Sunday, May 16, 2021

James Hudson: “Tomorrow” (2021) CD Review

Jazz vocalist James Hudson gives us some wonderful versions of beloved standards on his debut release, Tomorrow. It is clear right from the start and with every word he delivers that James Hudson has a tremendous passion for these songs, and his renditions are both respectful and fresh. The joyous vibe of this album is due also to the fact that it was recorded with all the musicians playing together in the studio, rather than it being done instrument by instrument. Joining the vocalist on this album are Joe Hill on piano, Nick Fitch on guitar, Jack Tustin on bass, and Luke Tomlinson on drums.

This album gets off to an excellent start with a cool and lovely rendition of “Pennies From Heaven,” written by Arthur Johnson and Johnny Burke, this arrangement by Joe Hill and James Hudson. It begins sweetly, James Hudson’s voice like a gentle and friendly caress. Then after a minute or so, things are taken up a few notches, James delivering the lyrics with a great deal of joy. The bass is what keeps this lively version moving, and this track also features a really nice lead on guitar. That’s followed by a totally delightful rendition of “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” written by Jimmy McHugh and Clarence Gaskill. This one too features a bass line that keeps things moving. I love James Hudson’s vocal performance here, including his choices of placement of some dramatic pauses. And of course I dig that great work on drums. This arrangement is by Joe Hill and James Hudson.

“It Had To Be You” is a song that I still can’t help but associate with Annie Hall, which I believe is where I first heard it. Here James Hudson delivers a kind of soothing rendition, which includes an excellent lead on guitar. The arrangement is by Nick Fitch and James Hudson. By the way, I’ve learned that the line “With all your faults, I love you still” isn’t always appreciated by that special someone as much as you’d think it would be. “It Had To Be You” is followed by “My Romance,” which features a wonderful lead on piano. And Nick Fitch responds to the line “no soft guitars” with a nice little touch on guitar. As the song is reaching its conclusion there is another good lead on piano. Then Nick Fitch begins “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” on guitar, and at first it is the guitar that supports James Hudson’s gentle vocal delivery, capturing perfectly the romantic vibe of this composition by Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin. Yes, romance is alive and well in this rendition.

James Hudson’s voice is supported by piano at the beginning of “Almost Like Being In Love.” This version eases in with some lines from later in the song. Then after that introduction, the song takes on more energy, as the joy seems ready to burst from James Hudson, and you get the sense that he breaks not only into song, but a dance. May everyone get a chance to feel that way. Right? We need both love and music to carry us through these crazy times. This track features a wonderful lead on piano. It was arranged by Joe Hill and James Hudson. That’s followed by another romantic and cheerful number, “The More I See You,” written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.  The more I see you, the more I want you/Somehow this feeling just grows and grows/With every sigh I become more mad about you/More lost without you/And so it goes.” Oh yes, James Hudson is so smooth here. I love the way he sings “And so it goes” the first time around.

I have said it on multiple occasions, but it continues to be true: you can never go wrong with Gershwin. One of my personal favorites is “Someone To Watch Over Me,” and here James Hudson gives us an absolutely marvelous rendition. His vocals are supported by guitar for that first section, and then the piano basically announces the main section, an interesting and compelling moment that I love. It is James Hudson’s voice that really determines the direction of this beautiful rendition. The arrangement is by Nick Fitch and James Hudson. The album concludes with its title track, “Tomorrow.” James Hudson delivers a lively, breezy, hopping rendition of the song from Annie. We can all use a song of hope, and here it is. Things are going to get better. And they seem to be, don’t they? People are getting vaccinated, and bands are starting to book concerts and tours again. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow/So you gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow/Come what may.”

CD Track List

  1. Pennies From Heaven
  2. I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me
  3. It Had To Be You
  4. My Romance
  5. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
  6. Almost Like Being In Love
  7. The More I See You
  8. Someone To Watch Over Me
  9. Tomorrow

Tomorrow was released on February 26, 2021.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

As more people become vaccinated and we continue our journey back to normalcy (whatever that might mean), there is a renewed optimism. Bands and artists are beginning to book tours for the late summer and autumn. Yes, live music is right around the corner. In the meantime, artists continue to release albums to help us get there. Here are some brief notes on a few new jazz releases you might be interested in checking out.

David Larsen: “The Mulligan Chronicles”
– On The Mulligan Chronicles, David Larsen explores the compositions of fellow saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. Larsen is joined by Dave Glenn on trombone, Bill Mays on piano, Dean Johnson on bass, and Ron Vincent on drums. The album opens with a totally enjoyable rendition of “Walkin’ Shoes,” a tune from early in Mulligan’s career, appearing on a 1952 LP. There is something uplifting and joyful about this track, in the way it moves, in that delightfully light quality that each of the musicians is able to bring to it. Even the lead on bass seems to dance several feet above the ground. That’s followed by “Curtains,” which was included on an album from close to the end of Mulligan’s career, 1989’s Lonesome Boulevard. There is a different tone to this track, a more introspective sound at times, but there is still a light vibe at its heart. David Larsen pulls a lot from Lonesome Boulevard, covering a total of six tracks from that album here. In addition to “Curtains,” he tackles “Good Neighbor Thelonius,” “Rico Apollo,” “The Flying Scotsman,” “Ring Around A Bright Star” and its title track. “Good Neighbor Thelonius” is particularly cool, the way it kind of struts. I love that lead on piano. “Rico Apollo” is a delight. And check out that great bass lead on “The Flying Scotsman.” By the way, Dean Johnson, the bass player on this album, plays bass on Lonesome Boulevard. And actually all the musicians David Larsen gathered for this release played with Gerry Mulligan at one point or another. Another highlight of this disc is “Festive Minor,” a song that was included on the 1959 LP What Is There To Say? and the 1963 LP Night Lights. This version seems more inspired by the former. “Open Country” features an excellent lead on saxophone, and “Etude For Franca” features some beautiful work. This album was released on March 1, 2021.

Dan Moretti: “Tres Libre”
– From the moment the opening track, “Jim Brown’s Cousin,” kicks off with that delicious groove, I am into Tres Libre, the new album from saxophonist Dan Moretti. This track is funky, and it soon flows so well into a more free jazz realm. This track is performed by the trio of Dan Moretti on alto saxophone, Marty Ballou on electric bass, and Marty Richards on drums. Each of these tracks is performed by a different trio configuration, sometimes Dan Moretti taking two of the three places, and in one case all three. “Mumbo Jumbo” also very quickly establishes a good groove, with Dan Moretti’s tenor saxophone sounding so cool and sly over it, strutting about, knowing it owns the place. “The Inner Side” develops a strange mood with a repeated part on keys that is also played by Dan Moretti. Over that part, Dan’s tenor saxophone and Michael Farquharson’s electric bass at first work in conjunction. This track has a somewhat haunting vibe, yet the work on saxophone is also rather pretty at moments. Also featuring Dan Moretti on both tenor sax and keys is “When You Leave This World,” the only track on the album not composed by Dan Moretti. It is his jazz arrangement of a traditional Indian bhajan. On this one, it is the bass line he plays on keys. It is a rather beautiful piece, played with a somber tone, and features some great work by Marty Richards on drums. The album then concludes with “The Missing Breath,” with Dan Moretti playing three sax parts. It has a timeless, spiritual vibe. This album was released on April 30, 2021.

Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: “Virtual Birdland”
– Last year was a disaster, the pandemic made much worse by an incompetent and soulless administration, and most of the joys we did have were “virtual” ones, a lot of our lives lived out over the internet. And that’s where a lot of great music took place. Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s new album, Virtual Birdland, was recorded in the homes of the various musicians who took part, and yet in our ears it all comes together beautifully as if we are all in the same place. It opens with “Gulab Jamon,” a lively and joyous piece written by Arturo O’Farrill. It is that great rhythm that really grabs me, but there are fantastic moments when the horns are dancing and singing without the help of any rhythm section. It is like everyone has something to say, some bit of joy to add to the conversation. Then a couple of minutes in, we are treated to a cool and unexpected section led by Arturo O’Farrill on piano. And that’s another thing about this recording, the way it can surprise us with the directions it takes, which adds to the excitement of the music. Yet nothing seems out of place or jarring. The rhythm is also at the heart of “Pouvoir,” an uplifting track that features some wonderful vocal work by Malika Zarra. “Desert” takes us right into the middle of a strange, busy and fascinating place. It was composed by Rafi Malkiel, who delivers some excellent work on trombone. Another of my personal favorites is “Alafia,” a vibrant piece that has a cool introduction before the percussion suddenly bursts in and takes over. This one will have you moving, no doubt about it. Then “En La Oscuridad” is a beautiful, soulful number featuring some impassioned work by Ivan Renta on saxophone. The album concludes with another of its highlights, an excellent, fun rendition of Tito Puente’s “Para Los Rumberos.” Is there more great percussion here? You bet there is! This album was released on April 9, 2021.

Troy Roberts & Tim Jago: “Best Buddies”
– The pandemic and these crazy times have helped us appreciate certain things all the more, one of those things being friendship, which is precisely what Best Buddies, the new album from Troy Roberts and Tim Jago, celebrates. It features all original music written by saxophonist Troy Roberts and guitarist Tim Jago. Both are from Australia, both moved to the United States, and both happened to be back in Australia when the lockdown went into effect. And so this excellent album came about. Joining them are Karl Florisson on acoustic bass, and Ben Vanderwal on drums. The album kicks off with “Chythm Ranges,” a fast-paced, energetic number written by Tim Jago, based loosely on “I Got Rhythm.” And they’ve certainly got rhythm here. Ben Vanderwal’s work on drums is a delightful and wild pulse through the piece, while Troy and Tim trade leads, and at the end he delivers a cool drum solo. Then “Best Buddies,” the title track, begins in a mellower place, gently swinging, and you might very well find yourself adding finger snaps as you enjoy it. This one was written by Troy Roberts, and it features some really nice work by Karl Florisson on bass, including a great lead in the first half. “Zeena” is a short, soulful and interesting piece, the only track on this album composed by all four musicians. One of my favorite tracks is “A New Porpoise,” written by Tim Jago, which features a catchy groove and a wonderful guitar lead that is somehow simultaneously easygoing and hopping. And Troy keeps that vibe going on saxophone. Another of my favorites is “King Of Hearts,” which has a delicious vibe right from the moment Karl Florisson gets it started on bass. This one was written by Troy Roberts, who really lets loose on sax at moments, while Ben keeps things moving and bopping on drums. And the final track, “Overlook,” begins with these two best buddies in total sync, flying along for fifteen seconds or so before the bass and drums come in. It’s all about friendship, and this friendship sounds fantastic. This track really moves. This album is scheduled to be released on June 18, 2021.

Judy Wexler: “Back To The Garden”
– On her new album, vocalist Judy Wexler delivers jazz renditions of some classic 1960s and early 1970s material, choosing songs that are relevant in today’s strange climate. She opens the album with an interesting and hopeful rendition of The Youngbloods’ “Get Together.” I like the heartfelt way she delivers the lines “You can make the mountains ring/Or make the angels cry.” It feels these days we are more often making the angels cry. This track features some excellent work on guitar, as well as some unusual and appealing backing vocal work. That’s followed by “Up On The Roof,” which might seem an odd choice for this album until you hear the opening lines: “When this old world starts getting me down/And people are just too much for me to face.” Those lines describe how many of us have felt for like five years. And in these harsh times, Paul Simon’s lyrics from “American Tune” speak to us: “Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on/I wonder what went wrong/I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrong.” Judy Wexler’s voice in this rendition feels like a friend on that road with us. She delivers a thoughtful, contemplative rendition. She also gives us a cool take on Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” featuring some nice work on sax. Interestingly, given the album’s title, Judy Wexler does not cover Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” She does give us a compelling rendition of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” a song that has certainly been in the air lately. Given the album’s theme, it is no surprise that she turns to Bob Dylan for material. She covers two Bob Dylan songs, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Forever Young.” Sara Caswell plays violin on this pretty rendition of “Forever Young.” The album concludes with a really good rendition of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.” This album is scheduled to be released on June 4, 2021.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Grateful Dead: “Dave’s Picks Bonus Disc 2021” (2021) CD Review

For those who purchase a year’s subscription to the Dave’s Picks series of Grateful Dead concert recordings, a bonus disc is included with one of the volumes. This year that bonus disc arrived with Volume 38. Volume 38 contains the complete show the Grateful Dead performed on September 8, 1973, along with two songs from the first set of the previous night’s show. The bonus disc contains most of the second set from that show, September 7th at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Only two songs are missing from that set: “Me And My Uncle” and “Loser.” By the way, there is also a little surprise tucked into the disc’s sleeve – a Dave’s Picks sticker.

The disc opens with “Here Comes Sunshine,” a song from Wake Of The Flood, which was released a month after this show. The song’s first line gives that album its title. But it’s the jam here that makes this version worth listening to. Jerry Garcia lands on a really good theme early on, and plays with it for a while, and things just grow from there. It is a solid jam and leads back into the main body of the song for the final verse. And then they are off into another good, bright jam before the end. Bob then talks about spending time in the studio, before introducing “Let It Grow” to the fans. Yes, on September 8th, they played the very first “Weather Report Suite,” and at this show they played the very first “Let It Grow,” the third section of “Weather Report Suite.” It’s interesting that the band recorded a studio version before playing it live, the opposite of how the band usually operated. Some songs were played in concert for several years before being recorded in the studio. Anyway, it’s a strong introduction of what would almost always be a powerful song for the band in concert. And, yes, they do jam on it, and that jam features some fantastic, frantic work on guitar, the pace picking up tremendously for a time, before relaxing a bit again and leading into stranger territory. Bill Kreutzmann is dancing on that drum kit, and everything is moving so well, and before we know it, the band eases into a stunningly beautiful “Stella Blue.” Seriously, this is a phenomenal rendition of a song that once had me in tears at Shoreline a couple of decades later. This is Jerry at his best. “There’s nothing you can hold/For very long.”

Bob then changes direction with a rousing rendition of “Truckin’” that gets me on my feet and dancing around my apartment. So much good energy here. There are hints of “The Other One” even before Bill’s drum solo. And then they explode into “The Other One.” I love that moment. This is probably the most exciting song the Dead ever played, in part because they would tackle it so many different ways, like a beast they were always attempting to tame. Here they ride it, just hanging on, as it jerks and bounces and runs, not trying to guide it or force it to obey their directions. Though soon band and beast have reached some understanding and move together. Bob never even attempts any of the lyrics, and once everyone is moving in the same direction, and things are under some semblance of control, Jerry leads them into “Eyes Of The World,” and right away you can tell the energy is just exactly right, and everything is flowing. Happiness seems to come rising up out of every note. And the jam is one hell of a beautiful and fun ride. This is one of the best “Eyes” I’ve heard. Possibly the very best? Yes, I think so. It begins to wind down, and it seems the band might follow it with a mellower song. But no, Bob leads the band into “Sugar Magnolia” to wrap up the set, and to keep us all dancing like unhinged, delirious sprites under the brightest full moon.

CD Track List

  1. Here Comes Sunshine
  2. Let It Grow >
  3. Stella Blue
  4. Truckin’ >
  5. Drums >
  6. The Other One Jam >
  7. Eyes Of The World >
  8. Sugar Magnolia

Dave’s Picks Bonus Disc 2021 was released in early May, 2021.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Grateful Dead: “Dave’s Picks Volume 38” (2021) CD Review

My favorite year for Grateful Dead concert recordings is 1973. No doubt about it, that year featured some delicious, jazzy jams, and nice long shows. The shows had a good flow and energy to them, and Jerry Garcia’s voice was generally at its best. Basically, the band just seemed to find its groove at every show that year. It was a magical time. For Volume 38 in the Dave’s Picks series, Dave Lemieux has chosen one hell of a good show from September of that year. This three-disc set contains the complete show the Grateful Dead played on September 8, 1973 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York (along with a couple of songs from the previous night at the same venue).

Disc 1

The first disc contains most of the first set, and it kicks off with “Bertha.” Phil Lesh is high in the mix at the start, but soon things are balanced and the band is cooking. We always love a “Bertha” opener, hit the ground running, get the folks on their feet. Jerry’s delivery of “Why don’t you arrest me” is mellower than usual, but no matter. There is a joy to the playing that is obvious. Bob Weir then follows “Bertha” with “Me And My Uncle,” keeping things moving. It’s a slightly messy version, but still fun. We then get an easygoing “Sugaree” with something of a pleasant, relaxed vibe. That, of course, gives Jerry somewhere to go toward the end when things begin to build. It’s not a very long rendition, but gets powerful toward the end. Bob returns to rock and roll with an energetic “Beat It On Down The Line,” and I like it when Keith Godchaux is rocking the keys. That’s followed by “Tennessee Jed,” a song I am always happy to hear. This one too has a somewhat relaxed groove to start, but the band is fully inhabiting that space, everyone on the same page, you know? It’s the kind of version that might not get you rocking, but will certainly have you smiling. And then you suddenly get caught up in that jam near the end, and things are so good.

“Looks Like Rain” begins gently, sweetly, and you get the sense Bob is singing to someone who is resting beside him, his hands running lovingly through her hair. And Jerry’s guitar sounds beautiful. That’s followed by a sweet version of “Brown-Eyed Women.” As they tune after that song, the crowd gets excited, and the band eases into a really nice “Jack Straw,” the harmonies sounding good, and everything working just right. This, for me, is definitely one of the highlights of the first set. Jerry follows that with a beautiful and passionate rendition of “Row Jimmy,” featuring some wonderful vocal work. His guitar is singing at times too. And the band does some interesting, unexpected things with this one toward the end. This is one of the best versions of this song I’ve heard. I just want to drift away on this song, ride it right over the horizon into space. The first disc then concludes with the entire “Weather Report Suite,” the first time ever played live. The first sections have a pretty, gentle, soothing vibe. “We’ll see summer come again.” Oh yes. Then “Let It Grow” has a good deal of energy, and we get some excellent jamming. There is a little bit of “Beer Barrel Polka” tuning just before the disc comes to an end.

Disc 2

The second disc contains the last couple of songs from the first set, and a good chunk of the second set, as well as one song from the night before. It opens with one of my favorites, “Eyes Of The World.” This song never fails to lift my spirits, and versions from 1973 and 1974 are especially good because they contain that extra section in the jam. The crowd is clearly excited to hear it, and that delightful groove is sure to get you dancing wherever you might be listening. I love the way this song flows, like sunlight dancing in a waterfall. This is a really good rendition, with some wonderful work by Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and it leads straight into “China Doll” to wrap up the first set on a mellower note. This version features a moving vocal performance from Jerry, and is quite beautiful.

Bob starts the second set with “Greatest Story Ever Told,” getting things in motion with fiery energy, the guys really rocking this one. Jerry decides to follow that with “Ramble On Rose,” the crowd predictably cheering the line “Just like New York City.” I really like what Bob does on guitar on this version. That’s followed by a hopping version of “Big River.” Folks shout out some requests, and Keith sings lead on “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away,” a fun tune that would be included on Wake Of The Flood a little later in the year. It’s a treat to hear a live version of this song, which goes in some interesting places the studio version doesn’t. This was the first time the Dead ever played this one in concert. They then go into “China Cat Sunflower,” this version having an odd rumbling below at times. It’s not the best “China Cat” I’ve heard, but the jam is really good, and of course it leads into “I Know You Rider.” I love when Phil digs in on bass. That’s followed by a totally enjoyable rendition of “El Paso.”

This three-disc set contains a bit of filler from the previous night, the last two songs of the first set. The second disc ends with the first of those two songs, “Bird Song.” And, yeah, it’s a damn fine rendition, with plenty of good jamming with a jazzy bent.

Disc 3

The third disc contains the rest of the second set, the encore, and one song from the previous night. The disc opens with “He’s Gone,” which at that time had an air of melancholy because Pigpen had died earlier in the year. There is something pretty about this version as it begins, in part because of what Keith is doing on keys. And the lyrics are delivered with tenderness. I love that vocal section near the end. This is an excellent version of “He’s Gone,” and it leads straight into “Truckin’” to get everyone moving (and, yeah, the crowd cheers the mention of New York). They keep the energy cracklin’ during the jam as they push the walls outward. And hey, is it just me, or are there signs of the future “I Need A Miracle” in there? “Not Fade Away” has a great amount of energy, as you’d expect, and the band really jams on it. Nothing spacey, just a great, wild, solid jam, which then eases into “Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad.” Oh yes, so good. And they really belt out the lyrics at the end, before going back into “Not Fade Away” to wrap up the second set, with Bob screaming.

The audience was treated to a two-song encore that night. The first is a beautiful, contemplative version of “Stella Blue.” “It seems like all this life/Was just a dream.” The second is “One More Saturday Night” to send everyone out dancing. Was it a Saturday night? You bet it was. The third disc then finishes with the last song of the first set from the previous night, a nice, long “Playing In The Band,” featuring some fantastic jamming. Basically everything you want from “Playing” is here. The jam really cooks for a while, then gets into more spacey territory just before returning to the main body of the song.

CD Track List

Disc 1

  1. Bertha
  2. Me And My Uncle
  3. Sugaree
  4. Beat It On Down The Line
  5. Tennessee Jed
  6. Looks Like Rain
  7. Brown-Eyed Women
  8. Jack Straw
  9. Row Jimmy
  10. Weather Report Suite

Disc 2

  1. Eyes Of The World >
  2. China Doll
  3. Greatest Story Ever Told
  4. Ramble On Rose
  5. Big River
  6. Let Me Sing Your Blues Away
  7. China Cat Sunflower >
  8. I Know You Rider
  9. El Paso
  10. Bird Song

Disc 3

  1. He’s Gone >
  2. Truckin’ >
  3. Not Fade Away >
  4. Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad >
  5. Not Fade Away
  6. Stella Blue
  7. One More Saturday Night
  8. Playing In The Band

Dave’s Picks Volume 38 was released in early May 2021. My copy arrived on May 3rd. This release is limited to 25,000 copies (mine is number 6976).

Procol Harum: “Missing Persons (Alive Forever)” (2021) CD Review

Procol Harum’s “A White Shade Of Pale” is one of my all-time favorite songs, in large part because of that distinctive and memorable work on organ by Matthew Fisher, inspired by the work of Bach. The group has gone through a number of personnel changes since the release of that single, disbanding in the late 1970s, then reforming in the early 1990s with most of the original members, and has continued in one form or another since then, though now with vocalist and pianist Gary Brooker as the only remaining original member. Even with that being the case, Procol Harum’s new EP, “Missing Persons (Alive Forever),” pulls me in right away by beginning the first track with some work on organ that could have fit right in with the group’s first album. Though it is now Josh Phillips who is on organ. The group is made up of Gary Brooker on vocals and piano, Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, Josh Phillips on organ, Geoff Dunn on drums, and Matt Pegg on bass. The music on this EP was recorded before the pandemic, but then completed during the time of isolation, and the songs certainly have a timely feel to them.

The EP opens with “Missing Persons (Alive Forever),” which was written by the band’s principal songwriting team, Keith Reid and Gary Brooker, the men not only responsible for “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (along with Matthew Fisher), but also hits like “Conquistador” and “A Salty Dog.” It is a song about the brevity of life, and how easily people can slip from our lives. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “A baby is torn from her mother’s arms/The child that was born to be protected from harm/A river of tears and an ocean of pain/In the briefest of moments the whole world is changed.” Yes, as I mentioned, it is rather timely, while also touching on something that is timeless. Gary Brooker’s vocal approach has both the appropriate ache and a sense of hope. And in the second half, the organ is allowed to shine through again at moments.

“War Is Not Healthy” begins with a good, strong groove. Its main line is “War is not healthy for adults and children,” a variation of the line “War is not healthy for children and other living things,” which was the slogan for the anti-war group Another Mother For Peace. By the way, that group was founded in 1967, the year Procol Harum was formed and “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” was released. We can always use a good anti-war song like this one. And though this country is not currently in a state of war with another nation, there is a lot of violence everywhere you look. Until this country is ready to enact strict anti-gun legislation, any school, store or club could be a war zone. “It’s armchair warriors sucking their gums/It’s merchants of horror polishing guns/It’s praising the troops and waving the flag/It’s widows and orphans carrying the bag/It’s democracy, it’s lunacy, it’s history, it’s victory.” This track also has a cool instrumental section. This song, like “Missing Persons (Alive Forever),” was written by Keith Reid and Gary Brooker.

The EP concludes with a shorter version of “Missing Persons (Alive Forever).” The instrumental section before the final verse is shortened, and so gone is that cool organ part. And the closing section is a bit briefer as well. This version is approximately a minute shorter than the first version. I prefer the longer version.

CD Track List

  1. Missing Persons (Alive Forever)
  2. War Is Not Healthy
  3. Missing Persons (Alive Forever) (Radio Edit)

Missing Persons (Alive Forever) is scheduled to be released on May 14, 2021.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Steve Tintweiss And The Purple Why: “MarksTown” (2021) CD Review

Last year I was turned onto the music of Judy Stuart through a posthumous release titled The Apostolic Session, a record containing two tracks recorded back in 1969. The music director and conductor on that release was bassist Steve Tintweiss, who also provided some vocal work. That record left me eager to hear more from these musicians. And now we’ve got it. MarksTown is an album of live recordings of Steve Tintweiss And The Purple Why from August and September of 1968. I’ve long considered 1968 to be one of the best and most exciting years for music, and this release is more proof that that is true. It contains all original material composed by Steve Tintweiss, and performed by The Purple Why. The band is made up of Steve Tintweiss on bass, melodica and vocals; Mark Whitecage on tenor saxophone and flute; Trevor Koehler on baritone saxophone,  James DuBoise on trumpet; Laurence Cook on drums; Judy Stuart on vocals; and Amy Sheffer on vocals. By the way, you might know Steve Tintweiss from his work with folks like Patty Waters, Burton Greene and Albert Ayler, and from his own group, Spacelight Band.

The disc’s first seven tracks are from the group’s performance at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery on August 21, 1968 as part of a benefit concert for Operation Airlift Biafra (the bill also included folks like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and Jimi Hendrix). The first track, “Bells Intro,” as its title suggests, is a very short piece with bells. That’s followed by “Ramona, I Love You,” which establishes a slow rhythm and has a somewhat plaintive sound in that repeated theme early on. The way that theme is presented with that slow pace makes it feel at times almost like it is creeping up on its object of love, which is interesting. I particularly love that loose percussion. There isn’t really a break between pieces, and the group drifts right into “How Sweet?” Right away it poses the question, “How sweet can you be?” There is a wildness to the delivery, a need. And then it is asked if the person can be sweeter. Ah yes, sometimes that is what we need, isn’t it? But I’m not sure what the answer is. This one too has a loose, improvised vibe. It is more like an atmosphere in which the musicians breathe and contribute various thoughts and comments. “How Sweet?” leads straight into the next piece, “Contrapuntal,” and here we enter a somewhat darker realm, with brief, punctuated ideas and thoughts. Steve Tintweiss uses a bow on his instrument, and there is a psychedelic element to the sound. That percussion section is exciting.

Sometimes it might feel like we’re going in all directions at once, as the title of “N.E.S.W. Up/Down” suggests, yet this track actually has a more straightforward direction, and that is Forward. Bursting forth and moving with some urgency, this track thumps and wails, with a sense of progress that won’t be stopped. Just listen to that trumpet pushing us all, urging us to make leaps, to not waste any time. Approximately halfway through the track, things then settle into stranger territory, Steve Tintweiss delivering some interesting and wild work. This is one of my favorite tracks. That leads into “The Purple Why Theme,” another slow-moving, rather hypnotic piece that pulls us right into its chest, enveloping us, though whether it’s for our protection or to smother us, who can say? That short set then concludes with band introductions.

The rest of the tracks are from the performance on September 14, 1968 at The Town Hall in New York City. “Universal Heroes” kind of eases in, and sounds like traffic moving through the city, car horns giving way to a sweeter and lighter communication among travelers. Steve Tintweiss is on melodica at the beginning before moving to the bass near the end. That leads straight into “Just Be Mine,” in which the saxophone is a prominent voice. And there seems to be no question, but that she will be his. This piece drives forward with some certainty, some confidence, leaving little behind. That section with the trumpet and bass is fantastic. And then those vocals have a surprisingly beautiful and ethereal quality, coming to view the proceedings to bestow upon them their heavenly approval.

As “Monogamy Is Out” begins, it feels like it is swaying dangerously, like it might collapse to one side or another. But then as it increases its pace, we get the feeling it is in the act of sexual congress. This one features more of those beautiful vocals, now a mix of glory and carnality which draws us in, seducing us with both aspects equally. And things get wild from there. This track is another of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by “Space Rocks,” which begins with some interesting percussion, supported by bass. Before long, the percussion becomes more insistent, and things get even more interesting from there. This track includes an unusual and extended bass solo that begins somewhere in the middle of the track and dominates the second half. The disc concludes with a short track that is just the audience clapping, and then a shout of “We are all the universal heroes.”

CD Track List

  1. Bells Intro
  2. Ramona, I Love You
  3. How Sweet?
  4. Contrapuntal
  5. N.E.S.W. Up/Down
  6. The Purple Why Theme
  7. Closing Announcement
  8. Universal Heroes
  9. Just Be Mine
  10. Monogamy Is Out
  11. Space Rocks
  12. “We Are All The Universal Heroes”

Markstown was released on April 1, 2021 through Inky Dot Media.

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Jenny Thing: “American Canyon” (2021) CD Review

The Jenny Thing is a group that formed in Berkeley thirty years ago when the members were in college. They stayed together for a decade or so, releasing a few albums during that time, then disbanded. Now the group is back together. It is one thing for a band to have all its original members reunite, and it’s quite another for that band to find itself writing and recording music that is at least as good and perhaps even more interesting and exciting than what they did when they first began playing. American Canyon is the first release since the band reformed in that strange and twisted year of 2016, and it features all original material, most of which was written by Matt Easton and Shyam Rao. The band is made up of Ehren Becker on bass, Matt Easton on vocals and keyboards, Mike Phillips on drums, and Shyam Rao on guitar.

The album begins with “Paper Angel,” which has an odd , dreamy start, then breaks open to become a groovy pop song with a certain 1980s vibe at times and some catchy elements. But what I love is that this track creates its own landscape, and pulls you in. Sure, there are electronic elements to that landscape, but it seems that at its heart it is something more human, more emotional. In one moment you might feel the song is caught with someone from the past, yet immediately thereafter you sense a look to the future. And check out these lines: “I can’t tell/What an angel says/My most beautiful friend/You’re so drowning/And so strong/Crushing, calling for me/All that  I want/Is to bore you to pieces again.” That’s followed by “All In My Head,” which creates an interesting mood as it begins. Then that pop beat takes over. For me, this song brings to mind the worries that many of us feel in this dangerous time of gun violence and stupidity. “My heart hides knives/And plans for raids/A strong enough god/That I feel safe.” Will it remain in our heads?

“More All The Time” is one of my personal favorites, in large part because of the lyrics. I find certain lines striking each time I listen to it, like “A drop of water has/The sound of the ocean” and “I’m gonna swim in your sky” and “Mountains fall to themselves.” But perhaps it is the song’s central lines that speak to me the most strongly: “Days are going faster/I love you more all the time.” This is a wonderful and kind of beautiful song. It is followed by the album’s title track, “American Canyon.” There is a certain 1980s vibe to this one, and at times it makes me think of Peter Gabriel, with its heavier pop tone and serious, intense vocal approach. It contains contrasting images, describing destruction and love. “The arches fall around me/Still I am lifted up/When even hope rings empty/Now there is only love.”

“Aeromedica” is an odd one, the lines delivered as spoken word offered like dialogue, as from a film. The entire thing is like some science fiction story, and works as an introduction to “Lightfield” with lines like “Some say when you touch the Lightfield, you die instantly. And then others say that entering the Lightfield has suddenly healed people.”  “Lightfield” is another of my personal favorites, in part because of the presence of acoustic guitar near the beginning, but also because that repeated line “Almost home” is one that I find compelling. The concept of home is one that, I have found, leads musicians to write some of their best material. Try, for example, to find a bad song titled “Home.” Anyway, this song has some excellent lyrics. Check out these lines: “I see you checking out/I wish you’d fight it/Mouth-to-mouth/And mouth to stone/You want to see oblivion/But we’re almost safe/We’re almost home.”

“Monsters Of Mercy” has a strong beat, and also has my favorite title of the album. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “You put laughter in this cake/Oh you’re killing me/To know me was to hate me/But you love me.” The disc then concludes with “Waiting For The Knife,” which, yeah, is another intriguing song title. It creates a captivating atmosphere at the beginning, with a slightly dreamy vibe, as we enter a different realm. At one point, it seems that the song is ending, after the line “I’ve touched the ground,” an interesting line to end on, a successful return. But then the song goes into a cool instrumental section, which seems to take us upward and outward, until we’re at the edge of disintegration, and all is well.

CD Track List

  1. Paper Angel
  2. All In My Head
  3. More All The Time
  4. American Canyon
  5. Aeromedica
  6. Lightfield
  7. Monsters Of Mercy
  8. Waiting For The Knife

American Canyon is scheduled to be released on June 18, 2021.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Zoe FitzGerald Carter: “Waterlines” (2021) CD Review

Zoe FitzGerald Carter is a singer and songwriter based in the Berkeley, California.  She is a member of the band Sugartown, and is also a journalist and published author (her book Imperfect Endings was released in 2010). In 2018, she released an album with Sugartown titled Waiting For The Earthquake, which featured a lot of her own material as well as interesting renditions of “This Land Is Your Land” and “I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday.” Now she has followed that up with Waterlines, which is officially her debut solo full-length album. This one contains all original material. The music largely fits in the folk realm, but Zoe FitzGerald Carter certainly does not feel restricted by that term, employing elements of jazz, Latin music and rock as she crafts beautiful, emotionally engaging songs. And though it is a solo album, she is joined by her three fellow Sugartown band mates, Brian Bloom on acoustic guitar, David Boyden on violin, and Dan Seamans on standup bass. Also joining her on this release are Dawn Richardson on drums and percussion, Paul Olguin on electric bass, Julie Wolf on keys and accordion, Erik Jekabson on trumpet and flugelhorn, Michael Papenburg on guitar, Pam DeGado on backing vocals and percussion, Mark Shapiro on harmonica, and J. Wood on guitar and strings.

Zoe FitzGerald Carter opens the album with “Better Things To Do,” a song that has me from its first line, “Everything I know, well, I learned it at the movies.” Hers is a voice that has both warmth and experience. There is also a wonderfully sad sort of humor in her delivery, as with its second line, “Everything you taught me I could have read online.” This is a strong opening track featuring some good lyrics. It is a song of longing, but one in which she ultimately gains control of her feelings and desires, as the line changes from “you’ve got better things to do” to “I’ve got better things to do” at the end. That’s followed by “Below The Waterline,” which opens gently, her voice supported by guitar. It is a pretty song with a nostalgic vibe, looking back at summer travels through Europe and the person she shared intimate moments with there. There is a fondness to the memories, even on lines like “I never seemed to know exactly who I was when I walked into your room/Were you making love to me or some stranger you knew.” The instrumental section in the second half is beautiful and moving. This song leads us to wonder where she is now, physically and emotionally, how the past changed her, and what she wants from these memories. It’s an excellent song.

“Only Girl” also looks back, this time to her teenage years, and to her best friend of the time. Certain lines stand out for me, particularly “You were much too young, but he smiled, pulled you to him, I looked away and you were gone.” What might have been exciting at that time now seems more dangerous than exciting. Maybe that’s because I’m well beyond my teenage years, or because the world has changed a lot, but that innocence sadly seems a thing of the past. This song brings the story to the present, and they are no longer close. So sad, that line “I heard you moved to Richmond.” Nothing against Richmond, but it is sad when that is what becomes of a friendship, when something important is reduced to rumor and memory. In “Owl In Kensington,” Zoe FitzGerald Carter’s voice feels like an old friend.  Everyone in the Los Angeles area can relate to these lines: “I was driving in Los Angeles, a cooler and a suitcase in the back seat of my car/Somewhere a fire was burning, smoke filling the sky above me/The sun turned red.” It is interesting how some details come as almost matter-of-fact, like the plane crash. I love that work on accordion.

“On The Raft” begins with percussion like a heartbeat, and soon establishes a somber vibe. There is a compelling, dark beauty here, but interestingly it is that instrumental section that really grabs hold of me. That’s followed by “These Words,” which has a cool, jazzy vibe, this track featuring some excellent work by Erik Jekabson on trumpet. “You slept on a beach one night, woke up to the stars/Someone stole your passport, someone else stole your heart/These words, these words.” “Like A Drum” also has a cool full-band sound, and includes more good work by Erik Jekabson. And check out this track’s opening lines: “What we really want is to move the stars to pity/But we’re beating a big drum for the bears to dance.” (And yes, I can’t help but think for a moment of “Waltzing With Bears.”)  I love that violin work at the end, as if that instrument wishes to continue the tale. “Saturday Man” is another jazzy number, this one having a sweet summer vibe, coming at us like a nice warm breeze. This track features more great work from Erik Jekabson. “You didn’t need to bring me roses/We’re past the point of striking poses.”

“One Too Many Days In Nashville” is a song about pursuing a career as a musician. At one point, this song reminds me of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Nashville Cats,” when she sings, “There’s a hundred picking, writing, singing girls like me in Nashville.” She follows that with the line, “Only some of us got the sense to know it’s time to go home.” This track features good work on violin.  The album concludes with “I Wanna Be A Teenage Boy,” which was co-written by Hindy Bare. This is a playful, yet serious song about gender roles and what is still expected of women, and excused in men. I can’t help but laugh out loud at certain lines, such as “You’re getting fat, what’s your explanation,” “The secret is Brazilian waxing,” and of course “I wanna be a teenage boy, crank it up, grab my balls, bang my head against the wall.” And there is some guitar work from the boy’s rock realm. This song also has a powerful closing line.

CD Track List

  1. Better Things To Do
  2. Below The Waterline
  3. Only Girl
  4. Owl In Kensington
  5. On The Raft
  6. These Words
  7. Like A Drum
  8. Saturday Man
  9. One Too Many Days In Nashville
  10. I Wanna Be A Teenage Boy

Waterlines was released on February 12, 2021.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

TuneTown: “Entering Utopia” (2021) CD Review

TuneTown is the Toronto trio of Kelly Jefferson on tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone, Artie Roth on acoustic bass, and Ernesto Cervini on drums and bass clarinet. They put out their first album, There From Here, in 2019, and have now followed that up with Entering Utopia, an excellent album that features mostly original material, with all three members contributing. These tracks were recorded back in 2018, at the same sessions that yielded the group’s first album.

The album opens with “Hello, Today,” and right from its unusual opening with that percussion sounding almost like footsteps through a river or something, this track is something special. And when Kelly Jefferson comes in on saxophone, it is like he is calling down a vacant city street, calling people to come out. And of course they do. Once Artie Roth comes in on bass, this tune becomes undeniably cool, and it isn’t long before we’re treated to a lead on bass, followed by a drum solo, all in the first half of the track. There is a delightfully loose vibe about this track, in its structure as well as its execution, which gives it the feel of an improvised live performance. I am particularly drawn to the work on drums in the second half. This fantastic opener was written by Ernesto Cervini. That’s followed by the album’s title track, “Entering Utopia,” which has a mellower start, like we are entering somewhat tentatively, unsure what utopia might hold. It is interesting, the different ideas we have of what utopia might be. This is a more relaxed, soothing place, a place without worries and danger, without the need to hurry. This one was composed by Artie Roth, and his lead on bass is at the heart of this piece. Yet it is the saxophone that leads us, that draws us in, and seems to speak for our experience as we enter the land of this track.

“Layla Tov” has an intriguing opening, the sounds of innocence, of childhood, but with a steady hum beneath that, which feels like it might take over, or like it is watching or perhaps even protecting. Then it suddenly stops, and there is the sound of a young child as the bass solo begins. This is another mellow piece, with a certain gentle beauty. The sound of the child returns toward the end. This one was written by Ernesto Cervini, as was the track that follows it, “Billyish,” which comes in with a bright energy. This is a fun number with some wonderful work on drums that really drives the track and will likely get your toes tapping, your hips shaking. The saxophone itself in fact seems to be driven to dancing by that rhythm at one point, and then they engage in a dance together.

“Flood, Deluge” begins in a darker, slightly menacing place, a strong sense of danger lurking just around the corner, something from which we probably can’t escape. And soon we are caught up in it. And the saxophone seems to mimic our own cries for help at one point. Well, hold on, because this ride gets wild as it reaches its climax. This track was written by all three members of the group. That’s followed by “Look Down,” the first of three short pieces on this album, all of which were composed by the trio. The other two are “Sgraffito,” which is all about rhythm, and “Looking Glass.” “Look Down” is followed by “Sycamore,” a cool track, the saxophone at first having a relaxed, soothing vibe, while the bass and drums have a more lively, insistent thing happening. This one really grows and breathes, and the sax starts to wail. This track ends up being one of my personal favorites.

This album has only two covers, the first of which is Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl.” Artie Roth gets this one going on bass, and soon this track is hopping with a fantastic energy. And we get an exciting drum solo, helping to make this track another of the disc’s highlights for me. “Memories Remain,” written by Artie Roth, has a slow groove and features a kind of sweet lead on bass. This piece sneaks in and then takes over, pulling you into its realm. And once that saxophone begins to shout at the end, you’ll find yourself totally immersed. The album then concludes with its other cover, “Blue Gardenia,” written by Bob Russell and Lester Lee. TuneTown offers an unusual and wonderful rendition, with Ernesto Cervini playing bass clarinet.

CD Track List

  1. Hello, Today
  2. Entering Utopia
  3. Layla Tov
  4. Billyish
  5. Flood, Deluge
  6. Look Down
  7. Sycamore
  8. Cheryl
  9. Sgraffito
  10. Memories Remain
  11. Looking Glass
  12. Blue Gardenia

Entering Utopia was released on March 19, 2021 on Three Pines Records.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Mark Rubin – Jew Of Oklahoma: “The Triumph Of Assimilation” (2021) CD Review

In the mid-1990s I hosted a folk and acoustic radio program on KWVA in Eugene, Oregon called “Dogs Run Free” (named after the End Construction song, not the Bob Dylan song). One of the bands that I got turned onto at that time, and played quite a lot on the air, was Bad Livers. They had their own cool style, and not a lot of groups were doing what they were doing then. It was exactly the sort of thing that I started the radio program to play. They broke up at the end of that decade, but the band members have kept active with solo careers. Mark Rubin, known as the Jew of Oklahoma (though he currently resides in New Orleans), offers some excellent original material on his new album, The Triumph Of Assimilation. A few of the tracks are based on Yiddish language poems, including two by Mordechai Gebirtig, who was killed by the Nazis in 1942. And in case you’re wondering, yes, Mark Rubin does play tuba on this release. Of course, he plays bass too, but also guitar, banjo, mandolin, banjo guitar, and percussion. And he is joined on certain tracks by guest musicians, including fellow Bad Livers member Danny Barnes.

The album opens with “A Day Of Revenge,” one of the tracks based on the work of Mordechai Gebirtig. And the first words seem to be, or at least sound like “Die, die, die.” This is a cheerful song of revenge, but not the sort of revenge you might have in mind.  Here Mark Rubin sings “Mankind will turn its back on war/I can see it clear on a distant shore/It’s coming here like Noah’s dove/A message of kindness, peace and love/That’s our revenge.” Oh yes, wouldn’t it be something to see that day in our lifetime? Dylan Blackthorne plays accordion, and Mark Hays is on drums on this track. That’s followed by “It’s Burning,” also based on a poem by Mordechai Gebirtig. This has an appropriately darker sound, a great raw folk vibe, a powerful and earnest vocal performance, and some interesting percussion. “Well, the flames have swallowed up our town/But your heads are bowed and you’re staring down/It’s burning/Well, there ain’t no rain, there ain’t no flood/We’ll quench these flames with our blood/It’s burning.” This is a song that urges people to take action, to solve the problem, rather than standing around with their arms crossed, defeated.

Then with “Down South Kosher,” Mark Rubin raises our spirits again. This is a seriously delightful song about the challenge of keeping kosher in the southern U.S.: “If you want to keep kosher, you got to work real hard/Because everything here has got a little bit of lard/You make accommodations when you live in the south/Don’t ask too many questions about what goes in your mouth.” Dylan Blackthorne plays accordion on this track, and Mark Hays is on drums. And here we get the tuba, which of course helps make this a highlight of the album. Then “Murder Of Leo Frank” is a compelling folk song that recounts the true tale of Leo Frank, a man who was convicted of the murder of a teenager in Atlanta in the early 1900s. But this song is not about the crime, but rather about the antisemitism that led to his arrest and his eventual lynching. It includes some chilling details, such as Fiddlin’ John Carson’s racist song about Leo Frank, and how the murderers posed for photos with Leo Frank’s body. This is a story I was not familiar with, and Mark Rubin acknowledges at the beginning of the song that many don’t know it, “It’s a tale not known so well.” That’s followed by “Yiddish Banjo Tunes,” which, as its title suggests, is an instrumental track featuring some excellent work on banjo.

“My Resting Place” is based on a poem by Morris Rosenfeld. This one has the sound of a traditional folk and bluegrass number, and is one of my personal favorites. It is the track to feature fellow Bad Livers player Danny Barnes on banjo. “Don’t you look for me where the waters splash/You will not find me there, my love/But where the tears flow free and the teeth they gnash/That will be my resting place.” That’s followed by “Unnatural Disasters,” a fun track written by Si Kahn. It made me burst out laughing the first time I heard Mark Rubin shout out “It’s the Jews!” I was not expecting that. In this crazy time when we have anti-Semites like Marjorie Taylor Greene in positions of power (how the hell did that happen?), this song will provide some much-needed relief. “We caused global warming, and we give you the blues/Wherever we go, we’re always bad news/Whatever goes wrong, it’s always the Jews.”

“Good Shabbes” is a cheerful song about the Jewish day of rest. The lines I most appreciate are “You can put that phone away/It can wait ‘til another day.” That’s followed by “Avinu Malkeinu,” which is the name of a Jewish prayer. There have been other versions of this prayer set to music, by such diverse artists as Barbra Steisand, Lena MÃ¥ndotter and Phish. Rabbi Neil Blumofe joins Mark Rubin on this track. The album then concludes with “Spin The Dreidel,” performed with the Panorama Jazz Band of New Orleans. This track has a spoken introduction, with a just bit of yodeling. Then it kicks in, and is a whole lot of fun, a party song. Seriously. This one is a cover, but with some additional lyrics written by Mark Rubin.

CD Track List

  1. A Day Of Revenge
  2. It’s Burning
  3. Down South Kosher
  4. Murder Of Leo Frank
  5. Yiddish Banjo Tunes
  6. My Resting Place
  7. Unnatural Disasters
  8. Good Shabbes
  9. Avinu Malkeinu
  10. Spin The Dreidel

The Triumph Of Assimilation is scheduled to be released on June 1, 2021.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Palace Guard: “All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1967” (2021) CD Review

Before Emitt Rhodes joined The Merry-Go-Round, he was the drummer in a group called The Palace Guard, based in the Los Angeles area. The group recorded several singles, but never an LP, and Emitt Rhodes soon left them for The Merry-Go-Round and his solo career, being replaced by Terry Rae. The core members of The Palace Guard were brothers Don, John and David Beaudoin. The group was popular in southern California, but never really received a national audience, due at least in part, as we learn in the liner notes for All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1967, to a decision by the band’s management. Crazy, right? Particularly as the tracks collected for this disc are really good. You’ll know at least two of the songs, because they were also recorded by other artists. And another was a local hit. But the entire disc is enjoyable. So take a little trip back to the mid-1960s with The Palace Guard.

The disc opens with its title track, “All Night Long,” an original song written by Don Beaudoin and John Beaudoin. This is a fun number with something of a garage pop sound. At moments, the harmonies might remind you of The Beach Boys, who were based in the same part of L.A. County, and some of the guitar work might call to mind The Byrds, another L.A. band. “All Night Long” was the band’s first single. It is followed by that single’s flip side, “Playgirl,” a mellower number written by Tudy Hudgings. This is one of those songs about a young woman who is the subject of some gossip. “Here’s what they say/She’s racing around in a foreign car/All made up like a movie star/Going too fast, going too far.” The next single is “A Girl You Can Depend On,” a cool number written by Russell E. Alquist. This one has a bit of a psychedelic vibe, and is one of my personal favorites from this collection. The group then gets more soulful on that single’s flip side, with a good cover of Wilson Pickett’s “If You Need Me.” This version is pretty faithful to the Wilson Pickett version, though featuring some fuzzy guitar. This is another of the disc’s highlights.

The song that was a local hit for the group is “Falling Sugar,” written by Paul Leka and Lawrence Rush. It has a delightful pop energy, and a kind of bouncy vibe which is catchy. By the time of this recording, Emitt Rhodes had left the band. That single’s flipside is an original number, “Oh Blue (The Way I Feel Tonight),” written by Don Beaudoin and John Beaudoin. “Oh blue is the way I feel tonight/Blue and broken inside/Let’s forget all our troubles/And never ever part again.” The band’s next single contains two songs that were popular for other artists. The first, “Saturday’s Child,” was recorded by The Monkees the same year as this version by The Palace Guard. It was included on The Monkees’ first album, and was featured on the television program. The song, which was written by David Gates, was also recorded by both The Spectrum and Herman’s Hermits the following year. The Palace Guard’s version is really good, with an ending that is different from The Monkees’ recording, with that cool harmonizing on “Seven days a week.” The flipside is a cover of “Party Lights,” and this version has quite a different flavor from that original Claudine Clark recording. “Party Lights” is a cute song, but not one I ever cared all that much about. It was kind of fun, but fairly forgettable. This version by The Palace Guard, however, moves and builds a wonderful energy, at times feeling like a celebration, like something from New Orleans. I love what these guys do with this one, especially that guitar work.

Then “Calliope” has a carnival sound. You’ll get the feeling you’re on a carousel yourself as you listen to it. This is an original song, written by Don Beaudoin and John Beaudoin. Interestingly, its flipside is also an original tune by Don Beaudoin and John Beaudoin. Titled “Greed,” it is for me the most interesting and exciting track on the disc. I particularly love that backing vocal work, which is kind of wild. This track is definitely worth checking out, especially if you enjoy 1960s music. The album concludes with the two tracks the group recorded with Don Grady for a single in 1966, the first being “Little People.” This one certainly has more of a pop vibe. It was written by Billy Page. The second is “Summertime Game,” which was interestingly written by Tudy Hudgings, who also wrote the group’s “Playgirl.” This song has a kind of sweet vibe. “Winter’s a long, long time/Why should I tell you my name/Boys who come in the summertime/Are playing a summertime game.”

CD Track List

  1. All Night Long
  2. Playgirl
  3. A Girl You Can Depend On
  4. If You Need Me
  5. Falling Sugar
  6. Oh Blue (The Way I Feel Tonight)
  7. Saturday’s Child
  8. Party Lights
  9. Calliope
  10. Greed
  11. Little People
  12. Summertime Game

All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1967 is scheduled to be released May 21, 2021 through Omnivore Recordings.