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

Kathi McDonald

Insane Asylum


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


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

George Shearing Quintet with Nancy Wilson (1961) the Swingin’s Mutual (LP) Capitol (ST 1524)

George Shearing Quintet with Nancy Wilson

the Swingin’s Mutual 


Capitol (ST 1524)

produced by Dave Cavanaugh and Tom Morgan

**** recommended
While all of Nancy’s 1960s albums will likely please her serious fans, some dates clearly stand out, and this early one with Shearing is clearly one of them.

The alternating back and forth between instrumental and vocal cuts works wonderfully, like pearls and diamonds lined up in a bracelet, and it causes one to wonder why this form of sequencing isn’t used more often.  Instead of forcing the use of vocal fillers–too often an issue with albums of the 60s–this format fills the room with something worth talking about, works like a healthy conversation, and it offers space and repose, allows time for the music to sink into your soul.  And with Nancy offering the vocals, the sequencing works like a tease, the instrumentals like head-spinning pauses between kisses.

Along with the two stars, vibraphonist Warren Chiasson and guitarist Dick Garcia get a little time to get their offerings into the conversations.   It really doesn’t matter if you prefer Nancy’s jazz dates or her pop ones, this one will please everyone.

— winch (author of


Harlan Howard (1961) Sings Harlan Howard (LP) Capitol 1631

Harlan Howard

 Sings Harlan Howard


Capitol 1631

Produced by Ken Nelson

*** (noteworthy)

While sources are inconsistent–likely because facts are hard to determine when an artist comes from poor rootless beginnings–apparently Harlan was born in Detroit in 1927 and grew up in Michigan and Kentucky.  He didn’t find success in his life’s calling until he was in his 30s, just before settling in Nashville and recording this debut album.

While he released a few of his own albums, he will be remembered mostly as a songwriter, for writing thousands of songs, many of which would become hits for various artists, first for hillbilly stars but also for soul and jazz artists. For example “Busted” would be a hit for both Johnny Cash and Ray Charles in 1963, and while “Chokin’ Kind” was first recorded by Waylon Jennings, it would become Joe Simon’s first number-one hits on the R&B charts.

This album came at a time when he was beginning to make a name for himself, and this set showed that he likely wasn’t going to run out of songs, as this features all new songs–from heartbroken ballads to the rather-dark humor of “We’re Proud to Call Him Son.”  While Howard will be remembered for his songwriting (and for defining country music as “three chords and the truth”), this albums shows he had a good voice, perhaps coming out of Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb (although I’m sure he’d note others as well) and perhaps he should have been given more opportunities to record his own material.  This isn’t essential but it suggests that fans of this artist (or hillbilly music in general) might be advised to check out Howard’s own recordings (along with the material he provided for others).

— winch


“We’re Proud to Call Him Son” download:

Beatles (1967) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (LP) Capitol

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
noteworthy ***
    Overplayed and overrated Beatles set, the second time the Beatles helped ruin American music.  The first time was in 1964 when they arrived with their watered-down version of American R&B, lame covers or lame originals.  They were like the Osmonds of the 60s.  
    The Osmonds were a white version of Motown’s The Jackson Five.  We couldn’t have our white girls creaming in their jeans over a bunch of colored brothers from Gary, Indiana, or any of those colored folks from Motown so along came the Osmonds.  
     Things were much more serious in 1964.  For the first time, white people were buying black music by the truck load.  So they brought over the Beatles who almost single-handedly managed to destroy one of the greatest times in American Music.  In the post-Beatles world, we’ve never had anything that has come close to the early 60s.  
     In ’64, we not only had the blacks, but we had white folks playing black music with gesto, classic garage that actually rocked, folks like Dick Dale and Link Wray, a bunch of punk kids having a blast, and the black folks fusing hard bop with the grooves of R&B and world influences (long before the Beatles), and then you had the real R&B. 
     I was just listening to Shorty Long do his 1964 original “Devil in a Blue Dress.”  Now that’s a classic.  Like so many others, that should have been a hit.   
     But the Beatles arrived with crap like “Love Me Do,”…then years later “And in the end / the love you take / is equal to the love / you make,” or something like that.  Barf-O-rama.  That makes me want to punch someone in the face.  That is so dated and dimwitted.  And in between that, we got this set, just when we were getting the groove going again in ’66. 
     Sure, this is a decent set, and the Osmonds comment was mostly to make a point and piss people off, stir up the pot, to start some conversations. I put Pepper in the Good Shit inventory, called it noteworthy, but it’s not that great, and the influence it had on American music wasn’t all good.  Since the Beatles couldn’t even put on a decent show, this marked the time when they gave up even trying.  It’s one thing to steal American black music and call it your own; it’s another thing to dress it up in a uniform and send it to private school. This album took the wild abandonment of R&B, and made it tame and educated.  You can do that with a lot of things and I won’t cause a stink.  
     But you shouldn’t do that to rock ‘n roll.

— winch
“I wish Sgt. Pepper had never taught the band to play.” –the Dictators

Quicksilver Messenger Service: Happy Trails (LP) 1968




Happy Trails
Capitol 120

Recorded 1968 (Fillmore East and West, and Golden State Recorders), released March 1969 (US & UK), reached #27.

Rating:**** (Recommended)

An exercise in excess if there ever was one, a
pparently a mix of different live shows fused with studio work, “Who Do You Love” stretched out for the entire first side, or at least the song dominates the side, opens and closes it, sandwiches a bunch of acid-fueled madness, and if that wasn’t enough, side two opens with “Mona,” blurring Bo’s beat into a messy acid-rock sound that sounds like it’s helping to invent a new version of space rock and is certainly one of acid-rock’s defining moments.  Like with “Who Do You Love” on side one, “Mona” squeals into some noisy feedback-drenched jamming, except while side one returned to Bo’s beat with a bass-driven vengeance, this feedback continues until a brief version of the title track (Dale Evans) closes the set.


This album might be a bit too much for some, but this definitely has some killer moments.  At least this group had the sense to use Diddley’s beat to help power the monster along,contrasting the meandering madness with some thumping bass-heavy punch.  While this group had a promising debut, they climaxed with this set.  It’s much better than most of the West Coast jamming from this era, miles ahead of Iron Butterfly or the Grateful Dead.  While the Dead’s jamming sounded like a drunken hippie staggerring aimlessly down a dirt road, this at least uses some muscle to carve out a ditch.  The lunatic music certainly bounces around inside the groove, but it’s got some direction.  If you ever wanted to go back in time to Frisco in 1968, this is probably as close you’ll ever get.  Light up and kick back, and even if your stash is running low, you can probably catch a buzz just listening to this album.

— winch

author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s


Bobbie Gentry: Fancy (1970) LP

Bobbie Gentry
Capitol (ST-428)
Producer: Rick Hall
Rating: **** (Recommended)
The title track starts off sounding a bit too much like a sequel to “Ode to Billy Joe,” but soon the song takes on a life all its own and becomes another classic short story by Gentry.  A reading of Bacharach-David’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” comes second on the bill, and while Warwick got the big hit from this song, Gentry’s version is the one to end all, and its melancholy fits perfectly after the title track.  The third cut also fits in the progression with our protaginast going back to the South for her “Delta Man.”  The themes also mirror the story of Gentry and the recording of this album.  In 1969, Gentry not only married Mr. Harrah, she also left him.  Then came this record, her first produced by Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  With the first song, we have the character leaving the Delta, but by the third she’s back where she belongs.

While that opening was hard to follow, Gentry has no problem keeping it interesting and enjoyable.  We certainly didn’t need another version of “Raindrops…” or “Wedding Bell Blues,” but the other hand-me-downs are top-notch, Gentry easily alternating between folk-rock and soul, switching the point of view with Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady” and James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves,” breathing life into Nillson’s “Rainmaker” and returning Rudy Clark’s “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody” back to the States, offering more than respectable versions of Bettye LaVette’s “He Made a Woman Out of Me” and George Jackson’s “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” (co-written with Rick Hall). Some cuts work better than others, but most work like good-luck charms.  


While some have argued that these songs didn’t really fit Gentry, I’m not sure how they came to that conclusion.  She takes the material and tailors it to fit like a satin dress on a beautifully built lady, one like Bobbie Gentry.  If you don’t like this album, you might as well give it up, take a slow walk on a trestle bridge, chuck yourself over the side when the train comes, jump off or get on board.  Gentry was an American original, captured this country as well as anyone.  Some complain that she shouldn’t have dropped out of the music scene, or should have came back, but I don’t know why anybody would try to tell Gentry what to do.  She obviously knew what she was doing; otherwise she wouldn’t have made albums like this.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)