Aug 31, 2018

MAJOR HARRIS - My Way (Atlantic Records SD 18119, 1974)

For a member of a successful group, it’s always a risk to leave and embark upon a solo career. Often, the success they’ve enjoyed becomes a distant memory. Conversely, the success they’ve enjoyed is often surpassed upon embarking on a solo career. Everyone will have examples when an artists decision to embark upon a solo career either worked or didn’t. By 1974, Major Harris decided to leave The Delfonics and launch a solo career. Things hadn’t quite gone to plan with The Delfonics. Major Harris had joined a group at the peak of their career, having just released their most successful album. The next three years didn’t quite turn out as he’d hoped, so Major Harris left The Delfonics and signed a contract with Atlantic Records as a solo artist. His debut solo album was "My Way", released in 1975, which would feature some of Philadelphia’s finest musicians. Major Harris had replaced Randy Cain in The Delfonics in 1971. He was joining a successful group, who’d just released their most successful album in 1970, The Delfonics. It had reached number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B Charts. Soon, changes were afoot in The Delfonics’ camp. Randy Cain left and there would be changes in the producer’s chair. 

Thom Bell had been The Delfonics mentor, producing their first three albums and writing many of their songs. Sadly, The Delfonics was Thom’s final album as sole producer. For Major Harris’ Delfonics debut, 1972s "Tell Me This Is A Dream", Stan Watson who owned Philly Groove Records, The Delfonics label, would co-produce the album with Thom Bell.On its release it reached just number 123 in the US Billboard 200 and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts. If that was disappointing, worse was to come. "Alive and Kicking" was released in 1974, and not only proved to be The Delfonics final album, but their least successful album, reaching number 205 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-four in the US R&B Charts. So with The Delfonics’ career on the slide, it’s no wonder Major Harris had decided that the time was right to launch his solo career, with a little help from his Philly friends. For Major Harris’ debut album, Bobby 'Electronic' Eli would produce eight of the nine tracks on My Way, with Ron 'Have Mercy' Kersey producing After Loving You. Bobby 'Electronic' Eli would also cowrite five of the tracks, three with his songwriting partner Vinnie Barrett and two with Terry Collins. Two other tracks, "Each Morning I Wake Up" and "After Loving You" were written by Melvin Steals, under the pseudonym Mystro and Lyric. The other track was a cover of "My Way", which closes "My Way". These nine tracks were recorded at Philly’s famous Sigma Sound Studios, with a cast of legends accompanying Major Harris.

Accompanying Major Harris were some of Philly’s best musicians, including many of M.F.S.B. who’d go on to become The Salsoul Orchestra. "My Way" features some of the greatest musicians of the seventies. All the greats played on "My Way". The Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and were joined by bassists Bob Babbitt and Rusty Jackmon, drummer Charles Collins and guitarist Bobby Eli. Ron Kersey played keyboards, Vince Montana Jr, vibes, Larry Washington congas Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns completed this cast of musical titans. Adding backing vocals were the legendary Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton. Once the nine tracks that comprise "My Way" were recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, the album was set for release in 1975. Before "My Way" was released in 1975, "Each Morning I Wake Up" was released as a single. Although it reached just number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100, it proved popular in clubs, reaching number three in the US Disco Singles Charts and number fourteen in the US Club Play Charts. When "My Way" was released in 1975 it was to critical acclaim and huge commercial success. "My Way" reached number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. Then after years and years of trying, Major Harris had the smash hit single he so wanted. "Each Morning I Wake Up" reached number five in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Not only did this vindicate his decision to leave The Delfonics, but surpassed the success of any of their singles. With the help of his Philly friends, Major Harris had a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album and number one single. However, what made "My Way" both critically acclaimed and commercially successful ?

Opening Major Harris’ debut solo album is the Melvin Steals penned "Each Morning I Wake Up". It’s arranged by Norman Harris and produced by Bobby Eli and from the opening bars, there’s only one city this song could’ve been produced in Philly. The song literally bursts into life with bursts of blazing horns and sweeping, swirling strings combining with the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. They power the arrangement along before Major Harris unleashes a powerful vocal full of sadness, regret and drama. Adding to the drama are the Sweethearts of Sigma add tight, soaring soulful harmonies. Meanwhile, the dual guitars of Bobby Eli and Norman Harris provide musical contrasts. Bobby relies more on effects, while Norman’s style is jazzier, but both play important roles. Earl’s thunderous drums provide the track’s emotive heartbeat, while Don Renaldo’s strings and horns add to the overall drama, emotion and beauty of the track and are matched all the way by Major Harris’ Magnus Opus of a vocal. It’s an outstanding track and what a way to open "My Way". No wonder this track gave him his first US R&B number one. "Love Won’t Let Me Wait" is the first of the Bobby Eli and Vinnie Barrett penned tracks. The tempo drops way down, with the rhythm section, chiming guitars and rasping horns augmented by the lushest of strings. Major Harris is transformed into balladeer, delivering a needy, sensuous vocal, accompanied by cooing harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma. Norman Harris’ jazz-tinged guitar, Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and haunting horns play their part in this spacious, beautiful arrangement. They each play a part in the seductive sounding backdrop as Major Harris produces one of the best vocals of his long career. So undeniably sultry and sensual is this bedroom ballad, it should carry a government health warning, that after listening to it, two can become three. 

"Sweet Tomorrow" opens with the unmistakable sound of Norman Harris’ chiming, jazz-tinged guitar before lush strings sweep and swirl, horns growl and Earl Young’s drums signal the arrival of Major Harris’ vocal. His vocal is heartfelt, a mixture of power and passion, while the Sweethearts of Sigma add punchy, but soulful harmonies. Meanwhile Don Renaldo’s strings dance with delight as the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Later, horns growl and rasp and harmonies cascade adding to the drama and beauty of this hook-laden track written by Bobby Eli and Vinnie Barrett. Major Harris’ half-spoken vocal is accompanied by just tender harmonies, plucked strings and keyboards. With emotive strings accompanying his gravelly vocal, Major Harris lays bare his soul as "Sideshow" unfolds. This is a cover of Blue Magic’s track, which Bobby Eli cowrote with Vinnie Barrett, but given new life and meaning. The arrangement has an understated string-drenched sound, with the rhythm section adding a thoughtful heartbeat and the Sweethearts of Sigma contributing subtle harmonies. While it’s a very different version to Blue Magic’s original, it’s heartachingly beautiful and designed to tug at your heartstrings. Closing Side One of "My Way" is "Two Wrongs", the second Melvin Steals penned track. Here, Bobby Eli arranges the rhythm and Ron Kersey the strings and horns. It’s another uptempo track where horns blaze and strings dance as the rhythm section power the arrangement along. Major Harris vocal is a powerful, throaty vamp accompanied by dramatic harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma. Soon, you realize just how joyous, catchy and uplifting the track is. A mass of growling horns, cascading strings and sweeping harmonies are combined as Major Harris makes the song his own, delivering it with confidence and a real swagger. Together with some of Philly’s finest musicians, he plays his part in what’s an inspirational, uplifting and joyous song.

Side Two of "My Way" opens with "Loving You Is Mellow" which teases you for a couple of bars before the track decides to reveal its secrets. Just plucked strings give way to Earl Young’s pounding drums before Major Harris’ swinging vocal enters. Along with his band, a glorious track unfolds. This means lush strings sweeping and swirling, horns rasping and growling, cooing harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma and a dramatic bursts from the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. Similarly, Major Harris has reserved a stellar performance, where he joyfully gives thanks for the love he’s found. Taken together and the result is a hook-laden, irresistible track. "Just A Thing That I Do" is one of the two tracks Bobby Eli cowrote with Terry Collins. They also cowrote "Loving You Is Mellow". This is a very different track, slower and featuring an arrangement and vocal laden with emotion. Keyboards, chiming guitars and the rhythm section combine with Major Harris’ heartfelt, impassioned vocal. Swathes of strings and heartfelt harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma add to the emotion and the beauty of the track. Here, Major Harris digs deep, bringing out the subtleties and nuances of the lyrics, bringing meaning to them and highlighting their beauty and sadness. 

Ron Kersey takes charge of the producer’s chair on "After Loving You", which he also arranged. It’s another irresistible slice of Philly Soul, with Major Harris unleashing a power vocal full or heartbreak and hurt. The arrangement is an emotive roller-coaster, with dancing strings, growling horn and the Sweethearts of Sigma tight, soulful harmonies. Meanwhile, the Baker, Harris, Young provide the track heartbeat as the arrangement unfolds to reveal a hugely catchy sound. This is perfect for Major Harris’ soul-baring vocal. It seems whatever the emotion, Major Harris can deliver a vocal that’s believable and capable of stirring your emotion. This is  one of his best vocals, and one of the best arrangements and productions. Closing "My Way" is the title-track, where Major Harris delivers a vocal that’s almost a homage to The Chairman of The Board. He turns the track into a six minute epic, that stays true to Frank Sinatra’s version. With a combination of dramatic drum rolls from Earl Young, blazing horns and lush strings courtesy of Don Renaldo, Major Harris delivers an impassioned vocal. Sweeping, tight and beautiful harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma are combined with Vince Montana Jr’s vibes, Ron Kersey’s piano and Norman Harris’ thoughtful, jazzy guitar. Throughout the track, the power, drama and emotion builds. All the time the strings, gospel-tinged harmonies, horns and Earl’s drums are crucial to the sound and success. By the end of the song, you’ll be won over by the this masterful reinterpretation of an old classic from Major Harris and his band of Philly legends.

Major Harris decision to leave The Delfonics and launch his solo career was vindicated with a top thirty album and number one US R&B single. After years of struggling in bands, like The Charmers, The Teenagers and The Jarmels, Major Harris thought his luck would change with The Delfonics .While his fortunes did improve slightly during his three years with The Delfonics, he was unfortunate to join them when they’d reached their peak and were on their way down. The hits had dried up and their albums weren’t as successful as their first three. So leaving The Delfonics was something of a no-brainer. By then Major Harris had become almost an honorary Philadelphian, even though he’d been born in Richmond, Virginia. His music was synonymous with the Philly Sound. It was no surprise that the arrangers, producers, musicians and backing singers that helped make "My Way" such a success were all from Philly.

Each of them played their part in making "My Way" the success it became. From producers Bobby Eli and Ron Kersey and arranger Norman Harris, through to the all-star band that featured the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, Vince Montana Jr, Larry Washington, Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns and the Sweethearts of Sigma. Together, they played their part in making Major Harris’ debut solo "My Way" a true Philly Sound classic. From the opening bars of "Each Morning I Wake Up", until the closing notes of "My Way", Major Harris produces a spellbinding performance on "My Way". So good is each track, that just when you think you’ve heard the best track on "My Way", another comes along and trumps it. Unlike most albums, there isn’t a weak track on "My Way". Far from it. Each track is capable of provoking an emotion, from sadness to joy, and everything in between. One minute Major Harris tugs at your heartstrings, the next, comes up with a hook-laden and joyous track like "Loving You Is Mellow". That’s why for anyone who loves the Philly Sound, then Major Harris’ "My Way" is an album the deserves to find its way into their collection.

Aug 30, 2018

RICK WAKEMAN - The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (A&M Records SP 4361, 1973)

In early 1972, Yes were touring America to promote their fourth studio album "Fragile". On a stopover  in Richmond, Virginia, Rick Wakeman, who had joined Yes in August 1971, and made his debut on "Fragile", was perusing the airport bookshop. Eventually, Rick bought four books, including Nancy Brysson Morrison’s The Private Life Of Henry VIII. On the subsequent flight from Richmond to Chicago, Rick began reading Private Life Of Henry VIII. As he began reading about Anne Boleyn, Rick remembered a recording he had made in 1971. Since then, Rick had done nothing with that piece of music. After recording the music, Rick had been struggling to come up with lyrics to accompany it. This being the age of the concept album, what Rick was looking for, was a theme that could run through the recording. Not any more. Suddenly, everything came together. The notes Rick made about Anne Boleyn on the flight to Chicago were just the start. Over the next few weeks and months, whether at home or on tour, Rick focused on each of Henry VII’s six wives. At his piano, he continued to make notes. Eventually, Rick’s notes became the thread that ran through his sophomore album, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", which was recently reissued by Commercial Marketing as a double album.

Prior to the release of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" in January 1973, Rick Wakeman had only released one solo album, 1971s "Piano Vibrations". However, controversy surrounds "Piano Vibrations". Rick doesn’t even consider "Piano Vibrations" as part of his discography. Rick’s involvement was minimal. He neither wrote, nor chose the material on "Piano Vibrations". Eight of the ten tracks were cover versions of popular songs, and the two other tracks were cowritten by producer, John Schroeder. All Rick who was working as a session musician, had to do, was turn up and play piano. The result was what is best described as a cheesy sounding album, that failed to chart. This was the polar opposite to Rick’s sophomore album "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Having joined Yes in August 1971, Rick played on their fourth album, "Fragile". It was released on 29th November 1972 in Britain, reaching number seven. This resulted in "Fragile" being certified silver. Across the Atlantic, Fragile was released on 4th January 1973, and reached number four in the US Billboard 200. "Fragile" was certified double platinum, and became the most successful album of Yes’ career. This would also be the case with Rick’s sophomore album, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII".

Recording of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" took place between February and October 1972. A&M Records gave Rick an advance of £4,000 to help with recording of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". That wasn’t going to go far. Luckily, Rick was a multi-instrumentalist, who could rely upon members of Yes, and his former band The Strawbs. On "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", Rick played Minimoog and ARP synths, Mellotron, Hammond organ, church organ, electric piano, grand piano and harpsichord. Accompanying Rick, who produced "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", were some of the top musicians of the early seventies. Among Rick’s band were what can only described as prog rock royalty. This included Yes’ rhythm section of drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe. They were joined by The Strawbs bassist Chris Cronk and Dave Cousins, who played electric banjo. These were just a few of the musicians who played on "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Other musicians who played a part in the making of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" were drummer Barry de Souza, bassists Dave Winter and Les Hurdle and guitarist Mike Egan. They were joined by percussionists Ray Cooper and Frank Ricotti and vocalists Laura Lee, Sylvia McNeill, Judy Powell, Barry St. John and Liza Strike. Once the six tracks were recorded, the cost of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" had risen to £25,000. A&M Records’ advance hadn’t come close to covering the cost of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Rick needed "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" to be a huge success.

Prior to the release of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", Rick was booked to appear on BBC TV’s The Old Grey Whistle Test, where he would play excerpts of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". That should’ve given "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" a huge boost. However, back then, there were only three television channels. On one of the other channels, ITV a documentary about Andy Warhol was scheduled to be released. The documentary was much anticipated, and as many as ten million viewers were expected to view it. Luckily, at the last minute, it was banned. With ten million people looking for something to watch, many turned to BBC 2, and The Old Grey Whistle Test. That night, excepts from Rick Wakeman’s sophomore album, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" were heard by a huge audience. This was just what he needed. Reviews of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" hadn’t been good. Only Time magazine and Rolling Stone seemed to appreciate "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". They published glowing reviews. However, they were the only ones. Other critics weren’t won over by "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Neither were many people at A&M Records. Behind the scenes, staff at A&M Records referred to "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" as “unsellable.” They reckoned that an instrumental prog rock album was unlikely to sell well. So, only 12,500 copies of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" were pressed prior to release. How wrong executives at A&M Records were.

On the release of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" on 23rd January 1973, it topped the charts in four countries. "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" reached number seven in Britain, and number thirty in the US Billboard 200 charts. This resulted in "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" being certified gold in America. However, things would get even better for Rick Wakeman. By July 1973, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" was certified platinum, having sold two million albums. Eventually, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" sold over fifteen million copies. As 1973 drew to a close, Time magazine named "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" as the best album of 1973. Since then, it’s attained classic status. What was described as an “unsellable,” instrumental prog rock album is now regarded as one of the genre’s best examples. No wonder. Over the six tracks on "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", Rick Wickman manages to do what is seemingly impossible, paint pictures with what are, six instrumental tracks. From "Catherine Of Aragon" right through to Catherine Parr, Rick’s music has an unmistakable cinematic quality. A case in point is "Catherine Of Aragon".

In the space of three minutes and forty-six seconds, Rick manages breath life, meaning and emotion into the story of Henry VIII and Catherine’s marriage. To do this, he uses a wide palette of instruments. This includes piano, synths, a rhythm section and harmonies. They’re Rick’s musical palette, played by what were some of the most talented, and sought after musicians and backing vocalists of the early seventies. What follows is a heart wrenching portrayal of a doomed marriage, which promised much, but sadly, was sabotaged by obsession. As "Catherine Of Aragon" unfolds, Henry VIII and Catherine’s marriage is young, and there’s a sense of hope and joy. Henry VIII hopes for a son and heir. As time passes, this becomes more unlikely. The one thing he longs for, he can’t have, a son. Despite his wife giving birth to a daughter, Henry VIII becomes melancholy and maudlin. This is reflected in the music. Soon, the melancholia leads to drama and sadness. The understated arrangement veers between wistful and ethereal. It translates what Henry VIII and Catherine must have been feeling. Later, as the music becomes dark and dramatic, Catherine is asked to leave the court, her eighteen year marriage at an end. In just under four minutes, you experience despair, drama, heartache, hope, joy, melancholy, pain and sadness. You find yourself empathising and sympathising, mostly, with Catherine. Her marriage had been ruined, ruined by her husband’s obsession for a son and heir. This heart wrenching, cinematic tale is just the start of what is, without doubt, an innovative, influential and ambitious concept album.

Over thirty-six minutes, Rick tells the story of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Inspired by Nancy Brysson Morrison’s book, The Private Life Of Henry VIII, Rick Wakeman takes prog rock in a new direction. To do that, he combines various musical genres and instruments. Listen carefully to "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", and elements of classic rock combine with classical music, folk, jazz and prog-rock. Sometimes when you hear the synths, there is even a funk influence. Another musical influence is the music of the church. Given the role it played in Henry VIII’s day, that is quite fitting. Two of the most obvious influences of the church can be heard on "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" are on "Jane Seymour" and "Anne Boleyn". When Rick was struggling to find the right organ sound for "Jane Seymour", he headed to St Giles-Without-Cripplegate church, in London. The engineers setup the recording equipment, and Rick played the church organ. It plays an important part in the track’s sound and success. Another influence of the church can be heard on "Anne Boleyn ‘The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended". It features an excerpt from St. Clement, played to the tune of the hymn The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended. Rearranged by Rick, it was an important part of "Anne Boleyn ‘The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended", which is best described as a genre melting track. It’s bold, dramatic, elegiac, energetic, ethereal, flamboyant and spiritual. These are just a few of the words that describe "Anne Boleyn The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended", which like the rest of  "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" marked a first in prog rock.

Before "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", the synth had struggled to be taken seriously in prog rock. It was almost frowned upon. The synth, to some, was prog rock’s bastard child. That is, until they heard it played by Rick Wakeman. This proved an eye opener. Suddenly, the synth gained legitimacy within prog rock. Before long, most self-respecting prog rock group had a keyboardist, playing a bank of the latest synths. That wouldn’t have happened without Rick Wakeman, and "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". That is why, forty-two years after the release of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", it’s now considered a stonewall prog rock classic. Rick Wakeman is now perceived as a musical pioneer. After all, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" is also the prog rock album that legitimised synths in prog rock. Without Rick Wakeman and "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", maybe, things would have been very different ? Certainly, prior to the release of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" very few people thought that it would prove such a landmark reviews. Neither critics, nor many of the staff at A&M Records foresaw the commercial success of "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII". Only Time and Rolling Stone recognising that "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" was a future classic. Even they never thought that Rick Wakeman’s sophomore album would become one of his best selling albums. Eventually, however, that proved to be the case. Since its release in 1973, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" sold over fifteen million copies. Rick Wakeman, a true musical pioneer, had the last laugh, when what many considered prog rock’s ugly duckling, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", turned into a swan.

Aug 29, 2018

(Big Beat Records CDWIK 320, 2014 - Original Recordings from 1982-1985)

There aren’t many teenagers who dream of leaving the Florida sunshine to head to London, and form a band. That’s what Suzie May did in 1979. She left her home in the Florida suburbs, and arrived in Camden Town, London. Suzie was halfway towards fulfilling her dream. Her dream was to form a band whose music was a combination of sixtes girl groups like The Ronettes, Motown and Merseybeat. Just over a year later, Suzie would achieve her dream. The story began after Suzie placed an advert in Melody Maker saying singer seeking musician with quiffs. This was the first chapter in The Deadbeats story. They recorded just one album, "On Tar Beach", which was only released in France. That’s until recently, when Ace Records rereleased "On Tar Beach". It’s now available for the first time in the UK, since "On Tar Beach" was recorded twenty-nine years ago. However, there’s more to Ace Records’ rerelease of "On Tar Beach" than the album itself. There’s eight bonus track on Ace Records’ rerelease of "On Tar Beach". This makes "On Tar Beach" the most comprehensive collection of The Deadbeats music ever released. It’s also the story of Suzie May following her dream.

Having arrived in London, Suzie May quickly settled in to Camden Town’s thriving music scene. She quickly made friends with local musicians. This resulted in Suzie getting a job as a waitress in Dingwalls, one of Camden’s many music venues. After work, Suzie headed home to the squat she was living in. It was there that she wrote songs on a guitar she’d bought in a charity shop. All the time, Suzie was determined to form a band. Before long, her dream would become a reality. Two exiled Nottingham musicians, bassist Kevin Green and guitarist Tony Berrington saw Suzie’s advert in Melody Maker. They couldn’t miss it. It simply said singer “seeking musician with quiffs.” Intrigued, the two former members of the GTS answered the advert. Unlike Suzie, Kevin and Tony were experienced musicians. The GTs had contributed two tracks to the punk album "Raw Deal". After this, Kevin and Tony were asked to join The Favourites, which consisted of former members of Plummet Airlines. Then in December 1980, Kevin and Tony answered Suzie’s advert. When Suzie met Kevin and Tony, it was a meeting of minds. They had similar musical tastes, including The Beatles, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Brill Building pop and Gene Vincent. Given they shared the same musical tastes, the trio decided to form a band. All they needed was a drummer.

This was where Parker Semmons came in. Previously, Parker, had been a drummer in rockabilly bands. Suzie, Kevin and Tony approached Parker and he agreed to come along to a rehearsal. After just one rehearsal, Parker realised this was a band going places. He agreed to join the band which became The Deadbeats. Before long, The Deadbeats were playing around London. During this period, The Deadbeats started writing their own material. Suzy was the main songwriter. She used the music of her childhood as a basis for her songs. Suzie drew inspiration from an an eclectic range of sources. This included everything from sixties girl groups, The Beatles, adverts and jingles. What they each had in common was they were melodic. That was key for Suzie and the rest of The Deadbeats, who were part of London’s burgeoning rockabilly scene. Although Suzie was the principal songwriter, the rest of The Deadbeats helped shape a new song. They moulded it into shape. Gradually, during practise sessions and concerts, The Deadbeats were honing their sound. They had firm ideas about how their music should sound. So when The Deadbeats recorded a demo, they knew what they were trying achieve.

Recording of The Deadbeats’ demo took place at EMI’s Manchester studios. Taking charge of the sessions was former Babe Ruth guitarist Alan Shacklock. For a while, there was talk that The Deadbeats were about to sign for EMI. However, sudden budget cuts resulted no contract being forthcoming. It was after this, that drummer Parker Semmons left. Not long after this, The Deadbeats’ luck changed. Peter Jenner and Blackhill Enterprises approached The Deadbeats about managing the band. As an added incentive, they offered The Deadbeats the chance to record at Workhouse Studios. Tenpole Tudor drummer Gary Long would play drums. The result was The Deadbeats’ first single. "Crazy Hound Dog", "Crazy When I Hear That Girl" and "New Girl" were recorded at Workhouse Studios in 1982. Producing the sessions was Laurie Latham. He came up with the idea of giving "Crazy Hound Dog" a Spector-esque makeover. Laurie was preaching to the converted. The Deadbeats were huge Phil Spector fans. New Girls would be their homage to their idol. However, "New Girl" wasn’t released a single. "Crazy Hound Dog" was. On the B-side was "Crazy When I Hear That Girl". Releasing their debut single should’ve been one of the most exciting periods of The Deadbeats’ career. It was and it wasn’t.

For any band, the release of their debut single is a cause for celebration. This was the case for The Deadbeats. The release of "Crazy Hound Dog" in 1982, was  landmark in The Deadbeats’ career. Unfortunately, not long after the release of "Crazy Hound Dog", Blackhill Enterprises became insolvent and went into receivership. It was one step forward and two steps back for The Deadbeats. Things improved in early 1982. The Deadbeats found the drummer they’d been looking for. This was ex-Meteors drummer Mark Robertson. His addition to The Deadbeats’ lineup proved to be a blessing in disguise. Not only was Mark a talented drummer, but a Francophile. Mark could see beyond the White Cliffs of Dover. The country he loved most was France. As befitting a  dedicated Francophile, Mark spoke fluent French. This came in useful when The Deadbeats met Jiri Smetena, who owned a club in Paris, Le Gibus. Jiri helped organise a lengthy tour of France for The Deadbeats. Even better, Jiri helped arrange a record deal with Frech record label, New Rose Records. Now signed to New Rose Records, The Deadbeats headed to a Studio in Rickmansworth, where they would record ten songs. Nine of the songs were penned by Suzie May. The other was a version of Tchaikovsky’s "Swan Lake". It was arranged by The Deadbeats. Producing what became "On Tar Beach" was Vic Maile, who  previously, had produced The Animals’ single "We’ve Got To Get Out of This Place" and Motorhead’s 1980 classic album "Ace Of Spades". Vic had also worked with Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, The Small Faces and Eric Clapton. So having Vic produce "On Tar Beach", was something of a coup for The Deadbeats.

Especially since Vic’s mixer at Jackson’s Studio was a vintage, all-valve desk. This fitted in with The Deadbeats’ policy of only using vintage instruments. The Deadbeats believed this helped them to recreate an authentic early sixties sound. However, this came at a price. Bassist Kevin Green and guitarist Tony Berrington only played vintage Harmony and Gretsch guitars and basses. Similarly, drummer Mark Robertson used a 1963 Gretsch drum kit. Instruments like those used by The Deadbeats were expensive, particularly instruments in good condition. However, The Deadbeats believed this was important to creating an authentic sixties sound to their as yet, unnamed album. Having recorded their debut album, the only thing it lacked was a name. Then a friend of Suzy’s, Scurvy D. Bastard just happened to mention that when he grew up in New York in the early sixties, people escaped the oppressive heat by sleeping on the roof. This Scurvy said was spending time “on tar beach.” Straight away, everyone realised this was the perfect title for The Deadbeats’ unnamed album. "On Tar Beach" was released in 1985. Originally, "On Tar Beach" was meant to be released only in France. Then Andy Hurt, a reviewer for Sounds wrote a review. He gave the album five stars. This was the highest accolade any album could receive. However, "On Tar Beach" wasn’t really promoted in Britain. The only promotion "On Tar Beach" received was a short promotional film. Despite this, The Deadbeats ended up supporting The Pogues on a tour of the North of England. Sadly, "On Tar Beach" wasn’t a commercial success in Britain. Things were very different in Mark Robertson’s beloved France.

Over in France, The Deadbeats were a hugely popular band. Night after night, The Deadbeats played to sold out crowds. This included some of France’s premier venues, including Chez Paulette in Roul, The Rex in Paris and Heartbreak Hotel in Sete. Throughout that 1985 tour, The Deadbeats were winning friends and influencing people coast-to-coast. This translated into record sales. "On Tar Beach" was New Rose Records’ second biggest selling album. Only The Cramps outsold The Deadbeats. "On Tar Beach" was a huge success. Despite this, it’s never been rerelease in the UK. That’s until Ace Records recently rereleased "On Tar Beach", which I’ll tell you about. "Fall In Love Tonite" opens "On Tar Beach". Suzie hollers, as the rhythm section provide a sixties-inspired heartbeat. She literally swaggers her way through the lyrics. Surf style guitars reverberate into the distance, as harmonies answer Suzie’s feisty vocal. When all this is combined, the result is a strutting slice of rocky, raunchy music with a vintage sound.

As "Crazy When I Hear That Beat" unfolds, there are similarities to Dick Dale and the original Batman theme. There’s even a nod to Gene Vincent. Soon, the arrangement is akin to a wall of sound. Key to this wall of sound are the surf guitars. Suzie’s vocal sounds not unlike Debbie Harry. She combines a similar mixture of sass and confidence. Good as Suzie’s vocal is, Tony Berrington’s glorious guitar solo proves show stealer. He sounds as if he was weaned on surf music, as he unleashes a blistering solo and adds the finish touch to this hidden gem. Straight away, it’s hard to believe the wistful "New Girl" wasn’t recorded in 1963. That’s down to the rhythm section and Tony Berrington’s guitar. It’s Shadow-esque. Suzie’s vocal is full of heartache and hurt. Meanwhile, the bass helps drive the arrangement along. A strummed acoustic guitar is panned left, drums pound and chimes add to the Spector-esque wall of sound. Suzie adds the final touch to this homage to Phil Spector and his early sixties girl groups with her heartbroken vocal. Bobby shimmers, before the arrangement gallops along. When Suzie’s vocal enters, it’s dramatic, and full of sadness and regret. Gradually, the story unfolds. Drums are at the heart of the galloping arrangement. They’re joined by harmonies, a Hammond organ, surf guitars and chimes. They add a Spector-esque twist to a song that’s full of pain and pathos. It sounds as if it should’ve been recorded by The Shangri-Las or The Ronettes. 

Suzie’s vocal is full of drama on "Delilah". No wonder. She’s about to confront her cheating man. The arrangement is jazz-tinged and understated. That’s before it reveals its secrets. Soon, Suzie is accompanied by standup bass, hissing hi-hats and piano. The bass also helps power the arrangement along. Later, so does Tony’s searing, chiming crystalline guitar. As usual, it plays an important roll in The Deadbeats’ sound. So do the bass and pounding drums. Together, The Deadbeats join forces to create an atmospheric, dramatic and cinematic backdrop to Suzie’s feisty vocal. "Don’t Tell Joe" sees The Deadbeats kick out the jams. Scorching, blistering guitars are responsible for a rockier sound. Suzie’s vocal is edgier. She mixes power, with fear and frustration. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Later, Tony unleashes another guitar masterclass. His scorching solo is spellbinding. The same can be said of Suzie’s vocal. She delivers the lyrics as if she’s lived them. As she does this, a breathy, whispery vocal is panned left and finger clicks are panned right. They’re  finishing touches to this rocky kitchen sink drama. A quivering guitar sets the scene for Suzie’s dramatic vocal on "Sexy Sadie". Soon, The Deadbeats kick loose. The rhythm section lock into a tight groove. A punchy bass is a perfect foil for Tony’s shimmering, surf guitar. He unleashes some blistering licks. Suzie swaggers her way through the track. Sassy harmonies, handclaps and another guitar masterclass provide the perfect accompaniment to Suzie’s vocal.

Stabs of drums and guitar are joined by an organ that provides an authentic sixties sound on "When You Dance". Suzie mixes confidence and sass, as the track swings. Again, The Deadbeats sound as if they recorded this track back in the sixties. It’s not just the style of music, but their use of vintage equipment. All this plays its part in a rollicking slice of sixties inspired, hook-laden music. Never before will you have heard "Swan Lake" like this. The Deadbeats take what’s a seminal piece of music and give it a rousing makeover. Expect whoops, hollers, twangy, jangling, surf guitars and pounding rhythm section. What follows is a musical roller coaster that you won’t want to get off. Closing "On Tar Beach" is "Johnny Reb". Here, Suzie sounds not unlike Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Jangling guitars join the rhythm section in providing the backdrop for Suzie’s vocal. It’s a mixture of drama, emotion and sadness. Her vocal, like the arrangement, grows in power. Then as if to reinforce the drama and pathos, the tempo slows, before increasing. Later, the arrangement marches along, as it becomes a homage to The Shangri La’s "Leader Of The Pack". Drama, emotion and pathos are combined to create a poignant track to close "On Tar Beach".

Released in 1985 to critical acclaim, "On Tar Beach" could’ve been the start of the rise and rise of The Deadbeats. It wasn’t. Instead, 1985s "On Tar Beach" proved to the only album The Deadbeats recorded. Since then, "On Tar Beach" has never been rereleased. That’s until Ace Records decided to rerelease "On Tar Beach". At last, a hidden gem of an album is available for a new generation of music lovers to discover. Maybe even, those who missed "On Tar Beach" will discover the album’s delights. They’re certainly not in short supply. Far from it. "On Tar Beach" is akin to a love story to the music that inspired The Deadbeats. This was what Suzie May had hoped when she flew from Florida to London. She fuses not just sixtes girl groups like The Ronettes and The Shangri Las with Motown and Merseybeat, but surf music, perfect pop, rockabilly and rock. There’s even a nod towards psychedelia, Blondie, The Stray Cats and The Pretenders. It’s a glorious melange of musical influences and genres. As an added bonus, there’s even eight bonus tracks of Big Beat Records rerelease of "On Tar Beach". This includes six previously unreleased tracks. One of the unreleased track is the Spector-esque "New Girl". Then there’s the original versions of "Crazy Hound Dog" and "Crazy When I Hear That Girl". Just like "New Girl", they were produced by Laurie Latham. These eight tracks make "On Tar Beach" the most comprehensive collection of The Deadbeats’ music ever released. That’s why "On Tar Beach" is the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept and most melodic secrets, The Deadbeats.

Aug 28, 2018

THE JOLLY BOYS - Great Expectation (Wall Of Sound WOS079CD, 2010)

The Jolly Boys are a mento band from Port Antonio, Jamaica. It was formed in 1945 and had great commercial success in the late 1980s and 1990s among reggae and world music fans. They released a new album in 2010 ("Great Expectation") and are currently the house band at GeeJam, a hotel in Port Antonio. The Jolly Boys grew out of a group called the Navy Island Swamp Boys that formed on 11 April 1945, and often played at Errol Flynn's parties. This group included Moses Deans on banjo and guitar, Noel Lynch on Guitar and "Papa" Brown on rumba box. After this group split in 1955, Deans and Brown formed The Jolly Boys (a name Errol Flynn is said to have coined) with Derrick "Johnny" Henry on maracas and drum, Martell Brown on guitar, and David "Sonny" Martin on guitar. One of the group's regular substitutes in this period was percussionist Allan Swymmer, who joined the group as a full member in the 1960s. This group was very popular throughout Port Antonio and earned the reputation of being the finest mento band in the parish.

In the early 1960s, the Jolly Boys' reputation grew substantially. It performed at hotels and for private parties, often alongside a floorshow/dance troupe. (One of the troupes they typically performed with was led by Albert Minott, at that time an occasional Jolly Boys member and now its current lead singer.) In 1962, the group competed and was a finalist in a national mento band competition held at the Ward Theater in Kingston. The national renown that followed probably also led to international attention. For example, the group auditioned for Jean Farduli, the proprietor of the Blue Angel Supper Club in Chicago (a venue famous for showcasing West Indian music) in 1964. Although it is unclear whether the Jolly Boys passed Farduli's audition, they did travel to New Hampshire in 1966 for what was the first of several six-month engagements.

In the 1970s, the Jolly Boys continued to perform in Port Antonio, but also took work elsewhere in Jamaica, most notably at the Round Hill Hotel in Montego Bay. However, in 1969 Allan Swymmer moved to St. Ann's Bay and formed a second, concurrent "Jolly Boys" group composed of musicians local to that area. This group mainly performed in the parish, but they recorded two albums: "Roots of Reggae: Music From Jamaica" (1977) and "Jolly Boys at Club Caribbean" (1979) and several 45s. Although the St. Ann's-based Jolly Boys existed only during the 1970s, its seeming lack of relationship to the group led by Moses Deans created considerable confusion about whether the two groups were related. The two did co-exist, neither, it seems, to the detriment of the other.

Because several of the Jolly Boys' original members had died by the end of the 1970s, the group foundered for a short period. However, around 1980 Swymmer moved back to Port Antonio and, together with Deans, reformed the Jolly Boys with Joseph "Powda" Bennett on the rumba box. The group found quick work at all the major hotels and was in great demand locally. When singer-songwriter and producer Jules Shear saw the band during a visit to the Trident Hotel in 1989, he decided to produce an album of the group's music. This was the first of four albums the group released between 1989 and 1997. Many of these albums have been subsequently reissued. These recordings led to several world tours, an appearance in the film The Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington, and a level of international recognition few mento groups ever experience.

After Moses Deans died in 1998, the group carried on, playing mainly in Port Antonio. In the early 2000s, a rift developed between band members and the group again split into two different "Jolly Boys" bands, one led by Swymmer, which was sometimes called "Allan Swymmer's Mento Band, and the other led by Bennett. It was during this time that the Jolly Boys - both groups, depending on availability - were first hired to play at GeeJam, then a residential recording studio to entertain the artists working there. Over the years, this list has included No Doubt, the Gorillaz, Drake and Amy Winehouse.

The rift between the two bands lasted until 2006 or 2007. When GeeJam opened as a hotel in 2008, the again-reunited Jolly Boys became its house band. The quality of their performances, and particularly the strength and charisma of lead singer Albert Minott, led GeeJam's co-owner Jon Baker to co-produce an album of rock covers done in a modern mento style with in-house studio engineer Dale Dizzle Virgo. In November 2009, ethnomusicologist Daniel Neely was brought to play banjo and act as the project's music director. The album, called "Great Expectation" was released in late 2010, and yielded an international tour representing a new stage in Jolly Boys history.

Although its core group has remained fairly stable over the past sixty years, a full list of the Jolly Boys members would include a large number of official but transient members. Today, the original group consists of Albert Minott (lead vocals), Derrick Johnny Henry (rumba box), Allan Swymmer (percussion), and Egbert Watson (banjo). The current touring band mixes three of the original members (Minott, Bennett and Henry) with three younger members (Dale Dizzle Virgo on drums & percussions; Lenford Brutus Richards on banjo; and Harold Dawkins Jah T on guitar). Long time member Joseph Powda Bennett died on 20 August 2014 after a respiratory illness, aged 76. Albert Minott, lead singer of the band from 2009, died on 30 June 2017. He passed peacefully sitting on his veranda in Port Antonio. Minott, who was born on 14 September 1938, was 78 years old. He had suffered from respiratory problems for some time.

Aug 27, 2018

PAT TRAVERS - Makin' Magic (Polydor Records 2383 436, 1977)

Pat Travers was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. Soon after picking up the guitar at age 12, he saw Jimi Hendrix perform in Ottawa. Travers began playing in bands early in his teens; his first bands were the Music Machine (not to be confused with the Californian psychedelic garage band of the same name), Red Hot, and Merge, which played in clubs in the Quebec area. While performing with Merge, he was noticed by rock artist Ronnie Hawkins, who invited Travers to perform with him. In his early twenties Travers moved to London and signed a recording contract with the Polydor label. His self-titled debut album "Pat Travers" was released in 1976, and featured bassist Peter "Mars" Cowling, who would become a mainstay in Travers' band for several years. An appearance on the German TV show Rockpalast in November 1976 was later released on DVD under the title "Hooked on Music". This performance showcases an early version of Travers' band featuring Cowling and drummer Nicko McBrain. During 1977 Travers added a second guitarist to his band, changed drummers twice including using Clive Edwards, and by the time "Heat in the Street" was released in 1978 had put together the Pat Travers Band. This grouping featured Travers on vocals and guitar, Pat Thrall on guitar, Cowling on bass, and Tommy Aldridge on drums and percussion. The band toured heavily, also supporting Rush on their Drive til You Die tour in support of A Farewell to Kings.

The guitar Travers most often appeared with on stage and on album covers in the band's early years was a 1964/65 model double cutaway, double humbucker pickup Gibson Melody Maker. The band's next release was a live album entitled "Live! Go for What You Know", which charted in the Top 40 in the United States and included the tune "Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)" (originally recorded by Little Walter, credited to Stan Lewis), which climbed even higher on the charts, entering the Top 20. "Snortin' Whiskey" was a major American radio hit from 1980's Crash and Burn and Travers began the 1980s as a hot item in the hard rock music scene. After an appearance before 35,000 people at the Reading Music Festival in England, both Thrall and Aldridge announced they were leaving the band to pursue other projects. Travers and Cowling teamed up with drummer Sandy Gennaro and released Radio Active that same year. A co-headlining tour with Rainbow followed, and the two bands performed in major arenas across North America. Although the tour was Travers' most successful road outing, the "Radio Active" album barely made it into the Top 40, reaching only number 37. It was much different than Travers' previous work, with more emphasis on keyboards than heavy guitars. Disappointed with the lack of sales, Polydor dropped Travers from their roster, and he in turn sued the record company on grounds that he was under contract with them to record more material. He won the lawsuit, and was able to release "Black Pearl" in 1982.

This release also featured more mainstream music rather than the hard-driving rock Travers had recorded earlier, and included the hit single "I La La La Love You", featured prominently on mainstream Top 40 and album oriented rock stations, and in the 1983 movie Valley Girl. "Hot Shot" was Travers' last major label release of original music, and was a return to a harder-edge style of rock than his previous two albums had been. One of Travers' best-recorded projects, it went basically unnoticed and is best remembered for the single "Killer". It was during this time that Travers also released Just Another Killer Day, a 30-minute home video featuring music from "Hot Shot" that was a sci-fi type short story about sexy alien women searching for information on music here on earth. In 1984, Travers was again supporting Rush. Alex Lifeson is one of Travers' many admirers.

Before the release of "Hot Shot", longtime bassist Cowling left the band, and Travers would work with several different bassists including Cliff Jordan and Donni Hughes until Cowling's return in 1989. Also at this time Jerry Riggs joined the Pat Travers Band, and he and Travers created a guitar team that fans considered difficult to rival. After the release of "Hot Shot" in 1984, Polydor made plans to issue a greatest hits package, and then ended their relationship with Travers. The latter half of the 1980s were quite grueling for Travers. Having entered the decade at the top of the music game, he found himself in 1986 without a record contract and being forced to earn a living once again playing nightclubs and touring constantly. By 1990, he had gained a deal with a small European label and released School of Hard Knocks. The project was completely ignored by radio. A full-length concert video Boom Boom – Live at the Diamond Club 1990 was shot in Toronto to be released in audio version as CD Boom Boom next year, but Travers was still not able to return to the success he had ten years earlier, working only on indie labels, as with Lemon Recordings.

Shortly after, Travers signed a deal with American-based Blues Bureau International Records, a company formed by noted producer Mike Varney. Travers' first recording for the label was "Blues Tracks" released in 1992. It earned positive reviews from critics. Several more releases on the BBI label followed during the 1990s. In 1993, Travers parted company with both Jerry Riggs and Peter "Mars" Cowling, and Riggs was briefly replaced by former Foghat guitarist Erik Cartwright. The relationship was very brief, and Travers has worked with a variety of musicians since that time. Travers has not been able to regain the level of commercial success he once had, despite a very large and loyal fan base who call themselves "Hammer Heads". He tours regularly in the U.S. and has made several trips to Europe in the last decade as well. In 2001 he was part of the "Voices of Classic Rock" tour, and had a minor hit with Leslie West from the band Mountain called "Rock Forever". In 2004 he started a project with the veteran drummer Carmine Appice and started touring the U.S.; as of now there are 3 albums released. Travers recorded cover tunes from bands such as Led Zeppelin, Montrose, Queen, and Trapeze under the album name P.T. Power Trio 2, and they toured Europe in November 2006. Travers has lived in central Florida for several years, and is now married with two children. Travers is also a Black Belt in the style of Isshin Ryu Karate, and currently trains with 10 time World Champion, Mike Reeves Sensei in Apopka, FL

From 2008-2016, was one of the longest/most consistent line ups for Pat Travers Band. Joining Pat was Kirk McKim (2006-2015) (Guitar/Vocals), Sean Shannon (2008-2010 (Drums), followed by Sandy Gennaro (2010-2016), and Rodney O'Quinn (2007-2016)(Bass/Vocals) Viewed as the "Must See Line up" for all die hard PTB fans, they never disappointed! From the smoking appearance on Bob Coburn's Rockline Radio show, to the Moondance Jam show that aired on Direct TV's "Audience" channel. The Pat Travers Band put out the album "Fidelis" in late 2009. In July 2013, The Pat Travers Band put out new album "CAN DO" released by Frontiers Records, a major label based in Italy for numerous artists in the field of classic rock. The "CAN DO" album was supported by PTB tours of the U.S., the U.K., and Europe during the later half of 2013. In January 2015, Frontiers Records released Pat Travers Band Live at the Iridium NYC, recorded in February 2012, which showed how deadly this line up was. Also featured Jon Paris playing blues harp on "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day" and "Spoonful". Travers also sang on Boston metal band Extreme's minor hit "Get the Funk Out," from their hugely successful 1990 "Pornograffitti" album. Travers has recently become a part of and performed with the All-Star band Scrap Metal.

Aug 26, 2018

(Heavenly Flooded Soil Recordings HVNLP106, 2014)

Mark William Lanegan (born November 25, 1964) is an American alternative rock musician and singer-songwriter. Born and raised in Ellensburg, Washington, Lanegan began his musical career in 1984, forming the grunge band Screaming Trees with Gary Lee Conner, Van Conner and Mark Pickerel. During his time in the band, Lanegan also started a low-key solo career and released his first solo studio album, "The Winding Sheet", in 1990. Since 1990, he has released further solo studio albums, as well as several collaborative efforts, and has received critical recognition and moderate commercial success. Lanegan has also collaborated with various artists and bands throughout his career, including with Kurt Cobain of Nirvana prior to the group's breakout success with their album, "Nevermind", recording an unreleased album of songs by the folk singer, Lead Belly. Lanegan also performed with Layne Staley and Mike McCready in the side band, Mad Season. It was intended that Lanegan was to take over vocals in Mad Season full-time after Staley declined to make a second album. Following the dissolution of the Screaming Trees in 2000, he became a member of Queens of the Stone Age and is featured on five of the band's albums "Rated R" (2000), "Songs for the Deaf" (2002), "Lullabies to Paralyze" (2005), "Era Vulgaris" (2007) and "Like Clockwork" (2013). Lanegan also formed The Gutter Twins with Greg Dulli in 2003, released three collaboration albums with former Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, and contributed to releases by Melissa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, The Twilight Singers, Unkle, and Mad Season among others.

Lanegan has a distinctive baritone voice that has been described as scratchy as a three-day beard yet as supple and pliable as moccasin leather which has been compared to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. During an interview for Pacific Northwest periodical The Rocket in 1996, he said that he drove a combine harvester. He came from a dysfunctional family that he tried to avoid, and was using drugs heavily by the age of 18, having already been arrested and sentenced to one year's imprisonment for drug-related crimes. He got out of jail by taking a year-long rehabilitation course. Around this time he met and befriended Van Conner with whom he would eventually form the Screaming Trees. At this point his relationship with the Conner brothers was limited to talking about music and working for their parents' electronics hardware store. Along with Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, and Nirvana, Screaming Trees were part of Seattle's emerging grunge scene in the early 1990s. The band was formed in late 1984 by Mark Lanegan, guitarist Gary Lee Conner, bassist Van Conner and Mark Pickerel. Mark Pickerel would later be replaced with Barrett Martin. Lanegan said "I was such a shitty drummer that they made me sing." The band released the Other Worlds EP in 1985 (originally available only in a cassette format, the album was re-released on CD and LP by SST Records in 1987). Though the band was being courted by major labels, in 1985 they signed to Velvetone records to release their debut album, "Clairvoyance". Musically the album is a combination of psychedelic music and hard rock, while it bears many similarities to early grunge.

In 1987, the band released their second effort, and their first for SST Records, "Even If and Especially When". After the release of the album in 1987 the band began working on the American indie circuit, playing shows across the US. Their follow up album "Invisible Lantern" was released in 1988. 1989's "Buzz Factory" was the fourth full-length album by Screaming Trees and their final record released through SST. In 1991, the band released their fifth effort, and their first for a major label. "Uncle Anesthesia" was released in 1991 and was produced by Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. "Uncle Anesthesia" included the single "Bed of Roses", which gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations. The song peaked at number 23 on the Modern Rock Tracks and was the first Screaming Trees release to chart. Barrett Martin replaced previous drummer Pickerel and the new line up recorded "Sweet Oblivion" in 1992. "Sweet Oblivion" was the band's breakout album and included the singles "Nearly Lost You", "Dollar Bill", "Shadow of the Season" and "Butterfly". The first two singles gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations, while the video for "Nearly Lost You" became an MTV and alternative radio hit in the fall of 1992, thanks to the momentum of the Singles soundtrack. "Nearly Lost You" peaked at number 5 on the Modern Rock Tracks and number 50 in the United Kingdom and was the first single to chart outside the United States. "Sweet Oblivion" sold a total of 300,000 copies in the United States. Although the Screaming Trees were viewed as one of the finest bands on the Seattle scene, they never drew the commercial attention that Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden had garnered.

The band's final album (recorded after in-fighting and uncertainty over the quality of the music the band was recording had brought about a hiatus), "Dust" was released in 1996. The album spawned several singles, including "All I Know", and "Dying Days" and peaked at number 134 on the Billboard 200 and number 39 on the Canadian album chart which was the first Screaming Trees album to chart outside the United States. Despite consistently favorable reviews, the album did not match the commercial success of "Sweet Oblivion". Following the "Dust" tour in the United States, Screaming Trees took another hiatus for Lanegan to begin his work on his third solo album, "Scraps at Midnight". The band headed back into the studio in 1999 and recorded several demos and shopped them around to labels, but no label was willing to take them on. The band played a few surprise shows in early 2000 and following a concert to celebrate the opening of Seattle's Experience Music Project, the band surprisingly announced their official breakup.

In 1990, Lanegan released his first solo album, "The Winding Sheet" via label Sub Pop (which at the time was home to friends Nirvana and The Afghan Whigs). Lanegan had intimated that the album came around following a Leadbelly project he was working on with Mark Pickerel, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. The project was short lived and eventually other musicians became involved in the evolution to the debut solo record. From the Leadbelly sessions a version of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night ?" appeared on "The Winding Sheet". "Ain't It a Shame" is available on the Nirvana box set, "With the Lights Out". Cobain also supplied backing vocals on "Down in the Dark" on Lanegan's debut. The majority of the album was recorded with Pickerel on drums, Mike Johnson (who would later go on to play bass with Dinosaur Jr) on guitar, Steve Fisk on piano and organ, and Jack Endino on bass. The second record, 1994's "Whiskey for the Holy Ghost", was a far more cohesive recording, with such ethereal songs as "The River Rise", "Kingdoms of Rain", "Riding the Nightingale" and "Beggar's Blues". Taking nearly three years to make, the album came close to not seeing the light of day as Lanegan was set to throw the master tapes in a pond outside of the recording studio, only to be stopped by Producer Jack Endino at the last moment. ("Kingdoms of Rain" was re-recorded on the collaboration album with Soulsavers in 2007 and released as a single). In 1995, Lanegan appeared on the album "Above" by Mad Season. The project was fronted by friend Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and was formed in late 1994 by Staley, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees and John Baker Saunders of The Walkabouts. Lanegan appeared on "Long Gone Day" and "I'm Above". Lanegan also appeared on stage at Mad Season's concerts to perform the songs. In 1998, "Scraps at Midnight" was released. The album was recorded the previous winter at Joshua Tree, California and produced by long-time friend and collaborator Mike Johnson.

The fourth studio album was released in 1999. The album began life as B-Sides for singles from "Scraps at Midnight" (two tracks from the sessions appear on the single Hotel). Liking the way the sessions were shaping up, a few more were added and the recording was entitled "I'll Take Care of You". The album features covers of songs by prominent folk, R&B and punk artists such as Tim Hardin, Booker T. and the MGs, country icon Buck Owens as well as friend Jeffrey Lee Pierce of Gun Club. Lanegan has stated that Jeffrey Lee Pierce was one of his early musical heroes and got him interested in making music. Also in 1999, Lanegan participated in the tribute album for Moby Grape co-founder, Skip Spence, who was terminally ill. In 2009 Lanegan sung lead vocals on "The Last Time", an A side track on The Breeders' EP "Fate to Fatal". In 2001, he released his fifth studio album, "Field Songs". The album featured friend Duff McKagan, as well as major contributions from Soundgarden's bassist, Ben Shepherd. 2003 saw him appear on Greg Dulli's The Twilight Singers record "Blackberry Belle", sharing lead vocal duties on the epic closing track, "Number Nine". This would be the first in many collaborations with Dulli and The Twilight Singers.

On his next solo album, "Bubblegum" (2004), Lanegan was joined by a cadre of prominent artists, including P. J. Harvey, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age, Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers, Dean Ween of Ween, and Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin, previously of Guns N' Roses. Also appearing on "Bubblegum" is Lanegan's ex-wife, Wendy Rae Fowler now in We Fell to Earth. The favorably reviewed album is his most commercially successful to date, reaching number 39 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart. Some would assume this is due to the appearance of several prominent musical figures, although the album did receive glowing review by critics. In 2013, the track "Strange Religion" was used in season 6 of the Showtime television series Californication. In November 2012 Lanegan self-released a Christmas album titled "Dark Mark Does Christmas 2012", including a Roky Erickson cover "Burn the Flames". The limited six-track EP has only been available at his concerts. Lanegan released a 5-track EP entitled "No Bells on Sunday", in the United States on July 29, 2014 followed by a European release on August 25. A music video was released on July 15 for "Sad Lover," the third track off the EP. Lanegan's next full-length album, "Phantom Radio", was released on October 21, 2014. It was produced by Alain Johannes and has a similar sound aesthetic to "Blues Funeral". The story behind "Phantom Radio" was of someone undergoing a unique conflict with his own past.

If there’s a constant in Mark Lanegan’s personal and professional life, it’s in his tendency to periodically flush out everything he knows. Booze, heroin, bands, and collaborators have all framed his existence with some kind of meaning and then been tossed out, sometimes returning, sometimes remaining dead and buried. "Blues Funeral", Lanegan’s stubbornly against-type 2012 album, where he folded in, of all things, an impulse for electronica and a dash of New Romantic swagger- had started to look like an anomaly in his canon, a bungled attempt at channeling unlikely influences that were then left to drift into the pool of past-life identities he’s accumulated. His 2013 covers record, Imitations, drew on work by Greg Dulli, Nick Cave, Kurt Weill, and John Cale - in other words, exactly the sort of influences you’d expect the former Screaming Trees frontman to be channeling. But here he was with another album as the Mark Lanegan Band, which in part got back to the feel he was chasing on "Blues Funeral", albeit with a more assured hand ghosting through it.

The story behind "Phantom Radio" is of someone undergoing a unique conflict with his own past. On one hand it’s clear Lanegan wants to make a break from previous working methods, writing faster, more efficiently, and embracing technology by recording on his phone. But he still has a clutch of older influences on his shoulder that he’s determined to rinse out in song, including a wide array of styles from the '80s and '90s that were completely fenced off from his world in Screaming Trees. It’s not always the most palatable way to experience Lanegan, especially when he channels the MOR-hop of Morcheeba on "The Killing Season", clumsily fusing it with lyrics that are straight out of his dead eyed drunk past ("I wear my old grey overcoat", he growls, as the song fades to a close). Lanegan has never come across as someone who’s at ease with his past or present, so the heart of the struggle is familiar here, even if the tools aren’t. It makes sense that Kurt Cobain was an ally in the grunge era, both often came across as being remarkably uncomfortable in their own bodies on stage.

The common feel in a handful of songs here is one of mini symphonies, condensed down into pocket-sized works that create a juxtaposition between Lanegan’s large and small inclinations. "Harvest Home" is one of the strongest works from a lyrical perspective, but its execution is an odd mixture of flat, tinny beats and swooping synthesized strings. It’s a trick Lanegan likes to repeat. "Floor of the Ocean" has a similar uplift, undercut by a moodiness reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen circa "The Killing Moon". On "Seventh Day", there’s an airy, flute-driven ambience and a bed of electronics, none of which are elements most longstanding Lanegan fans probably ever expected him to be working with, but ones which he’s becoming increasingly at ease with judging from this album. "Waltzing in Blue" lands somewhere between the frigid melodrama of Joy Division and Beth Gibbons’ mournful darkness in Portishead, with Lanegan providing the perfect male flipside to her damaged wail. 

"Phantom Radio" also provides plenty of moments that don’t startle, with a generous portion of it anchored in the stripped-down sinking feeling Lanegan has fitfully returned to since "The Winding Sheet" in 1990. He throws out "Judgement Time" early in the record, but it’s among his best on this collection, getting back to something resembling the blackness of "Eyes of a Child", where the sheer coercion of his voice overwhelms from the second it’s introduced. It’s noticeable how Lanegan’s voice has become more brittle over the years, becoming less like a drunk preacher who’s going to gut you and eat you and more like someone quaking in fear of an insufferable end. On the similarly bare "I Am the Wolf" and "The Wild People" you can hear the quiver in his voice, feel the tremors in his hands. It’s not hard to conclude that this is the person Lanegan’s running from in his other material here, although one thing he is remarkably good at across his body of work is letting in disarming moments of vulnerability, where he pulls you in to spectate upon the wreck of his life. On "Phantom Radio" there are just a few too many times when it's all dressed up in unnecessary complication.

Aug 25, 2018

JIM CAPALDI - Oh, How We Danced (Island Records ILPS 9187, 1972)

Jim Capaldi was born Nicola James Capaldi in Evesham, Worcestershire, to English parents Marie (Née Couchier) and Nicholas Capaldi. His father was born Nicola Capaldi in 1913 in Evesham to Italian parents. As a child Capaldi studied the piano and singing with his father, a music teacher, and by his teens he was playing drums with his friends. At age 14 he founded the band the Sapphires and served as their lead vocalist. At 16 he took an apprenticeship at a factory in Worcester, where he met Dave Mason. In 1963 he formed the Hellions, with Mason on guitar and Gordon Jackson on rhythm guitar, while Capaldi himself switched to drums. In August 1964, Tanya Day took the Hellions to the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany as her backing group. The Spencer Davis Group were staying at the same hotel as the Hellions and it was there that Steve Winwood befriended Capaldi and Mason. Back in Worcester, the Hellions provided backing to visiting performers including Adam Faith and Dave Berry. By the end of 1964, they had a London residency at the Whisky a Go Go Club. In 1964-65 the band released three singles, but none charted. Later that year John "Poli" Palmer joined the band on drums and Capaldi became the lead vocalist.

The Hellions moved back to Worcester in 1966 where they changed their name to the Revolution, releasing a fourth single that also failed to chart. Disillusioned, Dave Mason left the band. Capaldi replaced Mason with Luther Grosvenor and renamed the band Deep Feeling. Capaldi, Jackson and Palmer wrote original songs for the band that were heavier than the Hellions repertoire. They played gigs in Birmingham and the surrounding Black Country area; former Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky offered them a recording contract. They recorded several studio tracks from 1966 to 1968 which remained unreleased until 2009, when the album Pretty Colours was released by Sunbeam Records. Capaldi and the band played frequently in London and Jimi Hendrix played guitar with them at the Knuckles Club as an unknown musician. Back in Birmingham Capaldi would occasionally join his friends Mason, Winwood and Chris Wood for after-hours impromptu performances at The Elbow Room club on Aston High Street. Early in 1967 they formalised this arrangement by forming Traffic, and Deep Feeling disbanded. In 1968, Capaldi, Winwood and Mason contributed backing music to a solo album by Gordon Jackson.

The new band was signed by Island Records and rented a quiet cottage in Aston Tirrold, Berkshire to write and rehearse new material. The cottage did not remain quiet and had frequent visitors including Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend as well as Trevor Burton (of The Move) amongst many others. Capaldi wrote the lyrics for Traffic's first single "Paper Sun", which appeared in the UK singles chart at number 5 in summer 1967. This was the beginning of a songwriting partnership between him and Winwood which would produce the overwhelming majority of Traffic's songs: With the exception of "No Face, No Name, No Number", Capaldi would pen a lyric first, and then hand it over to Winwood to write the music. Despite his key role in writing the band's material, Capaldi rarely did lead vocals with Traffic, and his lyrics were nearly always keyed towards Winwood's soulful voice rather than his own more hard-edged vocal style. Two more Traffic singles were released successfully in 1967, and in December the band released the album Mr. Fantasy. After one further album, Traffic, the group disbanded.

Capaldi formed another band with Mason, Wood, and Mick Weaver but the creative tensions that had caused Mason to leave Traffic remained and the resulting quartet only lasted until March 1969. In January 1970 Capaldi and Wood joined Winwood in the studio to record Winwood's solo album. These sessions were so successful that the three of them reformed Traffic to release the album "John Barleycorn Must Die". They then toured the UK and the US with an expanded line-up, which would go on to produce the hit albums "Welcome to the Canteen" and "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys". The title track of the latter, a cynical treatise on the music industry, would prove to be one of Capaldi's most famous lyrics. In addition, "Rock and Roll Stew (Part 1)", a rare instance of a Traffic song with Capaldi on lead vocal, was a minor hit in the USA. With Traffic on hiatus due to Steve Winwood's struggles with peritonitis, Capaldi recorded his first solo album "Oh How We Danced" in 1972. This set contained a broad variety of musical styles and featured contributions from Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and several members of Traffic. It was well received by critics and proved to be a modest success in the USA, encouraging Capaldi to pursue a solo career alongside his work with Traffic.

After two more albums with Traffic, the group took a short break, allowing Capaldi to record "Whale Meat Again", which was slightly less successful than his debut both in terms of reviews and sales. The title track was a thoroughly hard rocking and unapologetic environmentalist tirade; aggressive sociopolitical-themed songs became a recurring theme in Capaldi's work. He began work on his third solo album, "Short Cut Draw Blood", alongside recording "When the Eagle Flies" with Traffic. As the band set off on the supporting tour, an early single from "Short Cut Draw Blood", "It's All Up to You", made the UK Top 40. Though Capaldi's first major solo hit, it proved only a prelude to the album's chief success. Traffic disbanded after the tour, leaving Capaldi to focus all his efforts on his solo career. "Short Cut Draw Blood" appeared the following year. In October 1975, a single taken from the album, a cover version of The Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts", reached number four in the UK chart and charted worldwide. The album is considered by many to be his masterpiece, tackling issues such as the environment, government corruption and drugs. He also embarked on a very brief acting career, appearing in the rarely seen 30-minute short film Short Ends (1976), which was directed by Esther Anderson and co-starred Judy Geeson and Hilary Baker.

However, events would conspire to prevent Capaldi from consolidating his solo stardom. He began working on his next album, "Play it by Ear", alongside serving as a major collaborator on Steve Winwood's first solo album. "Play it by Ear" took an unusually long time to record, and in the meantime, his long-standing relationship with Island Records fell apart. The album was cancelled as a result, even though an advance single, "Goodbye My Love" (no connection to "Goodbye Love" from Capaldi's previous album), had already been released. Capaldi later described his leaving Island Records as a leap into the wilderness. Due to these delays, it wasn't until over two years after "Short Cut Draw Blood" that another Jim Capaldi album appeared. At this time Capaldi wrote the soundtrack to the award-winning film "The Contender", his last recording with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as his backing band, and correspondingly put together a new backing band for himself called the Contenders. The group consisted of Pete Bonas (guitar), Chris Parren (miscellaneous keyboards), Ray Allen (saxophone, backing vocals, percussion), and Phil Capaldi (backing vocals, percussion). Bonas was a particularly significant collaborator, and would co-write many of Capaldi's songs. The band chiefly supported him on tour; only one album, "Electric Nights", featured the Contenders on every track. At the encouragement of his new label, RSO Records, Capaldi began venturing into disco. His first album with the label, "The Contender", was released in the USA with the title "Daughter of the Night" and a partially different set of songs. However, the album's internationally released single, "Daughter of the Night", failed to make a major impact.

The follow-up, 1979's "Electric Nights", was more successful. "Shoe Shine", which combined disco rhythms and melodies with an angry lead vocal and lyrics about poverty and destitution, reached number 11 in France and also entered Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart. However, despite including both hard rockers such as "Elixir of Life" and "Hotel Blues" and laments such as "Short Ends" and "Wild Geese" alongside the disco-flavoured numbers, Capaldi retained no fondness for his two albums with RSO, later saying frankly, they got buried under a pile of disco. Switching record labels again, Capaldi dropped the disco elements entirely for his next two albums, "The Sweet Smell of Success" (1980) and "Let the Thunder Cry" (1981). The albums were evenly split between mellow pop and embittered hard rock, with "Success" sporting a morbid before/after cover, and some tracks incorporated a Latin influence from Capaldi's new home, Brazil. However, though "Child in the Storm" reached number 75 in the Netherlands, there was nothing resembling a major hit, not even the folk arrangement of Traffic's "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys". The album "Let the Thunder Cry" was released in Brazil by Young/RGE in early 1981 and spawned two big hits there: "Old Photographs", a cover version of "Casinha branca" originally recorded by Gilson in 1979; and "Favella Music". "Old Photographs" became a hit after it was included in the international soundtrack of the Rede Globo soap opera Brilhante in late 1981. "Favella Music" was also a hit in late 1981.

Capaldi and Winwood had maintained a working partnership since Traffic's dissolution, contributing to nearly all of each other's solo albums. With his eighth solo album, Capaldi enlisted his old partner as a major collaborator. For the first time, Capaldi played most of the drums himself, and he would continue to do so on future solo albums. However, most of the tracks on "Fierce Heart" were mixed to place emphasis on the synthesizers, often muting Capaldi's vocals. This synth-heavy pop sound was exactly what 1980s audiences were looking for, and "That's Love" became his biggest hit in the USA, climbing to number 28 in the summer of 1983. Another single from the album, "Living on the Edge", made it to number 75, while the album made it to 91 in the Billboard 200. This time Capaldi was able to quickly produce a follow-up, but despite his recent success and appearances by Steve Marriott, Snowy White, and Carlos Santana, 1984's "One Man Mission" failed to produce a hit. The album leaned more towards hard rock than "Fierce Heart", but drum machines and synthesizers remained major components. Capaldi laid low as a solo artist for the next few years, only to bounce back in 1988 with the heavily publicised "Some Come Running". Though the album failed to live up to commercial expectations, it reached number 183 in the USA and number 46 in Sweden, while achieving two hit singles in the Netherlands. Though Eric Clapton and George Harrison appeared on "Oh Lord, Why Lord", it was "Something so Strong" which became his biggest hit in the Netherlands, breaking the top 40 and powering the album itself into the charts.

"Some Come Running" essentially marked the end of Capaldi's career as a solo artist. He would not record another solo album for well over a decade, though a greatest hits compilation, "Prince of Darkness", was released in 1995 and made the charts in the Netherlands. Capaldi's success as a lyricist continued throughout his life. In 1990 "One and Only Man", a Steve Winwood song for which Capaldi wrote the lyrics, reached the Top 20 in the USA. He was a five times winner of BMI/Ascap Awards for the most played compositions in America, and sales of songs written or co-written by him exceeded 25 million units. He numbered Bob Marley among his friends, and they travelled together while Marley was writing the "Catch A Fire" album. Capaldi wrote the lyrics to "This Is Reggae Music". Capaldi was noted for the extent of his collaborations with other musicians. In 1973, he played drums at Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert and on some Clapton studio sessions. Capaldi collaborated with Robert Calvert of Hawkwind on his critically acclaimed 1974 solo album "Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters", contributing as a vocal actor on the concept album's theatrical sections between songs. In the 1980s, Capaldi collaborated with Carlos Santana contributing songs and ideas to Santana's projects and in the 1990s he co-wrote (with Paul Carrack) the song "Love Will Keep Us Alive", which was eventually used on the Eagles' successful "Hell Freezes Over" album. In 1993, Traffic reformed and toured the US and UK. Capaldi and Winwood recorded a new album, "Far from Home", without the other members of the band. In 1998 he paired up again with Mason on an extensive American tour.

In 2001, Capaldi's eleventh solo album "Living on the Outside" featured George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Paul Weller, Gary Moore and Ian Paice. George Harrison played guitar on the track "Anna Julia", an English translation of a song by the Brazilian band Los Hermanos and Capaldi played at the Concert for George in 2002. He married Brazilian-born Aninha E S Campos in 1975 in High Wycombe and in 1976 toured with his band Space Cadets before moving to Brazil in 1977. He had two daughters, Tabitha born in 1976 and Tallulah born in 1979. The Capaldis lived in the Bahia region of Brazil until the beginning of 1980 and while there he became heavily involved with environmental issues. They maintained homes in Marlow, Buckinghamshire and Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. The track "Favela Music" on his 1981 album "Let The Thunder Cry" arose from his love of Brazil, and he worked with several Brazilian composers. He was a friend and supporter of the London School of Samba and played with the bateria on at least one occasion. He did a lot of charitable work for organisations in Brazil, such as the Associação Beneficiente São Martinho street children's charity in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, which the LSS also supported between 1994 and 2001. His wife was also the Porta Bandeira of the LSS in the 1994 and 1995 Notting Hill Carnival parades.

Outside his music and environmental activism, Capaldi also assisted his wife in her work with Jubilee Action to help Brazilian street children. Because of this charity work, Capaldi and his wife were guests of Tony Blair at the Prime Minister's country house, Chequers. He remained professionally active until his final illness prevented him from working on plans for a 2005 reunion tour of Traffic. He died of stomach cancer in Westminster, London on 28 January 2005, aged 60. Following his death, several tributes in celebration of Capaldi's life and music came out under the name "Dear Mr Fantasy". The first was a tribute concert that took place at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, London on Sunday, 21 January 2007. Guests included Bill Wyman, Jon Lord, Gary Moore, Steve Winwood, Cat Stevens, Paul Weller, Pete Townshend, his brother, Phil and many more. The performances were evenly split between Capaldi's solo songs and his work with Traffic. All profits went to The Jubilee Action Street Children Appeal. A recording of the concert was released as a double CD set the same year. The second such tribute, "Dear Mr. Fantasy: The Jim Capaldi Story", is a four-disc boxed set released in July 2011. Though a slight majority of the tracks came from Capaldi's solo albums, it also included some of his work with the Hellions, Deep Feeling, and Traffic, a few rare non-album tracks, and more than ten previously unreleased recordings, including a song co-written with George Harrison in 1997. The box was also packaged with extensive liner notes, compiling a number of photos and essays. The third and final tribute is a book of Capaldi's handwritten lyrics, released in November 2011. The ideas of a boxed set and lyrics book had been conceived by Capaldi shortly before he died, and their releases were prepared by his widow in fulfilment of a last promise to him.