Monday, June 10, 2024

Methuselah - Matthew, Mark, Luke And John - Expanded Edition

Methuselah initially got their start in late 1964 / early 1965 as the beat/R&B band The Dimples.  Not long after forming they got a residency at The Jazz Workshop in Ashby, as did the band The Imps.  Over the ensuing years, band members came and went and with some members of The Imps (and their later incarnation The Craze) joining, the lineup was finally solidified with John Gladwin (lead vocals), Terry Wincott (guitar, vocals), Greg Tomlinson (guitar, vocals), Craig Austin (bass, vocals) and Stuart Smith (drums).  At this point they started moving from their blues heavy songs to also include Tamla and soul and released a single at the end of 1966.  Not long after the single's release, Tomlinson and Smith quit the band and were replaced by guitarist Geoff Eaton Tindle and drummer Steve Cox.  With this new lineup they started shifting stylewise again, incorporating influences of psychedelia and the burgeoning California sound.  They changed their name to Gospel Garden and released another single.  More member changes followed with Cox and Tindle leaving the group to be replaced by drummer Mick Bradley and guitarist Les Nicol, and they also moved in more of a rock direction.  All of this was followed by the name change to Methuselah when their management told them the one they had wasn't commercial enough.  The band then entered the studio with Brill Building songwriter Kenny Young (co-writer of "Under The Boardwalk") and Steve Rowland (one half of their management at Double-R) co-producing what would become their sole album Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Even though they were signed to Elektra, the album ended up only being released in the US and didn't sell much.  Its release was also delayed and by the time it was released the band had split in two with Austin, Nicol and Bradley playing more free-form jam sessions as a trio (a la Cream and Hendrix) and Gladwin and Wincott playing mellower acoustic music as The Amazing Blondell.  All of this meant sales were lackluster and resulted in it being counterfeited a few times over the years.  Now this newly reissued version has been remastered from the original master tapes, and also includes seven previously unreleased outtakes and alternate mixes from those sessions.  While not necessarily religious, the album definitely has plenty of biblical references starting off with the four-song suite that is the album’s namesake.  “Matthew” kicks things off strongly with its late sixties/early seventies era California sound vocal harmonies and heavy psychedelic guitar work, a sound that continues with “Mark”, which at times is even heavier, but also has some more laid-back psychedelic sections.  “Luke” picks up that laid-back psych sound and adds a little bit of jazz and more strong vocal harmonies.  With a bit of blues thrown in “John” is more of an acid rocker that brings back the heaviness again exploding with screaming guitars.  “High In The Tower Of Coombe” is an interesting, kind of quirky medieval tune driven by a military like marching beat.  Complete with handclaps, “Methuselah” is spirited and upbeat, but with slow and dark choruses.  Driven by a funky, R&B groove, “My Poor Mary” is a super infectious change of pace, followed by the straight-ahead hard rock of “Fireball Woman” and “Fairy Tale”, a ballad with a little rock edge.  The album closes strangely with their bizarre cover of the nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques” that is definitely the album’s weak point.  It starts with them singing in a sing songy falsetto and then shifts into an extended soft-jazz instrumental before coming back around to a choral falsetto section.   Kenny Young, the aforementioned co-producer also contributed the song “Don’t Ask Me And I Won’t Lie”, a really catchy midtempo rocker that ended up not making the album, but is now included here as the first of three outtakes and also here in a mono mix.  The other two outtakes are a soft jazz version of “You Are My Sunshine” that’s in the same vein as their version of “Frère Jacques”, and “Put Me Down Easy”, a heavy blues rocker  Rounding out the bonus tracks are an alternative mix of “Fireball Woman” and mono mixes of “Fairy Tale” and “Frère Jacques.”   Also included here is a very detailed twenty-eight page CD booklet that highlights the band’s history as well as what happened after they broke up.  Grapefruit has once again brought a well-deserved, largely ignored band to light.  

Saturday, June 08, 2024

McCoy - The Sound Of Thunder!

Although primarily known as a bassist, John McCoy got his start in the mid-sixties as lead guitarist for the beat group The Drovers.  Over the ensuing years he worked as a session musician with a multitude of big names, played with the likes of folk rockers Curtiss Maldoon, jazz rockers Zzebra and Atomic Rooster, and also worked as a producer for many artists including Samson and UK Subs.  From the band’s inception in 1978 until its dissolution in 1982, he was a member of former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan’s band Gillan, where in addition to playing bass, he also contributed a lot to the songwriting, arranging and producing.  When Gillan decided to end the band, he said it was because he had to have vocal surgery, but two months later he announced he was joining Black Sabbath.  This was a blow to the band, but about a year later McCoy, Gillan keyboard player Colin Towns and guitarist Paul Samson, along with vocalist T-Bone Rees and drummers Ron ‘Rebel’ Matthews and Liam Genockey, formed the band McCoy and in 1983 they released an eponymous EP followed by their full-length debut Hard Thinking in 1984.  When the band decided to tour following the album’s release things went awry.  Before their first show Rees got drunk and was horrible, resulting in the promoters and agents saying he needed to be replaced.  At this same time Samson also left the band.  They were replaced for the live shows by vocalist Nikki Brooks and guitarist Mark Keen, but when the band failed to make any impact, McCoy went on to form the group Mammoth who released an album in 1989, but then also broke up.  At this point he focused more on producing, but then in 1998 he revived the McCoy name and released the album Brainstormm with Al Romano on guitars and vocals and Mike Sciotto on drums.  Now, thanks to HNE Recordings, the EP and both albums along with Live 1977, a live recording featuring the trio of McCoy, Samson and drummer Roger Hunt that was recorded in 1977, are compiled on the three CD box set The Sound Of Thunder!

Disc one kicks off with the EP and a killer cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well!” (written by the legendary Peter Green).  It’s a hard driving cut with a strong sense of atmosphere and some solid guitar work from Samson.  Next up are “Night Lights” and “The Sound of Thunder”, a couple of great NWOBHM rockers, the first of which has a short piano section in the middle that reminds me a little of what Van Halen would do not too much later on 1984 (interestingly Rees vocals on the EP also give me Sammy Hagar vibes at times).  “Temporary Threshold Shift” is a catchy track with a hard driving chugga chugga, boogie woogie beat.  That brings us to the last track on the EP, “Because You Lied”, a slower tune full of shimmering guitar washes (a little reminiscent of Whitesnake), but with biting, very emotional lyrics directed at Gillan.
Also included on disc one is the Think Hard album, which starts with the raw, crunching guitars of the hard driving opener “Freemind”.  “The Demon Rose” is a definite standout track that finds them shifting gears a little and is somewhat laid-back with a really cool groove that is strongly reminiscent of Thin Lizzy.  With an emotional vocal performance from Rees, “Loving Lies” is the first of two strong bluesy power ballads (“Fear Of The Morning” is the other).  Driven by its galloping beat, “Hell To Play” is very Maiden-like, while “Heads Will Roll” and “Ride The Night” are more classic sounding NWOBHM tracks.  The album closes with “Jerusalem”, a midtempo rocker, fleshed out with some synths and choral vocals from Mathern Village School Choir, that unfortunately goes on a little too long and gets a little repetitive.  Disc one also contains a couple of bonus tracks with the single version of “Oh Well!” and an alternate version of “Night Lights” that sounds a lot like a demo.  

The lineup of McCoy that recorded the Brainstorm album (disc 2) started around 1991 when Samson and Thunderstick told him about playing with Al Romano on a trip to New York.  Samson said he sounded like him and he thought they might work well together.  Romano got in touch with him and also told him about vocalist Joey Belladonna who he had been working with.  They decided McCoy would write the music and then finish them with Joey and record an album.  Belladonna was still with Anthrax and they had a hit at that time with "Bring The Noise", which continued to create delays with the album.  McCoy started working out the songs with Romano and Sciotto and it reached the point where they decided to just record it themselves with Romano handling the vocals.  When Joey finally heard what they were doing he said he thought it was too AOR for him and after further delays due to McCoy's mother dying, he said he wasn't interested in finishing it. McCoy eventually completed the recordings several years later and the album was released in 1998.  While there are some similarities to the earlier releases under that name, overall, the album is much more on the melodic, and at times poppier, side.  It opens quite differently with the ethereal “Dreaming Of The Dead”, a sitar instrumental with an interesting droning undercurrent.  “Heavy Metal Cowboy” is up next and is a hard driving cut with an almost thrash like pace from the rhythm section that finds them in a more familiar territory.   The next several tracks find them sticking to the melodic rock side of things starting off with the midtempo “On And On”, which is okay but a bit on the generic side.  “Outrageous” and “Don’t Walk Away” are in the same vein, but are catchier and much better, while “I Know A Place” and “Save Me” have a bit more of a rock edge.  Along with more really good guitar work, “Streamtrain” adds a slightly funky, stomping beat to the mix, while “Bad Luck” shifts even more in a harder direction with a bit of a ragged, punky edge.  The synth-heavy power ballad “Josephine” is up next followed by “Tarot Cards”, a poppy melodic rocker with more emphasis on the synths once again.  With the exception of the occasional chant of the song’s title, “The Prophets of Doom” is a heavy, slow paced instrumental.  Closing out the album, bookended between two humorous tracks (“The List/Zoomusic/The List Continues” and “Hawaiians 2 - Electrolux 1”) that are a nod to the For Gillan Fans Only album, is “Disillusioned”, a really pretty stripped-down acoustic cut.

Disc three is from a show recorded in 1977 featuring the earliest incarnation of the band utilizing the McCoy name (to get more gigs they also moonlighted as Samson).  In addition to McCoy, the band consisted of Paul Samson on guitars and vocals and Roger Hunt on drums.  The set was recorded by the band's roadie/sound engineer at a pub call the Target in Reading, Berkshire on July 16, 1977.  Amongst the songs are five that ended up on Samson’s debut album Survivors (“Big Brother”, “Wrong Side Of Time”, “Six Foot Under” and CD reissue tracks “I Wish I Was” and “The Shuffle”, the last of which even showcases some harmonica from Samson) and covers of Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" and ZZ Top's "Nasty Dogs and Funk Kings".  For the most part, the set consists of solid bluesy rockers along with some boogie woogie (the aforementioned "Six Foot Under") and a few muscular straight-ahead rockers ("Telephone", "I Wish I Was), and while the quality of the recording is rough, it is a fascinating glimpse of what was to come a few years later.  Rounded out by a CD booklet with an essay detailing the band, The Sound of Thunder! does a great job of highlighting this era of this underappreciated musician's work.   

(HNE Recordings)

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Waverly Drive - Push My Luck EP

Push My Luck is the third EP from Waverly Drive, the solo project from studio engineer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Phil Galloni.  It's a highly infectious set of tunes that draws from musical influences like indie rock, new wave, synth-pop and electropop.  Kicking the EP off is “After The Show”, a dreamy, indie pop tune with an infectious electropop beat.  The title track is up next and is a bouncy pop track with well-placed synths and some guitar work that gives it a little more of a rock edge.  The new wave influence is very strong on the next two tracks, the melancholy “Moonlight Love Song” and the up-tempo, synth heavy “Taste Of Love”, which sounds like it came straight out of the eighties.  Driven by a hypnotic, dance beat the EP ends nicely with the dreamy, somewhat melancholy "For You".  

Saturday, June 01, 2024

Various Artists - Do The Strum! Joe Meek's Girl Groups and Pop Chanteuses (1960-1966)

Do The Strum! Joe Meek's Girl Groups and Pop Chanteuses (1960-1966) is the fifth and latest release in Cherry Red Records outstanding Joe Meek’s Tea Chest Tapes series.  Unlike the previous collections, all of which focused on a specific artist, this one focuses on female vocalists and girl groups.  Over the course of three discs there are eighty-eight songs that include every known A and B side, tracks from the film Live It Up!, demos, alternate cuts and more.  While there are a few exceptions, most notably Glenda Collins (check out her great Tea Chest Tapes collection Baby It Hurts: The Holloway Road Sessions) Meek didn’t work much with female vocalists, so most of them recorded a couple of songs with him before he moved on.  

Alongside Collins, who is heavily represented with sixteen tracks, there are twenty-three vocalists or female led bands including the more prolific (Billie Davis, The Honeycombs, Eve Boswell, Gunilla Thorn and Valerie Masters), a few that had just a handful of singles (The Cameos, Judy Cannon), others that only had a song or two (Yolanda, Carol Jones, Pat Reader, Jenny Moss, The Sharades, Kim Roberts, Flip and the Datelines, Diane and the Javelines, Gerry Harlow, The Halos, Lea and Chess, June Harris, Denise Scott and the Soundsmen and Pamela Blue), and even a couple tracks where the artist remains unknown.  There is plenty of diversity throughout the three discs, with everything from beat, folk, soul, R&B, exotica, pop, death discs, garage rock and more, and as always, Meek’s distinctive creativity in the studio is in full effect.  With almost half the tracks previously unreleased this is another treasure trove from the Tea Chest Tapes that is well worth your time.  

(Cherry Red Records

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Son of Man - Gaslight

Son Of Man was initially formed by guitarist George Jones and drummer Bob Richards, former members of the band Man, as a tribute to Man founder Micky Jones (George’s father).  While their plans at first were a series of tribute concerts, they eventually became a recording band, and have now released their third album, Gaslight.  The band is rounded out by Richie Galloni on vocals, Marco James on keys, and bassist Ray Jones (returning to the band after a six-year hiatus, replacing guitarist Glenn Quinn).  Largely rooted in classic rock with bits of metal, folk, blues and prog, it's a diverse, yet still very cohesive, collection of tunes.  The album opens with “Down”, which has a very strong David Gilmour guitar intro (think “Welcome To The Machine”) and then turns into a solid classic rock track with crunching guitars and a bit of a modern-day Deep Purple feel.  “Stuck” is full of AC/DC like guitar licks, but musically has more of a melodic rock edge along with great vocal harmonies.  Showcasing Galloni’s soulful vocals, “Can’t Stop Loving You” is a solid power ballad, although a bit generic, while “Far From Home” is a straight-ahead midtempo track that’s again on the more melodic side with a real eighties metal vibe, especially with the synths.  The title track is a powerhouse rocker with a darker edge and is a perfect example of all the pieces coming together.  Galloni’s vocals are strong and at times effects laden, while the guitars are at first heavier and dirtier, and about halfway through it explodes into a hard charging track that sounds like Deep Purple with a little Judas Priest thrown in.  “The 103” is their tribute to a Harley 103 and is a solid AOR rocker with more great harmonies, plenty of hooks and some nice organ fills.  Shifting gears a bit, “There Will Come A Day” is a big sounding, Native American-themed track that is actually reminiscent of The Eagles (don’t miss the harmonies), but with more great organ and occasional hints of Pink Floyd in the guitar work.  The atmospheric “Tomorrow” is a gorgeous, laid-back and dreamy track that has its own sound, but definitely takes a page from the Pink Floyd book.  Changing things up once again, “Hiding” is an extremely catchy, bluesy rocker complete with some great honky tonk piano, while the powerful epic “The Road” is a big sweeping rocker with touches of prog that is another album high point.  Closing things out is “Thanks For The Ride”, which opens with piano, strings and acoustic guitar before leading into a solid midtempo rocker that make for the perfect swansong for the album.  

(Esoteric Antenna)

Extra Arms - Radar

Originally known as Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, the initial idea for the Extra Arms was for Allen to play all the main instruments, while friends would play the ones he couldn't.  Since then they have evolved into a full-fledged band and therefore the band name is now just His Extra Arms.  Having said that, while the core band plays on the new album, there is also a list of guest musicians.  The root of their sound on Radar is mostly hook-heavy power pop, often with a smart sense of humor lyrically, but there are also elements of indie rock, punk and even some country to keep things fresh and add a bit of diversity.  “Be Someone Else” kicks the album off and opens with some Farfisa organ and then explodes into a punchy power pop gem with a bit of an early Elvis Costello vibe.  Although still high energy and just as infectious, “Everything Disappears” and “All Good Things Take Time” are slightly more restrained (the latter is also notable for its great “na na na” chorus and the album’s first guest appearance with the interesting addition of Jessi Dills on trumpet).  “I Don’t Wanna Surrender” has a ragged Replacements like punk edge, while “Inflatable Boys” adds an eighties touch with drum machine and synth flourishes along with a great guitar solo that you can almost visualize being in an old MTV music video.  They shift gears a bit on “Space and Time”, an awesome country rock ballad that has some killer harmonies and pedal steel from guest Dave Feeny (not to lessen the other tracks, but I would love to hear them do a whole album like this).  Next up is the driving, straight-ahead anthemic “Shut ‘Em Down” followed by “Mad Dog Blue” which adds a bit of a jangly guitar and a hint of Cheap Trick.  After a short acoustic guitar intro, “Your Highness” is another infectious power pop tune, but with a bit of a gritty edge, and thanks to Matt Jones’ appearance on sax, there is a bit of a Springsteen flavor to album closer “Sit Back Up”.  Radar is an extremely solid release from start to finish and will have you bouncing your head, tapping your toes and singing along.    

(Extra Arms)


Friday, May 03, 2024

Warhorse - The Recordings 1970-1972

When original Deep Purple bassist Nick Simper left the band in 1969, he joined singer Marsha Hunt's band, but after playing some gigs that he said weren't very good and realizing that it wasn't really his musical style, he told Marsha that he was leaving the band.  She told him that he should stay as the band leader and form a new lineup and she would fire the rest of them.  He decided he would stay on and started by recruiting guitarist Ged Peck, followed by drummer Mac Poole.  He had initially asked Sweet drummer Mick Turner, but he didn't want to leave that band and suggested Poole, who interestingly enough had previously been asked by Robert Plant to join Led Zeppelin during their formation.  Prior to joining Marsha's band, Nick was playing on a BBC session with Rick Wakeman who told him if he ever formed a band that he would like to be a part, so he ended up joining along with vocalist Ashley Holt who was playing with Wakeman at the time.  At this point the band was torn between being Marsha Hunt's band and wanting to do their own thing, but that was resolved when said she was quitting because she was pregnant.  Unfortunately, a short time after the band's formation, Wakeman, who had many other things going on, was unable to make rehearsals on a regular basis.  They told him if he couldn't commit, he would have to leave.  That left them without keys, but after recording a demo they decided they really needed them, and contacted Frank Wilson, who was already in the band The Rumble.  He agreed to do the recording session, and really liked the result, deciding to leave The Rumble to join the band. They signed a licensing deal with Vertigo Records and released their self-titled album in 1970 followed by Red Sea in 1971.  Remastered versions of both albums, along with eleven bonus tracks consisting live songs and demos, are now available together with the release of The Recordings 1970-1972

Their debut opens with “Vulture Blood”, which starts with a church like organ and then explodes into a heavier track that has a slight Deep Purple vibe with some prog tendencies.  The progressive side of the band is in the forefront on the powerhouse “No Chance”, which also has some bluesy elements and is a very dynamic track shifting back and forth from laid-back sections to more intense ones.  “Burning” is an interesting cut that opens with an almost military like drum beat and organ, leading into a hard rocking, psychedelic swagger and a bit of a funk beat before ending with an instrumental section that really allows everyone in the band to shine.  The album’s lone single was a cover of the Easybeats “St Louis”, and while it failed to do anything with the exception of charting in Holland, it is an excellent take that’s makes for a fun listen.  It also includes a great wah wah solo and really shows just how strong Holt’s vocals were.  Somewhat reminiscent of Deep Purple (especially their song “Wring That Neck”), “Ritual” is a hard charging, bluesy rocker.  The gorgeous prog ballad “Solitude” is an epic track that at almost nine minutes is definitely one of the standout tracks here.  The album ends on a high point with “Woman of the Devil”, which starts slow and doomy (like a lighter Sabbath) then builds in intensity adding a bit of a Deep Purple feel to the mix, along with a somewhat funky beat and some great organ.  Disc one also contains five bonus cuts comprised of four live versions of album tracks and a demo of “Miss Jane”.  The live tracks are a nice addition and while they sound pretty good there are no audience noises, which would lead me to believe that maybe these were recorded live in a studio.  As for the demo of "Miss Jane", it has a loose, almost late sixties San Francisco jam band vibe, that’s an interesting change of pace for the band.  

The band played a lot of shows following the release of the debut, but somewhere in the midst of that time there were some personality conflicts and control issues that led to the departure of Peck.  He was replaced by Pete Parks from the band Black August, and this new lineup recorded their sophomore album Red Sea, which was released in 1971.  Unfortunately, the recording of the album had to be finished abruptly when part of the promised budget was pulled in the middle of recording, and while it’s another good release it’s definitely not as good as the debut.  Having said that, the album starts strongly with the Hammond organ driven title track, which also features some great guitar work from Parks.  At first, the almost eight minute “Back In Time” is a slower, heavier organ driven tune, but about halfway through it lets loose with a great guitar solo and a faster paced climax.  “Confident But Wrong” is a more mainstream R&B tinged rocker that finds them shifting gears a bit, quite possibly an attempt at airplay.  Following “Feeling Better”, a fairly generic ballad, is “Sybilla”, a catchy track that has more of a funk beat.  The instrumental “Mouthpiece” is an almost nine-minute track that gives everyone in the band a chance to show their talent, but it’s really a mess that sounds like something that should’ve been saved for the live show as opposed to an album cut.  The album closer is a cover of the Shirley Bassey song “I (Who Have Nothing)”, and while that sounds like an odd choice, it is a heavier, organ driven take with a slow, powerful and emotional groove that works really well.  Disc two contains six more bonus tracks consisting of another live version of “Ritual” and five demos that were recorded for a potential third album.  Although for the most part, they aren’t quite as heavy as before, these demos show promise for what could have been.  With it’s chugging beat and standout organ, “Bad Time” is the most radio friendly track here but is still a very catchy rocker.  “She Was My Friend” is a very emotional, soulful and bluesy ballad that is my favorite of the demos.  It’s a real shame it never reached its full potential.  The remaining three cuts all show that they still had their hard rocking side, be it “Gypsy Dancer” and “Standing Right Behind You”, both with a touch of a funk groove, or “House Of Dolls”, once again bringing to mind Deep Purple. 

Unfortunately, the budget issues during the recording of Red Sea created friction between the band and their label, causing a six-month period where they couldn't record.  They were eventually approached by an A&R person from Warner who wanted to sign them, and they had a handshake deal, but the next day an oil embargo was announced creating a fear of a vinyl shortage. Due to this he was forbidden from signing anyone new.  During this time Marc Poole also left the band to join Gong and was replaced by Barney James.  They toured and recorded more demos, but never released another album.  They did in fact have another record deal offered to them, but Holt and James were playing with Wakeman at that time and when Nick told them about the offer, they told him they were leaving the band to join Wakeman permanently, which lead to the band's end.  

(Esoteric Recordings)

Thursday, May 02, 2024

Aristo G - Overdrive

On his new EP, Overdrive, Melbourne based one man band Aristo G taps into a little bit of everything from rock, punk and pop to goth, industrial and electronic/syth rock to create an outstanding set of tunes.  The title track starts things off with a spy movie guitar leading into a super infectious electronic rock-based tune with laser beam effects and his captivating vocals that have a hint of Morrissey.  The faster, almost punk paced “Your Life Is Now” is another very synth driven electronic tune, but with more of a pop edge and vocals that are reminiscent of Michael Hutchence.  With more of an industrial beat and some killer rock guitar licks, “Love Games” could be described as electro industrial rock.  Kicking up the industrial beat a notch, closing track “Pantomime” has more great guitar work and a touch of Depeche Mode.  While it's only four tracks the EP is very impressive and shows tons of diversity, which shows great promise for his future releases.    

(Aristo G - Facebook)