Tuesday, June 25, 2013

CD Preview: Steve Hillage's Live In England 1979

Guitarist Steve Hillage is one of the most influential and innovative musicians in the prog-rock universe. Since his late 1960s and early '70s work with bands like Egg, Khan, and Gong to his ground-breaking, acclaimed solo albums like 1975's Fish Rising and 1977's Motivation Radio and his ongoing musical project System 7, Hillage has continued to push the boundaries of rock music.

On July 16, 2013 Gonzo MultiMedia UK will release Hillage's Live In England 1979, a two-disc CD/DVD set that captures an incredible performance by the Steve Hillage Band. The line-up of Hillage's band at the time included guitarist Dave Stewart (his former bandmate in Egg and Khan), bassist John McKenzie, drummer Andy Anderson, and synthesizer-wrangler Miquette Giraudy, the same musicians that recorded live and studio tracks that were used for Hillage's 1979 album Live Herald.

Live In England 1979 includes performances of songs like "Unidentified Flying Being" (from Hillage's 1978 album Green); covers of George Harrison's "It's All Too Much" and the Donavan hit "Hurdy Gurdy Man" from 1976's L; and "The Salmon Song" from Fish Rising. Bonus tracks added to the CD include a live 1977 performances of "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando" and "Electrick Gypsies," both recorded with the L album tour line-up. The DVD includes short promo videos for "Radio" and "Light In The Sky" from Motivation Radio as well as recent in-depth interviews with Hillage and Miquette Giraudy.

Hillage has been busy lately writing new rock-oriented material for a possible 2014 Steve Hillage Band album but, first, his long-running outfit System 7 and Japanese avant-garde rockers Rovo will be releasing a joint album in September 2013, samples of which can be heard on the project's Bandcamp page. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CD Review: Duane Allman's Skydog box set

The first time Duane Allman’s name ever appeared on a nationally released album, the occasion was the 1967 Liberty Records debut by Hour Glass, a band featuring both Duane and younger brother Gregg Allman — names that meant little then, but ones which would rise to the ranks of rock’s best-known within a mere few years. And, speaking of a mere few years . . . in retrospect, there’s something almost eerily prophetic about the band’s name. Duane Allman’s brief and brilliant career can be likened to that of a sand-filled timepiece, impassively ticking off a small and finite number of minutes.

Indeed, the release of Hour Glass’s less-than-auspicious debut album in October of 1967 marked the beginning of Duane’s final four years. Within that brief period, he would become a blues guitar hero, the Allman Brothers Band would emerge under his leadership to record a small but essential body of work (including one of rock’s finest live albums), and he would lose his life in a motorcycle accident, just short of his 25th birthday, in the Allmans’ adopted hometown of Macon, Georgia.

Of course, Duane lives on through his work—his reputation is, in fact, bigger than life. An entire new generation of Allman Brothers fans has come of age since then, many of whom have heard only a fraction of Duane’s sprawling musical legacy. Serious students of the guitarist—and they are legion—are aware of his role in dozens of late ’60s/early ’70s recordings made predominantly in Muscle Shoals, Ala., but a broad overview of his session work has never been made available in one package until now.

Duane Allman's Skydog

Rounder Records’ Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective is a seven-disc set with extensive liner notes detailing the legendary guitarist’s fast-rising fame amid his dwindling days. Numerous tracks contained here were previously made available on a pair of Duane Allman anthologies and the Allman Brothers’ box set Dreams; some of the cuts on which Duane appeared — by such notables as Boz Scaggs, Wilson Pickett, Ronnie Hawkins and Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett — are still in print. The box does, however, comprise an impressive one-stop, and it contains hard-to-find and previously unreleased tracks. Among them are the very first known recordings from Duane and Gregg in their fledgling band the Escorts, plus demos from transitional band the Allman Joys that, until now, have remained unheard by most.

These formative recordings, while they lack finesse and polish, illustrate the brothers’ raw talent as well as the range of musical influences that would soon coalesce in the proto-Southern rock sound of the Allman Brothers. In addition to the more obvious blues and R&B workouts are garage- and psych-styled numbers including the early Gregg Allman composition “Gotta Get Away” and a version of “Spoonful.” The Allman Joys’ tautly performed take on the Willie Dixon-penned blues standard, notably produced by music-biz legend John D. Loudermilk, is more attuned to the style of, say, the Blues Magoos than the moody, amped-up “Spoonful” served by Cream, whose version had not yet been released at the time of this session.

The straight-ahead covers of songs by seminal English blues-rockers the Yardbirds indicate that Duane was still several steps away from transforming his influences into a more original and personal style. The oldest tracks, riddled with signs of audio decay, are important mainly as historical documents, featuring performances that rarely, if ever, accomplish the remarkable. What is remarkable, though, is how quickly these early efforts morphed into muscular, though still somewhat derivative, examples of late ’60s American rock and soul.

While the brothers Allman were prevented from exploring their desired, still-unfolding blues-rock fusion on their Hour Glass albums, it is on these sessions that they began seriously honing their studio chops, and they play like they mean business in spite of the imposed stylistic restraints. Their medley of B.B. King numbers — which remained unreleased for many years — demonstrates how fully Duane had absorbed the blues vocabulary into his lead guitar work, which rings with authenticity and zeal on this track, a heartfelt tribute to a key musical inspiration.


The Allman Brothers Band

Had the brothers intended to head in a commercial soul-pop direction — a credible enough choice in light of their love for R&B and Duane’s later association with the Muscle Shoals and Memphis studio scenes — they couldn’t have done much better than the propulsive stomper “Power of Love,” sung by Gregg with gritty gusto and written by the storied Southern songwriting duo of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham (perhaps best-known for the Box Tops’ “Cry Like a Baby”).

If they had wanted to be remembered as laughable psychedelic pseudo-jazzers, though, they couldn’t have hit the bull’s-eye any more perfectly than they did on their sitar-stained instrumental cover of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” — an abomination that one can only suppose was the imaginary brainstorm of some cigar-puffing record company man. Such is the dues-paying flux that the brothers underwent while laying groundwork for the Allman Brothers Band.

While the Allmans’ history has been laid out on previous collections, the band’s gestation and vital first phase are thoroughly revisited here, and the plentiful sampling of Duane’s session recordings ups the ante considerably. However, it narrows the appeal of the exhaustive and pricey ($140) package to only those listeners who have more than a casual interest in the soulful and rootsy Southern sounds with which Skydog is stuffed. Those with a collector’s bent will revel in the obscure oddities scattered throughout, though it must be said that occasional selections will tax even fans who are most fascinated by the era.

The most obvious audience for this almost obsessively comprehensive package, then, is a no-brainer: guitar players. Initially, the Skydog box set is being produced in a run of 10,000 numbered copies, and if no one were allowed to buy it except card-carrying six-string slingers, there’d be no problem moving the inventory. There are few musicians, living or dead, who can claim to have influenced as many guitarists as Duane Allman has done, most of them post-mortem. Two musicians who have felt Duane’s tug agreed to share their thoughts about the great bluesman: Nashville native Pat Murphy and Scott Rath, who landed in Music City via Boston and L.A.


Pat Murphy & Scott Rath

The fact that neither one’s name is probably familiar merely testifies to the wealth of under-sung musical talent in and around Nashville (where Duane Allman himself was born and would put in time as a working-stiff musician gigging at school dances throughout the greater Middle Tennessee region). Both men are accomplished players; Rath, in fact, worked with power-trio royalty Tim Bogert (Beck, Bogert & Appice; Cactus) and Cream co-founder Ginger Baker, and also served a brief stint in the band of Warren Zevon. Murphy, a tasteful player who by choice maintains a somewhat low profile, has nonetheless made his presence known within the Nashville blues community. He can also be heard on the Internet, where one of his well-realized homemade tracks was spotted and subsequently included in the ongoing “Editor Boy’s Big Eight” feature in Guitar Player magazine. His YouTube channel (youtube.com/murff625) has had more than 100,000 views, and his fans span the globe.

Murphy’s forte is in his deeply felt, restrained style, while Rath is more prone to engaging in full-on, careening slideplay in the upper reaches of the fretboard. What the two musicians do have in common are a remnant of Allman’s bluesman mojo as well a vital relationship with their instruments. Rath and Murphy, as was Allman, are committed players who aren’t likely to stray far from a guitar for more than a modest duration. Both are longtime admirers of the Allman Brothers Band who heard them soon after the release of their self-titled 1969 debut (included in its entirety on Skydog). Rath still waxes rhapsodic about the day he was forever Allmanized by a friend’s brother who owned the record.

“We put it on and my life changed at that point. The instrumental that starts it — ‘Don’t Want You No More’ — leads into possibly one of the greatest blues guitar licks of all time, at the beginning of ‘It’s Not My Cross to Bear,’ and then Gregg’s voice comes in,” recalls Rath. “I was slayed, and still am every time I hear that song.”

Murphy relates a story about being a youngster who had begun hearing about “the blues” but didn’t understand what they were. “I was just a kid, just past the Beatles and the Monkees. [I thought], ‘I must know what this “blues” is about.’” Soon thereafter, he happened to hear two consecutive tracks sizzle through a small radio: Derek and the Dominos’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” featuring Duane on slide, and “Mean Town Blues” by Johnny Winter, the other premier slide player at the time. “I knew this was the blues, without anyone saying that it was,” remembers Murphy. “Duane spoke the language.”

Separated by well over a thousand miles, both witnessed Duane onstage in late 1970. Murphy vividly recalls attending an Allman Brothers show at Vanderbilt University on October 30. “I remember Duane, I remember the slide . . . it was mesmerizing,” he says.

Just over a month later, on Dec. 2, Rath was fortunate enough to be in Syracuse, New York for one of the only two shows at which Duane joined Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominoes, reprising the invaluable role he played on the sessions for the still-classic Layla album. Perhaps only a guitarist who’s a dedicated Duane devotee can articulate the qualities that made him so exceptional, and Rath is just such a disciple.

“Duane had the phrasing and soul of the best blues players from Chicago, but with the inventiveness of guys like Jeff Beck,” he explains, “so he basically grew up understanding the nuances of the blues and how a single note or phrase can tell a story or let you feel the blues. Listen to ‘I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town’ [included on Skydog, drawn from Live at Ludlow Garage: 1970] or the B.B. King medley by the Hour Glass, and you will hear blues guitar at its finest.”

Rath also notes Allman’s “melodic sense,” which he shared with bandmate Dickey Betts, but which, in Allman’s hands, took sometimes astounding, sometimes reckless liberties. “[Duane] was known to listen to [progressive jazz masters] Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, and his sense of abandon shows, but with melody.” Murphy points out that Duane’s tonal vocabulary hovered near the simple handful of notes in the pentatonic scale — basically, a blues mode — and that his playing could at times lack precision, be that due to unchecked passion or intoxication, but he enthusiastically agrees with Rath’s assessment of Allman’s knack for invention.

“He might put himself out on a limb, but he went for it,” says Murphy. “Dickey Betts might have been the better technician, but he played it kind of safe—he’s not going ‘out there.’ Duane did go for it, every single time.”

Allman In The Studio & On Stage

Numerous examples of these spirited improvisations can be heard on the Skydog set, though the majority are found on the Allmans’ tracks — particularly the live ones — and culled from select studio dates on which Duane was given ample room to stretch out. Numbering among these are the landmark Layla sessions and the memorable Boz Scaggs track “Loan Me a Dime,” a recording that helped to further cement Duane’s legend as a blues master. After a couple of rounds of impassioned solos earlier in the song, the guitarist revs up the energy in tandem with Muscle Shoals session drummer Roger Hawkins and is only beginning to peak at the 13-minute mark, where the track fades — despite audible evidence that the band was clearly not done playing.

No such premature endings to contend with on At Fillmore East, the unbeatable double live set that contains several performances clocking in at double digits (producer Tom Dowd, in fact, was forced to edit certain tracks, so lengthy were some of the band’s live forays). At Fillmore East stands as testament to the fact that the Allman Brothers were entirely in their element on the stage, that they could find ways to keep extended performances exciting, and that there was something seemingly magical about their Fillmore shows in particular. The recording, which commonly resides on best-album lists, inspired many a musician, Scott Rath among them.

“In 1970 I was playing slide guitar and had learned most of the songs on the Fillmore album the best I could,” says Rath, who routinely uses the same kind of Coricidin glass medicine bottles with which Duane first played slide due to the initial lack of a “real” one — serendipitously defining his smooth-fretting sound in the process. “From beginning to end, with the long jams included, [At Fillmore East] has been the inspiration for almost every guitar player I know,” he concludes. “Possibly the greatest live album ever.”

Pat Murphy echoes Rath’s sentiment almost verbatim, not even using the word “possibly” to qualify the claim. “The greatest live album ever recorded,” Murphy simply states, referring to the album as the one upon which he modeled his no-nonsense approach to playing music. “There was zero showbiz and almost no stage talk — the music was an entire piece.” 

Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, with its overarching view of its subject, can’t boast the cohesiveness of a live Allmans document. The story it tells may be a more detailed and fragmented one than the typical Allman Brothers fan needs to hear, but it’s a tale that unquestionably deserves to be told. Given Duane Allman’s musical and historical significance, the 129 tracks on Skydog are simply too important — and most of the time, too good — to let slide. [CD Review by Steve Morley]


Dedicated to the memory of Bobby Rance, another guitarist who left us too soon—and who, had it been possible, would certainly have been quoted here.

CD Preview: Bobby Whitlock's Where There's A Will, There's A Way

Here's some great news for fans of Eric Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, and other soul-inflected Southern rock artists…essential music from legendary singer, songwriter, keyboardist, and guitarist Bobby Whitlock will finally be made available on CD.

On June 25th, 2013 Future Days Recordings – an imprint of the respected Light In The Attic Records label – will release Whitlock's Where There's A Will, There's A Way. The CD features the artist's first two solo albums: Whitlock's self-titled 1972 debut and Raw Velvet, which was released later that year. For those who prefer their tunes on glorious, inky-hued black vinyl, both albums will also be released individually on 180-gram vinyl records with original artwork and liner notes. The CD set also includes extensive liner notes.

Whitlock is one of the unsung heroes of Southern rock 'n' roll. Born in Memphis, Tennessee into abject poverty, his preacher father had him out picking cotton in the fields as a child. Whitlock soaked up the blues, gospel, and R&B sounds he heard on the radio, teaching himself keyboards and guitar. By the time he was a teen, Whitlock was playing sessions for Stax Records and, coming to the attention of Delaney Bramlett, was asked to join Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, where he met and befriended legendary guitarist Eric Clapton.

It was his work with Clapton for which Whitlock is best known, the two musicians forming Derek & the Dominoes with drummer Jim Gordon and bassist Carl Radle. Whitlock wrote or co-wrote six songs on the band's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, and sung on his own "Thorn Tree In The Garden." Whitlock also played on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album.

Whitlock launched his solo career after being signed by ABC-Dunhill Records, and his two albums for the label are minor classics of roots-rock, blues, and Southern soul. Both are packed with guest stars, too, with folks like guitarists George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Rick Vito; backing vocalists Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett; bassist Klaus Voorman (Manfred Mann and the Plastic Ono Band); and saxophonist Bobby Keys, among others, lending their talents to the two albums. Whether you go for the CD or vinyl reissues, these are two vital and essential albums that have long been out of print…

Nik Turner's Fallen Angel STS-51-L

Space-rock legend Nik Turner has returned with a new single and video in advance of his upcoming album, titled Space Gypsy, which includes musical guests like Gong's Steve Hillage and Turner's former Hawkwind bandmate Simon House.

Turner's "Fallen Angel STS-51-L" will be released as a digital track available via iTunes on July 2nd, 2013 while a limited-edition 7" vinyl single (500 only) will be put up for sale on July 14th. Turner has created a spiffy new video for the song, incorporating footage from a recent performance at The Echoplex in Los Angeles, and it's every bit the trippy mind-fest that you'd expect from one of the pioneers of psychedelic space-rock.

Nik Turner was a founding member of U.K. sound terrorists Hawkwind, the singer and saxophonist an essential part of the band's commercial heyday, circa 1970-1976. Turner wrote and/or co-wrote some of the band's most popular tunes, including "Brainstorm," "Silver Machine," and "Master of the Universe" and appeared on such classic Hawkwind albums as In Search of Space, Doremi Fasol Latido, and Space Ritual. Apart from the band he helped make a legend, Turner has had a long and interesting career, working and recording with outfits like the Inner City Unit, Helios Creed, and his own band Sphinx among many others.    

In a press release for the song, Turner says “this single is the epitome of epiphanic, orgasmic, cathartic embodiment of my space dreams, become one man's reality, exploding into space. Expect lots more on this awesome album.” After watching the video for "Fallen Angel STS-51-L" more times that should be legal to do so, the Reverend found the song to be white-hot molten slag that pours into your consciousness like honey oozing from the paws of a drunken bear. Check out the video (below) for yourself and see what you think…

Nik Turner's website [link]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Swimming Pool Q's Retrospective Coming!

The Swimming Pool Q's – part of the first generation of Atlanta, Georgia area new wave rockers – has never really received their due. Formed in 1978, the Q's were part of a thriving Atlanta/Athens scene that included the Brains, Pylon, the B-52's, and R.E.M. Like many a band in the area, the Q's released their first album, 1981's The Deep End, on Danny Beard's DB Records label, that disc and their strong live performance chops earning the band a major label deal with A&M Records.

On June 25th, Cipher Bureau (in cooperation with Bar-None Records) will release The A&M Years, a two-disc Swimming Pool Q's retrospective that includes both of the band's A&M albums, 1984's self-titled LP and 1986's Blue Tomorrow, in their entirety. A special expanded four-disc version includes an additional CD titled "Pow Wow Hour," a 17-song disc of rarities, and "Auto Zoom," a DVD with live clips, promotional videos, vintage TV appearances, and band interviews. Both albums featured the core Q's line-up of singer Anne Richmond Boston, singer and guitarist Jeff Calder, and guitarist Bob Elsey.

"Visionary pop eccentrics from Atlanta," noted Melody Maker at the time of these albums' release. "Some of the most compelling rock sounds in all of America...lofty architectural style distinguished by the elegant and muscular guitar duets between Jeff Calder and Bob Elsey and [Anne] Boston's rhapsodic alto phrasings," said the Village Voice. Rolling Stone's Kurt Loder wrote, "overlaid with Calder's unusually literate songwriting sensibility, this musical mélange is one of the freshest sounds coming out of the South."

Although the band's two major label albums received numerous critical accolades, they didn't sell enough copies to keep A&M happy and the Q's found themselves back in indieland with DB releasing their 1987 EP The Firing Squad For God, the band performing without Boston. A 1989 album for Capitol Records, World War Two Point Five followed, but by 1992 the band was tired of the rigors of the road and went on hiatus, though Calder and Elsey have gotten together several times since, releasing The Royal Academy of Reality album on Bar-None Records in 2003.

One of the truly underrated outfits of the crazy new wave '80s, the Swimming Pool Q's were one of the more artistically ambitious and entertaining bands in the South at the time and well worth another listen with the luxury of time working in their favor.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scorched Earth: Jason & The Scorchers Scrapbook

Scorched Earth: A Jason & the Scorchers Scrapbook was a true labor of love for writer Rev. Keith A. Gordon and photographer/graphic designer Paul Needham, both longtime fans of the band. The 92 page trade paperback (7.5" x 9.25") features a truly electric cover photo by Tony Mottram and over three dozen B&W interior photos, including many rare, unpublished live shots from Needham's private stash. Needham's dynamic graphic design is befitting the band's high-voltage live performance style. 

The words in Scorched Earth are by Rev. Gordon, who has been covering Jason & the Nashville Scorchers since the very beginning, the scrapbook offering up interviews with Jason Ringenberg, Warner Hodges, and manager Jack Emerson from across the band's lengthy career (1984 through 2010) as well as an illustrated discography and reviews of all the band's albums, including releases from Farmer Jason and the Bluefields.

Scorched Earth was created for the dedicated Scorchers Fan and includes editorial content from Gordon's The Other Side of Nashville book alongside long out-of-print material from several obscure publications. The book can be ordered for $9.00 postpaid in the United States, 10 GBP in the United Kingdom, 14.50 AUD in Australia, and 12 Euro for the rest of Europe.

Orders in the United States, use this link ($9.00 postpaid):

Orders for Canada, please use this link ($11.00 CAD postpaid):

Our friends in the U.K. use this link to order (10.00 GBP postpaid):

Scorchers fans in Australia can use this link to order (14.50 AUD postpaid): 

Orders from the European Union countries use this link (12.00 Euro postpaid):

Frank Zappa Buying Guide eBook

The Reverend has finished up his very first eBook! The Frank Zappa Buying Guide is an album-by-album guide to the legendary musician's commercial milieu -- those CDs that were reissued by the Zappa Family Trust during 2012 -- all 60+ titles from the early 1960s through the present day.

The Frank Zappa Buying Guide runs at more than 10,000 words, with full color photos of each album cover and the essay "Brown Shoes Don't Make It," written in 1993 at the time of Zappa's death. The eBook is tailor-made for both the hardcore Zappa fan and the newcomer wanting to discover this amazing musician's enormous catalog of music.

Click on the cover to the right to check the eBook out at Amazon.com.

Everything You Need To Know About The Other Side of Nashville

The founder of That Devil Music Dot Com is the Rev. Keith A. Gordon, author of The Other Side of Nashville book.

The Other Side of Nashville is a big-ass book, 8.5" x 11" and 620 pages, sub-titled "An Incomplete History & Discography of the Nashville Rock Underground 1976-2006."

The book covers the growth and evolution of Nashville's non-country music scene as seen by the Rev. Keith A. Gordon, who was there on the street in the 1980s and '90s as it happened.

The final tally for the book is 500+ artists/bands listed and around 540 photos of bands, CD and LP covers, posters, and such in this profusely-illustrated volume.

The Other Side of Nashville cover was created by artist Tim Shawl. Tim took my initial raw idea and created a dynamic cover for the book that makes it stand out. Tim, some may remember, created some of the most memorable covers for the old Metro magazine in Nashville during the late 1980s and early 1990s, which is where we first met.

The Other Side of Nashville has a cover price of $29.95 and can be ordered from Amazon.com by using this link, or you can get a copy directly from the Reverend by using the PayPal link below. If the cover price for a print copy of the book is a little steep for your budget, we've worked a deal with Zunior.com to offer OSN as an eBook in PDF format at a substantially lower price. Get over to Zunior.com and tell Dave that we sent ya!

Here's the deal on direct orders...the cost of this monster 620-page trade paperback book is $33.00 with shipping at the Media Mail rate (slower than Priority, but still pretty fast!). As promised, 5% of the $29.95 cover price, or $1.50 per each book sold direct, will be donated to various Kickstarter projects to pass along the love shown me by those good folks that helped fund completion of the book through Kickstarter. The PayPal link below is good for U.S. orders only -- if you're in Canada or England, please email me at reverendk-at-mondogordo-dot-com and I'll return a quote on the cost of sending you a copy directly from the printer.