Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eagles- Desperado

Hardcore fans will undoubtedly disagree, but for my money, The Eagles absolutely nailed it with "Desperado," which ranks with The Byrds "Sweethard of the Rodeo" and Gram Parsons' "Return of the Grevious Angel" as a high-water mark for '70's country rock.

Containing songs rich with Western/outlaw imagery, singers Glen Frey and Don Henley's trademark vocals were never better in delivering classics like "Tequila Sunrise," "Saturday Night," and the title track - and with Bernie Leadon still in the band, the authenticity of the group's country underpinnings were never stronger.

Once Leadon left, The Eagles became more of an arena band that tried to capture more of the mainstream rock audience (while still delivering the occasional country-tinged classic like "Lyin' Eyes" and "Best of My Love"). Obviously, they were wildly successful, but with the possible exception of "Hotel California," the band never again approached the creative genius that produced "Desperado."

Firefall -Greatest Hits

Greatest Hits
Having been a fan for many years, I welcomed this anthology with open arms. Like so many other country-pop-rock bands of the time (Orleans,  Marshall Tucker Band,), Firefall boasted savvy pop smarts, agile performers and casual-as-a-summer-breeze songs that occasionally boasted a little bit o'spunk. So, this set comes along and offers fans the chance to hear all the band's great songs in a single session. And they're all here: "Just Remember I Love You", "You're The Only Woman" and, of course, my all time fave, "Strange Way". But, imagine my disappointment at hearing the watered down, badly butchered U.S. 45 RPM edition of "Strange Way". The album cut was a keeper: a "Witchy Woman"-like hit with great string arrangements and a gorgeous flute solo towards the song's end. Sadly, that eye-opening cut isn't the one that appears here. And maybe you'll think I'm being too much of a sourpuss, but that omission is just inexusable if you're a fan...and I am. Someone at Rhino should really make an effort and fix that problem. When they do, I'll gladly give this set the five stars it so rightfully deserves.

Poco -Running Horse

Running Horse
This album is Poco`s first for 13 years since the Legacy album which featured the original band line up. This album features stalwarts Rusty Young, Paul Cotton (who replaced Jim Messina prior to the wheel being invented)and George Grantham the original singing drummer. The lineup is augmented by Jack Sundred who has been playing live with Poco for some time. The music is closer to the modern Nashville sound and this makes sense given that most of modern Nashville will have been inspired by the early Country Rock stars like Poco. The songs are as strong as ever with standouts being, I can only Imagine, Running Horse and Everytime I hear that train by Paul. The Running Horse vocal sounds very Glenn Frey like. Rusty chips in with a couple of love songs and Jack comes up with a couple one of which Shake It is very un-Poco like but a good foot stomping tune none the less. I think this album deserves to find a wider audience than what Poco would normally achieve, especially given the modern country sound. All in all I like it and believe the music continues on the great Poco tradition. Poco for Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

Neil Young- Silver and Gold

Silver and Gold
Make no mistake this is mellow Neil; hard rocking, distorted-amp electric Neil stayed home for this one, and that's OK, we know he'll come around soon. So let's enjoy an album of love songs which flows from beginning to end almost as if it was one long ballad, exploring the topic of love and its many facets. The title track puts true love on the front burner and material things on the back. This cut in particular is outstanding with a "Harvest Moon" feel. "Daddy Went Walking" is Neil the storyteller painting a lyrical picture in the vein of "Old King" from Harvest Moon. "Buffalo Springfield Again" is naturally an auto-biographical looking back with an older and wiser perspective, and a bit of longing for times past. "Red Sun" is a stand-out song about lasting love and "Razor Love" acknowledges a hurtful side of love. The rest of the cuts are excellent with appearances by Linda Rondstat and Emmylou Harris on harmony. For those of us who appreciate both "Evil" Neil and "Nice" Neil this is a 5-star album...For those who prefer only "Evil" Neil take a pass on this one...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poco- From the Inside

From The Inside
By the time Poco released their third studio album From the Inside in 1971, Richie Furay was allowing more and more songs from other band members. [Furay wrote or co-wrote ALL of the tracks on their debut.] The newest songwriter is former lead guitarist for the Illinois Speed Press Paul Cotton, who filled the spot vacated by founding member Jim Messina. Cotton wrote and sang "Bad Weather," "Railroad Days" and "Ol' Forgiver" and added another distinctive voice to the band. And the gorgeous title track was written and sung by bassist Timothy B. Schmidt, his first solo writing credit. Also pedal steel and Dobro player Rusty Young co-wrote the toe-tapping "Hoe Down" with Furay.

Still, the album's highlights are Furay's. The sprightly "You Are the One" evokes the country sounds of Furay's previous band, the Buffalo Springfield, as do "Do You Feel It Too," "What If I Should Say I Love You" and "Just For Me and You."

This is engaging country/rock at its best. Why Poco never had the kind of chart success the Eagles had remains a mystery to this longtime Poco fan. Furay would stick around for only two more albums before leaving the band in 1973 following the release of Crazy Eyes.

Poco continues to perform today around the nucleus of Young, Cotton and (just recently) original drummer George Grantham. But From the Inside contains numerous treasures and stands tall among the albums released by the Furay-led version of the band. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 

Harvest Moon- Neil Young

Harvest Moon
This is a very mellow album in which the tempo only picks up on Old king, a track that features a banjo. Even there, the banjo is somewhat restrained. This album therefore won't get your toes tapping but it has a different kind of appeal.

Among the mellow songs, I particularly enjoy the opening Unknown legend (about a woman motorbike rider), the following From Hank to Hendrix (which is actually about a relationship, with music providing the metaphors), One of these days (hinting at Neil's musical influences) and the romantic title track. Neil mostly avoids politics in this album although in War of man, he sings about a theme that he has explored more on other albums, but here he contents himself with pointing out that there are no winners.

With background singers that include Linda Ronstadt, Nicolette Larson and James Taylor, this is a fine album in its way. Neil Young's fans are many and diverse, and like his music for a variety of different reasons. If you enjoy hearing him sing mellow folk-rock music as I do, you are likely to love this album. -

Pure Prairie League- If the shoe fits

If the shoe fits
"If The Shoe Fits". It's a decent album, but not a terrific one. Both this and the self titled are out of print domestically, so at one time this was a very desirable disc to find, if only for the first half. At one time. But recently, the Acadia label out of England has issued another 2-fer with the debut album that's included on this disc, paired this time with "Bustin' Out", their second and perhaps finest album. It's a much better pairing, and a whole lot cheaper. In addition, Acadia's reissue of "Bustin' Out" is far superior in sound quality to RCA's domestic version.  "If The Shoe Fits"; a more mellow overall effect with less notable tunes and an absence of hits. By this time, Craig Fuller had departed, and for this particular set, the band has departed from its early upbeat country tempo.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Byrds- Turn, Turn, Turn

Turn, Turn, Turn
The group's debut "Mr. Tambourine Man" had been largely carried by vocalist Gene Clark's creative originals, and four Bob Dylan covers among others. Clark's songs also carry "Turn! Turn! Turn!" when it comes to the creative output of the bandmembers, but Roger (Jim) McGuinn was establishing himself as the counterpart to Clark's work. The love songs he co-wrote, 'It Won't Be Wrong' and 'Wait and See' (co-authored by budding Byrd David Crosby) were not up to the standards of those set by Gene Clark, but his arranging of folk standards and 12-string Rickenbacker playing show his influence. McGuinn brilliantly turns an old folk song 'He Was A Friend Of Mine' into a beautiful lament for John F. Kennedy, the additional lyrics McGuinn added delicately describing the tragic assassination of a president. Also a nice move is the jangle of 'Oh Susannah,' which features great interplay between McGuinn's Rickenbacker and Michael Clarke's drum kit. 'Satisfied Mind' is one of the best covers the Byrds ever did, sincere and simple, and covers of 'The Times They Are-A Changing' and 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' helped convince Dylan himself that the group was a solid talent. He told McGuinn "Up until I heard this ['Lay Down Your Weary Tune'] I thought you were just another immitator."

But Gene Clark again eclipses with his love songs; one of the most creative ballad writers of all time, Clark's songs were never cliched or tongue-in-cheek, and always down-to-Earth. 'If You're Gone' has to be one of his most moving vocal performances ever. 'Set You Free This Time' and 'The World Turns All Around Her' display the kind of songwriting the pop world needs today. His 'She Don't Care About Time' single is fortunately included as a bonus track on this remaster, along with another Clark masterpiece 'The Day Walk,' better known as 'Never Before.'

The "Turn! Turn! Turn!" album was a make it or break it for the Byrds; during this short time they rivalled the Beatles, and the massive success of the title track solidified their stance, if only for a brief time. But the other ten songs were what proved the group's talent, avoiding sophomore slumps and delivering some of the 60s greatest music.

Byrds- Mr. Tambourine Man

Mr.Tambourine Man

What a debut! The Byrds only released two albums and a handful of singles with Gene Clark--until a rather abysmal reunion in the early 1970's--but what a couple of albums they are! "Mr. Tambourine Man," their first release, would of course be hailed as one of the penultimate folk-rock records, with the group so aptly adapting the songs of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger to a radio-friendly audience. Yet, for me, it's not how the group performs the title track, "The Bells of Rhymney," "Spanish Harlem Incident" or even "Chimes of Freedom," but the quality of their original material, the bulk of which was penned by Gene Clark! Clark's amazing "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" has become a rock and roll classic, and "Here Without You" beautifully exemplifies its composer's darker, poetic side. Clark and McGuinn, the team that penned The Turtles' "You Showed Me," would co-write "You Won't Have to Cry" (not to be confused with "You Don't Have to Cry" by Crosby, Stills and Nash) and the lesser known "It's No Use." With the success of their first LP under their belts, the group would appear to offer more of the same with "Turn! Turn! Turn!" but Clark would emerge as an even more powerful force with compositions "Set You Free This Time," "She Don't Care About Time" and the hauntingly brilliant "The World Turns All Around Her!" Lesser known track "If You're Gone" would precede Clark's last songwriting credit on a Byrds recording with "Eight Miles High" on their "Fifth Dimension" LP. With Clark's departure, group members David Crosby and Roger McGuinn would be allowed to spread their wings and soar as celebrities and songwriters in their own right, and Crosby's ultimate departure would likewise permit bassist Chris Hillman to step forward before leaving to form The Flying Burrito Brothers, Souther, Hillman and Furay and the Desert Rose Band, then completing a musical full-circle by again reuniting with Clark and McGuinn for two releases and a brief tour. It having been common practice in the early to mid 1960's for session musicians to play on the company predicted hits, such would be the case with much of "Mr. Tambourine Man," but The Byrds would prove themselves to be competent enough musicians and capable performers that this would not be the case with subsequent releases. I love every line-up that's existed of The Byrds, from Gene Clark to Gram Parsons and John York to Clarence White and Skip Battin, with drummer Gene Parsons himself providing exceptional all-around musicianship and serving as a steadying force while the group forged its way into country-rock after a brief dalliance with psychedlic music. But again coming full-circle, it would be this cornerstone from the folk-rock years and the group's debut that holds the dearest place in my heart and serves as the best starting point for future Byrds fans.

Neil Young - Hawks and Doves

Hawks and Doves
1980's Hawks & Doves is one of Neil Young's most underrated albums. The follow-up release to Rust Never Sleeps, the album moves away from the power chords to an acoustic base. The album clocks in at less than a half an hour with most of the nine songs at under three minutes. The original album was broken up into two sides, the first side acoustic and the second side with a full country band. "The Old Homestead" is a rambling track with some of the most mysterious lyrics of Mr. Young's career. It's tough to get a sense of where he's going with the song, but it is intriguing none-the-less. "Lost In Space" is the a truly bizarre track complete with vocals from the marine munchkins. "Captain Kennedy" is a the stand-out track on the album. A dark and foreboding song about a young soldier heading to war. While he's on the water approaching shore he remembers his father who was shamed in battle by having the wooden schooner he captained blown up by the Germans. As he's done remembering his father he hopes his fates are different when reaches the shore and he hopes he can kill good. The song is one of Mr. Young's all-time best. The songs with the country band are filled with fiddles and hooting and hollering like a real hoe-down. "Union Man" is funny and the best of the bunch. Hawks & Doves was generally spurned by critics and the public, but it is a fine example of how Neil Young marches to the beat of his own drummer and isn't afraid to follow wherever his muse takes him.

Byrds- Notorius Byrd Brothers

Notorious Byrd Brothers

First off, Look at the cover of the album. David Crosby is missing. This is because the other band members got pissed off at Crosby because he played with rival Buffalo Springfield at a large concert (Monterey pop? Woodstock?, I don't know.)  So Crosby picture was replaced by the horse (Jack Ass, Get it???) on the right. From left to right is Hillman, McGuinn, Clark

This has always been my favorite Byrds album. Younger Than Yesterday may be more brilliant, at least it places, and Untitled may have more great tracks, but Notorious Byrd Brothers holds together better as an album. I'm surprised that none of the prior reviewers mentioned Trying to Get to You, which to my mind may be the best track on the album, with a terrific McGuinn vocal. The version of Goin' Back here--with the brief but memorable Kevin Kelly drum break right before the end--is definitive. Draft Morning, Old John Robertson, Wasn't Born to Follow, Natural Harmony--all terrific. I've been listening to this album for over 20 times and I haven't tired of it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ozark Mountain Daredevils - Car Over the Lake

Car Over The Lake
I remember being at parties or having my own and this album being played. Everytime that happened I saw people turn from what they were doing and just start listening with comments like "man this is some good music".

The first six songs are incredible and I just don't think OMD could come up with any better for the other side even those songs are very good also. Cobblestone Mountain is almost idyllic with the deep boom rythm. Gypsy Forest, Leatherwood, Mr. Powell, If I only knew and Keep on Churnin' which really suprises.

If I were sent up in a rocket ship for years of flight and had five albums to take with me, this would be my first choice. I would definitely also be considering their first album.

First rate musicians, vocalists and writers.

Neil Young - Old ways

Old ways
One of Neil Young's strong suits (among many) is that he is unpredictable. At no time was this more apparent than during that phase in the mid-80s when he went from techno to rockabilly to country to blues-- a period in his career that I call "genre hell." Eventually, Neil pretty much went back to being Neil, and all was well again.
Unsurprisingly, Neil's music during this time was wildly uneven. Case in point: his "country" album, Old Ways. Some cuts are essential: "My Boy" and "Bound For Glory" channel the genre in a way that doesn't submerge Neil's genius for melody and heartfelt lyrics. Other tracks, however, seem (in the words of another reviewer) like a country-music "caricature." For example, the Jew's harp solos in "Get Back To The Country" are flat-out silly. A couple of tracks, in fact are downright unlistenable ("The Wayward Wind," "Misfits")-- quite a statement from a hardcore Neil-ist such as myself.
Also of interest are the appearances by a variety of country/bluegrass luminaries, such as Willie Nelson, Bela Fleck and the late, great Waylon Jennings.
While this album is still a worthwhile chapter (and, a mercifully brief one) in the Neil Young lexicon, don't expect something as stellar as "Harvest," "Comes A Time" or "Harvest Moon."

Marshall Tucker Band -1st Album

Marshall Tucker Band
The debut album from The Marshall Tucker Band is one of the greatest. This album brings out the sound that MTB does so well, from country, to rock, to blues, all rolled together into a southern sound. Doug Gray's vocals on "Take the Highway" are fantastic, Toy Caldwell's "Can't You See" remains a favorite, "Hillbilly Band" adds a bluegrass feel, "Ramblin" is full of energy, and the live "Everyday (I Have the Blues)", displaying how massively skilled Toy Caldwell was, is one of the greatest guitar songs I've ever heard. All in all, I highly recommend this album to every MTB fan along with fans of Southern Rock and Country rock.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pure Prairie League - Just Fly

Just Fly
I purchased this along with (Dance) when they first came out on record album, I thought this was the best of the two.(and still do) First off I think the sound quality is excellent, I also like the tunes. But I find (Dance) & (Can't Hold Back) to be their weakest albums. If you have not heard this give it a try, it is pretty good these were great artists. I think the whole set is worth having, if you can find (Live And Takin' Stage) this is also one of their better ones.

New Riders of the Purple Sage- NRPS

I call this the cactus CD.
In the wake of such country-rock bands as Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers, the New Riders of the Purple Sage unleashed their debut album in 1971, adding a touch of psychedelia to the mix courtesy of the band's association with the Grateful Dead. [Jerry Garcia adds pedal steel or banjo on all tracks, Mickey Hart plays drums on tracks 5 and 9, and one of the executive producers was Phil Lesh.]

While NRPS were part of the Grateful Dead family, this was no mere Garcia side-project. The core group consisted of John Dawson (guitar, vocals), David Nelson (lead guitar) and Dave Torbert (bass). In fact, Dawson wrote all ten songs on the original release. The songs kicks off with the jaunty "I Don't Know You." "Henry" is an uptempo song about dope smuggling. The album's first single was the rollicking "Louisiana Lady." And the train-robbing saga of "Glendale Train" is propelled by Garcia's pedal steel and banjo picking. The Dead influence is perhaps most noticeable on the overlong "Dirty Business." Clocking in at more than eight minutes, it would have benefited from the shorter time frame of the rest of the songs on the album.

The bonus tracks are taken from their set during the closing of the Fillmore West in July of 1971. The three songs include covers of Joe South's "Down in the Boondocks," a 7:37 take on The Band's "The Weight," and the Dawson original "Superman." Garcia provides pedal steel and background vocals on "The Weight." "Superman," while it dates back to 1968, would not appear on a NRPS album until their 1973 album GYPSY COWBOY.

The band probably had more in common with Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen than to the Flying Burrito Brothers, but on this debut album the New Riders put their own unique spin on country-rock and came up with the best overall album of their career. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Pure Prairie League- Firin' Up

Firin' Up
After Pure Prairie League had released several minor albums in the mid 70's, they hired unknown guitarist/songwriter/vocalist Vince Gill. Their first effort, 1979's Cant Hold Back was a step forward to the prior PPL albums. In 1980, they released "Firin Up" and it brought them their best album. If youre a fan of the Fuller/Powell days, you may beg to differ. The young "rocker" Vince Gill brings in his dancin' shoes for this outstanding album. The best song is the opener "Im Almost Ready." "Give it Up" was not a hit but it souds like it would be right up in the top ten. "Too Many Heartaches in Paradise" and "Youre My True Love" are a little too commercial. "Shes All Mine," "I Cant Stop This Feelin" and "Lifetime of Nighttimes are some very good rockers with great guitars. "Ill Be Damned" and "Janny Lou" sound like they could have been off a Vince Gill album. "Let Me Love You Tonight", the biggest hit off the album, is a good ballad with some good saxaphone.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band- Working Band

Working Band
This was the one and only Dirt Band recording that featured ex-Eagles Bernie Leadon on lead guitar, banjo, steel, mandolin and vocals, even a lead spot with the wonderful "Corduroy Road". It also featured Jeff and Ibby in several of their best Dirt Band recorded moments, including "Working Band", "I've Been Looking", "Soldier of Love", "Johnny O", and "Thunder and Lighting". Carp too, has two great songs here as well, the moody Western with a lot of Leadon flavor "A Lot Like Me", and "Baby Blues" (for his wife, Gretchen).

For the life of me I don't know why this cd was never re-released, as it is one of the best Country Rock recordings the band ever recorded (and one of the best Country Rock recordings ever, it could stand up to the Desert Rose Band's best efforts and yeah, even surpasses the early work of Leadon's old band). While I enjoy seeing John McEuen back with the boys, I miss those harmonies of Ibby and Bernie, and Bernie's tasteful guitar that really complimented Jeff's work too.

Neil Young---Perfect echo

A Perfect Echo - Vol.5 (1970-2003)
A Compilation of Soundboard Recordings

Now here's Vol. 5 of the great soundboard compilation made by Braden S. You'll find more information about the original project (Vol. 1-4) here:
Vol.5 includes Soundboard recordings from the years 1970-1999 (Disc 9) and from 2002-2003 (Disc 10). Some of the earlier soundboards were "discovered" only recently and consequently Disc 9 is the result. Disc 10 includes tracks from shows which took place after the original Perfect Echo was finished.

A Perfect Echo Vol. 5 Disc 9 - 1970-1999:
01. Wonderin' (2.25) - Solo - Cincinatti, OH 29-Feb-1970
02. Cinnamon Girl (2.35) - CSNY - New York, NY 05-Jun-1970
03. Down By The River (3.38) - CSNY - New York, NY 05-Jun-1970
04. Only Love Can Break Your Heart (3.13) - CSNY - New York, NY
05-Jun-197005. Dance, Dance, Dance (1.52) - Solo - London, England 23-Feb-1971
06. New Mama (2.29) - CSNY - San Francisco, CA 04-Oct-1973
07. Nothing Is Perfect (4.43) - International Harvesters - Philadelphia, PA 13-Jul-1985
08. Drive Back (5.41) - Crazy Horse - San Francisco, CA 21-Nov-1986
09. Inca Queen (7.40) - Crazy Horse - San Francisco, CA 21-Nov-1986
10. American Dream (3.44) - Solo - Birmingham, England 02-Jun-1987
11. Ordinary People (12.22) - Blue Notes - Hoffman Estates, IL 16-Aug-1988
12. Sixty To Zero (18.56) - Blue Notes - Hoffman Estates, IL 16-Aug-1988
13. I Am A Child (4,23) - Solo, Mountain View, CA 30-Oct 1999

Disc 10 - 2002-2003:
01. You're My Girl (5.22) - CSNY - Tampa, FL 14-Apr-2002
02. Differently (6.41) - Booker T & The MG's - Eifel, Germany 18-May-2002
03. Are You Passionate? (5.05) - Booker T & The MG's - Eifel, Germany 18-May-2002
04. Goin' Home (10.19) - Booker T & The MG's - Eifel, Germany 18-May-2002
05. Sleeps With Angels (4.19) - Booker T & The MG's - Eifel, Germany 18-May-2002
06. Quit (Don't Say You Love Me) (5.45) - Booker T & The MG's - Eifel, Germany 18-May-2002
07. She's A Healer (12.40) - Booker T & The MG's - Eifel, Germany 18-May-2002
08. Bandit (6.01) - Solo - Tampa, FL 09-Jun-2003
09. Sedan Delivery (6.34) - Crazy Horse, Manchester, TN 13-Jun-2003
10. Be The Rain (7.45) - Crazy Horse, Manchester, TN 13-Jun-2003
11. Roll Another Number (for the road) (4.28) - Crazy Horse, Manchester, TN 13-Jun-2003

mp3: Perfect Echo Vol.5 Disc 1 -
mp3: Perfect Echo Vol.5 Disc 2 -

Byrds -1973

Byrds 1973
From 1969 to 1972, Roger McGuinn was the only original member of the Byrds, taking charge and letting himself and the new members steer the group to a much more country-rock direction. The country-rock period produced several critically hailed classic songs, not to mention the legendary "Untitled" album (praised as the last great Byrds record), and most importantly, this lineup remained a highly important live touring consideration. But, for reasons known and unknown, McGuinn got rid of this version to join the idea for a 1973 "reunion" of the original Byrds lineup of himself, David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. The resulting self-titled album did great on the charts, beating some of the country-rock lineup's positions by far, but it was critically shot down in most corners. Not only that, any Byrd fan expecting the 12-string folk-rock or moog synthesizer space-rock that the original quintet had innovated was in for a disappointment; 1973's "The Byrds" showed the original lineup almost immitating the same country-rock that had been perfected by the previous version of the Byrds. Where is McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker that defined the sound of "Turn! Turn! Turn!"? And where is the spacey studio experimentation of "The Notorious Byrd Brothers?" The last time four of these five Byrds were together in the studio they were making the psychedelic 'Space Odyssey' and sound-effect heavy 'Draft Morning.' Even with David Crosby's assertiveness over McGuinn, it sounds like Clarence White, Gene (and even Gram) Parsons are lingering somewhere in the studio and the songwriting. Of course they weren't, and that means that this album actually does more for the country-rock Byrds than for the original Byrds who made it.

That's not to say the Reunited Five didn't make a great album; their songwriting and performances are top-notch, even if they prove over and over that McGuinn's previous stint was more powerful than it seemed. There are some catchy, flavory songs like Gene Clark's 'Full Circle' and the Chris Hillman/Joe Lala song 'Borrowing Time.' Roger McGuinn's 'Born To Rock and Roll' is featured in a mood and tempo true to the title; it may not compare to the more somber version that was recorded by the previous Byrds (featured as a bonus track on the remastered "Farther Along" CD), but it is still a rollicking joy. But the songs that make this album great are those more melancholy moments, which the album is surprisingly full of. 'Sweet Mary,' co-written by McGuinn, is full of heartbreak and great mandolin work from Hillman, Crosby's languid 'Laughing' is just as stirring, while the three covers are performed with every ounce of emotion you could get from these five men--Joni Mitchell's 'For Free,' and Neil Young's 'Cowgirl in the Sand' and 'See the Sky About To Rain.'

"The Byrds" proved to be a one-time get-together, and the reunion dissolved soon after; it goes without saying that McGuinn chose not to revive the country-rock lineup. While this album may not have done anything for anyone's career, it is still a vivid gem of an album, filled with great songs and great renditions. Finally reissued on the Wounded Bird label after years of being unavailable in the US, this lost album has finally been given a suitable treatment.

Crosby, Stills & Nash - Dark Star

Dark Star
This is one of those albums that raises the metaphoric middle-finger to "conventional opinion," which said that Crosby, Stills and Nash was a spent force by the time they recorded and released this album in 1977. Baloney. This is, in fact, a stupendous album made BY grown-ups FOR grown-ups. If it has no incandescent moments of flashy show, what compensates are solid songs (mostly)and solid musicianship (totally). There's an air about this album of "after all the crazy times, what we have left are some of the lessons we've learned along the way and some of the questions we still have." Self-deprecation abounds; it's in Still's plaintive "See The Changes" and Crosby's reflective "Anything At All." Both songs are somber, but more with bemusement than pathos, with both Stills and Crosby looking hard at themselves and not being totally pleased by what they see. Nash, for his part, takes more of the snapshot approach, looking at what's happened to him at various points in his life (up to that time) and how it's hit him. "Cathedral" and "Cold Rain" are the two best examples of that, as well as being the most elaborately produced tracks on the album. Those signature harmonies are as potent as ever, harking back to when they really were a special, musical experience. It may not be the case now, but that in no way diminishes the impact of this album, arguably CSN's finest. 

Byrds- Untitled/Unissued

Untitled- Unissued
As a long-time admirer of the Byrds' Untitled, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard that another CD was being added to the re-release, with studio and concert outtakes. Forgive me for doubting. The added studio tracks are a revelation. "All the Things" seems like a completely different song, with a brilliant arrangement that features complex vocal harmonies and a prominent McGuinn guitar--one of his most heavenly 12-string riffs. "Lover of the Bayou" features a heavily echoed McGuinn vocal and a strong harmonica backing, plus great guitar interplay between McGuinn and Clarence White--ferocious! Then there are two quiet, acoustic songs with Gene Parsons's vocals that are the real sleepers here--"Willin'" and "Yesterday's Train." The latter has an understated vocal so achingly beautiful that all the song's wistful longing comes through. And the acoustic version of "Kathleen's Song" has a similar fragile beauty. All in all, 22 minutes of unreleased studio cuts than are as strong as anything on the original album. As for the live performances, a great "Jesus is Just Alright"--it's about time a live version is now available. And the arrangement of "Ballad of Easy Rider" is far superior to the studio version, with lovely bitter-sweet harmonies at the end. From a double album to a double CD--and every bit worthy of the name. One of the greatest Byrds albums, now even more awe-inspiring. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Poco - The Last Roundup

The Last Roundup
The album--THE LAST ROUNDUP--is aptly named. This would be the final outting with the lineup of Paul Cotton, George Grantham, Rusty Young and Timothy B. Schmidt. Schmidt would be gone by the end of the year this concert was recorded (1977) and George Grantham was gone by early 1978, leaving only Young and Cotton to soldier on.

This concert was from a tour in support of their then current release, INDIAN SUMMER, and features four tracks from that album. In addition, another four tracks are from their previous album ROSE OF CIMARRON. Only two tracks date back to the Richie Furay years: "Magnolia" and "Honky Tonk Downstairs" (with Furay on vocals). Young's pedal steel drives the music and their vocal harmonies are as lush as ever. This is a welcome addition to your Poco collection. [Running time - 62.57] RECOMMENDED

Poco - Cowboys and Englishmen

Cowboys and Englishmen
Released in 1982 as a last album with MCA. Filled with very nice songs including: "Cajun Moon" written by J.J. Cale (I like this song, especially this version of Poco); I recommend listening to a sample); "Sea of Heartbreak" (written by Hal David & Paul Hampton); and "There Goes My Heart" (written by Paul Cotton). After Timothy B. Schmit left, the group had two Englishmen as new members, and a ratio of original songs in an album decreased. But they showed their appealingness nonetheless and made more hits than before. This album gives an impression of being more adult-oriented, less country-flavored, but very enchanting as ever. It's definitely on a line of Poco.

Byrds- Fifth Dimension

Fifth Dimension
If you don't look back and put this album in perspective it might be difficult to recognize how important and ground breaking the Byrds were. In 1966 The Rolling Stones were just breaking away from R&B covers, the Who- were not in this country, Jimi Hendrix was backing up the Isley Brothers, the Beach Boys had just released Pet Sounds and the Beatles- well they were in a league of their own but the Byrds with the Fifth Dimensions it was obvious that they weren't just folk music played loud.
The cover only shows four Byrds: McQuinn, Crosby, Hillman and Clarke but Gene Clark's 8 Miles High was the track that created controversy - we know now that it is isn't the drug sung that some people thought it was and other people wished it was. It's about flying to London.
David Crosby delivers three great songs: I See You ,What's Happening and Why. Roger McQuinn takes charge with the Fifth Dimension, Mr. Spaceman, Hey Joe, 2-4-2 Fox Trot (the Lear Jet Song).
The Byrds playing is sharp, crisp and innovative. Their trademark tightly knit harmonies surround electric guitars that were just starting to really distort. It's almost the Summer of Love a year early but it's clearly an important American band hitting its creative stride.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Byrds- Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde
I've been in a Byrds mood lately, and the bonus tracks offer a different perspective on some of the music McGuinn and Co were involved in at the time. Looking back from 40 years ago, this sounds more country than alot of country tunes on that format today. Follow the Byrds from Sweethearts of the Rodeo onward and you will discover the pioneering effort and the various intrests that helped shape the jingle jangle sound of the band and it's metamorphosis into a bona fide country band, that's not afraid to rock and roll! 

Following the departure of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons from the band, lead guitarist Roger McGuinn and bass player Chris Hillman decided that they needed to find a replacement member in order to meet their forthcoming concert obligations.With an appearance at the Newport Pop Festival looming, McGuinn and Hillman moved quickly to recruit noted session guitarist and longtime Byrd-in-waiting, Clarence White White, who had played as a session musician on The Byrds' previous three albums, was invited to join the band as a full-time member in July 1968. After the Newport Pop Festival appearance, White began to express dissatisfaction with the band's drummer, Kevin Kelley, and soon persuaded McGuinn and Hillman to replace Kelley with Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram), a friend of White's from their days together in the band Nashville West.

Souther, Hillman Furay -Trouble in Paradise

Trouble In Paradise
Not a good as their first effort, but you gotta get this one country rockers...
As anyone who has followed the career's of these three artists, it is well known how far and wide their music has been tasted. From Furay's time with Poco and Buffalo Springfield, groups whose members crossed paths as well as his individual work to Hillman's music with The Byrds,The Desert Rose Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and individually and finishing with Souther's mostly individual music to his work with several other artists (Ronstadt) before and after SHF. The previously known obvious talents of these artists made it a very easy decision to buy the album before hearing a song, I believe, in 1976. The album was played so many times that when I decided to copy it on a cassette (oops, am I allowed to say that?) it had so many scratches, nothing could save the sound. But what I have always remembered is the depth of the talent and how the emotions played with such deep sincerety in each track, It seemed sure that this was a group that would be around for some time. Making albums full of songs that were all worth listening to. With all due respect to The Eagles, Souther, Hillman and Furay would more than likely stole much of their thunder, had SHF chose to stay together. But given the trio's already mentioned history, it seemed logical they would not be together long. Regardless, this album has to rank in the top 10 of it's music genre of the 70's. Overall it is timeless in the so called Country Rock format. It would be "a good feeling to know" as well as "the sweetest amnesty," to hear this music again on disc. Until then I'll have my, "Black Rose," in the window to console me.

Firefall- Undertow/Clouds Across the Sun

Undertow/Clouds Across the Sun
Double CD offering for Firefalls final albums as a band.
The soft-rocking group FIREFALL had some great hits during their heydey in the late 70's/early 80's---You Are the Woman. Just Remember I Love You. Strange Way, Cinderella, So Long, to mention a few.
This hard to find double CD contains two of their best later offerings. Vocalists Rick Roberts, Jock Bartley and Larry Burnett pave the way with great harmonies too. UNDERTOW has some fine tracks: LOVE THAT GOT AWAY, HEADED FOR A FALL, STARDUST, IF YOU ONLY KNEW, and SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE.
CLOUDS ACROSS THE SUN is just as good. Notably the haunting, driving title track; Jimmy Webb's plaintive OLD WING MOUTH; I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT; DREAMERS; LOVE AIN'T WHAT IT SEEMS; and the angry DON'T IT FEEL EMPTY. The musicians are superb with great guitar, sax and flute solos and strong string arrangements. Add this to their self-titled debut, ELAN and LUNA SEA, you've got the best of a great easy rockers collection. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Elan - Firefall

Every summer night at 9PM, the firefall was tossed over the huge cliff at Glacier Point, in a certain National Park in California. But, the last summer they did this was 1969... but somebody in this band must have seen it because they named this great group after that event.
"Elan" was the third release by Firefall and by this time they were on AM Radio with the hits "You Are The Woman", "Cinderella" & "Just Remember I Love You". FM Radio found them cool enough with "So Long" & "Mexico".
The band always had an ying / yang thing goin' on between the Ballads of Rick Roberts that earned them big sales and radio airplay and the harder rocking edge of the songs of Larry Burnett that recieved more critical aclaim and audience approval.
The big hit here is "Strange Way" that reached #11 on the pop charts and the band was riding high with all the excess that was afforded a 70's Rock Band. "Elan" was this band's most sucessful project and went platinum.
Along with "Strange Way" , Rick does his ballad thing on "Count Your Blessings", "Anymore","Goodbye I Love You" & "Sweet Ann", he teams with Jock Bartley to write "Sweet and Sour" which "surprise" became another hit single.
Larry Burnett has his moments here with "Wrong Side of Town","Get You Back", and does his own ballad with "Baby".
"Winds of Change" is a Bluesy Rock Song written by Rick but sung by Larry and it is the final song from the original record. But on this Re-issue there are three "Bonus" tracks that were recorded for "Elan" but space limitations kept them unreleased all these years. "Headed For A Fall" is here in a sparse acoustic arrangement and this one had a major overhaul before it's offical release on the LP " Undertow". The other two are from Larry and they are good, the bluesy "New Man" and the edgy tale of an assassin "Sharpshootin' at the Senator" that caused a riff with their Record Company who would not release it.
"Elan" along with "Luna Sea" are the best works from this great band and in a couple of years things would start to fall apart but right here Firefall was indeed on top of their game and producing great work... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!

Marshall Tucker Band- Together Forever

Together Forever
In the cannon comprising MTB records, "Together Forever" stands as perhaps the most "jazzy" MTB album. Certainly, I think it's the most distinct of them all. The C&W/Southern Rock influence, while present, is most interestingly placed in the background in favor of a more jazzed up approach; major 7th/9th chords and diminshed chords take a predominant role. This is actually a good thing, as it breathes new life into the musical formula that got MTB to the top. The vocal interplay between Toy Caldwell and Doug Gray is excellent and the musical trade-offs between Toy and Jerry Eubanks (on woodwinds) is top notch. Toy Caldwell is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock history, yet one of the best. George McCorkle plays a mean rhythm guitar (as usual) and, in a most pleasant surprise, the drumming of Paul Riddle and bass playing of Tommy Caldwell are imbued with a fire not seen since MTB's first record. All of these guys can play the pants off of most musicians with one arm tied behind their respective backs, and it is powerfully refreshing to hear it. This is a much, much better record than its predecessor, "Carolina Dreams," which appears to receive a heap of praise because it contains the hit "Heard it in a Love Song." While that record is merely okay, "Together Forever" is a wonderful change of pace.

Poco - Under the Gun

Under the gun
This album could be the most difficult to pigeonhole based on the time period. Even a hint of new-wave shows up on tunes like "Down To The Wire". But the main thrust of UTG rides the rough terrain between pop, country and rock. And for the serious music reviewer, the results are astonishing. "Midnight Rain" is an ample companion to "Heart of The Night" with Rusty Young's "lead" pedal steel guitar. The broken ground is further opened with "Friends In The Distance" with its understated melody, which then bursts forth with Paul Cotton's amazing solo. For me, the most experimental song of the band's career is "Made of Stone" which features a lead dobro that is played over some 80's sounding synths. This is no one-off follow up. This is a collection ignored by the record label, MCA. Who chose to release Poco albums with almost zero promotional muscle. This collection runs start to finish. And even though the music tide was beginning to turn, 1980 was still 1970's enough to support this kind of music. In fact, the band made a conscious effort to not sound dated or stale. This collection is the band's best effort in the modern era. The rodeo, the pop-rock shop, and the cutting edge-all rolled into one offering. You'd be stupid not to seek this album out, and turn it up loud!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Desert Rose Band -1st Album

Desert Rose Band

Highly recommended - a real joy to listen to. Great driving music. There are no songs to skip over on this one.  It grows on you very fast, If your a country rocker, you need this CD in your collection

One Step Forward - Five stars. Fast tempo. Enjoy a fine solo by John Jorgenson. My favorite song on the album

Love Reunited - Five stars. Fast tempo again. Great lyrics.

He's Back and I'm Blue - Five stars. Slower paced. I'm not familiar with the original.

Leave This Town - Four stars. Mid tempo. Good lyrics about a guy who is leaving town because his wife (?) has been unfaithful.

Time Between - Five stars. Not great lyrics but musically wonderful.

Ashes of Love - Five stars. Fast tempo. Musical perfection.

One that Got Away - Five stars. Mid-tempo. Great hooks in this one.

Once More = Four stars. Slow tempo. Sort of schmaltzy lyrics but I like it.

Glass Hearts - Five stars. Fast tempo.

Paul Cotton - Firebird

Paul Cotton is probably best known for his role as Lead Guitar player in Poco. His singing and song writing skills are top notch, and, when combined with his musianship, have contributed to the "legendary" Poco sound that those of us who are die-hard fans have come to adore. Paul's solo efforts are every bit as good. His guitar riffs are uncomplicated, yet perfectly carried out, and melded into ingeniously scripted songs, that when listened to, will take you on a "mental vacation". This particular CD is a remake of an already good effort. The re-mixes are really well done with more instrumentation, and some added vocals by a very good female singer. This CD is different enough, that even if you already have the original recording, is still worth buying. Besides, who wouldn't want to hear more music from Paul? Buy it. Support Paul's efforts, and "Ride the Country" again.


"Byrdmaniax" is a marvelous late-period Byrds album, with some stellar songs and affecting performances. In fact, there are several all- time Byrds classics to be found: 'Pale Blue', 'I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician' and 'Glory, Glory'. The very best tracks, though, are better than anything The Byrds had ever come up with to that time. McGuinn's amazing 'I Trust' and Skip Battin's strange ode to old Hollywood, 'Citizen Kane' (the guitars on that track, along with the raw attack of Gene Parson's drumming, seems to predict grunge...I'm just babbling now). Then there's Skip's pastoral 'Absolute Happiness' which is not at all bad. Actually, all of the material in "Byrdmaniax" is downright great; the only flaw--and this is a big one-- is the overproduction. The Byrds were at their height at this point, with the McGuinn-Battin-Parsons-White lineup; and yet they're buried underneith tons of ridiculous strings. That pretty much destroyed the wonderful 'Kathleen's Song' (without the kitchen sink it is included on the 1990 Byrds box set) and vastly diminishes the power of 'Pale Blue' and 'My Destiny'. It should be noted that The Byrds were not responsible for this and were incensed tremendously that their producer would screw them so badly; as a direct result the band itself produced the next lp, "Farther Along". That album has the edge over "Byrdmaniax" due to it's amazingly quiet and clean simplicity of both material and production. But don't pass up "Byrdmaniax". There are several great cuts that didn't make the box set (why in the world was 'Citizen Kane' not included in the box? ) and that are necessary for anyone wishing to gain a complete understanding of one of America's greatest and most influential country-rock bands.

Poco- Wildwood Sessions

The Wildwood sessions
You don't really get too much more of an intimate recording than this, captured at the Wildwood Springs Lodge in the Ozark hills of Steelville, Missouri. '70s country rockers Poco reunited (sans Richie Furay) for an acoustic/electric concert that swept the dust off some of their best songs and hits. "Save a Corner of Your Heart for Me" proves that their harmonies sound as boyish and romantic as they did back in the 20th century and their cover of J.J. Cale's "Magnolia" almost sounds as romantic as it does on 1973's Crazy Eyes.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Eagles-On the border

On the Border
The Eagles' third studio album, the 1974 release ON THE BORDER, was meant in many ways to rectify the unjustified commercial failure of DESPERADO, and give this band a harder edge than before. To this end, they ousted Glyn Johns as their producer after just two tracks were recorded, bought in Bill Szymczyk to replace him, and added Don Felder on lead guitar.
But ON THE BORDER is the best of both worlds--yes, the band gained a harder edge but it also retained some of the more country elements of before. "Midnight Flyer" is an impressive bluegrass-style breakdown with Bernie Leadon zipping away on banjo; and Leadon's "My Man", a tribute to the departed Gram Parsons, features his handy steel guitar work. A lot of great cuts are to be had here. Ironically, one of the two songs Glyn Johns produced, "The Best Of My Love", would become the group's first #1 hit in early 1975; and in yet another ironic twist, they would hit #1 with this single just two weeks after their former employer Linda Ronstadt got her #1 single "You're No Good."
I admit to being a very devout Eagles/Linda Ronstadt fan, being as I am from the Los Angeles area. But they remain the standard by which many rock and country acts are measured. And as long as there are faux "boy bands" like 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, there will always be a need for the Eagles.