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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The Doors

The Doors
The Doors
Elektra (74007)
1967
Producer: Paul Rothchild
Engineer: Bruce Botnick
Rating: **** (Recommended)
Released March 1967, reached #1 (ignored in UK)

Debut from this outfit, its blues-based sound pure L.A., a refreshing alternative to the meandering California psychedelic from Frisco.  While it gets a bit silly at times, they always manage to pull out the slack, laying down a string of solid cuts that conclude with the epic “The End.”  While, they had several solid sets, this debut was one of their best.  It serves as a good intro to this band, and it’s essential listening for fans.

— winch

The Doors
Waiting For the Sun
Elektra (74024)
1968
Producer: Paul Rothchild
Engineer: Bruce Botnick
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)
Released August 1968 (September in the UK), reached #1 (#16 in the UK)



While this L.A. outfit had a strong beginning, cracks begin to show with this third set.  Much of the material has a dreary feel to it, perhaps capturing not only the strain of fame on this band, but also the wilting of the flowers from the summer of love.  Like all their 60s albums, this has its moments, but it’s their weakest album with Morrison.

— winch

The Doors
The Soft Parade
Elektra (75005)
1969
Producer: Paul Rothchild
Engineer: Bruce Botnick
Rating: **** (Recommended)

Released August 1969 (September in the UK), reached #6 (ignored in the UK)


Perhaps recognizing that their previous album was a bit depressing, they pick up the pace and fill in the sound for this fourth set, backing the band with big arrangements and calling in plenty of guests.  While this was an improvement over the third album, many felt otherwise.  The Doors had finally found an audience in the U.K. with the third set, but they lost them again with this collection. 

The set gets a bit overblown and silly at times, but the same is true with all their albums.  This doesn’t have the dark menace of the early material, but it sees the band pulling out the slack and charging forward, something they’d continue doing in the 70s.  It’s another worthwhile listen for fans.

— winch

Love (1968) Forever Changes LP

Love
Forever Changes

Elektra 4013
Produced by Arthur Lee & Bruce Botnick

Recommended ****

1968
Released January 1968 (February 1969 in UK) reached #152 (#24 in UK)

After a period of recluse in Lee’s Hollywood mansion, Love surfaced with this third album.  Many consider this their finest.

The album opens with MacLean’s classic “Alone Again Or,” the rest of the collection focusing on the contributions of Arthur Lee.  While the Lee numbers have a different feel, the songs seem an extension of the melancholy established with MacLean’s opener, slowly going from an electric rock sound to a more fragile folk delivery, the songs filled with acoustic guitars, arrangements and the imagery of Lee’s lyrics. 

(Lee with the broken vase–symbolism that fits the set.  That one’s Lee, right?) 

The music moves between moods and tempos, like following a man at the edge of a party as he wanders to the basement and out the cellar door, roaming the streets, a loner/observer internalizing all that’s going down. Through all the changes, the set remains as cohesive as any from this era, and it certainly captures this time and place like no other album.  While it clearly comes out of the Summer of Love and the years that lead up to it, this also recognizes the beginning of the end, and in retrospect foreshadows the years and happenings to come.

(The vase is cracked open to expose the roots; the flowers are dry and wilted.)


This album stands nicely next to the first drug-fueled offerings of Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd, but while V.U. came from the art houses and cold streets of New York, and Floyd from the music and foggy climate of London, Lee appears to have been raised on the various music styles of Los Angeles, from the Byrds to the Beach Boys, from the soundtracks of Hollywood to the Latin American rhythms of East LA.  With Bruce Botnick helping with the final production, the influences of Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach show up in the arrangements.  Of course, this album delivers its own unique sound–a sound that influenced countless acts.


While the music is not perhaps overtly psychedelic, it’s about as psychedelic as it gets, and fans of that genre should give this a close listen, turn out the lights and light up a number.  There had never been an album like thisbefore, and while many have tried, there has never been one like this since.  
It’s essential for fans of late 60s music. 

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

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Gabor Szabo: High Contrast (1971) LP

Gabor Szabo
High Contrast
Blue Thumb (BTS 28)
1971

Rating: **** (Recommended)

Recorded March 1971, produced by Tommy LiPuma, engineered by Bruce Botnick.

For this instrumental outing, two great guitarists join forces, Szabo on various guitars, Bobby Womack on rhythm.  At first, the arrangements of the opening cut seemed overwhelming, and some of the material was too jazzy and stretched out for my tastes, but once I got to that last cut, “I Remember When,” I was hooked for life.  After that, I returned to the beginning of side two and completely dug the groove, Womack on rhythm guitar, Phillip Upchurch or Wolfgang Melz on bass, Falco and Carmelo Garcia on percussion, Jim Keltner on drums.  The side features three cuts by Womack, including a version of “If You Don’t Want My Love” from the score for Across 110th Street Economy wasn’t part of the vocabulary of 1971, and that works when you’ve got a band like this, a rhythm section from heaven, Szabo snaking his licks into the conversation, filling in the groove with improvization.  Just give a listen to the appropriately titled “Just A Little Communication” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

  After grooving with side two for a few days, I flipped her back over and dug that side too.  The set opens with “Breezin’,” a cut Womack wrote for Gzabo (later copped by George Benson for a hit in 1976). The rest of the side is filled with Szabo compositions, really getting into the groove as the side progresses, especially once they get deep into “Amazon” and on to “Fingers.”  Szabo dominates the writing on the first side and Womack provides the score for the flip side, but they both play a big part in the entire set, and the sides have a lot in common, both providing the contrast suggested by the title, getting into the groove and concluding with a reflective number.  While “I Remember When” might not be the best example of the deep groove this band dug out for this set, it still remains my favorite selection on the album.  The entire set is quite killer. 
 
— winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)