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One of rock history’s dumbest decisions.

July 26, 2013 Leave a comment

album coer

Originally posted April 17, 2010.  Some edits/additions to content and a new playback link for “I Stand To Blame.”  and, as a bonus, “Colors.”  Note that some original CROW tracks, including “Colors” are available on iTunes, on the COLORS compilation.  Assuming that it is the artist making money from these, please go and support the artist by picking up the compilation!

Crow began life as a Minneapolis bar band called South 40 in the late 60’s, putting out at least two singles and one live LP on the regional Metrobeat label (which I don’t have, although I regret passing on the LP at Cheapo’s a few years back).  They were apparently successful enough that the national record companies came a-knocking.  Nothing unusual about that, except what happened next: they turned down industry heavyweight Atlantic Records in favor of the new label Amaret.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Atlantic, they are the most successful independent label in history.  They were pivotal (along with Motown) in bringing black music to a white audience.  They broke Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding (they distributed Stax Records until he died in ’67), and distributed Cream and a host of other British bands through a distribution agreement with Polydor UK.  Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones specifically signed with them because of the credibility of their roster of black artists.

Bringing this back to Crow (and, it should be noted, paraphrasing the band’s story that I recall from a K-TEL compilation I used to have and stupidly sold), Crow was being actively courted by Atlantic in 1969.  Instead of running headlong for what was their best shot at national stardom, the band’s management felt that Crow would be lost in the sauce at the “large” Atlantic.  (Never mind that Atlantic had the best A&R minds in the business and gobs of money for promotion.)

Crow signed instead with little-known Amaret Records, which proved to be a disaster for the band.  Amaret stands for “AMerican Association of REcorded Talent,” which sounds to me more like a lobbying group than a record label.  They allegedly weren’t much better operationally than nomenclatorially  – with the label unable to master even the basics of distribution, seemingly nobody could find Crow’s LP in a store after seeing the band live.  It’s no surprise, then, that Amaret went bankrupt, with MGM (no great shakes itself at the record business) halfheartedly picking up the pieces. Unfortunately Crow’s demise soon followed.

So remember – if you magically appear in 1969-1970 with a hit song in your hand, and can sign with Atlantic – don’t hesitate.

Crow put out a few singles, three LPs and a greatest hits collection, and their lead singer later put out an album called DAVE WAGNER D/B/A CROW, making history as the first cash-in on a band that wasn’t a success to begin with.  They are most famous, actually, for Black Sabbath covering “Evil Woman” on their first single for Fontana UK – which later appeared on the UK version of their debut album.

Today’s selection, which surely will be the first of several, is called “I Stand To Blame.”  It comes from Crow’s second album, CROW BY CROW, and I reproduce the back cover blurb here for your enjoyment:

“CROW is as a crow…savage!  CROW is tough, hard-driving, fast-paced.  The swift delivery is like a crow lighting on its prey.  The sound is undistorted [a couple of tracks are named here].  CROW can also become cautious and offering…[a couple more track names].  The sound is CROW, a musical informality that is easy to get into and hard to get out of!  “CROW BY CROW” is that total intercommunication of individuals[band member names and instruments], each contributing his talent…that is CROW!”

Bet you ten bucks the “writer” never heard the band.

Though by Cal Schenkel, who did design for Frank Zappa, the cover is also a bit literal for my taste.  I’m sure it’s Amaret’s fault.  The cover of the first album had a motorcycle photo shot in a dark alley – wonder what the A&R guy was trying to make up for.

“I Stand To Blame” should have been a huge hit.  It’s a kind of rolling boogie blues, and the singer has a really deep voice with bravado, except in the chorus, where he sounds more like Janis Joplin here than Howlin’ Wolf.  My inner producer would have made a slight alteration – killing the “Jailhouse Rock” break in the middle.  I can see how that would be entertaining live, but no way should that have made the studio version.  Might try to do an edit at some point.

Anyway, in spite of the inexplicable middle, I think it’s a great song.  If you’re wondering about provenance, I’ve recorded it to digital from my white label promo LP.  Enjoy!

I Stand To Blame: [audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24311235-ecb.mp3]

Colors: [audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24311278-f59.mp3]

 

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Categories: Blues, Rock

Cahit Oben in a junk shop.

June 7, 2012 1 comment

Istanbul is a crazy place, pulsating with life at all hours of the day and night.  The bars and restaurants are friendly, the beer and food are fantastic, and there’s more genuinely impressive historic sites than you can shake a stick at.  Plus, you can take the boat from Europe to Asia for an afternoon coffee or two (no sugar, please).

Of course, I did a bit of digging on my two trips there to date, and particularly this last time, struck some gold.  While most of the bargains were at the higher end of the spectrum (e.g. found really expensive record for moderately expensive price), and prog/psych-ish in musical leanings, I did find some oddball cheaper stuff as well, like a stack of seemingly unplayed Turkish Atlantic pressings of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, etc (Ahmet Ertegun strikes again!), and a copy of a UK Direction Inez & Charlie Foxx single(!).*

Today’s selection, however, is of the native Turkish variety, though it consists of covers of the then-cream of the rock and roll crop.  Cahit Oben, whose career is chronicled in this facebook post (in Turkish), had a string of singles issued from 1965 to 1977, with brief gaps for military service and, seemingly, lack of chart success.  But I’d imagine this one was a moderate hit – his second single consisted of a cover of the Shadows’ “36-24-36” and the Beatles-via-Stones “I Wanna Be Your Man.”  The latter was what grabbed my attention whilst digging through an exceptionally dirty pile of unsleeved records at a junk shop down the hill from our hotel.

Of the two, the Shadows cover may be a better fit for the artist.  While not bad, “I Wanna Be Your Man” was forever hijacked for me by the Stones, and among other things Bill Wyman’s pulsating bass line is sorely missed.

Naturally, the arrangement is much closer to the Beatles version – by intent, I’d imagine, so we shouldn’t penalize them.  Worth noting, though, that Cahit’s version is quite a bit slower.  To their credit, the Cahits(?) do credible impressions of Paul McCartney’s background vocals and Lennon’s Little Richard screams.  The guitar solo is very…surfy…or maybe Johnny Kidd and the Pirates-y.  (Actually Shakin’ All Over would have been a good follow-up for Cahit, though again the bass line may have proved an issue.)  Well worth hearing, however, and a great snapshot of what must have been quite an active early rock scene in Turkey.

I have no idea how actually rare or unrare this is – I’m just happy it still plays, as it isn’t in the best of shape at all.  But I’ve read plenty of digging sites that suggest finding any playable Turkish records at all is an achievement (without citing why – but clearly people bought records in Turkey and loved them to death, one way or the other).

So, assuming that this is the only copy of the single out there in the blogosphere, and not knowing if it ever was issued on CD, I happily bring you both sides side B of Cahit Oben’s 1965 single on Ulaştır Plak (UL.8000), 36-24-36 b/w I Wanna Be Your Man. [note: my divshare died long ago, and this is so obscure I had to re-upload the better half of it myself to Youtube – enjoy!]

*The above were found at the store chronicled in this blog post – fantastic place, friendly staff, and interesting selection.

Categories: Rock

ELO – Showdown

May 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Originally posted April 18, 2010 – updated link to youtube and additional text.

ELO kind of got a bad rap from my parents’ generation (partially related to their disco “Don’t Bring Me Down”…brrruuuuce….later rehabilitated by the New Pornographers) and as a result aren’t really on the radar too much these days.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find a better purveyor of pure pop.

The group was co-founded by Roy Wood, and had partially evolved from his group The Move, who surely will feature again in these pages.  Suffice to say he got a bee in his bonnet for a fusion of classical and rock.  Jeff Lynne, the other founder and creative force, thankfully reduced the strings’ role after Wood left.  You do get the novelty of two cellos and a violinist adding their stylings to the bulk of the songs, though (and later it would be full orchestral arrangements for everything).

Showdown, their second US charting single, is a crafty steal from the Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”   On the clip below they’re kicking it for German TV, which accounts for the lack of applause I guess.  As a bonus, Lynne really betrays his Birmingham (UK)** roots – not just in the pre-song chatter, but in the lyrics as well.

I think the stripped-down atmosphere benefits the song tremendously. It rocks!

**Who else do you know that’s from Birmingham?  Ozzy.  Same slurring and mumbling, though Lynne has possession of his marbles so it’s not as bad.

Categories: Funky, Rock

Going out of my mind!

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Dusty, eat your heart out!  At least that’s what I think when I hear this track, which would have been right in her pre-Memphis wheelhouse – in fact the group shared some musical lineage with Her Dustyness, it would seem.

According to Spectropop, this was the Chantelles last single, was issued in 1968, and, intriguingly, wasn’t issued in the UK.  It’s a shame – the great galloping beat and hooks would surely have given it a great chance at the charts.  As it stands their only chart action was during the Radio London pirate era – this would have been a good choice for THE BOAT THAT ROCKED soundtrack, actually.

As far as the song is concerned: it sounds like the producer got a real rock rhythm section to back the girls up, although I personally think the production is a bit weedy.* If only it had the Phil Spector wall of sound.  Not many guitars, but there is piano during the track, and the organ at the end is pretty fantastic, though not Auger-esque.  If they had let the bass stay out front for the whole track like they do in the intro, and turned down the woodwinds, this could have been a classic and unique hybrid of freakbeat and blue-eyed soul.  As it is, it’s still plenty good.

[audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/15764007-26c.mp3]

download

*Given that this is a German pressing, it could just be mastering – or more precisely, the production WAS weedy, and they fixed it in mastering on the US pressing, but not here.  Just speculation.

Categories: Pop, Rock

The Image – Creation

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

That’s “Creation” by the band The Image, not “The Image” by the band [The] Creation.  And both of them on Hit-Ton!  I can imagine a few of the original buyers were confused.  In fact the “CREATION” text was what made me pause and look in a secondhand shop in the beautiful Swiss capital of Bern.  Coincidentally I later pulled a French copy of “Making Time” from the same stack – that in addition to several other rare psych singles.  Since there isn’t much out there about The Image as a band (other than that Dave Edmunds allegedly played guitar for them), feel free to skip to the last paragraph while I pontificate on who may have originally bought these.

Now, I’d never have found this stuff in Zurich.  Two reasons – one, there are seriously sophisticated music collectors here and I’m sure it would have been snapped up already at the paltry CHF2.50 I paid per piece.  Second reason – it may never have been in Zurich the first place.  There are no signs that this stuff originated in Switzerland (like a record store sticker or owner stamp, and 50/50 split between French and German pressings), so I circumstantially theorize that this is some diplomat’s kid’s collection (Bern being the capital of Switzerland).  “Daddy, can you bring me XXXX from Paris when you’re there?” or something like that, perhaps.  Could be wrong I suppose, maybe there’s some sadly deceased Swiss person out there who had immaculate taste in purchasing records but never played them (since these are all in great shape, other than some of them being dish warped).

This single is a two-sided classic, the topside being like if the Who and the Count Five merged, and the B-side possessing a breakbeat/organ/fuzz guitar loop that would make DJ Shadow jealous.

Creation

download

Heartaches Between Heartaches

download

Categories: Rock

Brilliant But Cancelled: Your Older Brother – Frank Zappa

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Actually “brilliant” is a long stretch but it does kind of remind me of my watching and loving Johnny Staccato.  This was the only entry in the abortive first version of the Schlager Lager – “Your Older Brother.”  (I’m actually fairly proud of the name; I still think it would work for someone somewhere.)  It was an attempt to see if my then-restaurant-writing self could still hack the music shit.  (The short answer was that I needed more seasoning, or maybe just a narrower focus on songs and a few hundred more records.)  I’ll go back and retro in some music links later but here’s the text.  I haven’t changed anything for posterity’s sake, except that you should know that a great many Zappa original mixes are now coming out directly from the Zappa family (including Ruben, Freak Out, and hopefully soon, Hot Rats).

  • your older brother

    Never had an older brother, cool cousin, or shady musician friend to hip you to cool music? Now you do.

    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Frank Zappa

    One of the most notoriously difficult classic rock catalogs to navigate is Frank Zappa’s.  Over the course of a near-thirty-year career, the man (and his sometime group, the Mothers of Invention) released an astonishing number of records, live shows, and modern classical pieces.

    I’m here to tell you that most of it can be skipped.  In fact, unless you become a total Zappa nut (and watch out – the hardcore Zappa fans are just as scary as Deadheads and probably smarter and less stoned), you can ignore nearly all of his post-1976 output.  Have I heard all of it?  No way.  Am I making generalizations?  Sure.  Are there very likely nuggets of genius that I’m missing out on?  Probably.  Should you care?  Not unless you get through everything I’m recommending here.

    First:  The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out! (1966)
    Rock catalogs are not always best started at the beginning, but you can safely do that here.  Unlike a lot of Zappa albums, the songs are concise, immediately catchy, and reasonably across the board in terms of stylistic influences.  If it can be believed, Zappa’s primary musical interests were doo-wop and Stravinsky and 20th century classical.  So you’ve got a genius-level composer who slums it because he wants to, and you end up with things like “Wowie Zowie” which humorously play on the little clichés that defined doo-wop and close harmony groups (the single voice spoken-sung asides and what he calls the “high weaselings” – the falsetto harmony singer who freelances with the rhythm a bit) while using chords that The Coasters never would have dreamed of.  Skip the entire “Return of the Son of the Monster Magnet,” though.

    Alternate entry point: Frank Zappa – Apostrophe (‘) (1974)
    If you don’t like 60’s pop at all, or would rather start your Zappa experience with something a little more modern-sounding or “out,” this is the place to do it.  Half of the album is a suite dealing with a cast of characters ranging from Nanook the Inuit to a priest, and while the “story” doesn’t really go anywhere special, the music is consistently interesting and the lyrics are at least humorous.  The sex obsession so prevalent in his post-60’s work is toned down a bit, too.

    Second:  The Mothers of Invention – Overnite Sensation (1973)
    Escatological, cynical, and brilliant, Overnite Sensation shows the artist indulging his inner 12-year old’s obsession with sex, but using a very adult vocabulary and wordplay.  The music sounds like a little bit less square Steely Dan, with jazz-influenced licks and a really tight band playing some catchy charts.  Just be careful where you listen to “Dinah-Moe Humm,” because if you turn it up too loud at work or, god forbid, sing along, you’ll probably get fired or slapped.  Satire doesn’t seem to be a valid defense these days.

    At this point, you should know what you like and dislike about Zappa, more or less. There are a few more great albums to investigate, though, depending on how far you’re willing to follow him down certain paths.

    60’s Cynicism:  The Mothers of Invention – We’re Only In It For The Money (1968)
    The definitive indictment of American society in the 60s mostly because it was the only one intelligent enough to not fall into the “us versus them” mentality.  Zappa believed himself to be a true counterculturist and was disappointed by the self-proclaimed “hippies” being more interested in getting stoned than effecting any real and lasting change (see “Who Needs The Peace Corps?” and its characterization of hippies as mostly phony, shallow kids).  So, what’s changed?
    NOTE: Early versions of this CD feature a remix/re-record from the 80’s.  Spring for the latest edition.

    60’s Cynicism, junior:  The Mothers of Invention – Absolutely Free (1967)
    Comprised of two suites (one on each side of the original record), it was the precursor to We’re Only In It For The Money’s out and out despair.  The “America Drinks and Goes Home” side was probably the best attack on frattish culture until the Dead Kennedys’ “Terminal Preppie” nearly 15 years later.  If you get the CD, skip the “Big Leg Emma” and “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right” tracks, as they are actually bonus tracks that were strangely placed between the two sides – they have more in common with later Zappa than Absolutely Free.

    Doo-Wop Extravaganza: The Mothers of Invention – Cruising with Ruben and the Jets (1968)
    Literally following one of his favorite idioms to its logical extreme, he and the original Mothers group recorded an entire album of doo-wop songs, including re-arrangements of four tracks from Freak Out!.  Having come out the same year as “We’re Only In It For The Money,” it is the total counterpoint to that album, with Zappa’s satiric instincts manifesting themselves in the arrangements rather than lyrically – while remaining note-perfect compositions, his “high weaselings” and hilariously dry asides differentiate this from real doo-wop, but not by much.
    NOTE: Not available on CD in its original form – Zappa had the drums and bass pointlessly re-recorded in the early 80’s, and that version has persisted through this day.  Bootlegs of the original album circulate, however.

    Pure jazz: Frank Zappa – Hot Rats and Waka/Jawaka (1969 and 1972, respectively)
    Still waiting for my needle drop of Hot Rats (the original mix is not on CD).  But Waka/Jawaka is a pretty fair entry into the instrumental jazz segment, with a country-fied jam thrown in on “It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal.”

    Categories: Irony, Jazz, Rock

    Howling madness.

    May 25, 2011 Leave a comment

    I haven’t done much heavy rock stuff on this blog because I simply don’t listen to that much of it any more.  While my teenage years were dominated by the likes of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, and later college years led to a keen appreciation of certain Judas Priest albums, other than Sabbath and “Communication Breakdown” (which is more freakbeatish than metal) I can’t say much of it gets any spin these days.

    Via the afore-mentioned Judas Priest phase, I came into contact with “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown),” covered on their HELL BENT FOR LEATHER album (N.B. not one of my Priest favorites).  Their version is about as evil as an average Priest song, which is to say cartoonishly, if at all.  But when I sought out the original Fleetwood Mac version for comparison…

    Peter Green was going crazy (predisposition and drugs are a bad combination; ask Brian Wilson) and this is the chronicle of that descent.  It conveys the drug-haze obscured threat of oncoming madness as well as any song from the SABOTAGE album and one ups Iommi in the guitar department.  It sounds crummy on iPod headphones and amazing turned up on a stereo.  Even the B-side, the instrumental “World In Harmony” is a winner – not to mention an uplifting experience (the yang to Manalishi’s yin).

    Of course Fleetwood Mac would go on to evolve into an enhanced version of Buckingham-Nicks, and would thus not tread these paths again.  Peter Green went away, then went solo, and pops up on the international radar occasionally for things like quitting a band named after him.

    The Green Manalishi:

    World In Harmony:

    Categories: Rock