her boyfriend Wayne's band: Wayne Achey on drums; John Adelson on lead guitar, organ, and harmonica; Dave Wagner on bass guitar; and Amedeo Borsetti on electric piano and organ. Lane Emley played bass guitar also. The other players were studio musicians who Johnny hired.

For background vocals, he brought in a young woman who was gigging around the city, picking up studio work to supplement her regular night performing at the Continental Baths--Bette Midler. So, yeah, I can say I was replaced by Bette Midler!

Now that Cheryl had an album recorded, Johnny shopped it around to various labels. I'd been studying the music business for several years and recommended Elektra as a good fit. He decided to approach Ampex, the tape manufacturer, which was branching off into the recording business. Ampex released Special Songs in 1970. Two newbies trying to figure out how to market Cheryl.

Johnny wanted to meet with Cheryl on her home turf, so we three drove from New Jersey to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to her apartment with a beautiful bay window over a corner luncheonette (401-1/2 Gordon Street). We stayed at a hotel downtown and, because we didn't have much money, we brought along our camping stove and cooler and cooked dinner in the room all three of us shared.

Johnny, being weird, didn't want the hotel to know there were three people staying in one room, so he elected to sleep, fully clothed, on top of the second bed so it wouldn't look slept in. We slept under the covers in the other bed.

Cheryl lived with a roommate, Kelly, and she joined us at a local diner for lunch. We all got along pretty well and soon Joe and I were driving to Allentown without Johnny to Cheryl's for parties and to see her boyfriend's band play at a club in Quakertown.

In true hippie fashion, we slept on the floor in her apartment. One memorable weekend, people were smoking marijuana in the bathroom, sprawled in the dry clawfoot tub, while Kelly made sloppy joe sandwiches in the kitchen, and we musicians jammed in the living room. After one weekend party, we drove home the next day at 30 mph through a blinding snowstorm. The normally one hour drive took three hours crawling behind the snowplow. We had a lot of great times and only regretted that we weren't on the album.

Joe has gone on to play delta blues locally and would love the opportunity to really provide some good slide guitar backing to any of Cheryl's efforts. He's actually started playing "Do I Have to Wait Very Long" as a regular song in his sets. Of all the songs on the first album, that one touches a place in him that resonates with his own experience and it is a valuable part of his nights on stage.
Susan Hamburger

It is so sad that she is now posthumely becoming a cult idol, I wished I would have found out about her 35 years earlier!

Chris Harwood - 1970 - Nice to Meet Miss Christine

Chris Harwood 
Nice to Meet Miss Christine

01. Mama 3:26
02. Crying To Be Heard 5:07
03. Wooden Ships 5:01
04. Ain't Gonna Be Your Slave 3:16
05. Question Of Time 3:44
06. Gotta Do My Best 3:21
07. Before You Right Now 3:51
08. Never Knew What Love Was 2:45
09. Flies Like A Bird 2:53

Bonus Tracks
10. Hear What I Have To Say 4:00
11. When I Come Home 3:57
12. Romance 4:03

Christine: Vocals
Tommy Eyre: Piano, Hammond
Roger Sutton: Bass
Dave Lambert: Acoustic Guitar
Geoff Mathews: Acoustic Guitar
Peter Banks: Electric Guitar
Ian McDonald: Sax, Flute
J.Kay Boots: Drums
Pete York: Drums, Percussion
Johnny Van Derrick: Violin

Has anybody met Chrissie Harwood?  Let us introduce to you an elusive British artiste who made an equally elusive, immaculate LP, which in the 35 years since its original release, as if by tragic magic, has materialised into thin air.

Recorded for an obscure British label it was the only record she ever made and no singles were ever released. In fact it was seldom heard beyond these shores (aside rumours of an Australian vanity pressing), and alongside Vertigo’s obscure Linda Hoyle LP, late period Transatlantic releases such as CMU’s Space Cabaret and Julie Covington’s early solo LP Beautiful Changes, it remains one of the most sought after English female folk rock records ever released. Until now it has been a mystery amongst pop-historians, DJs and record collectors alike.

For a short time in the early 90s the original LP became a regular exhibit at UK record fairs where aspiring collectors and DJs like myself would be the only buyers willing to take a gamble on this anonymous slab of vinyl housed in its uninspiring black and white sleeve which was devoid of any information likely to inspire any of the old-faire to take a punt. A record shop in Stockport called ‘The 78 Record Exchange’ was rumoured to have a whole box of these LPs sat outside in the rain throughout the late Eighties until the final copy was snapped up for the modest 50 pence asking price. The old cliche “never judge a book by the cover” couldn’t be more apt – and although, in hindsight, the LP has all the enigmatic trappings of an American private press, Smithsonian, folksploitation LP the bland packaging didn’t quite cut the mustard. Since then copies of the LP rarely crop up, only two have cropped up on the ‘necessarily evil’ eBay within the last 3 years and both have commanded figures around the £200 mark (£192 and £228 retrospectively). With a notable resurgence in vintage British folk rock it is little wonder that ‘an original Chris Harwood’ has become something of a holy grail amongst collectors, but few can say they actually know the history behind this sacred LP – the original artist, as I already mentioned, has remained somewhat elusive to say the least.

Throughout the heady summer of 1970 a regular folk tinged fixture at Rick Wakeman’s notorious ‘Brewer’s Droop’ rock pub in London was an unnamed blues-folk outfit featuring a sixteen-year-old singer called Chrissie Harwood. Spellbinding performances were warmly received by the progressive-pop cognoscenti which inspired Chrissie’s latter day squeeze and future husband and rock hack, Mark Plummer, to pursue a record deal resulting in an overnight guinea-pig contract with the launch of a CBS distributed new label owned by an uber-legendary, Mickie-Most-alike called Miki Dallon.

The first release on the short lived Birth imprint (which acted as a sister-label to Dallon’s Youngblood Records) was realised with a half baked business plan, and after a short run of break-neck off-peak studio sessions at Marble Arch (one of which witnessed a temporary power cut) – the LP, ‘Nice To Meet Christine’, was written and recorded with Plummer behind the desk and Ms. Harwood in the vocal booth. In his debut role as producer, Plummer enlisted the services of a host of up and coming progressive rock and folk stars drawing from a little black book of celebrity friends who he had previously interviewed for the likes of Melody Maker and in turn they then created the blueprint for a Rock Family tree-surgeons breakfast.

The original ‘Yes’ guitarist Peter Banks, who would later form ‘Blodwyn Pig’ was drafted in to play acoustic and pedal steel guitar throughout the entire LP alongside a young Guitarist Dave Lambert who would go on to work with Dave Cousins in ‘The King Earl Boogie Band’ and later join ‘The Strawbs’. Lambert wrote three tracks for the album, a country-rock-boogie number ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Slave’, the up-tempo ‘Flies Like A Bird’ and a quasi-political intro track ‘Mama’ which included a Gainsbourg / Melody Nelson-esque choral arrangement courtesy of folk-rock vocal group ‘Design’ (craftily recording under the moniker ‘The Designettes’ to avoid legal wranglings with their new label Epic).

By contacting Joe Cocker’s Hammond organist Tommy Eyre, Plummer would inject ‘the funk’ into the proceedings, which goes some way to explaining why the LP has become a regular inclusion on record collectors wants-lists, especially sought after amongst Hip-Hop producers and die-hard Acid-Jazzers over the last ten years. Eyre (who would play on albums by ‘Juicy Lucy’, ‘The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’ and John Martyn) added sublime twinkles of Fender Rhodes and bursts of Hammond B3 to the LP, most notably on an astonishing, orchestral-funk cover of CSN’s ‘Wooden Ships’ as well as Chrissie’s self penned ‘Gotta Do My Best’ complete with pulsating backbeat courtesy of rock journalist veteran Chris Welsch drumming under the pseudonym J.K. Boots. Chris Welsch also supplied a future-DJ-friendly drum break on another of Chrissie’s original compositions ‘Never Knew What Love Was’, a stripped down arrangement exposing the raw fender bass played on the album by Roger Sutton, fresh from recording the seminal Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll LP ‘Open’.

With extra percussion from drum workshop legend Peter York, more guitars by folk-festival stalwart Mike Maran, and ‘Macdonald & Giles’ saxophonist, Ian MacDonald, contributing to a version of Traffic’s ‘Crying To Be Heard’ the LP unintentionally became an all star super-session (library music enthusiasts might revel in the fact that violins were contributed by session-man and Michel Legrand side-kick Johnny Van Derrick whilst taking a break from recording incidental music for The Pink Panther). Three further tracks were recorded in the session which have never been heard since the original recording.

After the studio bill was paid the LP was delivered, manufactured and sadly, mysteriously disappeared in to the purple ether with minimum commitment in the artwork, marketing and radio-plug department. A crest fallen Chrissie was given the cold, ambiguous explanation that ‘nothing happened’ with her only handcrafted stab at fulfiling the teenage dream. In later years Chrissie would hide her only copies of the ultra rare original release in a cupboard only to smash and tear them to pieces to save the potential humiliation of the record re-appearing at family functions like an embarrassing photo album. To this day since, the mysterious Chris Harwood has shyly put her singer songwriter days behind her and successfully covered the tracks. Fruitless, feeble attempts to track Chrissie down have lead to a string of ‘dodgy’ bootlegs from France, Italy and the UK which have only highlighted ‘Miss Christine’s’ enigmatic position in the mystery of pop history. In a topsy-turvy chain of events, the solo artist would step down the pop-ladder and become a session vocalist. Chrissie’s voice can be heard clearly on two tracks by the Peter Grant discovered ‘Stone The Crows’ backing up lead vocalist Maggie Bell on ‘Sunset Cowboy’ and ‘Crystal Palace Bowl’. The Twickenham born singer also spent extra studio time in an unnamed rock combo recording for Bell Records before a twist of fate saw her take the disappointing music industry in to her own hands and until recently she has worked behind the scenes, promoting pop music overseas.

Nowadays Chris Harwood is being touted as Britain's great lost female folksinger. That's understandable -- her sole record, Nice to Meet Miss Christine, launched the tiny indie Birth label in 1970. The album disappeared soon after, probably because most listeners were unable to get beyond the first track, the exceedingly self-righteous, anti-racist "Mama," whose justified anger doesn't exonerate the song's lack of melody. Or maybe it was due to the fact that Nice wasn't really a folk album at all, as the guest musician roster makes clear. Guitarist Peter Banks was a founding member of Yes, pianist/organist Tommy Eyre would soon be joining Rainbow, brass and woodwind player Ian McDonald hailed from King Crimson, drummer Pete York came from the Spencer Davis Group, and guitarist Mike Maran would eventually become Britain's top musical arranger. Not a folkie in sight, but one hell of a lineup, expanding the sound of what one assumes was Harwood's own group -- guitarist Dave Lambert, bassist Roger Sutton, and drummer J. Kay Boots. Thus the songs sound phenomenal (even if the transfer to CD creates a hollowness at the center), the musicianship is flawless, and the set is as eclectic as one would imagine with these players on board. Jazzy fusion, jammy prog rock, pomp rock, revved-up R&B, and combinations of all of the above swirl across the set. The musicians are so busy showboating that melodies are mostly ignored, most spectacularly on the covers of Dave Mason's "Crying to Be Heard" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Wooden Ships," a situation Harwood does little to resolve. She's best showcased on the sultry blues of "Flies Like a Bird," but elsewhere too often slides into waspishness or worse -- harangues. A musical Margaret Thatcher is no good thing, but that's how Harwood comes across, all hectoring tones and wagging finger, even on the love songs. It's no surprise, then, that the iron chanteuse never made another record, but if you can ignore her, the backing is sensational.

Susan Christie - 1970 - Paint A Lady

Susan Christie 
Paint A Lady

01. Rainy Day
02. Paint a Lady
03. For the Love of a Soldier
04. Ghost Riders in the Sky
05. Yesterday, Where's My Mind?
06. Echo in My Mind
07. When Love Comes
08. No One Can Hear You Cry

Bass – Kirk Hamilton
Drums – Jim Valerio

The material on this album, heard by few until it was issued on CD in the early 21st century, might have been built up as a little weirder than it is by some of the collectors who've raved about it. While it's not the most uplifting stuff in the world, much of it is haunting but not all that out-there pop-folk. Susan Christie's fairly strong, strident vocals and moody melodies, occasionally embellished by strings, aren't the most uncommercial mixture that could have been concocted, though apparently they were too uncommercial to find release when they were originally recorded. What is unusual -- and what sets it most apart from some singers she might bear the vaguest of resemblance to at times, like Melanie, Tim Buckley, Sandy Denny, and Bobbie Gentry -- are the unexpectedly forceful distorted guitars, near-hard rock organ, and angular rhythms and mild dissonance used in some of the arrangements. In addition, for an eight-song, half-hour album, it's certainly unpredictable in the wide territory it covers -- "No One Can Hear You Cry," unlike anything else on the record, is close to sounding like a fine lost Dionne Warwick outtake, though even that gets set aside from the usual Bacharach/David production by the insertion of off-the-wall exotic tinkles of descending instrumental glissandos. If that's not odd enough in this company, there's also a cut, "When Love Comes," that's not too far off early Marianne Faithfull at her best. In contrast, "Yesterday, Where's My Mind?" is freaky at the outset, with its pummeling, tumbling drum breaks, creepy organ, and trippy ominous whisper-to-a-scream recitation, but even that track settles back into a relatively conventional song after three minutes. "For the Love of a Soldier" is another standout, managing to mix affecting antiwar folk-rock with a funky hard rock chorus quite effectively. Though Christie's not quite a major talent based on these relics, this is nicely dreamy and varied folk-rock for the most part that shows a lot of sadly unfulfilled potential, and if it's more downbeat than the norm for the genre, it's hardly gloomy.

The late ‘60s, early ‘70s were such a creative period, it is sad to realize how many albums got shelved and passed unnoticed and given no chance. This album had a press of only three copies.

When I first heard this album, I was firstly reminded of the delicate arrangements of some of The Mamas and The Papas, as imagined as some solo release from a similar group. Not only the arrangements are tight and effective, well thought over and well produced with band arrangements and orchestral touches, but the songs are well chosen and attractive, Susan Christie has also great vocal qualities, a strong combination that deserves to be heard, and that makes repeated listens a real pleasure. “Rainy Day” has some beautiful dark melancholy in the voice and lyrics, while through the music this is uplifted to the acceptable human sweetness of what makes such feeling an ‘experience’ (so not bringing things down, but lifting it into musical pleasantness). 

Everywhere the arrangements are perfect, with the right emotionality made stronger by drums or rock added to the more lush orchestrations, (mixed with acoustic guitars,..)… Just now and then associations with a theatrical/filmic emotionality are made possible, as if highlighting a Morricone accompanied movie…and there’s also one real western song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, again into the folk-poprock context.  

In the middle there’s also one longer track of over 9 minutes called “Yesterday, where’s my mind?”, with a more experimental introduction, in an ESP-LP LSD fashion, with trance spoken word, at first just rhythmically accompanied, with a bit of organ, before the narrator/singer and the organ goes a little bit crazy, as a free-er introduction that still leads to another real song.

One of my favorite things to do during these days is to sit out on my roofed porch, preferably in one of the wooden rocking chairs my grandfather built decades ago, and watch the rain fall. If its dark, I light a candle and set it on the hay spool that serves as a makeshift table, and sometimes play some music. Well this Friday happened to be one of those special evenings, and the music of choice for this night was Susan Christie's rediscovered 1970 "Paint a Lady" LP. 

Sitting there, listening to the rain fall in hammering sheets as it slapped the tree limbs in my yard and pooled in the field beside my house was a comforting experience, the occasional break caused by thunder in the distance. Hearing this LP in conjunction was almost like being visited by an angel, her soothing voice almost flawless in its tone and character, her effortless vocal beauty melting away whatever stress and complications I might have had. Of course, I recognize some of these songs, some of them are country songs from an earlier time, reworked to benefit Christie's mid-tempo and slower soothing croon. It was just a magical experience of sorts, one where everything is right in the world, at least for me for a brief period of time.

Considering this, you might be surprised to learn that Christie's 1970 LP was never officially released. When she signed to Columbia Records and cut this record for them, it was considered a commericial flop waiting to happen, so Columbia with its infinite and limitless wisdom, scrapped the record and condemned it to languish in obscurity. A whopping thirty-six years later, until Andy Votel "discovered" a copy and the album made its way to being repressed on CD, finding a brand new audience. Why exactly record executives in 1970 would consider an album worthless on the market when it recieved such high praise nearly forty years later is anyone's guess, but it makes you wonder. I suppose it contradicted the happier sounds of the time, with music coming off the relative high of 1960's blues rock, this album by contrast sounds absolutely beautiful but there is a certain eerieness to it. I can't quite put my finger on it, but to my ears its almost like I'm hearing a woman who is tormented by something, that it manages to contaminate even the most beautifully composed poetry and words that she sings. Maybe its just her character, and in my opinion, it adds a certain depth to these songs that otherwise wouldn't be there. Dark, eerie music like this often captures the imagination more than an album that sounds happy and carefree, dark music has always been more appealing to the human mind than something created by happy people.

Songs like "Rainy Day" and the title track are what I'm talking about. Soothing, relaxing numbers, yet there is an innate darkness to them. No doubt Christie's beautiful singing is the highlight of the album, as otherwise I doubt any of these songs would be half as good without her. The really weird part about this album is how unevenly mixed it sounds sometimes, I was particularly disappointed by "Ghost Riders in the Sky." I'm a huge fan of that song and many of its incarnations, and while this one is not offensive, Christie's vocals almost sound buried at times beneath the strings. The song has been slowed down a bit compared to something like Johnny Cash's energetic version, which suits Christie's voice, but again she's almost blotted out by the instruments. On an album like this, where the singer is the most important component, that is NOT a good thing.

Weird how this album never found itself on shelves back in 1970, but its not like its the first time a major label screwed up. Its a beautiful, moody work regardless, the only real anomaly here is "Yesterday, Where's My Mind" which is no doubt the most passionate performance here, but it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album. Personally I prefer her slower pieces, but nonetheless I can't fathom why any fan of psychedelic folk (which is what it was dubbed) wouldn't like this. I've been into acid folk music for a while now, and this is probably one of my favorite albums in the style (as crude and expansive as that genre is.) Definitely recommended, if for no other reason than to experience Susan Christie's dark songbird like singing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Marion Brown - 1975 - Vista

Marion Brown 

01. Maimoun 7:31
02. Visions 5:40
03. Vista 7:47
04. Moment Of Truth 4:35
05. Bismillahi 'Rrahmani 'Rrahim 6:00
06. Djinji 9:45

Recorded February 18-19, 1975 at Generation Sound Studios, New York City.

Alto Saxophone, Wind Chimes – Marion Brown
Bass – Reggie Workman
Celesta [Celestes], Gong – Harold Budd
Drums, Cymbal – Jimmy Hopps
Drums, Drum [Slit Drum] – Ed Blackwell
Piano, Celesta [Celestes], Electric Piano [Rmi] – Bill Braynon
Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Anthony Davis
Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], Mbira – Stanley Cowell
Tambourine, Congas, Finger Cymbals – Jose Goico
Vocals, Bells – Allen Murphy

Altoist Marion Brown, one of the potentially great high-energy saxophonists to emerge in the mid-'60s (he was on John Coltrane's famous Ascension record), has had somewhat of a directionless career. This disc certainly boasts an impressive backup crew (including both Anthony Davis and Stanley Cowell on keyboards along with bassist Reggie Workman and some appearances by drummer Ed Blackwell) but does not seem to know what it wants to be. The solos are relatively short, there is a poppish vocal by Allen Murphy on a Stevie Wonder tune and little that is all that memorable actually occurs. Better to acquire Marion Brown's earlier recordings.

Marion Brown & Leo Smith - 1975 - Creative Improvisation Ensemble

Marion Brown & Leo Smith 
Creative Improvisation Ensemble

01. Centering 1:12
02. Njung-Lumumba Malcolm 18:05
03. And Then They Danced 16:05
04. Rhythmus #1 3:30

Recorded May 12, 1970 in Paris, France.

Alto Saxophone, Percussion – Marion Brown
Trumpet, Percussion – Wadada Leo Smith

Marion Brown - 1974 - Sweet Earth Flying

Marion Brown 
Sweet Earth Flying

01. Sweet Earth Flying Part 1 3:38
02. Sweet Earth Flying Part 3 5:55
03. Sweet Earth Flying Part 4: Prince Willie 5:55
04. Sweet Earth Flying Part 5 5:06
05. Eleven Light City Part 1 7:16
06. Eleven Light City Part 2 2:08
07. Eleven Light City Part 3 5:50
08. Eleven Light City Part 4 3:04

Recorded May 6-7, 1974 at Intermedia Sound Studios, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Sweet Earth Flying Part 2 still unissued.

Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Marion Brown
Bass – James Jefferson
Drums, Percussion – Steve McCall
Organ, Electric Piano, Piano – Muhal Richard Abrams, Paul Bley
Percussion – Bill Hasson

The second installment of his "Georgia" trilogy, Sweet Earth Flying is arguably Marion Brown's finest work and certainly one of the underappreciated treasures of '70s jazz. Again, the words and ideas of poet Jean Toomer underlie Brown's conception (hence the album's title), though this time (unlike the appearance of Karintha on Geechee Recollections) none of Toomer's actually poetry is utilized. Instead, he calls into service the remarkable keyboard paring of Muhal Richard Abrams and Paul Bley, an inspiration that pays off in spades. The two pianists alternate acoustic and electric keyboards, bringing a slight tinge of the propulsiveness of Miles Davis' late-'60s bands, but with a grace, soul, and sense of freedom rarely achieved by Corea and Jarrett. In fact, Abrams' feature on Part Five of the title suite is one of the single most beautiful and cogent statements he ever created. Brown's sound on both soprano and alto has a unique quality; he tends to sound tentative and innocently hesitant when first entering, only to gather strength as he goes, reaching utter conviction along the way. Special mention must be made of vocalist Bill Hasson. He's featured on only one piece, but his deep-voiced recitation in a language of his own construction (drawing from West Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North American down-home English) is a very special treat indeed. Very highly recommended to open-eared jazz fans of all tastes.