Monday, August 29, 2011

Millie Jackson - I Got To Try It One More Time 1974

The follow-up to Caught Up came hot on its heels (the same year, in fact), offering a few more songs from the same mold -- Jackson's tough performances of songs charting the vagaries of modern love. There wasn't much of a concept at work here, despite a set of situation songs that would've fit well, including "One Night Stand," "How Do You Feel the Morning After," and best of all, a pair of classic Don Covay compositions ("Watch the One Who Brings You the News" and "A Letter Full of Tears"). Producer Brad Shapiro went for more of a blaxploitation feel on this record, which fit in well with the dominant emotion (mistrust) as well as Jackson's raw delivery. Other highlights include the outré "My Love Is So Fly" and her self-penned "I Got to Try It One Time," which became an R&B hit. AMG.



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Oliver – Standing Stone 1974

An ultra-rare and expensive privately pressed album by a certain Oliver Chaplin which is an amalgam of folk, blues, progressivism and psychedelia. All the material was written by Oliver. Its highlights include Freezing Cold Like An Iceburg, which sounds very like Captain Beefheart; In Vain, which has been likened to Pink Floyd's More Soundtrack; Flowers On A Hill, which has a sort of ragtime feel; Cat And The Rat, a length piece of guitar-driven progressivism and the folky Primrose and Orbit Your Factory. His brother Chris Chaplin had been employed as a BBC Sound Engineer and worked on the BBC's Hendrix sessions, which explains why the sound quality on the 50 minute album is so good. 250 copies of the album were issued originally in a plain blue cover with black letters. When the covers came back from the printers the shade of blue was so deep the liner notes were almost illegible and an olive green sleeve was substituted. Most copies were given to family and friends but copies were passed to Radio One deejays Brian Matthew and Alan Black. The latter was keen to feature it on his show but was reluctant to do so when it wasn't available in the shops. After refusing to sign a contract for the album to be distributed through Virgin Records because he considered the record industry corrupt Chaplin returned to his native Wales.



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James Brown - Hell 1974

Brown's early-'70s run of classic singles and good-to-great albums is still impressive. Hell was the double album released a year after the gold selling The Payback. To some, the title might put this effort in the realm of kitsch, but in many ways Hell was one of Brown's strongest albums. The album was the pinnacle of his work as the Minister of the Super New New Heavy Funk. From the tough and nimble Latin rhythms of "Coldblooded," and "Sayin' It and Doin' It" to the title track, all are prime pre-disco Brown. "My Thang" is probably as hard and unrelenting as he got without spontaneously combusting. The biggest surprise of Hell is that no matter how odd the song choices seemed, practically everything worked, excluding a few key songs of course. Both "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Stormy Monday" don't belong in James Brown's catalogue, let alone the same album. Ballad-wise, Brown fares better. "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You" has him getting all warm and fuzzy as he inexplicably throws in an "I'm hurt, I'm hurt" for good measure. That song, as well as the weepers "A Man Has to Go to the Cross Road Before He Finds Himself" and "Sometime," were produced by David Matthews who could always get good ragged yet poised vocals from Brown. Although Brown did roll snake eyes on all of side three, he did leave Hell on a good note. "Papa Don't Take No Mess" is laid-back, funky jazz that's worth each of its 13-plus minutes. Despite a few detours, Hell is worth listening to. AMG.



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Steve Baron Quartet - The Mother Of Us All 1969

The only album by the Steve Baron Quartet was a fitfully interesting but uneven effort, jumping between Baroque folk-rock, moody early singer/songwriter rock, and jazz-tinged psychedelia, sometimes shifting between genres within the same track, sometimes embellished with light orchestration. At times, it's similar in some ways to other slightly precious folk-rock recordings of the mid- to late '60s by the likes of Donovan, Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, the Blues Project at their most folk-rock-oriented, and Jake Holmes, though it's far less distinguished than Donovan, Buckley, or Hardin. At its furthest out, it employs sustained and extended blues-jazz-raga-rock guitar soloing slightly reminiscent of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on "East-West," particularly on "Don't You Hate the Feeling" and (to a lesser extent) "Shadow Man." Yet other cuts could almost be the work of a different artist (or at least a different record), with "Goodbye Road" being the kind of piano-anchored Beatles-cum-Bacharach midtempo ballad that would do Harry Nilsson proud, "In the Middle" a breezy happy-go-lucky number with bubblegummy organ, and "Mr. Green" a dated critique of the life of the straight man. It's too eclectic and individual in approach to dismiss out of hand, but the songs aren't outstanding enough to make it a top-rank psychedelic obscurity. AM



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José Afonso - Coro Dos Tribunais 1974

Jose Manuel Cerqueira Afonso dos Santos, commonly known as Jose Afonso or Zeca Afonso, was born on February 23, 1929, in Aveiro, Portugal. As a judge, his father was appointed to various posts throughout the Portuguese colonies in the first half of the 20th century. Jose spent his early years in countries such as Angola and Mozambique as well as Portugal, living with his parents off and on and spending many years in the city of Coimbra pursuing his education. He began singing in his teen years, which earned him special status at the University of Coimbra. Afonso became something of an icon among the older students, but his social status came at the expense of his schooling (he finally graduated in 1948 after two failed attempts). He married in secret that year due to his parents' disapproval. Shortly after the birth of his son Jose Manuel, Afonso released his debut record, though no copies remain. His marriage to Maria Amalia de Oliveira would produce two children and last only seven years. During this time Afonso began philosophy studies at the Associação Académica de Coimbra, graduating in 1955. His passion for philosophy and politics would shape the course of his recording career, which was formally initiated by his 1956 release, Fados de Coimbra.



While maintaining his musical career, Afonso also began working as a teacher in the public schools. Over the course of the next several years his works would become increasingly confrontational regarding Portugal's fascist regime, a stance that eventually cost him his teaching career. In 1967 Afonso signed with the Orfeu label, which agreed to pay him a set amount each month provided that he record one album per year, an arrangement that would produce nearly three-quarters of his discography. In the early '70s, Afonso began formal relationships with political groups such as the PREC and numerous political candidates. Though his recordings had always been political in nature, by 1978 he was viewed more as a revolutionary figure than a musician, performing at rallies and making records comprised entirely of political critiques. In 1981 Afonso was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. With many of the politicians he had once supported now in power, Afonso was showered with accolades, including the Order of Liberty and City of Coimbra's Gold Medal, many of which he refused. His last recording, Galinhas do Mato, found him too weak to sing his own compositions, drawing instead on Portuguese recording stars like Luis Represas and José Mário Branco to sing for him. Jose Afonso died in February of 1987, his funeral attended by more than 30,000 people. His compositions continue to be played, recorded, and released. Jose Afonso is generally regarded as one of Portugal's most influential folk musicians of the 20th century.



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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Steppenwolf - Monster 1969

Led by John Kay (born Joachim Krauledat, April 12, 1944), Steppenwolf's blazing biker anthem "Born to Be Wild" roared out of speakers everywhere in the fiery summer of 1968, John Kay's threatening rasp sounding a mesmerizing call to arms to the counterculture movement rapidly sprouting up nationwide. German immigrant Kay got his professional start in a bluesy Toronto band called Sparrow, recording for Columbia in 1966. After Sparrow disbanded, Kay relocated to the West Coast and formed Steppenwolf, named after the Herman Hesse novel. "Born to Be Wild," their third single on ABC-Dunhill, was immortalized on the soundtrack of Dennis Hopper's underground film classic Easy Rider. The song's reference to "heavy metal thunder" finally gave an assignable name to an emerging genre. Steppenwolf's second monster hit that year, the psychedelic "Magic Carpet Ride," and the follow-ups "Rock Me," "Move Over," and "Hey Lawdy Mama" further established the band's credibility on the hard rock circuit. By the early '70s, Steppenwolf ran out of steam and disbanded. Kay continued to record solo, as other members put together ersatz versions of the band for touring purposes. During the mid-'80s Kay re-formed his own version of Steppenwolf, grinding out his hits (and some new songs) at oldies shows. Nevertheless, they'll be remembered for generations to come for creating one of the ultimate gas'n'go rock anthems of all time.

The group's most political album, tackling then-current issues such as the Vietnam War, draft resisters, and the decay of justice in America. These were (and are) important topics, but these lumbering hard rock tunes were not an effective means to address them, politically or musically. It's hard to make agitprop and pop mix, but even judged simply within the context of Steppenwolf's records, it lacks memorable compositions, the unexceptional tunes burdened by lyrics that are too heavy-handed. AMG.



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Steely Dan - Aja 1977

Steely Dan hadn't been a real working band since Pretzel Logic, but with Aja, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's obsession with sonic detail and fascination with composition reached new heights. A coolly textured and immaculately produced collection of sophisticated jazz-rock, Aja has none of the overt cynicism or self-consciously challenging music that distinguished previous Steely Dan records. Instead, it's a measured and textured album, filled with subtle melodies and accomplished, jazzy solos that blend easily into the lush instrumental backdrops. But Aja isn't just about texture, since Becker and Fagen's songs are their most complex and musically rich set of songs -- even the simplest song, the sunny pop of "Peg," has layers of jazzy vocal harmonies. In fact, Steely Dan ignores rock on Aja, preferring to fuse cool jazz, blues, and pop together in a seamless, seductive fashion. It's complex music delivered with ease, and although the duo's preoccupation with clean sound and self-consciously sophisticated arrangements would eventually lead to a dead end, Aja is a shining example of jazz-rock at its finest. AMG.



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Sonny Clark - Cool Struttin 1958

Recorded in 1958, this legendary date with the still-undersung Sonny Clark in the leader's chair also featured a young Jackie McLean on alto (playing with a smoother tone than he had before or ever did again), trumpeter Art Farmer, and the legendary rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, both from the Miles Davis band. The set begins with one of the preeminent "swinging medium blues" pieces in jazz history: the title track with its leveraged fours and eights shoved smoothly up against the walking bass of Chambers and the backbeat shuffle of Jones. Clark's solo, with its grouped fifths and sevenths, is a wonder of both understatement and groove, while Chambers' arco solo turns the blues in on itself. While there isn't a weak note on this record, there are some other tracks that stand out, most notably Miles' "Sippin' at Bells," with its loping Latin rhythm. When McLean takes his solo against a handful of Clark's shaded minor chords, he sounds as if he may blow it -- he comes out a little quick -- but he recovers nicely and reaches for a handful of Broadway show tunes to counter the minor mood of the piece. He shifts to both Ben Webster and Lester Young before moving through Bird, and finally to McLean himself, riding the margin of the changes to slip just outside enough to add some depth in the middle register. The LP closes with Henderson and Vallée's "Deep Night," the only number in the batch not rooted in the blues. It's a classic hard bop jamming tune and features wonderful solos by Farmer, who plays weird flatted notes all over the horn against the changes, and McLean, who thinks he's playing a kind of snake charmer blues in swing tune. This set deserves its reputation for its soul appeal alone. [The CD version includes two bonus tracks: "Royal Flush" and "Lover"]. AMG.



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Bo Diddley - Tales From The Funk Dimension 1970-1973

He only had a few hits in the 1950s and early '60s, but as Bo Diddley sang, "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover." You can't judge an artist by his chart success, either, and Diddley produced greater and more influential music than all but a handful of the best early rockers. The Bo Diddley beat -- bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp -- is one of rock & roll's bedrock rhythms, showing up in the work of Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones, and even pop-garage knock-offs like the Strangeloves' 1965 hit "I Want Candy." Diddley's hypnotic rhythmic attack and declamatory, boasting vocals stretched back as far as Africa for their roots, and looked as far into the future as rap. His trademark otherworldly vibrating, fuzzy guitar style did much to expand the instrument's power and range. But even more important, Bo's bounce was fun and irresistibly rocking, with a wisecracking, jiving tone that epitomized rock & roll at its most humorously outlandish and freewheeling.



Before taking up blues and R&B, Diddley had actually studied classical violin, but shifted gears after hearing John Lee Hooker. In the early '50s, he began playing with his longtime partner, maraca player Jerome Green, to get what Bo's called "that freight train sound." Billy Boy Arnold, a fine blues harmonica player and singer in his own right, was also playing with Diddley when the guitarist got a deal with Chess in the mid-'50s (after being turned down by rival Chicago label Vee-Jay). His very first single, "Bo Diddley"/"I'm a Man" (1955), was a double-sided monster. The A-side was soaked with futuristic waves of tremolo guitar, set to an ageless nursery rhyme; the flip was a bump-and-grind, harmonica-driven shuffle, based around a devastating blues riff. But the result was not exactly blues, or even straight R&B, but a new kind of guitar-based rock & roll, soaked in the blues and R&B, but owing allegiance to neither.



Diddley was never a top seller on the order of his Chess rival Chuck Berry, but over the next half-dozen or so years, he'd produce a catalog of classics that rival Berry's in quality. "You Don't Love Me," "Diddley Daddy," "Pretty Thing," "Diddy Wah Diddy," "Who Do You Love?," "Mona," "Road Runner," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover" -- all are stone-cold standards of early, riff-driven rock & roll at its funkiest. Oddly enough, his only Top 20 pop hit was an atypical, absurd back-and-forth rap between him and Jerome Green, "Say Man," that came about almost by accident as the pair were fooling around in the studio.



As a live performer, Diddley was galvanizing, using his trademark square guitars and distorted amplification to produce new sounds that anticipated the innovations of '60s guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. In Great Britain, he was revered as a giant on the order of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. The Rolling Stones in particular borrowed a lot from Bo's rhythms and attitude in their early days, although they only officially covered a couple of his tunes, "Mona" and "I'm Alright." Other British R&B groups like the Yardbirds, Animals, and Pretty Things also covered Diddley standards in their early days. Buddy Holly covered "Bo Diddley" and used a modified Bo Diddley beat on "Not Fade Away"; when the Stones gave the song the full-on Bo treatment (complete with shaking maracas), the result was their first big British hit.



The British Invasion helped increase the public's awareness of Diddley's importance, and ever since then he's been a popular live act. Sadly, though, his career as a recording artist -- in commercial and artistic terms -- was over by the time the Beatles and Stones hit America. He'd record with ongoing and declining frequency, but after 1963, he'd never write or record any original material on par with his early classics. Whether he'd spent his muse, or just felt he could coast on his laurels, is hard to say. But he remains a vital part of the collective rock & roll consciousness, occasionally reaching wider visibility via a 1979 tour with the Clash, a cameo role in the film Trading Places, a late-'80s tour with Ronnie Wood, and a 1989 television commercial for sports shoes with star athlete Bo Jackson. AMG.



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Robbie Krieger - Robbie Krieger & Friends 1977

When you think of the Doors, "guitar" isn't the first thing that usually comes to mind (Jim Morrison's manic persona and Ray Manzarek's swirling organ usually take precedence), but guitarist Robby Krieger proved to be an integral member of the band -- helping pen the majority of the group's songs. Born on January 8, 1946 in Los Angeles, CA, Krieger was first taken by classical music, before discovering such early rock & roll artists as Elvis Presley via the radio. When surfing proved to be taking Krieger's mind off of studying during his teenage years, his parents enrolled him in a private school. Each night, students were forced to study in their rooms for a few hours -- instead, Krieger used this time to teach himself how to play guitar. First interested in flamenco guitar, Krieger's playing style soon expanded into folk, jazz, and blues. But it was a Chuck Berry concert that finally convinced Krieger to give rock music a go, which resulted in the guitarist trading his classical guitar in for a Gibson SG, an instrument that he would eventually become synonymous with.



Studying physics and Indian music at UCLA, Krieger played in bands with friends, and eventually bumped into a drummer he'd met a few years before, John Densmore. The two began jamming on blues together, while Krieger's interest in Indian music and culture continued to flourish, as he began dabbling with sitars (studying at the Kinnara School, which was founded by Ravi Shankar) and attending meditation classes. It was at one of these meditation classes that Krieger met keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Manzarek eventually convinced Krieger to come down and rehearse with a poet/singer he'd been working with, Jim Morrison. Their first rehearsal supposedly resulted in the penning of "Moonlight Drive," and after playing several gigs, Krieger convinced his pal Densmore to join on as well, resulting in the birth of the Doors.



Quickly building a name for themselves in L.A. with their unpredictable live shows, the Doors were signed to Elektra Records, and issued their debut album, The Doors, in 1967. The album would become one of rock's all-time classics, as it spawned the monster hit "Light My Fire," a tune penned entirely by Krieger. It appeared as though the group had a hard time following up such a strong debut, as such subsequent studio releases -- 1967's Strange Days, 1968's Waiting for the Sun, and 1969's The Soft Parade -- all included several classic songs, but failed to match the consistency of their debut. But by the dawn of the '70s, it appeared as though the band had regained its focus, issuing a pair of strong releases, 1970's Morrison Hotel and 1971's L.A. Woman, before Morrison drank himself into "the great saloon in the sky." In the wake of Morrison's passing, the Doors attempted to continue on, resulting in a pair of so-so albums, 1971's Other Voices and 1972's Full Circle, before packing it in.



Krieger would go on to sporadically issue solo albums (debuting in 1977 with Robby Krieger & Friends), in addition to playing live dates and guesting on albums by other artists (the Butts Band, Blue Öyster Cult, etc.). In the early 21st century, Krieger and Manzarek resuscitated the Doors (with the Cult's Ian Astbury taking Morrison's position, and the Police's Stewart Copeland initially taking Densmore's spot) for live shows and recordings. A meditative and jazzy solo album, Singularity, appeared in 2010. AMG.



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Candido - Drum Fever 1973

Drum Fever ranks alongside the funkiest records in the Candido canon. The songs are brief, diamond-hard, and tighter than a magnet's coil. Credit its success in large part to Chico O'Farrill, whose blaxploitation-inspired arrangements position Candido's ferocious conga playing alongside swirling keyboards, stiletto-sharp horns, and wah-wah guitar licks. The opening "Candido's Funk" is a jaw-dropping jam that's a virtual primer in Latin percussion, while more mid-tempo tunes like "Succulent" and "St. Louis Blues" possess the sinuous soul-jazz grooves associated with Candido's dates for Blue Note. Irresistible. AMG.



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Ry Cooder - Boomer's Story 1972

Boomer's Story, Ry Cooder's third record, continues his archeological dig through music's familiar and forgotten past. As was the case with his previous recordings, he not only looks to the masters -- including blues legend Sleepy John Estes, songwriter Dan Penn (both of whom appear here) and the great Skip James -- for material, but to lost and neglected pieces of American folk and blues, as well. Cooder adds the traditional title-track, which opens the album, and Lawrence Wilson's "Crow Black Chicken," which dates back to the late 1920s, to this collection of discoveries -- both of which are handled with just the right balance of personality and reverence. Elsewhere, he injects a dark irony into the jingoistic "Rally 'Round the Flag," with its slow, mournful piano (played by Randy Newman) and slide guitar, while the Joseph Spence-style guitar arrangement of the World War II standard "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer" has a sense of hope and conviction. Often criticized for possessing a less than commanding voice, Cooder steps back from the microphone for four of the album's ten tracks -- three instrumentals and one featuring Sleepy John Estes on his own "President Kennedy." And while all of the instrumentals presented here are fine renditions of great tunes, it's "Dark End of the Street" which truly stands out. Here, Cooder realizes that the only thing in his arsenal that can do justice to James Carr's definitive version is his own remorseful slide guitar. Without uttering a single lyric, he's able to convey the shame and deep regret of the Dan Penn/Chips Moman classic. Thanks to moments like this, along with Cooder's consistently strong choice of material and brilliant guitar work, Boomer's Story -- less eccentric than his first, and less eclectic than Into the Purple Valley -- ranks among his best work. AMG.



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American Blues - Is Here 1968

American Blues is perhaps better known for its members than the music itself. This Texas band consisted of Dusty Hill (bass), Frank Beard (drums), Rocky Hill (guitar, vocals) and Doug Davis (keyboards). Of course Dusty Hill and Frank Beard would later go on to hook up with Billy Gibbons from The Moving Sidewalks to form the infamous ZZ Top. Is Here was the bands first long player, issued on the Karma label, American Blues would release one further LP titled Do Their Thing before calling it quits.



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Blood, Sweat & Tears - No Sweat 1973

The second Blood, Sweat & Tears recording without David Clayton-Thomas, No Sweat may be the jazziest BS&T ever. Surprisingly, most of the material comes from outside the band, with the exception of two tracks by Lou Marini, Jr., two co-written by George Wadenius (the featured guitarist in the band following Steve Katz's departure), and the concluding "Inner Crisis" by Larry Willis. Jerry Fisher is more integrated into the band in his role as lead singer, and the band shines throughout on material ranging from Traffic's "Empty Pages" to John Lewis' "Django." The highlight is "Almost Sorry," which features Bobby Colomby's rock-solid drumming, and solos from the entire horn section: Dave Bargeron on trombone, Lew Soloff and Tom "Bones" Malone on electric trumpets, and Marini on alto flute. AMG.



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Jake Holmes - Above Ground Sound 1967

One of many journeyman New York folk-rock singer/songwriters of the late '60s, Jake Holmes, if he's remembered at all, is known as the author and original performer of "Dazed and Confused." It is still not widely recognized that he wrote and recorded the first version of this song on his 1967 solo debut album, prior to it being covered (in concert) by the Yardbirds, and then becoming one of the most famous numbers in Led Zeppelin's repertoire. A big part of why is that Holmes, for murky reasons, was not credited as a writer on Led Zeppelin's recording, which gave sole author credits to Jimmy Page. For that accomplishment alone, Holmes is worthy of a footnote, even if nothing else he wrote or released lived up to the level of that song.



Holmes earliest success came as a comedy duo with then-wife Kate. The pair performed under the alias Allen & Grier and released a popular collection of folk revival parodies called Better to Be Rich Than Ethnic in the early '60s. He had also worked in a group with fellow folk-rock singer/songwriter Tim Rose before going solo. "Dazed and Confused" was on Holmes' 1967 debut LP The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, which had an odd, edgy folk-rock sound built around a drumless trio, featuring Holmes' rapid rhythm guitar strums and Ted Irwin's spidery acid folk-jazz-lead guitar lines. As heard in this folk-rock context, "Dazed and Confused" was given a much more spare arrangement than it would be given by Led Zeppelin. The rest of the album was an erratic cluster of songs that explored similar anxious moods with less power, sometimes changing gears into light comedy or melodramatic sentiment.



The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page on lead guitar, heard "Dazed and Confused" in August 1967 when Holmes opened for the band in New York. The group took a pretty radical rearrangement of it into their live set. Although they didn't release a studio version of it before their breakup in 1968, their live rearrangement can be heard on the Epic LP Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page, a 1968 recording that was briefly available in 1971 before being withdrawn (a superior live version from a March 1968 French TV broadcast subsequently circulated on the Cumular Limit compilation). When Led Zeppelin did it on their first album, with different lyrics but similar melodic and rhythmic ideas as the Holmes prototype, the songwriting credit was given to Jimmy Page.



Holmes' second LP, 1968's Letter to Katherine December, expanded into orchestral backgrounds, though he and Irwin still supplied their distinctive guitar work. An even more erratic work than its predecessor, it still supplied some interesting acid folk-pop, particularly on "Leaves That Break," with its ferocious fuzz guitar. His subsequent albums for Polydor, however, were far more ordinary, even sub-ordinary, singer/songwriter music with country influences, sometimes painfully exposing the limits of his vocal range and timbre. Holmes never profited from the worldwide success of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused," but he did strike gold as a writer of commercials with one of his jingles, the famous U.S. Army ad with the "be all that you can be" refrain. Holmes' LPs (especially the first two, on Tower) are now hard to find, though "Dazed and Confused" was reissued legitimately at least once, on Rhino's Nuggets, Vol. 10: Folk Rock LP. AMG.



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Horace Parlan Quintet - Speakin’ My Piece 1960

Horace Parlan overcame physical disability and thrived as a pianist despite it. His right hand was partially disabled by polio in his childhood, but Parlan made frenetic, highly rhythmic right hand phrases part of his characteristic style, contrasting them with striking left-hand chords. He also infused blues and R&B influences into his style, playing in a stark, sometimes somber fashion. Parlan has always cited Ahmad Jamal and Bud Powell as prime influences. He began playing in R&B bands during the '50s, joining Charles Mingus' group from 1957 to 1959 following a move from Pittsburgh to New York. Mingus aided his career enormously, both through his recordings and his influence. Parlan played with Booker Ervin in 1960 and 1961, then in the Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis-Johnny Griffin quintet in 1962. Parlan played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk from 1963 to 1966, and had a strong series of Blue Note recordings in the '60s. He left America for Copenhagen in 1973, and gained international recognition for some stunning albums on Steeplechase, including a pair of superb duet sessions with Archie Shepp. He also recorded with Dexter Gordon, Red Mitchell, and in the '80s Frank Foster and Michal Urbaniak. He also has recorded extensively for SteepleChase, Enja, and Timeless. AMG.



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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Here & Now - Give and Take 1978

Give & Take was recorded without Daevid Allen, who had fallen ill after the release of Planet Gong's LP Live Floating Anarchy in 1978. The remaining members released it under their former name, Give & Take. Honestly, it makes no difference. If you don't look at the name on the CD and put it on, you could be tricked to believe it is a genuine early Gong album. Every element that constitutes the seminal space rock outfit's sound is reproduced to perfection: soaring guitar (courtesy of Steffy Sharpstrings, who would be drafted for the 1990s Gong reunion), sweeping synthesizers, psychedelic melodies, accelerating beats, and hypnotic pulses -- they're all there. The main difference resides in the quality of the compositions. They don't reach the same level of musical excitement; they lack Allen's cast of characters. The opener "What You See Is What You Get" is the strongest number, a tight song in two parts, first distilled from the best material on Angel's Egg and later hooking up on a riff that emulates the ground-laying space rock of You. This twin brother of a band gets suspiciously close to plagiarism in "Grate Fire of London," in which a female vocalist (either Suze Da Blooz or Annie Wombat) sings suggestive lines heavy on echo exactly like Gillie Smyth in "Prostitute Poem" (among other songs). The surprise comes with "Improvisation," an inspired, hard-driving space rock jam the likes of which Gong itself rarely recorded. Give and Take is much stronger than the group's later exercises, but it remains only an enjoyable curiosity for Gong aficionados. A long-out-of-print collector's item, this album has been reissued on CD by Tin Toy in late 2001. AMG.



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Ginger Baker's Air Force - Air Force 2 1970

On a purely musical level, Ginger Baker's Air Force were arguably the pinnacle of the legendary drummer's achievements of the 1960s. Even allowing for the many and varied virtues of the Graham Bond Organisation, Cream, and Blind Faith, they didn't approach the breadth or ambition that characterized the Air Force sound. Sadly, despite their prodigious musical attributes, Ginger Baker's Air Force are mostly remembered in the music business as one of the great nonstarters among the heavily press-hyped supergroups of the late '60s and early '70s. Air Force essentially grew out of Ginger Baker's six-month stint with Blind Faith, a supergroup that collapsed after generating one album and finishing one tour. Baker's ex-Cream bandmate Eric Clapton abandoned that venture in favor of the vastly different (yet more rewarding) musical styles of Delaney & Bonnie, but Baker persuaded Steve Winwood and Rick Grech, the other members of the band, to stay on with him. Baker planned to put together a new band that would explore music on a new scale, and in new directions, different from Blind Faith or Cream -- the projected band, christened Air Force, would embrace jazz, R&B, blues, folk, and African music.



Baker's old bandmate Graham Bond came aboard on saxophone, joined by legendary jazz drummer Phil Seaman, whom Baker regarded as a mentor and inspiration, along with Traffic's Chris Wood, and Harold McNair, both on sax and flute. As a guitarist and singer, the new group featured Denny Laine, the former lead singer and guitarist of the original Moody Blues. Singer Jeanette Jacobs and African percussionist Remi Kabaka were also in the lineup that played two extraordinary gigs at Birmingham's Town Hall and London's Royal Albert Hall at the end of 1969. Baker's initial plan hadn't extended beyond the two shows, but the first one was so successful musically and critically that he began laying bigger plans, including the recording of the Albert Hall show and keeping the band going. By January of 1970, events were starting to break both inside and outside of the band that would have a profound effect on its future. The reviews from Birmingham were so good that the Albert Hall show turned into one of those press events that became the talk of the entire music trade in England and, by extension, America. The fact that the show had been recorded made it even better -- there was proof on hand that the press enthusiasm was justified. Those Albert Hall recordings were extraordinary, Air Force thundering along amid blazing sax, organ, guitar, and bass virtuosity, fiery solos, and extended jams that, for a change, actually went somewhere, while three percussionists who seemingly were busy all the way through played several layers of rhythm. At its best, and the Royal Albert Hall tapes were their best, Air Force's music was like this wonderful huge array of Chinese boxes, each opening to a smaller but more beautifully ornate box inside.



The live album Ginger Baker's Air Force was issued by Polydor in Europe and Atlantic Records in America. In keeping with the excesses of the times, Ginger Baker's Air Force was a double LP, an extraordinary debut for a band that had yet to play a regularly scheduled concert. Devised with artwork that seemingly reversed the design of the Cream Wheels of Fire double set, and released amid extraordinary press, the live album reached number 33 in America and 37 in England, a long way from Cream or Blind Faith's chart-scaling days, but not bad (or, at least, it wouldn't have been if Atlantic, in particular, hadn't pressed hundreds of thousands of copies more than would ever be needed, which turned Ginger Baker's Air Force into a perennial bargain-bin cutout in America) for a group that had only played two gigs. Those were the days of supergroups and all-star jams, all of them heavily advertised and discussed in the rock press, and Air Force, in contrast to a lot of their rivals, delivered the goods.



The biggest problem facing the group, however, was that three key members, Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, and Chris Wood, left -- as Baker knew they had to -- in early 1970. Graham Bond took over on organ and vocals for Air Force, and new members Steve Gregory and Bud Beadle joined on saxes, while Colin Gibson took over on bass. Neemoi Acquaye came in on African percussion, and Catherine James, Aliki Ashman, and Diane Stewart sang. It was Baker's plan to be an old-style bandleader in the traditional sense, opening up Air Force to experimentation by the bandmembers while he hung back, concerning himself as much as possible with the drums. He hoped to play a role akin that which Count Basie or Duke Ellington did in their respective bands, with his members. The problem was that keeping an 11-piece group going was a difficult and expensive proposition under the best of circumstances, and without a hit single or a hugely successful album to their credit, it proved impossible for Baker and Air Force. In addition, bands like Basie's supported themselves by getting lots of outside work, supporting singers on record and in concert, even touring as part of rock & roll shows in Basie's case in the late '50s, to keep the money coming in around their less lucrative gigs; that was clearly not a role that Air Force were ever going to play. And Ellington had income from his huge and vastly successful songwriting catalog to guarantee him the money needed to sustain the band during the lean times, if there were any. Baker, by contrast, had only a tiny smattering of songs to his credit, none of them very successful on their own terms except to the degree that the Cream and Blind Faith catalogs kept selling. And then there was the American tour.



The assumption, based on the media blitz out of England, was the Ginger Baker's Air Force would be another Blind Faith, an arena act whose tickets would disappear as fast as they were put on sale. In point of fact, the new group was two or three times more complex musically than Blind Faith and a lot more surprising. Without Eric Clapton or at least Steve Winwood in the lineup with Baker, however, and without a single that clicked as a popular track on the radio, it was discovered that Air Force were a phenomenon that many potential ticket-buyers could pass up. The tour was in trouble from the start, and it got worse as advance ticket sales to vast halls were far below what anyone anticipated. The whole thing collapsed just about the time that the group was completing its second and final album. By the end of 1970, after a short tour and a very short spurt of press interest in Air Force 2 -- which had some rewarding moments, but was really little like the first album -- the second album disappeared without a trace, as did Air Force. Baker went on to a career as a solo artist, starting with Stratavarious the following year, which featured a far smaller band and was much more steeped in African rhythms, while Laine joined Paul McCartney's new group Wings and, after a rough start for the group, did a decade of arena shows and became a household name. Ginger Baker's Air Force lingered in the memory for one great album and one decent album, but also as a classic non-event. Their final indignity came in 1972 when the National Lampoon released their comedy album Radio Dinner, one highlight being a commercial for "Greatest Hits of the '60s," with (supposedly) Bob Dylan as the announcer hawking it and Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Air Force as two of the specific groups mentioned as being on the K-Tel-type record. In the late '80s, Polygram reissued the live album on CD, and that record, Air Force 2, and Stratavarious were later combined into a double CD entitled Do What You Like. AMG.



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Jake Jones - Jake Jones 1971

Unknown group that plays a progressive, mainstream rock with some touches of psych. Give it a try.



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Gil Scott-Heron - 1980 (1979)

1980 can be viewed as a precursor for the venomous rants Gil Scott-Heron would unleash on the eventual Reagan-led White House. Loaded with perceptive and poignant observations on the state of America as it advanced into a new and uncertain decade, 1980 is a powerful final album of the 1970s for Scott-Heron and his partner Brian Jackson. Amazingly, Scott-Heron's focus at the close of the decade is strikingly similar to his focus on his 1970 debut, Small Talk at 125th and Lennox; namely that social and political change has yet to come to many Americans, despite the advancements in technology and other seemingly less significant realms. The enemies are the same: nuclear power and big business ("Shut Um Down"), oppressive governments ("Shah Mot"), and racism ("Willing"). On the title track, Scott-Heron's gaze is set on the future with an eye on the past as well. When he sings, "Boogie-Woogie's somewhere in the lost and found," he's not only speaking of the changes in music, but also in popular culture. There is a hint of resentment on his part that this musical style, like other revolutionary African-American innovations, has been progressively stolen, mined, sterilized, and eventually discarded. This is not to say that the music throughout the album is marked by regret or sorrow. The spacey synthesizers, background vocals, and use of horns, along with Jackson's always-extraordinary arrangements, give the album a quality that matches the aura of the period without forgetting past musical styles. The descriptive "Alien (Hold on to Your Dreams)" is the album's most enduring song, vividly portraying the plight of Mexican illegal aliens living in Los Angeles and offering an uplifting refrain. Sadly, this album is hard to find in CD format, but vinyl versions turn up now and then in the "miscellaneous" sections of used record stores. AMG.



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Jeff Simmons - Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up 1970

The longtime bassist for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, Jeff Simmons also issued a rare solo LP for Zappa's Straight imprint, the 1970 cult classic Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up. Born and raised in Seattle, Simmons first earned local notoriety as the singer/guitarist for Indian Puddin' & Pipe, a popular Pacific Northwest psychedelic band that in 1967 signed with producer Matthew Katz's San Francisco Sound label. Katz -- the infamously unscrupulous manager of Moby Grape, It's a Beautiful Day, and other luminaries of the San Francisco psych scene -- structured his contracts so that different lineups could appear under a given group's name anytime and anywhere he desired, and he ultimately bestowed the Indian Puddin' & Pipe moniker on a rival Seattle act previously known as the West Coast Natural Gas. Left without legal recourse, Simmons and his bandmates (guitarist Peter Larson, bassist Phil Kirby, and drummer Albert Malosky) returned to Seattle and rechristened themselves Easy Chair, issuing their one-sided, self-titled debut LP on the Vanco label in 1968. After another name change, this time to Ethiopia, the group opened for the Mothers of Invention in Seattle and later appeared alongside Wild Man Fischer, Alice Cooper, and the GTOs at Bizarre Records' legendary "Gala Pre-Xmas Bash" at Santa Monica's Shrine Exhibition Hall in early December of 1968. Zappa soon after convinced Ethiopia to relocate to Los Angeles, pairing the group with producers Jerry Yester and Val Zanofsky. When nothing concrete emerged from the sessions, the group dissolved but Zappa quickly offered Simmons his own two-record deal with Straight. The first, a largely instrumental soundtrack to an obscure biker film titled Naked Angels, features a series of acid-fuzz guitar jams. It was immediately followed by Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up, a more conventionally song-oriented psychedelic opus produced by Zappa under the alias LaMarr Bruister. The album generated little attention outside of Zappa cultists, however, and Simmons was installed as bassist for the Mothers of Invention's late 1970 LP Chunga's Revenge. He left the group during production on Zappa's feature film project 200 Motels, but later returned to the fold for albums including Waka/Jawaka and Roxy & Elsewhere. By the 1980s Simmons returned to Seattle, fronting a series of local acts including the Backtrackers and Cocktails for Ladies. He also wrote an unpublished memoir, I Joined the Mothers of Invention...for the FBI, and in 2005 released Blue Universe, his first new solo material in 35 years. AMG.



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Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond and the Dave Brubeck Trio - Live in Berlin 1972

The most famous and probably greatest jazz baritonist of all time, Gerry Mulligan was a giant. A flexible soloist who was always ready to jam with anyone from Dixielanders to the most advanced boppers, Mulligan brought a somewhat revolutionary light sound to his potentially awkward and brutal horn and played with the speed and dexterity of an altoist.



Paul Desmond is widely recognized for his genius as a melodic improviser and as the benchmark of cool jazz sax players. His warm, elegant tone was one that he admittedly tried to make sound like a dry martini. He and Art Pepper were virtually the only alto players of their generation not directly influenced by Charlie Parker. Desmond was influenced by Lester Young, but took it further, into melodic and harmonic worlds never before traveled by reedmen -- especially in the upper registers. Desmond is best known for his years with the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959-1967) and his infamous composition "Take Five."

Dave Brubeck has long served as proof that creative jazz and popular success can go together. Although critics who had championed him when he was unknown seemed to scorn him when the Dave Brubeck Quartet became a surprise success, in reality Brubeck never watered down or altered his music in order to gain a wide audience. Creative booking (being one of the first groups to play regularly on college campuses) and a bit of luck resulted in great popularity, and Dave Brubeck remains one of the few household names in jazz.

This one it's kind of a jazzy "supergroup" record.



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Grail - Grail 1969

Obscure British psychedelic quartet based in London who played the Marquee, among other clubs, in 1969. Their only album, released around 1970 on the German Metronome label, is rumored to have been produced by Rod Stewart. AMG.

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Them - Them Again 1966

The group's second and, for all intents and purposes, last full album was recorded while Them was in a state of imminent collapse. To this day, nobody knows who played on the album, other than Van Morrison and bassist Alan Henderson, though it is probable that Jimmy Page was seldom very far away when Them was recording. The 16 songs here are a little less focused than the first LP. The material was cut under siege conditions, with a constantly shifting lineup and a grueling tour schedule; essentially, there was no "group" to provide focus to the sound, only Morrison's voice, so the material bounces from a surprisingly restrained "I Put a Spell on You" to the garage-punkoid "I Can Only Give You Everything." Folk-rock rears its head not only on the moody cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" but also the Morrison-authored "My Lonely Sad Eyes," but the main thrust is soul, which Morrison oozes everywhere -- while there's some filler, his is a voice that could easily have knocked Mick Jagger or Eric Burdon off their respective perches. AMG.



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Kingfish - Kingfish 1976

Kingfish is a San Francisco-influenced band which originally featured the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, singer/harpist Matthew Kelly, bassist Dave Torbert, guitarist Robby Hoddinott, and drummer Chris Herolo. Debuting in 1976 with a self-titled LP, Kingfish resurfaced a year later with Live N Kickin; by 1978's Trident, Weir had exited, as had Hoddinot and Herolo -- over the years to follow Kelly assumed full leadership, and after a series of live releases the group released Sundown on the Forest, its first studio effort in two decades, in 1999. AMG.



Thaks to one of the best music blog RareMp3



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Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge Of Town 1978

Coming three years and one extended court battle after Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town was highly anticipated. Some attributed the album's embattled tone to Bruce Springsteen's legal troubles, but it carried on from Born to Run, in which Springsteen had first begun to view his colorful cast of characters as "losers." On Darkness, he began to see them as the working class: his characters, some of whom he inhabited and sang for in the first person, had little and were in danger of losing even that. Their only hope for redemption lay in working harder, and their only escape lay in driving. Springsteen presented these hard truths in hard rock settings, the tracks paced by powerful drumming and searing guitar solos. Though not as heavily produced as Born to Run, Darkness was given a full-bodied sound; Springsteen's stories were becoming less heroic, but his musical style remained grand; the sound, and the conviction in his singing, added weight to songs like "Racing in the Street" and the title track, transforming the pathetic into the tragic. But despite the rock & roll fervor, Darkness was no easy listen, and it served notice that Springsteen was already willing to risk his popularity for his principles. AMG.



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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story 1971

Without greatly altering his approach, Rod Stewart perfected his blend of hard rock, folk, and blues on his masterpiece, Every Picture Tells a Story. Marginally a harder-rocking album than Gasoline Alley -- the Faces blister on the Temptations cover "(I Know I'm) Losing You," and the acoustic title track goes into hyper-drive with Mick Waller's primitive drumming -- the great triumph of Every Picture Tells a Story lies in its content. Every song on the album, whether it's a cover or original, is a gem, combining to form a romantic, earthy portrait of a young man joyously celebrating his young life. Of course, "Maggie May" -- the ornate, ringing ode about a seduction from an older woman -- is the centerpiece, but each song, whether it's the devilishly witty title track or the unbearably poignant "Mandolin Wind," has the same appeal. And the covers, including definitive readings of Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is Such a Long Time" and Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe," as well as a rollicking "That's All Right," are equally terrific, bringing new dimension to the songs. It's a beautiful album, one that has the timeless qualities of the best folk, yet one that rocks harder than most pop music -- few rock albums are quite this powerful or this rich. AMG.



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David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars 1972

Borrowing heavily from Marc Bolan's glam rock and the future shock of A Clockwork Orange, David Bowie reached back to the heavy rock of The Man Who Sold the World for The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Constructed as a loose concept album about an androgynous alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust, the story falls apart quickly, yet Bowie's fractured, paranoid lyrics are evocative of a decadent, decaying future, and the music echoes an apocalyptic, nuclear dread. Fleshing out the off-kilter metallic mix with fatter guitars, genuine pop songs, string sections, keyboards, and a cinematic flourish, Ziggy Stardust is a glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style and the logical culmination of glam. Mick Ronson plays with a maverick flair that invigorates rockers like "Suffragette City," "Moonage Daydream," and "Hang Onto Yourself," while "Lady Stardust," "Five Years," and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" have a grand sense of staged drama previously unheard of in rock & roll. And that self-conscious sense of theater is part of the reason why Ziggy Stardust sounds so foreign. Bowie succeeds not in spite of his pretensions but because of them, and Ziggy Stardust -- familiar in structure, but alien in performance -- is the first time his vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion. AMG.



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Mark Eric - A Midsummmers Day Dream 1969

L.A. native Mark Eric was leading the Southern California dream life in his teens -- surfing by day and writing songs about girls by night -- before his musical talents drew him to Hollywood. He was 16 when he met Russ Regan, then at Warner Bros., but his first break came while waiting in the lobby of label honcho Lou Adler's office. There he met Bob Raucher, an engineer at local KHJ radio station (who wondered why Eric wasn't in high school). Raucher took a liking to the suntanned surfer/songwriter, and, under his "personal management," Eric was soon recording at Gold Star studios in Hollywood. One of his songs was later recorded by the Four Freshmen, who were by then on Liberty. Subsequent sessions by Eric, backed with studio musicians, led to another meeting with Regan, now heading up UNI (owned by MCA), who signed the promising soft pop singer to the label. Eric only recorded one album, A Midsummer's Day Dream, which was released in 1969 on UNI's R&B subsidiary, Revue Records. Eric eventually left music behind and began working as an actor in Hollywood, appearing on numerous TV sitcoms and several commercials. One of his songs, "Fly Me a Place for the Summer," was later recorded by the Mike Curb Congregation for an airline commercial. AMG.



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Wally - Valley Gardens 1975

In 1973, after playing the northern pub rock circuit that included venues in Manchester, Harrogate, Leeds and Bradford, they entered a New Act competition organised by the music paper Melody Maker making it to the finals at London's Roundhouse. They did not win - that honour went to a Prog Rock band named Druid - but they caught the eye of one of the judges, "Whispering" Bob Harris of The Old Grey Whistle Test fame.



Their "runners-up" prize was the chance to record a session for Harris's BBC radio show, "The Monday Program". He took the band under his wing and set-up a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Their debut album, Wally, released in 1974 was co-produced by Harris, along with Rick Wakeman who had seen one of the band's warm up gigs before the Roundhouse final.



After its release the band, now managed by Brian Lane, best known as the manager of Yes, embarked on a series of tours taking in most of Britain, Japan and the United States. They supported Yes at a headline London concert at the Alexandra Palace and also made an appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test. On their second album, Valley Gardens, Nick Glennie-Smith replaced Paul Gerrett on keyboards. However by that time continual touring had taken its toll, and the band eventually split after Atlantic decided to cut their losses and pulled the plug.



Webber set up a graphic design company, primarily working for Yorkshire Television but also with the Royal Armouries Museum. Pete Sage went to Germany to work as a sound engineer for the pop group Boney M. Nick Glennie-Smith was proposed as potential replacement for Wakeman in Yes and went on to be a leading session musician and soundtrack composer. Guitarist Pete Cosker died in 1990, as a result of a heroin overdose. Drummer Roger Narraway metamorphosed into a talented lead guitarist, and Paul Middleton retreated to the North Yorkshire Dales, becoming a carpenter and venturing out occasionally to play with Roy Webber in a country rock band, Freddie Alva and the Men from Delmonte. He now gigs on a regular basis with his own band, The Angst Band, featuring fellow bandmember Frank Mizen on pedal steel, guitar and banjo.



Paul Gerrett died of a heart attack in 2008.



After a thirty year hiatus, the surviving members of the original line-up - augmented by Frank Mizen on pedal steel and Will Jackson on guitar - performed to a sell out crowd in April 2009 in their home town of Harrogate. A DVD of the concert was released later that year.



A third album, Montpelier comprising reworkings of demos from the band's earlier incarnation, along with new material by both Webber and Middleton, was released in February 2010, and a second "reunion" concert took place in April. Funds from ticket sales will be used to erect a permanent memorial to Cosker and Gerrett. A recording of the 2010 reunion has been released as a live album entitled, "To the Urban Man" and a third reunion concert is scheduled for 2011, again in the band's home town of Harrogate.



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