Tuesday, 12 June 2018

"The Atco Albums Collection" by DR. JOHN [THE NIGHT TRIPPER] (September 2017 Rhino/Atco 7CD Box of Remasters in Mini LP Card Sleeves) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970... - Exceptional CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)

"...Gilded Splinters..."

Featuring the album "Remedies" from 1970

The Night Tripper's catalogue used to come and go when I worked in Reckless Records (Islington and Berwick Street) with alarming regularity. Dr. John was and is an acquired taste. Of the seven albums presented here - only four charted Stateside and three of those were just inside the Top 200 ("In The Right Place" finally broke him out into the mainstream in 1973 and made No. 24). The original British issues on Atco and Atlantic plum labels/orange and tan K labels were the same (all non-charters) and are consequently quite rare in good condition in 2018.

In fact many of us 'rock geezers' were introduced to the colourful Malcolm Rebennack from New Orleans via our 99p purchase of Atlantic Super 2464 013 – "The Age Of Atlantic" label sampler LP put out in October 1970 that had "Wash, Mama, Wash" from his 3rd album "Remedies". And of course we were aware of the mighty "I Walk On Gilded Splinters" - a song like Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright" or Ron Davies "It Ain't Easy" that lent itself to cover versions - huge numbers of Rock bands digging its spooky sway. Humble Pie give it an entire side on their fantastic live double album "Performance..." in 1972 and Paul Weller laid into it big time for his equally brill 1995 set "Stanley Road". Dr. John has always 'been there' so to speak...

But here at last is a decent splurge worth getting your teeth into. You get his first seven albums from 1968 to 1974 newly remastered for this 2017 set and given those natty Mini LP Repro Card Sleeves (Disc 1, 3 and 4 are credited to Dr. John The Night Tripper whilst the others are simply Dr. John). The good news is that "Babylon", "The Sun Moon & Herbs", "Dr. John's Gumbo" and "In The Right Place" all get their gatefold sleeves repro'd ("In The Right Place" gets that elaborate tri-gatefold) and the CDs reflect the original label colouring - Pink and Mustard for "Gris-Gris" and mostly the yellow Atco variant thereafter. The bad news is that there's no booklet to back up the music's historical place and influence or even give you musician credits and advise of the guests involved (I've provided those credits below where available). Shame that - but at least the cool-looking clamshell box is reasonably priced (roughly 3.50 per CD) and the new Stereo Remasters 'rock' right across the seven-album board. Let's get into the Gris-Gris and the Gumbo Ya Ya...

UK released 15 September 2017 (22 September 2017 in the USA) - "The Atco Albums Collection" by DR. JOHN on Rhino/Atco 081227933876 (Barcode 081227933876) is a 7CD Clamshell Box Set of New Remasters that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Gris-Gris" (33:27 minutes):
1. Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya [Side 1]
2. Danse Kalinda Ba Doom
3. Mama Roux
4. Danse Fambeaux
5. Croker Courtbullion [Side 2]
6. Jump Sturdy
7. I Walk On Gilded Splinters
Tracks 1 to 7 are his debut album "Gris-Gris" (credited to Dr. John The Night Tripper) - released January 1968 in the USA on Atco SD 33-234 (Stereo) and in the UK on Atco 588 147 (reissued June 1972 on Atlantic K 40168). Musicians included Steve Mann on Guitar, Plas Johnson on Saxophone, Lonnie Boulden on Flute, Ernest McLean on Mandolin, Bob West and Harold Battiste on Bass and John Boudreaux on Drums

Disc 2 "Babylon" (37:19 minutes):
1. Babylon [Side 1]
2. Glowin'
3. Black Widow Spider
4. Barefoot Lady
5. Twilight Zone [Side 2]
6. The Patriotic Flag-Waiver
7. The Lonesome Guitar Strangler
Tracks 1 to 7 are his second studio album "Babylon" (credited to Dr. John) - released January 1969 in the USA on Atco SD 33-270 (Stereo) and April 1969 in the UK on Atco 228 018 (Stereo).

Disc 3 "Remedies" (40:44 minutes):
1. Loop Garoo [Side 1]
2. What Goes Around Comes Around
3. Wash, Mama, Wash
4. Chippy, Chippy
5. Mardi Gras Day
6. Angola Anthem [Side 2]
Tracks 1 to 6 are his third studio album "Remedies" (credited to Dr. John The Night Tripper) - released April 1970 in the USA on Atco SD 33-316 (Stereo) and August 1970 in the UK on Atco 2400 015.

Disc 4 "The Sun Moon & Herbs" (39:25 minutes):
1. Black John The Conqueror [Side 1]
2. Where Ya At Mule
3. Craney Crow
4. Familiar Reality-Opening [Side 2]
5. Pots On Fiyo (Filé Gumbo) / Who I Got To Fall On (If The Pot Get Heavy)
6. Zu Zu Mamou
7. Familiar Reality-Reprise
Tracks 1 to 7 are his fourth studio album "The Sun Moon & Herbs" (credited to Dr. John The Night Tripper) - released August 1971 in the USA on Atco SD 33-362 (Stereo) and November 1971 in the UK on Atco 2400 161. Guest Musicians included - Graham Bond, Chris Mercer, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and The Memphis Horns on various Horns, Steve York of The Graham Bond Organization on Bass, Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels of Stephen Stills' Manassas on Congas and Bobby Whitlock (of Derek & The Dominoes) with Doris Troy on Backing Vocals. Charted October 1971 and eventually peaked at No 184 on the US LP charts.

Disc 5 "Dr. John's Gumbo" (39:50 minutes):
1. Iko Iko [Side 1]
2. Blow Wind Blow
3. Big Chief
4. Somebody Changed The Lock
5. Mess Around
6. Let The Good Times Roll
7. Junko Partner [Side 2]
8. Stack-A-Lee
9. Tipitina
10. Those Lonely Lonely Nights
11. Huey Smith Medley: (a) High Blood Pressure (b) Don't You Just Know It (c) Well I'll Be John Brown
12. Little Liza Jane
Tracks 1 to 12 are his fifth studio album "Dr. John's Gumbo" [aka "Gumbo"] - a collection of cover versions (as Dr. John) released April 1972 in the USA on Atco SD 7006 and July 1972 in the UK on Atlantic K 40384. It peaked at No. 112 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).

Disc 6 "In The Right Place" (33:43 minutes):
1. Right Place Wrong Time [Side 1]
2. Same Old Same Old
3. Just The Same
4. Qualified
5. Traveling Mood
6. Peace Brother Peace
7. Life [Side 2]
8. Such A Night
9. Shoo Fly Marches On
10. I Been Hoodooed
11. Cold Cold Cold
Tracks 1 to 11 are his sixth studio album "In The Right Place" (as Dr. John) - released February 1973 in the USA on Atco SD 7018 and March 1973 in the UK on Atco K 50017. With Allen Toussaint, The Meters and Art Neville of The Neville Brothers as guest musicians (Toussaint also Produced) - the album peaked at No. 24 in the USA LP charts.

Disc 7 "Desitively Bonaroo" (37:15 minutes):
1. Quitters Never Win [Side 1]
2. Stealin'
3. What Comes Around (Goes Around)
4. Me - You = Loneliness
5. Mo's Scoious
6. (Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away
7. Let's Make A Better World [Side 2]
8. R U 4 Real
9. Sing Along Song
10. Can't Git Enuff
11. Go Tell The People
12. Desitively Bonaroo
Tracks 1 to 12 are his seventh studio album "Desitively Bonaroo" (as Dr. John) - released April 1974 in the USA on Atco SD 7043 and March 1974 in the UK on Atlantic K 50035. Produced by and featuring Allen Toussaint (also wrote "Go Tell The People") - The Meters were once again the Backing Band and the LP peaked at No. 105 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).

I've always had a hard time with the "Gris-Gris" debut album - a lot of mumbo to me at the time and unfortunately large parts of it still feel that way. But what hammers you here is the New Remaster - it elevates everything. The Harold Battiste part-instrumental "Crocker Courtbullion" for instance that opens Side 2 is suddenly 'huge' - all that mad conga-and-flute voodoo rhythm swirling around your speakers like you're inside a bird menagerie where someone has handed out tablets to the canaries and birds of prey. Having lived with old variants of "Jump Sturdy" - this 2017 version feels alive like it never did before and the stunning "I Walk On Gilded Splinters" is fantastic in all its 7:40 minute magnificence. All those finger-clicks, conga slaps, plaintive flutes and girly chants jump out of your speakers with gutter 'malice'. Fabulous stuff...

Apart from "Barefoot Lady" which was a co-write with Producer Harold Battiste - Dr. John fully-penned the 2nd album "Babylon" and again the 2017 Remaster really has lifted the LP up into another league. The 'represented in the Bible' "Babylon" roars into existence as does the 'yes it is' of "Glowin'" - guitars and horns so clear. Dr. John gets heavy on "Black Widow Spider" - his fuzzed-up guitars and odd rhythms sounding not unlike Captain Beefheart. Other highlights include the acoustic guitars of "Barefoot Lady" - pianos and cymbals tingling in the eight-minute "Twilight Zone" and the almost Allman Brothers gee-tar of the album finisher "The Lonesome Guitar Strangler" - a strange hybrid tune of strummed mandolins, Jazz rhythms and an instrumental guitar-break that features a few moments of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love".

Although it was probably his most commercially accessible album – 1970's "Remedies" was more of a New Orleans homage than the full on invention of Swamp-Rock, Bayou-Funk and Psych-Fusion that came from the earlier outings. "Chippy, Chippy" sounds like its title - a piano upbeat bopper - but like "What Goes Around Comes Around" already feels slightly old-hat somehow. Side 2 of the record is taken up by 17:35 minutes of the driving "Angola Anthem" - a track that acts like Side 1 never happened. Politics, anger, racing 'shoot you just for fun' rhythms suddenly make the album feel righteous and real (and the Remaster is fantastic too – drums, tambourines, voices, guitar flicks). By the time we get to LP number four in 1971 The Night Tripper seemed to have reclaimed some of his Gris-Gris mojo. Cool tunes like the sexy yet bullish "Where Ya At Mule" and the Sgt. Pepper sleaze-rhythm of "Craney Crow" (harking back to "I Walk On Gilded Splinters") showed he could still hit you with that crazy groove that’s hard to explain. All those famous session names too (many British) add to the two parts of "Familiar Reality" - but my rave-crave is the nuts Tuba shuffle of "Zu Zu Mamou" sounding fantastic when those acoustic guitars slink in. The girls singing of somebody ripping out your mind – he whispers of street lights – she burns candles – snake eggs - time to visit the doctor methinks. "The Sun Moon & Herbs" album should have done better than its lowly No. 184 showing on the American LP charts.

His cover versions album "Dr. John's Gumbo" has always been seen as a filler - a strangely odd thing in the spring of 1972. But amidst the obvious Professor Longhair and Ray Charles tracks ("Tipitina" and "Mess Around") - there are more obscure goodies - stuff like his own 1960 song "Somebody Changed The Lock" and James Wayne's "Junko Partner" which The Clash would revisit on the 1980 triple-album "Sandinista!" And the four Huey "Piano" Smith covers (three in a medley plus the album’s final song "Little Liza Jane") are great fun to my ears.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer fans (of all people) owe the album name to their heroes' fifth LP "Brain Salad Surgery" to lyrics Keith Emerson heard in the opening track "Right Place Wrong Time". Perhaps more importantly the presence of The Meters as the Doctor's rhythm section along with major contributions from song-masters Allen Toussaint and Art Neville of The Neville Brothers seemed to bring out both the Funk and Soul in the Mac. There's a lovely overall feel to everything on the LP "In The Right Place" (one of my faves). Even better is the 2017 Remaster - which is just gorgeous and suddenly full of beans. Take the piano and brass intro to the champagne and soda pop equality song - "Qualified" - a co-write with Jesse Hill, an old friend of Professor Longhair and Huey Smith and the writer of the New Orleans R&B classic "Ooh Poo Pah Doo". It feels huge as the girls sing the song title with passion – his whistling intro to "Traveling Mood" is the same. The album gets Aretha Funky and 1973 Righteous with "Peace Brother Peace" - a call to peaceful arms all over this world. Allen Toussaint's distinctive vocals can be heard in his lone song contribution to the album - the father-father look what they done "Life" - a cool groover. "Shoo Fly Marches On" is another hot-in-the-slot shuffler with the single "Cold Cold Cold" ending the album on a mid-paced high (I thought I was your something special, he bemoans).

For album number seven – the wittily titled "Desitively Bonaroo" – Dr. John used the same ace team in 1974 as he had in 1973 – The Meters, Art Neville and Allen Toussaint – and threw out another Soul-Funky doozy. Highlights include the right-on, right-on "(Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away" and the every body sing "Let’s Make A Better World". Funk lovers will dig the slow and sexy groove of (the pre Prince song-title) "R U 4 Real" and the drop-down cool bass-line of "What Comes Around (Goes Around)" with its lovely brass fills. A rare moment of pain comes in the slow drag of "Me – You = Loneliness" where Mac recalls places he can’t go anymore – I’d suggest this album isn’t one of them. For me after the scrappiness of the first few albums - "Desitively Bonaroo" ends the box set on a high.

Yet despite the pretty repro artwork, the perceived cool of the man and the truly excellent upgraded audio on titles that have too long languished in the reissue nether world – I've never thought Dr. John's actual music catalogue on Atco a long litany of masterpieces that some claim it is (hence the four stars).

But make no splintered mistake - this is a fantastic and reasonably priced 'dip in and enjoy' Box Set - and The Night Tripper deserves no less.

"I Been Hoodooed" baby – and frankly "Mama Roux" - I like it...

Monday, 16 April 2018

"Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970" by WYNDER K. FROG (February 2018 RPM Records 3CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970... - Exceptional CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)

"...Dancing Frog..."

Including the album "Into The Fire" from 1970

Lincolnshire lad Michael Weaver hailed out of Bolton and his weirdly named band WYNDER K. FROG (with one 'g' mind you and never two) had a couple of albums of instrumental keyboard-driven groovers in 1966 and 1968 on Island Records in the UK and one belatedly on United Artists in the USA in 1970.

They also managed some straggler tracks in movies, stand-alone singles beloved of Mods and Club-Going Dancers alike and an ultra-rare unreleased second album (recorded 1968) that makes its way into the public domain for the first time ever via a Dub from a surviving-acetate (tracks 9 to 17 on Disc 3). For fans of his groovy 60ts Hammond-Organ sound (the lad is still with us and provides new liner notes for this release) - "Shook, Shimmy And Shake..." from RPM Records has gathered together the whole caboodle and presented the shimmering lot to us in this rather spiffing little 3CD Box Set.

At times sounding not unlike a glorified Booker T & The MG's covers band from South Ealing giving it some sugar-shaker on a Woolworths LP sporting a scantily-clad nubile to pull in male shoppers on a Saturday afternoon - it’s not all undiluted hippy-hippy-shake genius for sure. But the good stuff is great fun, Island Records 7" singles fans will love those catalogue-hole-filling tracks (great talcum powder shuffling B-sides like "Zooming", "Dancing Frog", "Shook, Shimmy And Shake" and "Baldy") and you have to say that the overall presentation here is top notch (as it is with all RPM stuff). And who doesn't love a cool Hammond Organ groove-tastic neck-jerker. Out of the fire and into the frying pan – time to Boogaloo folks and do the Harpsichord Shuffle...

UK released Friday, 23 February 2018 (2 March 2018 in the USA) - "Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970" by WYNDER K. FROG on RPM Records RPMBX 540 (Barcode 5013929554009) is a 3CD Box Set containing three period albums (1966, 1968 and 1970) along with other Bonus Material and plays out as follows: 

Disc 1 "Sunshine Super Frog" (46:50 minutes):
1. Sunshine Superman [Side 1]
2. I Feel So Bad
3. Oh Mary
4. Blues For A Frog
5. Somebody Help Me
6. Mercy
7. Hold On, I'm Coming [Side 2]
8. Shook, Shimmy And Shake
9. Incense
10. Walking Into New Orleans
11. (Don't Fight It) Feel It
12. Dancin' Pain (alias Dancing Frog)
Tracks 1 to 12 are the debut album "Sunshine Super Frog" - released December 1966 in the UK on Island Records ILP-944 in Mono only (no US release).

13. Turn On Your Lovelight
14. Zooming - Tracks 13 and 14 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released July 1966 on Island WI-280
15. Green Door (Mono Version) - non-album A-side of a UK 7" single released February 1967 on Island WIP 6006 (Track 12 on the LP is the B-side)
16. I'm A Man - non-album A-side of a UK 7" single released June 1967 on Island WIP 6014 (Track 8 on the LP is the B-side)
17. Henry's Panter - originally released 1966 on a UK 7" Flexidisc on Lyntone LYN 1109 (credited to Wynder K. Frogg (And Henry) and has an Ed Stewart ‘Dog’s Life’ spoken intro)
18. Wade In The Water (BBC Radio Version) - originally broadcast 15 October 1966 on the BBC's "Saturday Club"

Disc 2 "Out Of The Frying Pan" (56:19 minutes):
1. Jumping Jack Flash [Side 1]
2. Gasoline Alley
3. Willie And The Hand Jive
4. Harpsichord Shuffle
5. Baby I Love You
6. This Here
7. Green Door [Side 2]
8. Bad Eye
9. Alexander's Ragtime Band
10. Tequila
11. The House That Jack Built
12. Hymn To Freedom
13. Hi-Heel Sneakers
Tracks 1 to 13 are their second studio album "Out Of The Frying Pan" - released December 1968 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9082 in Stereo and April 1969 in the USA on United Artists UAS 6695.

14. Jumping Jack Flash (Mono Version)
15. Baldy - Tracks 14 and 15 are the non-album A&B-sides of an August 1968 UK 7" single released on Island WIP-6044
16. Dancing Frog (Stereo Version)
17. Blues For A Frog (Stereo Version) - Tracks 16 and 17 remixed from Mono into Stereo and released February 1969 on the UK Soundtrack LP to "The Touchables" on Stateside SSL 10271 (Stereo only)

Disc 3 "Into The Fire" (70:37 minutes):
1. Into The Fire [Side 1]
2. Howl In Wolf's Clothing
3. F In Blues
4. Cool Hand Stanley
5. Eddie's Tune
6. Why Am I Treated So Bad
7. Hot Salt Beef
8. Warm And Tender Love  
Tracks 1 to 8 are their third and last album "Into The Fire" - released April 1970 in the USA on United Artists UAS 6740 in Stereo. The album was to be called "Accrington Mushroom" and due for UK release November 1969 on Island ILP 9109 but was withdrawn (no test pressings have ever surfaced).

9. Happy Jack
10. We Can Work It Out
11. Funky Broadway
12. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
13. A Memory Of Bruce
14. The House That Jack Built
15. I'll Go Crazy
16. Tequila
17. Baldy
Tracks 9 to 17 are PREVIOUSLY UNISSUED - an unreleased second album recorded in 1968 and dubbed here from surviving acetate

To my knowledge and outside of a long deleted CD reissue by Edsel in 1995 for the second LP "Out Of The Frying Pan" – none of these Frog albums have made it officially onto CD before - so well done to compiler and true son of the Modfather JOHN REED for his bang up job at compiling what fans have been after for decades. Each singular card sleeve repro’s the three rare album covers and a tasty attention to detail had CD1 with the Red and White colour scheme of the Island Records label from late 1966, CD2 is the Pink variant of 1968 and the third has the United Artists Orange and Pink colours of 1970.

The 28-page chunky booklet has wonderfully detailed liner notes courtesy of NICK ROSSI that include valuable and first hand accounts by MICK WEAVER in new interviews. These are complimented by the usual plethora of trade adverts, that rare promo-photo of the six-piece band where Island misspell the name with two ‘g’s’ instead of one, repros of the those fab UK Island 7” singles, a Belgium single on Philips and a cool French EP sleeve where Weaver is flogged as a teen-idol singing Donavan’s "Sunshine Superman" alongside three other hits from the first album. The band also featured on two desirable Island Records label sampler LPs – "Green Door" on the 1967 compilation "British Blue-Eyed Soul" (ILPS 9066) and "Gasoline Alley" on the wonderful "You Can All Join In" from 1969 (IWPS 2 was yours for only 14/6d) – so they're both pictured. Traffic fans will love the Jimi Hendrix London Tour Date Poster on Page 23 where on the 18th of February 1969 you can see The Soft Machine and 'Mason, Capaldi, Wood & Frog' supporting the great man at The Royal Albert Hall (2/6d for a ticket!). This ill-fated four-piece moniker for Traffic (featuring Mick Weaver as the Frog and once muted to called Wooden Frog) didn't last of course past this public appearance. There are also photos of "The Touchables" soundtrack on Stateside and a US 45 promo on UA of WKF doing the Stones hit "Jumpin' Jack Flash". It is indeed a gas, gas, gas...

The Audio comes courtesy of SIMON MURPHY over at Another Planet and these notoriously crude recordings are full of beans even if the first album's Mono has all the subtlety of an overworked transistor radio. They're not audiophile but they are punchy and absolutely full of that 60ts shoutin' 'n' roarin' party-hard shing-a-ling. Being an Acetate I’m amazed at how good that unreleased LP sounds and the Stereo of the second LP is wonderful too. For sure his one-dimensional instrumental-after-instrumental set up on the LPs may grate some after a while – but I'm honestly loving how damn good much of this stuff is - music I honestly haven't listened to in decades and now feel I've been missing out on something fab and period-groovy.

Apart from Syd Dale's "Blues For A Frog" (itself a derivative of a James Brown groove), the Mick Weaver/Jimmy Miller penned "Dancing Frog" and the Fallon/Miller track "Incense" - the other nine are R&B covers and contemporary pop hits of the day - Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", a variant of Jackie Edward's "Somebody Help Me" (a hit for The Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood), Owen Gray's fantastic "Shook, Shimmy And Shake", Fats Domino's "Walking To New Orleans", the Sam & Dave hit "Hold On, I'm Coming" penned by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and so on. The six Bonus Tracks on Disc 1 are actually that – the first four being killer Mod sides – Mono and Marvellous as they mumble through Jim Lowe’s "Green Door" (a number 1 hit for Shakin’ Stevens in 1981) – while the BBC’s Ed Stewart tries to sound cool as he sells some kind of dog product on "Henry's Panter".

Album number two does the same - the Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash", Johnny Otis' "Willie And The Hand Jive", Tommy Tucker's "Hi-Heel Sneakers", The Champs "Tequila" and so on. But there are very cool self-penned tunes like Weaver's own "Gasoline Alley" where both he on the organ and Dick Heckstall-Smith of The Graham Bond Organisation on Saxophone play up a storm. It's funny also to hear "Willie And The Hand Jive" sound like The Benny Hill Show Theme song - but that's what happens track after track - groovy organ and a driving rhythm section making you want to strut your ancient stuff across some dancefloor somewhere making an unholy tit of yourself. Weaver's own "Harpsichord Shuffle" is pretty much a Ray Charles keyboard riff turned up a notch while Chris Mercer of The Keef Hartley Band gives it some cool Sax and Kokomo's Neil Hubbard gets Ike Turner funky on his guitar (what a belter). For sure "Alexander's Ragtime Band" is a Hammond groove too far but that’s immediately followed by a kick-ass take on "Tequila" that’s liable to make your mother shimmy those voluminous hips as she vacuums Dad’s cigarette ashes off the living room carpet.

But the real surprise here is the American-only album that died a death on its initial release. Weaver stumped up most of the instrumentals for the April 1970 LP "Into The Fire" which has a decidedly Funkier feel than the first two albums - like his band just discovered Sly & The Family Stone and Clarence Carter. Choppy guitars, sexy sax work and a backbeat that just won't quit infest the songs. Favourites include the Bluesy Harmonica of "Howl In Wolf's Clothing" - another fab workout - while "F In Blues" is a rare excursion into actual Blues - a slow late-night lounge-lizard lurch on the organ punctuated by great Sax blowing. I also dig his cover of The Staple Singers stunning "Why Am I Treated So Bad" - a tune that still has power even if there are no words to ram home the message of equality - his new Hammond Organ sounding loud and clear. For sure there is an audible drop in the sonic attack as we’re treated to The Who's "Happy Jack" and The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" from the Acetate of the unreleased album - but it's not as bad as you would imagine. "Funky Broadway" feels more of an inspired choice than the obvious Who and Fabs choices.

For sure the band Wynder K. Frog and its main-man Mick Weaver are a footnote in Pop's history and few in 2018 will probably know their names or even care. But if you've any penchant for 60ts Groovers and that driving Hammond Organ Sound - then the little 3CD Box Set "Shook, Shimmy And Shake" is the fried hot potato that needs to be on your shopping list. Well done to RPM and all involved...

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

"H To He Who Am The Only One" by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (May 2005 Virgin/Charisma 'Expanded Edition' CD - Peter Hammill and Kathy Bryan Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970... - Exceptional CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
Thousands of E-Pages - All Details and In-Depth Reviews From Discs 
(No Cut and Paste Crap)

"...The Emperor In His War-Room..."

Features the album "H To He Who Am The Only One" from 1970 (UK)

Named after the American Engineer Robert Van De Graaff's surname and his particle accelerator device for creating static electricity - Van Der Graaf Generator's second studio album for 1970 came hot on the heels of their January debut - "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". Released December 1970 by the newly formed Charisma Records - home of Audience, Rare Bird, Everyone, Merrill Moore, Atomic Rooster, (Keith Emerson's) The Nice and that other huge British Progressive Rock band Genesis – VDGG’s second platter expanded the experimental musical horizons laid down by their acclaimed debut.

Equal to its predecessor's quirky moniker - "H To He Who Am The Only One" is reckoned by Prog Rockers and VDGG fans alike to be up there as one of the Manchester boys wildest and best outings – a boundary pusher resplendent with mad Paul Whitehead artwork (a fave of the Genesis lads too). And this rather brill little 2005 CD Remaster (complete with two lengthy bonus cuts) bears that out. Here are the Houses with No Doors...

UK released 30 May 2005 - "H To He Who Am The Only One" by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR on Virgin/Charisma CASCDR 1027 (Barcode 724347488825) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (71:29 minutes):

1. Killer [Side 1]
2. House With No Door
3. The Emperor In His War-Room Part 1. The Emperor Part 2. The Room
4. Lost Part 1. The Dance In Sand And Sea Part 2. The Dance In Frost [Side 2]
5. Pioneers Over C
Tracks 1 to 5 are their second studio album "H To He Who Am The Only One" - released January 1970 in the UK on Charisma Records CAS 1027 and March 1971 in the USA on Dunhill/ABC Records DS 50097.  Produced by JOHN ANTHONY - Track 1 was written by Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton and Stratton Smith, Tracks 2, 3 and 4 written by Peter Hammill with Track 5 written by Peter Hammill and David Jackson.

6. Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus [15:24 minutes]
7. The Emperor In His War-Room (First Version) [8:50 minutes]

PETER HAMMILL - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Piano on "House With No Door"
HUGH BANTON - Vocals, Hammond and Farfisa Organs, Piano, Oscillator and Bass on "House With No Door" and "Killer"
DAVID JACKSON - Vocals, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxophones and Flute
GUY EVANS - Drums, Tympani and Percussion

NIC POTTER (of The Misunderstood) - Bass on "Killer", "The Emperor In His War Room” and "Lost"
ROBERT FRIPP (of King Crimson) - Guitar on "The Emperor In His War-Room"

The 20-page booklet is a pleasingly thorough affair with new liner notes from MARK POWELL - soon to be head honcho at Esoteric Recordings over at Cherry Red UK - home to all things Avant Garde, Left Of Field and Proggy. There are period photos of the four-piece hairy men live, loitering in parks and outside French cafes, lyrics, the inner gatefold of the original release repro'd on the centre pages, trade adverts and their 9-album strong catalogue of Virgin/Charisma Remasters listed on the last page next to the extensive re-issue credits. It's all very tastefully done.

All four members of the band had a hand in Remastering consultation (including principal songwriter PETER HAMMILL) with the tape transfers done by KATHY BRYAN at Abbey Road Studios. I had this album on one of those early 'Pink Scroll' Label Charisma pressings with Audio that was always good but never great. Here the instruments have real power and even the two Bonus Cuts sound like they could have made the grade. Let's dance in the Static Sea...to the music...

We're informed by the opener "Killer" that someone who lives at the bottom of the sea is lonely – a solitary predator made manifest by earnest men with saxophones and doom-laden churchy organs. The 8-minutes of Side 1's "Killer" is in fact more Atomic Rooster than VDGG in my books. Things become very melodic on "House With No Door". That hissy beginning is still there, but there's warmth and clarity in the bass now and the piano feels less muddled than it did on the LP. It's a dark song actually - a home with no roof that lets in the rain and cold at night - Hammill's hurting vocals at times sounding like a melancholic David Bowie circa "The Man Who Sold The World".

Things get deathly heavy with "The Emperor In His War-Room" - a tin-pot dictator cradling his gun in his chamber of ghosts (dig those cascading flutes and chunky organ stabs) - Robert Fripp's very King Crimson guitar notes sailing into "The Room" just when the piece needs some Prog uplift. Speaking of KC - the 11-minutes of "Lost" is probably the most Crimson-sounding piece on the album - ideas and had-all-my-chances lyrics falling over each other as instrument piles on instrument. Album No. 2 ends with nearly fourteen minutes of "Pioneers Over C" - VDGG stretching out everywhere and thinking intergalactic travel will be commonplace in 1983 and they have the Bass Lines. Sexy Saxophones and Fiery Keyboard sounds to prove it.

In truth VDGG were never nearly as commercial or frankly as good as Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Co over in Genesis – but there is a lot to like in this adventurous and challenging album.

"...One last brief whisper in our loved one's ears..." – Hammill sang on tone of the lovelier passages in "Pioneers Over C" - David Jackson's saxophone slipping in soft at first and then going solo mad after that. Mad after that – a bit like VDGG and their music really...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

"Hocus Pocus Box: Complete Album Collection + Bonus CD" by FOCUS (July 2017 Red Bullet 13CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

his Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
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"...Yaddy Ya, Yaddy Ya, Yadda Ya... Bom! Bom!"

Featuring their debut album "Focus On Focus" aka "In And Out Of Focus" from 1970

Bit of a Dutch Prog Rock beast this. Tons of info to get through – so once more my hairy friends unto the yaddy-ya, yaddy-ya, yaddy-ya, bom, bom! And that’s just your Hocus Pocus my giddy young son...

UK released Friday, 14 July 2017 - "Hocus Pocus Box: Complete Album Collection + Bonus CD" by FOCUS on Red Bullet RB 66.307 (Barcode 8712944663075) is a 13CD Clamshell Box Set containing 12 albums (11 studio, one a double and one live album) and a Bonus Thirteenth CD called "Best Of Focus". 

CDs 1 to 8 and CD13 are Remasters done by IAN GILLESPIE at Tape One in London in 2001 (old Red Bullet reissues) – CDs 9 to 12 are later dates (1985 to 2012) and are the masters of the time. There is a mention in the liner notes of 'Peter Brussee Remasters' done at Q Point Studios in Holland - but it doesn’t specify what has been upgraded or why. As is - the box set plays out as follows:

CD1 - "In And Out Of Focus" from 1970 and 1971 (36:04 minutes):
1. Focus (Vocal) [Side 1]
2. Black Beauty
3. Sugar Island
4. Anonymus
5. House Of The King
6. Happy Nightmare (Mescaline) [Side 2]
7. Why Dream
8. Focus – Instrumental
The Dutch band's debut LP was originally released mid 1970 in Holland as "Focus Plays Focus" on Imperial Records 5C 054-24192 with a seven-track line-up (CD Tracks 1, 7, 6 and 4 made up Side 1 with Tracks 2, 3 and 8 making up Side 2). However, Polydor UK and USA decided to relaunch the debut as "In And Out Of Focus" in both countries with a rejiggered track line-up and the Dutch non-album single "House Of The King" tagged onto the end of Side 1 thereby making an 8-track LP. This variant initially had a gatefold 'dotted blue' sleeve (Polydor 2344 003 in the UK and Sire SAS 7404 in the USA) – but confusingly this was also replaced at some time in late 1971 with a single ‘picture of the band photo’ sleeve in the UK and the same 8-track line-up (same catalogue numbers too, the US artwork differed yet again). It is this late 1971 British variant that is used in this CD box set (artwork and track list as above). This is the 2001 Remaster done by Red Bullet.

CD2 - "Moving Waves" from 1971 and 1973 [aka "Focus II" in Europe] (41:40 minutes):
1. Hocus Pocus [Side 1] (Album Version at 6:42 minutes)
2. Le Clochard
3. Janis
4. Moving Waves
5. Focus II
6. Eruption [Side 2]
Tracks 1 to 6 are their second studio album "Moving Waves" - released October 1971 in the UK on Blue Horizon 2931 002 and January 1973 in the USA on Sire SAS 7401. It was re-launched on Polydor 2931 002 in the UK November 1972 and this version peaked on the UK charts at No. 2 (peaked at No. 6 in the US charts in January 1973). The CD remaster is 2001 by Red Bullet.

CD3 - "Focus III" from 1972, 2LP set (67:08 minutes – see NOTE):
1. Round Goes The Gossip [Side 1]
2. Love Remembered
3. Sylvia
4. Carnival Fugue
5. Focus III [Side 2]
6. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!
7. Elspeth Of Nottingham
8. Anonymus II [see NOTE re Sides 3 and 4 and playing times]
Tracks 1 to 6, 8, 7 and Track 5 on CD1 (in that order) make up the original double-album "Focus III" [aka "Focus 3"] - released November 1972 in the UK on Polydor 2659 016 and April 1973 in the USA on Sire SAS 3901 (in different artwork). It peaked at No. 6 in the UK and No. 35 in the States.
NOTE: on the original double-album "Anonymus II" was broken into two parts "Anonymus II (Part 1)" and Anonymus II (Conclusion)" and in fact spread across Side 3 and 4 of the 2LP set - Part 1 on Side 3 and the Conclusion at the beginning of Side 4. Here the 19:28 and 7:30 parts have been combined into one song at 26:24 minutes. Also the last song on Side 4 was "House Of The King" (sequenced 'after' "Elspeth Of Nottingham" on the original double) - but as it is featured on "In And Out Of Focus" CD - it's not included here. The remaster here is 2001 by Red Bullet.

CD4 - "Focus At The Rainbow" (1973 Live Album) (42:34 minutes):
1. Focus III [Side 1]
2. Answers" Questions! Questions? Answers!
3. Focus II
4. Eruption (Excerpt) [Side 2]
5. Hocus Pocus
6. Sylvia
7. Hocus Pocus (Reprise)
Tracks 1 to 7 are the live LP "Focus At The Rainbow" - released October 1973 in the UK on Polydor 2442 118 and November 1973 in the USA on Sire SAs 7408. It peaked at No. 23 in the UK and No. 132 in the USA.

CD5 - "Hamburger Concerto" from 1974 (43:07 minutes):
1. Delitiae Musicae [Side 1]
2. Harem Scarem
3. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg
4. Birth
5. Hamburger Concerto [Side 2]
6. Early Birth
Tracks 1 to 6 are their fourth studio album "Hamburger Concerto" - released August 1974 in the UK on Polydor 2442 124 and in the USA on Atco Records SD 36-100 (same month). It peaked at No. 20 in the UK and No. 66 in the USA.

CD6 - "Mother Focus" from 1975 (37:14 minutes):
1. Mother Focus [Side 1]
2. I Need A Bothroom
3. Bennie Helder
4. Soft Vanilla
5. Hard Vanilla
6. Tropic Bird
7. Focus IV [Side 2]
8. Someone's Crying...What!
9. All Together...Oh That!
10. No Hang Ups
11. Father Bach
Tracks 1 to 11 are their fifth studio album "Mother Focus" - released October 1975 in the UK on Polydor 2302 036 and September 1975 in the USA on Atco Records SD 36-117. It didn't chart in the UK, peaked at No. 152 in the USA. 

CD7 - "Ship Of Memories" from 1977 [unused 1973 material] (40:03 minutes):
1. P's March [Side 1]
2. Can't Believe My Eyes
3. Focus V
4. Out Of Vesuvius
5. Glider [Side 2]
6. Red Sky At Night
7. Spoke The Lord Creator
8. Crackers
9. Ship Of Memories
10. Hocus Pocus (U.S. Single Version)
Tracks 1 to 10 are a compilation album of older material "Ship Of Memories" recorded in England and Holland (mostly 1973, some 1970) - released June 1977 in the USA on Sire Records SAS 7531 and September 1977 in the UK on Harvest Records SHSP 4068. It didn't chart in the UK and peaked at No. 163 in the USA. It was released 1976 in their native Holland hence the copyright date of 1976 on the labels.

CD8 - "Focus Con Proby" from 1978 (48:11 minutes):
1. Wingless [Side 1]
2. Orion
3. Night Flight
4. Eddy
5. Sneezing Bull
6. Brother [Side 2]
7. Tokyo Rose
8. Maximum
9. How Long
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Focus Con Proby" - released January 1978 in the UK on Harvest Records SHSP 11721 and February 1978 in the USA on Harvest ST-11721 (didn't chart in either country). Five of the nine tracks feature English Vocalist PJ PROBY (Tracks 1, 4, 6, 7 and 9) and the band has PHILIP CATHERINE as its principal guitarist instead of Jan Akkerman. The album was released first in the Netherlands in 1977.

CD9 - "Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer - Focus" from 1985 (59:34 minutes):
1. Russian Roulette [Side 1]
2. King Kong
3. Le Tango
4. Indian Summer
5. Beethoven's Revenge (Bach-One-Turbo-Overdrive) [Side 2]
6. Ole Judy
7. Who's Calling
Tracks 1 to 7 are the album "Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer - Focus" - released August 1985 in the UK on LP and CD on Vertigo 824 524-1 and -2

CD10 - "Focus 8" from 2002 (59:12 minutes):
1. Rock & Rio
2. Tamara's Move (Allegro-Adagio-Allegro)
3. Fretless Love
4. Hurkey Turkey
5. De Ti O De Mi
6. Focus 8
7. Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota?
8. Neurotika - Rehearsal Take
9. Brother
10. Blizu Tebe
11. Flower Shower
Tracks 1 to 11 are recorded with Thijs Van Leer and a Focus tribute band who become the 'new' Focus - it was released as a 500-only signed private pressed LP in Holland in 2002 and reissued on CD by Red Bullet in 2006 (Red Bullet 66.252)

CD11 - "Focus 9 – New Skin" from 2006 (79:54 minutes):
1. Black Beauty
2. Focus 7
3. Hurkey Turkey
4. Sylvia's Stepson - Ubatuba
5. Niel's Skin
6. Just Like Eddy
7. Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee
8. Focus 9
9. Curtain Call
10. Ode To Venus
11. European Rap(sody)
12. Pim
13. It Takes 2 2 Tango
14. Brazil Love
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "Focus 9 - New Skin" - released September 2006 in the Netherlands on CD on Red Bullet RB 66.253

CD12 - "Focus X" from 2012 (49:39 minutes):
1. Father Bacchus
2. Focus 10
3. Victoria
4. Amok In Kindergarten
5. All Hens On Deck
6. Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)
7. Hoeratio
8. Talk Of The Clown
9. Message Magique
10. Crossroads
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Focus X" - released November 2012 in the Netherlands on CD on 4Worlds Media EW0123CD

CD13 - "The Best Of Focus" from 2001 (76:31 minutes):
1. Hocus Pocus [6:42 minutes Full Album Version]
2. Anonymus
3. House Of The King
4. Focus - Instrumental
5. Janis
6. Focus II
7. Tommy
8. Sylvia
9. Focus III
10. Harem Scarem
11. Mother Focus
12. Focus IV
13. Bennie Helder
14. Glider
15. Red Sky At Night
16. Hocus Pocus (U.S. Single Version)
Tracks 1 to 16 are the CD compilation "The Best Of Focus" - originally released June 1993 in the UK as "Hocus Pocus - The Best Of" on EMI CDP 8281622 (Barcode 724382816225) and reissued 2001 in the Netherlands as "The Best Of Focus - Hocus Pocus" on Red Bullet RB 66.194 (Barcode   8712944661941).

Once you get into the clamshell box - you notice with some irritation that "Focus 3" (their most successful and pivotal album) is a single card sleeve and not a gatefold, "Anonymus" is in the wrong place and suddenly one-track instead of two parts and the "Houses Of The King" song at the end of Side 4 is missing entirely from the CD (see NOTE above). Sure it's on both "In And Out Of Focus" and "The Best of" discs - but it wouldn't have taken a lot to sort this out - and playing time is not an issue here. The card sleeves for "At The Rainbow" is a single when it could have been a fold-over like the original and "In And Out Of Focus" takes a similarly lazy route - using the single-sleeve band-shot photo artwork for the reissue instead of the gatefold 'blue dots' original (see my separate review for the Japanese SHM-CD reissue of this - use Barcode 4988002565375 to locate the issue).

The Remasters are mostly the Red Bullet variants done in 2001 by IAN GILLESPIE at Tape One Studios in London (CDs 1 to 8 and CD13) - but there is an extra mention of PETER BRUSSEE at Q Point Studios in Hilversum in Holland for 'Remasters' without explaining what has done to what. Having said that they do sound good and at times - like on "Moving Waves", "Focus III" and "Mother Focus" - they sound spectacular. The stuff after 1985 is all recorded professionally anyway - so no problems audio wise there. And although that 13th disc does seem a tad superfluous to requirements when you've got CD 1 to 12 - it's handy to have it as a play-alone. The 40-page booklet features detailed Liner Notes by T J LAMMERS giving a breakdown of all albums - line-ups, track-by-track annotation and so on - all nestled amidst photos of the LPs and CDs, period Tour posters and photos, trade adverts, press clippings and so on. All you would need to know is here.

I'll admit that 1975's "Mother Focus" - I lost interest and don't know much of the later material. But then Focus were always about the mighty "Moving Waves", "Focus III" and "Hamburger Concerto" - all fabulous Prog Rock albums. That's not to say that the debut or the live set are slouchers - they're not. It's also odd for to hear "Anonymus" as one 26:24 minute track and not reach for that "Conclusion" on Side 4! Something like "Elspeth Of Nottingham" is hissy with the lute and birdsong - but still beautiful. And the 14-minute "Answers? Questions!..." is fantastic Prog Rock with Funky licks thrown in. As is that cool Akkerman guitar break 9-minutes into "Hamburger Concerto" that lasts for nearly eight more minutes – all of it sounding suitably chunky and awesome (his solos on both tracks justify his Best Guitarist award in the 1974 Melody Maker over other axe-Gods such as Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher and Jimmy Page).

The Chipping Norton studios material recorded by Blue Horizon's label boss and producer Mike Vernon for the "Hamburger Concerto" album was shelved at the time as it was deemed not good enough (40 minutes of it) only to resurface as "Ship Of Memories" on Harvest Records along with outtakes that stretched as far back as the first LP from 1970. But I'd say that the 6-track issued LP is one of the great forgotten 'instrumental music' albums of the mid-70ts - a record made under serious duress with Akkerman and Van Leer having to be recorded in separate rooms lest they actually talk to each other. The funky Rock of Hamburger Concerto's "Harem Scarem" is an obvious ape of "Hocus Pocus" but still works on its own terms - Akkerman and Van Leer playing off each other like gooduns - replacement drummer Colin Allen coming up with the song title. "La Cathedrale De Strasbourg" has nice counter-point vocals that play off against sweet piano chords. Thijs gets to go all clavinet mad on the seven-minute "Birth" (a Funky-Rock gem in my book) - but the LP belongs to another "Anonymus" side-long type monster - the twenty-minute six-part title track "Hamburger Concerto". All ELP in its scope, you get Classical influences, Baroque and slinky Funky Rock - guitarist Akkerman and keyboardist Thijs Van Leer sharing the writing credits on this showstopper. After the slightly odd Pop album "Mother Focus" - we get the equally odd but quite wonderful collaboration album with singer PJ Proby where the little blighter sings his guts out on songs like "Wingless" and "Brother". Of the later stuff - I'd truly surprised at how good "Focus 8" is - Thijs Van Leer working with a Focus covers band whom he liked and ended up employing as - well Focus! "Fretless Love" and "Focus 8" show that old magic. And on it goes...

For sure there is way more Focus here than any average punter needs and you can't help feeling that with a bit better thought and presentation - this could have been a solid 5-star release. For the moment - I'm digging re-visits to old friends and discovering that they made some ones I should acquaint myself with in the later years too.

Yaddy ya, yaddy ya, bom, bom! Both Tommy and Sylvia would approve...