SAMURAI – Samurai

By the end of the 60s, jazz fusion band The Web had recorded and released two interesting but commercially unsuccessful albums. 1970 found the struggling musicians in a period of minor flux: a change in line-up saw frontman John L. Watson replaced by vocalist/keyboard player Dave Lawson (ex-Alan Bown) and a change of label took the newly christened Web [no longer the definitive; that was so last decade – just ask Pink Floyd] from Deram to Polydor. The new phase saw the release of their third and arguably best known LP, ‘I Spider’. ‘I Spider’ became their most famous work not through any increased exposure or notable sales, but by eventually becoming one of the era’s most sought after rarities.

By 1971, the final Web line-up changed their name to Samurai, switched record companies again and released one sole LP on the Greenwich Gramophone label. Like its predecessors, ‘Samurai’ failed to convince the record buying public and eventually faded into relative obscurity. Much like ‘I Spider’, the Samurai LP gained interest on the collectors’ market over the following quarter of a century, but never really got the mass re-appraisal it deserved. Despite the band showing lots of talents that should have found them mentioned in the same breath as Gentle Giant, King Crimson and early Soft Machine, the name Samurai is likely to be greeted with a shrug.

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ANDREW GOLD – Lonely Boy: The Asylum Years Anthology

Andrew Gold had a prolific career, but to many people he will be best remembered for three songs.  The schmaltzy MOR pop of ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ gave Gold a massive hit in 1978; his ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’ eventually became an evergreen number thanks to being re-recorded as the theme for hit US comedy The Golden Girls and 1977’s ‘Lonely Boy’ became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.  A genuine pop classic, that song’s multi-layered kitchen sink arrangement ensures it sounds as good now as it ever did – a rival to the complex pop of 10cc and a track that gave Jellyfish every reason to exist.  It’s a four minute joy: a world of stabbed pianos and a story-telling verse leads into a massive chorus full of whoahs, which in turn gives out some great staccato guitar work and ultimately one of the greatest guitar solos you’ll ever hear.  If that sounds overly indulgent, it surely is – but it’s also power pop perfection.

‘Lonely Boy’ takes pride of place within this box set – presented in no fewer than four versions – but  that’s only a small part of the picture.  This anthology provides the ideal opportunity to explore Gold’s four albums for the legendary Asylum label, along with a host of extras within one lovingly curated package.

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JIM CAPALDI – Oh How We Danced

1972 was a particularly fruitful year for rock and pop music. That year saw The Rolling Stones release their critically acclaimed ‘Exile On Main Street’; Yes explored deep sonic textures on their indulgent ‘Close To The Edge’; Alice Cooper achieved worldwide acclaim and a massive hit single with ‘School’s Out’; Deep Purple gave us ‘Machine Head and Bowie introduced us to ‘Ziggy Stardust’. That might have been enough to make it great, but in addition, Steely Dan made their debut with the brilliant ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’; Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ was a massive success and Roxy Music‘s debut album sounded as if it were beamed in from another planet. The year also spawned T. Rex’s ‘The Slider’, Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Talking Book’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘For The Roses’, Elton’s ‘Honky Chateau’ and Van’s ‘Saint Dominic’s Preview’. With several dozen essential albums, 1972 had so much to give…and often feels like one of those years that keeps giving.

It was also the year that Jim Capaldi released his solo debut. It wasn’t something the Traffic multi-instrumentalist and songwriter had necessarily planned; it came about through a cruel twist of fate. Towards the end of 1971, Traffic were riding high with their fourth studio album ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’, but disaster struck when Steve Winwood suffered an appendicitis and subsequently became very ill with peritonitis, forcing the band to take a break. Rather than rest, Capaldi took the time to quickly record a selection of his own material during December, and that appeared on record shop shelves as ‘Oh How We Danced’ in March ’72. Kick starting what turned out to be a successful solo career, it had been a serendipitous twist in the Traffic saga.

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RENAISSANCE – Turn Of The Cards

For British progressive and art rock, the relatively short period between March 1973 and December 1974 was particularly fruitful. Roxy Music released ‘For Your Pleasure‘ and ‘Stranded’, Genesis released two of their most ambitious works in ‘Selling England By The Pound’ and ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, while King Crimson gave us ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’ and Emerson, Lake & Palmer tipped the scales of self-indulgence with their ‘Brain Salad Surgery’. Meanwhile, Yes continued their long voyage into the epic with the help of ‘Relayer’, and Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield released albums that would eventually become worldwide all-time best-sellers. Given the quality and love for each of these records, it’s hardly surprising that, in comparison, ‘Turn of The Cards’ – the fourth studio release from British symphonic rock combo Renaissance – hardly ever gets talked about.

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New Eric Burdon & The Animals box set coming from Esoteric in February

When most people think of Eric Burdon, they think of The Animals.  More specifically, they think of The Animals’ hit-making period between 1964-66.  They might even think about Eric’s recordings with War, a brief association that spawned cult albums in 1970.

Between these two high profile periods, Burdon continued to record.  Much like Fleetwood Mac’s “wilderness period” that caused a drought of UK success between 1971 and 1975, Burdon’s output in 1967 and 1968 is often overlooked, yet in a little over a year, he released a string of non-charting albums credited to Eric Burdon & The Animals.

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