Road (1972) S/T (LP) Natural Resources (Motown) NR105L

Road

Road

1972

Natural Resources (Motown) NR105L

Produced by Tom Wilson and Road

*** (noteworthy)

Featuring  Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) on bass, Rod Richards (Rare Earth) on guitars, and Les Sampson on drums, this sole album by this Detroit/UK outfit clearly comes out of the 1960s power-trio acid-rock tradition established with the Hendrix Experience. This trio had the talent, power and energy to deliver the goods. Unfortunately, they appeared to have a lack of material.

And considering the era and the lyrics, they were perhaps too stoned to notice, or too stoned to care.

The set starts off promising enough with a Richards-penned number called “I’m Trying” that seems to come out of the Allman Brothers as much as Hendrix, but if one didn’t notice the void in the lyric department with the opener, it’s hard to miss with the second cut, a Redding-penned number about “Going to the Country.” (Of course, maybe that was the point: rock is about raw energy rather than clever comments.)

By the time you get deep into “Side 49” (aka side one) the Hendrix influence comes through loud and clear as a cranked Marshall amp, and Hendrix remains the primary influence as the band jams throughout “Side 17 1/3” (aka the second side).  While it sounds like they were a bit lost in a drug-induced haze, the Sampson/Redding engine provides plenty of power, and Richards does a pretty convincing Hendrix impersonation.

With the opener of side two, Richard’s “Spaceship Earth,” the Detroit influence can also be felt, both hints of the energy of bands like MC5 and the muscle of Norman Whitfield of Motown fame, and while this was co-produced with the legendary black-American producer Tom Wilson (one of the greatest producers of all time), one can’t help wonder what would have happened if this band would’ve hooked up with Whitfield.    As it sits, it’s a noteworthy chapter in the story of Rod Richards and the beginning of the team of Noel Redding/Leslie Sampson–a team that would record several albums together.


This also serves as an inferior companion set to the “Kapt. Kopter & The Fabulous Twirly Birds” which was released this same year, featured both Redding and Les Sampson (aka Clit McTorius and Henry Manchovitz) and applied the loud raw energy to songs by other artists (Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mother and Child Reunion” for example).

While some of the excesses on this sole album by Road are a bit much–such as the drum solo on Redding’s “Friends”–excess was an integral part of 1972 and we’ve heard a lot worse from this era of excess, and arguably the nine+ minute title track by Richards is a relatively strong conclusion to a fairly unremarkable album.  In its own way, it’s fairly consistent: the better cuts ain’t that great, but the weaker cuts ain’t that bad.  While this isn’t essential listening, fans of acid rock, hard rock, the power trio, and what would decades later be called stoner rock will likely find something to enjoy with the acid-rock jams of this set.

— winch (author of  

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The Growlers (2010 -2014)

This California outfit has managed to keep their oddball signature stew in tact while offering enough spice and variety to the recipe to keep it interesting.

Growlers. Hot Tropics. 2010. Everloving Records.  Second set from this California beach-goth band…surf garage hillbilly rhythm and blues…exotica Polynesian waves washing up on campfire meeting of cowboys, the Cramps, Hank Williams, Beefheart, Link Wray, Love and the Doors…more acoustic and less frantic than most California bands in a somewhat similar mode…more for driving through the desert or sitting around the bonfire than dancing the boogaloo at the dancehall…noteworthy 21st century garage.


Gilded Pleasures. 2013. Everloving Records.  This catches the beach-goth band in transition between the more raw sound of previous releases and the more polished sound of Chinese Fountain, the waves of surf, Asian and Polynesian washing over their cowboy hillbilly campfire.  This is a good place to start.

Chinese Fountain. 2014. Everloving Records. This California pull their signature sound into a tighter ball of yarn for a more clear-eyed pop version of their beach-goth garage rock, here an 80s influence showing, likely keeping most of their fans, losing a few and likely picking up some new ones who found the early work a bit too raw.

— winch (author of

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GREEN NOISE RECORDS

The Breaks (1983) S/T (LP) RCA 4675

The Breaks

The Breaks

1983

RCA 4675

produced by Vini Poncia

***

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This one’s only for fans with a huge penchant for 80s pop-rock fronted by female vocalists, but if that’s your bag, this set is worth a listen, features an LA new-wave sound with the band’s Tennessee roots showing–especially in Susanne’s vocals. This Memphis outfit was fronted by the Taylor siblings, Susanne Jerome the cutie on vocals (and made into a new wave southern belle sexpot on the “She Wants You” video.)

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While she has her right hand firmly planted in the pocket of her cute 80s skirt on the album sleeve, she appears to be flipping the bird. That about says it all, LA trying to make her into a 80s pop tart, but this Memphis girl showing her roots with that twang and attitude in her voice, that grin on her face and that middle finger firmly planted in her pocket.

 

 

Most of the songs are written by the Taylor siblings, the set produced by Vini Poncia (Ringo’s songwriting partner through most of the 70s).  Apparently the rest of the band is made up of siblings, Rob and Russ Caudill providing the rhythm section, and keyboardist Tom Ward showing up on song credits with a D. Ward.  The first side stays upbeat and fairly cute and enjoyable with an 80s power-pop sound, and then after the opener “Wishy Washy,” Side Two–for better or worse depending on the listener–sticks with the ballads and sounds like the party’s over.  And likely the party was over because this is apparently the only album by this outfit.

— winch (author of

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Cornell Dupree (1978) Shadow Dancing (LP) Versatile Records MSG 6004

Cornell Dupree

Shadow Dancing 

1978

Versatile Records MSG 6004

Produced by Vic Chiumbolo

*** noteworthy
Most listeners wouldn’t expect much from a session guitarist running through the then-current hits, but Dupree was no run-of-the-mill session artist, and he manages to keep this set tasteful and contemporary, interesting and enjoyable, not a small feat for 1978. While the contributions from Hank Crawford, Jimmy Smith, and others come through clearly, this is Cornell’s album.


Unlike many rock, jazz and blues musicians, Dupree understands that the contribution of all instruments–even guitar–should remain part of the song. And although these are all instrumentals, they all sound like songs, with Cornell’s playing not only helping move along the rhythm, but also providing voices delivered with the stabbing licks and understated harmonics.

Side one is a run through the hits, starting with a fusion of Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” and Donna Summer’s “Last Dance,” and then the third cut, “The Closer I Get To You,” effectively slows down the proceedings. The song had been an important part of the story of the friendship and duets of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, and Dupree’s instrumental version seems both a tribute to that story and a testimony to the power of Cornell’s playing. The harmonics are wonderfully placed and then punched home with slow but stabbing licks. (Sadly, the version would serve as memorial for Donny Hathaway and his struggles with mental illness, as Donny would suffer a fatal fall from his balcony about the time this album was released.) While a version of Stephen Bishop’s “On and On” might seem a bit silly after that heartfelt number, it’s actually great placement, Cornell and the band picking up the pace and using the tune as a launching pad, swinging the hit until the trail-off grooves.


Side two comes as no disappointment, opening with an extended version of Freddie Scott’s 1963 “Hey Girl” (Goffin-King), and while this cut concludes with a Cornell workout, like much of the second side, the song allows room for the contributions of other member of the band to come to the front. If the version of Steely Dan’s “Peg” seems unnecessary, the set ends with a grip on the groove, first with a surprisingly effective version of Dolly Parton’s “Two Doors Down” and finally with the workout conclusion of Dupree’s own “The Creeper.” On this final cut, Cornell gets to stretch his fingers but also pulls back to give Jimmy Smith and the horn players some room to fill in the groove. If the album had weaker moments, this last cut makes one forget all that.


This isn’t an essential listening, but after Cornell graced hundreds and hundreds of classic and noteworthy soul and jazz recordings with his guitar, it’s nice to hear him have a chance to put his licks in the spotlight. While many jazz enthusiasts won’t find this an especially interesting outing, fans of guitar playing or the slick funky stuff of the late 70s should definitely find something to enjoy in these grooves.

— winch (author of

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Dr. John, the Night Tripper (1968) Gris-Gris (LP) Atco 33-234

Dr. John, the Night Tripper

GRIS-Gris

1968

Atco 33-234

Produced by Harold Battiste

**** recommended

Debut long player from the Doctor, the Night Tripper, produced and partially written by the legendary New Orleans native Harold Battiste, acid R&B, slow-crawling psychedelic nightmares, creeping from the swamps of Louisiana, cooked up in the Gold Star kitchens of the City of Angels, pots and pan acid batch bubbling voodoo, American as gumbo stew, jumping up on second-line hind legs for the “Jump Sturdy” strut down the street…tribal and influential, essential.


Almost not released by Atlantic and mostly ignored by the public (but likely noticed by the avant-garde element of LA who likely had influenced the Nighttripper), this recording eventually went on to take its rightful place in the annals of American music.


Even if you end up not digging it for days, everybody should at least give it a listen…sit in the dark and let your head spin around Jupiter…take a night trip through American history.

— winch (author of

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