Treat Her Right: Tied to the Tracks (1989) LP

Treat Her Right 
Tied to the Tracks
RCA (9596)
Rating: **** (Recommended)
While the band likely would have liked to have this come out a bit rawer, the music still sounds great with the major label production.  The first side is solid to the end, all originals except a cover of Beefheart’s “Hit A Man.”  The side closes with Sandman’s “No Reason” (which sounds especially haunting in retrospect, after Sandman’s fatal on-stage heart attack in 1999).  
Side two is filled with originals by various members of the band.  (After this second album, Sandman would form Morphine and this band would move to Rounder, a better fit for this outfit.)  
Another recommended set, none of that “I Got My Mojo Working” crap.  Instead this is a collection of slightly oddball but refreshingly honest white-boy blues.
— winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Ups Sideways in the 1970s)

Vince Guaraldi: Black Orpheus (1962) LP

Vince Guaraldi Trio 
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
Fantasy 3337 
Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
With the bossa nova craze taking off, Fantasy packaged this set to point out the focus of side one.  For the cuts on that side, Guaraldi took the music from the Brazilian film and brought it to San Francisco, taking the bossa nova into an established style of this era–cool jazz.
While the popularity of the film might have had a lot to do with this album getting airplay, the music soon took on a life of its own.  “Samba De Orpheus” was the single from the album, but when DJs starting spinning the b-side, an original called “Cast Your Fate To the Wind,” Guaraldi was on his way to becoming a household name.
While “Cast Your Fate” might have originally been tacked on for filler, the two-sided single was actually a small mirror of the entire album.  The A side of the single opens the album and introduces the Brazilian focus of side one.  The B side of the single opens side two and introduces the United States focus of the second half of the set.  And while the Brazilian compositions are part of the sound of this album, even those cuts are transformed into cool jazz. 

This set is pure early 60s San Francisco, but it ended up being a timeless classic with a sound all its own.  If cool jazz often came across as a shallow version of jazz, Guaraldi proved this music could have depth and soul.  While Vince might be remembered by most as the pianist who brought us those wonderful soundtracks for the Peanuts, this is the set that introduced Guaraldi to the world.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

Gabor Szabo: High Contrast (1971) LP

Gabor Szabo
High Contrast
Blue Thumb (BTS 28)

Rating: **** (Recommended)

Recorded March 1971, produced by Tommy LiPuma, engineered by Bruce Botnick.

For this instrumental outing, two great guitarists join forces, Szabo on various guitars, Bobby Womack on rhythm.  At first, the arrangements of the opening cut seemed overwhelming, and some of the material was too jazzy and stretched out for my tastes, but once I got to that last cut, “I Remember When,” I was hooked for life.  After that, I returned to the beginning of side two and completely dug the groove, Womack on rhythm guitar, Phillip Upchurch or Wolfgang Melz on bass, Falco and Carmelo Garcia on percussion, Jim Keltner on drums.  The side features three cuts by Womack, including a version of “If You Don’t Want My Love” from the score for Across 110th Street Economy wasn’t part of the vocabulary of 1971, and that works when you’ve got a band like this, a rhythm section from heaven, Szabo snaking his licks into the conversation, filling in the groove with improvization.  Just give a listen to the appropriately titled “Just A Little Communication” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

  After grooving with side two for a few days, I flipped her back over and dug that side too.  The set opens with “Breezin’,” a cut Womack wrote for Gzabo (later copped by George Benson for a hit in 1976). The rest of the side is filled with Szabo compositions, really getting into the groove as the side progresses, especially once they get deep into “Amazon” and on to “Fingers.”  Szabo dominates the writing on the first side and Womack provides the score for the flip side, but they both play a big part in the entire set, and the sides have a lot in common, both providing the contrast suggested by the title, getting into the groove and concluding with a reflective number.  While “I Remember When” might not be the best example of the deep groove this band dug out for this set, it still remains my favorite selection on the album.  The entire set is quite killer. 
— winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

UFO: Strangers in the Night (1979) LP

Strangers in the Night
Chrysalis (1209)


Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
Recorded in Chicago and Louisville, released December 1978, reached #42 (#8 in the UK).
This group was the best hard-rock outfit to come out of England, and this double-live set serves as the perfect bookend to the classic line-up, plenty of excess but never getting too carried away, Way’s bassline powering it along, no songs about wizards and fairy tales, instead focusing on drag racing and fast women, being young and living on the streets, doing crime and dying.  Of course, they cut loose on “Rock Bottom,” but the axe grinding is perfectly placed, really quite like Satchmo’s solo on “St. James Infirmary,” my girl’s dead on a slab and I’m gonna blow a solo, or shred a solo if it’s the 1970s.  I hate to say it, but you really had to be there.  If you weren’t, you can listen to this album.  It grabs you from the get-go, and when it starts to seem a bit much with “Too Hot To Handle,” they go into a killer version of “I’m a Loser,” and then conclude with two classic rockers from Force It.
While almost every hard-rock outfit put out the obligatory double-live set, most were a waste of vinyl.  This is not the case with this set, this rocks nonstop.
— winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)