Wendy & Bonnie - Genesis

July 24, 2015
Two sisters, tenderly aged 18 and 15, write and sing all tracks on this very typical period piece. Luckily the producer avoids the trap of over-orchestration and so comes up with a flowery and soothing bunch of songs, sometimes bordering on the sugary, but mostly rendering a peaceful and harmonic atmosphere. The voices of the sisters blend beautifully, the backing is unobtrusive but qualified. Naturally this drips innocence all over, but infrequently rises to the occasion and reaches real, though subdued, expressiveness as on Five o'clock in the morning and Endless pathway.
Strange enough, the last four tracks on side B seem to be the best ones and show more commitment than those on side A. The sharp, cutting acid-guitar on The winter is cold is a welcome bonus. These four cuts are above average and should be heard by anyone with interest in female vocals in lighly psychedelic settings.
The cover shot of the pair shows the very personalisation of naivete.

Good & Plenty - The World Of Good & Plenty

July 24, 2015
This sounds much like a studio project, albeit one that's only moderately orchestrated. It contains a few really good songs and two fine singers and so produces some excellent slices of baroque pop. There's much tinny organ, harpsichord and celeste and all the tracks were written by the producers Wes Farrell and Tony Romeo.
Luckily they can both write a catchy tune and also know how to arrange them to provide a sound full of appealing innocense. Some of the songs have small unexpected bends, that modestly creep under the skin. Certainly this is one of a myriad records in soft-psych style sung by a male/female duo, but it is also one of the better ones.

Candle (8) - Candle

July 24, 2015
An abundance of unusual instruments and the intention to write emotional songs make at least for some interesting listening, although not everything here is succeeding. Big blame must be laid upon the producer who is clearly not achieving the clarity a band like this should obtain. This unfortunate fact, combined with a tendency to veer dangerously towards melodies too easy to be remembered, tear down a large part of the building the musicians attempt to erect.
So, despite the large possibilities which the band seem to have, not much is actually coming forth in terms of inspiring (and inspired) music. Best cut: the quiet yet passionate ballad Sleepy Lylah.

The Blades Of Grass - The Blades Of Grass Are Not For Smoking

July 24, 2015
Twelve short tracks with emphasis on harmony singing which at times take on a mild psychedelic colour is what's in store here. No musicians credits are given (except christian names) and rightly so, as this sounds very much like an album cooked up by the producers team of Steve and Bill Jerome.
A few unexciting and unnecessary covers of songs like Help! and Walk away Renee give the album an uneven quality. On the positive side there are innocent sunshine pop tracks as Just ah and Or is it the rain and the best cut Just another face with inventive orchestration and fine harmonies. Still, on the whole this is a notch too boyish and bland to convince.

The Split Level - The Split Level ("Divided We Stand")

July 24, 2015
The title of the record is programmatic: sweet sunny rock with strings and smoothness alternates with far more adventurous tracks. Clearly there are interests in classical music, which make themselves hearable in the application of advanced choral composition techniques.
Tracks like You can't go and Equipment (with sitar) sound strongly like The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, though, and include fine flutes and strong harmonies. These are evidently the highlights of this album. An odd Japanese flavour is added to Looking at the rose through world colored glasses. The rest is mostly enjoyable enough, but frankly a bit bland too. A strange and schizophrenic record.

The Scarlet Letter (3) - Mary Maiden

July 24, 2015
Wild, driving and enthousiastic rock with a tendency to rhythmically unexpected steps make the A-side an agreeable pastime. Fine Doorsy organ carries the B-side home with a disjointed somehow British sounding middlepiece for good measure. Elegant lyrics too, a very nice single.

The Preparations (2) - (I Don't Want) Nobody But You Girl

July 24, 2015
Mainstream completists beware, as this is devastatingly ill-adviced calypso-meets-soul- trash on the A-side with some of the worst horns in history. The B-side is just simply chaotic and banal, which in this case is a deliverance...

The Pony Express - (I Dream Of) Pennies

July 24, 2015
The A-side, a strange combination of rough 'n' ready rock with The Association (2), leaves the impression that maybe they could have achieved more than they did on this cut.
The B-side is just as intelligent, has nice vocal harmonies and a shrewd arrangement. Some unexpected discordant effects towards the end are very pleasing and lift the song into the category of interesting flip-sides.

Noel Odom & The Group* - I Can't See Nobody

July 24, 2015
The A-side is indeed a cover of the Bee Gees song, but much less sentimental and thus better to my ears. The B-side is really fine: an organ-guided gloomy observation on the dismal sides of life and the uselessness of striving anywhere. Stylish, depressing and worthwhile.

The Joyful Noise (3) - Nativity

July 24, 2015
The band that created this thoroughly Christian LP has nothing to do with any other band with the same name. It's so damn (sorry) serious that it's at times hard to notice the musical value, though it's certainly present. Titles as Love is God's command, though maybe not untrue in itself, give the game away before even granting the listener the chance to decide for themselves. In other words: every track drips of Jesus in the most ostensible way possible.
Otherwise this is partly (especially side A) a fine and mild progressive rock album with a sound at times close to Kristyl. A respectably driving cut is Make a choice by Grier with a pretty tempo change included as is some nice guitar work.
The meant-to-be main piece Nativity, which concludes the LP, persists over 10 minutes and elaborately tells the story of Christ being born with flashes of greatly inspired playing alternating with stale and even rigid music. The album is still worth hearing, undoubtedly.

Pete Jolly - Little Bird

July 24, 2015
Unexpectedly enough this Mainstream produce contains an A-side with truly inspired but unkempt piano-jazz, very close to the The Ramsey Lewis Trio! The B-side incoporates a cloying orchestra which destructs the impression of the A-side. The Oscar Peterson-alike solo comes too late to rescue.

The Hot Dogs - Another Smile

July 24, 2015
These labelmates of Big Star sound dreamily acoustic and lazy on the A-side and include a reasonable cello arrangement here. On the B-side they sound exactly so, but the melody is much better and a guitar solo is substituted for the cellos. Pleasant but insignificant.

Future Shock (11) - It's Too Late

July 24, 2015
By now Mainstream wasn't the label anymore it used to be and it shows on the pedestrian A-side, which is apart from an acceptable short guitar solo something like proto glam-rock without glamour. The flip is even worse: a lame orchestra plus band version of Watermelon Man, although there are no credits that state this fact on the record. Theft and boring, quite a combination!

Elfstone - Louisiana Teardrops / Beat The Clock

July 24, 2015
Produced by Kim Fowley and arranged by Michael Lloyd, so what more do you want? The result is a fine blend of psych, marching rock and menace on the A-side. The flip starts like The Left Banke, although simultaneously saccharine and inept. The ramshackle accompaniment and the badly tuned guitar on this track produce something like America's answer to Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

The Corporate Body - Soul Owner's Song

July 24, 2015
Very moody and serious, rambling rock with an unexpected chord progression and good guitars on the A-side. Unfortunately the B-side reveals what I fear are their true faces: half-baked soul with irritating horn interventions. There's a short middle-piece with another great guitar part, though, and even a harpsichord. Unreliable crew.

Victor Brady - Brown Rain

July 24, 2015
Here comes criminally neglected heavy psych with the implausible steel drums strongly to the fore, giving the album a very distinctive sound. There are severe dissonants, fuzz solos, many steel drum pyrotechnics and an inclination towards long tracks (greatly so on the opening Glass House). On the other side there is psych pop on Hallucinodream, hypnotic tribal chaos on Soul fungi and a kind of weird R&B combined with Asian effects on Once upon a candle.
The title cut of more than 11 minutes starts with a heavy fuzz riff over a Chinese harmonic pattern, but turns out to be hard-rock askew, like a more psyched-out version of Eric Burdon with traces of Blue Cheer. Only the closing cut It's a good world outside tramples the same soil over and over. Very uncommon and thus recommended.

Steve Baron Quartet - The Mother Of Us All

July 24, 2015
These are extremely gentle, intimate and sensitive songs set to uncommon accompaniments that blend folk and maybe a trace of jazz succesfully. The fragile nature of the music will offend rock fanatics, but makes great late night fodder. The friendly middle between Tim Buckley and Gordon Lightfoot, very sympathetic.

The Bad Habits (2) - Bad Wind

July 24, 2015
While the A-side is a nicely orchestrated pop opus, the meat is to be found on the flip. It begins with heavy fuzz before turning into the the same kind of music as on the A-side. Quite unexpectedly, though, a middle piece with stark and discordant trumpets and a quirky guitar solo comes forth, hovering on the verge of avant-garde and lifting the whole effort some rungs up on the ladder.

Maury Muehleisen - Gingerbreadd

July 24, 2015
A set of original songs, carried by the fine voice of Maury and with elegant and sympathetic backing, as well as lyrics above par. The pace is quiet and the songs almost all radiate serenity and calm. What's missing is a large enough amount of tracks that rise above the agreeable. Apart from Winter song, with its echo's of The Left Banke, and parts of That's what I like, tasteful folk-rock, the compositions are just a pinch too common to really excite. A nice late evening record, no lost masterpiece.

Mij (2) - Color By The Number

July 24, 2015
Well, it's E.S.P. time and again strange doesn't begin to describe this. Basically a record of a man and his guitar, this LP manages with the simple means of vocals, guitar playing, whistling and some studio effects (loads of echo everywhere) to create a compelling listening experience. Unlike on any other release by this label that I know of, the music is quite straightforward in itself. The opening Two stars sounds common enough, but the for over 7 minutes lasting Grok (martian love call), evidently partly sung in Martian too, sees the singer diving through inner space with dexterity and courage. At times vaguely reminiscent of the British songwriter Simon Finn, Jim journeys along through a set of disconcerting songs that all sound like far-out space-rock played on acoustic guitar only. Extremely soft passages turn up unexpectedly, odd dissonances occur. Little boy has a slightly untuned guitar and jarring stops. Never be free has disquieting repetitive phrases and the long Look into the (k)night is programmatic not only because of its title, but also by way of the spectral and disjointed way of playing. Balancing precariously between terror and bliss, this is one of the still undiscovered psych records that must be called like that on the strength of the uncompromisingly psychedelic inner attitude of the player. Practically incomparable to anything else I've heard, this comes recommended.

Jim & Jean - People World

July 24, 2015
This seems to be another pet of a studio crew, as no musicians are credited on the sleeve. Thankfully the record contains a portion of unconventional music making as exemplified by the jerky Success with strong psychedelic leanings, the vaguely eastern Time goes backwards and the extremely eerie sound on Playground. The a capella singing on Sweet water is also quite convincing, as is the singing in general. Unfortunately these strengths cannot completely rescue the LP. There is too much discardable and inconsequential in between, although the album never falls into the trap of getting too sweet for comfort. As far as it goes, this is still a rather listenable effort, which would have made a world-class EP.

Danny Holien - Danny Holien

July 24, 2015
This small label seems to specialize in slightly unsusual singer/songwriters. Holien writes engaging songs with an atmosphere switching from lightly menacing (like the excellent titel track) via rurally rocking to introverted and poetic. There are some mistakes too, like the over-pompous A song of thanksgiving. On the good side there's the supersweet Home, bordering on the very verge of getting sentimental without slipping into it, the tough rocking Lino the wino and the engaging sound experiments of Joshua Brown. The packaging is exemplary, like everything I've seen on this label

Arthur Gee - Arthur Gee

July 24, 2015
A pastoral singer/songwriter no doubt, but an excellent one with a healthy desire to tread (cautiously) beside the well-worn paths on an LP with all original tracks. A tight yet loose band backing him, Gee starts out on his troubled journey with conviction and musical intelligence from the very first note. Rural elements are strongly present, though never intrusive and always stylish.
The production is simple and clear and the songs are mostly fairly persuasive, while Gee's voice is a fine and emotional vehicle, again without anything pushy about it. The rocking Waterweight is quite good with its lovely flute and expert arrangement, as is the opening Dimensions, a sombre and introspective song. The very esoteric Confessions with mellotron interceptions and an eerie wavering sound could easily pass for what seems to be called "downer-folk" nowadays.
Not very spectacular perhaps, but a very worthwhile effort nonetheless. The accompanying book delivers all lyrics, all chords and all melodies in beautiful fashion.

The Velvet Underground & Nico (3) - The Velvet Underground & Nico

January 9, 2015
No. All originals have a yellow banana. Reissues can have whatever colour the designers saw fit.