The mail has been a nightmare. It took a total of 10 working days and 12 days total (excruciating) for a package containing the records of my heart's desire to come and my dad had to go pick them up early this morning at the PO. Don't blame the individual mailmen/PO personnel, blame this on the slowness of European mail and the shorthandedness of the US Postal Service in a time of financial crisis and decay. And still 4 more records are held up.... I feel like I am constantly at war against something or somebody. I feel like a soldier, a career soldier who just has to go on fighting and fighting till he wins the definitive battle and reaches the true peak of pleasure- awareness.
When I hear something I've had to fight for and it lets me down it is the biggest blow in the world, but when it's as good as these two it is like a soldier winning a fight after thinking he'd lose it. I'll say no more except that here are two very unusual records and two of the best ever. Listen closely to the pictures.
-Megaton: A Band Of 1971 A Band of Complete Magic-
Megaton is an album that you either seem to love or hate with unfortunately a lot of people/dealers/collectors spilling out bad press and bad vibes about it. The album also did not sell well at the time although the hopes for a hit were really high when after all the lead singer/co-composer of the studio project was Jimmy Bilsbury from Lancashire England who was fresh off a US huge hit with his band The Magic Lanterns. On that song ("Shame Shame") and on the album that followed it in the States on Atlantic Bilsbury proved himself to be a very powerful vocalist, but he was clearly at odds with the straightforward yet very class act British pop the band were playing. Seeking a change of direction he went to Germany and teamed up with the infamous Les Humphries- an ex US army SGT who had his own band and who managed to record some pretty out there stuff with a group consisting of 3 Germans and one Italian. Before Bilsbury's arrival they'd recorded as Kannibal Komix and then as Apocalypse, but neither of these projects sold well. It was the usual problem- too much talent and not any marketing sense on part of the label (Ariola). Bilsbury came along and they got together and magic happened. Megaton was recorded and except for a release in the United States it was pretty much an international release and you can tell a huge amount of money and time was sunk into the production.
Megaton like Duffy played a strange kind of sound- hard rock pop psych. Bilsbury equated hard rock with over the top screams and powerful bluesy soulful vocals like Paul Rodgers or Stevie Winwood whilst the band added very German harmonies and amazing musicianship. On a few tracks Bilsbury plays piano. Now, hard rock pop psych may sound like a contradiction in terms, but there was a lot of it around in the early 1970s and it began with The Koobas in 1969. The correct way to describe it is to say that the melodic aspects of 1960s psych are kept and in addition to that there is the heavy vibe of classic hard rock added to it. It's a magical sound. Megaton clearly were of this breed and clearly amongst the best. Tracks such as the killer opener "Out Of Your Own Little World" are really powerful with strong vocals, funny accented harmonies, and some amazing guitar pyrotechnics. After beginning like a cross between Free and The Koobas it goes into a long guitar break and then back to the almost glam hard hitting guitars/vocals. The rest of Side One gets much further out there and over the top with the second track on the album "Niagara" a heavy mixture of overt Led Zeppelin influences, Latin/African percussion, crazed vocals, and bizarre lyrics. It's hard to believe that people can love something as horrendous as Morgen or Stonewall (yeah, a shit record with a big reputation of being one of the American Holy Grail hard rockers which by the way is a genre which does not exist) and hate this, but that's American collectors/dealers for you. They don't understand this kind of music. They just haven't a clue. Also, I would probably say that if you are into the more cosmic German bands this one will fly right past you. I never could stand that stuff. German I equate with rocking not plodding nothingy nonsense. "Niagara" is very German with a British hard rock influence which makes me think of John Lawton's early period of Lucifer's Friend or the other Lucifer's connected bands like Electric Food who covered "Whole Lotta Love." "Wanna Be A Hero" is a song clearly stemming from Vietnam and the previous destruction ridden nightmare of World War 2. The vocals are completely over the top and manic with a lot of screams thrown in, sinister intonations, and the lyrics are some of the angriest anti war angst you'll ever come across. However, like all things Megaton there is a sense of humour and none of it is depressing. "Fairy Tale Song" alludes to Lewis Carroll in a weird way as it is Bilsbury's craziest vocal on the record and one of the heaviest tracks. It's very funny with really nothing else like it at all. The music is very different and Megaton sound pretty exotic with their weird blend of different styles/approaches to hard rock. "Coo Cooki Choo" closes the side and is one of the best tracks on Side One with some great vocals, an unusual song structure, and lots of drug references (thankfully just to smoking hash and lighting incense- a legal drug). It's one of my very favourite tracks on the album-a really catchy uplifting song and something again very different.
Side Two differs from Side One a bit in that the pop psych vibes are more present and there is less of the hard rock onslaught of Side One. That doesn't mean it's lightweight at all, just that Megaton can really surprise you. The harmonies come out more and on the opener "Carry It On At The End" everything from Reggae to Afro/Cuban and Latin percussion is used tastily with lots of great vocals/vocal harmonies. Bilsbury has a very appealingly bluesy voice that thankfully can also be melodic when need be. "Woman I'm Gonna Make You Mine" beats the shit out of Status Quo for boogie rock with some great harmonies, strong vocals, and a really sassy vibe to it all. It doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin- it's much poppier. "Man In An Aeroplane" is where the scratch on my copy which is otherwise great does a tiny bit of damage (really miniscule), but I think it's the weakest track on the album. It doesn't have a whole lot of energy and is decent, but not great. Thankfully the last two tracks on the album "Life Was Easy Yesterday" and "Tomorrow Never Comes My Way" are very different in a good way and two of the best on the record. The former is amazing melodic rock/pop with a great vocal sound and the latter a song that takes The Band and turns it into something good. A really strong ending to a very underrated record. I don't understand why so many people don't get Megaton. I'll admit the vocals are pretty damned crazy, but a lot better than quite a few other bands I can think of and the music is really different, really special. For me it's quite a relief from the uselessness of much of what was going on in America at a time I am glad I was not born in time to remember and one further thing about this record- DO NOT buy a Mexican or Peruvian press go straight for the German Decca as it has the best sound.
-A Rave About England's Brilliant Duffy Just In Case You're Interested-
It doesn't get any better than this album. That would simply be impossible after hearing it. There are equals, but nothing can surpass it. From Toytown popsike to sinister hard acid rock these guys are a band who definitely were never gonna top this one. And they didn't top it at all. Their England only followup to a European only first had its moments, but is nowhere near as good. That album is called SCRUFFY DUFFY. It doesn't impress me with its more progressive leaning less psychedelic sound. In fact, I'm shocked that some of the tracks on JUST IN CASE YOU'RE INTERESTED haven't been put out on a classic British psych compilation. How Rubble missed "Matchmaker," "Amie," "Long Lost Friend," "Tell Me," and "It's My Life" especially the knock out psych of "Matchmaker" is a real mystery. If you love The Koobas as much as I do and wish there was a second album then here it is- this is that good! Duffy clearly had chops. There is more guitar on here than SCRUFFY and the keyboards are more creative too. Stewart "The Queen" Reffold sings with a very pleasant yet rocky raspy voice that recalls Stu Leathwood of The Koobas and early Rod Stewart. One of the biggest differences here are the outstanding harmony vocals which often are phased and very psychedelic sounding. Some of this album is straight out of classic 1968/1969 British psych, but if you like your Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Deep Purple then you'll be in hard rock paradise when you hear the really powerful "Judgement Day." "Judgement Day" is one of the heaviest tracks on the record and features some really sinister lyrics. It's hard to tell if Duffy are Christian in a weird way and that also comes through on their inferior follow up, but I would probably guess they are non religious and just an intelligent band. Stewart Reffold sings with a very dark voice on this track that strongly recalls Ozzy and how few singers can attempt Ozzy and pull it off makes his strongly Sabbbathy vocals very impressive. He also can sound like David Coverdale at his best or the aforementioned Rod Stewart on hard hitting rockers like "Rock Solid" which could have been a hit and the revenge with gun against unfaithful wife/girlfriend sinister hard psych rocker "Riverside."
In addition to the amazing original material there is the best ever take on "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" which at nearly 6 minutes is a really powerful reworking. The only cover they'd ever do in their all to brief career, and an amazing one. There isn't one song on this album that doesn't merit maximum rating. It is a very special record especially in that 1960s pop psych and 70s hard rock/acid rock meet in a perfect way that never sounds disjointed. The lyrics are very good and insightful with again a marked improvement to their follow up album which isn't worth buying really. Like so many other bands before and so many since Duffy had made the perfect album and where was there to go after that but down? It isn't 80s Colin Blunstone sell out down which is the worst schlock (nothing sucks more than the album he made with Keats), but SCRUFFY DUFFY doesn't have this kind of magic. Speaking of Blunstone The Man With The Golden Voice you can even hear some Oddesey and Oracle traces on here not vocally just in the very intelligent loving approach to the music on the record. Nobody has harmonies this good. Not The Zombies not even the Godlike Hollies who there are some strong resemblances at times. The only band I can think of who'd be on the same level are The Beach Boys and that is quite a mouthful for me to say about this band! I love The Koobas and I wish they hadn't had such bad luck, but Duffy's luck was none better. They could easily have quit with JUST IN CASE YOU'RE INTERESTED and since what followed it isn't anywhere close in quality I kind of wish they had. To my knowledge none of the group resurfaced in other outfits after Duffy, but they made one of the best records ever recorded. There is nothing that isn't the absolute peak of British psych/hard rock on this album. A real masterpiece.