Vehicle 45 by The Ides Of March

June 23, 2010

The Ides Of March formed during the mid-sixties. They were an eight piece band with a brass section. At their best they rivaled Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. The best known original member was vocalist Jim Peterik who would go on to form the band Survivor.

They reached their commercial peak during 1970 with the single “Vehicle” which reached number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE singles charts and number one on CASHBOX.

It was an infectious rock song with the brass providing the foundation and remains one of the better, if forgotten, songs of the early seventies.

The original members of The Ides Of March reformed during 1990 and have been on the road and in the studio since that time.

Blue’s Theme 45 by Davie Allen and The Arrows

June 23, 2010

Davie Allen was a session guitarist who worked with producer Mike Curb on a number of soundtrack albums.

He formed the instrumental group The Arrows as his backing group. Bassist Drew Bennett, Keyboardist Jared Hendler, and drummer Larry Brown provided back-up for Allen’s lead guitar.

He was one of the early proponants and inventers of guitar distortion and the fuzz sound. His most successful release was the single “Blue’s Theme” which was featured in the movie WILD ANGELD starring Nancy Sinatra and Peter Fonda. It spent 17 weeks on The American singles charts reaching number 37 during March of 1967.

Davie Allen is still on the road and remains one of America’s great, if forgotten, guitarists.

Live At Winterland ’68 by Janis Joplin/Big Brothers and The Holding Company

June 22, 2010

Live At Winterland ’68 was not released until thirty years after the actual concert. It came as a breath of fresh air, as it captured Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company at the height of their powers.

They took time off from recording their Cheap Thrills album to perform two days worth of concerts at the legendary Winterland Ballroom April 12-13, 1968. Five of the seven songs which would comprise that album are presented live here.

My only real complaint is performances from the two shows were combined to make one concert which gives it all a somewhat disjointed affair. I have always preferred to hear a concert as it was played mistakes and all.

The performances are raw, sloppy, loose, and powerful which probably sums up the style of both Janis Joplin and Big Brother. The twin guitars of Sam Andrew and James Gurley combined to make one of the best duos of the day and provided the perfect foundation for Joplin to churn out some of the best blues/rock vocals in history.

It is the Cheap Thrills material which shines the brightest which should not be a surprise as it is some of the strongest in their catalogue and of the period. “Summertime” is emotional as Joplin wails over the guitars. “Ball and Chain” is late sixties rock at its very best and this version is similar to the one which would appear on Cheap Thrills which is very good indeed. Joplin leaves you exhausted by the time she finishes “Piece Of My Heart.” Sam Andrew produces an excellent guitar solo on “I Need A Man To Love.” It must have been quite an experience hearing these songs before they were officially released.

I am also attracted to the extended version of “Light Is Faster Than Sound” as it gives the group a chance to jam and prove they were an excellent live band.

Live At Winterl and ’68 enables the listener to travel back in time and spend an evening with the great Janis Joplin. It is an album with a great cover, great liner notes, and above all great music.

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Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and The Holding Company

June 22, 2010

Big Brother and The Holding Company’s debut album put the group on the musical map and their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival during the summer ’67 was Janis Joplin’s coming-out party. The stage was set for her to become one of the biggest stars in American music.

Cheap Thrills was released August 12, 1968 and would be the number one album in the United States for eight weeks. By year’s end it had sold over a million copies.

This would be Joplin’s second and last album with the group as she would leave in December. In many ways they were the perfect backing band for her as they were raw and loose, intense and at times sloppy, which fit her style well.

Of special note is the cover artwork which was drawn by cartoonist Robert Crumb. It would become recognized as one of the best jackets in rock history. Obviously, the CD insert does not do the cover justice so find an old vinyl copy to see it in all its original glory.

Cheap Thrills was a psychedelic, blues/rock masterpiece. The twin guitars of James Gurley and Sam Andrew set the tone and Janis Joplin did the rest.

While their first album had no track that approached three minutes in length, this one has no song less than four minutes. This extended length would fit the band better as these songs would become concert staples that allowed the band to improvise and stretch out a bit.

Side One contains three classic Joplin performances. The old Gershwin popular tune, “Summertime,” is given a unique and almost painful vocal. The guitar solo on this one is also worth the price of admission. “Piece Of My Heart” is Joplin at her rocking best and it remains a classic song from the late sixties. While it may not be as well known as the precious two, “I Need A Man To Love” has a bluesy vocal refrain by Joplin which ranks among her best work.

Side Two is dominated by the nine-minute “Ball and Chain,” which I played to death back in the day. If you want an introduction to late-sixties psychedelic rock this is a good place to start. The other song of note here is the haunting “Oh, Sweet Mary.”

A classic album to be savored and enjoyed, Cheap Thrills helped define an era in American music and remains an essential listen over four decades on.

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Big Brother and The Holding Company by Big Brother and The Holding Company

June 22, 2010

Big Brother & The Holding Company are still on the road, but no matter what they may do or where they go or what they play or create, they will always be remembered as the launching pad for Janis Joplin.

She almost did not join the group as she had considered becoming a part of the 13th Floor Elevators in her native Texas. The thought of her and Roky Erickson even in the same vicinity boggles the mind.

Their debut album, Big Brother And The Holding Company, released during September of 1967, was recorded December 14-16 of 1966. During that recording process Joplin was just a member of the band. It was their incendiary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival during the summer of 1967 that pushed her to the forefront of the group and introduced her to the music buying public. Her popularity would continue to build until it reached mythic proportions after her death.

Their debut album was a more subdued affair than the one which would follow a year later, yet it remained grounded in the San Francisco sound of the day. It was raw and driven by the intensity of the music. Guitarists James Gurley and Sam Andrew, drummer David Getz, and bassist Peter Albin were all important cogs in the Big Brother music machine. It is an album of short psychedelic rock/folk sound bytes as the longest of the twelve tracks clocks in at just over two and a half minutes.

Four decades after its initial release, it is the Joplin dominated tracks which shine. Her arrangement and vocals on the traditional “Down On Me” has become one of the staples in her catalogue. Her vocals are double-tracked on the first song, “Bye, Bye Baby,” which gives them a unique effect. She wrote three of the songs and “Intruder,” “The Last Time,” and “Women Is Losers,” clearly show she was an adept composer even this early in her career.

Joplin’s voice is clearer on many of these performances as it had not been worn down by hard singing and a lot of hard living. Also of note is the guitar playing of James Gurley, who is one of the underrated and many times forgotten musicians of the psychedelic era.

Big Brother And The Holding Company was a unique stop for the group and for Janis Joplin, but it set a firm foundation for her future. The album not only has held up well but remains historically important as the studio training ground for one of rock’s legendary singers.

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A Street Called Straight by Jeff Eubank

June 22, 2010

Jeff Eubank is not a name that often surfaces in modern day music, which is sad. He released one of the great, lost albums in music history in 1983. What made it extremely rare was the fact it was limited to 500 copies and pressed privately. I had heard a number of tracks through the years but despite my passion for vinyl, an affordable copy had always eluded me. I could afford.A Street Called Straight has finally been re-issed in vinyl and CD form.

This private pressing occurred at a time when albums and bootlegs such as this had a sound ranging from very good to almost unlistenable. This album falls into the excellent category and may have the best sound for a recording of this type I have heard. It’s CD sound, which was created from the original tapes, is equal to much of what is being produced today.

Eubank was a product of Kansas City but his music has a light, airy California quality which can best be classified as light psychedelic folk/rock. While it was issued during the early eighties, it really would have fit better in the late sixties or seventies.

Eubank provides the vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards, flutes, plus he wrote all the songs. He is joined by electric guitarist Allen DeCamp, saxophonist and flutist Mark Cohick, bassist Don Harris, synthesizer player Scott MacDonald, conga player Gary Schroeder, and drummers John Cushon and Fred Blizzard.

It has a very smooth and at times other worldly sound. The flutes combine with the keyboards and then intertwine with the guitars. The lyrics are poetic and folk based at heart. Eubank is a good vocalist and has the ability to adapt to the uniqueness of each song. My favorite tracks include “Adolescent Daydream,” “Kamikaze Pilot,” “Earthian Children,” and “No Need For The Ground.”

It’s nice to have A Street Called Straight available again. Is it essential? Probably not. Is it interesting? Yes it is. Is it good music? Definitely!

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Sit Down, I Think I Love You 45 by The Mojo Men

June 19, 2010

The Mojo Men were one of the first San Francisco psychedelic bands. Sly Stone produced their first recordings made during 1965.

They would have three records reach the American top 100 but only “Sit Down, I Think I Love You” would reach the top forty, topping off at number 37 during February of 1967. The song, written by Stephen Stills for The Buffalo Springfield, had a raw and primitive rock sound. By the time of this release they had added a female drummer/vocalist Jan Ericco-Ashton which made them unique at the time.

They would continue on into the eighties with a number of personal changes but without much commercial success. Still they remained one of the better live bands of the day and left behind this little gem.