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