Tuesday, October 27, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Sugarloaf" - Sugarloaf (1970)

"Sugarloaf" - Sugarloaf  (1970)

I'd been keeping an eye out for Sugarloaf's debut album with their "Free Bird" signature song...“Green-Eyed Lady” for a long time.  Not an intense search, mind you, but if I ever saw a good copy, I knew I'd pick it up.  But for whatever reason, this one had been playing hide-and-seek much longer than I expected.  In other words, finding a nice copy of this album was a green-eyed bitch!  It includes their original 7-minute hit song...before later being chopped up into a variety of shortened and abused versions for radio and comps.  Plus, I was curious about the rest of the album as well.

There are only six songs on this album and three are instrumentals.  The music is very Hammond heavy courtesy of the talented Jerry Corbetta and has that early 70s rock vibe you would expect.  Most critics give the album a high 3 outta 5 and that's about right.  Sugarloaf doesn't really push anything forward, but it's pretty good for what it is.  Apparently, the band's sophomore album is the stronger, but I've yet to hear it. 

Favorites are the outstanding opening track..."Green-Eyed Lady” with its teasing fake-out and extended breaks and an overall jazzy portent vibe going on.  Great riffs and fills.  They do no wrong on this song.  The exceptional instrumental “Medley: “Bach Door Man”/ Chest Fever" is really good, too.  I especially like their transitions into The Band cover..."Chest Fever."  Never fails to please.  And after "Green-Eyed Lady," it's the proggiest Sugarloaf gets on the album.  And finally, though the band doesn't quite take the ball to the house, their instrumental cover of “Train Kept A Rollin” is still a pretty fun listen.  Side one is definitely the stronger, but the closing track "Things Gonna Change Some" is a nice wrapup.

My copy has a hype sticker promoting “Green-Eyed Lady” on the front and came home with me for less than $10.  Purchased at an A-OK Record Swap from a dealer who seems to always have at least one thing I want. 

"Sugarloaf" (back)

"Sugarloaf" (inside gatefold)

Liberty label

LST-7640-1 (2) K
LST-7640-2  K

"Green-Eyed Lady" - Sugarloaf / "Sugarloaf" (1970)

A1  "Green-Eyed Lady" 6:49
A2  "The Train Kept-a-Rollin' (Stroll On)" 2:23
A3  "Medley: "Bach Doors Man" / "Chest Fever" 9:00
B1  "West of Tomorrow" 5:25
B2  "Gold and the Blues" 7:15
B3  "Things Gonna Change Some" 6:38

Jerry Corbetta - organ, piano, clavichord, vocals
Bob Webber - guitar, vocals
Bob Raymond - bass
Myron Pollock - drums
Bob MacVittie - drums ("Green-Eyed Lady")
Veeder van Dorn - vocals (B1, B3)

Good stuff.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Clear Light" - Clear Light (1967)

"Clear Light" - Clear Light (1967)

Clear Light was a one-shot psych-rock band out of L.A.  There are mixtures of fuzz and organ on here with occasional jangle all in fair doses.  Nothing too out there, but lysergic moments abound.  Most of the songs are short...under 3 minutes...and the variety is pretty entertaining.  Clear Light made their own noise, but have been called a poor man's Love and a can of Doors light.  Me, I can't hear much of either.  However, Clear Light's producer, Paul Rothchild, was also working with those two bands.  This is not a must-own album, but it's not a bad spin at all.  There are no duds and certainly more to like than not.

The group also sported a couple of members that played in other well-known bands.  Bassist Doug Lubahn played on early Doors albums.  And Dallas Taylor went on to bang the drum for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  Lead singer Cliff DeYoung became an actor and has appeared in more than 80 films and TV shows.  

My favorites are "Night Sounds Loud" and the fuzzed-up "Street Singer."  And the longest track at 6+ minutes, the psyched-up version of the folk song..."Mr. Blue"...written by Tom Paxton.  The song became an underground radio favorite for the band.

My copy is an early 70s press that I found at Spektrum.  It had a $10 sticker with a note saying 'Record has slight warp...but plays fine."  When I gave it a spin, there was hardly a lift in the needle at all.  And, like they said, the record did play perfectly fine.  I appreciate it when record stores like Spektrum mention any possible issues.  That's good business!  This album has recently been reissued by Sundazed Music.

"Clear Light" (back)

Elektra (butterfly) label

EKS- [ 74011 stamped ]  A-1B
0  EK S- [ 74011 stamped ]  B-1A  1  C6

"Night Sounds Loud" - Clear Light / "Clear Light" (1967)

A1  "Black Roses" 2:08
A2  "Sand" 2:37
A3  "A Child's Smile" 1:33
A4  "Street Singer" 3:15
A5  "The Ballad of Freddie & Larry" 2:00
A6  "With All In Mind" 3:00
B1  "Mr. Blue" 6:24
B2  "Think Again" 1:37
B3  "They Who Have Nothing" 2:33
B4  "How Many Days Have Passed" 2:20
B5  "Night Sounds Loud" 2:25

Cliff De Young  -  vocals
Bob Seal  -  guitar, vocals
Douglas Lubahn  -  bass
Ralph Schuckett  -  keyboards
Dallas Taylor  -  drums
Michael Ney  -  drums

Good stuff.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "The Hawkline Monster" - Richard Brautigan (1974)


"The Hawkline Monster" - by Richard Brautigan
Paperback, 188 pages

Cameron and Greer, the two cowboys in this story are best of friends and a no-nonsense “have gun will travel” kind of team.  Problem-solvers for hire, so to speak.  The cowboys are called on a journey to a big mansion in the middle of nowhere to help a couple of sexy ladies rid themselves of a mysterious and dangerous "something" in the house.  To say any more would spoil the fun.

Author Richard Brautigan tells his macabre story in unique chapters of no more than one or two pages, and yet as the pages fly by, the story never feels cheap.  This gothic tale is weird.  It's both naughty and bawdy. Mysterious and dangerous.  And quirky as fark!   I loved it.  I never once felt like I was being put upon.  This is one of those “under-the-radar” novels that are so much fun to discover.  "The Hawkline Monster" is one of the strangest stories I've read all year.  And a blast to read.  Highly recommended.  

"Almost Human" - Kiss / "Love Gun" (1977)

Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Love Chronicles" - Al Stewart (1969)

"Love Chronicles" - Al Stewart (1969)

Looking a little bit like Michael Cera on the cover, Al Stewart's 2nd album "Love Chronicles" is a nice surprise and much better than I expected.  All six songs have good folk-rock melodies with occasional bites of electric guitar keeping the listener alert.  In fact, the musicianship on this album is high-caliber.  And no wonder.  Stewart's backing band had Led Zeppelin mates Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones lending a hand. (Although Jones is uncredited on the album.)  Plus Richard Thompson and other Fairport Convention mugs fill in as well.  The album is an interesting pickup just for this reason alone, but it's extra bonus for being a really good spin.

Favorites are “In Brooklyn” and "Life And Life Only."  And the 18-minute title track..."Love Chronicles"  on side two is especially cool...with Page laying down electric swag between Al's confessional love verses.  The song is really good, if not a bit diary-like in the telling.  Entertaining and certainly nothing to get hung about.  The album can be found for cheap, too.  Maybe because sellers are unaware of the musicians playing here.  My album is a very early 70s UK copy on an unusual CBS label and I couldn't have paid more than $5 or $6 for it.  I like this one better than his signature "Year Of The Cat" and that one was my favorite.  When you see it, grab it.

"Love Chronicles" (back)

"Love Chronicles" (inside gatefold)

CBS label

SBPG  63460  A2  KT
SBPG  63460  B2  __C7  KT

"Life And Life Only" - Al Stewart / "Love Chronicles" (1969)

A1  "In Brooklyn" 3:36
A2  "Old Compton Street Blues" 4:15
A3  "The Ballad of Mary Foster" 7:50
A4  "Life and Life Only" 5:43
B1  "You Should Have Listened to Al" 2:56
B2  "Love Chronicles" 17:55

Al Stewart - vocals, guitar
Jimmy Page - guitar
Simon Breckenridge (Simon Nicol) - guitar
Mervyn Prestwyck (Richard Thompson) - guitar
Brian Brocklehurst - bass
Brian Odgers - bass
Ashley Hutchings - bass
Harvey Burns - drums
Martyn Francis (Martin Lamble) - drums
John Paul Jones - bass (uncredited)

Good stuff.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Interview -- John Amplas (Horror Film and Television Actor)

"People always go away...
so they can forget
where they were."
Martin - (John Amplas)

To have been cast in no less than six of legendary director George Romero films is a nice box of dripping, bloody chocolates.  A wonderful bouquet of dead flowers for the holiday season.  Each one a cult film lover's delight.  But it's for George Romero's lesser-known, but critically acclaimed, vampiric curio “Martin” (1977) that actor John Amplas will forever be tagged and flagged.

With an apple pie innocence and a disturbing out of rhythm naïveté,  John Amplas plays the confused and conflicted title character Martin with relish.  Is he really a bloodthirsty vampire...or just a vampire wannabe serial killing weirdo?  The film is labeled "horror" and blood is as blood does, but Romero changes the rules of what we have come to expect a vampire to be.  Babyfaced John Amplas walks a thin wire between Martin's deadly thirst for blood and the empathy he creates for his character.  And he manages to successfully keep the audience on unsure footing till the very end.  And so the question is again...is he or isn't he?  A vampire, that is?  Only Nosferatu knows for sure. Streaming on Youtube and available on Amazon.  "Happy Halloween, my babies."
John Amplas.  Go get you some.

John Amplas Interview -- October 2020
John Amplas

Casey Chambers:  I recently saw you in the George Romero film, "Martin" and was reminded just how good you portray the title character.  You own every scene.  And what a trippy-strange movie it really is.

John Amplas:  It was my first feature.  I had done a couple of things here in Pittsburgh for PBS.  What was then WQED.  But yes, "Martin" was my first feature.  It's a good one.  I was in my senior year of college.  I graduated in '76.  And I was doing a play at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  It was the last play of the season and (George) Romero had come to watch the performance and he really liked it.  I got to talk to him a little bit after the play 'cause he had introduced himself and then he went away.  A couple of months later, I got a call from him asking me to do the movie.  He actually had an older character in mind for the lead role of "Martin" initially, but he rewrote the character and cast me.

Casey Chambers:  What was the play you were doing?

John Amplas:  I was doing the play called "Philemon" which was written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.  The same folks that did "The Fantasticks" which was the longest-running Broadway show in history.  I played a slave.  It was set during the period when the Christians were being persecuted.  That was the main theme of the play.  I was a young Christian put into the catacombs and slogged and the like.  Now that was 44 years ago...(laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Did you know who George Romero was before he introduced himself?

John Amplas:  I knew who he was because of..."Night Of The Living Dead." (1968)  Plus, he was a very good friend of Bill Cardille who, in our town was a longtime broadcaster here in Pittsburgh and hosted, "Chiller Theatre" which was quite well known.  "Night Of The Living Dead" had appeared on "Chiller Theatre" by that time.  So yes, I did know George at that point.  By the way, Lori Cardille...that's Bill's daughter... had the lead role in "Day Of The Dead." (1985)

Casey Chambers:  Knowing what side Romero likes to butter his bread, when you were given the script for "Martin," what was your first impression?

John Amplas:  I thought the script was brilliant.  Yeah, absolutely brilliant.  George has always been at his best when he had the opportunity to write and direct.  And he was a fabulous editor.  He did primarily all of the editings for "Martin" and he was writing constantly.  He was a constant writer. However, he didn't change much in the script as I recall.  All I did was follow what was on the page. That's how I handled it.  'Cause it was already there.  The script was ready to go.

Casey Chambers:  You brought a very strange and unique kind of pathos to the title character.  And you never give too much of Martin away.  It's hard to imagine someone else playing that part.

"Martin" Trailer (1977)

John Amplas:  That's what George always said.  Yes, that's a high compliment. Thank you so very much.  It was actually, for obvious reasons, my favorite film that I did with him.  But it was also his favorite film.  He had said that on many occasions.

Casey Chambers:  How very cool.  Tell me a little bit about the shoot.

John Amplas:  I remember it being about six to seven weeks.  We shot it here in Pittsburgh.  In and around Pittsburgh.  Probably 90% of it was shot in a little mill town called Braddock.  And at that time in the 70s, in a lot of industrial towns...the mills were going out of business.  And Braddock was one of those towns that were dying out.  We're on the Three Rivers and most of our mills were along our rivers and Braddock was no different.  It was a small mill town already going downhill.  The majority of the shooting was done at Tony Buba's parent's house.  Tony was our sound guy.  And his grandmother was still living there at the same time.  And we shot in various places around Braddock and various spots in Pittsburgh.

Casey Chambers:  Talking about Braddock and the mills shutting down reminds me a little of that Billy Joel song, "Allentown."  Very much the same goings-on.

John Amplas:  Same kind of idea.  Allentown was an industrial town, too.  Exactly.

Casey Chambers:  So when the movie was released, what kind of noise were you guys hearing?

John Amplas:  Well, we got a lot of good feedback.  We had very good press.  However, I think they fell down some...with the distribution.  And I say they because I wasn't part of the business end of things.  At that time, you know, they considered "Martin" a horror movie.  I think it's much more of a psychological thriller.  More of a character study.  But it was put into these midnight shows and did very well.  It played at the Waverly in New York in the Village for about six months.

Casey Chambers:  That's a pretty strong run.  The Waverly...that was a famous "must-go" art theater, wasn't it?

John Amplas:   Yeah, it was famous.  I'm not even sure if it's still there, to be honest.  But it was very famous at the time for showing midnight movies.  "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was playing there around the same time as "Martin."  And "Martin" was getting a lot of good write-ups in papers and Newsweek and things like that.  Shortly after making the movie, I moved to New York.  I was up there in '77 when "Martin" was actually showing on the big screens and I couldn't get arrested.  One of the reasons, I think, was at that time, horror films were not accepted as well.  They wanted Hollywood productions.  It was tough for horror films.  Horror films were like the B side of a record.  You just never hear it. (laughs)  And that's kind of what happened.  But the astonishing thing...here it is 44 years later since the movie was shot and there are still new audiences...young audiences coming to see it for the first time.  It's become...and still is...a cult classic.

Casey Chambers:  I have to make mention of a very small scene in the movie that hit me hard...when your character slips into a small parade.  The marching band and parade was very small potatoes. And again, it was just a very, very small scene.  Martin sneaking into this parade.  But it all seemed kind of a metaphor for your character... not just trying to hide...but to simply fit in.  Something he could just never do.  As I said, it was a very brief scene, but I never forgot it.

John Amplas:  It was a real parade.  In fact, that's one thing that was not written in the script.  It was not written into the screenplay.  We had just finished a scene.  I think it was when Arthur (Tom Savini) and Christina (Christine Forrest) were getting in the car to leave.  And my character said something about them leaving.  'People always go away...so they can forget where they were.'   We were just finishing up the scene, getting ready to wrap for the day when we heard the sound of drums and trombones.  The parade was only two blocks away from us.  I forget if it was George (Romero) or maybe it was Mike Gornick, our camera and cinematographer guy who said, 'Why don't we go down and shoot it?  What the hell?'   In those days, we were doing, ya know, pretty much guerrilla filmmaking. (laughs)  We weren't asking too many people for permission.  We'd just go and do it.  So we all ran down there and George told me to just join the parade. So that's what I did.  It was just by happenstance, and it led us directly toward the end of the movie.

Casey Chambers:  Does it surprise you...the longevity that "Martin" has enjoyed?

John Amplas:  Oh, absolutely.  I had been getting involved with the autographs, photos, doing some video presentations.  Now we can't have any conventions, so away it all goes.  COVID, of course.  But, yeah, it does surprise me.  And George asked me to do a few other movies, too.  I got to be in "Dawn Of The Dead" and "Knightriders."  "Creepshow" and "Day Of The Dead."  And a couple of other things.  George always surrounded himself with people that he trusted.  And because of that, I had the opportunity to do six movies with him.  All of them during his heyday, which was the '70s and '80s.  For a long time, I just kind of put all of the Romero work behind me.  But his films just keep getting new audiences.  It was such an interesting time.  That particular time and that particular group of people.  We're all very friendly and we still see one another periodically, as well.

Casey Chambers:  The end of the '70s found you in two back-to-back cult classics.  You were also in the All-You-Can-Eat mall fandango..."Dawn Of The Dead"...both on-camera and behind the scenes.

John Amplas:  Yes, they gave me casting director credit, but that's not entirely true.  I mean...I did do some of the castings, but...  And there was a scene...a night time shoot where a gang was running around and a SWAT team was shooting at them.  They were in a hurry and needed an extra person up on the roof, so (Tom) Savini grabbed me and put rather unPC makeup on me and set me up there.  And so I had a little scene with Scotty (Reiniger) on the roof, and he shot me in the back and I fell off. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Awesome. (laughs)  I love stuff like that.  These are great things to have been a part of.  And Roger Ebert surprisingly gave the film 4 stars, calling it " one of the best horror films ever made."  And you had the opportunity to do a little casting for "Dawn Of The Dead" too.

John Amplas:  I was able to hook them up with David Emge who played the lead character...Flyboy.  David and I knew each other from the Playhouse in Pittsburgh way back in '72.  Later, when we were in New York, we both worked at one of the most decadent restaurants in the city.  It was across from The Public Theater on Lafayette Street called Lady Astor's.  And a lot of people came through there.  George's now ex-wife Christine Forrest worked there and knew a lot of the people.  Scotty Reiniger, who was in "Dawn Of The Dead" worked there.  A lot of us came out of that place.  So I got a job for Emge. When they started casting for "Dawn Of The Dead" I put Emge in front of them and he got the lead role.

Casey Chambers:  It's a world of small proportion.

John Amplas:  It is a small world.  Everybody that I had the pleasure to work with are friends to this day.  We still see each other.  And I think that's a pretty remarkable thing.  We had formed almost a little repertory company.  A lot of the actors have been in a few of George's movies.  Certainly, the same crew I worked with in "Martin" continued to work with George throughout all of his films.

Casey Chambers:  Another Romero film you did was the great horror anthology..."Creepshow" (1982) and you had the opportunity to offer up a few graveyard shenanigans as the wicked corpse of Nathan Grantham.

"Creepshow" with John Amplas (1982)

John Amplas:  In this movie, I was in the very first episode.  I was the creature that came out of the grave.  I played Nathan Grantham...only dead! (laughs)  I had to sit under plaster and all that kind of stuff while Savini made the masks and costumes and the gloves and the eviscerated body.  Everything worked like a suit.  Like putting on a suit.  And so I did that for a week and then it took Savini about a month to get the character made and ready to go.  And then I went back and shot for another week.  And I got a chance to kill people. (laughs)  Stephen King wrote the screenplay.  And I've met him a few times since.  Not like we became close pals and email each other, you know, but we did become friends.  He was very easy to get along with.

He also had a small part in "Knightriders." (1981)  He played some kind of vendor in the crowd.  "Knightriders" is all about the death of chivalry.  The concept was knights on bikes.  They were a touring Renaissance festival and the knights all rode motorcycles.  We had big crowds for these festivals and Stephen King and all of our friends were invited to be part of the crowd scenes. (laughs)  "Knightriders" was an interesting movie.  Ed Harris was in it.  And later, when Ed had a role in "Creepshow"...it was then that I was able to kill him. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Jumping back to "Martin"...I read somewhere that the film was very close to receiving an X rating.  The kiss of death.

John Amplas:  Yeah, that is true.  In fact, I think it played in some places with an X rating.  There were initially about two and a half hours of footage for "Martin"...and it was whittled down to about 93 minutes.

Casey Chambers:  So what ever happened to all that extra bean footage?

John Amplas:  That's the curious thing.  It's lost.

Casey Chambers:  So it was whittled down and edited and...

John Amplas:  It was edited before it was lost.  Some ne'er-do-well picked it up and nobody seems to know where it is.  The truth though for me is that I don't think the film is missing anything.  I don't think it would make it a better film.  Just a longer film.  I think George's final edit really works well and tells the story specifically and succinctly.

Casey Chambers:  Well, if that footage ever turns up, that would make for some interesting bonus features on Blu-ray.

John Amplas:  Oh, my God, yes.  Oh, my goodness.

Casey Chambers:  Before I let you go, I want to ask about some music you like listening to.  Can you recommend an album or artist?

John Amplas:  Oh boy.  Oh boy.  That's so hard.  You know what?  You should listen to the album soundtrack of "Martin." (1979 - and reissued in 2015)  It's very good.

"Martin Soundtrack" (1979)

Casey Chambers:  I didn't even know there was a "Martin" soundtrack available.  Excellent!

John Amplas:  Oh, yes.  I have it on CD.  And I have a couple of vinyl.  The music was all orchestrated and composed by Donald Rubinstein.  Donald's a musician and an artist and he's just tremendous.  In fact, he scored several of George's movies.  And I also like jazz.  Old and new.  I like ColtraneDizzy Gillespie.  People like that.  I just added some Etta James to my Pandora. (laughs)  I'm fond of Clapton, too.  Someone, I really enjoy is...what's the name of that one guy?  His father and mother are both famous musicians.  Rufus Wainwright.  I especially like him.  I like almost any version of "Hallelujah" out there.  I like Sam Smith.  I like Norah Jones.  I go back and forth.

Casey Chambers:  It's been a real pleasure speaking with you this evening.  This is a great time of year for horror film buffs to pull up some sofa and enjoy watching the trippy and mysterious vampire film..."Martin."  And being George Romero's favorite film is a solid gold coin in the pocket.  Thank you so much.

John Amplas:  You are more than welcome. Thank you so much, Casey.

"The Calling" - Donald Rubinstein / "Martin Soundtrack" (1977)

John Amplas Official Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers

Thursday, October 1, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."The Head Shop" - The Head Shop (1969)


"The Head Shop" - The Head Shop (1969)

There is no feint, duck, or dodge here.  The Head Shop, from the state of New York, offers up psych-rock with some of the heavy stuff thrown in for good measure.  And it is a lot of fun.  The album includes six original fuzz burners...all fighting for purchase.  And three cover songs that are various degrees of all right and better than I expected.  Two of them are Beatle songs, and though I'm not a fan of Fab Four covers, The Head Shop does try to be creative.  The best of the two is their take on “Revolution” making the song sound like a chainsaw cutting through the speakers. The third cover is a remake of the groovy Bobby Webb hit..."Sunny.”  Here, the band turns it into something a little more ominous.

But it's the originals you want to spin.  The closing track..."Infinity" is the trippiest of the bunch driving the listener into a magic bullet.  Also, the late and great jazz guitarist Larry Coryell makes a sweet appearance with The Head Shop ripping off some tasty guitar on "I Feel Love Comin' On."  Other favorites are the kinda spooky “Listen With A Third Ear" and the jamming opener..."Head Shop."  

If you look closely at the front album cover, there are small numbers and letters on several of the many beaucoup cubes.  If any of this means anything, hit me up...'cause I missed it.  The album is becoming high dollar but I got a pretty good deal on this puppy because of some writing at the top of the album cover.  I don't think it looks too intrusive.  There is also a red stamp on the back.  It's barely legible and looks like this album might have been a radio station copy.  This was The Head Shop's only album and has yet to be reissued.

"The Head Shop" (back)

Epic sleeve

Epic label

o  XSB150402-1A  1  CA  .I.  
o  XSB150403-1D  4A

"I Feel Love Comin' On" - The Head Shop / "The Head Shop" (1969)  

A1  "Head Shop" 2:56
A2  "Heaven Here We Come" 2:40
A3  "Sunny" 3:11
A4  "Listen With A Third Ear" 2:30
A5  "Opera In The Year 4000 (Where Have All The People Gone / Yesterday)" 4:25
B1  "Revolution" 2:28
B2  "I Feel Love Comin' On" 6:20
B3  "Prophecy" 2:17
B4  "Infinity" 4:45

Joe Siano - vocals
Danny Prosseda - guitar, fuzz bass (A2)
Drew Sbordone - bass
Jesse Luca - drums, percussion
Milan - screams
Geoff Wright - Hammond, Farfisa Organ, fuzz bass (B1, B2)
Maxim, Violin (B3)
Larry Coryell - 2nd guitar solo (B2)

Good stuff.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."The Notorious Byrd Brothers" - The Byrds (1968)

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" - The Byrds (1968)

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" is a very, very good album and way more psych-dusted than I expected.  Apart from the opening track that I've yet to warm up to and "Old John Robertson" which is a good song but sounds jarringly out of step with the rest of the more strange and floaty guitar passages, it is gold.  Mostly though, everything moves along as it should in a wonderful heady hippie bong-tipping flair.

And my gosh, what a delicious flock of Byrds shenanigans that were going on during the recording.  David Crosby was sent packing 3 months before the record dropped.  He was upset about many, many things.  As was the band, with him. (Wiki it.)  Halfway through the sessions, drummer Michael Clarke took off for a little while...to mend his mind, perhaps...and then returned.  He was immediately cut loose after the record was finished.  Even Gene Clark, who had left the band long ago, hooked up with The Byrd’s again...for three weeks anyway...and then ran for the hills.  When The Byrds album finally dropped and the smoke had finally cleared...only Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman were left standing.  The making of this album sounds like a complete impossibility, and yet after all the ducking and jiving...their 5th album, "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" turned out to be very nearly a masterpiece.  At the very least, it is one fantastic spin.

"CBS  CBS  Stereo"
"Can Also Be Played On Mono Equipment" 

Favorites are the mostly David Crosby penned “Draft Morning”...a war protest that drops in on the listener, getting all the i's dotted, but without sounding at all preachy.  It's nice and trippy and has some cool bass dancing underneath.  The song “Wasn't Born To Follow" which was immortalized in the biker film, “Easy Rider” is found here, as well.  The psych gem "Tribal Gathering" ...written by Crosby and Hillman...is the lost treasure with its mix of floaty harmonies, odd time-signature, and edgy fuzz guitars.  Wonderful, but all too short.  

The album was ranked #171 on RS list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and was rescued at the A-OK Record Swap in Wichita.  I could not find this particular pressing on Discogs.  Any help appreciated. 

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" (back)

CBS label

Side A Matrix:
o XSM-119703-1D  [etched]  
Side B Matrix:
o XSM119704-1G 1  [stamped]  

"Tribal Gathering" - The Byrds / "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" (1968)

A1  "Artificial Energy" 2:18
A2  "Goin' Back" 3:26
A3  "Natural Harmony" 2:11
A4  "Draft Morning" 2:42
A5  "Wasn't Born to Follow" 2:04
A6  "Get to You" 2:39
B1  "Change Is Now" 3:21
B2  "Old John Robertson" 1:49
B3  "Tribal Gathering" 2:03 
B4  "Dolphin's Smile" 2:00
B5  "Space Odyssey" 3:52

Roger McGuinn – vocals, lead guitar, Moog
Chris Hillman – vocals, bass, guitar, mandolin
Michael Clarke – drums (A1, A4,  B2,  B3, B4)
David Crosby – vocals, rhythm guitar, bass
Gene Clark – b-vocals (A2, B5...possibly)
James Burton, Clarence White – guitars
Gary Usher – Moog, percussion, b-vocals
Barry Goldberg – organ
Jim Gordon – drums (B2, B3, B5) 
Hal Blaine – drums (B6, A1
Curt Boettcher – b-vocals
Firesign Theatre – sound effects on "Draft Morning"

Good stuff.


Friday, September 18, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."The Merry-Go-Round" (1967)

"The Merry-Go-Round" (front)

I passed on The Merry-Go-Round on a few occasions simply because I thought the music would be a little too bubbly for my taste.  Too sweet.  But I was way off base.  The Merry-Go-Round made a tasty pop-flavored...folk-rock album that offers up the kind of attention one might expect from Lennon-McCartney.  And yet, The Merry-Go-Round pull off their own vibe.  Emitt Rhodes, who just recently passed, was writing and singing good stuff even as a teenager.  There's nothing jaw-dropping, but the songs do have a maturity that impresses especially for the times.  This, their lone album is not a must-own, but it can still be found cheap and I recommend picking up your own copy.  A bonus is that the record sounds better with every new spin.

Favorites are "You're A Very Lovely Woman" which was a minor hit for the band...and way too good for Top 40.  I love the dark, brooding flavor the song offers and it bears no small resemblance to another song released later that same year by psych legend Love on their "Forever Changes" album.  What does that mean?  Only that music is a funny thing.  This is by no means a psych album, but the unusual track, "Time Will Show the Wiser" is a smart song to fall in love with.  I also really dug the gorgeous "Had To Run Around" with great harmonies and a neat arrangement. Good stuff.

My copy is an unexpected white promo label and looks like it's been played only a handful of times.  On the back cover, there is an "AUDITION RECORD" stamp.  I was lucky to rescue this square from one of my favorite go-to sources out in the wild affectionately known as "Garageman G” and for only one machine-washed Hamilton.

"The Merry-Go-Round" (back)



Side A Matrix:
A&M-4163-16 (MR circle) △10865  
Side B Matrix:
A&M-4164-16 (MR circle) △10865-X  

"You're A Very Lovely Woman" - The Merry-Go-Round / "The Merry-Go-Round" (1967)

A1  "Live" 2:32
A2  "Time Will Show The Wiser" r2:25
A3  "On Your Way Out" 2:29
A4  "Gonna Fight the War" 2:00
A5  "Had To Run Around" 3:34
A6  "We're In Love" 2:22
B1  "You're A Very Lovely Woman" 2:45
B2  "Where Have You Been All of My Life" 2:14
B3  "Early In The Morning" 2:05
B4  "Low Down" 2:57
B5  "Clown's No Good" 2:18
B6  "Gonna Leave You Alone" 2:16

Emitt Rhodes - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Bill Rinehart - guitar, vocals
Rick Dey - guitar
Gary Kato - bass
Joel Larson - drums

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers

Friday, September 11, 2020

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "The Great Escape" - Paul Brickhill (1950)

"The Great Escape" by Paul Brickhill
Softcover, 264 pages

“The Great Escape” is an intensely detailed account of prisoners held in a German POW camp known as Stalag Luft-III.  The camp was made to hold the riskiest of war prisoners.  Author Paul Brickhill, who takes us into this camp, was himself a prisoner.  The guards were constantly on the lookout for any escape tricks.  Scrutinizing every movement they made.  Tunnels were not unheard of, but they were almost always unsuccessful and extremely dangerous.  And, as you can imagine, digging one is a ton of hard work and just one snafu and...pffft!  For the prisoners to have their best chance of pulling this off, the tunnel has to be deeper.  The tunnel has to be longer.  And the tunnel, of course, has to be dug in absolute incognito.  And not just one tunnel this time...but three!  And with prison guards constantly eyeballing them...well...that's a lot of major awesome chutzpah.  Somehow, and this is not a spoiler,  they succeed.  The amazing resourcefulness and incredible fortitude and courage these guys showed was...jaw-dropping.

There is no Steve McQueen...famously motorcycling over and through fences here, but apart from a few liberties, the action movie based on this story follows pretty close.  And make no mistake, this does not have a happy ending.  Only 76 prisoners actually made it through the tunnel,..and nearly all were recaptured.  And a huge number of those escapees were put to death by guards under Hitler's order.  Later, those same guards were arrested as war criminals.  Author Paul Brickhill's retelling of this incredible escape may not be as flashy as the star-studded film, but then again, the truth here cuts much deeper.

"Escape" - Alice Cooper / "Welcome To My Nightmare" (1975)

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers

Friday, September 4, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."I'm Still In Love With You" - Al Green (1972)

"I'm Still In Love With You" - Al Green (1972)

For whatever reason, I seldom see any Al Green albums in the wild.  Nice copies are just scarce and hard to come by.  For a guy who hit the sacred trifecta in the early 70s...well...those albums be hiding.  But hey, I finally have one now.  "I'm Still In Love With You" was his 5th studio album, but it was the middle child in his powerful trilogy of albums squeezed between "Let's Stay Together" (1972) and "Call Me." (1973)  Each considered one of his masterpieces.

Everybody should know Al Green by now, but for those who haven't the pleasure, Green's vocals are very distinct.  Beautifully unique.  Warm and romantic, and funky when funk is necessary.  And on this album...mercy!  The horns and drums absolutely pop.  And in just the right measure.  Just enough to let you know they are in the house but they have no plans of moving in.

Al Green wrote seven of the nine songs and four of them charted.  The other two songs were covers.  One is the Kris Kristofferson penned "For The Good Times" and is especially nice.  Absolutely kills it.  There is plenty of love and happiness and occasional heartbreak found here and it is all good.  I've yet to stumble upon Al Green's other two monster albums from his sacred trifecta, and many think they are even better.

"I'm Still In Love With You" (back)

All should be familiar with the hits here, but deeper track favorites are "One of These Good Old Days" and "For the Good Times."  Surprisingly, the classic "Love and Happiness" failed to grab me on the first lap.  Even though it ranked 98 on RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, I had to go back for a second and third helping of the album...before I got it.  It was where the song was placed on the album that bothered me.  I think the epic "Love and Happiness" would have been better served as the closing track on side one or side two rather than squeezed into the middle.  I was still trippin' on the catchy pop-soul that was tearing my heart out and I just wasn't ready to answer the other door.

"I'm Still In Love With You" is on the smaller Hi Records label out of Memphis and was distributed by London Records.  My copy was found at a local Wichita record swap for $9 simoleons.  And it was the only Al Green I saw that day.

Hi Records

Hi Records company sleeve

"One Of These Good Old Days" - Al Green - "I'm Still In Love With You" (1972)

A1  "I'm Still In Love With You" 3:12
A2  "I'm Glad You're Mine" 2:54
A3  "Love And Happiness" 5:00
A4  "What A Wonderful Thing Love Is" 3:37
A5  "Simply Beautiful" 4:08
B1  "Oh, Pretty Woman" 3:22
B2  "For The Good Times" 6:27
B3  "Look What You Done For Me" 3:04
B4  "One Of These Good Old Days" 3:15

Al Green - vocals
Jack Hale - trombone
Wayne Jackson - trumpet
Ed Logan - tenor horn, tenor sax
Andrew Love - tenor horn, tenor sax
Charles Chalmers - b-vocals, horn and string arrangments
James Mitchell - tenor horn, baritone sax, string and horn arrangments
Mabon "Teenie" Hodges - guitar
Leroy Hodges - bass
Charles Hodges - drums, organ, piano
Howard Grimes - drums, rhythm section
Al Jackson Jr. - drums
Ali Muhammed Jackson - drums
Sandra Chalmers - b-vocals
Donna Rhodes - b-vocals
Sandra Rhodes - b-vocals

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers