Cross Country (SD 7024) (1973)

SAM_0772Post-sixties folk-rock on ATCO heavily indebted to CSN. Only been through side one, but it’s not nearly as weedily soft-rock as I’d feared.SAM_0773

There’s a startlingly delicate take on ‘In the Midnight Hour’ which seems to typify Cross Country’s approach: begin with gentle finger picking, add whispy three-part harmony, then gradually build the instrumentation to a mellow climax. It’s generally effective, and in a way designed not to inflict any harshness on the THC-enhanced brain.
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Apart from session guys Hugh McCracken and Eric Weissberg, I didn’t recognise any of the participants in Cross Country.SAM_0770

Vintage inner bags for this US edition of the trio’s lone Lp, a gatefold cover no less.

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This cost an incredible £2 in Hythe yesterday.

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Published in: on October 18, 2015 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Chicago – Chicago IX – Chicago’s Greatest Hits (CBS 69222) (1975)

SAM_0743As refreshing as an ice-cream on a sunny day (with about as much nutritional value), Chicago’s Greatest Hits takes late-period Beatles pop innovation to a warm, post-hippy, soft rock conclusion: wistful “Getting Better” existentialism (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”); “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ponderousness (“25 or 6 to 4”); blissed-out, blue-eyed soul à la “Got To Get You Into My Life” (“Make Me Smile”); the crooked smile descending chromatics and sunshine psychedelic observations of “You Won’t See Me” and “Penny Lane” respectively (“Saturday In the Park”); “Because”-style icy harmonic lushness (“Wishing You Were Here”); etc, etc. That all of the above are lyrically banal matters little.

Despite spanning six years, as many albums and featuring three different lead singers, the often horn-driven Chicago IX compilation serves the band well and stands as a satisfying, summery listen in its own right.SAM_0742

Co-incidentally, I’d been moved to covetousness re Chicago on hearing an excerpt of “25 or 6 to 4″ on Family Guy only last week. When this popped up at a Tenterden chaz for the unholy sum of £3 Saturday just gone, I took it as a sign, threw thriftiness to the four winds and purchased it forthwith. The cover pastiches the sentimental American illustrative realism of the Saturday Evening Post‘s Norman Rockwell. Quite appropriate, really.

Published in: on July 29, 2015 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (UAS 5504) (1970)

SAM_0737STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN!                                                   Music Fans Warned to Beware of Bad Traffic-Related Pun Headlines

(London) – Popular music aficianados were today advised to avoid all contact with cheap, ill-conceived puns in headlines relating to the “Sixeventies” rock group, Traffic. Public health officials say that articles with titles like, ‘Green Light for Traffic’ or ‘Traffic Stops In [Local Town]’ should remain unread, their authors publicly shamed. According to experts, the fact the band itself called one of its live albums Traffic On the Road is no excuse. SAM_0739Nice gatefold on this US edition, an inexpensive souvenir of the Family Asbo’s recent US jaunt. Famously beginning life as a Steve Winwod solo album, John Barleycorn sets up the template for future Traffic Lps, more folky, proggy and jazzy.

Published in: on July 8, 2015 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Carlos Santana/Mahavishnu John McLaughlin – Love Devotion Surrender (69037) (1973)

SAM_0634It takes some cojones to tackle John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, but that’s exactly how Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin kick off their mega-spiritual Love Devotion Surrender. The pair goes on to bookend side one with a likewise heavy spiritual jazz response to JC’s anthem called “The Life Divine”. What must Santana fans have made of this?

Santana is, of course, no stranger to overplaying, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is, given its jazz-rock impetus, an all out note-fest at times, with none of the pop flavour of his titular band. And yet, in the context of a prayer offering to both the Divine and John Coltrane, such indulgence makes perfect sense. Something of a transmutation to the guitar of Coltrane’s “sheets of sound”, Love Devotion Surrender is held together harmonically by organist Larry Young, who allows Devadip and Mahavishnu to launch into note torrents, particularly on side two’s joyful “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord”. And there is time for respite in the form of “Meditation” and another Coltrane cover, “Naima”; with what comes previously, both have the feel of post-coital cigarettes. A challenging and rewarding listen.

An original UK issue, with a gatefold cover, fantastic condish, only a pound.SAM_0633

Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Pink Floyd – Relics (SRS 5071) (1971)

SAM_0632EMI’s compilation originally came out after Atom Heart Mother but before Meddle as a kind of stopgap. That this was an accountants’ move is borne out by the track list, which should have been a comprehensive round-up of singles, Bs and outtakes (eg where are “Apples and Oranges”, “Candy and a Current Bun”, “Point Me At the Sky”, “Scream Thy Last Scream”, “It Would Be So Nice”, “Vegetable Man”?). Excising album cuts “Interstellar Overdrive”, “Cirrus Minor”, “The Nile Song”, “Bike” and “Remember a Day” would have made space for the above (though the latter track was released as a single).*

Which is not to say Relics isn’t a good listen, it is; and, with the inclusion of “Interstellar Overdrive” (along with the similarly lengthy “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, presented here in it’s b-side/studio version), it’s probably more representative of their psychedelic-era sound than a strictly 45s anthology would have been.

Sharp-eyed types will note that this is the original Starline issue of Relics, replete with textured cover and uncolored unlike later re-releases. And this VG+ gem was only a pound at the chazza this afternoon.

*It took 21 years for the album I’m proposing to come out and then it was a “bonus cd” on the Shine On box set called, somewhat prosaically if perfectly accurately, The Early Singles; note that there were no rarities on that disc, eg “Biding My Time” which featured on Relics.

Published in: on January 21, 2015 at 3:04 pm  Comments (4)  

“It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll” b/w “Through The Lonely Nights” (RS 19114) (1974)

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While I love the Stones’ famous apologia on the a-side, it was the non-Lp flip that caught my attention here and a fine county-style ballad it is too. Given it’s overall sound (esp. Mick T’s prominent ‘wah-wah’ guitar) and the fact that it was co-produced by Jimmy Miller, I wonder if “Lonely Nights” is from an earlier session, possibly those for Goat’s Head Soup; it made a much later appearance on the exceptionally feeble Rarities 1971-2003 compilation.  Many thanks to “Sue” for donating this to charity.

Published in: on January 16, 2015 at 10:18 am  Comments (1)  

The Hour Glass (UA-LA013-G2) (1973)/ Duane Allman – An Anthology (2CP 0108) (1972)

SAM_0576The liner notes accompanying this compilation of the Hour Glass’s two Lps could hardly be more baldly dismissive, beginning with the opening paragraph (“The music on these two records is not very good”) and carrying on in like fashion from there (“Far from being the story of why the Hour Glass was such a fine band, it tells us more about why they were not“). In fact, writer Ben Edmonds’ attitude towards this charming pop-soul double album has more to do with place and timing than artistry.

A little background. The Hour Glass represents the first commercial output of Allman brothers Duane and Gregg. Despite having been in the business for a few years, the boys were manipulated in classic “I’m-gonna-make-you-a-star”-style into moving to LA dressed up in the hippy gladrags, having songs picked out for them and being allowed to perform only for a few high-profile gigs. As a result, the band was broke and culturally overwhelmed with a sorely misrepresentative repertoire, all of which left them more than a little frustrated and bitter. I think Edmonds’ liner notes reflect the band’s still fresh resentment rather than the music, which is actually quite good, certainly as good or better, thanks to the band’s considerable chops, than most Blue-Eyed Soul of the time. I got this three weeks ago in Hythe for a pound.

SAM_0577Not two weeks later, I picked a companion piece at the Ashford bootfair. Alluded to in glowing terms in Edmonds’ brush off, Duane Allman – An Anthology contains a couple previously unreleased Hour Glass tracks, notably a blues medley highly rated by the band, that indicate where the brothers were headed. SAM_0594In addition to a side’s worth of AB highlights, An Anthology also includes songs which feature Duane as sideman, such as Wilson Picket’s “Hey Jude” and Boz Scaggs’ “Lend Me a Dime”.SAM_0595

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rolling Stones – “C***ksucker Blues” b/w “Brown Sugar (alt. version)” (SPE 4504)

SAM_0465AREA HIPSTER UNSURE WHETHER OR NOT TO LIKE ROLLING STONES

(Columbus, Ohio) — Faced with the band’s varied and contradictory cultural signifiers, Clintonville hipster Cyril Hogben is not sure whether or not he should like the Rolling Stones.

“Well, for a start, they’re really popular,” explained the part-time OSU journalism master’s student. “Normally, this would mean the kiss of death for the hipster, but we’re a contrary breed and so, I could actually like the Rolling Stones precisely because they’re popular.”

“There are also some desperately mediocre lowlights in the band’s canon,” he continued. “I’m thinking of things like, “Where The Boys Go”, “She Was Hot”, Dirty Work, that sort of thing; which I could easily like because they’re so bad. Unfortunately, there are also many, many assuredly great songs and albums, which I could only appreciate with fulsome genuineness, an emotion anathema to the moral relativist.”

Further complications arise from the Stones changing sartorial style: “They dressed so fantastically trendily during their first flush of success in the mid-1960s that it’s impossible not to love (or dismiss as calculated) their look,” Hogben stated. “Likewise, they looked so ridiculously tragic during most of the 80s that it’s similarly hard not to love (or dismiss as calculated) that look.”

When it comes to the band’s behavior, hipster judgement is also vexed, alternating between revulsion, admiration and moral detachment. The average hipster just doesn’t know what to think regarding the Rolling Stones’ drug use, authority flouting, establishment embracing, misogyny, professionalism, lack of professionalism, blues championing, money grubbing and staying power.

“If only the Stones were really unpopular and bad, like, say, Mick Jagger’s solo albums,” smiled Hogben. “Ironically, those are some records I can get behind ironically.”

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Editor’s note: I was given this charming contractual obligation piece about life in the big city a couple years. It is, of course, nonsense. I thought the b-side featured Eric ” ‘God’ ” Clapton on lead gi-tar, but other sources say it’s Ry Cooder.

Published in: on July 21, 2014 at 6:33 pm  Comments (2)  

The Band – Moondog Matinee (1973) and Northern Lights-Southern Cross (1975)


Screen shot 2014-06-08 at 16.26.47Pity The Band. They made two of the best records ever and then only made good records after that.SAM_0415Taken on their own terms, Moondog Matinee and Northern Lights are enjoyable and successful albums; in context, they pale somewhat. Moondog is an oldies record with verve aplenty, though loosening up what were originally fabulously concise recordings takes some getting used to. Northern Lights features analogous, slightly inferior versions of previous songs: so oddball love song “Jemima Surrender” becomes the amusing enough lost-love “Ophelia”; the oblique, yet aching history of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” becomes the linear narrative of “Acadian Driftwood”; “It Makes No Difference”‘s straightforward sense of loss is the new “Tears of Rage”, etc. What’s missing is the group’s singular thrill of discovery and its off-kilter, but dynamic and perfectly judged sense of timing, melody and proportion. Simply put, they’d lost their natural eccentricity. It’s probably understandable.

SAM_0414These two cds cost me a quid apiece yesterday. I photographed them in their plastic cases, in spite of aesthetics, to demonstrate that sometime in 2001, HMV could get away with charging £17 for a simple re-issue compact disc because someone would pay it. I bought Big Pink and the brown album around the same time, but no way would I have forked out that much.

Published in: on June 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Doris Troy (ST-3371) (1970)

SAM_0412Yer man George Harrison was a busy lad round the turn of decade. Not only producing the 3Lp behemoth All Things Must Pass, he had time to compose a handful of songs, play guitar on and effectively A&R Billy Preston’s second Apple Lp Encouraging Words and soul singer Doris Troy’s debut for the label.SAM_0411A vigorous and stylish attempt to meld 60s soul and “sixeventies” rock, it works because of the disciplined, superstar help on hand (Stephen Stills, Klaus Voormann, Ringo, Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, etc). Troy was a songwriter of longstanding (“Just One Look”) and so co-writes much of the material here. She’s listed a sole producer, but the beefy horns, thick guitar production style of her British patron shines quite plainly through.SAM_0410This came almost mint condish for £1 from Hythe today when Mrs Asbo and I went to Waitrose for our free coffees this afternoon. Noice.SAM_0413

Published in: on June 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment