Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harlequin - One False Move (1982)

Continuing with another contribution from Harlequin, here's their third and most successful album, "One False Move". Spawning several hits in their native country, the album saw the band fully embracing the AOR sound (with a subtle hint of new wave) of the day and to great effect. I personally consider this the band's finest release and many fans agree. This is a fine slab of arena rock goodness. Need proof? Look no further...this vinyl rip should get you started :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Rockets - Rockets (1979)

Detroit's Rockets were the creation of Johnny "Bee" Badanjek and Jim McCarty, who had just left Mitch Ryder's Detroit Wheels in late 1972. Looking to find an avenue for his own singing and songwriting, Badanjek drafted a few additional players and the Rockets were off and running. The band spent the next four years slugging it out in the club circuits of the midwest, gaining massive regional popularity. Though Badanjek's voice was strong, the bluesy swagger in the band's music required something with more flash and power. Enter former Amboy Dukes vocalist, Dave Gilbert. Gilbert not only had the voice for the job, but also poster boy looks which gave the band an image and identity. Shortly thereafter, a few personnel changes took place and the Rockets definitive lineup was born.

Their debut was issued in 1977 by local label, Tortoise International, and saw the band supporting huge acts throughout the midwest, bringing them to the attention of RSO Records. By the end of the year, RSO had signed the band and sent them to the studio to cut their follow up. In early 1979, the self-titled sophomore release hit the streets. The album saw the band bringing in elements of funk to the sound, which only served to bring them more attention. Soon, radio stations were pumping out tracks like "Turn Up the Radio" and "Oh Well", which both became minor hits in several markets in the states.

Things were beginning to heat up for the band, partially prompted by a high profile appearance on the successful Midnight Special music television program. However, Gilbert's increasingly erratic behavior, fueled by severe drug use and alcoholism, was also creating faults in the band's foundation. Often, McCarty and Badanjek were forced to confront Gilbert, creating a rift in the band that only grew larger with each passing year. The band pushed forward, issuing their third album, "No Ballads", in 1980. The album spawned another minor single, "Desire", but RSO was in the throws of bankruptcy and by year's end, the band were without a label.

Elektra came calling and two subsequent albums were issued in 1981 ("Back Talk") and 1982 ("Rocket Roll"), though much of the band's steam was lost through changing trends in the business and Gilbert's persistantly destructive behavior. Frustrated, Badanjek opted to retire the band and 1983 saw their final album, "Live Rockets", issued by Capitol. The band performed a farewell show in Detroit and the rest is history. Members would move on to session work and other acts, though Gilbert would spend the next 18yrs languishing in drug addiction and alcoholism before dying from cirrhosis of the liver in 2001.

The Rockets were a classic midwestern bluesy rock band who could muster hard rock and AOR all in one album's worth of material. Much like the Michael Stanley Band or Brownsville Station, they were huge in their region but failed to make a lasting mark on a global level. This album is a cohesive collection of songs that explored old school blues rave ups and hard rock with equal verve. There's no questioning Gilberts pipes, addictions aside, as his charisma translates so well to tape. This album illustrates this in spades throughout. If you need further explanation, I recommend checking this fine album out and listening for yourself. Let the music do the talking!

Doucette - Mama, Let Him Play (1977)

As promised, here's Doucette's debut from 1977. A more varied collection of songs than "The Douce Is Loose", there's plenty of excellent fretwork and melodic hooks to keep you reeled in. With a very west coast sound in place, the album dabbles in power pop, AOR, R&B and there's even a very subtle hint of latin influence in places. Whether this is superior to his 2nd album is up in the air. I think I appreciate this a bit less than his subsequent work, but this isn't awful by any means. Download and find out for yourself!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Skyhooks - Guilty Until Proven Insane (1978)

Australia's legendary weirdos, Skyhooks, came together in Melbourne in early 1973 and quickly created a buzz while doing the rounds in the club circuit. After a disastrous performance at the Sunbury Festival in 1974, vocalist Steve Hill was sacked and replaced by flamboyant showman, Graham "Shirley" Strachan. Thus was the beginning of the notorious lineup that would rule Aussie radio/tv in subsequent years. Signed to fledgling indie label, Mushroom Records, the band issued their debut in 1974. "Living in the 70's" quickly went on to become one of the country's all-time biggest selling albums. Thrust into the spotlight, Skyhooks became the darlings of Australia's most popular music television program, "Countdown". This attention only served to bring more accolades to the band, despite their clearly acerbic lyrical standpoint and controversial subject matter. The band were fortunate enough to overcome being banned by nearly every radio station in their homeland, simply on the strength of word of mouth and television promotion.

Fueled by this exposure, the band issued their 2nd album, "Ego Is Not a Dirty Word", the following year and once again the band saw massive success with numerous singles and successful tours in the region. The hype caught the attention of American critics and by 1976, the band were ensconsed in a tour of the states. With a riotous and theatric stage show in full effect, the band were quickly dismissed by American audiences as mere Kiss clones. This experience sent the band packing back to their homeland, prompting them to issue album number three, "Straight in a Gay Gay World", the same year.

Their fourth effort, "Guilty Until Proven Insane" from 1978, is featured here. The album saw Skyhooks sporting a heavier sound and more thinly veiled biting social commentary than ever before. It also spawned the band's monster hit, "Women in Uniform". I consider this the band's finest hour and despite a few mediocre tracks, the album is absolutely fantastic. With a sound comparable to City Boy, the band charge through nine tracks with precision and aggression.

The album marked the departure of founding guitarist, Red Symons, who was replaced by future Angels axeslinger Bob Spencer. When their subsequent tour reached its end, Shirley also departed, leaving the band in creative limbo. The band sensing there was still unfinished business to tend to, drafted Tony Williams to take over vocals, resulting in a total overhaul in the band's signature sound. The subsequent release, "Hot For the Orient" in 1980, failed to match the band's previous success and audiences were quick to reject the band's attempt to continue on. By the end of the year, Skyhooks were history.

Over the next two decades the band would reform sporadically for one off shows and abbreviated promotional tours, all with great success in their homeland. In 2001, Shirley was killed in an aircrash, prompting a memorial concert the following month that would set a precedent for Skyhooks. Various members past and present participated in the event marking the first and last time an expanded Skyhooks lineup would be featured on the same stage. Another performance took place in 2004 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the band's debut album, also prompting high profile media coverage. The band's most recent activity took place in 2005 to benefit Greg Hill (guitar), who was battling cancer. All future activity is still open for discussion and surely the world has not seen the last of Skyhooks.

Check out this smoking effort from one of Australia's most beloved and controversial acts. You can't help but admire the band's creative talents and the powerful vocal delivery of Strachan.

Mayday - Mayday (1981)

To round out Mayday's recorded output, here's the self-titled debut album from 1981. This album is clearly more aggressive than the band's final album, "Revenge". Bolstering the quality batch of originals, an excellent cover of the Starz classic, "So Young, So Bad" is also included. Overall, "Mayday" is a more consistent affair though "Life in Space" is a rather strange inclusion, with its pseudo european synth pop vibe. That small concession aside, this is a fine album that rarely surfaces in collector circles. Enjoy this one while its available!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mayday - Revenge (1982)

Mayday were a NY based AOR hard rock band formed in 1980. Headed by singer Steve Johnstad and guitarist Randy Fredrix, Mayday seemlessly blended early new wave with hard rock to create an interesting sound that caused quite a stir in their hometown before landing a contract with A&M in 1981. Their self-titled album was released later that year, but managed to slip through the cracks, failing to chart. With a new drummer in the ranks, Mayday returned to the studio in 1982 for another album and several months later, "Revenge" hit the streets. Despite issuing another consistent album, the band were again met with indifference causing Fredrix to jump ship. It wasn't long before the rest of the band followed suit.

It's too bad Mayday didn't reach the mainstream like they had intended, as both albums have numerous tracks worthy of chart placement. "Revenge" is solid and standout track, "First Impressions", is like a 707 classic that should've taken them places. As it turns out, mass success was not in the cards for Mayday. That certainly doesn't mean you shouldn't check out this solid collection of AOR influenced rock. It's damn good and is worthy of praise, even if it's twenty five years too late!

Avalanche - Avalanche (1976)

When it comes to classic rock, much less Aussie rock, a million of other artists spring to mind. Avalanche is certainly not among them. This is too bad because this ultra talented Australian based supergroup were deserving of far more kudos than were granted to them during their brief tenure in the mid 70's. Avalanche evolved from the highly talented Bootleg Records house band, The Bootleg Family Band. Acting as sort of an Australian counterpart to Leon Russell's band, TBFB provided session players and live touring musicians to artists signed to the Bootleg label. Over the years, that band saw many lineup changes only to arrive at the Avalanche moniker in late 1975. Avalanche issued their self-titled debut on the Bootleg label in 1976 and wow, what an album it was!

With superior chops and hooks firmly in place, the album captivates from beginning to end. The band experiments with everything from hard rock and pop to bluesy bar band boogie. No matter which direction they wind up in, each track smokes. The vocals are spot on and the musicianship is tight and played with conviction. There's very little to fault with this stellar sole album from Avalanche. The band split in 1978 and little has been heard of the members since. A total loss for Australia and the world at large....this band rocked.

Dig this pristine vinyl rip and be one of the lucky few who own this fabulous effort from down under!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Taste - Knights of Love (1977)

Taste (not to be confused with Rory Gallagher's Taste) were a highly distinct sounding Australian quartet who cranked out two albums before imploding in 1979. This excellent band brought many influences to the table, creating a diverse blend of glam, prog and hard rock. Their debut, issued in 1976, was a pummeling slab of hard rock that somehow fell on deaf ears. Queen, however, took a liking to the band and began hyping them to the press, bringing more attention to their followup album, "Knights of Love".

Though this album is more diverse, it does lack the fire of their debut. That aside, there are tons of gems here, with sinewy arrangements and angular melodies. The standout is, "Boys Will Be Boys", which became their biggest selling single overseas. In fact, Queen even used the song to preface each of their live shows during this period. There hardly anything here to dislike and it's a tragedy that Taste did not experience the crossover success they seemed poised for in the mid 70's.

The members of Taste chose to go their separate ways in the late 70's, subsequently working with artists like Redhouse, Russell Morris, Planet X, Ring of Fire, Derek Sherinian, Mark Boals, Steve Walsh and Southern Sons. A revamped lineup reunited last year and have issued their new album, "Rock Is Dead" earlier this month. Check out this great example of classic Aussie hard rock!

Goddo - Who Cares? (1978)

Who could forget legendary Canadian power trio, Goddo? This brash Toronto act came together in 1975, headed by Greg Godovitz. The band was fleshed out by members, Gino Scarpelli (ex-Brutus) and Marty Morin. After several years of touring the bar circuit, Polydor snapped up the band in 1977 and issued their eponymously titled debut. The following year, their followup album, "Who Cares?" was released to critical indifference, spawning the single, "Sweet Thing". A number of albums and singles ensued over the next few years before Goddo finally caved in 1990 under the pressure of an evolving music industry. Subsequent reunions in 1992 and 2001 would both yield studio albums, though its clear that Goddo is keeping a rather low profile in comparison to their glory days.

"Who Cares?" is certainly the band's artistic peak, with a sound that runs frantically from supercharged to subdued and back again. Lyrical barbs and punishing guitars are the order of the day here and everything falls into place perfectly. With a very distinct style of their own, it's really hard to pigeonhole Goddo's sound. Suffice it to say, this is quality Canadian rock and you'd be a fool not to check this one out. Try them out and then buy their albums...you can be one of the cool people who actually knows who Goddo is! :)

Freeway - Riding High (1975)

Not much is known about Freeway, a short lived quintet who sprang from Melbourne, Australia in the early 70's. Freeway's creative force was legendary aussie guitarist Peter Laffy, who had also been a member of Fox, posted here earlier this week. Another noteworthy member was Criston Barker, formerly of Ash and Hollywood. Freeway's lifespan was rather short, but their sole release, "Riding High" is an impressive one.

Produced by Jim Keays, "Riding High" is a breezy and smooth affair with plenty of piano, organ and female backup vocals fleshing out the sound. The band sounds unusually American and the performances here are flawless. Crunchy in all the right places with plenty of Allman Brothers style twin leads, this sounds almost southern in places. In other places, the band explore high spirited R&B as well as hard rock. Surprisingly, this hodgepodge of styles is seamless and the overall vibe never deviates from one song to the next. Though its nothing revolutionary, the songs are well written and the production is crisp and clear.

Barker later joined Air Supply and Laffy became a well-known television and radio host in Australia, as well as staying active with his own blues act, King Bees. Check this out, you'll dig it!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sweet d'Buster - Friction (1978)

Dutch band, Sweet d'Buster came together in 1975, featuring ex-members of Golden Earring, Chain of Fools and Supersister. Sporting a curious hybrid of funk, progressive rock and hard rock, the band quickly became hugely popular in their native country. Opting to write their songs in english, the band began seeing modest crossover success in parts of Europe. Their self-titled debut was issued in 1976 on Bubble Records and pushed the band to numerous high profile tours of the region that year. After the tour had concluded, the band spent the next six months recording their followup, "Friction", which was released in 1978. The album was a clear evolution from the debut and saw the writing becoming more diverse and multilayered. Multiple lineup changes began to take place in 1979, which plagued sessions for their third studio album, "Shot Into the Blue". By late 1980, the band had reached an impasse and members opted to jump ship, leaving Sweet d'Buster dead in its tracks. Members continued in the business in various Dutch bands, some of which are active at the present.

I must say that, though this style of music isn't normally my cup of tea, this album is an exception. Smooth, bouyant, lively and played with precision, "Friction" is a real gem of long forgotten Dutch rock. With saxophones, violins and various percussion instruments embellishing the core of the band, the sound throughout is dynamic and pulsating with life. Whether I'm alone in this assessment is up for grabs. Check it and draw your own conclusion!

Harlequin - Victim of a Song (1979)

Winnipeg's Harlequin were formed in 1976 and spent the better part of two years on the club circuit before being discovered by producer Jack Douglas at a particularly empty show in Toronto. This later led to a label deal with Epic Records and by 1979, "Victim of a Song" was in stores all over Canada. Three singles were spawned, bringing the album to gold status. The following year, the band released their sophomore album, "Love Crimes" which reached went platinum the following year. Subsequent tours with Triumph, Streetheart, Pat Benatar and Saga ensued, bringing them to a wider audience in their native country. Two more albums were issued over the next few years to even greater success, but popularity aside, the band were brought to a screeching halt in 1986 due to inner turmoil over their lack of a breakthrough in the US. Two decades would pass before Harlequin were active again, embarking on a Canadian reunion tour which led to albums released in 2004 and 2007.

This, their debut, is a solid collection of tracks that at times resemble April Wine at their most reserved. Devoid mostly of keyboards on this album, the band goes for a more organic sound than what was present on some of their later albums. The result is a less dynamic, but rootsier sound that stands apart from the remainder of their catalogue. Depending on your tastes, this can be a good or bad thing, as the band does eschew much of the stadium friendly writing they later became successful doing. As it stands, this album has languished in obscurity for decades and unjustly so. Take a listen and get a look at Harlequin at their most distilled.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

All-Sports Band - All-Sports Band (1981)

Anyone who was alive in the 80's will either remember this band firsthand or if anything, heard of the ludicrous concept behind the All-Sports Band. This often maligned gimmick, based in Cleveland, were the creation of Tracy Coats. Mr. Coats, watching the Village People peak during the tail end of the 70's, took it upon himself to create a similarly themed "band" who would inherit the throne of the then faltering Village People. In fact, it was he who drafted two former Village People backing musicians into the lineup, also adding three other players to complete his vision. His vision came to life in 1981, in the form of a sports themed band complete with appropriately costumed members who could utilize various props to bring the concept to fruition.

Well, honestly put, it just never happened. Though the band managed to chart twice in the Top 100 and landed a lauded appearance on American Bandstand, audiences just weren't buying into the whole idea. While the Village People were at least using their concept to push sexual innuendo and double entendre further into the mainstream, the All-Sports Band were merely a cheesy idea that never truly came off as campy or self-deprecating. Had it been, well, who knows where they'd be now? In truth, the band were so widely reviled at the time, that no tour was ever booked and no followup was ever planned. The story basically ended by early 1982 and that was the end of the band.

So what about the music? Well, contrary to popular opinion, there are some excellent tracks here and several of them would've been great candidates for the Billboard Top 40 at least. Sure, some of the songs here are drippy and lightweight synth heavy pop numbers, but there's no denying the potency of tracks like the strutting "Jet Set", the jerky "I'm Hurt" or the arena rock of "Run Away" and "Hit 'n Run". "Jet Set" easily wins top honors with a hooky melody and bouncy rhythm. It surprises me that this one didn't have a better showing as a single. Instead, "Opposites Do Attract" gets honors for being the closest thing to a breakout hit for the band...and that's putting it modestly.

In any case, love them or hate them, here it is in full digital glory. I can almost assure you that this one will never see re-release, so enjoy the next best thing like this clean vinyl rip. You have been warned!

MPG - MPG (1981)

MPG (aka Miles Per Gallon) were an Atlanta based act who formed in late 1978. Bearing a style reminiscent of Toto or New England, the band rose to notable popularity in the southeast before A&M Records beckoned, prompting the release of their eponymous debut in 1981. Led by singer/keyboardist/songwriter, Steve Carey, MPG typified a sound that was in full swing by the early 80's. With excellent label support and regional airplay, it's quite astounding that the album slipped by audiences and fell into total oblivion. This unfortunate setback led A&M to pull the plug early into the band's contract, leaving them minus the three subsequent albums they had signed on to make. It wasn't long before members began to defect and by 1982, the band were inactive. The members have all gone on to pursue careers in and out of the industry, though nothing quite on the scale of MPG.

Sadly, this well done AOR album has been collecting dust at A&M and there appears to be no sign of a reissue anytime soon. There have been talks of a reunion over the years, but nothing has materialized to that end as of yet. In the meantime, while we wait, take a listen to this exceptional album and enjoy a piece of southern AOR the way it's meant to be done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Airborne - Airborne (1979)

Ah, good old Airborne. Anyone who has any knowledge of key artists in the AOR movement of the late 70's not only recognize the name, but more than likely heap endless praise upon the band. With a lineup whose pedigree was as impressive prior to 1979 as it was in subsequent years, Airborne was the archetypal arena rock band of its era and a band who mysteriously were met with general indifference during their brief period of activity. The band were masterminded by famed producer, Beau Hill, just weeks prior to their contract with CBS Records. Hill, an accomplished musician, had been demoing material for the better part of a year before it landed on the desk of famed producer, Keith Olsen. It was Olsen who prompted Hill to assemble a band for the recordings and within five weeks, their self-titled album was complete. A promotional campaign ensued and before long, stores across the country were stocked to the gills with copies of the album. For reasons unknown, despite the promotional push and surplus of product available, Airborne's debut failed to ignite. The result was a quick death for not only the album, but the band itself. The rest is, as they say, history.

The album is an astounding collection of slick and energetic AOR with an emphasis on crunchy guitars and soaring harmonies. With formidable vocal gymnastics and a rock solid rhythm section at the fore, the album seethes with power from the onset and never lets up until the very end. Fashioning themselves like a heavier 707 or Shooting Star, Airborne were unique because they had multiple lead vocalists and wrote timeless material that simply transcended the era from which they sprang. Granted, at the time, Airborne were seemingly just another AOR band among thousands...but in retrospect the band has deservedly been the recipients of accolades worldwide.

Sadly, the album has remained in relative obscurity ever since. Members of the band went on to acts like Ken Hensley, Night Ranger, Shanghai, Journey, Ironhorse and Animotion. Hill went on to become an instrumental producer during the 80's hair metal movement and is still active in this role today. Be sure to snap this one up and be amazed at the level of brilliance this all-star act were capable of. You'll surely feel a sense of loss, wondering how this talented band would've evolved over the years.

Coloured Balls - First Supper Last (1976)

Australia's Coloured Balls are the sort of thing legends are made of. In their homeland, that's exactly how they're revered, though their impact in the states and other parts of the world has gone virtually unheard. Headed by guitar hero Lobby Loyde, Coloured Balls pioneered a raucous, abrasive and loose sound that at one point became the mantra of skinheads in their native country. It also sparked a movement of similarly heavy bands in the region, though it's clear that none of them ever matched the visceral intensity of Coloured Balls. After issuing a pair of revolutionary albums, "Ball Power" and "Heavy Metal Kid", the band mysteriously split at the height of their visibility in Australia. Posthumously, "First Supper Last" was issued in 1976, perhaps as a means of bolstering Loyde's solo career which was in its infancy at the time. Though the album was issued in '76, it is in fact, the earliest recordings of Coloured Balls. To clarify, Coloured Balls did not yet exist in name, but a good portion of the founding musicians were present for the sessions that are featured here.

"First Supper Last" is the sound of a band finding its sound. Though it is essentially a blues workout on most of the material here, the sound is punishing and energetic. It's evident from the start how this band earned its reputation. The album is padded with numerous cover tunes, but the original material is what really demands your attention. Loydes guitar work is abrasive, chaotic and teetering on the verge of destruction...everything a charged rock and roll album should be.

Though the band's career was brief, their legacy has stood the test of time and solicited the praise of many Australian artists who reached loftier heights than Loyd and company ever did. Sadly, Loyd died of lung cancer in April of this year, though his legendary status is more than assured. Dig this fantastic slab of powerful rock and roll...you too will appreciate the genius of Coloured Balls...

Doucette - The Douce Is Loose (1979)

Doucette is the brainchild of Montreal native, Jerry Doucette. After moving at an early age to Ontario, Jerry became ensconced in the club scene for a number of years while working towards a contract with Mushroom Records. That goal came to fruition after Mushroom executive Shelly Seigel encouraged Jerry to assemble a band and sign with the label. In 1977, Jerry's new band (aptly called Doucette) completed sessions for their debut, "Mama, Let Him Play" and Mushroom quickly issued the album that same year. The album abruptly achieved platinum status in Canada and Doucette were sent on the road with the likes of Bob Welch, Eddie Money and Meatloaf.

Due to the overwhelming interest in the band, they were hustled back into the studio (with a largely overhauled lineup) at the end of their tour and by early 1979, "The Douce Is Loose" was unleashed. Further live jaunts with the Doobie Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Beach Boys helped to increase their exposure and soon a charting single, "Nobody", hit the airwaves. Oddly, more personnel changes took place and things were beginning to fall apart at the label. Jerry jumped ship and relaunched the band on Rio Records in 1981. "Coming Up Roses" was issued that year, and though it was a respectable effort, the ever changing trends in popular music had left Doucette without an audience. Later than year, the band were defunct and Jerry spent the next decade keeping a low profile, only to reemerge as a solo artist to minor success. He continues to tour at the present, though mostly in his homeland.

This album is a lively blend of AOR and slight southern rock, all the while maintaining a decidedly 70's vibe throughout. Jerry proves himself not only a stellar guitarist, but also a very capable vocalist, with plenty of charisma and flow oozing from the eight tracks presented here. There are hooks all over this album which help maintain consistency from track to track. It's no surprise this was a hit, though it's puzzling that the album has never seen reissue. To remedy matters, here's a vinyl rip for your listening pleasure. Check out one of Canada's unsung heroes and enjoy!

Fox - What the Hell Is Going On? (1974)

Aussie act, Fox, are quite a mystery. There is nary a trace of information about the band anywhere online. This does appear to be their only album. So what about the album? Well, it's a hard one to peg. Musically, the band rock throughout, laying down a curious blend of crunchy hard rock, pub rock and '77 era punk. Punk, you say? Yep...the conversational style of singing found here sounds reckless and somewhat sloppy, but it lends itself very well to the overall delivery of the material. With a leadfooted clunky bottom end (complete with the obligatory use of cowbell), Fox recklessly saunter through ten tracks, only taking a moment to breathe twice (including a cover of Space Opera's "Country Max") in the proceedings. Apparently the band split shortly after this release, and it is known that members went on to other bands like Southern Cross and Mondo Rock.

I highly recommend this fabulous vinyl rip, as it's a glimpse of classic Australian rock that stands a bit left of center. There's plenty of character here and most lovers of classic hard rock will eat this one up. Check it....you know you want to :)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bandit - Partners In Crime (1978)

Like Finch, UK's Bandit are mostly remembered for their connection to AC/DC, this time being the former band of bassist, Cliff Williams. After Williams departed his prior band, Home, he and vocalist Jim Diamond drafted a few other musicians for their new project, Bandit. Arista Records were quick to show interest and by 1977, their self-titled debut had hit record store shelves. Sales were slow and minimal, prompting a return to the studio in 1978, which yielded "Partners In Crime". Though the debut was bluesy hard rock, this album saw the band evolving toward a softer AOR sound. Again sales were weak and when AC/DC requested Cliff's services in 1979, he quickly bailed and Bandit were finished. Members defected to Buck's Fizz in the following years.

The album here is patchy at best, but there are a number of highlights which see the band in fine form, most notably the impressive vocals of Diamond. Lying somewhere between schmaltzy balladry and journeyman hard rock, "Partners In Crime" is a bit schizophrenic in its delivery. Despite its shortcomings, the album is worthy of mention here simply because of its rarity and connections with AC/DC. Fans of Williams will be surprised to hear this side of him. Download and ejoy this one!

The B'zz - Get Up (1982)

The B'zz were an Illinois based AOR act, who were essentially an offshoot of The Boyzz. Upon the latter band's dissolution in the late 70's, three of its members formed The B'zz in hopes of capitalizing on the successful formulas of bands like Foreigner, Survivor and others. Within a few months of forming, the band had already amassed an impressive repertoire of music, booked successful tours in the midwest and landed a spot on American Bandstand. They retain the distinction of being the only unsigned band to appear on the show. Epic Records took notice of the band and promptly signed them, enlisting Tom Werman to produce their debut. In 1982, "Get Up" was sprung upon the unsuspecting masses. Though two singles charted respectably, the band were unable to reach a wide enough audience to support global touring and within a year, The B'zz were no more. Members went on to other acts like WASP, L.A. Guns and Raw Dogs.

When compared to the raucous material of The Boyzz, "Get Up" is quite an evolution. One can only assume that the raw vocals of Boyzz frontman, Dan Buck, can be credited for the distinction between the two bands. The B'zz were considerably slicker and the material is easily more pop driven than their bluesy predecessor. The album is energetic, well produced and full of hooks. It's startling that this album has never seen proper reissue, considering the band's bloodline and the quality of material here.

Check out this smoking album and marvel at the impressive chops The B'zz were able to muster up in the studio. Fabulous indeed!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blown Free - Maximum Rock and Roll (1978)

Not much is known about Texas act, Blown Free, so this will be a short synopsis. I can tell you that their only album was actually recorded in 1973, though it was issued (in limited quanitities) later in 1978. The primitive hard rock album is chock full of raw guitar work, gruff vocals and a stomping rhythm section. This fairly good effort is bolstered by a number of outtakes and edits, bringing the track count to fourteen.

If early 70's proto metal (ala Grand Funk), is your thing, you'll likely enjoy this highly obscure release. I suggest you download this one now, as it rarely ever resurfaces.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stonebolt - Stonebolt (1978)

Formed in the late 60's, Stonebolt was the brainchild of Vancouver natives guitarist Ray Roper, drummer Brian Lousley and bassist Danny Atchison. Originally called Perth Amboy, they honed their chops playing practically every small venue in the Vancouver area. They later recruited John Webster on keyboards and brought in David Wills, formerly of the Seattle-based group Shaker, on vocals in 1973. They were mainstays of the BC bar circuit when in 1976, they recorded demos (featuring new vocalist, David Wills) with legendary producer Elliot Mazur in San Francisco, whose previous credits included the likes of Janis Joplin, Journey and Neil Young. They were noticed by Walter Stewart in 1977, the road manager for Johnny Rivers, and signed to a deal with Parachute Records.

They released their self-titled debut the following year, releasing two singles, one of which cracked Billboard's Top 30. Playing places as far abroad as Osaka, LA, and practically every point in between helped gain the group notoriety and landed them in the initial balloting for that year's Grammy's. Between 1978 and 1982, the band released three more albums in the hopes of repeating the success of their first album. Though the albums did chart in Canada, the band's lack of presence in the US prompted an inevidable split in early 1983. Members later worked with Red Rider and Trama.

This, their debut album, is a mixed affair. With slight touches of country in places, most of the material here is a bit too vanilla for my tastes. There are some highlights, such as the edgier "The Shadow", but ultimately the material comes across flat and faceless. The band's later releases are noticably more dynamic and will likely be featured here in the coming weeks. For now, check out this clean vinyl rip and decide for yourself, awful or wonderful?

Thunderhead - Thunderhead (1975)

Thunderhead were a briefly active hard rock/blues act formed in New Orleans in the early 70's. Their only album, "Thunderhead", was picked up by ABC/Dunhill Records and issued in 1975. Though the band enjoyed minor success in portions of the country, their relentless touring and promotion of the album was met with general indifference and the band members parted ways the following year. Several of them went on to work with Johnny Winters and in studio production and engineering.

This album is an excellent foray into bluesy southern hard rock, much like early Point Blank or Hydra. The vocal harmonies are stellar and the performances are fluid and powerful. It's quite a shock that this band has been relegated to obscurity, as the songwriting is top notch and the production is quite exceptional given the year the album was recorded. The band's gritty style is embellished with flutes and congas, making them entirely unique entries in the southern rock genre.

I suggest you download this fabulous slab of goodness and see what I'm talking about. You'll be glad you did!


Speedway Blvd - Speedway Blvd (1980)

Speedway Blvd were a New York based act assembled by famed bubblegum impresarios, Kasenetz and Katz. Looking to capitalize on the booming arena rock sensation that was sweeping the nation at the dawn of the 80's, the duo put Speedway Blvd together strictly as a studio project. Allowing the musicians their own creative freedom, the unique assemblage of players concocted a potent blend of AOR, new wave and progressive rock. The results were astounding and Epic Records quickly released the album with a massive promotional campaign in tow. For reasons unknown, audiences just didn't have a clue how to take Speedway Blvd and the album tanked. The project was essentially abandoned and various members went on to Balance and later Dream Theater.

This album is a fine example of music that was ahead of its time. I can't explain it any other way. With sharp vocals, wicked synths and clever arrangements, the album is truly unique. I recommend this one heartily. Check out this fairly good vinyl rip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bad Boy - The Band That Milwaukee Made Famous (1976)

Milwaukee's Bad Boy sprang from the ashes of local favorites, Crossfire, in 1975. Through rigorous touring in the midwest, the band were able to secure a contract with United Artists Records in 1976. Later that year, the band's debut "The Band That Milwaukee Made Famous" was issued. Despite considerable industry hype, the album failed to chart and sank quickly into oblivion. The band shuffled into the studio the following year to issue its 2nd album, "Back To Back", which again failed to garner national attention. Soon the band were dropped and spent the next two years writing, recording and preparing their own self-financed release, 1981's "Private Party". Over the next five years, the band continued to release albums with only regional succes and eventually split before the end of the decade.

Bad Boy's debut is actually a charming slice of straightforward journeyman hard rock. Though there's nothing that reinvents the wheel, it's competent and memorable in places. The album sounds like anything you'd expect from a second tier midwestern 70's band, lifting elements from their contemporaries like REO Speedwagon, Head East, Starz, Aerosmith and many more. For their lack of originality, the band manages to excel musically by providing airtight performances across the board. It appears the audiences were quick to dismiss the band, and ultimately Bad Boy became one of many forgotten bands from the era.

Amazingly, the band (in a slightly altered lineup) regrouped in the late 90's and actually released another album in 2003, followed by a live recording in 2005. If you prefer to dip back into the band's early years, this is as good a place as any to start. Check it and get hip to a band the general public has long forgotten...


Monday, July 16, 2007

Wrabit - Wrough & Wready (1981)

Canada's Wrabit (previously known as Tellemann) at one time seem poised for a major breakthrough, drawing massive crowds to their shows and creating a buzz in the industry upon signing a deal with MCA Records. It was 1981 when their debut, "Wrough & Wready" (aka "Wrabit" in the US), hit store shelves and prompted an onslaught of radio support in both their native country and portions of the US. With a journeyman arena rock sound like Journey, Styx, Survivor and Kansas, Wrabit saw reasonable success almost from the start. However, lineup changes began to plague the band and it wasn't long before half of the band had jumped ship. From that point onward, the next two releases each saw various members coming and going. By the band's final album, "West End Kid" in 1984, the majority of radio support was going towards synth pop, leaving the band's brand of AOR virtually obsolete. The band split that year and members fled to Max Webster, Hanover Fist, Lee Aaron and Big Smile.

As for this album, well, it's quite a powerful first statement for the band. Brandishing an instantly more aggressive tone than what was typical of the day, the album charges from the starting gates with hook laden track after hook laden track, all with impeccable harmonies. Though Nadeau's voice does take some getting used to, his delivery throughout is directly on target, elevating this from what could've been average to something stellar. This kind of transcendence can be felt from the opening track to the final salvo of the ending number. It's really quite startling that this album did not garner the band far greater success than it actually did. Yes, it's that solid.

Since the album is now fetching hefty prices for import only out-of-print CDs, I've included it here for your listening enjoyment. I'll be posting the remainder of the band's recorded output here over the next week or so, but for now, download and be amazed. This rocks!

Atlas - Atlas (1973)

Not much is known about this Australian/British band, which featured former members of Wishbone Ash, Captain Australia and Sunshine. Led by vocalist Ronnie Charles, Atlas were quick to sign a deal and release their debut album with Warner/Reprise Records in 1973. The album spawned two singles, both of which saw modest chart activity. Despite critical accolades, the album faded quickly from view and within a year the band had split.

The album is an exercise in straightforward 70's bluesy rock with a hard edge and some occasional laid back balladry. Despite the somewhat generic description I've used here, there are some highlights showing diversity and groove. "Military Rag" and "On We Go" are both exceptional tracks showing a slight American influence, particularly the west coast.

Ronnie Charles went on to a successful solo career after the split, and the remaining members whereabouts are unknown. Check out this curious Aussie/British release, you just might dig it!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bulldog - Bulldog (1972)

So here is the debut album issued by Bulldog in 1972. Like its follow up album, this one is at the top of many MP3 wishlists and is highly regarded by fans of obscure classic rock. Featuring a gruffer, leaner sound than "Smasher", the album features a good portion of winners and conversely, losers as well. For the better cuts, fans will dig the raunchy vocal delivery of Bocher on some of the harder edged stuff. The highlight here is unquestionably the bouncy melodic, "No", which would prove to be the band's only modestly successful single. By 1975, members were off pursuing other ventures, but there's plenty to enjoy on their debut, "Bulldog".

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oakley - Oakley (1980)

Oakley were another Nova Scotia band, hailing from the city of Halifax in the mid 70's. Essentially a regional "supergroup", Oakley built a solid reputation for themselves quickly with high profile gigs in the region. Their eponymous debut was released in 1980 by Nova Records and immediately spawned numerous hit singles, prompting tours with April Wine, The Doobie Brothers and Blue Rodeo. Sadly, despite their warm reception, the band was already beginning to drift apart. After a critical shift in personnel, the band dissolved in 1982.

This is tragic, really, as this debut release is an excellent example of tightly played journeyman hard rock. With traces of southern rock and AOR mixed together, this is a brilliant marriage of 70's rock and 80's rock. Members of the band have all gone on to other projects in the business, though keyboardist Bill McAuley passed away in 2000.

Download this at once and enjoy a slice of rare Nova Scotia rock...yes, it's that good!

Pepper Tree - You're My People (1971)

Pepper Tree hailed from Nova Scotia and was formed in 1967. After a few years of saturating the club scene in Canada, the band finally landed a contract with Capitol Records in 1969. Producer, Jack Richardson, was drafted to produce a single which saw the band charting in their native country. Lineup changes ensued over the next year, until "You're My People" hit store shelves in 1971.

The album was a solid mix of folk, pop, prog and organ driven hard rock. With stellar harmonies and a real wealth of musical diversity, the album seemed poised for success, but for one reason or another that never came to pass. More lineup changes took place over the next two years with Capitol issuing numerous failed singles. By 1973, the band was belly up and members went on to such bands as Rhinegold, Molly Oliver, Hanover Fist, Wrabit, Lee Aaron, Chilliwack and Headpins. Many of them are still active in both performing and producing music.

Dig this relic of a bygone era that still commands the interest of collectors and aficionados worldwide. This stuff is fabulous and you'll be pleasantly surprised with what you hear :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bulldog - Smasher (1974)

Bulldog were an obscure spinoff of the Rascals that formed in 1971. Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli, after leaving their successful act behind, enlisted Billy Hocher, John Turi and Eric Thorngren to round out the lineup. After a successful showcase performance, Decca Records came calling and soon Bulldog's self-titled debut was released. Though the album sported some uncharacteristic heaviness that surely surprised Rascals fans, the album was a bit too short on hooks to captivate the fickle record buying public. Perhaps the gruff Bob Seger/Joe Cocker vocals of Hocher seemed like a strange pairing with the material presented. In any case, their contract with Decca came to an abrupt end and Bulldog spent the majority of 1973 attempting to secure another contract.

That contract came with the arrival of Neil Bogart's Buddah Records in 1974, which yielded their sophomore release, "Smasher". Now this was a different sounding album, showing the band's tightened and more elaborate sound somewhat removed from the vibe of their rudimentary debut. Perhaps Buddah's primary reputation for bubblegum and novelty records can explain why this release was virtually ignored upon its release. In retrospect, it has become quite a collectable with its sophisticated die-cut cover and ornate design. Packaging aside, the content itself is patchy like the first album, but once things get rolling, it's an improvement. Bulldog's rendition of Derringer's "Rock & Roll Hootchie Coo" is among one of the more inspired moments of the album. Despite the promise found here, the album sank without even a slight showing on the Billboard charts and Bulldog was dead by early 1975.

Cornish and Danelli would resurface a few years later, teaming up with Wally Bryson (Raspberries) in the excellent power pop act, Fotomaker. Though they issued several strong albums, they too were dealt a merciless death, leaving Cornish and Danelli on the oldies circuit in a revived lineup of the Rascals. They would later be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of their former bandmates. Turi and Thorngren went on to work as studio engineers, as well as teaming up in several low profile bands throughout the years.

Take a stab at this one, as it's often at the top of MP3 wishlists and has become quite the rarity since its release in 1974. There something for everyone to admire in this short-lived but distinctive sounding quintet.

Morningstar - Morningstar (1978)

Kansas City's Morningstar represented one of many AOR acts to spring from and flourish in the midwestern region. Perhaps one of the real standouts among the herd, Morningstar successfully married the stylistic approach of many of their larger contemporaries like Kansas, Styx and Starcastle. With slight progressive flourishes decorating the arrangements, the band's music was slick and oozing with hooks. Their roots trace back to 1969 where a largely different lineup found regional success with a self-released single, which caught the ear of future CBS executive, Kip Cohen. A sole appearance at the Fillmore East in 1970 would yield broader interest in the band, though the lineup began seeing radical changes over the course of the next seven years. By 1977, the band had inked a deal with CBS and this album, their self-titled debut was issued the following year.

This album is a strong collection of hook laden arena rock, which is astonishing given the fact that this was the band's first effort in the studio. Dripping with all the dynamics one would find in most of the successful rock albums of the day, this debut was poised for massive success. As happens so often, either poor marketing or slow distribution were to blame and the band were met only with moderate success. Unfazed, Morningstar returned to the studio the following year to issue "Venus". Though their second album found them with an even sleeker, more radio friendly sound, things at CBS were beginning to change. With the dawn of punk and disco's emerging breakout, many larger labels were abandoning these perceived "dinosaur" bands like Morningstar. As a result, CBS dropped the band (along with dozens of other artists) in search of capitalizing on the current trends of the time.

It's tragic that Morningstar were literally shut down by their supporting label, as funds were pulled and the band could no longer sustain itself autonomously. Where they could have gone is unknown, but they left two fantastic albums and a legacy that midwesterners have still not forgotten. In the wake of the split, most of the members returned to civilian life in their hometown, working in local bands over the years. Others retired completely from the business to begin new careers outside of music. In any case, this band is one you won't soon forget. This gifted quintet's two albums are impossible to locate on CD and a reissue program is nowhere in sight. So for now, dig in and enjoy this exceptional debut by Morningstar.

A Foot In Coldwater - Breaking Through (1977)

Now HERE is an elusive rarity that seldomly surfaces, even in collector's circles. Please refer to my earlier posting regarding this band's back story. A Foot In Coldwater split in 1975, despite seeing moderate success in their native country of Canada. A few years passed before the members regrouped for "Breaking Through" in 1977. The group's new direction was notably more stylized for AOR radio, though there's no shortage of their signature punchy driving sound. Released on Attic Records, the album came and went with little fervor and soon the band were defunct for good.

This is a very well done album that is often unfairly overlooked even by fans of the band. It's a mystery why the record made little impact, though perhaps the disco craze blossoming worldwide played an integral role in its failure. Though the band only resurfaced a few brief times over the years to perform reunion shows, A Foot In Coldwater is no more. Members would later join bands such as Private Eye, Gus, Leggatt, Champion and Moxy.

Dig this ultra-rare effort from a band who always seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough, only to find apathy at the end. In retrospect, fans have not forgotten this fabulous classic Canadian act.

Earth Quake - Rocking The World (1975)

Berkeley's Earth Quake were among the resident bands dominating the scene in northern California during the early to mid 70's. In fact, they were one of the first acts signed to the fledgling Beserkeley Records, though label mate Greg Kihn would be the one to put the label on the map. Moreover, despite what pretty much every bio ever written about this band has said, Greg Kihn was never in Earth Quake. He did contribute some background vocals on a few recordings and eventually hired a few of the band members to join his own band in the late 70's. Earth Quake's early years were spent crafting a curious hard rock/folk sound that was decidedly very west coast sounding. Over the years they'd evolved, bringing in elements of power pop and new wave. Somehow, the band never really caught on, despite issuing several strong albums. One such album was 1975's "Rocking the World". Essentially a live set, highlighting new originals and a handful of covers, the album was met with general indifference outside of their region and abruptly vanished from record store shelves.

Though the performance here is tight and visceral, the reliance on covers and the informal setting in which the album was recorded does tend to undermine the quality of the album. There's no denying the power of the band, but the scattershot song selection pulls the overall vibe in too many directions to leave the listener ultimately satisfied. Nevertheless, this is an interesting and extremely rare piece of classic Cali rock that deserves to be heard. The band fragmented at the dawn of the new decade, leaving members to flee to other bands like the Greg Kihn Band and Larry Lynch & the Mob.

Though there are better albums which represent Earth Quake's true creativity, this obscure relic captures a brief moment in 1975 when they were still a young struggling band making waves in Berkeley. I hope you dig this one!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Strider - Exposed (1973)

Strider were a UK blues/rock outfit of tremendous potential. They were formed by guitarist Gary Grainger, keyboard player and lead vocalist Ian Kewley, bassist Lee Hunter and drummer Jimmy Hawkins. They spent their early days supporting the likes of Humble Pie, Status Quo and Deep Purple. Their debut album, ''Exposed", was released on Phillips Records in 1973, and it featured Babe Ruth's Jennie Haan on backing vocals. A second album, "Misunderstood", was released in 1974, which featured a mostly new lineup including lead vocalist Rob Elliott and drummer Tony Brock. Just as it seemed as if this great band were going places, they split, with Grainger going on to feature in Rod Stewart's band and Tony Brock moving on to The Babys.

So what of this album? Well, it's mostly pub rock with a helping of blues. I'd say it's like a poor man's Humble Pie. I prefer the final album (with a superior vocalist) to this, but since this is such an elusive release, it deserves to be here. I'll let you be the judge. It's interesting hearing Tony Brock in this capacity, since he'd later go on to a much sleeker and tighter band, The Babys. Whatever your preference, this deserves to be heard...at least once :)

Head East - A Different Kind of Crazy (1979)

I've decided to post yet another Head East album...for two reasons. First, the album was only issued once on CD in the late 80's and only in France. Second, the album is easily the best thing the band ever recorded. Growing up in the midwest during the AOR craze of the 70's, bands like REO Speedwagon, Styx, Roadmaster and The Rockets were the order of the day for midwestern radio. Head East, in particular, were the darlings of these radio stations. Coming off of the mega single, "Never Been Any Reason" in 1975, Head East released a flurry of excellent albums over the next five years. It all peaked in 1979 with this fine album, "A Different Kind of Crazy". Though its success was modest, the band's formula had reached its pinnacle with this release. It's really quite baffling how this incredible collection of songs did not fare better. With superior writing, musicianship and the pitch-perfect vocals of John Schlitt, it just never quite came together more perfectly for the band than it did here. "Gettin' Lucky" from 1977 was a very close second for the band, in terms of quality material.

Oddly enough, the band splintered while touring in support of the album. Schlitt later became born again and fronted Petra through the remainder of their career. Some of the members carried on with Head East to lesser success and are still at it today on the oldies circuit. Bassist, Dan Birney, passed away in 2003 from a cardiovascular condition.

So rather than waiting for A&M to give up the masters and allow Head East an opportunity to resissue this splendid album, I'm offering it here for now. This is a must for 70's AOR lovers!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Emperor - Emperor (1977)

Formed by Steve Watts and high school friends in the 60's, Emperor (then The Emperors) quickly became a Long Beach favorite, playing teen dances, concerts and other events throughout the area. They entered and won a number of Battle of the Bands competitions and made several appearances on Sam Riddle's "9th Street West" TV dance show. As Emperor's popularity grew, the band had opportunities to share concert billing with a number of acts including Peter & Gordon, Rolling Stones, The Righteous Brothers and later, Steely Dan. In the 70's, after several personnel changes, Emperor continued its rise in popularity. Building a strong Southern California fan base, the band performed regularly at the hottest beach area clubs. Known for tight ensemble playing, and an exciting stage show, Emperor was indeed "the band to see." A fan quoted in a 1977 "Affair Magazine" article stated, "I don't come here to dance, I come here to listen. I can't take my eyes off these guys. "

In addition to a growing repertoire of solid original material, Emperor was also putting its mark on many high-energy covers. Despite the rise of disco, Emperor was scoring big with fans with songs like The Who's "Tommy," Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations," among others. Songs very few bands would attempt. This combination of musical versatility and stage performance soon caught the eye and ears of the recording industry. After signing with RCA in 1974 and recording a number of singles, several produced by John Ryan (Styx), the band began to seek more artistic freedom and subsequently signed with New York based Private Stock Records. In 1977 Private Stock released the highly anticipated album Emperor, which was produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise (Kiss, Gladys Knight) and engineered by Warren Dewey (Boston).

Though the album demonstrates musical prowess in parts, it is also a shizophrenic affair with the band straddling the line between bar band boogie rock and arena rock. This made for a very uneven album, though there are some highlights on both sides of the fence. Perhaps Emperor's greatest fault lies with their vocalist, whose thin and plaintive voice renders much of the material a bit one dimensional. Aside from this complaint, the music and harmonies are tight. There is a curious 60's vibe throughout which lends a bit of distinction to Emperor.

It is presumed that the band fizzled after the album failed to reach the mainstream, but in recent years a partially original lineup has reconvened and remains active on the club circuit in the Long Beach area. If you're nearby, check them out. You just might dig it :) A massive THANK YOU to Rob for the hookup on this sweet digital transfer.

Ded Engine - Ded Engine (1985)

Michigan's Ded Engine, who throughout their career were constantly blighted by comparisons to better known British Metal bands, were founded in 1980. The band's recording debut had come in 1983 with the issue of a demo "Limited Edition E.P.". Later that year they re-recorded the track "Renegade" for inclusion on the British compilation album "It's Unheard Of" album, issued through Sane Records. This same recording was included on the 1984 "Two Bad" single, a limited edition of 1000 copies from Genocide Records. A second demo, "Till Deaf Do Us Part", arrived in 1985.

The band recorded a batch of five more tracks and compiled these with their early material to create the "Ded Engine" album. Initially this would be released in cassette format via Dutch East India Trading of New York. Subsequently, Black Dragon Records in France and SPV Steamhammer in Germany licensed the album for vinyl release across Europe whilst Maze Records took the record on for Canada.

Though there was some grass roots radio support for their debut, the album failed to make a dent in the industry and the band continued looking for a proper record deal. That came in 1987, when the band signed with Grudge Records and released, "Hold a Grudge". Again, there was very little interest or support for the band and within a year they had split for good. Bassist, Marky DeSade went on to join Smashed Gladys a few years later. He passed away in 1994. Drummer Chip Lorimer is now a leathersmith in Michigan.

The material here is rather pedestrian mid-paced hard rock, though there are a few tracks that at least manage a lasting hook...namely, "Kings of the City", ""Take a Hike" and "Hot Shot". In any case, this little known band may serve as an interesting look into the sound of midwestern heavy metal, as there was a burgeoning scene thriving in the region during that time. I should know...I was right in the middle of it! Direct from clean vinyl, "Ded Engine".

Krank - Hideous (1986)

Not much is known about this theatrical New Jersey based metal band, except that they flourished in the tri-state area for a number of years between 1983 and 1987. Adopting a garish look akin to Alice Cooper and Kiss, the band became a mainstay on the club circuit until Brian Slagel signed the band to Metal Blade Records in 1986. Their debut, "Hideous" was released later in the year and the band set out on a year long trek across the country in support of the album. When the tour concluded in Los Angeles, the band split over creative differences. That was essentially the last anyone heard from Krank until a brief revival in 1995, which was also short lived. Finally in 2003, the band regrouped and released their 2nd album, "Ugly Gift". A few years of regional touring followed and again, the band has seemingly vanished.

Though they are nothing extraordinary, there are a number of tracks (some of which appeared first on several Metal Blade samplers) that are worthy of praise. "Rented Heat" is unquestionably the standout here, and there are a handful of other similarly cool tracks. I recommend checking out this blip on the radar for a taste of obscure 80's metal.

Grapefruit - Around Grapefruit (1968)

Grapefruit were one of the better Beatlesque late-'60s British pop-rock bands. In 1968 they seemed on the way to stardom, with a couple of small hit British singles and, more importantly, some help from the Beatles themselves. Led by George Alexander, brother of the Easybeats' George Young, the group were at the outset cheerful harmony pop/rockers with similarities to the Easybeats, Bee Gees, and some Paul McCartney-penned tunes from the Beatles' own psych-pop era. Not quite as incessantly chipper as the Easybeats, not as melodramatic as the Bee Gees, and certainly not as inventive as the Beatles, they were nonetheless similarly skilled at blending melodic pop with sophisticated arrangements that employed baroque/psychedelic touches of strings, orchestration, and several varieties of keyboards. A disappointing second album, however, helped sink them out of sight, and the Beatles couldn't be of help as they were preoccupied with their own imminent dissolution.

Grapefruit just missed the Top 20 with their first single, "Dear Delilah," with its lilting melody, uplifting harmonies, and creative use of orchestration and electronic phasing. A cover of the Four Seasons' "C'mon Marianne" just missed the Top Thirty, and although there were several other singles in 1968 and early 1969, nothing else made the charts. Their first LP, Around Grapefruit, was largely comprised of songs from their first five singles.

In contrast to "Around Grapefruit", their second album, 1969's "Deep Water", was an utterly undistinguished effort that could have been by an entirely different band, as its routine late '60s rock was quite unlike the band's debut. Grapefruit went into a much heavier sound, with deeper traces of blues and occasionally country, and virtually abandoned the harmonies, pop melodicism, and creative multi-textured arrangements that were the strongest points in their favor. For good measure, their association with Apple Publishing ended in November 1968, although John Lennon did suggest in early 1969 that the band should record the then-unreleased Lennon-McCartney song "Two of Us" (which they didn't). Following some personnel changes, the group broke up around the end of the 1960s, although Alexander did revive Grapefruit for a 1971 single, "Universal Party"/"Sha Sha," which also featured ex-Easybeats George Young and Harry Vanda. Subsequently Alexander worked with Vanda and Young on other production and songwriting projects, while John Perry made an unlikely return to the public eye as a member of the new wave band the Only Ones in the late '70s.

If you dig artists like Left Banke, Beatles and don't mind a bit of psych thrown into the mix, I guarantee you will love Grapefruit. This is a brilliant debut...