Monday, 4 November 2019

Poco (1977) Downfall - LOST70sGEMS

 The 1977 Indian Summer LP was heavily influenced by the dominance of RnB particularly on funky disco cuts Win and Lose and Living in the Band, but it totally did not work with the band's Country and Western vibes, instead they would finally hit commercial paydirt with the a more soft rock sound on their next album; 1978's Legend. Downfall is a bouncy rock n roller but with a very soft rock sensibility and a vivacious guitar solo section. Its Timothy Schmidt's faux Southern via California tone that carries a yodelling wail and delivers the heartfelt melody well but the real star are the trade-off guitar solo; I'm not a guitar solo kind of guy but these two guitars call and responding is simply exciting.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Elton John (1976) Where the Shoorah - LOST70sGEMS

 Elton John's 1976 double LP Blue Moves was by far his most forgettable of his classic 70s run,
Your Starter for It is a xylaphone styled short instrumental that resembles a twinkly gentle video game theme ala Mario Kart. This whimsical opener is followed up by sweeping movie score grandeur of Tonight and the swooping falsetto soft rock epic Chameleon which pairs Elton in full of melodramatic high pitched wailing and watery guitar. Boogie Pilgrim is what it says on the tin but with a exuberant falsetto and stop start Southern beat. Cage the Songbird is a beautiful countrified Folk rocker and one of his most underrated as he warns you can 'cage the songbird' but not make her sing. Crazy Water is a bit of funky Captain and Tennille discofied yacht rock; this was 1976 and Elton was king!
Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word is one of Elton's stone cold classics along the lines of Your Song in it's sober barroom piano confessional style. Shoulder Holster has some light soul, Out of the Blue is harmonising Prog rock ala Kansas Wishbone Ash and that soughta thing, Between Seventeen and Twenty has some Stephen Stills light folk rock sound, while The Wide Eyed and Laughing is a bright harmony staked moody tune. A lot of this album has potential, its some of his finest craft and melodies just lacking the lyrical panache that Bernie Taupin usually graced his albums with; a rare off day. Songs like Someone's Final Song, Where' the Shoorah are draped in gorgeous melodies and harmonies but loses its snap, while If There's a God in Heaven (What's He Waiting For?) has a excellent funky rhythm but ridiculous lyrics, while the album ends how it started with a completely expendable monotonous and highly rhythmic theme tune; this time an Moroccan belly-dance type of acoustic piece called Theme from a Non-Existent TV Series; apt for an album unfairly forgotten by even the die hards amongst Elton's classic 70s run.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Gene Clark (1973) In a Misty Morning - LOST70sGEMS

Roadmaster was one of Gene Clark's lesser solo album before the cult favourite No Other in 1974 and after the lauded White Light LP, but it contains two of his best tunes the first is In a Misty Morning. An epic string sweeping masterpiece, it features Clark's intoning baritone ringing alongside a trembling bass and a general rumble of thunderstorm arrangement. The melancholia that was the strain at the core of all his work is no better exemplified here from the wistful longing of a brighter past; 'Running through my thoughts, Were the memories of the days that I had left behind, Way down in my soul were the hope, That better days were always there to find'. Whilst the main hook is that the mood is so grey and outlook so bleak that the clouds 'just had to cry', a tender sentiment that hits a raw nerve while the bluegrass violin coda gives the song a pep and chaotic energy associated with the twirling storm ahead. It has echoes of the wide production technique of the Echoes solo album from the mid 60s and of his next venture, No Other, with his soulbaring croak underscored by Wagnerian soundscapes of strings, acoustics and bass to truly spellbinding effect.

Monday, 9 September 2019

McKendree Spring (1976) Too Young To Feel This Old - LOST 70s GEMS

McKendree Spring is probably one of their great unheard folk rock songs with it's gentle pacing and caressing soft rock vocals as a father sings about his looking into his boy's face and how one day he will be gone and not see anymore, its a real tear jerker with a restrained country rocker style of beat. The strong wistful cycle of life musings are heartbreaking beyond the usual romance/heartache of the 70s rock genre, the weight of this song's subject matter is devastatingly relate able to most people, myself included as I soon enter my last year of my 20s next month. Well we're all human, all fallible, all young and all old..

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Dreams (1970) Devil Lady -LOST 70s GEMS

Jazz rock ensemble Dreams may not have risen to the heights of the Mahavishnu Orchestra but they were equally talented, here on their debut they display their talents in expansive funky jazz Rock arrangements and free form jams.
Try Me is a cauldron of pounding drums, wah wah drawls and some big sexy sax stacks blasting out every funky phrase imaginable and some eye wateringly tight dynamics. The tinsel drum patterns and splintering lead guitar tones merge with a funky disco beat and flute work to remind me of a Blaxploitation film score.
The softer passages of this workout show off the bass work and the use of little horn and guitar squeaks and odd alien like metallic wails that I have never heard come from a guitar before. The Maryanne is a folk ballad which displays some flowery horn parts reminiscent of a slow down mariachi band while some Chicago soul seeps in towards the very end with a smoky lounge horn and a wallowing flute line. New York is an accessible radio ready single about the fast city set to a hustle bustle beat, the chaotic stabs of organ and horns are particularly rampant here, while the ending flange climax is incredible production sound. Holli Be Home is a beautifully sung song but the mix of dreamy pop, old school RnB and chiming Prog textures with the smoky horns doesn't work though individually they all sound great.

Then there is the three stages of the Dream Suit; the first part is called Asset Shop which showcases wah wahed funky background and some blistering horn work, explosive drums and a nice vocal part on top of that. The second part is simply titled Jane and is a little more mellower as the sax and horns separate and play a little out of sync with the flute, while the laidback shuffle of the verses increases the commercial sound as the percussion and brass dominate the mix over the soft vocal.
The third part of the Dream Suite is called Crunch Grenoala is a speed exercise in Dixieland sax and horn parts and more drawling wah wah guitar and a frenzied drum part way back in the mix; though this instrumental lacks the melodic aspects of the first two parts.

Devil Lady has a bracingly funky opening riff as horns and sax pip and put with each other in a rolling tradeoff, while the chorus soars, the piano and the harmonies add a dripping RnB flavour. 15 Miles to Provo is an odd one as it starts with a faux Mexican accent letting us know's its the start of take two over the studio speaker system before a placid beat and organ line start this modest tune which doesn't over do it at first before the ear splitting horns intrude on the relaxing number.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Gary Wright (1976) Dreamweaver - LOST 70s GEMS

This moody synth epic was one of the most timeless soft rock productions of the 70s mainly due to it's portentous Sci-Fi operatic sound. It starts with a flurry of spooky instrumentation; from from haunted keyboard sound, twinkling cocktail piano trills to the occasional digital gurgle from an analogue synth it plants an image in my mind of a supernatural forest like a Midsummer's Nights Dream. The twilight atmosphere continues with a hallowed lead vocal beaming down from the heavens above.
The tender crack in his voice as he sings the word 'behind' keeps the song rooted in intimate emotion whilst surrounded by galactic textures. The soaring chorus I first heard in a quick snippet in Toy Story 3 is of course iconic but never gets old; it has a 'whooshing' quality transporting you as the cooing vocal harmony goes up an step and a funky piano beats along and a glassy synth slides underneath. The surging quality of the track is what struck me but the murky atmospherics of the opening to the clear as daylight chorus and that beautiful bridge about the 'the dawn may be coming soon' It's like transcendental meditation encapsulated in a simple melody but deep spiritual philosophy. Meanwhile the pioneering synth work was a fitting concept in itself.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Dreams (1972) Calico Baby - LOST 70s GEMS

Jazz rockers Dreams, made up of the Brecker Brother, drummer Billy Cobham and future Late Show bassist Will Lee, return for their sophomore album, Imagine my Surprise is chock full of horns and blue eyed soul vocals, streamlined guitar lines and huge wah wah guitar flecks.

Calico Baby with its effortless soulful delivery and pop smarts and pre-Disco wah wah and horn groove, the excellent mellow country pop of Why I Can't Find a Home, while the very 70s sounding harmony drenched sunshine pop of Just Be Ourselves carries an important lyrical message about reserved people suffering anxiety. Don't Cry My Lady is another laidback ballad with deep horns and vocals reminiscent of Stax. The closing track is a upbeat jazzy ditty with quirky offbeat soul arrangements of shuffle drum pattern, inane rhyming patter, twanging trumpets and horns and wah wah meows.