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  

Bobby Whitlock (LP) S/T (1972) Dunhill 50121

Bobby Whitlock
Bobby Whitlock

Dunhill 50121 (USA)

1972
recommended ****
 

Memphis man Whitlock had a long history of involvement in his hometown before joining Derek & the Dominoes and contributing his songwriting talents to six songs on that set.  While the band on this solo album remains uncredited on the sleeve, this set is sometimes referred to as the last Derek & the Dominoes album as all members (except perhaps Allman) play on this record.  While that tag is often used to promote this album, I’d say the comment is misleading.  This is clearly Whitlock’s album.

 

Whitlock writes or cowrites the entire set (only sharing credits on two cuts, one with Don Nix, the other with Bonnie Bramlett), and this set is actually better than the overhyped and overblown sound of Derek & the Dominoes.  While some buyers might be brought to this set because Clapton plays on it, this album is better than any of Clapton’s albums.  

 



Bands such as the Allman Brothers and The Band might be influences, but it could be that all three bands were simply influenced by similar sources.  And unlike albums by those other two bands, this clearly comes from Tennessee, with all the sounds of that state coming through various cuts.  The sounds clearly came from the past but also influenced bands down the road, were part of a bridge from the dirt roads of the South to the paths that bands would follow in the decades to come.


 
This isn’t a great album; it’s just a good one.
— winch

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Second Wind

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
Second Wind
RCA (LSP 4703)
1972
Rating: **** (Recommended)
Released May 1972 (US & UK)

A sameness runs through the cuts on this album, something that some fans might find boring and uneventful, but the sameness is actually one of the main reasons this set is so strong.  While the band stretches out, they never go too far into show-off excesses or try too hard like Traffic at this time, or like on some of Auger’s other material.  And this material is not boring like some of his sets.  The instrumental bridges push almost into a jam sound as usual, but they flow forward in a groove that owes more to funk than progressive rock.  While this band was lacking in the vocal department after losing Julie Driscoll, Ligertwood finally fills the void, with his voice fitting the sound quite well.  

Most members assist with the writing, and with the contributions of new members Alex Ligertwood (vocals) and Jim Mullen (guitar), the set has a cohesive sound.  The sound clearly owes much to the past, with influences perhaps coming from the Allman Brothers as well as San Francisco funk.  Of course, it’s not gritty like those sources, and the sound looks forward as much as it looks back.  It continues to fuse rock, jazz, and R&B, and is clearly from the early 70s, but it also foreshadows the direction many artists would take years later.  It likely had an influence on many progressive-rock musicians, folks such as Steve Winwood and Peter Gabriel.  The music doesn’t sound like Gabriel’s solo work, but it perhaps gave folks like Gabriel some alternative to just continuing in the stereotypical progressive-rock mode.   

The album is likely more of a pleasant surprise for fans of early 70s R&B than fans of progressive rock.It’s not a funk album, but it’s closer to Oakland than most albums from Great Britain at this point, and it might have provided ideas and inspiration to funk groups such as the Average White Band from Scotland.  It’s not bad for a group of white guys from England.

Considering it comes from 1972, it deserves a not
e in the books.  It’s one of Auger’s more enjoyable albums.— winch

Everly Brothers: Stories We Could Tell (LP) 1972

Everly Brothers
Stories We Could Tell
RCA Victor 4620
1972
rating: *** (noteworthy)

 

 

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Before splitting for solo careers, the Brothers recorded two sets in the early ’70s, the Chet Atkins-produced 1973 Nashville album Pass the Chicken and Listen and this set from 1972. Recorded in John Sebastian’s living room, this featured some of the countless artists the Brothers had influenced (Delaney Bramlett, Clarence White, Ry Cooder, Warren Zevon, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Chris Etheridge and many others).

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This starts with a Bramlett song that sounds too much like the inferior folk rock from this era (which of course the Brothers played a big part in creating).  Fortunately, the set improves as it progresses.

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The set features two Everly originals, as well as versions of Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” and Jesse Winchester’s “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.”  While the straight-forward country of their final album was more enjoyable, this still has plenty of charm.

— winch

http://www.eight-track.com

Zappa: 1972

Frank Zappa

Waka / Jawaka
1972
Producer: Zappa
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)
Released August 1972, reached #152 in US

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Never one to settle into formula, Zappa offers two medium-sized vocal cuts sandwiched by two extended fusion jams, the 11+ minute title track and the side-long “Big Swifty,” the former clearly coming out of the early 70s but featuring plenty of guitar and a mix of planning and improvisation, the latter fortunately coming out of the 60s’ version of fusion, the guitar recalling Larry Coryell’s groundbreaking work of the late 60s, this cut sounding like mostly improvisation, Zappa and his guitar conversing with the horns. 

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It’s all a bit excessive, but a worthwhile listen for fans of jazz fusion jams.

The Mothers
The Grand Wazoo
1972
Producer: Zappa
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)
Released December 1972
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Continuing where Waka / Jawaka left off, this set from Zappa and the gang is mostly instrumental, featuring Frank’s own unique take on fusion.
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Certainly not essential Zappa but this includes some interesting cuts.

— winch

http://www.eight-track.com

Malo (1972) LP

Malo
Malo

Warner Brothers 2584
Produced by David Rubinson

Recommended ****

1972

At a time when the Santana machine was starting to putter, this band hit the streets with all cylinders firing.  The Santana comparisons were inevitable and there’s plenty here to justify the comparisons, including the fact that lead guitarist Jorge Santana often sounded a lot like his brother, but while the guitar licks are sometimes a dominant part of the sound, and occasionally excessive, this band knew when to cut it out, and even the guitar is an integral part of the groove.  Also, this band clearly had its own horn-driven sound.  This is as much an extension of the music of El Chicano as it is an extension of Santana’s sound.


You can also hear a bridge between two places, Latin America and the Bay Area, picking up influences from East LA along the way.  The hard-driving cuts are contrasted with some laid back numbers, and besides the Frisco rock and Oakland funk elements, occasionally hints of a War influence show.
Beyond the comparisons, this band offers a sound all its own.  While they perhaps don’t deliver any cuts that fit into the classic category, there’s more than enough to make this a highly recommended debut album.  They deliver plenty of variety and fuse a lot of styles, but manage to create a tight sound and a cohesive set, and they keep it going strong through both sides.

— winch (author of Kalamazoo and Junk Like That)

http://www.eight-track.com/Eight_Track_Publishing.php

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Johnny Nash

johnny nash

Johnny Nash
Hold Me Tight
JAD 1207
1968
Rating:**** (Recommended)

Nash is mostly known for bringing reggae to the mainland with his 1972 #1 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” but his career went back to the 50s, and this 1968 offering played a part in bringing reggae to the States years before his #1 hit.  The title track was a transatlantic #5 on the pop charts (#21 on U.S. R&B charts).

Of course, Nash was from Texas and reggae wasn’t a category known by most Americans at this time or even when they listened to his 1972 hit, and most simply saw his records as soul.  But this set as much as any of his clearly came from Jamaica’s music traditions.  In fact, it was recorded on the island after he’d toured there.  While the Jamaica sound runs through the entire set, the songs come from a variety of sources, Sam Cooke (“Cupid”), the Rascals (“Groovin'”), Peter Tosh (“Love” and “You Got to Change Your Ways”), Jimmy Norman (“Don’t Cry”), and others–including Nash himself.  This album isn’t great, but it’s enjoyable and has several highlights.

 

Johnny Nash
Soul Folk
JAD 1006
produced by Johnny Nash and Arthur Jenkins
1969

Rating:**** (Recommended)


Like 1968’s Hold Me Tight, this was recorded in Jamaica, but while the previous album had a reggae sound running through the entire set, this one is best described by the title.  It’s a mix of soul and folk.



While the 1968 set found Nash excited about discovering the island sound, here he seems to be settling into the peaceful vibes of the island while staying completely aware of his own mainland roots.

The two-part “You Got Soul” opens and closes this set, and perhaps none of the other cuts stand up to that Nash original, but if you dig the laidback vibe of any of the other songs, you’ll likely enjoy the entire set.  It features Nash interpreating Elvis’s “Love Me Tender,” Belafonte’s “Island in the Sun,” Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,” a solid reading of Cooke’s “Chain Gang,” as well as some traditional folk songs.  If you’re in the mood for some soulful laidback magic, put on this set and let Johnny take you to the islands.

— winch

Johnny Nash
I Can See Clearly Now
Epic 31607
arranged and produced by Johnny Nash
1972

Rating:***** (Good Shit)

After taking a break, Nash returned with this set, and with the hit title track, he became a household name.  While others played a part in bringing reggae to the States, nobody played as big of a part as this Texan, and this was the album that delivered the news from Jamaica to the masses on the mainland.

While few likely noticed, this also introduced Marley to America.  While Nash wrote the title track, this features musicians from Marley’s outfit, and includes numbers written by Bob, one co-written by Marley and Nash, and while most listeners simply saw this as soul music and wouldn’t know about reggae until a few years later, the success of this album helped pave the way for Marley’s breakthrough in the years that followed.

Fellow Houston man John “Bunny” Bundrick also contributes, offering keyboards and two songs.  Bundrick, Marley and Nash had became roommates in 1972, and Bundrick would help Marley with Catch a Fire in 1973.

While Nash recorded some ignored but solid sets before and after 1972, he never quite matched this album.  While nothing matches the title track, that number has been overplayed and this album has other stand-out cuts.  It’sa consistent set, and in contrast with many reggae albums this offers many variations of the style.  It’s essential listening for fans.

— winch

Johnny Nash
My Merry-Go-Round
Epic 32158
produced by Johnny Nash
1973

Rating:**** (Recommended)

With the title track to I Can See Clearly Nowriding high on the pop charts, Nash could have offered a copycat album, but instead he opens this follow-up with the ambitious title track, an 8+ minute swirling carnival ride complete with a children’s chorus and over-the-top arrangements, synthesizers and guitars spiraling up to a climax.  If Nash had continued with this for the entire album, it would have been too much, but fortunately, it serves as a long intro to another strong album.

Following the title track, Marley’s “Nice Time” brings the set down to earth, allowing the listener to get her bearings after stepping off the carousel.  After that, Nash gets down to some Memphis style soul with “You Better Stop (Messing Around),” Bundrick’s synthesizer making moments sound dated but not enough to interfere with the message.  After that, the side remains strong, and the flipside continues the quality, at least until the last cut gets a bit over-the-top.  While the album isn’t a copycat of the previous album, it sounds like a progression.  Again, it’s mostly a mix of originals by Nash, Marley, and Bundrick, with “Loving You” credited to M. Stevenson.

This album marked a decline in Nash’s popularity, and like the patches on Nash’s jean jacket, the swatches of synthesizer make parts of this set come across as quite dated, but it’s still another near-classic from Nash and his gang, essential listening for fans.

— winch

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

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