Larry Knechtel (1989) Mountain Moods (LP) Universal Master Series (UVL-6279)

Larry Knechtel
Mountain Moods
1989
Universal Master Series (UVL-6279)
Produced by Norbert Putnam and Jim Horn
*** noteworthy

While a set of mellow pop-jazz instrumentals from the late 80s sounds like something that should be lost and soon forgotten, this was the first solo album by legendary session man Larry Knechtel so it should not be surprising that it’s quite enjoyable.

The mellow sound might come as a surprise to listeners who knew Larry as the bassist on the Doors’ first album, a member of Duane Eddy’s Rebels, and an important part of the Wrecking Crew and their “Wall of Sound,” but this man also played a big part in the band Bread, contributed piano and arrangements for “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” played bass on “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and offered Hammond B3 organ on Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

His more reflective work from the past foreshadows the music on this album, but this seems mostly a reflection of his many years in the Pacific Northwest. This was recorded in his new home in Nashville after living for many years in Yakima, Washington. While this perhaps has some slight connection with Chet Atkins and Nashville’s use of sophisticated arrangements to compliment their down-home sounds, this was clearly Larry Knechtel’s project. As the title suggests and the sound supports, this seems much less a reflection of his new home in Nashville and more a remembrance of his mountain home in Washington.

When he was barely 30, he might have been frustrated with the soft-rock of Bread, but here he seems completely comfortable, slipping into the music like slipping a flannel jacket over your shoulders, and this comfortable feeling makes listening to this music so enjoyable, like taking a stroll down a mountain road. This certainly is not an essential outing, but if you have a weakness for softly spoken instrumentals by talented musicians, this is worth a listen.

— winch (author of

 

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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/

Cam Newton (1979) Welcome Aliens: Party Music for the First Authenticated Landing (LP) Inner City IC 1070 

Cam Newton

Welcome Aliens: Party Music for the First Authenticated Landing

Inner City IC 1070 (1980)

Recorded April 1979 in Eugene, Oregon
produced by Campbell Newton, David Leslie, Mark Isham, and Pat O’Hearn

*** noteworthy

This starts off with a mildly unique take on jazz fusion, but gets more inventive and enjoyable as the side progresses and Cam’s guitar playing takes the spotlight.

Side two has a somewhat similar progression, starts off with relatively straightforward jazz before moving into the folk/jazz sound we’d heard on the second half of the first side. Cam sounds like he was influenced by many of the masters of the guitar who had blended jazz and folk in the late 1960s and 1970s, Jansch, Abercrombie, Coryell, Kottke, Fahey, and Towner (many who like Newton had connections with the Pacific Northwest), as well as some who had passed the baton on to those folks, but Newton offers a style with its own feel. He seems primarily inspired by the emotions inside and the world around him, from responses to current events such as the Jonestown genocide and especially from the elemental forces of nature.

While some might enjoy the entire set, most will likely enjoy the highlights. At its best this is hypnotic and lyrical, both enjoyable and interesting. (Just don’t let the title mislead you into thinking this is space-age party music.)

— winch

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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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Cool R (1986) Let’s Talk About It (LP) Half & Half ST 62525 

Cool R

Let’s Talk About It 

1986

Half & Half ST 62525

*** noteworthy


Obviously influenced by every master of funk in the 80s, this has a small-town charm all its own.  While this is a varied set, it grabs you from the get-go with the 8+ minute opener “Dangerous.”  The set is produced and written Nathaniel Phillips, the band’s bass player, and that’s not surprising considering the popping bassline is a huge part of the charm.


Perhaps this offering from Portland, Oregon is not worth what you’d likely end up paying for it, this is certainly worth a listen if you dig obscure funk from the 1980s.

— winch (author of

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 )

 

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