Summer 2000 
CD Reviews



Homebrew 2
(Purple Pyramid)

STEVE HOWE - Homebrew 2As guitar fans know, it’s just about unthinkable that one could hear too much music from guitar icon Steve Howe. Following that train of reasoning, Howe accommodates his followers with the second installment of his ongoing Homebrew series. It’s fascinating to hear Howe’s various works-in-progress and musical sketches as they come to life on Homebrew 2. Kicking off with Steve’s early ‘80s solo version of “Masquerade” (a song which later made it’s way onto the 1991 Union album by Yes), Homebrew 2 soon shifts gears with eight Howe demo tracks which were later incorporated on the late ‘90s Yes albums Keys To Ascension 1 & 2 and Open Your Eyes. In fact, just about all of the CD’s 21 tracks feature various versions of songs which later made their way onto various albums by Howe, Yes, GTR and Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford & Howe. Further proof of Howe’s studio wizardry on Homebrew 2 is his ability to perform all the parts necessary to make these songs work, even as outtakes, demos and home recordings. The only track here featuring a player other than the guitar great is a scaled down and in Howe’s words, “a more intimate” alternate version of the title track from Steve’s ‘75 album Beginnings, with harpsichord by former Yes/Moody Blues keyboardist Pat Moraz. A well documented compilation of Howe’s prodigious songbook, Homebrew 2 includes an outpouring of liner notes, remembrances and evocative artwork. All in all Homebrew 2 is time well spent for Howe’s many devotees.  /


Can I Play You Something?

PETER BANKS - Can I Play You Something?When it comes to English progressive rock music, the U.K.-based Voiceprint Records and their auxiliary label Blueprint have got it down to a science. Fans of English rock icons such as Robert Wyatt, Soft Machine, Roy Harper, Asia and Gong are among the many illustrious artists featured in the Voiceprint catalog. The Blueprint division has been quite active of late and among the label’s more intriguing offerings is a comprehensive compilation of early recordings retracing the career of U.K. guitar hero Peter Banks. Subtitled The Pre-Yes Years - Recordings From 1964-1968, the recently released Can I Play You Something? answers a number of questions regarding the groups Banks recorded with prior to joining Yes in 1968. While progressive rock fans are quite well aware of Banks’ early work with Yes and his following group Flash, Banks’ early career was something of an enigma - until now. Can I Play You Something? revives 21 sundry tracks including some fabulous sounding songs by the pre-Yes bands Syn and Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, both of which featured a young Pete Banks performing alongside Yes founder Chris Squire and Squire’s early songwriting ally Clive Bailey. Rough sounding demos and various mixes blend nicely with a number of rarely heard pop curios with the CD taking on the aura of a well documented bootleg. Anyone interested in the heady psychedelic pop scene of swinging London in the late ‘60s, and specifically about the evolution of Yes, is recommended to check out the well documented Can I Play You Something? 


Diamond Head

PHIL MANZANERA - Diamond HeadMany fans of U.K. guitar great Phil Manzanera have been waiting a long time for proper reissues of these two early album classics. Recorded at the same time as the great Diamond Head was the trendsetting instrumental album Mainstream, the one and only release by Phil’s side instrumental band Quiet Sun. As pointed out in the astute liner notes, both albums were recorded during 26 days in January/February, 1975. It seemed that right after the daytime Diamond Head sessions were over, Quiet Sun took over the studio by night with Manzanera leading the quartet through a set of brilliantly executed, now classic guitar-based instrumental music. The music Manzanera recorded with Bill MacCormick (bass, cameo vocals) Dave Jarrett (keyboards) and Charles Hayward (drums) remains an essential focus of the ‘70s progressive rock history. It’s new CD reissue on Expression happily sets the album’s history straight with stellar liner notes. It’s incredible to think that during the same time period of time Manzanera was also able to record his first proper debut album Diamond Head. Ignited by the back-up support of the Quiet Sun players, Diamond Head also featured some dapper vocal performances from Robert Wyatt, John Wetton and Eno. Two sides of an impeccable musical coin, both Mainstream and Diamond Head are aptly described in the liner notes as ‘first born twins in a London studio’. 


Rockin’ With Curly Leads

THE SHADOWS - RockinÕ With Curly LeadsInstrumental rock greats The Shadows couldn’t have been more out of step in 1973. While groups like Yes and Tull were serving up double disc masterworks and live prog-rock spectaculars, guitar god Hank B. Marvin and band were quite happy recording their patented blend of sophisticated instrumental rock, sounding more influenced by The Beatles and The Beach Boys than Yes or Tull. If The Shadows were going for a more up to date yet highly nostalgic instrumental pop beat, they truly succeeded on Rockin’ With Curly Leads. Released after a three year layoff, following the death of long time Shadows bassist John Rostill, the first ever solo album by Shadows founder/guitarist Hank B. Marvin and the joining of bass guitarist John Farrar, the disc offers a great crossection of riff-heavy rock and soaring pop ballads as only the The Shadows could invent. True to their roots as England’s greatest instrumental covers band, there’s also covers of The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” and a rousing, set-opening “Pinball Wizard”. Never issued in the U.S., this recent EMI U.K. digi-pak reissue of Rockin’ With Curly Leads is the first ever release by the the band’s parent company. No liner notes, but the high tech remastering makes it the best-sounding version on CD yet. 


Black Is Black
Bring A Little Lovin’
(Retroactive / Sin-Drome)

LOS BRAVOS - Black Is BlackFinally a proper CD reissue of the vintage classic Black Is Black album from mid ‘60s pop phenomenon Los Bravos. Something of an anomaly amongst pop bands (the band consisted of four Spaniards and a German-born lead singer), the group are still recalled for their all time hit single “Black Is Black”. Discovered in Spain and produced in London by U.K. producer Ivor Raymonde, Los Bravos took the U.S. airwaves by storm rising to top of the charts and getting heavy airplay on thousands of AM stations. Los Bravos were never quite able to again reach the same heights as “Black Is Black”, although as these first ever U.S. Los Bravos reissues makes clear - the group also made really good pop albums. Identified with the ‘60s pop sounds coming from what later turned into Polygram, the Bravos joined a legendary roster of incredibly ground breaking pop bands on the wide consortium of London Records offshoot labels - from Tom Jones and The Troggs to The Walker Brothers and Cat Stevens. The fact that they were only  able to muster one big hit wasn’t as strange as it may seem looking back on the whirlwind pop scene of the ‘60s. LOS BRAVOS - Bring A Little LovinÕ Kicking off with the killer riff of the title track, the 1966 Black Is Black album delivered a number of driving pop gems with all the right moves. Composed for the group by the songwriting team of Vanda and Young of The Easybeats (another group with a classic reissue on Retroactive), the title track of the rarely heard Bring A Little Lovin’ wasn’t bad at all yet, even with another solid album out there, Los Bravos couldn’t dent the highly competitive pop charts of 1968 and broke up after recording a two more (largely unreleased) albums. Credit should go to Ed Strait and the crew at Retroactive Records in NYC. Both CDs go to great lengths to reproduce the original LP artwork along with rare photos, lengthy liner notes, and full discography. One hit wonder they may have been, but as these discs succeed at pointing out, the Los Bravos discography is worth hearing again 


Friends And Relatives
(Purple Pyramid)

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA - Friends And RelativesFeaturing the music of songwriting great and guitarist Roy Wood, The Move were one of the most influential bands to come out of England during the ‘60s. The fact that they transformed from The Move into ELO at the dawn of the ‘70s was overlooked as ELO got progressively more popular throughout the ‘70s. Even though Wood left after the first ELO album, credit had to go to Wood’s Move and early ELO band mates Jeff Lynne and drumming great Bev Bevan for taking the band to great heights (Without Lynne, Bevan still fronts a completely different, yet still accomplished incarnation of ELO). As this CD points out quite handily, ELO had an extensive family tree which, although starting with The Move, also yielded an extensive repertoire of recordings from an assorted spectrum of sundry Move and ELO members. Purple Pyramid did a splendid job with last years’ Yes Friends And Relatives collection and now they do the same for ELO. Featured on the double disc collection are select live ELO tracks featuring the ‘70s Lynne and Bevan group with other high points being some truly remarkable tracks from Carl Wayne (original Move lead singer), Wizzard (featuring Move founding member Roy Wood), Bev Bevan (solo tracks including an apropos cover of “Let There Be Drums”) and of course, The Move (several early mid ‘60s tracks). With so many other untapped musical avenues to venture down, Purple Pyramid would do well to count on at least another 2 ELO F&R volumes! Hopefully other collections will feature interviews and liner notes. ELO ‘s F&R is a great family tree collection from one of the all time great bands.


Would You Believe
Love Songs

BILLY NICHOLLS - Would You BelieveA long time friend and musical accomplice of Who great Pete Townshend, singer-songwriter and guitarist Billy Nicholls has released only a handful of albums since he started as a solo artist back in the late ‘60s. Yet, each disc he has issued over these many years has proved to be a first class showcase for his memorable pop gems. Influenced by Townshend’s songwriting gift (and vice versa), Nicholls is at his best hanging his well crafted pop hooks on gorgeous arrangements that rival the finest of songwriters. Although his early ‘90s CD, Under One Banner was hardly noticed in the U.S., Nicholls returns to the music world again in early 2000 reissuing a pair of long sought after albums he first issued in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. 1968’s Would You Believe proves that even as a teenager, Nicholls had a solid ability to write dazzling pop jewels. With none other than pop legends The Small Faces on hand as the back up group, the album is further fueled with contributions by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones (on bass and string arrangements), keyboard great Nicky Hopkins, Jerry Shirley (drums) and Caleb Quaye (guitars). Co-produced by Billy, Small Faces / Humble Pie great Steve Marriott and Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham, Would You Believe is a psych/pop classic ripe for rediscovery. Thanks must go to Pete Townshend for first introducing Nicholls to a widespread audience on a number of his early ‘70s solo albums and as a support player on various Who albums. But as these reissue CDs make clear, as a songwriting great for going on five decades, Nicholls is clearly in the same league as Townshend. Another essential reissue on Billy’s own Southwest Records is a CD of his early ‘70s album Love Songs. Townshend engineers on a track but the album’s real co-star here is guitar great Caleb Quaye. Best known for his fretboard work on early albums by Elton John and John Kongos, Quaye’s acoustic and electric guitar/bass work (and drumming) is stellar here. Also lending a hand on Love Songs are various members of The Faces (who by then were no longer The Small Faces). No lyric sheet on either CD, but there’s plenty of reflective liner notes from Billy. A major rediscovery for Nicholls fans, Who fans and anyone interested in the trendsetting history of ‘60s U.K. pop, both discs are highly recommended. 

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249




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