Fuzzy Duck released just five hundred copies of their only album in 1971, resulting in original copies now fetching up to £900. The interest in the band these past fifty years has led to many re-pressings and re-issues. Some, like my copy, have added as bonus tracks, the band’s two singles and their respective B-sides.
Formed in 1971 in North London, their sound was principally of a heavy progressive rock nature, built on a foundation of hammond organ, time signature changes and elements of jazz .
The guitar and organ combine seamlessly and I’d say there are future echoes of Uriah Heep in here. That may not be too far from the truth, for though he didn’t join Heep, organ player Roy Sharland was previously a member of Spice, who were indeed the mighty Heep’s first incarnation.
The track above, ‘Mrs Prout,‘ is typical sounding of what the band were capable of – I just love how the track uses that shuffling drum sound, mixed with a rolling bass line. The second half of the track I’m sure must have been in the subconscious of The Stone Roses when they wrote ‘Fools Gold.’
Looking at the credits on the album sleeve, only four band members are listed. However, from what I can make out, guitarist Garth Watt Roy was also in Fuzzy Duck. Indeed, he wrote their first single, ‘Double Time Woman,’ and contributed to the writing of two other ‘bonus tracks’ on the album. I can only assume he had moved on before the album was recorded? (The aforementioned track and the other two in which Garth wasinvolved, differ, I think from the others in that they have that sharp edge of Atomic Rooster poking through.)
What interested me here, though was the surname, Watt Roy. Not a common one in the music business back in the early Seventies, I’ll wager. I checked, and my hunch was correct – Garth is the older brother of Norman Watt Roy, who played bass in one of my favourite bands, Glencoe.
It’s such a shame Fuzzy Duck din’t leave more of a legacy. This album has seen more visits to my turntable these past few weeks than any other in my collection. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in early Seventies rock.
FUZZY DUCK Mick Hawksworth – Bass Roy Sharland – Organ Paul Francis – Drums Graham White – Guitar / Vocals Garth Watt Roy – Guitar
The late Seventies, here in UK, was the place to be if you enjoyed variety of musical genres. For me as a kid, I graduated through Glam Rock to Heavy Rock to Punk to Reggae and then Rock ‘n’Roll / Rockabilly. I’m glad to say, these were not just whimsical fads I was passing through – they still form the basis of my record collection and listening pleasure to this day.
It’s easy to see then why I was drawn to this track.
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Rich Chambers was determined from a very early age that he was going to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. However, several years of touring the local toilet circuit for the sake of a pint or two of the local craft lager made him re-consider. For a while.
He returned to his studies and gained a degree in English and latterly, a Masters in Humanities. But the music still burned within him, and actually the hook to the chorus of this song came about rather randomly as he walked to his car in the parking lot for the University.
Although the harmonies had been brewing for many years, it is only now, with a bit more ‘life perspective,’ that Rich has been able to match the tune to a reflection of High School experiences and use that as a metaphor for how we perceive our dreams and innocence of youth.
This three minute rock ‘n’ roller has been billed as Buddy Holly mixing it with Green Day; rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of added modern spike.
Me? I’m reminded of the vibrato tremble of The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey‘s voice and the melody and fun attitude of The Vandals. And there’s certainly a bit of old school punk bounce to the bassline, if you listen.
The lyrics may take a slightly cynical look at the missed opportunities of our youth and how decisions taken so young can impinge on the rest of our lives, but hey ….. it’s fun tune!One to put a smile on your face and get your feet moving.
It feels a little strange, sitting here at home outside Glasgow, Scotland and writing about one of our city’s most famous ‘unfamous’ bands. I mean, everyone knows that members of Tear Gas ultimately joined forces with Alex Harvey to form ‘The Incredible Alex Harvey Band,’ right?
At least, that’s what was proclaimed on the sticker that adorned the sleeve on my copy of their re-issued debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ A bit of a ‘Sensational’ cock-up, by the record company, I’d suggest.
Playing the local Glasgow circuit as The Bo-Weavels, the band changed their name to Mustard, when vocalist George Gilmour left. Andy Mulvey, formerly with top Scottish beat band, The Poets, stepped in,
More changes would follow with Mulvey himself moving on. Wullie Munro signed up, taking over on drums. He was backed up in the rhythm section by new bass player Chris Glenn, while Eddie Campbell came in on keyboard duties. Joining forces with the two remaining members of The Bo-Weavels / Mustard, Davey Batchelor and Alistair ‘Zal’ Cleminson, it was decided that another name change was in order, and, in keeping with the ‘mustard’ theme, I guess, the band were re-named, Tear Gas.
They were billed as a ‘heavy rock’ outfit, though I find that hard to comprehend from their debut album, ‘Piggy Go Getter.’ Most of the tracks are pleasant enough, but pretty much soft rock at best, and not so memorable, if I’m honest. The second side of the album has a bit more of a rock edge and perhaps the final track, ‘Witches Come Today,‘ was a better indication of what was to come with the follow-up.
The eponymous, second album, now with Ted McKenna on drums, is much more like what I would have expected from a band who were scouted by Alex Harvey when looking for a ‘backing band.’ Having lost his brother, Les, guitarist with Stone The Crows, and who was electrocuted during the soundcheck for a show in Swansea, Harvey searched for solace in his work. He had previously been working with the stage musical, ‘Hair,’ in London but now sought to embark upon a solo career … if only he could find the right band.
Following the release of the second album, Ted Mckenna’s cousin, Hugh Mckenna joined in place of keyboard player Eddie Campbell. Hugh would also take on lead vocals when Davey Batchelor left to pursue a career in production.
The resultant line-up of Zal Cleminson, Chris Glenn, Hugh McKenna and Ted Mckenna was the one ‘spotted’ by Alex Harvey, and though the band had some misgivings about their new ‘boss’ (Alex was about fifteen years older for a start) and his rather autocratic attitude, they realised they had probably gone as far as any ‘big fish in a small pond’ could and …. well, the rest is history as they say.
TEAR GAS (Ultimate / Final Line up) Zal Cleminson – Guitar / Vocals Hugh McKennna – Keyboards / Lead Vocals Ted McKennna – Drums Chris Glenn – Bass / Vocals
Joanne Shaw Taylor has come a long way since being ‘discovered’ by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart – and not just geographically, relocating from her home in the Black Country, England, to Detroit, USA.
Now widely regarded as the UK’s premier blues rock guitarist, she is set to release album number eight on September 24th. ‘The Blues Album’ was recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville by blues legends Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, both of who guest on the eleven track album of blues covers.
Joanne and Joe had been friends for many years, initially meeting when Joanne opened a show for a young Joe Bonamassa some while back. Since then they have kicked ideas about and learned from each other.
So when the pandemic struck and normal life was no more, Joanne, like the rest of the world, finally found herself with some time on her hands.
“I’d known from the beginning of my recording career that one day I wanted to record an album of blues covers, I just wasn’t sure when theright time to do that would be,” says Joanne. “I’ve always found it far easier to write my own material than come up with creative ways to make other artists’ material my own.”
That time was now!
“I mentioned my new project idea to Joe Bonamassa,” recalls Joanne. “He asked me for my song choices. Immediately he began sending me notes and was texting me song suggestions.
“He was already acting as a mentor as well as an unofficial producer on The Blues Album, so I asked him if he’d fancy the job, officially,” says Joanne. “Thankfully, he accepted. The Blues Album has been everything I hoped it would be. It’s been a labour of love, overseen by an artist, producer, and friend who I trust beyond measure.“
The covers on ‘The Blues Album,‘ are not your regular fair. Joe, having seen Joanne perform so many time previous, made it clear from the outset that he wanted her to push her voice. He felt, not unnaturally, that her virtuoso guitar playing overshadowed her voice, and there was more to give, vocally.
The songs the pair settled upon, I think offer that opportunity. They may not be the obvious blues standards, but there are some by likes of Albert King, Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green and Magic Sam. Others that Joanne pays tribute to include Little Village, Little Milton, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and James Ray.
Some of the tracks were initially B-sides of singles, and so with Joanne’s personal and unique interpretation, the whole album sounds so fresh and new.
Album opener ‘StopMessin’Around,’was written by Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and released in 1968, This version has a more ’rounded’ feel to it I think. The guitar doesn’t sound quite so harsh, the jazzy, boogie piano break from Reece Wynans adds a real party feel, while Joanne’s voice has a wee added snarl to it.
‘If That Ain’t A Reason,’ has Joanne sounding pretty sassy in a more full sounding and slightly more uptempo version of the Little Milton number, the horns and guitar melding into a loud and punchy number.
‘Keep On Lovin’ Me’ is the Blues mixed with a bit swing. A bouncy bassline drives this along, with powerful vocals and guitar solos from Joanne, who feel she has managed to encapsulate the feel of booth the Magic Sam and The Paladins‘ versions.
‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody’ was originally recorded by James Ray in 1961, though Joanne says she was more familiar (as was I) with the Aretha Franklin version. I can also hear a little bit of Bonnie Raitt in the vocals here,
The next track is on the album courtesy of a suggestion by co-producer Josh Smith. It’s Little Village‘s ‘Don’t Go Away Mad.’ and features Joe Bonamassa guesting on guitar and vocals, It”s certainly different to the other tracks on the album, and actually reminds me very much of Van Morrison’s ‘Bright Side of the Road.‘
I have no idea about the following short instrumental, ‘Scraps Vignette.’ Neither, it appears, does Joanne: “We were working on another cover, and when we got to the studio, it just wasn’t working. We ended up having the band change the vibe completely. When I returned home to Detroit, I got in Rustbelt Studios with Al Sutton to put down the vocal, but it still wasn’t working. I believe Josh kept the take without the vocal and edited what we have now which is “Scraps”.
‘Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me,’ was originally a Stax release from Albert King. This is a tremendous cover – full sounding and brooding, it’s one to listen to. I mean really listen – there’s so much loaded into this one track between the horns, prominent bass, Joanne’s searing guitar work …. I hear something different every time I play this.
‘Let Me Down Easy‘can be heard at the top of this post. Another Little Milton song, Joanne’s voice take on a more gritty, slightly rasping tone … like a pared back Janis Joplin even.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds song, ‘Two Time My Loving‘ was suggested by producers Joe and Josh and is a real toe-tapper. I think it’s one of those songs you don’t realise you know until you actually hear it!
‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got,‘ is a real smoky blues number, with such a soulful Hammond organ, and warm sounding horn section the underpinning features, with Joanne’s guitar moodily working over the top. Says Joanne: “I’m a huge Little Richard fan this has long been one of my favourite songs. In fact, this was the first song I selected to put on this album. Little Richard didn’t perform or record too many ballads, so I think it’s a particularly stand-out track for him in my eyes. Having Reese Wynans playing keys on it was brilliant, given that Reese had worked with Little Richard.”
The album closes with a more upbeat number, again chosen by Joe and Josh – ‘Three Time Loser.’ I can’t say exactly why, but for some reason this track reminds me of one of my favourite artists, Frankie Miller. I’ve checked, and it’s not n any of his albums as far as I know …. but anyhow, that’s a pretty big compliment, right there!
Here’s a wee taste of what to expect on this album:
MUSICIANS INVOLVED WITH THE RECORDING. Joanne Shaw Taylor – Guitar / Vocals Josh Smith – Guitar Reece Wynans – Keyboards Greg Morrow – Drums Steve MacKey – Bass Steve Patrick – Trumpet Mark Douthit – Saxophone Barry Green – Trombone + Joe Bonamassa – Guitar / Vocals on ‘Don’t Go Away Mad’ + Mike Farris – special guest on ‘I Don’t Know What You’ve Got.’
Joanne Shaw Taylor’s “The Blues Album” is released by KTBA Records on September 24th via www.ktbarecords.com
From a young age, we’re advised not to ‘judge a book by its cover.’ By the same token, as we grow older, we must learn not to judge a musician by their back catalogue.
Case in point would be Glaswegian, Ewan MacFarlane.
As a long time member of electo rockers Apollo 440 he would strut, sing, shout and dance on stages across the world, firing up crowds numbering in their thousands.
As front-man of The Grim Northern Social, Ewan was the main songwriter of the critically acclaimed but regretfully short-lived band, whose debut album in 2003 was voted one of the year’s best by Rolling Stone magazine.
For a while during 2015 / 2016, he would liaise via the internet with Filip Rasch from southern Norway, to collaborate on a series of releases under the name of Mennska.
And now ….?
Nobody can really afford to stand still in the music industry. (Well, certain artists do, but in general they’re totally pants.) Some of the most successful continually re-invent themselves as they age, David Bowie being the prime example.
So, what’s led Ewan MacFarlane from the dance culture to the softer, (possibly Del Amitri inspired?) Americana infused melodic Rock of this post’s opening video – his latest single, ‘Underneath Your Spell‘?
“Its high time I stepped out and made the music I always needed to make,” he says.
The single is the second to be lifted from his forthcoming (October 29th) debut solo album, ‘Always Everlong,’ following hard on the heels of the brilliant ‘Stirrin’ In The City,’ which is posted below.
‘Always Everlong,‘ tells tales of tension with pledges of eternal love. It’s an expression of his hopes and fears, emboldened by a personable approach to classic rock writing as Ewan bares his soul by putting pen to paper, unafraid of the consequences.
In his own words, “It’s both about a lust and love for life and for each other. It’s about endless boundaries, about taking the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, the laughter and the tears, but not least it’s about kicking down the walls of constraint and living life exactly how you choose. Free to be what you want to be without judgement.”
To my eternal shame, despite owning four Apollo 440 singles and living in the same Dear Green Place as Ewan I never made the connection between him, them, and The Grim Northern Social. I was probably too obsessed with hardcore punk at that time.
Taking a leaf from Ewan’s book, I think now is the time to re-invent the listener in me.
Who’s to stop me loving hardcore punk and melodic rock?
Eleven vinyl LPs; one vinyl EP; two ‘box set’ CDs; one triple CD set; twenty-one CDs; five DVDs and four Taste CDs.
You’d be correct in assuming I like Rory Gallagher!
I recall the very first time I heard Rory’s music. I was playing Subbuteo at my pal’s house. I was Chile, that day – red shirt, blue shorts. I can’t remember what team Derek was, but it wouldn’t matter – he’d have whooped my ass anyway. I was rubbish.
Derek shared a large bedroom with his older brother who at that time was a long-haired, senior school student, about four years older than me. He’d been doing paper rounds for several years and so was ‘minted,’ as we’d say in Glasgow. And all his money it seemed, he spent on records, particularly the heavy end of the musical spectrum. Deep Purple and King Crimson I vividly remember being played. I know this because as a Slade, Sweet and John Kongos fan, (yes, John Kongos) I just couldn’t get into this new fangled ‘progressive’ music.
Anyway, as my Chilean right winger was about to take a corner, something new burst out the record player. It went on for ages, too. Wow!
“That’s ‘‘Catfish,’ my mate said. “By a band called Taste. Alan’s just bought it. Like it?”
‘Like it?’ That was me. Hook, line and sinker.
So – this is the Blues? A fourteen year old kid had just been enlightened.
The LP was ‘Taste. Live At The Isle Of Wight.’ With a little more prompting, I was told the band were no longer together, but the guitarist, Rory Gallagher, had embarked on a solo career. In fact, he’d already released three albums.
Always late to the party, me.
A few weeks later, I’d saved enough from my paper round to send away, through a ‘small ad’ in the ‘Sounds’ paper, for a copy of Rory’s latest release, ‘Live in Europe.’ (Going to watch football on a Saturday normally accounted for most of my earnings.)
As it happens, I was fifty pence short in payment for the post and packing, but the nice record store still sent me the LP. They asked I just send a postal order for the shortfall, something I never got round to doing. I read a month or so later that the company had gone bust. I felt ever so guilty.
That was late 1972 and I still have that album. It remains my favourite of all my Rory recordings, although I have to say, the ‘Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ‘77’ triple album pushes it very close.
The next stage in my Gallagher development was to see him play live and that opportunity came in March the following year, when my parents finally acceded my pleas to be allowed to go to a concert. And so shortly after the release of his fourth solo album, ‘Blueprint‘ (my second favourite) I trooped up to Glasgow with a couple of pals to the Green’s Playhouse (later to become the world famous Apollo.)
My seat was about eight rows from the front, just left of centre. Perfect. Until Rory came on stage and everyone jumped to their feet. I was a short-arse then, still am, and suddenly I was struggling to see my musical hero.
But the bouncers at Green’s and even more so when it changed to The Apollo, had a fierce reputation. There was no nonsense. If you were told to sit down, you sat down. If not, you’d only be able to hear the gig from the alleyway at the back of the theatre. (This heavy handed approach always worked … until The Clash came to town on 4th July 1978. But that’s another story!)
The concert was everything I hoped it would be. And more. The relationship Rory had with the crowd was amazing. It was like a personal friend was putting on a show. There was no posturing. No garish showmanship. Just straight-up, blues infused rock ‘n’ roll with a tiny touch of folk influence.
Rory was dressed simply, in his trade-mark check style shirt and jeans, and although he wore a denim shirt on the cover of ‘Blueprint,’I always associated him with the checks. It must be a ‘first impressions’ thing, for I don’t recall seeing him wear that again on any of the other four occasions I was lucky enough to see him.
In the early to mid-seventies, bands would generally only hit your town maybe once a year although I was fortunate in that Rory did return to Glasgow later in ’73, at the end of November. After that though, it was December only, and ’74, ’75 and 1976 were my last shows. It’s interesting to note that the most I paid for a ticket was the £2.50 in 1976.
I wonder how much you’d have to pay these days? I’m sure Rory would have done all in his power to keep prices at a sensible level, but what with ticketing agencies these days …. aargh! Don’t start me!
While my love of Rory Gallagher has been unflinching, I am not one of those fans who listens exclusively to their hero and that particular style of music.
Although I still rushed out to buy his immediate subsequent releases, ‘Photofinish,’ ‘Top Priority,’ and ‘Stage Struck,’ I was, from 1976 onward, more into the punk and second wave rockabilly scenes.
The only groups, however, that even then could come close in my overall ‘favourite band’ list were / still are, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Rolling Stones. (Over forty albums of the latter in my collection.)
And of course, there is a close connection between all three bands with SAHB‘s late great Ted McKenna latterly taking over on drums for Rory, and Rory himself famously auditioning for The Stones back in 1975 when Mick Taylor left.
I must say, I’m so glad Rory decided not to hang around and wait for Mick and Keith to get back to him, and toured Japan as he had planned. I just couldn’t see Rory as anything other than a front man. Ronnie Wood is perfect for the role in appearance and style.
It doesn’t always follow that a group betters itself by absorbing ‘the best.’ Look at The Eagles. Did Joe Walsh really add to what was already one of the most popular bands in the world? Did Joe Walsh lose a bit of his identity by joining The Eagles?
‘No’ and ‘yes’ would be my two answers.
But back to Rory.
It pained me to see him on The Old Grey Whistle Test or wherever as the rather large and bloated musician he’d become by around 1990 as drink and various prescription medications, administered to deal with the rigours of life on the road, had prematurely and noticeably aged him.
In the end, 1995, he perhaps cut a sad image – the archetypal solo rock star, not necessarily fading as such, or clinging to past glories, but perhaps lonely and just sheer exhausted from all he gave.
And he gave so much. The vast majority of his fans, like me, never met him, but Rory came across on stage, and in media interviews, as a very personable and likable bloke. There were no frills. You got what you saw.
He was genius on guitar. He could literally turn his hand to make it gently weep; or laugh; or sing. He could make an audience dance – in an ugly, uncoordinated, shaking-head, rocker style, maybe, but it still counts.
Best guitarist in the world? Many of us would say so.
Back in the mid-Seventies, I was all over Southern Rock; Lynyrd Skynyrd (obviously!); The Outlaws; Marshall Tucker Band;Grinderswitch, and others all found a place in my record collection.
Then, along came Punk.
I always was a fickle kid, and though my love of these bands did not exactly fade, their albums would make much less frequent visits to the turntable.
In recent years though, having been forced by my wife to endure hour upon hour of American Idol, my interest in country based sounds has been reignited. And when I listen to likes of Robert Jon & The Wreck, I realise now what I’ve been missing.
‘Shine A Light On Me Brother,‘(released on 3rd September 2021) is the result of enforced ‘downtime’ during the Covid pandemic, and will be the band’s sixth studio album. With a couple of EPs / CD Live recordings thrown in since their inception ten years ago in Orange County, California, then by today’s standards, I guess they’d fall into the prolific bracket.
Their hard-working ethics have seen them tour coast to coast in their homeland, as well as travelling the world and playing before huge sell-out crowds when supporting likes of Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Living Colour, Walter Trout, Black Stone Cherry and the Chris Robinson Band.
It’s funny that last name came up. Bands, I’m sure, must hate it when folks like me draw similarities between them and other artists. It’s not ‘lazy journalism,’ it’s simply observation in trying to give the reader an inkling of what to expect from an artist / recording. So yeah, overall, though there are variations throughout, I can hear a bit of semblance to the Black Crows at points along the album’s ten track duration.
The opening, title and lead single, ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’ can be heard at the beginning of this post. I love the incorporation of a horns section with this southern rock belter. Their blend with the guitar solo and racing piano give the song a feel of, dare I say it, The Allman Brothers mashing it up with The Blues Brothers band. (Oh, if only that were possible!)
Here’s track number two, ‘Everyday,‘ for you decide upon. A real toe-tapper with a shuffling beat, neat, zippy, guitar work and an overall. gospel feel.
‘Ain’t No Young Love Song’ opens with a stomping beat that’s maintained throughout. The piano is swapped for the hammond organ which is given some prominence and there’s the prerequisite guitar solo of course. The chorus has a real big hook and I think you’d file this one under ‘anthemic.’
The pace slows for ‘Chicago,’ which takes a more soulful turn, with the horns giving a bit of a Stax sound. The vocals are BIG, but beautifully controlled and mellow. The sax solo leads into what I think should be a few bars of hand clapping … I was off and running only to feel rather sheepish a moment or two later. (I bet when played ‘live’ the crowds will all do the raised hand-claps as the sax solo ends. You mark my words. )
‘Hurricane,‘ slows the tempo right own. I don’t normally go for slower, acoustic based songs, but I found myself totally immersed in this one. It would be quite easy to drift off (in a complimentary way) to this as the song gently rises and falls like waves on an idyllic beach. My one observation, as if it counts, coming from someone who can’t play a note on anything, is that perhaps instead of the short guitar burst, use of a pedal steel guitar could have been made? Just sayin’ … like, what do I know?
‘Desert Sun’ is another that will have the listener singing along. Medium paced, with a buzz-like guitar and piano prominent throughout, it just has a sort of lazy, warm, sultry feel to it – perhaps influenced by the title, of course.
‘Movin’ ‘ opens with a bit of a dark and threatening rumble of a riff. It’s lifted with the vocals and piano. The bass line and riff remind me of Bryan Ferry‘s version of ‘The Price of Love‘ and I kept wanting to sing the chorus to Tina Turner‘s version of ‘Proud Mary’ come the chorus – but hey! That’s no bad thing, is it?
‘Anna Maria‘ is a grower. Almost five minutes in length, I wondered where it was going for the first minute and a half, but it builds into a resounding and swirling track with a pretty cool break-down around midpoint that lasts a minute or so before rising to the final crescendo.
The penultimate track ‘Brother,’ sounds so sad, but absolutely captivating. It sounds like it was truly sung from the heart.
And so to the final track, ‘Radio.‘ In a complete contrast to the mood of the previous song, this one bounces through its three minute duration. It’s a really ‘busy’ track with so much going on. Each time I listen I hear something I missed the previous time. If this doesn’t have you dancing your socks off, then you must have flippers for feet.
Yeah – this is some album. Good, strong songs and musicianship throughout, it’s predominately upbeat and / or anthemic. It has a warm, Californian desert feel to it, and one I’d sure like to see performed live.
I must say, I had never heard of this Robert Jon & The Wreck before this landed on my desk. I have to say, I’ll definitely be checking out their back catalogue, now.
***(Robert Jon & The Wreck will be touring UK in late September, 2021. Dates and ticket links can be found on the NEWS PAGE.)***
ROBERT JON & THE WRECK
Robert Jon Burrison – Lead Vocals / Guitar Andrew Espantman – Drums / Vocals Steve Maggiora – Keyboards / Vocals Harry James – Lead Guitar / Vocals Warren Murrel – Bass / Vocals
It truly amazes me how bands like Leslie’s Motel were / are completely overlooked by record companies.
This was a band that played up and down America’s East Coast, and west to St Louis; a band that opened for likes of Rory Gallagher; Ted Nugent; Charlie Daniels ,Freddie King, Mitch Ryder and MC5 Even John Lee Hooker asked vocalist Bill Tullis to stand in on harp (harmonica) one evening when the band were the main support.
So, no mugs then.
Yet this is what happened to Leslie’s Motel in 1972. During the year following their inception, the band walked into King Studio in Louisville, and cut the nine tracks that would become their debut album, ‘Dirty Sheets,’
Influenced by seeing The Allman Joys play some time earlier, Bill Tullis ultimately surrounded himself with five experienced musicians keen to adopt the Sound of the South popularized by the band who would soon become The Allman Brothers.
‘Dirty Sheets‘ is indeed from that mould, being very ‘heavy blues’ laden, though I’d say it has more of a hard, driving rock edge to it. There are prolonged instrumental stretches, with some tremendous, searing guitar wig-outs, underpinned by flaring Hammond organ … and of course there are drum solos that were almost obligatory in the Seventies.
The album was hawked out to some local labels, including Capricorn (home to The Allman Brothers, and Marshall Tucker Band amongst others) but each one declined to take up on it.
(Talk about ‘mugs?‘)
And so it was, the album, and the dream, just more or less died
Following their disappointing rejection Leslie’s Motel soldiered on gigging up and down the east coast until they eventually called it quits in 1976.
Fast forward thirty-three years from the band’s demise. Again, details are sketchy to say the least, but completely out of the blue, band founder Bill Tullis was contacted by Roger Maglio. Roger is the owner of Gear Fab Records and expressed an interest in releasing the virtually forgotten LP.
I can’t imagine the band, having waited such a length of time, would have been too hard to deal with, and in 2009, ‘Dirty Sheets’ finally hit the shops. (There have been a couple subsequent reissues, the latest being in 2020.)
The album was very well received and racked up good sales worldwide together with some very positive reviews in the music press. The band reformed and began gigging again, one of which was recorded for a CD and DVD release in 2010.
Sadly, I can’t find any information on the state of play with the band in 2021. Perhaps they’ve all checked out by now – it’s all abit of a mystery.
Maybe though, that’s just the way it should be for a band that has flown under the radar all this time.
LESLIE’S MOTEL Bill Tullis – Lead Vocals / Rhythm Guitar / Tambourine Mike Seibold – Lead Guitar / Vocals Richard Bush – Hammond B3 Organ / Fender Rhodes Piano Ray Barrickman – Bass / Vocals Paul Hoemi – Drums Roy Blumenfeld – Drums / Congas
There are some albums you know that within a minute of dropping the needle on the record, are headed straight for the ‘favourites’ shelf in your collection. Such is the case with the debut album from 1968 from this New Zealand blues band.
But if the blues ain’t your scene, then wait – read on! You have to move with the times in the music business, and these young lads did just that in later years.
Formed in 1964, in Auckland, the band line-up passed through several transformations, while steadfastly sticking to its blues roots in face of the more popular Beatles influenced sound.
Their stubbornness to change direction paid divided though when British R&B began to break in the country and bands like The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds began to gain traction.
The band however that commanded most respect, and sway, for The Underdogs, was John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. And they weren’t shy of promoting that influence, with five of the songs on the debut album having already been recorded by the Englishman.
Three songs, however, all on side one, were written by band members Murray Grindlay (vocalist) and Louie Rawnsley (guitar) who according to the album’s sleeve notes, were both only seventeen at the time. Bass guitarist Neil Edwards was also only seventeen at the time of recording, while drummer Tony Walton was a mere eighteen.
Given their youth, the late 1967 Underdogs produced an amazing maturity of sound. However, all was not well within the band, even during the album’s recording.
Unwilling to follow the heavier, rock infused version of Blues, by now popularised by likes of Cream and Hendrix, and promoted by fellow band members, Grindlay and Rawnsley, bassist Neil Edwards was asked to leave.
The Underdogs briefly disbanded early in 1968 after the album release. However, they reformed a few months later and remained together, albeit with another couple of changes, long enough to release another single, ‘There Will Come A Time.’
Again though, they split not long after the release, and all was quiet for a while.
In 1970, original band leader / guitarist Harvey Mann, who had left to join The Brew shortly after the band’s debut single in 1967, got together with bassist Neil Edwards and recruited drummer Glen ‘Pig’ Absolum and reformed the band. This time though, they’d be a ‘power trio, producing that harder edged bluesy rock … that Edwards reportedly didn’t want to play several ears earlier!
This version of the band went on to perform as ‘Pig, Mann & Edwards,’ and recorded on excellent album, ‘Wasting Our Time‘ on Pye Records, late in 1970. Originals of this LP have also become much sought after with copies exchanging hands for up to £190.
Sadly though, this would be just about the last thing The Underdogs would do, and not long into 1971, they split up for good.
(Reissues of both albums were released, albeit on Limited runs of 500 copies, by Wah Wah Records in 2020)
THE UNDERDOGS (BLUES BAND) Murray Grindlay – Vocals Lou Rawnsley – Guitars Neil Edwards – Bass Tony Walton – Drums
PIG, MANN & EDWARDS Harvey Mann – Guitar / Vocals Neil Edwards – Bass Glen ‘Pig’ Absolum – Drums
Every day’s a school day here at Loud Horizon. Well, it is for me, at least.
From that, you’ll deduce I have no Captain Beyond records in my collection … and cannot profess to being a big fan of Deep Purple either. (Yes, I like them fine – just not as much as millions of others do.)
If you’re wondering why I have linked the two bands above, then I guess we’re pretty much in the same boat.
Let’s check back a little.
Captain Beyond were formed when psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly suddenly broke up in 1971. Guitarist Larry Reinhardt and bass player Lee Dorman called on Drummer Bobby Caldwell ( who would later go on to play with both The Allman Brothers Band and that of Johnny Winter) and a certain Rod Evans.
(Rod was a founder member, and original vocalist of Deep Purple. He sang on the band’s first single ‘Hush‘ but had been asked to leave the band in 1969 when they decided to go with a heavier sound, being replaced with Ian Gillan.)
The band were initially signed to Capricorn Records, which I found strange when I read this fact. That label, throughout the Seventies had a reputation for producing records by ‘southern rock’ bands. Bands like Grinderswitch (whose ‘Pickin’ The Blues’ track was used as theme music to the iconic John Peel radio shows in UK,)Marshall Tucker Band and of course, The Allman Brothers Band.
Captain Beyond would soon find the decision strange too. Their debut album sold well. It was heavy rock in its primitive form; it was ‘stoner’ rock at its finest, incorporating ‘space’ rock influences, and included the track that opens this post and this, probably my favourite from that album.
Sales however, I assume, did not match those of label mates, The AllmanBrothers, for by the time Captain Beyond came to record their follow-up album, Capricorn Records seemed to have had a change of heart. They pressed for the band to adopt a more Southern Rock image and feel, which of course was an impossible ask.
It ‘s no coincidence then, that the band’s fortunes, if not their sound, headed south after that. The label, it seems, did all the could to obstruct the band, signing for them to support slots with headlining bands whose music was far, far removed from that of Captain Beyond.
(Paying gig fans don’t take kindly to this – Greenslade supporting Rory Gallagher, anyone?)
They soldiered on however, and in 1973, still signed to Capricorn, they released their second album, ‘Sufficiently Breathless.‘ By this time, drummer Bobby Caldwell had left as relationships within the band became fractious. He had not been keen on the direction the band were headed, or the music they were making.
From the tracks I’ve heard, I totally concur. I don’t mean to upset anyone, but tracks such as this, while still build on a decent riff, do not match the rawness and energy of the first.
The album bombed, though over time, and perhaps because of the band’s now almost cult-like status, it is now regarded with a certain reverence.
It wouldn’t be long though, before vocalist Rod Evans would leave the band. He had done this before, but this time it was for good – and none of the band knew why. He broke off all contact with the remaining band members, and to this day, his whereabouts are unknown.
(I do believe that in the early Eighties there were legal implications of his touring with a band and using the Deep Purple name)
Auditions were held to find a replacement for Rod, and eventually, Willie Daffern was offered the gig.
In 1977, now signed with Warner Bros, and the backing of an almost cult-like following, the band released their third album, ‘Dawn Explosion.’
Unfortunately, not long after the album release, ‘new’ vocalist Daffren decided to go solo, and in 1978, the band just kind of dissolved as they were on the verge of gaining wider acceptance.
Over the years there have been various reincarnations of the band that have lasted for short periods. There have also been re-pressings of the original three albums, together with some ‘live’ recordings and compilations.
Unfortunately, none in my opinion, can match the excitement and menace of their debut offering.
(Original line-up) Rod Evans – Vocals Larry ‘Rhino’ Reinhardt – Guitar Lee Dorman – Bass Bobby Caldwell – Drums