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One Album Wonders: Armageddon

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 7, 2015 03:46pm | Post a Comment
This week’s One Album Wonder is Armageddon, a short-lived heavy rock band led by Keith Relf which proved to be the singer's last. In Armageddon, Relf was joined by Robert Caldwell (drums), Louis Cennamo (bass guitar), and Martin Pugh (guitar).

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Relf was a noteworthy English singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. He was born 22 March 1943 in Richmond, Surrey and started performing music around 1956. Although severely asthmatic he picked up the harmonica in imitation of his hero, Sonny Boy Williamson. In 1963 he formed The Yardbirds. Although today The Yardbirds seem best remembered for launching the careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, they were undoubtedly one of the most important of British Invasion bands, responsible along with The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones with introducing countless white teenagers to the black American music which they'd till then ignored and inspiring thousands of them to form rock bands in suburban garages throughout the Anglosphere.

The Yardbirds' two biggest hits, “For Your Love” and “Heart Full of Soul” were written by the great Graham Gouldman (of The Mockingbirds and later, The Mindbenders, 10cc, and Wax) but Relf co-wrote many of their originals, including “Shapes of Things,” “I Ain't Done Wrong,” “Over Under Sideways Down,” and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” As the 1960s progressed, Relf's songs began moving away from their blues base toward folky psychedelia and classical music-inspired progressive rock. Relf left The Yardbirds in 1968 he and fellow-former Yardbird Jim McCarty formed the acoustic duo, Together, which released a single, “Henry's Coming Home” b/w “Love Mum And Dad” that failed to find an audience.

Next McCarty, Relf, and Relf’s sister, Jane, formed Renaissance in 1969, rounded out by pianist John Hawken and Louis Cennamo. They released two albums, Renaissance and Illusion. Illusion was recorded in 1970 as the band was falling apart. The last of the original members had left by the end of the year and Illusion was originally only released in Germany, in 1971. It wouldn't be released in the UK until 1977, a yaer after Relf's untimely death. 

After Renaissance's demise, Relf first moved into production, working with bands including Amber, Hunter Muskett, Saturnalia, and Medicine Head (with whom he also played bass guitar). Another band he produced was Worthing-based blues rock band, Steamhammer, which included Cennamo and guitarist Martin Pugh. Steamhammer called it quits in 1973 and Relf, Pugh, and Cennamo moved to Los Angeles. There they formed Armageddon with Robert Caldwell, a drummer from Florida who’d played with Noah’s Ark, Johnny Winter And, and most recently, Captain Beyond -- a band which featured former members of Iron Butterfly and Deep Purple.



Armageddon were recommended to A&M by Dee Anthony and Peter Frampton (who’d played with Cennamo in mod group, The Herd). A&M agreed to sign Armageddon and in the autumn of 1974 the band recorded their eponymous debut at Olympic Studios in Barnes. It was released in May 1975 (it was issued on compact disc by Repertoire in 1998 and Esoteric in 2009) and was a move into the sort of heavy rock which The New Yardbirds (and later Led Zeppelin) had made after Relf’s departure. The results were loose and jammy and the album only contains five songs, four of which are over eight minutes long.


Armageddon didn't last long, however. Caldwell, at the time, suffered from a heroin addiction and he and Pugh were at odds with Cenammo and Relf, both of whom preferred meditation to hard drugs. Armageddon split up before they could promote the album at all and, not surprisingly, it sold poorly. 

Armageddon's Armageddon (1975)

Relf returned to England to recover from a life-threatening asthma-related illness and with thoughts of rejoining the original members of Renaissance. He recorded what proved to be his swan song, “All the Falling Angles” but tragically died on 14 May 1976, electrocuted in the basement of his home whilst playing his improperly grounded guitar. He was just 33 years old.

With Armageddon no more and the name Renaissance being used by a new line-up of musicians, Cennamo re-joined the original members of Renaissance (minus Keith Relf, of course) as Illusion. Caldwell returned to Captain Beyond (and later, it should be noted, completely quit drugs). Pugh seems to have retired for many years from life as a professional musician although in the 2000s he re-emerged with Hawaii-based rock band, 7th Order.


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One Album Wonders: The Zodiac

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 17, 2015 11:07am | Post a Comment


Zodiac
 were a studio group who released one album, Cosmic Sounds - Celestial Counterpoint with Words and Music, in May 1967. The members of Zodiac were respected session musicians Bud Shank, Carol Kaye, Cyrus Faryar, Emil RichardsHal Blaine, and Paul Beaver. Each song is devoted to the signs of Chaldean astronomical zodiac. The music was written by Canadian synthesizer pioneer Mort Garson
The spoken word narration was penned by Jacques Wilson and are narrated by Faryar in a voice reminiscent of Jim Morrison's who as part of The Doors, had recorded their debut in 1966 and released it in January 1967 to great acclaim.

The success of The Doors was a primary inspiration for the project. Elektra head Jac Holzman came up with the concept and hired Alex Hassilev, a member of The Limeliters, to produce. Hassilev brought Mort Garson to the project -- the two had just formed a production company together.

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Morton S. "Mort" Garson was born 20 July 1924 in Sain John, Canada and was a Cancer. He moved to New York City where he studied music at the Juilliard School of Music. He worked as an arranger and pianist. After serving in World War II he worked as a session musician. While working on Cosmic Sounds Garson met Robert Moog and as a result featured his Moog synthesizer heavily in the arrangements, played by Paul Beaver. Garson died of renal failure in San Francisco in 2008.

Clifford Everett “Bud” Shank, Jr. was a jazz flutist, saxophonist, and a Gemini. He was born 27 May 1926 in Dayton, Ohio and attended the University of North Carolina between 1944-1946 then moved to California where he studied with Shorty Rogers and played in the bands of Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton. In the 1960s he primarily worked as a studio musician in Los Angeles. In the 1970s he formed The LA Four. He died on 2 April 2009 in Tucson, Arizona.

Carol Kaye was born Carol Smith on 24 March 1935 in Everett, Washington. She is a bass guitarist and Aries. In the 1950s she played in nightclubs before being paired with Sam Cooke in 1957. As a member of the celebrated Wrecking Crew she was one of the most widely recorded session bassists and has over 10,000 credits. She retired from recording in the 1970s due to arthritis.

Cyrus Faryar was born 26 February 1936 in Tehran and is a Pisces. He was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and after college operated the Greensleeves coffee house, a haven for beatniks. He moved to Southern California in the 1950s. After Dave Guard quit The Kingston Trio, the two briefly played together in The Whiskeyhill Singers. That group quickly disbanded and returned to Hawaii Faryar co-founded the Modern Folk Quartet in 1962. He released two solo records in the 1970s but worked primarily as a session musician and producer.

Emil Richards (né Emilio Joseph Radocchia) was born 2 September 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut and is a Virgo. He began playing xylophone when he was six and later graduated from the Julius Hartt School of Music. He played in various ensembles in New England and New York before settling in Los Angeles in 1959 where we was in demand as a session player.

Hal Blaine (né Harold Simon Belsky) was born 5 February 1929 in Holyoke, Massachusetts and is an Aquarius. He played drums with several bands before finding steady work as a session musician for Capitol Records as a member of the Wrecking Crew. Though mostly uncredited he recorded the drums on more than 40 number one hits.

Paul Beaver was born in Ohio in 1926. He was a session musician especially associated with the Moog synthesizer which he played on releases by The Byrds and The Monkees. In 1966 he co-founded the electronic pop group Beaver & Krause. In the 1970s, with Ruth White, Beaver co-founded the The Electronic Music Association in the 1970s. Beaver died in 1975. 

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The music, as one might expect, is groovy in the extreme. So too is the album art, by Abe Gurvin. The album contains instructions for the the listener, “Must be played in the dark.” The music seems likely to have inspired The Moody Blues’s Days of Future Passed, Louise Huebner's Seduction Through Witchcraft, and the rock musical, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. I wonder if the Zodiac Killer owned a copy! 

Garson and Hassilev had planned to do a series of concept albums and they began working on The Sea with Rod McKuen but McKuen left the project and recorded his own version with Anita Kerr and The San Sebastian Strings for Warner Bros. Hassilev produced The Dusk 'Till Dawn Orchestra's Sea Drift, with Garson conducting. Garson and Wilson re-teamed in 1968 for The Wozard Of Iz album, produced by Bernie Krause and released on A&M and a series of twelve follow-up albums; one for each astrological sign. Cosmic Sounds is long out of print on vinyl but was reissued on aluminum compact disc by the Water label in 2002.

*****

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One album wonders: Blue Phantom's Distortions

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 26, 2015 06:56am | Post a Comment

BLUE PHANTOM'S DISTORTIONS (1971)

During the Album Era (mid 1960s-mid 2000s), the LP was the dominant form of recorded music expression and consumption. Some bands recorded just one album during their time and, whether popular or not, they are the so-called one album wonders



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Blue Phantom were an instrumental group (or project) who released one album, Distortions, in 1972. Although instrumental, there's something about the sound that undeniably speaks to the fact that it's the work of Italians. Maybe it's the slightly swing and gentle funkiness paired with dark, creepy atmosphere that reminds me both of Goblin's work and Ennio Morricone's score for The Exorcist II (both of which Blue Phantom pre-dated) but that Blue Phantom were Italian is almost all that is known about them. 

Blue Phantom were most likely not a band in the normal sense. Rather they were probably a group of musicians assembled by violinist, conductor, and composer, Armando Sciascia. Armando Michalaros Sciascia was born 16 June, 1920 in Lanciano, Italy. He graduated from the Conservatorio di Pesaro and afterward moved to Milan where he played with the orchestras of the Teatro Nuovo and Pomeriggi Musicali.

He formed his own orchestra who in 1952 (as Armando Sciascia e La Sua Orchestra) released the 10" "Poema" b/w "Non Vedo Che Te" on Fonit. In 1953, on 10" split with Orquesta Malatesta, Sciascia and company (as Orquesta De Conciertos Sciascia) released four songs through the Telefunken label. Sciascia began composing film scores for documentaries in the 1960s with 1961's Tropico di notte and the 1962's Mondo caldo di notte and Sexy

In 1962 Sciascia formed the label Vedette, which was home to Equipe 84, Gian Pieretti, and Pooh -- all of form whom Sciascia composed employing the noms de disques "H. Tical" for music and "Pantros" for lyrics. Sciascia continued composing film scores until 1966, when his last score proved to be for the film 3 colpi di Winchester per Ringo. Vedette, meanwhile, expanded into a series of imprints devoted to various genres and including Albatros, Ars Nova, Fox, I Dischi Dello Zodiaco, JAM Record, Musiche Per Sonorizzazioni E Programmi, Phase 6 Super Stereo, Pineapple Records, Quadrifoglio, Quadrifoglio International, and Spider Records.

One album wonders: The Open Mind's The Open Mind

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 10, 2014 01:00am | Post a Comment
THE OPEN MIND - THE OPEN MIND (1969)

Around 1963, Putney-based musicians Mike "Mike Bran" Brancaccio (guitar), Phil Fox (drums), Timothy du Feu (vocals), and Ray Nye (bass) formed The Apaches, who recorded a demo with none other than Joe Meek. Nye left the band and du Feu moved to bass after they acquired a new singer, Terry Martin (real name Terry Schindler). They changed their name to The Drag Set in 1965.


Two years later the band were writing their own material and released their first and only single as The Drag Set, “Day and Night” b/w “Get Out of My Way” in early 1967 on Go. Go was a short-lived label which released mostly mod and soul music by the likes of The Barney Sisters, Carl Douglas And The Big Stampede, Neil Spence, Our Plastic Dream, Phil Brady And The Ranch Set, The Roll Movement, Samantha Juste, Scots Of St. James, and Sugar Simone.


The Drag Set realized that there might be some unintended connotations to their name and in 1968 changed it to the suitably psychedelic The Open Mind, on the suggestion of De Feu


The following May they released their first single with their new name, “Horses And Chariots” b/w “Before My Time.” In July the band released a collection of mod-tinged, leather pants heavy psych which proved to be their only LP, titled The Open Mind and released by Philips


In August of 1969, The Open Mind released a non-album single, “Magic Potion” b/w “Cast a Spell," produced by Fritz Fryer, guitarist of The Four Pennies. "Magic Potion" proved to be The Open Mind's final release, although they soldiered on until 1973, at which point Phil Fox quit. 


After that, De Feu and Schindler were joined by Stephen Florence and a new drummer and became Armada (not to be confused with Rod Torfulson's Armada Featuring Herman Menderchuck), who broke up after releasing no music.

In 1974, Schindler moved to Vancouver, Canada and opened an apparel company, Terry Schindler & Associates. De Feu sold his bass and found work in the petrochemical industry and as a graphic designer, Fox became a carpenter and at one point operated a pub, and Brancaccio continues to play guitar, albeit classical. Since 2001 The Open Mind has been released several times on compact disc by the labels Acme Records and Second Battle, both including bonus tracks.


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One Album Wonders: The Smoke's ...It's Smoke Time

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 22, 2014 04:00pm | Post a Comment
Here is an additional edition of my series of great, mostly obscure, one album wonders. In the album era (roughly the mid-1960s until the mid-2000s), the album was the dominant format of recorded music expression and consumption. It seems that most musicians from that era, if able to scrape together the funds for the recording of one studio album, generally returned with at least one more.  Some, like Sun Ra, somehow released more albums than I've had hot dinners. Even most excellent bands, in my opinion, would have done well to find something other to do with their time rather than keep making records after their fifth album or twelfth year (although there is the Go-Betweens Exception). The following acts mostly date from the Golden Age of the LP -- and yet were unable or unwilling, in all cases, to record more than one. 

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THE SMOKE - ...IT'S SMOKE TIME (1967)


Geoff Gill, Mal Luker, Mick Rowley, Phil Peacock, and Zeke Lund formed The Shots in 1965, who released one single, "Keep A Hold Of What You've Got." A name change to The Chords Five preceded the release of "I Am Only Dreaming." After Peacock's departure, the remaining four were reborn The Smoke, and despite the family name of the departed, fell decidedly toward the peacockish end of the Mod spectrum. 

In case the single entendre of their moniker went unnoticed, they dropped a single which made drug references behind the thinnest of veils, "My Friend Jack." A bindle full of naughty singles followed including "Have Some More Tea" b/w "Victor Henry's Cool Book," and "High in a Room." Their only album, ...It's Smoke Time is a pleasant dose of Creation-like late-Mod/pop psych that characterizes what's retroactively been termed Freakbeat.  

After The Smoke cleared, Gill returned as a member of the bands Fickle Pickle and Beaver Brothers. Lund went on to work as an engineer. ...It's Smoke Time was re-released on compact disc by Air Mail Archive in 2006 and on vinyl in 2012. A compilation of all of that album plus tracks from The Shots and later recordings was released as by Sequel as High in a Room: The Smoke Anthology in 2002.






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