Monday, August 25, 2014

CD Preview: Revisiting Michael Stanley’s Solo Years

Michael Stanley - The Solo Years 1995-2014
Forget the Raspberries, the James Gang, or even the Dead Boys…the Michael Stanley Band are Cleveland’s true favorite sons. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, the Ohio rockers held court in their hometown, the “mistake on the lake,” delivering their own unique vision of heartland rock that played to big audiences throughout the American Rust Belt, but failed to attract audiences on the coasts. The band scored but a single chart hit – “He Can’t Love You” – and they packed it in circa 1986 after better than a decade in the trenches.

Michael Stanley, the band’s frontman and namesake, continued to pursue his rock ‘n’ roll muse after the band’s break-up, forming outfits like the Resonators and the Ghost Poets before launching a critically-acclaimed career in the mid-1990s that continues to this day. A true working class poet and roots-rocker, Stanley is second only to Joe Grushecky, perhaps, in the ratio of great music he’s made these past 20 years versus the amount of success and respect that he’s experienced.

On November 4th, 2014 MVD Audio will release Michael Stanley – The Solo Years 1995-2014, a three-disc, 43-track set that features nearly four hours of rockin’, street-smart music. Drawing material from all twelve of Stanley’s solo albums, including his most recent work, 2014’s The Job, the set is divided into three sections: disc one is called “The Rousers” and features rockin’ fan favorites; the second disc is dubbed “The Weepies” for its strong ballads; while disc three is named “Crispy’s Critters” for longtime Stanley producer Bill Szymczyk’s nickname, “Crispy.” Songs on the third disc were personally chosen and sequenced by Szymczyk, who also wrote liner notes for the set. The Solo Years 1995-2014 also includes two previously unreleased tracks.

Michael Stanley is one of the great undiscovered rock ‘n’ roll talents of the 1970s onward, a talented songwriter and guitarist and a soulful singer who has yet to receive his due. Check out Michael Stanley – The Solo Years 1995-2014 and find out what fans in Cleveland and thereabouts have known for years…Michael Stanley rocks! Complete track list for the set below.

Michael Stanley - The Solo Years 1995-2014 track listing:

Disc 1
My Brand New Day
Nothing And Everything To Prove
It's All About Tonight
Just Another Night In America
The Ground
Lovers Lane
Sweet Jane/Wichi Tai To
Didn't We Burn
The Times We Had
The Job
I Am You
Romeo Is Bleeding
Drinkin' In The Driveway
The Hang
Disc 2
My Side Of The Moment
Talking In Tongues
You Just Never Know
When It Don't Come Easy
Any Other Fool
To Love Somebody
Any Time I Try
Fait Accompli
From A Train
Another New Year's Eve
Home Tonight
Disc 3
Coming Up For Air
Eleanor Rigby
One Good Day In A Row
Vicodin & Prayer
What Would Frank Do
Eyeball Kid
The Curves Of Bratenahl
Lap Dogs Dance
How Many Guitars Do You Need
Breaking Down
Last Good Nerve
Money Shot (Bonus Track)
Raise The Dead (Bonus Track)

Buy the CD from Michael Stanley - The Solo Years 1995-2014


CD Preview: Climb on board the Mothership with Guru Freakout!

Guru Freakout's Mothership
Almost 40 years after its critical and commercial ascent, the progressive rock sub-genre known as “Krautrock” continues to intrigue and excite listeners. At its height in the mid-1970s, the German-based phenomena counted bands like Can, Kraftwerk, Amon Düül, and Cluster at the forefront of the experimental, largely electronic-based musical revolution. Formed in 1970, Guru Guru was one of many memorable bands from the era, and for almost a decade and with several albums, they exploded the expectations of what music could be.

Mani Neumeier – Guru Guru singer, keyboardist, and drummer – it still kicking around and making mad music, and he has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Jürgen Engler of German industrial noisemakers Die Krupps and bassist Scott Telles of the band ST 37 for a new project called Guru Freakout. On September 2nd, 2014 Cleopatra Records will release Mothership, the debut album from Guru Freakout.     

In a press release for the new album, Engler tells how the band was formed. “Mani is an old friend of mine,” he says. “Near the end of 2012, he came to visit me in Austin where I had organized a show for him to play. We also planned to do some recording for a follow up project to Cosmic Couriers' Other Places, which was released on Cleopatra in the ‘90s.”

“At the same time,” says Engler, “I was working with bass player Scott Telles of ST 37, and when Scott heard that Mani was in town, he wanted to meet him since he had always been a big fan of Guru Guru. So the three of us got together at his rehearsal studio and started jamming right away. We had a great chemistry, so we decided to record a few tracks with a little digital recorder, and also at Ohm Recording Studio. When we listened to the tracks later, we realized that we had some really good material that should see the light of day, and so those recordings became the Guru Freakout album.”

The album features two lengthy free-form jams, including the 30+ minute “Notre Dame (Mothership)” and the extended-length “The Snows of Mt. Bonnell,” which takes up the other side of the album’s vinyl release. Both songs feature Engel’s hypnotic, psychedelic blues guitar; Neumeier’s thundering percussion; and Telles’ throbbing bass lines that, when woven together, create some tasty “stoner rock grooves” (sez the press release). The CD release of Mothership includes three bonus tracks, including studio rehearsals of “A Little Bit Spacier” and “Elektrolurch-Mutation,” as well as a live version of “Elektrolurch-Mutation.” If you’re up for taking a ride through the cosmos, Guru Freakout might be what you’re looking for!

Buy the CD on Guru Freakout's Mothership

Sunday, August 17, 2014

CD Review: David Olney's When The Deal Goes Down

David Olney's When The Deal Goes Down
You may not have heard of singer, songwriter, and guitarist David Olney and, if not, that’s your loss, and your soul is that much poorer for it. While young flash-in-the-pan indie rockers a third of his age grab blog headlines and barrels of virtual ink on the web, Olney has quietly been building a catalog of some of the most impressive music ever created on this spinning orb.

When The Deal Goes Down is as good – if not better – than anything Olney has done to date, partially because the guy’s a true blue talent whose muse seemingly never shuts up, and partly by his decision to bring Nashville blues guitarist Mark Robinson into the fold to play on, and co-produce the album. The inclusion of Robinson’s immense talents adds another dimension to Olney’s enormous musical palette, and he puts his co-producer to good use playing alongside longtime musical foil Sergio Webb – one of the most spectacular six-string talents on the planet who you’ve also never heard of – as well as his band of usual suspects, skilled musicians capable of breathing life and energy into Olney’s creations.

David Olney’s When The Deal Goes Down

Olney opens When The Deal Goes Down with a bang, the title track a shady entreaty that sets the stage for the songs that follow, the singer setting down the rules with the almighty, a sort of prayer set to an energetic soundtrack propelled by Justin Amaral’s vigorous drumbeats and spotlighting the six-string talents of Webb and Robinson. The song leaves more questions behind than it answers, but it’s an up-tempo romp that Olney gets to really work out on, his defiant vocals more demanding than pleading. By contrast, “Little Bird (What I Do)” is one of those densely atmospheric, almost eerie folk-blues analogies that Olney excels at, his somber vocals perfectly matched by Webb’s elegant fretwork and Tomi Lunsford’s angelic backing harmonies.

The laid-back vibe of “Soldier of Misfortune” takes on an exotic air thanks to Webb’s intricate guitar lines, but it’s Olney’s gift for wordplay and his sonorous vocals that drive the romantic tale into truly emotional territory. Jen Gunderman’s delicate piano fills emphasize the lyrics, while Robinson’s acoustic guitar adds welcome texture to a truly enchanting performance. Olney’s cover of Australian folk-rock guitarist/songwriter Bill Jackson’s wonderful “Something In Blue” fits like a glove, Jackson’s lyrics displaying more than a little Olney influence, and Olney’s performance here honoring the song nicely. The song takes on a Western lilt with Webb’s banjo plucking and Olney’s acoustic fretwork, while Olney’s mournful vocals are matched perfectly by Robinson’s expressive, bluesy solo, which rides low in the mix alongside Amaral’s lively percussion. 

Scarecrow Man

The opening lyrics of Olney’s “Scarecrow Man” describe a coming storm, and that’s exactly what the song sounds like…the fearful, silent calm before the thunderclaps and the falling curtains of rain. The song sits on the edge of a knife blade throughout its entirety, Olney’s forceful vocals slowly reeling out a tension-filled, tragic tale while the percussion rumbles and the guitars strike like lightning behind the menacing vocals and the swelling danger. You just know that somebody’s not going to get out of this story alive. “Why So Blue?,” on the other hand, is a smoky ballad that emphasizes Webb’s weeping lap steel guitar and Amaral’s even-handed brushwork, the song’s rhythmic foundation held down by Daniel Seymour’s underrated and often understated bass lines. Robinson throws in some scraps of guitar for effect, and the result is a jazzy little vamp that would be equally at home in 1954 as it is in 2014.

Olney swerves onto blues-rock turf with the raucous “Roll This Stone,” the song picking up a sort of 1990s Bonnie Raitt groove with its deep rhythms and Robinson’s slinky slide-guitar licks. Olney’s vocals here are gruffer and grittier than anywhere else on the album, growling and barking their way above the mix as the band lays down a muscular, but not overpowering rhythmic backdrop. The lovely “No Trace” brings Olney back to more familiar territory, the song’s Spanish flavor enhanced by Gunderman’s subtle accordion riffs and the singer and Webb’s intertwined acoustic guitars. It’s a gentle ballad that displays one of Olney’s more wistful set of lyrics and world-weary vocal performances.

When The Deal Goes Down ends with “Big Blue Hole,” the song itself a complete 180-degree turn from the opening track, and one of the odder entries in Olney’s extensive songbook. Lyrically, it sounds more than a little like a Tom Waits screed, Olney’s seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrics alluding to the finality of oblivion, delivered above a cacophonous soundtrack that is scrubbed to a rough grit by Webb and Robinson’s serrated-edge guitars. Olney’s vocals become surprisingly kinetic as the singer name checks talents like Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain above an instrumental abyss, concluding that “heaven ain’t nothing but a big blue hole.” It’s a powerful, moving performance and a heck of a way to close the album.  

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

The bottom line is that David Olney is the true heir to Townes Van Zandt, a thoughtful and thought-provoking songwriter and mesmerizing performer that wears his hard-won experience like a badge of honor. Much like Van Zandt, Olney brings country and folk influences to his songs, but he also imbues his performances with a punk-rock intensity and attitude.

Young songwriters would do well to listen up, because Olney puts all of you wannabe whippersnappers to shame with the vision and storytelling insight that only a grizzled veteran of four decades in the trenches can bring. It’s a testament not only to Olney’s talent but his enduring muse that some 20 albums into a career spent flying beneath the mainstream radar, he can deliver a musical tour de force like When The Deal Goes Down and hold his head up proudly! (Deadbeet Records, released July 8, 2014)

Buy the album from David Onley's When The Deal Goes Down

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ian Anderson’s Homo Erraticus Special Tour Edition

Ian Anderson's Homo Erracticus
Earlier this year, rock ‘n’ roll legend Ian Anderson released Homo Erraticus, the Jethro Tull frontman’s sixth studio album and most commercially successful solo work to date in the U.K. An old-school, 1970s-styled collection of hard rock, folk, and progressive rock that doesn’t stray too far from Tull’s roots, Homo Erraticus is a concept album that builds upon Anderson’s 2012 effort, Thick As A Brick 2.

The album’s story is based on Anderson’s fictional character Gerald Bostock (who should need no introduction to Tull fans), and features lyrics “written” by Bostock based on an old, unpublished manuscript that examines key events from British history and offers a number of prophecies for the future. That may sound kind of odd to 21st century rock fans who didn’t grow up during a time when conceptual prog-rock collections were the norm (Rick Wakeman, anyone?). But the music on Homo Erraticus is lush, exciting, and eminently progressive while Anderson’s signature vocals bring the words of each song alive with energy and gravitas.

On September 30th, 2014 Kscope Records will release Homo Erracticus as a two-disc CD/DVD “special tour edition” with the entire album on CD and an additional bonus DVD that includes a music video of the song “Enter the Uninvited” recorded live at the Swan Theatre in the U.K. as well as an interview with Anderson discussing the live visuals fans can expect to see when the legendary rocker launches his North American tour on September 12th. Billed as the “Best of Jethro Tull and Homo Erracticus,” Anderson and his band will perform the new album in its entirety, following with a selection of classic Jethro Tull songs; if you haven’t already picked up the CD, here’s your chance to get a bonus edition. You’ll definitely want it after seeing Anderson on tour at one of the dates listed below!

Buy the CD from Ian Anderson's Homo Erraticus (regular edition)

Ian Anderson Tour Dates

09/12/14 @ McCaw Hall, Seattle WA    
09/13/14 @ Maryhill Winery Amphitheater, Goldendale WA    
09/15/14 @ Cascade Theater, Redding CA    
09/17/14 @ Fox Theater, Oakland CA        
09/18/14 @ Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa CA    
09/19/14 @ Pearl Concert Theater, Las Vegas NV    
09/20/14 @ Mesa Arts Center, Mesa AZ    
09/21/14 @ Kiva Auditorium, Albuquerque NM   
09/23/14 @ Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, Dallas TX    
09/24/14 @ Wagner Noel PAC, Midland TX    
09/26/14 @ Austin City Limits, Austin TX        
09/27/14 @ Tobin PAC, San Antonio TX    
09/28/14 @ Stafford PAC, Stafford TX    
09/30/14 @ Symphony Hall, Atlanta GA    
10/01/14 @ Ryman Auditorium, Nashville TN    
10/03/14 @ Blumenthal PAC, Charlotte NC    
10/04/14 @ Durham PAC, Durham NC    
10/05/14 @ The National Theater, Richmond VA    
10/16/14 @ Pfeiffer Hall, Naperville IL    
10/17/14 @ Sangamon Auditorium, Springfield IL    
10/18/14 @ Pabst Theater, Milwaukee WI    
10/19/14 @ Gallagher Bluedorn PAC, Cedar Falls IA    
10/21/14 @ State Theater, Minneapolis MN        
10/23/14 @ Horshoe Casino, Elizabeth IN    
10/24/14 @ Clay Center, Charleston WV    
10/25/14 @ The Palace Theatre, Greensburg PA        
10/26/14 @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center, Bethlehem PA    
10/28/14 @ Flynn Center, Burlington VT     
10/29/14 @ Providence PAC, Providence RI    
10/30/14 @ The Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield CT    
11/01/14 @ Lynn Auditorium, Lynn MA     
11/02/14 @ Palace Theatre, Albany NY    
11/04/14 @ Center For the Arts, Buffalo NY    
11/06/14 @ Lincoln Theater, Washington DC    
11/07/14 @ Caesars' Circus Maximus, Atlantic City NJ    
11/08/14 @ The Paramount, Huntington NY        
11/09/14 @ Count Basie Theater, Red Bank NJ    
11/10/14 @ Wellmont Theatre, Montclair NJ

Monday, August 11, 2014

Posthumous Jimi Hendrix Albums Reissued

Jimi Hendrix's The Cry of Love
At the time of his death in September 1970, blues-rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was reportedly working on a double-album set tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. It was planned to be Hendrix’s fourth studio album, and it included musical contributions from the guitarist’s long-time friend and bass player, Billy Cox, and his former Experience bandmate, drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Hendrix’s death scuttled the original project, which was only about halfway done by most reports, but as his record label (Reprise Records) and manager still saw the ability to make a buck off Jimi’s tragic passing, they enlisted Mitchell and longtime Hendrix studio collaborator Eddie Kramer to finish up the tracks. The first batch of studio recordings were released in March 1971 as The Cry of Love, ten brand new original songs; the second batch were released the following October as Rainbow Bridge. On September 16th, 2014 both of these long-lost posthumous Hendrix albums will be released for the first time (technically) on CD by Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings.

The Cry of Love was a revelation at the time of its 1971 release, displaying Jimi’s immense talents in a different light on ten original tracks that have since become part of the Hendrix canon. Songs like “Ezy Ryder,” “Freedom,” “Angel,” and “Belly Button Window” feature not only Hendrix’s stellar fretwork as well as the always-welcome talents of Cox and Mitchell but also tracks recorded with former Band of Gypsies bandmate Buddy Miles and Experience bassist Noel Redding, percussionist Juma Sultan, vibraphonist Buzzy Linhart, Stephen Stills, and Steve Winwood. The album was re-mastered for CD by Bernie Grundman from the original analog master tapes. Given the commercial success of The Cry of Love – the album rising to #3 on the U.S. charts and #2 in the U.K. on its way to Platinum™ sales status – a follow-up album was a given.

Jimi Hendrix's Rainbow BridgeIn October 1971, Reprise released Rainbow Bridge. Ostensibly billed as an “original soundtrack album” for the legendary 1970 Jimi Hendrix Experience performance in Hawaii (and resulting 1971 concert film), the Rainbow Bridge LP actually features but one live track – a great eleven-minute version of “Hear My Train A Comin’,” recorded at the Berkeley Community Theatre – the other seven songs are studio versions of songs from the film soundtrack, recorded in 1969 and 1970 and featuring Cox, Mitchell, and Sultan with Redding, and Miles each appearing on tracks. Like its posthumous predecessor, the album would yield several enduring Hendrix classics, including “Dolly Dagger,” “Room Full of Mirrors,” and the studio version of “Star Spangled Banner.” Rainbow Bridge was also produced by Kramer and Mitchell, with help from Electric Lady Studios engineer John Jansen, and re-mastered for CD by Bernie Grundman from the original analog masters.
When I previously stated that The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge hadn’t been released on CD, they haven’t been, at least not in their original form. Tracks from the former LP were released as part of the 1995 Voodoo Soup CD and again in 1997 as First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Recordings from the latter LP surfaced on First Rays of the New Rising Sun and on South Saturn Delta. This is the first time that both albums will be reissued on CD as they were on the original vinyl, however, which makes those of us who were big Hendrix fans in 1971 very happy!

Now that we’re getting The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge reissues, I have to ask Experience Hendrix – when do we get War Heroes on CD?

Friday, August 8, 2014

CD Review: Iron Butterfly Live 1967 & 1971

Iron Butterfly's Live At The Galaxy 1967
Iron Butterfly is both one of the most notorious and yet one of the most obscure of 1960s-era psychedelic acid-rock bands. Their name will live on in infamy merely on the reputation of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” the title track of the band’s second album. Released in 1968, shortly after the first wave of psychedelic influence had washed across the U.S. garage rock scene, the seventeen-minute mostly-instrumental jam anchors the band’s best-selling album and is so integrated into American pop culture that it even became a joke on The Simpsons.


It was immensely successful, though, the album eventually selling some 30 million copies worldwide, the song ubiquitous on classic rock radio. To drive my point home, however, what is the name of any one of the other five songs on the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album? Yeah, I thought so…unless you’re a stone cold Butterfly fan (or maybe just stoned), that’s the only song you’ll ever know. The band was about more than just its most famous tune…not much more, but more than they’re often given credit for…and Iron Butterfly is often overlooked by classic rock fans and hardcore collectors of psychedelic music in favor of more obscure, less notorious bands from the era. Worse yet, they’re often dismissed as a one trick pony, and it’s quite an absurd trick at that. Thanks to the good folks at Purple Pyramid, the psychedelic-leaning imprint of Cleopatra Records, we now have three live albums with which to reconsider the Butterfly legacy.

Iron Butterfly was formed by singer, songwriter, and keyboard player Doug Ingle in 1966 in San Diego, the original band line-up also including guitarist Danny Weiss and a couple of guys that were replaced when the band moved a few hours north to Los Angeles. After running through a number of members, the “Summer of Love” line-up of Iron Butterfly solidified with Ingle, singer Darryl DeLoach, guitarist Weiss, bassist Jerry Penrod, and Ron Bushy on drums. It’s this version of the band that gigged steadily around L.A. and would record the band’s 1968 debut, Heavy.

Iron Butterfly's Live At The Galaxy 1967

Iron Butterfly’s Live At The Galaxy 1967 is a curious memento of the short-lived line-up that recorded the band’s debut album. Capturing a July 4th, 1967 performance at the notorious L.A. club, the track list features half-a-dozen songs that would be recorded later for Heavy, three that wouldn’t be waxed until two years later for their 1969 album Ball, and a handful that would never be heard from again. The sound quality of Live At The Galaxy 1967 is par for an audience bootleg; befitting the (relatively) primitive recording gear at the time, the performances are hollow and cavernous, rife with distortion, and often seemingly out of sync. Still, for this rare a performance, it’s tolerable overall, and even with the sonic drawbacks, what is striking is how “heavy” the songs actually are.

After roaring through the strident, instrumentally-busy “Real Fright,” which would re-surface on Ball, “Possession” is the first of the Heavy tracks. Opening with Ingle’s chiming organ and Bushy’s martial rhythms, Weiss embroiders his guitar on top of the almost-chanted vocal harmonies. It’s a gothic-sounding performance, with plenty of hallucinogenic overtones, dense and yet you can still pick out and admire the individual instrumental contributions amidst the swirls of sound. Of the other Heavy tracks, only “Iron Butterfly Theme” and “You Can’t Win” stand out; the former is a cacophonic instrumental that was definitely acid-inspired and noisy, pre-dating a similar chaotic art-rock trend by a decade. The latter is a riff-heavy rocker with some nice guitar playing and Ingle’s ever-present keyboards.

Some of the other tracks on Live At The Galaxy 1967 are much more interesting. “Lonely Boy,” which would be recorded later on Ball, suffers from probably the worse sound on the album, but it’s an affecting ballad with the slightest of melodies, featuring instrumentation that is more subtle than anything else on the album. Another Ball track, “Filled With Fear,” offers appropriately muted vocals, squawks of terrifying sound, scraps of wiry guitar, and Bushy’s deliberate, marching drumbeats. Of the “lost” tracks, “Evil Temptation” shows the most life, with livewire guitar licks that sound like broken shards of glass, up-tempo organ riffs, bombshell percussion, and an overall punkish intensity that rivals the Stooges.

Iron Butterfly's Live In Sweden 1971

Iron Butterfly's Live In Sweden 1971
After the recording of Heavy, the band fractured when three members left, leaving only Ingle and Bushy holding the bag. When informed by Atlantic Records that their debut album wouldn’t be released if there was no band to tour behind it, the pair recruited bassist Lee Dorman and guitarist Eric Brann, a 17-year-old musical prodigy. It was this line-up that recorded the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Ball albums, representing the band’s commercial apex, the former LP selling millions of copies, the later certified Gold™ for a half-million in sales. When Brann left the band in 1969, he was replaced by a pair of talented guitarists – Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt and Mike Pinera, previously of one-hit-wonders Blues Image (“Ride Captain Ride”); this is the line-up that would record the band’s 1970 album Metamorphosis.  

Live In Sweden 1971 offers better sound quality than Live At The Galaxy 1967, not only because of the passage of four years and improved sound technology, but also because it was taped for a live radio broadcast rather than from the middle of the audience. The album consists, primarily, of two lengthy live tracks – the first, “Butterfly Bleu,” was drawn from Metamorphosis. While the song clocks in at slightly more than fourteen minutes on vinyl, on stage the band would extend that running time considerably with acid-drenched instrumentation; here on Live In Sweden 1971, the song runs better than twenty-three minutes. It’s everything you might expect from a psychedelic-rock band at the dawn of the 1970s – lengthy passages of squalid sound, raging guitars, steady drumbeats, and Ingle’s trademark keyboards buried in the mix. Although it’s an exhilarating ride the first time you take it, two or three listens later it just becomes tedious.

Which leaves us with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” The song was a consistent crowd-pleaser among stoned audiences worldwide; it’s performed here at half-again its original studio running time, beginning with Ingle’s throaty vocals and sepulchre organ riffs before dancing into a free-form jam. The addition of guitarists Pinera and Reinhardt, neither of whom played on the original studio recording, brings a new texture and sound to the song that had been missing before. Although Lee Dorman’s familiar and notorious walking bass line still holds down the bottom end, the two guitarists weave various interesting patterns throughout the song. Their skills add a dimension previously lacking to the song, one that holds up better after a few listens than does “Butterfly Bleu.”

Live In Sweden 1971 is topped off by a trio of rare 7” singles, including “Possession,” which was originally the B-side of “Don’t Look Down On Me,” and later released in 1970 as a single on its own. The song is more effective in this shorter, punchier studio version than the drawn-out live performance on Live At The Galaxy 1967. “Evil Temptation,” which was so killer on the aforementioned live disc, does not disappoint on the studio-derived 45 version, with stunning fretwork that veers into the exotic at times, crashing drumbeats, and a locomotive tempo that should have made the song a big hit; it’s a shame it wasn’t included on any later Butterfly albums, and rumors abound that this single version wasn’t even recorded by the band, but by studio musicians, although Butterfly would perform the song live. “Don’t Look Down On Me,” the band’s first single circa 1967, is a pre-Atlantic indie release by the Heavy line-up, the song itself displaying a subtle psych-pop touch, an engaging melody, and fine (if unspectacular) vocals by DeLoach.

Iron Butterfly's Live In Copenhagen 1971

Iron Butterfly's Live In Copenhagen 1971
Recorded on the final night of the band’s 1971 European tour, Live In Copenhagen 1971 is another hollow-sounding, bootleg-quality tape albeit with slightly more presence than its predecessor. Unrestricted by the demands of a radio broadcast like on the previous night in Sweden, the band rips and snorts through a lengthy set list that draws five of its seven songs from Metamorphosis. Although Pinera and Reinhardt were considered hired guns in the studio, by this time they had been fully integrated into the band, and their addition not only upped the quality of the musicianship, but also the band’s potential.

Sadly, that potential wasn’t always fulfilled, as shown by “Best Years of Our Life.” The bluesy number relies too heavily on Pinera’s vocals and ample six-string diddling and never evolves far beyond its mundane bar band construction. “Soldier In Our Town” is much more intriguing, a mid-tempo dirge that nevertheless offers more depth to the band’s individual performances; the song’s dark ambience is supported by a subtle percussive rhythm and jolts of electrifying guitar. Pinera takes front and center again on “Stone Believer,” a funky lil’ romp built on Ingle’s riffing organ and Bushy’s steady drumrolls. The band’s lone single from Metamorphosis was “Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way,” a turbo-charged rocker that benefits from the band’s increasingly harder rock sound. Aside from an infectious Asian-tinged riff, the song’s odd time changes and fractured fretwork show more imagination than most of the tracks from Metamorphosis.

The dreaded “Butterfly Bleu” is revisited once again, at virtually the same excruciating length as before, and while it may have been a highlight of the band’s live performances, it doesn’t translate well to disc. This version has slightly more depth to it than the previous night’s performance, albeit with worse sound. It wouldn’t be Iron Butterfly without “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” performed here with a raucous intro that shows the band shaking its collective groove thang to a vaguely Latin rhythm before roaring into the familiar church organ kicks in. This reading of the song seems a bit more energetic, the guitars more crushing, the banging of cymbals more frenetic, Ingle’s vocals deeper, spookier, and somber…sort of like late-night horror movie host Sir Cecil Creape singing an operatic aria.

The rarity factor of Live In Copenhagen 1971 is increased by the inclusion of “Goodbye Jam,” an almost eleven-minute jam with Tony Kaye and Bill Bruford of Yes. The then up-and-coming prog-rock legends were on the tour as the second opening band (the Top Ten chart successes of Butterfly’s previous two albums putting them in headlining position), and several members of Yes became friendly with their tourmates. The result is an invigorating, if cacophonous extended miasma of instrumentation that, while short on melody or even recognizable song structure, is nevertheless a heck of a lot of fun, featuring a lot of screaming guitars and screamed vocals, fluid rhythmic play, and explosive percussion.  

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Truth is, Iron Butterfly wasn’t a great band even on its best of days, and its earliest incarnations tended to be too seeped in psychedelia to make much of an impression. Doug Ingle was a monochrome vocalist at best, and an often unimaginative keyboardist in light of talents like Keith Emerson, Ken Hensley, and Jon Lord. Lyrics were an afterthought for most of the songs, which relied instead on riffs and amplification. Still, the band managed to put together a strange sort of magic on a handful of songs on which their reputation rests, an influential combination of psychedelic sounds, heavy instrumentation, and heavier ambiance that is both dated and alien at once. 

Live At The Galaxy 1967 (Grade: C+) is worthwhile mostly for its rarity and its avid reflection of the psychedelic culture of the era. Dave Thompson throws in some informative liner notes, and with packaging artwork that mimics the psychedelic era, it’s an album that Iron Butterfly’s small but loyal fan base will want to add to their collections. Live In Sweden 1971 (Grade: C) is, honestly, a bit of a chore. Although it features my favorite Iron Butterfly line-up, twenty-something minutes of “Butterfly Bleu” is more than any soul should have to bear. The addition of the rare 7” singles boosts the grade slightly. By contrast, Live In Copenhagen 1971 (Grade: B-) offers a much more fleshed out set of songs that take better advantage of the band’s talents, while the inclusion of the “Goodbye Jam” with Yes offers a rarity factor unshared by the other two albums. Both of the 1971 albums also include liner notes by Thompson with plenty of quotes from Ron Bushy.      

The first incarnation of Iron Butterfly would break up months after the shows represented by the two 1971 discs here. Pinera formed the short-lived Ramatam with former Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell before joining the equally ill-fated New Cactus Band before spending several years as part of Alice Cooper’s touring band. Reinhardt and Dorman would form psyche-prog outfit Captain Beyond before later re-joining a re-formed Iron Butterfly in 1977. Bushy originally put together a new Butterfly together in 1975 with guitarist Erik Brann, recording two final albums – Scorching Beauty and Sun and Steel – before hitting the nostalgia circuit, where they’d perform with a revolving door of past members and other musicians, including Doug Ingle, well into the new millennium. Regardless, the band’s legacy was sealed by “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida;” everything else was just icing on the cake…

Buy the albums from

Iron Butterfly's Live At The Galaxy 1967
Iron Butterfly's Live In Sweden 1971
Iron Butterfly's Live in Copenhagen 1971



Monday, August 4, 2014

New Digital Tracks from Beefheart Guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo

Zoot Horn Rollo's The Mask Tracks
Guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo (a/k/a Bill Harkleroad), who spent years weaving his intricate six-string textures behind mercurial bandleader Captain Beefheart as part of the Magic Band, has released a four digital-only tracks collectively known as The Mask Tracks. This is the first new music from the acclaimed musician since his 2001 CD We Saw A Bozo Under The Sea.

“These four pieces are the musical representation of masks that my friend Roger Evers created,” says Rollo in a press release announcing the new music. “Therefore, the titles are simply the images of these incredible masks.” The guitarist is backed on the four tracks by bassist Mark Schneider, drummer Jason Palmer, accordionist Sergei Telesheve, and trumpeter Brian McWhorter. You buy the digital songs, or just check out samples on Zoot Horn Rollo’s website.

Rollo is well-considered in the music community, ranking above such talents as Eddie Van Halen, Johnny Winter, Mick Ronson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Danny Gatton, and many others on the Rolling Stone magazine list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” He joined the Magic Band during its transition as a slightly-skewed blues band to the powerful avant-garde rock ‘n’ roll innovators they would become. Rollo’s guitar can be heard on such Beefheart classics as Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off Baby, Spotlight Kid, and Clear Spot.

Former Guitar Player magazine Editor In Chief Tom Wheeler is quoted in the press release saying “the music Bill Harkleroad has created in recent years somehow evokes the earthiness and passion that made rock and roll so sensual in, say, 1956, and made surf music so irresistibly catchy in 1963, and turned 3-chord country standards into some of the most heartbreaking poetry ever to seep out of a roadhouse jukebox. His music would never be mistaken for vintage rock or surf or country, but it shares a soul connection with those styles, even while, like the music of Jimi Hendrix, it takes us not only to new places but to places we didn’t even know existed.”