Saturday, 29 April 2017

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

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THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT 1970... - Exceptional CD Remasters  
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"...Every Little Thing You Need..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS: PATTO CD Reissues...
Also reissued in 28 April 2017 is their second Vertigo vinyl platter from November 1971 called "Hold Your Fire" - but as a 2CD 'Expanded Edition Remaster' with 13 Bonus Tracks (Esoteric ECLEC 22582 - Barcode 5013929468245). 26 May 2017 will then see their aborted fourth album recorded in 1973 called "Monkey's Bum" reissued by Esoteric and again as an 'Expanded Edition' CD (Esoteric ECLEC 2587). It will be the first ‘official’ release of the album sanctioned by the remaining members of the band and include three Previously Unreleased tracks – sessions recorded for John Peel’s BBC Radio One show on 13 February 1973 with the original line-up of the band...

Thursday, 27 April 2017

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

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"...Stone Fox Chase..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 23 April 2017

"All Things Change: The Transatlantic Anthology 1967-1970" by RALPH McTELL (April 2017 Cherry Tree 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
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"...When The Sunshine Came..."

"...When The Sunshine Came..."

Featuring the 1970 UK album "Ralph McTell Revisited" on Transatlantic Records

I can't help thinking that fans of Farnborough Folky Ralph May have been waiting the guts of their hero's 50-year career for this wonderful reissue.

Taking his stage surname from a Blind Willie McTell song - Ralph McTell signed to Nat Joseph's Folk-Progressive Transatlantic Records in the late 60ts and promptly popped out three albums of largely original studio recordings - "Eight Frames A Second" (February 1968), "Spiral Staircase" (January 1969) and "My Side Of Your Window" (December 1969). A fourth eleven-track record called "Ralph McTell Revisited" turned up in November 1970 which featured remixed and re-recorded tracks from his second and third LPs (six from "Spiral Staircase" and five from "My Side Of Your Window"). It was supposed to become a US-market lead-in compilation that ultimately never got released there. Throw in a rare non-album 7" single A-side on Big T Records (one of Transatlantic's subsidiary labels) and two session outtakes recorded October 1967 for the first LP (the second of which is a superb Previously Unreleased stripped down version of "Eight Frames A Second") - and that's where this wee 2CD peach comes bounding in.

Fans of Folk Rock and Acid Folk will also love the eclectic range of guest-players on albums number two and three especially – Clive Palmer and Michael Bennett who were ex Incredible String Band and would form the ultra-collectable COB (Clive’s Original Band), Pedal Steel guitar player Gordon Huntley from Matthews Southern Comfort, Bruce Barthol, Gary Peterson and Phil Greenberg of Formerly Fat Harry (Barthol was ex Country Joe & The Fish), Double-Bass player Brian Brocklehurst of The Yetties, Pete Berryman of The Famous Jug Band, Fusion Drummer John Marshall of Centipede and the obscure but utterly brilliant harmonising of English Tapestry (McTell claims they were amongst the best backing singers in the whole of UK Folk). 

As you can imagine with four LPs progressing as they go while Producers Tony Visconti and Gus Dudgeon oversee things and Mike Vickers arranges complimentary string sections - you’re on a voyage of discovery that takes in straight-up lonesome Acoustic Folk that soon touches on Folk-Rock, Acid Folk, Jug Band Blues and shades of Americana similar to The Band circa 1968, 1969 and 1970. 

There is a ton of info to get through so here are the Folktastic details...

UK released Friday, 21 April 2017 (28 April 2017 in the USA) - "All Things Change: The Transatlantic Anthology 1967-1970" by RALPH McTELL on Cherry Tree CDTREE019D (Barcode 5013929691926) offers four studio albums, one single and two outakes on 2 Remastered CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (79:16 minutes):
1. Nanna's Song [Side 1]
2. The Mermaid And The Seagull
3. Hesitation Blues
4. Are You Receiving Me?
5. Morning Dew
6. Sleepytime Blues
7. Eight Frames A Second [Side 2]
8. Willoughby's Farm
9. Louise
10. Blind Blake's Rag
11. I'm Sorry-I Must Love
12. Too Tight Drag
13. Granny Takes A Trip
Tracks 1 to 13 are his debut album "Eight Frames A Second" - released February 1968 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA 165 and June 1969 in the USA on Capitol ST-240. Produced by TONY VISCONTI - it didn't chart in either country. All songs are Ralph McTell originals except "Hesitation Blues" (Traditional Jug Band Blues from the 1920's), "Morning Dew" by Tim Rose, "Too Tight Drag" by Blind Blake (Traditional Blues from the 1920's) and "Granny Takes A Trip" by Christopher Beard and Geoff Bowyer of The Purple Gang.

14. Streets Of London [Side 1]
15. Mrs. Adlam's Angels
16. Wino And The Mouse
17. England 1914
18. Last Train And Ride
19. The Fairground
20. Spiral Staircase [Side 2]
21. Kind Hearted Woman Blues
22. Bright And Beautiful Things
23. Daddy's Here
24. Rizraklaru (Anag.)
25. (My) Baby Keeps Staying out All Night Long
26. Terminus
Tracks 14 to 26 are his second studio album "Spiral Staircase" - released January 1969 in the UK on Transatlantic TRA 177 (No US release). Produced by GUS DUDGEON - it didn't chart. All songs are Ralph McTell originals except "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" by Robert Johnson and "(My) Baby Keeps Staying Out All Night Long" by Buddy Moss.

27. Summer Came Along - non-album A-side to an 11 July 1969 UK 7" single on Big T Records BIG 125
("Girl On A Bicycle" from the then unreleased "My Side Of Your Mirror" LP in December 1969 was its B-side, Track 3 on Disc 2)

Disc 2 (79:51 minutes):
1. Michael In The Garden [Side 1]
2. Clown
3. Girl On A Bicycle
4. Father Forgive Them
5. All Things Change
6. I've Thought About You [Side 2]
7. Factory Girl
8. Blues In More Than 12 Bars
9. Kew Gardens
10. Wait Until Snow
11. Silver Birch And Weeping Willow
Tracks 1 to 11 are his third studio album "My Side Of Your Window" - released December 1969 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 209 (No US release). Produced by GUS DUDGEON - It didn't chart in the UK. All songs are Ralph McTell originals (see paragraphs below for the many guest appearances on the album).

12. Streets Of London [Side 1]
13. Michael In The Garden
14. Last Train And Ride
15. Kew Gardens
16. Fairground
17. Spiral Staircase [Side 2]
18. Factory Girl
19. Bright And Beautiful Things
20. Father Forgive Them
21. Clown
22. Terminus
Tracks 12 to 22 are his fourth studio album "Ralph McTell Revisited" - released November 1970 in the UK on Transatlantic Records TRA 227 (No US release). The album contains remixes and re-recordings - six from "Spiral Staircase" and five from "My Side Of Your Window".

23. Suzanne
24. Eight Frames A Second
Tracks 23 and 24 are session outtakes from the "Eight Frames A Second" album recorded October 1967 - "Suzanne" is a Leonard Cohen cover version first released 2007 in the UK on CD - while "Eight Frames A Second" is Previously Unreleased and is a 'Non Orchestrated Version'.

The 12-page booklet has superbly annotated and seriously detailed liner notes by noted writer and music archivist DAVID WELLS which take a lot from McTell's own website and recollections (just as well really because like many Transatlantic LPs of the period - they looked great - but were skimpy on actual recording details - Brian Brocklehurst of The Yetties simply credited as 'Special Thanks to Brock' on the "Spiral Staircase" LP for instance). There are label repros of the rare Big T 45s "Summer Came Along" and "Kew Gardens", snaps of McTell in Acoustic Troubadour mode, a snap of Producer Gus Dudgeon (more closely associated with Elton John's DJM albums) and a collage of the four LP sleeves in colour. Oddly for a Cherry Tree release (part of the Cherry Red labels) - there is no Audio or Mastering credits. But the sound is fabulous - acoustic recordings that then slowly move into Folk Rock and beyond. The "My Side Of Your Window" album (which is my fave) is particularly good. A nice job done...

The first album "Eight Frames A Second" is mostly McTell and an Acoustic Guitar with some tracks featuring other players brought in for accompaniment. Typical of so many debut LPs searching for a style - the decidedly weird covers of Tim Rose's "Morning Dew" and the minor Jug Band hit "Granny Takes A Trip" by The Purple Gang (1967 UK 7" single on Big T Records BIG 101) are indicative of interfering forces and did the overall impact no good at all. But McTell more than holds his own on the lovely "The Mermaid And The Seagull" (complete with lapping waves and bird cries), the Bluesy traditional "Hesitation Blues" and the mellow instrumental "Willoughby's Farm". Jug Bands and flicked Washboards fill "Sleepytime Blues" while McTell gives a nod to those old ragtimes with his own instrumental tribute to Blind Blake on "Blind Blake's Rag" (he covers the Milwaukee man's "Too Tight Drag" also).

While the debut is a reasonable start - "Spiral Staircase" feels like a huge leap forward - opening as it does with a song that would come to define him - "Streets Of London". Written in 1966 while resident in Paris - McTell had abandoned the tune – but then gave it to Derek Brimstone who performed it live in his sets only to elicit wild reactions from the audience. Convincing McTell that he should re-visit the song – Ralph added an extra verse and a busking legend was born. Visconti smartly insisted that “Streets Of London” be put on the second LP (McTell resisted) and so it opens "Spiral Staircase" with a genuinely emotional wallop. That one-man-and-his-guitar vibe continues with "Mrs. Adlam's Apple" – a delicate and beautiful acoustic ditty – the kind of song that dominates much of this hugely underrated Folk LP. In fact it's as if McTell suddenly found his true Folk-Soul voice on LP No. 2. Collectors will note that both "Last Train And Ride" and "Spiral Staircase" feature The Famous Jug Band - Clive Palmer and Pete Berryman on Guitars, Harry Bartlett on Jugs and Mick Bennett (of COB) on Washboard. "England 1914" has particularly lovely string arrangements in an English pastoral fashion - while McTell convincingly reaches for his inner Robert Johnson on the fingerpicking cover of "Kind Hearted Woman Blues". Trivia - the nonsense word title of the impossibly pretty instrumental "Rizraklaru" turns out to be an anagram of Rural Karzi - a song he thought up on the way back from said outside loo (cue country poop produces worldwide masterpiece joke).

For me the real prize here is the third album "My Side Of Your Window" where McTell features a huge array of guesting musicians on genuinely great songs. Ex Country Joe & The Fish Bassist Bruce Barthol turns up on "Michael In The Garden" - while Gary Peterson - his fellow band mate in Formerly Fat Harry – also joins him on the gorgeous "Girl On A Bicycle" contributing Piano and Acoustic Guitar. Beatles obsessives will have to own "All Things Change" and not because it's Ralph's debut on Piano - but because McTell confirms from his recollections that the song contains one or all three of the Cello players who added so much to "Eleanor Rigby" - Derek Simpson, Stephen Lansberry and Peter Halling.

Another pleasant surprise is a hidden one - the obscure Folk group English Tapestry adding hugely to the beautiful "Kew Gardens". Apparently a harmonising trio consisting of sister and brother Ruth and Brian Britain alongside one Andrew Taylor - I can find only two other physical entrances in their recorded history. Two songs called "Valentine Chant" and "Whitsuntide Carol" are on a 1974 Various Artists benefit album called "The First Folk Review Record" on Folksound FS 100 - and they also did backing vocals on the Side 2 opener "Edward Sayers' Brass Band" for Richard Digance's April 1975 album "How The West Was Won" on Transatlantic Records TRA 289. Lead Vocalist Ruth Britain has the kind of pure English Folk voice that engenders hero worship (like Shirley and Dolly Collins for instance) and combining this with a song as lovely as "Kew Gardens" produces noticeable magic here (I'd love to hear more of their stuff).

Other genuine highlights include the sobriety tale of Billy the eventual statesman in "Blues In More Than 12 Bars" and the plaintive and lovely "Factory Girl" from his memories of ladies trying to find joy in the humdrum and repetition. But best of all is the very John Martyn "Wait Until The Snow" - a gorgeously mellow Folk-Rock song with no less than three members of Formerly Fat Harry contributing - Bruce Barthol on Bass, Phil Greenberg on Lead Guitar and Gary Peterson on Organ. I love this whole album and I find myself returning to "My Side Of Your Window" over and over - a forgotten gem that deserves more exposure.   

The 7" single "Summer Came Along" and seven of the 'remixed and re-recorded' versions on the "Ralph McTell Revisited" LP have turned up as Bonus Tracks on the 2007 CD reissues of "Spiral Staircase" and "My Side Of Your Window" before - but here in 2017 is the first time that the whole eleven-track LP has been issued as one. "Michael In The Garden", "Spiral Staircase" and "Father Forgive Them" were largely Acoustic-only affairs on original issue - here they're given the full 'band' treatment that muscles up the arrangements. The "Kew Gardens" track with English Tapestry guesting remains the same - a slight remix perhaps. The impossibly pretty "Streets Of London" song that would come to define him is also only a Remix to my ears with minimal change to the "Spiral Staircase" acoustic version. But best of all is the beautiful ballad "Factory Girl" which is given stunning Pedal Steel guitar accompaniment from Gordon Huntley of Matthews Southern Comfort thereby transforming the song into something altogether better than the original. 

Reprise Records would issue his new recording of "Streets Of London" in November 1974 where it would eventually smash the top ten to settle at No.2 - an amazing placing for Reprise K 14380. The album simply called "Streets" appeared in February 1975 and would give him an equally rare LP placing - No. 13. The song and album would change Ralph McTell's world forever (I always think his gorgeous and far superior song "From Clare To Here" deserves as much praise if not more).

But this is where that long Folk-Rock Singer-Songwriter journey began. Well done to Cherry Tree for reminding us of what we've been missing. "...The music started to flow..." – Ralph McTell sings in "Fairground". Indeed it did mate...

Friday, 14 April 2017

"The Works 1969-1971: Albums, Demos, BBC Sessions and Live Recordings" by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE (April 2017 Cherry Red Records 3CD Mini Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Amused The Magic Throng..."

Features BBC 'Top Gear' Sessions from 1970

You have to love John Peel. Named after a batty relative of the percussionist Lyn Edwards (Lyn is pictured furthest to the right on the back cover of the "Soundtrack" LP) - Principle Edwards Magic Theatre were the first act signed in early 1969 to the witty DJ's new record label - Dandelion Records. And you have to wonder was Peely (and all 14 of the ensemble for that matter) on mushrooms not necessarily destined for tins of Heinz Soup. Re-listening to this music in April 2017 and it's bleeding obvious that this group stood no chance of chart success. Or maybe that was the point…

Part theatre, part Prog, part Folk Rock – PEMT incorporated all that was counter-culture in those halcyon years - hippy-lore, eastern mysticism, tie-dye shirts and dollops of ancient literature. Their sound was a hybrid of The Incredible String Band and Curved Air – a sort of Prog variant of Folk-Rock with a woman out front singing ponderous lyrics about rhododendrons in your midst while rainbow bridges lead to giants and interlunar caves (don't you just hate that). Musically it's like Traffic, The Amazing Blondel and Quintessence engaged in a summer solstice threesome at the foot of Stonehenge and nine months later (on a full moon of course) – a lovechild is brought forth that none of them know what to do with (yikes).

For sure PEMT will not be for everyone (critics of the time called them naïve at best and pretentious at worst) - but those who do love their mishmash sound married to theatrical visuals will have to get their grubby mitts on this wicked new release from those champions of all things eclectic and awkward - Cherry Red Records. They've done this most British of bands a proper solid and of course for Pink Floyd fans - there's the tie-in of Nick Mason on album No. 2. Here are the enigmatic insomniac machines (and that's just Side 1 of the first album)...

UK released Friday, 14 April 2017 (21 April 2017 in the USA) - "The Works 1969-1971: Albums, Demos, BBC Sessions and Live Recordings" by PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE on Cherry Red Records CDTRED 704 (Barcode 5013929170438) is a Remastered 3CD set housed in a card slipcase (three card sleeves and a booklet) that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - "Soundtrack" - 53:32 minutes:
1. Enigmatic Insomniac Machine [Side 1]
2. Sacrifice
3. The Death Of Don Quixote
4. Third Sonnet To Sundry Notes Of Music [Side 2]
5. To A Broken Guitar
6. Pinky: A Mystery Cycle
Tracks 1 to 6 are their debut album "Soundtrack" - released August 1969 in the UK on Dandelion Records S 63752 and Elektra Records D9-103 in the USA. The US album featured a 'face' as its artwork - that shot is used as Page 1 of the booklet.

7. Ballad (Of The Big Girl Now And The Mere Boy)
8. Lament For The Earth
Tracks 7 and 8 are both non-album tracks - their debut UK 7" single on Dandelion Records 4406 released July 1969

Disc 2 - "The Asmoto Running Band" - 40:24 minutes:
Side Three/The Asmoto Side
1. McAlpine's Dream [Side 1]
2. McAlpine Versus The Asmoto
3. The Asmoto Running Band (Hou'Amih)
4. Asmoto Celebration
5. Further Asmoto Celebration (After The Ball)
Side Four/The Gambini Side
6. Total Glycerol Esther [Side 2]
7. Freef ('R) All
8. Autumn Lady Dancing Song
9. The Kettering Song
10. Weirdsong Of Breaking Through At Last
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 2nd studio album "The Asmoto Running Band" - released January 1971 in the UK on Dandelion Records DAN 8002 (no USA issue). The album was produced by NICK MASON of PINK FLOYD.

Disc 3 - "Hidden Treasure: Sessions, Live and Demos" - 74:06 minutes:
1. The Ballad (Of The Big Girl Now And The Mere Boy) - Top Gear, 1969
2. Third Sonnet To Sundry Notes Of Music - Top Gear, 1969
3. Pinky: A Mystery Cycle - Top Gear, 1969
Tracks 1 to 3 recorded 24 February 1969 at the BBC for the John Peel 'Top Gear' Show - broadcast 3 March 1969. Taken from an off-air recording made by Eddy Duffy

4. King Of The - Top Gear, 1970
5. The Fortieth Day Of Winter - Top Gear, 1970
Tracks 4 and 5 recorded at the BBC 13 January 1970 for John Peel's 'Top Gear' Show - broadcast 17 Jan 1970 - taken from Original Master Tapes

6. Vollabast
7. Two Women
8. Weasel (In The Wardrobe)
9. Scarlett HalfMan
10. The Egg And The Antrobus
Tracks 6 to 10 recorded live at Hampstead Theatre in the UK, September 1971 - tapes transferred and mixed by Richard Jones

11. Rainy Day Anne
12. Dear John & Mary (A State Of Affairs)
13. Ministry Of Madness
Tracks 11 to 13 are demos recorded at Morgan Studios in London, October 1971 - supervised by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.
Tracks 4 to 13 are all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

VIVIENNE McAULIFFE and MARTIN STELLMAN – Lead Vocals and Recorders
ROOT CARTWRIGHT – Guitars, Recorders and Bass Guitar
BELINDA 'BINDY' BOURQUIN – Violin, Recorder, Piano and Organ
DAVID JONES – Percussion (and Lyrics)
LYN EDWARDS - Percussion
ROGER SWALLOW – Drums on "The Asmoto Running Band" only

Dan Leatherbarrow - Lyrics (Tracks 3 and 5 on Disc 2)
Monica Nettles – Dancer and Speaking Voice
John McMahon Hill – Dancer
Eva Darlow – Dancer
Gillian Hadlev – Choreography and Writer
Leslie Adley – Lights
Harry Housman – Stage, Road Manager and Designer
Christopher Runciman – Lights
Chrissie Morris – Lightshows and Effects
Terry Budd – Drums on Track 7, Disc 3
Beth Wood – Vocals and Recorder on Track 6, Disc 3 – Violin on Track 9
Joe Read – Bass Guitar and Recorder on Track 7, Disc 3

You get three single card sleeves slotted inside a card slipcase with a 20-page booklet sat alongside them. The first two card sleeves show the front and rear artwork for "Soundtrack" from 1969 and their second studio platter from early 1971 - "The Asmoto Running Band" – both on Dandelion Records. Fans will know they were originally gatefold sleeves on vinyl and carried lyric inserts so Cherry Red have reproduced the lyrics and the booklet's first page carries the different 'face' artwork of the USA issue for "Soundtrack" on Elektra Records – nice touches and attention to detail. The third CD uses a period black and white photo of their stage show as its artwork – while MIKE BARNES provides the in-depth liner notes that include interviews with keeper of the flame – Root Cartwright. And all three CDs are picture discs. It's all very tastefully done.

The audio is down to ALAN WILSON – and it's very pretty indeed. While some passages feature whig-out guitars – a lot of it is Trippy Acoustic veering into Folk-Rock so benefits from a good transfer and that's what you get. Some of the tracks on Disc 3 are ropey for sure but are here for obvious reasons - rarity value (previously unreleased). Let's get to the music...

Their debut album "Soundtrack" had only six tracks - three to either side - each half of the record dominated by one long track. "Enigmatic Insomniac Machine" starts proceedings with a flute, acoustic guitars and light marching percussion - like Tyrannosaurus Rex about to take a tab of acid and want to rock. You immediately notice Vivienne McAuliffe's voice that is akin to Bridget St. John (another Dandelion folky worth checking out – see separate review) or Sonja Christina of Curved Air. She starts rattling off lyrics about a mascara man who doesn't understand that she can't sleep for worry about the world. Things turn decidedly Heavy Prog Rock with the guitar riffage opening of "Sacrifice" - but it soon settles down into a more Folk-Rock amble with the droning voice of the band's other singer - Martin Stellman - soon joined by McAuliffe. Unfortunately its obvious why Vivienne is given the bulk of the singing chores - Stellman's voice is the kind of deadpan hippy drone that might induce a stoning from a less than sympathetic audience. The song is good though and has interesting stoner parts towards the end. The staggeringly wordy "The Death Of Don Quixote" is a near fourteen-minute Folk-Rock tour de force - violin, voice, acoustic guitar and words - pages of them. You could leave – paint the front room – and when you return – Vivienne will still be singing about a pleased witch in a mill in a tone that you suspect says she approves (Peel even gets a line himself).

Shakespeare provides the lyrics for "Third Sonnet To Sundry Notes Of Music” where its duet vocals and generally hippy nature is saving by a wicked rocking guitar break half way through the monk-like chants and ye olde wordage. "To A Broken Guitar" is a short acoustic ode from Cartwright and Leatherbarrow to their instrument of choice. The guitar work in the 10-minute "Pinky: A Mystery Cycle" is superb and will raise a chill amongst collectors – but it's partially negated by a spoken ending from Vivienne that unintentionally verges on the laugh-out-loud. The two non-album single sides are very hippy Folk of the period (pretty and ponderous) and collectors will appreciate their presence here. To sum up - the debut LP is a typically eclectic start – part loveable, part cack.

The second album "The Asmoto Running Band" brought on board two heavyweights in different departments – Hipgnosis did the cover art while Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame did the Production. The Drummer Roger Swallow - who did stints with Harsh Reality, Matthews Southern Comfort and would later be with The Albion Country Band – also joined the ranks for album number two - even bringing the excellent "Freef ('R) All" track with him as collateral. The moment you play "McAlpine’s Dream" you hear the upgraded sound – Vivienne and Martin voices clear while the recorders get all fairy-lore on our ears. The largely instrumental "McAlpine Versus The Asmoto" shows amazing maturity in their compositions and playing – part Captain Beefheart, part Flock – all crooked pianos and violins one moment – then beauty the next (and the Audio is fantastic too). Other Prog-leaning winners include "Asmoto Celebration" and the undeniably pretty "The Kettering Man" which is heading towards Mellow Candle in its complex beauty. The second album is an unsung hero in their catalogue and its cool to hear it sound so good here.

The three Top Gear tracks from 1969 are acoustic and live - the audio good rather than being great - a few clicks and pops here and there. "Ballad..." is introduced as the new single and they sound like Sandy Denny doing a Demo. The Shakespeare poem 'Third Sonnet' is given an acoustic going over too with both vocalists. Far better sonically is "King Of The" and "The Fortieth Day Of Winter" from 1970 - taken from real tapes - Martin Stellman (unfortunately) taking lead vocals on both where PEMT sound like a lighter version of "This Was" Jethro Tull. "Vollabast" turns out to be six minutes of Funky keyboards against a very Prog backdrop. But the big prize here is the 13-minute "Weasel (In The Wardrobe)" - Duncan Browne sounding Spanish acoustic guitar carrying Vivienne McAuliffe and more pages of words. Best amongst the demos is "Rainy Day Anne" which shows a more Steeleye Span direction.

Principal Edwards Magic Theatre will not be for everyone by any stretch of the imagination and some of those early hippy incantations might bring some rockers out in a rash that not even real ale will cure. But amidst all of that loopy ensemble Folk Rock and somewhere in those Prog theatrical flourishes lies beauty and daring. And reissue hero Cherry Red is to be praised for putting all that Kettering quackery back out there and in such style too...

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

"Chicago" from 1970 aka "Chicago II" by CHICAGO (January 2017 'Steven Wilson Remix' and Remaster CD Reissue on Rhino) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
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"...Colour My World..."

It doesn't take a Mensa certificate to work out that old fart 'remaster' fans like me (and a few million others) have come to worship at the feet of Steve Wilson – the go-to Musician and Audio Engineer for CD transfers – especially those albums with a Proggy leaning.

But what needs to be pointed out about this 2017 SW reissue of Chicago's second platter "Chicago" (January 1970 on Columbia Records in the USA and March 1970 on CBS Records in the UK) is that it's a 'different' "Chicago" than the straight-up 1CD remaster Rhino put out in July 2002. Housed in a fetching and accurate Mini Gatefold LP Repro Card Sleeve complete with fold-out poster inside – the small print on the back of this new reissue wants to hammer home this 'different' point by stating clearly what you're buying - 'Original Mix released 1970. This remix copyright to Rhino for 2017...'

So what's so different that they need to put a Steve Wilson Remix box in the upper left corner of the sleeve beneath the Rhino catalogue number? Porcupine Tree's SW has taken the 16-track original tapes and reconstructed a 'new' Stereo Remix - and with modern-day technology - that's allowed him to get down and dirty with the musicianship at a nuclear level. Working with isolated High Resolution 96kHz/24-Bit digitally transferred files - guitars, piano, brass jabs, strings, layered vocals and even stereo positioning - all came up for grabs and improvement on what was a notoriously audio-compromised vinyl release in the first place.

Painstakingly rebuilt from the rhythm section upwards - the results are amazing - 'different' to the straightforward Rhino transfer for sure - but stunning nonetheless – especially on those string-heavy sections on Side 3 and the Brass and Flute Movements of Side 4. And as Wilson quite rightly points out in his page-long October 2016 explanation - those who are used to the original 1970 double-album 'sound' and would only want that variant on CD - can buy the Rhino reissue of 2002 in its card slipcase easily (and cheaply too). And if you want more of that variant Rhino also released a DVD-Audio in 2003 with 5.1 Surround Mixes. Now let's get to the details of this 2017 variant – Chicago Transit Authority's second 'poem for the people'...

UK and USA released 27 January 2017 - "Chicago: Steven Wilson Remix" by CHICAGO offers the full original 2LP set from 1970 Remixed and Remastered onto 1CD housed in card repro artwork with a fold-out inlay. The US issue is on Rhino R2  559549 (Barcode 081227941499) – the UK one on Rhino 081227941499 (Barcode 081227941499). Both play out as follows (67:17 minutes):

1. Movin' On [Side 1]
2. The Road
3. Poem For The People
4. In The Country
5. Wake Up Sunshine

Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon [Side 2]
6. Make Me A Smile
7. So Much To Say, So Much To Give
8. Anxiety's Moment
9. West Virginia Fantasies
10. Colour My World
11. To Be Free
12. Now More Than Ever

13. Fancy Colours [Side 3]
14. 25 or 6 to 4
15. Prelude
16. A.M. Mourning
17. P.M. Mourning
18. Memories Of Love

It Better End Soon [Side 4]
19. 1st Movement
20. 2nd Movement
21. 3rd Movement
22. 4th Movement
23. Where Do We Go From Here
Tracks 1 to 23 make up their 2nd studio set - the double-album "Chicago" (sometimes referred to as "Chicago II") – released January 1970 in the USA on Columbia KGP-24 and March 1970 in the UK on CBS Records 66233. Produced by JAMES WILSON GUERCIO - it peaked at No.4 in the USA and No. 6 in the UK.

ROBERT LAMM - Vocals and Keyboards
TERRY KATH - Vocals and Guitar
PETER CETERA - Vocals and Bass
LEE LOUGHNANE - Trumpet and Vocals
WALTER PARAZAIDER - Woodwinds (including Flute) and Vocals

The inner gatefold of the original double-album is reproduced complete with the lyrics to the socially charged "It Better End Here" over on the right side while credits fill the left. The foldout insert gives us the poster of the seven-piece group individually photographed in sepia – all barefoot and leaning on chairs – looking suitably in touch with a zeitgeist that eludes us mere mortals. The flipside of the foldout poster gives us album/reissue credits alongside Steve Wilson's in-depth explanations of what had to be done and how it was technically pulled of. To the music...

In all honesty (and having lived with this sucker for 47 years) I don't know if I share the sentiments of the 'Chicago 50/1967 to 2017' sticker on the front cover of this reissue that screams "Chicago" is the preeminent masterpiece. I much prefer Sides 3 and 4 to the first LP - but there's no doubting the wallop of the Trumpet and Trombone on "Movin' On" as they hit your speakers - the first of eight James Pankow compositions on the double-album (tracks 6 to 12 are the others). Terry Kath forks up "The Road" where those crashing cymbals feel more alive while the piano intro to Robert Lamm's "Poem For The People" is just plain beautiful. Other faves include "Make Me Smile" - the brass dancer that opens the 'Buchannon Girl' suite on Side 2 where children play in the park. There's amazing sound from the tambourine and various keyboards doing battle with the brass on the short "West Virginia Fantasies" segueing tastefully into the pretty "Colour My World" where Chicago sound like Terry Callier over on Cadet Records.

While the obvious hit single "25 or 6 to 4" is here in its full 4:52 minute album glory (the 7" single was an edit) - my poison has always been the four-part "Memories Of Love" suite that follows - "Prelude", "A.M. Mourning", "P.M. Mourning" and the title track. The Flute and String arrangements are startling - unnervingly lovely - cool even. The same applies to the funkier parts of the "2nd Movement" as that slinky Terry Kath guitar plinkers alongside Walter Parazadier's breathy Flute. I love this. And the build-up in "3rd Movement" and wild guitars in the 4th is like C.C.S. or the better bits of the Blood, Sweat and Tears catalogue from 1969 and 1970. Hell there's even Ian Anderson's Jethro Tull in there too.

Wilson is (yet again) to be praised for his work on an album that has fallen by the appreciation wayside. "Where Do We Go From Here" - Peter Cetera asks in the final song of "Chicago". You buy this and get all Funky Prog Classical on your living room's ass...