Album Reviews

Brightblack Morning Light “Motion To Rejoin” (Matador, 2008)

Brightblack Morning Light essentially have one song—but lord have mercy, what a wondrous song it is. Their third album, Motion To Rejoin, finds singers/multi-instrumentalists Nathan Shineywater and Rachael Hughes continuing to hone their slow-music formula to a sublime burnish.

Generally speaking, the nine songs here creep in on worn-out moccasins, emit a holy glow, and slouch into a groove akin to Dr. John’s “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” on Quaaludes. Nay and Ray croon as if trying not to wake a baby in the next room—a vocal style that perfectly melts into the molasses-y ASMR-rock they summon.

As with Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock, faint glimmers of cool jazz seep into BML’s hazy, nocturnal soundworld; the bass part in “Oppressions Each” even recalls Cecil McBee’s resonant, majestic motif on Alice Coltrane’s “Journey In Satchidananda.” Yeah, that’s the kind of hallowed ground upon which BML tread.

Ultimately, Motion To Rejoin ranks as one of the greatest records to play first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It’s at once one of the most calming LPs in rock—and one of its most sensual. It didn’t get much better than this in 2008. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Keith Papworth “Hard Hitter” (Music De Wolfe, 1975)

Subtitled with typical Music De Wolfe functionality “Percussive rhythm tracks with a minimum of orchestration,” UK composer Keith Papworth’s Hard Hitter is one of the funkiest specimens in the wonderful world of library music, which has enjoyed a bonanza of key reissues over the last decade. (Blessedly, US label Fat Beats re-released Hard Hitter in 2022. The lone original copy on Discogs is going for €219—plus shipping from Italy! I mean, it’s probably worth that kind of money, but few mortals can afford it.)

Why has Hard Hitter become such a coveted artifact in the rarefied realm of library music? Because nearly all of its 15 tracks are sample gold mines (see this review’s first sentence). Opening track “Speed Trap” immediately lets you know you’re in for a drum orgy, with a busy, robust opening break over which savvy hip-hop producers will salivate. That foundation’s soon joined by a suspense-building bass line and swashbuckling wah-wah guitar action. Music De Wolfe’s terse description on the back cover—“fast, driving, racy”—is on point.

“Track Record” captures Hard Hitter‘s dominant mode: slower-tempo’d funk with bongos and flute, always a lethal combo in this genre. It’s a serious head-nodder, with bonus fuzzed psych guitar. Akin to “Track Record,” “Fun Seeker” purveys methodical funk with more bongos and flute, a groovy, laid-back acoustic-guitar riff that you can imagine Beck sampling, and a slightly fried psychedelic electric-guitar solo. As it turns out, I just played “Track Record” in a DJ set last week at my Obscenely Obscure event in Seattle—the only such night in town dedicated to library music.

“Hair Raiser” follows in Papworth and crew’s deep, sexy, and slow funk style, which is very ripe for sampling. Eventually, the track accelerates into a beat frenzy that UK electronic artists such as Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and Propellerheads took to the bank in the ’90s. “Big Dipper” and “Decisive Action” offer yet more variations on Keith’s purposeful, penetrating funk theme, providing a full menu of tasty samples. “Hard Hitter” is perhaps the platonic ideal of the momentous, car-chase-scene soundtrack, with a bass line that’s deeper than Larry Graham’s voice. You can hear its influence on Propellerheads’ 1997 Big Beat club smash, “Take California.”

Some deviations from the prevailing downtempo grooves include “No Way”’s oddly stilted, military funk that’s somehow an earworm; “Stay With It”’s brisk martial rhythm on snare and cymbal; the bongo-powered jazz stepper in 6/8, “Three’s A Crowd”; and the debonair bossa nova of “Challenger.”

Papworth is best known for music that appears in Monty Python skits and movies, but Hard Hitter is no joke among crate-diggers, DJs, and sample-reliant producers. (On a side note, it’s scandalous that the label listed no credits, as the musicians here just kill.) -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Rodriguez “Cold Fact” (Sussex 1970)

As you probably know by now, Detroit troubadour Sixto Rodriguez passed away on August 8 at age 81 (cause of death has not been reported). Heads around the world have been mourning and eulogizing this Mexican-American cult hero’s art and humanity with an intensity, if my social-media feeds are any indication.

After decades of obscurity in the US, the trenchant singer-songwriter finally began to get the recognition and accolades he deserved when Light In The Attic reissued his 1970 debut LP Cold Fact in 2008. Director Malik Bendjelloul’s 2012 documentary Searching For Sugar Man further elevated Rodriguez’s profile and sales figures while revealing that he’d achieved shocking commercial success in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand in the ’70s.

Produced by legendary Motown session guitarist Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore and featuring Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and drummer Andrew Smith, the 12 songs on Cold Fact should be granted the lofty regard those on Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home and Phil Ochs’ All The News That’s Fit To Sing have earned.

Like Dylan and Ochs’, Rodriguez’s voice isn’t technically “good,” but it’s idiosyncratic enough to slice through pop culture’s innocuous glut and command your attention. It’s a cold fact that the content of Rodriguez’s songs—gripping conflicts stemming from drug abuse, inequality, sexual promiscuity, street hassles, etc.—would sound absurd if expressed by someone with perfect pitch and chart-friendly timbre.

Cold Fact begins with its most famous song (nearly 63 million streams on $p0tify), “Sugar Man,” a phantasmal folk-soul ballad enhanced by a poignantly descending bass line and psychedelic effects (echoed backward violin, Mort Garson-esque analog-synth bleeps, delayed vocals as it fades out) from the Theo-Coff production unit. (I discovered the song on David Holmes’ 2002 DJ mix album Come Get It, I Got It, and was instantly hooked.) The album’s next track, “Only Good For Conversation,” bursts in on a cantankerous fuzz-toned bass riff and Coffey’s monumental electric guitar pyrotechnics.

After this potent one-two punch, Cold Fact eases into more conventional singer/songwriter moves, but gritty Detroit funk still runs through these lyrically compelling compositions. An eloquent voice for the underdog and the poor, Rodriguez came out of the gate on fire musically and lyrically. Cold Fact still sounds vital and essential 53 years after its release. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

The Funkees “Now I’m A Man” (EMI, 1976)

Their name may be slightly cringe, but the Funkees rank as one of the best Nigerian groups from that Western African country’s 1970s musical heyday. Formed by guitarist Harry Mosco at the conclusion of Nigeria’s 1969 civil war, the Funkees initially were a cover band, interpreting songs by artists such as the Beatles, Fela Kuti, Aretha Franklin, Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley. In 1973, the Funnkees moved to London and used that opportunity to open for popular groups such as Kool & The Gang, Osibisa, and Fatback Band.

The Funkees’ 1974 debut album, Point Of No Return, abounds with gritty Afrobeat cuts animated by Mosco and Jake Sollo’s flinty guitar riffs and the robust polyrhythmic attack by drummer Chyke Madu and percussionist Sonny Akpabio that surely made Fela sweat in approval. (Trivia: Akpabio later played in Eddie Grant’s post-Equals 1980s band.)

With 1976’s Now I’m A Man, the Funkees leaned more heavily into their funk-rock inclinations. You can hear this shift toward a sound more friendly to Western ears with the opening title track. It begins in mellow, Latin shuffle mode, like a blissed-out Santana, but Sollo’s (or Mosco’s) wah-wah guitar squelches increase the funkadelic factor. Mohammed Ahidjo’s warm, proud vocals really draw you in to this self-empowerment jam. I love to open DJ sets with this song, as it instantly conjures positive vibes.

The humid afro-funk trudge of “Korfisa” is sexy as hell while the slinky, self-explanatory “Dance With Me” is the sort of nonchalantly funky entreaty to get on the good foot on which !!! have based a large chunk of their output. “Mimbo” features the sort of sparse, percussion-heavy groove that would segue well into undulant cuts by Konk or Liquid Liquid—a very good thing. With its refrain of “everybody get together,” infectious call-and-response vocals, and fiery guitar/organ interplay, “Salam” is a buoyant, optimistic dance track that rolls and roils with an unstoppable force. This could still work on 2023 dance floors.

“Time” acts as sort of a reprise of “Now I’m A Man,” but with different lyrics and lighter overall feel. The instrumental “303” ventures into prog territory, with its circuitous piano motifs, surprising tempo changes, complex counterpoint between the curlicuing bass and pointillistic guitar calligraphy. It’s the Funkees at their most mind-bendingly virtuosic. The album’s only dud is the unengaging ballad, “Patience.”

In 2016, the Austrian label Presch Media GmbH reissued Now I’m A Man—albeit with no liner notes or any credits whatsoever, which is scandalous. Unfortunately, prices on Discogs for this edition have skyrocketed to as high as $100. Perhaps another reissue done with more care for historical context is in order. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Look Blue Go Purple “Still Bewitched” (2017, Captured Tracks/Flying Nun)

The all-woman group Look Blue Go Purple burned briefly but brightly in the mid 1980s. Recording for the fantastic Flying Nun Records, Look Blue Go Purple rank among the very best of that revered New Zealand label’s roster. (Here’s where I suggest you read Matthew Goody’s Needles & Plastic, a maniacally thorough history of Flying Nun during its peak period: 1981-1988. Goody rightly devotes many glowing words to LBGP.)

As LBGP’s Flying Nun catalog is oop and spendy on the resell market, New York company Captured Tracks did us a solid by releasing Still Bewitched, a comp of the group’s three killer EPs, plus bonus live tracks from 1983 and 1987. Those EPs—Bewitched (1985), LBGPEP2 (1986), and This Is This (1988)—abound with that special Kiwi-flavored rock that makes a guy want to write a maniacally thorough history about it.

If you listen to enough Flying Nun-affiliated music, you begin to ascertain common threads running through it: gorgeously jangling guitars; understated vocals (the dudes from Straitjacket Fits and the Gordons are exceptions); an air of melodic melancholy and resignation that resonates on a frequency unattainable by 99.9% of American rock bands (Salem 66 might be the closest US comparison); a knack for concision and hooks that burrow in your brain without grating on your nerves. Look Blue Go Purple embody all of these traits with lovely nonchalance. And the eight bonus live tracks prove that LBGP could rock hard when they so desired.

LBGP stand out further by being the rare all-female group in New Zealand’s male-dominated scene—plus, they had the advantage of possessing a flute player in Norma O’Malley. They also had four vocalists (everyone except drummer Lesley Paris sang) and skillfully arranged their voices to emphasize their airy lushness and sage gentleness.

The great songs on Still Bewitched carry no traces of the annoying production values that marred much music in the ’80s. Rather, they exist in a hermetic bubble of unassuming Flying Nun brilliance. Low-key thrills for high-IQ folks. To paraphrase Hot Chocolate, every song’s a winner on this collection. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Tony Williams “The Joy Of Flying” (CBS, 1979)

Jazz-fusion drummer/composer Anthony Tillmon Williams crammed a lot of amazing music into his 51 years on the planet. Most heads favor his records with his world-class fusion group Lifetime, which boasted lineups featuring the incomparable likes of Larry Young, John McLaughlin, and Jack Bruce. Albums such as Emergency!, (Turn It Over), and Ego sizzle with virtuosity and compositional invention. The short-lived Trio Of Doom with McLaughlin and Jaco Pastorius also has its fervid advocates.

However, like much fusion released in the late ’70s, Williams’ 1979 LP, The Joy Of Flying, has received less enthusiastic critical reactions compared to the raves of his ’60s and early-’70s output as a bandleader—and of course his tenure with Miles Davis’ legendary Second Great Quintet, which Williams joined at age 17.

But The Joy Of Flying has a host of formidable players on board, ranging from Cecil Taylor to Ronnie fuggin’ Montrose, from Herbie Hancock to Jan Hammer, from Paul Jackson to Stanley Clarke, etc. etc. Produced by Williams himself, The Joy Of Flying is the last true fusion LP he made and it sounds absolutely vital.

The Hammer-penned opener “Going Far” finds Williams in flamboyant, tom-thumping form for this rollicking jazz-rocker. The strutting jazz funk of “Hip Skip” is tailor-made for TV sports-highlight shows. Smooth-as-hell guitarist George Benson and Hammer peel off solos that’ll make your third eye roll around in its forehead socket. Written by saxophonist Tom Scott (who plays a mean Lyricon here), “Hittin’ On 6” sees Hancock letting off some spacey synth oscillations as Clarke and Williams churn and burn with frictional funk. Tony’s drum sound is just so lip-smackingly vibrant. As the record’s producer, he deserves all of the credit for this remarkable punchiness.

“Open Fire” was written by those hard-rockin’ muthas Montrose and Edgar Winter, and it’s as bombastic a specimen of jazz rock as the title and presence of brash virtuosi Montrose and keyboardist Brian Auger would lead you to expect. It pairs well with Billy Cobham’s Tommy Bolin-enhanced “Quadrant 4.” Another Hammer composition, “Eris” was sampled by UK drum & bass producer Plug (aka Luke Vibert), so you know it’s fire. This exemplar of gutsy, rhythmically combustible fusion is animated by Hammer’s seething synth throbs, which recall those of Heldon. “Coming Back Home” is a showcase for master guitarist Benson to flex his liquid-gold chops, but Tony’s on fire, too, hitting skins in a complex time signature with his patented power and finesse. The album’s anomaly, “Morgan’s Motion” features avant-garde piano genius Cecil Taylor sparring with Williams in a highly evolved duet of stealth, speed, and inventiveness. A tumultuous summit meeting of jazz gods, “Morgan’s Motion” is a one-off for the ages.

The Joy Of Flying is one of those rare, high-quality fusion albums you can still find for under $10 in used bins. Get into it before the gatekeepers read this review and jack up the price accordingly. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Brian Eno “The Shutov Assembly” (Opal, 1992)

Everybody and their sister rave about Brian Eno’s ’70s and ’80s ambient releases, and rightly so. They influenced many essential chillout specialists and became crucial soundtracks for meditation, deep-tissue massage sessions, and childbirth, among other things. But it would be a grievous mistake to overlook his ’90s output in that genre. :Neroli: from 1993 is another Eno ambient gem that often gets lost in the gush of praise that’s bestowed upon, say, Music For Airports, Ambient 4 (On Land), and the highly overrated Discreet Music. Unquestionably, The Shutov Assembly belongs in any serious discussion about mid-period Eno’s most interesting work.

By the ’90s, Eno was a rich man thanks to his production work for U2, Talking Heads, and James, so he basically could do anything he wanted in the studio and get it released. On The Shutov Assembly, Eno delves into atonality and eschews scales and pitch, which lend the 10 tracks a peculiar liminal quality. Everything sounds unresolved and mysterious. Recorded from 1985 to 1990, these pieces previously appeared in art gallery and museum installations.

“Triennale” opens the album with a paradise of twinkling synths undergirded by serene droning and that enlightening beam of clearlight keening last heard on Tonto’s Expanding Head Band‘s “Riversong.” If you’re not immediately lured into Eno’s enigmatic cathedral of sound, you have some explaining to do. “Alhondiga” presents a fragrant whorl of suspenseful and somewhat sinister drone poems while “Markgraph” offers effortless entry into a strange sonic (sur)reality, in the process creating a new genre: New Age horror.

The alienating and metallic oscillations of “Francisco” make it perhaps the album’s weirdest cut. “Innocenti” renders a gorgeous evocation of stasis; think of it as eternity’s on-hold music. The longest track by far at 16:08, “Ikebukuro” is a languorous depiction of desolation, all long bell tolls, lassoing rope whooshes, and velvety drones.

You may get the sense that this music is “going nowhere.” (I hate this line of thinking. Why do you presume that music must have a destination?) Maybe that’s true from a conventional standpoint, but the suspended-in-mid-air feeling Eno manifests here results in subtly gripping ambient excursions that seemingly emanate from machines, with minimal human input. The Shutov Assembly actually sounds like A.I.-generated music, three decades before the fact. But it’s good—very good.

All Saints finally reissued the album on vinyl in 2014 and again in 2020, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. I also recommend the CD, a format ideally suited for longform ambient releases. A digital version found on streaming services contains seven bonus tracks. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

The Police “Zenyatta Mondatta” (A&M, 1980)

This great Police album contains two songs that I can no longer bear to hear: the smash hits “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “ De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” The latter is Sting and company’s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and thus is major cringe. The former’s a decent quasi-reggae-pop tune, but overexposure and creepy, Lolita-esque undertones have ruined it for me. And “Man In A Suitcase” is the sort of inane reggae-rock that gives reggae-rock a bad name. So it goes.

The remaining eight tracks on their third album, however, represent some of the Police’s most challenging and danceable work in which they leave behind any traces of their punk-rock roots while maintaining their B-minus political-rocker commentary. One might say that Zenyatta Mondatta is the British-American trio’s Remain In Light, albeit without the extended lineup that helped to transform Talking Heads in that heady year of 1980. You can hear similar African musical elements in songs such as “Canary In A Coalmine,” a quicksilver, pseudo-Afro-rock burner that, by the way, segues well into Paul McCartney’s “Temporary Secretary.” Freewheeling fun and then some. The hypnotic groove, mesmerizing guitar arpeggios, and shocking monkey chants of “Voices Inside My Head” translate into King Sunny Adé-inflected house music. It’s dance-floor gold.

“Driven To Tears” ranks high in the Police’s canon thanks to Sting’s momentous bass line, Andy Summers’ aerated klang and Frippian guitar solo, and Stewart Copeland’s immaculate rimshots and bongo fills. The poised rave-up in the song’s last minute really lifts this song to an exalted level. The way “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” kicks into high gear while “Tears” is fading out is brilliant, a hip DJ-like move that was rare in new-wave-era rock circles. Summers’ flanged guitar punctuation sprays like a fountain of cool water over Sting and Copeland’s humid, fleet disco-funk rhythm.

The Summers composition “Behind My Camel” won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance—which is strange, as it would’ve fit seamlessly into those uncommercial albums he did with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. Ominous and rhythmically stodgy, the track was boycotted by a petty Sting, so Andy dubbed in the bass parts.

Zenyatta Mondatta‘s last two tracks stand as anomalies in the Police’s catalog. Remove Sting’s vocals from the stark dub workout of “Shadows In The Rain” and you basically have an On-U Sound joint. Finale “The Other Way Of Stopping” is a skewed Copeland instrumental that’s full of the drummer’s usual nervy energy and exciting ebbing and flowing dynamics. It’s a weird way to end an album, but by this point in the Police’s wildly popular career, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted. So they did, and good on ’em. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Manu Dibango “Soul Makossa” (Atlantic, 1972)

When the first hints of summer start emerging, the urge to play albums by the world’s favorite Cameroonian saxophonist, Manu Dibango, strengthens. There’s no resisting this annual rite, at least for me. And the record that’s always first in the listening queue is Soul Makossa. (Most of these tracks originally appeared on the 1972 LP O Boso, but Soul Makossa is generally easier to find in the wild. Confusingly, both records essentially sport the same cover.)

Of course, most people know the LP because of its galvanizing title track, which has been sampled and interpolated with gusto by many artists. Most famously, Michael Jackson repurposed the song’s infectious vocal chant for the Thriller highlight “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” “Soul Makossa” boasts a uniquely vibrant bounce in its funky rhythm, with Manfred Long’s lithe, shadowboxing bass line doing a lot of the heavy lifting, while Dibango’s sax parts ripple with victorious flamboyancy. The song’s a complexly constructed organism built to maximize euphoria.

But there’s more to Soul Makossa than its world-class, party-starting title track. “New Bell” towers as a humid, African spin on blaxploitation-soundtrack funk. Long’s see-sawing bass line and Malekani Gerry’s wah-wah’d guitar flares combine with Dibango’s buoyant sax charts for a surplus of festive jolts. “New Bell” is DJ gold. “Nights In Zeralda” is a coiled, mesmerizing, low-key groover with Manu in meditative mode while “Hibiscus” starts as a mellow, soulful ballad that could’ve made Curtis Mayfield (no relation) cry, before a sublime, subtle groove eventually surfaces, making this cut an inspirational prompt to peak-time romancing. “Dangwa” leads with a florid piano and sax intro that gradually instigates a gently rolling highlife piece with Freddy Mars’ galloping percussion and Dibango’s spirited sax and vocals elevating moods left and right. The galloping, polyrhythmic Afrobeat of “Oboso” is destined to make many thousands of folks move and feel really good.

While the weather in Seattle today’s overcast and struggling to reach the upper 50s, Soul Makossa brings the intense heat regardless, without fail. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Groundhogs “Hogwash” (United Artists, 1972)

Groundhogs leader Tony “T.S.” McPhee passed away on June 6 at age 79, and the outpouring of love and respect that followed on social media was gratifying. Though he never became a household name in the US, the British guitarist/vocalist earned renown from discerning listeners for his inventive, explosive guitar playing and incisive, sociopolitical lyrics, as exemplified on albums such as Thank Christ For The Bomb, Split, and Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs. McPhee was a cult guitar hero’s cult guitar hero, and he shined hard on one of Groundhogs’ best—and most underrated—records, Hogwash.

As many English musicians had done in the early/mid ’60s, Groundhogs began their existence as a blues-inflected rock group. In 1964, they even backed American blues legend John Lee Hooker on some of his UK dates and later cut an LP with him titled …And Seven Nights. Auspicious! Unsurprisingly, Groundhogs’ first two albums—1968’s Scratching The Surface and 1969’s Blues Obituary—trawled in traditional, gritty blues territory, but they began to expand beyond those strictures with 1970’s Thank Christ For The Bomb.

On Hogwash, the addition of Egg drummer Clive Brooks enabled Groundhogs to venture into more complex realms. This becomes apparent from the opening track, “I Love Miss Ogyny,” whose unpredictable, slow-fast dynamics and strange guitar tunings and riffs mark a bold move into prog-rock. McPhee not only sang like a more blue-collar Richard Thompson and wielded electric and acoustic guitars, but he also messed with an ARP 2600 synthesizer, Mellotron M400, ring modulator, and assorted FX pedals. These weapons allowed Tony to spice up Groundhogs’ tough and twisty rock, lifting it further out of their earlier bluesy muck.

“You Had A Lesson” is ominous rock that verges on Van Der Graaf Generator bombast, with Peter Cruickshank’s riveting and girthy bass plowing a devastating groove. “The Ringmaster” is an 83-second experimental interlude centering on a heavily FX’d drum solo. Some people can’t handle this sort of anomalous abstraction from a rock group, but those types are a drag; this is cool. The album’s longest and perhaps best song, “3744 James Road” contains over seven minutes of metronomic, Can-like bass and drum interplay, torrid guitar expressionism, and a surprising earworm chorus. “Sad Is The Hunter” rocks as ruggedly and threateningly as John Lennon’s “Well Well Well,” but with flashier solos and extrapolations by McPhee and Cruickshank.

The ridiculously fun and intricate “S’one Song” is a party-rockin’ tune for people with high IQs while “Earth Shanty” is chest-puffing, Mellotron-enhanced prog that makes you feel more heroic than you have any right to. It’s like the Moody Blues with wilder instincts and bigger biceps. The LP ends with “Mr. Hooker, Sir John,” a heartfelt homage to the god John Lee Hooker, fueled by McPhee’s hard and nasty acoustic guitar strumming. McPhee sings, “You taught so many people how to play/Your music is as timeless as a mountain and as earthy as clay/Your voice is clear and resonant as a bell.” Tony really lays it on thickly, and it’s touching. The song’s a curiously retrograde end to a forward-thrusting record, but, hell, JLH deserves all the tributes and Groundhogs had broken so much new ground before, so slack is cut. Call this album “hogwash” at your peril. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Fifty Foot Hose “Cauldron” (Limelight, 1968)

Cauldron by Bay Area freaks Fifty Foot Hose exists in that minuscule niche of far-out ’60s albums that fused electronics with psychedelic rock: The United States Of America’s self-titled LP, the Silver Apples’ self-titled album, Lothar And The Hand People’s Presenting… and Space Hymn, and Spoils Of War. Recorded in 1967, Cauldron may have predated them all. Even in that lysergic-friendly era, most heads could not grok Fifty Foot Hose. And though it’s been reissued many times, the album still flies under most music fans’ radar.

Mainly the brainchild of electronics wizard/inventor Cork Marcheschi, Cauldron is split between semi-conventional songs riddled with DIY sound-FX tomfoolery (and even a bleep-augmented cover of Billie Holiday’s 1942 jazz standard “God Bless The Child”) and form-busting experiments geared to blow minds. In the former category, “If Not This Time” is a midtempo slice of Jefferson Airplane-style songcraft that transcends Grace Slick & company’s popular psychedelic machinations, thanks to an unconventionally tuned guitar intro/motif that alerts you to the weirdness that lies ahead. Nancy Blossom may not be as powerful a vocalist as Slick, but her enigmatic delivery and defiant demeanor suit Fifty Foot Hose’s skewed compositions and improvs.

In the rather conventional love song “The Things That Concern You,” guitarist Larry Evans sings, “I love you I love you I love you you/Please love me, too” with surprising sincerity and banality. But thankfully, the track possesses the loopy aura of the United States Of America’s “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar,” complete with zonked electronics that sound like a Moog suffering a nervous breakdown. “Rose” is essentially a more psychedelic variation on Classic IV’s “Spooky”—lounge pop embellished with all manner of electronic frippery that would impress Beaver & Krause. The album’s ominous psych-rock zenith is “Red The Sign Post,” whose marauding, fuzz-toned guitar riff prefigures Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin’.” Add in some 13th Floor Elevators-esque bass mesmerism and Nancy Blossom’s strident declarations and swirling-down-the-vortex screams, and you have a classic that’s too heavy and traumatic for a Nuggets comp.

Side two is where things get really crazy. “Fantasy” starts with obsessive guitar riffing, tom-tom-hitting, and frittering bleeps, then shifts into a groovy hippy-rock jam of the sort that you’ve heard in a dozen psychsploitation movies—so it fucking rules. Then the song shifts into a creepy Nancy-sung ballad before evolving into a seriously horrific, occult-rock march. It’s a helluva trip, any way you cut it. The aforementioned “God Bless The Child” provides a little respite before “Cauldron” assaults the senses with some mushroom-trip-gone-horribly-awry rock. This witchy nightmare makes just about everything else that was touted as “psychedelic” in the SF’s ’60s psych scene sound as buttoned-up as William F. Buckley. Only White Noise’s “The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell” comes close to “Cauldron”’s disturbing disorientation.

Fifty Foot Hose came back in 1998 with a shockingly good LP, Sing Like Scaffold, but even if they’d only released Cauldron, they’d be underground stars worthy of lifelong devotion. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

Savoy Brown “Raw Sienna” (Decca, 1970)

British blues rock was damn near everywhere in the ’60s and early ’70s, and Savoy Brown were in the thick of it, releasing very good records from 1967 to 1972. Unfortunately, they failed to gain the substantial traction in the US that artists such as Cream and Fleetwood Mac achieved. Instead, Savoy Brown were more of a connoisseur’s band, and the consensus among those sage heads is that they peaked with Raw Sienna.

Led by pianist/vocalist Chris Youlden—who left the group after Raw Sienna—and guitarist Kim Simmonds, Savoy Brown expanded blues rock’s parameters on this nine-track LP. One of Simmonds’ three compositions, “That Same Feelin’” is fabulous, marauding rock powered by Roger Earl’s funky percussion solo, Kim’s stinging guitar solo, and Terry Noonan’s bravura brass charts. Another Simmonds anomaly is “ Is That So,” which is not so much blues rock as it is a proggy quest in busted waltz time—a nice surprise! The spy-flick-soundtrack-y instrumental “Master Hare” (also by Simmonds) excites with blaring horns and Youlden’s tension-building piano. Tone Stevens’ bass lines are insanely groovy and complex and Simmonds wrings rampant guitar leads that might’ve made Peter Green with envy. [sic] A freaky rave-up coda ices this blues-rock cake.

Many of Youlden’s songs slap, too. The alluring opener “A Hard Way To Go” instantly ensnares you with Stevens’ intriguing bass line and Youlden’s golden, vocals, which reach Steve Marriott levels of wracked soulfulness. The sotto-voce, mellow blues of “Stay While The Night Is Young” features “Lonesome” Dave Peverett’s acoustic-guitar strum and Simmonds’ fluid, pointillistic electric-guitar solo. (Incidentally, this cozy, subliminally funky music was sampled by a California-based friend who releases excellent instrumental hip-hop under the name DJ Frane.) “When I Was A Young Boy” is that rare specimen—orchestral blues rock—and moving it is.

If I’m hearing this right, “Needle And Spoon” is a bustling, horn-powered paean to heroin. But if it’s sincere, this song pairs poorly with Neil Young’s “The Needle And The Damage Done.”A dynamic blues ballad with the brassy brashness of early Chicago, “I’m Crying” sounds like a hit single, aided by Youlden’s confessional, conspiratorial vocal delivery. Alas, even though their records sold pretty well in America, Savoy Brown never scored a hit here, but smart record collectors can score their best albums for a reasonable price in most used-vinyl bins. -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.