David Amram (1979) No More Walls (LP) Flying Fish (GRO-752)

David Amram

No More Walls

1979

Flying Fish GRO-752

**** recommended
With all that was going on in 1979, the music scene was also plagued with stagnation. Disco music was transforming into hip-hop and electronic music but few were taking notice because disco sucked. Punk had reminded the world that rock doesn’t always need to progress: it can go back to its roots to refuel the fury but few cared because while disco sucked, punk swallowed. The underground scene had been slowly growing for years and soon a diverse independent music scene would emerge but it would be a long time before most took notice because in the 1970s the major labels had perhaps more control of the industry than ever before.


The executives had sorted through the countless bands and perhaps during a year or so in the 1970s, positive (and of course negative) repercussions existed. But by 1979, it was clear that the major labels were completely clueless and the music scene was suffering.


Of course a few minor labels had somehow managed to survive, perhaps because they focused on music that was so unhip that the major labels didn’t care. These labels posed no threat. Flying Fish was one of those independent labels and while they focused on folk music, they were also giving home to artists such as Amram. This was one of many Amram released on Flying Fish, and certainly one of his most interesting. And enjoyable.  While the liner notes only mention that Amram created these compositions from 1959 to 1971, they don’t mention that this is likely a reissue of the second half of a double album released on RCA Red Seal in 1971.  (Flying Fish were perhaps keen enough to recognize that the second two sides of the original release deserved to be revisited without the classical content of the first two sides.)


The title likely refers to the breaking down of walls between genres of music. Influences appear to be plentiful: Latin-American, African, and Near-Eastern music; folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan; and some of the more innovative jazz musicians of the previous decades, especially those who incorporated world influences–from Yusef Lateef in the 50s to the ECM artists of the 70s. Mostly laid-back as a hammock swaying in an ocean breeze, this also has plenty of depth. Recommended listen.

— winch (author of…

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Blind Date (1979) S/T (LP)Windsong (BXL 1–3403)

Blind Date

Blind Date

1979

Windsong Records (BXL 1–3403)

Produced by Jeff Glixman

*** noteworthy
Sole album by this mystery group, power pop on John Denver’s Windsong label with Arnie Badd, Brad Billion, Dane Bramage, and Pinky Chablis. While they don’t sound like Cheap Trick, it’s sort of the same idea, power pop with focus on pounding drums and electric guitar (and of course vocals, harmony and melody), lots of content about love but also the violent crime of “Trouble Maker.”  This is power pop but not the soft-rock or candy-coated bubblegummy brand, somewhere between the Raspberries and Thin Lizzy, the Babys and Van Halen.

Both sides end with hard-rock content, the instrumental “Twin Engines” closing the first side, the 5+ minute “Midnight Imagination,” ending the proceedings. This closer brings the Beach Boys influence into power ballad mode, bridging 60s’ pop and 70s’ excess to the power ballads of the 80s, the straight-forward aspects of 70s glam and the excesses of the glam of the 80s. Mostly it’s the Beach Boys channeled through 70s hard rock.


While this is varied set, it’s fairly entertaining through both sides and even the filler falls into the background without becoming annoying. This group never comes close to the best of the power poppers, but they’re also obviously a few notches above the bland new wavers from this era. It’s pure juvenile fun, all songs written and arranged by Blind Date.

— winch

author of

 

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Cam Newton (1979) Welcome Aliens: Party Music for the First Authenticated Landing (LP) Inner City IC 1070 

Cam Newton

Welcome Aliens: Party Music for the First Authenticated Landing

Inner City IC 1070 (1980)

Recorded April 1979 in Eugene, Oregon
produced by Campbell Newton, David Leslie, Mark Isham, and Pat O’Hearn

*** noteworthy

This starts off with a mildly unique take on jazz fusion, but gets more inventive and enjoyable as the side progresses and Cam’s guitar playing takes the spotlight.

Side two has a somewhat similar progression, starts off with relatively straightforward jazz before moving into the folk/jazz sound we’d heard on the second half of the first side. Cam sounds like he was influenced by many of the masters of the guitar who had blended jazz and folk in the late 1960s and 1970s, Jansch, Abercrombie, Coryell, Kottke, Fahey, and Towner (many who like Newton had connections with the Pacific Northwest), as well as some who had passed the baton on to those folks, but Newton offers a style with its own feel. He seems primarily inspired by the emotions inside and the world around him, from responses to current events such as the Jonestown genocide and especially from the elemental forces of nature.

While some might enjoy the entire set, most will likely enjoy the highlights. At its best this is hypnotic and lyrical, both enjoyable and interesting. (Just don’t let the title mislead you into thinking this is space-age party music.)

— winch

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The Jitters (1979) S/T (LP)

The Jitters

The Jitters

Nervine Music

recorded October 15 – 25, 1979. Released circa 1980.

*** noteworthy


Sole album by the Jitters (not to be confused with other bands with the same name), lead by P.K. Dwyer and sounding like a Northwest backyard band influenced by hillbilly and perhaps Velvet Underground, old-time rock ‘n roll and Jonathan Richman, Neil Young and Los Angeles, old-time music and Ray Davies, NRBQ and all the obscure mid-70s bands that centered around CBGBs.


While most Seattle outfits from this era seemed attached to hard rock or new wave, these folks seem to be having fun and doing their own thing.


With the hillbilly and quirky elements, it’s easy to hear how this band foreshadowed all the alt-country and cowpunk that surfaced in the wake of this album.


This ain’t an essential outing, but it’s fairly enjoyable from go to whoa, and it certainly offers some pretty great moments.  It’s certainly a worthwhile listen for fans of songwriter P.K. Dwyer or for fans of obscure Northwest bands.

— winch (author of )

 

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Roy Clark & Gatemouth Brown (1979) Makin’ Music (LP) MCA 3161

Roy Clark & Gatemouth Brown

MakinMusic

MCA 3161

1979

Recorded October 31 – November 2, 1978 in Tulsa

**** recommended

This recording is clearly Gatemouth’s brand of American music, the sound  he’d been focusing on for decades–leaving the sad delta blues for other folks and focusing on the good-time sound–but Roy is a big part of this outing as well.  While some may see this as Roy doing something new, this is actually Roy getting back to his roots.

Throughout the set, the pair are unstoppable like a tag-team in the ring, with the girls and the Memphis horns helping punch it home, the group only slowing it down to let the sweat drip on a few cuts, mostly sticking with the rocking, rocking and rolling through Gatemouth, Roy Clark and producer Steve Ripley originals and a few takes on old standards, Ray Charles (and Johnny Cash’s) 1963 “Busted” (Harlan Howard), Ellington’s 1941 “Take the A Train” (Strayhorn) and Louis Jordan’s 1945 “Caledonia.”

Jordan would re-record “Caledonia” in 1956 with Mickey Baker on guitar and likely that was the version that provided at least some of the inspiration for the version on this album.  (When Erskine Hawkins released “Caledonia” in 1945, Billboard referred to the song as rock and roll, probably the first time that phrase was used to describe music.)  

 

It sounds like these two were having a blast, and while they strut their stuff and show off their chops, they keep a rein on the excess to make this record fun from go to whoa.

— winch (author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s and the two-part novel Junk Like That)

 

Billboard. April 21, 1945.  p 66.

 

Storm (1979) S/T (LP) MCA 3179

Storm

S/T (LP)

MCA 3179

*** Noteworthy

 

 

 

Right from the get-go the influences show–Sweet, Queen, Heart, the Runaways, and Abba–and right away it’s like watching some kids at a dance recital: you have to proud that they’re putting everything they’ve got into it, and you’ve got to be more than a little embarrassed for them because they are making fools of themselves.

 

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Queen was perhaps their biggest influence, but while Queen had Roy T. Baker to help with the clean punch and over-the-top production, this L.A. outfit handles their own–but equally OTT–production.  Some might argue they needed someone to grab their arms and give them direction instead of letting them blend many styles–glam and hard rock, pomp rock and new wave, but by being allowed to do their own thing, they were able to avoid being just another boring pomp rock or new wave band trying to fit neatly into a category.   While they have their clear influences, all the songs are penned by the female vocalist and the lead guitarist, and while this set certainly doesn’t avoid the absurd and downright dumb, it’s certainly never boring, the first side sticking mostly with the rocking.

The flip-side opens with a misguided attempt at rock disco, maybe figuring if Blondie could pull it off…but this just ends up sounding like a horrid version of Abba.  After this mess, they get back into the Queen-inspired sound established with the first side.  While the second side sounds like it might end as poorly as it began, going into perhaps the worst space-rock song ever recorded, they fortunately end the album with “Machine Gun,” which clearly borrows from AC/DC’s “Bad Boy Boogie.”

 

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If they would have kept their Queen-inspired guitar licks but been pushed into the punk direction that we hear hints of in the closing cuts of each side, this might have been pretty great album.  As it sits, it isn’t going to win any awards, but folks with an interest in over-the-top junk from the 70s, might get a kick out of it.

— winch (author of…Eight Track Publishing)

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Platypus (1979) S/T (LP) Casablanca 7171

Platypus
Platypus
Casablanca 7171
1979
Produced by Platypus

Rating:*** (Noteworthy)


Debut album by this Cincinnati outfit.  A funk disco sound runs through the entire set, but unlike many funk groups of the 70s, this delivered the goods without horns, and in contrast to most disco outfits, this relies much more on a thumping bassline and sometimes rock elements and less on synthesized sounds.

Considering they released this on Casablanca, the Parliament/Funkadelic comparisons were inevitable, and while those comparisons were justified, this has more of a disco sound and also shows influences from fellow Ohio funk outfits the Isley Brothers and Ohio Players, the influence of the Dayton outfit epecially pronounced on “Street Babies,” the influence of the Isley Brothers showing in the absence of a horn section.  The influence of these fellow Cincinnati soul brothers becomes pronounced as “Don’t Go Away” starts out, but the song has its own sound, ends up mixing elements of a rock power ballad with a traditional soul ballad.  While the build up of tension in the power ballad comes out of blues and soul traditions, “Don’t Go Away” clearly sees the influence channeled through the rock tradition.  It’s perhaps not the stand-out cut on the set, but it’s part of several mildly unique elements that makes this album a bit more interesting than most disco funk releases from this era.

This is definitely recommended listening for fans of disco funk, the sound coming out of the 70s and in some ways, clearly headed toward the 80s.  Some of the cuts will also interest others, especially the previously mentioned “Street Babies” and “Don’t Go Away.”  These two songs have little in common, one a hard-funk cut, the other a soul ballad, but both mix rock elements into the sounds.  While they certainly weren’t the only outfit to combine these styles, Platypus sometimes fused these styles to create a sound all their own.  Rock and funk both came out of R&B, but most of the funk outfits that followed Sly Stone’s lead of incorporating rock elements in the soul and funk used horns and lacked the slick polished sound of this outfit.


While this album sold poorly and the band broke up before the release of their second album (Cherry 1980), they managed to leave behind a small legacy with this release.

— winch