Monday, July 9, 2007

Barry and The Remains, Robin MacNamara

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First re-release of REMAINS debut album with bonus tracks

Review by Joe Viglione
In 1978 legendary Boston area music executive Bruce Patch re-released the even more legendary 1966 Epic album by the Remains on his Spoonfed Records label, augmenting the ten stereo songs from the original LP with four additional mono tracks. With the grooves cut into delicious red vinyl à la the first pressings of the Bloodshot album by the J. Geils Band, this 1978 limited edition is almost as much of a collectors' item as the band's Epic debut. For the fans who played that debut into the ground, the addition of "Heart," "Don't Look Back," "Thank You," and "Say You're Sorry" expands the experience, something that would happen again seven years later when New Rose Records' Fan Club subsidiary added even more cuts per side. Jon Landau writes a paragraph of liner notes on the back calling the group "the most exciting American band of their time." This reissue was produced by Jeffrey Jennings, mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, and released at the time Patch was moving the Spoonfed label operation from Boston to Malibu, CA. "Once Before" sounds as lovely and British Invasion as ever, while Billy Sherrill's 1965 Nashville production of "Time of Day" features that great separation of tambourine and fuzz tone. Billy Briggs' keys add just enough spice to confirm that all the reverence for the group is justified. An October 3, 1978, article in the Boston Phoenix by James Isaacs documents a meeting with Patch and Barry Tashian during the promotion of this release, at which time the singer commented, "I haven't heard that in 12 years" (regarding the unreleased tracks). Though all this music has resurfaced on compact disc, this special edition is worth seeking out.

Catalog #3305 Spoonfed Records 1967 LP



Reviewby Joe Viglione11:00 P.M. Saturday is a good title for this recording by the nine musicians who made up Bagatelle, who performed covers as well as originals. It is an anomaly in Boston rock & roll history. Covering tunes from James Brown to The Beatles, the band consisted of three main vocalists, Fred Griffith, Rodney Young, and David "Redtop" Thomas. The fourth singer also played piano and percussion, the influential Willie "Loco" Alexander. Alexander's tune, "Everybody Knows," is included here in a beautiful way. It would be re-recorded by producer Craig Leon for his 1978 debut, Willie Alexander & The Boom Boom Band on MCA Records. The Bagatelle and Larry Fallon arranged this recording, the latter having worked with Keith, The Looking Glass, and producer Jimmy Miller, among others. The vocal harmonies on tunes like "Hey You" mixed with flute remind one of Rare Earth. Coincidentally, they perform Rare Earth's first hit, "(I Know) I'm Losing You," but the version here is influenced by the Temptations 1966 hit. To hear a young Willie Alexander, the man who would usher in the new wave in Boston, singing "Back on the Farm" with horns and Motown style vocals is pretty groundbreaking. An a capella take of the traditional "Every Night" opens side two. Reminiscent of Boston's the G Clefs with a mix of gospel and soul, it shows the wonderful diversity of this band. Their version of The Impressions "I've Been Trying" sounds like a studio take until you hear the applause at the end. The saxophone of Steve Schrell and trumpet of Mark Gould make for a jazzy version of "I Can't Stand It," but the lengthy improv disturbs the momentum of the album. Live covers of "I Feel Good" and the medley, including "Please, Please, Please," "Gloria" (not the Van Morrison tune), "Crying in the Chapel," "I Only Have Eyes For You," and "For Your Love," make this an interesting document, but it is the inclusion of early Willie Alexander which makes it historic.


P.J. Colt

According to Boston area Music expert Count Joe Viglione, this self-titled album from singer P.J. Colt gets into the history books thanks to the participation of Jeff Baxter of The Ultimate Spinach, who later went on to Steely Dan, and many other groups. Some reference guides list this album's year of release as 1970, others as 1976. There is no copyright on the disc, making 1970 seem like the release date; it certainly looks and sounds like a project from the early '70s. There are two standout tracks, "Grave Down By The River" and "Growing Old," although the record is pretty consistent and listenable all the way through. Colt originally released the song "Growing Old" on a single and an album by the Boston band Dirty John's Hot Dog Stand on Amsterdam Records in 1970. The track has a spacy opening, while PJ Colt's vocal sounds hauntingly like early Michael McDonald. "Growing Old" follows "Blues Train," a competent cross between Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and the Velvet Underground's "Train Comin' Round The Bend." The musicianship shines throughout; guitarist Baxter emerged a star after his involvement with "The Bosstown Sound" of producer Alan Lorber on the third Ultimate Spinach album, which is a testament to talent winning out. Ray Paret did the production here, listed in the smallest of type. He certainly did not get in the way of the band. Ed Costa's keyboards and the plethora of backing vocalists are all tastefully combined in the straightforward production and mix. The blues-rock styled set consists of: Once In The Morning; Grave Down By The River; Black Jesus; Crazy Love (Van Morrison song); Leave Me Alone; Blues Train; Growing Old; Someday (Bonnie Bramlett song); I'm Tired Now; and a great version of the Mick Jagger, Keith Richards Rolling Stones hit, Honky Tonk Women.

The Clown Died In Marvin Gardens

The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens is an original statement by a Boston group which was musically superior to Eden's Children and Ultimate Spinach, but not as focused as the Remains, the Hallucinations with Peter Wolf, or the emerging J. Geils Band. Where national groups like the Peanut Butter Conspiracy may have been misguided and sputtered with no direction, vocalist John Lincoln Wright developed into a first-rate songwriter and country singer with purpose. Hearing his work on highly experimental tunes like the title track or the impressionistic "May I Light Your Cigarette?" is true culture shock. "The Clown's Overture" seems pointless, yet "Angus of Aberdeen" is inspired and a bright spot in the morass that was "the Bosstown Sound." The rave-up version of "Blue Suede Shoes" is great, the guitar funneled through effects and brimming with excitement. Therein lies the problem with this album, and this group. The most structured piece is a Carl Perkins cover while "A Not Very August Afternoon" feels like a song wanting to belong to some hippy movie that was never made. Where the Chocolate Watchband rocked with authority, the Beacon Street Union are feeling their way through the times, the business, and their music. Producer Wes Farrell should have nudged them into a more commercial direction and brought more accessible material to their attention. Wright is a major talent and had he the right direction this early in his career, who knows what kind of chart action he could have enjoyed. The tragedy of The Clown Died In Marvin Gardens is that it could have been so much more. ~ Joe Viglione, All Music Guide


The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union

The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union is a highly experimental album released around the time of the Bosstown sound. Much better than first albums from Eden's Children and Ultimate Spinach, the disc, however, lacks direction -- and cohesion. Vocalist John Lincoln Wright has the same look that he sports 23 years later on his 1991 Honky Tonk Verite CD, including his trademark cowboy hat, but the similarities between these two albums stop there. The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union is garage rock and psychedelia, and it is a trip. Where Orpheus opted for the serious pop of "Can't Find the Time," producer Wes Farrell includes a recitation by the late Tom Wilson, producer of The Velvet Underground & Nico, acting very avant-garde: "Look into the gray/look past the living streets of Boston/look finally into the eyes of Beacon Street Union." Well, Wilson did a decent job with the V.U., but he's no Crazy World of Arthur Brown screaming the immortal line "I am the god of hellfire." The band immediately dips into "My Love Is." resplendent in Robert Rhodes' (aka music attorney Robert Rosenblatt) best ? & the Mysterians keyboard sound, very cool '60s backing vocals, and guitars that are straight from the Psych Out film soundtrack. In fact, this song would have fit perfectly on that album along with the Seeds and Strawberry Alarm Clock. Had Wes Farrell kept the band on this track, the album might have more collectability. "Beautiful Delilah" is too novel to keep the momentum going, and "Sportin' Life" is lounge blues. Side two fares a bit better; "Speed Kills" and "Blue Avenue" are classic '60s psychedelia, a far cry from John Lincoln Wright's Sour Mash Boys, and amazing that it is the legendary Massachusetts country artist singing. "South End Incident" refers to the South End of Boston, which has become quite trendy, but in the day Jonathan Richman, Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground, and George Thorogood would play that part of town -- on the same bill! The music to the song might be an old blues riff, but the body of the work is "Heartbreaker" by Grand Funk Railroad, and one wonders if Mark Farner had this album and perhaps nicked this vamp a few years later? The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union slightly misses the mark, but must be commended for its original approach to this genre. The album cover looks like some history textbook that mistakenly got pressed by Mad Magazine. A mushroom next to an atomic bomb's mushroom cloud ought to tell you enough about MGM's packaging. A hit single and less cluttered album cover is what these musicians deserved, but what they have is, next to the album Listening by the band of the same name and the hit single from Orpheus, the best work from the Bosstown sound. ~ Joe Viglione, All Music Guide

SWALLOW Out of the Nest

Robin MacNamara went to school with one of the Rockin' Ramrods

Here's an excellent interview with Len Cirelli who talks about playing accordion and joining his first band "Robin & The Hoods". He goes on to say about Robin McNamara in the interview:

"I went to high school with Robin MacNamara and Ron Campisi. Our manager Bill Spence owned the three Surf Ballrooms and we played there with the other "Surf" groups, The Techniques, The Pilgrims, and others who I cannot remember right now. Robin and the Hoods was the first band I ever played in that played in public. The lead singer was Robin McNamarra who was a very talented singer and went on to have one hit solo record called "Lay a Little Lovin' On Me".He later starred in the play "Hair" all over the states and in Europe.

(the above info from the site linking McNarma with an essential Boston group)

Robin McNamara
Review by Joe Viglione
Robin McNamara's album, titled after his big 1970 hit "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me," appeared on Jeff Barry's Steed label and features that singer from the Broadway show Hair along with his cast members. The 45, as well as its non-LP B-side "I'll Tell You Tomorrow," were both co-written by the singer and his producer, with songwriter Jim Cretecos helping out on the title track. That radio-friendly bubblegum confection brightened up the summer of 1970, but it is not indicative of the adult contemporary sound on the rest of this very listenable disc. The music on the Lay a Little Lovin' on Me LP is actually a better reflection of the hip Broadway shows of the day. Neil Goldberg's "Now Is the Time" would fit just as well on the Godspell album, so different from the number 11 hit from July 1970, which no doubt inspired the likes of Richard Mondo, aka Daddy Dewdrop, and his irreverent 1971 novelty tune "Chick a Boom" -- a frosty little bubblegum number like "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me." McNamara is a credible songwriter on his own and it is a wonder he didn't land a couple of other hits, but it's more a wonder that he faded so quickly from the musical landscape. He did show up on radio station WMEX in Boston, allegedly ripping his shirt off like some Hair promo for DJ John H. Garabedian (famous for discovering the hit "Maggie Mae" for Rod Stewart ) and appears as a musician on a Monkees compilation, but he just didn't reap the rewards promised by this very sophisticated endeavor. Side one ends with a tune co-written with Ned Albright called "Lost in Boston," a fun little ditty mentioning Fenway Park that's a lot like McNamara's solo composition "Beer Drinkin' Man." Albright and Bob Dylan cohort Steven Soles co-write a very the Band-ish "Together, Forever," and they were responsible for "All Alone in the Dark" from the Monkees 1970 disc Changes. Jeff Barry was a co-producer of that Monkees event and this album's engineer, Mike Moran, showed up there, as well, giving McNamara's 11-song collection a certain value for the fans of that TV show. There are some great lost moments here, unexpected on a disc that became popular by putting the cast of a Broadway show on a tune appropriate for the Partridge Family. "Got to Believe in Love" could have changed the perception as it fuses the gospel of "Hang in There Baby" and "Glory, Glory" with the pop that brought this LP to the attention of the masses. This is a solid effort all the way around.

The Stone Coyotes featuring Barbara Keith

The legendary Barbara Keith performed with John Hall in an early Boston area band and went on to write "Free The People" which both Delaney & Bonnie and Barbara
Streisand covered.

Review by Joe Viglione
Ride Away From the World takes Barbara Keith and her family band from the country-rock the Cowboy Junkies have been so successful with to a new wave level on the pounding opening track, "I Don't Know Why," and toward the end of the disc with an excellent read of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid." Though the original version with Ozzy Osbourne's cutting voice is in a class by itself, this rendition makes some sense of the Sab signature tune. There are reworkings of some of Keith's famous tunes: an excellent and different "Free the People" — the minor hit for Delaney & Bonnie also covered by Streisand and Olivia Newton John — as well as the country classic "The Bramble & the Rose." Sounds change throughout the disc: the gritty axe on "Plain American Girl" turns into folk/electric guitar on the final track, "Face on the Train," which borrows much from Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," covered by Keith on a previous album. An elaborate eight-page booklet contains lots of photographs, the lyrics, multiple websites (like, and an intriguing mutated Mother Hubbard- or Alice in Wonderland-type painting on the back. John Tibbles, bassist and son of the singer and her husband drummer, plays lead guitar on four tracks, including "Slip and Shackle," a song which borders on heavy metal. Black Sabbath could return the favor and easily cover this, and they actually should! The tone on Tibbles' guitar is a good contrast to what his mom is playing. "Cold Hard Winter" has a nice Rolling Stones "Salt of the Earth"/Beggars Banquet feel, easing up the mood before the hard country-rock of "Pennsylvania Coal Mine." "Born to Howl" is the title of their previous album; it turns into a song on this outing. The Tibbles family is the underground version of the Cowsills or the Partridge Family, music played with lots of heart and composed for the most part by a proven songwriter. Ride Away From the World is unique and interesting because it covers so much territory and does it so well.