Tuesday, September 29, 2009

various artists -- audible rumbles, vol. 1 (uk, 1996)

stellar compilation issued by the late, lamented phil mcmullen-spearheaded print edition of the ptolemaic terrascope [the online edition run by sir mcmullen is still very active as of this writing], and nearly impossible to find a physical copy of (or, a digital copy of; but, naturally, i've just rectified that).

[out of curiosity, if anyone knows what's happening with the pat thomas-spearheaded (love that word) print edition of the terrascope--which we've seen just one issue of so far--feel free to let me know in the comments. not that i was altogether keen over the issue he did...and, from the looks of my online searches, the interwebs seem to agree, as no one else is discussing, or seems to care of, its whereabouts. at least where i'm looking. regardless, i'd still like to know what's going on with it.]


01 hampton grease band -- live improvisation 1970
02 baby lemonade -- never mind the hype
03 bevis frond -- hard life
04 man -- many are called but few get up (live 1994)
05 das weeth experience -- help me father
06 tom rapp -- wizard of is (radio broadcast 1967)
07 tom rapp -- state u (pre-pearls before swine demo, 1967)
08 outskirts of infinity -- killing floor
09 mooseheart faith stellar groove band -- another time
10 flying saucer attack -- all about dreams
11 angus bidoli -- fantastic trip
12 magic hour -- sunset variations
13 white heaven -- gravity


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bob Gibson & Bob Camp - At the Gate of Horn (Elektra, 1961; Mono)

If you ask Chicagoans about the city's folk music scene during the 1950s and 1960s, many will probably mention the justifiably well-known Old Town School of Folk Music. However, the School at that time was primarily just that: a school. Although OTSFM hosted performances as well, most old-timers with whom I've spoken recall seeing their favorite folk musicians at another, now largely forgotten venue, the Gate of Horn. Opened by Albert Grossman (future manager of Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, and many others), this club was not a hole in the wall; it was a hole in the ground, almost literally. Situated in the basement of the Rice Hotel at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Dearborn Street, the Gate of Horn was a tiny place that could seat only about 100 people, but its popularity among the cognoscenti easily made up for whatever it lacked in size. (To get a good feel for the vibe at the Gate of Horn, I encourage you to read the compelling liner notes by cartoonist/poet Shel Silverstein). Indeed, this club pretty much launched the career of Bob Gibson, a leading figure of the late 1950s-early 1960s folk music movement whose memory nowadays has sadly fallen between the cracks. But for a brief moment in time, he was the standard by which other young male folksingers were judged.


Throughout 1961, Gibson had teamed up with another guitarist and singer, the English-born Hamilton Camp, who went by the name "Bob" in those days. (Camp would go on to a somewhat successful solo music career, penning the song "Pride of Man" that was recast as a psychedelic masterpiece by Quicksilver Messenger Service on their first album). Teamed with bassist Herb Brown, the duo had a residency at the Gate of Horn during this time, and it is from these shows that the tracks that make up this album were recorded. To the jaded 21st-Century listener, these performances may seem solid but hardly revolutionary. Fair enough. However, when examined in the context of what other contemporary white pop musicians were doing, you can understand why folk music like this was considered such a refreshing alternative at the time. Just remember that the first wave of rock 'n' roll was all but dead at this point in American history. In my opinion, At the Gate of Horn is the second-best folk duo recording of this era, behind only Fred Neil and Vince Martin's Tear Down the Walls. I've always been a sucker for good harmony singing, and Gibson and Camp's voices perfectly complement each other throughout the LP.

This album's tracks include many traditional songs that would become standards during the early 1960s folk revival, although they often feature new vocal and/or instrumental arrangements courtesy of Gibson and Camp. Products of their time, the duo included jokes and irreverent banter as part of their act, which sound pretty corny nowadays despite how well they were received by the Gate of Horn's audience. "Skillet Good and Greasy" (a version of an old Uncle Dave Mason tune) and "Old Blue" (a touching ode to a loyal hunting dog) were probably in the repertories of just about every aspiring folk singer at the time. What Gibson and Camp may lack in authenticity, they make up for with craft. "St. Claire's Defeat" (sic) deals with a nearly forgotten incident in American history, 1791's Battle of the Wabash in which General Arthur St. Clair's troops were routed by the combined forces of the Miamis, Shawnees, and Delawares and was the United States' greatest military defeat at the hands of Native Americans. "I'm Gonna Tell God" is a venerable gospel tune most closely associated with a darling of the folk revival, guitarist Brownie McGhee, while "Two In the Middle" seems to be a Gibson-Camp composition based on traditional sources. The stirring "Civil War Trilogy" combines songs of older and more recent vintage concerning the War Between the States, and the driving "Daddy Roll 'Em" is yet another Bob Gibson composition that is indebted to musicians of an earlier era. Both performances, I believe, are the highlights of this LP. "The Thinking Man," "Wayfaring Stranger," and "Chicago Cops" all feature Gibson switching over from twelve-string guitar to banjo. "Thinking Man" is a silly updated version of "John Henry" where the hero is not a steel-drivin' man but rather a modern-day office employee and which allows Gibson and Camp to offer wry critiques of the U.S. educational system, corporate America, and the right-leaning Chicago Tribune newspaper. While probably considered to be hilarious at the time, it is only mildly amusing now but still worth a listen. "Stranger" is a respectful cover of the old folk warhorse that is usually credited to Burl Ives. "Chicago Cops" is another musical exercise in groan-inducing humor, but I can still derive enjoyment from anything that helps expose the Windy City's corrupt law enforcement officials for the thugs that they were and continue to be. As Gibson notes in introducing the piece, "This ballad marks a very historic event in the city of Chicago. A whole bunch of cops got busted. It was a thrill for us all, I tell you. I think it's a terrible shame that it only takes 10,000 crooks to ruin the reputation of one honest cop." Amen. I don't know if it's more comforting or more disconcerting that things haven't changed that much in Chi-town over the last 50 or so years. And we still have a Daley as mayor. Hmmm. But I digress. Things conclude with yet another favorite song of the folkies, "Betty and Dupree." Yeah, you've probably heard countless versions of this tune, but the two Bobs lay down some pretty cool vocal arrangements here that are worth hearing.

This album may not change your life, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and can be viewed in retrospect as a harbinger of the changes that the rest of the 1960s had in store.

If you have not done so already, I strongly encourage you to check out Bob Gibson's Where I'm Bound LP here.

1. Skillet Good and Greasy
2. Old Blue
3. St. Claire's Defeat
4. I'm Gonna Tell God
5. Two in the Middle
6. Civil War Trilogy
a. First Battalion
b. Yes I See
c. Two Brothers
7. Daddy Roll 'Em
8. The Thinking Man
9. Wayfaring Stranger
10. Chicago Cops
11. Betty and Dupree

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Music of Nat Pwe: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar Vol. 3 (Sublime Frequencies, 2007)

First off, I want to thank loyal reader shaundavid for making this album available and sharing it. I intended to post it back in June, but this past summer just got away from me. But hey, better late than never, right? shaun, if you're still out there, I just want let you know that I appreciate this contribution, our correspondence, and all the nice comments you've left on this blog.

I should also add that shaun is a musician himself back in his native Norway. His band, the Jade Set, has recorded an album titled Shiny Triangle, which is definitely worthy of investigation. You can get it here at fellow music blogger j's site. j has composed the authoritative review of this album; so if you're intrigued by what he has written, I think you'll like Shiny Triangle.

Speaking of reviews, I've got one to write for this album. shaun and I both seem to have a fondness for the beautifully primitive, whether it's early American blues and gospel recordings from the 1920s or modern-day music from the most remote corners of the planet. The Sublime Frequencies label, of course, specializes in the latter and provided me with an introduction to the enchantingly bizarre music of Myanmar (or Burma, if you prefer) on the Princess Nicotine - Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar compilation (which I think is still available here on Chocoreve, despite the blog's state of suspended animation since last November). Music of Nat Pwe is even more esoteric. As shaun put it, "Crazy ritual music from Burma. It is some of the most 'out' music I ever heard. I believe Harry Smith would have liked this." I could not agree more. This album was previously available on some other blog, but shaun informs me that the link is now dead. So I'm going to make these recordings available once more for your listening pleasure.


In Burmese, Nat Pwe means something like "ceremony to keep spirits happy." Specifically, a Nat is a spirit or ghost of someone whose life ended in a brutal or calamitous death. These supernatural creatures have the power to bring either good fortune or disaster to those who try to contact them. Nat Pwe is an attempt to stay in the good graces of these spirits and attended by those seeking assistance in personal or professional matters.


The performers in Nat Pwe include members of the orchestra, who all play traditional Burmese instruments, and Kadaw, who are a combination of singer, dancer, story-teller, wizard, and seance medium. Kadaw are believed to be possessed by Nat during the ceremony, making it possible for the audience to communicate with and themselves be possessed by the spirits who inhabit the land of the supernatural.


Audience members work themselves into a frenzy during Nat Pwe by dancing to the intense music of the orchestra. After slipping into a trance caused by their exertion, they are able to achieve communion with the spirits that the Kadaw channel into the performance area. Trying to describe what this music sounds like to someone who has never heard it is like trying to describe Burmese cuisine to someone who has never tasted it. So I won't even try. Suffice it to say, this is like nothing you have heard before. You've got to love some of the translated titles of these tracks: "Mother Jhan who Curses the People," "Business is Better Now Because of the Nats," and "Father Kyaw the Drunk Nat" all give you a general idea of why the Burmese try to communicate with these spirits in the first place.


One of the unfortunate effects of globalism is the destruction of complex folkways such as Nat Pwe. Entertainment corporations would rather have us all listening to Miley Cyrus, Green Day, and other non-talents imposed upon us from the top-down. It's sad to say, but the way things are headed, music like this from Myanmar probably won't be around much longer, so marvel at it while you can. Not that I endorse the military junta that rules the country, but ironically, the political isolation of Myanmar has also promoted the cultural isolation of the Burmese people, which, in turn, has helped them resist the scourge of the international corporate media. Despite the hardships that are inflicted on the Burmese people by their repressive government, the junta has at least helped them preserve their heritage from too many outside and non-organic influences.

1. Shwe Ku Ni Pwe Daw - Sein Moota
2. Master of the Nine Cities - Bo Hein & Bo Mein
3. Di Kanar Manduit - Bobadin
4. Mother Jhan who Curses the People - Bobadin
5. Come to Taungbyone - Sein Moota
6. Ahmay Jhan - Nilar Lawin
7. Taungbyone Min Lay - Sein Moota
8. Pay Kyaw Chit Tae Doe - Sein Moota
9. Business is Better Now Because of the Nats - Bobadin
10. Small Nat Celebration in Our Neighbourhood - Sein Moota
11. Nat Pwe - Bobadin
12. Father Kyaw the Drunk Nat - U Kyaw Nyunt
13. Yo-Yar Nat Pwe - Maung Maw
14. Kyame Nat Kadaw - Nilar Lawin
15. Min Hnitpar Pwe Taw - Kyaw Thet Aung
16. Khuni Nan Ka Kyaw - Nilar Lawin

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bobby Bland - I Pity the Fool / The Duke Recordings, Vol. 1 (MCA, 1992)

A quick glance through the blogosphere revealed that, amazingly, this series of of Bobby Bland's complete recorded works for Duke Records doesn't seem to be posted anywhere else. So, I've decided to take matters into my own hands and do something about it by posting Volume One for your listening pleasure. Volumes Two and Three will appear sometime in the future.

Bobby Bland is one of those musicians who defies easy categorization. He's not really a blues singer, nor is he an R&B artist nor a soul musician. I guess you could say that he's all of the above but also notable for bringing a strong gospel influence - along with Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, of course - to African-American popular music. Veteran music critic Dave Marsh may have provided the best description of Bland in the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide by rhetorically asking: "The black Sinatra?" Regardless of how he is classified, he never really got his just due from white blues enthusiasts because he is a singer and not a guitarist, which is a pity. Don Snowden's compelling accompanying booklet notes do a good job of making this point, and I have scanned them for your perusal.

This collection's first five tracks, all recorded in Memphis in 1952 before the singer's stint in the Army, find Bland in search of a distinctive style. Not that they're bad, but it is obvious that his signature sound was still a work in progress at this point. Upon Bland's return to civilian life in 1955, Duke Records had been purchased by Don Robey, and recording sessions were relocated to Houston. As Snowden points out, this move led to the development of a unique synthesis of big band Texas blues a la T-Bone Walker and Bland's Beale Street-derived vocal phrasings. With the magnificent "It's My Life Baby" (and some nice understated guitar work by Roy Gaines) the characteristic Bobby "Blue" Bland sound emerges, perhaps a bit grittier than subsequent releases, but easily identifiable nonetheless. "Lost Lovers Blues," "Honey Bee," and "Time Out" were recorded at the same session and are cut from a similar cloth. The singer's studio dates in 1956 demonstrate a continuing refinement of his sound as demonstrated by "A Million Miles from Nowhere," both versions of "You or None," "I Woke Up Screaming," "I Can't Put You Down Baby," "You've Got Bad Intentions," "I Don't Believe," and "I Learned My Lesson," which all feature the scintillating guitar of the criminally underappreciated Clarence Holloman. The recordings from 1957 start off with "Don't Want No Woman" (expertly covered by Magic Sam on the legendary West Side Soul LP), one of the few examples of Bland doing a straight-ahead blues number with the traditional AAB verse structure. At one point, Holloman's fiery guitar leads prompts the singer to exclaim, "Look out, Clarence!" Bland matches his instrumental intensity with some equally potent vocals on "I Smell Trouble," while "Sometime Tomorrow" and "Farther Up the Road" (better known as "Further on Up the Road") features Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf associate Pat Hare on guitar, who was famous for his use of distortion and infamous for murdering a woman in a domestic dispute. Disc One closes on a strong note with the excellent "Teach Me (How to Love You)" with the redoubtable Holloman resuming lead guitar duties.


Disc Two picks up where Disc One left off in 1957 and doesn't miss a beat. "Bobby's Blues," "Loan Me a Helping Hand," and "You Got Me (Where You Want Me)" are as good as anything in Bland's magnificent discography. 1958 starts out with with the singer displaying his crooning skills on "Last Night," but soon finds him back in harder-edged territory on "Little Boy Blue." For all you completists out there, the morose "I Lost Sight of the World" appears in both its LP and single versions, with the latter featuring a flute added to the mix. The supply of excellent guitarists who were teamed with Bland was seemingly endless, with Wayne Bennett ably filling these shoes on the 1958 recordings and his playing on "You Did Me Wrong" perhaps being the highlight. The gospel-tinged "I'm Not Ashamed" and "Wishing Well" gets the material from 1959-1960 off to a good start and finds Holloman back on guitar, while the elegant "Is It Real?", "That's Why," "Hold Me Tenderly," and "Someday" display Bland at his most sophisticated yet. With the exception of "Close to Me" (another fine gospel-derived number), the remainder of Disc Two's tracks all appeared on the album many consider to be Bland's masterpiece, Two Steps from the Blues, and mostly feature the guitar playing of Bennett. The reedy organ on "I'll Take Care of You" perfectly complements the singer's yearning vocals, while both "Cry Cry Cry" and "I Pity the Fool" demonstrate the effectiveness of letting a song build up to an emotional climax. "Lead Me On" is more crooning elegance with its sighing strings and tasteful orchestration, and "I've Been Wrong So Long" is another showcase for axeman Bennett to strut his stuff. "Two Steps from the Blues" is perhaps the song that the aforementioned Dave Marsh had in mind when comparing Bobby "Blue" Bland to Frank Sinatra and makes for great make out music, believe me. And just when you think Bland had devoted himself completely to such mellow material, along comes the rocking "Don't Cry No More," which shows listeners that he still knew how to handle a groove. Special mention should be made for percussionist John "Jabo" Starks' outstanding drum work on this number. "You cried me a river! You cried me a sea! Now I believe without a doubt that you really, really, really love me!" 'Nuff said.

Now stop reading about this wonderful music, and listen to it.


Turn on Your Love Light / The Duke Recordings Vol. 2
available here.
That Did It! / The Duke Recordings Vol. 3 available here.

Disc 1

1. I.O.U. Blues
2. Lovin' Blues
3. No Blow No Show
4. Wise Man's Blues
5. Army Blues
6. It's My Life Baby
7. Lost Lovers Blues
8. Honey Bee
9. Time Out
10. You or None (alternate take)
11. A Million Miles from Nowhere
12. You or None
13. I Woke Up Screaming
14. I Can't Put You Down Baby
15. You've Got Bad Intentions
16. I Don't Believe
17. I Learned My Lesson
18. Don't Want No Woman
19. I Smell Trouble
20. Sometime Tomorrow
21. Farther Up the Road
22. Teach Me (How to Love You)

Disc 2

1. Bobby's Blues
2. Loan Me a Helping Hand
3. You Got Me (Where You Want Me)
4. Last Night
5. Little Boy Blue
6. I Lost Sight of the World (LP version)
7. You Did Me Wrong
8. I Lost Sight of the World (single version)
9. I'm Not Ashamed
10. Wishing Well
11. Is It Real?
12. That's Why
13. Hold Me Tenderly
14. Someday
15. I'll Take Care of You
16. Cry, Cry, Cry
17. Lead Me On
18. I've Been Wrong So Long
19. I Pity the Fool
20. Close to You
21. Two Steps from the Blues
22. Don't Cry No More

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Mississippi Blues 1927-1940 (Origin Jazz Library, 1968)

Prior to Yazoo and Document, Origin Jazz Library was the label for prewar blues LPs. Founded by old-time record collectors Bill Givens and Pete Whelan (who, in turn, established 78 Quarterly magazine, a Record Fiend favorite), the historical importance of their reissues cannot be overstated. Although a lot of people point to Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music albums on Folkways as the means by which white guys were first exposed to blues musicians from the 1920s and 1930s, OJL was really the first label to present prewar blues as a genre in its own right and not just as a type of folk music. However, the very name of this label reveals the prewar jazz record collecting background from which its founders came. Well, with 1920s and 1930s blues, one has to start somewhere, I suppose. It seems as though there is always some other style of music that serves as a gateway.


If you're into this kind of music, you probably already have these performances on one compilation or another. I decided to post this LP anyway because it is such a solid collection of excellent songs. I've included scans of blues scholar David Evans' accompanying notes (well written if somewhat dated), which may be the primary item of interest for some downloaders. Things get underway with Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White's vintage train blues, "The Panama Limited" and "Streamline Special" which neatly bookend his prewar recording career. Raspy-voiced Charlie Patton disciple Willie Brown contributes to the collection with his only two extant commercially-released sides, "Future Blues" (check out his amazing bass string snapping technique) and the more subdued "M & O Blues." It's a shame that he left us with such a scant recorded legacy. The mysterious Kid Bailey was another bluesman who was clearly in the orbit of Charlie Patton. Indeed, some blues researchers have dismissed his recordings as inept versions of songs from his mentor's repertory, while others have speculated that his name was merely a pseudonym for Willie Brown. That doesn't really matter to me; I just like the music. Although "Mississippi Bottom" certainly has its merits, "Rowdy Blues" is one of my all-time favorite prewar blues songs: "Ain't no use a-weepin' and there ain't no need to cryin', because you got a home just as long as I got mine." Powerful stuff. Although Robert Wilkins was primarily associated with the Memphis blues scene, geographically-speaking he does belong on this comp what with his northern Mississippi origins. Despite his longevity and obvious talent, this guy still hasn't received the accolades that he rightfully deserves, and I don't know why. "That's No Way to Get Along" is an emotionally resonant masterpiece, and "I Do Blues" isn't too shabby, either. When listened to in contrast with the other musicians on this compilation, one can more easily understand why many original prewar blues record collectors were not sure whether Mississippi John Hurt was black or white before his eventual rediscovery. I always considered him to be more a songster than a bluesman. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as listening to the magnificent "Got the Blues, Can't be Satisfied" and the ballad "Louis Collins" will readily demonstrate. William Harris was another artist about whom we know very little. His recorded output suggests that he was a musician who occupied the nebulous territory between proto-blues and Delta blues, with "Hot Time Blues" (a variant of the "Mama Don't Allow" theme) an example of the former and the rhythmically intense "Bullfrog Blues" (popularized by Canned Heat) an example of the latter. What can I possibly add to the body of knowledge concerning Nehemiah "Skip" James? Nothing, really. Suffice it to say that "If You Haven't Got Any Hay" is a sublime piano piece and "Hard Time Killin' Floor" is about as harrowing as the blues can get. Last but not least, this album closes with Edward James "Son" House's two-part "Preachin' the Blues" wherein he relates how the "whiskey and women would not let him pray." This is another unparalleled performance in terms of raw emotional power, and I can think of few examples that better illustrate an artist in conflict with his inner demons.


1. The Panama Limited - Bukka White
2. Special Streamline - Bukka White
3. Future Blues - Willie Brown
4. M & O Blues - Willie Brown
5. Mississippi Bottom Blues - Kid Bailey
6. Rowdy Blues - Kid Bailey
7. That's No Way to Get Along - Robert Wilkins
8. I Do Blues - Robert Wilkins
9. Got the Blues, Can't be Satisfied - Mississippi John Hurt
10. Louis Collins - Mississippi John Hurt
11. Bullfrog Blues - William Harris
12. Hot Time Blues - William Harris
13. If You Haven't Any Hay, Get on Down the Road - Skip James
14. Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues - Skip James
15. Preachin' the Blues Pt. 1 - Son House
16. Preachin' the Blues Pt. 2 - Son House

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Moby Grape - Mono Version (Columbia, 1967)

Yeah, I know. You're probably all familiar with these guys. You've probably heard this album, too, and have it in your collection in one format or another. So why am I posting this? Well, for one thing, Moby Grape was the greatest American rock 'n' roll band of all time in my not-so-humble opinion. Jerry Miller, Don Stevenson, Skip Spence, Peter Lewis, and Bob Mosley could collectively do just about anything and do it well. They embodied the musical melting pot of the 1960s better than anyone else, but things just never worked out for them. There are countless writings out there that can tell you the story of this group better than I can at this particular moment. If you're not familiar with their tale, go do some research and enlighten yourself. But I digress. I'm posting this album because I can't let Record Fiend exist without there being at least one Moby Grape album featured somewhere within the pages of this blog. I love them that much. The problem is that pretty much everything they ever recorded, including legitimate releases and live bootlegs, has already been posted on other blogs. However, I've never seen a mono version of their magnificent debut album out there in the blogosphere, so here you go.


Unlike many mono versions of albums by British bands from the 1960s that featured radically different mixes than those in stereo, the monaural version of Moby Grape was typical of other contemporary American releases in that it was pretty much indistinguishable from its two-channel counterpart if played on a stereo sound system. The intros and outros of the songs were the same, both mixes featured the same instrumentation, there was no difference in the vocal arrangements, etc. The significance of the mono version can be gleaned from this excerpt from David Fricke's booklet notes for the long-deleted Vintage compilation that came out in 1993:
"(Producer) David Rubinson also discovered, to his dismay, that when his stereo mix of the album was played back in mono, the widescreen panning effect of the vocal harmonies was canceled out, particularly on "Omaha" and "Indifference." This was especially problematic given the large number of people who then listened to FM stereo underground rock stations on mono radios. Anyone who only heard the Grape on the radio at the time probably never heard the band in its true vocal glory."
If only those underground FM stations had played cuts from the monaural version of this album...Well, listening to this masterpiece in glorious single-channel sound will give you an idea of what could have been, or rather what should have been.


In case you didn't already know, every song on this album is a winner. There are the pounding rockers "Hey Grandma" (a clever ode to lust for hippie chicks), "Fall on You" (with those absolutely superb vocal harmonies that no one can do anymore), "Omaha" (a genuine psychedelic nugget), "Changes" (a true anthem for the heady 1960s if ever there was one), and, of course, "Indifference" (gloriously transcendent). Then you've got Bob Mosley's blue-eyed soul pieces like "Mr. Blues" and "Come In the Morning" as well as his bizarrely beautiful "Lazy Me." The exquisite "8:05", "Someday," and "Sitting by the Window" are all rare examples of 1960s ballads that don't venture into countercultural mush territory, whereas "Ain't No Use" points to the country direction the Grape would more strongly embrace on Truly Fine Citizen. And finally, side one's closing track, "Naked, If I Want To," says more in 56 seconds than most concept albums do in 45 minutes.

The funny thing is that this isn't even my favorite Moby Grape album. (If push came to shove, it would have to be the criminally underrated Moby Grape '69). Make no mistake; this is definitely a five-star LP. My only real quibble is the less-than-state-of-the-art production standards. Columbia still really didn't know how properly to record rock albums at this time, and it shows in the final mix, mono or stereo. I always thought this LP didn't have as much bottom as it should have had. Other than on "Changes," Mosley's bass just doesn't have a strong enough presence on most tracks. The other item worth mentioning is the cover photo. Later pressings of Moby Grape featured an edited version with the American flag next to Skip Spence completely blacked out. Here it is only somewhat obscured by a red glaze. Anyone out there know the story behind this? Anyway, hook up your MP3 player to your dad's old transistor radio if you want to hear what these songs should have sounded like on the underground airwaves back in the day.


1. Hey Grandma
2. Mr. Blues

3. Fall on You

4. 8:05

5. Come in the Morning

6. Omaha

7. Naked, If I Want To

8. Someday

9. Ain't No Use

10. Sitting by the Window

11. Changes

12. Lazy Me

13. Indifference

60,000,000 Buffalo - Nevada Jukebox (Atco, 1972)

Upon the demise of the 1960s, it was not uncommon for the folkies of that decade to embrace the rural rock movement of the early 1970s. That is, if they hadn't already picked up electric instruments and started rockin' after the release of Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home in 1965. In the case of Judy Roderick, who had put out two highly regarded mostly acoustic albums for Columbia and Vanguard in the mid-1960s, Nevada Jukebox was the product of a 1971 recording session with her new group, 60,000,000 Buffalo. Her signature voice was still there, although years of woodshedding in her adopted home state of Colorado throughout the latter half of the 1960s clearly had an effect on her delivery, which showed the influence of Janis Joplin and other female vocalists of similar ilk. The album photography shows her looking somewhat like a less appealing Bonnie Bramlett along with a man who is probably either bassist Brent Williamson or guitarist Don DeBacker. What a pity that the ravages of living through the 1960s deprived Roderick of her elfin beauty that was readily apparent on the cover of her Woman Blue LP.

The story behind the group's name is unclear. Perhaps it has something to do with the number of buffalo that lived on the North American continent prior to their near extinction brought about by the colonization of white people. I've read that some folks compare this group with another Colorado band, Zephyr (which featured a very young Tommy Bolin on lead guitar). But other than the superficial fact that the two outfits both featured female lead vocalists (Zephyr's was the caterwauling Candice Givens), I don't think they have much in common in regard to music. While Zephyr was very much a rock and blooze band, Roderick's folk background clearly had a strong influence on 60,000,000 Buffalo's more rootsy sound.


Most of the album's songs were written by Roderick and her husband William Ashford. The opening cut, the brief "Royalty Rag" segues into the cowbell-laden and quintessentially early 1970s ode to blow, "Cocaine Shuffle." "Canyon Persuasion" is a pleasant laid back piece featuring Roderick's strummed acoustic guitar and DeBacker's Leslie speaker-amplified electric instrument. "Lovely Ladies" is more of an all-out rocker with some somewhat herky-jerky time signatures, while "Denver Dame" may very well be an autobiographical piece that deals with Roderick's life experiences in Colorado. The traditional "Maid of Constant Sorrow" is definitely Nevada Jukebox's highlight and, in fact, just might be the heaviest version of this particular song ever committed to wax. Folk rock was a dying breed by the time this album came out, but bands like this weren't going to let the genre go down without a fight. Seriously, this rendition of this venerable warhorse fuckin' rocks, especially with the outstanding guitar interplay between Roderick and DeBacker. "Shake It and Break It" is a decent cover of a song originally done by prewar Delta blues legend Charlie Patton and features the boys in the band - DeBacker and Williamson - handling the lead vocal duties. More early 1970s vibes and plenty of cowbell are to be found on the rock-meets-folk-meets-country-meets-funk piece "Callin' You Down." After a fine arrangement of the traditional "Country Girl Again," there is some really nice slide guitar work on "American Money Blues." The closer, "Do What I Tell Me To," is a tune in the same bag as "Cocaine Shuffle" and "Callin' You Down" - definitely a product of its time.

While no masterpiece, you could definitely find worse ways to spend 40 minutes of your life other than listening to Nevada Jukebox. Check it out.

1. Royalty Rag/Cocaine Shuffle
2. Canyon Persuasion
3. Lovely Ladies
4. Denver Dame
5. Maid of Constant Sorrow
6. Shake It & Break It
7. Callin' You Down
8. Country Girl Again
9. American Money Blues
10. Do What I Tell Me To