Frank Gutch Jr: Jack Bruce Is Gone and the World He Inhabited Will Soon Be Gone Too; Prediscovering Elliott Randall— Still Reelin’ In the Years; The Mess That Was ‘Baker Street’; and them freakin’ Notes you just cannot live without…..

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Jack Bruce is dead.  Long live Jack Bruce.  And long live the musical era he lived in though that will soon be dead, too.  As dead as Bix Beiderbecke.  As dead as Glenn Miller.  As dead as Frank Sinatra.  As dead as … well, you get my drift.

The era of Bruce and his colleagues was my era.  I watched it grow from practically nothing to (in my mind) everything.  It had its influences and it influenced just about everything thereafter.  Life is a game of passing things along, especially when it comes to music.  Life was what Bruce gave to much of the music I revered “back then”, then being a lifetime ago.  He, along with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, fed on life.  Cream.  You couldn’t get away from them back then.  And you won’t be able to get away from them for awhile now, except now is not then and music means little compared to what it did then.

jackbruceThen was more than memories.  Then was an era we will never see again.  When music was just getting a grip on people outside of musical circles.  When records were a center of attention at the parties worth attending.  When you could walk into a room and see people, usually with beer in hand, playing air guitar while carrying on a conversation with a score of people.  When music started becoming part of DNA.

I remember Jack Bruce.  I remember him from Cream.  I also remember him as co-writer, along with Peter Brown, of a long string of songs no one wanted to hear.  Writers are right now blowing dust off of Bruce’s Songs For a Tailor album for a romp through Bruce’s past.  You will hear titles like Theme for an Imaginary Western and To Isengard bandied about.  Songs that most writers haven’t listened to in decades.  Cream songs will be excavated.  It is a time to remember, even if the songs were not part of their past.

 colosseum

The first time I really heard Bruce outside of Cream was on the Colosseum Live album.  Well, that’s not really true.  There was Blind Faith.  I consider them an aberration, though.   My pal The Duck had picked Colosseum Live up and for awhile, we started every day with Colosseum‘s version of Bruce’s Rope Ladder to the Moon.  It was inspiring, especially at the early hour of 1 PM.  (I really miss those days when I could get up whenever I wanted)  Chris Farlowe wailing away, the rhythm section of Jon Hiseman and bassist Mark Clarke (who would shortly thereafter do the same for Tempest, and what a freaking great band they were) pounding out the rhythm, Dave ‘Clem’ Clempson giving minor chords a run on guitar, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith riding the fence between rock and jazz, and who could ever forget future progmeister Dave Greenslade and his marked organ and vibe playing.  A superstar band before the fact.  Truth be told, by the time I got to Bruce’s version, I was tainted.  And a bit disappointed, as much as I would dig his version later.

I think my favorite track on that Colosseum album, though, was Graham Bond‘s Walking in the Park.  There is something magic in the song, helped along by a humorous nod to Cream’s Spoonful riff at the beginning.  Live music is fun when it’s done right and this was oh, so right.

 pauperspromo

Hiseman and Clarke were the reasons I bought the Tempest album.  Hiseman, in fact, was and would become a top choice amongst drummers, his rhythms reminding me a bit of Skip Prokop, a Canadian icon if ever there was one— both solid, full of power and finesse.  An aside:  Hiseman has been one of only three drummers I have heard who could really do it all, Prokop and Captain Beyond‘s Bobby Caldwell being the other two.  Oh, they could drum, but they could write too.  Major works, as far as I am concerned.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that guitarist Allan Holldsworth and vocalist Paul Williams rounded out the Tempest lineup.  Again, a superstar band before the fact.

Holldsworth would jump ship after Tempest, finding a paying gig with Soft Machine, a band seemingly always in transition.  He played on their Bundles album, which introduced me to one of the significant ladies in my life.  She didn’t play on it.  She just bought it.  And on my recommendation, if you can believe that!  And liked that!  I would have married that girl if I hadn’t had a premonition that she would kill me in my sleep.  Eventually.

Captain Beyond

Captain BeyondThere was a band!  Fronted by early Deep Purple‘s frontman, Rod Evans, they blew a few rods in some peoples’ brains.  Their first (and self-titled) album was a powerhouse album, technically sound and sounding amazing.  Gone was the deeply echo-chambered voice of the first three DP albums— this was a new Evans— rejuvenated.  Caldwell was a dynamo on drums, Evans inspiring, Lee Dorman bedrock, and good ol’ Rhino (real name Larry Reinhardt, who had previously played in a band with Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley and did a short stint with Iron Butterfly) a freaking tornado on guitar.  Florida.  A hotbed of music.  There are not enough fingers and toes in a roomful of hippies at a be-in to count the number of musicians to call Florida home back then.  My earliest recollection of Caldwell was with Plant Life.  During the days of We The People (See, Wayne Proctor?  I told you I would get your name in here somewhere).

Trumpet, cornet, and violin player Henry Lowther played on the Songs for a Tailor album.  I liked what he did on it.  But I liked what he did on Keef Hartley Band‘s The Battle of Northwest Six even more.  He played trumpet, fleugelhorn, and violin on that puppy, and also did the brass arrangements.  One thing I learned in my early years is how important arrangements were to certain musical pieces and how difficult it must be to meld rock with brass.  I’ve heard it done a million times.  It doesn’t always work.  Here is an example of one time it did.  This is the kind of music history of which I cannot get enough.  (Guitarist Miller Anderson is the voice of history here, as far as I can tell)

The Brits had a few thousand bands which failed in the US, not the least of which was Heads Hands & FeetAlbert Lee went on to work with a number of US acts including Emmylou Harris, but the rest of the band was talented, as well.  Here is a clip of them on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1971.  That’s some good stuff there.

This exercise has been presented to you by the way things were back then.  It was never about one guy, even if that guy was as important and/or influential as Jack Bruce.  It was always about the music, and Bruce left us with plenty of that.  May his journey be a good one.

If you would like a bit deeper look circa 1969, here is a documentary my friend Stan Twist uncovered.  It’s interesting from more than one viewpoint.

Elliott Randall— Still Rockin’ and Reelin’ (In the Years)…..

elliottrandall

Elliott Randall and I used to be friends.  Good friends.  He played at quite a few of my parties back in the day, starting with work he had done with Steely Dan (Randall was called into the studio to add the guitar solo on their hit, Reelin In the Years) and continuing on through Randall’s Island and even a short solo run before disappearing.  Okay, it was all on vinyl, but it WAS Elliott Randall.  Then one day, I noticed that I hadn’t heard from him for awhile.  Quite awhile.  Yep.  Just like that, he had dropped off my radar.  I looked for him.  I really did.  But before computers and the Net, you had to have connections to follow some musicians because what work they did was not all that much publicized and, truth be told, my connections in rockdom were pretty much limited to local artists or the clerks at local record stores.

For years, I kept my eyes open but to no avail.  I asked gurus at record stores, scanned the music zines (even Guitar World and Guitar Player.  I mean, the guy was a guitar player and a damn good one, so you would think he would show up in those now and again, wouldn’t you?).   I called friends, only a couple of whom even knew knew his name.  No one knew where he was.

Until, one day, after I had acquainted myself with this new and wondrous thing called the Internet, there he was!  Not just him, but his music!  One whole song, downloadable for the incredibly low price of nothing!  So I downloaded it, thinking I now had a line to Mr. Randall, right?

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Wrong!  The connection was to Randall’s personal Facebook page and, alas!  The number of “friends” allowed had been reached!  Wha-a-a-at?, I thought.  So I searched for another page but there didn’t seem to be any.  Not for Elliott Randall, anyway.  Once again, I had hit this brick wall.  So I wrote a short message to him through the page-which-would-not-allow-me and waited.  And waited.  Which, in Facebook time meant that it had been a couple of days.  And voila!  There it was!  A message from Mr. Randall himself, and guess what?!!!  He included info on a Facebook musician page I had somehow missed (Take note— not all search engines work all the time, at least not the way they claim).  I “liked” (what a lame term, but it did put me in contact with Randall and his world) and here I am, telling you that Elliott Randall, guitarist and musician extraordinaire, is alive and well and cranking out music as good as ever.  And if that sounds a little over the top, blame me and not Randall.  I have a tendency to celebrate when things work the way they should.

elliottrandallalbumjacket

My buddy Steve Turnidge is always telling me that things happen when they are supposed to happen and I am beginning to think he is right because I found not only Randall but a lot of music he had been working on over the years plus one classic disc available only through him, that being the classic Randall’s Island album.  The album that turned me on to Randall and his guitar and the prelude to one of my most treasured possession’s, the second album, released under the name Randall’s Island titled Rock and Roll City.  I like Elliott Randall‘s Randall’s Island too, but it was Randall Island‘s Rock and Roll City which cemented my allegiance.  When I heard Neon New York and Prediscovery and King Kongquistador, I knew I was onto something.

Now, like an idiot, I let things ride.  I just assumed there were legal problems surrounding Randall and his music— it seems to be the case with so many musicians these days.  But just a few days ago, when the germ of the idea to write this popped into my musically addled brain, I decided to ask Randall if he had any music for sale.  I’m sure he thought me brain-dead (the truth is, more computer illiterate) and sent me the link to his CD page.

Wait.  I seem to be repeating myself.  But about this page. (You can access it here)  It has six albums for your listening pleasure.  Five of them are available for streaming on Bandcamp (click here).  The music spans the gamut from rock to jazz to blues to almost new age and everything in between.  All tunes are guitar-centric if not total guitar (or at least all-Randall).

One day I hope to talk Randall into a bit of the ol’ what and see if I can get him to tell me something of his musical journey.  In the meantime, I will immerse myself into the music I have been missing, beginning with these two (liner notes of a sort printed here).  Name’s Randall.  Elliott Randall.  Remember it.

Elliott Randall Guitar Archives/Private Collection Volume 1…..

randallprivatecollection

This collection of archive recordings offers a glimpse into the development of Elliott’s playing styles. In his words: “Playing the clubs in my teens and early twenties was a fantastic experience; in those days it was common to play six nights a week, five or six sets a night. Basic training at its best!
“My interest in the blues (and its simplicity) grew naturally out of the ‘pop’ radio tunes I played night after night. Bill Haley and The Comets, Elvis, Ritchie Valens, The Isley Brothers, Ray Charles – virtually all their material led back to blues roots.

“By 1967, I joined my first psychedelic band, and found myself in the midst of New York’s ‘in’ music circle – a small cellar club on West 46th street called ‘The Scene’. Between ’67 and ’70 it truly was the scene, with late-night-to-early-morning jams with an endless list of luminaries including Jimi Hendrix, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Buddy Miles, Spirit, Led Zeppole… Blues and psychedelia mixed to a perfect blend; experimentation and innovation were encouraged and applauded.
“It was in this atmosphere that my ‘styles’ developed. The music on this CD goes from rural blues recorded in a garage in Mississippi, to live performance at New York’s Fillmore East, ‘after-midnite’ studio time in funky four and eight track studios above the old RKO Palace theater on Broadway…”

Elliott Randall/Still Reelin’…..

elliottrandallstillreelin

The making of this EP CD has been a musical journey lasting a half dozen years […and what a long strange trip it’s been] – I started the ‘roadmap’ for my new interpretation of REELIN’ before the turn of the century. I’ve always heard a ‘different spin’ on this great tune – from the moment Donald and Walter played me the unfinished track, I heard the 2 harmony guitars in the interludes, knowing that one day I’d interpret those phrases using the Celtic instruments they were meant for. My quest took me to Bill Whelan (composer of Riverdance), who introduced some of Ireland’s finest trad players to the mix. And finally, here it is.

I recruited my bandmates Bernard Purdie and Chuck Rainey from the ‘Royal Scam’ LP – I grew up with them in the studios, and just knew that they were the perfect players for this track. I traveled a lot in the process of putting all these fine musicians together – New York for Purdie and Marc Quiñones, Texas for Rainey, Ireland for some of the wonderful Celtic playing, London for the brilliantly subtle piano of Wayne Brown and the dulcet tones of Hamish Stuart… and finally to the great North of England for the topping – Tasmin Archer singing lead.

I finally feel that my ‘painting’ of an already great song is complete, and it gives me great pleasure to share it with you.

MANHATTAN ATTITUDE and WINDOW are 2 very differing instrumental visions of mine, very different moods, and some lovely musical interactions.

We end this mini-trip paying tribute to Bill Withers’ tune, which was written to leave a smile of the face of the listener. LOVELY DAY gets a fresh vocal makeover courtesy of JAG (not to mention loads of subtle ER ol’ school synthesis as the piece builds)…

I will end this little tribute to say that while in my younger days I was quite enamored with James Burton and Glen Campbell (though I have an aversion to Campbell’s own albums, his session work was exceptional), when the music really started kicking in they were replaced by Dean Parks and Elliott Randall.  Those guys could play anything and did, with more musicians than you can possibly count.

The Crazy Saga of ‘Baker Street’…..

gerryraffertybaker

What I thought I knew…..

I could tell something was wrong right off the bat.  Gerry Rafferty‘s Baker Street had just hit the airwaves and Los Angeles was going batshit crazy.  Phones were ringing off the hook and every other person who walked through the doors at the Licorice Pizza on Wilshire Boulevard headed either to the new release section or the ‘R’s in rock.  Of course, they found no Rafferty there, no Baker Street, because there was none.  Not for sale to the public, anyway.  Not yet.  Radio pumping the hell out of music you couldn’t buy?  Well, it had happened one time before when Island Records released Prelude‘s After the Goldrush, finding itself between distributors in the US.  So what do you do?  You’re sitting on top of unprecedented airplay, radio stations blasting what surely must be a hit for all to hear.  You have to do something.

prelude-after-the-goldrush-island

You press singles, that’s what, and distribute them yourselves.  Not much to it and you can press large numbers and fast.  LPs take a bit longer and are more complicated.  So that’s what happened with Island and Prelude.  That’s what happened with United Artists and Rafferty.  It was either that or lose the airplay and that is never an option for a major label.

Both singles blew the charts apart.  Billboard Magazine topped After the Goldrush off at #22, but that didn’t really relate to sales so much as the problems getting product into the stores.  Baker Street made it to #2 in the States, again, defying the reality of the massive airplay it received.  Even before UA blanketed the major urban markets with the single, the requests alone warranted more.

 

In the end, City to City finally hit the streets and by then, in spite of a number of lost sales, it sold.  And sold.  And sold.  I am not the only person who worked in the music biz back then who wondered how much of an impact the lack of sellable product had not only on sales, but the charts.

That’s what I remember and I’m sticking to it.  Except…..  I got it all wrong.

Here is what really happened…..

(The Prelude situation happened pretty much as described, which I blame for the blown head gasket)

via Wikipedia…..

gerryraffertycitytocity

(Rafferty) recorded his second solo album, City to City, with producer Hugh Murphy, which included the song with which (Rafferty) remains most identified, ‘Baker Street’.  According to Murphy, interviewed by Billboard in 1993, he and Rafferty had to beg the record label, United Artists, to release ‘Baker Street’ as a single.  “They actually said it was too good for the public.”  It was a good call:  the single reached #3 in the UK and #2 in the US.  The album sold over 5.5 million copies, toppling only the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in the US on 8 July 1978.  Rafferty considered this his first proper taste of success, as he told Melody Maker the following year:  “All the records I have ever done before have been flops.  Stealers Wheel was a flop.  ‘Can I Have My Money Back’ was a flop.  The Humblebums were a flop.  My life doesn’t stand or fall by the amount of people who buy my records.

‘Baker Street’ featured a distinctive saxophone solo played by Raphael Ravenscroft, although the origins of the solo have been disputed.  As the singer recalled in a 1988 interview with Colin Irwin, “When I wrote the song, I saw that bit as an instrumental part but I didn’t know what.  We tried electric guitar but it sounded weak and we tried other things and I think it was Hugh Murphy’s suggestion that we try saxophone.”

ravenscroft

In a 2006 interview with The Times, Ravenscroft recalled the episode differently, claiming he was presented with a song that contained “several gaps”.  “If you’re asking me, ‘Did Jerry hand me a piece of music to play, then no, he didn’t.  In fact, most of what I played was an old blues riff.”  Ravenscroft, a session musician, was in the studio to record a brief soprano saxophone part and suggested that he record the now famous break using the alto saxophone he had in his car.

On his interview with Colin Irwin, Rafferty disputed this and noted that Ravenscroft had been his second choice to play the saxophone solo, after Pete Zorn, who was unavailable.  “The only confusion at the time that I didn’t enjoy too much was the fact that a lot of people believed that the line was written by Raphael Ravenscroft, the sax player, but it was my line.  I sang it to him.”  When a remastered version of City to City was released in 2011, it included the original electric guitar version of the song, confirming Rafferty’s authorship of the riff.  In the liner notes to the album, Rafferty’s long-tome friend and collaborator, Rab Noakes, commented, “Let’s hope (the Baker Street demo) will at last silence those who keep on asserting that the saxophone player came up with the melody line.  He didn’t.  He just blew what he was told by the person who did write it, Gerry Rafferty.  Michael Gray, Rafferty’s former manager, agreed.  “The audible proof is there from the demos that Rafferty himself created the riff and placed it in the song’s structure exactly where it ended up.”  Ravenscroft went on to play on Rafferty’s next two albums.

To explain, I assume what happened to me is that over the years, the similarities in the distribution problems involved with both Prelude and Rafferty began to morph.  The promotion of the single in each case was crucial to the airplay and, correspondingly, to the singles and albums’ success.    I apologize for any misinformation I have spread over the years and hope you understand and forgive me.  I use as an example that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, my distorted perception of this instance.

It is fascinating to me, though, especially in light of Jaimie Vernon‘s explanation of CBS and their handling of Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, exactly how things like this happen (read it here).  And I echo Rodney King’s statement, applicable to these instances— “Can we all (just) get along?”  (Wiki says Rodney didn’t say “just” which is why I placed it in parentheses.  I have heard the misquote so many times, it just didn’t seem right to the ear to leave it out.)

RIP, by the way, for Ravenscroft who passed away recently.  He did a lot of session work, but none hit the public ear as much as what he did on Baker Street.  It was definitely a moment in time/

Music NotesNotes…..  I remember when the Pac Northwest was a desert when it came to music and yet there was always something good, mostly ignored or buried.  Nowadays we could break off and float into the ocean with the weight of talented and super-talented musicians gracing the area.  Here is a 30+ minute session from one of those bands, courtesy of audiotree.tvShook Twins.  Coming out of Idaho, they have now settled on Portland and are wowing the crowds everywhere.  These sessions will show you why.  Save the link if you don’t have 30+ minutes.  This is well worth watching.

New album out as well!  Here is the video page— http://audiotree.tv/session/shook-twins/ and here is their web page— http://shooktwins.com/

danphelpsWhile the rest of the world is trying to find the formula (meaning trying to emulate fad music-of-the-moment, Seattle’s Dan Phelps is experimenting with tones and textures and a plethora of instruments (he experiments with as many as he can get his hands on).  I can only think of one person who has been as creative and honest to his music— Paul Curreri.  Phelps has an EP coming out soon.  I suggest you tap in to what this guy cooks.  Here is a track from the EP.  And be aware.  The next round of tunes emanating from his jukebox might be nothing like this.  Probably won’t, in fact.  Life is too short to fall into formulae.  The antidote for the major labels.  Listen here.

There is a story behind Stu Nunnery I hope we will all hear someday— not just about his battle with hearing and his career in the 70s cut short, but about all of the things he did outside of the musical world.  The guy put out an album many of my friends (and myself) embraced, an album which died due to circumstances at the time.  I support a lot of Kickstarter projects because I think the music and artists deserve a shot.  Stu, I doubly support.  He is talented and humble and everything you should like in a musician.  He never stopped being one.  Watch the video and get a Cliff’s Notes version of his journey.  Then get on the bandwagon.  This album is worth having.  I have it and so do many of my friends.  I don’t call him Stunnery for nothing.  Click here to learn more.

Fellow DBAWIS writer and music freak Darrell Vickers comes up with music I would never have found and the ones I might have found show up earlier on his radar.  One of his latest comes in the form of a guy named Lawrence Bray, who is the lead vocalist of Around Town, the band in this next video (Bray’s brother is the bass player).  A bit of pop/psyche for you?  This is nice stuff!  And if you want more, he (as a solo artist, I think) is coming out with a new three-song EP.  I would link you to it but Lawrence has used Spotify to insert music onto his site and I am, at present, involved in a battle against people who make millions off of the backs of musicians.  Still, if you don’t hate the Spotifys of the world as much as do I, check out his site here and listen to three more outstanding Bray tracks.

In the Music Olympics these days, if you’re not from Canada, you are almost an also-ran.  Here is another outstanding track from another of Canada’s sons— Dan Mangan + Blacksmith.  I don’t care if these guys are major label or not.  I just love this track!

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank 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.” 

2 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Jack Bruce Is Gone and the World He Inhabited Will Soon Be Gone Too; Prediscovering Elliott Randall— Still Reelin’ In the Years; The Mess That Was ‘Baker Street’; and them freakin’ Notes you just cannot live without…..”

  1. Greg Simpson Says:

    Great collection of tracks, Frank. Always enjoy what you post, so I am a little hesitant to draw your attention that, aberration or not, Jack had nothing to do with Blind Faith. Eric and Ginger did, of course, but their bass player was Ric Grech ex-of The New Animals and later with Family. And, of course, the vocalist was Steve Winwood…but no Jack. This was a few decades before he could stomach working with Ginger again.

  2. […] As with Revere, I used Jack Bruce as a focal point of a column when he passed.  Bruce, while not the first bass player I had ever noticed, made the bass come alive for me.  And he had an amazing run, both as bassist and songwriter/performer.  You can read the aforementioned column here. […]

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