Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Truth of Truths Oak Records 1971

Truth of Truths Oak Records 1971 CAT# OR1001

This is a pretty extravagant and ambitious rock-opera, double LP put out in 1971 by Oak Records. It seems the main force behind the album is a Texan, Ray Ruff, who founded a couple of labels and had a few 45 releases way back when. What brings it to this blog though is the inclusion of some of Val Stoecklien's last released work. While he wouldn't take his own life until 1993 and was known to be cutting demos up until that time, none of those demos have seen the light of day. The six tracks featured here pretty much conclude his catalog along with his contributions to Ecology's Environment/Evolution as a songwriter (pulled along by Ruff).

The reason for Val's inclusion on this LP is Ruff along with arranger, Dick Hieronymus. Both Ruff and Hieronymus worked on Stoecklein's solo effort, The Grey Life. Apparently, they believed in him enough to take him along on any release he was willing to work on.

As a whole, the rock opera is surprisingly good. Again, the primary forces were the same that worked on The Grey Life, so you had pros working on a release for a small label, perhaps past their prime and a bit too willing go in any direction, it's a varied release that hops from psychedelic soul, to gospel, to some straight psych freak outs and back to commonplace pop sounds of 1971, but it works and has it's highlights. It is of course over the top religious. The album predictably separates it's story into the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament". Like most things Christian, it takes what it wants from the Torah and the Holy Bible and only sounds focused when going into the Gospels. It also features a deep voice over when G-d speaks on the album which is trite and stupid.
Album comes with a pretty nifty insert lyric sheet.

Stoecklein's tracks are interesting. His arrangement on "Joseph, Beloved Son of Israel" is jangly and very Blue Things-esque. His adaptation and arrangement of "The Ten Commandments" is bizarre and more of a filler on the LP. However, the following track, "Song of the Children of Israel (Exodus)" is stunning and beautiful, despite that the song should be a party-track (freed from Egypt, here, man) there's a definite sadness that touches on his work as a solo-artist. The following track, "David to Bathsheba" is centered around a pretty odd Biblical story and it's odd to find it somewhere like this album. The tune dripping in sappiness and works in the sense that a Eric Carmen song is kind of enjoyable, but you sense it was a track Val had put away for another purpose but  transformed into something he found in the Bible, making it a feel awkward. His track, "The Last Supper," is sparse and continues with the melancholy feel of most his tracks found here, it's also surprisingly true to the Gospels, so good job on the source materiel, Val. His final track featured on the LP is entitled "Resurrection," so you know it's near the end of the album. It's a pretty uplifting jam, arranged by someone and only written by Stoecklein, it features a bunch of horns, bells and strings along with a female lead vocalists, so it's not easy to identify it as something Stoecklien would have done, but it's solid.

Joseph, Beloved Son of Israel

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blue Riddim Band Restless Spirit Flying Fish 1981

Blue Riddim Band Restless Spirit Flying Fish 1981 CAT# FF255

Blue Riddim Band is the long-lost reggae band from Kansas City...which doesn't make them legendary, amazing or even all that great. Being the best reggae band form Kansas City is basically the equivalent of being the best figure skater from Jamaica, there's not a lot of competition for the title.

I was first made aware of the Blue Riddim Band while selling an old AR turntable on Craigslist. The gentlemen buying it offered $50, so I took a nibble and asked for a record he wasn't attached too. He asked what I was into, I explained I was on the hunt for odd local stuff, he advised the only thing he had that was local was really odd and showed me the live Blue Riddim Band LP. He explained it was a bunch of guys from Kansas City doing reggae. I was pretty intrigued by the idea of a reggae band from KC but when I asked if he'd let it go, he couldn't (I grabbed a nice copy of a Fleetwood Mac LP instead).

So, Blue Riddim was on the list from that point. The next time I heard someone talk about the group was in thrift store after sparking up a conversation with some old guy holding the self-titled Missouri LP. The topic of local music started and this guy went off about how great the Blue Riddim Band was. How he'd seen them live and how amazing they were. How Blue Riddim should've been bigger than UB40. And, on and on. Dude loved the Blue Riddim Band.

After finding a copy and giving it a listen, though, I think the novelty is what people love most. The music is acceptable, it's well performed, the players are fine. However, for reggae, it's pretty MOR. The UB40 comparison isn't bad, although, UB40 took a pop-music approach to reggae whereas the Blue Riddim Band wanted to make sure they hit on everything under the reggae umbrella, like a rocksteady song, a ska song, a roots song, etc. Despite that, Blue Riddim sounds just as white as UB40. However, if I spun this blind would never guess they were from Kansas City and 1800 miles from an Ocean, so on that account, good job Blue Riddim.

Rock It Sister

Monday, June 8, 2015

Randle Chowning Band Hearts On Fire A&M Records 1978

Randle Chowning Band Hearts On Fire A&M Records 1978 CAT #SP-4715

Upon the first break up of the mighty Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Randle Chowning, the band's singer and likely leader branched out on his own to record this LP. Chowning stayed with his management team (or maybe his management team stayed with him), Good Karma Productions and actually appears to have relocated to Kansas City for this part of his career. The band lists their contact address as 4218 Main Street, KCMO.

He's joined by some other dudes, who I can't find much on. Assume they were friends from the Springfield area, maybe KC guys, but for all we know, could have just been L.A. session guys. He put them all together to make under-the-radar yacht rock LP. Under the radar because no one cared about it, yacht rock because to this day, no one cares about it.

It's not awful, it has moves and has pleasant moments. Unfortunately, it's not very good, either. Middle of the road pomp from 1978, it's what'd you expect from an obscure major label release no one knows exists.

Within A Dream

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Gaslight Gaslite Gang 1980 Private 1980

Some pretty hip outfits and sweet facial hair.
The Gaslight Gaslite Gang 1980 Private 1980 NO CAT#

Paul Gray was a KU undergrad from 1965 to 1969. He started this group and opened his own Jazz House in 1972, later which was renamed the Jazzhaus. Paul Gray fronted his own house band and led a small Lawrence Jazz scene during the time. The band actually did get some pub, appearing on an early reality TV show titled 'Your All-American College Show' plus were featured on an Andy Griffith TV Special, but, never made any major label recordings.

The group is pretty standard, swing and bop, nothing groundbreaking. Sometimes they get a bit New Orleans and Dixie, but I find the band more rooted in the KC Swing sound. What's funny about the release is the multiple errors that adorn the jacket and label. For one, according to the cover, the LP is by the Gaslight Gang and titled, Paul Gray's Jazz Place Proudly Present the Gaslight Gang. The backside, shows an over-the-top bio and would have you believe the title of the album is Gassing With Gray. Yet, the title I'm going to use here is the the record label, which simply states Gaslite Gang 1980 (notice, the change in the spelling of Gaslight).
 It's a pleasant, easy to listen to live recording.