The Sounds of the Millennium #2 – California ’99 – Prelude/To Claudia On Thursday

Example

Example

Jimmie Haskell

Example

Denny Doherty

Example

Example

Example

(Above) Front cover unfolded (Below) Inside cover unfolded

Example

Listen – Jimmie Haskell – Prelude – MP3

Listen – Jimmie Haskell/Denny Doherty – To Claudia On Thursday – MP3

Greetings all.

Welcome back to the second entry in the ongoing Iron Leg ‘Sounds of the Millennium’ series. This time out, the definition is stretched a little bit, since the “sounds” in question are actual songs, not performed by anyone that was in the band. Since covers of Millennium songs are few and far between, and the record in question is so interesting, and the numbers are sung by one of my all time favorite singers, well, I couldn’t resist.
Last summer I was down in Washington DC, DJing and getting in a lot of quality digging with my man (and newly minted father, congrats!!)  DJ Birdman. On the last of these vinyl safaris, in an unassuming record store on the outskirts of town, he pulled a strange record out of a one of the crates.
He called me over to who me this unbelievable package, in which the cover (not really a self-contained record jacket at all) unfolded into a huge poster with an alternative history map of the USA on one side and a series of odd black and white photos on the other. That – in and of itself – was very cool, but when he refolded the cover something unusual caught my eye. I asled him to pass me the record, and after a closer look I confirmed that I had indeed seen a songwriting credit of ‘D. Rhodes/R. Edgar’ on one of the songs, those being Doug Rhodes and Ron Edgar, first of the Music Machine, and then later of the Millennium.
A split second later my eyes bugged out when I realized that the song that bore those credits was in fact the Millennium’s ‘Prelude’!! An even closer look revealed that record also included a version of ‘To Claudia On Thursday’ (written by the Millennium’s Joey Stec and Michael Fennelly) , which blends with ‘Prelude’ as the medley that opens the Millennium’s sole LP ‘Begin’.
It took a bit of examination before I concluded that the album in question was called ‘California ‘99’ and the artist was someone named Jimmie Haskell. Birdman was taking this one home, so as soon as I returned to home base, I set out into the wilds of the interwebs to find myself a copy. A few weeks later it came sailing through the mail slot.
Jimmie Haskell was a very busy arranger who worked on all kinds of records, from pop, to jazz, to heavy rock, eventually winning Grammys for his arrangements of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billie Joe’, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and Chicago’s ‘If You Leave me Now’.
‘California ‘99’ is an at times bizarre concept album, mixing audio collage, original songs and interesting cover material all wrapped in a strange, post-apocalyptic alternate history of the United States in which social upheaval, mixed with a series of natural disasters literally and figuratively change the landscape of the country. It’s the kind of record, both musically and physically that could only have come out in the early 70s, when record companies, their senses dulled by mountains of pot and cocaine seemed to be green-lighting every single cockamamie concept album with elaborate packaging that was brought to them.
I always love when I find a record like Isaac Haye’s ‘Black Moses’ or an OG of Led Zeppelin’s III or ‘Physical Graffitti’ and the original ‘package’ is still intact. There was always something special back when I was a kid, when I’d come back from the flea market having found copies of Cheech and Chong’s ‘Big Bambu’ with the giant rolling paper intact. Back then you really felt you were getting something extraordinary, even if more often than not the music inside the package was substandard (having been produced inside the same narcotic tornado that allowed the package to be created in the first place.
Though Haskell wrote all the new material and arranged the album, ‘California ‘99’ features appearances by a number of guests, including Joe Walsh (then of the James Gang, which he would leave later that year), legendary blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon, vocalists Clydie King and Merry Clayton, Max Buda of the Kaleidoscope and on the Millennium covers, Denny Doherty of the Mamas and Papas.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that ‘California ‘99’ succeeds as a self-contained work – though it’s far from the worst/weirdest concept album of the time (1971) – it does features some great individual tracks, the finest of which are ‘Prelude’ and ‘To Claudia on Thursday’.
The ‘California ‘99’ versions of these songs are fairly faithful remakes with the addition of some Moog synthesizer. They are presented in reverse order, i.e. ‘To Claudia On Thursday’ closes out side one of the album and ‘Prelude’ opens side two. ‘Prelude’ includes a bit of narration from the album’s story, a snippet of which appears at the beginning of ‘Claudia’ as well. The ‘Prelude/To Claudia On Thursday’ medley is my favorite part of the Millennium’s ‘Begin’, and the fact that Haskell chose a vocalist of the caliber of Denny Doherty to perform ‘To Claudia…’ on ‘California ‘99’ has a lot to do with why the cover is so satisfying. I’ll post the songs here in the ‘Millennium’ order. You can listen to them however you like.
Interestingly, Doherty’s version of ‘To Claudia On Thursday’ was included as an extra on the 2004 UK Mamas and Papas ‘Complete Anthology’ boxed set.
I hope you dig the tunes, and I’ll be back later in the week with something psychedelic.


Peace

Larry

 

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for the first in a week of Hammond Organ killers!

PSS The Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast Archive has been updated, now with 31 mixes!

The Beachnuts – Cycle Annie

Example

Example

Lou Reed: One of the great shit-eating grins of all time…

Example

 

Listen/Download – The Beachnuts – Cycle Annie – MP3

Greetings all.

At long last the week is at and end and I am good and ready to curl up in a down-filled cocoon of my of making, where my video iPod and I will spend as much time as possible in womb-like isolation. Just until I get my head screwed on securely.
I figured I’d close out the week with something cool I grabbed when I was digging in western Mass last year. Alongside some cool Easy sounds, as well as a few stellar pieces of 60s pop, I was lucky enough to find a record I’d been seeking for years.
Since I first discovered the band some 25 years ago, I have been a serious Velvet Underground fan. Though I knew some of their songs before then – via versions of ‘Rock and Roll’ by Detroit (used as the jingle for the local dragstrip), and Lou Reed’s solo versions of their songs on the ‘Rock’n’Roll Animal’ LP – I didn’t actually hear a Velvets song until the mid-80s, by which time, along with Big Star they had become patron saints of the new, alternative underground.
To be honest, in the beginning I tended to breeze right by noise experiments like ‘Sister Ray’, in favor of the band’s poppier side with songs like ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, but as the years wore on I grew to love almost everything they recorded (before Lou Reed left the band, anyway).
Anyway, in the years of my VU fandom I read that before the band came together, Lou worked as a songwriter and session musician for exploito label Pickwick Records. Pickwick was one of the truly great ‘knock-off’ labels, manufacturing al manner of spurious music meant to fool the less studious record buyer into believing that they were buying something cooler than they actually were. These scams ran from repackaging the early, uncharacteristic work of popular artists, to creating new ‘soundalike’ artists out of whole cloth.
During his time at Pickwick, Reed both wrote material for other people (like the All Night Workers’ ‘Why Don’t You Smile Now’) and performed himself under assumed names. Today’s selection is an example of the latter.
Now, when you think of someone cranking out teen exploitation, whether it be films or music, there are varying levels of, how do you say, finesse. Some folks, like the AIP factory created movies, that while generally dumb and condescending managed to also be brilliantly colorful, entertaining and had the bonus of featuring motion picture appearances by all kinds of cool musical acts.
On the other hand, you had the schlockmeisters who filled the drive-ins of the 1960s with quickly made garbage meant to flicker on screen as the background to millions of heavy petting sessions.
The Beachnuts’ ‘Cycle Annie’ falls somewhere in between those two extremes. The band name and song title sound like they were created by some Vitalis soaked goon in a shiny suit who had himself convinced that he understood the youth market. The actual music is something else entirely. With a vocal that is unmistakably the voice of Lou Reed, and a wall of distorted, barely tuned guitars, ‘Cycle Annie’ is what exploitation pop sounds like when shoved through the avant garde meat grinder of Reed’s sensibility. If you swapped out the motorbike lyrics for something a little heavier, like cruising the back alleys of the city for drugs and quick sex, you wouldn’t land too far off from the actual Velvet Underground.
Give this one six or seven listens, preferably with a head full of green cough syrup. I think you’ll see what I mean.
See youse on Monday.


Peace

Larry

 

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a soulful track by Jerry Lee Lewis

PSS The Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast Archive has been updated, now with 31 mixes!

Three by Sky b/w RIP Doug Fieger

Example

Sky (Doug Fieger, center)

Example

Listen – Sky – Goodie Two Shoes – MP3

Listen – Sky – How’s That Treating Your Mouth Babe – MP3

Listen – Sky – One Love – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope all is well in your corner of the sphere.
This post comes a little late, but thanks to borderline exhaustion, I couldn’t get it together for last week.
That was when I heard of the untimely passing of Doug Fieger, leader of the Knack.
I have to admit here that I was never a huge fan of the Knack. It would be accurate to say that in 1979, ‘My Sharona’ was nothing less than a blight on my senior year of high school, the kind of song that sent me flying to change the radio dial whenever it came on. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I heard their cover of the Kinks’ ‘The Hard Way’ that I softened in my appraisal of the band (which would have happened eventually since they were right up my power pop alley).
Anyway, it was early last year, on a digging/DJing trip to Washington DC that my man DJ Birdman turned me on to the fact that the Knack wasn’t Doug Fieger’s first band. That honor goes to the group you’re hearing today, Sky.
Fieger came of age in Detroit, where in the late 60s, he apparently sent a letter off to uber-producer Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic among many others) and suggested that if he were ever to come to the Motor City, he should drop in and hear Fieger’s band, that being Sky. Miller took him up on his offer, and at the ripe old age of 17, Fieger and his bandmates were spirited off to the UK where they recorded their debut album, ‘Don’t Hold Back’ in 1970. They would record a second LP with Miller (this time back in the States) before breaking up in 1972.
I grabbed the Sky album out of sheer curiosity, but was blown away when I actually heard it. Doug Feiger and his bandmates were making music with the same kind of proto-power pop sting as contemporaries like Big Star and the Raspberries. This is not to suggest that they sound anything like either of those bands, but rather that the benefit of hindsight suggests that they were all sailing in the same general direction.
The sound of Sky is a mix of 1970-appropriate heavy guitars, mixed with some great hooks. They were clearly ahead of their time, which is probably what doomed them to obscurity.
The three tunes featured today are fairly representative of the sound of that first album. ‘Goody Two Shoes’, ‘How’s that Treating Your Mouth Babe’ and ‘One Love’ all have the same tight, choppy guitar riffs that with a tiny bit less of the ‘stadium filling’ vibe would resurface as the decade progressed with Grin, Dwight Twilley, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers i.e. the earlier, rockier end of what would eventually morph into new wave and power pop.
I don’t know if any of the Sky material has ever been reissued on CD, but it ought to, since it’s quite good.
I hope you dig it, and you raise a glass in memory of Doug Fieger.


Peace

Larry

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a new, all-Northern Soul edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast

PSS The Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast Archive has been updated, now with 31 mixes!

The Glass Bottle – Red River Sal

Example

The Glass Bottle

Example

Listen – The Glass Bottle – Red River Sal – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end, and you’re ready for the weekend.
The tune I bring you today is culled from my recent safari to a new digging spot (for me, anyway) where I scored a big stack of 60s pop and rock. The cool thing – aside from the most fundamental cool thing, that being grabbing more vinyl – is that the vast majority of the music I picked up was new to me. I’d heard of a couple of the artists, but by and large I carried home a gold mine of new sounds to explore.
One of the LPs I picked up that day was by a group called the Glass Bottle. The cover – the first thing to grab any digger’s eye – was promising, featuring a large, multi-ethnic, co-ed band, all dressed in some of the grooviest finery of the day (1968/69). There were white-boy afros, sideburns, bellbottoms, (super) wide flares and a truckload of love beads, so naturally it behooved me to add the disc to my stack and bring it home.
When I finally put the needle to the wax, I was decidedly underwhelmed. It soon became clear that the Glass Bottle looked a lot groovier than they sounded. However, undaunted, I plowed forward, and there, edging up to the run-off groove I discovered the one diamond in the trash heap, ‘Red River Sal’.
I haven’t been able to track down much info on the Glass Bottle, but what I have found has proven intriguing. They were apparently – like so many bands of the era (and so many more today) completely prefabricated, the creation of novelty-meister Dickie Goodman. In what may be the weirdest back story I’ve ever encountered, the group was named (then created) as part of an advertising campaign to keep actual glass soda bottles from obsolescence at the hands of their aluminum counterparts.
Huh?
Even stranger, the group ended up having a couple of minor hits in 1970 and 1971 with ‘Sorry Suzanne’ and ‘I Ain’t Got Time Anymore’.
So, as I said before, the album, composed largely of inoffensive, middle of the road pop (much of it seeming swept up around the Brill Building) wasn’t really grabbing me, until that is I happened upon ‘Red River Sal’. There, bobbing in a sea of blandness was a decidedly uncharacteristic, balls-out bit of hard rock. Whether this was a calculated attempt to attract a heavier, hairier crowd, or an aberration (it is the only song on the album to feature the vocals of guitarist Dennis Dees) doesn’t really matter, on account of it rocks so hard.
The coolest thing is that midway through the song, you get a tasty little drumbreak.
Oddly enough, ‘Red River Sal’ was co-written by Brad Raisin who wrote and sang one of my favorite garagey records, ‘Out of Breath’ by the Peanut Gallery.
Nothing major in the grand scheme of things, but proof positive that if you dig deep enough, you’ll always find something cool.
See you on Monday.


Peace

Larry

 

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some Scottish funk

PSS The Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast Archive has been updated, now with 31 mixes!

Billy Vaughn – Time of the Season

Example

Example

Billy Vaughn

Example

Listen – Billy Vaughn – Time of the Season – MP3

Greetings all.

How’s by you?
I’m sitting here, seep in the fortress of solitude, surrounded by impenetrable mountains of dirty snow (with a protective layer of vinyl), with a cup of rapidly cooling coffee, wondering when I might find time for a nap.
What better time for us all to get our easy on?
Late last year the wife and I managed to crowbar in one of those extremely rare – childless – getaways into the mountains of western Massachusetts. Not only were we able to grab some outstanding ethnic food (Mongolian, anyone?) but I was for the first time in a long time adrift in uncharted digging territory. I put out some feelers and my fellow wax-o-holics sent me some leads, which I was soon pursuing vigorously.
While I didn’t score much in the way of soul/funk records, I did manage to grab a huge stack of 60s pop, psyche and easy/kitsch stuff. Today’s selection is drawn from the latter category. As has been addressed here before (check out Iron Leg Digital Trips #s 5 and 14 in the Archive), the maestros of easy, your Enoch Lights, Mancinis, Mizzys et al are a particularly interesting lens throygh which one might view the pop charts of the 60s. Though they were mainly catering to urban bachelors and suburban adults, these cats often dipped into the sounds of the younger set and applied their own naugahyde and formica vibe. As hard as this may believe, even though they all had a ticket on the last train to squaresville, these slumming expeditions au-go-go often produced very interesting results.
While it’s entirely possible that this had more to do with the innate strength of the material than it did with the prism of Easy, the end results were very groovy.
Whilst flipping through a huge stack of records in a quite, out of the way record store, I happened upon an album with a very unusual cover. There, by the seaside sat a dolly bird on the rocks, with a frogman in the background and the title of the record (Billy Vaughn – The Windmills of Your Mind) laid out in that very timely 60s computer font. All these things – and the fact that it was only a dollar – compelled me to add it to my stack and take it home.
Good thing too.
Billy Vaughn, though almost completely forgotten today (by anyone under 65 who doesn’t decorate their home in the Tiki style) had several chart hits in a career that lasted two decades (back when those of his ilk were still getting played on the radio. The interesting thing – at least to me – is that he wasn’t part of the NY/LA establishment. He hailed from Kentucky and did most of his work for Dot Records in Gallatin, TN (just outside of Nashville).
The ‘Windmills…’ LP has a fairly typical song list for its time, featuring a couple of original tunes and versions of a bunch of current pop hits. Though not much on the album was grabbing me, when I dropped the needle on Vaughn’s cover of the Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season’, I knew that my dollar was not wasted.
‘Time of the Season’ is one of the great records of the psychedelic era, melding the Zombies jazzy tendencies with the general lysergic vibe in the air. Vaughn slows the song down a bit, adding a harpsichord, a flute piped through a Leslie speaker, twangy Nashville guitar and washes of very typical easy listening strings, all propped up on a drum line very close to the original. It lacks some of the subtlety of the original, but it’s not hard to imagine it as either the soundtrack to some lothario’s leopard-print seductions, or bending the mind of some poor, pilled up suburban housewife.
Very groovy, indeed.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back later in the week with something cool.


Peace

Larry

 

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a new all-electric piano edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast

Mark & Sumley – She Gonna Fly

Example

Mark and Sumley

Example

Listen – Mark & Sumley – She Gonna Fly – MP3

Greetings all.

The end of the week is at hand, and so is my available supply of energy. If I have to move one more shovelful of snow (which, by the way, I’m running out of storage space for) I’m going to lose my mind. This is getting ridiculous. I’m 6’4” tall, and it’s getting to the point where if we have one more snowstorm, I’m not going to be able to see over the side of the driveway.
That said, since I am all but completely sapped of energy, I figured I’d post something about which I know almost nothing.
A few weeks back, I was out digging in a new spot, and came across a nice big stack of cheap, and of course interesting 60s pop stuff, much of it new to me.
I love this kind of stuff. Most of my favorite digging sites tend to be extremely light on this kind of stuff, so when I do come across things like this, especially at a bargain price, I’ll grab as much of it as I can carry (or afford).
One of the things I picked up this time was the album featuring today’s selection, ‘Nice Things’ by the duo of Mark and Sumley. I’d never heard of the pair (Mark Dutil and Ray Sumley), but the album was on the Evolution label, an imprint that if not consistently satisfying, has always proven intriguing. I have a couple of oddball 45s in my crates, including a crazy Moog version of a song from ‘Hair’ that I plan on dropping here when I’m in a particularly sadistic mood.
Fortunately for all of us, today is not that day, and the Mark and Sumley album includes a couple of very cool tracks.
I’ve seen this record dated around 1969, which considering the sound (folk to country rock) and the inclusion of a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’, seems just about right.
The track we feature today is a nice little country rock mover entitled ‘She Gonna Fly’. Though Mark and Sumley apparently hailed from the Midwest, ‘She Gonna Fly’ doesn’t seem out of place alongside West Coast country rock of the period like the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers et al.
I like the sound, though they might have underplayed the trombone solo a little.
I hope you like it, and if you have any more info on Mark and Sumley, please let me know.


Peace

Larry

 

Example

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a great track by Cymande

The Beach Boys – Wake the World / Passing By

Example

The Beach Boys (in watercolor…)

Example

Listen – The Beach Boys – Wake the World – MP3

Listen – The Beach Boys – Passing By – MP3

Greetings all, and welcome to another week of fun and games here at Iron Leg.

The tunes I bring you today is the example of digging a little deeper into a subject that I had unjustly neglected and discovering something revelatory (at least for me).
I’ve discussed my rediscovery and growing appreciation for the music of Brian Wilson in this space a couple of times over the years
Though I always dug the Beach Boys – having worn down a copy of ‘Endless Summer’  as an adolescent, when I got older, and started to collect and study records in earnest, I began to run into a particular species of collector/aficionado, i.e. the Brian Wilson fanatic. These were the people who considered Wilson THE genius of 1960s music, placed up and above the Beatles, which to me was an unforgivable sin. Despite years of reconsideration, it still is, but I’ve come a lot closer to understanding their point of view.
Last summer, in effort to learn a little bit more about Wilson’s work during the Beach Boys era, especially ‘Pet Sounds’ and beyond I picked up ‘Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson’ by Peter Ames Carlin. The book was enlightening, especially in regard to the ever-widening gap between Brian Wilson, the rest of the Beach Boys, and the creative contributions to the band’s sound from both sides of that particular coin. ‘Catch a Wave…’ did nothing to dispel my already low opinion of Mike Love, but it did flesh out my understanding of Brian’s creative life, especially in contrast to his growing psychological problems.
Perhaps the most important effect the book had on my Beach Boys fandom was the introduction (to my ears) of the group’s post-Smile recordings, specifically the ‘Friends’ LP. When I started to read about the record, I headed over to iTunes and picked up the two-fer of ‘Friends’ and 1969’s ‘20/20’. From almost the first note it was obvious to me that I had been missing out on something special, and a few more notes down the line I became aware that a couple of later bands that I dig a lot had spent a lot of time listening to it as well.
‘Friends’ came along at a time when Wilson was becoming untethered, due to both psychological deterioration and the reaction, critical and popular, to what he (and henceforth many others) considered his greatest work. One need only listen to the re-creation of ‘Smile’ to understand how devastating it must have been to have the project fall apart. By the time the band started recording ‘Friends’ in 1968, Mike Love had hopped on the transcendental meditation bandwagon – it shows up in a couple of ‘Friends’ songs, specifically ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (duh..) – and as Brian began to lose hold (of both himself and the band’s music), his fellow Beach Boys started to take more responsibility. Brian only sings lead on four of the album’s twelve songs, with brothers Carl and Dennis, as well as Al Jardine and Mike Love covering the rest. Though Brian is credited with co-writing all but one song on ‘Friends’, the composer credits seem to get longer and longer with every song, including all the other members of the band, and in some instances a number of outsiders.
I was tempted to post a number of songs from the album today, but I figured if you like what you hear you should get yourself a copy of ‘Friends’, since it’s quite literally a lost classic. It’s not well known outside of hardcore Beach Boys fans and didn’t produce a single hit. This isn’t surprising, since there aren’t many songs on it that don’t reflect the band’s descent into SoCal hippiedom. It’s a kinder, gentler Beach Boys you hear on ‘Friends’, with Brian’s Spectorian bombast mostly gone, replaced by the sweet sound of inner reflection. The album is filled with beautiful melodies, and in one instance an amazing, unlikely detour into dissonance (oddly enough on ‘Transcendental Meditation’).
The tunes I bring you today are my favorites on the album, for a number of reasons, first and foremost that they pulled back the curtain on the influence this particular album had on a couple of my favorite modern pop bands, the Sneetches (a group I consider to be the finest pop band of the 80s and 90s) and Jellyfish.
In much the same way my Georgie Fame fandom was forever altered the first time I heard Mose Allison – or in any similar case – when I heard ‘Wake the World’ and ‘Passing By’ for the first time, it was immediately obvious that the Beach Boys had provided bits and pieces of sonic vocabulary employed by both of the aforementioned bands. This is not to suggest that either of those groups had cribbed anything of substance from either ‘Friends’ in general or these two songs specifically, but rather that it was obvious that they had probably heard both and come away from them affected as deeply (or moreso) than I had.
‘Wake the World’ is the second shortest song on ‘Friends’ (‘Meant for You’ is only 40 seconds long), clocking it at just over a minute and a half, but it’s a sweet bit of pop perfection. It features Brian and Carl sharing the lead vocal over a bed of piano, organ and strings, eventually joined in the chorus by a jolly tuba. ‘Friends’ is a very short album, the whole affair running just about 25 minutes, but it’s a great example of economy, packed to the rafters with great hooks and performances, featuring lots of perfectly honed songs. It’s relatively ambitious, but on a much smaller scale than an album like ‘Pet Sounds’. ‘Passing By’ is largely instrumental, though it does feature wordless vocalization by Brian and Al Jardine.
Like I said, if you haven’t heard ‘Friends’ in its entirety, do yourself a favor and grab yourself a copy asap.


Peace

Larry

Example

PS In case you were wondering, my vinyl copy is a weird ‘record club’ edition (another ‘two-fer’) and I have no idea how ‘Friends’, which was released on Capitol, ended up on Reprise

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a great track by Booker T & the MGs.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,487 other followers