September, 2000 
CD Reviews



Sunflower / Surf’s Up
(Brother / Capitol)

THE BEACH BOYS - Sunflower / SurfÕs UpIn 1970 The Beach Boys set out to release that long lost masterpiece that had all but eluded them in the wake of the non-release of Smile, a musical oddity with a history that has fascinated pop fans since 1967. That long promised opus arrived in the form of Sunflower. Seeking to enter the ‘70s with a hip, yet retro image that cut across the boards, Sunflower in retrospect, was way too cool for most rock fans to grasp at the time. Sporting Brian Wilson classics such as “This Whole World” and “Our Sweet Love”, Sunflower was further supported by a round of stellar tracks co-penned by Brian and the rest of the group. Of specific joy remain the album’s three great Dennis Wilson songs (especially the Wilson/Jardine cut “It’s About Time”) which really rock. Superbly remastered for top sound, Sunflower remains a pinnacle of priceless pop perfection. Surf’s Up on the other hand succeeded in pulling off what Sunflower sadly didn’t do, which was to reestablish The Beach Boys with the mainstream FM radio rock intelligentsia. And boy did it ever work! The hippies finally got it and the Boys (still fraught with internal squabbles) went on to record further now-classic ‘70s albums like Holland, Carl & The Passions and The Beach Boys Love You. Out of print on CD for too long, both Surf’s Up and Sunflower are now reissued by Capitol Records on a super sounding, 22 track, 70 minute twofer CD complete with cool photos, lyrics (Surf’s Up only) and history-filled liner notes from Beach Boys author Timothy White.



BILLY NICHOLLS - SnapshotPop great Billy Nicholls tops his first two recently released CD reissues, Love Songs and Would You Believe?, with yet another splendid vintage collection of demos and various unreleased tracks recorded in 1967-68. As a backing vocalist and support player on numerous sessions by The Who and Pete Townshend, Nicholls has also consistently bolstered his own reputation as a first class singer-songwriter and guitarist on a number of fine solo albums over the years. In the same league with Townshend (anyone remember Speedy Keen?), Nicholls is assisted on these tracks by top rank players like keyboard icon Nicky Hopkins, producers John Paul Jones and Steve Marriott along with guitar greats Big Jim Sullivan and Caleb Quaye. It’s been too long since Billy’s last new album, 1991’s Under One Banner. Still the recently released Snapshot is a fabulous compilation which appropriately sits alongside Nicholls’ two other recent reissues on his own Southwest Records. 


The Original Mr. Mick

STACKRIDGE - The Original Mr. MickStackridge are further immortalized with a newly revamped and remastered CD of their last official studio album. Issued by MCA Records back in ‘75, Mr. Mick was filled with catchy pop anthems and brilliant instrumentals. The concept album skillfully retraces, through song and narration, the life of an aging senior who looks back on his life with remorse and gratitude. Filled with the impressive music of veteran singer-songwriter Andy Davis, Mr. Mick also features contributions from other members including Mutter Slater (flute, keys, vocals) and Crun Walter (bass). Clearly influenced by The Beatles, especially the Sgt. Pepper-era, Stackridge were among the most underrated of all the great U.K. bands during the mid ‘70s. Newly remastered with liner notes, bonus tracks and complete libretto by DAP Records, the new Mr. Mick goes a long way towards reintroducing itself as the landmark album it truly is. DAP can also take a bow for their 1999 Stackridge comeback album, Something For The Weekend. Let’s hope they afford the same high quality treatment to the other albums in the group’s prominent back catalog. 


Nuclear Nightclub

WIGWAM - Nuclear NightclubLike so many of their ‘70s Euro rock contemporaries, Wigwam never got proper recognition for their many amazing rock albums. Although Wigwam’s second album, produced in fact, by L.A. rock icon Kim Fowley, did get issued stateside on Verve way back in 1970 it sadly took till 1975 to get the group some well deserved exposure outside Finland. During the Summer of ‘75 Virgin Records, under the auspices of mogol Richard Branson, unleashed Nuclear Nightclub upon the music world. The first truly amazing English-singing rock band to emerge from Finland, Wigwam was founded in ‘68 by Jim Pembroke, a London native who fell head-over-heals and interestingly enough, landed in Finland. With Nuclear the band finally got that well earned respect outside Finland and after the critical acclaim of Nuclear Nightclub Branson was enthusiastic enough to bring Wigwam to England to record the follow-up to Nuclear. Comparable in depth and substance to Lennon or Bowie and just about any of the truly great ‘60 singer-songwriters, Pembroke’s words and music and one-of-a-kind vocals can heard to great effect on Nuclear Nightclub, which has just been reissued again as a 25th Anniversary CD edition by the group’s Finnish label Love Records. A must for fans of ‘70s progressive rock, Nuclear Nightclub, hands down Wigwam’s zenith on record, is properly revived here with 24-bit remastering, new liner notes by Jim Pembroke, four unreleased classic Finnish Radio recordings and an array of fab pics.


The Warmth Of The Sun
25 All-Time Greatest Bubblegum Hits
(Varese Vintage)

The Warmth Of The SunBoth of these recently released anthologies again proves Varese Vintage is among the finest reissue labels in the U.S. today. Headed up by A&R authority Cary Mansfield, Varese consistently comes up with great ideas for reissue compilations which often take in a broad spectrum of ‘60s pop music. One of their prominent new releases is The Warmth Of The, a disc that shows how influential Brian Wilson was and still is as an originator of pop music. Boasting (possibly) the greatest line-up of sun-drenched pop gems laced with that classic Brian Wilson touch Subtitled Songs Inspired By The Beach Boys, the 19 track disc is also blessed with lively liner notes by Wilson-ian rocker Elliot Kendall and fab cover art from Jan & Dean teen icon Dean O. Torrence (Kittyhawk Graphics). Brian Wilson’s legend as both a vocalist and vocal arranger is brought clearly into focus here. In addition to several references to Wilson’s and The Boys’ early ‘60s surf rock sound, the package follows a number of band’s obviously influenced by the Wilson mystique at the dawn of psychedelia circa ‘66-68. In that spirit the CD features the long version of “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius and the great “Yellow Balloon” by the group Yellow Balloon. Other highlights include two tracks recorded in ‘96 by current Brian Wilson Group guitarist Jeff Foskett. Other Beach Boys-inspired moments include tracks by Alan Boyd, The Trade Winds (two tracks including their ‘65 East Coast surf lament “New York’s A Lonely Town”), The Hudson Brothers and Eric Carmen. Topped off by a set-closing “Beach Baby” by First Class, The Warmth Of The Sun is surely one great Beach Boys inspired concept CDs. 

Another example of just how thorough Varese is when it comes to compiling classic pop collections from the ‘60s and early ‘70s is the label’s new ultimate collection entitled 25 All-Time Greatest Bubblegum Hits. 25 All-Time Greatest Bubblegum HitsCommemorating the heyday of Bubblegum music the CD features tracks from the great catalog of Buddah Records (Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company) which set neatly alongside other ‘60s tracks from The Monkees, Bobby Sherman, Edison Lighthouse, Tommy James, the classic duo of Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart and countless others. Varese puts the cherry on top with sweet-tooth cover art while icing the cake are extensive liner notes by Bill Pitzonka. Both of these meticulously compiled CDs on Varese will provide hours of groovy memories for any ‘60s pop fan. 


I Can Fly - The Very Best Of The Herd

THE HERD - I Can Fly - The Very Best Of The HerdFans of the great Peter Frampton will want to check out I Can Fly - The Very Best Of The Herd, which, although released last year by PA-based Collectables Records is a excellent rediscovery for long time fans. The story of how Frampton rose to become a premier artist in his own right is also a good example of how the “British Invasion” mutated into something completely different. Discovered by Stones’ bassist Bill Wyman, Frampton hooked up with Alan Bown and later on with the songwriting team of Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, a pair expert at conjuring so many of the Top 40 sounds popular on the mid-60s British pop charts. Even though The Herd was a solid band, Frampton was apparently a bit miffed by his sudden fame as a teen idol and decidedly changed for the better forming Humble Pie with the late great Steve Marriott. The Herd was abundantly creative yet fate would soon bring Frampton major success as a player in his own right. 


(Varese Vintage)

THE BEACH BOYS - SurfinÕSome of the earliest recordings ever by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys can be heard on Surfin. The 15 track Varese Vintage CD offers an early glimpse into Wilson’s and the group’s musical nature circa ‘62 and early ‘63. The CD proves that Wilson can just about take total credit for creating a unique cross section between Chuck Berry and vocal groups like The Four Freshmen which came to be surf-rock. Most of the tracks feature Wilson trading off lead vocals with group stalwart Mike Love. The CD features indelible cover art and goes the distance by capturing the band’s early Southern California surf-rock recordings. Featuring voluminous liner notes, the CD is further enriched with several Beach Boys-related tracks from producer Wilson’s childhood buddy Gary Usher, The Four Speeds and The Tri-Five. 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.


Especially For You

DUANE EDDY - Especially For YouGuitar slinger Duane Eddy hit the big time back in 1958 with the release of his debut album Have “Twangy” Guitar Will Travel. While the album was still hot on the charts his original label Jamie Records issued Eddy’s second LP entitled Especially For You in May of ‘59. While his first album consisted primarily of early hit singles including “Rebel Rouser”, Eddy’s second full length was more of an album project boasting a number of Eddy originals composed with songwriter Lee Hazelwood. Recorded in the aftermath of the airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, Especially For You is a moody affair punctuated by brilliant moments of early instrumental rock. Highlights include the set-opening rave-up guitar sounds of “Peter Gunn”, composed by the great Henry Mancini, a stereo version of the album’s single “Yep” and the Eddy-Hazelwood blues-rock classic “Quiniela” (included here with a bonus track of it’s early working version called “St. James”). Just like their reissue of Have “Twangy” Guitar Will Travel, Jamie’s new Especially For You CD is a most noteworthy reissue featuring five unreleased bonus tracks, original artwork and detailed liner notes. Anyone interested in learning about the roots of instrumental rock is advised to hunt down both of Eddy’s superb CDs on Jamie Records. 



(Sony Legacy)

JEFF BECK - Beck-OlaContinuing to mine the extensive vaults of both Columbia and Epic Records, Sony Legacy have come up with a number of recent winners. High on the list are reissues of the first two solo albums from guitar great Jeff Beck. Both Truth (from August ‘68) and Beck-Ola (from July ‘69), first issued on Epic Records, readily established Beck as one of the premier guitar-wielding rock and roll band leaders of the times. Both of Beck’s first two solo outings spotlighted singer Rod Stewart, Ron Wood (Stewart’s soon to be band mate in The Faces on bass) and the late, great keyboard master Nicky Hopkins. Having just left the Yardbirds (his guitar spot being taken over by Jimmy Page), Beck teamed with producer Mickie Most and the net result is some outstanding, cutting edge ‘60s blues rock, pop and (echoing Beck’s future albums) guitar-based instrumentals including “Beck’s Bolero” (written by Jimmy Page). Certified classics well worth revisiting, both CDs feature the original album art and excellent remastering but no liner notes to speak of. 


On The Rocky Road

JUKKA TOLONEN - On The Rocky RoadAlthough hardly known outside Scandinavia, Finnish guitar great Jukka Tolonen has nevertheless carved a unique legacy with a wide range of recordings that many guitarists only dream of making. Starting out as the leader of Tasavallen Presidenti and as the part-time guitarist in the early Wigwam (Finland’s greatest rock group), Tolonen rose to become a respectable guitar figure and solo artist in his own right. His original label, Love Records has chosen wisely on their new double disc CD sampler/retrospective retracing Jukka’s (pronounced you-ka) career from the first TP album in ‘69 straight through to his latest recordings. Ranging in scope from extremely melodic jazz-rock (imagine a modern Django Reinhart sound with a Jan Akkerman flair) to world music (reggae, Mid-Eastern) New Age and instrumental hard rock, Love’s new Tolonen package is a cool intro to this Finnish guitar legend. The 26 cut mostly instrumental set takes in several incredible Tolonen vocal tracks from Radio Romance, an ‘86 album recorded with Wigwam singer-songwriter Jim Pembroke. Also on hand are a pair of tracks from the ‘85 acoustic instrumental disc Tolonen made with Swedish guitar great Coste Apetrea entitled Blue Rain. In addition to the eye-catching artwork, the double disc features a discography and splendid liner notes from Austin’s own, Phil Page. Well worth the time to hunt down for guitar fans.


BBC Live In Concert
(Fuel 2000)

PROCOL HARUM - BBC Live In ConcertL.A.-based Fuel 2000 deserves praises for their continuing BBC archive music series. High on the list of recent arrivals is Fuel’s Procol Harum - BBC Live In Concert CD. Recorded live at The Hippodrome in London on March 22 1974, the disc finds the legendary rock group in stellar form. Looking back, it seems that whatever Harum lost as a result of guitarist Robin Trower’s departure in ‘71, it was more than made up for with a wide pallet of visionary orchestral rock that fused both The Beatles and Beethoven and emerged fully realized on the group’s mid ‘70s albums. Much has been written about the music of Gary Brooker & Keith Reid over the past 35 years. If you agree (like me) that the group brought that unmistakable Harum sound to fruition on albums like Grand Hotel and Exotic Birds And Fruit, then Fuel 2000’s live Procol Harum disc will present you with a rare glimpse of the band at their best. In addition to great sound the CD features good liner notes. Also worth checking out on Fuel 2000 is a recent 10 track Humble Pie CD culled from various BBC Radio 1 and Old Grey Whistle Test radio sessions from ‘69-73. The disc finds founding members Peter Frampton, guitarist-songwriter Steve Marriott, Greg Ridley (bass) and Jerry Shirley (drummer) in great shape on an August 1969 BBC session performing early favorites like “Natural Born Boogie” and “Desperation”. Interesting liner notes and good annotation fill in the missing pieces concerning a slice of Humble Pie’s essential rock history. 


801 Live

801 - 801 LiveGuitar great Phil Manzanera has returned in a big way. First with the release of his 1999 studio album entitled Vozero, and now with the reissue of a hefty part of his back catalog on his self-owned Expression Records. The original guitarist in the glam-rock trendsetting group Roxy Music, Manzanera could do no wrong in the ‘70s. In addition to his debut album, Diamond Head and the album classic Mainstream, with his side group Quiet Sun (both from ‘75), another significant Manzanera moment came later with a critical live album recorded with the meteoric prog-rock supergroup known as 801. Appearing with Manzanera on the subsequent release of 801 Live are keyboard greats Brian Eno and Francis Monkman, Phil’s bandmate in Quiet Sun Bill MacCormick (bass, vocals), Simon Phillips (drums) and Lloyd Watson (slide guitar). A number of classic rock tracks, including Manzanera’s guitar instrumentals “Diamond Head” and “Lagrima”, are rendered as instant classics on 801 Live. Eno’s vocals are in prime form on a stellar 801 cover of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Recorded live in concert in London on Sept. 3, 1976, 801 Live is tastefully reappraised and improved upon with great sound quality, historic liner notes and an abundance of photos and press cuttings. Expression Records has likewise bestowed the same first class reissue treatment upon Manzanera’s other fabulous solo albums from the ‘70s. Check out the recent Expression CD reissues of Primitive Guitars (an all-instrumental set from ‘76 reissued with two bonus tracks), K-Scope (a ‘78 collaboration with Roxy members and prime vocal work from Tim Finn and Neil Finn of Split Enz) and Listen Now (an 801 studio project with Eno, Tim Finn and Lol Creme and Kevin Godley of 10cc). These incredible reissue CDs on Expression reveals that Manzanera was a major player in the course of ‘70s rock and, when taken with the release of 99’s Vozero, assures he will remain an esteemed guitar figure well into the new millennium.


Romantic Warrior
(Columbia / Legacy)

RETURN TO FOREVER - Romantic WarriorThe catalog of Sony Legacy is packed with album classics from just about every major jazz bandleader from the last 40 years. Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, you name it. During the ‘70s Columbia Records was at the forefront of the American jazz fusion scene. One of their timely signings was the great Return To Forever. Bolstered by the great keyboardist Chick Corea, the group’s 1976 album Romantic Warrior was just as great as the group’s ‘75 album on Polydor, No Mystery. Likewise, Romantic Warrior featured great accompaniment from bass great Stanley Clarke, ace thumper Lenny White and a 21-year old guitar wiz Al Di Meola. With a line-up like that in their prime, there’s no way Corea & Co. could miss. Released at the pinnacle of the ‘70s progressive fusion period, Romantic Warrior is RTF at their best. Remastered and sounding better then ever, the CD is neatly repackaged with Corea’s new liner notes. 


Yer' Album

THE JAMES GANG - ÔYer AlbumFrom the start The James Gang established themselves as among the finest rock power trios from the U.S. Formed in 1966 by drummer Jim Fox and Tom Kriss (and later Dale Peters) (bass), the group skyrocketed with the joining of Cleveland guitar great Joe Walsh. The result was the 1969 James Gang album debut, tastefully named Yer’ Album, recorded in NYC and first issued on ABC Dunhill Records. From there on, the group could do no wrong. Two further albums, The James Gang Rides Again and Thirds were issued but, just as they were cresting Walsh exited going on to quite an illustrious solo career. Although the group would go on to record a handful of well-received albums, the spark was gone without Walsh and they finally disbanded in ‘76. In an interesting twist of fate, these new James Gang CD reissues on MCA / Universal Records were produced by the original producer of all three albums Bill Szymczyk.


Mona Bone Jakon

CAT STEVENS - Mona Bone JakonNow part of the stable of Universal Records, A&M Records originally came to prominence thanks to the artistry of singer-songwriters such as the great Cat Stevens. A&M recently upgraded the entire Cat Stevens back catalog and the first three titles to resurface are his A&M debut Mona Bone Jakon, his most popular album Tea For The Tillerman ( both from 1970) and Teaser And The Firecat (1972). Produced by original Yardbirds member Paul Samwell-Smith and featuring great support players like Alun Davies (guitars) keyboardist Rick Wakeman and string arranger Del Newman, the first three A&M albums from Cat Stevens would go on to enchant millions. Even though later albums would do well with long time fans, Stevens wouldn’t top the magic of these three first solo albums on A&M. In addition to newly remastered sound, all three titles feature original album art and lyrics.


The Leaves Are Happening - The Best Of The Leaves

THE LEAVES - The Leaves Are Happening - The Best Of The LeavesNew York-based Sundazed just keeps on reissuing classic pop from the ‘60s. Among the labels most recent additions is in depth spotlight of ‘60s pop pioneers The Leaves. Entitled The Leaves Are Happening - The Best Of The Leaves, the 20 track set reveals just how influenced The Leaves were by the all-powerful mid-60s folk/rock sound of The Byrds. The creation of Jim Pons, a multi-talent pop singer and guitarist who later went on the work with The Turtles and Frank Zappa, The Leaves burst on the scene with the release of their now-classic 45rpm “Hey Joe” which captured the Teenybopper curiosity while making a considerable impact on the pop charts. Having made a considerable impression up their young AM radio loving listeners, it’s too bad that the group couldn’t muster that critical follow up to “Hey Joe”. Sundazed makes the job look easy, including most of the music from the superb ‘66 Leaves debut album, various rare tracks and a 16 page booklet. 


Ideology - The Best Of The Ides Of March

THE IDES OF MARCH - Ideology - The Best Of The Ides Of MarchA strangely unheralded ‘60s pop outfit, The Ides Of March is given the royal Sundazed treatment with a new retrospective entitled Ideology - The Best Of The Ides Of March. As usual, Sundazed packs their IOM set with extensive liner notes and rare pix. The Ides Of March created catchy jangly pop that evoked the sound of ‘60s of The Byrds. The group may have been a short lived pop phenomenon, yet the band’s well crafted songs and eclectic instrumentation makes it a valuable find for collectors of ‘60s pop. These two recent titles demonstrates just why The Sundazed catalog is among the most coveted among vintage rock and rollers. 

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