Monday, 31 July 2017

"Sail Away" by RANDY NEWMAN (May 2002 Rhino/Reprise 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue - Dan Hersch Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Drop The Big One Now!"

While Randy Newman is a musical household name in 2017 - especially with his glorious Oscar-winning Soundtrack work on beloved Pixar films like "Toy Story", "Monsters Inc." and more - back in 1972 when he was onto his 4th solo LP for Reprise Records (3rd studio set) - and despite huge industry wide critical acclaim - he couldn't get arrested by the buying public even if he did insult short people or rail against the tyranny of religious zealots.

Originally released in May 1972 - the American vinyl LP of Reprise MS 2064 was not only ignored but even derided in some sectors - something Newman alludes to and smirks at in the caustic liner notes that accompany this stunning 2002 Rhino CD reissue. 

Because of course history tells us a different story to the chart indifference he suffered then - "Sail Away" is a great album - a masterpiece really - and an early jewel in a very large and long career arc. He is also helped by an impressive array of session players - Ry Cooder, Chris Etheridge of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jimmy Bond, Wilton Felder of The Crusaders and Milt Holland to name but a few (Randy plays piano and sings). It's lonely at the top indeed. Here are the memos from Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear...

UK released May 2002 - "Sail Away" by RANDY NEWMAN on Rhino/Reprise 8122-78244-2 (Barcode 081227824426) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of the 12-Track 1972 LP with Five Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (41:51 minutes):

1. Sail Away [Side 1]
2. Lonely At The Top
3. He Gives Us All His Love
4. Last Night I Had A Dream
5. Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear
6. Old Man
7. Political Science [Side 2]
8. Burn On
9. Memo To My Son
10. Dayton, Ohio - 1903
11. You Can Leave Your Hat On
12. God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
Tracks 1 to 12 are his 4th album "Sail Away" (3rd studio set) - released May 1972 in the USA on Reprise MS 2064 and July 1972 in the UK on Reprise K 44185.

BONUS TRACKS (Previously Unreleased):
13. Let It Shine
14. Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong (Studio Version)
15. Dayton, Ohio - 1903 (Early Version)
16. You Can Leave Your Hat On (Demo)
17. Sail Away (Early Version)

The 20-page booklet is a pleasingly in-depth affair with a Page 3 introduction from the great songsmith himself and a further essay/assessment pleasantly called "Of Freaks, Geeks, And God" by Editor of the Rolling Stone – DAVID WILD. There is even some personalized notes on the five Previously Unreleased outtakes and how pleased Randy is with the sound of the new Remaster carried out by long-time Rhino Records Audio Engineer associate - DAN HERSCH. This is a gorgeous sounding CD reissue - warm and full - as this quietly subdued album has always cried out for.

"...In America you get food to eat...Won't have to run through the jungle and scuff up your feet...You'll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day..." You can't really imagine (even now) the impact those opening lyrics to "Sail Away". Firstly very few artists would have risked them. Newman isn't casually slagging off America or taking a cheap shot - but he is highlighting hypocrisies and attacking homegrown racists and their simplistic crap all in the same song. The fact that he does all this inside a haunting melody (orchestration conducted by Louis Kauffman) is all the more remarkable. Newman then digs at his own supposed Rock Star lifestyle in "Lonely At The Top" - the applause - the money – the after parties. The song was used as a title to a CD Best Of for Warner Brothers in 1987 remastered by Lee Herschberg – a disc I bought back in early days of reissue.

An uncaring God and our blind allegiance to pie-in-the-sky indoctrination crops up in the sly and disturbing "He Gives Us All His Love". The distinctive rattle of Ry Cooder's slide guitar strings comes slinking in on "Last Night I Had A Dream" – a song I only half like actually. Speaking of which - his Alan Price hit "Simon Smith And The Amazing Dancing Bear" dates back to the Sixties and put RN on the songwriting map. But again - I've always admired the song more than I actually liked it. "Old Man" is one of the saddest melodies on the album - a tearful farewell by a son to his father - a Dad he clearly dislikes and loves in equal measure.

Side 2 gives us the masterful "Political Science" - a song with lyrics that inspire awe and giggles even now – a full 45 years after they were released. The protagonist singer tells of American Generals and Politicians weary of trying to be nice to the world – why bother man - they hate all Americans anyhow. So to Hell with them all and let's drop the big one now (not on Australia though - don't want to hurt no Kangaroo - besides they've got surfing and good weather too). "Burn On" is one of the album's secret nuggets - a river in Cleveland suddenly containing magical qualities as a red moon of fire rises in the distance. Understated observation number 424 comes in the shape of "Memo To My Son" - as witty and as wise a love letter from a father to a son as you'll ever hear. Like most young Dads - he's struggling with all the joys and terrors a child brings - but there's a simple love in there that's so touching. In the liner notes Newman's fairly dismissive of "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" but I actually think it's beautiful - a mournful 'missus and me' ballad. The ever so slightly perverse "You Can Leave Your Hat On" tickled many people's fancy (Tom Jones even covered it for "The Full Monty" film) - and it's easy to work out why as it plays - the song is witty, acidic and lusty. Buddhists and Hindus join Catholics and Jews on Satellite TV for the seriously harsh "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" – a nonchalant even disinterested Almighty poo-pooing his creation Mankind as they beg for mercy from plagues and suffering.

You can't help thinking that the wonderful outtake "Let It Shine" was left off the album precisely because it is so upbeat and uplifting - not in keeping with the album's overall moody demeanour. But it's a treat to hear it and "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong" - fully formed songs that actually deserve the moniker 'Bonus'. As I already liked "Dayton, Ohio - 1903" - a pretty 'early version' of it is alright by me. And the early version of the title song is radically different and fascinating for it...

"...I hope people like them this time..." - Randy Newman remarks in the new liner notes (the next LP "Good Ole Boys" from 1974 was also reissued in this CD series) - maybe a little mellowed by the years and distance. I'd agree.

I know RN is not everyone's cup of Darjeeling - but his songmanship and affecting melodies/lyrics warrant your attention – yes even deserve it. And 1972's forgotten and overlooked "Sail Away" album is the perfect starting point...

"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC (May 2003 Epic/Albert Productions 'ConnecteD Technology' Digipak CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Problem Child..."

Ah the alliterative naughtiness of it all. AC/DC's second British/International LP from late 1976 – the wonderfully titled and delightfully un-PC "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" – has always been something of a guilty pleasure – a record you hid from your conservative parents and unenlightened school pals – a rude and crude immoral little brute of a thing that you boogied to under cover of darkness. You would then carefully dispose of the beer bottles and promptly pray for your sins...neither of which would stop you from doing it all over again at your next earliest convenience...

First however some discography history on the LP and CD's strange musical journey in a whole smorgasbord of territories...

The first two Australian AC/DC albums were released on Albert Productions - "High Voltage" in February 1975 (Albert Productions APLP.009) and "T.N.T." in December 1975 (Albert Productions APLPA.016) – and had radically different track lists to their UK, USA and International issues (and different artwork too). "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" became their third studio album on Albert Productions APLP.020 in their native Oz – released late September 1976 with different artwork and a longer different 9-track track list to its UK and International counterparts. The Australian issue of the LP reads...

1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [Side 1]
2. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)
3. There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’
4. Problem Child
5. Squealer [Side 2]
6. Big Balls
7. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)
8. Ride On
9. Jailbreak

The Australian album was not just reconfigured in terms of song-placing – some of the tunes were longer - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Big Balls" and "Ain't No Fun (Waiting Round to Be A Millionaire)" to be specific. If you want those they’re digitally available in two sources – the 1994 CD remaster of the album and the 2009 Box Set "Backtracks". This 2003 Epic CD reissue is based however on the US, UK and International LP configuration and reverts to the ‘shorter’ versions of the above with only "Big Balls" remaining as the long version (confusing I know).

Duplicates across countries and issues - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" was their second British LP with the classic Bon Scott line-up (December 1976, Atlantic K 50323) and the only song to be duplicated with the first two Oz albums was "The Rocker" which had originally turned up as Track 2 on Side 2 of "T.N.T.". It’s worth noting that the Oz version of "The Rocker" differs to the UK and International version most of us have grown up with. Fans will also know that the 1976-recorded "Problem Child" from "Dirty Deeds..." was somehow inexplicably slotted in as Track 2 on Side 2 of the American version of the "Let There Be Rock" LP as late as 1977 on Atlantic SD 36151 (we were used to "Crabsody In Blue"). The 2003 CD therefore follows that US line-up - so to this day the track "Crabsody In Blue" remains an LP and CD rarity.

Then there’s the American LP variant of "Dirty Deeds..." It was passed over entirely by Atlantic and remained initially unreleased over there. But after Bon Scott's tragic loss in February 1980 – AC/DC's 1980 platter "Back In Black" with new vocalist Brian Johnson at the helm (ex England's GEIRDIE on EMI Records) became a sales juggernaut shifting five million copies and peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard charts. Imports of the 1976 Australian and British LPs of "Dirty Deeds..." began to circulate widely. Coupled with the rabid demand for AC/DC product - April 1981 finally saw "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" released as an LP in America on Atlantic SD 16033 and it rapidly peaked even higher than its more famous chart predecessor - at No. 3. This 2003 Epic CD reissue of "Dirty Deeds..." is based on that release. Now let's get down to this CD's actual digital nitty gritty...

UK released May 2003 - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC on Epic/Albert Productions 510760 2 (Barcode 5099751076025) is a 9-Track CD reissue and new remaster of the 1981 US and 1976 British LP and plays out as follows (39:59 minutes):

1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [Side 1]
2. Love At First Feel
3. Big Balls
4. Rocker
5. Problem Child
6. There's Gonna Be Some Rockin' [Side 2]
7. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire)
8. Ride On
9. Squealer
Tracks 1 to 9 are their second British album "'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" – released December 1976 in the UK on Atlantic K 50323 and April 1981 in the USA on Atlantic SD 16033.

AC/DC was:
BON SCOTT – Vocals
ANGUS YOUNG – Lead Guitar
MALCOLM YOUNG – Rhythm Guitar
MARK EVANS - Bass
PHIL RUDD – Drums

So what do you get here? This Epic CD 5-track reissue has what they call 'ConnecteD Technology' which allows you to access online content via your computer but I'm buggered if I've ever bothered. The card digipak is the same for all of these reissues - very tasty and tactile. There’s a picture CD to the right (the cover art of blacked out faces) and a 16-page booklet housed on the left in a pocket pouch.

The booklet It's crammed full of period colour photos – fantastic live shots of a hungry 1976 AC/DC line-up wearily suffering another TV interview when they’d rather be lusting after the schoolgirls outside the studio who’d appalled their mums with unladylike tattoos of their favourite band on their nether bits. There’s an advert in Spunky magazine where you can have a chance to ‘win’ an Angus jacket – a rare ticket stub for the Hurtsville Civic Centre in Sydney on their final Oz date before departing for Europe and a two page centre spread of the unique Australian LP cartoon artwork with Angus giving two fingers to the world (his contribution to world peace) while Bon gyrates his crotch over a pool table (nice).

The lyrics to Dirty Deeds are on the inner gatefold beneath a fab set of live black and white shots supplemented beneath the CD see-through tray by a colour snap of Bon facing Angus (both sweating and rocking). The whole thing (along with the famous Hipgnosis artwork) is a bit of a looker and then there’s the monster riffage. The GEORGE MARINO Remaster (done in the USA in conjunction with Mike Fraser, Al Quaglieri and UE Nastas) is from 'original master tapes' and sounds HUGE - fuller than the 1990 remaster I've had for years. Despite their age - tracks like "There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’" and "Ain’t No Fun..." have lost none of their rocking Rock 'n' Roll power. You could argue that the earlier CD remaster with its longer versions should have been fused with bonus tracks like say "Jailbreak" and "R.I.P (Rock In Peace)" from the Australian incarnation of the album – but that’s another reissue battle. Let’s deal with what we do have...

All thoughts of cuddly koalas, environmentally non-violent boomerangs (AC/DC ones are naturally decked out with razor blades) and lyrically warming Laura Ashley quotes on your daily positive-thoughts calendar go out the window with the incredibly filthy riffage and words of the panting title track - "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" followed quickly by the barely legal "Love At First Feel". This is what I never liked about the 80s Johnson line-up of AC/DC – they had lost that impish Rock fun and become a cold Metal band. And of course a lot of that wit is down to the leery wonder that was lead singer Bon Scott – a Scottish reprobate with a bottle of Malt Whiskey in one hand, a Rock voice to die for and a girl’s brazier of dubious vintage in the other. Talking of an opportunist teacher in her high school - Boniface warns “...You want to graduate...but not in his bed...” and then offers a solution to her slighting by proffering his headmaster ‘removal services’ for a reasonable fee (given the circumstances).

"Big Balls" is probably one of their worst moments for me – silly and slightly embarrassing actually. But that minor blip is followed by two absolute barnstormers - the stunning "Rocker" and "Problem Child" – songs that still bring a grin to my mush 41 years after the event. There can’t be too many AC/DC fans that don’t return to these kick-ass moments and they remain staples of the live show to this day. I prefer the Aussie versions in both cases – especially the longer cut of "Problem Child" where it kicks back into that killer riff just when you think the song is done.  The album’s other two secret weapons have to be the fabulous boozy swagger of "There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’" and a rare jaunt into slow Rock Blues with the underrated "Ride On". A great little album then in its own right – "Dirty Deeds..." was also a sonic stepping stone that would be followed in 1977 by the fearsome "Let There Be Rock" LP (see separate review).

It was a long to the top if you wanted to Rock 'n' Roll - but man their climb was filled with magnificence. Break some rocks with the original chain gang folks and bring this saucy little bust-out into your home...

PS: For what it's worth – the following is my ideal 1976 9-track "Dirty Deeds..." LP that mixes up the Aussie and International releases:

Side 1:
1. There's Gonna Be Some Rockin'
2. Love At First Feel
3. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap [Aussie Longer Version]
4. Rocker [Aussie Mix]
5. Problem Child [Aussie Longer Version]
Side 2:
1. Jailbreak
2. Ain't No Fun (Waiting Around To Be A Millionaire) [Aussie Longer Version]
8. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace)
9. Ride On 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

"The Atlantic Recordings" by LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III (June 2016 Real Gone Music CD Reissue – 2LPs from 1970 and 1971 Remastered onto 1CD Plus One Previously Unreleased Outtake – Dan Hersch Remasters) featuring Kate McGarrigle and Saul Broudy - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Museum All The Blues Away..."

This CD Reissue contains the two albums 
"Loudon Wainwright III" (August 1970)
and "Album II" (July 1971)
Plus One Bonus Track

Loudon Wainright III's first two bare-bones LPs from 1970 and 1971 made very little impact sales-wise (especially in the UK) - but have ever since remained a cool pool of refreshing water for those who thirst after honest contemporary US Folk with brains, emotional courage and an acidic tongue. But their availability on CD has been problematic for decades…until now…

This stunning relaunch from America's 'Real Gone Music' is a June 2016 single-CD reissue of a mail-order-only website-CD Rhino Handmade put out Stateside in December 1999 - itself a limited edition of 5000 numbered copies. That initial CD pressing sold out almost immediately – as did a short-lived reissue in November 2003 - and both versions have been hard to locate ever since – garnishing high prices in some places too.

Well now along comes Real Gone Music to the rescue of fans by reissuing that collectable at a reasonable cost and still with the great Dan Hersch Remastered Audio and decent liner notes (including the lyrics). Packaging-wise the only difference is that 1999's Rhino Handmade RHM2-7709 (Barcode 081227770921) came in a numbered card-sleeve while this is your basic jewel case (non-numbered).

Essentially what you're getting are his debut LP "Loudon Wainwright III" from August 1970 (USA) and the follow-up "Album II" from July 1971 (both originally on Atlantic Records) - as well as one Previously Unreleased Bonus Track from the "Album II" sessions left off the original LP due to time restrictions. With his razor-sharp wit, strangulated vocal delivery and obvious lyrical prowess - it's hardly surprising too that these 1970 and 1971 recordings of one-man-and-his guitar have been favourably compared to 1962 and 1963 Bob Dylan - LW III simply updating the scenarios to his own Delaware days of sin and redemption. And with a playing time of 78-minutes-plus - you can't argue that "Atlantic Recordings" isn't great value for money too. There's a lot to wade through - so here are the Uptown details and it's time to cook that dinner Dora...

US released 3 June 2016  - "The Atlantic Recordings" by LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III on Real Gone Music RGM-0461 (Barcode 848064004615) offers 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD with One Previously Unreleased Bonus Track that plays outs as follows (78:27 minutes):

1. School Days [Side 1]
2. Hospital Lady
3. Ode To A Pittsburgh
4. Glad To See You've Got Religion
5. Uptown
6. Black Uncle Remus [Side 2]
7. Four Is A Magic Number
8. I Don't Care
9. Central Square Song
10. Movies Are A Mother To Me
11. Bruno's Place
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut album "Loudon Wainwright III" - released 17 August 1970 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8260 and October 1970 in the UK on Atlantic 2400 103 (reissued in 1973 on Atlantic K 40107). All songs by LW III - produced by LW III and MILTON KRAMER.

12. Me And My Friend The Cat [Side 1]
13. Motel Blues
14. Nice Jewish Girls
15. Be Careful There's A Baby In The House
16. (a) I Know I'm Unhappy (b) Suicide Song (c) Genville Reel
17. Saw Your Name In The Paper
18. Samson And The Warden [Side 2]
19. Plane, Too
20. Cook That Dinner, Dora
21. Old Friend
22. Old Paint
23. Winter Song
Tracks 12 to 23 are his second studio album "Album II" - released 5 July 1971 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8291 and August 1971 in the UK on Atlantic 2400 142 (reissued in 1973 on Atlantic K 40272). All songs by LW III - produced by LW III and MILTON KRAMER. Guests - Kate McGarrigle sings Backing Vocal and Saul Broudy plays Harmonica on "Old Paint" only.

24. Drinking Song
Recorded February 1971 – it was intended to be placed on Side 2 (Track 3) but there was enough room Previously Unreleased Studio Recording Outtake.

The substantial 20-page booklet is entirely US-based with new (November 1999) liner notes entitled "An Unflinching Stare" are a 'reflection' by PETER FALLON on Wainwright's melodic style and blunt-as-a-mallet skill with words. Pages 4 and 5 with Pages 11 and 12 offer full-page plates of both album covers (back and front) - whilst the all-important lyrics are reproduced for both albums (and the lone outtake) for the first time. DAN HERSCH of Rhino fame has handled the tapes and the Remasters are gorgeous - one man and his guitar - clean, atmospheric, vibrant and filling up your room with that air analogue has.

I'm no fool about Wainwright. I saw him live at Ireland's second 'Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival' in 1979 (a headliner) where he promptly slaughtered the crowd one sunny beautiful day. They loved his honesty, sense of humour and 'Rufus The Tit Man' tunes. Wainwright was dragged back to the stage for more - more – more – beaming to the encores that were genuine. But I also had a mate of mine who in early Seventies Dublin couldn't abide the nasal whine of his voice - never mind the often barren-nature of his song-subjects. So instead of guffawing - he'd come out in a rash at the mere mention of LW III's name. Therefore in my book musically both albums would be an acquired taste. But if you do get into his acoustic tales of woe and love (and I know many who have) - you may find yourself studying every chord change and memorising those brilliant lyrics to impress your mates next time you're in that village pub with a roaring fire and a few pints of Dutch courage.

The debut opens with a tale of his Delaware younger days ("School Days") where LW was the James Dean tearaway begged by girls to join them in their boudoirs. Afterward he would pencil his pimple parables riling against those who tried to force their religious moralising down his throat. In "Hospital Song" he is touched by a dying old lady whom he knows was once a pretty young thing in 1953 - but now her new lover is the Reaper waiting with a stone face at the end of the bed (gorgeously simple acoustic melody). Both "Ode To A Pittsburgh" and "Glad To See You Got Religion" start feeling bitter and angry - strumming hard with his machine that kills fascists – raging against people who don’t discharge their creative juices while old LW can’t wait too. All the freaks are freaking him out in "Uptown" - hailing a cab – reading the Allied Chemical News en route – head into the Garden in the rain for some Basketball or maybe Boxing. Many will know the brilliant "Black Uncle Remus" – it’s death-letter-blues, catfish catches and rusted banjo strings turning up on CD compilations that want to impress with their cool.

"Four Is A Magic Number" opens Side 2 of "Loudon Wainwright III" with more acoustic guitar and his desperate Willie Nile voice regaling about a sinking sinner in the gutter. "I Don't Care" has the slow melancholy of say Leo Kottke or even Tim Buckley on a purely Folk tip - bidding his girl goodbye as she heads off to San Francisco for sand-in-the-hair nights on the beach with someone else. Mary McGuire and Big Frank Clark get drunk in "Central Square Song" - their six-pack passion making them act like teenagers – and petulant ones at that. Loudon's love of escape comes roaring out of "Movies Are A Mother To Me" - films on a rainy Tuesday giving him back some sort of recovered sanity. The debut ends on the jaunty "Bruno's Place" where yoga-girls and Swamii-pearls hang out in Bruno's meat-less apartment down on Seventh Street (he trashes his guitar like Richie Havens getting carried away on stage). In truth I don't think Side 2 is as good as Side 1 on the starter album - but LP2 is another matter…

If his undeniable songwriting and social commentary brilliance was gestating on the debut – then for me it explodes into proper magic on "Album II". I like almost every song on it. "Me And My Friend The Cat" and "Motel Blues" open the second LP in grand style - very cool melodies and words. The second Atlantic Records sampler LP "The New Age Of Atlantic" from March 1972 (the British LP was on Atlantic K 20024) gave the song "Motel Blues" from "Album II" a rare plug. The compilers no doubt hoped that lyrics like "...the Styrofoam bucket's full of ice...Come up to my motel room...treat me nice..." would tickle the public's buying fancy (not to be unfortunately). Even better song-wise is "Nice Jewish Girls" where his Episcopalian schooling isn't helping as LW stares at those ladies with surnames like Pearlstein - his Yiddish young-man juices starting to bubble uncontrollably (and not for their skills with a bagel). A newborn bundle of joy is jarring his nerves in "Be Careful There's A Baby In The House" - or is the kid's parents and their smug remarks that are getting on his trupenny bits. More misery follows in the weary and inebriated three-parter "I Know I'm Unhappy..." where our hero rarely makes love but regularly gets laid. Wainwright ends a masterful Side 1 with "Saw Your Name In The Paper" where he's happy for a talented friend from the past but warns that their heroics might induce slavery to something else – becoming a limelight chaser – a junky for fame.

There is a superb simplicity and therefore power to Side 2's "Plane, Too" where he lists the people and things on his flight. They can't get away - can't get out - and as he looks in the 747’s toilet mirror - realises that neither can he. "...Set that place for me...Arm me with utensils..." Wainwright asks of Dora in "Cook That Dinner..." where you suspect that his mealtime might contain something else baked into his cottage pie other than mincemeat.  You wish Wainwright had let both Kate McGarrigle and Saul Broudy onto other tracks – they add hugely to "Old Paint". It ends on a brilliant acoustic melody "Winter Song" and you can so hear why he thought the equally good "Drinking Song" should have been on the album.

In all honesty I'd forgotten about these Loudon Wainwright III records – especially that deeply satisfying second LP. I'm also left with more than a feeling that these 1970 and 1971 Atlantic Records recordings contain overlooked gems that deserve a second-go-round - even if they are a bit misery-guts. And typical of many musicians with a penchant for the neurotic muddle of life and loving – Loudon is a damn good actor too…

Sunday, 23 July 2017

"Just For The Record: The Solo Anthology 1969-76" by ANDY ROBERTS (July 2005 Sanctuary/Castle Music 2CD Reissue - Nick Watson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...





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"...Andy The Revelator..."

Played guitar on Scaffold recordings – sessioned with Jimi Hendrix and Graham Nash - produced by Paul McCartney - toured with Led Zeppelin - had the drummer from Jethro Tull in his band - was involved in four Liverpool Scene albums - another for the short-lived Everyone group - another for the revered Plainsong ensemble and then on top of all that managed four more solo albums of his own by late 1973 (one of which was issued in two different versions). And yet I suspect like most people - you won't have a knacker's nadge as to who ANDY ROBERTS actually is. Which is a damn shame and something we need to rectify pronto. And that's where me and this rather brill little twofer-CD set from Sanctuary's Castle Music come bellowing in...

"Just For The Record..." offers the uninitiated 33-Tracks stretching from the London guitar-players first solo recordings with RCA in 1969 to his stay with cult British Folk-Comedy geezers Grimms in 1976. Included are Six Previously Unreleased tracks from his own archives and quality remasters of tracks from his rare and sought-after Seventies LPs - "Home Grown" (March 1970 on RCA - remixed and reissued in June 1971 on B&C Records), "Nina And The Dream Tree" (October 1971 on Pegasus), "Urban Cowboy" and "The Great Stampede" from March and December 1973 on Elektra Records as well as three tracks from the "Everyone" LP project in January 1971 on B&C Records and a Grimms track from 1976.

The project has had AR's full involvement and uses real tapes - and it shows. There are also guest appearances across the tracks from a wide variety of musical alumni – Ian Matthews, Zoot Money, Tim Renwick of Quiver, Carol Grimes, members of Plainsong, Grimms and Fairport Convention, Bob Sargent of Brinsley Schwarz, members of Liverpool Scene, vocalists Mac and Katie Kissoon and more. And for me especially – one of the big gifts here is the beautiful Acoustic Nick Drake/Roy Harper-ish Folk Rock of the 5-track "Nina And The Dream Tree" LP from 1971 in its Remastered entirety. Yum Yum. There's a ton of detail to get through so onwards and upwards...

UK released 26 July 2005 - "Just For The Record: The Solo Anthology 1969-76" by ANDY ROBERTS on Sanctuary/Castle Music CMEDD 1084 (Barcode 5050749410849) is a 2CD 33-Track Compilation of Remasters with Six Previously Unreleased Tracks that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (74:33 minutes):
1. The Raven
2. Applecross
3. Moths & Lizards In Detroit
4. The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid
5. Creepy John
6. Home Grown
7. You're A Machine
8. John The Revelator
9. Baby, Baby
10. Autumn To May
11. Queen Of The Moonlight World
12. Lonely In The Crowd
13. Radio Lady (US Version)
14. Don't Get Me Wrong
15. Sitting On A Rock
16. Gig Song
17. Richmond
18. Elaine
19. Just For The Record
20. Good Time Charlie
All songs written by Andy Roberts except cover version of "Creepy John" and "Good Time Charlie" (both by Spider John Koerner), "John The Revelator" (Blind Willie Johnson/Traditional) and "Autumn To May" (Peter, Paul And Mary)
Tracks 1, 7, 9 and 18 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 16 are from his debut solo LP "Home Grown" - first released as a 14-track UK LP in March 1970 on RCA Records SF 8086
Tracks 2, 5, 11, 12 and 19 are his debut solo LP "Home Grown" - remixed and reissued as a 10-track UK LP in June 1971 on Charisma/B&C Records CAS 1034. 
Track 13 is from the "Andy Roberts Is With Everyone" LP by ANDY ROBERTS - released July 1971 in the USA on Ampex Records A 10117
Tracks 14 and 15 are from the "Everyone" LP by EVERYONE - released January 1971 in the UK on B&C Records CAS 1028 (same LP as Track 13 with different mixes)
Track 20 is from his 2nd solo LP "Nina And The Dream Tree" - released October 1971 in the UK on Pegasus Records PEG 5
Track 17 is from his 3rd solo LP "Urban Cowboy" - released March 1973 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42139

Disc 2 (65:16 minutes):
1. Keep My Children Warm
2. I've Seen The Movie
3. 25 Hours A Day/Breakdown/Welcome Home
4. Dream Tree Sequence
5. Poison Apple Lady
6. Urban Cowboy
7. Living In The Hills Of Zion
8. Charlie
9. Big City Tension
10. Home At Last
11. Home In The Sun
12. New Karenski
13. Bluebird Morning
Tracks 1 to 4 are from his 2nd solo LP "Nina And The Dream Tree" - released October 1971 in the UK on Pegasus Records PEG 5
(Using Track 20 on Disc 1 and the above four - you can sequence the entire LP as follows:
Side 1: Tracks 1, 2 and 3 from Disc 1 - Side 2: Track 20 from Disc 1 and Track 4 from Disc 2
Tracks 5 and 7 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 8, 9, 10 and 12 are from his 3rd solo LP "Urban Cowboy" - released March 1973 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42139
Track 11 is from his 4th solo LP "The Great Stampede" - released December 1973 in the UK on Elektra Records K 42151
Track 13 is by GRIMMS and is from their 3rd LP "Sleepers" - released 1976 UK LP on DJM Records DJLPS 470

COLIN HARPER (author of "Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History") penned the superlatively detailed liner notes that condense the man's staggeringly varied career into 12-pages of text. Amidst the reminiscences from Roberts are adverts for Scaffold gigs back in 1965, photos of The Liverpool Scene on stage and at various stages of counter-culture play, colour snaps of AR at The Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970 with Zeppelin and Blodwyn Pig - a trade advert for his support slot with Procol Harum at The Queen Elizabeth Hall - all rounded off with AR and Ian Matthews reunited at the 2000 Cropredy Festival (Fairport Convention). There are the usual reissue credits and a very nice touch is his 7-LP Discography pictured on the inside rear inlay (includes the "Andy Roberts" budget compilation LP on Charisma CS 6).

NICK WATSON did the Remasters at The Town House and even the largely Acoustic Demo recordings sound glorious. As much of the music is very Acoustic based Folk-Rock in its nature - the remasters seem to have made the melodies more open and haunting in ways I hadn't heard before. I also love the way the reissue acknowledges the two entirely different sounding versions of his sought-after debut "Home Grown" - with my poison being the re-done 1971 version on B&C Records. Even though it has less tracks than the RCA original (10 against 14) - along with "Nina And The Dream Tree" - I think both are forgotten gems Seventies soft-rock lovers will love enjoy rediscovering. To the music...

Although primarily remembered as a session-guitarist - Andy Roberts was/is a multi-instrumentalist. Across his four solo LPs (and on the others too) - he plays Acoustic, Electric and Slide Guitar, Dulcimer, Flute, Glockenspiel, Piano, Violin and handles all lead vocals. His debut "Home Grown" has a tangled history. RCA put out a 14-track version in March 1970 while manager Sandy Robertson oversaw a 10-track remix/re-record in 1971 put out by Charisma’s B&C Records. What you notice about the RCA initial pressing is how stripped down and Acoustic tracks like "The One-Armed Boatman And The Giant Squid" are (and hissy too in some places). While "Home Grown" feels like Country-Rock ala Gordon Lightfoot singing about weed and its 'home grown' medicinal properties. The Country feel continues with "Gig Song" where our travelling man spends his life on the motorways of the world. Things improve immeasurably with his funky cover of the Blues/Gospel Traditional "John The Revelator" (one of my fave tracks on the first version). But things go stellar for me with the accomplished sound to the B&C pressing in 1971. There's a coherence to the Cochise and Brinsley Schwarz swagger of "Creepy John" while the near seven-minute "Applecross" is as lovely as Acoustic Rock gets. Continuing with Acoustic - the beautifully recorded two-minute instrumental "Lonely In The Crowd" could be one of those fingerpicking melodic ditties Jimmy Page slipped into Zeppelin LPs. Another is the very Terry Reid instrumental "Just For The Record" - a tune that lets him show off his acoustic note-plucking and harmonics prowess (he'd been touring with Ian Matthews and Richard Thompson and clearly some of that guitar talent had sunk in deep).

The "Nina..." in the title of his second solo LP turns out to Polly James of the popular TV Show "The Liver Birds" whom he was in a serious relationship with at the time - the muse for all of Side 1. Although there are only five tracks - I love the Nick Drake/Roy Harper feel to the songs - sort of "Bryter Layter" meets "Stormcock" although probably not as good as either - but close. Guests Carol Grimes and Charlene Collins (lady vocals) and ace sessionman Ray Warleigh on Alto Saxophone add hugely to the beautiful almost hymnal "Keep The Children Warm" - a song that doesn't sound fay or cloying after 46 years - but genuine and heartfelt. The casually strummed acoustic guitars and tasty piano notes remind me too of Terry Reid keeping it casual and loose on his 1973 set "River". Gerry Conway of Fairport Convention plays the drums on "I've Seen The Movie" - but its the astonishing string-arrangements of Robert Kirby that elevates the song into the magical - like when Elton used to be on "Tumbleweed Connection" and "Madman Across The Water". On the eight-minutes of the three-part "25 Hours A Day/Breakdown/Welcome Home" - Roberts sees his pal Dave Richards of Plainsong and Grimms play Bass and Organ with Backing Vocals provided by the soulful duo of Mac and Katie Kissoon (who would have their in the mid Seventies). That wild guitar solo in the 'Breakdown' section still feels every so slightly out of place - but the mellow soon returns with the very quiet and very pretty "Welcome Home" part.

His cover of Spider John Koerner’s "Good Time Charlie" has a great chug before finally hurtling into a ye-haw hoedown finish. The huge fifteen-minute "Dream Tree Sequence" runs the musical gamut – Folk Rock to begin with – then into a softer Acoustic centre – and a wicked Harper-esque electric guitar change of pace – all aided and abetted by Zoot Money on Organ and the trio of Ian Matthews (Matthews Southern Comfort) and Mac And Katie Kissoon on Backing Vocals. It feels very Plainsong before that band had been invented yet. I can’t help thinking that "Nina And The Dream Tree" is something of a forgotten classic when it comes to 1971 LPs...

For the artist himself – he prefers (as do many) to run to the two Elektra Records LPs he did in 1973 as his musical apex – "Urban Cowboy" in March 1973 and "The Great Stampede" towards Christmas of that year. With a CD reissue of "The Great Stampede" due when they were compiling this twofer – Castle only provide us with one song from the fourth LP which is a damn shame – especially given the playing time that would have allowed for two or three more at least. But what we do get of both is wonderful - with the lovely "Richmond" and "Bluebird Morning" being my faves here. Of the six unreleased – my heart goes to the demo of "Elaine" and the two-minute Dulcimer prettiness of "Baby, Baby".

Andy Roberts essentially became a musician for hire after the mid Seventies even doing a stint with the live variant of Pink Floyd for their 1981 "Wall" concerts. He's released CDs since and joined the Ian Matthews Plainsong reunion band too.

But for many his criminally overlooked singer-songwriter work between 1970 and 1973 define him and explain why albums that used to linger unloved and unwanted in secondhand racks now go for money. Collectors discovered their quality...and you should too. Well done to all involved...

Saturday, 22 July 2017

"Natural Born Bugie: The Immediate Anthology" by HUMBLE PIE (October 2000 Sanctuary/Castle Music 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...





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"...A Nifty Little Number..."

I've had this truly fantastic HUMBLE PIE twofer-CD set for over 15 years now and meant to review it many times. Well, no time like July 2017.

Fronted by the mighty Steve Marriott (fresh from the Small Faces) and The Herd's lead singer Peter Frampton - over in the USA especially HUMBLE PIE achieved stadium-filling Rock legend but initially remained something of a subdued force back in their native Blighty.

And that’s where "Natural Born Bugie: The Immediate Anthology" comes rollicking in. This October 2000 Sanctuary Records/Castle Music 2CD reissue features their initial two albums with Andrew Loog Oldham's ill-fated 'Immediate Records' - both issued in the heady days of 1969 - "As Safe As Yesterday Is" in July 1969 and "Town And Country" in late November. Original drummer Jerry Shirley got involved in this reissue helping with the new remixes from original tapes and reminiscences for the liner notes. The set also offers both sides of a stand-alone 7" single (the titular "Natural Born Bugie" backed with the delightfully monikered "Wrist Job") and eleven other stragglers - a very tasty Nine Previously Unreleased Tracks with two further outtakes first issued on a German CD in 1992 (Tracks 7 and 8 on Disc 2). It's a big ole slice of forgotten Pie - so let's get to the many-headed details...

UK released 30 October 2000 (November 2000 in the USA) - "Natural Born Bugie: The Immediate Anthology" by HUMBLE PIE on Sanctuary/Castle Music CMDDD 054 (Barcode 5050159105427) is a 2CD 34-Track Set of Remasters that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (74:00 minutes):
1. Natural Born Bugie
2. Wrist Job
Tracks 1 and 2 are the non-album A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single released July 1969 on Immediate IM 082

3. Desperation [Side 1]
4. Stick Shift
5. Buttermilk Boy
6. Growing Closer
7. As Safe As Yesterday Is
8. Bang! [Side 2]
9. Alabama '69
10. I'll Go Alone
11. A Nifty Little Number Like You
12. What You Will
Tracks 3 to 12 are their debut studio album "As Safe As Yesterday Is" - released July 1969 in the UK on Immediate Records IMSP 025 and December 1969 in the USA on Immediate IMOCS 101 with the Ian McLagan track "Growing Closer" on Side 1 replaced with the single "Natural Born Bugie". It peaked at No. 34 in the UK, didn't chart USA.

13. Take Me Back [Side 1]
14. The Sad Bag Of Shakey Jake
15. The Light Of Love
16. Cold Lady
17. Down Home Again
18. Ollie Ollie
Tracks 13 to 18 are Side 1 of their 2nd studio album "Town And Country" - released November 1969 in the UK on Immediate Records IMSP 027 (No USA Release). It didn't chart in the UK

Disc 2 (70:34 minutes):
1. Every Mother's Son
2. Heartbeat
3. Only You Can See
4. Silver Tongue
5. Home And Away
Tracks 1 to 5 are Side 2 of their 2nd studio album "Town And Country" - released November 1969 in the UK on Immediate Records IMSP 027 (No USA Release). It didn't chart in the UK

6. I'll Drown In My Own Tears
7. 79th Street Blues
8. Greg's Song (Backing Track)
9. Hello Grass (No Regrets)
10. Road To Ride
11. BTMG's (Instrumental)
12. Zeptoe Through The Tulips
13. Leave No Turn Unstoned (alias Just A Riff) - Instrumental
14. Every Mother's Son (alias Jesse Hardin) ('Drunk Intro' Version)
15. The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake
16. For Your Love (Studio Jam)
Tracks 6 and 9 to 16 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
Tracks 7 and 8 first appeared on the 1992 German CD reissue of "Town And Country" on Repertoire REP 4231-WY (Barcode 4009910423127)

HUMBLE PIE was:
STEVE MARRIOTT - Lead Vocals, Guitars and Keyboards
PETER FRAMPTON - Lead Vocals, Guitars and Keyboards
GREG RIDLEY - Bass and Vocals
JERRY SHIRLEY - Drums and Percussion

Compiled by a name trusted by collectors JOHN REED - almost all of the Sanctuary/Castle Music CD reissues of the period favoured a fold-out inlay which is not only a tasty treat visually but an in-depth and knowledgeable read too. With liner notes from ROGER DOPSON, JOHN HOLLIER and JERRY SHIRLEY, the text is peppered with rare Euro 45 picture sleeves ("The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake"), Immediate Records trade adverts and even the photograph of the brown-parcel artwork that featured on the "As Safe As Yesterday Is" sleeve. They've repro'd the rear covers of both LPs, an NME issue that featured HP on the front cover, black and white and colour snaps of the English rockers in full flight on varying stages and an A-Label demo of the band's lone British single on immediate - "Natural Born Bugie" that peaked at No. 4 on the UK singles charts in September 1969.

But the great news is quality sources for the Audio - 'Immediate Remasters' by Sound Recording Technology at St. Ives, mix downs for the previously unreleased material by Jerry Shirley and Andy Jackson at Dave Gilmour's Studios and the whole set Remastered by NICK WATSON at SRT. The first album is essentially a Rocker - whilst the poor-selling No. 2 LP was largely an Acoustic Folky affair - and both sound suitably brill to me – muscle and details galore. To the music...

Marriott wrote both sides of the "Natural Born Bugie" single where some copies credited the track as "Natural Born Woman" after the actual chorus lyric. It's a simple guitar and piano good-time Rock 'n' Roller with that fantastic Bluesy organ sound on "Wrist Job" being my preferred poison. The debut album opens with a storming Steppenwolf cover version - "Desperation" - just one of the John Kay-written highlights on their January 1968 "Steppenwolf" debut LP on ABC/Dunhill Records. By the way both Marriott and Frampton play and sing - you could be forgiven for thinking Humble Pie are a British version of that American juggernaut of a band - a style call I'll take any day of the week. Frampton gets his first credit with the slide guitar of "Stick Shift" whilst also contributing "I'll Be Alone" and a co-write with Marriott on the LP's superb title track "As Safe As Yesterday Is". Things kick into boogie mode with "Buttermilk Boy" where a country boy finds himself at the eager hands of an amorous city gal (this strapping lad will be needing a big breakfast come the morning). Ian McLagan's lone contribution to the LP "Growing Closer" is the kind of Small Faces-sounding harmonica rocker from the "Autumn Stone" period that I love - with Side 1 ending on the epic six-minute title track where Humble Pie's musicality comes to full fruition - what a tune and what a sound they made – minstrel of the night indeed.

The band had left for the USA, Immediate didn't promote the new record with a British single and were themselves weeks away from financial ruin anyway. Also unlike its rocking predecessor - the new album’s direction seemed more Folk than Natural Born Bugie. So when the 2nd Humble Pie album "Town And Country" appeared in late November 1969 – critics were baffled and the public either didn't know of its existence or worse - didn't care (it failed to chart in the UK and wasn't given an equivalent US release). Poor sales and disinterest are born out with my own decades of experience. I worked as a Rarities Buyer in Reckless Records in Islington and Soho for nearly 20 years (one of the best and busiest second-hand record shops in London) and while the A&M Humble Pie albums (especially the popular doubles "Performance" and "Eat It") would regularly show in people's record collections – the first two Immediate albums never did – especially the second "Town And Country".

But I've always loved it – even bought the 2008 Japanese SHM-CD reissue. Re-listening to the genius Sitar shimmy of "The Light Of Love" (could be a 1967 Summer of Love classic) or the Terry Reid cool keyboard groove of "Cold Lady" or the Sticky Fingers "Wild Horses" country-acoustic of "Every Mother's Son" or Frampton's fantastic vocal on "Only You Can See" – and I'm loving this wonderfully accomplished LP all over again. Hell I even like the 'rawk' cover of Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat" that HP make sound like a Small Faces outtake from a particularly boozy night out...

Both 1970's "Humble Pie" and 1971's "Rock On" – their opening gambits on A&M Records – are gems too – and equally difficult to find on original vinyl or for that matter reissue CD (outside of Japan that is). But I dig them all so much. Like so many great bands of the period - Humble Pie made a sound that is 'so' British Rock 'n' Roll and like the Faces and The Stones – engender an affection that is actually warranted and has lasted (now nearly into five decades).

"Natural Born Bugie..." is a brill little twofer-CD that's still available for about eight quid or less and it’s safe to say I’ll be returning to this set of 1969 yesterdays for years to come. Great stuff...
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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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