A Little On The Windy Side By Paul Williams

November 8, 2015

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Many people relate to Paul Williams the songwriter, who wrote hit songs for The Carpenters (“I Won’t Last A Day Without You,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” and “We’ve Only Just Begin”), Three Dog Night (“Out In The Country,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” and “Family Of Man”), and dozens of others. Some relate to Williams the actor, who appeared in several dozen films, most famously as Little Enos Burdette in the Smokey And The Bandit films. Finally, some people are addicted to Paul Williams the singer and performer who has issued over 20 albums.

During 1979, he issued his only album for the Portrait label. The album and the label disappeared soon afterwards.  Now, A Little On The Windy Side has been resurrected with four bonus tracks, a vibrant and clear sound, and a nice booklet that presents a history of Williams and his music.

William has always been a master composer. His singing voice is adequate but takes some getting used too. While he has written some rock songs, his albums fall into the easy listening/pop category. They are well-intentioned light pieces of musical fluff that entertain for a time and make you smile.

The only cover tune is a simple take on “Moonlight Becomes You” from the great American songbook. He gives it a light disco groove and adds some strings around the edges.

The center of the album is five songs written with Kenny Ascher. There is the laid back ballad “The Gift” and the shiny “A Little Bit More.” The upbeat “For Goodness Sake” should have been released as a single as it just stays in your mind.

In some ways the album has a cobbled together feel as three songs first appeared in films and another is an updating of 1972’s “Another Fine Mess,” which was a country hit for Glen Campbell.

The best of the bonus tracks are a gospel flavored “When The River Meets The Sea,” which was written for a Jim Henson special and an unusual direction for Williams and his simple take on “Love Conquers All,” a composition originally recorded by Seals and Crofts.

A Little On The Windy Side may not be his best work but is very representative of the many facets of his career. He still has a committed fan base who will no doubt appreciate this reissue.

Dead Center By Game Theory

November 8, 2015

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Game Theory was a power pop 1980’s band who moved their sound in an experimental and alternative rock direction though the use of quirky production and melodies. They released five studio albums and two EP’s, 1982-1990. It is the EP’s, which bring us to France and this Omnivore reissue.

During early 1984, the French record label Lolita became interested in releasing some music from the west coast power pop and alternative rock scene. This lead to the release of Game Theory’s Dead Center album, which combined their two EP’s, two new songs recorded for the French release, a cover of “The Letter,” plus some odds and ends. All these are a part of a 21 track expanded reissue, which should please their loyal fan base.

Their 1983 and 1984 EP’s, “Pointed Accounts Of People You Know” and “Distortion” ushered in a new era of sophistication and maturity to their career. “Blaze Of Glory,” “Metal And Glass Exact,” “Shark Pretty,” and “Nine Lives To Regel Five” are all excellent examples of what was called the Paisley Underground Scene that was active in small clubs and college campus’ during the 1980’s.

The bonus tracks present a number of previously unreleased tracks. The live versions of “Shark Pretty,” “Nine Lives To Regel Five,” and “Penny Things Won’t” give examples of their sound and musical persona. Add in covers of R.E.M.’s “Radio Free Europe,” Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” Roxy Music’s “Mother Of Pearl,” and the classic rock song “Gloria” and you have one od the better Game Theory concert experiences.

The music of Dead Center fills in a lot of holes in Game Theory’s legacy. It is music that holds up well and presents some of the best from the 1980’s west coast independent scene.

You Don’t Know About Love By Carl Hall

November 8, 2015

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You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 by Carl Hall is a soulful cry from the past.

Carl Hall, (died 1999), had a voice in a million yet failed to gain any recording success or reach any American music chart. His major noterioty came as an actor in such Broadway productions as The Wiz and Truly Blessed: A Musical Celebration Of Mahalia Jackson and the feature film Hair.

He began his career in the 1950’s as a member of Raspberry Gospel Group. While his acting career began in the early 1960’s, he recorded unsuccessfully for the Mercury label. He came under the guidance of producer James Ragovoy from 1967-1972 and released three singles for the Loma and Atlantic labels. Those six sides have now been combined with 13 unreleased tracks to form this new album.

His 1967 Loma single “You Don’t Know Nothing About Love” was his most commercial recording but its intenseness may have kept it off mainstream radio. The previously unreleased  ”Just Like I Told You” has a wonderful groove to it, while “It Was You (That I Needed)” is a ballad that rivals Gene Pitney at his sonic best. There is a stripped down demo of “Dance Dance Dance” that looks back to his gospel roots with just a piano, tambourine, and vocal group in support.

Hall could also cover other artists’ hits and take them in unusual directions. He transforms the Jefferson Airplanes “Somebody To Love” into a funky masterpiece complete with brass and strings. His vocal on “Time Is One My Side” outshines Mick Jagger in its gritty intensity. His voice soars into the stratosphere on the Beatles “The Long And Winding Road.” Possibly the best example of his voice is the demo of “What Kind Of Fool Am I,” where his only backing is a simple piano.

The question remains as to why Hall never received any commercial success during his life time as his releases were the equal of many of his contemporaries.  It may have been he never really settled into a consistent vocal style or that his voice was just too dramatic for radio airplay at the time. Also, Atlantic had a large number of artists that were more important to their success and Loma was on its last legs.

The music of Carl Hall has been out of print or never issued for decades. His voice was unique in soul music. You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Lomax/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 welcomes back music that should be appreciated by anyone interested in soul music of the era.

I’m Telling You Now By Freddie And The Dreamers

November 2, 2015

Freddie and The Dreamers were the soft side of the British Invasion. Freddie Garrity was the lead singer and he fronting the band on their hit “Do The Freddie” was memorable in a silly way. Unfortunately silly does not a rock career make.

“I’m Telling You Know” is a catchy and inoffensive pop song. It reached the top of the American Pop Charts April 10, 1965 and remained there for two weeks. It would prove to be the highlight of the band’s career.

They reached the charts five times in 1965 but never again. The group continued for several years before splitting. Garrity revived the band a number of times and remained active in British television for decades.

Fanny Hill By Fanny

November 1, 2015

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Back in the days when women were consigned to vocal groups, solo artists, and occasionally fronting a rock band (Janis Joplin, Grace Slick), the all-female hard rock band Fanny was a breath of fresh air and a giant step forward for the American music scene. They may not have been the very first all-woman rock band, but they were the first to find some mainline commercial success as their second album, 1971’s Charity Ball, reached number 40 on the Billboard Pop Chart.

Guitarist/vocalist June Millington, bassist/vocalist Jean Millington, keyboardist/vocalist Nickey Barclay, and drummer/vocalist Alice De Buhr came together in the late 1960’s. By the time they released their third album, Fanny Hill during 1973, they were an established and veteran band. That album has now been reissued in an expanded edition with six bonus tracks.

Fanny Hill is perhaps their most accomplished album. Consisting of two covers and eight originals, which include ballads and rockers, plus socially conscious lyrics that were in tune with the times, it was an album that resonated during its era.

The two covers are both creative. They reached deep into the Beatles catalogue for their version of “Bulldog.” It rocks hard and has a different tempo than the original. The Beatles even gave them permission to write a third verse. Their take on the soul classic “Ain’t That Peculiar” is another rocker. June Millington’s slide guitar gives it a unique foundation.

“Knock On My Door,” “Blind Alley,” and “Borrowed Time,” may be a little dated lyrically but they are solid pieces of rock and roll. “You’ve Got A Home” moves in a different direction with a folk approach.

The added tracks are highlighted by the forgotten single, “Young And Dumb,” which is an old Ike Turner composition. “No Deposit No Return” is an unissued track from the same 1971 sessions and is another good rocker.

Fanny Hill is in some ways a product of its time but remains a good glimpse into the burgeoning rock scene of the early 1970’s. It is still worth a listen or two.


Meet Me In Bluesland By The Kentucky Headhunters

November 1, 2015

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The Itchy Brothers formed in 1968 and 18 years later transformed into the Kentucky Headhunters. During the next two decades they sold millions of albums and consistently charted on the American country charts. During the past 20 years they have expanded into blues, southern rock, and even some hard rock at times. They have now issued a new album titled Meet Me In Bluesland, but they are not alone.

Johnnie Johnson is a pianist and a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. During the early 1950’s he had his own trio and the guitarist was Chuck Berry. After Berry went solo, Johnson stayed on as a member of his band for nearly two decades and continued to gig with Berry until his death in 2005.

During early 2003, Johnson flew to Kentucky to lay down some tracks for the Headhunters new album. Somebody in the control room kept the tapes running and for three days he played on a number of tracks. Those sessions of nearly a dozen years ago have now surfaced as Meet Me In Bluesland.

The album was basically recorded live and Johnson’s presence moves the sound in a decidedly blues and rock & roll direction. The album catches both the band and Johnson at the top of their craft and their union is one that works as his piano work expands the sound of the Kentucky Headhunters, while giving the music an organic feel. This is one of those rare unions where the participants make each other better.

Whether Johnson’s scintillating piano runs on “Fast Train,” the laid back groove of “Sometimes,” or the guitar/piano interaction through a rousing version of the classic “Little Queenie,” the music is energetic and joyful.

The Kentucky Headhunters don’t issue albums very often but they usually contain wonderful surprises. Meet Me In Bluesland carries on their tradition of quality music and is in the running for album of the year.