Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Savannah - Savannah (1977)

Hollister (California) was the home of this obscure polyethnic hard rock act, comprised of Robert Fowler (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Gordon Kusayanagi (Guitar/Vocals), Sammy Garcia (Bass/Vocals) & George Collins (Drums/Percussion).  Sadly, their story is almost completely wrapped in mystery.  What we do know is that the band first released a single, "Livin' High" b/w "Night Life" on their own label, Savannah Records, in 1976.  The following year they released the "Crank It Up" full-length on their newly dubbed Chrome Thigh Records.  What happened after that is anybody's guess, though Kusayanagi was tragically killed in a high profile rampage that took place on the Vegas strip in late 2005, when Stephen Ressa plowed through crowds of people in his Buick sedan.

As for the record, well, this one pulls ridiculous prices in collectors circles.  Fortunately, the music is much better than what is typical with these homegrown private pressings.  All in all, the album is mostly very typical hard rock of the era.  Perhaps calling it hard rock is a stretch but there's a definite edge that makes it difficult to call anything else.  Fowler's vocals are all competent and the performances are solid.  The production is clear and better than what is common with self-released budget recordings.

As  expected, the punchier material really stands out.  Tracks like "Turn It Around", "No Life Of My Own", "Looking For A Woman" and the great interpretation of Crabby Appleton's sole hit, "Go Back" all rock.  The only song that really detracts from the proceedings is the west-coast influenced "Song And Dance" which seems at odds with the overall musical vibe in the grooves.

I would definitely consider this to be one of the better private pressings of the era and it's truly a shame no niche label has taken steps to reissue this on CD.  So, to remedy that issue for now, I present "Crank It Up" for your discerning ears.  I recommend you crank this one up and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whiz Kids - Whiz Kids (1974)

This Ann Arbor based duo's back story is a pretty mysterious one.  Based on what I could gather, the band was formed sometime in the late 60's by multi-instrumentalist Pat McCaffrey and percussionist Ken Michalik.  The band's sound was distinct in that no guitars or basses were present.  McCaffrey often would play organ pedals and analog synths in their place.  By 1970, they were supporting the likes of Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station, Savage Grace, J. Geils Band and Spirit in and around southeast Michigan.  Eventually, the band hooked up with Ann Arbor music impresario Al Nalli and their first recorded effort was released via his label, Kasaba Records, in 1971.  That single, "Take" b/w "Big Cigar Blues" is now highly collectible.

By 1972, Whiz Kids were headlining their own gigs in prominent area venues like Primo Showbar, Grande-Rivera Theater and The Suds Factory.  In 1973 the band entered Pampa Studios and Glen Arbor Roller Mills to record their sole full-length effort.  The eponymously titled record featured McCaffrey and Michalik in all of their two-man glory, sans guitar and bass.  Whiz Kids embarked on extensive gigging in the region, often stopping for extended residencies at Chances Are and The Second Chance.  The band continued to function until the mid-70's, at one point augmenting the lineup with guitar and bass.  Their activities beyond 1976 are hazy at best, but the band (in a mostly revamped configuration) returned to the scene in late 1981 and continued through early 1984 before finally dissolving.

McCaffrey would briefly hook up with Bob Seger's band before doing session work on a number of major label releases through the 80's before embarking on a career in the corporate entertainment business with his newly dubbed showband, Pat McCaffrey and the Whiz Kids Band.  He continues this career today.  Michalik, on the other hand, took his talents into the Ann Arbor Public School system, working as a music teacher, where he resides to this day.

I know this rarity hasn't exactly set the collector community on fire, but I find a lot to love about this unique sounding record.  There's something funky about these songs.  There are plenty of hooks to be found here and even a few pseudo rockers.  Standouts include "Judas", "Start All Over Again", "Poison" and the addictive funky ZZ Top cover, "(Ride My) Chevrolet".  Make no mistake, this isn't some scorching hot and heavy indie release, but the cavernous ambience and tight performances make this an interesting listen.  Perhaps a little on the vanilla side of things, Whiz Kids will still certainly win some fans with this sole effort.  Standby as efforts are being made to secure a copy of the rare single from 1971.  I'll be posting it here once I've landed one!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Empire - Empire (1981)

I wish I could give you some real insight on this interesting German band, but their story is beyond murky.  There is such little information floating around that most of what I know pertains to before and after the proper Empire story.  The band was formed by ex-Cannabis India members Oliver Petry and Dirk Fleck.  Rounding out the lineup were Roland Lange, Bernd Kaspers and Fred Otto.  Empire were signed to a small fledgling label, Repertoire Records, long before that label would find success reissuing long lost obscurities on CD.  In 1981, the label released Empire's self-titled debut.  Shortly after, the band issued a single and slowly faded from sight.  It is presumed Empire ceased to exist by the mid-eighties.  Petry went on to be a noted session singer/keyboardist and launched a new career in web design which he continues to this day.  Fleck would later form Mama before working in production and sound engineering.  Kaspers would also go on to work in production throughout the eighties.  Otto made a name for himself as flashy metal drummer, Der Neitenpapst (aka Rivet Pope) in the band Random.  Lange's activities are unknown.

Empire's sole effort can't seem to decide whether it's hard rock, pop or pub rock.  I'm usually one for eclectic records, but this one lacks focus.  To top it off, Petry's thick accent and pitchy vocals make for a difficult listen at times.  There are some decent songs here.  "Fast Little Woman", "Watch Out" and "It's A Ball" are generally pretty well done.  All in all, the record is simply unremarkable.  Listen for yourself...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Butch - The Bitch Of Rock & Roll (1977)

For a more exhaustive bio on this obscure Utica quartet, Butch, I suggest you click HERE.  In a nutshell, the core of Butch consisted of Joe Goodman, Mike Surprenant and John Chapman, all of whom grew up together in upstate New York.  Butch was an offshoot of a mid-sixties pop combo called The Ravens.  The Ravens, essentially a teen band, managed an appearance on cable access program, Twist-A-Rama before splitting sometime in the late sixties.  From the ashes arose Butch, who by 1972 had landed a three year house band gig in Rome, NY.  It was during this period that the band would develop a provocative stage show, creating enough buzz and confidence to prompt a move to California in search of greater opportunity.  Chapman remained in NY and area bassist Angelo Alati was drafted in his place.

Upon their arrival in Lancaster, the band hooked up with drummer Steve Taylor, who would prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle.  Shortly after getting comfortable in their new surroundings, the band found themselves at Goldmine Studios in Ventura, CA.  Sessions for the album went quickly and within a week, "The Bitch Of Rock & Roll" was finished.  Through Taylor's association with Lancaster based label, Sunndial Records, the band were signed and 5,000 copies of the record were pressed.  A string of promotional gigs followed but the band began to fragment within a year.  Goodman and Surprenant returned to New York but efforts to regroup never came to pass.  Goodman returned to California and hooked up with Alati to resurrect Butch.  

By 1980, the band had morphed into a performance art punk act, which perhaps was more befitting of their established irreverent stage show.  The duo added drummer, Cliff Martinez (Captain Beefheart, Dickies, Red Hot Chili Peppers) and frontwoman Cherie Greene to the lineup.  The following year would see the band making appearances on the infamous New Wave Theater TV program.  More recording took place at Doug Moody's Mystic Studios, which led to the band's inclusion on 1982's "The Sound of Hollywood" cult classic punk compilation.  By the mid eighties, Alati would return to NY and Butch were effectively done.

Goodman would eventually find notoriety in a different medium, writing books and articles as a holocaust denier.  He passed away in October of 2013.  Alati returned to working as a hairdresser in Utica before passing away from an extended illness in December of 1991.  Surprenant would become a corrections officer in upstate New York.  Chapman went on to work in high profile entertainment promotions where he presumably remains to this day. Taylor is reportedly retired and still living in Southern California.

Much ado has been made of this album over the years, perhaps alone due to its rarity.  All that aside, the album itself really appeals to me.  It has all the trapping of a homegrown private pressing.  Murky production, off-the-cuff performances, a virtually unknown label and generic cover art.  At the core though, some of these songs ROCK.  Surprenant's earnest tenor plays well against Goodman's charismatic baritone, giving the album enough diversity to keep it interesting.  The guitars are fuzzy and Goodman's soloing is just reckless enough to make it charming.  Tracks like "You're Gonna Die", "I'm Your Slave" and "You've Never Had It Like This Before" are the clear standouts here but others may enjoy the dirges "Girl From The City" and the eight minute "Fire King".  Either way, it's time this gem reveals itself to the public.  This album has remained lost for far too long.  It's my pleasure to bring you this quality rip @ 320kbps for your judgement.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back To Earth

So, I'm strongly considering a return here.  I'm armed to the teeth with tons of rarities and frankly, I've missed interacting with everyone here. Posts may not be prolific on the level they were in my first six months here, but they should be MUCH more frequent than over the last few years.

In any case, add me to your newsreaders and I'll check back in when I'm closer to re-launch.  I'll be doing some graphics/layout tweaks first and then get to the good stuff ;)

Talk soon...