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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brewer & Shippley - Weeds And Tarkio (1970-71)

Biography by Steve Huey California duo Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley began their careers separately on the 1960s Los Angeles folk club circuit before teaming up to write and perform together. Their song "Keeper of the Seven Keys" was recorded by H.P. Lovecraft and also appeared on their 1968 debut, Down in L.A. Their second album, Weeds, featured guest appearances by Jerry Garcia, Mike Bloomfield, and Nicky Hopkins. In 1971, the duo scored a surprise Top Ten hit with "One Toke Over the Line," in spite of radio bans owing to the song's marijuana-oriented lyrics. Following this success, Brewer and Shipley moved to rural Missouri, but their appeal dwindled, and the partnership was dissolved in 1979. Brewer recorded the solo album Beauty Lies in 1983. At the request of a Kansas City radio station, Brewer & Shipley reunited for a concert in 1989 and began touring occasionally. In 1995, the duo released their first album in almost 20 years, Shanghai. Heartland followed two years later.

years before their hit "One Toke Over the Line," Brewer and Shipley released an excellent folk album entitled Weeds, produced by the redoubtable Nick Gravenites, who was soon to become the lead singer of Big Brother & the Holding Company, and who had penned a couple of songs for Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ole' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama album released the same year as this LP, 1969. With Mike Bloomfield on guitar as well, this is actually part of the Electric Flag backing up Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley, and their almost pensive performance of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is not only fine, but you can actually hear and understand all the words! "Indian Summer" is sublime; it is magical with Richard Greene's fiddle working against the sprinkling piano lines, a real gem among the many in these Weeds.
A Native American on horse looking skyward under the words "Our Thanks" is a very subtle thank you to their higher power — nice indeed. The late Nicky Hopkins is a guest star on keyboards, as is Phil Ford on tabla, and the ten tracks are all accessible,
but there is one that is as much a standout as the duo's aforementioned "Indian Summer," that tune being the second cover on Weeds, Jim Pepper's much loved underground classic "Witchi-tai-to." This version is more up-tempo than the original,
and dwells on Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" riff to balance the incessant mantra and blending voices. The guitars are very Flamin' Groovies: sparkling, trebley, and pretty. This is music right out of the Velvet Underground's Loaded or 1969 albums, and should be absorbed by that group's obsessive fans, as well as fans of bands like Big Brother & the Holding Company and other purveyors of the West Coast sound. At close to seven minutes it is certainly an anomaly for the label which released the spirited folk/pop of The Lovin' Spoonful. The ten striking black-and-white photos inside the gatefold are as in tune as the pleasant "People Love Each Other," which opens side two. Given the legendary status of the producer and fellow musicians, the choice of material, and their own eventual chart success, Weeds is an often forgotten folk album of fine distinction.

Notable not just for the inclusion of "One Toke Over the Line" but also for the great back porch stoned ambience of the entire recording, this 1970 effort from the band is ripe with dope references and subversive humor. Not that it ever takes away from the excellent country-style playing that pops up all over the record. Jerry Garcia lends a hand with the pedal steel and it's a welcomed sound. During the course of the album, you get highlights like "Song from Platte River" (where the boys lament the loss of their freedoms and feel a kinship with folks like General Custer and Abraham Lincoln) and the spectral "Ruby on the Morning." Add in "One Toke Over the Line" amidst freedom-friendly tracks like "Oh, Mommy" and "Don't Want to Die in Georgia," and you've got an album that speaks out to anyone who has ever felt threatened by "the Man."

(Info by: CGR)

Size: 126 Mb
Bitrate: 256 mp3
Artwork Included

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Atomic Rooster - In Hearing Of (1971)

In 1969 keyboard wizard Vincent Crane and drumming sensation Carl Palmer, left mid tour of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's debut American tour citing irreparable differences with the man himself Arthur Brown, not perhaps the most thought through idea in Rock'n'Roll, but sometimes a musician has to do what a musician does. Upon arrival back in England it was decided to put a band together around these two musicians, like minded talents were then sought after, Brian Jones who had just left the Stones was due for a meeting with Vincent Crane the day before he was found drowned in a swimming pool, Rich Gretch was asked but had already hung his star to new supergroup " Blind Faith" with Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce was asked as well but was determined to forge out a solo career, when Bruce turned down the bass position John Paul Jones was singled out, but he was already in another heavy metal flyer Led Zeppelin. But all these names does let your mind wander into all the different possibilities that could of happened. The newly branded Atomic Rooster was rolled out with it's debut album 'Atomic Rooster', (1969) with the relatively unknown Nick Graham completing the trio on Bass. The album met with great critical praise but little commercial success, the album is a bluesy affair with not much notice of the heavy rock carnage that was to come. Nick Graham promptly left, (Atomic Rooster never employed a bass player at any time in their following career, Vincent Crane preferring to play the bass notes on his Hammond organ, rather than trust another fickle bass man.) Followed by Carl Palmer who was lured away to be the "P'' in another supergroup "Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. New recruits were sort and two new Roosters were found John Ducann, on lead guitar, who brought along young skinsman Paul Hammond . Immediate success was to follow with the Rooster taking on the hard heavy metal of the day. In November of 1970 this trio's first album was released " Death Walks Behind You" with it's ground breaking Hammond organ sound from Vincent Crane, guitar thunder from Ducann, and powerhouse drumming from Paul Hammond, Further progress was made when the song 'Tomorrow Night' was plucked from the album as a single and reached the Top Ten. 1971 was to prove to be Rooster's year, when they were right at the front of the heavy metal boom, alongside such luminaries as 'Deep Purple', and' Black Sabbath'. A follow up single 'Devil's Answer' was released and met with even greater success reaching Number Two.
Whilst in the studio recording this album it was decided to expand the line up to four with the addition of a vocalist and the services of ex-Cactus lead singer Peter French were employed ,an excellent choice. Although French's vocals were laid down so late in the day that the artwork for the album had already been done, so his head had to be painted onto the inside artwork at the last minute. The album "In The Hearing Of" was released in September 1971 and went straight into the Top Twenty. The music is not quite as heavy as that of it's predecessor, but that does not mean it has lost any of it's aggression or grit. Vincent Crane's Hammond organ is not so much in evidence with the piano being used to great effect on a lot of the songs.
This is spelled out right from moment go when the Rooster strut their stuff on opener 'Breakthrough', with Cranes hammering piano dominating the song as it pushes it's way into your subconscious, 'Breakthrough' is the perfect opener for this finely selected collection of hard rockin' classics. Of the nine songs on this album (Hit Single' Devils Answer' has been tacked on the end of the original eight album tracks as a welcome bonus) two are instrumentals, only five are sung by new vocalist Pete French, Vincent Crane taking lead vocals on the dark and broody ' Black Snake', whilst 'Devil's Answer' featured the vocals of John Ducann having been recorded before Pete French's arrival. Six songs were written by Vincent Crane, three by John Ducann. One song 'Decision/Indecision' does not even require the services of Ducann's guitar work, with Crane supporting French's emotional vocals on solitary piano, a haunting piece to be sure. Pete French gives a great display as a vocalist on his limited opportunities, but it is perhaps the two rockin' instrumentals, 'A Spoonful Of Bromide Helps The Pulse Rate Go Down' and "The Rock' that would of most pleased the fans from the previous album. The only time during the album that both Vincent Crane and John Ducann actually let go and give it some clout. `In The Hearing Of' was a great follow up to 'Death Walks Behind You.' With great development shown in all parts of the band, but obviously too much development, as each individual wishing to stamp his mark, as is easily seen by the development of each track on this album. With Vincent Crane insisting upon sole leadership of the band, and his exacting standards, this proved too much for the other musicians in the band and before the end of the year the band had splintered leaving Vincent Crane to keep the Atomic Rooster flag flying , which he did with diminishing results with two more albums' Made In England '(1972) and 'Nice'n' Greasy' (1973) both of which departed from the Hard Rock of yore taking a very different Funk/Rock ' slant with vocalist Chris Farlowe on board, much to the horror of Rooster hard rock fans. Pete French went off and formed Leafhound who recorded ' Grower of Mushrooms (1972) Pete French was never to get the success his vocal talents clearly deserved. John Ducann, and Paul Hammond stayed with their hard rock roots and formed 'Bullet', who changed their name to' Hard Stuff', with John Gustafason on Bass and Vocals, recording two impressive albums for Deep Purples newly formed own record label under the Hard Stuff banner' Bulletproof' (1972) and Bolex Demention' (1973). Heavy Rock's waning popularity put paid to any lasting hopes of Rock immortality though. In 1980 when Hard Rock made a major comeback The Rooster of 'Death Walks Behind You' fame reunited for another stab at glory, but their day had gone. The name 'Atomic Rooster' still garners great respect in hard rock circles, but it was really only ' Death Walks Behind You' and 'In The Hearing Of ' that were the real thing. The reformation live album from the Marquee (1980), where funnily enough it is John Ducann's vocals, and guitar that are the most dominant is worth your pleasure if you have an inkling to listen to the live beast. But anything else with the Rooster badge on it is generally advised to be given a wide berth. The world of Rock'n' Roll is not an easy or kind one. Vincent Crane unable to control his inner demons any longer took his own life on Valentine's Day 1989, He was sadly followed by Paul Hammond who could not cope with life outside of his beloved Rooster in 1991. A Tragic end to a band who could of been huge, one of the biggest. But they did leave behind two marvellous albums as an epitaph. By Mott The Dog.

(Info by: CGR)

1. Breakthrough
2. Break The Ice
3. Decision Indecision
4. A Spoonful Of Bromide
5. Black Snake
6. Head In The Sky
7. Rock 8. Prince
9. Devils Answer (US Version) (Bonus Track)
10. Breakthrough (BBC In Concert) (Bonus Track)
11. A Spoonful Of Bromide (BBC In Concert) (Bonus Track)

Size: 109 Mb
Bitrate: 256 mp3
Artwork Included