This is the second collection of music and information from obscure bands from the 60’s and the 70’s.
Similarly to the first post, this contains general mixture of hard rock, blues & prog rock artist from all around the world. However, as I already stated in the opening post, sometimes I will detour from Rich’s original post – and this time already came! The cause of it, that I already presented Jericho Jones in the first post (while I reviewed Jericho’s history) thus I skip them now. Rich also covered Crank’s sole release. As a compensation, I try to reveal more interesting music and info from the others (especially about Omega and Lucifer’s Friend, which will be introduced in detail in a separate post). In addition, I shall detour from Rich’s numbering, as if I would keep it with that, it would result even longer posts than the first one was. This means (somewhat) shorter articles, which can be easier to run through for you and more flexibility and more frequent posting for me.
Do you dare to sweep over the hot embers to discover what others tried to remove from the past?
- Moxy: Moon Rider – from Moxy I (1975)
- Moxy: Rock Baby – from Ridin’ High (1977)
- Power of Zeus: I lost my love – from Power of Zeus (1970)
- Randy Holden: Blue my Mind – from Population II (1969)
- Socrates drank the conium: Starvation – from Socrates drank the conium (1972)
- Socraters: Mountains – from Phos (1976)
- The Amboy Dukes: Journey to the Center of the Mind – from Journey to the Center of the Mind (1968)
- The Amboy Dukes: Prodigal Man – from Migration (1969)
- Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes: Renegade – from Call of the Wild (1973)
- Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes: Lady Luck – from live bootleg (1975)
- Dragonfly: Hootchie Cootchie Man – from Dragonfly (1970)
- Toe Fat: But I’m Wrong – from Toe Fat (1970)
- Flower Travellin’ Band: Kamikaze – from Made in Japan (1972)
- November: Ta ett steg i sagans land – from En ny tid ar har (1970)
- T2: In Circles – from It’ll all Work Out in Boomland (1970)
- Toad: Pig’s Walk/Thoughs – from Open Fire – Live in Basel (1972)
- Hard Stuff: Roll a rocket – from Bolex Dementia (1973)
As an opening act, aim our sight to Canada.
If you listen their early albums, you probably start to scratch your head. From one side, the album has a great sound (especially for it’s age), definitely rocks hard and the singer has a strong and high voice. However, the album starts with the slowest track and progresses slowly. While the album is full with good ideas and great riffs, the weak songwriting was not able to hold the advantages of these records together and as soon you finish a song, you already forget about them.
Two expectations from the debut album is Can’t you see I’m a star? (which became a huge hit for some reason) and the Moon Rider – this time the pieces really had fallen to their places (also, they found other rhyme for desire what is not fire!)
They migth have sensed that, because for the third album (titled properly this time, as Ridin’ High) they released their first really good album. This time not only Moxy sounds good, but also it creeps into your ears and stay in your mind!
For example Rock Baby, which sounds a bit like Ted Nugent around that time (the opening riff is almost identical with Nugent’s Stormtroopin’), but it also includes some proto-heavy metal solo – in a classic hard rock song!
Although the band continued (they are still active even today) with changing line-up (for a period, Mike Reno, later Loverboy singer acted as a frontman), they never were able to gain mainstream success and fame. Still, we should respect their work as flag-bearers in the 70’s hard rock scene.
Power Of Zeus
Moving from Canda to the US, we shall meet with our first Detroid-based group of this post. The name of the group is just referring to their interest in classical mithology (they’ve recorded a track Sorcerer of Isis as well), but they had no direct relations to Greece.
The short lived group (formed in 1969, recorded their solely LP and 7″ in 1970 and disbanded already in 1971) was a consisted four person (Joe Periano – guitar, vocals; Bill Jones – bass, vocals; Dennie Webber – Hammond organ, harpsichord, piano; Bob Michalski – drums) and played psychedelic flawored hard rock (with some mellow tones).
Why weren’t they successful then? Because their only LP (Gospel according to Zeus) was released by Motown and of course, their customers didn’t match with the target group…
But at least their survived to still entertain us – Enjoy!
Randy Holden was and still considered an US psychedelic guitar hero. Not a mainstream one (he got probably the nearest to it by joining to Blue Cheer to their 3rd album), but highly regarded due to his reverb-heavy sound and the vibe, which he created in the “Population 2 album”.
He started already at 13 years old his career in smaller groups, playing first R&B, then surf rock, moving to psych-pop in The Sons of Adam and The Other Half, then joining to Blue Cheers in 1969 for their European an US tour and their “New! Improved! Blue Cheer” album (at such era, when they were even paid by Woodstock organizers to not to play on the festival, as the latter ones feared from the effects from the band’s infamy).
Due to issues within the group (addictions) and the management, Holden left the group and already in 1969 formed one of the first (and few) power duos in the rock history. Holden was responsible for the guitars, vocals and and bass, while Chris Lockwood recorded all the drums and keyboards.
The result (Population 2 – referring to the numbe of band members) is, a loud, raw, mostly slowly hulking, often creepy psychedelic, heavy album. For the lovers of the doom, proto-metal genre this album is treasure chest (with songs like Fruit and Icebergs or Keeper of My Flame). However, my suggestion is the song Blue my Mind – it is the most consistent track on the album (and the most melodic one – considering the attributes I mentioned beforehand), also maybe one of the most overlooked from this album.
Although the album was and still today is influental, it was quickly lost in the history and due to managerial, financial problems this group dissolved as well. Holden retreated from the musical life for good 30 years.
However, Holden himself returned in the early 90’s and since then he released numerous albums, shifting away from psychedelia towards Hendrix-like blues rock and recently, playing surf rock once again. The good news is: he is still alive and rockin – so you might even catch one of his gigs!
More to read:
Socrates drank the conium
Socrates (sometimes with or without it’s witty reference to the famous philosophist’s death) was the most important and influental blues/hard rock group in Greece in the 70’s – rightly so: they not only played energetic hard rock music, but rather than simply being influenced by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Mountain or Deep Purple, they even combined these influences with greek tonality and witty rythmical changes, thus forming something unique, which is still popular among record collectors.
The band was quite a long-living one – formed originally in 1969 in Athen by Yannis Spathas (guitar) and Antonis Tourkoyorgis (bass, vocals). Although many drummers and other band members circulated through the history of the group (which lasted untill) 1986, Spathas with his unique guitar playing and Tourkoyorgis’s energetic bass and raw vocals composed always the core of the group.
Although through their careers they went through numerous genre shifts (including a keyboard based prog-era with Vangelis and a commercial rock era in the eraly 1980’s, where they even changed their name temporarily to Plaza) I suggest their first, self-titled album form 1972 and the energetic Starvation. Although later they re-recorded it with Vangelis, but I rather prefer this version, as this captures better the strength of the (then) power trio of the early 70’s.
Later the group tried to appear in the international market and Vangelis (then famous already with Aphrodite’s Child – who shall be also covered in a later post) joined to them for one album and shifted the group’s sound towards prog. The result? The greatest commercial success for the group – and Greece. Although it’s full with great tracks (like the Killer, Time of Pain), I suggest the song Mountain – it starts with an energetic hard-prog part, which turns into a meditative song.
As I wrote earlier, the group continued to play and record further albums with different line-ups and genres, but at the end they disbanded in 1986 – for a while. As their old album were re-relased in the early 90’s, the original members felt the increasing interest towards their music and reformed for a few concerts at 1999. Due to the surprising success, they continued to play live in the 2000’s.
More to read:
The Amboy Dukes
Ted Nugent (born as Theodor Anthony Nugent) can hardly be considered as an obscure artist with his multi-million selling solo albums, hits and constant political appearance. However, the Detroit city Madman’s pre-solo albums could have easily passed one’s attention.
The story of Amboy Dukes goes back to 1965 to Chicago. Ted had just won the “Battle of Sounds” in Detroid with his teen-band and a won a recording contract, but still they needed to leave to Chicago with his family, where he teamed up with some local musicians to play their cover versions of current hits (Beatles, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, etc.). In 1966 however, Ted have returned to Detroit to form a new version of the Amboy Dukes and pursue the musicians’ career. As we can see, Ted was the only constant factor in the always changing formations of Amboy Dukes; but at this point, we can still speak about a group.
Slowly working up their way in the Detroit competition and keeping up with the newest trends (while forming their own style), the group was able to release their first own singles and album in 1968. The music was a mixture of pop, fuzz and the covered artist’s genres; but they already have some own materials on the albums. However, the real own tone appeared on the second album – take a listen into the title song! Galloping riffs, fuzzy sound (especially in the bridge section), pop vocals, rhythm changes and Uncle Ted’s unique guitar tone with his hollow-bodied Gibson Byrdland (a jazz guitar!) and Fender amps crunched to max! Not surprisingly, this song became the trademark of the group.
Later, shifting away from the pop sound (but reforimng the psychedelic tone) further albums were released with constantly changing line-ups. For example, Russell Edward “Rusty Day” Davidson sang on the (next) Migration album – some of you might recognize his voice from his next band, Cactus (which shall be covered in a future post as well).
After the release of the Survival of the fittest album (in 1971), Ted get rid of the constant changing line-ups and totally reformed his group. First of all, no earlier members appeared on the further recording. Secondly, the name has been changed to “Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes” to sing a shift towards a solo career (and higher ego), while keeping the “Amboy Dukes” tag for get the benefits from the old brand.
The biggest change is, however, in the musical genre. Ted dropped psychedelia and returned to blues and rock’n’roll; but he pumped those up with high tempo, agressive guitar-based sound and turned these element with bassist Rob Grange into great hard rock tone! Check the Grange’s song from the Call of the Wild album, which is a groovy hard rockin monster and listen the transformation by yourself!
As a closing of this section of history, I present a live bootleg version from the last album containing the name “Amboy Dukes” in it’s name (it was Tooth Fang & Claw). I partially decided to choose this version over the album version, as it’s more energetic (even though the original one is also a “foot-stomper”); but I also opt for this one, as it features the (then) newly recruited vocalist/rythm guitarist Derek St. Holmes. With him, the legendary line-up (Ted Nugent guitar/vocals, Derek St. Holmes guitar/vocals, Rob Grange bass, Cliff Davies drums) became whole and they recorded the eponymous Ted Nugnet solo album (without “Amboy Dukes”), which rocketed them to the top of the charts and made them legends of the arena rockers. But thats another story…
At first sight, Dragonfly was one of the many one-album bands in the history of rock music, which evaporated shortly after the release of their recording. However, one shouldn’t judge a book by the cover.
First of all, Dragonfly wasn’t really Dragonfly – they were called as The Legends and formed from the members of Lords of London (US band), Instigators and The Pawns in 1967 (members: Barry Davis – Drums, Vocals; Gerry Jimerfield – Guitar, Lead Vocals; Randy Russ – Guitar, Vocals; Ernie Mcelwaine – Keyboards; Jack Duncan – Bass) they played mostly in a place called “The Family Dog” (in Denver) with great success. They shared the stage with numerous other smaller bands and musicians at the time, including the young Tommy Bolin (later appears in Zephyr, Moxy, his own solo bands, James Gang and get international fame as the member of Deep Purple)
Following the trends, they were forced by the management to record an album of covers, conducted by professional producers. Luckily, the one of their managers had heard one of their live gigs and was astonished from their energy and quickly arranged a short studio session to record their harder, psychedelic songs. To not harm the brand of The Legends, the band recorded under the name of Dragonfly. Although the album sold fairly well in the nearby, by the time of the release the keyboardist Mcelwaine already left the band the soon the group disbanded without playing any gigs under the name Dragonfly (although they were invited to play at the legendary Winterland at San Francisco!)
Although this recording was called hard-psychedelic rock, psychedelia dominated the recording. However, they combined it with numerous other genre and ideas, as they did in the following cover of Willie Dixon’s Hoochie Coochie Man (which became famous by Muddy Waters).
Toe Fat (according to legends, the most discussing thing that lead vocalist Cliff Bennett and his manager could figure out) was – looking back – a supergroup. The first line-up consisted Cliff Bennett on vocals (ex-Rebel Rousers, a popular 60’s R&B group in the UK), Ken Hensley on guitars and keyboards, Lee Kerslake on drums (both of them came from Gods and joined to Uriah Heep) and John Konas on Bass. If we consider that Konas was replaced by John Glasscock (Carmen, Gods, Jethro Tull), then such a group of muscians must have made something unique, didn’t they?
Well, the problem is – they didn’t. This group recorded two heavy psychic album, but the recordings are most of the time only decent. I’m must emphasize they weren’t bad (there are a few good songs on them, like the Elton John-cover Bad Side of the Moon or Since you’ve been gone), otherwise they couldn’t have open before the Derek and the Dominoes (=Eric Clapton) or even record a second album. However, as the “added value” was missing even after the changes in the line-up (Hensley and Kerslake joined to Uriah Heep – Bennett declined to join then… – Konas left and he and Kerslake were replaced by John and Brian Glasscock) or with the recording of the second album. Although the project wasn’t financially unsuccessfull, the management and the recording company (Tamla, once again) couldn’t support the group anymore and they disbanded. Bennett formed a new group, Hensley and Kerslake found commercial success in Uriah Heep, John Glasscock joined to Carmen and then played with Jethro Tull untill his death, while his brorther Brian joined to Captain Beyond to their second album.
More to read:
Flower Travellin’ Band
Short description: One of the best known Japaense rock band in the West in the early 70’s.
A bit longer description: Flower Travellin’ Band actually was the most famous project of Yuya Uchida. A young rebellious teenager who was among the first ones in Japan to form a rockabilly band and cover Elvis, Beatles, etc. He later get in touch with John Lennon, who invited him to the UK in 1967 where he got in touch with the hippie movements and was charmed by the rock scene (Hendrix, Cream, etc.). This had a great influence on him and when he returned to Japan in 1968, he quickly formed a band (Yuya Uchida & Flowers) and played and recorded many covers of western groups – with constantly chaning line-ups (you might remember them from the 2nd Covered in Obscurity post). However, slowly the core members (George Wada – drums, Joe Yamanaka – vocals, Jun Kobayashi – bass, Hideki Ishima – guitar) appeared in the group and the own sound had been formed. Also the group changed it’s name to Flower Travellin’ Band.
Among the covered bands, Black Sabbath had the biggest influence on the group (regarding doomy sounds, usually long jams and slow tempo, heavy guitar sounds) – no suprise then that actually they were the first band, who recorded a cover of the song Black Sabbath (already in 1970, decades before the doom scene!). Also they combined this with the tonality of the Japanese folk songs and Ishima’s indian influence (he studied indian sitar playing and later he focused on this area) and created something unique, which still makes people to wonder about these recordings.
Uchida also felt the potential in the group and shifted from the band as a musician towards a producer/manager and lead the group to international markets – to Canada, in this case. However, he was aware that they won’t get a chance without own repertoire there, so the group wrote their first own material (Satori) and recorded it in Canada. This recording was a landmark, particularly in its influence of the doom scene (still today is considered as the best release of the group) and also in the career of the band. Although it is a magnificent album, I rather suggest to listen the whole recording – the individual tracks (called parts in this case) sums up to a unique doomy, bluesy, psychedelic trip.
However, I wish to recommend the second album (Made in Japan – which was actually recorded in Canada), which shows further development in the musicians’ songwriting skills and the songs themselves represents individually all the elements of the Flower Travellin’ Band. Listen the next song Kamikaze and you’ll find everything here what I’ve described before.
The group recorded one more (Make Up – half live, half studio recording) album in 1973 and returned to Japan to reap the success at home as well. In Japan, they should have opened to the Rolling Stones’ to their tour, but this plan was folded as the Stones hung up their tour (Jagger lost his visa due to his drug problems) and the group itself decided to disband a while after that. That might sound strange, but if you listen to the Make Up album , you can already hear the musical differences between the members and actually, everyone wanted to focus on their own muscial ideas (Ishama studied sitars and indian music, Yuya Uchida worked with Frank Zappa, The Creation and later became an actor and even run for a govenor position in Tokyo, while the singer even joined up with Bob Marley’s group in the 80’s).
Similarly to many other bands in this blog, they reunited in the 2000’s as well, but only for a few years – in 2010 the singer Joe Yamanaka got lung cancer and died in 2011. The group then disbanded for the last time.
More to read:
- Yuya Uchida’s personal website (in Japan)
November was one of the prime hard rock-proto metal group of Sweden. Clearly influenced by Led Zeppelin and Cream (look at the bassist XY on some early photos, with his hairdo and Gibson SG bass – he looks like a younger version of Jack Bruce), three young men decided to create something in similar vein – but heavier.
This can be clearly heard at their debut album. They play energetic, blues-based there as a power trio, but the instruments are down-tuned and the whole recording thus has a more heavy, darker tone, which makes this record popular among the collectors of early proto-metal.
However, my choice is from the second album. Albeit it keept the style of the first album, it is slightly more melodic and it lost some of the darker tone, while keeping the hard edge (maybe this shift was related to the fact that they even played in a children-program in the swedish TV?). On the other hand, the third album rather took a progressive direction – the songwriting is more delicate, temporarily new members and instruments were added (hammond organ, piano, acoustic guitar and congas), the darker tone was completely removed but also some of the songs fit better to (lighter) prog rock genre.
Similar to other groups, the wind of reunions of the early 2000s reached them as well. Although this time no new recording was released, but they made some tours and provided a live album from their best moments for their fans.
T2 was an one-album obscure band. However, this recording is quite unique. It was released by Decca at 1970 and can be considered a progressive rock album. Complex, long songs (the album contained only four pieces and fourth one took the whole B-side!), multi-layered tracks and melodies, psychedelic aftertaste, wide range of instruments (including some orchestration). If we need to find a similar record (although it can be related only vaugely), Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother” could be a good direction. However, I just recommend to let you be slipped into the vortex of sound and enter “Neverland”.
In earlier posts I already praised Captain Beyond and Leaf Hound as shiniest pieces among the hidden treasures of obscure records – here comes the swiss Toad to this list.
Formed in 1969, the former rythm section (Cosimo Lampis – drums, Werner Fröhlich- bass) of the swiss psychedelic rock group Brainticket (shall be reviewed in a later post) recruited Vic Vergeat from Italy as a guitarist. During the recording the first album, Benjamin Jäger was the vocalist, but he soon departed and the Veregatt took the vocalist duty for the rest of the career of the group.
The band existed between 1970 and ’75 (then they reunited in the early 90’s), but during this era they released three albums and gave memorable concert. The first two albums (the self-titled debut and it’s follow up “Thoughts”) can be considered masterpieces. The raw, energetic blues-based hard rock (heavily influenced by Hendrix, although Toad shaped their own sound based on it) on the first album blasts everything away on these. Do you like Hendrix’s riffing and bluesy, virtuous but agressive solos (with tons of “wah-wah”s)? Or Black Sabbath’s tempo changing and the “fast sections” in the middle of their songs? The energetic, groovy but intelligent drum play of John Bonham and Mich Michell? The walking (or in this case, practically running) bass play of Jack Bruce which can sometimes even match the virtuous guitar playing? Hard, energetic, but meldoic and memorable riffs and songs? Then debut album is for you! Every second is among the greatests of recorded rock music on this album; independently if you listen to the rocking “Tank”, “Cottonwood Hill”, the closing “Stay”. Even the sanzon “Not the only one” fits perfectly into here. If I have to point out one specific song, however; my chouice would be the speedy hard rocker “Pig’s walk” with it’s long solos and jamming. Can that it be any better? Yes, it has a live version!
The second album became a bit more polished, lost the rawness of the debut but none of the hard edge. The songwriting further developed and similarly to the debut, it is perfect from the first tone to the last one. To point out the development (and the level of progressivity), I recommend the live version of “Thoughts” with it’s hulking opening, lighter verses, bluesy solos – which turns into such a hard rock section at one point what we shall find only a decade later from Iron Maiden! (Interesting fact – the albums were produced by Martin Birch, who produced later Iron Maiden’s albums…)
After the two hard rock albums, the band turned its’ attention towards funk rock. While some bands managed this successfully, sadly Toad wasn’t among them. The trademark sound is still there, but with guitars lost their edge (if there is any – at the debut song they are completely replaced by a rhodes piano) and – first time in their career – some weaker songs (“weaker” by their standard) also took place on the third album. The fans also didn’t accept this change well and the band decided to throw in the towel.
However, the albums still circulated and the memories of the concerts lived further in the mind of their former audience an many grabbed their guitars or musical instruments to form their bands and earn fame in the swiss hard rock/heavy metal scene. Partly this recognition, partly the reliving of old times (and probably a bit of a money) led the drummer Lampis and guitarist Vic Vergeat to reunite their forces in 1993 and make some concerts and even record a new album. Similarly to Captain Beyond, this album was way different from their arlier recording. Vergeat’s guitar got heavier and darker and the whole album got a grunge tone. After the relative lack of success, the band disbanded once again, this time permanently.
Vic Veregatti however still keeps the memory of his old band’s alive and release different recordings and bootlegs from time to time.
After the release of two great album, the leader of Atomic Rooster (Vincent Crane) decided to reform his group in the hope of a commercial breakthrough (interesting fact: the next album, “In the Hearing Of” contains the hit song “Breakthrough”), thus firing the drummer Paul Hammond and guitarist/singer John DuCann. They decided to recruit John Gustaffson as bassist and created a power trio under the name Bullet – later renamed as Hard Stuff. The name referred to the agressive, hard rocking guitar style of Ducann, the groovy bass of Gustaffson and the energetic, strong drumming of Hammond. If you take a look onto the cover of the first album “Buletproof”, the title, the three menacingly looking faces, the black background and the band’s name, you might expect a hard rock album from them. Well, this is just partially true.
“Bulletproof” is actually an experimental album in a hard rock settings. While this might sound good in writing, the actual recording often fails to keep up with the expectations. The songs definitely contain progressive parts (lots of them are quite doomy and rather proto-metal-ish), but some of them are just pointless or run without direction (like DuCann’s solo). The songwriting was not bad, but the constant change of keys in the songs made them hard to follow (Deep Purple was way better in this for example) and often lacks memorable parts. DuCann’s effects are annoying (instead of colouring the musical landscape) and among the progressive parts, the songs full with monotous, repetating sections.
Probably even the band realised the lack of success in their efforts and turned their attention towards a then up-rocketing genre of funk-rock. In the hope of marriaging their hard-rock sound with the funk, they looked for a more successful turn of their careers. The result? “Dyslexia …” was a funk-rock album, which captured the sound about Glenn Hunges probably looked for around 1974-75. The band turned toward a more capturing and commercial-friendly sound (but still keeping their harder edge), not totally throwing away their experimentally ideas.
Already the opening “Roll a rocket” shows the building cornerstones of this album. Hard rocking main riffs; groovy, energetic rythms (with a lot of clever fills and tempo changes by Paul Hammond), agressive vocals from DuCann, rock’n’roll verses and funky bridge section.
Sadly, even this album wasn’t enough to capture more attention among the audience and the band disbanded shortly. Gustaffson joined to Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) to form his first solo group, while DuCann focused to his solo recording with Status Quo’s Francis Rossi (actually, he had a minor hit in 1979 with his punk/new wawe song). DuCann and Hammond returned in 1981 to Vincent Crane to reform Atomic Rooster for one last time, before disbanding that group as well – once for all.
Sadly you can’t see Hard Stuff also on stage, anymore – none of the members of this group is among the living by now.
I hope you enjoyed this post – All the best!