Showing posts with label Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asia. Show all posts

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath - Best of 2015


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password:  tdats

The Day After The Sabbath - Best of 2015 by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud

The blog has now reached the ripe old age of six years! The past year of doing this has been a very enjoyable one - there's been two Dutch band profiles, Panda (119) and Blue Planet (127), a special and interview on the archival label World In Sound (114), a profile on krautrock producer Conny Planck (116), two heavy metal-inspired volumes; US (126) and NWOBHM (121), Scott Blackerby of The Acid Archives and Bad Cat Records (115) and a profile on The Gurvitz Brothers (125). Regional specials have honoured Spain again (123), Serbia (120), Portugal (113), Boston (117) and Iceland (124). Other themes have included Chicano rock (118) and a special on long prog tracks (122).

A year ago I promised I would be doing more interviews; I got an exclusive with the previously mysterious psych figure of Roy Rutanen and his band (link) and an exclusive with Jim Smith of Stonehouse (link). More exclusives came with Jaap van Eik of Panda (link) and Art Bausch of Blue Planet (link) and I spoke to four of the names appearing in Volume 126; Mike Gandia of Squadran, Danney Alkana of Alkana, Darren Welch of Axxe/Impeccable and Rob Griffin of Tyranny / Graven Image.

I hope that people still enjoy reading and listening to TDATS as much as I enjoy making it, here's to the on-coming year of many new ideas which are in the pipeline. As ever, please drop me a line via email or otherwise if you have any suggestions, and join up at the fb group where you can participate even more fully. My special thanks goes to the group admins that have increased greatly in number and efforts this year and been doing a great job there - you know who you are. Keep it PROTO guys :)

For what is now an annual round-up (last year's) of some of the best tracks appearing on the blog in the last year, here is a comp of fifteen tracks, one from each of the fifteen numbered volumes posted in 2015 so far. Enjoy!

TRACKS
01. Beatnicks - Back In Town (1972) - from v113
       single
02. Gold - No Parking (1970) - from v114
       single and W.I.S. retrospective 'San Francisco Origins'
03. Fanny - Place in the Country (1971) - from v115
       from album 'Charity Ball'
04. Lokomotive Kreuzberg - Comeback (1975) - from v116
       from album 'Fette Jahre'
05. Brother Fox and the Tar Baby - Steel Dog Man (1969) - from v117
       from album 'Brother Fox and the Tar Baby'
06. Yaqui - I Need A Woman (1973) - from v118
       from album 'Yaqui'
07. Panda - Medicine Man (1971) - from v119
       single
08. Pop Mašina - Vreme Za Nas (1975) - from v120
       from album 'Na Izvoru Svetlosti'
09. Fuzzy Duck - In Our Time (1971) - from v121
       from album ‘Fuzzy Duck’
10. Fusion Orchestra - Sonata In Z (1973) - from v122
       from album 'Skeleton In Armour'
11. Rockcelona - Queen, Friend And Dread (1979) - from v123
       from album 'La Bruja'
12. Svanfridur - My Dummy (1972) - from v124
       from album 'What's Hidden There?'
13. Gun - Runnin' Wild (1970) - from v125
       single
14. Asia - Law Of The Land (1978) - from v126
       from album 'Asia'
15. Cinderella - The Love That We've Got (1971) - from v127
       single
Beatnicks


Starting the volume is one of its heaviest tracks, from Lisbon's Beatnicks. They made some of Portugal's best and heaviest rock in the '70s, with the "Cristine Goes to Town / Sing It Along / Little School Boy" and "Money / Back in Town" singles. They introduced progressive/electronic influences on later singles (youtube) which were good but very different, by the time of 1982's Aspectos Humanos album they had been through major line-up changes and seem to have become an inoffensive progressive pop band. Oh well, listen to "Back In Town" and it's clear they had the chops to become Portugal's top hard rock act, it's original and brilliant from start to end! Final members Ramiro Martins (bass, guitar), Antonio Emiliano (keyboards) and Tó Leal (vocals, percussion) all appear to have made more music later but nothing of interest here.

There is an interesting article here (portuguese, english), regarding the many changes the Beatnicks went through, including the brief membership of female singer Lena d'Água, and guitarist Manuel Cardoso, who was later in Tantra (coming later on here). Read Rock em Portugal's full Beatnicks bio here.



Gold

"A CD / LP combination. The CD contains 2 parts S.F. underground history with the first Gold line-up feat. lead singer Richard Coco. Their 45 record “NO PARKING” was already reissued on LP by Rockadelic and issued on the CD compilation “Nuggets from the Golden State”.

Part 1 (only on CD) are the Studio Sessions of Leo Kulka´s Golden State Recorders, 9 heavy guitar cuts (same as Rockadelic LP) with great congas and bizarre Rock´n Roll vocals and the previously unreissued 45-rpm flipside a 4:45 minute sensitive but totally unexpected version of Gershwin's "Summertime" produced by Country Joe McDonald (Country Joe and the Fish)."

"Part 2 of the CD is the vinyl release, a live set at the Fillmore-West Audition, a qualification gig for Bill Grahams club circuit, which was successfully passed - gigs at Winterland, Fillmore-West followed. These 42 minutes reach the highest level of power and a unique kind of heavy acid rock sound (especially the 6 min. killer version of “NO PARKING”) - Ed Scott´s hypnotic rhythm guitar, a mind blowing bass and drums create an outstanding and surrounding flow, Joe Bajza´s soaring solo guitar played in a kind of aggressive Cipollina / Jeff Beck style is brilliantly intense and brings true Sixties S.F. Hell´s Angels party feeling to your home. Detailed 12 page color booklet - 78 minutes of hot music reflect the “golden sprit” of the late60's early 70's in San Francisco....15 years later bands like Metallica, Slayer, Exodus…..continued these powerful Bay Area guitar excesses…"


Fanny

Scott's RYM review here.  "Penned by Barclay, 'Place In the Country' was one of the album's best rockers. Nice showcase for the group's harmony vocals.   rating: **** stars"

"1971's "Charity Ball" found Fanny continuing their partnership with producer Richard Perry. Featuring largely original material (the one exception being a dynamite cover of the Buffalo Springfield's 'Special Care;), this time around the band seemed interested in showcasing their more commercial edge. Material like the title track, 'What's Wrong with Me?' and 'You're the One' seemed to have been crafted with an ear to top-40 airplay.

That wasn't to imply the band couldn't rock as hard as their male competitors. Nickey Barclay's 'Cat Fever', 'Special Care' (which I'd argue crushed The Buffalo Springfield original), and 'Soul Child' were all rockers that were worth hearing. Add to that, Jean Millington had a powerful, soul-infused voice, while June Millington was an overlooked lead guitarist with a penchant for fuzz leads. Interestingly, listening to the album for the first time in years, I guess the biggest surprise came in terms of band contributions. Jean and June Millington were clearly the band's focal points, but  being responsible for over half of the material, keyboardist Nicole Barclay was clearly the band's creative mainstay."


Lokomotive Kreuzberg

Lokomotive Kreuzberg Fette Jahre (1972)
Lokomotive Kreuzberg
Fette Jahre (1972)
Track 4 brings something a little different to the party. Lokomotive Kreuzberg was a Berlin polit-rock band that started in 1972. Not speaking German, it's impossible for me to comment on the lyrics, but the music on their 1975 album "Fette Jahre", engineered by Conny, is captivating. They mix many styles, from symphonic prog, to folk, to funk, to hard rock. At all times it is played with extreme talent, these guys sure had the chops to compare with the best. I have chosen the hardest rocking track on the album, which was recorded at Conny's studio, but you can take your pick from it. Others, such as the title track "Fette Jahre" (youtube), are equally good.

I've not had a chance to check out all of their four albums. I certainly will but they may not be the easiest band to get into for non-German speakers, especially as they use a lot of spoken-word skits to get certain points across on their agenda.


Brother Fox and the Tar Baby

Brother Fox & The Tar Baby
Track 5, "Steel Dog Man", starts as it means to go on with a stomping hard rock riff and tight playing, punctuated by glorious psych breaks, backed-up by earthy vocals that cut straight to the bone. Brother Fox and the Tar Baby featured the talents of former Profits guitarist Richie Bartlett, bassist Tom Belliveau, guitarist Dave Christiansen, drummer Bill Garr, singer Steve High and keyboardist Joe Santangelo. Dave Christiansen, Joseph Santangelo, Tom Belliveau and Richard Bartlett were previously in Front Page Review, also appearing in this volume. Belliveau  was also in Pugsley Munion (see vol59), and Bartlett was later in '80s new-wavers The Fools. They were signed by the small Oracle label, which released 1969's Bruce Patch-produced self-titled album. Christiansen was credited as writing all eleven tracks.

Brother Fox & The Tar Baby LP
This has a commercial edge and is a polished product, but it's done right and there's more than enough heaviness here too, over half the album is hard cuts with quite a unique take on combining late-'60s heavy psych with the chunky riffs and hammond organ of the freshly-emerging hard rock sounds of the times. This is what the first Boomerang album should have been like! (see Vol9)


The countrified feel, and high production quality with orchestration, shows that this was a serious stab at a successful album. The mellow tracks and ballads are all good, so make for a nicely diverse listen. The song-writing is consistently good, and the excellent vocals deserve a mention, sounding somewhat like Robert Plant in the heavier tracks. Highly recommended!

Panda - Stranger Medicine Man

Decca 6100013
Stranger begins deceptively, with a heavy Sabbathian tri-tone metal riff, but quickly morphs into a Slade-elic glam stomper with a sing-along chorus and more flashes of flute, great fun.  B-side Medicine Man is built around a similarly heavy, lumpen riff to "Swingin' About", this time with no flute and forays into blues, it's another of their best heavy tracks.


Pop Mašina

I consider there to be a 'big three' of heavy Serbain bands from the former half of the '70s, YU Grupa and Smak have already appeared so now it's time for the last of that trio, Pop Mašina (Pop Machine). They were formed in Belgrade in 1972 by Robert Nemeček (bass, vocals - formerly of Dogovor Iz 1804 and Džentlmeni. The other formative members on their two studio albums were Mihajlo Popović (drums) and Zoran Božinović (guitar - formerly in Džentlmeni).


Na Izvoru Svetlosti LP 1975
Their 1973 debut LP "Kiselina" (Acid), had contributions from members of S Vremena Na Vreme, Grupa SOS and acoustic band Dag. Although excelling in their heavy rock tracks like "Svemirska Prièa," the band played an equal amount of acoustic pop and folk-infused songs in a similar approach to Led Zep's album 'III'. The second and final studio album "Na Izvoru Svetlosti" (At the Spring of Light) followed suit, having a little more emphasis on the hard rock, with a great opener which is the track I have used in this comp, "Vreme za Nas". Track 2 gives you a good idea of their stage show with a live-recorded blues workout. Over-all this album is more consistent and you can hear the improved arrangements and more confident playing.


Fuzzy Duck

Fuzzy Duck s/t 1971
Fuzzy Duck s/t 1971
A belated appearance from a record that that I surely should have used by now, as it's really good. This is the eponymous Fuzzy Duck LP, one of the older entries here, recorded in 1971. They play jazzy prog rock, with excellent musicianship, driving hammond organ and plenty of rocking riffs. Bassist Mick Hawksworth had previously been in Andromeda (Vol51) with John Du Cann, another similarly cool band. He was also in other TDATS bands, Killing Floor (see Vol7) and Toe Fat (Vol2). Drummer Paul Francis had been in The End, and briefly in this volume's opening band, Tucky Buzzard. The Duck enjoyed some radio play, including "A Big Word From D" and "Double Fine Woman", which were both favoured by BBC stations.

Fuzzy Duck in the studio
Fuzzy Duck in the studio
In the Esoteric Recordings CD re-issue Paul Francis stated that one of the major things that broke the band up was internal friction with guitarist and founder Graham White, which he regrets in retrospect. They managed to turf him out and replace him with Garth Watt-Roy (Steamhammer, The Greatest Show On Earth) who was a great guitarist, but it didn't go down well with the record company. After the Duck had quacked it, Graham White joined Capability Brown (Vol54), Paul teamed up with Chris Speading and Steve Harley, playing on a couple of Cockney Rebel LPs and Mick Hawksworth worked with Alvin Lee among others.


Fusion Orchestra

Fusion Orchestra - Skeleton In Armour line-up, clockwise from left, Dave Bell, Stan Land, Dave Cowell, Colin Dawson and Jill Saward
Fusion Orchestra - Skeleton In Armour
line-up. Clockwise from left, Dave Bell,
Stan Land, Dave Cowell, Colin Dawson
and Jill Saward
Fusion Orchestra might be of interest to Babe Ruth fans, or those of Room. Frequently-heavy prog with a great front woman in Jill Saward, who also played flute, keyboard and more. The sole album 'Skeleton In Armour' is good progressive rock, drawing in many influences from Canterbury scene to hard rock, thankfully the band has a great attack and this LP keeps up momentum throughout, as you can hear in tracks like the one appearing here, and "Have I Left The Gas On?".

On the album, she is joined by the three founding members Dave Bell (drums), Stan Land (2nd guitar) and Colin Dawson (lead guitar). Dave Cowell played bass. Later in the bands' life Colin Dawson quit, so Alan Murphy took over, he later played in English pop bands Level 42 and coincidentally, Go West, who cropped up in the last volume via Hustler drummer Tony Beard. Although the band had a good live reputation, with fans frequently enjoying Jill Saward's titillating stage antics at the Marquee in London, they did not achieve commercial success on EMI and didn't get the green light for a second album. Jill had the most successful career afterwards, in the pop group Shakatak, and surprisingly none of the other players were in notable bands later. Colin Dawson started Fusion Orchestra 2 in 2008, in which he is the only original FO member.


Rockcelona

Continuing into heavier territory, "Queen, Friend And Dread" from Barcelona's Rockcelona hits you hard.The LP it's taken from is like this all the way through, it never lets up. This unique and timeless collision between punk, heavy metal and garage rock recorded in 1979 is a real gem for anyone out there who looks for the ultimate in unrelenting fuzz. The group was founded in 1977 by Alfredo Valcárcel, and recorded only one album called "La Bruja" (The Witch).



Svanfrídur

Svanfrídur
Svanfrídur
Courtesy of Shadoks music (link) :- The Icelandic prog-rock band Svanfrídur released only one album, recorded six months after they played their first gig. This short-lived band rapidly rose to fame, receiving rave reviews for live performances, but in fact their music was way ahead of its time. They were unable to seal a recording contract so they formed their own label - Swan Records. When the album 'What’s Hidden There?' was released in autumn 1972 it got mixed reviews and sold only a few hundred copies, leaving the band with a great album but sadly not the income they had been hoping for. Recorded at London’s Majestic Studios the album was cut and pressed in England. Perhaps one of the best heavy prog / underground albums from Scandinavia with amazing guitar and all-English vocals. Would have been a famous and successful album on Decca UK.


Asia

Asia 1978
Not to be confused with the British "Asia", South Dakota's Asia made two LPs of heavy progressive rock and hard rock. They have an epic, regal quality to many of the songs, somewhat reminiscent of the kind of atmosphere conjured up by Led Zep's No Quarter or Kashmir for instance. They evolved from White Wing with members Michael English on vocals and multi-instrumentalist Mike Coates. Asia achieved some success playing the club circuit in the more urban areas of the upper Midwest. Their self-titled debut was recorded in two sessions at ASI studios in Minneapolis in 1978 and was privately released the same year.


Cinderella

Following is a snippet of the interiews I conducted with Art Bausch of Blue Planet and Betty Raadgever of Cinderella.

Cinderella in 1971
Me: Have you heard of the band Cinderella, that made a single in 1971?

Art: Yes, I did studio work with them on their first single, together with Aad and Peter. That was while Blue Planet was still going. I’ve been seen it on Youtube.

Me: Did you guys write the single or were you just brought it to the session?

Art: The main girl, Betty Raadgever wrote it. Their producer, Gerrit Jan Leenders, I did other work for him too. That’s how that started. My memory is good, especially of that period. Everything was so intense and every day was a party.

We take a brief diversion here to read some responses that Cinderella's Betty Raadgever kindly gave for this article.

Betty Raadgever
Me: Hi Betty, did Cinderella make any more music other than the single?

Betty: Cinderella did make more songs, but they are not recorded on a album, unfortunately. And of course I wrote a lot of songs after Cinderella for my other bands: Eyeliner and The Betty Ray Experience.

Me: I spoke to Art Bausch. I asked him about your Cinderella single and he confirmed that he, Peter and Aad Kreeft played on it. Did Blue Planet play on both sides?

Betty: Blue Planet played on both sides of the single, but I wrote the lyrics and music. Aad was a good friend of mine and we knew the other guys from Leiden/Oegstgeest, where we all came from. A very good band, Blue Planet!

Me: Did the other guys in Cinderella play or sing on it too (Renee, Bernardien, Nico)?

Betty; The singers on the record are Betty, Bernardien and Renee in the chorus. I am singing the lead, and the b-side, "The Love That We've Go", Bernardien sings. The guys from BP played all the music.

Me: Did Cinderella break up for any reason or did it change into a different band?

Betty: After four years I choose to switch bands and became lead singer of a hard rock band called "For Shame". Cinderella was over... After the hard rock period I had four other female groups: Trevira 2000EyelinerNasty Girls and The Betty Ray Experience. The other Cinderella members stopped playing in bands.

Me: Thanks Betty!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

TDATS #126: Into The Pit [US Metal 1976 - 79]


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TDATS 126: Into The Pit [US Metal 1976-1979] by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud

Heavy metal continued to evolve in the mid-seventies with bands like Rush, Thin Lizzy, Scorpions, UFO, Judas Priest and Rainbow upping the ante on each record. All the facets of those cutting-edge bands can be found among the lesser-known and never-known US bands I have included on this volume; grand fantastical themes, guitar harmonies, galloping riffs and histrionic power metal vocals included. Included here are a few conversations I've had with band members of Alkana, Axxe, Squadran and Tyranny.

The UK, and also Germany, were responsible for many of the famous technically-accomplished and speedy metal bands in the latter-half 1970s, but it was happening everywhere else too. American underground metal was exploding in popularity, bands were getting heavier and more skilled, Van Halen broke through were Montrose didn't do so well. The world's focus didn't fall upon many of them, most would sign to regional record labels and only have local success.

Others only made private pressings for gigs and friends, destined to go no further than the shelves of local fans and later, those of avid record collectors. The efforts of reissue labels, and more recently the powers of internet exposure, have thankfully made it easy for everyone to now appreciate how good some of those records are!

If you are particularly interested in this one, you might like to check out the US A.O.R. metal volume Forced Landing (Vol91), or the NWOBHM-inspired volumes, Dreams & Screams (Vol121) and The New Order (Vol67).

TRACKS
01. Squadran - The Wall (1979)
       from the Fly Away 7"
02. Granmax - Mistress Of Eternity (1978)
       from album 'Kiss Heaven Goodbye'
03. Alkana - Paradise (1978)
       from album 'Welcome To My Paradise'
04. Asia - Law Of The Land (1978)
       from album 'Asia'
05. Blitz - Lady Lightning Fingers (1978)
       from the Blitz EP
06. Axxe - Through The Night (1978)
       from the Rock Away The City 7"
07. Impeccable - Traces Of Time (1978)
       from album 'Live On The Rox'
08. Dave Feinstein - Midnight Lady (1978)
       from the Midnight Lady 7"
09. Marcus - Gypsy Fever (1976)
       from album 'Marcus'
10. Midnight - Into The Pit (1977)
       from album 'Into The Night'
11. Tyranny - Rockit (1979)
       from the Tyranny / Infinity 7"
12. Infinity - She Ain't Comin' Back (1979)
       from the Tyranny / Infinity 7"
13. Constellation - You Don't Know (1978)
       from album 'Constellation'
14. Yesterday And Today - Dreams Of Egypt (1978)
       from album 'Struck Down'


Squadran

Squradran - Fly Away / The Wall 7"
Squadran opens up this set with a stunning track, "The Wall". The first time I heard it, from 1979, I was floored at how it presented a well-formed speed/thrash metal sound a few years before such things had appeared anywhere else, that I know of at least. Drummer Mike Gandia (links 1,2) was later in an unsigned New York band called Cathedral (link), which supported Aerosmith in 1984. He has been in many bands and a session drummer ever since, working with some of the best including Ozzy himself.

I managed to contact Mike recently and asked him about "The Wall", telling him it sounds like "Slayer in 1979" and asking him if he realised at the time that they were doing something very new.

He said this: "Ha Ha! We did that record in one session back when you had to actually play every part correctly. When we did that record no one had done that style yet and we had no clue that we stumbled into a new genre of music. We played locally and did very well but no one would sign the band because this style of music was not popular yet. We were told we had to be more commercial and we wanted no part of that so eventually we broke up and within two years Anthrax and Manowar were calling asking about me playing with them while I was on tour supporting Aerosmith, and Heavy Metal was born.

Squadran promo shot, 1984 lineup
(l-r) Eric Klaastad, Mike Gardia
Mike Ray, Keith Brazil
Squadran just missed the boat. We where ahead of our time. We were contacted by Ozzy to be his band after he was fired from Sabbath. We auditioned for him all day and he loved us but said we were too young and unknown for him. He needed known people. About a month later he found Randy Rhoads. We were always told we sound too much like Black Sabbath on speed. We had many slower songs also. We where all into Sabbath/Rainbow and Judas Priest before Priest was really famous.

Squadran to this day gets respect from all over the world from Australia to Greece to England and Germany too. The single is still selling.

Thank you for your kind words and interest in my favorite band I have ever played with… I was only 20 years old then and now I've played with over 30 bands. It make's us feel good to know people still like us. Thank You!"

Squadran at Gildersleeves in NY (link)
(l-r) Eric Klaastad (bass), Mike (drums), Keith Brazil (vocals) and Randy Young (gtr)


Granmax


Granmax's "Mistress Of Eternity" has a great galloping pace with fantasy lyrics, and "Prince Of The Southern Ice" is also good, evoking wide vistas of ice-covered oceans and victorious princes. Lead singer Nick Christopher (aka Chaz Nikias) gives us his best power metal histrionics and in general "Kiss Heaven Goodbye" is a big step away from this Missouri four-pieces's boogie / hard rock debut LP, "A Ninth Alive" (1976), in my opinion an improvement. The band sounds more confident and more composed, the production is improved too.



Alkana

Alkana 1978
According to The Acid Archives, "Danney Alkana was formerly with Cock Robin, a California band that at times featured Misunderstood legend Glenn Ross Campbell. As something of a guitar maestro, he later had some success on the classical-inspired metal guitar circuit and released and album called "Rock the Bach" in 1999."

The Alkana album "Welcome To My Paradise" is an impressive array of inventive and textured hard rock / metal which can be as melodic and atmospheric as it can be fast and heavy. The production is great, Danney really let loose with his double-tracked guitars and his harmonised leads are all over it, but tracks like "Paradise" and "Montezuma's Sweet Revenge" are also speedy, chugging riff-fests. The rest of the band was singer Jack Rucker (later known as "Damien King I" in Warlord mk.1), Craig Williams (bass) and Don Mclaughlin (drums), they were based in San Bernardino, CA.

Q. Hi Danney. Why did you become a guitarist?

Danney: "I started playing piano at four years old, and I loved playing classical. After that, the Beatles came along, and I got heavy into drums and I kind of got lost in pop music. At age fourteen I was still a drummer but got into playing guitar. I was over at a friends house and I heard Jeff Beck's Truth album. I told my friend then and there I was going to get a guitar, there was just something about the album that I absolutely loved. I had a guitar within a week. I never forgot classical music. It's just something that's part of me, especially the Baroque era."


Q. How did you get Alkana band together?

Danney: "Craig Williams (bass) and I had played together in another band for two or three years. Don Mclaughlin (drums) we found 30 miles away from where we lived. The three of us rehearsed until we were tight and then put an ad in the paper for a singer and auditioned four or five before Jack Rucker joined".


Alkana rear cover
Q. The album sounds to me like impressively advanced heavy metal, more like the eighties than 1978. What would you say to that?

Danney: "The guitar riffs and the harmonized guitar parts I don't know where they came from to be honest. I had done a single perhaps five years before as a stand-in musician or better said studio musician. So when I got in the studio to do my own album I kind of felt like I should have free reign so I did whatever I felt. Why it sounds advanced for its time I don't know, it was just the mood I was in at the time."


Q. What bands in heavy metal and hard rock were you listening to at the time that might have been an influence to you?

Danney: "The bands I was listening to at the time were all English bands. Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, UFO, Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow."


Q. Seeing as the band is named after you, I guess you were the main ideas person/writer, is that correct?

Danney: "Yes that's correct, I wrote all the tunes on the album but the title track, I gave credit to Craig Williams who came up with the base line, and I wrote the music around it."


Q. How was the album received?

Danney: "The reception to Welcome to my Paradise was quite good. It had airplay in several cities in the US. I never knew the quantity of sales exactly. Obviously since we are playing to 3, 4 and 5000 seat venues and filling them every night I imagine it's sold fairly well. I was interviewed several times and enjoyed them all. Although it wasn't an interview I would have to say my favorite piece of press was for the time we played the swing auditorium which was a 10,000 seater. My father never saw me play but was so proud of the newspaper write up on the band he went out and bought several newspapers and sent me the clippings of the write up. I did have an extensive interview a few years ago from Greece, I think the interview lasted a good two hours but I don't know what happened to the write up."

Q. What happened with Alkana, did you play live much or play with any other bands? Why did it split up?

Danney: We played several venues, most of them as headliners and a couple as the opening act. I left the band because we got tied up in a lawsuit when my manager hit the president of our department in the mouth trying to renegotiate a contract with MCA. This was quite discouraging for the rest of the band and myself and I decided if I moved on and made a new lineup things would get better. The lawsuit lasted for years but eventually in my new band Excalibur we were offered a contract with CBS London, but my co-writer & collaborator left the band. I felt at that time I wasn't going to allow anybody else to deny me my destiny so I quit the music business and joined the straight world and became a businessman.

True to his roots, when Danney delved back into music fourteen years after Excalibur, he used his multi-instrumental talents on a neo-classical record called "Rock the Bach" (link), for which he was personally congratulated and praised by Steve Vai.


Asia

Asia 1978
Not to be confused with the British "Asia", South Dakota's Asia made two LPs of heavy progressive rock and hard rock. They have an epic, regal quality to many of the songs, somewhat reminiscent of the kind of atmosphere conjured up by Led Zep's No Quarter or Kashmir for instance. They evolved from White Wing with members Michael English on vocals and multi-instrumentalist Mike Coates. Asia achieved some success playing the club circuit in the more urban areas of the upper Midwest. Their self-titled debut was recorded in two sessions at ASI studios in Minneapolis in 1978 and was privately released the same year.


Blitz

Blitz EP 1978
Blitz was an amateur Texas band playing heavy metal. They made a four track EP, sometimes in the style of the NWOBHM. The band was quite sloppy and the writing is not so great, but this is what you might expect from a debut self-made record that was probably designed to hand out at gigs etc. 'Lady Lightning Fingers' included here is quite obviously imitating a vocal section of Rob Halford's in Judas Priest's "Victim Of Changes", but it makes for an interesting listen as an example of such English metal having an influence in the US.


Axxe & Impeccable

Axxe - Rock Away The City /
Through The Night 7" (1978)
Another Texas band follows, Axxe, later named Impeccable. Featuring the guitar skills of Darren Welch, from the city of Lubbock. Members were Darren, Morris Payne (drums), Richard Rico (bass) and Don Allison (vox). Axxe went from 1977-79, and Impeccable a few years longer than that. Don wrote the lyrics, Darren wrote the music. The 1978 Axxe single has a decent slab of country-fried hard rock 'n' roll for the a-side, but the b-side "Through The Night" is where the metal action is, and what a great track it is. Darren's guitar dominates the whole thing, he has total mastery over rhythm and leads, it all flows so naturally and is complemented by Don Allison's intense high-pitched vocals. Here I have included the Axxe track, and an Impeccable track from the "Live On The Rox" LP.


Impeccable (l-r)
Morris Payne (d), Donnie Allison (v)
Richie Rico (b), Darren Welch (g)
Here's is what Darren told me recently. "The band formed in late 1976. Bassist Richard Rico, drummer Morris Payne and myself had been jamming in bedrooms, garages, storage units etc. We needed a vocalist and finally found a guy called Brent Haynie. He was actually a folkie into Neil Young, John Prine, Willis Allen Ramsey, Cat Stevens etc whereas we were listening to stuff like Sabbath, Zep, Deep Purple, Moxy, Wiggy Bits, Budgie, Scorpions, Hendrix, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top, Trapeze, Ted Nugent and Rush. That group was called Live Wire.

Haynie sang in a high register so he could sing a lot that stuff, but eventually his folk roots won out and he departed. A friend of a friend recommended Don Allison, so we contacted him and began jamming and writing, then performing. We changed the band name to Axxe, recording the single in a friend's living room and eventually, after doing several shows with Budgie, changing our name again to Impeccable, after the Budgie album. Impeccable released a live album, "Live on The Rox" in '78. You can download it on the net, or find it on Ebay. We were aged just 16 to 18. The guitar is horrendous! But it was what it was."

Me: I don't quite agree with the guitar being horrendous hehe. In fact for what it is, I think your and the band's playing is tremendous, and not only because you were so young at the time. Did you carry on with heavy metal after Impeccable?

Impeccable, Live at the Rox
Darren: "Thank you for being so complementary. The guitar was horrendous, but I hadn't been playing long and was discovering Jack Daniels & Coke during the live recording. So it is what it is. I didn't really play heavy metal again, I began writing for my own voice. More blues/rock/pop. It's still fairly heavy, but I don't think you could classify it as metal. Check out DWG Volume 1, heavy blues rock. There's even a thing or two on there a Metal Head can appreciate. Some pretty good guitar on that one. it's on cdbaby (link) or iTunes (link). It's got a cool version of Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic" as well as Johnny Winter's "Guess I'll Go Away" & "Rock Me Baby". Play it LOUD!".


David "Rock" Feinstein

David "Rock" Feinstein's career began after playing in blues rockers Elf, with his cousin Ronnie James Dio. In 1978 he recorded a single and started The Rods in 1980, an anthemic, greasy metal band that sounded like Motörhead slowed down a bit. His 1978 single is great, and 'Midnight Lady' is included here. Although the lyrics are a tad wishy-washy, they belie some fast chugging heavy metal. The Hammond organs, while perfectly fine within themselves, drag it back slightly towards early seventies hard rock.

Marcus

Marcus Malone
Marcus Malone is now a blues singer/guitarist/songwriter based in the UK, but long ago in a former life he started as singer in what is now regarded as an early US metal band, simply called Marcus on it's sole LP, which had no less than three guitarists. The one well-known hard rock name on the album (but only for two tracks) was bassist Tim Bogert, of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus etc. Even though the album gets favourable reviews in metal circles, and was chosen for the Kerrang-curated "Striktly For Konnoisseurs" comp, it's certainly not a typical metal album. It has some elements of prog and funk, and it's not aggressively heavy but it's very much driven by complex guitar interplay that displays many of the melodic qualities that heavy metal bands have, especially ones that have multiple guitarists that pride themselves in technical skill. I guess you could compare Marcus's relationship to metal as similar to that of Wishbone Ash. The other members involved do not appear to have had careers in hard rock before or after Marcus, but some did turn up in disco funk. Apparently drummer Dandy "Star" Holmes later played in the disco/AOR hybrid Sabu, named after Paul Sabu, also of the Kerrang-recommended Only Child.


Marcus - 2000 CD reissue, inside cover
Here is what Marcus Malone himself wrote for a CD reissue of the album in 2000: "The songs on this album were written, tried and tested for several years previous to 1975 in the night clubs, bars and eventually festivals of Detroit, Toleda and Chicago. We worked seven nights a week and loved every bit of it and had built up a massive following before being spotted by several record companies. The year 1975 was a very good year indeed - we left Detroit and headed for California, which was just like I pictured it - fast cars, gorgeous women and uncut drugs. Amidst a bureaucratic upheaval between the record company - United Artists, the management teams - West & East Coast- and a cast of legal eagles, we somehow managed to cut what was to become a classic cult metal album in America as well as Europe. I am happy to see the interest in the 'Marcus' resurrection for a new generation to discover and our die-hard followers to rediscover in digital format. I'm not one to dwell on the past - I can only say that it was great while it lasted and looks like its going to last a long time to come. This album is meant to be played at maximum volume that your speakers can handle. So get out that pipe or zig zags, a little incense - and enjoy".

Midnight

Midnight in 1976
Four Chicago teenagers formed Midnight. Dave Hill (organ, vocals), Frank Anastos (guitar), Scott Marquart (drums), and John Falstrom (bass), met while taking lessons at Melody Mart in Homewood, IL in 1974. Inspired by Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Deep Purple, eventually they began gigging at colleges and clubs in and around Chicago, even though they were still in high school at the time. Soon after graduating in the fall of 1977, they recorded their lone LP with no management or producer, at A-K Sound Recording Studio in Orland Park, IL.

Midnight "Into The Night" (1976)
Dave, Frank, and John all contributed to the songwriting and then the band worked on the arrangements as a unit. Like Blitz before, the recordings have a rough edge and amateurish production, with a mixture of good to average songs. Dave used a Vox organ, and its thin sound was out of vogue by this time, giving the music a link back to '60s garage rock. The group self-released "Into the Night", pressing 500 copies in early 1978. A show at The Aragon in late '79 was one of their last and in 1980 they took a break from playing to write new material. Drummer Scott Marquart quit and the rest followed suit.

Drag City reissued the LP this year (link). I have used one of the most metallic sounding tracks from the LP, "Into The Pit". This song presents an interesting mixture of out-dated equipment like the Vox and a recording job which sounds like an amateurish attempt from an earlier time, while some the music itself has influence from more metallic sounds of the later-seventies.

Tyranny

Tyranny and Infinity were two bands helmed by guitarist Rob Griffin, who later started a cult metal band called Graven Image. Included here is both sides of a 7", one side by Tyranny and one labelled as played by "Infinity". According to the label, both written by Rob Griffin and Dave Chumchal. Thanks to O.P.M. Records for reissuing this 45 in 2005, and bringing it to the world's attention! Both sides are equally great heavy metal.

Here is what Rob Griffin has told me about this strange situation: ”Hi Rich, It was all Tyranny on the 45 (me) writing and producing the same band. It was just a label screw up at the pressing plant because we almost made some changes, and then made some changes (confusing). When the plant had the order we met a bass player who joined us briefly and we were considering a name change, however he turned out to be a flake and a con man who tried to steal our music, but we caught on and fired him.

We called the plant to have the label changed again going back to Tyranny, however the plant got it wrong and put the right label on one side and the wrong label on the other, and we decided to just release it anyway due to lack of funds to change it and no time, as we were playing live. So it was a mistake on many levels. The long version will be in a book someday as it is a great story! It in fact was Tyranny and me all done in the studio, the bass player in question was post-production and did nothing but screw us up - there you go!" Graven Image's facebook can be found here (link).

2009 Tyranny / Graven Image Reunion with Rob Griffin, "Rockit"


Constellation

Constellation LP (1978)
The penultimate track is from a real wildcard, a Tennessee band called Constellation. Many thanks to The Acid Archives (link) for what little information is known about the album, one of the most obscure appearing here for sure.

Originally from Chattanooga, the band featured a potential superstar in the form of 14 year old singer/guitarist Punkin Crye and brothers Buster and Mike Visage (bass and drums respectively). The trio attracted a loyal following on the local club scene, eventually capturing the attention of a small label called Pyramid, which signed them to a recording contract and financed their self-titled 1978 debut. 

Co-produced by Jack Bryson, Cathy Dover, Jim Stabile and the band, the resulting LP "Constellation" is an impressively hard-rocking effort; even more so given creative mainstay Crye wasn't even old enough to legally play in a nightclub. In addition to handling lead vocals (he sure didn't sound like a 14 year old) and lead guitar, Crye wrote or co-wrote all nine tracks. The track I chose here, "You Don't Know", is propulsive and has a ton of punk energy with sharp riffage.

The album did little commercially and the band promptly called it quits. Crye relocated to L.A. where he enjoyed minor success playing in a number of local metal bands. Unfortunately, Crye also picked up a nasty drug habit.  By the time he was in his early 20s he'd returned to Tennessee where he ended up homeless, living on the streets of Chattanooga.

Yesterday & Today

Oakland CA's Yesterday and Today have the last song in this volume. They are the most successful band appearing here, although after a start in the early seventies the commercial success didn't come until the mid-eighties, after their heaviest albums were behind them, in my opinion.

"Dreams Of Egypt" is from their second record, "Struck Down" (1978). To me this track has a very metallic guitar tone and playing style, which sounds really cool and precognizant of 1980s trends. I wonder if the combination of heavy metal and Egyptian mythology influenced Iron Maiden later on, or even the Death Metal band Nile? Well, I guess you'd have to ask them! Seeya on the next one, Rich.



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