Monday, December 2, 2013

David Lewis The Visionary And His Band Andwella's Dream/Andwella Some Of The Best Music During The Worst Times.

I used to "think" I knew what that unpronounceable guy in Artch also known as Erik Hawk was on about in the song "Power To The Man," but now I'm sure I know! If there is a woman who gives life and love instead of taking it away and leaving a trail of wreckage, sorrow, and destruction in this world my guess is she's either black, Indian, or Jinx Dawson from Coven and I'd probably go with Jinx. Jinx is a witch and she is trained at it. She also is a formidable singer/writer or was. I'm sure like the Wilson sisters Anne and Nancy in Heart, Joplin, the good women, the rock and roll ones, was taken for a big mighty long and bad ride, but she never became somebody who sounded cynical and the malicious nature of Coven grew more tongue in cheek as it went on. However, having said that Coven were no joke. They really were Satanists and they pursued their interests outside of music gradually more than in their music. They also had other visions which brings me to a certain David Lewis from Northern Ireland.
     -An Introduction To A Brilliant Man And His Band Who Made The Best Music In The World-
         One of the first really freaky and scary looking covers to catch my eye was the cover of the 2nd Andwella's Dream record where the band became simply Andwella called WORLDS END. This bleak picture of a dead face (it's Jesus Christ) with long hair really flipped me out on first seeing it as it looked like an album cover in a dream I'd recently had (shades of Artch and The O Band again). I hesitated to buy it and when I did eventually buy it I was 16 years old and didn't know what the fuck the music was all about- it just seemed like a whole bunch of different things and now I consider it one of the great records- up there with the known classics by both famous and obscure bands alike. I found out Andwella were formerly called Andwella's Dream and that album was a big ticket psychedelic acid rock monster. Well, it is, and WORLD'S END which followed it and then the shockingly different take on PEOPLES PEOPLE make for a perfect trilogy of unmatchable greatness that just flows over with feeling, character, and a really soulful power that grabs you and won't let go. Throughout their career there was one mainstay who wrote all the songs and had a powerful vision or I could say many visions and his name is David Lewis. David Lewis and the original line up of him on vocals/guitars/keyboards, Nigel Smith on bass, and Gordon Barton on drums came from Northern Ireland and were previously known as The Method. Northern Ireland is not a place I think highly of, but I'm beginning to wonder if hidden beneath all the Republican Sectarian muck there isn't some great gem and even holy power I'm missing. Have I ever met an Irishman I didn't like? No. I think the women are bitches most of them, but that's Irish Americans for you where a lot of the men are bastards. When it comes to the actual Irish I have never had an experience that was even mediocre with one- they have all been great and very warm people. One of my best friends was Irish and we had many great times with each other- he's a person I think of sometimes when I think lowly of humans as I often do.
     David Lewis comes across as a man with a vision and not just another singer/guitarist/songwriter. His guitar work sets the first two records ablaze and his voice is even better, even more perfect, than dare I say that Irishman I've heard is a pretty nasty idiot, but an absolutely amazing genius Van Morrison. I love Van Morrison. I love David Lewis even more, though. There are similarities, but where Van goes more into Irish concerns and soul influences David Lewis doesn't need the influences because HE IS SOUL! I'd put his voice up there with Van's, but I would compare him more to Gary Brooker in Procol Harum than Van Morrison both as a singer and for the kind of music he plays/sings. He seems to have an interest in Satanism and the occult at times and at other times he comes off disillusioned with humans or else very gentle and loving so this is a man of many different feelings and emotions.
     I would like to know more about Mr. David Lewis. Beneath a common name lurks a very uncommon person. His distaste for religion actually went as far as writing a song about a witch whose name is Andwella on the first album LOVE AND POETRY. If you're looking for the best psychedelic album ever made that goes off into progressive and hard rock territory look no further. It wasn't gonna stop there. WORLD'S END under the new name Andwella instead of Andwella's Dream gained an international release as did the follow up PEOPLES PEOPLE, but all 3 records were commercial flops at the time. I find that unfathomable. This is some of the most powerful music I've ever heard in my whole life. I have no idea how they managed to make one masterpiece after another without huge sales and the kind of popularity that made for the really big names of the era. Whilst sales wise the albums did nothing they speak volumes about all kinds of things and demolish many hugely successful bands like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Savoy Brown, Family (after the first album), and the increasingly over time inconsistent Traffic just to name a few examples. The influences on Andwella's Dream/Andwella's records are as varied as it gets with on the the first two albums the unlikely appearances sometimes all at once of early/great Traffic, The Band, and Jimi Hendrix with PEOPLES PEOPLE leaning more towards Band influenced pastoral folkrock than the full on attack of much of the first two. For all 3 albums David Lewis sings in a passionate and earthy voice that definitely has shades of a lower pitched Steve Winwood and Gary Brooker. I'd like to share my thoughts on each album separately now with you so hold on tight and be patient.
      Released in 1969 when psychedelic rock was beginning to turn into progressive, hard, folk, and country rock there is a lot of all of the above and a lot of psychedelic mind frying going on on the first album. It may be the best place for psych fans to start off. David Lewis penned all of the songs which range from the scathing fuzz guitar attacks on "The Days Grew Longer For Love," "Shades Of Grey," "Andwella," and the Hendrix inspired mania of "Sunday" to the beautifully haunting psychedelic number "Felix" to the tuneful singalong country rock of "Man Without A Name." You can hear the beginning of Thin Lizzy and at times even a little Jethro Tull, but that's probably because of the blues influences and some of the guitar passages. "Take My Road" is another great song, a really great song. CBS did nothing for Andwella's Dream. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were at their ugly beginning and I bet Andwella's Dream were glad they'd left for England which was unfortunately the only way to survive for Irish bands at that time. I bet they weren't too happy about CBS pressing the record in very limited quantities and now if you own the original you own a 1500 quid or $2,000 record! That means we should be really glad that both the old bootleg which is in and of itself a collector's item and the legitimate Lightning Tree edition have fantastic sound quality. You have to have this album. I would put every song as a killer in my book here and the lyrics are astonishingly good. It's a snapshot in time of a different time. Unfortunately, it's the songs about prejudice and evil that still ring true today. David Lewis seems like somebody you'd see sitting alone in a corner looking and feeling contented by himself just strumming a guitar and jotting down poetry. I guess I'm saying he comes across rather introverted. He also has an interest in the occult which makes for some intriguing lyrics on all 3 records. Would a worldwide deal change his direction? No. Read on further, but do seek the first one LOVE AND POETRY out first it will blow your mind much more so than any number of hugely successful albums that came out at the same time.
            WORLD'S END managed to get the newly simplified named Andwella a worldwide deal and came in a dark, creepy, and stunning cover which had songs about everything of importance in its grooves when you put the record on the turntable and cranked it up. "Hold Onto Your Mind" is a natural continuation of the first album with killer melodies, driving Koobas alike piano, and blasting wild ass guitar raging violently out of control at the end. If ever there was a #1 hit that was only a #1 hit to those lucky enough to hear it this song is exactly that. You also as with the debut get a wide range of different genres thrown in which include stabs at Gospel/soul influences in "I'm Happy Just To See You Get Her," beautiful ballads like the tender and charming "Lady Love" about a woman who is loveliness personified, and stark haunting numbers like the title track and the powerfully creepy tour de force "Shadow Of The Night." There's even a progressive rock instrumental number in "Michael Fitzhenry" that excels at exactly what Traffic were failing miserably at after a great first album. Andwella and David Lewis weren't gonna cave in and turn into bullshit rock like Family or to a lesser extent Traffic after an amazing first album- they were gonna move and groove and develop their solid musical ideas into something that might be even more impressive if that's something I can even imagine- wow! Look no further for perfection- here it is! David Lewis I hope is still with us and I hope that for the whole band. I don't know just how poor the sales were of their albums, but most certainly they weren't good. An American label should have made them huge, but unfortunately that just didn't transpire. I don't think David Lewis was going to get perturbed by the public's indifference. He may have seen his songs as something private from his heart he was revealing and maybe he wasn't too unhappy when he had to keep his secrets secrets. However, as personified in "The Road" he was developing an obsession with The Band and olde timey handicrafts and this would lead to a personnel upheaval and huge musical change on PEOPLES PEOPLE. Now we reach that album. Album #3.
       Now things weren't too good for Andwella. Two albums of musical brilliance have been recorded and released with miserable sales and clearly something was gonna change and the musical climate was changing anyway. David Lewis on PEOPLES PEOPLE is the only member besides the band's keyboard player who himself was an addition who is left on the third and last album. The guitar flies out the window. So do dark progressive influences and psychedelic brain blasters. A friendly, pastoral, melodic, and song based album of very pleasant music and great lyrics is what lies in store for you on PEOPLES PEOPLE. Right off the album starts with one of their best songs in the soul influenced "She Taught Me To Love" and there's not one weak track on the album, but I miss the soaring smashing guitar pyrotechnics and energy of the first two making the third a very different listening experience. Some songs sound like attempts at a hit single, but none of the emotional power is thrown out this is just the most introverted and most commercial of the three albums. It has to be heard like the first two albums, but the audience they couldn't reach on the first two still wasn't reached on the third album. I can't believe it didn't work out better for the brilliant songs of David Lewis. He'd written three albums worth of greats and classics, but the record sales were poor again. Not surprisingly it was the last album. I feel very sad for Andwella. This album is beautiful. it isn't quite as good as the first two or maybe it is I leave that for my mood swings to decide. When I want to smile and relax I put PEOPLES PEOPLE on. When I want to fly out into a completely different world I put the first two on, but one thing can't be denied- there's a vision here and it's a powerful one. You need to get all 3 albums and don't worry about the American pressings sounding not-so-hot like many times happens they actually sound fantastic. We should be glad that Andwella came out in America, but their albums have vanished making them only available for the most part on the internet and I strongly urge you to track them down through discogs or musicstack. If you walk into a record store and see WORLD'S END or PEOPLES PEOPLE grab them and your life may take on a whole new path. I am increasingly removing myself from society and becoming an introvert. I would like to thank my friends in England who have been so supportive and my friends who care here, but introversion seems to be the way to go in a life that unless I fill it with music becomes more and more questionable for how much pleasure can be in it when there is such a huge amount of sadness and anger. I feel that I've been taken for a ride. I suspect that David Lewis felt the same way. I've found someone to connect with in him and I love his music. I would be overjoyed if he would write to me if he happens to read this blog entry. Feel free to send any of your comments (positive ONLY!) my way and I'm going into my Andwella world very soon again tonight! And you should too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Finally After 21 Years The ULTIMATE ROCK OPERA Libretto Is Done Largely Thanks To 1 Rifles UK's Inspiration Now Seeking Daring If Raw Recruits For The Musical Part- Let's Rock!

I've made up with my very best friend and the only record dealer I consider a friend  after some disgusting comments and much harm done by someone who shall go nameless and is completely tarnished in my mind. Getting to that truth took up a bit of my time, but most of the last two weeks have been taken up on a finally realized breakthrough I've spent 21 long years trying to get right- a full fledged rock concept opera now loosely based on a really revealing and detailed dream 22 years ago that concerned an anti Christian more so anti religion and vehemently anti war concept album that was supposed to be so devilish, violent, scathing, masterful, and hard brute force about concrete truths that nobody could play it without a huge overhaul to their mind, their soul, and their way of thinking about my favorite group of people in the whole world- Soldiers (excluding females and mostly British To The Bone)
          -The Opera And The Vision: The Reality Of Writing The Heaviest Thing Ever Written-
    I've had many really vivid and detailed dreams that turned out to hold some real form of truth for my whole life, but it's the music/military/occult based ones from my "growing years" that really have been the most memorable. A long time ago I gave full account of the prophetic dream about The O Band which turned out to be a case of Deja Vu, but my dream of the mighty album called BLAK MAJICK RITUAL (the spelling in the dream and the spelling I use) must certainly be the highest for inspiration, educating me, and pointing a path a million years ago of where I'm headed now. I had no real clue about how I felt in regards to soldiers from any country when I had the dream, but in December of 1991 the birth of a lot of changing and growing happened when I was fighting like a brutal warrior against the even more brutal injustices of the school I was in. I strongly suspect that what happened in the course of the dream had a lot to do with my just blossoming fascination with the occult and dark subject matter, but it just as much had to do with the amazing music I heard by the Swedish psychedelic/pop hard rock legends Blond.
    The dream took place after a lot of listening to Blond and for the first time in my life soldiers started to play a positive role largely thanks to some of Blond's very insightful lyrics. I recommend the album to everyone and you can hear some real wisdom and fortitude in "Sailing 'Cross The Ocean" and "Time Is Mine." You can learn what love really is too- a tough subject for me at the time and for many years to come as I was completely unaware of where that emotion would lead me to...
 I for many, many long hard years tried to capture all the heavy vibes of the music in that dream about the ultimate apocalyptic, violent, savage, hard as hard can be, and also musically momentous album and every time it turned out the same- I was struggling and getting nowhere as Benjamin Blake Mitchner trying to fill the shoes of the dream's majestic powerful mysterious Pieter Pryce (Peter Price was how the half Swedish half Dutch vocalist/musician/writer Anglicized his name).
     One of his bands was called Witching Hour and that was to be the name and inspiration of my earliest failed attempts at the tender ages of 16 to 18. As far as I could go with inventing great pyrotechnics, shadings, and musical nuances into my guitar playing I just couldn't write the songs. I couldn't write one song to make that even more true to life. I was struggling while I was growing. Time would tell that the breakthrough wasn't gonna come at all during my teenaged years. Witching Hour was a band that never existed as you can imagine. They happened in a dream and I couldn't fulfill the music heard in the dream with my meager writing abilities.
     Fast forward quite a few years and I would try even harder, but something was standing in my way and causing me to nearly give up all hope. I couldn't get the words right. I needed to have a huge force touch my life, I needed a huge motivation, someone or something I loved enough to really go out and make the statement for. Inspiration comes in strange experiences sometimes and sometimes it will hit you right when you think all hope is lost. Read on and see if you have the power to become a part of the brilliance I'm gonna spend a whole lot of time, effort, and hard work on!
           -The 1st Battalion Of The Rifles Regiment Come To The Valiant Rescue And Tony Martin ex Black Sabbath provide the next steps required to do it- Thanks to all and everyone who helped!-
     I've been on a crazy ride for a few years with the 1st Battalion Of The Rifles Regiment in England where these tough, intelligent, forward going, and for 95% fantastic soldiers can trace their roots back to the war Great Britain should have won- the ludicrous to me American War Of Independence. One of the main things that sparkled in the all-revealing dream and led to the whole Army Witch And Warlock Nonconformity Message Maker I now am happened just days before the dream when I acted out my hatred of American conformist nationalistic blind as can be thinking by playing the part of a Redcoat British Soldier in school and I smashed up a whole bunch of things during a "Patriotism Raising" ceremony that was like every other ceremony at the school I was in- full of nothing but a lot of bullshit. I was caught on video camera in my defiant stance and said "I'm not taking this fucking shit anymore you don't get your independence and you'll be hearing from ME!" Yes, it must be revealed that those Redcoats later on would become my unknowing musical salvation in the form of the wonderful soldiers who can proudly call them their ancestry and heritage.
        Most of the soldiers in 1 Rifles have been generous, patient, friendly, helpful, wise, highly educational, and kind to me and I sincerely thank British soldiers especially them for enabling me to  make this huge leap forward as I feel very strongly that soldiers from everywhere good (including America now) are some of the most underrated men/boys if not THE MOST UNDERRATED in the world. I see how soldiers are detested and hated by a lot of stupid people and this can filter right through into mean spirited wholly wrong lyrics and comments and beliefs often held by a whole lot of stupid people. For 12 years I've been vehemently anti Irish in my beliefs and anti anyone who is against the British Army. I unfortunately could not channel this into my writing because I hadn't had a vision to string around the for/against scenario this album was about from the first revelations of it in the dream. There have been great and brilliant and also horrible and heart breaking experiences with The Rifles over the time that I've become involved in my relations with them, but since the best soldiers in the regiment and the many great British soldiers going way back that I've had the pleasure to know vastly outweigh the bad it was only a matter of time before I would reach that experience that made me come up with something that would be even more of an experience than the first time I heard the one Jimi Hendrix put us into. Conversations got more serious and that was step one. I got a lot of bringing up when I was down and that was step two. The lightning strike just happened and was helped immensely by conversations and encouragement these extraordinary lads didn't even have to grant me. I knew I'd found the resilience and strength needed through the encouragement instilled by them for me. To all my mates you warmed up my heart and lit the spark (then the fuse).
      I was thinking about things like scary imagery in songs, underground vibrations that rumble your soul, and really getting into the warrior mindset when I by chance started listening a lot on YouTube to Chicago's groundbreaking Coven and their powerful soaring voiced true to life real witch Jinx Dawson. Jinx if you see this I love you. Jinx is a woman who can do what hardly any other women can do for the vehemently NOT straight me- she can really take a hold of my heart. Jinx and the whole band probably got used and since I've heard all about the bad experiences of the Wilson sisters of Heart in the beginning of their career nothing would surprise me. I think that if another all out rocker female came out now she would probably and hopefully eclipse the kind of nowhere music made by most female artists of late bar the fantastic Portishead. I hear in Coven's music a band that defies all the phony pious nonsense not only much of this country, but that all religion stands for. They went from proud Inverted cross wearing Satanists to sparkling melodic songs with Jinx and the whole band showing their always improving chops and especially that lovely blonde woman breaking new ground with her voice. I don't know anybody in Coven, but I can say that they helped me out on the musical/lyrical front of the breakthrough although not as much as soldiers who are and always will be my #1 inspiration.
      In 1 Rifles there are musicians, music followers, and singers who may be miles away from me when it comes to bugling and things like that, but I love Army music and marching sounds so I decided to not just talk with the boys about war, life, love, happiness, and sadness, but really to listen. When looking at the horrendous kind of sacrifices made for ungrateful and utterly shitheaded leaders and stupid dark ages dwelling in the 21st century filth people anger like the anger that would often make me blow up in school started to swelter in me. I then had the breakthrough- I started writing and it just was coming to me by magic. I kept on with it and lo after 21 years it's finally paying off!!!! I've changed a lot of the concept drastically from the dream and really made it operatic and for operatic what's better than the monolith majestic sound of the great singers like Tony Martin of 10 years now shamefully washed out of their catalog Black Sabbath or the tragically no longer with us David Byron of Uriah Heep and Freddy Mercury? I sing very forcefully and with a lot of soul. These greats really have inspired me and I'm  much more comfortable singing very dramatic stuff that borders on opera so that together with a kind of vocal bugle revelry or sadness and fire-in-my-heart ideas for the music I'm creating the best of 1 Rifles helped top it all off for me.

   -Inspirations Aplenty Musical Mayhem To Be Developed And Brilliant Help During Bad Periods-
      I sing like an Englishman when I'm not singing like some of my American pomp rock and AOR influences and it would be lying to say that Dennis Deyoung of Styx or Steve Perry of Journey would have happened without two great singers who got there first who were both English- David Byron and Freddy Mercury (actually Mercury was/is Parsi Tribe Indian born in Madagascar). It also would be very contradictory if I didn't admit what a huge influence both Perry and Deyoung have been for me. Dennis is a perfectionist and he also tried hard to bridge opera with rock succeeding beautifully. Still for the best vocals in the history of heavy music both Byron and the Madagascar master Mercury are still number one and both tragically are dead.
     I was hit hard by the deaths of several musical friends, but the worst experience in terms of losing somebody lies with a very good mate in 1 Rifles CPL Mark Palin who very sadly was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan fighting for people who I will not even talk about and whose country we should not be in. I will only say one thing- I don't like them one bit. I can't feel much sympathy. I simply feel like they have their world and we have ours and we shouldn't have gone in trying to turn their world into anything like the Western World. They simply are too diversified, but they warm people's hearts when they are a lot of them Taliban and supporters who are total savages. They are not cultured tribes like the shamefully treated Native Americans who are still a million light years ahead of the settlers who wiped so many of them out. I guess just like the "Ireland Question" I'm off with my mates in the British Army and the rest of the world is horrified. I like that. The more I started thinking about it, thinking of what we get up to saying with each other, the bond we have together, I knew I'd get right into a soldierly mindset and ready myself for possibly the bloodiest texts (or if you prefer the word Lyrics) ever laid down. I aim to be honest and to shock and only aim to please myself. I had spent too much energy thinking about other people's opinions and what they may think. I ditched that nervous thinking for my Rock Opera. The words I've come up with stem from very Anti war beliefs I have that for a change side with the ones who have to do the dirty work. I also ended up naturally working in themes of love and other romantic imagery to offset the really grim stuff.
             -Summing It All Up And The Question Is Asked Are You Ready To Rock!-
  The opera slams religion, but it also dares to really get down with some seriously violent tones and I finally have written something that shows the two sides of not just my soul, but the lads I've written it for. I think that music still can move forward. We may think sometimes "Oh, that's been done everything's been done," but I'm starting to see things differently. Nobody has had the courage to say some of the things I put down not even Sabbath. However, I do not wish to make music that is so metallic that you can't understand the words to it and it sounds like a machine is doing it. Heavy Metal became just as perverted as Christianity or Allah when it turned into white trash hate music. Back in the days of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, and very significantly with the amazing new developments made by emotionally riveting bands like Diamond Head metal could have a lot of passion, a lot of depth to it. There have been quite a few hard rock, heavy progressive, and heavy metal bands who have really discovered the kind of way down emotional soul searching going on in everything from the best of the blues and soul classics to actual Opera. I believe that rock comes out of African American and Classical music sometimes with shadings of folk. If you get too far from the foundation on which all rock should be built you end up with music that not only is not authentic, but is also unlistenable. I've used in the heading for this the title of a song by the original Michael Schenker Group (MSG) with the unique Gary Barden as vocalist "Are You Ready To Rock." I did a lot of looking back on my whole life since music became so powerful to me and a lot of searching when I wrote my mighty long opera. I had to retrace my steps many times and think a lot. I wanted to touch on something emotional, something with soul, something where despite all the dark and violent sentiments I would not have to resort to using nowhere metal cliches. I would say if there's a band who are the musical equivalent to 1 Rifles that band would be several. You have to put  a few together, but coming up near the top of the list is the sadly much neglected Alaska who came not from Alaska they came from England and came out of one of the most seminal brilliant bands ever- Whitesnake. David Coverdale is a perfect example of what one man can accomplish in the face of adversity. He went from years of ignorance when he was making his best music to a huge worldwide star, but even though he got to stardom he has remained a great person.
    Alaska, however, are even closer to what I want from my music. You hear clearly the words from almost mellow vocals and hear all the different shadings in the music. The best of their two albums is Heart Of The Storm and like my own lyrics they wrote on sometimes some pretty scathing subjects. Their second album The Pack was a little bit too hurried and not enough of the melodic brilliance of the first is included on it, but what is included is a song that influenced me greatly even without the album in my collection- the scary anti war song "I Really Want To Know." You can understand all the words to this song about a massacre and everything is so melodic you don't feel like you are being bludgeoned by a bunch of angry stupid white guys as you would feel if say Megadeth had done it. Music can only go forward by going back for a few memories and then plunging forward. History and the men who make it can only go forward by taking it forward not by going back. Essentially my opera is those sentiments. I have created a nightmare vision of the future based on despots and fascism that goes back to Adolph and Stalin and ahead to George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and Ossama Bin Laden and I put the scared, angry person I am when thinking about the bastards who get power and abuse it long after all that's going on now into a nightmare vision of the future. I don't believe that we'll ever go forward unless some major upheaval occurs. There has to be some kind of awakening and I strongly believe in my message of finally something so awful happening that after nothing but blackness and despair hopefulness and the right kind of power come out of it. Soldiers aren't machines. They have a lot more feelings than the heartless people who are against them. I will end with likewise I am not in any way a plastic, artificial, or one-dimensional person I am multifaceted and I strongly feel my breakthrough shows that. If you have courage enough then soon you may be helping to make some musical history and some dreams finally come true.

Hunting For Daring Musicians/Singers For THE ULTIMATE ROCK OPERA Much Thanks And Love To 1st Batallion The Rifles UK For Helping With The Hump And 21 Year Writing Drought!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Healthy Slice Of Mayan Quiche, Vikings, and Psychedelic Heaven Popol Ace and Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera

Reflecting is important and beginning anew even more important after an end to something comes about. The end of a 21 year and longer relationship came about earlier this week unexpectedly and shockingly when a tried and tested best friend became an enemy that I will never have anything to do with again. I will not go into detail as I don't wish to waste my time or the time of anyone reading this, but when a lie is told to demonically suit the selfish interests that can demolish the person on the receiving end and then more lies follow once the accusation flies and gets out in the open I will firmly state that downright lying can hurt as much as a sharp physical wound. This time the lies about my own person and who I am made me so angry that I will no longer consider this fool a friend of mine, but a sycophantic disease carrying loser who is dead and gone in my life. No more long drives to see him. No more phone calls. No more connections. I'm really mad.
    It happens to all of us and what I suggest you do is just to calmly withdraw and go find something or someone you know you can trust. Some people will always be there to bring you up when you fall down. Whilst I am not enamored of every bloke in the Rifles Regiment of Britain I love quite a few of them as I do my wonderful German soldier mate Hans and talking with soldiers and listening to great music has really been a help to me and I fancy myself a kind of musical warrior/soldier myself who isn't a soldier. That's the way it's always gonna be. You keep up the fight and you don't give it up because people tell you you're worthless or "weak minded" or whatever their bullshit happens to be. I don't particularly feel comfortable on the telephone until I can ease into a conversation. I can be an idiot at first, but then if the talking starts I become more relaxed, more willing to discuss things at length. One thing I'll discuss here is that music is the key to my happiness and tends to be something very inspirational sans any religious connotations. So now that this bridge is yet another one decimated, rotted, and destroyed I simply went to that old fashioned remedy of music and thank Heavens I have a loving mother and father who put up with me and my always changeable moods from both a great person to a totally vexing one.
     We all have faults. No one is perfect. However, if you get the best of people together in a band magic can really be pulled off and miracles too. That's where Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera come in. I would go right out and say that their one album under that name and with Dave Terry who is Elmer Gantry at the front is probably not just a once in a lifetime masterpiece, but the best British psychedelic rock album ever made. I have been loving them since I was 16 and a half and found a British original for $15 in the basement of a porn shop disguised as a record store in darkest Poughkepsie NY.
                  -From Triumph To Disaster and Back To Making The Hurt Heal-
     That basement had a lot of amazing records and went to Hell when I made the fatal error of telling an arch rival record dealer of its existence. Sure enough I go back and it was all picked over except for the rarest Klaatu record in 95. In 1997 it was a nightmare and a memory so painful that I will NEVER DISCUSS IT. I was a horrible person then, but as horrible as I was I paid in full for the bad behavior and destructive lifestyle I was leading at the start of my 20s. I'd been done wrong by life and took it out on the people who cared about me and I won't be doing any more of that. My life had been written off by me when I was 21, but at 22/23/24 I made a best friend in a man named Ras from Denmark which is a country of mainly wonderful people except for one horrifically nasty and pathologically lying record dealer I know not the name of nor do I care. Ras worked in a great store sadly long since out of business in Manhattan called Second Coming and Ras provided me with a healing experience as did the store's inventory. I also made best friends with a Siberian acquaintance turned great supporter of me who I wish very well in whatever he does now so many years later. This was before the days of the Internet and I marvel at how different the world was then, how less selfish and cold everything/everyone seemed. I wouldn't have imagined that Popol Vuh Norway/Popol Ace (Same band) could be true in their condemnations of most people as being self-loving egotistical bastards and as for the songs they wrote about love I was just beginning to learn of that emotion's true meaning. As time has gone on I have been in love many times, but first loves tend to come into view when I listen to the two albums I'm discussing here.
              -Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera Welcome To The Brilliant Show-
        Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera were the first British band to totally knock me out and blow my mind into fragments reassembling it to see that the British and Europeans beat the shit out of the American psych I was mainly into. Not all American psych is useless or inferior, but most of it is what I started with not what would rule as majestic and powerful over time. I've heard some people start with British and European stuff and then they bite into American "garage psych" and that changes their tune. Poor losers and fools is all I can say as I went through the opposite musical metamorphosis. I started off with American bands. I started with garage rock and garage psych and when I heard Kak for the first time the garage was a dusty old cobwebbed place full of nothing. As soon as The Zombies and Kak had blown my mind something had to come along that I could actually call my own and not just dream about having the way I dreamed then of having an original of Kak. Kak may well be the best American album, but unfortunately I've had it 3 times now and the pressing is really as poor as can be. Another problem with American records. Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera came along just when I least expected it and I was hit really between the eyes with a big revelation when I heard it. In America it came out on Epic the same label as Kak and suffered from an almost as bad pressing job so go for the much rarer much more expensive British pressing which also looks a whole lot nicer. I had certainly never heard anything as varied and different, as exotic, as quintessentially English as Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera and I still get a magical "room full of sun filtering in" warm vibe when I hear the album.
     Formed in Coventry and going down to London to be an in group on the Swinging scene there Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera comprised Elmer Gantry (Dave Terry real name: Lead vocals, rhythm guitar), John Ford (bass, a few other instruments, vocals), Richard "Hud" Hudson (drums, sitar, vocals), and last but certainly not least Colin Forster (lead guitar). The band played all the most happening discotheques and clubs and were very much a Mod band who got very ambitious when they gained valuable time in the studio. Songs like "Mother Writes," "Dream Starts" with its distorted vocals and Love style brass arrangements, "Air" with sitars aplenty, and the freaky "Reactions Of A Young Man" are Proto Progressive in nature and also can serve as a primer a year earlier of what The Koobas delved into to a certain extent. "Long Nights Of Summer" and "What's The Point Of Leaving" are beautiful melodic pop psych and should have been major hits. You even get an uproarious comedy number in the trad jazz gone to spastic nutso land  full on freak out of Elmer/Dave in his histrionic reworking of Oscar Brown Jr's "But I Was Cool." "Mary Jane" is a druggy song with a strong funky groove to it and great vocals similar to The Koobas and you can really see the variable sounds created here on a one off brilliant masterwork coexist in harmony with each other- important.   
               -The All Important Question Of Music And The Essential Ingredients--
      The lyrics on Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera are far more intelligent than nearly any American record I can think of and a lot of my distaste for American stuff of the lesser variety comes down to bad playing and bad lyrics. Even a band like Graffiti who try so hard for the kind of wide reaching Moody Blues vibe are second rate runners up when you really think about it. Graffiti were plagued by horrendously bad lyrics and this was not uncommon. Just listen to The Litter for Christs Sake this is really lame stuff "Action Woman" and a million and one cover versions trying to be Mod!!!!! The Litter were my number one band in the beginning, but time has not been kind to Distortions or either of their other two albums with the pick of a poor pack going to the Proto Metal Emerge on a real label (Probe). I'm not going to say there aren't American albums that are essential to your collection there are a lot of them, but they tend to be the undervalued ones. I personally prefer American stuff of the more pop psych/melodic psych variety as I feel that's what we do best, but for heavier ones there's a few really good bands who are very much in the minority. The Litter were at least better than the band that talented guitarist Tom "Zippy" Caplan formed Lightning who suffered from horrible vocals and too much Americana.
      Oh geez, God damn The Band for what they did to music! Everything was about cliches when the half Canadians/half Yanks came on the scene with all their nonsense about Dixie and hot chicks. America would have to grow musically before it could become something to take seriously and that happened full on with the advent of Pomp and AOR. Take out Kansas and keep everything else in we mastered AOR/Pomp Rock and bands like Boston, Journey, Styx, Survivor, and New England are some of the best music ever created. Steve Perry is a perfect example of the underdog saving the day. He wasn't particularly handsome, but with a voice made out of gold he delivered and wrote good lyrics too. Steve wasn't happy with stardom and eventually the introverted Journey front man caved under all the pressure and screamed out for his sanity and his private life not to be invaded all the time. Success is a double edged sword to be sure.
                   -The Best Can Sometimes Come Before A Commercial Success-
     Many musicians have been subject to the pressures of record companies and management going back to the 60s and Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera weren't handled properly and also were very young and gullible when they made their big punch out of the window of musical history that would later be completely shattered to fragments by The Koobas and then the British/European progressive onslaught. Two of the four would go onto huge success, but this would come as sidemen in The Strawbs where the material was inferior and so was Dave Cousins. The Strawbs peaked too soon with a young Sandy Denny and try as I might I can't get Dave Cousins and all his overdramatic folky pretentiousness or the demonic folk diva that Denny became in Fairport Convention. If you want folkrock stick with the bands that stress rock or twisted arrangements/vocals over folk. Go buy the first Earth Opera album that is how folk psych/progressive folk should be done. Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera show no signs of what was to come in The Strawbs thankfully and are very much a psychedelic/progressive rock band with the accent on rocking out or more subtle, reflective moods  that predate the wonderful Dog That Bit People. With more of a push and more support in general they may have lasted longer and not become Velvet Opera the band who made Ride A Hustler's Dream which is more folk/blues rock although I should add is pretty good for prog/folk psych too. Nothing good came to these boys. They tried from 1967 on through 1970 and it just wasn't getting heard or praised or anything of that sort which they should have had. I'm not a huge fan of Paul Brett except as a brilliant folk guitar innovator with some nice songs here and there, but even he could rock as he proved on Velvet Opera's new look Ride A Hustler's Dream which isn't anywhere as good as the first album, but it certainly has some great tracks.
               -The Quiche is Particularly Lovely Made By Vikings! Norway's Popol Vuh/Ace-
     Popol Ace began life in Norway in 1972 on their album debut as Popol Vuh of Norway not the boring German Popol Vuh. If ever a band deserved to be huge worldwide and are progressive rock Gods look no further. Jahn Teigen was such a formidable vocalist that he was the first pick to replace Peter Gabriel in Genesis and it's pretty astonishing he turned them down. Add to that the huge talents of Arne Schulze (guitar), Pete Knutsen (guitar/keyboards), Terje Methi (bass), and Thor Andreassen (drums) who also were great at harmony vocals and this is a band with killer songs, great production work from the whole band as a team, and possibly the best progressive record ever made in Quiche Maya. This album came out under the name Popol Ace as their first release under the new name with a superior cover of the band as Vikings on a Fjord and I would recommend forking out for that version as it is there that you can hear how far they improved from their first album to Quiche Maya.
    The eponymous debut by Popol Vuh (Norway) is a great album and flautist Pjokken Eide adds some nice colourings to the selections, but lyrically and musically it isn't perfect. The two songs on the Popol Ace album speak volumes as to the huge step forward the group made. "Hunchback" was probably together with the amazing closing epic "Medicine" the high point of their debut with great lyrics and very creative musicianship. "All We Have Is The Past" was a lesser track also about mortality, but a little unrealized with a great middle and only OK majority of the song. There were some rough edges and some mistakes that needed to be adjusted, but I would definitely say that you need to get all their albums with Jahn Teigen at the forefront. Popol Vuh/Ace made some major changes between first and second releases and came up with Quiche Maya- an album of staggering beauty, fearsome power, and amazing voyages into the ultimate progressive wonderland.
       Repackaged with all the best songs as Popol Ace's debut it really is something to go out and fork out for.  There are two hard rock/jazzy prog tracks both of which show maturity and forcefulness unmatched in "Queen Of All Queens" about a horrible girl who uses everybody and ends up with not one friend in the world and the equally pissed off lyrically unfathomable "Milk-White Satin-Dressed Departure" about how relationships can be a major turn off for the person left to clean it all up when its over and long since dead. Most of the other songs are experiments in romance which would make the album unique for them as they tended towards more metaphysical matter/fantasy lyrics on their amazing follow up as Stolen From Time. "Dark Nights" is a melodic song about the hard adjustment to the darkness that comes and steals the day, but songs like "Yesterday" and "Between You And Me" are romantically based dramatic progressive symphonic rock at the absolute peak of that kind of music's powers. The lush waves of mellotron recall the wonderful British band Spring and Arne Schulze plays superb guitar that is understated, soaring, and melodic like a dream jam session in 1973 between George Harrison and a very young Michael Schenker.
     Stick with those who love you seems to be the motto of Popol Vuh during this phase of their career and also live for yourself, your dreams, and your ambitions. It's hard to believe in the relationship that ended for me ending at all let alone in such an ugly way, but when people are lied to and the truth comes out there is no way to escape it. Thankfully the week is over and it brought me a lot of great wonderful brilliant music including Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera and Popol Ace. Music is a great thing sometimes and can also be a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when some nefarious freaks use it as a way of stirring up violence, sickness, deformity, and hate messages, but we all know that's not really music it's just rubbish. I'm staying me. If people can't live with my eccentricities or special desires, my hopes and my dreams then even if I thought I knew them I never knew them and I throw them in the garbage- its an easy thing to end when you can make the simple fact a reality that you never knew that person at all. Be tolerant and don't be shy of following your own visions and fantasies. I hope one day a better less judgmental world becomes something I can have helped to create.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wishful Thinking's Hiroshima Album Music From Heaven And Hell And A Classic Waiting To Be DIscovered

Two of the things I thank God (or whoever I believe in) that I wasn't alive to be a part of were the mass slaughters of World War 1 and World War 2 especially the latter with the horrendous advent/use of the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and the brutal destruction/bombing of Dresden. Both wars didn't need to have been fought, but we never seem to learn as I can't think of one war in history I would call "A Good War." Hiroshima was a nightmarish thing and a totally cowardly sick thing to do and that's coming from somebody who has NO SYMPATHY for the Japanese in the war otherwise. Brutality meets brutality it's the same old "Eye For An Eye" rubbish that we have today. So it goes on that thousands die and as an after effect thousands more die in some stupid war about as outmoded as the whole idea of any kind of "Crusade."
     What a downer note to begin a blog on!!!!! However, with a record as brilliant yet as unremittingly depressing as some of Hiroshima by Wishful Thinking from Birmingham is that's to be expected. Mind you, not all of this record is horrific it's just 3 songs that delve into the death and destruction themes, but what people say about Wishful Thinking's 1971 masterpiece I do find horrific. I don't know why this album is hated by so many people at least online where you'll find almost no positive writings on it and only scathing trashings of it. A real shame as Wishful Thinking deserve a whole lot more praise and respect and this album is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
     Back in the 1960s around 1965 or so Wishful Thinking were founded in Birmingham, but already by the time of their not anywhere as good (and typically higher thought of!) first album Live Vol. 1 there had been line up changes which found the band fronted by New Zealand native Kevin Scott who possessed a remarkably clear and beautiful voice. Wishful Thinking would like any good band grow and change with the times, but they never wrote any of their own material to my knowledge. In 1969 The Move who were at that time one of England's top bands were going through a weird phase where Carl Wayne was polarized against the rest of the band and they recorded two softer than usual songs by a budding songwriter named Dave Morgan. The two songs were "This Time Tomorrow" (Wishful Thinking do this song on Hiroshima and are much more suited to it than the hard rock band par excellance The Move) and "Something" both of which were really good songs that didn't fit The Move. Of course the inevitable would happen and they would sack Carl Wayne who went onto a mostly cabaret circuit solo career and that also was inevitable.
       Dave Morgan got together enough songs for two albums- a solo outing released also in the US by Ampex that was simply titled Morgan and Wishful Thinking's Hiroshima which remarkably also saw a US release on Ampex in a way inferior cover with pretty lame sound quality to boot. Both in the US (Not surprising) and Britain (What drug were people on to pass this band up!!?) the album sunk without trace and their only huge success was the massive charting of the title track in Germany- a country still trying to come to grips with the war.
     Wishful Thinking by 1971 comprised Kevin Scott (lead vocals), Jimmy Page lookalike John Franklin (lead guitar, vocals), Tony Collier (Bass, vocals), and Brian Allen (drums, vocals) with Franklin the musical genius in the band. There's a lot to dig into here and the sound is very reminiscent of The Bee Gees at their most downcast meets some heavy moves of everything from The Sweet to The Koobas to The Move to King Crimson in the brilliant mellotron passages. There's some songs on here that are among the best tracks ever recorded and over half this album is totally brilliant. 
    Dave Morgan's songwriting tends towards the moody and intellectual, but also he can get suicide-victim-to-be (I hope he wasn't really) depressing with two real standouts for down and destroyed. "Hiroshima" isn't one of them despite all the ingredients needed to be one. Kevin Scott's sweet and soaring vocals actually together with the mellotron and John Franklin's mellow guitar combine with Move like thick heavy bass and King Crimson style atmospheric drumming for a song too epic and well meaning to have you sobbing with the record on. It's "Ever Since I Can Remember" that is the first sign of a truly disturbed person in the songwriting department where the lyric is about a tree that will outlive mankind and how everything has to die eventually. Its a beautiful melody and song in The Bee Gees vein, but the lyrics are merciless in their bitter sentiments. As much as I love the melodic structure and the vocal harmonies and as much as I love the song if I listened to it too much I think I'd be in a seriously dismal state of mind for a few months. "Ever Since I Can Remember" doesn't stray from the solid quality melodic pop psych of the majority of the songs on the album, but "1984" is another matter all together. Take Van Der Graaf Generator at their scariest, Syd era Floyd gone into a paranoid drug induced nightmare, and Black Sabbath's creepiest moments throughout their entire career and you have "1984." This is pretty hard to listen to. The vocals are really frightening as are the horrific images in the lyrics and melodic sense is thrown down the loo. I'd rather not listen to this track even though musically its pretty good for creepy psychedelic stuff and I'd rather not listen to "Ever Since I Can Remember" sometimes because I'm not often in the mood to think about losing everything I love and then my own life. Who would be!?
       With two forgivable mistakes the other 9 tracks on this album are astonishing and as perfect as perfect can be. Wishful Thinking prove themselves to be formidable musicians and Kevin Scott sings confidently on top of the harmonies with a solid clear voice that really hits the spot. There's a load of mellotron/synth effects on this album with no credits shown for keyboards strangely, but John Franklin's sharp and clever guitar is what really makes you sit up and take notice. Just listen to his backwards tape Beatles Revolver era solo in "She Belongs To The Night" with the driving rhythms and strong vocals- this is a great song!
      I do not agree with the stupid reviews which call this a weak pop record and I know a whole lot more than most people seem to know about music so I get the final say which I know sounds very arrogant, but I do have the advantage of not having a tin ear! There's a lot of up in the mix rocking guitars and also lyrics which even during the mistakes sound like Dave Morgan was a very sympathetic and intelligent person. He obviously cared a whole lot about people and I get the impression that he was probably a Clifford T. Ward like genius who never got a chance. The big difference is that Clifford was a solo artist and he also didn't write in the rock idiom. Clifford T. Ward is not even a reference here musically, but since I've mentioned him I will state firmly that he is the most underrated tragic genius in the World and this Dave Morgan guy's take on things would have made Clifford proud if he heard him at the time. Clifford T. Ward never really got much of a chance, but he loved music to the point that he kept his cult following and wrote, sang, and recorded till he finally succumbed to his horrible prolonged MS which took his life in 2001 after 15 years. I believe that Dave Morgan didn't have the kind of strong will that Roy Wood and Clifford T. Ward had without even knowing him, but the problem here is also what makes this album so great- it's a very Mod influenced underground progressive pop psych album at a time when most of the songs in the charts sounded far removed from the 60s. Wishful Thinking didn't stand a chance and they never had any chart success in England or the States. That's a real shame.
    I've played this album enough times to have my favourites and the best song on the whole album is "The United States Of Europe '79" which I'll go right out and call the best kind of pop psych in the world with rocking guitars, strong vocals, precise harmonies, and a crisp tight post Beatles and Move sound. If you love the early Bee Gees then this album should be a close runner up to The World Of Oz for you although what album is as good as The World Of Oz except for the few like Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera which surpass it!? The World Of Oz also came from Birmingham, but even they did better in a commercial sense than Wishful Thinking largely because they could write their own material. Wishful Thinking found the perfect writer in Dave Morgan and "The United States Of Europe '79" proves just how good the two could be together especially when they opted for rocking it up. "Mary Goodbye" is a great putdown song that does more than just put girls down. It jumps right out at you with complex mood/time changes and great vocals. "She Belongs To The Night" sounds like a potential second Open Mind record with strong vocals and brilliant guitar. I don't see what there is to complain about for over half the album, well over half of it. I would go right out and say that the UK B&C original press with the creepy, striking cover photo of the band beneath a red sky is an essential record to have in your collection.
     In the early 1970s and in the 1960s even more so anything and everything was possible. There were some really bad things that happened, but I would love to go back then, back to England before Maggie Thatcher began its long drawn out destruction and Reagan did the same to America. Whether we are soldiers or musicians or just the people who make up the backbone of our nations we all want the same two things everywhere- a healthy good long duration to our life and peace. That's the best way to end this entry. I don't think I need to say anything more.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Fourmyula Green B. Holiday Poppsych Paradise And A Good Bye To All That Message In This Blog

Guess I'd better give you the breaking news before I go into my rave about this fave. The last deal was a disaster and a week ago tonight I went so off the rails as a result that I'm still in a state of shock over how out of control I became. Records are great, but when they lead to things like constant friction in the family and uncertainty about my future then it's time for some things to go. I'm not saying I'm giving up- that will never happen. I'm merely saying that I plan on doing everything even inhumanly (for me!) possible and making a big effort to go from addiction back to obsession.
   I've always had a passion for one subject at one time and oftentimes not two. It began with video games which isn't surprising as I was the perfect young age little boy to get big into them when they first came out. That was my major interest for a long period of time. I went from that to botany and from botany to the occult and from the occult to my admittedly it-always-was-there passion for music. I've been a music buff since I was 12. I started out in the 99 cent and metal sections which again was typical as "metal" was just beginning to go wrong in 1988 and there were loads of great bands to listen to who nowadays would never get called metal. It was fun.
   Throughout my school and post school years it's been all about music, hockey players, and soldiers. I admit to having a penchant for uniformed men and it's not just the uniform. When you put on a uniform that's as blatant as when I put on my ruffled shirt and floral apparel in high school, had long hair, and went "Go Fuck Yourself Go To Hell" to the 90s generation. The truth about soldiers and hockey players is I feel some kind of warmth being generated by men and boys who risk their lives or risk serious injury. War is a tragedy. It never can be anything else, but fighting is another matter. I like a good argument. I don't support the kind of fights that lead to death and injury, but aggression never hurt a man to have on his side. Unfortunately, I seem to have for the last 4 or so years been ignoring the disciplined aspect of my heroes and following in the wake of my long since or recently dead musician heroes who died of overdoses/overindulgence. The frightening similarity has dawned on me now. Records won't kill me, but to keep on going with the kind of suicidal destructive behavior I've been exhibiting could well kill me if I don't stop it at once. I'm getting 13 or something like that monster great records from Europe, England, and one from New Zealand and I will not only show a whole lot more patience than before I am in true Robert Graves WW1 fashion after this is done giving a "GOODBYE TO ALL THAT." I shall go away from the bad part of my record addiction and get back into listening and soaking up the good vibrations that come from a saner lifestyle. You'll be hearing a lot from me, but the blatantly poor excuses and off-the-rails addictive tendencies have to be stopped at once.
         Music was at a real high in the 60s and early 70s as The Beatles had made anything possible. I'm not big on early beat music before psychedelia came into play around 1966 and I really start in 1967. Beat is OK, but like garage rock the sleeve wearing of influences and numerous cover versions are a real turn off for me. In the psychedelic era cover versions had more punch, more energy, more go-for-the-throat interesting arrangements than the standard beat group who would just run through the latest top 40 hits.
    There was something known as Freakbeat and also Mod Soul and that's where things get tasty and the transition from beat into Freakbeat and Mod soul is where The Fourmyula began. The name may be unfamiliar to you if you aren't a serious collector or from New Zealand where they came from, but these boys had a whole lot more to offer than almost any bands from Australia and make American psych sound like complete rubbish. I will have their first album which is the self titled one in a while- it will take some time to come from New Zealand, but I know the music well enough to say that the combination of perfect toytown psychedelic pop at its finest and crunching soulful Freakbeat make for a brilliant debut.
    The Fourmyula got almost instantly huge in NZ, but it wasn't too surprising that they didn't get far elsewhere. It was enough to raise a grin, but having played their second album Green B. Holiday enough times to get blown away by it every time I can firmly say that they should have had a worldwide record deal and been huge everywhere. My opinion of The Zombies' masterwork Oddesey and Oracle has soured a bit because they unwisely included on it Chris White's gruesome tale of the carnage and horrors suffered in World War 1 "Butcher's Tale" whose title tells you everything you need to cringe about whenever this track comes on. It doesn't belong on such a beautiful record and really kind of does in Side Two making for a rather lopsided affair. Green B. Holiday not only matches the best material on Oddesey And Oracle it way surpasses it.
    Looking for an album of perfection from outside the UK that equals the best of the best such as Kaleidoscope's Faintly Blowing and The Koobas one off work of genius? Look no further than The Fourmyula. What this quintet achieved on their second album, which by the way is a concept album/song cycle of sorts, is absolutely staggering in its power and majesty. From the opening title track through to the melancholy World Of Oz/Bee Gees alike masterpiece "Home" that closes the album the way Queen closed their albums with amazing tracks like "Bohemian Rhapsody" this is the best poppsych record ever recorded from anywhere. Strong words I know, but this may be EVEN BETTER THAN THE KOOBAS!!!! I don't know if that's possible, but I think it certainly equals them.
     You can begin with the vocals. The lead voice is always sympathetic and deliciously uses oh-so-English phrasing that recalls Angel Pavement, Octopus. and the kind of instantaneous rush you'd get from McCartney and Ray Davis when you hear them. He sings with a lot of feeling and sounds completely into the songs and their changeable subject matter which creates a parallel between this album and The Kinks at their very best. Like Ray and brother Dave he's never overbearing and is more into the story telling aspect of the songs than in the "Let Me See How Much I Can Throw My Weight Around" kind of nonsense so prevalent in most American psych.
   There are references throughout Green B. Holiday to old fashioned Victorian 19th century values/lifestyles and to the kind of people who have a tendency to get knocked down because they are a bit eccentric. It's an album of people you never forget, adventures you don't expect to happen, and daily life for people of both the working class and better side of the upper class. There's joy and unrestrained sadness too. I think of the early Bee Gees, but this is even better. The music is very focused and perfectly augments the lead voice and stunning harmonies with both power and restraint when need be. Musically The Fourmyula can more than back up their vocal abilities. You get everything from baroque Left Banke/Zombies/Bee Gees alike meticulous arranging to rockers like "My Mamma George" and "Fun" where the band blast you right clear out of your mind. Every song could be mentioned as a perfect masterpiece, but since Green B. Holiday is conceived as a kind of conceptual thing I can think of no better way to write about it than as a whole. Some of the album is so ambitious you can hear Klaatu and The Moody Blues in it and some is much more straight rocking. They would later try to become an American influenced hard rock band and that was a fatal error. Their later releases are still acceptable albums, but the first two are the two to get as there is none of the nonsense that came into play which always happens when a band loses sight of their identity and tries too hard to accommodate changing times.
    A good comparison would be how Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera went from absolute perfection with their first album to the huge upheaval in line up and sound when they lost Elmer and became Velvet Opera. The folksier/rootsier music on Ride A Hustler's Dream doesn't match the excitement of their debut. Unfortunately for The Fourmyula they can't blame their less impressive third album Creation on a line up change they can blame it on the sad fact that they had gone off to England in search of international success and come back dazed by how much things were changing with the advent of harder heavier rock. That's not to say that they didn't rock before. They could knock you out like the best of them on their debut and Green B. Holiday and it would really have to be the American bug that bit them that you can blame. A lot of bands from other countries have gone wrong imitating American bands, but an American influence not an imitation can in the case of bands like Dog That Bit People and quite a few others be brilliant.
    The Fourmyula as you hear them on Green B. Holiday sound so English that they manage to knock out of the running quite a few British poppsych "classics" and some that I would call classics for sure. Forget Apple's mediocre An Apple A Day which will set you back 3000 to 4000 pounds Green B. Holiday blows the lid off them, blows the lid off the horrendous Fire's Magic Shoemaker, and yet they are still fairly obscure to British, European, and American audiences as they didn't make any impression outside of New Zealand. In fact, they fared much worse than the Australian band Masters Apprentices who went to England frustrated by the lack of exposure outside Down Under. Masters Apprentices made two albums in England, but unfortunately for The Fourmyula they unwisely abandoned the excitement of their first two releases when sticking with what they had they surely might have almost counted on a completely different outcome in England. I had never heard of The Fourmyula when I was first collecting right up through finding a trashed copy of their first album 8 years ago. I think that makes it obvious what a well-kept secret they are. I'm not like some people who like to keep something this good a secret- I wish I had a reissue label because an exact analogue mastered duplicate of Green B. Holiday would be my first release. I love this album as you are by now more than well aware. I will always love England to the point where I love anything that remotely captures the same magic vibes that came out of that very special country. I've been down on it before, but I keep going back to it and now have decided to stay. I'm thinking of taking my own little holiday and that is part of the whole Goodbye To All That train of thought I'm on. I need a rest. I need to be where The Fourmyula are on this album and it's a really nice place to be. I suggest you join them as soon as you can. This is the kind of magical album that can't be matched by many others.
    Goodbye to sickness and I'm ready for the hard work that goes into getting healthier. Till next time, Ben says goodnight and loves you all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tasavallan Presidentti's First Album From 1969- Finland's Best And Most Innovative Meisterwork!

I always knew the best album in the world would be from somewhere in Europe with my inclination leaning heavily towards Northern Europe. I've heard many masterpiece albums from all over the world and certainly some, like Tasavallan Presidentti's 1969 debut, are very expensive whilst some are still affordable. If I had to add it all up and had the time to come up with which country produced the most great music it would probably be either a country like Germany, England, or all the Scandinavian countries with also quite a few from America and Canada. As you can tell from that there is no one country that has a monopoly on the best albums ever recorded, but there definitely was a peak period and that was between 1967 and 1977- a full decade's worth of exciting, invigorating music.
                 -Europe, Reality, And Fantasy The Prelude To The Album Of My Dreams-
       I've not designed an album cover for almost a year now. I haven't been having any great ideas come to my head, but there have been times when albums I wish were real I've churned out week after week. I have other interests. I love hockey and hockey players and in general I'm a pretty friendly and giving person with a really rough and dark streak in there too. I guess hockey and music are like that. I, for  a long time, would be creating albums that reflected this and although none of them are real I have heard music that comes close to that kind of perfection that in the actual world couldn't exist because stylistically it just is too diverse. Tasavallan come closest on their first album. You have your Holy Grails- most of which are albums I can't afford and if I do have them it was pure luck or a reissue. With that comes the question of "How Much Would You Pay For One Album?" I've gone way down. I'm sick of $700 albums that have one or two odd moments that are disjointed. Hell, you can spend over $1,000 and get something as amazing as The Koobas or Elonkorjuu's HARVEST TIME or you can get something as musically unmusical and worthless as America's Lazy Smoke.
    In the 1960s music was growing as rapidly as the counterculture that sponsored it. There would be as many new bands with albums out as there would be boys setting fire to draft cards and heading up North to get away from the horror of Vietnam or newly turned on hippies with flowers and kaftans preaching the message of love. It was a remarkable time I wish I could have been a part of. I certainly did my best to recreate it when everybody hated me for it in high school, but one very intelligent kid can't make a whole revolution happen. I got a lot of attention both really negative and also sometimes very good for my beliefs, but I was just beginning my journey.
     Later on in life my mind darkened. It had been there a few times before, but I just at a certain point had had enough of trying to convince wholly wrong people that they were wholly wrong. You can't really get into the mind of a madman and make him into somebody who can see rationality and common sense. I was young enough in my teens to believe I could, but that died a long time ago although I'll still try and fail miserably at it. Sometimes a good kick in the head or a lamented death I laugh at is euthanasia when nothing else will successfully end somebody or a group of people who are violent, hate loving, and destructive. I'm not saying I became at odds with "Flowers and Love" I never did and I never will. I just have realized that at a certain point in your life you may harden and mature. For a long time I was uncomfortable with that. I was coming up with really dark musical and social ideas to express my frustration, but at least the frustration led to something artistically creative.
     Tasavallan Presidentti's eponymous debut album from 1969 is miles ahead of and miles away from their primitive pseudo avant garde fusion screaming and moaning that would follow the departure of British born vocalist/writer Frank Robson and it was Robson who was pushing the band to be a melodic sort of Finnish Procol Harum or a precursor to what it would take most bands everywhere a full two further years or so to reach. This album, though from all the way back in 1969, has dispensed with the flowery vibe that had been so prevalent in that era and is much more of an intellectual progressive sound with a more resigned, disillusioned, and melancholic vibe to it. After rambling much about personal dreams and travails I'll let my pen speak and it will speak of what may be the best progressive album ever made.
      -Tasavallan Presidentti From 1969 And Still Sounding Ahead Of Anything Else Then Or Now-
      It just doesn't get any closer to what I've heard in the best musical dreams and came up with as a dream record than this. Everything is sparkling great here. With Frank Robson responsible for nearly all the material on the album you'd think this album would have a very British sound to it, but you would be mistaken. Comprised not just of Robson of course, but also of virtuoso guitarist Jukka Tolonen, brothers Junnu and Vesa Aaltonen on flute/sax and drums, and bass guitarist/keyboard player Mans Groundstroem this is Finnish as can be or as Northern Europe as can be depending on how much you know about Finnish bands. Also, the early recording and release date of 1969 is really hard to believe. This album would later find soul mates in the music of Denmark's Old Man & The Sea, Norway's Popol Vuh (later Popol Ace), Culpeper's Orchard's best work (also a Danish band and also a band with an accent-less British vocalist), Belgium's Waterloo (who came out in 1970), Elonkorjuu, and a plethora of other bands of which the furthest from Northern Europe you'd hear music by would be from Germany, but these other bands all came out for the most part over a year later! Even Procol Harum and Traffic who had a huge impact on this album had more period flavor than Tasavallan Presidentti's first!
    The album begins with "Introduction" and already after the first 30 seconds this is not 1969 music. When Robson's magic real opening track "You'll Be Back For More" comes in the power of his voice which is devoid of an English accent and the attack of the band sound much more like the early 1970s underground progressive bands with the key word here "Heavy" progressive. Robson sings in a soul and blues derived strong voice that is quite a bit like Gary Brooker's in Procol Harum, but he isn't ripping Brooker or any other singer off. The vocals are soulful, plaintive, expressive, and melodic. The same words could be used to describe the music which is full of subtle yearning and hard hitting underground rock. "Obsolete Machine" is a group composition and features more of the later early 70s vibe and darkness of the first track. Robson's vocals are superbly rich and melodic as is the music whose warmth matches the polar opposite eerie "world gone up in smoke" lyrical theme of the song. There are some pretty violent lines here, but like Elonkorjuu you'll barely notice them as the music is so uplifting to listen to.
     When I first heard Tasavallan's work with Frank Robson it was on the 1971 album which repackaged at least two of the songs on here and I thought the song "I Love You Teddy Bear" was from 1971! The track before it "Who's Free" like the first two songs is fantastic continuing the brilliance of this album and the spirit of progressive underground revolution herein, but "I Love You Teddy Bear" is something different altogether. You'd expect a children's song or a throwback to the toytown popsike vibe of 1967 from the title of the song and you get a hauntingly beautiful love song with no references at all to what the title suggests. The organ and flute swirl around Frank Robson's beautiful voice and Jukka Tolonen steps out of the spotlight for the song on the album that reminds me the most of Procol Harum and Aphrodite's Child. It's hard to think of a more perfect album than this and one of the things to add to the perfection of the vocals and music is the complete lack of one mistake for the whole album lyrically! "Crazy Thing" is split into two segments and is an interesting jazzy instrumental that doesn't last very long at all, in fact both here and on Side Two it lasts for under a minute. "Drinking" closes Side One with a hard rocking track with some real anger at society. Robson is going to live the way he wants, give the finger to social respectability, and rock out with a passionate hatred for any kind of conformity.
    It's no surprise that this album is rare and expensive. This as unlike 1969  as you can get, coming out of Finland which is a small country, and for a major label deal outside of that little wonderful country these guys had no chance of it. It wouldn't be any different in the 70s and that is a real shame. There are a lot of bands that could have turned American and British audiences on if they were given a chance, but for European bands it just rarely ever happened. You'd think some band would have made it big, but I'm not surprised at the same time that we were living in a boring and horrible world when it came to "Popular Music."             
    Everybody wanted to see the sunshine or else they wanted blood, guts, violence, and pain. As you can tell from what I'm saying there was no room for really exciting music when there was a small niche for progressive underground bands amidst the dreck of James Taylor and worthlessness of early heavy metal that wasn't the good early heavy metal like Black Sabbath it was rubbish. Black Sabbath managed to break through in a big way, but it was good luck. Even though Sabbath did well in America the place where the most was going on that was successful in America was still only England and that is a bit boring when the language sung for all lyrics is a first language. However, Jon Anderson, Peter Gabriel, and Greg Lake were the good news that England had great vocalists and Yes were undoubtedly with Genesis the most exciting band who were a huge hit.
     Frank Robson, though, is something different. The only tracks contained on this album where you hear an accent are the spoken experimental poem "The Ancient Mariner" and the no frills rock of "Roll Over Yourself" where Robson pretends to be a cowboy! Everything else is arch European and judging from his lyrics Frank Robson was sick and tired of English poncy stuck up stupidity and I'm not at all surprised that he didn't stay in England long when he wanted to find some sanity. We could have helped this band out earlier, but we gave them a contract for their last album MILKY WAY MOSES which was like their other Eero Raatinen fronted album LAMBERT LAND musically worthless. If you have the opinion that Tasavallan Presidentti are a boring jazz fusion nightmare then you really should spend as long as it takes to you to locate this wonderful album. The sound quality is great and the performances of all 5 of the band meld together into a cohesive whole that represents the best underground melodic heavy progressive album ever recorded. This is progressive rock minus the pomposity and boring lyrics of many bands that are in that category of music.
      Tasavallan Presidentti's first from 1969 is a landmark, a meisterwork, and is essential to your collection. Few other albums come close to this and I would actually go so far as to say that in a world of everything but perfection this is perfection. If you have an open mind it will be blown when you listen to this and also I would say that listening to Tasavallan's 1969 debut is a very nice, warm, and rejuvenating experience that is way above the stagnant nothing music of prissy British folk , James Taylor, and most of the other crap that was selling like hot cakes at the time. I'll go so far as to say that I like Sandy Denny's vocals in Fairport Convention and place them higher than many other British bands who eventually have become too commonplace for me, but their trad stance and her too feminine folk not enough anything remotely rock stance are made even more boring when I hear Frank Robson. There is no folk here. Instead, we get something a lot more interesting. The jazz influences are kept melodic and the whole album is just beautiful. If you love music you'll love this especially if you want something new, different, and unlike anything else. I give this the highest rating that I can give- a real dream come true.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Beatles In Full Regalia And A Little Entry This Time With A Lot To Say

It's been a rough period again. Bogged down in miserable circumstances, horrible weather, an endless record deal, and some really bad behavior on my part. I've decided that after this deal unless I owe for two other records in October and buy them then that it's all done with records for me. Right now as I write I'm nervous about getting an email from the guy I'm dealing with and who has had to put up with endless changes and some real stupidity from me. I'm looking back at when I was a happier person and music was more part of my life than records. I'm seeing the present and none too pleased and the future needs to be a whole lot better because there isn't a whole lot of time left if politicians keep fucking up our world with war and destruction and we continue to abuse the environment. Good people are angry and Mother Nature is even angrier.
                -The Beatles: The Band That Did The Impossible And Began Everything-
This is a cool down thing I'm doing now. Opening some doors, moving ahead, writing about positive subject matter not negativity. I begin where all music and good revolution begins- classical music was the start, jazz followed, so did Music Hall, blues, real rhythm and blues, and rock and roll came along, but to throw it all together and blow culture and also music into fragmentations it was The Beatles. They were the band I was brought up on. I was only derailed away from them when out of shock and trauma at John Lennon's getting killed by the despicable Mark David Chapman I couldn't listen to them for a whole decade. I took in a lot of other music during that long 1980 to 1990 period when I wasn't listening to them, but even Journey and Black Sabbath couldn't have happened without The Beatles. Nothing could have. As of now I'm not really too big into Sabbath anymore although they made some great records, but I love Journey and more melodic stuff as well as heavier bands that are less overtly depressing as Black Sabbath.
   If it hadn't been for Ozzy Osbourne the funny thing is I may have taken even longer to get back into The Beatles. Ozzy also sustained a horrible tragedy with the death of Randy Rhoades at only 23 years of age and Ozzy is really somebody I don't laugh at. I won't laugh at somebody that sad. I sympathize with him. Ozzy Osbourne was ousted from the already Too-Good-For-Metal-Yet-Metal Pioneers- Black Sabbath when his behavior got out of control, but unlike what could have happened to their lyrical melodic voiced Ozzy he has kept making music and now Sabbath are back. Ozzy brought heavy Beatles influences even into a few Black Sabbath songs especially the surprise romantic ballad "Changes," but on his first two solo records (BLIZZARD OF OZ AND DIARY OF A MADMAN) and the tear jerking surprise romanticism of "So Tired" the Lennon and McCartney influences became a huge part of his music. I always have believed "So Tired" to be written as an elegy to Lennon and if you think I'm crazy think about the song title. Sounds familiar now doesn't it!? I knew eventually I would be listening to The Fab Four again when I was big into Ozzy Osbourne. Of course his career would fall apart, but he has survived. Somehow he's managed that.
     The most amazing thing about The Beatles is how they were able to top themselves after hitting an absolute huge peak throughout their career. Their early records were joyous rock and roll with harmony vocals and hooks aplenty paving the way for Pilot and other melodic rock bands, but they would go on from there to create psychedelic music and evolve into the most sophisticated rock band of the Proto Progressive era. I don't have a clue as to how they happened- they just happened. Then after happening they helped with happenings and the whole counterculture they were the leaders of. They brought life and sparkling wit to the British side of the counterculture and inspired the most amazing bands of that era.
        When people think they are being "cool" by putting down The Beatles I'm always tempted to beat the living shit out of them. Of course you can't do that, but I think I've summed up how seriously I take their music and what they stand for. In the 90s everybody was so big on hate and bitching and complaining that popular music turned into bullshit. How did that happen? Everybody was acting like The Beatles and the 60s never happened. That was the stupid attitude then, but back to The Beatles.     
     They began life as the first self-contained rock band ever- the first band to play their own instruments and write their own songs. Somehow they went from "Love Me Do" and "8 Days A Week" to "I'm Only Sleeping," "I'll Follow The Sun," and songs as out there as "A Day In The Life." When other great British Invasion bands were still covering outside material The Beatles had long since thrown that out of the window. My favorite Beatles albums are the ones that are the heaviest on the lavish progressive/psychedelic side and the most flung into experimentation, but you'd be surprised that SGT PEPPER is something I consider more an "event" than an album and that I think has some of the highest highs, but I never was too big a fan of McCartney's sappy "She's Leaving Home." You essentially had four very different personalities that complimented each other and that was what led to the brilliant music they came up with. Paul McCartney had the most melodic and romantic personality, John Lennon was the abrasive revolutionary and genius, George Harrison was the most deep thinking and musically gifted of the four, and loveable Ringo Starr gave them a rocking beat with his solid drums. I would say I think when you can think the highest of what The Beatles achieved it would be from BEATLES FOR SALE on and I don't mean the cheapskate American versions of their albums. REVOLVER and RUBBER SOUL are my two faves. Right up there is ABBEY ROAD. I don't know how they came up with such amazing music. I just know that it heavily influenced the music of the most exciting eras for rock music to come. ABBEY ROAD was going to be thrown away, abandoned. McCartney and Lennon could barely be in the same room together and John Lennon was ready to pack it all in at that point. Paul knew that the album could be salvaged and melodic progressive pop/rock was born with that amazing record. The best bands of the 1970s era like Canada's Steel River (complete with McCartney obsessed lead singer/writer John Dudgeon) and Popol Vuh/Popol Ace along with the famous Yes and King Crimson all owed a huge debt to ABBEY ROAD and what had come just a little time before it. I can't figure out The Beatles. For not just me they are music's ultimate enigma. I don't know how George Harrison created so much that nobody had ever played before, but he most certainly accomplished that. I think that REVOLVER may be my most beloved record, but ABBEY ROAD is damned close. The Beatles stood for revolution- they also stood for love and harmony. We should get back to what they brought us. We can never overlook The Beatles. In fact, if we went back to thinking along their lines we'd be a lot better off than we are now. Go pull out the albums and/or CDS of their entire body of work and blow your mind.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Great Music And For An Unbeatable Price Friends (MGM 1973 Aussie/US) and Caboose (1971 Memphis) People And Things To Seek Or To Avoid Like The Plague

The last big record deal was the last big nightmare with the ungrateful, malicious, and maniacally deformed madman whose name I shall not mention and whose business should be avoided like the plague. It was probably the worst experience I've had with a record dealer in recent memory.
   I had some thinking to do. I came to the conclusion that I was a big part of the problem. For the last year and a half there were too many multi thousand buck "suicide deals" where I went completely crazy and blew everything towards too many big high priced and not worthwhile records and too many binge not thinking records. I'm not the easiest person to deal with and Fucking Hell I'll admit I change my mind a million times and it can take weeks before a settlement is reached in a deal, but nobody deserves to be treated like a worthless piece of dirt when they are forking over thousands, hundreds, or even if you were to only spend say $80 and have trouble coming to a decision.
    Enough raving now, though, I've got to apologize to my good old friend S.B for blaming him for one of the most painful suicide deals and the amount of physical pain I was in at the time which was caused not by my pal, but by a serious medical problem that can be life threatening and even kill you because of lack of sodium. He's a great guy and we are doing something really good together again now. So, my apologies to him, and I also have come to know something else- some records that don't go for insane money at all are some of the best masterpieces ever made.
          -The Early 70s A Time Of Musical Overload And Record Company Rashness-
       The two bands I am discussing here and with a mention to a third one, Mailer MacKenzie Band who hard to believe with a name like that are a 1970 Dutch hard rock/rough rural psych band who somehow came out here, are from the period when for sheer volume more bands were signed and more records put out than any other time in history. This was the early 70s. As if the 60s weren't enough of a music driven time the post 60s bands that were both trying to move ahead and clutch avidly onto the dreams of a decade before met with instant record company interest that would often only result in one album, not more. This unfortunate circumstance came about because with record company greed to sign came the inevitable trouble of the fact that with the ongoing search for "The New Beatles, CSNY, Or The Band" came the inevitable falling out if the band or artist didn't take off in two seconds. In America it was a time of change and upheaval. The same is true pretty much all over the music producing world, but in America some of the most cutthroat deals were made to send bands who had been playing to huge audiences regionally to an undeserved end nationally when the label signed them and ditched them within a year, sometimes within months.
    -Friends Will Soon Be Your Friend Too In A Big Way With Their Power Pop Dynamite-
     There were too many labels. The big ones took chances, but with big ones came a growth in smaller ones and some of these labels recruited primarily from wherever they were based in the U.S with an occasional nod to overseas. Friends contained two Australian expatriates who had much success in their previous bands Steve Kipner (who had previously been with the UK based Aussie wonderful duo Tin Tin) and Daryl Cotton (from The Zoot- best known for their hard rock period with a young and morbid Rick Springfield later on of 80s international stardom). Joining them was American singer/musician/producer of amazing abilities Michael Lloyd who went way back to the mid 60s as did the other two. Michael Lloyd was already working with the large label MGM and together with Cotton and Kipner signed their new project to the rapidly splintering MGM. The label had never been good at promotional techniques and had created quite a mess with the catastrophic "Boss Town Sound" Boston bottom of them all bands hype in the 60s. Friends weren't given that kind of promotion. They should have stormed the charts and had a number one hit with their album, but they were gone as soon as they came. This record cost me only $6 + postage and blows the lid off most high priced American big ones of the time that aren't big at all.
     Friends had quite an impressive past, but even more impressive is what they created together. With most of the 11 tracks written jointly by Kipner, Cotton, and Lloyd their later pop psych/power pop is the perfect cross between Tin Tin, The Beatles, Pilot, and The Raspberries. Songs like the raw rocking Easybeats cover "Gonna Have A Good Time," "Glamour Girl," and "She Knows" are perfect post Mod Power Pop right up there with quite a few bands that Friends predate (I'm thinking of Pilot a lot when I play this album). Beautiful and lush ballads such as "Would You Laugh,"  the more upbeat "Won't You Reach Out," and "Moonshine" sound exactly like a dream come true for me- Tin Tin if they continued on after their two essential brilliant albums meets the massively great Honeybus or Scotland's Blue. Steve Kipner's vocals are instantly recognizable from his Tin Tin days and he would later score massive success as an AOR super-writer whose hits include the worldwide smash for also Aussie Olivia Newton-John "Physical." Kipner stayed active for the whole of the 70s and 80s, but in the 80s just as in the 70s his own bands just didn't get the respect they deserved to have.
    Friends is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable and perfect records I have ever come across and with MGM's lack of promotion it is quite rare too. Why this album hasn't flown up in value and gained a reissue is incomprehensible to me, but then so is the fact that it took bloody eons for Tin Tin to get any kind of respect from listeners. You can't say Friends had timing problems- they couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time for their music and the lack of success can probably rest firmly in the hands of MGM which hadn't a clue what they had. I've heard stories over the years about Michael Lloyd that suggest he is very hard to work with, but I don't judge till I know the man himself. I say the same for Mike Brown of the Left Banke fame. Brown (real last name Lookofsky) does not have a great reputation and I actually feel more sympathetic to him the more I hear stories about the poor guy. Until both Michael Lloyd and Michael Brown and I meet I'm not making any comments. Both certainly gave a lot to music. Friends could be your new favourite if you wish Honeybus had continued or if you are looking out for a perfect hybrid of Tin Tin, the best of The Hollles, The Raspberries (especially songs like "Go All The Way" and "Overnight Sensation"), and Pilot. "Would You Laugh" is the perfect love song, a song that absolutely sparkles with beauty and the sentiments young lovers feel. I've asked the same question. If you love somebody and want to win them over hold him or her in your arms, open the chocolate box, and put this and "Do I Love You" by German/Scottish power pop/AOR/Pomp masters Lake on your turntable and take it from there.
    Daryl Cotton was always in the shadow of Rick Springfield's depressed writing and guitar pyrotechnics in The Zoot and I really prefer the band before Springfield's hold became so much that he destroyed them with rubbish like "The Freak" and "Evil Child" which ended the band on a very sour note. The morbidity as I have mentioned of Rick's writing spilled over into his early solo albums and just what made the guy so angry I don't think I even want to know about. Sure, he's a great guitar player, but wait till "Jessie's Girl," "Affair Of The Heart" and his other AOR classics where he not only found himself as a writer, but turned out to have a great voice. Daryl Cotton, however, was the unsung talent in The Zoot who fronted the band and sang great, but the material was pretty sporadic. I think that band will always be exclusively remembered for their exhilarating version of "Eleanor Rigby" where they absolutely rock out with real power and energy. The rocker in Friends, Daryl Cotton gets to sing with power and melodic prowess both and he also turns out to be a great writer. This record doesn't have one unworthy track on it. Every song shines like a pop psych/power pop masterwork and the cover is a nice band logo and stylized picture of the trio. I put this up there with Tin Tin, with Honeybus, and with Pilot who are 3 of my most loved bands. I'd also include The Hollies in there. That's how great Friends are. This is a hard album to track down, but find it and if you love the above mentioned groups you're in for a classic.
       -Caboose Come A Rolling Down The Track With Speed, Power, And Soul-
   Caboose is a soul influenced psychedelic/progressive/pop rock/hard rock crossover band whose roots go back to their native Memphis in the 60s when they were known under the ludicrous monicker Butterscotch Caboose (no! I'm not joking!). They made singles under this stupid name that supposedly are really good and either right before or right after the name change they scored a regional smash with the anti-racist anti Southern Rock bullshit "Black Hands White Cotton," a fantastic song with over the top scathing vocals from Gary Johns and a really energetic exciting sound (this classic song is included on the Caboose album). Like all other Southern bands in the early 70s who weren't the shitheaded gobbledegook of Lynard Skynard, Bloodrock, Black Oak Arkansaw, and their ilk Caboose met with national apathy. A seriously talented hard rockin' yet very melodic and soulful band from Memphis typically got signed to a local Memphis label- Enterprise. Enterprise put a lot of rare records out and most of their acts didn't do too well in nationwide terms. Unfortunately, Caboose were no exception to the rule.
       If you are a fan of melodic early 70s heavy nightclub psych with 60s pop leanings like I am then this album is meant just for you to grab it. A powerful band they comprised amazing lead vocalist Gary Johns, primary writer Walter Ramsey Jr who plays keyboards, bass player/backing singer Tommy Cathey, guitarist Jackie Cook, percussionist Joe Williams, and female singer Pat Karr who helps out in the harmonies. Housed in a great psychedelic cover this album is a real killer song wise from start to finish. The band open with a hard rocking total derailment of "Great Balls Of Fire" and alternate dreamy tracks such as "You Are Still My Only Lover" and "A Winter Song" with the hard hitting material that takes up most of the album. With scathing guitar leads, fuzzed out riffs, and blasting keyboards this is a really enjoyable album and Gary Johns can really sing the rocking stuff with so much soul that you may, like me, be fooled into thinking he's black on first listening. Caboose were commercial enough to make it really big, but something much more than what stood in the way of Friends made their long playing career a brief one- times were changing and they didn't take heed. Most of the songs on this album sound a year or so earlier (most were in fact written a year or two or 3 earlier) and while I applaud them for ignoring Southern Rock they also weren't going to be as big as Led Zeppelin because their wild hard rock always had strong Nightclub/pop inclinations. While I love that sound and it really brings me a lot of pleasure unfortunately Caboose just didn't get a chance. Perfect songs for angry lovers "You Are Buying All My Trouble" and "Day After Day" (not a Badfinger cover, but a group original) feature positively shockingly roaring vocals from Gary Johns who sounds genuinely pissed off except for when his voice delves into melodic pop passages. He's equally at home on rockers and ballads with Caboose equally at home with melodic rock, pop psych, hard rock, and funk/gospel rock. I wouldn't call them a white R&B band because that would be an enormous disservice to such an exciting and great band, but the soul/R&B influences are handled for a rare time in the right way- they are original, new, and not just poor imitations of other more famous music. Caboose I can see appealing to a lot of people who like the good early 70s bands and wish there hadn't been so much crap in the charts, but as I said before they may have either been too diverse or just too good to make it when the public seemed to be wanting throwaway garbage in their ears. Caboose are a band who are picking up with collectors and I would grab this while I can if I were you. It won't be easy to track down nor will Friends, but don't waste your time with wasteful big money items that are priced way too high such as the garbage of Khazad Doom and other private press shite records from the same time, buy the real music!
      Two more bands of much interest- Mailer MacKenzie Band who are a great Dutch group and Locomotive who made one blazing heavy psych album for MGM in 1969 with many great moments before group leader John Ussery went totally Hendrix on an also really good solo album.
There is a lot of great music out there, just buy wisely and take chances on some things that aren't just the huge big ticket items that the two bands I've raved about are equally as rare as. Dig for the good stuff and find a lot of the great ones still out there and still obscure. Good luck with your vinyl mania! Cheers. Ben