Thursday, January 26, 2017

Re-Upped: Diamond Reo - Dirty Diamonds (1976)

Not much is known about Diamond Reo (not to be confused with country act Diamond Rio) except that this Pittsburgh band (featuring Steel Town legend, Norman Nardini) formed in the early 70's and released three albums before going belly up in 1978. Though they had highly visible tours with Kiss, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Kansas and Rush, success eluded them and the band fell into obscurity before the decade came to a close. This is quite amazing considering the strength of the material found on their albums. "Dirty Diamonds", their 2nd album, is quite possibly their finest hour. Considering that each of their releases were recorded for different labels, it is commendable that the band were able to maintain a focused style which never wavered throughout their brief career. A minor cult classic, here it is for your consumption...."Dirty Diamonds".

Re-Upped: Diamond Reo - Diamond Reo (1975)

Continuing on from my prior Diamond Reo post, this is the band's debut issued by Big Tree Records in 1975. While their sophomore album was on the verge of being proto-metal, this release is considerably more subdued and fluid. Contrary to popular opinion, the album is NOT even remotely close to sounding glam. In fact, there's more of a Clempson-era Humble Pie or Bandit [US] vibe happening here. Though the album is universally panned by classic rock aficionados, I actually prefer this to "Dirty Diamonds" simply because the hooks are more evident throughout. Though it's quite easy to find a clean copy of the album at just about any online merchant, it has been virtually ignored by bloggers...until now. Sink your teeth into this fine contrubtion from Brian and hear Pittsburgh's legendary hard rockers at their earliest stage.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Re-upped: Tilt - Music (1978)

Detroit's Tilt were a quartet formed in the early 70's by Frank Ewing, Doug Kahan, Mike Harner and John Ponder. Having spent several years as a hot commodity on the Detroit club circuit, the band was spotted at a local gig in 1977 by music impresario, Russ Regan and inked a contract with Parachute Records, a subsidiary of Casablanca. The following year, the band's debut "Music" was issued. Though midwestern radio snapped up the record right away, national attention eluded the band. Despite prestigious opening slots with numerous huge touring acts, the band failed to catch fire and returned back to the Detroit clubs without a label. Lineup changes ensued, including future Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith. In the end, the band just seemed doomed to the regional circuit and finally drifted apart in the early 80's. Kahan would form Flash Kahan and later, DC Drive. Harner would move to Florida and embark on a solo career there. The remaining members whereabouts are unknown.

"Music" is a decent journeyman hard rock album with AOR flourishes here and there. With a sound that is clearly midwestern in tone, Tilt can be compared to just about any other band who sprang from the region in the late 70's. Head East, Bad Boy, The Godz and 707 are all good reference points, though the band doesn't sound like specifically like anyone else. Perhaps this inability to label the band was part of their undoing. Despite the lack of a strong identity, there are some great moments to be found here. "Just What I've Been Looking For", "Get It Again" and "Baby Do You Like It?" are all nicely crafted tracks that highlight the band's subtle songwriting diversity. Tilt could write southern rock, hard rock and arena rock with a decent amount of effectiveness, all of which can be heard here on "Music".

Since the album will probably never see reissue, here's a high quality transfer of the album for you to crank and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Re-upped: Flying Squad - Flying Squad (1978)

Flying Squad, a Scottish hard rock quartet from Glasgow, came together in 1976 from the ashes of local rock heroes, Rogue. After a lineup shift and a name change (The Boyz) which was halted by another band in Illinois, the band settled on the name Flying Squad. By now, the band had grown into a quintet, featuring future Waysted vocalist, Finn. Conquering the UK club circuit, the band was spotted at a live gig by a CBS Records exec and were quickly shuffled into the studio to record their debut. That debut came in the form of "Flying Tigers" and was produced by Status Quo's Francis Rossi. Though Rossi's name power and the potent material on the record should've helped the band get a firm grip on the charts, the album was met with indifference, partially due to the burgeoning punk scene that was beginning to take hold in the UK. Management disputes ensued and soon the band collapsed amidst in-fighting and financial woes. Finn would soon form Waysted, and several other members would regroup as The Difference. Finn now enjoys success in Denmark as a karaoke DJ personality.

Though this album has been slagged by many, it's actually a superb example of UK hard rock which takes liberal doses of american AOR to embellish upon its sound. The result is twelve vibrant tracks that gel together well. Finn never sounded better than he does here, folks. If you're a Waysted fan, it's imperative that you give this one a spin. Regardless, there's much to love about this criminally underrated and long forgotten piece of Scotland's contributions to the rock and roll pantheon.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Re-upped: American Noise - American Noise (1980)

Cleveland's American Noise were a short lived AOR act who enjoyed regional success in the late 70's before signing with Planet Records and issuing their self-titled debut in 1980. Bolstering hooky arena rock songwriting (with the help of Kim Fowley), the album is a consistently good example of what was springing from the midwest at the dawn of the new decade. With brothers, Craig and Bruce Balzer leading the way, this fine album flows effortlessly from track to track with little filler in the mix. A surprisingly good band, American Noise nevertheless found themselves being virtually ignored outside of their native region and were promptly without a label deal a year after their debut. Soon enough, members packed it in and the band effectively ceased operations in 1981. Not much is known of the members current whereabouts, though a number of them went on to work with Donnie Iris and Eric Carmen.

Jump on this clean vinyl transfer, as this one will probably never see legitimate reissue. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Re-upped: Glider - Glider (1977)

Glider were a studio project assembled by former The Lost & Chamaeleon Church (and briefly Ultimate Spinach) guitarist, Ted Myers. He quickly drafted Scott McCarl (Raspberries), Gene Barkin (The Grassroots), Eddie Tuduri (Boxer) & hotshot session men Steve Halter, Jeff Stillman and Jeff Eyrich to round out the lineup. The band were quickly signed in 1976 to United Artists Records and began production at Conway Recorders in Los Angeles. Subsequent sessions continued throughout most of the year at Sound City, Village Recorder, Studio 55, Whitney Recorders and Heider Filmways. Their self-titled album hit store shelves the following year, with lead-off single, "You're Like a Melody" making a valiant attempt at conquering the airwaves. Despite fairly solid songwriting, the single flopped and quickly the album faded into obscurity. The project was seemingly dead in the water before it really began. Members went on to work with Surf Punks, Tanya Tucker, Air Supply, Natalie Cole, Nick Gilder and John Cale. Myers later became a successful songwriter before eventually transitioning into A&R work for Rhino & Concord Records.

This nugget has been a curiosity for many AOR lovers over the last three decades. With a lavish front cover (courtesy Annie Neilson), one could only assume this is an exercise in pretentious pomp. Well, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is this is NOT pretentious pomp. The bad news is that it's not a mindblowing collection of lost AOR classics either. Honestly what we have here is a decent batch of mostly MOR 70's pop. Nothing terrible, but nothing really commanding your attention either. To Myers' credit, the writing here is mostly good, but his occasionally tuneless vocal delivery does tend to dull the edges a bit. There are big standouts though...such as the cynical "It's Too Bad", the rootsy "Always the Last One to Know" & my personal favorite "You're Like a Melody". The track bears a certain Pete Townsend stamp that seems at odds with the majority of this album's lightweight material.

Ripped by me (with my new USB turntable) from clean vinyl, here is Glider. Listen without prejudice and enjoy...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Baby Rocker - Young And Mean (1977)

Baby Rocker.  What a murky background this band has.  What little there is to know is rather convoluted.  What I can tell you is the band isn't German, which has been widely reported over the years.  Baby Rocker were 100% eclectic american rock.  This appears to be strictly a one-off studio project, helmed by principals Michael Lewis, Laurin Rinder, Ruben Banuelos and Mark Dulski.  Each of them were collectively and individually part of a stable of composers and producers of early west coast disco under various guises such as El Coco, Le Pamplemousse and Saint Tropez.  Prior to this period, Lewis had been a brief member of The Standells, worked as a fill-in for Nicky Hopkins in Quicksilver Messenger Service and also recorded a rather obscure album with Banuelos, "Willie and the Hand Jive" in short-lived outfit, Joshua.  Dulski's roots trace back the the late 60's in south central Arizona, with area bands The Hearsemen and Hobbit.  Los Angeles based AVI Records was the primary outlet for many of the early disco records produced by this stable and Baby Rocker was one of the few rock acts to find its way on the label's roster.

The record itself is a strange one for sure.  A veritable mishmash of styles and sounds.  Here you will find mainstream rock, west coast pop, progressive pomp, smooth jazz and even a brief excursion into big band cabaret.  I'm happy to say that the majority of the record leans towards rock and pomp, with plenty of synth parts adding to the quirky feel of the record.  Perhaps the strangest inclusion on the records comes by way of a bizarre straightfaced reworking of the old vaudeville standard, "Hooray For Hollywood".  With a honking synth bass and nickelodeon Wurlitzer propelling the track, it's a wacky foray into schmaltz that needs to be heard at least once.

So what's everyone up to now?  Lewis still produces and performs in Hollywood. Rinder has found success as a photographer and painter in Hollywood.  Banuelos produces and records in Casa Grande, Arizona.  Dulski's whereabouts are unknown but he is presumed to still be residing in Arizona.

I'm alive!

Yep, it's true.  I'm not dead.  I really have to apologize for the horrible lack of communication and content here at RFR.  Truth is, aside from my full-time career, my new musical project, writing music articles, liner notes, assisting with some CD reissue projects and compiling a book dedicated to the very music featured here over the years...well, I'm in over my head!  However, the new year has me thinking I really need to start posting here with some sense of regularity.  Daily?  Whoa, that's almost certainly an impossibility but I'd like to work on getting some things up here monthly.  Maybe bi-weekly if I can swing it.

I really appreciate that many of you have continued to interact here and share your insights.  It's nice to know that this blog hasn't been totally forgotten.  I have plenty of rare albums to share here for awhile, though that's been occasionally difficult at times.  The directive of this blog has always been to share music that isn't readily available at 50+ other blogs.  Many albums that were once holy grails are now easily obtainable from a ton of great fellow bloggers and via apps like Soulseek.  So, rather than push quantity over quality, I've always tried to be selective about what I post here.  I plan to keep that in mind moving forward.

So, let's see what I can whip up this week.  If you aren't already following me, be sure to add me to your newsfeeds and you'll be alerted when some new content has been added.  Happy New Year everyone and I'll see you real soon!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Savannah - Savannah (1977)

Hollister (California) was the home of this obscure polyethnic hard rock act, comprised of Robert Fowler (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Gordon Kusayanagi (Guitar/Vocals), Sammy Garcia (Bass/Vocals) & George Collins (Drums/Percussion).  Sadly, their story is almost completely wrapped in mystery.  What we do know is that the band first released a single, "Livin' High" b/w "Night Life" on their own label, Savannah Records, in 1976.  The following year they released the "Crank It Up" full-length on their newly dubbed Chrome Thigh Records.  What happened after that is anybody's guess, though Kusayanagi was tragically killed in a high profile rampage that took place on the Vegas strip in late 2005, when Stephen Ressa plowed through crowds of people in his Buick sedan.

As for the record, well, this one pulls ridiculous prices in collectors circles.  Fortunately, the music is much better than what is typical with these homegrown private pressings.  All in all, the album is mostly very typical hard rock of the era.  Perhaps calling it hard rock is a stretch but there's a definite edge that makes it difficult to call anything else.  Fowler's vocals are all competent and the performances are solid.  The production is clear and better than what is common with self-released budget recordings.

As  expected, the punchier material really stands out.  Tracks like "Turn It Around", "No Life Of My Own", "Looking For A Woman" and the great interpretation of Crabby Appleton's sole hit, "Go Back" all rock.  The only song that really detracts from the proceedings is the west-coast influenced "Song And Dance" which seems at odds with the overall musical vibe in the grooves.

I would definitely consider this to be one of the better private pressings of the era and it's truly a shame no niche label has taken steps to reissue this on CD.  So, to remedy that issue for now, I present "Crank It Up" for your discerning ears.  I recommend you crank this one up and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whiz Kids - Whiz Kids (1974)

This Ann Arbor based duo's back story is a pretty mysterious one.  Based on what I could gather, the band was formed sometime in the late 60's by multi-instrumentalist Pat McCaffrey and percussionist Ken Michalik.  The band's sound was distinct in that no guitars or basses were present.  McCaffrey often would play organ pedals and analog synths in their place.  By 1970, they were supporting the likes of Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station, Savage Grace, J. Geils Band and Spirit in and around southeast Michigan.  Eventually, the band hooked up with Ann Arbor music impresario Al Nalli and their first recorded effort was released via his label, Kasaba Records, in 1971.  That single, "Take" b/w "Big Cigar Blues" is now highly collectible.

By 1972, Whiz Kids were headlining their own gigs in prominent area venues like Primo Showbar, Grande-Rivera Theater and The Suds Factory.  In 1973 the band entered Pampa Studios and Glen Arbor Roller Mills to record their sole full-length effort.  The eponymously titled record featured McCaffrey and Michalik in all of their two-man glory, sans guitar and bass.  Whiz Kids embarked on extensive gigging in the region, often stopping for extended residencies at Chances Are and The Second Chance.  The band continued to function until the mid-70's, at one point augmenting the lineup with guitar and bass.  Their activities beyond 1976 are hazy at best, but the band (in a mostly revamped configuration) returned to the scene in late 1981 and continued through early 1984 before finally dissolving.

McCaffrey would briefly hook up with Bob Seger's band before doing session work on a number of major label releases through the 80's before embarking on a career in the corporate entertainment business with his newly dubbed showband, Pat McCaffrey and the Whiz Kids Band.  He continues this career today.  Michalik, on the other hand, took his talents into the Ann Arbor Public School system, working as a music teacher, where he resides to this day.

I know this rarity hasn't exactly set the collector community on fire, but I find a lot to love about this unique sounding record.  There's something funky about these songs.  There are plenty of hooks to be found here and even a few pseudo rockers.  Standouts include "Judas", "Start All Over Again", "Poison" and the addictive funky ZZ Top cover, "(Ride My) Chevrolet".  Make no mistake, this isn't some scorching hot and heavy indie release, but the cavernous ambience and tight performances make this an interesting listen.  Perhaps a little on the vanilla side of things, Whiz Kids will still certainly win some fans with this sole effort.  Standby as efforts are being made to secure a copy of the rare single from 1971.  I'll be posting it here once I've landed one!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Empire - Empire (1981)

I wish I could give you some real insight on this interesting German band, but their story is beyond murky.  There is such little information floating around that most of what I know pertains to before and after the proper Empire story.  The band was formed by ex-Cannabis India members Oliver Petry and Dirk Fleck.  Rounding out the lineup were Roland Lange, Bernd Kaspers and Fred Otto.  Empire were signed to a small fledgling label, Repertoire Records, long before that label would find success reissuing long lost obscurities on CD.  In 1981, the label released Empire's self-titled debut.  Shortly after, the band issued a single and slowly faded from sight.  It is presumed Empire ceased to exist by the mid-eighties.  Petry went on to be a noted session singer/keyboardist and launched a new career in web design which he continues to this day.  Fleck would later form Mama before working in production and sound engineering.  Kaspers would also go on to work in production throughout the eighties.  Otto made a name for himself as flashy metal drummer, Der Neitenpapst (aka Rivet Pope) in the band Random.  Lange's activities are unknown.

Empire's sole effort can't seem to decide whether it's hard rock, pop or pub rock.  I'm usually one for eclectic records, but this one lacks focus.  To top it off, Petry's thick accent and pitchy vocals make for a difficult listen at times.  There are some decent songs here.  "Fast Little Woman", "Watch Out" and "It's A Ball" are generally pretty well done.  All in all, the record is simply unremarkable.  Listen for yourself...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Butch - The Bitch Of Rock & Roll (1977)

For a more exhaustive bio on this obscure Utica quartet, Butch, I suggest you click HERE.  In a nutshell, the core of Butch consisted of Joe Goodman, Mike Surprenant and John Chapman, all of whom grew up together in upstate New York.  Butch was an offshoot of a mid-sixties pop combo called The Ravens.  The Ravens, essentially a teen band, managed an appearance on cable access program, Twist-A-Rama before splitting sometime in the late sixties.  From the ashes arose Butch, who by 1972 had landed a three year house band gig in Rome, NY.  It was during this period that the band would develop a provocative stage show, creating enough buzz and confidence to prompt a move to California in search of greater opportunity.  Chapman remained in NY and area bassist Angelo Alati was drafted in his place.

Upon their arrival in Lancaster, the band hooked up with drummer Steve Taylor, who would prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle.  Shortly after getting comfortable in their new surroundings, the band found themselves at Goldmine Studios in Ventura, CA.  Sessions for the album went quickly and within a week, "The Bitch Of Rock & Roll" was finished.  Through Taylor's association with Lancaster based label, Sunndial Records, the band were signed and 5,000 copies of the record were pressed.  A string of promotional gigs followed but the band began to fragment within a year.  Goodman and Surprenant returned to New York but efforts to regroup never came to pass.  Goodman returned to California and hooked up with Alati to resurrect Butch.  

By 1980, the band had morphed into a performance art punk act, which perhaps was more befitting of their established irreverent stage show.  The duo added drummer, Cliff Martinez (Captain Beefheart, Dickies, Red Hot Chili Peppers) and frontwoman Cherie Greene to the lineup.  The following year would see the band making appearances on the infamous New Wave Theater TV program.  More recording took place at Doug Moody's Mystic Studios, which led to the band's inclusion on 1982's "The Sound of Hollywood" cult classic punk compilation.  By the mid eighties, Alati would return to NY and Butch were effectively done.

Goodman would eventually find notoriety in a different medium, writing books and articles as a holocaust denier.  He passed away in October of 2013.  Alati returned to working as a hairdresser in Utica before passing away from an extended illness in December of 1991.  Surprenant would become a corrections officer in upstate New York.  Chapman went on to work in high profile entertainment promotions where he presumably remains to this day. Taylor is reportedly retired and still living in Southern California.

Much ado has been made of this album over the years, perhaps alone due to its rarity.  All that aside, the album itself really appeals to me.  It has all the trapping of a homegrown private pressing.  Murky production, off-the-cuff performances, a virtually unknown label and generic cover art.  At the core though, some of these songs ROCK.  Surprenant's earnest tenor plays well against Goodman's charismatic baritone, giving the album enough diversity to keep it interesting.  The guitars are fuzzy and Goodman's soloing is just reckless enough to make it charming.  Tracks like "You're Gonna Die", "I'm Your Slave" and "You've Never Had It Like This Before" are the clear standouts here but others may enjoy the dirges "Girl From The City" and the eight minute "Fire King".  Either way, it's time this gem reveals itself to the public.  This album has remained lost for far too long.  It's my pleasure to bring you this quality rip @ 320kbps for your judgement.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back To Earth

So, I'm strongly considering a return here.  I'm armed to the teeth with tons of rarities and frankly, I've missed interacting with everyone here. Posts may not be prolific on the level they were in my first six months here, but they should be MUCH more frequent than over the last few years.

In any case, add me to your newsreaders and I'll check back in when I'm closer to re-launch.  I'll be doing some graphics/layout tweaks first and then get to the good stuff ;)

Talk soon...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Introducing: The Sonic Vault
Hello friends!  Well, after some contemplation I have decided to open a new blog for the sole purpose of telling the stories of the many artists I have featured on this very blog over the years, and many others as well.  This site will feature content sourced directly from the artists themselves.  It is a labor of love that I have touched upon over the years and now with the creation of The Sonic Vault, there will be a place to archive this information.  Please take a look, subscribe to the newsfeed and interact with me and others there as we will finally shed light on the artists who have fueled our curiosities for decades.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coming Soon...

Keep an eye out for a new feature, where I'll be publishing interviews with bands plucked right out of 60's/70's obscurity. I'll still be bringing the rarities, but will also be spending some time bringing you the fascinating stories of these wrongfully overlooked artists from yesteryear. On the immediate horizon, Bike (Detroit, MI) and Butch (Utica, NY). I'm working on Crystal Haze (Decatur, IL) and Fyter (Little Rock, AR) for future articles. This should be informative and interesting. I have several others lined up and quite a few I'm pursuing as well. 2011 is going to be a GREAT year here at RFR. Rock forth!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wheatstone Bridge - Bad Connection (1976)

Wheatstone Bridge are one of those bands that few people have any information about. Aside from the fact that the band were based out of Kankakee, IL and recorded this LP in 1976 at Bob Millsap's Ironside Studios in Nashville, there are precious few historical traces left behind. Guitarist, Joe Bright was presumably the creative force behind the band, given that he is credited for almost all of the album's songwriting. It is also safe to say that Bright sang the material, although drummer Kim Berry and producer George Marakas were also credited for some vocal assistance as well. "Bad Connection" was issued in 1976 by Marakas' publishing/management company, SanRon Music. The album failed to break nationally but in hindsight has found a second life in collector's circles. Acid Archives featured a flattering review of the album and obscurity lovers have raved about if for years.

Musically, the band are a tight well-oiled machine. There's a slight british influence happening in some of the arrangements and a nice blend of distorted and clean guitar tones. Tracks like "Bad Connection", "Make It Rhyme", "Dance The Whole Night Long", "Thunderock" and "Nightflight" all featuring blistering guitars and stand among the best material on the album. There are a couple of ballads present as well that lack the immediacy and impact of the heavier tracks. The production is solid and crisp and the writing is nice and compact. This is definitely one of the better 70's private pressings I've heard in quite awhile. I have no doubt lovers of old-school melodic hard rock will eat this up. Dig this sweet vinyl rip...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fyre - Pyromancy (1977)

Fyre's story begins in Hays, KS in 1968, upon the dissolution of midwestern beat group The Blue Things. The Blue Things, who had experienced a lineup change, re-dubbed themselves as Fyre and moved to the west coast in the hopes of gaining massive exposure. The band managed to land a contract with Dot Records and embarked on a national tour with Them, but by early 1970 the band had dissolved with some members staying in California and others relocating back to Kansas. Several years later in Emphoria, KS Fyre were resurrected with a mostly revamped lineup and were packing clubs all over Kansas as well as select venues in Hollywood. By mid-'77, the band were holed up in Leon Russell's home studio tracking their debut LP, "Pyromancy". Upon its release, Billboard magazine were singing the band's praises and expectations were high. However, limited distribution in some markets kept the album from breaking big nationwide and as the 80's were approaching, not much was heard from Fyre. It is presumed the band split sometime early in the new decade. Since then, Fyre embarked on a reunion tour in 2007 and even had their own website at one point before vanishing again shortly thereafter. The activities of the members are currently unknown.

Musically, Pyromancy is one schizophrenic affair. The band dabble in AOR, country, boogie, funk and to a lesser extent, hard rock. As would be expected, this kitchen sink approach does not make for a consistent listen whatsoever, but there are a handful of gems worth noting. "L.A. Lady" is a solid AOR styled track, "Musicband" tastefully lifts from the west coast flavorings of bands like Firefall or Pablo Cruise and "6th Avenue" has great energy and tasteful harmonies. Overall though, Pyromancy lacks the strong identity of the heavy hitters of their era making Fyre a minor curiosity for obscurity hounds.

Dig this satisfactory vinyl rip and enjoy the subtle charms of Kansas' Fyre...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bull - It's A Rock & Roll World (1979)

Bull was a band from the mid-Atlantic that played between 1976 and 1980. Ray Pittman started this rock group in early 1976 with Clayton Butchard, Richard Cowles, Chris Link and Ricky Lewis. Clayton quit after two months and Bull became a band of four. The next year saw Bull at every southeastern town from Richmond to Miami. They played 268 nights during their 1st twelve months. A club fire destroyed the band's equipment in June and they paused to re-gear the show. They were back on the road by July. They recorded in the late summer of 1977 two songs called "Better Mean What You Say" and "Sometimes". This got some radio exposure which boosted Bull's popularity. Doug Gilcrest became their manager and was instrumental in attaining new opportunities for Bull.

Interest from record companies came after 1977 and Bull was seen on the bill at some major East Coast concert extravaganzas. Early in the spring of 1978, the band signed a contract with "Wheels Records" and Rod Seagream became the new Bull manager replacing Doug. Terry Garland came aboard as second guitarist the Ray became the group's featured lead singer. Bull recorded an LP in the Fall of 1978 featuring songs written by the band. In early 1979, Bull was a promising new recording act. Their album was released on March 20 and a buzz was in the air of the possibilities. The group carried a four man road crew in 1979 and traveled in a new luxury club van. Wheels Records supplied the band with a state of the art sound system, a new equipment truck and complete lighting gear. Bull LPs, T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers were sold at shows and at record stores. Bull had its own following and was known as a crowd magnet by the establishments who hosted them. College radio stations played tracks from their LP as Bull experienced its peak popularity. Bull had a large fan base and felt positive about their future. Talk of national sponsorship fueled expectations that Bull was on its way to bigger and better things.

The euphoria ended in August with news of dishonesty and fraud on the part of Wheels Records. Bull canned Rod as manager in September and cut ties with Wheels. The band members felt the air had been let out of their balloon. Bull reorganized in early October with Dale Williams on bass. Ricky went to the west coast making Bull again a quartet. Chris left the band in March 1980 as Mike Mann took over as drummer. Terry left in October of 1980 to join Chris Link, Richard Cowles and Bruce Olsen in forming "The Offenders". Bull ended at that point and Ray started an all new group. The Ray Pittman Band issued an LP of Ray's new songs during 1981(Getcha Some). Terry Garland later became an internationally known solo blues singer/guitarist. Chris and Richard continued playing together in Virginia bands for the next 20 years. Ricky Lewis made a name for himself in California and put together "The Ricky Lewis Band". Chris, Ray and Richard worked together again for two years during the early nineties with The Kingpins. Ray Pittman currently performs with his group,"Julius Pittman & the Revival". All former members of Bull are still playing music today! (Bio taken from the band's myspace tribute page)

This somewhat rare album is chock full of very typical late 70's hard rock, which features a slight southern rock edge. Musically, the band are tight and the production is solid for an indie release from this era. There's some great guitar playing across the board, but the tracks do tend to suffer slightly from rather pitchy vocals. Overall it's a difficult album to praise or condemn, simply because while nothing is mindblowing, there's nothing here cringeworthy either. I recommend everyone visit the fabulous Zosopat blog for a download of Ray Pittman's post-Bull album. In the meantime, dig this HQ transfer from virgin vinyl. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Diamond Reo - Ruff Cuts (1978)

Diamond Reo's third and final album marked another stylistic shift in the band's sound. Where their debut was soulful and their sophomore release raucous, "Ruff Cuts" brings in elements of powerpop to the sound, while still retaining some of the edge found on "Dirty Diamonds". The album was their first locally pressed effort as well, being issued by Pittsburgh based Mad Dog Records. The band enjoyed continued regional success, but Nardini's departure in 1979 would prompt a full blown breakup. Members would go on to work as session men as well as involvement in acts like Norman Nardini and the Tigers, The Silencers and numerous local outfits.

"Ruff Cuts" unfortunately suffers from atrocious production, which makes this affair a mixed bag. There are several strong cuts that recall some of the better moments from "Dirty Diamonds", but the muted and muffled sound makes them come across amateurish and clumsy. Quite disappointing. On the upside, there's some real passion in these grooves and tracks like "Electricity" and "Party Girl" are proof. Overall, "Ruff Cuts" may be somewhat low on classic hooks, but the album holds historical importance.

A note about this vinyl transfer. I took a lot of time trying to get this LP to sound great without disrupting the integrity of the original recording. I EQ'd quite a bit, with the intention of bringing out the highs which were sorely absent on the original vinyl. I think it sounds a little better, but you can only 'polish a turd' so much. Your feedback is welcome, as always. Enjoy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rabbitt - Rock Rabbitt (1978)

South Africa's Rabbitt formed in the city of Pretoria out of the ashes of local favorites The Conglomeration. The Conglomeration (1968-1971) consisted of Trevor Rabin, Neil Cloud, Ronnie Friedman and Allan Rosenberg and were local favorites, winning a Battle of the Bands competition in 1971. Despite squeaking out a single, "Locomotive Breath" in 1972, the band (now calling themselves Rabbitt) effectively split when Cloud joined the South African Army. Two years later, upon Cloud's discharge, Rabin, Cloud and Friedman regrouped adding Duncan Faure to the lineup.

The band landed a record deal with SA label Jo'Burg Records, as well as international licensing through Capricorn Records (US). By late 1975, the band had recorded their debut "Boys Will Be Boys", which became a huge success in their homeland. The band literally exploded onto the scene and by the time their sophomore album "A Croak And A Grunt In The Night" was issued in 1977, Rabbitt were mega-stars. Soon word spread and North American/European promoters were clamoring at the prospect of bringing the band to a whole new level. Unfortunately, the political upheaval occurring in their homeland brought the band's global aspirations to a halt, prompting Rabin to depart. The band soldiered on as a trio, releasing one last album "Rock Rabbitt" in 1978 before splitting later that year.

Rabin later worked as a solo artist, as well as becoming a key member of Yes. Since 1994, he has worked almost exclusively scoring films. Faure would later join the Bay City Rollers (aka The Rollers) before settling in Los Angeles with bands Karu, The Joybuzzers, Blue Bottles and as a solo performer. Friedman has enjoyed moderate success working in production and Cloud toured with Peter Frampton breifly before retiring from the business. He now manages an office furniture company in South Africa.

"Rock Rabbitt" is easily the most difficult to find of the band's three albums & it is also the only album penned exclusively by Faure. With prominent keyboards & glossy production, the album is somewhat of a stylistic departure from the band's eclectic earlier material. There's a lot of Lennon influences throughout as well as some slight touches of early new wave in places. This would be something Faure would bring with him during his tenure with The Rollers. In fact, "Hello And Welcome Home" (as well as b-side "I Was Eleven" released around this time) would be recut in a rearranged form by The Rollers in 1979.

Though I think this is a fine effort by Rabbitt, there is a fragmented feel in most of the tracks here which I think lack Rabin's knack for clever arranging. In any case, here's a long lost relic from South Africa that I think any Rabbitt, Trevor Rabin or BCR fans will find interesting at the very least. Dig in and enjoy this time capsule from 1978!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bike - Bike (1978)

Bike were a short-lived Detroit area based outfit who never really made waves outside of their region. It's a shame, as the these boys could muster up a furious cacophony when given the chance. The band basically released this album on a local label before dissolving among the slew of more established acts of the time. Very little is known about the band's background, though vocalist Don Pierle (brother of Indiana band, McKay's Ray Pierle) was a notoriously charismatic figure on the local scene. It is presumed that Bike's lifespan was a rather short one.

So what about the album? Well, many rarities come and go, but this one is easily one of the best I've heard. Scarcity aside, this album is chock full of anthemic and powerful 70's hard rock of the first rate. With a sound that resembles Left End, one can easily get a sense of the quality found in the grooves of this monolithic hard rock relic. It would be quite difficult to pinpoint a highlight, as this album is brimming with quality songwriting throughout. There's truly not a weak track in the lot.

I HIGHLY recommend this beast of an album to anyone craving a heavy dose of powerful in your face rock and roll. Though there's nothing here that reinvents the wheel, there's unquestionably a plethora of pounding riffage to behold. Need proof? Dig in and see what this extremely underappreciated band is all about. Being one of the rarest of its kind, you'll surely get a kick out of Bike's one and only album. Courtesy of Harvey M...


Monday, March 15, 2010

Trigger - Trigger Treat (1975)

New Jersey's Trigger formed in 1973 and spent its first three years playing the circuit until landing a production deal with Big Guy Productions in 1976. Within the next year, the band had signed with Casablanca Records and began work on its major label self-titled debut. The album hit shelves in early 1978 and was met with critical praise. Follow up work began on the next album the following year, but production complications halted the release, prompting Casablanca to drop the band from its roster. The band soldiered onward and continued playing in various incarnations until 1985. In 2001, guitarist Jimmy Duggan passed away but the band's loyal fanbase never waivered, which prompted a reunion show on August 16th, 2009. Around this time, "Trigger" was issued on CD for the first time. The remaining members are essentially retired from the business, though there are hopes of additional reunion dates in the near future.

What we have here is "Trigger Treat", the band's semi-legendary and quite rare debut album. Released on the band's own label, Parliament Records, the album circulated around the tri-state area in 1975, helping to increase the band's visibility. Though it did little to capture the band's live sound, it was the impetus in getting the band in touch with major players in the music business. If you own the band's LP from '78, you will be quite surprised at the difference heard here. The band's punchy powerpop sound had yet developed, as "Trigger Treat" sees them trying to find their musical identity. Most of side one is comprised of light fare with a decidedly more pedestrian slant. You'll hear lots of pseudo-disco influences creeping into the arrangements and virtually zero distortion. Side two picks up considerably with the first cut being "Somebody Like You", a primitive version of the track that would later be the first single from their Casablanca album. Most of the highlights are found here, with the standouts being "Little Girl (My Sweet Babe)" and "You Can't Stop Now".

Overall, this album nets only an average rating from me, but there's no denying the demand for this rare slab of homegrown vinyl. Trigger fans will most definitely wanna check this out as well as lovers of mid-fi private LP releases. Whatever your tastes, enjoy this HQ rip of this long lost relic!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crystal Haze - Crystal Haze (1977)

Crystal Haze are mostly shrouded in mystery, however it is known that the band sprang from the Decatur, Illinois sometime in 1975. Basically comprised of high school friends, Crystal Haze tracked their sole album mostly live in the studio with vocal duties being split between the two guitarists, Greg Bickers and Dave Ellis. After a rather slipshod attempt at mixing, the album was pressed as is in extremely limited numbers. It is rumored that only 100 copies were ever pressed. Since the rather low-key release of their debut album, very little has ever been heard of Crystal Haze though it is believed the band continued to gig around the area for another year before dissolving. The band's post-split activities are murky, though Bickers is now fronting local band, The Hitmen in his hometown.

"Crystal Haze" is certainly one of the most elusive mid-70's recordings in existence, fetching insane prices in collector's circles. From a rarity perspective, I can certainly understand the fervor often raised by this album, given how rarely it ever surfaces. What about the music though? Well, let me just say that the fretwork is fantastic. Excellent guitar tones & fiery performances abound here. Overall, the musicianship is pretty solid considering how young the players were at the time. There's some cool dual guitar work here and there as well, which elevates the intensity another notch. Standouts include the opening instrumental, "Flame" as well as two of the mellower tracks, "In The Night" and "Goodnight".

If you are a sucker for homegrown lo-fi 70's rock, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by "Crystal Haze". Tough to peg and elusive as the Dodo, this album's legend is at least somewhat justified. Dig it...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Re-upped: Bad Boy - Electric Eyes (1984)

Continuing with another entry from Milwaukee's Bad Boy, this is their fourth studio release from 1984, "Electric Eyes". In an attempt to remain relevant among the giants of overblown 80's hard rock, Bad Boy update their sound embellishing it with synth pads and noodley fretwork. Does it work? Well, it does a little but even then, it all comes off a bit third tier in the end. With Xeno (original Cheap Trick vocalist) now at the helm, the melodies are more prominent than ever, but the lack of originality reduces this obscurity to nothing more than a curiosity. There are some strong cuts here, but nothing really has staying power. Regardless, here it is in all its newly ripped digital glory. Bad Boy fans will want to sink their teeth into one of the band's forgotten releases.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Re-upped: $27 Snap On Face - Heterodyne State Hospital (1977)

Sonoma County weirdos, $27 Snap On Face, rank among the strangest of west coast cult acts from the 70's. Formed sometime early in the decade by guitarist Bob O'Connor and vocalist David Petri, the lineup was soon complete with the addition of bassist Steve Nelson, guitarist Jim Doherty, keyboardist Frank Walburg and drummer Ron Ingalsbe. Almost immediately, O'Connor and Petri knew they wanted to create something truly bizarre. Though the other members were resistant at first, soon the band were making waves in Sebastopol and its surrounding cities. With over the top performance art integrated into their shows, the band seemed destined for cult status from the get go. The band's history goes blurry from this point onward, though I am aware of at least one single issued in 1975, prior to the "Heterodyne State Hospital" album.

As for this album, well, let's just say it's an acquired taste. Some get it and others don't. I suppose I'm with the latter, though I can appreciate the band's desire to do something unusual. With Zappa flourishes penetrating the music presented here, the album comes across like an inside joke that only a select few were intended to understand. This being said, the listener might often feel a bit alienated by the material here. Sounding like an early Frisco hippie act fronted by Frank Zappa, the focus here is sublime and not so much about musicality as it is lyrical content. The band self-issued 1,000 copies of the album in 1977, though it sounds like it may have been recorded considerably earlier. The band continued for a short time, doing mostly union gigs in the Sonoma County area before eventually calling it a day. O'Connor now lives in Hawaii, Petri is a realtor in Cobb, Walburg runs a vacation community in Santa Rosa and Ingalsbe's whereabouts are unknown. Doherty passed away in 1993.

If weird cult bands are your thing, then you'll surely find something to love about $27 Snap On Face. This elusive piece of west coast psychedelic is, if anything, something you're not likely to ever forget. Enjoy this re-up from 'Gumby'!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bad Boy - Back To Back (1978)

Back again with another entry from Milwaukee's very own Bad Boy. "Back To Back" was the band's final effort for United Artists Records, released in 1978. The album spawned no singles and failed to chart, prompting the label to opt out of extending the band's contract. The band continued playing the midwest for a number of years before finally fizzling in the late 80's. With the imminent release of a greatest hits album in 1998, the band reunited and has been recording and performing ever since.

"Back To Back" is an improvement over the band's debut, featuring more focused songwriting, a harder sound and more direct melodic hooks. "Back To Back" also marks the band's first foray into power pop, a style that would be fully explored on their follow up release, "Private Party". Though there are a handful of somewhat pedestrian cuts, there are some equally compelling tracks to offset them. "It's Alright" is a powerful opening track, with a sound reminiscent of early Trooper. "Always Come Back To You" and "Accidental" are both brimming with hooks lifted from the Raspberries songbook. "No Stopping Me Now" is easily the heaviest track here, with a sleazy guitar tone to die for. All in all, this is a satisfying listen, especially for Bad Boy fans.

Dig this killer 1st gen vinyl rip, de-clicked and EQ'd for maximum effect. You'll be pressed to find a better transfer anywhere else, folks!


Friday, September 11, 2009

New Blog!

Be sure to drop in and visit my second blog, Planet Powerpop. If you're a lover of huge hooks and Beatlesque melodies, I'm sure you'll find something to love there. I'll continue blogging here, in addition to the new blog. Eat it up!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bad Boy - Girl On The Run (1986)

Bad Boy's fourth release came in the form of "Girl On The Run", a five song EP released in 1986. The band opted to release the record on their own label, Legend Records. With the limited distribution that is typical of indie labels, the album failed to launch the band back into the mainstream but it was well-received in parts of the midwest. Over the next few years the band slowly began winding down, as members defected to other area bands and solo projects. In 1998, the band reunited and has been performing locally ever since.

"Girl On The Run" is quite a departure from the band's 70's output, with a strong AOR slant full of embellishments like saxophones and keyboards. The band's grit has been replaced by a slick sheen that was very common for the times. The album's title track is clearly the standout here, though "Hypnotize" and "She Can Drive You Crazy" are also fantastic. Unfortunately, the two remaining tracks fall flat. "Midnight Love" lacks a strong hook and "The Longest Night" comes off sounding very formulaic and stiff. Overall, this is a worthy effort and a fine addition to the Bad Boy musical legacy.

This EP is extremely rare and usually quite expensive whenever it surfaces online. Check out this fantastic vinyl rip I've done and get hip to some rare Milwaukee AOR. You'll dig it.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Re-Upped: Bad Boy - Private Party (1981)

Here's another rarity from Milwaukee's legendary Bad Boy. By the time "Private Party" was in record stores, the band had already spent three years struggling to regain its composure after the sudden split from United Artists Records. With their fanatical hometown following keeping them aloft through this lean period, Bad Boy launched Streetwise Records to issue their third album in 1981. Though the album gained them newfound critical acclaim, it was not enough to launch them into superstar status. The band slagged it out in the midwest for another five years before finally giving up the ghost. A resurgence in interest eventually inspired a reunion in 1998 and the band can still be found conquering venues in their region today.

"Private Party" is an astonishing accomplishment, especially considering the climate in which this album was created. Few commercially successful acts ever have the fortune of trumping their most fruitful period of mainstream visibility, much less those who have never quite bridged the gap between being underground and being household names. Bad Boy had spent several years trying to capitalize on the support they were receiving from United Artists, but mainstream success eluded them in every way possible. So, it's quite amazing that their first self-financed album would not only push their songwriting to a whole new level, but also result in a production that glistens with a punishingly clear sheen that rivals any major label's output from the same time period.

The album swaggers with confidence at every angle, complete with charging guitars, heavyhanded rhythms and a charismatic vocal approach that demands your immediate attention from the very first note. "Private Party" is the sound of a hungry band on fire and hellbent on making a powerful musical statement. There are literally no weak tracks to be found here, folks. It's that damn good. With a sound that blends Cheap Trick, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Kiss, the band blasts through all ten tracks with total gusto. The result is unquestionably the most relevant collection of tracks this band ever laid to tape. Need proof? Check out this fresh vinyl tranfer done by me. It simply blows away the previous version that was available here!


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Snakeye - Blue Feeling (1975)

Snakeye's debut came in 1975, two years after it had been actually recorded. The band were briefly courted by United Artists Records and the label subsequently issued a single "Choked Up" b/w "Blue Feeling" in 1973, but a full fledged contract never happened, leaving the band with master tapes to an album without a label. Eventually Harold Langille's local label, Big Harold's Records, issued the album in a limited pressing. Though the album did quite well for the band regionally speaking, with limited funds and resources, "Blue Feeling" was ultimately destined for the abyss and that's where it has remained ever since.

It's quite unfortunate too, as this album is a pretty enjoyable melange of styles that range from moody ballads to energetic hard rock. The album opener "See The Sun" is an excellent mood setter, with atmospheric flutes, tight vocal harmonies and a captivating dynamic shift throughout. "Something To Believe In" is one of the highlights, with a funky James Gang vibe firmly in place, it should've been a single. Other cuts worth mentioning are the sizzling title track and "I Can Stand" which sounds like David Byron fronting a southern rock band.

The verdict on this elusive relic is mostly positive. Though there are a few missteps sprinkled throughout, this is by and large a fairly tight and concise set of tracks. Check out this vinyl rip, but be aware that you may hear some very subtle pops on occasion. I labored hard over digitally restoring this one, but the source vinyl was only a VG+ rating. I didn't want to filter too much noise, as it would've compromised the music itself. I think you'll dig this one in any case! Dig it...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wizard - Wizard (1979)

Wizard were a Los Angeles based hard rock act which featured brothers Dave Walsh (guitar) and Brian Walsh (drums), as well as Bruffie Brigham (vocals, bass). It's not known when the band was established but their one and only album was self-financed & pressed under the guise of their own label, Future Track Records. The album circulated in nearby shops for awhile before disappearing completely. As the new decade approached, the band fizzled and Brigham moved on to Masque and later worked as a session player. The Walsh brothers activities are unknown.

This album has been fetching ridiculous prices at collector fairs and online auctions for a number of years now and I can't help but wonder why. Sure, the musicianship is decent enough and the songwriting isn't completely terrible by any means but methinks this is a clear case of hype over substance. The production here is half the problem, as the dynamics have all but been tossed out the window. What's left is a leaden and somewhat claustrophobic sounding mix that does no justice to the music at all. There have been many Rush comparisons made about Wizard and I just don't hear it at all. Am I missing something here? Overall, this LP is on the low end of "good", barely scraping by on the fact that there's exceptional musicianship happening here. Otherwise, unless you're a sucker for plodding lo-fi early 80's hard rock, you might want to bypass Wizard.

Unfortunately, this rip leaves alot to be desired. It's fuzzy and part of the opening track has been truncated, but I have seen no alternate rips floating around and until then, this will have to do. Thanks to my friend Orchman, here is Wizard. What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vinyl For Sale!

Yep, time to start unloading some of my humble collection. I suffered a 450gb hard drive crash recently and all proceeds from this sale will go towards a reliable 1 or 2tb external drive. This makes my 2nd drive crash since 2005 and this one in particular stings! Fear not, alot of my rarities that I've been waiting to post here have been salvaged, so RFR will only get better and more active as I begin reorganizing files and doing write ups as I go. In the meantime, take a look at the vinyl I'm offering below. All LPs are graded conservatively and freight charges will be calculated on your zipcode or postal code. There will be no extra charges and each item will be shipped within 24hrs of payment, so there'll be no excessive waiting! I'm selling on a first come first serve basis, so use my email link at the bottom right margin of this blog to confirm your selection and we'll exchange contact information. Keep in mind that the gradings are for cover/vinyl. Thanks!
Thundermug – Orbit 1972 Axe Recs EX-/EX $12.00
Thundermug – Strikes 1973 Epic Recs EX-/EX $ 8.00
Thundermug – Ta-Daa!! 1975 Mercury Recs EX-/EX+ $12.00
Trooper – Trooper 1975 MCA Recs NM/EX- $12.00
Hello People – Bricks 1975 ABC Recs NM/NM $ 8.00
FM – City Of Fear 1980 Passport Recs EX-/EX- $10.00
Target – Captured 1977 A&M Recs EX-/EX- $ 6.00
Growl – Growl 1974 Discreet Recs EX-/EX $10.00
Voyager – Halfway Hotel 1979 Elektra Recs NM/NM $10.00
Glider – Glider 1977 United Artists Recs EX/EX+ $12.00
Flying Squad – Flying Squad 1978 Epic Recs EX-/EX+ $15.00
Baby – Baby 1975 Mercury Recs EX/EX+ $12.00
Baby – Where'd All The Money Go? 1976 Chelsea Recs EX/EX+ $12.00
Christ Child – Hard 1977 Buddah/Arista Recs VG+/VG+$ 8.00
Locust – Playgue 1976 Annuit Coeptus Recs NM/EX+ $12.00
Neon – Neon 1970 Paramount Recs VG+/EX- $ 8.00
The Pirates – Hard Ride 1979 Pacific Arts Recs VG+/EX- $ 6.00
Child – Child 1977 Ariel Recs NM/NM $15.00

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thundermug - Orbit (1973)

I've posted most of Thundermug's recorded output here before, but not their 2nd LP, "Orbit". Prior downloads I've come across from other sources have sounded scratchy and muddy. Not this one, folks. I ripped this myself from clean vinyl and the sound is amazing. The album came in mid '73 and though it was critically acclaimed in Canada, it never made a dent elsewhere in the world. It's a shame, as this is arguably their most cohesive release.

Though the album is notably less experimental as their debut, it makes up for this change in direction by focusing on tighter arrangements and melodies. In fact, later that year Epic records issued a Thundermug compilation LP which contained all but three cuts from this release. Yes, it's that strong. If you are a Thundermug fan or just enjoy clever melodic power pop/hard rock, you will be more tha satisfied with "Orbit". Click the link below and give your ears a taste of one of Canada's best kept secrets.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Hello People - Bricks (1975)

I'm back with another post from The Hello People, this one being their final release from 1975, "Bricks". By this point, the band had been pruned down to a quartet and streamlined their musical approach considerably. Under the direction of mentor Todd Rundgren, the band entered the studio in early 1975 and had "Bricks" on store shelves by the summer. Though Rundgren's golden touch had revived many sagging careers of the artists he worked with, The Hello People did not fare quite as well. By early 1977, the band had stopped touring and effectively fizzled by year's end. The post-breakup activities of former members are not known.

If you enjoyed the psychedelic sounds of the band's early albums, you will probably not find much to enjoy with "Bricks". Here we see a pastiche of mellow pop, hard rock and 50's doowop. Though there are highlights such as the perfectly crafted "Pass Me By", which incidentally appeared earlier in a different form on a previous album by the band, most of the material here is rather pedestrian. Despite this flaw, I honestly do enjoy this album from time to time. It's all about moderation folks and this is an album that does not hold up well under repeated listenings. Having said that, this is a relic worth checking out, especially if you are already familiar with the band. Check out this excellent rip from virgin vinyl. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Re-Upped: Baby - Where Did All the Money Go? (1976)

Back again with another entry from Baby, this time being their 2nd and final release, "Where Did All the Money Go?". From the get go, it is apparent that the band has tempered their sound considerably, transforming from a raunchy southern hard rock sound to a slicker, more laid back bluesy rock style. Some will find this change an improvement, but it's impossible not to notice the decline in songwriting present here. I personally prefer the supercharged crunchiness of the debut, but there are a few standouts here. "Easy Street, Hard Luck Avenue" and "Still in Love" are both closer to the band's signature hard rock sound and are two of the better cuts here. To the band's credit, they've added keyboards to the sound and this enhances the dynamics of the songwriting quite a bit. Whatever your preference, this obscurity deserves to be heard and this new transfer I've done from mint vinyl should please fans and newbies alike.

Re-Upped: Trooper - Trooper (1975)

Trooper's roots trace back to 1965 in the fair city of Vancouver, BC, where Ra McGuire (vocals) and Brian Smith (guitar) honed their chops as the creative force behind eccentric rockers, Winter's Green. Though the band enjoyed success on a marginal level in their native region, it wasn't until 1974 that the duo's new group, Applejack, drew the attention of Randy Bachman. Bachman, having been a pivotal player in the success of numerous bands like The Guess Who, Brave Belt and BTO, was instrumental in giving the band its first taste of national exposure and also their subsequent record contract with his own label, Legend Records. That album was released in 1975, under the band's new guise, Trooper. Immediately the band were placed on high profile tours of the US with BTO, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC and the Doobie Brothers, which did little to bring crossover success for the band in the states. North of the border, however, was an entirely different matter as the band enjoyed two high charting singles and a Juno award that same year.

This success prompted MCA Records to step into the picture and for the next five years, the band issued numerous gold and platinum albums and singles, sold out venues from coast to coast and recieved multiple Juno nominations. It wasn't until 1980 that their success began to wane, which resulted in a revolving door of label deals, sporadic releases and lower profile tours over the next eleven years. Trooper, though in a largely different lineup, continue to tour sporadically in their homeland to this day with McGuire and Smith still at the helm.

This album, their eponymously titled debut, is an excellent introduction to the band. With a perfect musical balance of muscle and levity, "Trooper" is chock full of tasteful classic hard rock. With crunchy workouts in the majority here, the album reigns in the energy only a few times to allow the listener a glimpse at the band's subtle interplay. Highlights include rockers like "Roller Rink", "Eddy Take It Easy", "Baby Wontcha Please Come Home" and "Don't Stop Now", while "General Hand Grenade" serves as an interesting diversion in the proceedings. Of Trooper's recorded output, I consider this to be among the best work the band's ever done. Though there's nothing here that reinvents the wheel, McGuire's articulate raspy vocals and sublime melodies elevate this from plain to exceptional.

Newly ripped by me from an excellent quality copy of the LP. Considering the iffy production of the album, this is a fantastic and clear transfer. All the more reason for you to download and get hip to one of Canada's most beloved classic rock acts.

Re-Upped: Locust - Playgue (1976)

This extremely obscure proto arena rock act sprang from Iowa in the early 70's, becoming legendary in their home state while remaining unknown just about everywhere else. Their local fame brought them to Annuit Coeptus Records, who issued their sole release, "Playgue" in 1976. Though the band regularly landed supporting slots for many of the bigger acts touring through Iowa, they never managed to break through to very many other regions outside of the midwest.

So what about the music? Taking on a sound remiscent of Morningstar or early Styx, the band assembles an interesting batch of songs that seem complex in places, yet underdeveloped. With capable vocals, quirky melodies and pitch perfect harmonies, they certainly had the chops to do something spectacular. As it stands, though, "Playgue" is an unremarkably pleasant affair through and through. With lackluster production that sounds more like something engineered in the 60's, alot of the music here suffers from bad sonics. Had the production values been more contemporary, perhaps Locust could have developed their sound more elaborately. The band did split a few years later, frustrated by lack of visibility and not much is known about the members subsequent activities, though bassist Court Hawley would end up in macabre theatrical metal act, Impaler, almost a decade later.

Newly ripped by me from Mint vinyl. This is a huge sonic upgrade from the original posting. In any case, enjoy this HQ vinyl rip and sink your teeth into one of Iowa's few contributions to the AOR genre. Hope you dig it!

Next... - Dusty Shoes (1971)

Winnipeg's Next were an offshoot of regional heroes The Fifth. After a fairly successful run of singles in Canada, The Fifth split in 1970 with several members of the band defecting to other acts in the region. One such product of the split was Next. The band were quickly able to secure a contract with Warner Brothers and by late 1971, "Dusty Shoes" was released. With somewhat limited exposure and very poor distribution, the album sank without a trace and Next were history by the end of 1973. Members would later turn up in The Guess Who, Harlequin and The Litter.

"Dusty Shoes" is very much typical of the era from which it sprang. Overall, it's tastefully arranged organ/guitar driven pseudo hard rock that recalls Grand Funk Railroad quite a bit in places. With the soulfully gritty vocals of George Belanger, everything here has an edge which makes much of the material here sound harder than it actually is. That subtle dynamic is what carries most of this album and makes it a truly satisfying listen. Check out this obscure offering from Next, contributed by Orchman. Dig it...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cool Feet - Burning Desire (1976)

Cool Feet are unquestionably one of the most sought after acts from the 70's underground. In fact, their sole full-length release easily fetches a few thousand dollars each time a clean copy surfaces online. Not much is known about this band, but the quartet formed in the Gutland of Luxembourg sometime in the early 70's. One half of the band were German & the other half British. Their self-titled album was recorded at Dierks Studios. Issued in very limited quantities on the small Pallas label, the album virtually came and went without much fuss at the time, though over time it has gained a nearly unparalleled amount of attention due to its scarcity.

So does this album deserve the hype? Well, let's just say that it's most certainly not the masterpiece one might expect, but it's also much better than a good portion of the relics that collectors tend to lavish praise upon. With a sound that references alot of the early Scorpions material, there's some real worthy music happening here. The vocals are eerily quite similar to Birth Control's own Bernd Noske. It's almost uncanny, really. There's plenty of turbocharged hard rock among the batch of tracks presented, along with a handful of more introspective numbers. One such heavy standout is the ballsy "Hello Lucy", with fantastic vocals & perfect rhythmic pacing. If drawing comparisons is your preference, see bands like Doctor Downtrip, Bastard or Hairy Chapter for other points of reference. Whatever your angle, I'm sure many of you will find something to love about Cool Feet. While we wait for a much needed proper reissue, dig into this decent vinyl rip and hear what all the stir is about.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Roadmaster - Sweet Music (1978)

In this final entry for Roadmaster, we have the band's 2nd album "Sweet Music". This effort was the first to signal the band's change of artistic direction, which veered away from journeyman boogie to full blown AOR pomp. Nothing signifies this change more than the opening cut, "It Doesn't Mean a Thing". With hooks galore and syrupy synths and strings, it should've been a huge single. Oddly enough, that never happened and it's matters like this that help to explain why Roadmaster never really broke through to the mainstream. Poor promotion, lack of exposure and mismatched touring partners were all to blame and it's a real shame. Needless to say, in the ensuing years since the band's dissolution there has been an all-new appreciation for their music. Whether you dig hard rock, radio friendly ballads or full-blown AOR...Roadmaster had it all. Perhaps it's the bittersweet irony of Roadmaster's fate is what makes them so appreciated in retrospect.

In any case, dig this excellent rip from William and make your Roadmaster collection complete!