Album Chart of 1974

<1973 1975>

  • This chart features albums released in 1974 and is limited to all of the albums in my collection which have “A-list” status.
  • The Top 30 albums are profiled, and the full chart (Top 61) is summarised, in sortable table form, on the Albums released in 1974 page, which shows the full range of albums in this sites' database, including the “B-list” records.
1974-a-mahlathini.jpg

THE LION OF SOWETO ROARS

Small in stature, but a giant in the townships, it’s the great Mahlathini who rules the roost in my album chart of the year. By this stage, South Africa’s mbaqanga king is revelling in his new home at Satbel, and the glorious hits are flooding out, hard and fast. Apartheid effectively dictates that the world is oblivious to this phenomenon.

Not too far behind is Leonard Cohen – his long-awaited fourth LP finally arrives and is deliciously cooked to perfection, maintaining his faultless catalogue to date.

For the first time ever, there are no American LPs in my year-end Top 10. ‘Til now a dominant force, that country’s left-field output has declined greatly in the 1970s, so much so that Sparks even felt the need to get the hell out and make their latest album in England!

It’s AOR heaven over there if you’re into that kind of thing, with the likes of Eagles, Chicago, The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan being lapped up by the musically conservative masses. Jeez, whatever happened to the rock n roll revolution?

Thankfully, things are cookin’ in Germany; Nico, Kraftwerk and Can are killing it in my Top 10.

Generally speaking, the continuing downward spiral in 1974 is very disappointing; even Lou Reed and Bowie cannot be relied upon this time around.

The Jukebox Rebel
02-Jun-2016

TJR says:

9.18 “A masterpiece”

Arriving at the very tail-end of 1974 was this stunning long-player from the recently turned 36-year-old Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde – a great hero to the township masses for whom he groaned and growled like a lion. By all accounts, Mahlathini was a quiet man offstage, but he lived for the music which was deep in his soul – this passion shone clearly when he sung live in concert or stepped into the studio. This was his first LP with new producer Cambridge Matiwane at Satbel, issued under their Soweto imprint, and rounded up recent single sides (the 5 labels I’ve seen are all dated 1974). After having shown great loyalty to producer Rupert Bopape for the entirety of the 1960s and the early 70s, Mahlathini eventually got fed up with the fact that his successes were not commensurate with his low earnings and opted to leave Gallo, a decision which cannot have been a difficult one to make. A dispute with Bopape over tour wages proved to be the straw which broke the camel’s back and, for these same reasons, making the jump with him were members of his regular singing partners the Mahotella Queens, including Mildred Mangxola, Joyce Makhanya, Nunu Maseko and Thoko Nontsontwa. Somewhat mischievously, Satbel’s new name for these girls was “The Queens”, a move which can’t have been well-received over at Gallo HQ. But who could blame the deserters for this “mutiny”? Royalty systems may have been in place in the Western world in the last couple of decades, but these had not yet been properly implemented in South Africa. “The Queens” moniker appeared on some of the new Mahlathini singles and, as if marking their respect for their newly acquired prized-asset, all of the singles on the Soweto label were proudly billed to “Indoda Mahlathini” (“The Main Man Mahlathini”), cutely assuming the name that had previously been used by Gallo on a popular compilation LP from a few years before. This was all very clever as, in the eyes of the record-buying public, all of these names were synonymous with quality. The all-important rhythm-makers on the new 45s were billed as “The Mahlathini Guitar Band” – another mark of respect for Indoda. Mahlathini pens 8 of the 12 numbers here – he’s on his A-game and hits hard time and time again. The album opens joyously with a couple of accordion-jive numbers – the title-track and “Ngiphelekezele” – both of which had recently been paired as a 45. The first appearance of his Queens comes on track 4 with Joyce Makhanya’s “Shayani Izandla” (“Clap Your Hands”) a frantic classic which gets me proclaiming “hey-hey-hey-hosanna” fervently – and I’m staunchly atheist! The fast-paced side 1 closes out with “Mbodlomana”, a song which seems to be singing praises for Indoda, and “Bayasimemeza”, a number penned by Lazarus ‘Boy Nze’ Magatole, a male groaner who appears splendidly alongside Mahlathini at various times throughout this set. It is he who leads off the vocals on side 2, playing a strong role on the ridiculously stupendous “Ilele Insizwa” (“It relies on a young man”) and the enormously catchy “Amagoduka” (“I’m Going Home”). Another excellent single pairing follows (I wonder if this was deliberate sequencing?) the sunny “Kumnandi Emgababa” and the angry “Kumnyama E Ndlini”, both of which feature The Queens. On an album which offers so much quality action, the high watermark cut is bound to be sensational, and such is the case here with “Baba-Ye”, a masterclass in mbaqanga cool, with deep grooves to the hilt, licks to die for and harmonies that effortlessly slay. Lyrics wise, it’s yet another big-up for Indoda – “Simon is the originator, Simon is Mahlathini!”. It’s the second cut from the pen of Joyce ‘Koekie’ Makhanya – she certainly knows how to get her songs in there. Almost improbably, “Kwasa Singalele” (“Sunny Day”), written by Queen Nunu Maseko, almost reaches the same heights, and finishes the set off with beautiful vocals which veer between lullabic melodies and ebullient chants. With these first fruits, The Mahlathini Guitar Band proved to be every bit as good as Makgona Tshole Band and these Queens every bit the majestic equal of their Mahotella rivals. Mahlathini? He remains as strong as a Lion. He is, after all, Baba-Ye! This awesome LP is out-of-print, but available for download at Electric Jive. Get it here.

The Jukebox Rebel
02-Mar-2012


TJR says:

8.45 “Excellent”

Arriving in August ’74 was the 4th album from the 39-year-old, a set which continues his impeccable 7-year-run of sheer brilliance. The songs may not come fast and furious to Leonard, but when they come, boy oh boy, it’s a treat to hear. Speaking to Melody Maker early in ’75 Cohen said: “For a while, I didn't think there was going to be another album. I pretty well felt that I was washed up as a songwriter because it wasn't coming anymore. Actually, I should have known better, it takes me a long time to compose a song… However, last summer I went to Ethiopia looking for a suntan. It rained, including in the Sinai desert, but through this whole period I had my little guitar with me, and it was then I felt the songs emerging – at least, the conclusions that I had been carrying in manuscript form for the last four or five years, from hotel room to hotel room… I must say I'm pleased with the album. It's good. I'm not ashamed of it and am ready to stand by it. Rather than think of it as a masterpiece, I prefer to look at it as a little gem.” Relationship jive is still top of the agenda; the final chapters always seem a foregone conclusion for our romantic tragedian, but there’s much fun in the adventure, and all hope is never lost. The set benefits from the subtle and classy production of John Lissauer – he himself plays woodwinds, keyboards and provides back-up vocals, as well as overseeing the arrangements of the violas, mandolins, banjos, guitars and a big bendy double bass, seemingly all the rage since Herbie Flowers rocked “Walk on the Wild Side”. “Chelsea Hotel #2” is an early album WOW, a beautifully picked little gem which boldly shares an intimate encounter between two musical stars: “Giving me head on the unmade bed while the limousines waits in the street… you told me again you preferred handsome men but for me you’d make an exception… never mind, we are ugly but we have the music.” Seamlessly, “Lover Lover Lover” continues to explore related themes; seeking re-incarnation, the singer proclaims: “I want a face that's fair this time, I want a spirit that is calm.” Musically, it’s the most upbeat song on the album, and ends hopefully with great lines: “And may the spirit of this song, may it rise up pure and free, May it be a shield for you, a shield against the enemy.” Opening up side 2 with a Lover-Lover-Lover-esque strum is “There Is A War”, another classic for the Cohen catalogue: “There is a war between the rich and poor, a war between the man and the woman. There is a war between the left and right, a war between the black and white.” Don’t be a gawping tourist is the message. “A Singer Must Die” is yet another stunner – a low-key low-register number reflecting that being lied to is like “a knee in the balls or a fist in the face”, whether the perpetrator be a lover or a politician; but that all liars must face the truth at some stage. The album ascends to the pinnacle of perfection with “Who By Fire”, a song which Leonard based on a Hebrew prayer which affected him from as early as he can remember; the prayer lists all the ways in which we eventually must come to stand before the creator: who by fire, who by water etc. You don’t have to believe a word of it to feel the beauty. “New Skin for the Old Ceremony” is another typically heavy-duty experience – but the depth in quality is such that it’s always a pleasure, never a chore.

The Jukebox Rebel
10-Mar-2006


TJR says:

7.72 “Brilliant”

The 29-year-old released his second LP in July ’74 – just one year after the terrible accident where a fall from a balcony had left him paralysed from the waist down and reliant on a wheelchair. Brilliantly, in hospital he continued to work on the songs “in a trance.” Philosophically, Wyatt reflected: “I was just relieved that I could do something from a wheelchair. If anything, being a paraplegic helped me with the music because being in hospital left me free to dream, and to really think through the music.” I can’t say that I cared much for “The End of an Ear” (1970), but I must say “Rock Bottom”, titularly an oblique reference to his paraplegia, represents a complete about-turn in my affections. The work is a complex and hypnotic brand of dream pop, laced with waves of synth, occasionally agitated with bursts of sax and trumpet and a couple of surreal interjections from the incomparable Ivor Cutler. “Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road”, which closes side 1, has little tantalising snippets of Ivor’s prose, buried deeply in a murky haze. Clearly, this spoken-word surrealism is infectious – Robert’s new wife, Alfreda Benge, pipes up with similar japes on the weird and wonderful “Alife”. The talented Alfreda also designed the album’s cover – what is this, a family business? Mister Cutler gets the last word on the LP, “Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road”, which finds Ivor continuing his story about lying down on the road trying to trip up passing cars while his hedgehog friend tries to burst their tyres! So impressed with this nonsense were Virgin that a 3-album deal was promptly offered to, and accepted by, the ultimate maverick. All credit to Robert Wyatt for this artistic triumph in adversity, far, far away from rock bottom.

The Jukebox Rebel
19-Mar-2011


TJR says:

7.59 “Brilliant”

The final chapter in her brilliant neo-classical trilogy that began in 1969 with “The Marble Index” and continued in 1970 with “Desertshore”; in the 4 years since, Nico had lost a good supportive friend, Jim Morrison, and perhaps this informs “The End”. The album stars: Nico (lead vocals, harmonium); John Cale (bass guitar, xylophone, acoustic guitar, synthesizers, organ, marimba, triangles, cabaça, boobams, glockenspiel, percussion, piano, electric piano); Brian Eno (synthesizers); Vicki Wood (backing vocals) and Annagh Wood (backing vocals). Phil Manzanera (electric guitar) guests on the title track. “Secret Side” is an early-album classic – it sounds like it could easily have sat on “Desertshore”, and the fact that it was originally showcased in a February ’71 session for John Peel bears testimony to this. “You Forget To Answer”, a song for Jim, had also been aired a great deal earlier – she had performed it on TV in France and the Netherlands in early 1972. It’s achingly beautiful, with Cale’s stately piano, Eno’s ghostly synth washes and Nico’s earnest and genuine vocal, the closest she gets to actually singing wholeheartedly on the LP. Nico pens 6 of the 8, but it’s the two cover versions which gathered most comment and attention in the aftermath. “The End” is as sensational a cover-version as you could ever wish to hear; world-weary, chilling to the core, chock-full of menace, and thoroughly desolate. The musical accompaniment is simply magnificent in every way, with terrifying, gripping textures and distant wails which seem to emanate from beyond the grave. This is pure theatre – yet somehow you get the feeling that it’s based in some sort of screwed-up reality. Her baffling inclusion of the German national anthem “Das Lied Der Deutschen” was a tad silly, but enjoyable for the nonsensical hullaballoo which ensued amongst commentators. Siouxsie Sioux was watching closely methinks, swastika at the ready. It’s interesting that Nico chose to feature stills of herself from this years’ Philippe Garrel film “Les Hautes Solitudes” on the front and back cover. There is no direct musical link (the 80-minute film is silent) so we can only presume she is making a connection with the plot; the focus is on a sole visage, that of a fallen middle-aged star, Jean Seberg, fourteen years after her iconic role in “Breathless”, the trailer for which reads: “She is struggling with alcohol, fear, loneliness, chemical dependence and dementia. In an hour and fifteen minutes consisting almost exclusively of close-ups, an entire lifetime rises to the surface of a face.” There is no doubt that the tone of this LP is dark; bleakness, blackness and hopelessness abounds. Barely in the land of the living, it’s wholly effective as a 4am nightmare soundtrack; as a famous old song goes, the darkest hour is just before dawn. Just before the end of the year, Nico took her pagan invasion tour to Reims Cathedral – un-missable for many. Following the event, outraged Catholics throughout the country claimed the church was desecrated and cried out for a special purification ceremony for the monument. Live and let live, eh?

The Jukebox Rebel
02-Apr-2016


TJR says:

7.40 “Really good”

Since leaving Fairport Convention on a hunch that he could forge a solo career as a songwriter and performer, Richard had released one album, “Henry The Human Fly” in April ‘72. From the Fairport circle, Linda Peters sang on two of the tracks on that LP; the chemistry was right between them professionally and personally and they were married in October of that year. “I Want To See The Bright Lights” was the next chapter, recorded in May ’73 but reportedly held back for release until April ’74 on account of the petrol shortage of the time which had impacted upon the vinyl pressing plants. Pleasingly, marriage hasn’t turned their shtick to yuck, in fact, it’s a dark and moody affair; whilst they may still be young they have seen their share of life’s ups and downs already. The excellent “Withered and Died” is all sad-stories and betrayals, a whole League underneath the greatest Nashville heartbreakers in terms of impact. More upbeat is “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight”, a truly great soft-rocker which emerges as some sort of working-class anthem; the will to smash the drudgery of the 9 to 5 is a universal truth. Some traditional Yorkshire brass adds to the class-leanings implied. Closing side 1 is the classic “Down Where the Drunkards Roll”, a gorgeous ballad about fading dreams and broken dreamers: “You can be a gambler, who never drew a hand, You can be a sailor, who never left dry land, You can be Lord Jesus, all the world will understand, Down where the drunkards roll.” Here, Linda’s lonesome vocal is offset against another old pal from Fairport, Mike Lucas, who lends a stupendous bass vocal, ensuring a most effective contrast. “The Great Valerio” is an extremely powerful closer, a song which seems to place each of us as Valerio, a tightrope walker, whilst at the same time having a dig at the voyeuristic nature of an uncaring society at large. In many ways it sums the album up; eternally we are morbidly fascinating creatures. There is much beauty within the darkness here; kudos to the pair who had the artistry and wherewithal to touch it.

The Jukebox Rebel
19-Feb-2016


TJR says:

7.24 “Really good”

Hello world, Düsseldorf calling again. After 4 years of dicking around inconsequentially, and perhaps spurred on by the recent success of their former bandmates in Neu!, Ralf und Florian finally came good with their 4th long player. At the time of release in November ’74 they were: Ralf Hütter (28, voice, electronics, synthesizer, organ, piano, guitar, electronic drums) and Florian Schneider (27, voice, vocoder, electronics, synthesizer, flute, electronic drums). Also assisting were Wolfgang Flür (27, electronic drums on “Kometenmelodie 1–2”) and Klaus Röder (26, electric violin on “Mitternacht”). The mesmerizing and super-exciting title-track, clocking in at almost 23 minutes, takes up the entirety of side 1, and serves as some sort of homage to the Bundesautobahn 555, generally considered to be the first (albeit unofficially titled) Autobahn, opened in 1932. It’s an 18kmh stretch in the North Rhine-Westphaliathat that links Köln with Bonn. For more than half a century, there was no speed limit imposed. I’ve worked out however, that a modest cruise at 100 kmh would still leave almost 12 minutes of runtime for the opening track. They didn’t think that through very well, did they? I thought these people were meant to be efficient? Arithmetical issues aside, it’s a stunning piece of work, exhilarating from the opening turn of the ignition key, to the rev-up, and the surreal synthesized whizz-by of passing traffic. Could have done with a slammed door for closure, but, hey, mustn’t grumble, it smashes the Beach Boys for “Fun Fun Fun” and just goes to prove, machine men with machine minds are not all bad. On the flip-side, space travel is first on the agenda, as the recent fly-by of Comet Kohoutek is acknowledged in song. “Kometenmelodie 1” seems to be cold and dark in deep space, whilst “Kometenmelodie 2” seems to brighten up considerably, presumably representing the actual moment where it comes in to naked eye contact with the human race. “Mitternacht” (“Midnight”) is next, as the mood takes a turn to the spooky, before “Morgenspaziergang” (“Morning Stroll”) signs off organically, as fresh as a daisy, with earthly pianos and flutes which are entirely whistle-able. Bright as a button, imaginative and entertaining – “Autobahn” was a highly potent chapter in the history of electronic music.

The Jukebox Rebel
14-Jul-2006


TJR says:

7.17 “Really good”

In his mid-20s, Brian Eno wasn’t messing about. Now that he had committed himself to a career in music, he wasn’t about to let his split with Bryan Ferry’s Roxy Music affect his impetus and creative spark. Within a few short months, he had released an experimental ambient album with Robert Fripp (No Pussyfooting, November ’73) and now, here in January ’74, he served up his first post-Roxy continuation, “Here Come The Warm Jets”, which ably demonstrated to all and sundry that he had been a major contributing force to the alternative, artsy sound of Roxy Music in the preceding couple of years. Eno enlisted 16 guest musicians to play on the album with him, including John Wetton and Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Simon King from Hawkwind, Bill MacCormick of Matching Mole, Paul Rudolph of Pink Fairies, Chris Spedding and all the members of Roxy Music except vocalist Bryan Ferry. His idea was that such a disparate collective might result in some interesting accidents stating: “I got them together merely because I wanted to see what happens when you combine different identities like that and allow them to compete.” There’s never a dull moment and, thanks to the forward-thinking musical sonics and Eno’s “electric larynx”, the record sounds quite like no other to date.

The Jukebox Rebel
14-Feb-2016


TJR says:

7.12 “Really good”

As is often the case with we humans, success breeds pressures and jealousies, and The Wailers were not immune. Sadly, this led to the departure, after 10 years of brotherhood, of Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, leaving Bob Marley at the helm and forefront. “Natty Dread” also formalised a crucial ingredient for team Marley in The “I Threes”, a vocal trio consisting of Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Marley's wife, Rita. The set opens in fine style with a reworking for their ’71 single, “Lively Up Yourself”, by now a call-to-action staple for the group, opening their live concerts more often than not. “No Woman, No Cry” is next, but with its slightly-dodgy casio percussion, will forever stand in the shadows of the mighty live at Lyceum performance that would come next year. Brilliantly, Marley gave the song-writing credit to Vincent Ford, who ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown, the ghetto of Kingston, where Marley grew up. The royalty payments received by Ford ensured the survival and continual running of his soup kitchen. Marley later claimed he would have starved to death on several occasions as a child if not for the aid of Ford. The poverty theme is to the fore on “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)”; current Prime Minister Michael Manley had encouraged Jamaicans to develop a share-pot culture in which “families whose providers are in jobs share their food with less fortunate neighbours.” A quietly enraged Bob sings: “Them belly full but we hungry, A hungry mob is an angry mob, A rain-a-fall but the dirt is tough, A pot a-cook but the food no ‘nough … Now the weak must get strong.” It was a powerful warning statement – and sadly one which looks more prophetic with every passing year in JA. Another track getting a new treatment is “Bend Down Low”, a piece which had been done twice already as singles in 1966 and 1968. The new version takes the honours, benefitting enormously from the super-spongy-bass, the funky reggae guitar chops, the tasteful keyboards and the excellent female backing vocals. This is, in fact, the Wailers ’74 in full effect – a force to be reckoned with. “Talkin’ Blues” emerges as the clear highlight for me – deep roots rocking with a mega-tough bass n drum section from the Barrett brothers. The lyrics empathise with the homeless: “Cold ground was my bed (bed last night), Rockstone, rockstone, rockstone was my pillow” whilst at the same time rebelling against the church: “Cause I feel like bombin’ a church, now, now that you know that the preacher is lyin'. So who's gonna stay at home, when, when the freedom fighters are fighting?” It’s another chant down Babylon – the Christians are getting it tight once again. “Natty Dread”, even by its’ very title, dives deeper into Rastafarianism than ever before – but these messages work on many levels for many different types of people. The developing Bob Marley story was impossible to ignore.

The Jukebox Rebel
22-Dec-2010


TJR says:

6.88 “Good”

Following “Future Days”, the unpredictable Damo Suzuki got married to a Jehovah's Witness and left the group, once again leaving them without a vocalist. After a string of unsatisfactory auditions, they decided to keep it in-house and guitarist/violinist Michael Karoli stepped up, with keyboardist Irmin Schmidt also chipping in here and there. Michael wastes no time at all in introducing his newly-learned skills – singing whilst playing on his electric violin – as “Dizzy Dizzy” comes bouncing in with urgency, almost as if in mid-flow from an hour-long jam. It seems informed by the burgeoning Jamaican dub scene and invokes involuntary exclamations of “Bucky Skank!” But maybe that’s just me. It’s an exceedingly impressive performance from all, really intense. Also, it’s clear straight away that they are not going to miss Damo; these twitchy vocal intonations take over seamlessly from where Suzuki left-off. “Come Sta, La Luna” maintains those smoky dub atmospherics, with the higher-pitched vocal of Irmin providing yet another dynamic. Playing against this seems to be some sort of bubbly water-submerged vocal sample, from whom or where I’m not sure, but I’m quite taken with it. There’s a vaguely latin feel to the rhythm and this is immediately accentuated and focused in the following progressive piece, “Splash”, a wonky instrumental rhumba which promises much but ultimately delivers little. The group stretch out a little on side 2, as “Chain Reaction” takes us on an 11 minute proto-Techno journey that keeps Can out front as innovators extraordinaire in the never-ending artistic challenge to create and seek out pastures new. The relentless beat never lets up for a second, but sonically breaks down and builds up at various points, leaving the dancers plenty of time to express them funky selves wildly, or something. This, right here, is the square root of many alt-dance creators of the future, a remarkable sensory experience for 1974. 1974! After all that exhilaration, “Quantum Physics” serves as the great ambient come-down, as the set opts to fade away rather than burn out. All in, this is another solid album of work for the Can catalogue.

The Jukebox Rebel
14-May-2016


TJR says:

6.78 “Good”

The first post-Eno Roxy Music set was stylish, peppy and imaginative, if not quite as off-the-wall as previous efforts. Straight from the off, “The Thrill Of It All” sets the tone – where previous Roxy albums have notoriously kicked-off with a breath-taking blast of future-pop, this time the opener rawks more conventionally. “All I Want Is You”, which was sitting in the Top 20 as the album was released, is the first “New-Waver” to appear, and sounds fresh and exciting. Eddie Jobson, Brian Eno’s replacement, makes his presence felt on “Out of the Blue”, a New Wave rocker laced by swirling, psychedelic production and strong violin. “It Takes All Night” surprises greatly in that it comes on all Status Quo, three-chord blues-rocking which puts a smile on the face. It’s exceedingly quirky with Bryan’s wavering vocals on top – this is when they’re at their best, being slightly wonky. The album highlight, “Bitter-Sweet”, opens up side 2. This veers between the sweetness of Carpenters “Superstar” territory and some sort of sinister German oom-pah band theatrics! Bitter-sweet indeed; this is the stuff I want from my Roxy, weird and wonderful. Alas, nothing else from here-on excites anywhere near as much; by and large, Roxy remain in good shape, although I can’t help feel a certain regret that they’re heading in a more conventional direction than their earlier LPs had promised.

The Jukebox Rebel
18-Mar-2011


TJR says:

6.77 “Good”

Taking their left-field roster further left than ever before, Virgin Records signed up Ivor Cutler for a 3-album deal in the summer of 1974. For this, we can thank Robert Wyatt, who had the good taste to feature Ivor on two of the tracks on his attention-grabbing “Rock Bottom” LP, issued in July. By November, Ivor’s 45-track extravaganza was in the shops. Clearly, he had been “saving them up” since his last long player, “Ludo”, way back in ’67. There are 13 songs, 23 poems (7 of which are written and spoken by his female equivalent, Phyllis King) and 9 short stories. With his quirky little songs, a smile is never too far away, although none are overly fantastic. More interesting than the songs themselves is the overall impact of the image conjured up; that of some sad-old music-hall relic, rejected and misunderstood by the proletariat. He sometimes sings them earnestly with gleeful abandon – living out a secret dream perhaps? – and sometimes with tongue firmly in cheek. He’s quite hilarious when he breaks into those exaggerated baritones – aren’t we all bathtub operatics? Best of the songs is “I Worn My Elbows”: “I make you money by elbowing people about, I elbow the little man in his face, I push the big man in his place, I worn my elbows down to the bone for you”. He’s a hopeless romantic really. His “poems”, which he often likes to keep simple, are almost always quick little snips; only one goes over the minute mark. “Two Balls” is quite typical of these: “Two balls ran down a hill. One landed on its side, the other upside down.” There’s little doubt in my mind that Ivor’s greatest strengths lie in his storytelling; the longer the tale the better. It’s here where Ivor works hardest for his corn, and the end results are worth all of his sweat and toil. “Fremsley”, an out-of-the-fire-into-the-frying-pan tale of a sparrow about to meet his doom, is breathtakingly brilliant; you’re left hanging on every word, with rapid-gags left, right and centre that force you to re-listen even more intently second-time-around. Before long, Ivor introduces the first of what would soon become a legendary story series, “Life In A Scotch Sitting Room”, a semi-autobiographical series which would regale us with ludicrous tales of the unspeakable hardships felt by even the middle-class families around the time of the Great Depression. Inexplicably, the first to appear is titled “Life In A Scotch Sitting Room, Vol. 2, Ep. 1” which begins with the immortal words: “We walked around eating porridge as taught…” Those very words chime infamously in the consciousness with every true Ivor Cutler fan, as does the doleful minor-key harmonium which underpins every piece in the series. He continues: “… or sat looking glum on the velvet suite staring at the Onyx clock which would not tell the time anymore, but it was decorative, like the Parthenon, except it held St Pauls dome at the middle. If you put your fingers in at the back you could make it chime by lifting the hammers, then letting them fall onto sturdy copper wires down below. Grandpa did it at least once every hour, and had to be restrained during the night, especially when losing at whist or nine-dot dominoes.” Thanks to Ivor, we can picture these believably grey scenes vividly – even if, deep down, we do know that he’s prone to slight exaggerations from time to time! On side 2 of the LP, we get a second episode already, although the chaotic one chooses to title it plainly “Life In A Scotch Sitting Room” – no particular episode – a piece which demonstrates Ivor’s astonishingly descriptive and quite brilliant use of the English language as he describes in great detail a mysterious black book which dominates the sitting room: “The book was a foot-and-a-half square with a brass hasp, hinges and corner buffers, anointed with exquisite verdigris, intimately embedded under the heads of rivets and flush screws, and along the chasing. The binding was black-noir.” As the tale develops, young Ivor must face a shameful punishment for the smallest of crimes; a recurring theme in the series. Father seems exceedingly strict, bordering on sick. It’s doubtful that Richard Branson advanced his fortune any with this LP – but his reputation is greatly enhanced in my eyes. This deal was a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for Ivor Cutler’s career – and he rose to the challenge splendidly.

The Jukebox Rebel
03-May-2007


TJR says:

6.70 “Good”

“Kimono My House”? Groan. I guess with the bona-fide front-cover Geisha randoms – who were plucked by chance from the confines of a touring Japanese dance company – they just about get away with it. The skinny-flints creating these sparks (hee-hee, two can play at their game) were Ron Mael (28) chief-songwriter and keyboardist, famously inanimate with an Adolf Hitler moustache, and his younger brother Russell Mael (25) a hyperactive showman and expressive singer who spends a great deal of the time in dramatic falsetto. The two broke-up their American band as they looked to progress their vision – this LP was wholly conceived, recorded and presented in an English environment, with new English musicians, and was pooling from the glam-well, seemingly a world-famous attraction. On paper, the whole thing could have been a cheese-fest disaster-zone, but the end-results show them to be ten-times cleverer than Sweet and twice-as-cool as Queen. The lyrics are as clever as they are funny, the music’s smart, and the hooks catchy. The new Sparks were presented as a quintet on the lead single, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us”, which was launched upon an unsuspecting British public in April, 1974. A pseudo-camp, but slightly edgy, spaghetti-western drama was just what we’ve been waiting for said they, and the single shot to No.2 in the hit parade. Sparks were immediately in vogue – highly successful and hip, a nice artistic combo if you can get it. The stomping “Amateur Hour” is next up; this was the follow-up single to “This Town” and kept the chart momentum going – a summertime UK Top 10 pop-pickers. Alright? Not arf! Sigh, if only all pop hits could be this gutsy and vital. Improbably, the bar is raised again on the third track, “Falling In Love With Myself Again”, a wonky selfish-sod waltz with the immortal lines: “I bring home the bacon and eat it myself, Here's to my health, Hope that I am feeling well”. Another fave on side 2 is “Talent Is An Asset”, a xylophone-led rock n roll paen-to-Einstein with great lyrics such as “Talent is relative, that's hypothetical, we are his relatives, that's parenthetical, spare your superlatives, there's the receptacle” and a highly catchy 50 seconds ending where Russell repeats a high-end refrain over and over, leaving an irresistible melody floating around your head for at least, well, a minute or two anyway. “Equator” leaves the album on a wonderful high octavely and spiritually; Russell is boiling-mad that his girlfriend has failed to show up on the Equator where he had arranged to meet her. Don’t you just hate when that happens? It’s high-time these burning issues were being properly addressed. Well played Sparks.

The Jukebox Rebel
16-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.61 “Good”

One year on from her debut and Betty was back with a whole new ensemble already – which, considering there are more than 20 of them, is no mean feat. This time she’s in control of production all the way – the hardened sound is much funkier than the debut, the guitars are choppier and sharper, the rock influence has been toned down and the Hammond organ turned up. And, despite the lack of commercial success with her raunchy stylizations on the debut, if anything, Betty is even more lascivious this time around, as she growls and yelps her way through a set which touches upon bondage and prostitution amongst its sexual themes. On the album highlight “They Say I’m Different” Betty nails some of her root influences to the mast by name-checking them; amongst the many are Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Muddy Water, Lead Belly and Bo Diddley. Clearly, the girl’s got exquisite taste. What an elegant hustler, she sure was different…

The Jukebox Rebel
26-Sep-2010


TJR says:

6.60 “Good”

In 1967, Sannah Mnguni, her sister Francina ‘Thopi’ Mnguni and Thoko Khumalo were three of the four founding members of Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje, an ensemble who had formed for the Gramophone Record Company (GRC), a subsidiary of CBS. They were one of the many ensembles set up in direct competition to Rupert Bopape’s Mahotella Queens over at Gallo. The production company at GRC was named Isibaya Esikhulu, and was intent on challenging the crown held by Gallo’s Mavuthela Music. Isibaya’s in house star-guitarist, Hansford Mthembu, married singer Thopi Mnguni and, in 1972, Mthembu and Mnguni left Hamilton Nzimande’s stable and formed a new mbaqanga frontline, Amagugu Esimanjemanje (not to be confused with the traditional Zulu group Amagugu Akwazulu), in which Hansford was to be the creative musical force. Following Thopi and Hansford were two of the original Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje girls – lead vocalist Sannah (Thopi’s sister) and harmony singer Thoko. The new group were under the management of Natalian Titus Masikane, a man with an ear for talent. In 1974, it was Titus who introduced The Soul Brothers (then Young Brothers) to his friend, Moses Dlamini, who was the A & R man at the Gramophone Record Company. This may have been a golden opportunity missed, but Titus was too busy with Amagugu at this time – he thought them “Africa’s greatest vocal group”! Amagugu were bolstered with the addition of their own “Mahlathini” in the form of distinctive groaner Harry Nhlapo. In Kali Monare, they had a drummer who could play jazz, rock and mbaqanga styles with equal aplomb. In 1974, they released their first LP, “Ubhek’uZulu”, which appeared on Skyline Jazz, a subsidiary label of South African EMI. “Imvula” (“Rain”) is an early highlight, an exceedingly fast-paced number – how do those guitarists keep up? – sweet in both the lead and harmony female vocals, perhaps even spoiled a bit by the gruff male intervention. There’s not a weak track on side 1 and “Inyoni Emhlophe” (“White Bird”) is every bit the equal of “Imvula”, but sung more gently, and with no gruff males to scare the bird away! “Chuchu Makgala”, penned by singer Thandi Kheswa, is my favourite and closes side 1 of the set. They all play their part well here; there are neat guitar tricks and licks from Hansford Mthembu and Harry Nhlapo’s groan is mean and tough. The only missteps on this LP come at the very end of side 2 as they inexplicably burst into conventional western pop territory, even going so far as to sing “King of My Heart” in English. “Salani Kahle” (“Good Bye”) finishes the album happily, again in a western pop style. Frankly, I take a very dim view of this type of thing. I shouldn’t complain too much though – I downloaded this LP for free from Electric Jive! Get it here.

The Jukebox Rebel
30-Jan-2014


TJR says:

6.59 “Good”

The pessimistic one is in very fine form here, evidenced immediately on “Walk On”, a coolly laid-back blues rocker which positively struts on forward, pissed off, but head high. Melodic Americana is the order of the day on “See The Sky About To Rain”, technically a cover of the Byrds 1973 song, although written by Neil. It’s all steel pedal melancholia, befitting of the greyness in the lyrics, with some sweet harmonica at the death. The incredible high-quality 1-2-3 starter is heightened with “Revolution Blues” in which Neil serves up a Dylan-esque story-like monologue, loosely inspired by that uber-baddie, Charles Manson. These 3 are unchallenged in the album’s hierarchal, although I care for the 2 folksy numbers, “For The Turnstiles”, which includes banjo, harmonica and dobro for down-home authenticity and “Ambulance Blues” which heavily digs on Bert Jansch’s “Needle of Death” musically, and barks at critics, Richard Nixon and the state of CSNY with the line “You're all just pissing in the wind”. Hee-hee, gotta love Neil, he just lets it all out. Side one dominates the second here but, all in all, I rate “On The Beach” as his best since “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” back in ’69.

The Jukebox Rebel
19-Feb-2016


TJR says:

6.41 “Decent enough”

Predominantly another covers album from the smooth one, although he did write the title-track which closes the LP. There may not be anything to rival “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” but, all in all, the set is consistently stronger than the debut. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is completely wonderful, a big production job which does justice to the great song. The Joe South cover “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” is another fantastic highlight – Ferry is such a great expressionist, his soul girl choir are a nice touch, and the ensemble make for a glorious support with strings, horns and brass bursting out with craziness left, right and centre over the funky rhythm section. This glamorous brand of soul is a very uniquely cultivated creation. “You Are My Sunshine” is another good example – another winning psalm from brother Bryan and his disciples, a sure-fire winner with the worshipers.

The Jukebox Rebel
23-Feb-2011


TJR says:

6.24 “Decent enough”

Recorded live at the Unicorn Leisure production “The Billy Connolly Show” in the Kings Theatre, Glasgow. He’s not yet a UK-wide star, but the 31-year-old is revered on his home turf at this stage, his observational routine especially striking a chord with working-class Scots. “The Big Yin” is in charge of the house straight from the off; in reply to a heckle of “Ya big eejit” his witty, off-the-cuff riposte brings the house down: “You should get an agent pal… why sit in the dark handling yourself?” His roots as a conventional folk artist are still in evidence at this time, the whole routine being based around the fact that he is here to play some songs, which may or not come to pass in amongst the patter. “Three Men From Carntyne” is the first of the songs, and is a laugh-and-a-half based on the old nursery rhyme “one man went to mow” reinvented here as a signing-on song (joining the parish = using the social security system): “Three men from Carntyne, and a bottle of wine, and five woodbine, and a big black greyhound dug called Boab, went to join the Parish”. “Lucky Uncle Freddie” is my favourite – I just love the craic about the incommunicado Glasgow family, and yer man is totally hilarious on the voices. Folk roots are always bubbling under the surface and this is clear again on “Talkin’ Blues” as Billy reinvents Woody Guthrie wi’ a’ the Glesga banter. Quite apart from the funnies, it’s clear he is a keen student of old Woody with intonations which are just so. Respect. He shows himself to be quite the showbiz all-rounder on “Cripple Creek”, as he lets rip with an impressive solo banjo routine. The album finishes poignantly with “Sergeant, Where’s Mine?”, a proper folk song composed by Billy and delivered superbly. The song is inspired by The Troubles in Northern Ireland; lying in bed in room 26, a wounded soldier questions the lie dream of army recruitment: “A’ yer talk ae computers and sunshine and skis, all I’m asking ye Sergeant, where’s mine?” He gets a well-deserved rousing reception for this – for once the blue, the green, the red and yellow, and the black and white of Glasgow are unified.

The Jukebox Rebel
20-Feb-2010


TJR says:

6.16 “Decent enough”

Recorded at Dynamic Studios in Kingston with Warwick Lyn, Neville Hinds and Carlton Lee on co-production duties. There’s little doubt that they have half-an-eye on the international market here, although I do think they manage to strike a nice balance for the demanding home audience as well as the more casual listeners from the rest of the world. On this one there are 7 Toots originals and 3 covers, including “Country Road” (John Denver, 1971), “I Can’t Believe” (Jimmy & Jean with Ike Turner’s Orchestra, 1961) and “I See You” (The Inner Circle Band featuring 'Funky' Brown, 1972). None of these covers electrify, although they’re decent enough. Album highlight is “Time Tough”” – no money, can’t find a job, Toots feels the pain of the man on the street. His backing girls wail in sympathy and the band plunge deep into roots reggae wells for a suitably inspired performance. Cut from the same cloth, “Revolution” is another good ‘un on side 1, a plea for religious unity, yep, good luck with that one Toots. Best on side 2 is “In The Dark”, which unashamedly revels in a gospel-tinged production, universally appealing. All in all, this set is a bit too soft for my tastes – tracks like “Love’s Gonna Walk Out On Me” and “Sailing On” are just a bit on the sickly side, the former sits in the lovers rock camp, whilst the latter is a fairly average attempt to capture some of that Memphis soul power.

The Jukebox Rebel
17-Apr-2015


TJR says:

5.98 “Average”

“In Person” was the debut album from the 23-year-old, although he was already 6 years in the business by now, and driving his own flash car. Things had really started to happen for the young man in the last couple of years, and his tie-in with producer Alvin Ranglin proved to be very successful commercially and artistically – the Soul Syndicate band could veer effortlessly between the rough and the smooth, as required per song. Gregory was a smoothie like Ken Boothe or John Holt, but wrote all of his own material. All 12 here are from his own pen, including his huge Jamaican No.1 hit of the year, “Love Overdue”. Lovers rock is the general play, although Gregory’s soothing croon aids all sorts of sufferation and boderation. The album starts with a powerful opening statement on “Sweeter The Victory”: “The harder the battle will be, the sweeter the victory” – ghetto strugglers stay strong is the message. The big #1 Jamaican smash hit follows and on “Love Is Overdue” Gregory proves that sweetness can be cool. I personally bore witness to the girls of Jamaica still going wild for Gregory singing that one 30 years later! “Financial Endorsement” finds our man empathizing with the strugglers again: “The babies needs milk and their mother wants clothes, the landlord needs his rent and I only got 38 cents”. Vocalist and band seem to plead in unison – it’s very effective. Lovers rock is soon back on the agenda with “Be Careful” advocating monogamy as the key to happiness – don’t lose what you’ve got. The album is not without its’ weak points – in fact my favourite four are the first four. Inexplicably, “If You’re In Love” nosedives into pop balladry hell at the end of side 1 – apparently there was a market for such conservatism within Jamaican society. I could do without that – but I guess he’s playing the game, and his people clearly love him.

The Jukebox Rebel
12-May-2012


TJR says:

5.93 “Average”

So now you're half man half dog? Er, right you are then. By this stage, it seems to me that Bowie is obsessed by larger than life rock theatre and not concerned enough with creating cool-as-fuck rock n roll records. “Diamond Dogs” and “Rebel Rebel” kick-ass, whilst “Candidate” – a mid-suite segment piece – is meaty and can boast of some honking sax from the main man. Closer “1984” recalls the funky wah-wah of Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” and is interesting even if it does get completely carried away with itself, perhaps even invoking images of a Saturday night revue at the Palladium. Somehow, I can’t get rid of the image of a choreographed dance routine to go with this – I can even see the balded bow-tied geezers in the pits playing violins. Saving the day, “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family” lives up to its great title and leaves the album on a respectably cool note, but, by and large, this fare is decidedly average by his recent high standards.

The Jukebox Rebel
12-Feb-2016


TJR says:

5.82 “Average”

“Nilsson Schmilsson” got all the acclaim for Nilsson in the 1970s, but “Pussy Cats” is way cooler, albeit never too far removed from basic middle-of-the-road approach favoured by both the performer and his producer, John Lennon. Famously, the two had a wild-old time when they got together to make the record; Nilsson’s cracked-voice and the generally laid-back vibe pay testament to this. There are seven originals and five covers on-board. Best from Nilsson’s pen are “Don’t Forget Me”, a beautiful piano-led ballad which oozes class and “Old Forgotten Soldier”, another fine piano-led ballad which stands forever as a document to the singer’s ruptured vocal cord episode in the making of this LP; good effort Harry. The covers delve back into the recent past with “Many Rivers To Cross” (Jimmy Cliff, 1969); “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (Bob Dylan, 1965); “Save The Last Dance For Me” (The Drifters, 1960); “Loop De Loop” (Johnny Thunder, 1962) and “Rock Around The Clock” (Sonny Dae and His Knights, 1954). The Drifters cover is best for me – it seems I dig him most in full-on raspy mode. Nilsson or Lennon could never make a classic album for me, but this one deserves pass-marks.

The Jukebox Rebel
05-Dec-2011


TJR says:

5.80 “Average”

Good grief – Lou Reed plays soft-rockers? All trust between us is blown 4ever. But wait a minute – Top 10 in the U.S. pop chart? What do I know? In Lou’s favour, he had little input with the production and was dis-pleased with the treatment of the songs, remarking: “It seems like the less I'm involved with a record, the bigger a hit it becomes. If I weren't on the record at all next time around, it might go to Number One.”Baby Face” and “N.Y. Stars” are the worst offenders – it’s completely weird to hear what sounds like Lou Reed backed by Lynyrd fucking Skynyrd, but hey – it’s Lou Reed, all hope is not entirely lost. Side 2 comes blasting in mightily with “Kill Your Sons”, so bad-ass even the hairy monsters can’t ruin it. The message is clear: say NO to psychotherapy kids! Interestingly, old VU bandmate Doug Yule appears on bass for the album’s closer, “Billy”, a cool little strummer with some agreeable saxophone. Here, we have Lou in good storytelling form, and the semi-acoustic treatment serves the song well. Pity more of the album wasn’t like that.

The Jukebox Rebel
26-Feb-2011


TJR says:

5.70 “Average”

With the preceding LP “Atem” having been named “album of the year” by John Peel, the hipsters were all ears for Tangerine Dream’s futuristic vision, and Richard Branson, high on his share of 15,000 mail-order import sales for that title, was impressed enough to offer the Berlin trio a proper album deal on Virgin, a proposition which they accepted gladly. Branson’s nose for an opportunity proved to be right; the album was a surprise hit in the UK, ascending to #15 in the chart, despite virtually no commercial radio airtime. At the time of release in February ’74 they were: Edgar Froese (29, mellotron, guitar, bass, VCS 3 synthesizer, organ); Peter Baumann (21, organ, electric piano, VCS 3 synthesizer, flute) and Christopher Franke (20, moog synthesizer, VCS 3 synthesizer). The title-track, at over 17 minutes long, takes up the entirety of side 1 and is rather wonderful; their ability to create exquisite mood-music via synthesizers is clear for all to hear, as this piece twists and turns, suggesting some sort of adventure is being undertaken. Me personally, I’m exploring Europa – my god, there’s some weird creatures in some of the caves on that planet. Despite the well-documented sweat, labour and toil in the creation, I remain unmoved by side 2; the whole thing passes my by, in the same way that an eerie film soundtrack might, although I admit it has a certain beatific aesthetic that induces curiosity more than a racing pulse. A rather nice dream all the same.

The Jukebox Rebel
18-Feb-2016


TJR says:

5.69 “Average”

“Court and Spark”, issued in January ’74, proved to be Joni’s most successful album; not only was it critically acclaimed it was a massive #2 hit in the US charts and resulted in her only #1 album in her homeland. It was her first “proper band” album and she worked hard on these songs, enlisting a whole host of session pros including members of The Jazz Crusaders, Tom Scott's L.A. Express as well as cameos from Robbie Robertson, David Crosby and Graham Nash. Ordinarily, all of this might have impacted negatively on my taste-buds, but the set holds together well for me; she remains the acceptable face of A.O.R. Included in my favourites are the two singles, “Raised on Robbery”, one of Joni’s poppiest efforts to date, and “Help Me”, in which her vocal is just dynamite, and overcomes the easy-listening template served up by Tom Scott's L.A. Express. This was Joni’s biggest-ever hit single, peaking at #7 in the Billboard 100. The album’s sole cover, “Twisted” (Annie Ross with Teacho Wiltshire Band, 1952), foretells her move towards jazz and is a nice surprise at the end. That song in particular suits Joni – a neurotic tale about a kid who was different. Music is therapeutic they say. If she continues singing cover versions like that she’ll save herself a fortune in professional fees…

The Jukebox Rebel
14-Feb-2016


TJR says:

5.46 “Below average”

The final chapter of Gram’s Parsons self-proclaimed “Cosmic American Music” was delivered in January 1974 in very sad circumstances. On the face of it, Gram seemed to be getting back on track in ’73; his first solo album was released at the start of the year, he embarked on a springtime tour and then entered the studio in the summertime to lay down the tracks for his second solo set. Those who were closest to him behind the scenes knew differently however – he was continuing to battle with a drugs and booze habit, and this was often impacting negatively on his work, live and in the studio. Once again, Emmylou Harris was chosen as his singing partner and she appears on all but one of the tracks here. They’re good together. The album had been intended as a collaborative affair with the two to be pictured and billed together on the front-cover, but this plan was changed just before the album’s release, Gram’s wife being unhappy with the idea. Also assisting were members of team Elvis, including Glen Hardin (piano), James Burton (lead guitar), Emory Gordy Jr (bass) and Ronnie Tutt (drums). Trusty Al Perkins on pedal steel completes the core line-up. Tragically, Gram never got to see the release of the LP; by September the 26-year-old was dead, lost to a heroin and alcohol overdose. “Return of The Grievous Angel” gets the set off to a fine honkytonk start – it’s the full-on Nashville experience complete with subtle fiddle, the works. The lyrics were written by an up and coming poet by the name of Thomas Brown who had boldly approached Gram when he played Olivers in Boston during his ’73 tour. Thomas handed him the lyrics, and asked him to please consider setting it to music. The song tells of a wanderer who returns from sowing his seeds and hopes to reconcile with his true love: “Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down, And they all lead me straight back home to you.” As they so often do, Gram and Emmylou bring the drama to life splendidly. The singing duo do likewise with their version of Boudleaux Bryant’s “Love Hurts”, which has a great deal of emotional pull. That said, the best of the lot is the only song not to feature Emmylou – “Brass Buttons” – which is as gorgeous as it is devastating. Seven years in the making, it’s a song about his mother, Avis, herself an alcoholic who had died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1965. “And the sun comes up without her, it just doesn’t know she’s gone” sings a heartbroken son. Who will now sing for Gram?

The Jukebox Rebel
19-Sep-2007


TJR says:

5.43 “Below average”

This group had started as Abafana Bentuthuko in the mid-60s and by now had now begun to trade as Intuthuko Brothers. Long-time guitarist Hansford Mthembu gets a front-cover big-up; by now his name carries a fair degree of rand-pulling power. Alas, the label errs with the spelling, “Hensford”, compounding the mistake in the liner-notes by opting for “Henceford”. Groan. It’s an all-instrumental affair barring track 2, “Please Don’t Cry”, which has a suitably lame male vocal to go with the title. This is an album of two halves I’d say; side one is rather non-dynamic, here, Intuthuko Brothers sound like a fairly competent shebeen pop-soul outfit. They do a cover of “Loving Arms” (Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, 1973) which is particularly poor. Such is the conservatism of this LP so far that I can’t help but think it might have something to do with a middle class wedding reception. Thankfully, things perk up from here. Four of the six tracks on side 2 save this LP from the scrapheap; namely, the four tracks where they delve headlong into the realm of mbaqanga. The best 2 tracks appear at the very end, “Is’Gul’Egoli” and “First Stop Durban” – both of which were written by the drummer, Kali Monare. At least the reception got going in the end! You can download this out-of-print LP at Electric Jive.

The Jukebox Rebel
22-Jul-2014


TJR says:

5.41 “Below average”

Swamp Dogg’s fifth album in five years takes a decided turn towards the funky pop disco and comes complete with a few extra JB-esque screams and hollers at no extra charge. Side 1 is rather uninspiring; its best moment comes when Dogg continues with his annual state of the nation speech on “God Ain’t Blessing America”. The best three tracks all come at the end of the LP – the slow funky groover “Did I Come Back Too Soon (Or Stay Away Too Long)”, which tells the story of the inattentive lover who comes home to find his wife cheating on him with another woman! Dogg, that’s lowdown!! Second last is the slow, bluesy driver “Dr. MLG (JA)”, a story about an incompetent physician. That jive ass! Wha’ppen? Best of the album is the harmonica-led soulful finale “My Hang-Ups Ain’t Hung-Up No More”, the closest Swamp gets to former album glories…

The Jukebox Rebel
15-Jan-2010


TJR says:

5.38 “Below average”

A fine set of traditional jigs and reels from the 65-year-old band, best of which is the Double Jigs Medley “The Gold Ring / The Lucky Penny” which has some terrific drumming to recommend it. The grand ensemble will probably cuss me for saying so, but my two personal favourites are the contemporarily sung songs, “Belfast Town” (written by Colm Gallagher) which laments the troubles and “Coming Back To Miltown” (written by Colette O’Sullivan-Dinan), a lovely song about an ex-pat from Boston, looking forward to coming home. Miltown Malbay (sometimes spelt Milltown Malbay) is situated in West Clare and is one of Clare’s musical and cultural homelands. The town is renowned for its singers, dancers and musicians – most especially the famous Willie Clancy. Each year in early July the festival ‘Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy’ is held in celebration of the music and tradition of Clancy. Funny enough, Willie himself was 10 years away from the place (plying his ‘other’ trade as a carpenter in London) and “came back to Miltown” in 1957. This was the 3rd LP from The Kilfenora Céilí Band, who were formed away back in 1909 and are still going strong today – they are a durable institution!

The Jukebox Rebel
23-Jul-2010


TJR says:

5.36 “Below average”

The vitality of 1972 seems a long way away already… he’s hanging on in there… the first half of the album offers some decent enough funk fare, but the slide in quality towards the end of side 2 is quite alarming…

The Jukebox Rebel
21-Apr-2012


TJR says:

5.35 “Below average”

Just 18 months earlier, Captain Beefheart, together with his slaves, had delivered my album of the year with “Clear Spot”. Clearly, a year-and-a-half is a long time in music – rarely has such a magnificent work been followed so tamely. If there had been worrying nano-shades of Doobie Brothers action the last time out, the alarm-bells were full-on blaring here, as team Beefheart went all-out in attack for some of that Rod Stewart dollar. Artistically, it all seems so tacky. The management team were the Di Martino brothers from New York – by all accounts a couple of hustlers who were all about the money. The “ironic” front-cover shot featured Captain Beefheart and two fistfuls of dollars. This shot was used in press adverts with the caption “you don’t have to be weird to be weird”; all of this was very weird indeed. The group were happy to go along with the AOR vibe – by this time they were just desperate to see a meaningful pay cheque. “Unconditionally Guaranteed” arrived in April ’74 and was the first of two new Beefheart LPs to be released on Mercury Records this year. “Upon The My-O-My” is not too bad as a starter, with some nice slide guitar, wavering flute and some sassy brass. The happy-go-lucky “Sugar Bowl” is next and the somewhat banal honky swing is the first sign that there’s trouble ahead. “New Electric Ride” rescues the situation a little, and comes with a cool, insistent bassline groove. I let the lovey-dovey lyrics pass me by. “Magic Be” follows this – it’s a travesty of an excuse of a Captain Beefheart, the sort of soft rock rubbish that you’d expect to hear on a Fleetwood Mac LP. Drummer Art Tripp would later recall: “When the band finally got our album copies, we were horrified. As we listened, it was as though each song was worse than the one which preceded it.” I think Art’s being a tad harsh – “Happy Love Song” bounces back off the ropes, and is a more than decent soul-rocker which, at least, digs in some for the love of Memphis. Alas, the aforementioned three decent tracks are the only worthy pass marks. After his contract with Mercury Records ended at the end of 1974, Beefheart labelled both of his 1974 long-players as “horrible and vulgar”, urging his fans to “take copies back for a refund”. Things were badly falling apart at this stage and, unwilling to tolerate the hardships and abuse any more, the band walked out, just 5 days before a scheduled tour, leaving Beefheart angry and privately devastated. This album is the sad end of a chapter in his compelling story.

The Jukebox Rebel
11-Oct-2016

chart first published 02 Jun 2016; last edited 14 Oct 2016

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1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

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