City Boy (1978) Book Early (LP) Mercury

City Boy

Book Early 

1978

Mercury

Produced by Robert John Lange

*** noteworthy

Robert John “Mutt” Lange would go on the become one of rock’s more successful producers, with Boomtown Rats (1978-1979), AC/DC (1979 – 1981), Def Leppard (1981 – 1987), the Cars (1984),…but before helping to create big radio-friendly sounds for those outfits he produced lesser-known English outfits such as the Records, the Motors, Deaf School, Kevin Coyne, Graham Parker and focused much of his time on the band City Boy, producing all five of their first albums (1976 – 1979). Finally this association landed Lange his first (of many) hit singles with the annoying telephone-number song “5.7.0.5.” that opens this set.


While the pomp-rock quality of “5.7.0.5.” runs through much of this album, things clearly improve after you get past that opener, and this fourth set certainly catches this band at their best. Like so many English bands from the 70s, this comes out of the Beatles without sounding like the Fab Four. The sound falls somewhere between the Hollies and ELO.


Here Lange seems to be in transition between his focus on relatively low-key power pop / pub rock and in-your-face hard rock.  He appears to be taking cues from the big radio-friendly sound of producer Roy Thomas Baker, with the vocal arrangements and big guitars clearly show some Queen influences, especially on the cut “Beth.”


While the band would attempt to continue without Lange, they would soon peter out and break up in the early 80s. Meanwhile, this was the beginning of big things for Mr. Lange.  While Roy Thomas Baker would end the decade with a photo finish, it’s almost as if he’d soon pass the baton on to Lange. Along with producers Ted Templeton and Tom Werman, Lange would grab what he could from the 70s, and lead the FM rock-radio masses into the 1980s.

— winch (author of )

LINK TO SELLERS:

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

links to sellers (LP, CD, downloads, streaming):

Flying Squad (1978) s/t (LP) Epic 82875

Flying Squad

Flying Squad

Epic 82875

1978

Produced by Francis Rossi (Status Quo)

*** noteworthy

Only album from this Scottish hard rock outfit which served as a launching pad for  vocalist Ian Muir (aka Finn Muir), best known as the vocalist of Waysted.


The lack of talent in the lyric department either subtracts or adds to the package, depending on the listener, and while the guitars are a huge part of the songs (which often appear to be heavily inspired by Thin Lizzy), they mostly keep a rein on excess.


While this set has some variety, it fortunately avoids going into ballads, and at its best seems to come out of a mix of UFO and Thin Lizzy. Unfortunately, this band never comes close to those outfits and while unintentional silliness runs through this set and some cuts are bad enough that it’s not even funny, other Lizzy-inspired cuts (“Backroom Boys” and “Glasshouse”) make this a worthwhile listen for hardcore fans of 70s hard rock.

— winch

author of

flying squad LP

Orient Express (1978) A Desert Fantasy (LP) Polydor 2424192 (Canada)

Orient Express
A Desert Fantasy
Polydor 2424192 (Canada)
produced by Steve Gilston and Franz Auffray
arranged by Uri Kariv
1978

Rating:**** (Recommended)

Oddball desert-themed disco album from France (and Israel), the epic 13-minute title track starting off with a thumping beat and then alternating between that and signature Euro-disco vocal sections, spicing up the sound with jabs of rock guitar followed by rolls of middle-eastern percussion, slowly building up the number with bass and horns until it sounds more aware of James Brown’s lessons than most disco numbers, this likely following Donna Summer’s example of how disco could remain glossy and still provide a groove.

After an atmospheric slow-dance/make-out/waterbed number that comes complete with bluesy electric guitar and romantic saxophone, the flipside offers two more stand-out numbers, instrumentals that sound even more aware of Brown’s lessons, the set closing with “Abdullah’s Wedding,” not the strongest cut but perhaps the oddest, apparently the story of a girl who opts to mate with the father of the suitor, this number especially sporting the desert sound.


This might not be a classic, but it’s an oddball album and it’s clearly a cut above most of the competition.  For fans of rare disco, this is worth the search. 

–winch

Hi-Tension (1978) S/T (LP) Island Records (ILPS 9564)

Hi-Tension
Hi-Tension
Island(ILPS 9564)
1978
Producers: Kofi Ayivor & Alex Sadkin
(Title track produced by Ayivor & Chris Blackwell)
Rating: ***  (Noteworthy)
This English disco-funk outfit found considerable success at home, where both the title track and “British Hustle” were hit singles and dancefloor favorites, but they were mostly ignored in the States where disco fans preferred England’s Hot Chocolate, the German sound, or their own artists.  The band eases into this set with “You’re My Girl,” picking up the pace for “Searchin’,” slowing it down again for “Autumn Love,” before cutting lose on the instrumental “Power and Lightning.”  After that, they continue with the rollercoaster, the second side opening with the pure disco sound of “British Hustle,” slowly it down slightly for “If It Moves You” before launching into “Hi-Tension,” which like “Power and Lightning,” should appeal to fans of funk, the two guitarists and four percussionists burning a groove through the superficial, the horns and organ helping out, punching holes through the disco haze.  This is stylish disco-funk and fans of bands such as EWF should give this album a listen.

This is mostly known for its dance cuts, but the slower cuts deserve attention as well, especially the EWF-style “Autumn Love.”  While they weren’t breaking new ground with this set, they picked the right influences and the right musicians.

— winch

Daniel Amos (1978) Horrendous Disc (LP) Solid Rock Records 2011 (1981)

Daniel Amos
Horrendous Disc
Solid Rock 2011
1978
Released in 1981

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)

For this album, this God-rock outfit moves completely away from its original hillbilly-rock sound, this set obviously coming from the same place as E.L.O., Steely Dan, 10cc, Badfinger,…from Sgt. Pepper.


The first side starts out strong, rocking without going overboard, dragging a bit as it progresses, but fairly solid to the end, a Beatles-style ballad effectively closing the side.  Unfortunately, they don’t pull the slack out on the flip side.  “On The Line” sounds like Steely Dan, “Man on the Moon” sounds like E.L.O., and the other cuts sound like filler.


While this is a varied set, the stronger cuts make this one of the more interesting and enjoyable God rock albums.  It was recorded in 1978 for Maranatha!
Records, but not released until Larry Norman picked it up for his Solid Rock label in the early 80s.

— winch

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

Crass (1977 – 1984) Best Before (LP) Crass Records 5 (1984)

Crass
Best Before
Crass Records (5)
1984
Material: 1977 – 1984
Recorded 1977 – 1984, released July 1984 (UK only)

This double LP collects singles and unreleased material, a nice gesture, saving fans from having to collect all the singles, and packaging the material with killer artwork.  While this might have been better served up as a more concise two-sider, it certainly provides an overview of their history, moving from fairly straight-forward punk to abrasive avant garde. 



For fans, this is essential.  It also serves as a good intro.

— winch

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