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!