Monday, December 24, 2007

A Holiday Wish From J

Here's hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season. I have had a blast talking with all of you and sharing obscurities from all over the world. I'm looking forward to the changes and goodness 2008 has to offer. Be safe, stay tuned and many thanks for your readership. It's only going to get better :) Peace and love to you all...


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Equinox - Hard Rock (1973)

Equinox were a short lived british quartet from Chesterfield who came together in 1972. The band spent most of their first year on the club circuit before a chance encounter with the folks at Boulevard Records, a well-known budget label with a nasty reputation for fleecing their artists and releasing substandard product. Naive, the band agreed to record their album (in the engineer's basement) for a mere £25 per member. "Hard Rock" hit store shelves in early 1973 but within a few months the album was already in cutout bins all over the UK. The band were quite surprised to find that the individuals depicted on the cover were not even in the band. Boulevard explained that they were suffering from a cardboard shortage and had decided to recycle some old rejected covers for the "Hard Rock" release. Though the band tolerated this kind of shady treatment, they would eventually cease to exist by January of 1974. Vocalist Mick Shedd continued performing locally and now performs with classic rock cover band, Hellhound. Keyboardist Jon Stoppard has moved into performing celtic music and has released a solo album, "Secret Gardens". The remaining members whereabouts are unknown.

"Hard Rock" is nothing to get excited about, but it's not an awful effort either. Sounding much like many of their peers from the british music scene in the early 70's, The Equinox suffer mostly from lack of identity. The musicianship is decent enough and even some of the writing is fully formed, but sadly most of it is just indistinct. "Land of Blue Fire" and "Black Mike" get the honors here as the standouts. The rest is mediocre at best. Judge for yourself and download this rarity from the UK. Here is The Equinox.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Babyface - Babyface (1977)

Babyface were a Wisconsin based quartet who would later evolve into the more well known southern rock/AOR act, Axe. Consisting of Bobby Barth (guitar/vox), Michael Turpin (bass), Edgar Riley (keyboards) and Bob Miles (drums), Babyface gigged around Wisconsin and later Colorado before finally landing a contract with ASI Records. With relatively no studio experience, the band huddled into the studio and over the next few months, recorded an album's worth of material. Producer, Dan Holmes, would later substitute much of the guitar and keyboard tracks with string passages unbeknownst to the band. The album hit store shelves before they were made aware and quickly, "Never In My Life" became a Billboard Top 20 hit.

Though this success was welcomed, the band were quickly labeled 'adult contemporary', though the band's live performances were quite the opposite. As a result, the band's fortunes began to wane by early 1978. Frustrated, the members all went their separate ways, with Barth relocating to Boulder to hook up with Canary guitarist Michael Osbourne. Within months, Barth, Osbourne & the Babyface players all moved to Gainesville, FL to form Axe. Osbourne was killed in a automobile accident in 1984, Barth has since worked with Blackfoot, Angry Anderson and CITA.

"Babyface" is a truly puzzling piece of work. Knowing the work Barth would do in Axe, this effort is such a distinctly different beast that it's honestly difficult to listen without prejudice. The majority of the tracks are fairly well written but come across lifeless and bland. There are a few highlights such as "How Long Can a Rock and Roll Band Keep Carryin' On?", which echoes the Doobie Brothers in places. "Try" and "Songwriter" are also fairly strong and come the closest to actually sounding like Axe. The rest, well...let's just call it an acquired taste. Even Barth looks back in disgust about this album. Download away and satisfy your curiosity. You know you want to! Thanks to Mattias J for the contribution.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Magnet - Worldwide Attraction (1979)

Magnet sprung from the ashes of Natural Gas, a british 'supergroup' who issued one album in 1976 only to vanish without a trace a year later. Two of the alumni, Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie) and Peter Wood (Sutherland Brothers & Quiver) continued working together and eventually relocated from Los Angeles to New York City to form another band, which ultimately became Magnet. A&M Records were quick to offer the band a contract in 1978 and by the middle of the following year, "Worldwide Attraction" had landed in record stores all over the USA. It is not known whether the band ever toured behind the album, but Magnet were already history by the following year with Shirley rejoining a reformed Humble Pie and later joining Fastway. Wood would move on to session work for artists like Cyndi Lauper, Carly Simon and John Lennon before passing away in 1994. The activities of the remaining members are unknown.

"Worldwide Attraction" is a decent album, though there's a real mixed bag of material happening here. It seems Magnet were simply without direction, as the tracks sway carelessly from west coast soft rock to AOR and back. The result is a band who doesn't know whether they are Firefall or Survivor. For me personally, it's the harder tracks that get my attention and there are a few worth noting. "I Don't Want To Lose Your Love" and "Night Patrol" both muster enough fire to justify repeated listens. "Underneath the Moonlight" is a decent boogie rock track, though it's nothing mindblowing. The rest of the album unfortunately falls short of praise, with cliched and unimaginative soft rock being in majority. Though I've certainly heard far worse, "Worldwide Attraction" is really just a run-of-the-mill 70's rock album with a few highlights worth hearing. Take a listen and make your own judgement of this fantastic quality vinyl rip by Stephen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Skyband - Skyband (1975)

Skyband were a multinational act based out of Los Angeles. Consisting of Peter Beckett (Paladin, Tin Tin) from the UK, Steve Kipner (Tin Tin) from Australia and Lane Caudell from the US, Skyband evolved from the ashes of Friends, a band Steve and Peter had worked in after relocating to the states in early 1974. With the addition of Caudell, the band's lineup was solidified. Quickly snapped up by RCA Records, the band flew to London and self-produced their debut which landed in stores in early 1975.

Though the band had stellar road jaunts with acts like Peter Noone, Jackson 5 and the Alex Harvey Band, their bubbly brand of pop had become obsolete in the face of changing tides within the music industry. RCA dropped the band the following year. Refusing to go down so quickly, the band renamed themselves Zed and began shopping new material to labels but no one was interested. In a few short months, Zed were gone too. Beckett went on to form Player and work in the industry as a songwriter. Kipner also continued working as a writer while recording his own solo material. Caudell performed as a solo artist for a short time before moving into acting. He later moved into the country business as a solo artist, where he resides confortably now.

Ok, so aside from the hilarious cover photo...what else is worth mentioning about Skyband? To be honest, this is actually a great record. With a tasteful balance of glam, Beatlesque pop, bubblegum and west coast rock, their self-titled debut is worthy of praise for its solid writing and production. Tracks like "Bang! Ooh! Ya Got Me", "Pie in the Sky", "Cold Light of Day", "Hollywood" and "Easier Than Saying Goodbye" are all over the place stylistically, but at the core are well written nuggets. Granted, some of this has not aged well, but there's absolutely nothing terrible about this mid 70's effort. I recommend everyone check this one out and find something they like. It won't be hard, I promise :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Glyder - Glyder (1975)

Glyder's story is largely a mystery, but this british sextet signed with Warner Brothers in 1974 and released their self-titled debut in early 1975. Though there was plenty of financial muscle backing the band, their MOR pop sound fell on deaf ears and the band was packing it in by the middle of 1976. Kiddier (keyboards) went on to do session work, as well as performing in The Bismarcks and The Watch. Bronze (bass) subsequently worked with Procol Harum,Eric Clapton, Andy Fairweather Low and Robin Trower. Engel (drums) later joined 2 Minds Crack in the mid 80's. The remaining members are unaccounted for at this time.

So what to make of this one? Well, for starters, Glyder are often mistaken for being an AOR act, which is completely unfounded. In fact, Glyder are more akin to MOR pop than anything else. With a pop sound that is firmly rooted in pseudo country rock and celtic themes, the band's music inoffensively drifts by with nary a startling hook or passage. Sure, they don't exactly defy any musical conventions here, but there's nothing to despise either. Truthfully, this is perfect for background music. Don't expect anything more than harmless fluff and you'll be satisfied. The bottom line: Glyder are a decent pop act and though I rarely bother posting this kind of thing here, it's good to have it here for the sake of unraveling some of the mystery surrounding this british band. Enjoy this phenomenal rip by 'Nuxx'...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wishlist Mega Update!

Be sure to check out my newly expanded wishlist on the right margin of this blog, good people! If any of you happen to own some of these titles, be sure to click the "Submissions & Requests" link below the wishlist so we can work something out. Keep an eye out for some interesting rarities in the coming days :) Till then...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kid Dynamite - Kid Dynamite (1976)

Kid Dynamite is another one of those ultra mysterious bands whose story is murky at best. It is known that the band emerged in 1975 when two former members (bassist Dicky Thompson and drumer John King) of the Steve Miller Band decided it was time to strike out on their own. Vocalist Val Garcia and guitarist Michael Mallen were later added and Kid Dynamite was born. Opting for a label who would allow the band total control over their direction, the band signed with Alvin Bennett's Cream Records in late 1975 and began working on their self-titled debut with producer Hal Winn at the helm. "Kid Dynamite" was released in January of 1976, but flagging sales and little label support abruptly killed the band at the conclusion of the year. Very little is known about the members post-split activities, though Michael Mallen is rumoured to be teaching guitar in California.

This elusive gem is one that is often discussed in collector circles, but rarely ever recognized as a musically viable effort. I beg to differ. "Kid Dynamite" is a dynamic exercise in genre splicing which works effectively from start to finish. Blending blues, hard rock, soul and funk, the band shows off their musical chops throughout, with a notably scorching effort from Dicky Thompson in particular. Sounding quite similar to Joey Newman's hard soul act, Bandit, the band merges the groove and conviction of classic funk with the forcefulness of 70's hard rock. The outcome is pretty spectacular and it's a real travesty that Kid Dynamite were merely a blip on the radar. Though this band is undoubtedly anonymous in all respects, some listeners may recognize the track "Uphill Peace of Mind", which was sampled and used by Dr. Dre (Nuttin But a G Thang) and Ultramagnetic MC's (Feelin' It) almost twenty years ago.

This one comes highly recommended for fans of soulful hard rock. This tweaked and cleaned vinyl transfer should satisfy ardent lovers of obscure 70's rock. Dig it...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whiteface - Whiteface (1979)

Atlanta was home to Whiteface, one of the city's greatest hopes near the end of the 70's. Having conquered the area and honed their skills gigging as the house band at The Bistro, the band came to the attention of Mercury Records and inked a deal in the summer of 1978. Work commenced on their debut, which came in the form of "Whiteface" in 1979. With a highly stylized funk/pop/AOR hybrid sound, the band forged a unique musical vision that failed to net any real success with the masses. Though the band did tour quite a bit during this time, their powerhouse reputation did not translate elsewhere, leaving them frustrated and exhausted. This setback signalled the exit of bassist, Kyle Henderson in 1980.

Determined to move forward, the band ushered Barry Dunaway into Henderson's place and soon began work on their followup. In 1981, "Change of Face" hit the streets and once again Whiteface were met with indifference at every turn. Despite their virtuosity and sleek production, the changing climate in the industry proved to be the death knell, prompting a breakup in late 1982. Henderson went on to success with The Producers for over a decade, while the remaining members worked in various capacities with artists like Blackfoot, Ted Nugent, Pat Travers, John Mayall and Yngwie Malmsteen.

"Whiteface" is a prime example of style over substance. Though there's no denying the band were masters of their instruments, the album falls flat in its own effort to dazzle the senses. Sounding like a cross between Pablo Cruise, Doobie Brothers and Baby Grand, Whiteface fail to make a musical statement here. Sure, it's all well played and there are some hooks....but most of the material here is inoffensive generic pop. There are some highlights like "Talk of the Town" and "Three Ring Circus", but much of this is heavily steeped in whitebread disco, which was sweeping the nation during this time. Simply put, though this is a commendable effort, it misses the mark completely. Be sure to download this pristine vinyl transfer from 'melodicrocker123' and judge for yourself.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Survivor - All Your Pretty Moves (1979)

Survivor...a name that has become synonymous with power ballads and radio friendly AOR. But this is not THAT Survivor. This band hailed from Louisiana and formed in the mid 70's, thriving in the relatively low key Shreveport music scene for several years. It wasn't until 1978 that the band began work on their privately financed debut. By early 1979, the album hit store shelves but without the funding to push the album, distribution was limited to the region. Ultimately this would prove to be their undoing, as the band forged on for a few more years before finally calling it a day. By 1983, many of the ex-members had reconvened to work together in Philadelphia, a christian hard rock act. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

"All Your Pretty Moves" is a strange blend of late 70's hard rock and NWOBHM. With a sound that echoes Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, this album is fascinating because much of the material predates the trademark NWOBHM sound by several years. Though there are unquestionably some serious flaws in the songwriting, the handful of superior cuts are all excellent. The production is notably bottom heavy & crisp all the way around, which is impressive given that this is a private pressing. Though there's nothing here that reinvents the wheel, it is certainly worthy of a glance for aficionados of 70's cult hard rock. Check this sweet transfer of "All Your Pretty Moves".

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Attention contributors!

As mentioned in my post from last week, I have moved to a new email address. In the process of moving to my new home, all data from my old email address was lost when my old PC was damaged. As a result, I am unable to retrieve all of email addys for those of you who have contributed music and/or plan to contribute in the near future. That means fine folks like TT, Daz, Steffen, Dr.Woe, Ritchie Blackmore, Orchman, ResidentEvil2, aor66, Rob, Gerry, mamedia, fairplaybeach, higginz, gary_lankford and others. If you could please email me at the address linked at the bottom right margin of this page, I would greatly appreciate it. I want to remain in contact with you and want to be sure that your contributions are properly credited for some of my future postings.

If you are a new contributor, please contact me and we'll talk about getting your submission posted here ASAP! If you have a request, get with me and I'll start digging!

Thanks everyone!!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cinema Face - Cinema Face (1983)

Ontario's Cinema Face began in 1980, brandishing a clever blend of progressive rock and AOR. Combined with the band's theatrical stage show and impressive stage lighting, Cinema Face were quick to establish an impressive following which eventually led them to the studio to craft their self-financed debut. In early 1983, "Cinema Face" was unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses, though distribution issues would quickly dash any hopes of mass marketing for the band. Though efforts to conquer their native country proved disastrous, the band quickly became cult heroes in Japan and parts of Europe. Lack of funding eventually grounded the band before they could ever capitalize on their new found overseas success.

When Pacemaker Records reissued their debut in 1994, the surprising demand for Cinema Face prompted the band to reunite for a followup album. "Face Card" was released in 1996, though the band were incapable of trumping anything they had accomplished in their prior incarnation. It is generally regarded as an inferior followup to their stellar debut. Since then, the band has all but vanished with members embarking on various musical and non-musical projects over the years. Vocalist/guitarist, Franco, has since worked in film, theatre and issued a solo album, "Cydonia Mensae" to critical acclaim.

Cinema Face is truly one of Canada's national treasures. With a sleek, jarring and musically accomplished sound, the band should have been poised for greatness in their prime. As with many other fantastic bands, it was merely a case of bad business and poor timing. With a sound slightly comparable to Zon, Harlequin or Shooting Star, Cinema Face possesses a decidedly darker style than any of the aforementioned artists. Rooted firmly in theatrics, much of what can be found on this release could easily pass for a film score to an intense psychological thriller or sci-fi movie. Perhaps the two strongest cuts here are "You Drive Me Out of My Mind" and "Ugly Sisters", each possessing a brooding intensity that rarely surfaces in this genre.

It is absolutely imperative that fans of progressive AOR dig in and check out this masterwork from Cinema Face. You'll be scratching your head wondering why you ever missed them in the first place. If there was ever a band who truly encapsulates the "talented band who fell thru the cracks" theory, it is Ontario's brilliant Cinema Face.

Nantucket - V (1985)

Nantucket's final studio album came in the form of "V", released by Executive Records in 1985. With the band's fortunes clearly on the wane, "V" was issued in the hopes of grabbing the brass ring before everything fell apart. Though the band's intentions were noble, the ridiculous modernization of their established sound only assured their status as a band completely without direction. The production alone is almost too overbearing to warrant even a casual listen. With bellowing electronic drums, synth stabs & reverbed guitars, one listen and it is clear...this is NOT the Nantucket fans grew to love. Though there are some viable hooks here and there, the ambience of the album is so distracting that it's nearly impossible to appreciate the artistry of the music itself.

Naturally, this signaled the end of Nantucket for many years, though the band has been enjoying a minor resurgence in their hometown region since the beginning of the millennium. Dig this pristine vinyl transfer from Mike and hear the last studio outing from Nantucket.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Granmax - A Ninth Alive (1976)

Omaha, Nebraska was home to 70's hard rock quartet Granmax. Formed in early 1975, the band gained quite a bit of exposure throughout the midwest which culminated in the release of "A Ninth Alive" on Pacific Records in 1976. By the end of the year, the band signed with Panama Records and their debut was reissued to reasonable success in the region. The band tirelessly gigged throughout the midwest for nearly two years, picking up slots on numerous tours before the addition of frontman, Nick Christopher.

Revived and rejuvenated, the band entered the studio in early 1978 to record their sophomore album, "Kiss Heaven Goodbye". With a clearly harder edged sound, the band once again saturated the midwest with promotional gigs and a full tour, but audiences just weren't biting. The band returned to the studio to cut a third album, but things began to unravel during the sessions and Granmax came to a screeching halt before it could be completed. The post breakup activities of the members is unknown.

One listen to this album and you'll be scratching your head wondering why there's so much fervor over Granmax. Most likely it is due to their legendary followup album from 1978, as this release is a rather pedestrian exercise in one dimensional hard rock. Sure the musicianship is tight enough and the production isn't all that horrible, but the songwriting is terribly unoriginal and plodding. The average vocals do virtually nothing to help either. To their credit, there are many ideas that begin so well, only to fall flat by their conclusion. Ranging from hard boogie to folk rock to proto metal, Granmax never quite manage to manifest their ideas into anything memorable. However, since their 2nd album seems to get all of the attention online, it's only fair to offer up this relic for your judgement. Thanks to Alex(?) for this fine vinyl rip!

Acme Thunder - Let's All Get Naked (1978)

Chicago's Acme Thunder sprang from the ashes of area group, Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah in 1977. Where AHJ were decidedly hippy influenced, Acme Thunder were unquestionably a full on rock outfit. With essentially the same lineup as AHJ, the band enlisted Harvey Mandel on lead guitar and soon, their debut "Let's All Get Naked" was issued the following year. Though Acme Thunder were a credible act in and around the Chicago area, the addition of Mandel helped elevate the band to a whole other level musically. Having a successful solo career for many years, as well as ties to artists like Canned Heat, John Mayall, The Ventures and Love, Mandel's expertise was an instrumental factor in the development of the band's new sound.

Strangely enough though, the band only lasted two years before fizzling out completely. Aliotta continued in music primarily as a session player, Haynes went on to form his own publishing company and has issued a drug rehabilitation self-help album. Jeremiah is living near St. Louis, but his musical activities are unknown at this time. Mandel continues to thrive as a solo artist.

"Let's All Get Naked" is a respectable effort with a rather schizophrenic viewpoint. Swaying from bluesy rock to hard rock to glossy pop, the album doesn't quite know where it's going. The highlights are undoubtedly the rock tracks like "If I Only Had a Girl", "Go Like a Beast" and "Flowers". Several of the cuts including the fusion jam "Mexico", lack the presence of strong hooks, rendering the overall impression of this album as a bit lopsided in the quality department. Despite the magnificent musicianship here, the album fails to stand up on its own as a whole. Taken in parts, however, "Let's All Get Naked" is an interesting excursion into many genres. Never issued on compact disc, here's a sweet vinyl transfer straight from the archives. Check it...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jade - Faces of Jade (1970)

Cincinnatti's Jade were another one of those elusive early 70's psychedelic acts who left behind only one private pressing before vanishing into the mist. Virtually nothing is known about the band, but collectors have been swarming record fairs and pillaging eBay for years in the hopes of snagging this relic. So does the album live up to its hype? Mostly, yes...

Considering the modest budget of such a DIY undertaking in 1970, the mix is well done and the material is very well constructed. Blending the Beatles, Blossom Toes and a number of other pop/psych acts of the era, Jade create a formidable aural tapestry. With slight folk leanings, each track breezes along quite nicely throughout the duration of the album. The engineering trickery in places here are subtle reminders that Jade were foremost Beatles influenced. Perhaps the strangest track is "My Mary" which is absolutely mindblowing. This ingenius piece of music features backwards accompaniment along with warped vocals that sound deceptively reversed but are actually sung forward. The outcome is like a bent merry-go-round, wobbling in circular motion while the seasick vocals spill out over the arrangement. It's truly a sound to behold. The rest of the album is mostly just as satisfying and any lovers of quirky psych will find alot to enjoy in "Faces of Jade". Check out this sweet overhauled and tweaked vinyl rip and dig the sounds of Jade.

Hush - C'mon We're Taking Over (1974)

Aussie rockers, Hush, came to life in 1971 as a five-piece unit consisting of Keith Lamb (vocals), Chris Nolan (keyboards), Robin Jackson (guitar), Rick Lum (bass) and John Koutts (drums). The band gigged in this incarnation until the middle of 1972, when Nolan, Jackson and Koutts exited. Les Gock (guitars) and Chris Pailthorpe (drums) were enlisted, leaving Hush as a four piece. This newly revitalized lineup went on to win Hoadley’s National Battle of the Sounds contest later that year, putting them squarely in the spotlight and prompting a recording contract with Warner Brothers. By 1973, "Alive 'n Loud" was issued on the strength of their first single, "Get the Feelin", which peaked at #11 on the Aussie charts. Touring ensued and by early 1974, Hush moved to Wizard Records to record their sophomore album.

"Get Rocked" was released in early spring, spawning three singles that were all met with a reasonable amount of success. However, Wizard was not satisfied with the album's triple gold status. Sensing the impending glam explosion that had already swept the UK, the band were pressured to adjust their look accordingly and focus on finding a glam standout that could send them up the charts. The band were quickly shuffled into the studio to record their third album, "C'mon We're Taking Over", which hit store shelves in September of 1974. The album failed to impress critics and fans, causing their lone single from the album to sink without a trace.

Though their live reputation was formidable, Hush seemed barely on the cusp of something great and luckily Wizard made one last attempt to help the band strike gold. This finally came in 1975, as their fourth album, "Rough Tough n Ready" exploded onto the scene with the help of an explosive cover of "Boney Maroney" and a colorful appearance on the famous, "Countdown" TV program. Soon Hush were the glam darlings of their native country and their tour that year sold out virtually everywhere in Australia. This success lasted thru most of 1976, which also saw the addition of a second guitarist, Jacques DeJongh. This augmented lineup was short lived as Gock departed at the conclusion of the tour in early 1977.

Determined to eclipse the success of their last album, Hush released "Touche" in the summer of 1977, but their audience had all but vanished along with the dying glam scene that helped them achieve such success. One single from the album was issued and failed to chart, prompting Wizard to drop the band later that year. The band effectively ceased to exist by early 1978. In the wake of the split, several of the members went on to issue their own singles to little response. In the years following, Lamb suffered from mental illness and eventually left the business to work in embroidery (Rajmahal) and gaming (TAOC). Gock became a jingle writer and has successfully maintained his career for 20+ yrs. Lum returned to his first career in graphic design, while Pailthorpe became an architect. DeJongh is now a chef. Hush reformed twice, once in 2004 and again in 2006 for short tours but as of this writing, the band is finally put to rest.

"C'mon We're Taking Over" is easily the band's most unusual work which explains why this album seems to be overlooked by fans of the band. Not subscribing to the overt glam stylings of their subsequent work, the band shoot for depth here and to some extent it works. Tracks like "In My Short Life", "Rocking Gypsy Kings" and "Longing To Get Home" show the band at their most subdued, which came as a surprise for ardent fans. Though Hush should be commended for attempting to diversify their sound, these tracks all lack the hooks necessary to make them classics. Predictably, it's the fiery rockers that command attention here, as tracks like "Caroline" and the title track illustrate. In truth, most of the material here is bordering on mediocrity, but this interesting nugget deserves revisiting. It's a clear step in a different direction that Hush would never return to in subsequent years. Enjoy this nice vinyl transfer of "C'mon We're Taking Over"...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

King Harry - Divided We Stand (1977)

Little is known about british trio, King Harry. The band landed a deal with the largely progressive rock oriented label, Harvest Records. Given the label's rich history of progressive artists like Pink Floyd, Barclay James Harvest, Edgar Broughton Band, Kayak, Quatermass, Soft Machine and Be-Bop Deluxe, it comes as quite a surprise that King Harry should appear on their roster in 1977. King Harry was hardly a prog act, though there is a certain quirkiness that puts them outside of mainstream rock. Sounding somewhat like fellow brits, Charlie, the band blends shifting chord structures and time signatures with a rather obtuse sense of melody. The band did tour for a short time in 1978, but virtually vanished after Harvest pulled the plug on their contract. The subsequent and current activities of the members is unknown.

With the exception of the fabulous "Dear Matthew" and "Dressed Up To Kill", most of the tracks are lacking a clear hook. Though this unique sound made for a fairly distinct identity, it certainly did not translate into record sales. Easily found in european record shops, this release is among the more elusive albums here in the states. Since it is unlikely to ever be given the digital treatment, this vinyl rip from Steffen will do nicely. Dig this obscurity straight from the UK.

Stonebolt - Juvenile American Princess (1982)

Here it is, the last Stonebolt entry. "Juvenile American Princess", the band's fourth and final album, was released in 1982 and went virtually unnoticed in the states. Canada, however, was a different story as numerous singles came and went with modest success. The next year was spent touring and promoting the album but by the end of 1983, the members amicably laid Stonebolt to rest. Members went on to their own respective projects until reconvening in 1997 for a live appearance and to work on their greatest hits package. Since then, Stonebolt has resurfaced sporadically to perform shows in the Vancouver area.

"Juvenile American Princess" is a decent addition to the band's repertoire, though the material is notably more lightweight than much of their previous output. I would compare this release to their debut, with a less varied approach to the music. There are plenty of hooks to be found here, as evidenced by the compact tightness of tracks like "Slow Dancin", "Are You Listening?" and the title track. Though the band's sense of melody hasn't left them here, many of the songs collapse under the weight of their predictability and MOR tendencies. Whatever the case, this final piece of the Stonebolt puzzle is a must for fans. This clean vinyl rip was contributed by 'Nuxx'. THANK YOU! Enjoy "Juvenile American Princess"...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Contact Update!

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have a new email address, so if you wish to submit a request or contribution for the site, please update your address book accordingly. You can go straight to my email by clicking the link at the bottom right margin of this blog :)

There will be a new posting coming in the next 24hrs, so keep your eyes peeled. We're getting there, folks. I sincerely appreciate your patience and readership! See you in a short while!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Word On 'Intellectual Property'...

Hello everyone, just wanted to drop in for a quick hello and take a moment to address something that I believe is important in maintaining the integrity of the blogging community at large.

It has recently come to my attention that many of the synopses I have written have been reproduced for both other blogs and also various music websites. I am flattered by this, however, I must ask that IF you choose to use any of the content in this blog, please credit me as such. I am passionate about music and sharing it with others is an integral part of that passion. I work very hard in my research before ever posting my findings here, so it's important to me that my work is properly credited. Crediting those who originate the content of their sites not only creates new traffic to the source site, but it also maintains a healthy relationship between bloggers everywhere.

It has always been my aim to make this site not only a repository for lost music, but also a resource for inquiring minds who want to know about the artists behind the music. It would be easy to blindly throw a handful of download links to the site each day and leave it at that, but Robots For Ronnie exists primarily for glorifying artists who escaped mass recognition and appreciation when it mattered most. Nothing would be more rewarding than knowing an artist has visited here and read your comments. As a musician myself, the true reward of writing and performing music is the appreciation and inspiration reciprocated from the listener. My intent here is to bring these artifacts to light, in the hopes that these talented individuals who have left behind the relics we unearth here, will know that time has not forgotten them. Call it overly sentimental, call it cheesy, but this is important to me. Judging from your feedback, many of you find this to be part of RFR's charm. Mission accomplished!

So, I ask...please, if you wish to use the writings or download links I've posted here, please acknowledge the source as well. It's good etiquette, it's ethical and it's just the nice thing to do. Fair?
I'll see you all in a few days. Much love from RFR :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Missing In Action: A Status Update

Hello good people and lovers of underappreciated music. You're prob wondering what's been going on with RFR over the last few weeks. The truth of the matter is that I've reached a very transitional phase in my life as of late and the changes occurring have slowed down my activities more than I had intended. No worries, though. In due time, I'll be back at this blog with more consistency than ever. I appreciate everyone visiting and have much more to share as soon as things slow down a little on my end. Fair enough? Contributions and requests are still welcome, so be sure to visit the link at the bottom right of this page for contact info. See you all REAL soon....promise!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Life - Life After Death (1974)

UK heavy prog act, Life, are another act whose history is shrouded in total mystery. This is particularly odd since their sole album was released by Polydor Records in 1974, but sadly there's nothing I can tell you about the band's accomplishments or their post-breakup activities.

Upon first hearing this fantastic album, distinct shades of Uriah Heep come bursting forth and persist throughout each of the tracks here. In fact, their influence is so prevalent here that it can sometimes be daunting to figure out Life's true creative viewpoint. Taking Heep as a starting point, the band also brings other styles into the mix that each point to some of rock's biggest names. Whether it is just certain instruments, writing styles or entire songs, bands like ELP, Santana, Argent & Kansas (minus violin) all come to mind at certain points on this record. One must acknowledge this overbearing nod to other artists when evaluating Life's writing and perfoming talents. If you can get past the derivative nature of the music, the songs themselves are all well written and dripping with hooks. This is very well done prog influenced hard rock.

Collectors drop good money to snag this album and surprisingly no label has opted to do a reissue. To remedy that problem, enjoy this good vinyl rip and indulge yourself in one of England's most overlooked classic acts.

Stonebolt - New Set of Changes (1980)

Here's another entry from Stonebolt, 1980's "New Set of Changes". Continuing the band's newfound AOR sound, the album could be easily considered a companion piece to "Keep It Alive" from the prior year. A vast improvement over the debut from 1978, the album is ripe with hooks and smooth melodies that persist throughout the entirety of the recording. Though the band would only have one more album left in them, "New Set of Changes" is an album that belies the band's waning musical fortunes and boldly states that they are firmly in control of their creative vision.

If anyone has a clean rip of "Juvenile American Princess", by all means contact me so we can account for the band's entire body of recorded work. In the meantime, take a listen to this sweet vinyl transfer and dig the sounds of Stonebolt.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Nantucket - No Direction Home (1983)

North Carolina's Nantucket came to life in 1969 and spent eight years flourishing as one of the area's hottest cover bands until Epic Records stepped in and offered the band a contract in 1977. The following year, "Nantucket" was issued and saw the band entering the billboard charts while touring alongside bands like Mother's Finest, Kiss, Styx, Boston and Journey. The following year, the band issued their sophomore album, "Your Face or Mine?" which failed to take the band any further. More touring ensued, bringing the band to a higher visibility but ultimately no one was listening. At this point, bassist Mike Uzzell took over the reigns as manager while Pee Wee Watson filled his vacant spot in the band. The band released their third album in 1980, titled "It's a Long Way to the Top", a tip of the hat to recently deceased AC/DC frontman Bon Scott. Flattered, AC/DC took the band on the road for a summer tour but sales never improved prompting Epic to drop the band in 1981.

It was only a year before RCA took the band under their wing, later prompting the release of their fourth album, "No Direction Home" in 1983. The label were quick to discover that Nantucket's commercial viability was all but doomed and by 1984, the band were again without a record deal. Frustrated, the band sought local label, Executive Records to issue their fifth album, "V", which hit store shelves in 1985. Though the band's sound had changed radically to fit the times, it was a case of too little too late and the band packed it in at the end of a short tour in 1986. It would be several years before the entire original lineup would regroup to record their only official live album, "Still Live After All These Years". Though the album fared well in the New England region, there wasn't enough widespread interest to inspire a full fledged reunion. Since then, the band has performed sporadically in various configurations along the east coast and have successfully entertained their core audience for over thirty years.

"No Direction Home" is an interesting part of the band's evolution, showing the band blending their old sound with a more contemporary AOR style. There are slight traces of southern rock present also, making the album sound a bit schizophrenic in its execution. In spite of this hodgepodge approach, this is a fairly solid batch of pop driven hard rock. Fans of the band might be a bit put off by the change in sound, but first timers will likely find enough goodness here to warrant its inclusion here. This would be the last decent Nantucket album before the release of the terribly weak, "V" a few years later. Enjoy this excellent vinyl rip by Nantucket!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Jet - Jet (1979)

Jet is another one of the many acts who came and went with such little fanfare that there is nary a trace of information about them in the online community. In fact, so little is known about this east coast band that I can't tell you specifically where they're from or what has become of the members since the band's split. I can tell you that Michael Nesmith's label, Pacific Arts, signed the band in 1978 and released their sole album, "Jet" the following year.

As for the album itself, well, it's not a fantastic effort but there is charm in some of the material presented. With a style that borrows from the the 50's, early 60's and the mod movement several years later, Jet present an updated sound that reads like a throwback but sounds modern for an album issued in the late 70's. Lyrical banality aside, there are musical highlights that at least warrant a casual listen. With horns buried slightly in the sound, Jet do manage a distinct sound, despite the weaknesses found in their songwriting. Given Nesmith's musical lineage, Jet is a strange choice for a label deal, and perhaps he realized this once the band's debut practically went straight to the cutout bins that same year. Whether this kind of inoffensive fluff is your cup of tea, "Jet" is deserving of a listen, even if you only find one or two tracks that float your boat. A special mega thanks goes to 'TT' who provided this nice clean vinyl transfer. Enjoy!

Monday, September 3, 2007

White Chocolate - White Chocolate (1973)

This Connecticut based outfit came together in 1971, after ending their time as the backing band for both Buddy Miles and Arthur Lee. White Chocolate soon dominated the east coast circuit and soon came to the attention of RCA Records, who promptly signed the band and issued their self-titled debut in 1973. Though the album contains some enterprising material, poor promotion resulted in stiffed album sales which eventually killed the band's contract with RCA and ultimately the band itself. The prinicipals of the band quickly regrouped in 1975 under the newly dubbed Dirty Angels and eventually went on to issue two cult classic before imploding at the close of the decade. Members later went on to acts like Joe Perry Project, Farrenheit and Slo Leak.

"White Chocolate" is an excellent example of genre splicing, as the band brings equal amounts of soul, funk, blues and hard rock to the table throughout. Sounding like an anglophile Mother's Finest at times, the band tear confidently through ten songs with absolute ease. This balance of breeziness and brashness makes for a very distinct sounding record that defies strict categorization. In between all of this genre hopping, one can also hear latin flourishes as well as dashes of west coast country rock. Though all of this hodgepodging typically makes for an uneven listening experience, White Chocolate do a superb job in maintaining continuity throughout. This excellent album came and went with little fanfare and has been languishing in the RCA vaults ever since. This outstanding vinyl transfer should be all you need to appreciate the talents of this fine Connecticut trio. Dig in!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Badtown Boys - Date With Death (1991)

Los Angeles punk act, Badtown Boys, came together in the spring of 1985. Comprised of brothers Greg and Chris Keith, Tom Komisar and Tim Cunningham, the band kept a low profile until finally issuing their "Blue" EP in 1987. The four song release caught the attention of Dionysis Records owner, Lee Joseph. Joseph quickly put the band back in the studio to record the "Borrowed Time" EP, which went unnoticed in the states but gained quite a following overseas. Soon, Gift of Life Records came calling and offered the band a contract to record a full length album. That album came in the form of "Badtown Boys", issued in 1990. The album was license by american label New Red Archives and saw the band touring the west coast to modest success.

The following year, "Date With Death" was issued to even greater response and it seemed as if Badtown Boys were on the cusp of becoming punk's new darlings. In 1992, Greg left the band, leaving Chris to take over lead vocals but this change was brief when Greg returned in 1993 to help the band write and record, "Pennyless in Paradise". Over the next six years, the band would see many lineup changes while issuing numerous singles and albums, notably the presence of new singer Stephan X. Taking on a more modern sound, the band's popularity began a downward slide, culminating in a breakup in 1999. Though the band would regroup briefly numerous times over the next few years, the death of Stephan X in 2004 would signify the end of their activity.

"Date With Death" is a powerful and concise blend of 50's music and '77 era NYC punk. With the Ramones as an obvious reference point, each song blends seemlessly to form a perfectly balanced album that begs for repeated listenings. Greg Keith's nasally vocals and Komisar's rapidfire guitars intertwine perfectly from start to finish. Though the band is missing the tongue-in-cheek humor of the Ramones, they compensate by upping the tempos and thickening the sound. You couldn't ask for a tighter and more pulverizing slab of retro punk. New Red Archives has still balked on giving this gem the digital treatment, so be sure to dig into this fantastic vinyl transfer and experience the raw urgency of California's Badtown Boys.

Wild - Wild 1 (1988)

Wild's history is vague at best, though it is known that the band came to life in Los Angeles in 1985. Known then as "The Wild", the band featured multi-instrumentalist, Dizzy Reed, of Guns 'n Roses fame. The band were a fixture on the club circuit for several years before being offered a one-off deal from Columbia Records. Essentially a duo in the studio, Reed and vocalist Todd Barrone handled all of the chores (along with producer Andy Wallace) in creating their self-titled debut, which hit stores in early 1988. The album failed to ignite the charts, due mostly to non-existent promotion and corporate shakeups happening at the label that year. As a result, Dizzy Reed jumped ship to join GNR, leaving the band effectively dead in the water. Barrone's whereabouts are unknown, though he is rumored to be a born again minister in Nevada.

So what of this album anyway? Well, folks, I rarely gush over albums released during the hair metal craze of the late 80's, but this is one rare exception. Sporting a futuristic musical viewpoint, "Wild 1" is nothing short of amazing. Taking elements of techno and industrial music (before either term had ever been commercially recognized) blended with hard rock, Wild crafted a sound that in retrospect can be called visionary. Predating the indsutrial metal movement by several years, the band along with Zodiac Mindwarp can be easily credited as forerunners of the genre. With sinewy keyboards, bleeps, triggered drums, guitar synths and sleazy charismatic vocals, "Wild 1" is a fantastic batch of hook driven electronic hard rock. Missing all of the excesses of bands who came along years later, the album sports a sleek and minimalistic approach that allows the arrangements to breathe and the hooks to stand uncluttered. It is really amazing this album failed to reach a wider audience.

Obviously the lack of response then has never inspired Columbia to reissue the album now, so it languishes in the vaults indefinitely. In the meantime, I've included this sweet CD rip for all to enjoy. Check out this highly unique effort from Wild. You will be glad you did :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Indestructible Noise Command - The Visitor (1988)

Connecticut's Indestructible Noise Command (I.N.C.) were a short-lived techno thrash metal act that struggled in the underground scene at the tail end of the 80's. Consisting of Dennis Gergely, Tony Fabrizi, Erik Barath and Gary Duguay, I.N.C. were able to land a deal with alternative label, Giant Records in 1987. Their debut, "Razorback" hit stores later that year but failed to ignite much more than a cult interest in the band. Lack of a decent budget not only dashed any hopes of a solidly produced album, but national touring was out of the question. The band pushed onward to issue their followup, "The Visitor", which saw release in 1988. Once again, lack of proper funding grounded the band and by 1990, I.N.C. were over. The post-split activities of members are not known.

"The Visitor", despite production limitations, is a visceral collection of lightning fast riffing, syncopated rhythms, flashy guitar work and nasally gruff vocals. In short, it just works. Lyrical silliness aside, this album is brimming with intensity and energy. With a sound that blends elements of Metallica, Watchtower and Nuclear Assault, "The Visitor" shreds from start to finish. Though the sound is clearly dated, there's plenty to enjoy if you are able to hear it in the context of the era from which this sprang. With no reissue in sight and outrageous prices for the original CD, this should be a short-term fix while fans wait for a proper remaster. Enjoy this insane batch of humor laden thrash.

Tarzen - Tarzen (1985)

Tarzen were a mid 80's hard rock act fronted by Argentinian born Danny Peyronel, who had spent years playing in bands like Heavy Metal Kids, UFO, Blue Max, Riff and Banzai. When Peyronel relocated to Spain in 1984, he quickly assembled a lineup including his brother Michel (drums), Salvador Dominguez (guitar) and Ralph Hood (bass). The band were almost immediately signed to newcomer label, Valentino Records and by early 1895, "Tarzen" was released. A high profile tour with Twisted Sister did little to ignite interest in the band stateside, but soon the band would become headliners all over Europe and South America. This lack of success in America prompted the departure of Dominguez, who was replaced by Laurence Archer in 1987.

Though Archer's residency would be brief, with Dominguez returning in 1988, Hood would eventually desert the band the same year, reducing Tarzen to a trio. Unfazed, the band signed a new deal with indie label, Twins Records and issued their sophomore album "Madrid" in 1989. Poor distribution and changing trends grounded any attempts for mass success and the band folded in late 1990. Peyronel would resurface as an opera tenor, as well as fronting a resurrected Heavy Metal Kids. Dominguez embarked on a solo career that persists to this day. Archer later formed Rhode Island Red, as well as joining a reunited UFO for one album in the 90's. The present activities of Hood and Michel Peyronel are not known.

Considering Peyronel's pedigree as a keyboardist, this album is quite a nice surprise, as Peyronel's throaty Bon Scott style vocals are more than competent throughout. With a sound reminiscent of AC/DC, "Tarzen" is full tilt 80's hard rock in every sense. Though some of the material dips into mediocity at times, there are quite a few standouts, particularly "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Pack Rules". Though the band would migrate to a glossier sound on their followup, "Tarzen" is a nice exercise in crunchy hard rock minus the excess that is often associated with this era of music. Never issued on CD, enjoy this fine vinyl transfer and get hip to a band that few people even remember. You just might love them.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rist Rocket - Rist Rocket (1978)

Rist Rocket hail from southern California, but otherwise have a completely fuzzy backstory. The band issued its self-titled debut in 1978 on Sun West Records. Despite the cheesy artwork, Rist Rocket have been praised by obscurity hounds for many years and in some ways it is justified.

"Rist Rocket" is a decent AOR effort with great harmonies, solid performances and clear production. Though the quality of the material is uneven at times, the band does manage to evoke Boston on some of the better tracks here. Though the vocals and production are missing the flash and fire that is often associated with AOR music, the songwriting is more than enough to state the band's musical viewpoint clearly. Take a chance on this rare recording, courtesy of 'daz'. You just might dig it!

Ziggurat - Ziggurat (1979)

Rounding out Ziggurat's recorded output, here is the band's self-titled debut issued in 1979. With a smoother and more laid back approach than what can be found on the band's final album, "Ziggurat" is closer to Firefall/Couchois territory than anything else. The west coast sound is deceptive, considering the band's southern roots. Overall, the album is lacking personality, as each track casually passes by with nary a powerful hook demanding your attention. There's nothing here terribly off-putting, but there's nothing here that stands out either. Perhaps this is to blame for Ziggurat's lack of fortune, but there is surely an audience for this kind of easy listening AOR. Whether it's your cup of tea is up in the air, so be sure to snag this one for a preview. Enjoy this great transfer courtesy of 'daz'.

Friday, August 24, 2007

451° - 451° (1980)

Canada's 451° were a band whose roots trace back to numerous luminaries in the canadian rock pantheon such as Shades of Blond, 49th Parallel, Painter and Hammersmith. Just as Hammersmith were folding in 1977, two departing members (Dan Lowe and Royden Morice) were already setting the foundation for what would eventually become 451°. Within months Morice had defected and Jim Clench (April Wine/BTO) stepped into his place. After gigging around the region for several years, Pickwick Records signed the band and in 1980 their eponymous debut was released. Despite rigorous touring and promotion, 451° failed to catch fire, prompting the band to split, only to resurface under the name Prototype in 1982. Clench would later rejoin April Wine and remains there to this day. The present activities of the rest of the members is not known.

"451°" is overall a fairly decent album, though there's nothing earth shattering about the material. Sounding basically like a modernized Hammersmith, the album is an early rough edged example of AOR, though the band does dabble in a retro hard rock sound in many places here. With solid production and performances, the album is nothing to scoff at, but there's a lack of real musical identity happening here that undermines the credible writing and performances. Simply a 'good' album, 451° has never been reissued, so perhaps this is a good time to download and draw your own conclusion. Dig this sweet transfer from 'ritchie blackmore'...

320kbps @

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Roadmaster - Roadmaster (1977)

Continuing with another entry from Roadmaster, this is their debut from 1977. This album represents an era of the band that preceded the arrival of premier vocalist, Stephen McNally. This album also sees the band in full-on midwestern basr band mode, complete with the rudimentary vocals of Asher Benrubi. It is also noteworthy to mention that this is the only Roadmaster release to feature drummer, Stephen Riley, who would later join The B'zz, WASP and LA Guns.

The album is a somewhat bland MOR effort, though it does feature some diversity with the presence of saxophones, congas and other percussion instruments. This mixture gives the album a certain latin feel, though it is very subtle. Most of the material here is subpar and beckons the Doobie Brothers in many places. A startling contrast to the quality writing that would be seen on subsequent albums, "Roadmaster" is best viewed as something to provide perspective and the evolution of a band that would go on to greater things later. Released on Village Records, this album has yet to see reissue. Enjoy it here and keep that Roadmaster collection growing!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Storm - Storm (1983)

California's Storm came together in early 1976, quickly fashioning a sound unlike anything else springing from the region. Led by the powerhouse vocals of Jeanette Chase, the band built a strong reputation while slugging it out in the trenches of the gritty Los Angeles scene. Soon, The Troubador became regular host to many of the band's legendary shows, which ultimately led the band to producer, Roy Thomas Baker. Though Baker was unable to produce any recordings with the band, he did manage to land the band a recording deal with ABC/Dunhill Records in 1977. Just before the band were set to begin sessions for their debut, a major shakeup at the label prompted MCA Records to take ownership, effectively halting the band's progress. Luckily, MCA agreed to keep the band aboard & after another year of contractual negotiations, Storm completed their self-titled debut, which hit the stores in 1979. Though the album was met with critical approval and european success, the band's unique sound fell upon deaf ears in the states and "Storm" sunk like a stone.

Unfazed, the band spent the next four years securing another contract, and soon Capitol Records were shuffling the band into the studio for their followup in 1983. That year, their sophomore album (another self-titled release) "Storm" hit the streets. In the wake of the burgeoning "hair metal" scene on the west coast, the label spent most of their efforts securing the "next big thing", leaving Storm with little promotion or distribution. As a result, Storm were homeless by 1984 and quickly ceased operations later that year. The whereabouts of band personnel are foggy, but Jeanette later found regional success as a country artist. The band's cult following prompted a mini-resurgence for the band several years ago and now Storm have reformed with the intention of recording a third album.

"Storm" is an incredible piece of cinematic AOR hard rock. Sounding like a heavier female fronted Meat Loaf, the tracks here burst with majestic grandiosity. Track after track the band's sound swells with energy, conviction and an epic power that beckons Queen, Led Zeppelin and Sweet. Gone are the quirky pseudo new wave tendencies and in their place, an edgy hard rock sheen has emerged. With precise production, monolithic arrangements and pitch perfect vocal harmonies, "Storm" sounds like something from a hollywood epic film. Perhaps this over the top sense of perspective was just too much for audiences who were falling in love with three chord glam metal, and it's a real injustice that this band and album were overlooked when it counted. In retrospect, Storm and their body of work have earned accolades of not only diehard obscurophiles, but also industry insiders as well. Not enough can be said about this fine album. Though their debut is also excellent, this release trumps it in every sense. I HIGHLY recommend everyone download this unsung jewel, brought to you by 'daz', and appreciate the brilliance of Storm. Better late than never...

Wrabit - West Side Kid (1983)

And finally, by request, Wrabit's third and final album, "West Side Kid". Issued in 1983, the album marks a clear decline in songwriting for the band. The signature sound has been diluted to mere run-of-the-mill arena rock and it's evident from the opening strains of "Waiting", that this is a band going through the motions. Keyboards take a more prominent role in the proceedings and the vocals have taken a turn towards hard rock histrionics with little dynamic texturing. Put honestly, this is the weakest of this fine band's output. Sounding like a weaker latter day Rainbow, the tracks here just lack the distinctiveness they need to be memorable. There's nothing here offensively bad, but there's nothing here that demands you attention either. In spite of this album's weaknesses, "West Side Kid" is worthy of a second look...if anything, to contrast the the two stronger albums that came before it. This completes the recorded output by Wrabit. Snag this one to complete the collection.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Snakeye - Shape Up Or Ship Out (1980)

From the "Nova Scotia Classic Rock" site: Formed under the leadership of Allard Barkhouse (Langley Beach Crowd) in 1971 with Jim White (Pepper Tree), Tony Argent (Pepper Tree) and Ken Umphrie (Melody Fair). This line-up recorded the Keith Jollimore produced "Blue Feelin'" album which was recorded at Toronto's Thunder Sound but not released until 1975. Barkhouse co-wrote all songs with various members and wrote all the lyrics himself. In 1973, the "Choked Up" single was released on United Artists with a horn section added, where the album version had not.

Over the next few years several personnel changes occurred. Umphrie was replaced by Gordon Tucker (Double Blind) for a time but later returned. In June of 1974, Steve Brown (Juckatar) and Cedric Upshaw (Dogrib) replaced White and Argent. When Umphrie left for a second time in 1975, he was replaced by Steve Russell (Shawnasae, Melody Fair). Neil MacKinnon (Sun Machine) joined in 1976 on keyboards replacing Brown. In July 1976, Upshaw left and joined the Halifax Police Department. He was replaced by John Lake (Sandy Road). Lake had to leave the band because of personal commitments and was replaced by Glen Torreson (Taboo) until his return. When MacKinnon returned to Sun Machine, Amherst guitarist Drew Moore (McCreek) was brought in as his replacement. The Barkhouse produced "Shape Up Or Ship Out" was recorded at Solar Audio between March and September of 1979 and released the following year. Lake, Torreson and Moore all played on the album. Two songs "Believe Me Lady" and "See The Sun" that were on the first album were re-recorded for this album. Again, all songs were band originals.

The band toured Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces several times before they broke up in 1982. Barkhouse relocated to Toronto for several years before returning to Halifax in the mid 90's and reunited with Lake to form Barkhouse, Lake and Cook. In 1999, he brought back the name Snakeye when Cook was replaced by former Minglewood Band bassist Donnie Hann. Upshaw went on to be one of the founding members of "Blue Thunder".

"Shape Up Or Ship Out" is a solid AOR effort, with less an emphasis on pomp and more focus on solid straightforward rock. With excellent harmonies and vocals that sometimes beckons David Byron, Snakeye put together a credible collection of tunes that belies their homegrown roots. Though this cult band failed to reach a massive audience in north america, the production is sharp and the stunning packaging is quite impressive for a band on a modest budget. Copies of this album are very hard to come by and typically command a high price. The same can also be said about the band's debut, though there's a huge stylistic evolution between the two releases. I recommend this gem if you are a fan of Oakley, Hammersmith or 451°. A special thanks to 'daz' for this fine contrubition.

Alexis - Alexis (1977)

Denver sextet Alexis were formed in 1974 and spent the first two years hitting the circuit in the southwest before finally landing a contract with MCA Records in 1976. The following year, their self-titled debut was released and the band were on the road with major artists like Foreigner, Styx, UFO and Atlanta Rhythm Section. Despite constant touring, Alexis were unable to generate enough interest to sustain themselves and MCA promptly dropped the band. It is not known how long the band continued on before splitting, but vocalist/keyboardist Eddie Ulibarri did resurface as a session player and currently performs with No Nation.

Alexis were a classic example of a band with enough talent to surpass what they actually created. Put simply, the album is marred by the inconsistency of their songwriting. With erratic changes from style to style, "Alexis" never manages to captivate the listener. There are dashes of greatness, especially the edgier material, but much of the album is mired in banality. Shifting between prog, hard rock and easy listening, there are no audible threads pulling these genre hopping songs together. Sounding like Pablo Cruise meets Head East meets Chicago, there's just no real unity in the music on this record. To their credit, the band are quite accomplished at everything they attempt here, but the scattershot writing undermines any real appreciation of the album as a whole. Having said that, I urge downloaders to approach with caution and expect to only find a few tracks with strong appeal. Have at it and enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stonebolt - Keep It Alive (1979)

Here's another offering from Stonebolt, who have been featured elsewhere here. "Keep It Alive", is a major improvement over the debut. With a far more balanced AOR stance firmly in place here, the band finally get to show off their great harmonies and musicianship by sidestepping the pedestrian country sound of their debut and opting for a more radio friendly rock direction. The result is a highly improved effort, filled with hooks galore. Though some of the material is muted by plaintive vocals, the songwriting itself is by and large great. This release sparked a series of similarly well written albums from the band over the next few years.

At the present, none of the band's proper studio albums have seen reissue, though a retrospective was issued several years ago. This one needs to heard in its entirety, so I'm including this excellent vinyl rip here for your listening enjoyment. Check out Stonebolt at their most potent...

Target - Target (1976)

Memphis hard rock quintet, Target, were formed in 1974 and featured one Jimi Jameson, who would later turn up in Cobra and Survivor. After a few years of touring the midwest, the band secured a record deal with A&M Records and issued their self-titled debut in 1976. The band immediately took to the road, supporting many of the era's biggest artists, but failed to see any chart action. Undaunted, the band issued their followup effort "Captured" the following year, but sales continued to dwindle until Target were without a contract. They disbanded in 1978 as musical climates were beginning to shift in new directions. Jamison would form Cobra before finally landing a spot in Survivor, where he would enjoy several years of national success. In recent years, Jamison has been recording and touring with his own incarnation of Survivor.

Considering Jamison's reputation as an arena rock frontman, "Target" comes as quite a surprise. With a hard southern rock sound, the album comes closer to Molly Hatchet or Blackfoot than it does anything related to his work with Survivor. Though the hooks are subtle for the most part, this is an excellent batch of heavy 70's rock. Sadly, the band failed to ignite the charts or airwaves perhaps due to lack of a strong indentity. In any case, "Target" is definitely worthy of a download and since there are no reissues on the horizon, this decent vinyl will have to do. Check it and dig Target.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ironhorse - Ironhorse (1979)

Winnipeg's Ironhorse were formed in 1978 after Randy Bachman had exited BTO and exeprienced failure as a solo artist. With new label backing by Scotti Brothers, Bachman assembled the band while recording demos for what would eventually become Ironhorse's debut album. The album hit the streets in 1979 and quickly their first single cracked the Billboard Top 40. Two subsequent singles and a North Amercian tour brought the band moderate success, but pressure from the label to refine the sound resulted in the ousting of keyboardist Tom Sparks. Ex-Trooper keysman Frank Ludwig stepped into the vacancy and the band's sophomore album "Everything Is Grey" was released in 1980. The singles from the album failed to chart and the band's fortunes went from hopeful to hopeless, prompting the band to split after their final tour stop in 1981. Bachman would soon draft Ex-BTO bassist CF Turner, as well as two Ironhorse members for his new project, Union. He has also issued numerous solo recordings over the years, as well as several brief reunions with BTO and The Guess Who.

"Ironhorse" unsurprisingly bears shades of late period BTO, with a greater emphasis on pop. Though the material is mostly decent, there does seem to be something lacking in the songwriting. Nothing major, but there's a homogenized sound that sees Bachman at his most frivolous. Without the contrast of Bachman & CF Turner's voices (as had been the case with BTO), Ironhorse simply suffers as a result of Bachman's rather unrefined vocals. Though Sparks vocals are significantly better, the lifeless production renders much of the material bland. Overall, "Ironhorse" is a pleasant album that just never quite reaches transcendence. It's still worth a listen, so be sure to check this offering from 'orchman' and see what Ironhorse was all about.