Posts Tagged ‘Chrysalis’

Tir Na Nog

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

tirnanogstronguk, Tir Na Nog, Chrysalis, Matthew Fisher, John Martyn, Nick Drake

Listen: Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog
Strong In The Sun / Tir Na Nog

I was desperate to see Tir Na Nog when they toured the US in ’72. It never happened.

Although being the college concert chairman at the time, having pushed through Rory Gallagher, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Colosseum, Atomic Rooster, The Electric Light Orchestra, The Pretty Things and The Incredible String Band against everyone’s “who the fuck are these people” stances in one school year mind you, it didn’t really allow me any more puts. By then, the budget was spent anyways. Otherwise, they’d have been there.

Tir Na Nog’s second and third albums were released in the States, and I particularly loved that third one, STRONG IN THE SUN. It was, well still is, a seminal recording, right up there with the best from Tyrannosaurus Rex, John Martyn and Nick Drake. Indeed the album includes a cover of his ‘Free Ride’, itself worthy of 7″ status. Tracks like ‘Cinema’ rivaled some of Pink Floyd’s tracks from MEDDLE for being…cinematic, funny enough. If you’d told me Norman Smith, Denny Cordell or Peter Asher had produced some of this stuff, I’d have believed you. The album is that good.

Indeed, Matthew Fisher from Procol Harum was in charge of production, and as with similar duties on Robin Trower’s BRIDGE OF SIGHS, did an A+ job.

When I up and headed for London during summer ’73, I took a night off from The Marquee to see them play a small, sit-down-cross-legged room, God knows the name of it now. But the show remains a vivid memory.

There was a time, around ’85, and Howard Thompson was looking at cover songs for 10000 Maniacs. I guess as a potential single, possibly a one-off film submission or something. I recommended ‘Strong In The Sun’. I thought Natalie Merchant would have done it some beautiful justice and Tir Na Nog could have gotten some well deserved recognition. Didn’t happen. ‘Peace Train’ was chosen instead, against the band’s wishes. Years later, turns out Natalie insisted it be removed from that album. Elektra complied..

There has to be someone out there in need of a great song to revive their sagging career: Nelly Furtado, Jewel, Anna Nalick, Five For Fighting, Vanessa Carlton, Paula Cole or wait, Natalie Merchant.

The Fun Boy Three / Bananarama

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Listen: It Ain’t What You Do… / The Fun Boy Three & Bananarama
It Ain't What You Do... / The Fun Boy Three & Bananarama

Maybe this parallel is way off base, but The Fun Boy Three were always what Big Audio Dynamite claimed to be, as I recall it at least. Their whole idea seemed to focus more on marketing themselves as a politically correct, multi cultural amalgamation than actually sounding like one. Unfortunately Don Letts’ worthy musical taste as a dj/radio presenter never spilled into Big Audio Dynamite’s music nearly enough, despite being a member.

Meanwhile, The Fun Boy Three jungled along, actually basing their sound around a consistent tribal rhythm. Even when dragging the overkill fashion conscience vocal church mice, aka Bananarama, into the mix, they still managed to pull it off.

Covering Ella Fitzgerald’s 1939 calypso based hit, ‘It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It’, proved an educated song choice and an astute career chess play, providing them with their biggest UK chart placing ever, #4 in ’82. It continued the band’s authenticity, first started via their debut single ‘The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum’.

Steeleye Span

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Listen: Hard Times Of Old England / Steeleye Span

I can completely understand why some folks found Maddy Prior’s voice grating. Never really noticed until now, all these years later. Sometimes I’m clearly asleep at the wheel. For instance, during the commercial heyday of southern rock, I couldn’t for the life of me get why the US was not into Roy Wood’s Wizzard or Sparks. So there you go.

Folk rock, as with jazz, seems allowed to deal themselves the occasional out of jail free card. In the case of a voice, there are plenty of folkies who get appreciated, where in any other genre, that same person would be considered unacceptable. The Incredible String Band or The Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee come to mind.

Whatever. ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ was a big favorite when current. I played the hell out of it on my college station, not exactly a fit in upsate New York.

Although the single was not a UK chart success, unlike some of Steeleye Span’s other releases, one would have thought it might turn into an anthem, ever present on pub jukeboxes across the land. A bit like The Strawbs‘ ‘Part Of The Union’.

The record certainly got embraced by the BBC heavily, the public just didn’t buy it.

A Handful Of Cheek

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Listen: I’ll Slap Your Face / A Handful Of Cheek

King Of The Hooks, as Jonathan King was known, kept a non-stop flow of pop novelty singles coming from his UK Records imprint during the early 70′s. Initially distributed by Decca and later Polydor, some deservedly became the occasional hit.

Clearly, all these one-off releases were from his own musical pen, when not picking up the occasional left field Reggae (Carl Malcolm), Northern (The Devonnes) or American Soul (Hoagy Lands) master that is.

JK always came up with hysterical synonyms for himself and his hired musicians. In this case, A Handful Of Cheek.

When visiting London in March ’77 with Corinne, we made the rounds of all the labels, blagging records. Howard set us up with Andrew Lauder at United Artists, and folks at Chrysalis, Charisma, etc. No one was about to bother with UK, deemed quite unhip despite 10CC and The Kursaal Flyers. Maybe others looked down their nose at UK, but certainly not me.

Maintaing a small office just near the entrance to Warren Street tube, the very nice receptionist gladly opened the cupboards and pulled out a good fifty singles for me to take back home for my US college station. Bless her. A Handful Of Cheek was among them.

Starting with a glam drum sound, ‘I’ll Slap Your Face’ soon turns into one of my favorite Jonathan King novelties. Dropping in the orchestral backing at the key change is an unexpected and undeniable example of why King Of The Hooks, even if self appointed, is undeniably justified.

Dr. Feelgood

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Listen: Another Man / Dr. Feelgood DrFeelgoodAnotherMan.mp3

There’s a load of theories about where punk started. I suppose you can slice and dice it back to anywhere you want, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins or The Pretty Things, or endless garage bands from the mid 60′s. Most self appointed, gatekeeping journalists will flatter each other with either The Stooges or The New York Dolls. My vote goes to Suicide in the US and the Canvey Island bands in the UK, of which Dr. Feelgood were the first superstars.

Their live show stoked Eddie & The Hot Rods and together they lit up London fast and raw. It was indeed the speed of sound and the sound of speed all at once. New bands that clutched to the past and stood in their way were mowed down flat. Hustler and Nutz for example. It was a fun time for house cleaning. Labels like Chrysalis had their rosters fossilized overnight. Seemed like the world turned from black and white to color. Every single released was a new high.

Dr. Feelgood: Lee Brilleaux had a vocal style and stage presense not unlike Roger Chapman, and Wilko Johnson religiously perfected Mick Green’s jagged guitar style into his own. Their second album, MALPRACTICE, is a clean, articulate blueprint of the band’s attack and technique. But when Dr. Feelggod unleashed live, it was unstoppable.

Seeing them between late ’75 through mid ’77 really was life changing. If you did, you’ll know how hearing their records now will still sound different to us, as opposed to those who weren’t as lucky. Over three decades later, that hasn’t changed.

Not one for European pressings, I tell you honestly, my collection has less than a hundred. I make exception for singles like this, when not one but two 7″ worthy songs are issued on a 45. Both ‘Going Back Home’ and ‘Another Man’ (like ‘I Can Tell’, all from MALPRACTICE) were never released as singles in the UK or US. This Dutch pressing being the only exception to my knowledge. In fact, ‘I Can Tell’ has never come out on 7″ anywhere. How did the otherwise faultless Andrew Lauder mess this one up?

Wait. Come to think of it, there were a few numbers from Brinsley Schwarz NERVOUS ON THE ROAD that deserved single status. Andrew Lauder you have some answering to do.

Being an archivist and collector can also mean you’re a pack-rat, depending upon whom you listen to. Ask Corinne for instance and she’ll pick door number three.

Fine, I’m all of them and glad of it, having saved pretty much everything I’ve ever owned, starting with a rock that flew into my hand off my tricycle’s front wheel at about five years old. That’s how extreme, and far back, I can claim the obsession. Good thing, because the records began at age seven. Damn, if only I started at birth.

In the case of this flyer, saving every last item allowed me to pinpoint the exact date and hour when a whole new musical world was revealed behind that invisible curtain. There had been a few jolting revelations before and several after, but that moment when rock as it had been known and loved immediately became the past occured on February 29, 1976. Dr. Feelgood were a blistering no holds barred introduction to pub and punk. Gone was the polish and self indulgence, the bloat and tired outfits. What the music world changed into we all know.

It was a fantastic time to be young and insatiable. And here’s the flyer to stake that very date in my life. Corinne and I, with our dearest friend Karen Kasiner, braved a winter storm to see Dr. Feelgood. I wouldn’t trade that night for anything.


Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Listen: Wheelin’ ‘n’ Dealin’ / Sassafras Sassafras.mp3

’73 – ’74 London was in full swing Glam mode. Didn’t mean the tail end of Prog or country/boogie/blues rock had let go just yet though. Less fashion driven, although they all had their platform heels and tight velvet pants uniform down pat, you could say they were more bent on “good, solid, tasty music”. That description, lifted from a Melody Maker review of ‘Wheelin’ ‘n’ Dealin” will make you gag I know, but it’s kind of accurate.

I particularly liked all these B division bands, signed to majors yet still slogging around the London clubs, grasping for Monday/Tuesday nights at the Fulham Greyhound or Marquee, where yours truly worked picking up empty pint glasses for washing. Mind you, this was one of the greatest jobs I ever had. Would give up a lot to go back in time to do it all over again.

Sassafras had their beginnings that year, and played the Marquee a few times during my tenure, double billing with other Chrysalis acts like Wild Turkey and Bedlam mostly, as I recall it.

Not until ’75 did their career changer 7″ above see light of day…..yet I could swear they were playing it live for a while. Yes, a guilty pleasure here. I was a fan. It’s one of the bands that can conjure up mental, visual and even aromatic memories (beer stenched Marquee carpet, Cornish pasty dispenser, scotch eggs) of that great era.

Robin Trower

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

RobinManUK, Robin Trower, Chrysalis

RobinManUSA, Robin Trower, Chrysalis

Listen: Man Of The World (Mono) / Robin Trower RobinTrowerMan.mp3

I don’t really care how dated some folks accuse this era of music to be – or how derivative it all seems now. I agree, you can see how it planted the seeds for mainstream rock radio to go down a wrong way street, yet some of these early bands were very exciting during their beginning days. Robin Trower had just left Procol Harum, he’d had enough of their ‘never have a good day’ music. Nonetheless, camaraderie prevailed and Procol Harum bandmate Matthew Fisher obliged as producer.

I think what set Robin Trower’s band apart was lead singer James Dewar. What a voice. He had a darkness vocally that is reserved for very few: Jim Morrison, Paul Rodgers and John Doe come to mind.

This single preceded the debut album TWICE REMOVED FROM YESTERDAY by seemingly a few months, but I don’t know for sure. I worked for a record distributor at the time, while still in college. All the product was organized by label, and every week about 10-15 copies of this one would move. Slowly but surely, it creeped forward piece count wise – so that by the time it’s followup hit (BRIDGE OF SIGHS), the band were on fire.

Needless to say, the single got no Top 40 play, but like most 7′s back then, their main objective was to focus the album rock dj’s toward something a bit more commercial, and this US white label is from the very tail end of when promos were pressed to include both mono/stereo mixes. For fun, here’s the mono version – not an easy one to find.

RobinFastTrain, Robin Trower

Listen: Take A Fast Train / Robin Trower RobinFastTrain.mp3

Both of those two initial albums still have a spot with me. Dark, maybe minor key and full of great songs, they don’t get a hint of the praise they each deserve.

The B side to ‘Man Of The World’, the non-LP ‘Take A Fast Train’ is very typical: not quite good enough for the album but a ‘must’ for the die hards. I have no idea if the track ever made it’s way onto one of those scrape the bottom of the tape library barrel anthologies, but if not – here you go.

The Fun Boy Three

Monday, June 29th, 2009

fb3lunaticsps1, The Specials, The Fun Boy Three, Chrysalis

Listen: The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum / The Fun Boy Three FB3Lunatics.mp3

I never bought into Terry Hall’s vocals with The Specials. He may have been sincere, but his pouty photos were a put off, plus I preferred the ska originators over the revivalists.

This all may have been a bit harsh on my part looking back. Even at the time, it only took one listen to ‘The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum’ and my whole view did an about face. In fact, that first play, coming out of Radio 1 early one rainy morning in Howard’s Hammersmith flat on Agate Road, set the perfect scenario.

I remember it vividly. Hot tea in hand, I just stood there until the record finished. It sounded so different, maybe even groundbreaking as they say, a bit like The Dixie Cups ‘Iko Iko’ mashed up with David Essex’s ‘Rock On’, although I doubt either played any part in it’s creation. I dare say it still stands out today.