Sunday, 30 April 2017

"Brothers/Music Fuh Ya' (Musica Para Tu)/Evolution (The Most Recent)" by TAJ MAHAL (November 2015 Beat Goes On 3LPs onto 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...In The Key Of Dire..."

I've always had a soft spot for the Blues of Henry Fredericks from Harlem in New York (TAJ MAHAL to you and I) - and his 1968 self-titled debut "Taj Mahal" ranks in my books as one of the all-time-greats of the Blues-Rock genre. The two or three albums that followed that fantastic start were damn good too (he made 11 albums before he quit Columbia Records for Warner Brothers in 1976). But as the new decade wore on – he mellowed those fun 60’s Boogie Blues into wishy-washy Seventies pseudo pap – eventually arriving in 1977 at the truly dreadful "Brothers" soundtrack (not that the other two are much better).

Unfortunately these three albums are an ample example as to why Taj Mahal's records from this period in his career garnish so little interest. They’re just no good and at times genuinely hard to stomach even in hindsight. For what its worth - here are the details...

UK released 27 November 2015 (December 2015 in the USA) – "Brothers/Music Fuh Ya' (Musica Para Tu)/Evolution (The Most Recent)" by TAJ MAHAL on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1214 (Barcode 5017261212146) offers 3 albums onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (41:30 minutes):
1. Love Theme In the Key Of D
2. Funky Butt
3. Brother's Doin' Fine
4. Night Rider
5. Free The Brothers [Side 2]
6. Sentidos Duice (Sweet Feelings)
7. The Funeral March
8. Malcolm's Song
9. David And Angela
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Brothers" – released 1977 in the USA as a Soundtrack LP on Warner Brothers BS 3024

Disc 2 (78:26 minutes):
1. You Got It
2. Freight Train
3. Baby, You're My Destiny
4. Sailin’ Into Walker’s Cay
5. Truck Driver's Two Step [Side 2]
6. The Four Mills Brothers
7. Honey Babe
8. Curry
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "Music Fuh Ya' (Musica Para Tu)" – released January 1977 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2994 and January 1977 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56324

9. Sing A Happy Song
10. Queen Bee
11. Lowdown Showdown
12. The Most Recent (Evolution) Of Muthafusticus Modernusticus
13. Why You Do Me This Way [Side 2]
14. Salsa De Laventille
15. The Big Blues
16. Nighnite
17. Southbound With The Hammer Down
Tracks 9 to 17 are the album "Evolution (The Most Recent)" – released 1978 in the USA on Warner Brothers BSK 3094 (no UK release)

There's a card slipcase which lends the 2CD reissue a classy look, a new 2015 High Definition CD Remaster from ANDREW THOMPSON and a 16-page booklet with informative CHARLES WARING liner notes that include the original musician credits and some repro'd artwork. The Remaster sounds brilliant even when the music is being busy - these are warm and well-handled transfers (if only the music actually warranted it)...

The "Brothers" soundtrack is based in the Bahamas so every track is dreadful steel drum percussion that renders every tune both dated and unlistenable. But even worse is his voice – which feels out of tune and stoned half the time. You wouldn’t mind if any of the songs were any good – they’re not – insipid half-assed up-pop that just doesn’t work either as Blues, Soul or Pop. Side 2 offers moments of redemption though - the 8-minute "Free The Brothers" track sees the title chanted against an incessant drum and percussion backbeat – but about four minutes in and your patience starts to wear thin as you realise that the song has nothing else to offer – just eight minutes of the same chant that builds a bit towards the end. "Sentidos Dulce (Sweet Feelings)" is a Saxophone Samba with more Steel Drums but feels like elevator music while at least "The Funeral March" has some semblance of Soul in its melody.

Both of the next two records are ruined with Steel Drums invading almost every track – sounding at times like dreadful 'three blind mice' calypso outtakes from "Dr. No". This is epitomised by the woeful "The Four Mills Brothers" where he sings Louis Prima's refrain "...I ain't got nobody..." in the middle of a nowhere melody. But worse is that despite top-notch production values and a huge array of talented players – the songs feel dreadfully dated and strangely lifeless for tunes that have so much going on in them. "Lowdown Showdown" sounds like bad Abba - while its easy to see why "The Most Recent..." track graced the anthology 2CD set from the 90's – its at least got decent vibes and interesting trippy guitar soundscapes. "Why You Do Me This Way" has a nice Ry Cooder groove and "The Big Blues" sounds like a welcome return to form with his harmonica matching a slick brass refrain...with "Southbound With The Hammer Down" doing the same...

To sum up – despite the top-notch presentation and remaster – for me the largely derivative music makes this a rare turkey in the BGO reissue cannon. If you’re not a fan – I’d advise to get a listen first before purchase – and if you are interested in TAJ MAHAL and wonder why such affection was afforded him in the first place - I’d plum for that "Taj Mahal" debut album with Ry Cooder in his band (see review) which is available online for less than three quid in many places...

Saturday, 29 April 2017

"Katharsis/Earmeal/Presens" by JANNE SCHAFFER (April 2017 Beat Goes On Reissue - 3LPs onto 2CDs - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
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SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exception CD Remasters  
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"...Scandinavian Struttin'..."

For most British fans of the Swedish uber guitarist JANNE SCHAFFER - their knowledge of the man's axe histrionics comes from his first two solo albums - both of which come on like Jeff Beck's groundbreaking Seventies sets "Blow By Blow" and "Wired" – entirely instrumental Fusion Rock LPs with a Funky twist. 

The debut "Janne Schaffer" first appeared in his native Stockholm on Four Leaf Records in 1973 and promptly Prog Rocked its way to the No. 1 slot on their album charts (an impressive feat for the time). Such fan-frenzy soon got noticed over in Prog-mad Blighty by the eclectic Vertigo Records label - which then promptly reissued his debut as "The Chinese" in May 1974 on Vertigo 6360 107. The next year Vertigo followed that (as John Peel would say) with the imaginatively entitled "Janne Schaffer's Second" in April 1975 on Vertigo 6360 118 (called "Janne Schaffer's Andra" in his native Sweden on Four Leaf Records). After those initial flurries established him as a zippy-licks guitarist of note – Schaffer kind of disappeared off our radars until the Jazz Funk and Fusion explosion of the late Seventies took the music buying public by storm on both sides of the pond. Suddenly everyone was discovering their inner Narada-this and Mahavishnu-that. And that's where this rather fabulous BGO twofer CD reissue comes funkin' in.

What you're getting here is what happened next. Schaffer signed to Columbia Records (CBS in the UK and Europe) and pushed out these three lesser-seen Jazz Funk and Fusion gems in 1977, 1979 and 1980 - the first two in the UK and US - while the last album was in Europe only. They've been hard to find on CD for years. Here are the cathartic details...

UK released Friday, 14 April 2017 - "Katharsis/Earmeal/Presens" by JANNE SCHAFFER on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1289 (Barcode 5017261212894) offers 3 Jazz Fusion LPs from 1977, 1979 and 1980 Remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (64:26 minutes):
1. Bromma Struttin' [Side 1]
2. Stocking Suite (a) Allegro (b) Adagio
3. The Blue Gate
4. Dimbaa Jullow [Side 2]
5. Ramsa
6. Atlanta Inn 2419
7. The Red Gate
8. Wintergreen
Tracks 1 to 8 are his third studio album "Katharsis" - released April 1977 in the USA on Columbia PC 34499 and June 1977 in the UK on CBS Records 81733.

9. Hot Days And Summer Nights [Side 1]
10. Happy Feet
11. To A Beautiful Painter
12. Bromma Express

Disc 2 (60:58 minutes):
1. The Shrimp [Side 2]
2. Shrimp A La Carte 
3. It's Never Too Late
4. Oriental Sign
5. Frederick's Place
Tracks 9 to 12 on Disc 1 and Tracks 1 to 5 on Disc 2 are his fourth studio album "Earmeal" - released February 1979 in the USA on Columbia JC 35508 and in the UK on CBS Records S CBS 83002.

6. Mr. Allansson Pickles [Side 1]
7. The Tongue
8. Neonmoisture
9. March From Refresher Course
10. Fata Morgana [Side 2]
11. High Pitch
12. Evening At Alex
13. Open Eyes
14. Diesire
Tracks 6 to 14 are his fifth studio album "Presens" - released 1980 in Holland on CBS Records 84166.

As always with these BGO CD sets - the outer card slipcase lends the whole reissue a feeling of class - while the jam-packed 24-page booklet features new and in-depth liner notes from Mojo's noted Jazz columnist CHARLES WARING. There are original musician credits, black and white cover artwork and new interviews with Schaffer on the making of each LP and the heady times they were recording in (he famously sessioned on over fifty ABBA tracks including early monster hits like "Waterloo", "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia"). Talented contributing musicians like the Porcaro Brothers from Toto on the second LP are discussed (Bruce Botnik of Doors fame producing) - John 'Rabbit' Bundrick of Argent and Traffic - and many more. But the big news is truly spectacular new Remasters by ANDREW THOMPSON at Sound Mastering. These were superbly produced LPs in the first place anyway - but these new transfers have brought out that amazing musicianship like never before. Playing something like "Atlanta Inn 2419" from the "Katharsis" album is likely to have listeners reaching for that Steely Dan adjective – both musically and sonically. A very nice job done...

Ex Argent and Traffic Keyboard wiz John 'Rabbit' Bundrick adds his chops to the opening "Bromma Struttin'" on the 'K' spelt "Katharsis" - a track that immediately feels like old Janne has been pigging out on Jeff Beck's Epic Records output - the George Martin produced "Blow By Blow" and "Wired" from 1975 and 1976. Nice use too of the voice box made popular by Joe Walsh ("Rocky Mountain Way"), Peter Frampton ("Show Me The Way") and Steely Dan ("Haitian Divorce"). That is followed by nine and half minutes of instrumental virtuosity. "Stocking Suite" - part (a) is super funky while part (b) mellows right down into some truly gorgeous Santana type guitar - very Soulful and soaring in all the right ways. Side 1 ends on some cool slap bass that's quickly joined by doubled-up guitars - al of them slow-funkin' their way in through "The Blue Gate". There are parts of "The Blue Gate" that feel 'so' instrumental Steely Dan - the same applying to "Atlanta Inn 2419" over on Side 2. The LP ends on the really pretty "Wintergreen" where finally the Acoustic Guitar comes out in Latin flicks and flourishes - a double-bass accompanying - there but staying just enough out of the way of those fret runs.

The second LP "Earmeal" was the first recorded away from his native Stockholm - Produced by Bruce Botnik of Elektra Records fame in the States with most of Toto on board as sessionmen. It's clearly aiming at the Miroslav Vitous, Weather Report, John McLaughlin audience - funky fusion with wild passages of ridiculously accomplished playing. "Happy Feet" feels like The Brothers Johnson have mated with Deodato and Narada Michael Walden to produce a groover 12" single - the kind of pleasing shuffler you could skate around the roller-rink to - neck-jerking as you shimmy and shammy towards the satin-bottom in front of you. "To A Beautiful Painter" is gorgeous stuff with passages that feel George Benson "Breezin'" one second - Phil Upchurch "Darkness, Darkness" the next. Best bits on Side 2 include the seriously funky "Shrimp" (followed by a gorgeous one-minute melody on strings in "A La Carte") and the Con Funk Shun shake-your-booty of "It's Never Too Late". Production-wise the finisher "Frederick's Place" is a feast for the ears - three minutes of acoustic guitar and piano playing off each other while an expertly plucked double bass anchors it – bringing a very sweet LP to a properly tasteful close.

The last album "Earmeal" feels at times strangely heavy-handed compared to the deftly handled “Earmeal” – big guitars and even messier production values on tracks like "The Tongue" and "March From Refresher Course". Things improve with the vibes of "Neonmoisture" – a slow guitar groove possessed of a melody that rises above just clever playing. Unfortunately "Fata Morgana" again feels overwrought and the boppy "High Pitch" is dreadfully Eighties - and not in a good way. Doomy and aimless keyboard notes carry in "Diesire" at the end of the album followed throughout by echoed guitar soloing – but it all feels like too much damage has been done by the rest of the record (shame).

This is a typically superb BGO reissue – making available rare and desirable albums by an artist who deserves rediscovery. I’d have to say for me album number three lets the side down somewhat – but those first two are corkers.

Well done to all the super-troopers involved – and fans of the 71 year-old Schaffer and Jazz Fusion/Funk are advised to dive in pronto...

"Patto" by PATTO (April 2017 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Three Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With Hundreds of Others Is Available In My
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"...Every Little Thing You Need..."

In truth I stumbled on Patto's guitar-player Ollie Halsall via Kevin Ayers. I was in a Dublin Record shop on Grafton Street in late 1974 - the kind of progressive chart store that used to remainder and cheap albums that hadn't sold due to artist obscurity or lack of interest or they were just plain crap. I'd pick up amazing off-the-beaten-track goodies in there like Greenslade on Warner Brothers, Todd Rundgren on Bearsville and Audience on Charisma.

One day I stumbled on the utterly extraordinary Kevin Ayers album "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" – his first for Island Records after a four-LP stint with Harvest. I took my two-quid deal home and although I hated/didn't understand the record at first - it began to grow on me to a point where it soon became indispensable (I reviewed the Peter Mew remastered CD of it a few years back). But what kept me listening initially was the pyrotechnic guitar playing of one 'Ollie Halsall' on the track "Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You" - the kind of axe-work that makes your head spin. If you backtrack you come to his former band – the obscure and criminally forgotten PATTO...

PATTO arose out of the ashes of a 60ts band called TIMEBOX from Stockport in Lancashire - singer Mike Patto, Bassist Clive Griffiths, Drummer John 'Admiral' Halsey and super guitarist Pete 'Ollie' Halsall. TIMEBOX never did get an album out but they landed seven rare and desirable 45s in the UK - two on Piccadilly and five on Deram - one of which was a minor hit - a cover of The Four Seasons "Beggin'" that peaked at a lowly No. 38 on the British singles charts in July 1968.

But as the Progressive Rock boom began to take over in the late Sixties - the four ex-Timebox boys wanted to move on from the restrictions of Pop and formed PATTO - signing to the then emerging label for all things Prog and eclectic - Vertigo. They made three albums in total - two for Vertigo and one for Island - none of which sold jack knob. Their debut "Patto" hit the streets of Blighty in November 1970 on Vertigo 6360 016 (February 1971 in the USA), the second "Hold Your Fire" in November 1971 on Vertigo 6360 032 and the final "Roll 'Em Smoke 'Em Put Out Another Line" in October 1972 on Island ILPS 9210 – all are listed vinyl rarities in the 2018 Record Collector Price Guide valued at £300, £500 and £60 respectively.

Which brings us to this long-overdue and superbly presented 'Expanded Edition' single CD Remaster of their self-titled debut album from England's Esoteric Recordings. Here are the screaming spirals...

UK released Friday, 28 April 2017 (5 May 2017 in the USA) - "Patto" by PATTO on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2581 (Barcode 5013929468146) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of their 1970 Debut LP on Vertigo Records with Three Bonus Tracks added on and plays out as follows (69:41 minutes):

1. The Man [Side 1]
2. Hold Me Back
3. Time To Die
4. Red Glow
5. San Antone [Side 2]
6. Government Man
7. Money Bag
8. Sittin' Back Easy
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "Patto" - released November 1970 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 016 and February 1971 in the USA on Vertigo VEL-1001. Produced by MUFF WINWOOD - it didn't chart in either country.

9. Hanging Rope
Track 9 recorded & Mixed at Island Studios, London, 16 July 1970 – first appeared as an outtake in 2004 on the reissue of the album by Repertoire (REPUK 1025)

10. Love Me
11. Government Man
Tracks 10 and 11 recorded 3 November 1970 for the BBC Radio One program "Sounds Of The 70t's" – exclusively licensed and Previously Unreleased

The 16-page booklet is festooned with ticket stubs, trade adverts, gig flyers, the Tony Benyon pencil cartoons on the inner gatefold of Vertigo 6360 016, black and white band photos from the period and even has an advert plugging the first two albums issued on Vertigo in the USA in February 1971 – Jimmy Campbell’s "Half Baked" on Vertigo VER-1000 and Patto's self-titled debut on Vertigo VER-1001. Some of the early photos and promotional snaps in the booklet smartly feature TIMEBOX in their 60ts glory while one of the gig ads sees PATTO share an unlikely bill with Shakin' Stevens & The Sunsets at Wardour Street's 'Temple' venue in London's Soho. More encouraging is sharing a Chalk Farm's Roundhouse line-up with The Who, Elton John and a new Warner Brothers signing called America. There are detailed and informative liner notes from noted writer SID SMITH too that feature reminiscences from drummer John Halsey about the band and the sadly passed Halsall (he died in 1992).

But the big news is the really clean and clear audio for what has always been perceived as a lo-fi production. To my knowledge there have been three CD reissues of this album before – Akarma out of Italy in 2002, Repertoire out of Germany in 2004 and one of those natty SHM-CDs in a card-repro sleeve out of Japan on Universal in 2010. But this amazingly is the first time a British label has had a go – Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings. And they've done a typically bang up job - especially on the audio front with a new Remaster from original tapes by Audio Engineer BEN WISEMAN – someone who has handled loads of these Reissues. The opening track "The Man" is a slow Rock builder - the kind of tune Free would have punched out of the park circa 1970's "Fire And Water" LP. Mike Patto's impassioned vocals build as Halsall licks away on the guitar. It's a hard song to transfer with any real power - and yet without trebling the thing out of existence - the audio on this sucker alone is worth the price of admission.

A word about the music – although the Vertigo Label was largely associated with all things Prog Rock - until the very trippy guitar-workout of the near eleven-minute "Money Bag" over on Side 2 – in fact "Patto" the album is way more Humble Pie than May Blitz. Most of the record feels like Hard Rock – its even Bluesy in places. In fact sandwiched between the angry social-conscience lyrics of "Government Man" and the Free-sounding riffage of "Sittin' Back Easy" – the track "Money Bag" seems wildly out of place – almost like its been transported in from another world entirely.

That doesn’t mean the music or the whole LP is lesser for it – its not. The album's wonderful opener "The Man" was featured on Disc 2 of 2005's "Time Machine" 3CD Vertigo Spiral Retrospective Box Set from Universal - a slow burning builder that feels epic and cool too. The rock swagger of "Hold Me Back" would do Grand Funk proud - while the Acoustic-delicate opening of "Time To Die" feels like the kind of song Marriott would have done on Immediate Records with late Sixties Small Faces or Humble Pie's 1969 output - "As Safe As Yesterday" and "Town And Country" again on Immediate Records before they signed to A&M. "Red Glow" ends Side 1 on a fabulous Rock chugger where Mike Patto sounds like Mike Harrison of Spooky Tooth getting his teeth into a neck-jerking groove while Halsall lets rip with brilliant rocking guitar. The album's Prog moments arrive as Jazz vibes introduced towards the end of "Government Man" literally lead into the near ten-minutes of "Money Bag" - an instrumental that lets Halsall indulge in his inner John McLaughlin for what seems like half-a-year. I’ve always found this meandering track difficult to take – but there’s no mistaking his playing that at times feels like Jeff Beck five years before he did "Blow By Blow". Song normality returns with "Sittin' Back Easy" where a slow beginning then rips into Family-type Rock with Mike Patto actually sounding a little like Roger Chapman. And those wanting more of Ollie Halsall and his guitar should check out Boxer and Tempest.

I wasn't expecting much of the Bonus Tracks - but Fusion and Ollie Halsall admirers will be in Seventh Heaven here. "Hanging Rope" clocks in at a huge 14:49 minutes and is similar to the Side 2 oddity "Money Bag". With some minor Roger Chapman-esque vocals from Mike Patto halfway in – it's mostly instrumental – Halsall soloing away on Guitar while cymbals clash and a Bass goes Miles Davis on proceedings. Musically it feels like Family have discovered Jazz and gone off on a Fusion wig out. I know it was on the 2004 CD reissue from Repertoire – but it's the first time I've ever heard it – and what a find. "Love Me" is PATTO as a Jazz-Prog band - eight-minutes of Vibes, Bass and Mike singing 'love me as i would love you'. An almost after-hours barroom vibe comes over in the BBC Session version of "Government Man" - it's good rather than being great and isn't a patch on the album's studio cut. But fans will welcome it.

1970's "Patto" is a genuine rarity LP given a properly decent CD reissue here - great audio, better presentation and genuinely complimentary bonuses. Well done to all the cats at Esoteric Recordings for putting it out there again and honouring Halsall's recorded legacy in such style...

Other PATTO 2017 Esoteric Recordings 
'Expanded Edition' 
CD Reissues & Remasters

Also reissued 28 April 2017 is their second Vertigo vinyl platter from November 1971 called "Hold Your Fire" but as a 2CD 'Expanded Edition' remaster with thirteen Bonus Tracks on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 225821 (Barcode 5013929468245). Adding to the eight-track album on CD1 - this reissue contains five extra album outtakes including Previously Unreleased and eight further BBC Radio One "In Concert" and "Sounds of the 70s" live recordings.

On 26 May 2017 you got their third album "Roll 'Em Smoke 'Em Put Out Another Line" from 1972 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2586 (Barcode 5013929468641) with three Bonus Tracks (a Peel Session from 24 January 1973).

26 May 2017 also saw their aborted fourth album recorded in 1973 called "Monkey's Bum" reissued by Esoteric and again as an 'Expanded Edition' CD on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2587 (Barcode 5013929468740). It will be the first 'official' release of the album sanctioned by the remaining members of the band and include three Previously Unreleased tracks – sessions recorded for John Peel's BBC Radio One show on 13 February 1973 with the original line-up...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

"Trip In The Country" by AREA CODE 615 (December 2014 Prog Temple CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 300+ Others Is Available In My
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
CLASSIC ROCK & POP 1970 to 1974 - Exceptional CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
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"...Stone Fox Chase..."

In their short but lively 2-album career - the Nashville sessionmen supergroup AREA CODE 615 briefly dented the US LP charts with their debut album "Area Code 615" in October 1969 – a four week stay that peaked at a lowly No. 191. But their second record "Trip In The Country" from August 1970 tanked entirely. And on re-hearing its rather odd mishmash of styles in 2017 - its lack of success then is not entirely unsurprising now especially from a cold-as-day reappraisal distance of 47 years. 

Most of us in the U of the K only really know this obscure American band through one song - their stunning "Stone Fox Chase" Swamp Rock instrumental that became the very cool theme music to BBC 2's "The Old Grey Whistle Test". First aired in September 1971 and running right through to 1988 with various presenters (Bob Harris, Anne Nightingale, Mark Ellen, Andy Kershaw, David Hepworth) – every kid out there of my ancient stature (over 50) will know that that British music program (primarily formed around Rock and its diverse genre buddies) probably informed more of our album buying choices than cool DJs like John Peel, Alan Freeman, Kid Jensen and even Thursday’s 'Top of the Pops' chart-program combined. The "Whistle Test" was huge – and every week – there was Area Code 615 – luring us impressionable young types into the soul-sucking depravity of Rock 'n' Roll with some animated guy kicking stars in the galactic nadge (graphics for the opening credits) to the sound of "Stone Fox Chase".

The British release of their second LP "Trip To The Country" didn't arrive in Blighty until April 1971 - so like "Top Of The Pops" using the equally cool cover version of Led Zeppelin’s "Whole Lotta Love" by Alex Korner's C.C.S. for their theme in 1970 - Whispering Bob Harris and his crew (the first presenter) spotted a goody and promptly hooked a nation. In fact I can remember around 1973 or 1974 when Bob was inundated with requests as to know who did the theme music - and before beginning the program had to explain what it was and who had recorded it.

Which brings us to this curious little CD reissue and remaster that has good and bad points. Here are the foxy details...

European released 1 December 2014 (reissued 6 January 2015 and 29 February 2016) - "Trip In The Country" by AREA CODE 615 on Prog Temple PTCD8036 (Barcode 4753314803619) is a straightforward CD transfer and remaster of the original 11-track 1970 LP and plays out as follows (33:20 minutes):  

1. Scotland [Side 1]
2. Always The Same
3. Stone Fox Chase
4. Russian Red
5. Judy
6. Gray Suit Men
7. Katy Hill [Side 2]
8. Sligo
9. Sausalito
10. Welephant Walk
11. Devil Weed And Me
Tracks 1 to 11 are their second and last studio album "Trip To The Country" - released August 1970 in the USA on Polydor 24-4025 and April 1971 in the UK on Polydor 2425 023. Produced by AREA CODE 615 - it didn't chart in either country. Note: the back inlay lists only 10 songs when there are in fact 11 - "Gray Suit Men" (the last track on Side 1) is the song mistakenly not listed.

AREA CODE 615 was:
CHARLIE McCOY - Guitar, Harmonica and Recorder
MAC GAYDEN - Guitar (Lead Vocals on "Gray Suit Men", slight vocals on "Katy Hill")
WELDON MYRICK - Steel Guitar
BUDDY SPICHER - Fiddle, Cello and Viola
DAVID BRIGGS - Keyboards
NORBERT PUTNAM - Bass and Cello
KENNETH BUTTREY - Drums and Percussion

It doesn’t say who did the liner notes in the gatefold slip of paper that acts as an insert – that’s not to say they aren’t informative – they are. There’s a picture CD (front cover art) and the rear sleeve of the album is reproduced beneath the see-through CD tray. Although it says 'digitally remastered' on the rear inlay packaging – it doesn’t say from where or what or by whom. Having said that the audio is amazing. This is the second Prog Temple CD reissue I’ve bought. They’ve also done Scullion's “Balance And Control” - an album released October 1980 on WEA Ireland and Produced by the mighty and sadly-missed John Martyn. Scullion featured Sonny Condell of the Irish Folk duo TIR na n'OG who'd had three well-revered albums on Britain's Chrysalis Records in the early Seventies. The sound on that 2016 Prog Temple CD is also superlative (will review soon) - so I've absolutely no complaints here despite PT's slightly haphazard annotation.

Apart from "Gray Suit Men" which features a mad vocal from Mac Gayden and one line sung in "Katy Hill" - the album is entirely instrumental. And while most are Country-Funky Swamp Rock-ish like say the Harmonica driven "Stone Fox Chase" or the banjo-led "Russian Red" - you also get slightly unnerving Easy Listening pieces like "Judy" that sounds like it should be on a K-Tel LP for evening romance moods. And therein lies the problem with AREA CODE 615 - identity. If this is an acid-trip in the country as the title suggests - you'll be hard-pressed to find it amidst these swamp-meets-cinema set of songs.

"Trip In The Country" opens up with the decidedly funky "Scotland" where Harmonicas, Fiddles and Guitars engage in a mighty hoedown that feels both fun and cheesy at one and the same time. "Always The Same" then suddenly comes on like some smooth Soundtrack interlude where pedal steel guitar introduces Steve McQueen to another hacienda town that needs a hired gun. It's confusing to say the least and musically not that great. Things of course change with 'that' song - the wonderful "Stone Fox Chase" - sounding utterly brill here and I'm loving that strange middle-eight that slows down - the bit they edited out on the credits of TOGWT - the final passage in the song you never get to hear. A mad fiddle solo introduces "Gray Suit Men" followed by heavy-guitar and a 'count their money' set of lyrics from a clearly exasperated Mac Gayden.

Side 2 opens with pure Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Country - the banjo of "Katy Hill" where Gayden lets rip with one lyric. Far better is "Sligo" which doesn't at all sound like a county in the West of Ireland but a bayou swamp dance with Harmonica, fantastic fuzzed guitars and a deeply funky bass line. At 2:25 minutes - the unlikely sounding "Sligo" is one of the only other songs on the album to compare with "Stone Fox Chase" - wishing the whole record sounded like this. After the high of "Sligo" - we get the schlock of "Sausalito" - an instrumental once again laden with strings and Harmonica - like some interlude as Robert Redford wades through snow in Jeremiah Johnson admiring the pine trees. "Welephant Walk" picks up the pace and offers another moment of hoe-down fun while "Devil Weed And Me" is the only other song that comes close to the guitar-wig out of "Sligo" - another instrumental mixing nice moments with rocking ones.

In 1974 - Polydor UK lumped their two albums together "Area Code 615/Trip In The Country" as one twofer double-album on Polydor 2683 040. Wayne Moss, Mac Gayden and Kenny Buttrey would split in 1971 to form the Southern Rock outfit BAREFOOT JERRY - another fondly remembered band that issued a wad of albums that never charted. After one LP with them - Gayden would again jump ship and form SKYBOAT. The others would session on large amounts of albums for artists as diverse as Steve Miller, Johnny Cash, The Beau Brummels, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra and even Elvis Presley. Both Gayden and Buttrey are also remembered for having penned the massive hit "Everlasting Love" - a Soul dancer for Robert Knight in the States and a British No. 1 in 1968 for the pop act Love Affair. West Virginia's Charlie McCoy would of course have his own band and Country hits.

"Trip In The Country" is anything but a masterpiece - a three-star album given five-star sound. Yet there are moments of genius too that I just had to own and I suspect others will feel the same. 

Fans should dig in especially given the fab audio - but I’d suggest that the Country-Funk curious nab an iTunes listen first...

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc