Tuesday, March 27, 2012


As Monty Python would say "And Now For Something Completely Different!"
Well, you who have read these pages before may see some similarities, but And Now For Something A  Lot More Cheerful.
After the big beat-boom in 1964 of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five and other less revolutionary bands England was teeming with thousands of young hopeful groups. A lot of these bands were sticking to the safest most mundane side of Merseybeat, but from London and later Birmingham rose 3 bands to whom we can thank for everything from hard rock to heavy metal to psychedelia to new wave to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and just about everything else. These bands would be the former Hi Numbers now called The Who spearheaded by guitar and songwriting genius Pete Townsend and The Kinks from Muswell Hill- a small place for the revolutionary sounds of the two Davis brothers Ray and Dave.
  When the Kinks exploded in 1964 with "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night" a knife inserted into an amplifier by Dave Davies and Ray's snarling vocals created heavy metal ages before anyone would catch up, but it would be true to say that here was the beginning of hard rock, glam rock, heavy metal and punk. With more maturity The Kinks became an unstoppable force always driven by the two polar opposite brothers who hated each other with a passion, but made up for it with amazing music. The songs that grace the first real album releases when Ray found himself like Face To Face, Something Else, The Village Green Preservation Society, and Arthur these are not just songs they are epics they are stories they are the literature of the future coming years for grown up British rock. Ray Davis knew how to be sympathetic as well as cynical. His vision of The British Empire and "Preserving The Old Ways Protecting The New Ones" was far removed from the primal sexuality of the early hits and Dave was fast becoming a creative writer in his own right- also with a unique voice readily identifiable as the high falsetto in the harmonies. Songs like "David Watts," "Harry Rag," "Phenomenal Cat," "Big Sky," "Victoria," "Brainwashed," and "Shangri-La" all came from classic albums and all inspired every worthy group in England to rock hard yet move forward- add in a few new spices to the recipe. The more subtle ones like "Phenomenal Cat" would heavily influence the Toytown pop psych sound of the best British bands of that era playing softer material yet they always had that crunch and punch- that same crunch and punch that came from all the way back in "You Really Got Me." The Kinks would not die come the 70s either. Like The Move and like best work of The Who they would forge ahead with new ideas and create new sounds. The Who's fallout from their glory days was fast. They had been THE MOD BAND PAR EXCELLANCE of the 60s, but the further they moved into the 70s the less inspirational they became. It all would tank after the hard hitting classiness of Live At Leeds and Who's Next, but as a live act they would remain unstoppable. The Kinks too would pioneer the kind of antics The Move and The Nice later indulged in during their unpredictable stage shows where anything could happen. And the Americans were listening too.
  Demand for British bands to come over here to the States and tour was huge, so huge that bands like The Kinks and The Zombies were seen as a threat and they tried to ban them from touring here. They could try all they wanted, but nothing was going to stop the music from breaking through and the early excitement of those classic hit singles led to American bands emulating the British. Many would try to disguise this with a uniquely American slant such as Paul Revere & The Raiders and Tommy James & The Shondells, but their influences were obviously The Kinks and The Who. Then a big change started happening in the States around 1966- American bands became part of the countercultural revolution playing music like no one before had ever dared. The Doors, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Byrds, Love, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Left Banke (probably our Greatest Band- our Kinks) all these very diverse and different bands if they didn't sound English sounded American and were loved back in the country that gave birth to the ability for most of them to exist- England.
    The Kinks had 3 classic hard rocking hits in 1964/1965 "You Really Got Me," "All Day And All Of The Night," and "Till The End Of The Day." Ray would follow up with "A Well Respected Man," "Tired Of Waiting For You," and "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion-" pioneering brilliant songs. There was just one problem: the albums didn't live up to the singles. Not only that there were dreadful, clueless songs on the albums and no cohesion to their early releases. This same lack of consistency bit away at The Zombies on their first long player and until the second and final album Oddesey And Oracle much of their output was erratic. Remember these were the days of "The Singles Bands." However, by 1966 Ray Davis discovered the ability to write an entire album's worth of amazing songs and Face To Face was Ray's discovery of himself. He put together his intellectual brilliance and matched it with new ideas and punchy melodies helped along by the even punchier guitar work of Dave. Mick Avory and Pete Quaife (who died recently) were the ample rhythm section.
  As Ray would invent new wave decadence long before there was even a word of Roxy Music and Dave would inspire guitar heroes later on to crank the volume to eleven new things were happening in British Rock. The Who came on the scene in 1965 with the classic youth anthem to end all youth anthems "My Generation." These at that time young fresh faced Mods from Shepherd's Bush area London were all about chaos. John Entwhistle's dynamic, flowing, forceful bass and Keith Moon's frantic drumming laid the foundation for Pete Townsend's amazing feedback power chord assault. Roger Daltrey, blond and with an interesting face and a great voice, proved to be the perfect frontman and Pete Townsend right away saw to it that the albums did not disappoint. Unlike The Kinks The Who would rise fast and die fast. From early classics like "Substitute," "I Can't Explain," "Love Is Like A Heatwave" (A Motown cover), "I'm A Boy," and "Picture's Of Lily" to the world's first taste of a rock oratorio in "A Quick One" this was a band you couldn't do anything but have your mind blown in awe for. Their destructive stage act with smashing guitars, drums flying all over the place, screaming onslaughts of pure noise, and Daltrey frantically thrashing around would be the foundation upon which all future Heavy Metal was laid. However, when The Pretty Things released S.F Sorrow Townsend was a changed man. He had a vision of a rock opera to make The Who more musically mature, but how much more mature could you get than THE WHO SELL OUT? The shocking thing about Tommy was the music of which most was brilliant and the huge change over in sound. All of a sudden The Who were now part of progressive rock. They had added in brilliant new ideas, finely crafted instrumental musings, and Roger Daltrey's voice was getting much heavier sounding. The Who were now at the number one position in rock. They could fill any stadium. They were now poised to be giants of the 1970s along with the equally groundbreaking Led Zeppelin. To think this all started as far back as 1966- it's amazing. Every band from Britain in the 60s owed so much to The Kinks and The Who and the band you are about to hear about- my personal favourite The Move.
   The Move were named after the move away from Mike Sheridan's Lot and Carl Wayne and The Vikings- two Brumbeat bands and in case you don't know what that means it means Birmingham bands. Roy Wood was born Ulysses Adrian Wood and if he had kept his amazing birth name even that wouldn't have stopped him from surpassing anything and everything. In the beginning, in 1966 Roy was fast becoming a prolific songwriter who could dip into classical music influences, early heavy metal, British whimsy, and pure solid Mod pop and in 1967 The Move set about conquering England.     
   With good looking Carl Wayne on lead vocals, strange looking Ace Kefford on Rhythm guitar, Trevor Burton playing the heaviest bass ever laid down, and powerful drummer Bev Bevan laying down the backdrop for Roy's virtuosity they burst onto the psychedelic/pop scene with the freakiest single hit of 1967 "Night Of Fear." Based around the 1812 overture it was a heavy, hard, punch-you-in-the-jaw scary single that freaked me when I first heard it having only heard the later Move material, but what a hit it was. Now British pop had it's newest most hopeful young group and the single shot up high in the charts. Even creepier than "Night Of Fear" was the flipside "Disturbance" about a mental collapse and violent breakdown. It was originally intended as the choice song, but it was later to be the flip on a rather strange breakthrough hit for the young band. Roy was now constantly questioned about if LSD had inspired the single, but this really pissed him off as Roy wouldn't touch drugs. The single was a good start, but was surpassed by everything that came after it. "I Can Hear The Grass Grow," "Fire Brigade," "Flowers In The Rain" these were the most perfect slices of heavenly heavy British power pop psychedelia and The Move were ranking up the huge hits with all their singles releases.          
    Throughout 1967 their crazed stage act which came after The Who and Wood's genius level writing made them a sort of even heavier Who or a very uniquely British take on a huge amount of influences that Roy and friends had stored up. While The Who never really embraced psychedelic rock and only dipped into it a scant few times The Move not only had a psychedelic edge they were sharp enough to be described as "Progressive Pop." Roy Wood is a guitar virtuoso and when he opened his mouth to sing a golden voice poured out. A blueprint for Ozzy Osbourne the heavily Brum accented Wood had an impish yet paradoxically tuneful delivery and with "Fire Brigade" and "Flowers In The Rain" hitting the charts like a hammer he would soon be pushing aside Carl Wayne who wanted to be a cabaret singer! With Ace Kefford singing his only lead vocal on their first self-titled LP opening track "Yellow Rainbow" and the rest of the vocals mainly shared between Wood and Wayne their first record is one of the great ones of 1968. It included many of their 1967 hits and new very exciting album tracks made the Move much loved in England, Europe, and America, but it was England they really took by storm. Roy Wood ran into a few complaints about his humourous treatment of mental illness, but I believe that he was sympathetic to people who weren't all there and wasn't putting them down. He also would continue to receive annoying questions about what inspired him to write. Roy would just write songs- he didn't need drugs or any other unnatural stimulants. He would lock himself up in his room and write for hours on end perfecting gem after gem. The Move wanted to go forward and make a more experimental second record and did so with SHAZAM. This album was my introduction to The Move and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Side Two showed them moving through 3 cover versions covering everything from grandiose psychedelia in the Ars Nova penned "Fields Of People" to Led Zeppelin before Led Zeppelin heavy metal in "Don't Make My Baby Blue" to the uproarious cabaret/folkrock of "The Last Thing On My Mind" by Tom Paxton. It was these amazing performances that helped me to turn even sworn enemies in my horrid private school into friends, but it was tracks like Wood's "Hello Suzie" the album opener which had me floored. Roy Wood was becoming a hero, a really cherished secret, and by the time I got into the first album and early tracks after hating them around November/December 1992 I became a Move fan for life. Roy's unique voice, his masterful skills as a musician who could play any instrument ever created, his ability to do all the vocals, and his songwriting genius would never run dry.
    When Roy Wood disappeared from music he did simply that- just retired on a high note. This was 1979 and if you wanted quality from The Who by now forget it. The Move had long since folded and so had Roy's glam rock stardom in Wizzard, but when I saw him give a rare performance in 2002 in Manhattan I witnessed what a true music lover this man is. He had passed out onstage the previous night and was suffering a really bad flu. He came onstage with an all younger than him girl backing band and was cavorting around like nothing was wrong. He made many wry comments about his bad health that night and the night before, but he wasn't about to cancel the show. He went on and rocked hard for the whole time. He played a million instruments. He sang brilliantly, and we were all cheering him on- me shouting "ROY!!! ROY!!! ROY!!!" He nodded at me. I felt blessed.
    Back to The Move now. During their 4 album and many more singles run many line up changes influenced the direction that Roy would take, but not one track during their career was a throwaway. He also kept busy producing for other bands and the most notable of these was the tragically unsuccessful Idle Race. The Idle Race were fronted by a very talented young songwriter named Jeff Lynne and Lynne's funny, whimsical, and loving warm hearted songs were somewhat like a lighter more Beatles inspired Move. After two flawless classic albums THE BIRTHDAY PARTY and their self titled second Roy made the second of two offers he'd make Jeff to join The Move. Before Jeff Lynne had refused, but with The Idle Race going nowhere in commercial terms and depression setting in he joined. Now The Move had two multi-instrumentalists and geniuses and it's amazing that they didn't fall into some kind of confused mania with both Wood and Lynne on board. Instead they made as their next venture after SHAZAM the brilliant LOOKING ON. LOOKING ON picked up where the heaviest previous material left off and saw The Move playing a perfect hybrid of early heavy metal/heavy psych and Beatles inspired psychedelic numbers with Jeff Lynne beginning his Lennon fixations which would lead him to the top of the charts with Electric Light Orchestra. Another series of classic singles followed and "Brontosaurus" lifted from the album became an instant favourite. The much covered "Do Ya," "Tonight," and funny "Chinatown" came around this time, but none of these appeared on the band's last album MESSAGE FROM THE COUNTRY. This was a continuation of everything The Move had done before and more. Not since the 1st album with Trevor Burton singing the rock and roll 50s pastiche "Weekend" had The Move revisited the early days of Elvis, but here Roy Wood began his 1950s obsession in earnest with the uproarious "Don't Mess Me Up." Bev Bevan also sang a track- the even more hysterical Johnny Cash tribute/send up "Ben Crawley Steel Company," but much of the rest of the album sounded like The Beatles if they could have stayed together maintaining their integrity along the way. The Move continued to be ahead of their time and to inspire many musicians to form exciting bands. Songs like "Message From The Country" by Jeff and "It Wasn't My Idea To Dance" by Roy helped lift this album to the list of Greatest Ever- a list in which everything The Move did has a very high position. They would never fail you and they wouldn't bring you down into self-indulgent boredom either. The Move are one of the best rock and roll bands ever formed.
   So here are the 3 bands Post Beatles who made the biggest dent and the most exciting music, but I must also bring to your attention two other revolutionary bands- Cream and The Yardbirds. While I don't have time to go into full detail they are two bands you will be familiar with as pioneers of heavy metal and I don't think that either one need an introduction as along with The Move, The Kinks, and The Who bands that will live forever and more as the most exciting music of the 1960s. Cream came out of The Yardbirds and both bands came out of the blues- something I haven't touched on till now. While The Move would take some classical bents and some blues influences and turn them psychedelic Cream and The Yardbirds would blow the blues into fragments and then reassemble them. I was listening to UFO the other night and realized how huge an impact Cream had on them. The song was "Pack It Up (And Go)" and the album was OBSESSION- listen to this song and you can hear "Swablr" off DISRAELI GEARS in hyperspeed. For UFO, for Black Sabbath and all the other great hard rockers it all goes back to the 1960s- a time of youthful optimism and wide-eyed wonder. There are simply too many great bands for me to go into detail about and not be here all night, but what I can end with is the music will play on and play on LOUD! You will find all the inspiration for all the coming bands of the 70s and the best of the 80s too in The Kinks, The Move, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, Cream- the British Invasion wouldn't die down despite some awful throwaway shlock bands it would lead to American bands playing the most exciting music of all time in that decade of genius along with The British and soon a worldwide explosion of talent. It was a time I wish I had been around for, but can always revisit in the music. Let the music play and let the music ROCK YOU HARD!

Friday, March 16, 2012


In loving memory of Steve Harris 1965-2011 who died of a brain tumor after suffering it for two years.
He was my major inspiration and his magic guitar playing was an inspiration to all who heard it.
He will be sadly missed and I am in as much grief as if I lost a family member.
   Shy will always be more than just another great band for me. When I discovered them back in December 2001 it was on a whim and it was also after never understanding their music in the past. Over the next year and a half I'd turn into a Shy obsessed new type of guitarist, new type of singer. My first Shy awakening experience was the song "When You Need Someone" demo version on the Regeneration CD where Tony Mills lays down a passionate vocal before Steve Harris soars into the skies with an even more passionate guitar solo that makes the song. This version is way better than what you hear on their one horrible record Misspent Youth and Steve would agree with me about that. The one time I was lucky enough to talk to the great man he said that to me.
   Steve Harris will never be equaled. It is safe to say and no hyperbole to say that with his untimely death last year we have lost the greatest guitar player in melodic hard rock along with Randy Rhodes and Michael Schenker- his two major influences along with the also amazing George Lynch. If George Lynch (in case you don't remember that name he was the masterful guitar wizard in Dokken back in the 80s before going into oblivion with his solo projects) or Schenker had died I would be shattered, but for me losing Steve Harris is even worse, even harder to deal with. Perhaps it is because not only was he a very gifted guitar player, but also his astonishingly advanced writing was always what held Shy together. Both George Lynch and Michael Schenker enjoyed and enjoy fame- Harris has to settle for a small cult following and relative anonymity.
  What you are about to read is the full history behind Shy and my history with this amazing band- a band that opened many doors for me and led the way for my huge interest in all Melodic Rock.
  Shy formed in the early half of 1981 in British Music City Par Excellance Birmingham under the name Trojan and originally were part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal- something they'd stay on the fringes of as a melodic rock band. Trojan were a heavy metal band who were heavily influenced by Judas Priest and contained the nucleus of Shy in their ranks. In 1982 Shy was born. They were featured on Ebony Records- the notorious label run by permanently jailed Darryl Johnston- a man who ripped off every young band who were on their label and finally was charged with lawsuits by the most successful band on the label metal rockers Grim Reaper.
   Shy would too part acrimoniously with Johnston, but not before cutting an excellent debut album Once Bitten Twice.... This record showed that Shy and especially vocalist Tony Mills and guitarist Steve Harris were no ordinary teenaged inexperienced metal band. Shy were not and never were heavy metal once they went through the name change. On Once Bitten Twice... despite the poor production which all Ebony releases suffer from this is miles in the sky above anything else on the label with its powerful melodic hard rock attack full of great melodies and blistering guitar work. Steve Harris was never a flashy, show-offy, gimmick driven player and especially unlike many other guitar players of the time he favored melody over noise. His riffs can be described as punchy, tough, and still very melodic, very catchy whilst his solos soar and spit fire, but the melody is the main thing behind the man. For a bunch of Duran Duran (I have nothing against Duran Duran- in fact I love them) lookalikes this was an odd sound to be hearing- pomp rock taking the best of British NWOBHM excitement and merging it with the smoothness of AOR/Melodic rock. Highlights on this stellar album are the opening track "Deep Water" which sums up the Shy sound, "Think Of Me," "Take It All The Way," "Tonight," and "Chained By Desire." When I heard this album Shy had made the first of two new recordings which actually would surpass even their 80s brilliance although original drummer Alan Kelly (whom Tony Mills hated with a passion and in turn Alan Kelly hated Tony Mills with a passion) would be tearing his hair out over that comment.
  When Shy Came back they still wanted to chase success, but let's go back to their formative years back between 1982-1989.  When I Heard Once Bitten I had fallen in love for the first time and it had turned out to be as painful as the situation described in "Chained By Desire." Back home in New Jersey and with no way left to tell my should have been best friend or more how I felt for him it was probably that song that struck me the most. I was now deep into Shy for the second year and for two more whole years they'd be my #1 band- in my heart, soul, memory, and love of music forever.
   So you're probably asking why so much fuss after I've just described one poorly recorded debut album. Shy would sign to RCA in 1984 and the following year saw the release of their first of two legendary albums on that label Brave The Storm. Brave The Storm was the album that broke Shy into me. It was the album that would take the longest, but that once I got used to Mills screaming his tonsils out on it would impress me almost as much as the follow up masterpiece Excess All Areas. Shy were all very young in the 80s, but they could see and write and sing beyond their years into a sophisticated, polished, and seasoned pomp/progressive/hard rock/pop nexus that arguably no other British band had such a handle on at the time. By Brave The Storm changes had been made. Original bass player Mark Badrick had departed and in his place came ex Trouble (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal- not the awful American band) bass guitarist Roy Stephen Davis. Also, Tony Mills' earlier penchant for makeup wearing onstage flamboyance had been let go of after Mills accidentally wandered into a gay bar in full face paint!!!!
    With Tony and Steve sharing most of the writing, classically trained keyboards player Pat "Paddy" Mckenna chipping in, Roy playing a steady foundation laying bass, and some writing help from drummer Alan Kelly Shy looked set to make the big time. Brave The Storm came during a year that saw a lot of darker lyrical themed records released and this was no exception although far more listenable than the debut by fellow Brummies Phenomena (file under really good recipe really bad result) because Shy weren't bogged down in the doom gutter. Doom and AOR did not mix on Phenomena's record. It was an impossible cross and with Shy drawing from early Genesis and Judas Priest the keyboard heavy album had something Genesis never had- a really truly possessed frontman and explosive guitar work. No Neo Prog was this. Brave The Storm saw Shy make an album that was not hard rock and not progressive nor pop, but all 3. There was the choice single track "Hold On To Your Love" which should have been a hit, but beyond that classics like "My Apollo," "Caught In The Act," and "Reflections" which featured some achingly beautiful guitar from Steve Harris made Shy a really special band. The title track was to be Shy's one foray during their career into apocalyptic hard progressive rock, but it would also be the track on the album that brought my love to it and my love to them. Tony would later confirm that he wrote the song about Nuclear Holocaust, but I thought it was a about a different kind of war that killed all mankind- a kind of stand up and fight anthem for soldiers. Scary keyboards begin the track before Mills comes in with his dynamic Rob Halford meets David Bowie instantly recognizable vocals. Over the course of the song Shy go rocking into the stratosphere while the world is destroyed by The Last War. No one survives by the end and Tony Mills screams out in real anguish to end the track on a long drawn out wail that would have Rob Halford in a tizzy as to how he didn't think of it himself!
   Shy would leave Progressive Rock and Metal behind after Brave The Storm. Despite great reviews and great shows across the UK and Europe the album just didn't sell. RCA had not done their bit to promote it, but back in 1987 when Shy unleashed Excess All Areas it looked like they were finally about to make it to the top. When I as a shallow, timid, and fiercely Un Anglo (how things would change!!!) 11 year old went to England in 1987 Shy were on the cover of every publication. They were everywhere. Steve Harris was being written up as a rock God. This convinced me before learning better that indeed Excess had been a major breakthrough. Financially and in the fickle world of success VS low sales it was only a minor breakthrough, but it would be the greatest Pomp record England would have and a landmark for Shy.
   If you haven't heard Excess All Areas grab a copy, even if it's the not as good American press or do as I did and buy the European CD with their post LP bonus EP added and get it on vinyl as domestic (American). You won't believe this album didn't outsell everything Journey ever did. Journey would be a huge inspiration to Shy and certainly throughout their career Tony Mills would come off like a tougher Steve Perry much of the time, but Shy had something to make them British- a real dangerous vibe to cut through the airbrushed pomp brilliance of their melodies. The songs deal with lost love, fighting for everything you believe in, oppression, and finding the perfect romance. Steve Harris plays his guitar with so much passion and fervor yet with such an understated sympathy towards the songs that would set him apart from all other guitar players chasing stardom at the time. Shy had made the perfect album. Tony Mills is still a bit on the edge of histrionics, occasionally throwing himself right into them ("Telephone"), but boy does his voice sound good. Songs with the strongest melody and feeling in them like "Can't Fight The Nights," "Emergency" (hard to believe Michael Bolton wrote this!), "When The Love Is Over," "Talk To Me," "Young Heart" (a real anthem), and "Just Love Me" which is beautifully sung in a softer voice by T. Mills makes this Shy's most satisfying album. Neil Kernon was a very sympathetic producer to Shy's wants and needs. In the vast "How Could This Miss The Charts" category of AOR the best albums are this, Lionheart's one release Hot Tonight, Snowblind's one record, and Airrace's masterpiece Shaft Of Light, but this would open up a new awareness in me towards AOR and pomp. It could be its own kind of music. It didn't have to follow strict guidelines or rules. It could be truly emotional and Shy paved the way. Things do get much heavier in the outlaw anthem of "Under Fire" with screaming guitars from Harris and their one brush with stardom "Break Down The Walls," but as stated Metal had long been left behind by Shy. Shy had found their best instincts and dreams and Kernon had helped put them on vinyl. Listening to this album after hearing of Steve Harris's death today I had to take it off to fight back the tears. It was unbearable to hear all that we have lost and what a good heart the man had. Steve was the sensible one in the band. I knew that from our one conversation back in 2003. Tony may have been the voice, but Shy were Steve Harris's band. It would be safe to put Excess All Areas now that he has died up there with Ozzy's first two with Randy Rhodes. Now it would seem the only surviving guitar player from those days who really made a mark on me and who is still out there and active is Diamond Head's Brian Tattler and Tattler is a metal Steve Harris. Or I could state that Steve Harris is/was to melodic rock what Brian Tattler is/was back in the day to melodic metal. Both of them found something refreshing to base their music around- melody. Excess All Areas saw Shy headline for the first time and it all looked good. That was until sales weren't what was expected and RCA promptly dropped Shy from their roster.
   RCA had never known how to promote their bands. This would go all the way back to the 1960s and nothing had changed by 1987. They had passed up the best thing they had by dropping Shy and Shy would rapidly go down the toilet after they just couldn't gain the success they so richly deserved. This would not be the fault of the band, but come new record company MCA after a brilliant one off EP on FM Revolver (which is included as the bonus tracks on Zoom Club's CD reissue of Excess All Areas) times were not the same and melodic rock was out. MCA had told Shy to make a heavy, commercial, and loud record in the style of the then huge Guns and Roses and the result in 1990/1989 was the sickening Misspent Youth. Shy would hate the album throughout their career. It would be their downfall, their destruction, the bullet-through-the-heart of their dreams. Don't blame the songs some of which were actually great in different demo form, blame one time dream producer Roy Thomas Baker for it. That's right. Roy Thomas Baker the man who brought Queen to the world's stage. He was no longer the huge massive genius he had been then and really after Queen his production jobs had gone steadily downhill. R.T.B would ignore Shy. They were flown out to L.A to record the record and hated it from the start. Tony Mills and Steve Harris were often quoted as saying they never should have made Misspent Youth and I'd agree.
   Shy had run their course for the 80s, but not before the worst breakup story ever would have to be told. Shy broke up because MCA were stupid enough to place them on a tour with the despicable Amerikan macho chest beating thug metal band Manowar and the dark metal cookie monster voice band Sabbatt. Manowar pulled the electricity on Shy and the band had to drive all the way back to Birmingham in their tour van. A horrid end to a brilliant story, but a temporary one.
   Shy had always had personal problems between Tony Mills and Alan Kelly and when talks of a reunion came up Mills would only agree to it if Alan Kelly was out of the group. Now Alan Kelly may call this not really Shy, but he's lying.  With the original three mainstays Davis, Harris, and Mills back + a much better drummer in Bob Richards Shy recorded two last masterpieces in 2002/2003 and 2005.
Unfinished Business was Steve Harris's title idea and it would top even Excess All Areas. How I can say that after what I've said about Excess is I admit hard to believe, but with no more pressure for hit singles Steve Harris now could play solos, fills. and riffs as much as he wanted to. Shy were still the most melodic of all hard rock/heavy pomp bands, but the new guitar attack soars with so much passion that it equals or surpasses the best work that Harris did back on Excess All Areas. Unfinished Business features an opening track that would make for a great add for The Parachute Regiment "Sky Diving-" a song that may be my favourite Shy track ever. Unfinished Business is full of the strong melodies, flying guitars, and soaring vocals that characterize the very best of Shy. Tony Mills is in fine form here too, better than on Sunset And Vine which also is great. "Breakaway," "Change Of Direction, "Maryanne," "Whole Lotta Feelings," "No Other Way" they served as a life force for me. They still may, but with the sadness that the magical guitarist behind these great songs, solos, and memories is dead.
   Sunset And Vine followed Unfinished Business in 2005 and is also an excellent album with many great songs and superb guitar from Steve Harris, but I would rate Unfinished Business even higher. Shy seemed like they were finally gonna be here to stay, but unfortunately they just failed to get off the ground once more. Having a strong cult following is enough for some bands. It never was enough for Shy. I have neglected to even mention their one album attempt without Tony Mills Welcome To The Madhouse up till now because it is putrid. Shy needed Tony Mills to spark them and Tony Mills became worthless enough to replace helium voiced Mariah Carey soundalike loser Tony Harnell in the worst band ever Norway's all whimper no bang TNT. Tony Mills was my good friend through emails before TNT, but I knew that he was somebody who would run out of control without the melodies and fire of Steve Harris when I heard his post Shy band Siam- a banal Queensryche wannabe and who would want to be one of the worst bands ever formed. No, for Tony Mills post Shy I've been very much more impressed with Serpentine who I really do need to track down for a blog entry. The question now is how long Mills can survive. In all honesty after he suffered a serious heart attack last year I thought he'd be the one to go and I really hope that Tony can recover his health and find his way back to Shy style music through Serpentine. No offence to you Tony, I wish you all the best in the world mate.
  How do I end the story of Steve Harris and Shy without it being all a gloom and depression ridden tragedy? How do I sum up my grief and my shock that the guiding light behind my musical dreams is no longer with us? Look back at the work he left behind him- it all survives still through the magic of being recorded and will live forever. He will always be the cleverest, most inventive, tastiest, and most melodically brilliant guitarist and writer of all melodic rock. I find it still very horrible to think that we've lost Steve. This all comes as so much of a shock to me, but the music lives on and it will live on forever and a day. I believe in Shy- they will continue to inspire my music, my love, my dreams, and my goals to find true love. I lost him back in 2003 as soon as I found him, but Steve Harris's message through all of Shy's music is a consistent one- Love Will Find Its Way To You In The End. Perhaps I will find him again, no, I Will find true love in my life and I have already found it to a good extent in my love of music. May you find Steve Harris and Shy. May you treasure them and love them forever. Rest in Peace and To Your Loving Memory Steve Harris. Much love to all Shy fans out there who will keep up the fight and keep your music alive. You were the greatest and you always will be. 

Monday, March 12, 2012


The whole world was changing in the early 1970s and some things would have to die for other new adventures to begin. Flower power was long a thing of the past and had faded into the memories of the lucky few who could remember the Summer Of Love and the classic sounds of that summer.
Disenchantment, foreboding, anarchy, and disorganization partially took the place of the more peaceful ideas about revolution and come 1970 England was in its second full year of war against the Catholic extremist IRA in Northern Ireland. A lot of young people were out of work and this led to lots becoming soldiers or more fortunately gifted ones forming bands to express their feelings of disillusion.
  The massive wave of heavy and not so heavy artistically forward moving groups in the United Kingdom, Europe, and America were largely labelled "progressive rock" and/or "hard rock-" heavy metal was just beginning to get some rare usage as a word for the most arch hard hitting of these bands. With the huge amount of music getting recorded came new labels in the UK and a different approach to signing bands for more staid ones. Pye had Dawn, Phillips had Vertigo and a million others, Decca had Deram, and EMI had Harvest Sovereign and Regal Zonophone. This is only a handful as there were about 300 bands and 300 albums coming out every week if you put just two of these countries together with most fading into obscurity as soon as they'd made their one album. A lot of great, brilliant, heartfelt and inventive music came out during the 1970-1973 era. Fantasy, The Parlour Band, Dog That Bit People, Northwind, Renia (who I'll dig into here), Still Life (more on them a bit later also), Quicksand, and Asgard/Stonehouse led the way. With all these exciting bands and records also came disappointments and disasters.
   Black Sabbath were a band who had miraculously made it just with their revolutionary first album almost seemingly overnight, but many horrible bands followed that would try to replicate progressive or hard rock with dark lyrical themes. Sabbath were monolithic, amazing, extraordinary and despite their quick rise the band had paid their dues for many years before that first album sent chills up the spine of anyone who heard it. Together with Ozzy and mates the most exciting bands to play progressive rock, the big 3 if you will, would be Yes, Uriah Heep, and early King Crimson with a mention too of Genesis (sometimes they were brilliant, but often sickening). The charts for the first time were also full of exciting music trying to grasp onto a more mature form of flowers and love pop. There was Vanity Fare, White Plains, The Marmalade (who would morph from psychedelic pop in the 60s to a band who could rock hard on their classic 3rd and 4th releases Songs and Our House Is Rocking), Sweet (The Gods of Glam Rock), Slade (The 2nd Gods Of Glam Rock), and all assortment of bands who either gave us pure pop bliss or great listenable harder more thoughtful rock.
   The war was taking lives every day. Everyone was scared shitless of what could and might happen if the bomb was dropped or the war escalated. Some unashamedly pompous, sick in the head, and talentless bands rose up to spew filth and fear into the English music scene with this being where the fine line I can discuss is drawn. It is one thing to write about death and destruction tastefully, in an if not subtle than at least intelligent manner, but Warm Dust, Deep Feeling, and the first 3 travesties by Beggars Opera are the most disgusting overblown nonsense ever produced making some British bands look as bad as American chart music of that time. These 3 bands would die their deserved deaths or in the case of Beggar's Opera go on to become a classy rock and roll band, but there was always that question of progressive VS gratuitous. It sometimes was borderline, but usually crystal clear.
   This is where Still Life step in. Signed by Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep label Vertigo the young quartet recorded the ultimate heavy melodic showcase for a prime mix of progressive/psychedelic rock and emotive R&B in one of the worst covers of 1971. Look at the front and it's some nice looking flowers, but fold it down to the next panel of the front gatefold you find a disgusting rotted out human skull. You would immediately suspect this to be one of the throwaway records released by the overstretched Vertigo label, but that's hardly the case. Vertigo had many fine bands and on closer look of the great inner gatefold shot of 4 stoned out looking lads Still Life look like they mean business. And they do. This is a very unusual album. Their sound is characterized by a heavy Hammond organ and pounding piano sound with only bass and drums, no guitar. The only tracks to use guitar both use acoustic at the beginning with flute of the opening monster "People In Black" and the first half of Side Two's 1st track "Love Song Number 6 (I'll Never Love You Girl)." Soaring, sometimes strangely phrased Asgard like vocal harmonies and Martin Cure's soulful strong vocals are a pleasant change from the myriad of bands who couldn't sing, but it is the highly thoughtful nature of the music that makes Still Life so incredible. As in my last blog entry sometimes I have the feeling of lying shell shocked in a trench or in this case running for my life down a street in Belfast or Londonderry, but there is something warm here, something even comforting at times. Still Life are a heavy, ominous band and almost a keyboard led hybrid of Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath, but with very strong soul influences. Vocalist Martin Cure whether wistfully singing of lost time and intellectual musings or shouting, roaring out like a lion has a voice that most singers would give their life for. At last there's a white singer who really does have soul, who really can deliver R&B phrasing with the magic of a young Steve Winwood or Gary Brooker. He's amazing. Organist Terry Howells is a fantastic keyboard player who uses bombastic crashing noises to his advantage, but one who also has a keen melodic sense. The rhythm section are also worthy of a mention- they can follow any change in mood, structure, or chord with no problem at all. The harmonies that begin "People In Black" are painfully out of tune, but thankfully Still Life get going and get way professional after that. "People In Black" is a mystifying song. It is definitely a put down, but very opaque. The song has apocalyptic lines and some violent imagery, but mainly a lot of anger at these protesting "People In Black." It runs for over 8 minutes and is an intense piece of music that has your attention fixed on it for the entire duration of the song. "Don't Go" which follows it and the closing track "Time" are both very melodic progressive rock songs with the former a ballad, the latter heavier with great vocals and a very warm atmosphere conjured up. Both are mournful and it seems that Still Life are a band mourning something beautiful that has passed by, maybe unnoticed by most people. It could be the 60s or it could be disillusion with England as it entered an illadvised pointless war, but more likely it's both. "October Witches" and "Dreams" are heavy epic tracks which concoct an aural stew of everything from Procol Harum to the early Nice to The Small Faces and David Bowie. Strong, powerful, and engaging music. "I'll Never Love You Girl" is another track to bring back 60s influences although it turns into a furious shouting vocal halfway through with Martin Cure sounding like Paul Rodgers gone mad. "Dreams" is the most complex track beginning with a freaky spoken section then a hard rocking 1st section and slow contemplative trippy ending. Much, much, much better than Egg or any other Canterbury pseudo artsy nonsense! Still Life may be the only successful prog/soul hybrid in existence along with Procol and some of Uriah Heep's more soulful musings and here everything is so high quality you can overlook that stupid front cover. A must-have for any discerning collector! NOTE: You can more easily afford, but not more easily find a Canadian Swirl pressing that sounds really good and duplicates the British press.
  A few quick spins here:
Power Of Zeus: America's answer to the Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath? Progressive rock or heavy psych? A bit of both and a lot more. Power Of Zeus are a rough and ready Detroit quartet whose music is far removed from the garage punk ineptitude of most of who had come before them with their sound decidedly very British/European. This is probably the best and most legitimate hard heavy prog/psych album from the States beating the heads in of every other keyboard/guitar heavy American group. The vocals are occasionally a bit too tough for their own good, but for the most part excellent. The harmonies and some whole songs flash back to the 60s Mod wave and the only problem is the really stupid lyrics to some of their songs ("You Can't see what's happened to me/Cos the rain beats down on your big beef daddy" or "You should see my woman/fine as can be my woman"). That said I would compare this album to Canada's Warpig and the heavy German and British monsters of the time (Power Of Zeus released The Gospel According To Zeus on Rare Earth in 1970)- menacing, freaky, thought-provoking hard brute force stuff with a lot of taste. There's even really melodic sections for variety- always a good thing. One of the best.
Renia- First Offenders: Renia were anything BUT underground on their 1973 record for Transatlantic instead in the vein of Fable, Dog That Bit People, or The Parlour Band a very melodic rock group with progressive leanings, melody, and muscle. Every song could be expounded upon for its perfect melding of melodic R&B/Free like rock and progressive inclinations in the superb keyboard/guitar/bass nexus that drives it along, but the fact that this whole record blends into one big perfect song is its magic. There is not one weak link here and the songs are amazing. Every track sticks to strong melodies over bombast and the vibe for the whole record is very cheerful. As said, not underground. Fable is one of the best examples of melodic British rock with ambitions, but Renia is every bit as good as that very similar record. If you were to have seen the two bands on the same bill you would have experienced the concert of your life probably, but both bands sank without trace after just one record. You can't lose with this one, but it's very hard to find it as Transatlantic only promoted their folk artists leaving rock bands like Renia or Stray for dead. Stray never made it because of the label they were on and the same could be said for Renia. The band's lead singer, Kenny Stewart, would go onto the ill-fated hard rock band Dirty Tricks, but be warned he was never this good again except for the very first album by his next venture. By the time Dirty Tricks released their second album Night Man they were a laughable parody of themselves and about the worst Free/Zeppelin wannabes in the world. Things would hit an all-time low on Hit And Run where Stewart screams his tonsils out and doesn't even try to sing. For some there is but one moment of sheer brilliance in their life and it seems for Stewart he had one and a half. That the talented vocalist didn't resurrect his earlier promise and Stevie Winwood like delivery for a second try is a real shame. Renia's First Offenders is a masterpiece of strong, solid, durable melodic British rock.
    England always seems to be the country to start a wave of excitement going and other countries pick up on it. This is true going back to the early Beat days of the Beatles and the Mods, but in the 1970s England seemed to be both a major power and a pale shadow of what the 60s had promised. There was both the best and the worst music with the same true of the life conditions people would face during those days. You either had it made or you went off to fight and got taken for one long horrible traumatic ride of trying to solve a problem you didn't create. Most bands would not make it very far either regardless of their talent, but that everyone who tried tried is what matters- England wasn't gonna fall into misery and die. It would keep itself alive until punk, but then rock would win in the end with all the great bands of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Take this blog entry as the two sides- despair and happiness- they exist in the lives of everyone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


During high school I had two best friends from Germany, one from Hungary, and several very nice European girls from the Eastern Bloc were close allies.  They were the friends of mine who gave me courage and helped me to survive, but my story starts even before then.
When you are growing up in any well-informed family or in any country where the information is even in the ether you know that Germany has a very dark past of being ravaged along with the rest of Europe by two pointless, horrible World Wars which killed millions and left the country torn up enough for Hitler to rise and then torn up enough after Adolph for a new dawn to rise in the youth of that Nation. Kids who grew up post WW2 in England and Germany and also America, in fact most European/Anglo countries, would soon form a massive underground movement in the 1960s- the counterculture.
   There was still plenty of hostility towards this "counterculture" to spread a better, more forward, brighter path for the future whilst retaining the knowledge of the past even during my formative years in high school. I had become a target by my Sophomore year. I wanted to know and I wanted the facts with no lies thank you. I was open for the first time in my life and something had come into my life I found very haunting- Soldiers. I always thought soldiers were taboo, even bad during childhood, but things would change come hearing an album called Lonesome Crow- the first by a young German band called Scorpions. The march-like rhythms and waves of screaming pounding bashing war-like onslaught combined with dark reflective passages stirred up images of what the past had held for kids at my age then of 15 and a half or older. I started to subconsciously associate this dark and menacing album with images of World War 1 and World War 2. The lyrics were pained to put it mildly, yet this creeping menacing album had me floored by it. I could feel the boots marching of every soldier in every nation- now and today. It was like this album of aural apocalypse had brought the human side of war into my mind and heart with the world exploding all around me. Ages later I still can see the same images in my head that I saw when I heard the album the first time.
    Having German and European mates was a good thing for me. David (real first name Balaz) Toth, an intellectually gifted Hungarian, was a very open person who I felt comfortable talking to about things other kids didn't ever hear from me. During our period of best friendship there was also a German acid sampling eccentric named Lorenz "Lorenzo" Westewig and I considered him a really special person too. The 3 of us knew that the book by Erich Maria Remarque ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT was on the horizon, but I never knew the impact it would have on me. When we were assigned the book we were warned that it was a really depressing and really "heavy" book and after watching both film versions many times since the subject is very frightening, unbelievably tragic, and very upsetting. During the time I read the book I immersed myself in the characters, especially Paul Baumer- the lead. A young, loving, intelligent boy thrust into the horrors of battle on the Western Front in World War 1. As I laughed at his laughter, suffered with his pain, and at the end cried for an hour over his death I felt that I was also in a war zone. It could have been a brief flight, but no not with me. I wanted to know more. I've learned over time the truth about musicians and the truth about soldiers. We share similarities yet you will always surprisingly find the musicians to be the more narrow-minded ones. A soldier is a young and eager man usually trying to escape from poverty to make something of himself, but if he succeeds and lives to tell of his experiences you won't catch him turning into an egotistical self-absorbed person. Musicians are young and eager people who in the case of especially European (and that includes England) youths are looking to learn from the history of their nation and at the time of Apocalypse's one off and the start of the Scorpions career another war, World War 2, was a subject that would burn like red blood through their songs.
   The Germans for the first time could point the finger at other countries- namely America for Vietnam. Most of these musicians would if they went on forge a career of anonymity or in the Scorpions case change their lyrical sentiments to more romantic ones. When a musician grows older he has a soul that is trying to erase his formative youthful years. When he grows old chances are he won't be rockin' or sockin' the truth about all those mysterious foreboding songs to you anymore.
   With  the horrible war in the Former Yugoslavia raging endlessly I was, we all were, very upset. Here was the country where World War 1 had started and as I looked around I saw no changes in culture or human nature at all there. Genocide and young lives being destroyed again. I wanted to go over there and fight the Serbs, but I wanted my weapon to be loudspeakers. I certainly was having way too much fun to want to go off and get shot.
   As I have aged my anti-war yet Pro Soldier beliefs are held more firmly now than ever. I know and have spoken to many British and some other soldiers and I find that history, their history, is one that lives on in a nation and in its music long after all other adolescent fantasies have died. Prepare to be shocked at some of what I reveal to you in this music, and strap yourself in coz this is a hard ride down a hard road.
    German hard psychedelic rock came roaring into existence in 1969 and stayed there for nearly over a decade. The bands all tended towards ominous names to match their ominous music and they all grew up in the shadow of World War 2. Bands like Armageddon, Apocalypse (whom I will discuss in full here), Scorpions, Nite Sun, Wind, and Gift (which is German for "Poison" actually) explored the themes of war, violence, and apocalyptic sentiments through their music to varying degrees of success. While Gift assaulted us with a barrage of noise over 2 full length albums in an attempt to make us believe that life was really damned miserable the God Like bands of the early German underground movement would have to be Apocalypse, Scorpions, and the first Electric Food LP. British bands were heavily leaning towards dark lyrics about war and disenchantment as the war in Northern Ireland would go from a bad start in 1969 to a 33 year nightmare for that country, but some of these bands were just looking for an excuse to write sensationalistic nonsense. In England there were thousands of young bands and most of them were brilliant thank you, but Germany was the country where classical music was a proud tradition so for lack of a better term "symphonies" came easier to the young German bands.
   Apocalypse were the same boys who made the pop psych classic Kannibal Komix (their spelling not mine- clever ain't it?) album and who after Apocalypse went on to Megaton with all 3 bands involving the ex US Army SGT Les Humphries who had turned to music as their Svengali. Les Humphries was a strange character about whom I don't know a whole lot, but with Enrico Lombardi who was a group member and later producer Gerd Muller in the line up they wrote and recorded the Apocalypse album- one that more than lives up to the threat it promises on the cover. The cover shows a sky turning all kinds of weird colours with at the bottom 7 multicoloured stars turning into barbed wire and holding a bleeding cut off human hand. The back cover shows a background collage and demonic beasts writhing in tortured shapes. If this sounds like you can't stomach it already and if looking at it makes you think it will be too "Heavy" for you the music outdoes the cover!
    Dispute goes on about whether Apocalypse was recorded by their producer Giorgio Moroder in 1969 or 1971, but I would compromise there and take my guess as 1970. However you slice it, it was really early and predated the similarly tortured Lonesome Crow. "Life Is Your Profession" begins with a heavy bass drum or timpani being bashed while a choir from Hell in Gregorian madness chant in the background before blasting guitars and aggressive vocals which evoke England's Open Mind or followup band Megaton but way trippier come in. The chorus uses very classical choral harmonies in the background and this is a recurring theme throughout the album. Lyrically, it sets the tone of violence, menace, and destruction that is prevalent throughout the album. "Let It Die" follows and features guitarist Jurgen Drews (now an infamous trashy cabaret singer in Spanish Malorka [sic]) singing in a soft depressed voice in a sitar-led doom-ladened dirge. The weaving sitars, sparse instrumentation, and creepy menacing harmonies have me feeling like I am lying shell shocked in a trench in World War 1. It's hard to believe that such a horrible sensation could also bring a really vibrant love of live and love of the song and album in this very dark music. "Patricia" is the longest track on the album and here the Second World War comes right straight into your living room when you play it. For some of the most tortured, menacing, dark music this album has a staggering amount of power and life. There is enough imagination and drive here to make it THE BEST HEAVY PSYCH GERMAN RECORD AND A WORLD CLASS MONSTER. "Patricia" has quiet and plaintive, wailing sections in its epic structure and features some really monstrously heavy guitar parts. After the soft verses and screaming blasting choruses the song changes into an out of tune guitar and even more out of tune thickly accented vocal about "Too Many People That Cry." The vocal sounds like he's just been shot and then he says "Picture this just 20 years ago" and the war comes out of the disturbing past right into the song with the sounds of chanting, marching, freaky Ghost Like hordes of the damned attacking your mind before a scorching guitar solo hits you so hard you don't know what has just transpired.
     Classical influences from Bach to Wagner figure heavily throughout this album. Side Two is more short song oriented and for the first 3 tracks ("Milkman," "Try To Please Me," and "Pictures Of My Woman") the music is much more of a freaky Swinging London psychedelic hard rock sound that I would liken to both The Koobas and the previously mentioned Open Mind or Dutch classic the 2nd album by The Shoes (Let The Shoes Shine In- a new wonderful discovery). There's even a hint of the craziest songs on the July album here, but even more twisted. Dark, doom concerns continue and add to that sexual aggression, wry humour, and unpredictable song structures that seem to be there just to explode to create a psychedelic vision of complete loss of connection with the real world. Yet the world is real that is described in here, alright. They grew up looking at desolation everywhere and here it inspires musical brilliance. "Linda Jones" is about a very plain, self-pitying girl who commits suicide with a Gas stove and is an obvious nod to The Beatles. After all, who had to conquer Germany before they could conquer the world?? The, uh, er, that is BEATLES. The Fab Four had changed music forever and Apocalypse are undoubtedly sincere in their paying thanks to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr here.
   Compared to what followed it the closing track "Blowing In Blow" is even more terrifying than "Let It Die" which is the second scariest track here. This could be any freaked out soldier in any pointless war. "I Think I'm Going Back To Things I Know So Well/Of Muddy Covered Leaves And Broken Bomb Shells" is the main lyric. Every demonic effect and trick including the kitchen sink and both WW1 and WW2 explodes in an ominous attack of screaming mania. This makes Amon Duul II or even the unrelated Amon Duul sound like nothing! The hard rock song semblances hold every track on this album that rocks together and the occasional pop hooks and strength of belief hold the freakiest parts of the album together. Ironically this album was the soundtrack to a film called Wunderland Der Liebe- Wonderland Of Love- Harldly!
    By the time of my second and final full onslaught in this mini-novel rock opera Lonesome Crow by Scorpions Germany held enough musical talent to carry that nation for the next decade easily, but there was always something special about Scorpions. Here the classical and choral influences sound like Apocalypse meets Uriah Heep while the main star is 15 year old guitar wizard Michael Schenker. For the first half of his career Michael may have well been the best guitarist in the world. He was already an innovator on this debut album for him. His molten classically inspired licks and riffs also have a bluesy Cream like undercurrent and the whole album is built around frightening images being brought to reality by Klaus Meine's wailing over the top vocals. Meine would never lose his touch. As time went on he would still show a real knack for melodic phrasing and all out venomous screaming when needed. The Scorpions can lay claim to a fact that no other German band can- they conquered the world of not just hard rock, but as time would go on the Pop Charts worldwide. As I have said before about musicians most begin with an entirely different mindset than what they end with. Nowhere is that more relevant than here. "SUN IS DRYING OUT MY BRAIN!!!! AND SMILING RECOLLECTIONS ARE MY PAIN!!!! I'M GOING MAD!!!!" screams Klaus in the opening track aptly titled "I'm Going Mad."
   Dark shadowy vocal chants, Klaus sounding uninhibited in his rage to the point of being possessed, and some more melodic moments form a tapestry of fear, decay, and teenaged angst never equaled since. Songs like "Leave Me," "Inheritance," "In Search Of The Peace Of Mind," and the over 13 minute title track do exactly what Apocalypse do whilst bringing it more up to date- this is post war flashing right back into the Hell of the War. Even in the quiet sections there is a lot of real pain that you can feel and when they explode into screams and violent guitar solos it takes you so far out of your own cozy world that you become one with those who suffer in every war and every form of oppression. I will never believe in war, but I do have my fascination with some pretty dark music that obviously came out of the huge hole left in a Nation's conscience by its systematic destruction of youth. The Scorpions were really young when they made this, as stated Michael Schenker was a 15 year old prodigy, but we've probably all had dreams that flirt between heroism and tortured darkness and that is where this is coming from. The terrorized subconscious is unveiled as if by musical exorcism. The demons of troubled young people's hopes and fears comes to life through the music. It's far from the commercial hard rock of "Rock You Like A Hurricane" and closer to the more streamlined heavy hard rock/melodic sound of In Trance- yet much, much more disturbed. On first listening to Lonesome Crow I was knocked cold by how heavy it was. It would take a few spins back in that distant winter of 1991, but through the years its remained a favourite- along with Apocalypse Germany's best.
   Also well worth checking out are some fantastic British underground dark themed bands of this era. The British would often be more soulful, more melodic, and more private than the all-out open-everything-up of the Germans, but they gave us the best inspirations for worldwide hard heavy progressive rock with Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and many others. One of the very best British albums is Still Life's only release on the very collectable Vertigo Swirl label where some pressings were released in Canada in a thick but exact same sleeve. Whilst the picture of flowers topping a rotted out human skull is tasteless the music is very soulful, very emotional progressive/psych rock that I will unveil for you in its brilliance the next go round.
   The whole world was acknowledging things, waking up, but throughout my entire life I've found that period of realization to be long dead and gone to most people. In high school I was physically and emotionally attacked for nothing more than speaking my mind and being myself. I stood for love and openly emotional sympathy towards those thought to be beneath me and that had me shot down. I kept on fighting, though, and the more it went on the more of a war zone the school life became. Kids turned to drug and alcohol abuse while I watched some of my best friends destroy their lives tragically. Watching All Quiet On The Western Front in especially the colour version with Richard Thomas as Paul Baumer I wish I could have saved his life as his destruction I've missed emotionally/figuratively by a hair many times. Life is frightening and not far from overpoweringly violent sometimes- hold on and face your fears- give love to anyone who needs it and remember that music is the ultimate in unleashing unchained aggression- not war where millions die needlessly. My closing words are Music and Peace to you.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


When I first discovered an obscure album by a group called Wolfe on the Rare Earth label it was all the way back in 1998 and it was a somewhat worn promo copy. I bought it not for the rather average looking cover of a bunch of nails all standing up and forming the name "WOLFE" in all caps, but because it said it was recorded in England and looked intriguing.
  Now some albums take a week, some take a month, some take more than a year or longer to really impress- this one took one play! DO NOT let the fact that some of the tracks are bubblegum and popular covers detract you- this album is really the 60s Mod pop psych group Peter And The Wolves on their one album release, an album that even in their native England was believed not to exist! When I played the record the beautiful harmonies and tough fuzz guitars blended together in a delicious way and boy do they work some magic up with "Funny Funny" by Sweet and "Dancing In The Moonlight" by King Harvest even!
   The inevitable happened. I was laughed at for it by all the idiotic American dealer snobs, and it would take till Sweet Floral Albion wrote the album up for it to even catch on at all. Paul Major also wrote a rave of it in one of his last lists and I read it and told Paul that I had discovered this record before anybody else had! The thing with Wolfe is the same as most Rare Earth releases. It was an excellent label that gave us some real gems, but apart from the extraordinary Power Of Zeus nothing on the label gets much attention. Power Of Zeus even are laughed at by some. It may be the stupid lyrics to some of their songs, but I think it is the same as with all Rare Earth releases- the Amerikan dealers don't like records with a strong Anglo or European bent and Rare Earth had a lot of that.
  Even looking at the cover of Wolfe it may not be the world's greatest cover, but it has that obscure charm about it and to get to the music this album is extraordinary. By Wolfe's belated release in 1972 things had changed a lot in England since the mid to late 1960s. Underground rock and progressive rock had come in- in fact they were the order of the day. Wolfe weren't specifically aiming at the still pop friendly charts, but taking pop psych to its next level in the early 70s. There are plenty of pop hooks that recall the heyday of The Hollies, Beatles, Honeybus, early Bee Gees (I'm thinking especially Horizontal) et all, but this album sounds more like what Honeybus were leaning towards, more mature. The Hollies were past their prime by 1972 with some excellent material, but also dabbling a bit too much in self indulgences and country rock. Wolfe sound like the Hollies if they had been able to consolidate their earlier brilliance in the early 1970s and turn it into something new, something more truly psychedelic.
   Wolfe are a quintet with a very full sound and there are plenty of charming little references to the decade that had just passed like the freaky Moog led pop psych masterpiece "Bite It Deep" with an obvious nod to The Beatles ("If the Apple is sweet then bite it deep"). "Ballad Of The Unloved" which begins the album is much more sombre, much more resigned sounding. It's very psychedelic with a really weird underwater guitar sound whilst sticking to a melodic pop format. The lead voice of Robin Slater reminds me a bit of Russell Hitchcock in Air Supply, but a little less high pitched, maybe a bit of Robin Gibb in both of them (Russell especially) and drummer Mike Wade doubles on lead vocals with a voice that brings to mind Alan Clarke of the previously mentioned Hollies- what more could you ask for!
    Wolfe are a band with a tight, disciplined sound yet there's enough looseness still to keep it from being too contrived sounding or stiff. The writers of much of the original material on this album will be of no secret to any British psych collector: John Pantry and Nick Ryan. They both worked with the likes of The Factory and a lot of other big British psych bands in the 60s, but Wolfe was their band. All five of Wolfe (John Pantry, Nick Ryan, Robin Slater, John Richmond, Mike Wade) had been at this game since at least 1967 and this album has a very mature sound to it. "Bite It Deep" is a great song, but perhaps the highlight for original material is "A Tale Of Two Cities" which thankfully has nothing to do with the French Revolution. Instead it's a rather sullen track with great melodies and harmonies about New York and London. The first half which is New York would have The Hollies kicking themselves that they didn't write it or record it. It also reminds me of Tin Tin and a band who keep popping up here when I listen- Kaleidoscope. Yes, Kaleidoscope were heading towards this album the further on they went (Fairfield Parlour)and Peter Daltrey would be proud of Wolfe. London follows New York and is about a subject written about quite a few times in these blogs- the Decline And Fall of England. Altogether, not a happy song and by London some of it is really emotive- dynamic stuff! There's a few tracks on here leaning towards that rural pastoral rock sound that was so popular in the early 70s and Wolfe handle that brilliantly.
   There isn't a bad track on here. "Time Is Money" by Robin Slater is another fantastic original song with a kind of Hollies meets McCartney vibe, crisp production, and fine lyrics. Another album that I'm flashing on is the British expatriate California based Jamme from some years earlier on Dunhill- another massively underrated record. Wolfe may be the very best pop record of the year of 1972, though. Certainly it is THE MOST OVERLOOKED. There isn't a dud on this album. Not even the Bev Bevan like ultra baritone vocal in their cover of "Mama Lion" by Judd detracts. In fact, placed next to the original this one wins hands down. "Us," another original composition manages to sound 60s in a 70s context. A more grown up approach, but with the innocence of 60s solid British pop intact. "Dancing In The Moonlight" and "Funny Funny" are so psyched it's unbelievable- trippy vocals, fuzz, phasing, effects all turn these into songs that are more psychedelic than they are bubblegum. What could have been throwaway covers turn into brilliance. Wolfe knew exactly the sound and exactly the album they wanted to record- I'd say they more than accomplished making an album that would be perfect 1972 music with still plenty of 1967 in it- just a little more grown up as I have said.
   Now comes the annoying part for Wolfe and for me. They miraculously couldn't attract the attention of a British label and the album only came out in America on Rare Earth. This would seal the fate of both the album and the band as it was doomed not to sell one copy in the wasteland of early 70s America. As I have stated Rare Earth released some great records, but most of the bands that were not American had their albums released in England or nearly everywhere (see UFO, Toe Fat). Wolfe were clearly destined for exactly what they did not deserve- the bargain bin. This album is rare enough, quality enough to command a price tag of over $100 or at least $75, but it is still not really a discovered album. I'm giving Wolfe the praise they deserve. Peter And The Wolves had been around for a long time and they had grown as a band and as musicians when they made this album. I have not heard their previous output, but based on this record I'm sure it's very high quality British pop. Wolfe only getting a US release was a major blow in more ways than one. Had they been on Parlophone or another really collectable UK label years later in collecting circles this would command an exorbitant amount, but a one off release in the States means they'll probably never get past the narrow-minded and trite American dealers who don't like anything Anglo or lazy British dealers who only pay attention to an album released in England. That is really a shame. I'd say it's something I find unforgivable. Go out and find the record- and you'll have a lot of trouble running into a copy. In this lopsided situation, though, it shouldn't command more than $35 to $50 at most in price or maybe less, but try finding it. The fact of the matter is that even though this was released by a major label before getting a perfect sealed copy I'd only had two copies before that of this record. A more than educated guess would suggest that not very many copies came out of Wolfe.
   Wolfe don't have to end with a sad bunch of bemoanings by me about how they should have been super huge and super famous, because that isn't the most important thing. The most important thing is the quality of the music and Wolfe have that over a whole lot of other more praised, more expensive bands. While Deram or EMI didn't release it who really should give a damn about that. I like having a few secrets and a few things that other people don't know about yet and Wolfe stand as my firm favourite. In 1972 there was perhaps more great music than any other year in the 1970s all over England and Europe, even some American albums from that year are astonishingly good, and Wolfe have that kind of maturity that was so prevalent then. The Beatles had split in 1970, but their spirit and their brilliance remained. There still was some hope and there still were dreams from earlier times left. Wolfe carried on these 60s dreams and they made them into something like a snug and beautiful patchwork quilt- all handmade and all from the heart. That may sound a bit corny to some of you, but I find it an apt analogy. While I wouldn't dispute that Wolfe were probably a studio band by this point, they made the album that is an album of my dreams- an album of warmth, sincerity, and brilliant melodies yet with enough toughness to save it from being twee. Find it and remember that if it ever becomes a big record I got there ahead of the rest.