Sunday, July 8, 2018

Horse Head Dig and Flip: "Saga of the Swamp Thing - Vol. 1"

Graphic Novel Find
"Saga of the Swamp Thing - Vol. 1"

(Last fall, I stumbled upon a good-sized box filled with a variety of graphic novels at an estate sale. No official count yet, as I'm just pulling from the box when I find time to read one.  Afterward, I'll post the book and go from there.)

"Saga of the Swamp Thing - Vol. 1"
by Alan Moore  (Stephen R. Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch - Illustrator)
1982 on VERTIGO
173 pages
(includes issues #20-27 of the series)

No Spoilers:
When I first think of Swamp Thing...I think of Adrienne Barbeau's breasts.  And then the strange creature from the rather cartoonish 1982 movie of the same name.  But mostly breasts.

But now this...this story reads deep.

The title character suffers an accident from one of his experiments...and it changes him into human vegetation.  A broad-shaped "thinking man" plant that still keeps human boundaries of consciousness.  It's a bit of a rather moving, botanical mind-flip.

"Saga of the Swamp Thing" (inside)

The artwork is kind of old-school cool, but it does have a couple of forgivable outta place panels that just didn't work for me.  But hey, that's just me.

Swamp Thing is a wholly original character. A beautifully sad "hero" that's hard to wrap your mind around...but you want to try.  Look, the Swamp Thing will either hit your feels...or leave you yawning.  There's very little middle ground here.

For me, I found myself leaning toward the former.
Sure, I still like A.B.'s breasts better...but this hit me right, too.

"Swamp Music" - Lynyrd Skynyrd / "Second Helping" (1974)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Interview -- Freedy Johnston (Singer-Songwriter)


"Evie's tears,
are never gonna dry."
~ Freedy Johnston ~



I wouldn't necessarily call "This Perfect World" (1994) an underrated album.  After all, the critics loved it.  The fans loved it.  But if ever an album was under-appreciated and worth revisiting..."This Perfect World"...would fall under that heading.

Filled with catchy songs that are clever in the telling, Freedy never gives anything away too easily.  And though he sings of life-moments that shy away from sunlight, Freedy floats his words over ear-friendly melodies that leave the head spinning long after the songs are over.

"This Perfect World," after 25 years, has aged extremely well and is a wonderful lesson in song-crafting.  And finally, for the first time, is now available on vinyl.
Go get you some.

Freedy Johnston Interview -- May 2018
Freedy Johnston

Casey Chambers:  The 25th anniversary of your album..."This Perfect World" (1994) is approaching and exciting things are afoot, right?

Freedy Johnston:  Well, we are reissuing it on vinyl for the first time.  On my little label, Singing Magnet.  We started a Kickstarter Campaign for the 25th anniversary to try to make that happen and we're about 80% of the way to reaching our goal.  So it's looking like I'm finally gonna be able to put out "This Perfect World" on vinyl.  We recorded it on analog tape, but it was only released on CD and cassette.

Casey Chambers:  So where have the master tapes been all this time?

Freedy Johnston:  They've been at WEA...that's the Warner music warehouse in L.A.  I think that's where all the Elektra and Atlantic and Warner tapes are kept.  And here is the story of the tapes.

All the music exists in tape form there...but it also has been archived throughout the years into a high bit rate digital format.  A 96 case digital format. So, it is essentially usable to master onto vinyl.  But we wanted the tapes. And they told us, 'Hey, we can give you a very high-resolution digital copy to make your vinyl, but we don't release the tapes out to anyone.'

And our mastering guy, Scott Hull told them, 'No, that's not gonna work.'  And the only reason we were able to get those analog tapes is that Scott Hull has such pull.  He is such an esteemed masterer.  He told them, 'Send me the analog tapes and I will make the record from them.'  And they did.   Ordinarily, the magnetic format is just too fragile to ship basically to anybody other than the person who originally worked on the record.  But they delivered those tapes to Peekskill, New York where they now reside for the next couple of weeks.

And the packaging for the record is being put together by a really good graphic artist who works with Aimee Mann.  And that's what's happening.  I hope I made sense on this early Saturday morning telling that story. (laughs)

"This Perfect World" (1994)

Casey Chambers:  How strange is it to physically hold the tapes of those recordings you made 25 years ago?

Freedy Johnston:  It was strange.  Back in the day, I was there for the recording and the mixing, of course, so I'd seen the tapes.  I might have picked up the empty tape box and read the contents if that, but I would never have touched them.  John Siket was our engineer and, y'know, it was his stuff.  I'm not gonna touch his stuff. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  No handsies. (laughs)

Freedy Johnston:  If you saw the video I made, the process of cutting the acetate, or lacquer...I call it the lacquer...is fascinating.  I had never been to a vinyl mastering lab.  I was just stilled by the process.  Even though I had gone on that day trip, I hadn't really absorbed all the information...until after I watched the video with me in it.

The vinyl cutting is controlled by an analog computer.  This big refrigerator size thing right next to the lathe.  As the signal increases, it increases the distance between the grooves and decreases the depth. And it was just...I didn't know that.  That's why your grooves get lighter and darker as the signal gets louder.

"This Perfect World" - Freedy Johnston / "This Perfect World" (1994)


Casey Chambers:  That's interesting.  I spin records all the time and wondered about that.  Good stuff.

Freedy Johnston:  Yeah, it really was.

Casey Chambers:  I know you shy away from this a bit, but shortly after you released, "This Perfect World"... Rolling Stone awarded you the 1995 Songwriter Of The Year.  I realize these things are all subjective, but it's still a pretty awesome feather.  Your thoughts?

Freedy Johnston:  Oh, that was a long time ago.  It was really nice.  It's hard to remember what my reaction was.  I frankly don't think I understood.  I don't think it sank in at all.  I certainly know that I didn't understand the import of it.  I know that much.  I know this now...25 years later.

When I started my career, I lived in Wichita, Kansas where you live...for a while.  But I'm from Kinsley.  So I got the hell out of Kansas...like everyone does if your at that age.  Y'know, you don't have to, but...whatever. (laughs)  And I had never been in any bands at all.  I had a day job.  When I got my record deal, I had done maybe like...10 gigs.  And so, I didn't really know a lot, frankly.  I knew about songwriting.  But that's different from being on stage and being a professional in the public eye and around people.

I was meeting musicians who were already veterans when I put my record out at 30.  I met guys in Austin who, when I had put my record out and was barely able to tune my guitar, had already been in several bands and were thinking about retiring.  I was at a different place.  I was a different guy then.  I had different motivations.

So when I got this record deal, it was like, 'Oh my God.'  And I will say this now.  Not to cast aspersions on anyone.  But the most important thing I needed right then was a manager.  I mean, anybody knows that.  It was great to have the record deal, but...

And I was given the highest accolade in the freaking land, and I didn't even really know it.  It was like, 'Hey, you got Songwriter of the Year.'  "Oh cool."  'No, you got Songwriter...Of...The...Year!'  "Oh, really?"  It was almost like that.

If it had been my friend in Austin, it would've been more like...'Oh man, I freaking did it.  I did it!'  I mean, I'm not making judgment good or bad.  That's just the way it went.  I'm like everybody...I know all that stuff...now. (laughs)  I noticed, I never really answered your question...but it's by way of that.  I guess it's an answer.

"Bad Reputation" - Freedy Johnston / "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (1994)


Casey Chambers:  Hindsight doesn't wear glasses, does it?  So, when "This Perfect World" came out, you began making appearances on all the big talk shows.

Freedy Johnston:  Well there again, in retrospect, I guess it's better to be honest and admit I didn't really know what was going on.  I was on TV and I was just trying to take it all in stride.  I think maybe I was in shock. (laughs)  I was like...a stunned fish or something, y'know?  I didn't know what to do.  It's still out there.  I see it now as such an incredible honor.  A piece of recognition.

But look, I started making music and being a singer-songwriter here in New York.  And there were, of course, lots of people who had been doing what I was doing for awhile.  Or were doing it at the same time.  So I come along...this guy from Kansas.  Here I am...less than three years later on Conan and the Letterman show.  And these people I was playing with are like, 'What the hell happened?  Where did he...?'  Y'know what I mean?  That's kind of how it was.

It wasn't, 'Wow, that guy's been working in the trenches forever and look at him...he finally got on TV.'  That is the element that I think needs to be pointed out.  That maybe is not known.  Because I think if I was asking the question you're asking, I'm wanting to know what the real story was.  Well, that's the real story. 'Look how hilarious this kid is.  This kid doesn't even know how to act.'   I'll tell you about the weirdest thing.

Casey Chambers:  What's that?

"Two Lovers Stop" - Freedy Johnston / "This Perfect World" (1994)


Freedy Johnston:  I was on the road with Sheryl Crow.  She had just won all these Grammys, and it was the biggest opening gig in the nation.  I was told this.  I was given this cherry.  This golden ring.  Whatever you wanna call it.  Six weeks opening for Sheryl Crow.  And I realize that now.  It was fantastic.  She was beautiful.  And I was kind of a dick. (laughs)  It was like, 'Freedy, you gotta calm down.  You gotta be happy.'  And it took me awhile.  I had to be told, 'Be happy. 'Cause you're being given this great thing.'  I had to be told to be happy.  That's an example of how weird it was.

But during that tour, this famous journalist guy said, 'Hey, let's go up to the White House.  My friend Nicki, who runs the travel office is a fan of yours.  And we're going to have lunch at the White House.'  So after the gig the next morning, I say to the guys...'Uh yeah, I have to go over to The White House...for lunch...and then I'll meet you guys after that.' (laughs)  It was just too funny.  So we go over there.  I don't have a tie on, but I did have my Leatherman multi-tool with me. (laughs)  They kept the Leatherman, of course, at the little white kiosk there.

And Bill Clinton is President, by the way.  So, I go in.  I meet Nicki who ran the travel office and she's really sweet.  The West Wing.  And I'm like, 'What am I doing here?'  And she's kinda like...and you can tell they do this just to stun you...just walking around looking at this and this.  She did all of those things.

Then we go to lunch.  We go down to this little bitty submarine canteen...a little four or five table place where everybody eats.  Like a buffet.  Chelsea Clinton was sitting there and so forth.  Her assistant comes in and says, 'Hey Nicki, we're meeting in the Roosevelt room.  There's a party.'  It was her goddamn birthday.  They were giving her a surprise party.  And I had to go.

So we all got up from our lunch.  We left our 'soup of the day' there.  And I walked into the Roosevelt room and everybody in that room was there.  The whole government was there.  They were punking me.  They were both big fans and they brought me into their environment. (laughs)  And the look on their faces.  Everybody in there...every man had a tie and suit on.  Even security.  Even the waiters.  And I'm standing there in my regular clothes...like this rock shirt.   And they're taking me around to The President...and Janet Reno.  And the Vice-President.  And they were all having their cake and stuff.  That was my day at the White House.

"Dolores" - Freedy Johnston / "This Perfect World" (1994)


Casey Chambers:  I just finished watching "The West Wing" a few months ago and I'm imagining that whole scene going down. (laughs)

Freedy Johnston:  I remember giving Bill Clinton a signed copy of "This Perfect World" while I was there.

Casey Chambers:  No kidding!

Freedy Johnston:  I had some with me, yeah. (laughs)  Well, they told me to bring some along, so I was that smart.  One thing I'd heard about Bill Clinton...he had the ability to walk up to you, shake your hand, look you in the eye, and make you believe that he was so glad to see you.  That he totally understood you and only wanted to talk to you.  And that's really how it was.  He had that kind of mojo.  Anyway, that's my one story from like...one of the guys waiting their turn at Floyd's Barber Shop. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  You don't ever want to lose that one.  Good stuff.  You're writing songs and banging strings in Wichita one minute.  Handing out CDs to the President the next.  That's a mind-blow.

Freedy Johnston:  I just want to say this...all of these things come out of Wichita for me.  Because I met my friend Jake Euker and my friend Bradley Jordan who are from Wichita and Goddard...while I was in Lawrence, KS.  They were kind of my introduction into music.  And Wichita's...The Embarrassment.  They were my first favorite band. And still where I mostly learned to play guitar...from Bill Goffrier.  I was the guy that went away.  But it all started with those guys.  Their influence.  And it amazes me honestly.  I know what it means.

"Evie's Tears" - Freedy Johnston / "This Perfect World" (1994)


Casey Chambers: To bring this full circle, "This Perfect World" is finally being made available on vinyl.  Much anticipated and long overdue.  Fans can jump on right now by visiting your Kickstarter Campaign.

Freedy Johnston:  Yeah.  It's a very simple campaign.  We're trying to raise, frankly, just enough to get it done.  As many copies as we sell on this campaign will be signed, numbered and delivered for $40.  I think we're going to sell, who knows, maybe 300 copies?  I would like to sell more.  And they can buy the LP with a T-shirt for $70.  Really, really simple.

Casey Chambers:  Oh yeah, Kickstarter is very easy to navigate.  Super easy.  This has been a real honor speaking with you this morning and I can't wait to finally get my hands on a copy.  Thanks so much, Freedy.

Freedy Johnston:  Thank you, Casey.  I appreciate it.

Freedy Johnston Official Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Horse Head Reads...Dig and Flip - "Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned"

Graphic Novel Find
"Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned"

(Last fall, I stumbled upon a good sized box filled with a variety of graphic novels at an estate sale. No official count yet, as I'm just pulling from the box when I find time to read one.  Afterward, I'll post the book and go from there.)


"Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned"
by Brian K. Vaughan --  Pia Guerra &  José Marzán Jr. (Illustrator)
2002 by VERTIGO
127 pages
(includes issues #1–5 of the original series)

No Spoilers:
All the male species (Y chromosome) on earth is wiped out by a strange virus -- except for one semi-goofy dude and his pet monkey.  A female secret agent bodyguard is assigned to protect this lone male and see he arrives safely at an unknown location.

Meanwhile, a blood-thirsty female gang called the Amazons want to snag him for their own personal gains.  As do various other political groups.

"Y: The Last Man" (inside)

I set this particular graphic novel aside several times before deciding to pull the trigger.  I held back because...based on the cover... I thought "the only man alive" idea was going to be played for cheap laughs.  But as the pages unfold, it becomes quite obvious darker things are afoot.

Don't misunderstand, however.  There are a few smile-makers along the way in this adventure, but the story is going for something a bit bigger.  This is graphic novel #1 in a 10 part series.

"Why Me" - Planet P Project / "Planet P Project" (1983)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Friday, May 18, 2018

Horse Head Vinyl...Dig and Spin: Big Brother & The Holding Company - Self-titled (1967)

Big Brother & The Holding Company  --  Self-titled (1967)
Blues Rock, Folk Rock, Psych dust, Hippie Rock
Debut album.
On Mainstream Records (blue w/microphone)
10 tracks.

Horse Head Vinyl..."Dig and Spin" (#6)

I'd been looking for a copy w/o Janis Joplin's name on the front cover and this one is a really clean copy.
This is notable for being Joplin's introduction to our ears and she fronts on a few songs but this is very much a group effort.

There's plenty of vocal interaction between the band members and Janis and it's a joy.  This album has more of a Country Joe and the Fish vibe than what would follow, but they're definitely working it out.  The band sounds really good.

Big Brother & The Holding Company ----- "self-titled" (back cover)

But clocking in at 23 minutes, the album is really short. There are a couple of tunes where a good stretch would have been more than welcome. Nonetheless...I enjoyed all of this record.

Mainstream Records label

For Cherry-Pickers:
"Call On Me"...fantastic Ms. Janis frontin' like she does.
"Light is Faster Than Sound"...groovy psych.
"All is Loneliness"...the lost gem closing track. Psychy, w/vocals trading back and forth. Good stuff!
"Easy Rider"...very Country Joe. Janis' backing vocals are a giggle treat!

TRACKLIST
A1. "Bye, Bye Baby" - 2:29
A2. "Easy Rider" - 2:24
A3. "Intruder" - 2:27
A4. "Light is Faster Than Sound" - 2:27
A5. "Call On Me" - 2:27
B1. "Women is Losers" - 2:00
B2. "Blindman" - 2:26
B3. "Down on Me" - 2:25
B4. "Caterpillar" - 2:14
B5. "All is Loneliness" - 2:17

"Light is Faster Than Sound" - Big Brother & the Holding Company / Self-titled (1967)


PERSONNEL:

  • Janis Joplin - vocals
  • Peter Albin - bass
  • Sam Andrew - guitar, vocals
  • David Getz - drums
  • James Gurley - guitar, vocals
Good stuff.


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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Interview -- James Lowe (The Electric Prunes)


"I'm not ready to face the light.  I had too much to dream..."
~ The Electric Prunes ~


The Electric Prunes were a successful mid-'60s psych-rock band.  They gave themselves an intentionally ridiculous name, but that's just part of the charm.  Like Strawberry Alarm Clock or Chocolate Watchband...their name was a pretty accurate snapshot of those crazy psychedelic times.

Led by singer James Lowe...The Electric Prunes had a garage sound filled with plenty of tasty psychedelic bends.  From psych-pop loaded with blistering fuzz guitars to psyched-out Mass incantations that created a hallucinating mind-blow...that was The Electric Prunes.

Psych Rock was beginning to grow some fast legs and was becoming quite the cash cow and everybody wanted to pull on the teats.   Many were successful.  Many more, though, were in and out of the business before the ink had dried.

The Electric Prunes, however, were one of the good ones and their first three albums are a must for any psych-rock collection.  Go get you some.

James Lowe Interview -- May 2018
James Lowe

Casey Chambers:  The Electric Prunes will forever be identified as early pioneers of what would become known as psych rock.  The band's signature song...."I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" was a great introduction to the possibilities.  Tell us about the song.

James Lowe:  We were given a demo from Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz.  They were friends of ours and they gave us a demo of the record.  Our producer, Dave Hassinger hadn't even heard it yet, but he really liked the title of the song.  So we took it and listened to it...but the song sounded a little too country lounge for us.

We were struggling to put the song out in some kind of younger...genre.  So we put in all the breaks and added the weird effects on the whole record.  And I think because of the 'dream' aspect and the overall effects...the song became sort of abstract. And that's what we were looking for...and that's what we got.   I guess some people would call it a psychedelic record.

Casey Chambers:  The song opens with what sounds like a swarm of angry bees.  Just killer.  Whose idea was it to bring that into the mix?

"The Electric Prunes" (1967)

James Lowe:  We had been recording up at Leon Russell's house doing some practice recording with Dave.  I don't know if you can follow this, but we were recording on 4-track.  And we would just play and they would just let the 4-track tape run until it ran off the spool.  Then they'd flip the tape over and run it back the other way.  So, we'd be erasing everything we did, but it would be backward.

Anyway, our guitar player (Ken Williams) had been fooling around with this Bigsby and fuzztone making different sounds with it and stuff.  And in the control room, they forgot to push record when they flipped the tape over...and this enormous sound came out over the studio.  It was right at the beginning of "...Too Much To Dream."  Their hats were off, so I went in and told'em that that sound was too good a sound to lose. When we went back to record the song, we kept that little 4-track spool at the beginning to get your attention. That was the idea.  It was to wake you up. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Definitely.  It woke up the cool heads and shook up the stiffs.  And many didn't know what to make of it.  It was a great recipe.

James Lowe:  Yeah, it's funny, when we did that record, everyone said, 'You must have known something.'  But we didn't know anything.  We held on to it for quite awhile.  People would hear it and they'd say, 'Well, it's good, but who in the world is going to play something like that?'  Because radio was looking for Petula Clark.  They said it was just too weird and no one's gonna play something like that.  But a few people did.  Not all of them...but a few.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, because that song tripped its way up the charts anyway.  There were ears wanting to hear that kind of shit.  When the song started to get legs, The Electric Prunes started to get invites from a variety of TV shows.  There's a great clip of you guys on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand."  Good experience?

"I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" - The Electric Prunes / "The Electric Prunes" (American Bandstand 1967)


James Lowe:  Well, Dick Clark was probably one of the nicest people around.  He came and talked to us before we did the show.  And then when he came out to talk with us on the show, he would go into everything exactly like we had discussed with him.  He didn't have any notes or anything like that.  He was a genuinely nice guy.  I liked him a lot.

One day you're watching someone on TV, and the next day, you're on TV with that same person. (laughs)  That's the strangest part of it.  Everything changes once you get something happening for ya.  Everybody treats ya a little bit different.

Casey Chambers:  That was just one of many great songs.  But like you said...radio wasn't gonna mistake you guys for Petula Clark.  There's a fantastic compilation of early psych rock from the 60's called "Nuggets" that re-introduced your band, The Electric Prunes to a new generation of rock fans.  Ones who might have missed hearing you guys the first time around.  And it made a lot of fans want to dig deeper into your catalog.  I know I did.  What did you think about the song's inclusion on that comp?

"Nuggets: Original Artyfacts
from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968"
(1972)

James Lowe:  Well, that's funny because it was my son who told me that "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" was included on another record.  Do you know when that "Nuggets" collection was released?

Casey Chambers:  I believe it originally came out in '72.

James Lowe:  Yeah, I think my son told me about it around 1975.  I had never heard about it.  When I finally listened to that record, I liked where they put our song.  Lenny Kaye used it as the very first song on the album.  And we were very happy to be on there, of course.

Casey Chambers:  Lenny Kaye also wrote the liner notes, which were pretty cool.  Of course, he also went on to play guitar for Patti Smith.

James Lowe:  Yeah, and we actually met him in New York in 2000.  It was when we were playing at Cavestomp.  And it was really nice to meet the guy who put all that stuff together.

Casey Chambers:  Who were some of the artists that made you want to rock?

James Lowe:  I would say probably Link WrayGene Vincent...the "Be-Bop A Lula" guy.  Of course Elvis.  Bo Diddley.  I was really into R&B so I listened to a lot of Little Richard.  And  I can't forget Les Paul and Mary Ford.  They were just doing some incredible recordings.  Les Paul invented multi-track recording so he really knew how to handle it.  I always thought their records sounded like space records.

Casey Chambers:  I know Les Paul, but haven't tasted any of his music.  But I gotta say, you had me with space records. (laughs)

James Lowe:  They played standard songs, but they treated them completely different with all these delays.  And Mary Ford...Les would take her voice and process it and do stuff with it.  And to me, that was the best part of the record.  The best part of hearing a record is when it can almost put you in another place.  And their records always did that.

"The Great Banana Hoax" - The Electric Prunes / "Underground" (1967)


Casey Chambers:  The Electric Prunes' second album, "Underground" (1967) has always been my favorite.  And it leads off with the gem..."The Great Banana Hoax." It's like...just when you think you know what's going on, you guys rip into another fuzz burn.  Just some great garage psych.

James Lowe:  Our producer, Dave Hassinger...every song we presented to him that we wrote...he would just say, 'No. No. No.'  So what we started doing was putting other people's names on the songs before we took them to him.  We'd tell him some friend of ours wrote it or something.  And then it would all be okay.  All those songs.  And until we got it fully recorded, we didn't let him know that we had written them.

And, of course, he asked us what it was about.  And we didn't know what it was about.  Even though it came out of our mouths, we didn't know.  And it's recorded in a couple of layers.  We used to do that because we recorded on 4-track.  We would put down a basic layer and then layer over the top of that.  I don't know what I can tell you about that one.  It's just a bunch of drums and shakers.  (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  So while your songwriting ploy was working, the Prunes had the freedom to try new things in the studio.  Experiment a bit.

James Lowe:  We did.  Because we just had a hit with "Too Much To Dream,"...Warner Brothers gave Dave the Grateful Dead to produce.  So we got to sort of do that one on our own.  He didn't get in the way as much when we were recording.  It's really hard to record something when you know the guy sitting behind the glass doesn't like what you're doing.  So it was, in a way, an easier record to make because we just got to do what we wanted.

"Underground" (1967)

Casey Chambers:  That's cool.  Were you guys allowed the same kind of freedom in designing the "Underground" album cover?

James Lowe:  That was my idea.  I wanted a picture of the band running.  I thought that us running would have some kind of instant reaction.  So we took the picture of all of us jumping from something and running.  And the photographer, Tommy Tucker said, 'What is this gonna go over?'  And I looked down in the trashcan and saw a crumpled up picture of a girl with emulsion coming off of it and everything.  So I picked it out of the trashcan and said, 'Can we put it over this?' (laughs)  So that's what we did.  That's where that girl came from in the upper corner.  We had sort of been discovered by a girl, so we thought it was fitting.

Casey Chambers:  Okay, now I'm going to have to pull my copy and look it over again. (laughs)  Good stuff.  You were playing an autoharp in a lot of your early performances. Not all that common for a rock and roll frontman.

"Mass In F Minor" (1968)

James Lowe:  We had used it on a number of recordings, so it wasn't a stretch to do it.  John Sebastian was playing autoharp with The Lovin' Spoonful...and playing it much better than I did. (laughs)  Management came to me and said I shouldn't be playing guitar...but I shouldn't just be standing there either.  So we thought the autoharp kind of gave us an ethereal touch.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  What was it like for a psych band on the road in the '60s?  Who were you touring with in those days?

James Lowe:  We played with a lot of good people.  We did shows with CreamSteppenwolf.  We'd fly.  Or drive station wagons if the gigs were in or near California.  That was the hardest part.  After we did a record, we found out it wasn't just enough to do the record.  We had to go out and play all these live gigs and that really took us by surprise.  We were not prepared for that.  We didn't realize all that was gonna happen.

Touring is a grind.  I mean, it wears a band down.  And we had money problems like everybody else did...with the management and other things.  So when you're not getting paid, and you're driving a lot, and you're putting in long hours...it's easy to have dissension come up and that's what happened to us.

"Kyrie Eleison" - The Electric Prunes / "Mass In F Minor" (1968) 
(also featured in film..."Easy Rider" 1969)


Casey Chambers:  It's almost like one of those rock dreams everyone fantasizes about as a kid...until they find themselves smack in the middle of it.  Was touring overseas any different from playing in the States back then?

James Lowe:  Well at that time, if we wanted to go over to England to play, a group from England had to come over to the United States.  You had to trade with another group.  And we traded with Donovan.  Our manager managed Donovan in America.  And Nems...The Beatles' company, brought us over there.  And I was amazed at how different it was there.

The music business was very organized.  They made sure all of the equipment showed up.  They had people to set it up.  It was just very, very professional.  Whereas, in America, we were sometimes playing through our own amp...on our own PA system....so the sound was never that predictable.  Over there, they seemed to have all of that stuff worked out.

They really respected the music over there, because The Beatles had brought so much money to the U.K. that it was a respected business.  It wasn't so looked down on.  And that was the feeling we got touring in America.  I mean, everywhere we went down South, it was like...I don't know...'What are you long haired guys doing here?' (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, in the '60s, I don't think I'd wanna 'cut a rug at The Jug' either. (laughs)  Speaking of playing on the road, your live album, "Stockholm '67" (1997) is almost a lost gem of the Electric Prunes.  All Music Guide says it "...maybe the best live album of the psychedelic era."  Could you talk a little bit about that album?

James Lowe:  That one we didn't know anything about. (laughs)  When we went to play that night in Stockholm...Swedish broadcasting asked if they could record us during the set.  And for some reason, I was mad about something and I said, 'No, we don't want it recorded.'  And years later, someone came up to me and said, 'I really liked your live album.'  I said, 'We never did a live album.'  And he said, 'Oh yes, you did.'  And that album popped up.  And then a guy named Simon Edwards of Heartbeat Records in Bristol asked us for permission to put it out on a regulation release rather than a bootleg.  And so we did.  And he did a beautiful job of putting out a gatefold album.  And I get a big kick out of listening to it now.  It was so long ago.  Everything's changed. (laughs)

"You Never Had It Better" &  "Captain Glory" - The Electric Prunes / French TV show (1968)


Casey Chambers:  You guys gave them a good show.  What was your first rock concert?

James Lowe:  I guess if you wanna say rock concert...it was the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.  They were playing upstairs at the Cogan Bowl. (laughs)  That was my first experience seeing a full-fledged rock and roll band cut loose.  And they were fantastic.  Ike Turner just had the band in such control.  Man, that band was so tight.  I ended up recording with him in later years.  And he was definitely that kind of guy.  Tina and the girls were just...they were rockin'.  I love their music and they've done some live recordings that are good too.

There were not that many big concert things happening in Southern California at that time.  That came just a little bit later.  Everybody thinks that the stadium rock stuff was around, but it really wasn't.  Not in the way that it is now.

The last concert I went to was Sparks here in Los Angeles.  They were fantastic, too.  I produced an album for them called, "A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing." (1972)  And I also worked with Todd Rundgren on Sparks first album.

Casey Chambers:  Oh man, that's a nice feather.  I'll have to keep an eye out.

James Lowe:  Yeah!  So after all these years later, I got the chance to go see them and they just knocked my socks off.  They're so good.

Casey Chambers:  Now I have another reason to catch one of their shows.  Well, this has been a real treat talking with you. And I only scratched the surface.  Thanks so much for hangin' out this morning.

James Lowe:  Thank you very much.  It's nice of you to remember the obscure...and something from left field, which we certainly are. (laughs)  Rock on, Casey.

(Music & T-shirts are available at Official Website)

The Electric Prunes Official Website 
The Electric Prunes Facebook

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Friday, May 4, 2018

Horse Head Vinyl...Dig and Spin: "Take Another Look" - Soul Survivors (1969)



Soul Survivors  --  "Take Another Look" (1969)
blue-eyed funk & soul, psych dust
2nd album.  
On ATCO (yellow w/pinwheel) 
11 tracks

Horse Head Vinyl..."Dig and Spin" (#5)

I picked this album up because the cover was mind-trippy and I'd never seen it in the bins before.
Even the name...Soul Survivors...sounded like it might bring a bit of psych.
But the band name is much more literal than abstract.

"Take Another Look" - Soul Survivors (back cover)

That's okay though because this was a surprising treat.
These white guys from Philly honor the genre sincerely.  Has that early '70s soul sound I could listen to all day.
Not a throwaway song in the bunch.  Soulful and funky and tight.

(BTW...the band Soul Survivors were mentioned in the Steely Dan..."Hey Nineteen")

ATCO label

FOR CHERRY PICKERS:
"Mama Soul"...released as single. Didn't make much of a dent. But it's kick-ass better than chart #.
"Darkness"...nice Hammond.  And they sneak in welcome, albeit short, psych guitar midway. (rumored to be Duane Allman) Yeah, really.
"Got Down on Saturday"...a rainstorm opens the song...then proceeds to get into your head like an old memory. The vocals are fantastic.  A lost gem.

TRACKLIST
A1. "Dawn" - 7:03
A1. "Funky Way to Treat Somebody" - 2:39
A2. "Baby, Please Don't Stop" - 2:45
A3. "Jesse" - 3:13
A4. "Mama Soul" - 2:35
A5. "Darkness" - 2:52
B1. "We Got a Job to Do" - 2:30
B2. "Keep Your Faith, Brother" - 2:56
B3. "Tell Daddy" - " 2:17
B4. "Got Down on Saturday" - 3:03
B5. "(Why Don't You) Go Out Walking" - 2:20
B6. "Turn Out My Fire" - 2:51

"Darkness" - Soul Survivors / "Take Another Look" (1969)


PERSONNEL:
  • Charles Ingui - vocals
  • Richard Ingui - vocals
  • Kenny Jeremiah - vocals
  • Edward Leonetti - guitar
  • Tony Radicello - bass
  • Paul Venturini - keyboards
  • Joey Forgione - drums
  • others
Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Friday, April 27, 2018

Horse Head Vinyl...Dig and Spin: "Osibisa" - Osibisa (1971)

"Osibisa"  --  Osibisa (1971)
jazz fusion, afrobeat, prog-funk, psych dust
Debut album. Gatefold.
On Decca (rainbow Decca logo bar)
7 tracks

Horse Head Vinyl..."Dig and Spin" (#4)

Osibisa pulls from a spectrum of genres for their debut.
There are African beats. Jazz fusion. Rock. Light dustings of psych. Proggy bends. Flutes and brass. A bagful of percussion.  And the band manages to meld the good stuff together and leave the chaff on the floor.

This reads like way too much shenanigans, I know.  It's an idea that really shouldn't sound this good.  But it works.

"Osibisa" - Osibisa (back cover)

The album is mostly instrumental with vocals here and there.  And it has aged very well.
Osibisa's debut can still be found in bargain boxes and is well-worth taking a chance.

"Osibisa" - Osibisa  (inside gatefold)

Decca label

FOR CHERRY PICKERS:
"The Dawn"...opening track. Begins with a brief introduction on what is about to go down...and then bassist Roy "Spartacus R" Bedeau makes his presence known and you quickly realize you're in good hands.  And there's a cool little riff that gets in your face a few times (but not near enough) that's just killer!  You'll know it when you hear it!  Oh, and there's some fuzz guitar that gets a chance to dance, too. Good stuff.
"Phallus C"...a jam filled with a cacophony of percussion and a nice bit of psyche guitar jelly thrown in.  Brass and sax dabble a bit...but they don't overdo it.  Just the right dosage.  Lots of contributors without sounding crowded.
"Ayiko Bia"... tasty guitar raises its head midway and the band rhythm-dances to the finish line.

TRACKLIST
A1. "Dawn" - 7:03
A2. "Music for Gong Gong" - 5:29
A3. "Ayiko Bia" - 7:53
B4. "Akwaaba" - 4:20
B5. "Oranges" - 4:40
B6. "Phallus C" - 7:14
B7. "Think About the People" - 4:21

"The Dawn" - Osibisa / Osibisa (1971)


PERSONNEL:

  • Wendell Richardson – lead guitar, vocals
  • Robert Bailey – organ, piano, timbales, vocals
  • Teddy Osei – tenor sax, flute, African drums, vocals
  • Mac Tontoh – trumpet, flugelhorn, kabasa, vocals
  • Roy Bedeau "Spartacus R" -- bass, percussion
  • Loughty Amao – tenor/baritone sax, congas
  • Sol Amarfio – drums, vocals

By the way...the album cover was designed by Roger Dean as you may well have guessed.
I have a love/hate relationship with much of his work.
Look, I have many favorite Dean covers like everyone else, but his all-too-familiar style has mostly become a yawn.  However, that is not the case with this Osibisa album cover.  Flying mammoths are a wonderful, terrifying idea and I dig it.

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Horse Head Vinyl...Dig and Spin: "The Snake" - Harvey Mandel (1972)

"The Snake" Harvey Mandel (1972)
blues rock, jazz blues, psych blues
5th album. Gatefold.
On Janus Records (brown, orange)
9 tracks

Horse Head Vinyl..."Dig and Spin" (#3)

I didn't dislike this record.  The music is good.  Mostly instrumental jazzy-blues rock.  Songs segue nicely from one to the next.  And there's a light dusting of psych-blues (if that's a thing)  Very light...and appreciated when you hear it.  But it's an album, when, after you play it that first time, you realize that nothing really stood out.
Don't misunderstand.  It's not boring.  But it took a few spins before the music started to speak to me.  A grower!

"The Snake" - Harvey Mandel (back cover)

Janus Records label

I wasn't familiar with Harvey Mandel when I picked this record up.
But I discovered that this guitarist has a pretty solid smack of cred.
Two things immediately made me smile upon learning more about Mandel.

1) He performed with Canned Heat at Woodstock. And later made three albums with them.
2) During the brief period that Mick Taylor left the Stones and Ron Wood was handed the crown,
Mandel was asked to audition and went on to record two tracks..."Hot Stuff" and "Memory Motel"... for their 1976  "Black and Blue" album.

He didn't get the job, (for whatever reason) but sure left a nice calling card.  That's just cool beans!

"The Snake" - Harvey Mandel (inside gatefold)

For Cherry-Pickers:
"Uno Ino"...should have been the opening track.  Cool vocals, Hip lyrics. In and out before you know it.
"Levitation"...has a bit of flute trippage...and I'm a sucker for bandcamp.  The guitar comes in later to talk to it.  Lost gem.
"Pegasus"...Mandel's guitar is easy to warm up to on this groovy and catchy little journey.  Dig it.

(btw...the album design was courtesy of "sassy" Phil Hartmann. (sp)
And I don't know for sure, but I think the back cover might have better served the front.
The portrait of Harvey Mandel sporting a "lego" haircut is just...weird.

TRACKLIST
A1.  "The Divining Rod" - 3:04
A2.  "Pegasus" - 3:30
A3.  "Lynda Love" - 2:45
A4.  "Peruvian Flake" - 3:31
A5.  "The Snake" - 3:15
B1.  "Uno Ino" - 2:34
B2.  "Ode to the Owl" - 2:42
B3.  "Levitation" - 5:14
B4.  "Bite the Electric Eel" - 4:15

"Uno Ino" - Harvey Mandel / "The Snake" (1972)


PERSONNEL:

  • Harvey Mandel - lead guitar, vocals 
  • Victor Conte - bass
  • Randy Resnik - rhythm guitar
  • Paul Lagos - drums
  • Don "Sugarcane Harris - strings
  • Others...
Good stuff.


Casey Chambers
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Friday, April 13, 2018

Horse Head Reads...Dig and Flip - "Preacher Volume 1: Gone to Texas"

Graphic Novel Find
"Preacher Vol. 1: Gone to Texas"

(Last fall, I stumbled upon a good sized box filled with a variety of graphic novels at an estate sale. No official count yet, as I'm just pulling from the box when I find time to read one.  Afterward, I'll post the book and go from there.)

"Preacher Vol. 1: Gone to Texas"
Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon
1996 by Vertigo
199 pages
(includes issues 1-7 of the original series)

No Spoilers:
"Preacher" is a violent tale that's both original and quirky.
And looks as good as it reads.
Apparently, there was a taboo romp in heaven between an angel and a demon that spawned a rogue angel.  An angel that's...a little bit country, a little bit rock-n-roll.  So to speak.

The angel goes rogue and escapes to Earth and into the body of a young Texas preacher named Jesse.
Meanwhile, archangels in heaven send the "Saint of Killers" to find him and bring him back...or worse.
And off you go.

"Preacher" (inside)

There are a handful of delicious side characters that further the story along, as well.
The artwork throughout is really good.  A few panels are extremely clever!
Suffice to say, the words and drawings are a nice fit.
This graphic novel is volume one in a nine-part series and a dang good springboard.

"Rock ' N ' Roll Preacher" - Slade / "Till Deaf Do Us Part" (1981)


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Interview -- Royston Langdon (Spacehog, LEEDS)


"I'm tired
of being someone 
that I never knew." 
~ Royston Langdon ~


Lost in the shuffle of beaucoup bands that seemed to drop out of the sky in the ‘90s, Spacehog was one of my go-to's.  Spacehog, as I can best describe them, were the best parts of hard glam-pop rock. A refreshing offering of cut loose, infectious tunes. Frontman Royston Langdon's vocals had the qualities of Ziggy-era Bowie and "Preservation" Ray Davies.  He was both hard and fragile.  And the music filled a rock-and-roll sweet-spot while trying to walk the tightropes of high school.

So it's exciting news learning that Royston Langdon is set to release a solo album of new songs.  It's been  20+ years since “Resident Alien” hit our speakers.  He thankfully has survived all the parties and the shim-sham.  He's a grown-up now.  Not a given for anybody these days. And better still, while he was working it out, Royston Langdon gave us the opportunity to grow up a little bit ourselves.
Go get you some.

Royston Langdon Interview -- April 2018
Royston Langdon

Casey Chambers:  I'm really excited to learn you have a new album dropping very soon. A solo album called "Everything's Dandy."  And you're releasing it under the moniker...LEEDS...which is a fistbump to where you grew up in the U.K. This is great news.

Royston Langdon:  Oh, cool. Thanks.  Yeah,  I'm really excited, too.

Casey Chambers:  So, how did this project take flight?

Royston Langdon:  I started working consciously on bringing a record to life about two years ago...Christmastime...when I found myself alone in New York over the holidays.  And I was a little lonely and a little, y'know...there was not much going on for me at that time.  So I thought I'd put my energies into writing some music.  While everybody's on holiday, I'll kinda keep working.

And that's what I did.  Every day.  I just kept trying to add new music and little ideas started forming.  And slowly, I thought,  'Ah, there's something here.'  And it kind of took a course.  I wanted to try to represent my experience in New York.  Through changes.  Through loss.  Through growth.  And put it to music.  So yeah, it started about two years ago.

Casey Chambers:  The album, "Everything's Dandy" sounds very personal.  Very open shirt.  It aches, but not without redemption.  The song..."Someone"...is especially to that point.  You wrote the line..."I'm tired of being someone that I never knew." That really resonates.  Good stuff.

Royston Langdon:  Oh wow, thanks. Yeah, I think it's one of those universal things.  But for me it was just...'let's get honest and stop bullshitting.'  I think when you get a little bit older...you start to realize there's no real point in keeping up a facade for anybody else.  'Cause you'll be a long time dead in the ground.  And it's not to be morbid or anything...but a call to action.  It's really quite hopeful.  I mean, we all aspire to be the highest form of ourselves, I think.  That's all I'm trying to say.

"Someone" - LEEDS / "Everything's Dandy" (2018)


Casey Chambers:  You also had an opportunity to work with Black Crowes guitarist, Rich Robinson on the song..."Your Day Will Come."  How did your paths cross?

Royston Langdon:  I think we actually met in New York around the time that they brought out their "Lions" record. (2001)  It was at one of those New York City release party kind of things.  Movers and shakers.  Mick Jagger.  Others were there.  Spacehog and The Black Crowes ended up going on tour together, along with those guys from Oasis.  It was called The Brotherly Love Tour.

Rich and I became quite friendly, actually.  Strangely. (laughs)  We shared some common traits.  And after the tour, we kept our friendship going.  At the time, he was living in Greenwich, Connecticut and I would go out there and spend time at his house and we'd just work on music.  We worked on quite a lot of music then.

He showed me a lot about Southern Rock.  Southern American Rock.  And not just rock, but country.  How some of those open tunings happen.  I mean, he helped me invaluably.  I'd never experienced that before, being from England.  I just found it fascinating.  So he definitely shaped the sound of that song into something that was totally different for me.  There's another song on the record called, "You Can't Go Home Again"...and the open tuning thing he was teaching me definitely had an effect on that song, too.  It's basically like the Keith Richards tuning.  An open G is what it is for any guitar people out there. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, it gives that song an oddly cool vibe, doesn't it?  I dug it.  Did your parents have a record collection when you were growing up?  Were you exposed to a variety of music?

Royston Langdon:  Yeah, man.  My parent's collection was very different.  My dad's collection was a bit older, I suppose.  He was born in the war...the second World War.  It was more American rock and roll.  Bill Haley and the Comets and all that.  I remember finding 78s of his.  He
had quite a good record collection actually.  A lot of that stuff.  Buddy Holly.  Not so much Elvis, but prior to that.  American '50s rock and roll predominately.  My mom was a bit more like your archetypal Beatles.  And I remember my mum had Abba.  That was something that came up.  I remember listening and seeing Abba's album... "Arrival"...and that cover having quite an effect on me.  You know what I mean?  That one where they show up in the helicopter?


Casey Chambers:  Sure, that was the one that had their monster hit, "Dancing Queen" on it, right?

Royston Langdon:  Yeah, and I thought it was a cool album cover.  Abba was pretty big at that time, I guess.  And then..."Dark Side Of The Moon" and that kind of stuff.  But I wouldn't say my parents were avid music listeners.  I think music was a big part of their lives, but they were working class people.  They certainly weren't hippies or anything.

Casey Chambers:  When did music start to become important to you?

Royston Langdon:  I don't know really.  I started off at a choir school when I was super young.  About seven, I started to learn music.  Some of that choral music was inspirational.  It was incredibly powerful.  But by the time I was 12, I'd seen Queen.  Queen was the first concert I ever saw and that had a big effect on me, for sure.

They played in Birmingham in the U.K. at the NEC Arena.  I was 12.  It was 1984.  It was one of those life-changing moments.  Freddie, and then Brian doing his guitar solos...and all the lights.  I remember I was standing on a chair and somebody behind me telling me to get off, 'cause I was blocking the view. (laughs)  It was all very exciting and a little bit dangerous somehow.  I can't quite explain.  I had never experienced anything like that.

Casey Chambers:  Not too shab for a "first" concert.

Royston Langdon:  Yeah.  So that kind of got me moving away from the choral shit into...'man, I wanna be like Freddie and those guys.' (laughs)  Pretty soon afterward, I went from studying piano to teaching myself how to play the electric guitar.  So, at the age of 12, 13...I was, 'Okay, this is my identity.'

Casey Chambers:  I'm a big fan of your work with Spacehog.  I was onboard from the debut..."Resident Alien" (1995) and the two albums that followed.  And I remember your breakout song, "In The Meantime" just exploding.  Hitting that sweet spot.

"In The Meantime" - Spacehog / "Resident Alien" (Late Show w/David Letterman 1996)


Royston Langdon:  Oh man, yeah, it was a gift.  I can't remember quite specifically.  It was twenty odd years ago now. (laughs)  But it was obviously a life-changing experience.  Hearing your song on the radio for the first time, it's a pivotal moment, I think, for any songwriter.  And it was for me. It's crazy when you recognize a piece of your work having such a profound effect on other people.  I'm very grateful for that time.

Casey Chambers:  It had to have been a buzzsaw promoting "Resident Alien" when it took off like it did.  I remember how excited I was watching Spacehog perform on Letterman for the first time.  Did that period wear your ass out?  What were those times like for you?

(1995)

Royston Langdon:  Oh man, I really can't remember honestly.  You could show me the footage of it, and I wouldn't recognize myself.  I was a very young, frightened, egomaniac...feeling insecure.  I was a mass of contradictions.

I can't imagine now.  Well, I can imagine.  I have to imagine.  That's all I can do.  I can't put myself in those shoes now.  I have a lot of compassion for that person then.  I don't think he was very easy...given where I was from.  I was from a very parochial, provincial place North of England, y'know?  And within a year and a half of being in New York...I was starting to get a lot of notoriety.  And it's really hard to know what to do with that...when you really have very few life skills generally.  I mean, I didn't have to take care of myself then and I was struggling, I think, to keep up.

I think my talent and my success at writing what turned out to be a pivotal song...or some kind of song that connected...was beyond my abilities to manage the responsibility that came with it at that time.  I can only speak at it from a lateral position as to where I am now.  I can't possibly...other than to feel compassion and empathy for that person...I just can't put myself in those shoes again.  Do you know what I mean?  It was too long ago.

Casey Chambers:  The different faces that we've been.  Who was that guy?  I think I get it. There's a song you wrote with your brother, Antony Langdon..."What Became Of The People"...on your new album that reflects back on some of the past.  Could you talk a bit about that song?

Spotify - "What Became Of The People" - LEEDS / "Everything's Dandy" (2018)

Royston Langdon:  Being brothers, Antony and I have shared these common experiences throughout our lives. That's the beauty of having siblings.  Different people, and yet we have this common thread which is our lives.  There was a television show when we were growing up in England called, "The Likely Lads." (laughs)  And we basically lifted the idea.  It was referential.  It wasn't like we copied the song, it was just our way of looking at our nostalgia.  It's a beautiful thing to be able to say, 'Hey, we went through that.  We went through this.  I can't believe this happened.'  I do feel very fortunate to have him and my other brother Chris to refer to through these trials that we've been through.  And I think the song came out of that idea really.

Casey Chambers:  It's a great song. Very Kinkish. Pulls ya right in.  And your solo Leeds album, "Everything's Dandy"...when is it expected to drop?

Royston Langdon:  Yeah, May 4th.  May the 4th be with you. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Ludicrous speed! (laughs)  Are you planning to tour the album for a few shows?

Royston Langdon:  I've got a show coming up in Long Island this weekend, but I'd love to do some touring. My throat's a bit fucked from this fucking cough right now, the bastard...but hopefully, that will come about. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Better get some tea in ya...and fast.

Royston Langdon:  I am, man.  Right now.  I'm having the Chaga Tea.

Casey Chambers:  I'm having a spot of Reverie Coffee myself.  I'll drink to your health if you'll drink to mine. (laughs)  Thank you for all the good music.  And thanks again for hangin' out with me this morning.

Royston Langdon:  It's my pleasure, Casey.  Thank you.  Take it easy.  Peace and love.


Royston Langdon Official Website
Royston Langdon Facebook

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
Follow Me On FACEBOOK