Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Photographs are framed and placed neatly above
where I write - two full bookshelf lines - now
set against the handful received by post today:
my family's organised rows in contrast to this
clutch of images, some from fifty years ago.
A father is seen for the first time, one black and white snap
where arms wrap around a four year old daughter,
then the full colour captures of his wife, the other son, and
that sister much older, still being held; his handbuilt
custom cars too, and even an ultralight to pilot solo
into the freedom of the sky, but it is also no surprise
that after all these years, his first son, as far as I now know,
isn't in a single shot, or as his last wife confirms when
sending these, he never told her that I had been.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Black Oak Arkansas - Keep The Faith

Fine and Dandy

What more could be hankered of a far-out rock group in 1972 - cool looking long-hairs, tough band name, dual guitars, driving southern rock, and the unique bass 'n' gravel voice of a Jim 'Dandy' Mangrum.

This is a prized split gatefold vinyl possession and always played loud to boom out the Dandy rasp, and duelling guitars. There's Dandy, Goober Grin, Burley, Ricochet, Squeezebox and Dirty, and all the songs on the album were recorded 'Live and In Color'!

Every song is a killer. Title track 'Keep the Faith' opens the album, laying down the template for multi-guitar riffs, driving bass and drum, and Dandy's caustic lead tempered by soothing harmonies. 'Revolutionary, All American Boys' begins with Dandy's vocals seemingly strained beyond human capacity, until we realise that's the default rip and tear. Wonderful. These first two songs are in many ways anthemic and in this respect the songwriting is remarkably conventional.

Fourth track 'Fever In My Mind' is a favourite with Dandy's lightning speed vocal pyrotechnics, and strong lead guitar. The first track on side II begins with a camp-fire cameo, flames crackling in the background as Jim scratches out his late-night tale of the 'White-Headed Woman'. Seventh track 'We Live On Day To Day' is a good example of how the raucous lead vocal is complemented by background harmonising.

And I've kept the faith for nearly 40 years.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


One of the benefits of a modest readership [I know I exaggerate] is that when I make an error it won't resonate widely. I'm not detracting from the thrust of my argument in the preceding post at all, but Tin Cup Gypsy is not the best example of what I mean, though I still maintain it is a fine enough album. I just want to clarify that, for example, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West - The Holy Coming of the Storm would better reflect what I mean if I had to present a solider case. The same goes for Buddy Miller and Alison Krauss [these are no-brainers] and Lukas Nelson. I feel they represent a country core more than the eclectic TCG. That's all.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Tin Cup Gypsy - Calico

Country pedigree

We'll see where this goes.

Various prompts have urged this posting. One was watching bits of the TOTP2 'Country' programme last night on TV. I actually caught very little but it was enough to needle me. There was an overall mocking tone in presenting this genre and that comes mainly from the formulaic sarcasm, presumably Steve Wright's, in so much of the on-screen captioning that summarises each act's background and musical history. The other is in considering the self-mockery of country stars themselves, with traditional and exaggerated examples like Dolly Parton's monstrous breasts, compressed waist and tumultuous wigs, or in a less physical manifestation, Tammy Wynette's melodramatic and/or homespun narratives - both these female representatives in various ways using this or it being used to conceal formidable talents and lives led so hard and full as to make the most outlandish storyline wilt by comparison.

That's the premise. Beneath or behind the mockery or facades, Country music has a foundation that is rock solid. It's specific mix of folk and blues is the fundamental layer. The myriad of twang and rhinestone and yeehaw and glitter and moronic lyrics disguise and distort that fundamental brilliance. In my recent listening the most consistently talented and memorable music has come from 'country' directions, whether that is traditional or alternative or whatever range there is between and beyond these simple poles [read recent reviews]. I set this against the abundant repetitions of indie and folk and pop et al that simply waft over and away after one aural encounter.

This is a huge hole I'm going to quickly dig because I can see myself falling in soon, but what the hell, I'll continue! For example, what irriates particularly are two of the most common elements in so much current and 'popular' music: 1. songs that have simple melodic lines that do nothing more than rotate forward into an orchestrated crescendo [as complex and convoluted as that might be as the main creative impulse], song after song after song on a single album, without any alternative songcraft; and 2. the propensity for most female solo singers to adopt the contemporary affectation of singing in a baby-voice with slurred diction and warped intonation.

The hole I'm digging is in presenting Country as the template for excellence when it too has such simple songwriting formulas and a propensity for affected voice! But for me a significant difference is that so many of its practitioners are virtuoso players and/or genuinely talented vocalists. Now, to mix my metaphors, I'm going to go out on a limb over this hole I'm digging: a case in point is an artist who appeared on this TOTP2 Country programme - Billy Ray Cyrus.

I actually liked and still like his most famous song 'Achy Breaky Heart' and the one played, obviously, on this programme. The reason is because it's a great country-rock song and Billy Ray has a fine country voice - evidenced by subsequent albums he has made where he sings with the best of them. However, he will never live down the ridicule and invective meted out on that one famous charted song of his.

The problems with that song are many, but most are to do with Billy Ray's then presentation. The mullet is perhaps the most maddening, as is the crazy dance he performs at the end of his routine - athletic as it is. The name too. Why not just Billy Cyrus so we don't think he's a stereotypical hillbilly? In terms of the song, it's the child-gibberish of 'acky breaky' that killed it for any measure of critical acclaim, though ironically that's what made it sell. Imagine if those trite descriptive neologisms on the state of his heart had been replaced by a varying chorus of 'torn and tattered/worn and battered' and then 'frail and fearful/fraught and tearful' or similar? Go on, sing it to yourself and put in these replacements. If the grammar was polished too [working on 'Myself knows that I'm not okay'] this song has further lyric potential. It is in fact a strong story about heartache leading to homicide and contains potential for powerful imagery, for example the line 'tell my eyes to watch out for my mind'. The stanza about Arkansas, getting a dog to bite his leg, and brother Cliff's fist might just need complete removal, but I think the rock-roots of the song are strong and without the sillier lyrics and Billy Ray Bob John Hank and so on's hair etc., it might have been a more respected hit.

Convinced? Well, that's the fun of the argument. This isn't a thesis so I'll quickly move to the review which is a 'country' album that wipes the floor with so many other contemporary releases because it uses country songcraft and musicianship and harmony vocals to construct a varied and demonstrably memorable listen. Tin Cup Gypsy's Calico is a mix of bluegrass and folk if you want to simplify it, but there are pop and jazz elements which is why it makes a good comparison with what I have characterised as the more insipid popular music out there. I wanted to write the more 'cloned' popular music but I am aware that 'country' is a type too, with its obvious stylistic features, so after all of my arguing it is about taste and opinion. I happen to like Country in all its range and thus am bound to have a preferential ear for it. But I do also genuinely feel that it more often than not has a fundamental strength in its practitioners and performance, and Tin Cup Gypsy is one of many bands to exemplify this.

Bonnie Bramlett - I'm Still the Same

Bonnie's interlude

For what it will be worth, I am preparing myself to write about the 'state' of music [as if that is possible] and I have a premise - a ruse really - that will use Country music as a template for judgement and I signalled this idea in my previous post. To write this preamble now, before the piece itself, and in addition to that recent post, would seem silly overkill, but there is a reason.

I'm obviously typing my offerings at the computer and as I do so I listen to music through the PC. I do this using Windows Media Player which has to be the most obnoxious software program for this simple task. It takes forever to actually play selected tracks, it slows down the whole computer, and causes all sorts of other problems, many affecting the world at large I am sure.

But this delay in playing is existential. I have no idea when the first song will start. And when it does it is always a surprise, catching me out, especially if I have turned the volume on too loud - or even disorienting me if I have gone into another room, forgetting I have even selected an album to play, and I'll suddenly hear these strange sounds emanating from somewhere else in the house.

How wonderful tonight, and full of irony in anticipation of being critical of the 'state' of music, when Bonnie Bramlet's amazing voice suddenly begins: deep and full and pure pure pure. This is a jazz album in essence, with R&B obviously, and mainly slow and soothing songs. It is beautiful and uplifting. And in that WMP tease of its actual playing, what a glorious surprise and affirmation of the awe that does exist with some artists and their performances.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real - Promise of the Real


I want to say something about 'country' pedigree as well as familial pedigree, but I'll do that later. In referring to the family kind, I will step into the muddy pool of hypocrisy because I have argued against tracing parental links in judging musical offsprings. But that was always simplistic and ripe for review, as now.

Lukas Nelson, son of Willie, will have had the most amazing musical nurturing as well as any genetic influences, being around in the touring with Dad and Johnny and Kris and Waylon.

Lukas' album is more rock than country but the latter influences are there as is the Nelson voice - environment and genes playing their dual roles. This album is a great listen, with stand-out rock tracks like 'Toppers' and 'Pali Gap - Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)', the latter presenting wonderful guitar work. There are a couple of beautiful ballads too, 'Sound of Your Memory' [with Willie providing some background vocal] and 'Don't Lose Your Mind'. Lukas' voice is distinctive enough, but the 'pedigree' is also evident - a familial trace that is what it is: natural and true.

There is a moving song 'Fathers and Mothers' that foregrounds the very influence I am writing about. It isn't musically the strongest track on the album, but its sentiments about honouring family - which is universalised, perhaps a little simplistically - are rooted in a history that has impact because the Nelson name has been in the public eye for such a long and impressive time. It adds another nuance to this fine album.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane

What it says on the tin: vocal, fiddle, mandolin, bass, banjo and dobro

The group's posing for this album cover is the most stylised feature of an otherwise simple and unaffected offering.

Paper Airplane is predictable in delivering classic soft and soothing country from Krauss' tender vocals and the immaculate instrumental support of Union Station. The album is to a degree a two-parter with songs proferred by Krauss' sweet singing, and those from Dan Tyminski's more bluegrass vocalese and barn-dance leanings. Nothing new here, and in a sense that's why we like what is performed, time and time again.

A good example of what I am characterising is the unadorned rendition of Richard Thompson's 'Dimming of the Day'. I was waiting for the AK&US hallmark harmony vocals to reference those so vital in this song's original emotive impact, but apart from the gesture of one subdued shared line, the song is a Krauss solo played straight and true and simply. Again, nothing new and nothing wrong here. It's just something I noticed and thought about.

Indeed, the only question one would ask of this perfect latest release is why isn't Alison sharing the shared stare of the others on the album's cover? That's a real poser.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Chambers Brothers - The Time Has Come

Timely brothers

Prompted by a visit to another blog - the superb 'weird brother' - I was reminded of one of my favourite albums, The Chambers Brothers' The Time Has Come.

Being prompted to recall a 'favourite' sounds contrary, but that's the nature of having so many. This album's special place in its special musical place is primarily for the psychedelic track 'Time Has Come Today' - a stunning and hypnotic new music for 1967 and this then 13 year old who mock-sang with his other incipient hippie friend in either's bedroom, both in our garish flowerpower shirts and Byrds rectangle sunglasses.

It's the echo effect on the drumming and the repeated shout 'Time' that leads into a fuzz solo and wilder reverberations swirling around in the magical background. Then the screaming. Then the manic laughter. Electronic screeching and the machine-gun drumming, fading in and out, rising to a crescendo and looped back to the wail of 'Now the time has come' before leading into the apocalyptic line 'And my soul has been psycedelicised' - the use and power of that word at that time! - then it slows painfully to its groaned end, and we put down our mock-mics, exhausted by our vicarious vinyl trip.

And I have just journeyed again after all these years.

The brothers' gospel roots are evident in spine-tingling harmonies on Mayfield's 'People Get Ready', Bacharach's 'What The World Needs Now Is Love', and the self-penned, absolutely glorious 'So Tired'.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Trembling Bells - The Constant Pageant

Rock'n'Rolling folk

Fairport Convention is the oracle, and of course Steeleye Span and Pentangle and a swathe of others articulated, to varying degrees, entwined rock and folk elements in their musical voices.

Trembling Bells, a Glasgow-based band, takes the most fundamental of traditional music forms - folk - and pursues this further tradition of marrying hard-core rock with hard-core folk vocals [the glorious Lavinia Blackwall] and instrument requisites.

The rock thread is not the dominant seam, but tracks like 'All My Favourite Mistakes' and 'Otley Rock Oracle' do wear it well, the former hinting at Ten Years After but stealing freely from The Rolling Stones, and the latter cherry-picking from a wider range of garage to psychedelic rock influences. These two are superb.

It's a varied album and all the more engaging for this.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Hot Dub Bikini Party - The Fever

Bikini fever

Roll on summer. Roll on summer in Devon, because here in our rural idyll there's a local band who intuit sun and heat and alfresco parties with dancing and bikinis - OK, that last item may be a title and gender-oriented prompt - through an infectious reggae sound played with considerable skill and empathy.

The band, led by songwriter, lead singer and guitarist Harry Birch, is a talented and tight outfit, ably illustrated by this excellent debut album and, for this writer and many happy others, a recent energetic and equally skillful live gig at Mama Stones in Exeter.

The reggae strand is a strong one and underpins all the songs. I stress 'underpins' because this is a collection of tracks with distinctive pop sensibilities - a complimentary tag here - and by this I mean Harry Birch has an ear for catchy tunes that are driven by reggae rhythms and vocal stylistics of the genre. It's a heady combination. Expectant and perfectly played bass lines pound out these rhythms, and the band as a whole has, as I've said, an intuition for delivering these authentic as well as original songs.

The album opener 'When the Sun Comes Up' is a surprising ballad [of sorts] where the rest is so much more upbeat. But it works. It works because it is a finely crafted song and establishes Birch's distinctive vocals. It also establishes the band's instrumental credentials as the measured pace is snapped into another gear and the song chases out on a spirited lead guitar and bass focused finale.

The second track 'Crazy Days' takes the album quickly into its established groove of sparkling sing-a-long tunes and signature reggae-flavoured playing. Stand-out songs are the title track 'Fever' with a U2esque opening that again drives into its bass-propelled core, and 'Julia' with brass backing adding further depth to the overall sound. The final two tracks 'Black Panther' and 'All You Can Be' include vocal harmonies from Stephanie Ould further expanding the album's sound and range, the latter again using brass in support.

I listen to bucketloads of music and this is drawn from the ocean of daily deluges of musical offerings, and much is unknown to me as I aurally dip in and out hoping to be tempted and engaged. So much of this comes from established or newly-popularised artists [often interestingly gauged by the number of hits on YouTube videos] and the sheer volume means much is mediocre or just simply pastiche and/or repetition. This still might make it 'successful' in terms of recognition and record/cd sales - important factors! But it isn't necessarily memorable.

It will be hard for Hot Dub Bikini Party to thrust its head above that musical water, but I can honestly say this album does so for me. I like to listen as I write and I have been bopping about in my reviewing chair throughout this lively and infectious album. That may be an absurd image, but there is nothing odd about quality music making an immediate and memorable impact.

I'll conclude by adding a further accolade and one that carries more weight than my opinion: Hot Dub Bikini Party is supporting the legendary reggae band The Abbyssinians at the Phoenix, Exeter, Saturday 26th March. You don't get that support gig without your own reggae respectability, and that clearly trumps any amount of 'bopping' in my chair, as legendary as that might be!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Blood Sweat and Tears - The First Album/Child is Father to the Man

The first blood child

I've had this Blood Sweat and Tears cd for some time as Child is Father to the Man, but last week picked up a vinyl copy of the Embassy [CBS UK] version The First Album - obviously the same brilliant tracks but with a slightly different cover - and wholly different linear notes by..........Noel Edmonds!

I'm listening now and reminded of how much this album shines. Al Kooper exerts a considerable influence whether though self-penned songs or interpretations of other writers, for example Buckley's 'Morning Glory', a beautiful cover. Memorable Kooper tracks are

'I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know'
'My Days Are Numbered'
'I Can't Quit Her'

and there are the occasional psychedelic leanings. Guitar solos are stunning.

The jazz and brass sound is not as prevalent as on their subsequent eponymous album, the one I heard first as a whole, soon after the tasters that appeared on Rock Machine and Fill Your Head With Rock CBS samplers.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Van Der Graaf Generator - A Grounding in Numbers

Hammill benediction

Blessed be Peter Hammill. I know Van Der Graaf Generator is more than the parts of its Peter but on this new album PH is the litmus for the distinctive sound that is VDGG. Less is more and tautology in one.

Hank Williams III - Hillbilly Joker

Hillbilly nirvana

Where Buddy Miller takes Country traditions and honours them with modern interpretations of reverence and craft, Hank Williams III takes Country and covers it in shit, pisses on the pile and then sets it alight with gallons of gasoline and the burning stub of a reefer.

Hank's songs are at their quietest when aping Nirvana with tinges of Hawkwind, but they soon ignite into thrash metal or whatever manic nomenclature of metal you want to brand it. No surprises that this album - apparently recorded back in 2000 and the subject of a disputed current release by the record company he left - merges the wilder strains of his country band with the madness of his metal persona Assjack. It is an incendiary musical manifesto and articulated in the opener Hillbilly Joker, one of the few tracks where you can actually discern language:

'If you don't like our hillbilly sound
Well hey man, go fuck yourself'

The titles of other tracks provide a supporting linguistic simplicity - I'm Drunk Again; Life of Sin; Pistol Packin; Drink It, Drug It, and Hellbilly.

Indeed, the album's final track Hellbilly best sums up Hank's country ethos with its insane farmyard sound effects, screeching guitars and interplay of repeated rhyming couplets, for example

'I drive my truck
And I don't give a fuck
Drink my beer
Raise my steer.......'

It's raucous and mindless and mocking and I like it - and according to Hank who doesn't take shit and doesn't take kindly to Curb Records releasing his shit 'Don't buy it but get it some other way and burn the hell out of it and give it to everyone'.

Hank said it [allegedly], not me.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Risking Sidmouth

Dormando and Nebraska Glenn were aware of the dangers. A night out rousting the clean streets of Sidmouth could pacify a heart to dormancy if you weren't on your guard. A respectable Regency front could tempt a naive tourist into reasonable thoughts of retirement oblivion. Georgian gateways beckoned lesser men to the big sleepover. These guys were too young for that. Too young in this town anyway.

It was Friday night at the Manor. A Pavilion better known for Murder Mysteries and sweet sherry supped over dry lips during interludes that could last forever if you didn't hear the bell knelling for the second half. Dormando and Nebraska Glenn would risk it all to hear AJ.

Both had worked with the jazz man back in the day and heard him play his horn: sweet trumpet and valve trombone, gold light bouncing from their dancing notes. Al took his own long walk years ago but the Band still carries his name, and tonight these two guys would pay homage to old times and good music played live and true, whatever the perils.

The stage was set in more than one way this night, and there it was, black on white, a silhouette chipped and scored in places, but AJ's three-piece with flairs still fronted the band's music sheets as if Al was there, orchestrating Miller, Basie and Ellington into the 21st century and for a clientele where some will have dabbled in the dark past of the early 20th. Dormando and Nebraska Glenn felt the flush of youth like bloodied anachronisms tattooed on smoothish cheeks.

And when the band played, the music united all of them. Ghosts of ballroom dance floors and late night radio swirled from the Big Band's wall of sound, wrapping the audience in a veil of timeless musical haunting. Hearts would flutter, and some might stutter - the risks, the risks - but D and G gripped the worn velvet arms of their seats and stayed alive, alive to the memory of AJ and the great songwriters of standards that defied time like so many present this night.

Dormando and Nebraska Glenn had been linked by the likes of Ten Wheel Drive and East of Eden but tonight it was AJ's Big Band and a sonorous Sidmouth supporting their musical partnership. Friday nights would come and go and many would have their other dangers, but surviving Sidmouth had been one to mark on the chalkboard of life's many surprises, and D and G weren't ready to see the dust fall for some time yet. No way.

[To hear the band in its current incarnation, check out AJ's Big Band - Fascinating Rhythm, with the superb vocals of Paula Mitchell -]

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Hurt in your heart

John Martyn - Heaven and Earth

John Martyn's posthumous album is due for release on 3rd May. I have tonight downloaded from Amazon his 4 tracks from the two Transatlantic Sessions in which he was involved: all are brilliant and a necessary fix until the album arrives. I also watched a few clips of John on YouTube, including two performances of 'Hurt in Your Heart', and it's still hard to watch and think about him being gone and how much he was a part of my musical and other life. And yes I eat quiche too.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West - The Holy Coming of the Storm

Sweet tradition

What a wonderful new take on traditional music to make oxymoron an unstable label.

This is another delightful album hot on the aural heels of dancing through Buddy Miller's most recent. These two superb musicians play and harmonise sweetly across mostly original tunes that already sound like traditional standards. It's a mix of folk, blues and mainly bluegrass as I can best describe it. Instrumentals are short and expertly played, and the taut but gentle harmonies are simply beautiful. Everything here pleases.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Buddy Miller - The Majestic Silver Strings

Four Axemen of the Country Licks

Chairman Miller presides over a true socialist state of music as this album presents a collective of talents rather than a singular showcase. Not surprising as Buddy Miller so often acts as producer and support performer to the likes of Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, but the spirit of this musical community is further represented in the guitar quartet of Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Marc Ribot and Miller himself who share, without a shred of solo showing-off, expert duties: the majestic silver strings of the album's title. The communal cast is then enhanced by the songstresses Ann McCrary, Patty Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris, and wife Julie Miller.

The album itself is a great mix of traditional country, blues and dark ballads. The opener 'Cattle Call' stamps its authentic old-time country seal with Miller's understated but assured howling and yodeling. This could scare off the lightweights who only dip delicate toes in New Country, but for those who appreciate Miller's Country eclecticism it's one of many perfect delights on the album. Other highlights are Ann Lee Womack's maudlin if disturbingly comic 'Meds', the stomping blues of 'Dang Me' with Chocolate Genius, an atmospherically haunting Marc Ribot on the album's longest song 'Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie', the wonderful Emmylou Harris singing 'Why I'm Walkin'', and my favourite, Shawn Colvin's crystal clear rendition of Frisell's beautiful ballad 'That's The Way Love Goes'.

The guitar backdrop throughout is brilliant as one would rightly expect. It simply sounds like it has been played with huge enjoyment. I'm not expert nor assed enough to work out who plays what when: the mix of slide and steel and acoustic merges into its majestic whole.

I love Miller's full and booming voice and that's the only element lost [a relative term] in his generous withdrawal from the spotlight on this album. He fronts two or three songs, and there is some Buddy harmony, but I would always love to hear more, especially like when that gruff distinctiveness harmonises with female vocal on so much of his previous contributions across so many albums, not least with Julie Miller, and the two close this album on a perfect example of what I mean with their performance of 'God's Wing'd Horse'.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


Musicians who bridge their flourish
Musicians who can do it live
Musicians who tune
Musicians who milk despair in minor keys
Musicians who set up themselves
Musicians who define
Musicians who perform our deja vu
Musicians who were groupies
Musicians who orchestrate to disguise
Musicians who have an ear
Musicians who cut it right to the edge
Musicians who harmonise the paradoxes
Musicians who debut their lives
Musicians who triumph over fame
Musicians who remain eponymous
Musicians who want it that bad
Musicians who survive their sophomore effort
Musicians who are virtually virtuoso
Musicians who live forever in others' lives
Musicians who headbang inside melody
Musicians who soar in singing
Musicians who keep to their key

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Bourbon and Harleys

bourbon and Harleys are fine
but give me music any time
let it rage your hair like the wind's
Softail red
blow around inside the head
like Kentucky's finest
like 100% proof

ride it
wheelies along the rhythms
pipes pulsing bass and other vibrations
dragging along the neck's quarter-mile strip

give me music any time
as loud as bourbon
smooth as Harleys

lots of ice

plenty of gasoline

Blue Cheer - New! Improved! [1969]

Side two

I have most of this great if varying band's material, but only two on vinyl. The variation is in the music, especially over time, but I am referring mainly to the line-up, and my focused album New! Improved! exeplifies this latter aspect with two quite separate sides, both in style and performers.

Cited as one of the loudest bands and progenitors of heavy metal, Blue Cheer is best known as a power trio who turned up the volume and pounded out their thumping and wild material. Their second album Outsideinside [1968] - and my other vinyl copy - has one of the more sustained examples of this.

However, it's New! Improved! that sits the highest in my all-time favourite's lengthy list, and it is side 2 that I play again and again. This highlights the brief Blue Cheer incarnation of lead guitarist Randy Holden, and it is his songwriting and playing that stands out for me. The two long tracks 'Peace of Mind' and 'Fruit & Iceburgs' contain searing solos [with dual playing presumably over-dubbed as sleeve notes indicate 'Randy Holden - Vocals - all Guitars'] and their melodic leanings add a further dimension to the Blue Cheer songbook that wasn't to be continued as Holden left unexpectedly.

It is a memorable pair of rock masterpieces. That's all that needs to be said.