Friday, July 29, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 234 - Funkadelic - Hardcore Jollies

By: March

Album – Hardcore Jollies
Artist - Funkadelic
Key Players – Jerome Brailey – drums. Boogie Mosson and Bootsy Collins – bass. Bernie Worrell – keyboards. Garry Shider and Glen Goins – guitar. Eddie Hazel and Michael Hampton – lead guitars. George Clinton – lead vocals. Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas, Calvin Simon, Garry Shider, Glen Goins – vocals.

Produced By – George Clinton

Release Date – October 29, 1976

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I've always been curious about this band. You hear them always acknowledged as influences so I took it upon myself to get some of the records from this time. For some reason I forget I have these records but when I listen I love them. There is something wrong with this picture.

Overview – This is the ninth studio album by the funk legends. This was their first on a major label as well. The band would change some after this release. The band had released an album just a month earlier and after this it was the last “Parliament/Funkadelic” album in which three of their members would appear. Funkadelic was actually the backing band for Clinton’s Parliament project. The band would try to keep both rolling for some time with each having its own unique focus on soul, funk or rock.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The forty minute, eight song album starts off with “Comin' Round the Mountain”. The bass has a particular swirl to it as the guitars bounce off the bass line. You always get a chime guitar that brings out bright riffs. Brailey give the hi-hat much love as the band finds the groove and locks it down. There are a series of vocalists singing, not one clear vocal leader as indicated in the cast of performers. As the chorus approaches the band finds a deep groove and the wah wah guitar has a sloppy in a good way sound. The guitars work to burst out, but the band keeps it all tight. The first good solo comes off around 2:45 after a vocals interlude and it is just the right length, not taking away from the bass and drum line. Brailey fires off on the ride cymbal as Hampton takes a strong lead for the duration, a great guitar solo. The solo ends and the band plays a little tag off one another for a few bars before it fades out. The drums roll across the kit and a reggae feeling track “Smokey” begins. The tempo is a lot slower and the bass finds a nice deep place and rumbles underneath as the guitars and vocals are more playful over the top. There is no clear cut lead vocalist again as there will be one voice over a few others, all singing the same line. It is not really harmonies in so much as giving you that big full vocal feel. Worrell has some fun on the keyboards bending pitches and keeping the vibe focused a little more to the reggae feel. The end of the track breaks down with a little less focus and seems a bit scattered as Worrell does fills over the vocals. A hard stop might have worked better. Try not to sit still as “If you got the Funk, You Got Style” starts. Once again, the bass, drum and keyboard give that great bottom feel as a lone guitar pops a few notes. The percussive instruments play off the line of various vocalists. The music pattern of the song is consistent, but the band works in the percussive and various back beat, tempo changes to their benefit. The song feels a little scattered at times, but tight at others. The bass from Bootsy is kept in check sadly. Worrell gets the keyboards locked in as Hampton starts up his guitar and “Hardcore Jollies” takes off. The guitar is slightly compressed but each note stands on its own. The intro solo lays it down before the bass comes in and it is off to the races. This is an instrumental track that just lays it all down. Each member keeps on task when not soloing but Hampton is the focus and it just slays. “Soul Mate” is such a change from the prior track. A lone lead vocal portion with, what feels like, just a bass, guitar and drums. It is about as straight forward a song as any you'd hear. Not a bad track, but feels almost boring by the rest of the album standards. “Cosmic Slop” follows. This is a live re-make of the 1973 song from the Funkadelic album of the same name. This was recorded during a rehearsal for the 1976 tour. Hampton has the lead and is just off the charts. Worrell lays the ground work on the keyboard with Brailey locking in on a tight beat. Hampton is going to let this run though, he is not being held back and for a rehearsal he just lays it all out there. After about 1:30 the vocals come in but the melody put out by Worrell and Brailey remain constant. The vocals seem a bit off, but since it is a rehearsal that is to be expected. The verse runs, then Hampton gets to unload again. The payoff is great. “You Scared the Lovin' Outta Me” is a slower track with a fuzzy guitar into. The vocals are a little slower and the band seems to find comfort in a laid back approach with no vocals, or instruments really breaking out. The album concludes with “Adolescent Funk” a track that is heavy on the longer keyboard work from Worrell. The keyboard is the focus here with a splash of guitar and then the vocals come in, but really this is showcase for Worrell. He doesn't go way out there, hey gets somewhat creative, but doesn't take it anywhere that feels over done.

Where are they now? - Due to legal issues Clinton dissolved the band in 1981. Clinton still tours both as a solo artist as well as with the “P-Funk All Stars”. Their last album was a collection of outtakes and demos released in 2008.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I have seen George Clinton live one time, but it was not billed as a Parliament/Funkadelic show. It was a Lollapalosa set on August 3, 1994 set. I don't recall a lot about it though. He played a mid/day set and I was probably walking around some checking out booths and the like. I'd like to go again.

FDF Overall Take – There are some really great moments on this record. Some of the reviews were not the strongest, but if you are looking to explore the band this is a good record to start with. You get some very cool bass and even better guitar. Easy to hear how this band influenced so many others. You can find some of these records for cheap money, and you'd be happy you grabbed one, of not some.

Decent Wiki article on the band

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Audio via Youtube for the track Hardcore Jollies

A slower version *but wow oh wow* version of "Cosmic Slop"

Here is a ripping RIPPING live version..please watch..seriously.

The album is still in print, you can get it here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 233: Mercury Rev - Deserter's Songs

By: March

Album – Deserter's Songs
Artist – Mercury Rev
Key Players - Adam Snyder – B3, Mellotron, Wurlitzer. Suzanne Thorpe – flute. Dave Fridmann – piano,bass, mellotron, backing vocals. Jimy Chambers – clavinet, harpsichord, drums. Sean “Grasshopper” Mackiowiak – guitar reels, woodwinds. Jonathan Donahue – vocals, acoustic guitar, chamberlin strings.
Produced By - Dave Fridmann, Jonathan Donahue

Release Date – September 29, 1998

What caused me to blow off the dust? I've been a casual fan of the band, but the recent release of the this same record as an “Instrumental Edition” reminded me it had been some time since I'd listened to the band.

Overview – This is the fourth studio album from Buffalo, New York band Mercury Rev. The band, who combined rock with variations of “Art Rock, Dream Pop” and “Chamber Pop” to name but a few quietly made records and this album was a surprise “hit” for the band. Made on their own terms with a plan to disband soon after the UK Press voted it album if the year in 1998. The band continues to make records and perform live. The band has still not charted a record in the US but have cracked the top 20 in the UK.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The band starts off the record with “Holes”. A wonderful lush sound scape starts before the vocals start. Donahue has a particular sound to his voice, maybe not that technical, but perfect for the band/sound. The band comes in and the piano takes a bit more a dominant role with the strings and percussive instruments aiding in the sound. Chambers comes in on the drums before a theramin solo begins, yep..a theramin solo (it also be a bowed saw solo?). The song comes back around for another verse. It is a pretty, quiet, but at the same time, full sounding opener. Matt Jordan offers a terrific flugelhorn portion as well. “Tonite It Shows” opens like a movement from a Broadway show. Harp plucking and a small string section compliment the vocals. The band is not in a hurry musically or lyrically. The songs are complex and allow you to get lost in them. The percussive fills, the strings are all delicate yet punctuate when needed. The acoustic guitars remain strong as “Endlessly”begins. The band uses some pretty sounding female vocals to start off the track before the progression of the song gets started. To this point there is no clear cut musical whiz in the crew. Each holds a key to the bands sound and no one person seems eager to really take off or show off. It could be a quiet piano fill, a short burst on the guitar. The bass is simple plucked notes that might tandem with a flute section. “I Collect Coins” is the shortest track on the disc running under 1 minute and 30 seconds. It sounds a bit like an off key piano working to get started. More a transitional piece as there are no vocals. Levon Helm of “The Band” plays drums on the next track, “Opus 40”. You don't hear him at the start as there is some B3 organ and strings that start with Donahue singing. The song picks up the pace and for the first time on the record it feels like the band will “take off” and they do, well for them, come the end of the first verse. There is a nice B3 “solo” after the verses and you get touches of other brass instruments to fill out the sound. A soaring track from the band that comes at the right point of the record. There is almost a false ending at about the 3:50 mark as the female vocals come in with some whistling as the band starts to take things down to single notes and lush tones as it fades even more. The saxophone at the start of “Hudson Line” is provided by Garth Hudson (The Band). The lead vocals are taken over by Mackiowiak. His vocals are strong and seem a bit more “powerful” than Donahue. He as a little bit of a Trey Anastaio (Phish) sound vocally to me personally. The drums keep this track moving forward, but they are not pounding, allowing for set ups fro the B3 to ring out. Hudson comes back on for another run on the sax portion. A very strong track throughout. “The Happy End (The Drunk Room)” is a bit of cluster at the start. A piano line is erratic and played over and over as strings sing over the piano line. This repeats for a over a minute of the track before the strings get a little more complex and try to push the song forward. This is another short track that holds that odd feeling, then false ends, then wraps up with more hammering on a piano. Another transitional track. The lone song that could be a “hit” or even radio single in the US comes via “Goddess on a Hiway”. A pretty song with nice piano intro and a nice walking bass line from Fridmann. Fans of the Flaming Lips will feel right at home (Fridmann has worked production with the band). A song I'd have anyone listen to first and foremost from the band from this record. The vocals might sound a little odd, but like most cases they fit the mix and vibe of the band so well. For me personally this is the best song on the record. “The Funny Bird” has another bigger, full, intro that lays back quickly. The vocals are heavily laden with effects. It is a unique twist, but sometimes feels like they could have done better with just a reverb or delay. It causes you to focus on it so much but the band is quick to pull your attention to them and for really the first time the whole band crashes down for a few bars. It rolls back to the early vibe, but we get the explosion again which is so worth it. A big drum, bass and guitar interlude that is really strong, so strong you get it again! “Pick Up If You're There” is a tandem of keyboard of instruments at the start establishing a haunting vibe. The strings and the sounds of a scratchy record playing only continue to set the mood. The bowed saw (or theramin) is an interesting touch and the song seems to start losing steam as it heads to completion. There is a hushed spoken portion that makes this song not totally instrumental, but it really is. “Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp” is a fun bouncing track. The band seems to open up a lot more on this and get loose. It is a nice change for the band who you can almost see and hear smiling as they play this tune. Fridmann has a nice bass line higher up in the mix as Donahue and Grasshopper fire off one another on guitars, a very fun and strong album closer...or so you'd think there is an instrumental track after this running about 2:30 in length. Largely forgettable.

Where are they now? - As noted the band is still active. An instrumental re-issue of this very record was released in May of 2011.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I've never seen the band live.

FDF Overall Take – This is a late in the evening type record for people that might be willing to sit for a bit of a musical challenge. There are not a ton of big huge hooks, or even hummable lines for that matter, but it is so intricate, delicate you accept what might seem as a challenge to listen to. It strikes me as odd the band are from New York, they just seem to feel like a band from Europe.

Official site click here

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Goddess On A Hiway


Opus 40 Official Video

Goddess on a Hiway from Jools Holland

Holes – Live from Jools Holland (not the best quality)

You can still find the album, buy it

Friday, July 15, 2011

FDF Volune 3 Issue 232 - The Darkness - Permission to Land

By: March

Album – Permission to Land
Artist – The Darkness
Key Players – Ed Graham – drums. Frankie Poullain – bass. Dan Hawkins – guitar. Justin Hawkins – vocals, guitars, synthesizer, piano
Produced By – Pedro Ferreira

Release Date – August 5, 2003 (in the US)

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I am sure it was one of those one hit wonder shows, or charts I read about. I loved this record for a time. I wanted to go back to it again.

Overview – This is the debut album from UK based “The Darkness”. Blending glam, hard rock and twitch of heavy metal the band would scream on to the music scene in 2003. The album would have four singles, crack the US charts and win a series of music awards. Lead by flashy singer Justin Hawkins the band would do their best to bring back the fun in a rock show and album. They were just fun. After a follow up album the band would disband, only to announce a reformation in March of 2011

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Right off the bat we get a big guitar and and pounding drums as “Black Shuck” begins. The two Hawkins brothers mash the guitars as Poullian and Graham get the march beat going. Its not overly technical, but hard rocking. Justin hits his operatic notes as the chorus approaches with many call and responses on the chorus. The band has a very straight ahead rock feel to them. The vocals shine as Justin will go from baritone to a wailing falsetto and back again. Dan takes a quick guitar solo and we do the chorus again before wrapping up with one real good vocal push from Justin. “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” has Graham and Poullian feeding off one another at the start before Dan comes in with the guitar and Justin sings in an even higher range it seems. The band has a few more more musical break outs leading to the chorus and the guitars continue to scream and buzz throughout. Poullian and Graham repeat the intro later in the song before Dan has a turn at the guitar solo and we get the chorus again. “Growing on Me”, an ode to sexually transmitted diseases has an 80's big metal feel to it. The band sounds full and right in synch, but it is a little slower than the prior two tracks. Justin soars vocally over the backing vocals in the chorus, all the while the band seems locked in to the groove. Poullian has a strong bass line that is buried a little too deep for my liking but it stands out once you notice it. Per the norm we get a guitar solo and the chorus repeated to the conclusion of the song. The song that was the biggest hit and most widely known follows in “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”. A single guitar starts,with a second to join in with the bass and drums. The verse is rather tame as they settle in to a rock 4/4 vibe leading up to the chorus. When Justin sings the chorus eyebrows raise as he goes off the chart with his high falsetto. At first, when the song was getting early airplay, people couldn't decide if this was a joke or serious. Serious for sure. Justin sings another verse and we hit the chorus. After the second chorus he shouts “GeeeeeeeTAH” before Dan plays a solo that compliments the vibe of the track and we come back around for a musical break down, just the drums thumping begging for a hand clap and foot stomp and sing along. If you don't “get it” by now, you've stopped the album and are done. If you stick with it, Dan gets a second guitar solo and we get teased with another chorus, but it never happens. The big, stadium rocker comes to an end. Graham is the lone instrument at the start of “Love Is Only A Feeling”. After a few bars on the kit the guitars and bass come in. Acoustic guitar joins Justin as he starts to sing. Justin has a strong voice and in this more laid back setting he seems to shine even more. This is their most laid back song to this point as well. There is a second guitar solo to keep us in check. Perhaps my favorite track follows in “Givin' Up”. This has it all. The guitars, the bass, the drums the soaring falsetto. Justin seems to be ff the charts on this vocal range on this one. The guitar work is a lot of fun with tandems then single solos, just a great bit of crotch rock going on here! Strap on your spandex!!! “Stuck in a Rut” is another forcing rocker and Justin is really pushing the vocal boundary as the band chugs along with him. This has a “quiet/loud” feel as they hit the chorus the flood gates open up and Justin goes way up. This is some off the charts stuff. The brothers tag team on the guitar near the end as Poullian and Graham hold the back rock solid. “Friday Night” begins with a blend of acoustic and electric guitars. Justin waxes poetic about a girl in his classroom and the band is surprisingly laid back. Not all of them can be barn burning rip roaring rockers. Still, tracks like this resonate more as the band can be a little more expressive with their sound. “Love On The Rocks With No Ice” also begins a bit more laid back before the guitars come in. Graham keeps a very simple back beat as the brothers Hawkins come with the guitars. The dueling guitars are common as the track goes on and it works to a big wall at the end. The album concludes with “Holding My Own” a track that starts with a lone guitar before the full band comes in. A little on the laid back side for an album closer as it has the feel of a power ballad, well at least as power ballad as the band is capable of.

Where are they now? - As noted the band took a little bit of a break from one another. In 2005 Poullain left the band. A year after that Justin Hawkins left the band. He'd go on to form Hot Legs. The rest of the guys formed “Stone Gods”. Both bands are on hiatus as it was announced in March of 2011 they were working together again as “The Darkness”

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I did see the band live once. It was April 4, 2004 at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. It was a packed and sweaty show for April. The band dropped the big hit “Thing called Love” very early in the set and I heard a few people who arrived late ask “did they play it already?” It was a campy over the top rock show. At one point Justin was in the audience on shoulders playing a guitar solo and he got down and was heading towards the stage and of course the audience was up tight to him, a band member shouted “Let the master through”. It was just a classic moment.

FDF Overall Take – You need to take this one for what it is. The vocals are awesome though. Justin can really nail the range and if you like your music a bit campy but a whole lot of full rock sound, well this is for you. What feels like a gimmick at first will quickly change your tune when you hear they can actually do this, and do it pretty well.

Fun Fact about the band. - In October 2005 Justin Hawkins won an ebay auction for a copy of the bands follow up record. It was a digitally marked advance copy of the record, and Hawkins wanted to track down whomever was selling it.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Givin Up - Live

Audio only for Stuck in a Rut.

The album is still available, you can get it here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 231: The Beta Band - The 3 E.P.s

By: March

Album – The Three E.P.'s
Artist – The Beta Band
Key Players - Steve Mason – vocals, guitar. Gordon Anderson
Robin Jones – drums. John MacLean – DJ, samplers, keyboards. Richard Greentree – bass.
Steve Duffield - bass
Produced By – Chris Allison and the Beta Band

Release Date – January 26, 1999

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I will 100% admit that a certain movie got me curious about “Dry the Rain”. Continue to read further...anyway, I can't tell you the last time this collection got a full play through.

Overview – This is a compilation of Edinburgh, Scotland The Beta Band's first three releases. Formed in 1996 and blending folk, rock and electronic music. Steve Mason and Gordon Anderson would work with a series of musicians and become critical darlings, but wide appeal would elude them. The band would crack the US market in the 2000 film “High Fidelity” in which John Cusak and Jack Black argue to see how many copies of the record they call sell at one time. The band would garner new fans, but never really make it as big as thought. They'd disband in 2004.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – Will break it down as put on the record. The first four tracks are from “Champion Versions”, The second four are from “The Patty Patty Sound” and the final four are from “Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos”.

The first track is “Dry the Rain”. The slow acoustic guitar slide up with percussive raps and the smooth vocals from Mason are a perfect opener, setting the tone for the entire collection. A Dobro guitar seems to be used for slides as the verses begin. The haunting and smooth vocal delivery are what has this song as a stand out. After the second chorus the band bears down some and it gets a bit more urgent as the bass and drums grow in unison. Duffield gets to show off on the bass a little before a harmonica portion of the song, but the overall vibe of the track remains a constant and listening now its really a shining moment for the band. “I Know” is a slow building track with a harmonic bass line before a simple back beat on the drums starts. The guitar chimes lightly over the repeated guitar part. The vocal are very low in the mix, hushed and whispered. A few keyboard blips fill in with the guitar, but the song is going no where with a quick tempo. On the ep this is the shortest of all the tracks, and the band seems comfortable with what they have done to this point. The track “B+A” is next. Again a lone instrument starts the track, this time a single guitar. The bass joins, but is hesitant at times Duffield doesn't seem to want to really take off. After a bit the keyboards and drums come in. Its a lightly sequenced track, with the mood once more being laid back and somber. The track is instrumental for over three minutes before the full band seems to click in and even then the vocals are so buried they seem to just be ambient “ooh/ahh” type runs. The bass is a little higher in the mix as the song takes off and Duffield and Jones seem to really click. Hand claps add to the vibe as the bass swells and percussive instruments also join in. It gets a bit more raucous which makes it all the more fun. The last song from this first e.p. Is “Dog's Got a Bone”, another slow to build track with a soothing bass line. The vocals are easier to hear on this track and the conga and bass are the instruments that stand out the most. The vocals seem to soar more on this and the band is not afraid to allow Mason to shine a little.

The next e.p. starts with “Inner Meet Me”. The track has keyboards similar to a Steve Miller track of the 1970's and the vocals are fairly odd in their delivery. A lone acoustic comes in and after a few repeated bars on the riff Mason begins to sing. The odd vocal portion at the start is looped under, overdubbed for the first verse. Mason has a calm and pretty voice and the band seems all come in for a campfire like jam with the acoustic leading the way for percussive instruments. They have seemingly such a good time they return to this vibe once more and then they go with some echo call and response and the song wraps up. “The House Song” starts with quiet, but quickly delivered vocals. The line is put in to a loop and the line is sung over and then mashed for an overdub as a keyboard starts to swirl. This repeats for over a minute before the beat gets a little heavier and the percussive instruments begin. Greentree walks the bass line over the vocals and other instruments being played, its a tight smooth bass. It then takes a quick change and has a hip-hop feel with the bass still being very strong but more of a musical breakdown as the overwhelming theme. Live drums add even more accent at about the 3:30 mark of the track. The percussive instruments continue to be beat upon and some sound as wild as a trash can to congas. Its a fun jam the band falls in. A real fun jam. “Monolith” is the longest track of all three collections clocking in over 15 minutes in length. The track starts off with nature sounds (birds chirping etc) before a needle drops to a record and a song begins. It is a trippy start to the track. Spoken word, deep keyboard drones and a swirl back to the backing record. This continues to be the same before the drums get a bit more intense 4 minutes in, the song then fades out like a false ending to the bird sounds once more. This is the theme for the entire track. Closing out this section is “She's the One”. There is a mouth harp and the band works to get things off the ground. After a few vocal lines the guitar and drums come in. The acoustic guitar is strong and right up high in the mix which is nice. The vocals have that nice blend of deep baritone that works so well with the overdubbed harmonies. The acoustic really cuts through strongly and Mason really shines vocally. A standout track.

The final e.p. begins with “Push it Out” as Jones lightly strikes the ride cymbal. The vocals remain hushed and sound a bit eerie. The song title is repeated over the same cymbal ride before hand claps and a slow bass line begins. The band comes in more and a piano is a heavy presence as well. Gongs, and percussive instruments abound. The lyrics never change though, and it remains a constant with a nice acoustic guitar part to ring it all out. “It's Over” also starts with a strong acoustic guitar and a punchy bass from Greentree. The band does use a lot of instruments to fill out the sound rather than a simple rock band formula. There are hardly ever “drums” rather congas or the bass holds everyone together. Piano is at the start of “Dr. Baker” and as the vocals come in, fans of the band “The National” will feel right at home with the deep baritone soaring vocal. There are longer vocal harmonies as the track seems to veer off course but then swing back in with the vocals. As odd as the musical breakdowns are the vocals make up for it all. Wrapping up the e.p. Is Needles in My Eyes”. This time the bass and drums work with an organ before Mason begins. The organ is not overpowering but it is the dominant instrument on the track. This is the first track that seems to get the drums moving things forward as well. The guitar line is held back, blurting out single choppy notes

Where are they now? Steve Duffield left the band after the first ep was recorded. Steve Mason released music under the moniker “King Biscuit Time” and other names, but would also release a solo album under his own name in 2010. Robin Jones, John MacLean and Gordon Anderson formed the band “The Aliens”. Richard Greentree is working with a new band “The General and Duchess Collins”.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw the Beta Band live.

FDF Overall Take – There are some really shining moments on this collection. If you like your music semi-moody and stylistically “simple” you will really enjoy the record. There is no huge flashes of a guitar or drum solos. The band works well together and blends all those perfect moments to really capture the mood. If you like “Dry the Rain” you'd enjoy 90% or more of this collection. Well worth your time.

Official page
Myspace page

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The scene from Hi-Fidlity that sold most. (embed was turned off)
Dry the Rain Live
Inner Meet Me
The House Song

The album is still in print. You can get it here.