Sunday, December 19, 2010

Updates and Ephemera-- Christmas '10

Happy holidays from the Sphere! Here are some updates for you all as we transition into the New Year. (2011... Can you believe it?!?!)

It's unfortunate that 2010 had to go out on such a bummer with the loss of one of our heroes, the legendary Captain Beefheart. Old Don was a great man and a hero to many. From a personal perspective, I had just pulled out Trout Mask Replica for the first time in a couple of years and was listening to it when I heard the news of his passing. The combination of the ethereal sounds found on Mask and the emotional severity of the news made for a very spiritual experience for me. If you have yet to hear Trout Mask Replica for yourself, some kind soul has posted the entire album on YouTube. Though it's not an easy record to get into by any means, it's a one-of-a-kind statement that really rewards you when it finally clicks.

We are also working hard to get L.A. Gemstones: The Rock Box out as soon as possible. At the present time, sources are being compared and evaluated in order to attain the best possible sound quality. Rather than rush things and turn out something that we feel is sub-standard just to meet an arbitrary Christmas deadline, we want to make sure that the product is uniformly excellent before unleashing it. Trust me, the results should speak for themselves.

The other major project this winter has been the long awaited SMiLE box set. Currently this is about 80% complete, and should be done by March of 2011. This will be nothing less than the most complete assemblage of SMiLE sessions, acetates, mixes, remixes, concerts and outtakes ever compiled. While other large scale compilations have circulated (Big Bag of Vegetables, Project SMiLE and the mysterious "12 CD Box Set") the Crystal Sphere set should blow all of these away in terms of sound quality, historical accuracy (session dates, etc.) and overall completeness.

In between these two major projects, I also have some special soundboard audio recordings from the legendary Hollywood Bowl by artists such as the Seeds, the Animals, the Buffalo Springfield, Tommy James & the Shondells, Brenda Holloway, Hearts & Flowers, the Yellow Payges, the Rascals, Merle Haggard, Nat "King" Cole, Glen Campbell, Nancy Wilson and more. The historical importance of these shows cannot be overstated. They were literally rescued from a garbage can and lovingly restored, warts and all. A true time capsule in other words.

Finally, we'd like to officially endorse a new blog you may not have had a chance to check out yet. Classic Studio Sessions is a site devoted to just that-- the legendary sessions that produced some of your favorite tracks. They've just posted their first entry on a Wrecking Crew session for Sonny & Cher, and you will not believe the amount of information they were able to uncover using both photographs of the session as well as a first hand interview with legendary guitarist and arranger Don Peake!

Well anyway, that's all the news that's fit to print. I ran into a little trouble with SendSpace and some of the old stuff on the blog has been deleted, so if you'd like a re-up just drop me a message and I'll try my best to get it up for you. Until next time-- further! ~JP~

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Entwistle: Tale of the Ox

Compilation (single artist)

If any of you had a chance to check out my recent post on Alan Wilson, you'll see where I described him as the quintessential musical "X-Factor". This is something that I've been thinking about more and more as this humble blog develops. I must have never realized it, but I seem to have quite an affinity for musicians who fit into this category-- guys who may not have sung lead on every track or written every song, but who came through with clutch musical contributions that helped to elevate their bands from "very good" to "classic" status. So here, in no particular order, are My Top 12 musical "X-Factors":
  1. Dennis Wilson (The Beach Boys)
  2. Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones)
  3. Richie Furay (The Buffalo Springfield)
  4. Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (Canned Heat)
  5. John Entwistle (The Who)
  6. George Harrison (The Beatles)
  7. Gene Clark (The Byrds)
  8. Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane)
  9. Mike Pinder (The Moody Blues)
  10. Russ Giguere (The Association)
  11. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (The Grateful Dead)
  12. Peter Tork (The Monkees)
Someday I would love to write a book about these twelve amazing musicians, and the vital contributions they brought forth to their respective bands. Until then, this blog will have to suffice. And in time, they will all get their due, but for now let's focus on "The Ox"... John Entwistle.

There's not too much I can say about John that hasn't been said before. He's probably the best rock bassist of all time, as well as an underrated composer who was able to place his songs comfortably alongside one of the undisputed greatest songwriters of his generation. The Ox was also a man possessed with a brilliantly morbid sense of humor, which was never not reflected in the lyrics he penned both for his solo albums and his work with the Who. Perhaps somewhat strangely, a compilation of all the songs John recorded with The Who has never appeared-- until now that is. Here is hoping you listen to, and enjoy the Tale of the Ox.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Timewarp: A trio of clips on Dennis and Charlie

It's the long-awaited return of the Tuesday Timewarp. This week: Three enlightening YouTube videos that shed light on the quote "parties that never stopped" at Dennis Wilson's beach house. Check out the Greg Jakobson interview for some particularly keen insight from a guy that was there first hand.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alan Wilson/ Canned Heat - Blind Owl Sings

Compilation (single artist)

Where to begin with this one? Well, in the world of underrated white blues prodigies, Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson must certainly reign supreme. Now most of you will probably recognize ol' Al via the band he co-founded and helped bring to prominence; the legendary Canned Heat. The Heat in their prime were a fantastic group, no doubt, because they injected the true spirit of the blues into rock. At their best they stood shoulder to shoulder with Butterfield, Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, Cream or any other white blues band you'd care to mention. It's also true that the Heat came up through the same Topanga Canyon scene that also gave us two other very strange and beautiful bands: Spirit and Kaleidoscope. In fact, various members of the Heat also put in time with the Mothers of Invention and Pacific Gas and Electric. These guys were players basically.

So in the original line-up of the Heat, you have some very interesting and divergent personalities. Singer Bob "The Bear" Hite was a good natured 300 lb. goofball and avid record collector. Bassist Larry "The Mole" Taylor had jammed with everyone from P.J. Proby to Tommy Boyce, the latter of whom brought him in to help track the first Monkees' album. Drummer Frank Cook may be best known today as the idealistic nitwit seen in CBS's Inside Pop TV special, but his vitae at the time included stints backing jazz greats like Chet Baker and Charlie Hayden. Lead guitarist Henry "Sunflower" Vestine, perhaps mainly regarded today as a notorious acid casualty if at all, was actually one of the top American lead guitarists of his era, counting Jimi Hendrix as a fan and Frank Zappa as a previous employer.

These four cats alone could have formed a hell of a band in their own right, but what truly put the Heat over the top was their "X" factor. In fact, when I think of the term "X" factor in a musical sense, I can not imagine a band with a better one than the guy who's the subject of this thread and compilation: "The Blind Owl", Alan Wilson.

But why should you, the discerning listener, give a shit? I mean, isn't this the same cat that the old Rolling Stone Record Guide casually dismissed as Canned Heat's "bumblebee voiced lead singer" or some such shit? (Seriously, FUCK the Rolling Stone Record Guide.) Well, if all you know about Canned Heat is "Goin' Up the Country" and "On the Road Again" (both included), perhaps that's all he'll ever be to you. But that's your loss, kid. Overlook the Heat at your own peril, because these guys knew how to (Frank) cook, and their motor was this nerdy looking cat:

That's the Blind Owl, performing the Heat's cover of Elmore James' "Rollin' and Tumblin'" at Monterey. Perchance you've seen this clip? If so, bully for you! I would do terrible things to go back and watch the Heat, the Flag and the Blues Project tear it up on the same afternoon at Monterey Pop. Wait, where the fuck was I going with this? Oh yes.. BLIND OWL! Okay, dig. I'm sort of lightweight drunk right now, so I'm just going to copy/paste a bunch of shit off of Canned Heat's website:

Alan Wilson grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where he became a music major at Boston University and a frequent player at the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit. He also found time to write two lengthy, analytical articles on bluesmen Robert Pete Williams and Son House for “Broadside Of Boston”, a Massachusetts music paper, which Downbeat Magazine described as “among the most significant contributions to modern blues scholarship, representing the first important musicological analysis of blues style.” In fact, when Son House was “rediscovered” in 1964 by Phil Spiro, Dick Waterman and Nick Perls, Wilson ended up spending hours with the elderly bluesman helping him recall how to play his own songs again, as House had not owned a guitar for several years and was suffering from what was later diagnosed as both Alzheimers and Parkinsons. Waterman managed House and got him a recording contract with Columbia Records and Wilson assisted House in recording his 1965 album, Father of the Delta Blues, and provided harmonica and second guitar on three songs (two of which, “Empire State Express” and “Levee Camp Moan”) were included on the album.

Wilson was an excellent harpist, slide guitarist and vocalist with a unique tenor style. His friend, Mike Bloomfield introduced him to Charlie Musselwhite as “the best goddamn harp player there is. He can do things that you’ve never heard before.” Wilson occasionally worked for his father’s construction firm laying bricks but, thankfully, he preferred laying down unforgettable riffs to hard physical labor. Wilson’s nickname, “Blind Owl,” was bestowed upon him by friend John Fahey during a road trip in 1965 from Boston to Los Angeles and was a reference to the extra-thick lenses Wilson wore to compensate for his poor vision. Later Fahey, while researching a book on bluesman Charlie Patton for his degree in Folklore at UCLA, invited Wilson out to California to help with the project. Wilson was a music major at Boston University, and Fahey needed someone who could transcribe, chart and notate Patton’s material correctly.

YEAH! Okay, now you're getting the picture possibly. Blind Owl was a) a blues scholar of the highest order; b) an altruistic dude who went out of his way to help all his heroes (largely poor, African American musicians) get recognition and record contracts; c) a fucking badass of the guitar, and when I say guitar I mean acoustic, electric and steel, and most of all d) the fucking be-all-end-all of the motherfucking blues harp.

No, really. This isn't me saying this. (ED: OR IS IT?!?!) Because, here's the thing: Back in nineteen sixty-two-- before the idea of a Canned Heat even existed-- back in those stupid old days of Ozzy and Harriet where little Ricky Nelson was just beginning to come into his own and those little Beach Boy fucks were just getting a record deal, the Blind Owl was playing piano, harp and guitar on John Lee Hooker's Burnin' LP. Ever heard it? well you oughta! As previously mentioned, Al also helped Son House re-learn his own fucking songs, and you can hear the results on the Father of the Folk Blues LP, where he plays harp and guitar on a few tracks. This is still all before the Heat, mind.

Al also kicked down some harp on Fred Neil's classic 1967 self-titled LP, which is one of my favorites, seeing as it features "Dolphins" and "Everybody's Talking"... Two of the greatest songs ever written by anyone. But the ultimate statement might be out of the mouth of John Lee Hooker, who called Alan the greatest harp player he'd ever heard. Not the greatest WHITE harp player, mind you, but the greatest of all time. John Lee Hooker said that, and he played with Little Walter. Who have you played with again? (Joke.)

Now I personally don't understand too much about the ol' blues harp, ya hear? I'm a guitar player first and foremost, and my kind tend to stay away from stuff you have to put your mouth on, but HEY! I know genius when I hear it, right? Of course I could never actually describe to you exactly what makes Al so much better than all the other harmonica playing fools out there, but thankfully there's this guy to break it all down for us! Listen and learn.

Yes I find it perhaps a bit funny that a guy like the Blind Owl, who was burning so much raw talent coming from so many different directions, would settle for a more or less secondary role in what essentially became America's #1 boogie 'n' blooz band for a couple of years there, but from all accounts Alan was a self-effacing cat who was not fond of the spotlight. A lover of nature, he would sleep outdoors while on tour while the rest of the band lodged comfortably in a hotel room. It was just the kind of guy he was. It's been said that his eventual suicide (he overdosed on reds and gin while camping in the Bear's back yard) was due to the fact he was despondent over the state of the environment. More than likely, though, he was tired of the grind.

Buried within the Canned Heat's catalog of party-friendly boogie choons is the work of a real genius. It's amazing nobody thought to compile it until now, but I guess that's the reason this blog exists. So, ladies and germs, have at it-- 17 legendary performances featuring the Blind Owl on vocals; his entire recorded contribution to the Canned Heat saga. All I ask is that you please take the time to listen to what Al and his harp are saying to you. It was there all along within those old Canned Heat records, but taken as a whole this is the most potent of potables.

And if anyone ever asks you who that bumblebee-voiced lead singer of Canned Heat was, you can now feel free to simply punch them in the nuts and say "I told you so".

Blind Owl, fools!

Monday, August 23, 2010

L.A. Gemstones: The Pop Box compilation (5 CDs)

Compilation (various artist)
So here it is as promised: 149 tracks of L.A. Pop goodness spread like Peter Pan Creamy across five Cee Dees. You can read the complete introductory essay posted earlier on this 'ere site: For now I'll just explain why this is such a monster upgrade over the version I originally posted here two years ago.

It all starts with a groovy young lad name of Ian Zamboni who contacted me with an ambitious plan. He dug the set, but made a very valid point that the sound quality just wasn't worthy of the music. 160/192k mp3's might be cool for the typical shit you'd throw on your iPod, but this set was meant to be listened to. Hell, the producers, sound engineers, console designers and studio architects are every bit as important as the musicians in this story! L.A. had the best studios in the entire World back in the sixties, so why present it in such a lossy fashion?

And so began the undertaking to reassemble the set at 320k, and using only the best available mixes. A lot of times this meant tracking down mono single mixes to replace some of those early wide-stereo two track sonic nightmares. Other tracks could only be found on eBay, where we sought out the best existing available quality of long lost singles. A few times it actually involved tracking down the original artist to hit them up for copies.

Anyway what does this have to do with anything? Well it just *sounds better*. Way better. Because let's face it; Ian Zamboni is
the man.

Anyhoo, did I mention no more overlap with Rhino's Where the Action Is? Yes, we removed all the tracks that Rhino put on their wonderful compilation and replaced them with some "new" stuff that we know you're gonna dig., So now you can just power up your CD changer or iPod or WinAmp playlist or Maxell Metal grade cassette tape or whatever the hell you're listening on, and just pile everything in there and ROCK OUT TO THIS GROOVY FUCKING MUSIC.

"Unofficial this may be, but I'm thinking this could be reissue of the year for me. The fact there are another five discs of this...and not a single track's overlap with the Rhino L.A. Nuggets box...pretty handily blows my mind."-- This Here Dream Machine (Black Cat Bone)

"good job on the pop box bro."-- Aeroplane (hipinon)

"holy fuck." -- Naturemorte (hipinion)

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

PLEASE READ: Track Tagging

'ello. So I recently received a comment from a poster here that the ID3 track tags on some of the available music are coming up looking a bit haggard. For example, one of my early Who compilations may show up on his media player with the information for the various source CDs instead of displaying the artwork, track numbers, etc. for the new comp.

This is distressing to me because I have sunk a *lot* of time into getting my track tags "just so"; making sure the titles, album art, writers' credits etc. are all in good shape. Rather than using iTunes to do this, which I have found in the past doesn't really work well at all, I have been going with an app that was recommended to me called Stamp ID3 Tag Editor.

What I would love here is feedback from you all regarding the quality of my ID3 track tags on your end. Do they come up looking pretty consistent? What player/ platform are you using? I test everything in both iTunes and WinAmp on my Windows machine before upping it, but that may not help you if you're using Foobar or running Ubantu or OS-X. Anyway, please leave some feedback so I can get this sorted out. My goal is to get my tags looking as good as possible for everyone who visits the site!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stop Playing Guitar: The New Power Pop (2 CDs)

Compilation (various artist)

Does hearing the words "Power Pop" ever make you conjure up the image of some overweight, gray-haired boomer in a old Rubinos t-shirt and UCLA ball cap rapidly perusing his way through the used CD bins at your local record shop? I don't know; maybe it's just me, but I believe this whole Power Pop thing needs a re-think if it plans on surviving through this decade.

The word "Pop" has a million musical definitions, but put the adjective "Power" in front of it and we're down to one particular type of music: jangly, Rickenbacker 12-string driven pop rock, played at slightly faster than average tempo and accompanied by some three-part harmonies on the choruses. Bands of this ilk are slavishly devoted to seemingly any of the old "B-Groups" like The Byrds, Big Star, Beatles, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, etc. Now if you know me at all, you know that any of these older bands I just mentioned fall on my short list of Best Groups Ever, so what's the problem then?

Here's my argument. When your band, regardless of style, is so magnanimously influenced by a core of easily identifiable sources, the question has to arise: Why should I listen to you, when I can just go back and listen to the bands you're trying to emulate? Of course every artist out there is influenced by somebody; but do most of them (think about this) wear their influences on their sleeve to the degree that, say, The Wondermints or Jellyfish do? What exactly do The Explorers Club or Fastball have to offer us that is unique or in any way creative and different? Now surely we can agree that one man's "hugely derivative" is another man's "rootsy"; but that's us record collectors bickering amongst ourselves. The masses have already spoken. The old Power Pop warhorse has had it's day: it peaked with the Raspberries in 1972 and had a tiny resurgence in 1991 with The La's and Teenage Fanclub, but it's since been put out to pasture and was on its way to the glue factory last I checked.

But fear not. The Crystal Sphere is nothing if not a Pop Music board run by and for Pop Music fans. Yes, we celebrate and dig the oldies here, and God Only Knows we can and will talk your ear off about the brilliance of all the old sixties' icons. But that's okay because, as I've said before, it is quite all right to look back so long as you keep moving forward. It's when you get stuck in time that problems can arise. Your beloved Power Pop is still out there, friend; just as fresh as it was when "Mr. Tambourine Man" was the #1 song in America and people still drove around in convertibles jamming out to transistor radios. You just gotta know one trick, and that's that you'll never find that righteous fix you're looking for in music that comes from alien lifeforms that value style over truth, or from old men cloaked in the bodies of twenty-five year olds.

If what you crave is guitar-based music of a particular quality, drenched in that same shimmery brilliance that encompassed all your favorite old records, and sporting gigantic hooks and choruses as big as your head; but at the same time is also self-aware enough to not be looking up its own ass for inspiration, then maybe you've come to the right place after all. Here's 46 of the best-- to groove to, to move to, to live your life to. Not everything here is aiming for the fences: some songs may be deeply heartfelt, while others might be lighter than your brain after a shot of nitrous. And clearly there's also many an influence to be heard here for sure. But in the end these are 46 artists that are moving forward, even as they look back. It's time to get groovy and glorious again.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Charles Manson - A Letter to William Dakota


Have you ever sat around and just wondered what life must have been like living at Dennis Wilson's Sunset Boulevard beach house in the Summer of 1968? Well you're never going to find that one out, sucka!

However-- the following letter from Charles Manson to gossip columnist William Dakota, written while Manson was serving time at the Vacaville State Prison, might shed a little light onto what was going down in L.A.'s most notorious party house (possible exception: Peter Tork's crib on Willow Glen Road).

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The following is simply a re-print of the Manson's own words. Clearly I cannot verify the authenticity of his claims, and the following is provided merely for entertainment purposes only. Please visit Bill Dakota's fabulous
wiki site for more true tales of Hollywood glory.

"B. columnist,
Yes, I like your letters when I have time & I've time. I don't write like you write and you don't need to run none of that bullshit on me. Don't talk (write) around the corner on me. Straight-away, just the truth, no more..less-I don't understand you trying to run fear or B.S. at me. Yes, I know what you mean-my words were when I was out-my souls still in prison. Peace of mind. All Polanski can say, is what the D.A. said or what he read somewhere. It would take 44 years for me to explain my 31 years in hallways-cages-it's home. No one can know what I mean. They would need for them to be me. All he will do is judge himself in me & see reflections of his own fears. I seen Sharon and she never impresed me as being anything but $. He bought her mind to get her body.

Man don't get fat on me. NO B.S. don't get fat. Lookit, I can't put myself out front. You can get your paper back & don't need to say I said nothing. I never sued no one else. The D.A. & all got away with saying anything. Marcus can tell you things he may have thought he heard, I didn't say Elvis was Bi or not.

Loook it. If I sleep with all the girls you sleep with & we go to bed with 3 or 4 girls at a time & I check you out & the way and things you do & you check out my strokes & pick up on some of the motions don't mean I'm BI or your Bi. If I'm in the same dream but I got a good heart, I can hold that heart in bed. Elvis couldn't fuck over me but I could-over any little fat girl in his dream bed because I earned them when I lived at Tom Mix's old beach house on Sunset out by the beach. We had a pool of naked beauties and strobe lights in the living room & sex in 5 bedrooms & all closets had secret doors that go from bedroom to bedroom plus the guest house, big beds & pool shacks-bedrooms, little ones and mattresses in the living room, a tree house, sex all over the grounds, in the rose garden, under the trees everywhere.

B.D, I'm, forgeful, who's Mark? I'm one of the dumb people-aware but not smart in human ways. I think more like an animal. Yes, I read the story B.D. Im not easily impressed one way or the other. I don't like people enough to care what they think. Not you because you suffered my suffering & been through a lot to see and understand me. I know what you do is & will be good because I know when you are alone & in a cell and see the good of you when no one else is looking.

Neil Diamond used to come over, Mike Love of the Beachboys, Doris Day's son, Angela Lansbury's daughter, DeeDee, Nancy Sinatra's daughter used to be at the beach pad. Dennis Wilson of (the Beach Boys) & I lived with 15 or 20 of the best. We kicked Jane Fonda out of that dream because her jewish boyfriend wanted to bring a black guy to play ping-pong with her & I said I don't play mixing blood for phony christians that work for their money selling children. She had a big dog and a crummy camera & I said no no, I do what I do for love, not money.

They had a key to Red Skelton's beach pad. I had been there before, so I went and fixed the window so I could look in and they found my peek place. I just wanted to see what they did with the dog & guy they picked up over at UCLA, I don't think she was playing stop the war. She was (I think) making some kind of video tapes like Peter Sellers & Yul Brynner (bald headed guy) were making. Dennis gave me a $5,000 video tape, TV thing for tapes that fit only an elite bunch (porno ring) that was world wide.

I heard Polanski got money from dog and children movies to make movies with. I was offered record contracts, movie parts, etc, when I got out (prison.) I went to Universal Studios-saw a producer named Stromberg, a phony guy. He wanted me to cut a record with a South African black, Hugh Maskella & big black trumpet & drummer for a movie. He told me Jews control & I'd never get any music over, unless I did it his way. He was making a movie, he said, about the second coming of J.C. & he was to be a black & police were to off him and the system would get the blame & they would control the movie minds and take power. I said no. They did it anyway. Jackson was killed in San Quentin & Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin got big power controls. I was a dumb ass.

I went to Cary Grant's parking lot & this homosexual came and told me to move my car. I knew Grant was in England so I told him & I've had a little experience with homosexuals. So I took him back to Cary Grant's office, that had an apartment (bar) & such. I don't want to say all of the things that happened at Universal Lot because I liked that gay guy & don't want him to lose his job.

That ass Peter Falk & guy that played James West, in WILD WILD WEST, propositioned me. James West also came to the car. I don't fuck with closet queens. There is more but I can't spell. Like one night a girl took me to Elvis' pad...with big iron gates & she was begging to suck on my ice cream. Elvis's wife came home that night and when Dennis Wilson came around he had so many broads. Elvis got afraid, cause that little girl had his heart. I could have eaten it there in front of them but was playing a front & I was having sex in the back. I could have fucked him. He had a car I wanted but Terry Melcher gave one of my buddies a new XKZ Jaguar, for me because he didn't want anyone to know about me & his mom, & when D Wilson gave me the Ferrari my other buddy wrecked it & we went off to shoot a game of pool & someone ripped it off.

And Dennis is (a wonderful person no bullshit) he got mad at me. He had a phony French bitch running after him only because she was a star fucker & was fucking Jimi Hendrix. When she asked me to fuck her I rammed it up her ass & wiped it in her face & throwed her out of the pad because all she wanted was money money money and producer Stromberg destroyed my music. When I seen the conspiracy to do in Jackson, I ran and put a "1" up over that bed of fools and clowns.

B.D. I do more on a weekend than most do all of their lives. I'm not into sex porno or selling distorted sex. All sex I do is human, clean and natural. No make-up. No ego fuck but the God fuck. Everyone I fucked wanted to pray to God. I can't say that to toot a horn that everyone will hate me for. Sex paranoia is a heavy trip but what I do is open without guilt or hang-ups. It's not human. I can put a woman on like a robe. That's the only stick I had with people I was with. If the women did right I would favor them with attention. Most men get mad at me because even if theirs is bigger and stronger, my stiff stays up until I tell it to go down & the motions I reflect is from movies as a kid-YMCAs, Hollywood Boulevard, Wilshire, Beverly Hills, Malibu, off the top of reach 200 or more people in the bed that went through all the stars, Elvis and a bit more.

Elvis had a reputation like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin had in the 50's, when I had sex on Orchid Avenue, Orange street, and the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel across from the Chinese Theatre.

B.D.-other don't have the mind to do what I can. All the hang ups related to sex--I don't have & few are free to be in a bed like mine. I can build the passions in 30 people & fuck it all to death & past that. I can put my motion in them and watch them dance, put my song into them & listen to them sing, put myself into them, like looking through their sexual passions like holes in blankets.

Anyway the guy I shot in Hollywood with a 33 that Tex used later..there was white girl in bed begging me not to let him kill her over money. I told him I don't give a fuck for money & he yelled & I shot him and his Mexican dope dealers froze in fear & I took the shirt from the guy, so I was on top of the money bed & sex bed. Luckily, I didn't kill him. I missed his heart because I use dick and don't know much about guns.

Oh yeh, I feel the women with me has witnessed and been with me all the way. They, as a whole, have not let me down & did what a woman can. They've been under it also. Red and Blue have stood against a lot of women-for what they can see Green and Red have been right. When someone is right with me, I must be right right back. Red put her life up trying to get me out & a trip. Most people in the know, use fear over women. I didn't do that. I tried to show them their fears & how to keep love over fear. Gotta end this I'll call if and when I can.

Send some pictures (Unsigned).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nirvana - Unit Shifters/ Live at the Paramount Theatre 10.31.91 (3 CD)

Compilation (single artist)

It's been awhile since I've had anything worthwhile to say about Nirvana, but during one stretch of my life they were my favorite band; you know, during that ancient pre CD-R era when you actually had to make mix tapes if you wanted to go the DIY route. The funny thing is, I can't really speak now as to why their music had such a profound effect on me back then. I mean, I'm certain it had something to do with the collective angst my generation was experiencing at the time, but saying something like that just sounds so hollow and cliched nowadays. I'm still currently experiencing my fair share of angst and torment (who isn't?) but more often than not I find myself turning to stuff that's catchy and soothing in order to alleviate it, rather than screaming along with some guy who's clearly experiencing more pain than I am.

But that's just it. I can lose myself in sweet harmonies and inventive chord changes, but whatever happened to Losing My Shit? The actual, honest to goodness catharsis? The smashing of guitars or the punching holes in walls? The screaming and crying? The cutting and cigarette burns?

Well somewhere along the line I clearly lost the plot. I mean, I'm listening to fucking Fountains of Wayne as I type this, so draw your own conclusions, right?

Nirvana is no longer a band that represents who I am or what I am about, but like many of you I still carry on fond (if largely mixed) memories of the era that they defined.

SCENE: 1992. A large record store in Brownsville, Texas. Mark and Jason, two teenage boys, are studiously examining a row of cassette tapes under a section marked "Rock".

MARK: ...Ahh, Eugenius! These guys are fucking great!


MARK: Well you've heard of the Vaselines, right? The head guy Eugene Kelly started this band called Captain America, and Kurt was going to take them out on the road but Marvel Comics sued Captain America, so they had to change their name to Eugenius.

JASON: Yeah, Catherine and I were supposed to get tickets to go see Nirvana this summer when they come through Houston, but now that we broke up I seriously doubt I'm going to go... Hey do you think the Pixies are ever going to get back together?

MARK: (Clearly ignoring what Jason just told him.) ...And he's going to get the Raincoats out on the road with him, and probably Tad or Flipper. It's fucking amazing, man! He's getting all these bands he likes that nobody's heard of and he's dragging them right into the mainstream with him!

JASON: (Cautiously looks around store before stealthfully sliding the Eugenius cassette underneath his flannel.) Hey, whatever you say, man.

So what's this all about then? Well clearly the memories have been recurring for me as of late, and rather than dwell on them for much longer, the thought occurred to me that I might just re-experience a bit of the old catharsis by reexamining Nirvana with the benefit of 15 years of hindsight. Now I could lay it all on you-- the rush of raw emotion that kicked in upon hearing the opening chords of "Aneurysm"; the sudden, mad urge to pogo to "Been a Son"; the beautiful-as-a-rock-in-a-cop's-face pop perfection of "Sliver"-- but maybe it's better that you just listen to it with fresh ears so that you can draw your own conclusions.

Rather than compile my own thing here, which would have distracted me from the major task at hand of getting L.A. Gemstones 2.0 out to you on time, I'm going to cheat and hook you up with a comp my man Beckner aka HeftySums hooked me up with awhile back. Honestly, he's definitely the guy you want in charge of a Nirvana comp anyway, because he's got all the hard-to-find non-LP b-sides, compilation tracks and sundry live cuts available on a brilliant set he put together called Unit Shifters. Also from my personal collection, a soundboard of the legendary 1991 Halloween show they put on at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.

Well, I'm off to search for more memories in the bottom of a bottle of Glenlivet. Enjoy the 'choons.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Groovy, Incredible, Mysterious and Much Misunderstood Eternity's Children! (2 CD)

Compilation (single artist)

I've been meaning to do something with Eternity's Children for awhile now, so I guess with all the other long term projects I've got in the queue it would be a good time to talk about these guys.

Where to begin? Well it's not like there's a lack of product out there on the group, that's for sure. Their two Tower LP releases, Eternity's Children and Timeless, though difficult to locate on vinyl, have been re-issued on CD at least twice in the last decade, both times with additional bonus tracks. In addition, the fabulous GEAR FAB label unleashed The Lost Sessions in 2003; a great release that filled in many gaps in the Eternity's Children saga. It revealed a band that was far more than just another faceless studio assemblage; one that dated back to Mississippi ca. 1965 and specialized in raw, garage-styled rock 'n' blues before moving to Los Angeles and getting into the sunshine pop bag. Furthermore, it showcased the group's top notch later recordings of songs by many master writers including Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro and Sly Stone.

The only problem with the Gear Fab release (apart from the pearls-before-swine factor in that nobody really actually bought a copy) was that the liner notes were sparse and didn't really reveal too much about who played on what, or when any of this stuff was actually recorded. It certainly stumped me at least, to the point where I devoted a good chunk of my free time trying to track down info on the band. You see, despite a few clunkers in their catalog, Eternity's Children were a far cry from such faceless Curt Boettcher studio amalgamations as the Bootiques or the Candy Company, names they were sometimes lumped in with. No, this was a real group with a story to be told, both in words and music.

And so we begin the saga of the groovy, incredible, mysterious and much misunderstood Eternity's Children. According to drummer Roy Whittaker, the band was originally formed at Delta State College in Cleveland, Mississippi. They came of age circa 1965 and were originally known as the Phantoms. Other members included vocalist/keyboardist Bruce Blackman, lead guitarist Johnny Walker (both later of the band Starbuck, best known for their Seventies' smash "Moonlight Feels Right"), bassist Charlie Ross and rhythm guitarist Johnny Bounds. Whittaker, Blackman and Walker were all previously classmates at Greenville High, while Blackman was recently described by one fan who knew him around this time as "the best keyboard player I have ever known". The Phantoms released at least one single during this period: "Workin' Tired" b/w "Gonna Be Nice Tonight" on the Senatobia, Mississippi based Flash label (52965).

As the Phantoms gained status locally, the group gravitated towards Biloxi where they played such venues as the Biloxi Hotel and the Vapors, eventually changing their name to the much hipper "Eternity's Children" after hooking up with a dynamic folk singer by the name of Linda Lawley. They made a name for themselves backing such national touring artists as Charlie Rich and B.J. Thomas and were eventually signed to Crocked Foxx Productions and Music; a company run by Baton Rouge health club magnate Ray Roy and his partner Guy Belello. Near about this time, a second single was released on Apollo Records, comprised of two Bruce Blackman originals: "Can't Put a Thing Over Me" b/w "Time and Place". The record was so obscure that not even an original catalog number could be located by this author. (Another Blackman original, the sinister "Cigarette", likely hails from these same sessions.) Poster "tbrown" over at remembers: "I too am a long time Eternity's Children fan. Grew up in Biloxi, played in a local band in high school. Used to go hear the Children at the Biloxi Hotel and at the Vapors in about 1967. Along with Little David and the Giants, they were the hottest groups around at the time....great memories."

As 1966 turned to 1967, a locally produced demo on the Ace label (contents unknown, but may have included their covers of both the Hollies' "Hard Hard Year" and the standard "A Taste of Honey") found its way all the way to Hollywood, where it was absorbed by A&M staff producer Alan Stanton, recently coming off a tenure over at Columbia where he'd produced the Byrds transitional Fifth Dimension LP. Stanton presumably liked what he heard, as the Children were soon signed to A&M and whisked away to Hollywood where they would cut their next single; "Rumors" b/w "Wait and See" (A&M 866). The A-side was again penned by Blackman with assistance from their new engineer/arranger Keith Olsen (late of the Music Machine), while the flip came from the pen of the great David Gates, still a struggling songwriter at the time. With a record under their belts, Eternity's Children soon hit the road alongside the Seeds, the Blues Magooes and headliners the Strawberry Alarm Clock. (Groovy bill, no?) Despite the tour, the record tanked and A&M passed on a follow-up.

With the A&M deal down the drain and the group now firmly ensconced in Hollywood, the Crocked Foxx boys went label shopping and finally struck a deal with the Capitol subsidiary Tower around the beginning of 1968. Arrangements were immediately made for Keith Olsen and his new partner Curt Boettcher to come in and produce an LP that would help break the band to a national audience.

The resulting sessions were presumably fraught with tension, though apparently this had more to do with the management of Crocked Foxx than anything having to do with the relationship between the producers and the recording artists. Bruce Blackman and Johnny Bounds were the first to leave the group. States Blackman today; "We did not survive because of incredibly bad management... After I left the group, they tried to cheat me (unsuccessfully) out of any credit." Ex-Nurotic Sheep keyboardist Mike "Kid" McClain was brought in to help finish up the sessions, and the album's cover features a line-up of McClain, Ross, Whittaker and Lawley.

Unfortunately, given the turbulent circumstances surrounding the group at the time of recording, and combined with producer Boettcher's penchant for using his own group of session vocalists and musicians on any given recording he was put in charge of, it's simply impossible to say who played what on Eternity's Children. What can be ascertained however is both the beauty of the album as well as its inconsistency. At its best, on such songs as "Again Again", "Your World", "Little Boy" and the lead single "Mrs. Bluebird", the group achieve an almost uncanny level of brilliance on a sound that's equal parts A&M Records and Our Productions (Boettcher's production company). Elsewhere, there's some great hybrid bossa-nova in the form of "My Happiness Day", sunshiney pop in more of a Spanky vein with "Lifetime Day" and a catchy, rocking closer in "Sunshine Among Us". These are the songs Eternity's Children actually played on, which is to say others-- whether by choice or necessity-- did not feature the band on backing instruments, or sometimes at all. "Rupert White", as has long been known, utilized the same basic backing track as the Gary Paxton produced Chocolate Tunnel's version of the same song. Similarly, "You Know I've Found a Way" is an under-dubbed version of a track found on Boettcher's concurrent album with Gary Usher-- Sagittarius' Present Tense.

The clear highlight of Eternity's Children was it's first single. "Mrs. Bluebird"-- a sublime achievement for both the group and their producers, combining the very best of many disparate elements found within the musical ether of 1968: smooth, full harmonies; perfectly performed backing arrangements; a melancholy chord progression; bird calls and even a fuzz guitar solo that starts off fooling the listener by perfectly emulating a tenor sax. It was state of the art record making for its time, and the band hit the circuit hard to promote it, including a performance in front of Dick Clark on American Bandstand. (The video of this appearance has yet to surface, but is a legitimate holy grail.) Sadly, "Mrs. Bluebird" was not able to chart higher than #69 in July, and its follow-up "Sunshine Among Us" performed even worse, hitting a paltry #117 that September.

At the dawn of 1969, the Eternity's Children reconvened at the studios of producer Gary S. Paxton to record a follow-up single for Tower; "Till I Hear It from You" b/w "I Wanna Be with You". Percussionist/ vibesman Bo Wagner had now replaced Whittaker within the group, and his bell overdubs combined McClain's multiple virtuosic keyboard parts to hold down the upper-middle register generally reserved for guitars. Sadly, the departure of both the group's best songwriter and their whiz kid producer did the band few favors, as they moved away from the moody pop of their previous album to a more Vegas-y approach. The single was released at the same time the band's second album, the somewhat ironically titled Timeless, was nearing completion. When the single sank without a trace, Tower decided to withdraw the LP prior to release in the United States and release it only in Canada where "Mrs. Bluebird" had been a moderate hit. Despite an increased songwriting presence from McClain, Ross and Lawley, and contributions from Clarence White, Gene Parsons and Ben Benay, the album was not as strong as its predecessor and it too sank.

Assessed from today's standards, however, Timeless is clearly not without its merits. The singing and musicianship are absolutely first-rate, and despite the additional Cheez-Whiz factor in some tunes, the moodier numbers like "Christina in My Dreams", "Gypsy Minstrel Man" and "The Thinking Animal" still make the grade. Even better, Linda Lawley was beginning to emerge as a true talent with a voice that was simultaneously clear and powerful. Indeed, Lawley attained such a singular sound for her time that I find it impossible to believe that Richard or Karen Carpenter didn't catch the band either in concert or on record during some formative stage of their existence as a performing entity, for the simple fact that Eternity's Children Mark II was virtually a template for the Carpenters' entire career path. Nevertheless, all good things must come to an end, and that too includes Eternity's Children.

But not so fast, my soft pop loving compatriots!.. Even though the Eternity's Children had missed their initial shot at big time, they still had a record contract and a fighting chance, right? Disheartened, the group decided to leave L.A. and return back to Mississippi, where former band-mates Blackman and Walker had since started a new band called the Omen that was making a huge splash on the Southern soul circuit. Eternity's Children headed straight to Memphis to record a new album with Chips Moman and session bassist Tommy Cogbill. Though the record never materialized, several new Eternity's Children-related singles were released on Tower throughout 1969. In short order the group and Tower served up the quintessential Memphis/Moman sound of "Sidewalks of the Ghetto" (Tower 476); "Railroad Trestle in California" (Tower 477) credited to Charles Ross III and featuring gospel backing from some unnamed female vocalists; some nice orchestrated soulful pop from the pens of Mark James and Spooner Oldham with "Blue Horizon" (Tower 498); another Ross solo with the admittedly awful "Laughing Girl"; and finally a Linda Lawley solo single in "When the World Turns" b/w "Living Is Easy" (Tower 500) that continued to anticipate the sound of the Carpenters.

When Tower folded at the end of the year, the group were scooped up by Liberty Records, who were still smarting after losing the 5th Dimension to the Bell label and were looking for another vocal group to market. Re-energized, the band set course for Tyler, Texas where they would record their final single under producer Robin Hood Bryant. The result was a spectacular bit of almost baroque pop music titled "Alone Again". (Interestingly, the flip side was another Curt Boettcher/ Sagittarius demo; this one being "From You Unto Us".)

When that record soon failed, Eternity's Children parted ways with Liberty and returned once again to Mississippi. Back on home turf they would continue to gig at any place lucky enough to have them, leaving enthusiastic fans in their wake wherever they played. Eventually Bruce Blackman, Johnny Walker and Bo Wagner would re-surface in Starbuck, who as previously mentioned at the beginning of this article would score a #3 hit in 1975 with the classic "Moonlight Feels Right". Likewise, Mike "Kid" McClain and Roy Whittaker would continue to gig throughout the South as well, often times crossing paths with their old E.C. bandmates. As for Linda Lawley, she too would continue on with her singing career. She released a self-titled solo album in 1989 and backed Carole King at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Carole introduced her as a "local girl" and she was even allowed to sing lead on one number. Sadly, both Lawley and Walker passed away in 2007.

In 2003, a wonderful gift was bestowed upon all Eternity's Children fans, as Gear Fab released the highly anticipated Lost Sessions, which collected not only the single sides not found on the 2fer, but also nine previously unreleased E.C. tunes. Though information contained for each song was next to none, a casual listen could help date the tracks to an extent. "Cigarette" sounds like it was recorded around the time of the first single, before the band hit L.A. "A Taste of Honey" and "Hard Hard Year" seem to date from around the time of the A&M single, and as previously stated could have appeared on the demo that led to the group getting signed. Takes of Jimmy Webb's "The Girls' Song" and "Didn't We" and Randy Newman's "Just One Smile" have a definite L.A. sheen to them, while their versions of Sly Stone's "Somebody's Watching You", Ike Clanton's "Down the Aisle" and Laura Nyro's "Woman's Blues" have more of a down and dirty Southern vibe and were probably recorded once the band left Los Angeles. The one unifying factor of these later-day performances are that they are uniformly excellent cover choices, and feature the band in a very positive light. Linda Lawley in particular should be commended for owning the Nyro track, as she grounds it in a way the song's creator wasn't quite able to do.

The entire Eternity's Children oeuvre can be found here and here for you to explore. I specifically encoded both discs at 160k so as to facilitate some more sales for our pals over at Rev-ola and Gear Fab. If you like what you hear (and I know you will) you can support Eternity's Children and these fine labels by buying lossless versions of the following: Eternity's Children/Timeless (Rev-ola); From Us Unto You: The Complete Singles (Rev-ola); and The Lost Sessions (Gear Fab).

**This essay would not have been possible without the hard work and dedicated research done by Dawn Eden for her liners to the original E.C. 2-fer, and for the personal recollections of the band and their fans over at Thanks for keeping the E.C. spirit alive!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April 2010 update

Hello. This is just a friendly notice to let you all know that my brain is officially on hiatus. Lately I've been spending too much of my free time obsessing on the human condition to really put forth any kind of an effort into this blog, and for that I apologize. Was a time when music provided all the relief I needed from pressures relating to the outside world, but lately the time involved in putting together these ambitious compilation projects, combined with my perfectionist attitude towards detail, has largely sapped the fun out of it.

To put it another way, if I have to listen to one of my compilations 200 times during the assembling/ editing stage, then by the time you finally hear it I'm already way, way burned out on it and ready to move on to something else. Many of these comps have literally been years in the making. The Tuesday Timewarp feature was a brief attempt at a paradigm shift, intending to speed things up, but the complete lack of response to the Standells post has shown me that this is probably not what you people want out of this site.

Currently I am almost completely lost in three major projects. The updated L.A. Gemstones I have been promising will likely be here by the end of the year, as I have been very fortunate to find a collaborator who is doing a great deal to assist me with this ambitious set. The new version will feature a revised track listing, much improved fidelity and a companion e-book containing liners, essays, photos and more. It will be, simply, the greatest Various Artists box set ever known to man. It'll take time to complete, but I promise you you will see it eventually.

The next thing on my agenda is nothing less than the complete organization, annotation and presentation of every available bit of Brian Wilson's '66-'67 SMiLE sessions; again presented in the best available fidelity (lossless) with companion e-book with detailed notes on every session. What will emerge will be the most complete portrait of SMiLE that has ever been revealed. When finished I will submit this to my contacts within the Beach Boys camp and see if they want to run with it. If they don't, I will try to get the book published and the 15 or so disc box set will go unheard.

Perhaps less exciting, but much more fun, is a collection of 80s Pop, RnB and New Wave hits from my childhood. I know these sorts of sets have been compiled and released thousands of times, but trust me when I say that this box will reign supreme in your car stereo, because it will have the Crystal Sphere "touch". Since this isn't as complex a set as the other two (no e-book, .mp3 quality) I have a feeling you will be seeing it first out of the three.

So what's the point of teasing you all with this? Nothing, I guess, except to let you all know that I haven't abandoned the ship. It's just that right now this minute, I'm much more into hanging out with my girlfriend or sitting in front of the TV and getting caught up on "The Office" than having to do the actual thinking that comes with writing anything of substance. This will change soon enough I'm sure, but in the meantime please bear with me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Timewarp: The Standells

. . .
Here's a new feature we've added to the Sphere called The Tuesday Timewarp. Every Tuesday we'll be adding some rare/out-of-print/unreleased junk from the past, with the hopes that if your mood is sufficiently elevated, you just might suddenly find yourself on a little mind excursion courtesy of these tunes.

Prepare the Wayback Machine. Today's introductory feature is a selection of cuts from the Standells' late-1967 album Try It.

Now the Standells were a solid band for their time, but never one you'd term as terribly interesting or ambitious. Their stock-in-trade was polished frat/garage rock stuff, typified by "Dirty Water", "Sometimes the Good Guys Don't Wear White" and of course "Try It". It's fair to say they never really attempted to break out of that particular mold until this, their last album.

Apart from two great singles in the form of the title cut and "Riot on Sunset Strip", the rest of the Try It LP is a major stylistic departure that virtually embodies the term "mixed bag". While some ill-chosen soul and blues covers drag the album down from classic status, the group's attempts at a more psychy pop/rock sound are winners!

Examine these four groovy cuts I've resurrected for you off an album that sank like a stone when it dropped 42 years ago. "All Fall Down" kicks things off; sounding for all the world like Dick Dodd and company had been digging on Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Satanic Majesties, and decided to incorporate strands of those records into a bubblegum pop song. It's not a stone classic by any means, but man does it ever reek of the Nag Champa! Perfect for the Tuesday Timewarp.

"Trip to Paradise", with its Ellingtonesque strings and horns arrangement, clearly was not written by the band, and I'm nearly certain they resented being told by their producer to record it. This baby could have just as easily found a home on World in a Sea Shell or the first Giant Crab album. That might sound like an insult, but its not-- "Trip" is a soaring, ambitious pop recording that should have been a big hit in some parallel universe.

"Barracuda" finds the Standells back in the garage rock bag, but damned if this isn't way more primal than what we're used to hearing from these guys. This is perfect music for a bar fight, high speed police chase or cocaine party, and if it sounds more like the Chocolate Watch Band than Dick Dodd and his gang, well just remember that the song's author Ed Cobb also served as producer for both groups. (NOTE: Cobb also penned the great "Medication" which both the Standells and Watch Band recorded back in the day.)

Perhaps even stronger is "Did You Ever Have That Feeling?", a mind-melter of cosmic proportions. Listen hard as the Standells finally lose what was left of their good-guy image and go for broke on this psychedelic punk hell ride. If only they had somehow used this song as a template for re-inventing themselves, perhaps today they would be known as more than just the guys who sang "Dirty Water". And so it goes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Carole King - Phases (2-CD)

Compliation (single artist)
Compilation (various artist)

My fascination with Carole King started in pre-adolescence. That is to say, I had always been aware of her on some level; whether it was her early collaborations with Gerry Goffin on things like "The Locomotion" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" or via the battered copy of Tapestry my parents kept around the house. (My folks listened to a lot of albums back then, but as a tot I liked Tapestry the best because Carole was funkier than Joan Baez and much prettier than Harry Chapin.)

As I grew older and began to expand my musical horizons a bit, Carole was right there with me. Whether it was the Monkees, the Byrds, the Beatles, the Association, the Turtles or the Strawberry Alarm Clock, it seemed like almost everybody covered at least one Goffin/King tune! More to the point, those songs were almost always ear-worms, peeking their little worm heads out from their surroundings as if to say, "yeah, we were written by people who knew exactly what the hell they were doing".

Yet apart from that old copy of Tapestry, I never really made any valiant effort to check out any of Carole's solo material. That all changed on a fateful afternoon when my friend Jack (er, former friend, but that's another story!) and I drove up to Montclair to check out the CD store he used to work at, Village Sounds. Now I had heard stories about Village Sounds being a front for some sort of money laundering scheme, and sure enough as I started to peruse their CD collection those stories began to ring true. Basically, the place was cut-out city. It was as if they specialized in music that no other stores would sell. Rack after rack of garbage: Krokus, Firefall, Armored Saint, Rob Base & DJ Eazy Rock, Winger. If it sucked or was played out, chances are Village Sounds had it in stock. But then a funny thing happened on the way to rock 'n' roll hell. Amongst the dross, a solitary album cover caught my eye-- two dudes and a chick, nondescript really, leaning up against an old broken down car parked out in a field. And neatly typed up in a very plain-Jayne kinda font alongside the car's driver's side window read simply, "The City".

Something about the overall simplicity of its front cover immediately separated this disc from the garishly adored flotsam that surrounded it on all sides. Mildly intrigued, I picked it up and examined the back cover. "Snow Queen", "A Man Without a Dream", "Wasn't Born to Follow", "Hi-De-Ho", "Now That Everything's Been Said"-- Hot damn! This was a Real Carole King Album from the Sixties, with her singing all my favorite songs! I grabbed it and left Village Sounds, and upon returning back to my old Park Boulevard pad, immediately put said disc on the Sony 5-CD changer. The opening piano lines to "Snow Queen" filled the room and I was hooked.

I don't why I felt it important to explain my lifelong attraction to the music of Carole King just now, other than possibly to impart to you how much the songs you're about to hear mean to me. Her work with both Gerry Goffin and Toni Stern has been covered by virtually anyone who's anyone in the music biz; but astoundingly-- considering the level of talent of the people she's always composed for-- Carole's own versions of her songs almost always trump even the greatest of covers. (See "Wasn't Born to Follow" for an example.) There's just something about the way her soulful, throaty vocal delivery compliments her fluid piano lines that just works on such a high level; at her best she's operating on the same plane as Laura, Dusty, Jackie or Aretha-- all of whom covered Carole King songs by the way, and all of whom are present on the set I'm about to discuss.

So what is Phases then? I suppose you could say its the final fruits of a seed that was planted in my head around the same time I first heard the City CD. Here's the plot: I wanted a 2 disc set that contained a collection of some of the very best cover versions of Carole King tunes on one disc, with Carole's own versions of the same exact songs on the second disc. It's such a simple concept really that I cannot fathom how such a thing is not already out on the market! I started off by compiling a list twenty-three classic Carole King performances (roughly 80 minutes) from what I consider the peak of her career as a writer and performer; 1966-71. Then it was just a matter of accumulating some exquisite contemporaneous covers of those songs; something I've been working on for the last fifteen months. (I crossed the final one off my list last night-- Matthews' Southern Comfort's groovy CSN-meets-Beach Boys take on "To Love".)

As I sit here listening back to Phases while I write this, I realize this really was a brilliant idea on my part. (Pardon the self-aggrandizement, but I'm feeling entitled at the moment!) The first disc of Phases alone serves as an awesome "Best Of" sampler of Carole's phenomenal talents as a singer/songwriter (including the four never-before-released demos that start the set off), but hearing the second disc-- with such an amazing All-Star roster of artists taking turns re-interpreting these gems-- it just does my heart good to listen to it. And so, it's my sincere hope that you will enjoy both discs 1 and 2 of Carole's Phases as much as I do. And if you do, please by all means come back and leave us a comment or two letting us know how much Carole's music means to YOU.