Ralph Towner (1973) Diary (LP) ECM 1032 (1974)

Ralph Towner

Diary 

ECM 1032

Recorded April 4 and 5, 1973; released 1974.

Produced by Manfred Eicher

**** recommended


Ron Wynn said it so well when reviewing Towner’s Works, “A great, great guitarist whose songs at worst are overly sentimental, at best hypnotic” and it’s important that Wynn started that sentence with “Great, great,” because even when Towner is being sentimental, he completes his intentions and captures his subject, encapsulating an often fleeting or moving subject like a painter, a memory or a moment, and even in the more forgettable moments on this set, brush strokes mix the memories of music’s past with Towner’s own experiences and expressions.


For an album that features one artist using only acoustic guitars, piano and gong, this definitely has its moments. As much as this seems to come out of his work with the group Oregon, a close listen reveals some clear differences. It’s not only more personal, this reveals different influences. At times, this recalls Weather Report at their most reflective, but here Towner strips the body down to bone and ghost.

— winch (author of )

 

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John Martyn (1971 – 1975) So Far So Good (LP) Island Records 9484 (1977)

John Martyn

So Far So Good 

Island Records 9484

**** recommended

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Coming out of the innovative folk from the British Isles in the late 60s, this Scottish musician was perhaps the first white artist to sign with independent label Island Records.  This 1977 anthology houses cuts from the previous Island albums (1971 – 1975) and concludes with a rocking live cut from Martyn’s self-released classic Live at Leeds (1975).  Other than the instrumental “Glistening Glyndebourne,” the album features vocal cuts by Martyn.  Likely bassist Danny Thompson (Pentangle) plays on all the dates, two from 1975 also featuring guitarist Paul Kossoff.

This collection provides an excellent overview of the Island years and showcases Martyn’s skills as a songwriter and a guitarist. The cuts are all teasers, informing the listeners of the quality of this artist’s work, and likely causing most to seek out each and every one of these Martyn albums from Island Records.

— winch (author of

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so far so good LP

Copperhead (1973) S/T (LP) Columbia 32250

Copperhead

Copperhead

1973

Columbia 32250

*** noteworthy

While Quicksilver Messenger Service (aka Quicksilver) began as one of the more interesting and enjoyable bands of the 60s Frisco scene…soon the cracks were showing, and as the 60s turned to the 70s, guitarist John Cipollina had the sense to jump ship and form Copperhead. The band played together for years but only released this one album.

While Quicksilver seemed stuck in the 60s, Copperhead was aware of the past but clearly coming from the 70s. Instead of inventing new licks, they applied old hooks to new themes, the opener using Rolling Stone licks to offer a song about roller derby, perhaps showing that it was a fine line between a rock-and-roller and a roller derby star. The song sounds fairly serious and perhaps suggests that campy sports such as roller derby or wrestling could be taken more seriously (something that was explored decades later, but rarely in the 70s) and that perhaps rock and roll shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Next up , the band uses those licks that worked so well on QMS’s best album (Happy Trails from 1968)–the Bo Diddley beat to be exact.  After slowing it down for a hillbilly influenced ballad, they close the side with a song about Japanese Kamikaze pilots, the song concluding with dive-bomb explosions–the serious and silliness of these sound effects fitting this album well.

 The flip side continues in a similar mode–70s hard rock with clear elements of the past–and while fans of the more loose-jam feel of early Quicksilver might actually enjoy side two as much or even more than the first side, others will likely find the formula getting a bit tired.  The excesses definitely become pronounced, and while the extended few-minute jam that concludes the last cut recalls old Quicksilver and arguably works, even if you enjoy that bit of excess, the second side lacks the focus that made the first side enjoyable.

While this band didn’t leave us with a whole lot and the lack of success of this set probably had a lot to do with Columbia refusing to release their second album (which was reportedly recorded) and the band calling it quits, this album is worth a listen for hardcore fans Cipollina’s guitar playing or 70s hard rock.

— winch (author of

Darryl Way’s Wolf: Wolf (LP) 1974

Darryl Way’s Wolf

Wolf
London 644
1974 (Recorded 1973)
noteworthy ***


This USA release collects cuts from the first two albums, Canis Lupus and Saturation Point, both from 1973. Somewhat similar to Way’s work with Curved Air, these recordings continue to showcase Way’s obsession with Vivaldi and other classical composers, guitarist John Etheridge helping bring out jazz influences.

 

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This is a varied set, but fans of progressive rock will likely find enough to justify the time under the headphones.

— Winch

http://www.eight-track.com/progressive_rock_.html

Paul Winter Consort (1973) Icarus (LP)

Paul Winter Consort

Icarus

Epic 31643

1973
Producer: George Martin

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)

Winter continues his move away from jazz with this set, sticking to a unigue folk sound and helping to lay down some firm foundations for what would become the genre called world music.  While most of the Consort had already formed Oregon by this time, Winter fortunately managed to retain them for this outing.  In fact, the Oregon members provide most of the material for this album, and fans of Oregon will want to check out this set.  This isn’t perhaps as spontaneous or adventurous as much of Oregon’s material, but this was likely Winter’s finest offering.

While I never considered Oregon as a band influenced by the Beatles, the George Martin production and the heavy use of Eastern instruments on this set perhaps helps point out a very creative extension of the Fab Four’s work.  This certainly offered the hippies and Beatles’ fans a much needed alternative to the post-Beatles singer/songwriter craze.  This set has some weaker moments, but mostly it’s quite enjoyable, and fans of Ralph Towner will certainly enjoy his contributions.

The band included Paul Winter (sax), David Darling (cello), Paul McCandless (horns), Ralph Towner (guitars, keyboards), Herb Bushler (bass), Collin Walcott (percussion).  Guests included Billy Cobham and Milt Holland on percussion.

— winch (author of…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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