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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Jamul (1970) S/T (LP) Lizard (A20101)

Jamul

Jamul

1970

Lizard (A20101)

Produced by Richard Podolor

**** recommended

This sole album by this obscure outfit jumps from the gate with a heavy hard-rock version of “Tobacco Road,” focusing on power and loud guitars, a bit more earthy and bluesy but coming from the sounds we’d heard with bands such as Blue Cheer, Grand Funk, and MC5. The second cut turns Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” into a chugging blues rocker with a CCR influence showing, and on the third number, the Steppenwolf comparisons come across clear as a howl.

The fourth cut reveals that this set is going to have something else in common with Steppenwolf albums, inconsistency, with this song slowing down and following the era’s trend to move to the country.


While the side is moderately enjoyable throughout, sometimes showing a raunchy side that foreshadows Black Oak Arkansas, each song seems to get less powerful than the previous. The cut that closes the side, a cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” gave them a chance to remedy the decline, but the restrained quality that runs through the song is disappointing, especially after the beginning of the side showed what could have been with the end.


The flip side starts off sounding as if it might pull out the slack, but again starts to drag a bit, the songs helping to reveal a variety of likely influences: Mountain, The Grateful Dead, the Band, Terry Reid, and the Stones. Fortunately, the set ends strong as it began with the double-barrel blasts of two originals: the harmonica-blowing Bo Diddley-ish “Ramblin’ Man” and the tempestuous burning acid of “Valley Thunder.” Cuts such as these make this set a near classic.

— winch

 

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Kathi McDonald (1974) Insane Asylum (LP) Capitol ST-11224

Kathi McDonald

Insane Asylum

1974

Capitol ST-11224

produced by David Briggs

Arranged by Pete Sears

**** recommended

While many white female singers surfaced in the wake of Janis Joplin, this blue-eyed soul singer and blues belter was obviously a cut above much of the competition.

Coming from the far Northwest, McDonald made her way south as a youngster, performing in Seattle when she was 12 and eventually migrating to Frisco in her late teens (Seida). She became an Ikette in the late 1960s, and offered her vocals on Big Brother and the Holding Company’s final offerings and on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. She eventually recorded this solo album in 1974.


The set is produced by David Briggs and features a line up of American guitarists, Neil Schon, Ronnie Montrose, Nils Lofgren, and Jim Cipollina. While McDonald remains in the spotlight, these guitarists (and other musicians) play a big part of the recordings, especially as the set progresses into side two. A highlight includes Cipollina offering his trademark guitar sound to Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else.”


The first side will likely grab you, and the flipside will likely not let go, side one concluding with likely the first time Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire” had seen the light of day, the set concluding with the Willie Dixon-penned title track where Kathi shares the lead vocals with an uncredited Sly Stone (Gonzales).  While this can’t match the power of the 1968 original by Koko Taylor (with Willie Dixon himself sharing the vocals), it’s as good a cover of this song you’re likely to find.  It’s a fine conclusion to a solid album.


Perhaps because this focused on songs from years and decades of the past in an era when rock and roll was supposed to be progressive to be relevant, this album didn’t sell well,  It likely also didn’t help that Kathi not only focused on covers but also a rock sound in sharp contrast to the singer-songwriter folk rock so popular with white female singers in the post-60s early 70s.

 

After the lack of sales of this album, McDonald wouldn’t offer a follow-up until two decades later, but the quality of this album, along with her appearance on nearly 150 other albums (Seida) should be enough to provide her with a chapter in the history of singers from the Northwest.

 

— winch

Sources:

Gonzales, Michael A. Pitchfork. “The Pitch: Sly’s Stone-Cold Genius in 10 Best Late, Great Songs.” http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/1447-slys-stone-cold-genius-in-10-late-great-songs/

Seida, Linda. All Music. “Artists: Kathi McDonald.” http://www.allmusic.com/artist/kathi-mcdonald-mn0000365553/biography
http://kathimcdonald.com/discography/

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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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 )

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Triumph (1976) S/T (LP) Attic Records (LAT 1012)

Triumph

Triumph

1976

Attic Records (LAT 1012)

Produced by Mike Levine and Doug Hill

*** noteworthy


Fairly awful derivative debut from this Canadian hard-rock power trio, tons more enjoyable than the superior junk they’d deliver during the decade that followed this set.


It’s really not all that different than the rest of their output, but little differences can make all the difference.

(And you have to appreciate that they take Sammy Hagar’s lead and sport their own band’s name across their T-shirts.)


Here, the influences appears to be Kiss, Grand Funk, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith, Mountain, Zeppelin, King Crimson, Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, Rush, Frank Marino, and Hendrix. In fact, they likely clocked in countless basement hours jamming tunes by those outfits because the licks and riffs and vocal delivery are clearly the five-finger-discount variety.


While 1979’s Just A Game might have featured their best sleeve, this was their best album. Fans of 70s hard rock will likely find plenty to enjoy.

–winch (author of

 

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Elliott Murphy (1976) Night Lights (LP) RCA (APL1-1318)

Elliott Murphy

 Night Lights 

1976

RCA (APL1-1318)

Produced by Steve Katz

*** noteworthy

This third long-player by Murphy is produced by Steve Katz (fresh from producing a string of Reed albums) and features Doug Yule (Velvet Underground), Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers) and Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads), and on one cut a 4th-grade chorus.  It sounds very much like the arty side of mid 70s New York–perhaps a bit too much for many listeners–and appears to be heavily influenced by English artists such as Ian Hunter and David Bowie and especially by fellow East Coasters Jonathan Richman and Lou Reed.

Reportedly Murphy’s earlier albums show more of a Dylan influence, but the imprint still remains here, becoming clear on “Lady Stiletto” (which sounds like it must be about Patti Smith). While this album sounds more arty and urban than the following three artists, you can sense a connection with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Waits, and Murphy perhaps helps shed some light on a bridge between Dylan and those three artists.

It’s easy to see why some were looking at Waits, Springsteen or Murphy as sort of the new Dylan. And these three clearly had more than that in common.  Their music was informed by American folk but clearly urban.  Each had released two albums that were praised by critics but ignored by the masses, and by 1976, all three had recently recorded a third album.  It’s also easy to see why Bruce and Tom eventually found much more success.


It’s also easy to see why folks today focus on other music from this specific time and place.

While Murphy picks some great influences, so many others from this setting were focused on creating something new–a brand-new sound rising from the corpses of the past. Most bands looked back to pre-Sgt. Pepper 1960s but also looked to create something all their own. And unlike Murphy, most were not introspective and arty.

In 1976, the Ramones released their first album, the Dictators had done that the year before, the Talking Heads were getting ready for 1977, Patti Smith was spitting about a “Piss Factory,” Blondie were doing their thing, and bands such as Suicide were clearly taking the past and making something new.
Of course, there was much more.
Finally in 1976, the parts of the world interested in the underground got a taste of what was going down on the east Coast when both the CBGB and At the Rat compilations were released. While the bands from these albums have been mostly ignored, many were clearly creating a sound that would influence every aspect of punk/independent/underground music.  And that music influenced everything else.


On the other hand, one can’t help but focus more at what was going down elsewhere on the east coast at this time, but his album by Murphy certainly has its moments, even if those moments often sound stolen.  You have to appreciate that he doesn’t hide his influences, with for example, vocal elements on “Lookin’ For A Hero” clearly coming from Velvet Underground (who had borrowed those elements themselves).
Likely folks will find this set fairly enjoyable or fairly annoying.

— winch: author of

 

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