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  

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Dreams (1970) S/T (LP) Columbia 30225

Dreams

Dreams

1970

Columbia 30225

Produced by Fred Weinberg and Dreams

*** noteworthy


While most of the early fusion had a huge focus on Hendrix-influenced electric guitars, and this does feature some noteworthy contributions from John Abercrombie, this is clearly an extension of Miles Davis, especially Miles’ then-recent live explorations of chasing down the truth and the voodoo, as this set focuses on driving rhythms, horns and spontaneity, the forward movement often working up to a semi-controlled frenzy perhaps best showcased as the 14+ minute “Dream Suite” progresses into a funky drive.


While Miles is an obvious influence, the influences of other innovative jazz pioneers of the 60s clearly show, including the ones who–like this outfit–offered vocals. And as one would expect from a fusion outfit, the influences appear to go beyond the world of jazz. For example, the influence of Sly Stone might have gone unnoticed, but considering the first cut (“Devil Lady”) and the fact that this outfit was formed in the late 60s and released this album in 1970, it’s easy to make that Sly Stone connection. It’s not that most of this sounds like Sly, but the influence is clearly there.

It’s also easy to hear how this outfit likely both influenced and was influenced by many artists of this era, by the horn-heavy rock groups of the late 60s as well as Frank Zappa and Tower of Power. And while this group doesn’t match the innovations and accomplishments of Miles Davis and Weather Report, the music on this album does appears to bridge Miles to the innovative fusion work of Weather Report.

The music is grounded in the compositions provided by keyboardist Jeff Kent and bassist Doug Lubahn, with Lubahn’s bass and Cobham’s drumming helping to both ground it and move it along, but this is a whole-group effort and more about exploration and spontaneous combustion than control, to provide as the liner notes point out, “a sort of organized jam.” The live-in-the-studio recording strategy certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, but this outfit helped establish this as an option and an example for musicians in the decades that followed. The musical explorations certainly serve as a bridge between some of the more innovative music of 1960s and for better or worse, the times to come.

— winch (author of

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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

Marc Benno (1971) Minnows (LP) A&M 4303

Marc Benno

Minnows 

1971

A&M 4303

Produced by David Anderle

Engineered by Bruce Botnick

*** noteworthy


This was likely the most successful outing  from this Texas musician, likely for several reasons, including the people who helped make this record, including four crackerjack guitarists–Clarence White, Jesse Ed Davis, Bobby Womack, and Jerry McGee.

Of course, Benno himself deserves most of the credit, as he writes all the selections and plays several instruments–guitar, piano, organ and marxophone.  Perhaps most importantly, (fresh from playing on the Doors’ L.A. Woman album) Benno exhibits a fraility on Minnows that doesn’t show on his other outings.

While this recording (and several like it by southern musicians from the early 70s) were overshadowed by the overhyped and more bombastic material by unions of British and American southern musicians, these often forgotten and more low-key recordings by southern musicians alone were often more honest, original, and enjoyable.  While Benno’s Ambush LP, the follow up to Minnows, was likely his most successful outing commercially speaking, this 1971 offering was the closest Benno came to creating a timeless classic.

— winch

author of

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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

Whizkey Stik (late 70s) On the Level (LP) NW Metalworx NWM 003 (2016)

Whizkey Stik

On the Level 

Late 1970s

NW Metalworx NWM 003 (2016)

**** (recommended)

This 2016 long player houses late-70s recordings from this outfit from Astoria, Oregon, all the cuts likely unreleased, unpretentious hard rock with the chops wrapped up in the songs rather than excessive reasons to show off.


While hard rock was in rather sad shape at the end of the 70s, a few outfits still knew how to do it–Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher, UFO–and this outfit appears to have taken their cues from bands like those.  They were also clearly appeared to be aware of where the rock bands of this era came from–Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and all the other pioneers of the 50s.

While taking cues from others, this has a sound all its own and a charm that the pomp-rock and cock-rock outfits of this era clearly lacked. Fans of obscure 70s hard rock should give this set a listen.

— winch

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.