Frank Gutch Jr: Kickin’ Thru the Ashes (Old Albums Rediscovered)….
It all started when Laurie Biagini posted a link to a video (Lydia Purple) by The Collectors, a legendary Pac NW band out of British Columbia back in the sixties (and, yes, B.C. is in the Pac NW). My buddy Howie Wahlen followed that up by taking pictures and posting both sides of The Collectors‘ first album jacket and the die was cast.
When I was young, I loved The Collectors. They were young and fresh and psychedelic and, probably more important than it should have been, semi-local. It was a rush hearing the song and seeing the back of the album jacket (I had not seen the reverse side for many years) and that rush (coupled with caffeine) made me do something I had been threatening to do for years— dig out my albums. Most I had unearthed earlier, but there were albums missing and I wanted to see if maybe, by the oddest of chances, I still had my copy of that album which was so important to my musical youth. So I dove in. With both feet. I assumed the position my father, rest his soul, demanded at times. “All I want to see,” he would say, and always with a sense of humor, “is asshole and elbows,” meaning that I’d better put my back into the task at hand or else. In the cartoon world in which I envelop myself, albums flew everywhere, slamming against walls and knocking over furniture. In reality, I picked up and uncovered and dusted off a multitude of albums I knew I had had once but had not seen for years. No Collectors, though. No Paupers. No Remains with Barry Tashian. None of a lot of the albums I had had over the years. I gave a lot of them away, I know (my policy back then was that if someone appreciated something more than myself, I would give it to them, thus the loss of some serious collector’s items— and some not so serious). I sold some. I lost some (funny how every time you ship thirty or more boxes of records, albums— not unlike socks— get misplaced). I could see holes in my collection you could drive a truck through.
For a short time, every hole I found was a bummer, but only for a few seconds. Unlike some people, I am not a hoarder. If I am not going to listen to an album for ten years, I figure I might as well find it a new home. And I pretty much had for a great number of them. What surprised me was the holes I expected to find and didn’t. Albums I thought for sure I had passed along but hadn’t. David Gilmour‘s self-titled album, for instance (it is, as I type, on its way to someone who will appreciate it much more than I ever could). Dire Straits‘ first album. Bangles‘ Different Light album. David Crosby‘s If I Could Only Remember My Name. Prelude‘s After the Goldrush (Kiddies, you would not believe how big that song was on radio). Kansas‘s first album. Albums I could not believe I kept, being the musical rebel that I am. Every time I uncovered one, a little bubble appeared over my head with a “WTF?” inserted.
On the other hand, I found on a consistent basis albums I thought were long gone. Albums I had coddled and packed carefully with each move only to be lost between homes, or so I thought. Albums like—- but first, an aside:
Awhile ago, I received a message from my pal Joe Lee, drummer for Seattle’s Nine N Out and Johnson County. He pointed me to a web page which listed a tape I had recorded for him over two decades ago, when I was hip deep in records and getting deeper by the minute. This tape was more than likely recorded in a drunken fit after a night at The Buckaroo Tavern, my favorite haunt back then, and consisted of sixties tunes, which meant that it was a 45s night at the ol’ stereo (the little record with the big hole?). Well, it seems that Joe’s daughter Marisa, whom I last saw when she was but a young tike, had grabbed onto the tape and had posted it for others to hear. One side is classic odd sixties (I would say “garage”, but that always conjures up crunch more than pop in my mind) and the other is Pac NW oddities. Like finding the albums I will write about here, finding these songs is a rush. I have only a few of those 45s remaining in my collection and a few are among the best the period had to offer. Like The Bumps‘ Hard Woman and The Live Five‘s Who Knows on the NW side. Like The Knickerbockers‘ What Does That Make You and The Great Scots‘ That’s My Girl (Rotten To the Core) on the straight oldies side. In my head, the sixties doesn’t get better than this, especially for the Nuggets and Pebbles freaks out there. If you should want to follow this link, you will find some exceptional tracks. I mean, how cool is it that Marisa blew the dust off of the old cassette and posted it for others to hear? Pretty damn cool, if you ask me. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Now, where were we? Ah, yes. The albums I found! You remember how excited you were to get your hands on that certain Pink Floyd or Beatles or Simple Minds album? It doesn’t hold a candle to what I felt rediscovering the albums I found this past weekend. Each one holds a special place in my heart and is a Dark Side of the Moon or Revolver in my head. You see, “classic” to me is the music which marks you for life. Sure, Dark Side and Revolver did that, but I stepped beyond. After a hundred or a thousand listens to those, I needed more. Ah, but the places my head went. And this weekend, went back:
Riff Raff: Original Man (1974)— Thank the gods for the Brits! I picked up this album at Portland’s Music Millennium back in the days that their import arm, Intergalactic Trading Company, was turning my head every which way. They used to publish an import sheet which listed their new acquisitions, see, and a bunch of us in Eugene would head north once a month to scrounge through the racks, that sheet clutched in our greedy little hands, albums of interest marked or underlined. Though the store had listed Original Man, it was not marked on my sheet. They were playing it when I entered the store, though, and I stopped at the counter to see what it was. I bought it on the spot. It is jazzy, surreal, and smooth when it is not groove-laden. For the one or two of you who know Forever More, the band which helped spawn Average White Band, Riff Raff was more what I expected them to sound like. I discovered Tommy Eyre in this band— a name which would surface a lot over the next number of years. (One of the highlights of my time in San Diego would be seeing Tommy Eyre and John Hawken on the same stage as members of The Strawbs)
Parrish & Gurvitz: Parrish & Gurvitz (1972)— The way Gary Haller at Eugene’s House of Records told it, Brian Parrish was supposed to be a wunderkind— a musician who, if he lived up to potential, would set us all on our ears. Well, he didn’t, but the album he and Paul Gurvitz put out was a gunshot more people should have heard. The music is as much acoustic as electric and full of surprises like acoustic piano and pedal steel in the oddest places and strings and, oh, when they harmonize! Excellent songs (especially Side Two) which go straight to the heart. Gurvitz, in case you are wondering, is the same Gurvitz with the earlier Gun and the later Three Man Army before teaming up with brother Adrian and Ginger Baker in Baker Gurvitz Army. Produced exceedingly well by George Martin. Holy crap! I just found the album tracks included in a huge collection on CDBaby. Life is good!
Harvey Mandel: Cristo Redentor (1968)— How soon we forget. Harvey Mandel was right up there with Mike Bloomfield and Eric Clapton in terms of respect back in 1968 when this album was released. He had started out with Charlie Musselwhite, playing on the Stand Back! album, filled in when Henry Vestine left Canned Heat, played with John Mayall and many others, but somehow, never recouped the fame brought to him by Cristo Redentor. He came through Eugene once with Pure Food & Drug Act, a show promoted as a chance to hear Mandel play the stereo guitar, an instrument which never quite caught on. Those “greatest guitarist” lists you see all the time? This guy’s name should be on them. While so many others were playing guitar, Mandel was breaking ground with it.
Tempest: Tempest (1972)— If ever there was a superstar band, this was one. Of course, no one had really heard of Allan Holdsworth up to this time (he would later play with Soft Machine before going solo as a jazz artist), Mark Clarke would make his name in retrospect (his bass on this album is exceptional). Only Paul Williams came in with credentials up the ying-yang (Zoot Money, John Mayall and Juicy Lucy on his resume) while Jon Hiseman would fit Tempest between Colosseum‘s I and II. There is power here that is missing in most of the prog bands of this period, thanks to a pounding rhythm section and Holldsworth’s unique style. When he went to Soft Machine to play on Bundles, Holldsworth would tone down the sound but not the licks. This is a true treasure of an album both musically and historically.
Headstone: Headstone (1975)— This one is very personal. When I was in San Diego in the mid-seventies, I met one of the great loves of my life. She came into a Licorice Pizza where I was working and asked one of my co-workers for a “John McLocklin” album. He had no idea what she was asking for, so he brought her over to me. I told her, first off, his name is “McLaughlin” and that if she really liked him, she would love the work Allan Holldsworth had done on Soft Machine‘s Bundles album. She bought it, no questions asked. When she walked out, I turned to Kim, one of my co-workers, and said, “If there is a one, she might well be it.” The next night, she came in when I wasn’t working to say how much she enjoyed the album. Kim wouldn’t let her leave without leaving me a note. She included her phone number. I wish I could say that that was the beginning of a beautiful and long relationship, but we both had our baggage and it lasted only a couple of years. They were good years, though, as hard as they were, and we left each other better for them. She loved music almost as much as I did and this Headstone album was one of her real favorites. Guys, you don’t know the thrill of walking into a room to find your girl listening to a band like Headstone instead of the old standards. I should have forced her to marry me. Yeah, like that would have worked…..
Ian Matthews: Valley Hi (1973)— The first time I heard this album, it took my breath away. I had known Matthews from Matthews Southern Comfort and Fairport Convention, but was unprepared for his vocal arrangement of the Steve Young-penned 7Bridges Road (norMichael Nesmith‘s signature production treatment). The album is topnotch, but that track is incredible! So usually when I talk about this album, I talk about what a bunch of assholes the Eagles are in not giving Matthews arrangement credits on their live version. But I’m not going to do that here, even though they are and should have. I’m going to just say that finding this album amongst the rest was a big thrill.
Tarney/Spencer Band: Three’s a Crowd (1978)— For a number of years I have been somewhat miffed at my stupidity in getting rid of my Tarney/Spencer albums. Few bands have impressed me as much in terms of mainstream melody and harmony. Exceptional songwriting and vocal arrangements are only two reasons their two (and I hear there is a third, though I have never seen nor heard it) albums have gotten a lot of airplay at my house. If you like smooth pop, there is no better. I almost cried when I found this album. How could these guys have missed!?
Johnny Rivers: Home Grown (1971)— By the time Rivers got to this point, I was a bit burned out on him. He had had a string of hits and received an immense amount of airplay and had begun sounding plain overproduced as far as I was concerned. So when Home Grown hit the streets, I didn’t even look twice. Until the famed Gary Haller told me I should. I took it home and put it on and what I heard was, indeed, home grown. The sound was more sparse, the songs back-to-the-land, in a sense. Not only that, he used a string of exceptional musicians who were slowly making their way into my consciousness (not the least of whom are Mike & Kathy Deasy). This was my first exposure to the songs of Jackson Browne (Our Lady of the Well and Rock Me On the Water). I call this the great lost Johnny Rivers album for a reason.
Magma: Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh (1973)— If I have one true oddity in my collection, it is this one. Christian Vander was one damn unique dude. He put together a rock band and stage show, wrote songs in a language he created and dared people to listen. This album is the third part of a trilogy, a rock opera so science fiction you need a libretto to follow. I wrote a review of this album which was published in Fusion which begged A&M to package the trilogy in a box and hire an illustrator to create a comic book libretto, but they were too busy selling Cat Stevens album to pay attention. The cretins! Be forewarned: Not for the squeamish.
Larry Raspberry & The Highsteppers: In the Pink (1975)— When I first got to Seattle, these guys were playing The Rainbow Tavern, a place in which I would spend uncountable hours later, swilling down beer and listening to music so good it was sinful. Unfortunately, all I saw was the marquee and had no available funds, so the Highsteppers are only a figment in my mind. When I started work at Peaches Records a couple of months later, I got the word from the guys who had attended what I had missed. Evidently, they were something to see. All I got out of it was a copy of In the Pink and other people’s impressions, but to this day I feel like I missed something really special. The album is good. That night must have been incredible. Raspberry, for those who don’t know, was the man behind The Gentrys (Keep On Dancin’).
Zzebra: Zzebra and Panic— I came to Zzebra through Terry Smith and Dave Quincey, both formerly of the band If. Music Millennium had given them a big thumbs up (the first album was import only) and is big an If fan as myself found it easy to handle, if only for those two names. Luckily, the band also included (I found out later) Liam Genockey and John McCoy from Curtis Maldoon and Loughty Amao (Osibisa). While the self-titled album has a slight leaning toward jazz-inflected rock with a touch of international roots, Panic cranked it up a mite, thanks to the addition of Tommy Eyre on keyboards and a young up-and-coming guitarist named Steve Byrd. This was a true, though imagined loss. Finding both of these at the back of a pile actually makes breathing easier. (Note: The cover of Take It Or Leave It is the same as Panic except for the title)
Potliquor: Levee Blues (1971)— Another Gary Haller push got me into Potliquor. They had a rock ‘n’ soul groove which somehow couldn’t make it out of the South, but I dug ‘em. They put out a handful of albums, to my knowledge, all on the Janus label, and I have three. Until finding Levee Blues, I thought I was down to two.
I could go on, believe me, but you probably get the idea. Anyway, I’m tired, so here are the
Notes….Those who want to follow up on my piece on Gypsy last week can do so by clicking on this link. It is an excellent site devoted to Minneapolis-St. Paul music….. Here’s what’s happening with Tom House: word is spreading. After Keith Morris and Lance Smith put together a video for House’s Whiskey Sings Like Angels, writers are hopping on board. First, FAME contributor Mark S. Tucker writes this, then DBAWIS‘s Jaimie Vernon puts in his two cents worth (see his column later this week). Too many people who really know music like this album (Winding Down the Road) for it to be a fluke. Check it out here!….. I’m not really one for covers, but Sean Kelly’s voice is perfect for this version of Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain. He is only one reason I consider Colorado a music oasis. You can add The Big Motif, Elephant Revival, Jill Stevenson and a host of others. Start with Kelly and work your way through the others. Very impressive….. So you’re a Seattle band. Why go to Las Vegas to film a video? Why not? I sure as hell would! Love Battery….. 137 views? Are you shitting me?!!!!! Drew Gibson puts out an outstanding album (The Southern Draw), puts together a solid video to promote one of the songs (On Sunday) and only 137 people can find their way to it? It makes me want to spit nails! Follow this link! Listen! This is good stuff, fer chrissakes! Sometimes I feel like I’m operating in a vacuum….. It was the eighties. It sounded like the sixties. At least, on this track. The Green Pajamas from their Summer of Lust album. The Way I Feel About You….. On the turntable this week: Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers/Old Gold, Tim ‘Too Slim’ Langford/Broken Halo, Hardin Burns/Lounge, Rick Nelson/The Complete Epic Recordings, Dala/Best Day, Green Pajamas/Death By Misadventure, et. al….. I saw some clown on H2 making a comment about how Woodstock was the peak of human civilization or some such crap. I get that some people can’t move past certain points in life but if that is his stance, he will never know. May he enjoy his Groundhog Day. Me, I’m drowning in today’s music which, in my opinion, is as good as it ever was (and in some instances, better)…..Lisa Joy Pimentel and her newly formed semi-punk band No Small Children are presently working their way through a mini-tour, possibly testing the waters. For those who don’t know, Pimentel was drummer/vocalist for early all-female band Heidi before going it on her own with Lisa Parade. She is not the kind of person who limits herself when it comes to her music. Here is a link to a video from her Lisa Parade days. No Small Children, by the way, leans more to the punk side than does the Parade. Three man punk (though the men are women)…..
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”