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…

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Blind Date (1979) S/T (LP)Windsong (BXL 1–3403)

Blind Date

Blind Date

1979

Windsong Records (BXL 1–3403)

Produced by Jeff Glixman

*** noteworthy
Sole album by this mystery group, power pop on John Denver’s Windsong label with Arnie Badd, Brad Billion, Dane Bramage, and Pinky Chablis. While they don’t sound like Cheap Trick, it’s sort of the same idea, power pop with focus on pounding drums and electric guitar (and of course vocals, harmony and melody), lots of content about love but also the violent crime of “Trouble Maker.”  This is power pop but not the soft-rock or candy-coated bubblegummy brand, somewhere between the Raspberries and Thin Lizzy, the Babys and Van Halen.

Both sides end with hard-rock content, the instrumental “Twin Engines” closing the first side, the 5+ minute “Midnight Imagination,” ending the proceedings. This closer brings the Beach Boys influence into power ballad mode, bridging 60s’ pop and 70s’ excess to the power ballads of the 80s, the straight-forward aspects of 70s glam and the excesses of the glam of the 80s. Mostly it’s the Beach Boys channeled through 70s hard rock.


While this is varied set, it’s fairly entertaining through both sides and even the filler falls into the background without becoming annoying. This group never comes close to the best of the power poppers, but they’re also obviously a few notches above the bland new wavers from this era. It’s pure juvenile fun, all songs written and arranged by Blind Date.

— winch

author of

 

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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

 

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Hans Olson (1973) Western Winds (LP) Joplin Records (3266)

Hans Olson Western Winds 

1973

Joplin Records 3266 

*** noteworthy

While the blues is the foundation of most everything you’ll find me bragging about, the blues at its base really ain’t my bag. If it ain’t authentic, then what’s the point, and if it is authentic, it usually sounds outdated. Of course, plenty of exceptions exist.

But those exceptions usually come from black musicians playing the blues fast, and this cat focuses on the slow to mid tempo. And typically there’s nothing worse than white folks trying to create authentic black blues. It’s like some educated fools digging up the bones of the aborigines, putting them in a museum, collecting the entrance fees and acting self-righteous.      


But there’s something honest about the backroom basement sound on this album. You almost have to dig it. It sounds like somewhere between Captain Beefheart and Bob Seger, Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher, the Allman Brothers and Tony Joe White, and comes straight from the black blues, somewhere between John Lee Hooker and Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee, and the blues appear to run straight through this artist’s heart. He focuses on the slow and midtempo but seems to know when turn up the voltage.


This might not match any of those previously mentioned artists in their primes, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you come across it. It’s apparently his first long player.