I’ve been very busy in recent months, and haven’t posted…and this is mainly the reason why! the new Witch Cross album ‘Axe to Grind’ is released Worldwide on July 9th on Hells Headbangers records – the first new material from the band in 28 years! This is the video of the lead track from the album ‘Demon in the Mirror’. Click on the album cover art above to find out more!
The Midlands of England has traditionally been an amazing breeding ground for renowned vocalists : Robert Plant, Glenn Hughes, Rob Halford, Steve Winwood, the list goes on. So it’s no surprise that the man I highlight today is also from that area of rich musical heritage. Jess Roden first came to prominence in the 60’s as part of The Alan Bown Set, and remained as their front man as the late 60’s saw the band morph into The Alan Bown! (Exclamation mark included) . Jess then set out with later-to-be Robert Plant guitarist Robbie Blunt to form Bronco, who released to superb albums for Island records. Throughout the 70’s, either with Butts Band, (with ex members of The Doors) solo, or with the superb live act The Jess Roden Band, he went on to cement his reputation as one of the Country’s finest vocalist, often recording with the cream of New Orleans session men, including Allan Toussaint. Over the years appearances on albums by Keef Hartley, Grace Jones,Mott the Hoople’sLuther Grovesnor, and Robert Palmer only served to show in what high regard he was held by his fellow musicians.
He formed the short-lived band The Rivits with Peter Wood (co-writer of Al Stewart’s classic ‘Year of the Cat’) releasing one album, ‘Multiplay‘ in 1980. It was to be a further six years until the release of the much sought after ‘Seven Windows’ album, and another nine after that before he burst back onto the scene with a new band –The Humans – featuring Gary Grainger (Strider, Rod Stewart) and a new album, with a guest appearance by fellow Midlander Steve Winwood.
The Humans went on to release one more album, ‘Live at the Robin’ after which Jess went into a career in Graphic Design. But now, through the Music archiving and Curating company HIDDEN MASTERS, Jess’s huge legacy is getting the showcase it deserves. Much of his catalogue has never even been released on CD before, but now, THE JESS RODEN ANTHOLOGY, a career-defining box set of 6 CD’s comprising 94 tracks, with around 50% unreleased material is available to order from PLEDGE MUSIC. A strictly limited 950 hand-numbered copies are available, and when they’re gone, they’re gone! Discover this wonderful singer today.
The video below includes a short extract of the song that was the first track discovered when the project to catalogue and digitize Jess’s music began. It is called simply ‘Song 3’.
When I first became a professional musician, back in 1979, I spent my days touring Scandinavia continually. It was while I was there that I was introduced to the music of Gino Vannelli. Born in Montreal, and something of a prodigy, he began composing songs at the age of 15. I discovered his album ‘Brother to Brother’ – an absolute masterpiece, and have worked my way both backwards and forwards through his catalogue ever since. I remember the expectancy as I found his new album ‘Nightwalker’ in Oslo in 1980. He is the consummate perfectionist, and embraced new technology easily, which is probably why the production values on his early albums usually far exceeded those of his contemporaries, with perhaps the exception of Steely Dan. In the 1990’s he surprised the music world by revealing his operatic license in “Canto”, which heralds Vannelli’s superlative vocals in Italian, French, Spanish and English – truly a World Musician! He is a great lyricist, influenced by the great Walter Whitman, and possessed of a unique and powerful voice. his arrangements and chord choices are rooted in Jazz Rock, and I find it hard to pick a favourite track. So I’m going to go with two – the fabulous ‘Appaloosa’ from ’78’s ‘Brother to Brother’, and from ’80’s ‘Nightwalker’ the glorious ballad ‘Living inside Myself.’
Although the fashion sense of the 70’s is a bit questionable (!) -revel in a time when everybody on that stage was singing and playing LIVE.
In this songwriter’s opinion, one of the most beautiful ballads ever written.
These days he divides his time between the Netherlands and the United States.
Having grown up in Portland, Oregon, Esperanza is aptly named, embracing a great swathe of cultures due to her heritage and also her love of Brazilian, and Portuguese, music. She is a wonderful bassist and vocalist, unusually singing and playing the upright bass, which really sets her apart from most of her peers. She has a deep interest in Portuguese songs, citing “the phrasing of the melody is intrinsically linked with the language – and it’s beautiful..” I agree with her, you can hear it particularly in the Fado music of Portugal – check out Mariza if you haven’t already done so. As a bassist/vocalist myself, I’m delighted to have, albeit belatedly, discovered this fabulous artist. Listen to her here on the Jimmy Kimmel show, and the ease with which her and the band move between tempos. Wonderful!
In the early 70’s the UK produced a number of great bands that never quite hit the big time, and HUSTLER were one such band. With a line-up that mirrored Deep Purple, they nevertheless approached their music with a healthy dose of humour and diminutive Norman Wisdom lookalike frontman Steve Haynes possessed all the showbiz savvy and a gravel-tinged voice to boot, with which to deliver their songs. Although they were capable of serious rock,they are perhaps best known for the Cockney anthem ‘Get outta me ‘ouse’ , a glorious Small Faces pastiche that rocks up a treat.
I was lucky enough to see them live in the 70’s and they could really deliver.
With Kenny Daughter’s virtuoso keyboards and the very distinctive sound of guitarist Mickey Llewelyn’s Flying V, Hustler had a lot going for them. the usually difficult second album didn’t seem a problem, with great tracks abounding, and produced by the producer of the moment, Queen’sRoy Thomas Baker. But punk was just around the corner, and this bands bloom withered on the vine, a victim of timing. But listen now, to the two sides of Hustler, the funny and the serious. Mickey takes lead vocal on ‘Get outta me ‘ouse’ but check the great rock’n’roll Paul Rodgers-inspired voice of Steve on Night Creeper, taken from their second album.
Formed in Cremona, Lombardia, Italy , this is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Matt Filippini. They have released 3 albums to date:
Time to take a Stand (2006)
Hidden in Time (2008)
Rebel on the Run (2009)
They are notable for their guest appearances, featuring artists such as Ian Paice, Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) Eric Bloom (Blue Oyster Cult) Graham Bonnett (Rainbow) Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) and Bobby Kimball (Toto) to name just a few. Italy is fast-becoming the last bastion of great classic rock, as evidenced by labels such as Frontiers Records and projects such as this one.
Here is ‘Shooting Star’ from ‘Rebel on the Run‘, lead vocals by James Christian from House of Lords
Trapeze ’72: L-R: Dave Holland(Drums), Mel Galley(Guitar) Glenn Hughes(Bass/Vocals)
They didn’t pull up any trees when they were together, barely grazing the charts, although curiously became huge in Texas, doing legendary double-headers with the Lone star state’s own ZZ Top in the early 70’s. But Trapeze, at the peak of their creative powers in 1972, released a fabulous album that justifies the term ‘Classic’. “YATM, WJTB’ showcased the talents of Glenn Hughes, Mel Galley and Dave Holland, who went on to join Deep Purple, Whitesnake, and Judas Priest respectively, so the musical ability is abundantly clear. This was the last time Trapeze would record a full album with this line-up, before bassist and singer Glenn was lured away to Purple.
The album opens with a roar, a sledgehammer rifforama in the shape of ‘Keepin’ Time’, which alternates between straight ahead riff rock, and glorious break down funk sections that are so tight you couldn’t get a credit card between the parts. Nobody was fusing rock and funk like this before Trapeze. Just when you think you’ve got their number, you are served up the tune that has become synonymous with Glenn Hughes over the past 40 years: ‘Coast to Coast’. It is an achingly beautiful ballad and showed a glimpse of the immense voice Glenn possessed. His control, feel and range are effortless, and the subtle contributions from guests BJ Cole (pedal steel) and Rod Argent (Piano) enhance the track beautifully. ‘What is a Woman’s Role’ has a great laid back feel, and builds Side One of the album to it’s closer, ‘Way back to the Bone’, this is a blistering, stripped bare funk masterpiece with incredible guitar, bass and drum interplay between the band members, it just drips groove!
Side Two opens with ‘Feelin’ so much better Now’, and the first time I ever heard this track, I was reaching for the liner notes to see who the three black backing singers were. Well, there aren’t any. All the voices on the phenomenal chorus of this song are Glenn’s. It is just astounding to listen to, and probably goes some way to explain why I view these asinine ‘talent’ competitions that are all over the TV like a rash with such disdain. Right here, 40 years ago, was the genuine article. And you can go along and see him do it now, at 60 years old, as part of Black Country Communion, the voice still as jaw-dropping as ever. He is a living legend. The Second track on Side two almost scales the heights of ‘Coast to Coast’ on Side One. ‘Will our love End’ once again highlights the amazing contrast in Hughes’ voice. After screaming his head off just minutes before, he delivers a breathy Bee Gees like vocal harmony that tingles the spine, and guests Frank Ricotti on vibes and Jimmy Hastings with his sublime sax, just keep on bringing to the party. It’s gorgeous stuff. The lead guitar solo from the late Mel Galley is gorgeously performed, not a note too many, not one out of place, a lesson in feel, tone, and restraint, it is exquisite. ‘Loser’ is a straight ahead rocker, but has a wonderful acapella highlight from Hughes near its close, when he’s ‘testifying’, and you hear his voice in all its raw beauty. The closer, and title track ‘You are the music, we’re just the band’, has a freight train groove, which I learned a few weeks ago, and trying to play the bass and sing it at the same time, gave me new respect for a track I’ve already loved for four decades.
But don’t take my word for it, here, for your listening pleasure, is the whole album on youtube. Listen , and marvel at what these guys were doing FOUR DECADES AGO. No smoke and mirrors here, just real music.
They may not have achieved the heights with the general public, but there’s hardly a rock musician on the planet who won’t cite Trapeze as one of their favourite bands. ‘YATM,WJTB’ is a fantastic testament to these three great musicians who fused rock and funk better than anyone before or since.
Although relegated to almost a footnote in the annals of British Rock, I feel Strider deserve more recognition. They released two albums in the early 70’s and promptly disappeared from view, but not without providing Rod Stewart with his long-serving guitarist (Gary Grainger) and pub-rock/soulsters the Q-Tips, with their keyboard player (Ian Kewley) who went on to work with Paul Young on ‘No Parlez’ and beyond. Honing their skills supporting The Faces, they released their debut album ‘Exposed’ in 1973.
It is a testament to the quality of the music scene back then that Strider were just one of many bands that were excellent but never quite had that breakthrough hit. Kewley’s rasping vocals, and Grainger’s wonderful Gibson SG guitar are writ large all over this album, and curiously, it is on the two cover versions that they really shine. Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and higher’ is attacked with glee, and just soars – you can tell they’re having a blast doing it. But their version of The Temptations ‘Get Ready’ is to the original what Vanilla Fudge’s ‘House of the Rising Sun’ is to The Animals. It just takes it to another place. An added bonus is the wonderful backing vocals from Babe Ruth’s Jennie Haan. Here’s ‘Get Ready’:
“Exposed” and “Misunderstood” were both re-issued on CD in 2007
Although named after somewhere in New Jersey, Hackensack were a British rock band, through and through. They featured a number of music scene stalwarts in their line-up, which makes it all the more surprising that they never really took off.
Formed by Nicky Moore in 1969, Hackensack were considered one of the heaviest live bands of their day. They only released one album (on Polydor) during their lifetime. Over more than 270 gigs they built up a small but loyal following but weren’t able to generate sufficient revenue to continue as a viable project. Their sound was a heavy blues/rock mix and is ‘Up the Hardway’ is highly regarded amongst collectors and very collectable. They split up in 1974, the year of its release. I bought the album at the time because I was a Marvel comics fan and loved the artwork – and always loved its gritty, earthy vibe. Nicky is no relation, by the way! :-)
Nicky Moore: Vocals, guitar (Samson, Mammoth)
Ray Majors: Vocals, guitar (British Lions, Mott)
Stu Mills: bass
Simon Fox: Drums (Be-Bop Deluxe, Trevor Rabin, Pretty Things)
I first came across this excellent Norwegian band when my band worked with them at a theme park near Stavanger in Norway when we were touring over there back in the 80’s. I was struck by how much like Joe Cocker the singer sounded. In fact, perhaps a cross between Joe and Italian singer Zucchero. When you listen to the fretless bass playing, one is also reminded of Pino Palladino’s work on Paul Young’s ‘No Parlez’ album (Not the Mike and the mechanics Paul Young, the other one!) I was always puzzled as to why this band didn’t achieve greater acclaim outside their native land. They broke up in the mid-90’s but occasionally re-form for reunion shows. This is ‘Everyone needs a friend’ – listen to the lovely bass work!