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…

LINKS TO SELLERS:

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

 

LINK TO SELLERS:

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/

Ozzy Osbourne (1981) Diary of a Madman (LP) Jet Records 37492

Ozzy Osbourne

Diary of a Madman 

Jet Records 37492

Produced by Max Norman, Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads

1981

**** Recommended


Ozzy’s second solo album, without a doubt his second best.

img_1523-1
This would be his last with the Blizzard of Ozz band: guitarist Randy Rhoads (ex-Quiet Riot), bassist Bob Daisley (ex-Rainbow) and drummer Lee Kerslake (ex-Uriah Heep).  Most of the songs are credited to all four members, two credited to all except Kerslake.


Within a year’s time the entire band would depart, Rhoads the last to go–dying in a plane crash early in 1982.


After two mediocre albums (Bark at the Moon in 1983 and the Ultimate Sin in 1986), he’d hook up for a long-term relationship with guitarist Zakk Wylde for the forgettable No Rest For the Wicked album in 1988, two noteworthy albums in the 1990s (No More Tears in 1991 and Ozzmosis in 1995), and two halfway decent sets in the 21st century (Down to Earth in 2001 and Black Rain in 2007).  He’d eventually depart with Wilde and release a set of covers (Under Cover in 2015) and Scream in 2010, but his only truly essential studio albums were his first two with this Blizzard of Ozz band.

— winch (author of )

 

LINK TO SELLERS:

Ralph Towner (1973) Diary (LP) ECM 1032 (1974)

Ralph Towner

Diary 

ECM 1032

Recorded April 4 and 5, 1973; released 1974.

Produced by Manfred Eicher

**** recommended


Ron Wynn said it so well when reviewing Towner’s Works, “A great, great guitarist whose songs at worst are overly sentimental, at best hypnotic” and it’s important that Wynn started that sentence with “Great, great,” because even when Towner is being sentimental, he completes his intentions and captures his subject, encapsulating an often fleeting or moving subject like a painter, a memory or a moment, and even in the more forgettable moments on this set, brush strokes mix the memories of music’s past with Towner’s own experiences and expressions.


For an album that features one artist using only acoustic guitars, piano and gong, this definitely has its moments. As much as this seems to come out of his work with the group Oregon, a close listen reveals some clear differences. It’s not only more personal, this reveals different influences. At times, this recalls Weather Report at their most reflective, but here Towner strips the body down to bone and ghost.

— winch (author of )

 

LINK TO SELLERS:

John Martyn (1971 – 1975) So Far So Good (LP) Island Records 9484 (1977)

John Martyn

So Far So Good 

Island Records 9484

**** recommended

img_0577
Coming out of the innovative folk from the British Isles in the late 60s, this Scottish musician was perhaps the first white artist to sign with independent label Island Records.  This 1977 anthology houses cuts from the previous Island albums (1971 – 1975) and concludes with a rocking live cut from Martyn’s self-released classic Live at Leeds (1975).  Other than the instrumental “Glistening Glyndebourne,” the album features vocal cuts by Martyn.  Likely bassist Danny Thompson (Pentangle) plays on all the dates, two from 1975 also featuring guitarist Paul Kossoff.

This collection provides an excellent overview of the Island years and showcases Martyn’s skills as a songwriter and a guitarist. The cuts are all teasers, informing the listeners of the quality of this artist’s work, and likely causing most to seek out each and every one of these Martyn albums from Island Records.

— winch (author of

LINK TO SELLERS

so far so good LP

Keith Jarrett (1976) Survivor’s Suite (LP) ECM-1-1085

Keith Jarrett

Survivor’s Suite 

1976

Recorded April 1976 in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

ECM-1-1085

Produced by Manfred Eicher

**** (recommended)


One of Jarrett’s most interesting and enjoyable ECM dates from the 1970s, sounding as if the group was taking in account of what had gone down in the previous years, from Yusef Lateef to Weather Report, but moving off with their focused improvisations into their own territory, cohesive explorations and conversations, the members fueling each other as the band moves along like a caravan into the unknown.


And actually this is well aware of what had gone down long before the 1950s, back to the distant past, from New York City to New Orleans, from the deep South to the sounds of other lands from times long ago. And perhaps this is even aware of the future.


It’s certainly testimony that both Jarrett and the ECM label were important elements in the development of music in the latter part of the 20th century and into the new millennium.

— winch (author of

 

LINKS TO SELLERS: