In Rock by Deep Purple

November 30, 2011

The Deep Purple of 1970 was far different from the Deep Purple of just the year before. Bassist Nick Simper and vocalist Rod Evans had been fired, and bassist Roger Glover and vocalist Ian Gillan had been selected to replace them. They joined holdovers Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore, and Ian Paice to form the best-known lineup of the band, referred to as “Mark II.” Gone also was the psychedelic rock, cover songs, and disjointed albums of experimentation. In their place was a brand of hard rock that would strike a chord with millions of fans down through the years. Their musical journey, along with such bands as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, would change the face of music with their high energy and bone crunching brand of rock.

Deep Purple In Rock, released during June of 1970, was not an overwhelming commercial success in the United States but proved to be their breakthrough release in their native country, as it reached number four on the U.K. album charts.

With this album, they developed a distinctive sound that was different from most of their contemporaries. The speed of many of their songs, plus the combination the organ/guitar blitz, set them apart from most of the music of the day. It proved to be a winning combination.

“Speed King” leads off the album in hyper-drive, and immediately announces to the music world that this Is a far different Deep Purple from their “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” days. Gillan shrieks, “I’m a speed king, see me fly,” as Blackmore and Lord challenge each other with guitar and keyboards. Blackmore’s guitar style on this track established his and Deep Purple’s sound for years to come.

“Bloodsucker” is all Blackmore. While Gillan provides a credible vocal, it is Blackmore’s continuing quest to establish himself as a force in rock music that drives the song. The song also looked ahead to his future group, Rainbow.

Side one of the original vinyl release ended with the classic “Child In Time.” This ten minute tour-de-force remains one of their signature songs. It features one of the best vocals of Gillan’s career. The instrumental sound runs counter to the harmony as Blackmore and Lord provide one of their more creative duets of their career together.

The second side of the release, while good, is not as overall strong as the first. “Into The Fire” and “Living Wreck” both have odd structures, and while Blackmore and Gillan give competent performances, they did not match anything on the first part of the album. “Flight Of The Rat” is the side’s best track as it returned the band to its frenetic mode. The album comes to an end with the weakest track as “Hard Lovin’” seems to find the band exhausted.

Deep Purple In Rock would establish the band as one of the leading practitioners of hard rock, a position they still occupy over four decades later. It is an album that has held up well down through the years and is always worth a listen or two. Just don’t forget to turn up the volume all the way. It can be earth-shaking.

Welcome To Alabama by The Kenneth Brian Band

November 30, 2011

The Kenneth Brian Band is a straight forward, take no prisoners, modern day southern rock band. They combine some country leanings with a blistering guitar sound to produce some fine, modern southern rock. It may sound simple but sometimes simple is best, and that is the case with the music here.

If you are going to record a southern rock album, you need a southern rock producer. Enter Johnny Sandlin, the legendary producer of the Allman Brother’s number one album, Brothers and Sisters, and their hit follow-up, Win, Lose Or Draw. He provides a steady hand as he leads the band through their debut release, Welcome To Alabama.

The band is fronted by its namesake, vocalist, lead guitarist, and songwriter Kenneth Brian. He wrote all of the tracks except for “There Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do” by Dickey Betts, who originally recorded it on his Dickey Betts and Great Southern album in 1977. If you are a southern rock band and want to cover an outside song, one by Betts is a wise choice.

The rest of the band is made up of rhythm guitarist Travis Stephens, drummer Dickey Pryor, and bassist Zach Graham, and supporting artists include keyboardist Randall Bramblett and vocalist Bonnie Bramlett.

The title track is a good introduction to his music as he sings, “Welcome to Alabama, come on in.” ”Last Call” travels in more of a country direction due to a lap steel sound underpinning the duet with Lillie May Rische. The legendary Bonnie Bramlett lends her voice to “Nothin’ You Can Do,” and she is always welcome.

Through it all Brian’s guitar play dominates the sound. He has developed his chops through almost a decade of playing in a number of groups in the Nashville area and now touring constantly with his own band. His voice has a laid back appeal and is just about perfect for southern rock.

Welcome To Alabama is a fine debut album from a new band on the southern rock block. Whether in a smokey bar, on the road, or in the studio, The Kenneth Brian Band has produced some catchy and high octane modern day music, which proves that southern rock is alive and well.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kenneth Brian Band – Welcome To Alabama on Blogcritics.

Can’t Seem To Make You Mine by The Seeds

November 30, 2011

The Seeds were a garage rock band best remembered for their early 1967 hit “Pushin’ Too Hard.”

They had a sound that was rock music at its most elemental.

TThey placed four songs on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop 100 Chart, 1966-1967. Their second biggest hit was “Can’t Seem To Make Her Mine.” Released April 29, 1967, it reached number 41. It was another basic piece of raw 1960s rock ‘n’ roll.

The best part of the release was the classic picture sleeve, which captures The Seeds in all their glory.

Best Of Both Worlds 45 by Lulu

November 30, 2011

Lulu, (Marie Lawrie), began her career as a a rocker with her U.K. release “Shout.” She appeared in the movie, “Too Sir With Love” and her release of the title song was one of the biggest single hits of 1967 topping the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for five weeks.

Her follow-up release to her biggest hit was “Best Of Both Worlds.” Released December 16, 1967, it reached number 32 on the singles charts in the United States.

While it was a medium sized hit with a good vocal performance, the song was not as strong. It did come with a nice picture sleeve.

Till The End Of Time 78 by Perry Como

November 29, 2011

There was a new star on the block as Perry Como reached the top of the singles chart for the first time in his career, which would see him sell tens of millions of records during the course of a fifty yers career, plus host his own television show, 1949-1963.

“Till The End Of Time” was a huge hit. It became the number one song in the United States September 15, 1945 and remained in that position for ten consecutive weeks.

Como left his career as a barber behind to become a big band singer for Freddy Carlone and Ted Weems but it would be his solo career that would make him a household name.

He was a rare artist who recorded for only one label, (RCA), and remained married to the same woman, (65 years).

He released over 150 singles but “Till The End Of Time” was one of the biggest.

Deep Purple by Deep Purple

November 28, 2011

The first two Deep Purple albums and hit singles had made the band stars in the United States, if not its home country of England. There was dissention developing, however, as founding members Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore, supported by drummer Ian Paice, wanted to take the group in a hard rock direction. Bassist Nick Simper and vocalist Rod Evans were opposed to this change of direction, which would result in their eventual ouster from the band.

Their third self-titled album, sometimes referred to as Deep Purple III, was released during June of 1969 in the United States and during November in the U.K. It was the least successful of their three early albums, in part because the group’s label, Tetragrammaton, was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Deep Purple was the least satisfying of their three early career releases, although it can also be considered their most adventurous. It was probably a better fit during the time period of its release as its music sounds a little dated today. Its disjointed, yet creative, nature, has been overshadowed by their hard rock popularity of the last four-plus decades. Shades Of Deep Purple and The Book Of Taliesyn provide more stability and are ultimately more satisfying overall than III’s meandering through a number of different styles and sounds. Still, if you want to hear something different from Deep Purple, then this is an album you may want to seek out.

The opening “Chasing Shadows” was a tight rock piece with a thundering drum foundation by Paice. The band would begin a number of their future albums in the same way. “Why Didn’t Rosemary” was almost a 1950s and early 1960s throwback, as Ritchie Blackmore contributes artful solos, which would soon become a band staple.

On the other hand, the 12-minute “April” was unlike just about anything else the band would ever record. It was divided into three parts. There is an opening instrumental with a long Blackmore guitar solo, a classical chamber orchestra section written by Jon Lord that contains no participation by any of the band members, then vocals, and finally, another guitar solo. I’m not sure how good it was but it was interesting.

Deep Purple covered the middle ground as well. “Blind” is a classical/rock song built around Lord’s keyboards. Donovan’s “Lalena” was the only cover song and was one of the most subdued and low-key performances of its career. It did not really fit the band’s persona. “Fault Line/The Painter” combined a short instrumental, followed by keyboards and more guitar solos. “Bird Has Flown” was psychedelic rock, which the group would soon leave behind.

Deep Purple found the band in a transition period. Blackmore’s guitar sound was moving front and center, with Jon Lord joining him in the beginning to create the basis for a long and successful career. The album was a fitting conclusion to the band’s formative years.

Article first published as Music Review: Deep Purple – Deep Purple In Rock on Blogcritics.

Life is A Good Place by Danny Click

November 28, 2011

When the youngest of nine children sees his mother play the slide guitar using a butcher knife, he is destined to become either a guitarist or something far more nefarious. Luckily for all involved, Danny Click is now one of the better, if underrated, guitarists on the music scene today.

He began playing the guitar at the age of six and by the time he reached high school, he was playing with his older sister’s band, covering songs by such artists as Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson. Beginning in the 1990s in Austin, Texas, and continuing on the west coast, he developed an interest in the blues and has since settled into a guitar-oriented brand of rock/blues fusion.
Life Is A Good Place is his fourth album. His music has attained a maturity after years on the road and in the studio, featuring lyrics that explore themes of life’s struggles and ultimate redemption. Still, no matter how creative are Click’s lyrics or music, it all comes back to his guitar virtuosity, which is some of the best in all of contemporary rock and blues.

Click has surrounded himself with a stellar group of musicians for the project, including keyboardist Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne), bassist Kevin Kevin McCormack (Jackson Browne), drummer Mario Calire (Wallflowers), and pedal and lap steel guitarist Greg Leisz (Emmylou Harris); he also uses some backing singers and strings in places to fill in the sound.

The album’s most poignant tracks are “Ten Years” and “Blue Skies,” which deal with the loss of family members. On the other hand, “Wait My Turn” is an infectious country/blues rocker.

Whether acoustic or electric, Click’s equally emotional and passionate guitar playing remains the centerpiece of the album. He is one of those guitarists who can play the instrument almost in the vein of a vocalist to carry the tune. Having played his brand of rock and blues for several decades now, Click draws upon his experience to form an accessible and ultimately enjoyable album.

Article first published as Music Review: Danny Click – Life Is A Good Place on Blogcritics.

God, Love and Rock & Roll 45 by Teegarden & Van Winkle

November 27, 2011

Keyboardist/bassist/vocalist Skip Knape and drummer/vocalist David Teengarden formed the folk/rock duo Teegarden & Van Winkle who released 5 albums and several singles during the early 1970s.

They are best remembered for their hit, “God, Love and Rock & Roll.” Released September 19, 1970, it would reach number 22 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.

It was a slick piece of folk/rock, which was representative of much of their music. Unfortunately they would never have a big hit again and by the mid-1970s they had drifted apart. Teegarden was the drummer for Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band for a number of years.

Teegarden & Van Winkle reunited during 1997 and released a new studio album.

One The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe 78 by Johnny Mercer

November 27, 2011

Johnny Mercer was one of the most popular and respected songwriters of the 20th century. While he wrote music once in a while, he supplied the lyrics to over 1500 songs. He was nominated for 19 Academy Awards, winning four.

“On The Archinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe” was part of the film, THE HARVEY GIRLS. It would win the OSCAR for best song.

Johnny Mercer was also a singer and he was wise enough to release the song as a single. It became the number one song in the United States, July 28, 1945, and remained in that position for seven weeks. Other artists to release the song as a single during 1945 were Bing Crosby (number 4), Tommy Dorsey (6), and Judy Garland (10) all reaching the charts.

Mercer would found the Capital label during 1942 and make it one of the most successful in the country. He would sell it to EMI in 1955 for 8.5 million. (That’s 50s money)

Cold Cold Winter 45 by The Pixies Three

November 26, 2011

The Pixies Three began performing as children during 1955. They signed a record contract during 1963 and for the next several years issued a few successful singles before disbanding during 1965.

The original group consisted of Midge Bollinger, Kay McCool, and Debra Swisher. Swisher would go on to join the Angels. Bonnie Walker replaced Bollinger in 1965. They reunited at a high school reunion in 1991 and have continued to perforn several times a year since that time.

“Cold Cold Winter” was originally the B side of the release. It reached number 79 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart. The A side, “442 Glenwood Avenue,” reached number 56.

TThe pictue sleeve continued the Mercury label’s penchant for cheap black and white sleeves.