Monday, October 31, 2011

Exclusive TDATS interview with Jim Ronnie from Iron Claw.

Scotland's Iron Claw will be well-known to many of you. Their seminal 70's recordings languished in boot leg limbo for many decades until the first rays of light appeared when Rockadrome Records presented Iron Claw's first ever official release, a lovingly remastered collection of 1970-74 recordings.

This release showed how much fan interest there was bubbling away, hungrily waiting for a properly presented document of the ahead-of-their time band and later Ripple Music snapped them up, signing them for an album of all-new material. 'A Different Game' was released at the beginning of October 2011 to critical approval and as an avid consumer of all that was obscure in the hard rock world, I have contacted Jim Ronnie, guitarist with Iron Claw, for an exclusive TDATS interview.

I love that some of these bands, such as Iron Claw, who really showed their skills were comparative to the commercial greats of the time but just never got the breaks they deserved, are getting the belated chance to show what they are made of, playing live again and releasing new material! After recruiting a new singer in the form of Gordon Brown for 'A Different Game', they have played a number of shows this year already.

Unfortunately Gordon his since parted ways with the band, but his awesome performance is there for all the hear on the new disk, along with the rest of the original members' storming performances.

So, take it away Jim....

Q1. I read some comments once by Alex Wilson (Iron Claw's founding member and bass player) regarding a demo tape that you guys handed to Black Sabbath in your early years and how the end result wasn't so great for Iron Claw. Can you elaborate on the story and tell us your thoughts on it?
Jim: The Black Sabbath / Iron Claw story is already well documented and there isn't really much to add to it. We first met Sabbath at Dumfries Youth Club in 1969 and it was that night that Alex made what I believe is the first live recording of the band. (Black Sabbath now have sole rights to this recording). They were pretty bluesy and heavy as hell but I guess that's no surprise! Over the following months we saw and met up with them a few times and eventually went to see them at Newcastle City Hall and handed them a copy of our recently recorded album. This was the Iron Claw album that we recorded in London with Mike Waller on vocals. Songs that have recently been remastered and released by Rockadrome Records such as Crossrocker, Sabotage, Skullcrusher. We got to hear that Sabbath's management were not to happy with us upstarts producing this style of heavy rock and that was that. No big deal really.

Q2. The confident new album 'A Different Game' is now out, and it sounds like you guys have never been away! What are your thoughts on how it's been received in the short time since it's release?
Jim: The reaction to the new album has been amazing. Lots of critics have taken the time to review the album and I'm pleased to say the great majority have been 100% behind us. There have been a couple of blogs dissapointed at not getting the proto-doom Iron Claw of 1970 but hey, things move on. Interesting that you should say that it sounds like we have never been away because that's exactly how it felt as soon as the recording process started. This was not a difficult album to make. This is Iron Claw really getting back to our roots with blues-based heavy guitar rock and just laying it down with the minimum of production.

Q3. Gordon Brown puts in a great performance on the new album. How did you get together with him, and were there ever plans for Willie Davidson to sing again?
Jim: I agree. Gordon has done a fine job on the album. He was recommended to us by a friend. It was originally intended that Willie Davidson take the vocalist job but it didn't happen as planned. As you know, Gordon and the band parted company shortly after the album launch so we are now in the process of finding his replacement. Hopefully this shouldn't take too long as we're keen to get back on the road. There have been a few great singers offering their services already and we're confident that we'll be back very soon.

Q4. Apart from the new vocals, did Gordon inspire or contribute any other new elements to Iron Claw's sound on 'A Different Game'.
Jim: Gordon wrote lyrics for 10 of the 13 songs on the album.

Q5. Where abouts did you record 'A Different Game'?
Jim: The album was recorded in Alex's place in Dumfries, "Sair Heid Studios". The name being a reference to the height of the cellar door frame and nothing to do with a hangover!

Q6. Can you tell us a little about how the new material developed and how the recording sessions were?
Jim: There are three of the songs on the album that are brand new and written during the recording sessions. The rest of them have their beginnings in 1970's Iron Claw or are songs previously written by Alex or myself. For example "What Love Left" and "Love Is Blind" started life as songs played live in 1973 but were never recorded then. In all cases though songs were stripped bare and reworked to give them a contempoary feel.

Q7. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to see Iron Claw live yet, how did the recent show in Gretna go and how were the new and old songs received?
Jim: Gretna went really well as did the previous and first outing at Comlongon Rocks the week before. I've got to say though that the official album launch at Barlinnie Prison was something very special. This is one gig that I will never forget. It was a very frosty reception that we got from a few hundred sober prisoners when we took to the stage that night. We were obviously facing a huge task in winning these guys round. But we did win them round and witnessing the audience warm to us was immensly satisfying. The resulting shared experience was pure magic. Governor Derek McGill reported that the buzz lasted for days!

Q8. How was it playing the old material for the first time since Iron Claw's brief reformation for the Jock McBain tribute show in 1993?
Jim: We never got to play any of the old stuff at the live shows so far. All the material played was from "A Different Game".

Q9. What became of Jock's old band 'Smart As The Devil', that you continued to play with for a few years?
Jim: Willie Davidson was at the heart of "Smart as the Devil" and when he retired and left the band we carried on for a short time but it wasn't to last. I enjoyed my time with them. We played mostly covers of other rock bands but always put our own stamp on the songs and made them our own. Stuff like James Gang, ZZ Top, Bob Segar, Led Zep, Small Faces, Taste etc.

Q10. Iron Claw continues to inspire modern rock bands and fans, especially in the scenes that I am personally interested in. Do you listen to much new music, or recent releases from established bands, and if so could you name some?
Jim: My personal listening is quite varied although I've got to admit to being somewhat consumed by my own music when I'm in the middle of creating it. Recently I've got into the new Chickenfoot album (I do like Mr Satriani).

Q11. Finally, can you give us any scoops regarding the future for Iron Claw, like upcomming shows or ideas for more new music?
Jim: The plan right now is a simple one. Get the new singer worked into the band and get out there and blast out songs from "A Different Game" and some of the earlier songs too. Ripple Music have already said they would be keen to release another album as long as its as "kick ass" as this one. That's for a few months down the line but something we're already looking forward to.

Jim: Huge thanks to you for taking an interest in Iron Claw and for the support you continue to give us. Rock on!

Thanks a lot Jim, and good luck with what 2012 brings for Iron Claw!
The new album can be bought from Ripple on CD, or from CDbaby for a digital download.

Further references: Iron Claw on Facebook.

Thanks for reading!! Rich.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Day After The Sabbath 53: I Was Alone

Download from: [mf] or [mg]
password:  tdats
Volume 53 is another general collection of great tracks from my travels through the vaults. It does so happen that all these are from the US though....

Liquid Smoke were a Long Island, New York group that made one great album in 1970, one highlight of which is this hard rock/psych crossover track "Lookin' For Tomorrow". Another NY band, "Elephants Memory", had a long and interesting career, at one time backing John Lennon and Yoko Ono on "Some Time In New York City" and "Approximately Infinite Universe". They recorded the crazy track "Mongoose" during their hard rockin' phase and actually had quite a hit with it.

Bohemian Vendetta were yet another NY group, they had a difficult start, going through three different names, "Like Stoned" was their first ever demo and immediately showcased their peculiarly heavy psych with pounding drums. Zerfas were an Indianapolis, Indiana outfit who created some unusual music laden with sound effects, and they hit on their best formula with the stark lyrics of "You Never Win". Macabre were no less than an early incarnation of Pentagram, but Bobby Liebling's usual vagueness regarding the beginnings of the band make it hard to know exactly when or by whom this great track "Be Forewarned" was recorded. It does show a markedly different "heavy psych" sound compared to the Stone Bunny or Pentagram recordings.

Sandston, Virginia's Short Cross made one 1971 album, "Arising", showing some surprisingly accomplished and well structured hard rock/blues with frantic horns, and Dallas's The Exotics made some stabbingly heavy psych in 1968 with this volume's title track, "I Was Alone". In 1971 Texan psych band the Playboys of Edinburg changed their name to Poe and created a very cool concept album called "Up Thru The Spiral", the album chronicles the life and thoughts of Edgar Cayce, a man who could put himself into some kind of self-induced sleep state to traverse space and time. Sundance were a West Coast Rock band that put one rocker "Chico Woman" on their sole s/t album from 1971.

Three Dog Night may be familiar to you with a fair few hits under their belt, mostly cover versions (I found them originally via their Hoyt Axton "The Pusher" cover) but this little hard-rocking groovy instrumental is by far my favourite track of theirs, and following them we have none other than James Gang/Deep Purple Guitarist Tommy Bolin, with his 2nd apperance since #49 and a heavy number from his 1976 album "Private Eyes". Leo & The Prophets take us on one final heavy 60's psych trip with "Tilt-A-Whirl" before a very early and, you'll find, surprising harder-rocking closer "Dead At Last".

Track List:

01. Liquid Smoke - Lookin' For Tomorrow (1970)
02. Elephant's Memory - Mongoose (1970)
03. Bohemian Vendetta - Like Stoned (1966)
04. Zerfas - You Never Win (1973)
05. Macabre - Be Forewarned (1971)
06. Short Cross - Wastin' Time (1972)
07. The Exotics - I Was Alone (1968)
08. Poe - Automatic Writing / Sons Of Belial (1971)
09. American Eagle - On The Rack (1970)
10. Sundance - Chico Woman (1971)
11. Three Dog Night - Fire Eater (1971)
12. Tommy Bolin - Shake The Devil (1976)
13. Leo & The Prophets - Tilt-A-Whirl (1967)
14. Dead At Last (1971)

Thanks for listening! Rich

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Day After The Sabbath 52: Have Some Fun [funk pt.1]

Download here: [mf] or [mg]
password:  tdats
What's this, a volume of TDATS with jiving on the cover? Don't worry, what we have here is a volume which will go down well at a funk party, of course in true TDATS style, it would be a very  heavy funk party...

About half of these tracks are from obscure and lost singles, but we have a few from albums. The Soul Bros. Inc. have recently had all their singles compiled to an LP on the German label Tramp Records. It is believed that Jimi Hendrix and track 3's Betty Davis (Miles Davis's second wife) had an affair that hastened the end of her marriage to Miles Davis, but Hendrix and Miles stayed close and even planned to record until Hendrix's death. Betty Davis remained a cult figure as a singer, due in part to her open sexual attitude, which was controversial for the time. Some of her shows were boycotted, as well as radio plays, due to pressure by religious groups. With the passage of time her records have become highly regarded by collectors of soul and funk music.

Black Merda were a funky rock Detroit combo mixing fuzz-toned, psychedelic blues-rock with folky acoustic passages and contemporary late-'60s soul. Detroit features again here with Scorpion and their entertaining track "Running From Myself".

Surprisingly, we have a couple of german krautrock era bands here too, Armegeddon and Orange Peel (see #19). Less surprisingly we have a strong trio of Argentinean bands in Dynamita, Gipsys & Trio Galleta. Tack 11 "Equiana"  is an infectious drum-heavy curiosity from an obscure French outfit "Skins" and African People produced one consistently great album in Italy, 1971, cashing in on the wave of early 70's blaxploitation and being over seen by none other than Vangelis's older brother Nikos Papathanasiou who worked at Polydor records Italy. Another Italian curio here is Count Down's "Raptus" which is an unusual slice of disco, and the comp ends on a Zimbabwean combo Otis Waygood Blues Band who impressed me greatly with their wide range of talents when I used them once before on my African comp.

01. The Soul Bros. Inc. - Girl In The Hot Pants / Put It On Him (1972)
02. Kid Rock - Doctor Rock (1973)
03. Betty Davis - If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up (1973)
04. Dynamita - Señor Viento [Mr Wind] (1972)
05. Shotgun - Trouble Shooter (1977)
06. Black Merda - Prophet (1970)
07. Armegeddon - Oh Man (1972)
08. Jade - Paper Man (1974)
09. Iron Knowledge - Showstopper (1974)
10. Gipsys - Kamasutra (1971)
11. Skins - Equiana (1972)
12. Trio Galleta - Tomalo (1971)
13. Scorpion - Running From Myself (1969)
14. Count Down - Raptus (1976)
15. African People - On The March (1970)
16. Orange Peel - I Got No Time (1970)
17. Otis Waygood Blues Band - Have Some Fun (1970)

Thanks for listening! Rich.

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