Saturday, December 18, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Diamond Reo - Ruff Cuts (1978)

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

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

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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rabbitt - Rock Rabbitt (1978)

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bike - Bike (1978)

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

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

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


Monday, March 15, 2010

Trigger - Trigger Treat (1975)

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

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

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