Sunday, March 29, 2009

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

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

Re-Upped: Trooper - Trooper (1975)

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

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

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

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

Re-Upped: Locust - Playgue (1976)

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

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

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

Next... - Dusty Shoes (1971)

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

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