Paul Butterfield's Better Days - Live At Winterland Ballroom 1973

Better Days was a short-lived band led by harmonica player Paul Butterfield.

Better Days were only around briefly, and only ever released two studio albums. Fortunately in 1999 an excellent live album was released, taken from recordings of a concert at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1973. It's a great quality recording, showing the talented band at their best, with lots of the songs featuring extended solos and jams. The majority of the set list is made up of numbers from the band's two albums, but it also features an otherwise unreleased song ("Countryside") and a fifteen-minute jam of Bobby Charles' "He's Got All The Whiskey" (the song originally appeared on Charles' 1972 self-titled album, which members of Better Days had played on).

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Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme (1966)

Simon & Garfunkel are an American singer-songwriter duo, consisting of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

"The Sound Of Silence" had given Simon & Garfunkel their breakthrough with a #1 hit on New Years Day 1966. It was followed by a very successful folk-rock album. Their next single was another brilliant Paul Simon original, "Homeward Bound", which got to #5 in the US and also broke them into the UK Top 10. "I Am A Rock" from the Sounds Of Silence album then got to #3, completing a trilogy of perfect hit singles. The next single, "The Dangling Conversation", was not as successful (but still managed to chart at #25!).
Their next album refined the folk-rock style of the Sounds Of Silence album, being arguably a more consistent record. Simon & Garfunkel had truly found their voice. Three of the songs had previously appeared as solo numbers of the obscure Paul Simon Songbook album. It also features both the "Homeward Bound" and "The Dangling Conversation" singles. The best-remembered song on the album was the opening track from which it took its title, an arrangement of the English folk ballad "Scarborough Fair" set in counterpoint with "Canticle", an early Paul Simon composition.
The album was a success, and charted at #4.

Sounds Of Silence (1965) <|> Bookends (1968)
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Kris Kristofferson - The Silver Tongued Devil And I (1971)

Kris Kristofferson is an American country music singer-songwriter.

In the late 60s and early 70s Kris Kristofferson had emerged as one of the most successful new songwriters in country music, penning songs that became huge hits for artists including Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Bobby Bare, Sammi Smith and Waylon Jennings. His own brilliant solo debut had not been much of a commercial success, but by the time he brought out the follow-up in 1971 his songwriting successes (capped by Janis Joplin's #1 pop cover of "Me & Bobby McGee") had pepared people to take notice of him as a recording artist in his own right.
The Silver Tongued Devil And I featured a similar collection of wonderful story-songs. There were some great new songs, alongside a couple of older ones ("Jody & The Kid" had been recorded by Roy Drusky in 1968, and "The Taker" had been a hit for Waylon Jennings in 1970) and a cover of Bobby Bare's "Good Christian Soldier" (Bare himself recorded a lot of Kristofferson songs in '70 and '71). It perhaps wasn't as consistent as his debut (where arguably every song was a masterpiece), but it turned out to be a bigger success. "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" gave Kristofferson his first hit single of his own, reaching #26 on the pop chart.

Kristofferson (1970) <|> Border Lord (1972)
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Wilson Pickett - Hey Jude (1969)

Wilson Pickett was an American soul singer, a major figure in the development of soul music in the 60s.

In 1969 Wilson Pickett returned to Alabama to record at Fame Studios again. Together they produced a stunning cover of The Beatles' recent hit "Hey Jude", which when released went to #23 on the pop chart, #13 on the R&B chart, and also #16 over in the UK (his second biggest hit in the UK). The song was notable for featuring some blistering lead guitar from Duane Allman, who was at the time working as a session musician in Muscle Shoals.
Another Fame-produced album followed, perhaps one of his best, full of the sort of funky southern soul grooves typical of Wilson Pickett. As well as "Hey Jude", there was a surprising cover of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" - the inclusion of these two songs suggests the album could have been some sort of attempt to cross over and reach a rock audience. The album included another minor hit, Bobby Womack's "People Make The World (What It Is)" (#20 R&B).

The Midnight Mover (1968) <|> Right On (1970)
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Arthur Alexander - The Monument Years (1965-1972)

Compilation 
Arthur Alexander was an American soul singer and songwriter.

When his brief run of hits had run out, Arthur Alexander found his contract with Dot Records terminated. In 1965 he signed with Sound Stage 7, the soul subsidiary of Fred Foster's Nashville-based Monument Records. He released six singles for Sound Stage 7 over three years, but none of them even touched the charts. As a result he was curiously absent from the music scene for the latter half of the decade, making it a somewhat mysterious chapter in his career.
In 2001 Ace Records released this fantastic compilation, which brought together the Monument singles with a host of previously unreleased studio leftovers from the same era. The result is an extensive collection, perhaps not as strong as his classic early singles, but nevertheless some excellent country soul in his distinctive style, with certain standout tracks that can indeed stand up with his earlier work. It includes some interesting covers, among them The Box Tops' "Cry Like A Baby", The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love", Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem" and Curly Putman's "Set Me Free".

The Dot Years (1962-1965) <|> Arthur Alexander (1972)
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Bobby Charles - Wish You Were Here Right Now (1994)

Bobby Charles was an American singer-songwriter.

1994 saw Bobby Charles release Wish You Were Here Right Now - in nearly forty years in the music business, this was only his third album! It featured a great collection of new songs along with some updated versions of some of his old classics ("The Jealous Kind", "See You Later Alligator" and "Walking To New Orleans"), with some excellent arrangements throughout (many of them highlighted by Sonny Landreth's electric slide guitar). One definite standout was "The Mardi Gras Song", an upbeat New Orleans party number (exactly what the title would suggest). The album also featured a few high profile musical guests, demonstrating the high regard Bobby Charles was held in the music world - Neil Young played some guitar, Willie Nelson co-wrote one of the songs and played guitar, and Fats Domino sang on "Walking To New Orleans" (the song Charles had originally written for Fats back in 1960, with which he had scored a Top 10 crossover hit). The result was a great album, a very welcome addition to Charles' scant discography.

Clean Water (1987) <|> Last Train To Memphis (2004)
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Pentangle - Sweet Child (1968)

Pentangle are a British folk group originally active in the late 60s and early 70s.

Pentangle released their second album shortly after their debut. It was a double album, the first disc recorded live at London's Royal Festival Hall, the second disc recorded in the studio. It further explored the brilliant folk-jazz fusion their debut had introduced, the live disc going in particularly jazzy directions with renditions of Charles Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". Elsewhere there was a great mix of band originals and traditional songs, along with some covers of songs by Furry Lewis, Anne Briggs and Ewan MacColl, all set to brilliant arrangements which showcased the very high caliber of musicianship in the band. Also of note was that electric guitars were used on some of the songs on the live disc, so the band could no longer be called 100% acoustic. Their debut had been very good - Sweet Child was probably even better.
 
The Pentangle (1968) <|> Basket Of Light (1969)
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New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Oh, What A Mighty Time (1975)

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage are an American country-rock band, with roots in the San Francisco psychedelic scene of the 60s.

Oh, What A Mighty Time was the last album the New Riders released on Columbia Records. It was also their second with bassist Skip Battin, and was produced by Bob Johnston. At this stage in their career the band were not seeing much success commercially, and their albums were being received with increasing indifference. Its perhaps telling that most of the album was made up of covers or songs by outside writers, with only three band originals. The covers included Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina", Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" and Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother". The title track was written by Don Nix. Musical guests included Jerry Garcia and Sly Stone.

Brujo (1974) <|> New Riders (1976)
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Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

Richard Thompson is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist.

In October 1972 Richard Thompson married Linda Peters, who had appeared as a backing singer on his debut solo album Henry The Human Fly from the same year. They began performing as a duo, and in 1973 quickly recorded I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight on a shoestring budget. Thompson played all the guitars, plus mandolin, whistle and keyboards. Bass and drums were provided by Pat Donaldson and Timmy Donald respectively, and there were also appearances from accordion player John Kirkpatrick and Thompson's old bandmate Simon Nicol (on dulcimer). Featuring all original songs and a somewhat bleak mood throughout, it was something of a masterpiece of English folk-rock, but its release was actually held back until 1974. On its eventual release it was not much of a commercial success, but was quickly recognised by critics and fans for the brilliant record it was, and today is considered the highlight of Thompson's career.

Henry The Human Fly (1972) <|> Hokey Pokey (1975)
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Otis Redding - Live In Europe (1967)

Otis Redding was a highly influential American singer and songwriter, considered one of the most important artists of the soul genre.

1966 was the year Otis Redding had broken through from the R&B chart into both the US and UK pop charts. He toured Europe and appeared on UK television, and was enthusiastically received. The next year he released an album of duets with fellow Stax singer Carla Thomas, which produced the Top 10 R&B hits "Tramp" and "Knock On Wood". In the summer of 1967 he performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, gaining a massive new audience of rock fans.
The same summer his first live album was released, recorded at a gig in Paris with Booker T. & The MGs from a few months earlier. It was a great set containing most of his biggest hits, and today is an excellent document recording the energy and excitement he generated onstage, and the enthusiastic audience reaction. The live cover of Sam Cooke's "Shake" was also released as a single, charting as a #16 R&B hit.
Unfortunately, the album turned out to be the last to be released in Redding's lifetime. He died later that year in a tragic plane crash.

The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul (1966) <|> The Dock Of The Bay (1968)
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Eric Burdon & The Animals - Love Is (1968)

The Animals were an English rock band active in the 60s. After the original band's breakup in 1966, a second lineup was put together by singer Eric Burdon.

Following the arrival of keyboard player Zoot Money, bassist Danny McCulloch left The Animals. Guitarist Vic Briggs was also replaced by Andy Summers, who had been with Money in British psychedelic group Dantalian's Chariot. This new lineup (Eric Burdon, Money, Summers, John Weider and Barry Jenkins) thus had no bassist - Money handled it in the studio, and on stage it was passed around between guitarists Summers and Weider.
They released a new album in 1968, the group's third from that year. Love Is was a double album, and consisted almost entirely of covers. Songs in a variety of styles were given big, ambitious re-inventions, several nearing ten minutes in length - Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High", Sly & The Family Stone's "I'm An Animal", Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire", Traffic's "Coloured Rain", The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" and Albert King's "As The Years Go Passing By". There was also an excellent original song from Burdon, and a twenty-minute medley of two Dantalian's Chariot numbers written by Summers and Money. The album's sound was big and powerful, and the result was surely the masterpiece of the latter-day Animals. It even generated one final minor hit, as "Ring Of Fire" got to #35 in the UK.
However it proved to be the end of the road for the band, as they broke up shortly afterwards. Eric Burdon went on to join forces with Californian funk band War, and John Weider joined progressive rock group Family (replacing Ric Grech). Zoot Money continued to work in both music and film, and Andy Summers of course went on to fame as guitarist for The Police.

The Twain Shall Meet (1968) <|
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The Amazing Rhythm Aces - The Amazing Rhythm Aces (1979)

The Amazing Rhythm Aces are an American country-rock band originally formed in the early 70s.

The Amazing Rhythm Aces' self-titled 1979 album was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound studio, produced by Jimmy Johnson. It was also their first with new lead guitarist / multi-instrumentalist Duncan Cameron. It offered the group's usual eclectic mix of rock, country, soul & R&B sounds, and was notable for featuring some contributions from outside the band for the first time - some of the R&B tunes were augmented by a horn section, one song featured strings, and the closing number had guest vocals from from Joan Baez and Tracy Nelson. It also differed from the earlier albums in its inclusion of three cover songs - Al Green's "Love And Happiness", Benny Spellman's "Lipstick Traces" (an Allen Toussaint composition) and Rudy Clark's "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody".

Burning The Ballroom Down (1978) <|> How The Hell Do You Spell Rhythum? (1980)
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Laura Lee - The Chess Years (1966-1969)

Compilation 
Laura Lee is an American soul and gospel singer.

Laura Lee Newton was born in Chicago in 1945, and as a child relocated to Detroit with her mother. She was adopted by Rev. E. Allan Rundless, whose wife Ernestine Rundless led a gospel group known as The Meditation Signers. In 1956 she joined the group herself, and toured around the country with them. 1965 saw her launch her secular solo career, singing in R&B clubs around Detroit, and still occasionally recording with The Meditation Singers.
The following year she was signed with Chess Records, who sent her south to record at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It proved to be a perfect arrangement (and one that Chess also found worked well with Etta James), as she recorded a series of fantastic gutsy soul numbers, a few of which were hits on the national R&B chart in 1967 and 1968 - "Dirty Man" got to #13, the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham tune "Up Tight Good Man" got to #16 and the brilliant "As Long As I Got You" reached #31 (but surely deserved to go Top 10). For some reason an album of these recordings was not released at the time, and would have to wait until 1972 to see the light of day as the Love More Than Pride LP.
This compilation features eighteen songs from her Chess years, including all the Love More Than Pride tracks and all the singles. Some awesome powerful southern soul, a lot of it with a noticeable pro-woman stance. Includes covers of two Jerry Butler songs and the country tune "But You Know I Love You".
 
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Solomon Burke - Solomon Burke (1962)

Solomon Burke was a highly influential and successful American soul singer.

Born in West Philadelphia in 1940, Solomon Burke began preaching at his grandmother's church aged just seven. As a child he appeared on (and hosted) gospel radio shows, and travelled the south. He worked hard to support his family at an early age, and first became a father himself at age fourteen. When he was signed to Apollo Records in 1955 he had already lived a fascinating life and posessed wisdom and self-determination way beyond his years. Though he was raised on gospel, he was never adverse to any form of secular music, and released a number of low-selling R&B singles on Apollo.
In 1957 he withdrew from the record business, went to school and earned himself a doctorate in Mortuary Science, and joined the family funeral home business. During this time he got married, and was soon father to six children. He was lured back to music in 1960, when he signed with Atlantic Records, where he was to see a great deal of success over the next few years.
Apollo released this album in 1962, by which time he had already started to have hits on Atlantic. It compiled twelve songs from his years with Apollo, so some of them were six years out of date when the album was released. Together they presented a modest offering, somewhat uninspired in arrangements but showcasing the range and variety in Burke's voice even at this young age. It is with the few moments when the raw gospel stylings of his voice show through that the promise of great things to come becomes clear.

|> If You Need Me (1963)

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Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity - This Wheel's On Fire (1965-1970)

Compilation
The Trinity was band active in the 60s, led by keyboardist Brian Auger and usually featuring singer Julie Driscoll.

Brian Auger formed The Trinity in 1965, which then became part of The Steampacket, which featured singer Julier Driscoll. Following The Steampacket's dissolution they recorded as Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity. Their first album featured some very interesting jazz-rock / R&B sounds, but was slow to sell. What they needed was a hit single, and this they got with a cover of the recent Bob Dylan / Rick Danko song "This Wheel's On Fire" in 1968. It got to #5 on the UK charts, and became the best-known version of this oft-covered song in Britian (in America it was better known through The Band's version). With its apocalyptic imagery, Driscoll's powerful vocals and Auger's use of the Mellotron, it was a classic piece of psychedelic rock. Following the single's success, the  first album sold much better. 
The band's discography is something of a confusing affair, with various compilations and albums which overlap, and a number of obscure singles. This compilation brings together seventeen tracks which don't appear on their original albums Open, Definitely What, Streetnoise and Befour. Many of these were singles, or could be found on some confusingly titled compilations. Most feature Driscoll, though there are also some instrumentals, including a few from the '65 pre-Steampacket lineup of the band. A great experimental mix of rock, pop, jazz and R&B.

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Richard & Mimi Fariña - Reflections In A Crystal Wind (1965)

Richard & Mimi Fariña were a husband-and-wife folk duo active in the mid 60s.

The Fariñas quickly followed up their debut album with Reflections In A Crystal Wind, which was released the same year. Like Celebrations For A Grey Day, it featured lovely original folk music with two-part harmonies interspersed with instrumental interludes featuring autoharp and dulcimer. However whilst the first album had subtly hinted at folk-rock, many of the songs on Reflections were full-blown folk-rock, recorded with a band consisting of Bruce Langhorne (guitar), Felix Pappalardi (bass), John Hammond Jr. (harmonica), Charles Small (piano) and Alvin Rogers (drums). It was very good folk-rock, with a raw sound in line with Bob Dylan's electric recordings from the same year, giving the album somewhat of a schizophrenic acoutic/electric format. It was a very good album, and promised many good things to come.
However it was not to be. Richard Fariña died in a motorcycle accident in 1966, shortly after publishing his first novel. 

Celebrations For A Grey Day (1965) <|> Memories (1968)
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JJ Cale - Guitar Man (1996)

JJ Cale was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Guitar Man was JJ Cale's twelfth album. Like his previous two releases, it relied quite heavily on drum machines and synthesizers, as it was for the most part a one-man-band album, with Cale playing all the instruments himself (drummer James Cruce appeared on the opening track, otherwise the only other musician involved was his partner Christine Lakeland). The result perhaps left the record sounding a little cold and digital, and there were definitely a few places where it would have benefited from a real drummer, but nevertheless it was still a nice collection of relaxing grooves, as was to expected.
He wouldn't release another album for eight years, the longest gap in his career to date.

Closer To You (1994) <|> To Tulsa And Back (2004)
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The Box Tops - Cry Like A Baby (1968)

The Box Tops were an American rock group active in the 1960s.

Following the sudden massive success the young Box Tops had experienced with "The Letter" in 1967, Bell Records were keen to get another hit out of them. By 1968 original members John Evans and Danny Smythe had left, to be replaced by Rick Allen (keyboards) and Thomas Boggs (drums). Their producer Dan Penn quickly wrote a song for them with his writing partner Spooner Oldham - "Cry Like A Baby" was the perfect vehicle to showcase lead singer Alex Chilton's gritty vocals, and also featured electric sitar played by session guitarist Reggie Young. It was the big hit Bell had been wanting, getting to #2. 
Another album was quickly put together to follow in its wake. Like their debut, it was an interesting mix of rock, pop and blue-eyed soul sounds. Also like the debut, it featured various session musicians and was maybe more a product of the American Sound Studio than the band's own artistic vision. Nevertheless, it came out as another excellent collection of songs, featuring several more by Penn and Oldham, a couple by Mickey Newbury, and a version of "You Keep Me Hanging On" which was pretty much a perfect copy of the Vanilla Fudge arrangement from the previous year.

The Letter / Neon Rainbow (1967) <|> Non-Stop (1968) 
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Dyke & The Blazers - So Sharp! (1966-1971)

Compilation 
Dyke & The Blazers were an American funk band.

Arlester Christian was born in Buffalo, New York in 1943. The early 60s saw him playing bass with R&B band Carl LaRue and his Crew, and in 1964 the band moved to Phoenix, Arizona after being invited to back The O'Jays. However after a while The O'Jays had moved on, and LaRue's band fell apart. Christian and two other band members found themselves stranded in Phoenix with no way of getting back to Buffalo, and so stayed and formed a new group with local musicians. Dyke & The Blazers consisters of Christian himself (bass & vocals) with 'Pig' Jacobs (guitar), Rich Cason (organ), Rodney Brown (drums), and J.V. Hunt and Bernard Williams (saxes).
Getting lots of gigs in local clubs, the band developed a hard, funky R&B sound, no doubt inspired by James Brown. They released a single on Artco Records, "Funky Broadway", which slowly climbed the R&B chart until it found itself at #17 in early 1967. The band toured on its success, adding bassist Alvin Battle so Christian could focus on singing and dancing. However the band broke up later the same year. Shortly afterwards soul superstar Wilson Pickett covered "Funky Broadway" and had a massive hit with it (#1 R&B, #8 pop). 
Christian then returned to Buffalo and put together a new touring band, but it didn't last long. Through the late 60s and into the 70s he kept recording under the Dyke & The Blazers name, using L.A. session musicians. He had a number of hits on the R&B chart, the biggest being "We Got More Soul" at #7 and "Let A Woman Be A Woman, Let A Man Be A Man" at #4. Sadly he died in 1971 when he was fatally shot in Phoenix, whilst preparing for a tour of England.
This compilation contains twenty-two tracks, a great collection of gritty funk grooves.

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Laura Nyro - Eli And The Thirteenth Confession (1968)

Laura Nyro was an American singer-songwriter and pianist.

Following her brilliant but underrated debut album, Laura Nyo got to perform at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. She impressed David Geffen, who became her manager and helped her get out of her contract with Verve Records to sign with Columbia, where she was given much more artistic freedom. Her second album came out in 1968. Eli And The Thirteenth Confession was arranged and co-produced by Charlie Calello, and like its predecessor combined impressive vocas, interesting songwriting and elaborate, sophisticated arrangements to great effect. Also like its predecessor, it was not a massive seller, but did quickly become a critical success. Two songs from it were soon made into hits by other artists - The 5th Dimension took "Stoned Soul Picnic" to #3, and Three Dog Night got to #10 with "Eli's Coming" the next year.

More Than A New Discovery (1967) <|> New York Tendaberry (1969)
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The Impressions - The Never Ending Impressions (1964)

The Impressions are an American R&B vocal group originally formed in 1958.

The Impressions' second album was their first to be fully produced by Johnny Pate, and so featured the same distinctive horn-driven, uptown soul sound throughout. It had a few unusual covers which saw them veer towards a traditional swing / pop style (including Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" and Kurt Weill's "September Song"), but for the most part was made up of excellent Curtis Mayfield originals. The lovely "I'm So Proud" was the album's hit, charting at #14 on both the R&B and pop charts, but there was also a wealth of brilliant album tracks just as good. If it had just been made up of these originals, The Never Ending Impressions could have been the perfect album, showcasing the group's vocals, Pate's production and Mayfield's songwriting spectacularly. The covers did throw it off a bit, but nevertheless it still remains an excellent Chicago soul album, packed full with some real gems.

The Impressions (1963) <|> Keep On Pushing (1964)
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Jimmy Hughes - Why Not Tonight? (1967)

Jimmy Hughes is an American soul singer.

Jimmy Hughes' breakthrough hit had been 1964's "Steal Away", which had also helped launch Rick Hall's Fame Studios' reputation for producing the best in southern soul. Hughes recorded more singles at Fame, all released on Vee-Jay Records, but most of them went nowhere. Vee-Jay then folded in 1966, and Hall signed a new distribution deal with Atlantic Records. With Atlantic's help Hughes returned to the charts, first with a cover of Huey Meaux's "Neighbor, Neighbor", which was a #4 R&B hit. This was actually the second version of this song he had released, as an earlier recording featured on his debut album. His next was hit was the brilliant Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham composition "I Worship The Ground You Walk On" (#25 R&B), and this was followed by James Gilreath's "Why Not Tonight" (#5 R&B).
An excellent second album came out in 1967, featuring the three recent singles, plus a few more Dan Penn tunes, three Hughes originals and a cover of Jerry Butler's "I Stand Accused".

Steal Away (1965) <|> Something Special (1969)
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Tim Hardin - Bird On A Wire (1971)

Tim Hardin was an American singer-songwriter.

Tim Hardin's second album for Columbia Records came out in 1971. By this time his drug addiction was really starting to take its toll, and he was no longer producing any more wonderful original songs like he had back in the 60s. The album only featured five originals, alongside a traditional adaptation and four covers - Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire", Jack Rhodes' "A Satisfied Mind", John Lee Hooker's "Hoboin'" and Hoagy Carmichael's "Geogia On My Mind". Stylistically it was a moody folk/blues/jazz blend, as the range of cover songs would suggest.
It was a good record (his vocals being the highlight), but certainly not one of his best, and indicative of the downward turn his career was taking in the new decade (and had perhaps been taking for quite some time).

Suite For Susan Moore (1969) <|> Painted Head (1972)
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Ronnie Hawkins - The Folk Ballads Of Ronnie Hawkins (1960)

Ronnie Hawkins is an American rockabilly singer.

Ronnie Hawkins' third album was an odd one. Presumeably it was Roulette Records' attempt to cash in on the folk boom and remarket him as a folk singer, but he was always going to be rockabilly at heart and so the outcome was quite odd. The album was recorded in Nashville with session musicians, and so didn't feature his usual backing band The Hawks. A couple of songs did have quite a hard edge to them and didn't sound too far from his rockabilly material (surprisingly one of these was a cover of George Gershwin's "Summertime"), but most of the album had a softer, acoustic-based folk-country-pop sound, and included a number of traditional folk songs. It was the sort of early 60s commercial 'folk' that had generated hits for other artists at the time but ultimately has not aged well.
It didn't succeed in re-inventing him as a folk star, and the experiment was short lived. But though his recording career was flagging, he was still putting on a great live show.

Mr Dynamo (1960) <|> Ronnie Hawkins Sings The Songs Of Hank Williams (1961)
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Dan Penn - Nobody's Fool (1973)

Dan Penn is an American singer and songwriter.

Dan Penn first tasted success as a songwriter whilst working at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He was responsible for an extensive canon of southern soul masterpieces, mostly co-authored with keyboard player Spooner Oldham. The one which gave him the most success in these early years was "I'm Your Puppet", which was taken to #6 on the pop chart by James & Bobby Purify in 1966.
The next milestone in his career was his meeting with producer/guitarist Chips Moman, with whom he struck up an instant friendship. Moman had been an integral part of Stax Records in its early days, but had gone out on his own in 1964 after a fall-out with owner Jim Stewart. When Penn met him he was setting up his own Memphis-based American Sound Studio. Together, Penn and Moman wrote two songs which would quickly become classics, and today are generally viewed as among the greatest southern soul songs of all time. "The Dark End Of The Street" was recorded by James Carr, who had a #10 R&B hit with it in 1967, and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" was recorded by Aretha Franklin the same year. 
Penn moved from Muscle Shoals to Memphis, to work as a producer for Moman's studio (Spooner Oldham soon followed him there as well). As a producer he was responsible for The Box Tops' 1967 #1 hit "The Letter", and he and Oldham wrote their follow-up hits "Cry Like A Baby" and "I Met Her In Church". During this late 60s period his songs continued to be recorded by a myriad of artists, many of them destined to be hidden away as album tracks, but many of them still becoming hits, especially on the R&B chart.
In 1970 Penn split with Moman, and had a go at building his own studio (Beautiful Sounds). He got to work finally recording his own debut album, which finally saw release in 1973 on Bell Records. It was a great mix of blue-eyed soul and country, with a big production style full of strings, horns and backing singers, more than a little reminiscent of Moman's best productions at American Sound (ie Elvis Presley's late 60s work). It had some good new songs, one of which ("I Hate You") was covered by Ronnie Milsap the same year, giving him his breakthrough country hit. There was also one well-chosen cover song, a soulful reading of John Fogerty's "Lodi".
It was a long time coming, and though Nobody's Fool was a fine album it didn't give Penn any success as a recording artist himself. He seemed to be destined to stay behind the scenes.

|> Do Right Man (1994)
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Ian Matthews - Valley Hi (1973)

Ian Matthews is an English singer-songwriter.

Plainsong broke up in 1973, their second album incomplete and unreleased. Ian Matthews stayed with Elektra Records for his solo career, and moved to California. His next album was produced by Michael Nesmith, who since leaving The Monkees had been pursuing a similar country-rock direction to Matthews. As usual for an Ian Matthews album, it featured a good selection of covers interpersed with a few originals and a traditional song. The highlights were without a doubt the stunning covers of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road" and Jackson Browne's "These Days". Also featured were songs by Richard Thompson, Randy Newman and Don Gibson. Among the backing musicians there were appearances from famed steel guitarist Red Rhodes and fiddler Byron Berline.

Journeys From Gospel Oak (1972) <|> Some Days You Eat The Bear (1974)
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Mickey Newbury - Heaven Help The Child (1973)

Mickey Newbury was a critically-acclaimed American singer-songwriter.

Heaven Help The Child was Mickey Newbury's third album to be recorded at Cinderella Studios, and turned out to be another stunning record, completing a remarkable trilogy begun with Looks Like Rain and Frisco Mabel Joy. As was to be expected, it followed in the same vein as its predecessors, with beautifully recorded tales of heartache, longing and failed relationships sung the way only Mickey Newbury could sing them. The instrumental backing was more elaborate and diverse than the first two albums, the epic title track being his most ambitious yet in terms of arrangement. A couple of songs were re-recordings of tunes originally featured his debut Harlequin Melodies, and oddly it also repeated "San Francisco Mabel Joy" from Looks Like Rain (actually the same version, rather than a re-recording). Another notable track was "Why You Been Gone So Long", an upbeat bluegrass-flavoured number which has come to be one of his most-covered songs.

Frisco Mabel Joy (1971) <|> Live At Montezuma Hall (1973)
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Dion - Dion's Greatest Hits (1960-1963)

Compilation 
Dion is an American singer-songwriter, best known for his string of hits in the early 60s.

Dion DiMucci was born in 1939 in New York, and whilst still young began singing on street corners with other neighbourhood kids. In the late 50s he was signed to Laurie Records and teamed with three of his friends. As Dion & The Belmonts, they scored hits on the US pop chart with "I Wonder Why" (#22), "A Teenager In Love" (#5) and "Where Or When" (#3), all of them classic doo-wop songs. However in 1960 their fortunes began to change, problems began to arise between Dion and the rest of the group, and Dion was checked into hospital for a heroin addiction he'd had since his teens. They parted ways, and Dion started a solo career.
Between 1960 and 1963 he continued to see plenty of success on the charts. His first solo single, "Lonely Teenager", got to #12, but his real breakthrough was 1961's "Runaround Sue", which not only was a #1 hit in the US but also got to #11 in the UK. Seven more top 10 hits followed, the most notable among them being "The Wanderer" (#2), "Lovers Who Wander" (#3) and "Ruby Baby" (#2). By 1962 he had moved from Laurie to Columbia Records. His last hit of the era was 1963's "Drip Drop", at #6. From 1964 on through most of the 60s his fortunes changed again, as the musical climate itself changed around him, and he had no more hits until his dramatic comeback in the late 60s.
This compilation brings together thirteen songs from this lucrative period of Dion's career, and includes all his early hits as a solo artist. All these songs are prime examples of Dion's distinctive rock & roll style, defined by his wonderful voice, most of them with backing vocals from The Del-Satins. There's also a surprise cover of Hank Williams' "Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw", which charted at #31.

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The Hour Glass - Power Of Love (1968)

The Hour Glass was a short-lived American rock band.

After the failure of The Hour Glass' first album, Liberty Records and producer Dallas Smith begrudgingly allowed the group more artistic freedom for their follow-up. Power Of Love, released in 1968 (by which time bassist Mabron McKinney had been replaced by Pete Carr), boasted a total of seven Gregg Allman orginals, whilst its predecessor had only featured one. Other songs included the title track by Dan Penn, one by Don Covay, and two by Marlon Greene and Eddie Hinton. It also had a very interesting jazzy instrumental reading of The Beatles' "Nowegian Wood", featuring Duane Allman on electric sitar.
Despite the slight increase in independence, the band still felt terribly restricted by their record label's expectations, and like its predecessor the album ended up sounding rather uneven (though still very listenable). It was another commercial failure. The band then travelled to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, where they reportedly recorded material for an album which was much closer to their R&B roots, but Liberty were not pleased with the results, and it was never released. 
The Hour Glass subsequently broke up. Both Gregg and Duane briefly recorded with Florida-based band The 31st Of February, the resultant album released in 1972 as Duane & Greg Allman. Gregg then returned to L.A., and quickly put together a solo album to fulfil his contract with Liberty, but this also went unreleased. Duane went to work as a session musician at Fame Studios, and began jamming with some new friends in Jacksonville. The brothers reunited when Duane summoned Gregg back from L.A. to join the new group he was putting together - The Allman Brothers Band were formed in 1969.

The Hour Glass (1967) <|
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Percy Mayfield - Walking On A Tightrope (1969)

Percy Mayfield was an American R&B singer and songwriter.

Throughout the 60s Percy Mayfield continued to write songs for Ray Charles, his compositions appearing on the albums Live In Concert, Together Again, Crying Time and A Portrait Of Ray. At the end of the decade he was signed with Brunswick Records, and he released the Walking On A Tightrope album in 1969 (actually only his second ever album from well over twenty years in the business!). It was an excellent record, the great arrangements working with his voice to produce an effect of effortless bluesy cool. It featured a re-recording of his signature tune "Please Send Me Someone To Love", nearly twenty years after the original was a #1 R&B hit.

My Jug And I (1966) <|> Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970)
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Lonnie Mack - Home At Last (1977)

Lonnie Mack is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

After parting ways with Elektra Records, Lonnie Mack left L.A. and returned home to Indiana, quickly passing into anonymity. For most of the 1970s he was heard of little, his most notable activities being an obscure bluegrass album recorded with Rusty York in 1973, and serving as lead guitarist for Dobie Gray throughout 1974.
In 1977 he was given a new record contract with Capitol Records, and released his first solo album in six years - Home At Last. Like its predecessor back in 1971, the brilliant The Hills Of Indiana, it was a laid-back rootsy affair, eschewing electric guitar flash for more mellow acoustic textures and a heavy dose of country (with pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle). It remains one of his most obscure albums today, only because he is best known as a rock guitarist, but Home At Last showed him to be capable of producing some brilliant, soulful country-rock.

The Hills Of Indiana (1971) <|> Lonnie Mack With Pismo (1978)
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Barbara Lynn - The Jamie Singles Collection (1962-1965)

Compilation 
Barbara Lynn is an American R&B singer, songwriter and guitarist. 

Barabara Lynn Ozen was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1942. Inspired by both blues and pop music, she formed an all female group whilst at school, Bobbie Lynn & Her Idols, with whom she played left-handed guitar. In the early 60s she was discovered by producer Huey P. Meaux, who took her to record in New Orleans (musicians at the sessions included a young Dr John). There they recorded what would be her breakthrough hit, and indeed the biggest hit of her career - the self-penned "You'll Lose A Good Thing", released on Jamie Records, topped the R&B chart in 1962, and also reached the Top 10 on the pop chart. An album and many more singles followed, the next highest charting being "You're Gonna Need Me" (#13 R&B). She went on to tour with many top R&B artists, and got to appear on American Bandstand. She was somewhat unique at the time for being a black female artist who both played a lead instrument and wrote her own songs.
This compilation brings together thirty-two songs from her years with Jamie Records. Besides the two big hits, other notable songs include "Oh! Baby (We've Got A Good Thing Going)" (which was covered by The Rolling Stones in 1965), "Unfair" (an early Dan Penn composition), and a cover of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel".

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Bob Dylan - New Morning (1970)

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter who emerged out of the early 60s folk revival to become an informal chronicler and reluctant figurehead of social unrest. He famously made the move from folk music to electric rock in the mid-60s, and has remained a major figure in music for five decades.

Bob Dylan recorded New Morning over the summer of 1970, co-produced with Al Kooper in New York, and it was released four months after the (perhaps intentional) critical and commercial disaster that was Self Portrait. It was welcomed as a solid, consistent record, and for many fans and critics it repaired the damage done by Self Portrait. Whether it was intentionally rushed out by Dylan for that reason is not clear. It saw him abandon the affected country croon he had been singing with since Nashville Skyline and return to his 'true' voice. It also featured all new original songs. 
It was a modest, likeable album, and many saw it as a return to form. However it actually turned out to be the last proper album he would release until 1974, as he entered the quietest period of his career. Retrospective opinions on it can differ, as though it's a good album, it's certainly not not one of his greatest, and it turned out not to be the artistic comeback many had thought it could be at the time.

Self Portait (1970) <|> Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)
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The Lovin' Spoonful - Daydream (1966)

The Lovin' Spoonful are an American rock band originally active in the 1960s.

"Do You Believe In Magic" had given The Lovin' Spoonful a massive hit in 1965, and they were quick to follow up with more. "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice" reached #10 in early 1966, followed by two which got to #2 - "Daydream" and "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind" (the latter had originally featured on their debut album). These singles secured their place as a hit-making pop group, not only in the US but also the UK (the last two singles getting to #2 and #3 on the UK charts).
Their second album came out in 1966, featuring both "Daydream" and "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice". It was a fine example of their upbeat blend of pop and jug band music. Whilst their debut album had featured covers of traditional folk songs, Daydream was notable for all the songs save one being written or co-written by frontman John Sebastian.

Do You Believe In Magic (1965) <|> Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
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Bobby Charles - I Believe In Angels (1963-1998)

Compilation 
Bobby Charles was an American singer-songwriter.

Compiling a complete discography of Bobby Charles' recorded works is something of a difficult task, as though he released only a few proper albums in his career, a vast number of obscure compilations have been put out over the years, all with overlapping tracklists of confusing origin. I have put together this compilation to tie up a few loose ends.
Here we have tracks from three sources. The first is his 1963 single "Big Boys Cry", a tune written by Eddy Raven, released on his own Hub City label. It's a lovely little pop ditty from a period when Charles wandering from label to label with no success to show for it. I haven't been able to locate either its b-side of the second Hub City single from the same year. The second source gives us the bulk of the material here, all recorded during his Woodstock years in the 70s. These songs are mostly half-finished demos, either outtakes from his 1972 self-titled album or things which were going to be developed on his unfinished second album. These songs all have a lovely rootsy, laid-back charm to them, and feature two of his nicest compositions - "Homemade Songs" and "Done A Lot Of Wrong Things". Also features the single version of "Small Town Talk", the same take as the album version but with overdubbed horns. The third source is the 1998 album Secrets Of The Heart, an odd release which seems to have compiled six older songs from 1987's Clean Water with six new ones. Here are the six '98 recordings, completing this compilation.
If some of these songs seem familiar, it's because I have slightly re-arranged my previous Bobby Charles compilations - have a look back to see the changes. 

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Joe Simon - Pure Soul (1966)

Joe Simon is an American soul singer.

Joe Simon was born in Simmesport, Louisiana in 1943. His family moved to California in the late 50s, when he joined gospel group The Golden West Gospel Singers, with whom he subsequently moved into secular music in 1959. In the early 60s he attemped to find success as a solo artist, his first break coming on the Vee-Jay label, when he scored a #13 R&B hit in 1965 with "Let's Do It Over" (recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, and written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham). However he was left without a label again when Vee-Jay folded the same year.
He was then discovered by Nashville radio DJ John Richbourg, who signed him to the Sound Stage 7 label and became both his manager and producer. He quickly scored another hit, "Teenager's Prayer" getting to #11 on the R&B chart. His debut album came out in 1966 - Pure Soul introduced him as one of the great singers of southern soul. Being produced in Nashville, some interesting country music influences crept in with the strings and backing vocals. Simon would soon become known for his blending of soul and country music. The album also included covers of Dee Clark's "Nobody But You" and Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman", and it generated another hit with "My Special Prayer" the next year (#17 R&B).

|> No Sad Songs (1968) 

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Hearts & Flowers - Of Horses, Kids And Forgotten Women (1968)

Hearts & Flowers were a short-lived American folk-rock band.

After their debut album, Rick Cunha left Hearts & Flowers and was replaced by Bernie Leadon, who had played in the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers years before along with Larry Murray. Hearts & Flowers now consisted of Murray, Leadon and Dave Dawson, and they recorded a second album which was released in 1968. It was in generally the same style as their debut (folk-rock with hints of country), but it did lean further towards psychedelic pop, many of the songs featuring harpsichord and orchestral arrangements. Whilst it featured covers of Jesse Lee Kincaid's "She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune", Arlo Guthrie's "Highway In The Wind" and the old music hall number "Two Little Boys", the standout track was without a doubt the Larry Murray original "Ode To A Tin Angel".
After this second album, which unfortunately didn't see any real commercial success, the band broke up. Larry Murray released a low-profile solo album in 1971, but it was Leadon who ultimately had the most success, playing first with country-rock pioneers Dillard & Clark and then The Flying Burrito Brothers, before becoming a founding member of The Eagles in 1971.

Now Is The Time For Hearts & Flowers (1967) <|
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Gene Clark - Gypsy Angel: The Gene Clark Demos 1983-1990

Posthumous release (2001)
Gene Clark was an American singer-songwriter, best remembered as a founding member of The Byrds.

In 2001 this collection of Gene Clark demos was released. Most of them come from 1990, as he was planning a second duet album with Carla Olson (after their 1987 release So Rebellious A Lover). However he died in 1991, so the album was never started, leaving the songs as just demos. A few other demos from years earlier complete the set. The result is a very interesting acoustic album, all the songs being solo performances (with the exception of one which features some electric slide guitar). The recording quality is not great, but this arguably adds to its appeal. Many of the songs are very long, and so with a total running time of over an hour it could be argued that it is too much of the same thing, but the best songs here are undeniable gems, given truly moving, deeply intimate performances. Nearing the end of his life, after many years of struggle with alcohol, drugs and resultant illnesses, and with a distinct lack of commercial success, Clark was still penning wonderful songs.
Also includes a cover of Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing On My Mind".

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O.V. Wright - Heartaches, Heartaches (1966-1969)

Compilation 
O.V. Wright was an American soul singer.

O.V. Wright recorded for Don Robey's Back Beat Records through the 60s, starting with his debut album If It's Only For Tonight in 1965, with its #6 R&B hit "You're Gonna Make Me Cry". Between 1966 and 1969 he released a number of singles. The most successful of these was the brilliant "Eight Men, Four Women", which gave him a #4 R&B hit in 1967. It turned out to be the highest charting single of his entire career. An album of the same name was released the same year, but it turned out to just be a re-release of If It's Only For Tonight with the new hit shoe-horned in. His next real album didn't come until 1969, and until then his output consisted of a steady stream of singles. This compilation brings together seven singles with associated non-LP b-sides, making for a great collection of gospel-infused southern soul. They're all good songs, but the highlight is undoubtedly "Eight Men, Four Women".

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Albert King - Live Wire / Blues Power (1968)

Albert King was a highly influential American blues guitarist and singer.

In the late 60s Albert King, by then well into his forties, found himself a new wider audience. He was no longer just playing in small clubs to blues devotees, but also to much larger crowds of young (mostly white) rock & roll fans. His second album for Stax Records was a live one, recorded at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco (his first headlining gig there), and produced by Al Jackson of Booker T. & The MGs (who had backed King on his Stax singles). Filling in for the MGs as King's backing band were Willie James Exon (guitar), James Washington (organ), Roosevelt Pointer (bass) and Theotis Morgan (drums).
The result was a fantastic album of live blues, showing Albert King to be a master who had the white kids truly under his spell.

Born Under A Bad Sign (1967) <|> Years Gone By (1969)
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The Stone Poneys - The Stone Poneys (1967)

The Stone Poneys were a folk-rock trio active from 1965 to 1968.

In the early 60s a young Linda Ronstadt was performing in a folk group with her older brother and sister in Tuscon, Arizona, and it was this way that she met and first performed with singer-songwriter Bobby Kimmel. Kimmel was impressed by the fourteen year old, and when he moved to Southern California in 1961 he stayed in contact. A few years later  Ronstadt made the move to L.A. and met up with Kimmel again. Joined by guitarist Kenny Edwards, they formed The Stone Poneys in 1964. They performed as an acoustic folk trio, and by 1966 had been signed to Capitol Records. Their debut album came out in 1967, a fine folk-rock record. It was mostly acoustic, though they were augmented by drums and bass for much of the album. The highlight was on their strong three-part harmonies, all three of them contributing equally, though Rondstadt's clear, strong voice took the lead on a few songs. Most of the material was written by Kimmel and Edwards, with a couple by fellow singer-songwriter Tom Campbell and a Fred Neil cover.
The album was good, but it did not sell well, and the trio briefly broke up. However they were convinced to stick at it, which was fortunate as success was just around the corner.

|> Evergreen, Volume 2 (1967)

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