Friday, May 29, 2020

Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd Sound - 1967

I've been distracted with other things in these crazy times we're in so I have been leaning on others in the community for ideas. This one came from a fellow member of an private alt-music history forum who simply asked me to do "something with Syd Barrett".

1967 saw the debut album by Syd Barrett. Supported by his backing band of Nick Mason, Richard Wright and Roger Waters, known as The Pink Floyd Sound, it contained 13 songs that could only have come from the mind of Syd.

This would be Syd's only album for three years though his backing band would push on releasing a three song EP recorded during the same sessions with Syd contributing guitar and a full LP the following year kicking off a career that would span several decades.

Syd's mental state would quickly deteriorate most likely due to his heavy consumption of psychedelics. The two parties split amicably in 1968 during the recording of the band's first full length album (now known simply as Pink Floyd). Syd did his best at helping his friends out appearing on several tracks but in the end they recruited an old classmate of Syd's, David Gilmour, to take over the guitar chores. That line up would last for most of that band's history.

Syd's relationship with his backing band was a strained affair to begin with. Even though they shared a flat and behaved as a single unit, it was always clear that Syd was the star and the others were support. When they split Syd was left without a band. It took the Floyd a few albums to find their own voice but when they finally broke through they became a mainstay of rock radio and the touring circuit for the remainder of their career.

Syd took a couple years off to rest and recover before returning to the studio releasing two albums in 1970 but the drugs again took their toll and Syd once more faded into the background preferring to hang out with fellow underground musicians Pretty Things drummer Twink, Deviants frontman Mick Farren and Steve Took from Tyrannosaurus Rex. His brief career left a lasting impression and influenced many younger artists.

Tracklist

Side One
01 Astronomy Domine
02 Lucifer Sam
03 Apples And Oranges
04 The Gnome
05 Flaming
06 Scarecrow
07 See Emily Play

Side Two
01 Scream Thy Last Scream
02 Chapter 24
03 Bike
04 Matilda Mother
05 Vegetable Man
06 Jugband Blues

Bonus Non-LP Single
Arnold Layne
Candy And A Currant Bun

Reality Notes

There are plenty of alternate Pink Floyd histories and discographies floating around the internet. Most follow the premise of Syd staying with the band for a few more albums. While I always find them a good read, the compilations never really satisfy me. I love Syd and went through a heavy obsession for a brief time but always saw Syd and Floyd as separate entities despite their entwined history together. This comp is my way of further defining that separation.

For this album I took the first Floyd album and removed the two band written instrumentals Pow R. Toc H. and Intersteller Overdrive and the Waters penned Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk and replaced them with outtakes and singles. The three songs I removed become the EP released by Floyd at around the same time as this album. Yea, this is still Pink Floyd but it is a much different Floyd than that which they would evolve into once Syd was out and Gilmour was in. The "Floyd as backing band" makes much more sense to me.

I used all mono sources and included the Arnold Layne single and B side as bonus tracks. There are a couple of songs here where Syd is not the lead singer or he is the co-lead singer (Matilda Mother, Scream Thy Last Scream). I kept those anyway because he wrote them. Let's just say he is using artistic expression by having someone else sing to achieve a different sound than what he would have done or think of it as giving his backing band a chance to shine a bit.

For the cover I took a black and white photo of Syd and added liquid projection art over the top and added the text. I kept the original title. Most debut albums are self titled but Syd must have been attached to that phrase to name the album that. The title comes from chapter seven of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - 4 Way Street 1971

I've been using this down time to work on other projects around the house and in the studio so I haven't had much time to give to this blog. A while back AEC over at Albums Back from the Dead posted a CSNY album that imagined what a follow up to DeJa Vu might have sounded like using tracks from the solo albums released at the time. I chimed in with my take but had no plans of posting it here but with the lack of projects in my vault and to keep you guys busy while in quarantine and because it turned out so nice, I thought, why not?

After the release of Deja Vu in 1970 Crosby, Stills Nash and Young went on tour. Some of the shows were recorded and in April, 1971 they released a live album titled 4 Way Street. After the tour the band fell apart and all members commenced recording solo records. Those albums were released between September 1970 and May 1971.

In spite of the supposed bad blood that broke the band apart there was still some interplay between the members. Stephen provided some vocals on Neil's album. Neil played on David's and Graham's and Crosby-Nash laid down backing vocals on Stephen's and each others albums. So what if they came together and recorded another CSNY album proper? Enjoy.

Tracklist

Side 1
01 Love the One You're With
02 Better Days
03 Laughing
04 After The Goldrush
05 We Are Not Helpless

Side 2

01 Music is Love
02 Do for the Others
03 Military Madness
04 Southern Man

Side 3
01 Chicago (We Can Change The World)
02 Sit Yourself Down
03 Don't Let It Bring You Down
04 Traction in the Rain
05 Simple Man
06 Orleans

Side 4
01 Only Love Can Break Your Heart
02 Church (Part of Someone)
03 I Used to Be a King
04 Cowboy Movie

Running time: 79:44

Reality Notes

In the comments of AEC's post, myself and The_Reconstructor chimed in with our opinions. I took clues from each of them and ran with it. I loosened my criteria a bit and used the previous album for precedence. With a few exceptions, that album was largely recorded separately, coming together mostly to do harmonies.

While songs that included two or more members were given priority, some of David's tracks were cut due to not actually having lyrics. Lots of vocals but the voices were used as instruments rather than tell a story. We still have an example of that style here in the track Orleans but at least he's singing words even if they are in another language. I used the tracklist from the live album for more clues, any song on there that had not appeared on a previous album was in the running. I also chose to allow solo acoustic numbers. Stephen setting the precedent with 4+20 on Deja Vu.

I ended up with 19 songs that fit on a single CD. On vinyl that would make a double album. I sequenced the tracks to split nicely onto four sides but also flow between them. Everyone gets at least one song per side and never two in a row.

I used the tracks as they are with the exception of three. Two Neil songs come from the 4 Way Street live album. I removed the audience before and after each of those as well as Neil's rap before Don't Let It Bring You Down. The live version of Southern Man was an obvious choice over the studio version. Not only is it the only track here to feature all four members, it's a full eight minutes longer with some great guitar interplay between Stephen and Neil making it a perfect side closer.

The last edit I made was to join Graham's Chicago with the reprise We Can Change The World to create a single track. I did this by ducking the opening chatter of the reprise under the last chords of Chicago to form a natural transition between them. Turned out nice.

The results fit in nicely within the overall discography and replaces the live album. Each member was prolific enough that the solo albums could still happen. Though arguably we took the cream of the crop from each. Originally I had sides one and two flipped. I thought that it would be clever to have each member open a side in the order of their names but the flow didn't feel right and Love The One You're With is an obvious album opener.

For the cover, I simplified the original.

Sources

David Crosby - If Only I Could Remember My Name
Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills
Graham Nash - Songs For Beginers
Neil Young - After The Gold Rush
CSN&Y - 4 Way Street

Friday, April 17, 2020

John Prine - 1970

In these strange times stuck at home I have been trying to spend as little time on the computer as possible. I am able to work from home so I feel fortunate in that but I have to use the computer to work so I check a few things in the morning with my tea and breakfast then not much else outside work. I haven't been out in days and my band hasn't rehearsed in weeks but I have been working on a new solo album, writing and recording in my basement studio. When it's done I'll share it with you guys.

This past week we lost a music icon to this crazy virus we are fighting. John had survived two bouts of cancer one heart surgery and numerous other health issues before being taken from us. He was 78. I'm sad but I'm sure he and Steve Goodman are looking down on us laughing and having a great time drinking, smoking and trading songs.

I've been a fan of John Prine for a long, long time and he was a big influence on me and my band mate Kenny. We play several of his songs and recorded a couple under our cover band moniker Mighty Man. I was very sad to hear of his passing. John had one of those quirky sense of humors, sometimes dark and slightly tongue in cheek but always in the spirit of fun. He wrote amazing songs and could spin a yarn with the best of them. Many of my favorite lyrics are John Prine lyrics. 
Sally used to play with her hula hoops
Now she tells her problems to therapy groups
Grandpa's on the front lawn starin' at a rake
Wonderin' if his marriage was a terrible mistake
I'm sitting on the front steps drinking Orange Crush
Wonderin' if it's possible for me to still blush
(The Sins Of Memphisto)
To celebrate his life I present this bootleg of John recorded sometime before the release of his first album. According to the notes that accompany this collection this is the oldest known recordings of John though I have another bootleg that according to the label predates this by a few months. This is a compilation of what sounds like a demo tape and a live set.
Tracks

01 Hello In There
02 Souvenirs
03 Sam Stone
04 Paradise
05 Blue Umbrella
06 My Woman
07 Illegal Smile
08 Flashback Blues
09 The Frying Pan
10 Sour Grapes
11 A Star, A Jewel And A Hoax (unreleased)
12 Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore
13 The Great Compromise
14 Angel From Montgomery
15 A Good Time
16 Hey, Good Lookin' > Jambalaya
17 Quiet Man
18 Spanish Pipedream

Reality Notes

Not much more I can say about this. Quality is great for the studio portion (tracks 1-11) and lessens only slightly for the live part (tracks 12-18). The live portion was an FM broadcast but this does sound a generation or two down the line. There are a few flaws during the live portion as well but they're minor. The concert is supposedly from The 5th Peg in Chicago in August of 1970. If anyone has any further info about this they can add or correct please do. I did not try to fix anything wishing to preserve this as it is for posterity. I did tidy up the fronts and backs of the tracks as this sounded like a needle drop vinyl rip. I could hear turntable rumble during the quiet parts between songs. Beyond that this is how I found it. Enjoy.

The cover was embedded in the original files so I decided to keep it rather than make my own. I aslo included the sparse text file of notes that came with the original archive.

Thank you John for all the smiles you gave me through the years.
And then I’m gonna get a cocktail, vodka and ginger ale,
Yeah, I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long,
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the Tilt-A-Whirl,
‘cause this old man is goin’ to town
(When I Get To Heaven)

Friday, March 13, 2020

SUPERCOMET - Final Approach

Over the years I have had the pleasure of knowing and sometimes working with some amazing musicians. Benjamin Kammin featured in the last post is one of those. Here is another.

Supercomet is Eric Olson. Better known as the guitarist in the blues band The Spectaculars. This is a side project he recorded in the early 2000s. It is more in the style of Pink Floyd with a touch of Black Crowes with solid songwriting and introspective lyrics. There is some amazing production here for being a home recorded project. Eric is one of those natural musicians with an ear for just the right sounds and the ability to achieve them with seemingly minimal effort.

I purchased my first mixing board from Eric when he upgraded his recording equipment before recording this album.

Tracklist

01 Days
02 Ascension
03 Laurie
04 Shades of Grey
05 Nuts
06 ECG Day
07 Words
08 Malaise
09 We Know
10 Power (Bonus Track)

Reality Notes

Eric comes from a musical family. Growing up in northern Wisconsin his father (my wife's uncle) grew tired of playing in regional country bands and taught his kids how to play so that he could play the music he liked. Eric took up the the guitar and his brother Mike the drums. Both are impressive multi-instrumentalists as well. I assume that is Mike on the drums here but both have the ability to switch roles with ease so without a "who did what" list I can't be sure. For all I know Eric might be playing everything.

I never had a physical copy of this album so I had to grab the songs from his ReverbNation page. I had to do some minor editing to smooth out some of the track transitions but other than that, this is how I found them.

The last track is an alternate version of a song from the recent album by the latest incarnation of their blues band The Spectaculars. I've always liked this song and I have a couple different versions but this one is my favorite. There have been a few different line-ups of the band over the years but the core has always been the father and sons trio. The current version is the first to have an album released and available for purchase (Let's Hear Us, Now!). Find it if you can. I have a live tape that I ripped from a video I took of a previous line-up. I posted that on my Sybil Records blog a long time ago and just updated the download links there.

In their early days they had a side band with an augmented line-up called Think Floyd. A Pink Floyd tribute band that did shows around the northern Wisconsin circuit. The first time I saw them perform was at a music festival as Think Floyd followed by a club show as The Spectaculars in my hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin. A great day and one of the first "dates" with my future wife.

The original cover was a non-text version of the cover used here. I added the band name and title.

ReverbNation

The Spectaculars
ReverbNation
Facebook
YouTube
Apple Music

Friday, March 6, 2020

Ben Kammin - seventunes&threesongs (2001)


[This is a slightly edited repost of a post from my original Sybil Records blog. The links there were down and I have not posted anything there in quite some time. I've been wanting to reshare this album for a while now so a recent message from a reader asking if the album is still available was the nudge I needed to finally put it back up. I have updated all the links there if you want to check it out. It's a bit messy but I hope to clean it up soon.]

I've been wanting to post this album for a long while but because I had nothing to do with this project I needed to get the OK from the artist. Ben Kammin is a fingerstyle guitarist in the style of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke. I first ran into Ben many years ago when he was playing at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. I ran into him a few more times before striking up a conversation with him. There was a lot of common ground between us as musical influences go and I really wanted to work with him in some way. It took a few years but I finally got him into my basement studio to do some demos. These are not them but you can find those here.

Tracklist

01 Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring -J.S. Bach (Arr. David Qualey)
02 Amazing Grace -Traditional (Arr. Randy Scruggs)
03 Solitude -Ben Kammin (Chorus By William Blake)
04 The Happy Couple -Michael Hedges
05 Too Much Saturn -Francis Dunnery (Arr. Ben Kammin)
06 Dreamsketcher -Billy Mclaughlin
07 Ojo -Leo Kottke
08 Let Them In -Anonymous (Melody based On an arr. By David Wilcox)
09 Song For Robbie -Peppino D'agostino
10 First To Go -Leo Kottke

Reality Notes

What we have here is Ben's first CD. Recorded and released in 2001 it predates our demo sessions. This CD is sold out and long out of print with no plans at this time to reissue. I wanted to share this for many reasons but mainly to give more people access to this album. More often than not I have had to listen to Ben tell inquiring fans about the unavailability of this CD. So with Ben's approval I am putting this up here for all to download and enjoy.

If I could have one complaint about this album it's that Ben does not sing enough. As a guitar player first I'm sure that's where he wanted the focus to be but he has such a nice voice as well.

For more information about Ben go to his website. He doesn't perform very often these days but he is far from inactive.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Bing Crosby - Dancing and Reminiscing

And then there is Bing. Like The Osmonds, I've been a fan of Bing from an early age. I remember sitting in front of the TV in the days before cable watching the Hope-Crosby Road pictures. I also remember at that young age walking home from school through the open field behind our house during a snow shower trying to sing like Bing.

My Grandmother gave me this album on cassette when I was in my early 20s and I played it a lot. This is not the old time radio Bing. This is the late 50s Dixieland/big band jazz Bing with his voice in top form and his delivery relaxed and his sense of humor in full view. Gal pal Rosemary Clooney is featured on three songs.

I eventually combined this tape with a few other tapes by Bing that I had with every song on this tape and my faves from the others mixed in. I gave this tape to a friend and never saw it again but I still had the songs so I wasn't disappointed by it. When recordable CDs appeared I longed to recreate this tape but my friend lost the original in a house move so I didn't have the tracklist. Once I was on the internet I tried for a long time to find info on this album and I finally found what I was looking for. I had the albums these songs are from so now I could finally hear this in its original form. Comfort food for the soul.

Side One

01 Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella
02 I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
03 I Can't Get Started*
04 Exactly Like You
05 Down Among the Sheltering Palms
06 You Came A Long Way From St Louis*

Side Two

01 Some Sunny Day
02 Whispering
03 Brazil*
04 Mack the Knife
05 Dream a Little Dream of Me
06 Last Night on the Backporch

* with Rosemary Clooney

Reality Notes

I had been searching and searching for info on this album for as long as I have had access to the internet and it had eluded my google-fu for all that time. A few weeks ago I had a realization as to its source and within a few clicks, there it was. I had assumed that it was a Time-Life release so that is where I concentrated my efforts. I had forgotten the name of the album so I couldn't search by that. I had a memory flashback when I recalled that My grandparents were subscribers to Reader's Digest and sure enough I found it among those.

This is a compilation of two albums that were released close together in the late 50s, namely Bing With A Beat (1957) and Fancy Meeting You Here (1958) which was a duet album with Rosemary Clooney. The bulk of the songs came from the former with three songs from the latter. The two albums have a similar production style so the songs blend well with each other. Both albums are great on their own but if you're unfamiliar with the original Croz and are looking for a place to start, this gets my highest recommendation.

Not many people are aware of Bing's contributions to the recording industry. Like George Martin and The Beatles that followed, Bing was at the forefront of pushing recording technology forward. He was there in the early days releasing his first album with Paul Whiteman and his orchestra in 1927. His first record under his name was released in 1937 which was a compilation of previously released singles. In 1940 he released his first album of all new material. His last album was released in 1977 shortly after his passing. Between 1937 and 1966 he released at least one album per year, usually three or more, and only missed releasing product in the years '67, '69, '73 and '74. He was a busy man. Between albums he made movies, did radio shows and TV specials.

Der Bingle passed in 1977 right around the same time we lost Elvis and Marc Bolan.

The cover is the original cover. I could have made a new one but it would have turned out much the same.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Osmonds - The No Schmaltz Box 1970 - 1974

I'm going out on a limb and exposing myself a bit here. The Osmonds are one of my super secret guilty pleasures. I first heard them when I was 9 years old listening to the Phase III album when it came out so keep that in mind. Because of my age I was the target demographic for the light and poppy bubble gum hits which I carried in my memories into adulthood.

But there was so much more to the boys than top 40 AM radio hits. They covered a lot of ground from their earliest days singing barbershop quartet songs on the Andy Williams show. They also did country, R&B, pop, adult contemporary, religious themes, Broadway and disco over the course of their long career. But deep down the boys wanted to rock.

Most of the lighter fare was under the orders of Papa Osmond who guided their early output. I've never been a fan heavily orchestrated middle of the road type stuff. Like Paul McCartney's response to George Martin when he first suggested string arrangements for Yesterday, I want "none of that Mantovani rubbish". So what I've done here is make a three disc box set of just the good stuff, no schmaltz (well, some on disc three but only if the song is worth it), no sister Marie and no little Jimmy. One disc on the side of Rock and Roll, One of the more R&B/soulful grooves and one of the best of the Top 40 teeny bopper hits. Of course there is some stylistic cross pollination between the sets.

Disc one - Ballin' the Jack

01 Hold Her Tight [Crazy Horses]
02 My Drum [Phase III]
03 Having A Party [Love Me For A Reason]
04 Down By The Lazy River [Phase III]
05 Life is Hard Enough Without Goodbyes [Crazy Horses]
06 Business [Phase III]
07 Utah [Crazy Horses]
08 Traffic In My Mind [The Plan]
09 Ballin' The Jack [Love Me For A Reason]
10 One Way Ticket To Anywhere [The Plan]
11 Hey,Mr Taxi [Crazy Horses]
12 Sun, Sun, Sun [Love Me For A Reason]
13 The Girl I Love [Love Me For A Reason]
14 The Last Days [The Plan]
15 Crazy Horses [Crazy Horses]

Disc Two - Don't Panic

01 Goin' Home [The Plan]
02 Mirror, Mirror [The Plan]
03 Lonesome They Call Me, Lonesome I Am [Osmonds]04 A Taste Of Rhythm And Blues [Phase III]
05 Movie Man [The Plan]
06 Send A Little Love [Love Me For A Reason]
07 We All Fall Down [Crazy Horses]
08 Gabrielle [Love Me For A Reason]
09 Find 'Em, Fool 'Em And Forget _Em [Osmonds]
10 I Can't Get Next To You [Love Me For A Reason]
11 Motown Special [Osmonds]
12 It's Alright [The Plan]
13 Flirtin' [Osmonds]
14 Fever [Love Me For A Reason]
15 Don't Panic [Phase III]

Disc Three - Sweet and Innocent

01 One Bad Apple [Osmonds]
02 Puppy Love [Portrait of Donny]*
03 The Proud One [Non-LP Single]
04 Yo-Yo [Phase III]
05 Sweet And Innocent [The Donny Osmond Album]*
06 Double Lovin' [Homemade]
07 He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother [Osmonds]
08 Go Away Little Girl [To You with Love, Donny]*
09 The Twelfth Of Never [Alone Together]*
10 Girl [Crazy Horses]
11 Hey Girl [Portrait of Donny]*
12 And You Love Me [Crazy Horses]
13 Lonely Boy [Too Young]*
14 Chilly Winds[Homemade]
15 In The Rest Of My Life [Phase III]
16 Are You Lonesome Tonight [A Time For Us]*


Reality Notes

You can say what you want about the Jacksons vs the Osmonds but when it comes to their peak periods in the early 70s, I love them both. I'll give the Jacksons the edge on footwork and songs (when you have the Motown machine behind you how can you not have the songs) but damn these boys can sing. Impeccable harmonies throughout. And it certainly doesn't hurt that they utilized some of the best studio musicians in the biz for the bulk of their backing tracks. There is some top notch playing going on. Both camps were fine musicians on their own and could play with the best of them. I didn't find enough info to assess the ratio of outsourced songs to those written by the Jacksons but the Osmonds did write a large portion of their songs from at least Phase III onward. I guess the biggest difference between the two is you don't have to hide your love of the Jackson 5. The Osmonds will always be a guilty pleasure unless you were a 11 to 15 year old girl at the time.

Not much more I can say about this. Just make sure you close the drapes and use headphones if you feel the need to dance and keep it private. I made a separate cover for each disc that kind of reflects their contents. You can delete the third disc if the teen idol pop stuff isn't to your liking but the other two are required listening. All the songs on the first two discs come from their first six Osmond albums. The songs on the third disc marked with * are Donny Osmond solo singles.