Sunday, September 24, 2023

Crabby Appleton - Go Back, The Crabby Appleton Anthology

In late 1969, following the demise of the band Millennium and a short stint in the quartet Big Shots that resulted in nothing more than some demos, guitarist and vocalist Michael Fennelly teamed up with the LA band Stonehenge and they became Crabby Appleton.  In addition to Fennelly on guitar and vocals, the remainder of the band was Hank Marvin on bass, Casey Foutz on keyboards, Felix “Flaco” Falcon on percussion and Phil Jones on drums.  In April of 1970 they released their debut single, “Go Back”, which hit thirty-six on the Billboard Hot 100, and was followed a few months later with their self-titled album.  A second album was released in late 1971 and by mid-1972 they had broken up.  Go Back, The Crabby Apple Anthology is a great new two-CD collection that includes both albums, single cuts and a couple of mini tracks that were only originally on eight-track.  

Opening up their first album is the aforementioned hit single “Go Back”, an extremely catchy pop-tinged rock tune with a bit of psychedelia, especially in the guitar work.  Following the more laid-back “The Other Side” is “Catherine”, a gorgeous, well-crafted tune, more in the English folk vein, highlighted by some great organ, really nice guitar work and Fennelly’s strong vocals (it’s a shame this song wasn’t released as a single).  “Peace By Peace” is a really loose rocker with a bit of a prog vibe, especially with the keys, and the upbeat pop of “To All My Friends” brings to mind Badfinger.  Following “Last Night In Your Sleep, John”, a silly little nineteen second ditty that initially marked the halfway point on the eight-track, are the upbeat “Try” and the midtempo pop rocker “Can’t Live My Life”, a couple of tracks with an infectious Latin flavor, thanks to Falcon’s percussion.  “Some Madness” is a nice, laid-back pop rock tune with an easygoing mellow groove.  The seven minute “Hunger For Love” is a rocker that comes across like the band was just hanging out and improvising and really lets them stretch out, with some especially great organ and percussion.  The ballad “How Long Will It Take” closes the album out nicely (excepting the second little ditty “Last Night In Your Sleep, Fred”) and has some really great interplay with organ, percussion and acoustic guitar.  Disc one also includes six tracks that were originally released on three different singles including alternate versions of album tracks in mono.  The other two cuts are the strong fuzz guitar driven hard rocker “My Little Lucy”, an alternative mono version of the song “Lucy” that would appear on their sophomore album, and “Grab On”, another heavier track with driving percussion and a hint of prog.  The album was very successful critically, but only made it to 175 on the Billboard Album Charts and didn’t have the success of their single.  

Despite its lack of success, the label decided to move on with a second album, Rotten To The Core.  Right out the gate it’s apparent that this album was a bit of a departure from their debut.  Opener “Smokin’ In The Morning” is a great bluesy cut with a shuffling honky tonk groove, driven by barrelhouse piano and some slide guitar towards the end.  Next up are “Tomorrow's A New Day” and “It’s So Hard”, a couple of solid rockers, followed by the slower, soulful and bluesy ballad “Makes No Difference”, which also has a bit of a gospel vibe thanks to the choral backing vocals from the female vocal trio The Blackberries.  Driven by some honky tonk piano and slide guitar, “You Make Me Hot” is a bouncy, upbeat rocker.  Influenced by LA bands like The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and featuring Dillards and Rolling Stones sideman Byron Berline on fiddle, “One More Time” is the first of several tunes on the album that finds them moving in a more country rock direction with its use of twelve string guitar, slide guitar and handclaps.  The aforementioned “Lucy” is a powerhouse hard rocker with powerful vocals, organ and some really good guitar solos.  “Paper To Write On” is a massively infectious country rock tune that’s reminiscent of The Flying Burrito Brothers and features the legendary Dave Grisman on mandolin.  They stay in the country rock genre on the next couple of tracks with “Lookin’ For Love” an upbeat tune with some very prominent slide guitar and impressive organ solos, and “Love Can Change Everything”, a really pretty, laid-back and easygoing tune.  Closing the album out is “Gonna Save You (From That)”, a six-minute track that shifts tempos throughout and has an extended section that has a bit of a Latin feel reminiscent of Santana.   Disc two also contains a couple more bonus tracks with the mono single versions of “Tomorrow’s A New Day” and “It’s So Hard”.  Also included is a very comprehensive booklet with an essay on the band and some pictures.  


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Reg King - Reg King, Deluxe 3CD Edition

After getting his start in 1963 with The Boys, who eventually became the now legendary mod group The Action, Reg King released what would end up being his only solo release in 1971. Although the album didn’t chart when it was released, over the years it has become appreciated as the masterpiece that it is with original copies selling for hundreds of dollars.  Now, thanks to Cherry Red Records, it has been remastered and released in a three CD box set that also includes early demos recorded between the demise of The Action and the solo album, along with other demos and outtakes.

The musicians King had play on the album were quite impressive.  They included his former bandmates in The Action, Roger Powell, Ian Whiteman, Mick (Mike) Evans, Alan King and Martin Stone (the first four also of Mighty Baby), Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw and Kevin Westlake (Blossom Toes and B.B. Blunder), Danny McCulloch (Eric Burdon and the Animals), Brian Auger, Mick Taylor and Steve Winwood (listed in the liner notes as Mystery Man).  The album kicks off with “Must Be Something Else Around”, which is funk and blues rocker with some great organ running through it that’s somewhat reminiscent of Humble Pie.  It has a loose jam vibe that really sets the tone perfectly for what’s to come.  Album standout “You Go Have Yourself A Good Time” is worth the price of admission all by itself.  It’s a gorgeous, laid-back, soulful track highlighted by Whiteman’s swirling organ, King’s emotional vocals and backing vocals from Doris Troy (best know for her hit “Just One Look”).  The soulful seven minute “That Ain’t Living” ebbs and flows perfectly between slower, more laid-back passages to more upbeat rock.  Next up are a couple of leftover 1967 demos from The Action, both featuring some stellar guitar work from Godding.  After starting off more like a folk tune “In My Dreams” explodes into a dynamic psychedelia, while “Little Boy” is a powerful R&B flavored rocker.  Godding shines once again on “10,000 Miles”, which is a bit ragged and noisier, and finds him channeling a bit of Neil Young.  The powerful, slow and bluesy eight minute long “Down The Drain” is highlighted by Winwood on piano along with a brass section.  Featuring some outstanding keyboards and guitar from Auger and Taylor respectively, “Savannah” is a raw, hard charging bluesy rocker that has a great live jam feel to it.  The gorgeous, melancholy “Gone Away” closes the album perfectly.  Disc one also includes a couple of tracks that were intended to be the second single from the album, but were never released.  “Nobody Knows Where We Are” is a heavy blues rocker with some hints of psychedelia, while a alternate version of “You Go Have Yourself A Good Time” features the members of B.B. Blunder backing him instead of Mighty Baby.  It’s an interesting take that is reminiscent of the album version, but is a little mellower and the organ isn’t in the forefront as much.  

Disc two is a collection of demos King recorded in 1969 backed primarily by his former The Action bandmates.   While a lot of the tracks are more reminiscent of his work with The Action, others definitely show him shifting towards the sound found on his solo album.  Songs like “Let Me See Some Love In Your Eyes”, with its great harmonies, “You Gotta Believe In Me”, “All Up In Heaven” and the gorgeous “Picking Up Nancy’s Grin” are all extremely catchy tunes that are more on the pop side of things.  Then there are cuts that show his evolving sound, like “In And Out”, which is enhanced with a flute and has a bit of an English folk sound, “Thinkin’ Bout Getting You Out”, a powerful, somewhat soulful rocker driven by some great organ, and “Magenta”, a seven-minute track with an expansive folk feel, a bit of psychedelia and even a hint of prog.  Other highlights include “Merry Go Round”, “So Full Of Love”, an interesting song that pulls in some folk and Middle Eastern influences, and the powerhouse ballad “You’ll Be Around”, that is primarily piano, organ and a little guitar accompanying some great vocals from King.  My biggest complaint with these songs is the fact that they never got beyond the demos.  Most of them still sound really great, but it would have been incredible to hear them fully formed.

The final disc is devoted to demos and outtakes from the album and starts with four that were recorded with The Action during the same sessions as the songs on disc two.  Other than the fact that they are a little more stripped down, due to being demos, the early versions of “Must Be Something Else Around” and “You Go Have Yourself A Good Time” don’t really differ that much from the album.  On the other hand, the guitar on “10,000 Miles” is more subdued and the song is almost jubilant and definitely not as dark (ironically there is also a version here with Mighty Baby as the band, which is even noisier and more explosive than the album version).  “Down The Drain” is more upbeat and jazzier as opposed to bluesy.  Following the guide vocal and rough mix versions of “Must Be Something Else Around” is another version of “You Go Have Yourself A Good Time”.  This longer take is also more upbeat and allows the players to stretch out a little more.  After another demo version of “Down The Drain” is the long version of “Savannah”, which really allows Taylor and Auger to show their stuff.  Closing the disc out is a rough mix of “Gone Away”, the long version of “Nobody Knows Where We Are” and an unnamed instrumental that basically sounds like the band trying some things out. Rounded out with an extremely informative booklet that includes new interviews with Brian Godding and Roger Powell this is an extremely impressive collection that is well worth checking out.  

(Cherry Red Records)

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

SLIP~ons - Heavy Machinery

I first came across Brock Pytel through his work as the drummer on the first couple of albums from Canada’s Doughboys in the late eighties, as well as his 2000 solo album Second Choice. Shifting over to guitar and vocals, he has teamed up with bassist Brian Minato, from Sarah McLachlan’s band, guitarist Rob “Shockk” Matharu of The Spitfires and drummer Shane Wilson to form the SLIP~ons.  Finally, after eleven years together, they have released their debut EP Heavy MachineryTheir bio states that they strive “to sound like Minneapolis in the 90’s”, which absolutely hits the nail on the head. The title track kicks the album off with raw, ragged guitars and hooks galore that will have you thinking The Replacements and early Soul Asylum with a just a slight hint of Uncle Tupelo’s rootsiness. The taut, more aggressive, “Soldier, Don’t Say Goodbye” and “Mosquito” lean more in the direction of Husker Du and both have some great guitar work. There is a ebb and flow to “Nothing Is Good Enough” shifting between faster to somewhat slower, more atmospheric sections, and closer “Undivided” throws you a little at first, opening with a quick blast of low end doom before shifting into a more melodic, yet hard-driving power pop tune.  SLIP~ons have definitely achieved what they set out to do with this EP and hopefully won't make us wait so long for more.   

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Headstone - Bad Habits / Headstone

Headstone were formed in 1974 by Mark Ashton, drummer with Rare Bird, and Steve "Boltz" Bolton, who had spent the previous eighteen months as guitarist for Atomic Rooster.  When they met at a show where they were both playing, Ashton had stepped out from behind the drums and was working on some stuff as more of a singer/songwriter.  Ashton told Bolton he had a deal with EMI and had a bunch of songs already written, so he turned in his notice to Atomic Rooster and Headstone was born.  The band was only in existence for two short years, but they did release two solid albums that have now been remastered from the original tapes and released in a new two CD set from Esoteric Recordings.

For their debut Bad Habits the band consisted of just Ashton and Bolton along with a session rhythm section of Phil Chen on bass and Daryl “Chili” Charles on percussion.  The album opens strongly with the multi-dimensional “Don’t Turn Your Back”, which has a bit of a Bad Company classic rock vibe, but with a lot of tempo shifts that give it a funky groove at times and even a glimmer of Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” during the chorus.  The slow and easygoing “Take Me Down” has a moody prog vibe that’s largely built around acoustic guitar, swirling synths and violin.  “High On You” is a very hook-heavy cut that is on the poppier side of things, complete with handclaps, while “Love You Too” is gentle and laid-back acoustic song that sounds like something you would hear at the beach on a lazy afternoon.  After starting off as a slinky cut driven by a funk-tinged bass and rapid-fire cymbals, “3 O B”, one of the album’s standout tracks, shifts into a heavier rocker with some great fuzzed out guitar and driving percussion.  The twenty-nine second long “Open Your Eyes” is a jaunty little acoustic guitar and vocal track that I wish they would have recorded as a full-fledged three-minute song.  The upbeat “Live For Each Other” has an infectious Caribbean flavored beat along with a bit of a rock edge and some great guitar work.  “You’ve Heard It All Before” is a beautiful acoustic guitar driven track with a tasty bluesy electric guitar solo.  The title track is a laid-back cut touching on a rootsier rock sound and is fleshed out with some great piano work from Rare Bird’s Dave Kaffinetti, while "Take A Plane” is a classic rocker with a bluesy party feel featuring guest harmony vocals from Carl Douglas of “Kung Fu Fighting” fame, Juanita Franklin and Rare Bird’s Steve Gould (they also contribute vocals to “Don’t Turn Your Back).  Closing the disc is “D M T”, a rocker that’s kind of a loose jam and has more great guitar work.  

Following the release of the debut, they needed new musicians for touring and to record the follow-up, so replacing Chen and Charles were drummer Peter Van Hooke, bassist Jerome Rimson and violinist Joe O’Donnell.  Unlike the debut, which with the exception of one song, was all written by Ashton, for their self-titled sophomore release the band contributed more, with Bolton writing three and Rimson also contributing a track.  The album opens with a couple of laid-back rockers in “Eastern Wind”, with its extremely catchy beat and some great Joe Walsh like guitar, and “Warm Sunny Days”, which has some very prominent bass work giving it a hint of funk along with some nice violin work.  “Turn Your Head” is a midtempo track with more thumping bass and nice guitar work that is a little reminiscent of yacht rock but with a bit more of an edge.  The mellow “Gyrosame” features Bolton on vocals and has a strong country rock feel and great interplay between the guitar and violin.  With guest appearances from Ian Dury and The Blockheads’ Chas Jankel on rhythm guitar and Max Middleton on piano, “Karma” is a bouncy, more upbeat rocker with a soulful funk groove.  They kick thing up a little on “Hard Road”, a powerful bluesy, hard rocker with some great feedback and reverb laden guitar along with some screaming violin.  “Large Weather We’re Having, Lucy” is a funky track driven by some great bass work and wah-wah guitar.  Bolton is back on vocals on “Searching Light” a laid-back bluesy track with strong vocal harmonies and a Mexican influence in the guitar work and the sound of castanets (make sure to listen for the strange Porky Pig like backing vocals towards the end).  “Get Through To You” is an everchanging track that starts off in a very pop vein before shifting into a dirty, blues-tinged rocker and then some funk.  The acoustic ballad “All I Ask” has a nice country rock vibe to it and features some great vocals from Juanita Franklin.  The disc closes out perfectly with “Someone’s Gotta Give”, a catchy, straight-ahead rocker that does a great job of showcasing everyone’s musicianship.  Following the album's release, the band did some touring in the UK supporting John Cale, Rory Gallagher and Roy Harper, but then broke up a short time later.  Despite getting good reviews, Headstone unfortunately never had much commercial success, but thankfully Esoteric is giving them a chance to be heard again.  The release is rounded out with a very informative CD booklet featuring an exclusive interview with Bolton.

(Esoteric Recordings)

Crossed Wires - Ellipsis EP

Seven years after the release of their second EP, Halifax trio Crossed Wires are finally back with Ellipsis, a six-cut EP that often brings to mind Veruca Salt and Hole. I went back and listened to those earlier EP’s and while they are good, this time around they really have all the pieces in place.  The production on those EP's was lo fi and is much more polished here, which really works better for their sound.  There is also a stronger sense of melody and the songs are just extremely catchier.  Having said that they don’t lack in power and intensity.  While “Looped” kicks thing off with some screaming guitars and evolves into the tautest cut on the EP, tracks like “Rain”, “Smile” and “Safe and Sound” are complete earworms overflowing with fuzz guitars and tons of hooks.  “Good Guy” follows a similar path, but is a little more angsty with some great, tightly wound guitar work, and “Lumbar” has a heavier rock edge.  Ellipsis is an outstanding fifteen-and-a-half-minute blast of taut, high energy, hook filled, fuzzed out rock.   

(Noyes Records)


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Interview with Glacerate

Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, Glacerate has just released their debut EP Hyper, an outstanding amalgamation of punk, thrash, death, pop, desert rock, ethereal soundscapes and more.  I recently talked to guitarist and main composer Arttu about the band, their EP, their sound and more.

Hey there, I'm Arttu, the guitarist and the main composer of Glacerate!

Can you give me a little background on the band?

Me, Aapo and Onni used to have a hardcore band back in the days, and we toured a lot with a band that Mikko and Juha was playing at the time. Around four years after our old bands went on hiatus or threw in the towel, Juha and Mikko moved closer to Helsinki, and that's when we began talking about a new musical venture. We made some demos during '21 and '22 and we were just trying to figure out our style. Those early demos took influence from bands like Converge and Black Breath, featuring lightning-fast songs, loads of d-beat, and a dash of chaos. But at some point, we realized we'd been treading that path for years and decided it was time for something entirely fresh. I began experimenting with loads of different guitar effects, sketching out the rough outlines of what would become our debut EP.

Your sound is refreshing, and I love the contrast of among other things the heavier punk, thrash and death metal with elements of fuzzed out desert rock and even some very melodic pop tendencies.  There are also the heavier vocals and the lighter, almost ethereal, vocals.  Can you tell me a little about what went into meshing all that together?

When I first envisioned Glacerate's sound, I wanted the rhythm guitars to be disgustingly fuzzy and the lead parts to carry an ethereal, reverb-soaked vibe. That was the foundation to it all.  Furthermore, we knew from the get-go that Onni's extraordinary vocal range had to be a centerpiece. At the time, I was immersed in shoegaze, dream pop, and similar genres, which inspired me to blend those dreamy soundscapes with heavier elements. The result? Well, it turned out pretty good, I'd say!

How does the songwriting tend to work?

For our debut EP, I've taken care of the music, and Onni writes all the lyrics.  Funny enough, we didn't plan it this way, but both of us ended up crafting deeply personal songs. What I mean is, during that period, I was dealing with some personal turmoil, and those emotions found their way into the music. The same thing happened with Onni. So, these lyrics aren't your run-of-the-mill metal or pop texts; they're a raw and real survival story from our personal perspectives.

To me the opening and closing cuts “Used” and “Free” are probably the best examples on the EP of “almost all” the various styles coming together into one song.  Would you agree with that?

I agree! "Used" and "Free" are easily our favourite songs! The opener, "Used" was actually the first Glacerate song ever written, and it defined a lot of the rest of the EP.

Q: I really love “Binge”.  It does a great job of being extremely catchy, but still very heavy.  It also has constantly changing tempo shifts and then there’s the throbbing bass that at times gives it a bit of an underlying funk groove.  Can you tell me a little about putting that song together?

It all began with that infectious bass riff, and things evolved from there. I started jamming around it, and the verses, with their almost bluesy vibe, emerged naturally. There's also a nod to old-school doom/stoner in those verse hooks. The song structure isn't your typical one, introducing a whole new section only in the last minute or so, but those faster-paced riffs with catchy group vocals really brought out some great vibes, making "Binge" the killer track it is.

“Abyss” is a short blast of brutal metal, but has a really cool soundscape kind of floating around over it.  Can you tell me a little about that?

"Abyss" was crafted as a homage to our previous musical endeavors. It serves as a reminder that we've still got that heavy spirit deep within us, and you can expect more of it in our future releases. On shorter releases like EPs, balancing the heavier and easier songs can be a challenge, but this quick two-minute burst will undoubtedly leave listeners thinking, "What just happened?"

“Ultra” is a really cool, more ethereal, instrumental, but still has its heavier side.  It sounds like it could be the intro to “Violet”, which is the track that follows it. It also sounds like there are some horns in “Ultra” and I’m not sure, but possibly in “Violet” too.  Were they ever intended to be one song and is that horns I’m hearing?

You're absolutely correct! "Ultra" and "Violet" were written as one song, and we decided to make the split because the song felt a bit too long after recording the vocals. And yes! Both of the songs include saxophone, performed by our good friend who has played sax parts for our previous bands too. Saxophone just makes everything more beautiful, doesn't it?

Have you been able to play any live shows? If so, there is so much going on in your songs, how hard has it been to get that across live?

Our live debut is just around the corner, happening next month, and we're currently putting in tons of rehearsal time. We have some professional tour techs working with us to make our debut show a night to remember!

You have a double video out for “Binge” and “Abyss”.  Can you tell me a little about those and why you decided to release them together as one video?

"Binge" and "Abyss" are lyrically connected, and that gave us the idea to make a double video for them. The songs are about the stuff you go through in your head, when you're very, very addicted to something, in this case, alcohol.

What are your plans now that the EP is out?

As said, we're rehearsing for our debut show at the moment, but after that, more and more shows. We've also started toying with some new song ideas, but touring is our primary focus for the time being.

I know most (or all) of you have been in other bands prior to Glacerate.  Are any of you currently in any other bands?

Me and Aapo are currently playing in hardcore/metal band called Mørket, Juha also drums for Negatiiviset Nuoret, a well-known punk band in the Finnish scene, and Onni handles vocal duties for the well-established symphonic deathcore band Assemble The Chariots.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

Stay cool, listen to Glacerate, and hope to see you at gigs!

(Glacerate / Glacerate - Facebook)