Sonic Bloom

When Sir John rang me up he was in bad shape. Obviously drunk.

“I’m fucked, mate,” was all he could say at first, then, “I can’t finish me bloody album for fuck’s sake!” He always sounds Irish when he’s drinking.
“It’s the Irish talking”, he’ll say, pointing at the word on the bottle above “Whiskey”

He was working on a solo album after giving most of his adult musical life to the band. They’d all quit and now the bass player hates him, apparently.
After the second blown deadline, his label insisted on an outside producer, and he’d rejected everyone they’d suggested.

I got the next flight to London and by tea time the next day I was in beautiful downtown Swindon, dodging hipsters. I had a schwarma at Mamoun’s, a Tiger brew or two at the Splash and Spasm, and thusly fortified, hired a car and rode out to his country estate. I never count on being fed out there. The cook is still mad at me for making a rude joke concerning “bangers and mash”.

I felt a fair amount of trepidation as we turned off the A419, halfway to Cirencester, onto the long drive into the property, and rode past the empty zoo cages, now somewhat overgrown, and signalling disrepair. A family of hedgehogs it’s sole captives.
The maid indicated he was out by the pool, where I found him shut in the cabana. With much cajoling he appeared, dressed in a rumpled terry cloth robe, a V-neck T-shirt, lightly dusted with bisquit crumbs, pink sunglasses, and matching plastic flipflops. He looked terrible. Worse for wear than the topiary animals out by the zoo.

“I need you to be my producer, mate,” he said, sheepishly.

With that, he handed me a thumb drive with over 160 songs on it.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.

“I’m sure you’ll make it right as rain,” he said managing a smile, as I wondered about the metaphor. How could rain be “Right”?

“I get to play GOD, er Todd,” I thought, and pondered that troubled history. A masterpiece and a thirty year grudge.

We locked ourselves in the former garden shed, now studio, lit a phatty, and got to work.
I was dumbstruck by the overall quality of the material.
Although there were plenty of throwaway tunes, and self-indulgent experiments, it was obvious there was a great album in there (A double as it turned out).
The first thing I did was get rid of everything that hearing once was enough.
I avoided the overly familiar material made famous by the band.

“WWTD” (What Would Todd Do?), I wondered. He’d roll up the sleeves and do some heavy lifting, while not being too concerned about stepping on any toes. Who has time for that? In other words, beat the thing into shape.

I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. Once the basic tracks were selected, I got fairly intrusive (Sir John’s words, paraphrased without expletives), giving about half the songs tighter intros. Many were too long. “Little Lighthouse” was marred by almost a minute of noise it didn’t need at the end. I gave it a proper one. Through brutality, I made room for more music.

“My Land Is Burning” required no such attention. A perfectly rendered closer if I ever heard one.

Sir John Johns is a great songwriter, fine vocalist, and nifty guitarist. I like his version of “Shake You Donkey Up” about 100 times more than what ended up on that, to my ears, unlistenable album, by the band. I hate the drum programming, but somehow his use of canned drums here doesn’t bother me.
Perhaps because Sir John otherwise sounds so fresh. Nothing like first takes without band politics as a backdrop.
After spending so much time with this material, the band’s versions can sound somewhat overworked.

I’m not sure how he feels about “our” record, as he hasn’t returned my calls. I will someday get even for the “gift” he left in my suitcase.
The uniformed guys with guns weren’t amused.

I think it’s a terrific personal statement, and after this experience,
probably the only solo album we’ll ever get out of him.

Put it on again, indeed!

Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom Too

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Prognosis

I was busy with another project (building a guitar) and didn’t have any ideas until last night when I went through the library and started pulling tunes. Even then, it doesn’t always work, and I admit I’ve spent days tinkering with the sequence. Not this time.

I grew up with Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, and the rest.
None of them are featured here.
This is music I’m less familiar with than usual.
Most of it is from years of trolling blog sites for things I’d only read about in the past.

For example, Mogul Thrash is the band John Wetton left to join Family, before leaving them for King Crimson. I never expected to find it, but thanks to the internet, I have FLAC files.

I hope you like mellotron.

I tended towards shorter songs when possible. My favorite Genesis song, for instance, “Supper’s Ready” is a whole album side and clocks in over 20 minutes. Add “Close To The Edge”, and “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic Pt 1”, and there’s an entirely epic cd length mix.

The Italians really “got” Prog and some of the best bands were from there. “Impressioni Di Settembre”, an old favorite, was somewhat blandly re-recorded by PFM in english as “The World Became The World”, the title track to their second american release, but I’ve always preferred the original Italian version.

Also here is Il Volo, another of the best, represented by “Il Canto Della Preistoria (Molecule)”, which also transcends it’s lack of english with some truly extraordinary guitar sounds.

Amon Düül II is from Germany, and technically krautrock.

Aphrodite’s Child is from Greece, and features Vangelis, long before “Chariots Of Fire”.

Brian Davison was the drummer in the Nice. This 1970 solo album is nothing like his former band.

Tempest was a power trio freaturing Ollie Halsall, sadly best known for playing “Paul” on The Rutles recordings. He briefly joined this band, wrote all the songs, and sang lead on the album they recorded and left, to play with Kevin Ayers.

Bram Stoker is a band who left behind an album with nary a trace of other info. This is one of those that collectors go nuts for. Same goes for Pete Fine’s.

I only downloaded Aubrey Small a few days ago, and barely know “Smoker Will Blow”. This description caught my eye:
“The recording experience at Trident became intoxicating and at times even became somewhat surreal. For one number “Smoker Will Blow”(producer)John Anthony had the idea of putting orchestration on the track as it was too simple. Within a matter of days arranger Richard Hewson appeared together with a huge assembly of the finest jazz and orchestral musicians available. Here was another highly respected musician who had a list of high profile credits to his name including the Beatles, Bee Gees, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Chris Rea among others – another who’s who! The band watched from the control room with amazement as an extraordinary and complex soundscape unfolded on their song”.

Kaleidoscope was an English band whose roots were in ’60’s psychedelia, and released some really exceptional music, but for some reason ended up with less than nothing. This song is the closer to an album they finished in 1971, but didn’t see release until 1992.

Prognosis

Prognosis Too

Enjoy!
-BBJ

I liked the new neck so much I regretted not doing a better job painting it, so I repainted with 20 coats of lacquer, and upgraded the pickguard. Now it’s finally finished. 1987 Fender Japan 50’s reissue body with Fender licensed USA made late ’60’s style neck. Tuners, and except for the ’90’s Les Paul humbucker, original hardware.

Now I Know High

“The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
-Jeff Tamarkin

Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Skip Spence – rhythm guitars, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals

Their first album, “Moby Grape” (1967) is widely recognized as a classic.
While recording their second in New York City, Skip Spence’s schizophrenia began to take over. Famously chopping down a band member’s hotel room door with a fire axe. He was committed to Bellevue for six months while Moby Grape soldiered on, finishing “Wow” (1968). Skip never returned to the band full-time. While incarcerated, he wrote enough songs to record “OAR” (1968), in Nashville, playing all the instruments. It’s an un-hinged masterpiece, in many ways similar to Syd Barrett’s post Pink Floyd albums.

Then came “Moby Grape ’69”, “Truly Fine Citizen” (1969) also recorded in Nashville, and finally,
“20 Granite Creek”(1971). Although Spence was no longer in the band they included him when possible, depending on his health.

This compilation covers their initial run.

They have disbanded and reformed many times, and often having to use a fake name as their manager, Matthew Katz, hung on their contract like a drowning man to a log, or worse, a sociopath. They signed their contract under duress, with a large dollop of naivete, resulting in not even owning the name Moby Grape.

From wikipedia:
“Matthew Katz insisted that an additional provision be added to his management contract, giving him ownership of the group name. At the time, various group members were indebted to Katz, who had been paying for apartments and various living costs prior to the group releasing its first album. Despite objecting, group members signed, based in part on an impression that there would be no further financial support from Katz unless they did so. Neil Young, then of Buffalo Springfield, was in the room at the time, and kept his head down, playing his guitar, and saying nothing. According to Peter Lewis, “I think Neil knew, even then, that was the end. We had bought into this process that we should have known better than to buy into.”

Due to continued legal battle between the band and Katz over ownership of their name, pseudonyms were used during several decades for performance or recording purposes; including Mosley Grape, Legendary Grape, Maby Grope, Fine Wine, and The Melvilles.

Moby Grape today:
Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
with
Joseph Miller – drums (son of Jerry)
Omar Spence – vocals (son of Skip)
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals (guest appearances)

They were all incredibly talented, and Jerry Miller deserves to be included in any conversation about guitar heroes.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Now I Know High

Glam Slam

With the sad passings of David Bowie, and Dale “Buffin” Griffin, it seemed only right to put together a tribute to “The Golden Age Of Rock n Roll”.

Right away I was reminded all that glitters isn’t necessarily “Glam”. In fact there isn’t that much of it as the whole era collapsed the minute it became a category. But the influence continues. Many elements that seemed new are now standard features.

Glam checklist: Theatrical make-up and stage persona. Image conscious with a fondness for fifties styles and POP Art mashups. Saxophones, female back-up singers, Flashy lead guitar stylist as foil to singer. Muscular rhythm section. Elements of prog.

Even though there is no Glam without Bowie, he doesn’t appear. Instead Bauhaus represents with their faithful, lively rendition of “Ziggy Stardust” (1982, number fifteen on the UK singles chart), illustrating how glam morphed into goth. Just because the dinosaurs are gone doesn’t mean we’re not surrounded by birds. If you know what I mean.

In the valley of The New York Dolls, you mean. Generation X’s “Valley Of The Dolls” is straight up glam. It’s only missing chick singers and saxophones. From their sophomore effort. When they were still a band.

“Rock Star” is from “Velvet Tinmine” a collection of obscure UK singles from the era (1973-5), and is by Bearded Lady. I found a page in wikipedia and there is really nothing to know.

“Needles In The Camel’s Eye”, worked so well for Todd Haynes during the opening of “Velvet Goldmine”. It’s the most successful part of the movie.

A lot of art rock got lumped in with glam, and Kevin Ayers wore the make-up. “Interview” is kind of a bookend to David Essex’s “Rock On”.

Queen knocks it out of the park with “Now I’m Here”. Epic on every level. Sheer Heart Attack indeed.

Enjoy!

Glam Slam

Acid Washed Weekend

I didn’t buy a copy of the original double lp”Nuggets” as compiled by Lenny Kaye in 1972.
I never really sought this stuff out before getting Bowie’s “Pinups” in 1973. At first I preferred his versions because the sound was so much better. I thought the Kink’s original “Where Have All The Goodtimes Gone?” sounded weak and thin by comparison. On the other hand, Syd’s “See Emily Play” had something that Bowie’s did not.

Neither of those are here, however.

Only “Lies”, “Open My Eyes”, and “Farmer John” appeared on the original 1972 “Nuggets”.
The rest are from the much expanded Rhino versions, and a few from various other sources.
I included the best, and most obscure songs I know, while mostly avoiding the usual suspects.
While I’m sure some of this is familiar territory, I hope it’s the surprises that really get you.

Enjoy your trip!

-BBJ

Acid Washed Weekend

Here Comes The SUN

If Elvis is Jesus then Sam Phillips is GOD. I’ve read Peter Guralnick’s terrific two volume biography of Elvis, as well as “Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians”, so I look forward to his latest, “Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock N Roll”.

All the songs on this collection come from the accompanying 2 CD set curated by the author.
I don’t have a single argument with his selections. These are my favorites sequenced by me.
Everybody should stop off in Memphis on their way to New Orleans. When I had to pick one or the other I chose Nashville, and I don’t regret it, but next time will be Memphis.
In the ’80’s I had a friend working in a record store who routinely sold me fancy imports at her employee discount. I discovered SUN through Charly Records, and their top-shelf reissues. They all look and sound great. I still have a lot of them including a 9 record set of SUN Blues.

I dug the brief post- punk Rockabilly revival of 1980 (culminating with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love), and even formed a band with a childhood buddy which went on without me to get a record deal and everything(Jimmy And The Mustangs).

I know all these songs like I wrote and played them myself and you should too.
The music speaks for itself. Regardless of the weather have a SUNny weekend!

Here Comes The Sun

A Saucerful Of Tears

Five guys, one bike.

Pink Floyd’s sophomore effort could very well be the worst of all time. Syd Barrett, their guiding light, and principal songwriter, became the goose that laid the golden eggs, and infamously flamed out, leaving them at the apex and in the middle of recording. I don’t think it was just acid, or insanity. I think forming a band was fun, but it suddenly becoming a vocation, and pop stardom stopped being so. He really wanted to be a painter, and he was a pretty good one from what I’ve seen.

Anyway the rest of the band found themselves in quite the pickle with an album begun and no songs. The title track can only be described as a composition, as it’s not a song or even music,really, except for the last section by Richard Wright, which I’ve used as a long intro to “See Saw”. My band, The Smoove Sailors write more interesting “jams” every week than the title tune.

I’ve been thinking about fixing A Saucerful Of Secrets for a long time. It was the unlistenable half of A Nice Pair, and just as bad as Ummagumma (The best part of which is the picture of all the gear on the back). A Saucerful of Tears is almost long enough to be a double album. Like if the White album lost “Revolution 9” and “Goodnight”, which I would never miss.

It’s the most democratic Floyd album as it features at least four songwriters and five singers.

I’ve compiled all the Syd Barrett songs recorded after their debut, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, including the still unreleased “Vegetable Man”, and “Scream Thy Last Scream”, plus a couple singles with David Gilmour from the same period, but not on the album.

“Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” is not my favorite, but is the only one involving all five members. “A Jolly Bunch of Pop Tunes” Syd might say.

I think it plays rather well, and because it’s all from the same period, could have been released this way. Enjoy!

Rehearsing for “The Wall”

 

A Saucerful Of Tears

Foglizard

 
 
 
 
 
(our only cover)

The “Hits”, Instrumentals, and “B sides”

This couch came with the space where a lot of this material was recorded. It didn’t fit there.

You are forgiven for not knowing Foglizard. While we never played a live show, all the recordings featured here were performed live in the studio in one or two takes. The only overdubs were vocals added later. This is raw Rock N Roll of the highest order.

We began in 1999 as Friends Of Harry, named after my cat (now deceased). We were an improvisational electro-acoustic ensemble with only two rules: No blues, and no drums. We’d all been in plenty of rock bands and were determined not to go there until late 2002, when our bass player, Sharky Tao Mao, booked a nonexistent band named Chariot! to perform as Cheap Trick at Uncle Joe’s (local dive, now demolished) annual Halloween bash. We didn’t learn any Cheap Trick songs except the chorus to “Dream Police” which we tacked onto our signature song, “Chariot”. We wrote 6 originals over two weeks while preparing for the show, but we didn’t really have a singer or lyrics yet. Our songs were instrumentals with minimal words and nonsense syllables.
We had such a good time that Chariot! became a lot more than a side project. D-Lux, a founding Friends Of Harry member, was on an extended vacation in Ecuador while all of this went down and returned to find out he was our new singer. We recorded a self titled album, available here, and played a handful of gigs. D-Lux left town shortly after. For awhile he continued to add lyrics and vocals from a distance, but it soon became clear that we needed a singer who lived in town. Instead of finding one we began to write and record the vocals ourselves with occasional guests.
We realized that there was already too many “Chariots”, so we changed our name to Foglizard. Run a search, we’re at the top of the list.
One thing we learned from our Chariot! experience was that we got really tired of rehearsing our set. We usually ran it as a 45 minute suite with no spaces between songs. It was hard to introduce new material that way. Sharkey was at the point of mutiny.
As a result, Foglizard never rehearsed a set. Every time we came into the studio we’d lay down a new track, usually in one or two takes. At a later session we’d write the lyrics and overdub vocals. The Instrumental disc is mostly material we never got around to “finishing”.
About half the time I’d bring something I was working on into the session. I did this because Beast(baritone guitar, vocals), Q(drums, vocals), and Sharky(bass, vocals) are much better musicians than me, and it was my way of holding down my end. It’s from being self taught, since I didn’t know how to play anything, I make stuff up. Beast, on the other hand, is a Berklee grad who can play the shit out of his guitar, and as far as I can tell, pretty much anything I’ve seen him pick up. Q is rock solid in every way, and Sharkey is the perpetual wild card. He’s always solving problems in unexpected ways.
I’m Buzz Baby Jesus, the other guitar and occasional vocalist.

In 2008, Q began his journey into domesticity and as we saw less of him, Sharkey, Beast, and me developed a side project, The Smoove Sailor’s. When Q announced his retirement in 2010, it became our primary focus. However, we all left the door open and manage to get together as Foglizard about once a year to find out we still “have it”.
In addition to the original players, The Smoove Sailor’s have added several more members, and occasionally play live, but we don’t like rehearsing a set any more than we used to. We split our time between improvisation and the usual “two take wonders” a la Foglizard.

Useless Records is proud to release what I’ve compiled as the “best of” Foglizard on 3 cd’s. Disc one is the “Hits”, disc two are Instrumentals, and disc three is the “Boner” disc of “B” sides and songs that narrowly missed inclusion on disc one.

Here’s a video of “Von Douche”, which has over 14,000 hits thanks in part to it’s link to “Hot Chicks With Douchebags”. It’s the rare case where I sing verses I wrote, and whistle a “solo”.

Disc One Vox
Disc Two Instrumental
Disc Three Boner

Jamaican Holiday Extended

 
(Israelites)
 
(Sugar,Sugar)

Sometimes it takes two.




The “Scratch” side.


Because it’s hot as hell and one “Jamaican Holiday” isn’t enough.

Volume 2

Jamaican Holiday

 
 

Everything you need on one album

“Police and Thieves”, and “War Ina Babylon” were my initial points of entry. Still amazing me after nearly four decades.


This side is a Dub sandwich.

The inspirational side

Dr Alimantado’s “I Killed The Barber” is an unhinged masterpiece


The weather’s hot so I’m feeling Reggae. A lot of you probably just thought “Ugh! I HATE that Shit!”, and I can understand why. This compilation was made for you.
When I use the word, I’m thinking of the music I love, most of which was recorded in the 1970’s. Ever since, what passes for music coming out of Jamaica is something else. Even contemporary Reggae trying to sound “vintage” has none of the charm of that original decade.

The ’70’s were an exciting time in Jamaica, the island having attained full independence in 1962, there was a lot of optimism and hope mixed with some harsh reality. About two dozen musicians played on 90% of the records. There were about three rhythm sections and a handful of independent studios full of aspiring singers. Bob Marley among them. Not to mention some truly unique individuals, such as Lee “Scratch” Perry running the boards and making waves still felt today. Origins of DJ culture start here with artists like U-Roy, a local sound system DJ who began “toasting” over dub plates.
Side Two of is The Dub Sandwich.

Jamaican Holiday is the ultimate single cd collection. It has everything from sweet soul music to the deepest, darkest dub.
Give into the heat, move slowly, crack open a cold beverage (warm Red Stripe is terrible), and enjoy your Jamaican Holiday, wherever you are.
The doctor (Dr Alimantado) also recommends a nice big spliff to seal the deal.

This is soul music of the highest order.

Since all of these songs were originally released as vinyl records, and not a few of them ripped from vinyl by yours truly, this too begins with the “Needle Drop”.

Note: After going to the printer’s two errors were found:
On Side 3 L. Perry should be credited as producer of “To Be A Lover”.
On side 4 Sugar Minott’s name is misspelled.

Art included.

Jamaican Holiday