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Archive for March 13th, 2013

Reviews: Real Gone Reissues A Lost Jimi Hendrix Production, All-Girl Rock Pioneers and Mime-Rockers

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Fanny - Fanny

We’re taking a look at three of the latest pop-rock rarities from the crate-diggers at Real Gone Music, including two albums from bands with a Todd Rundgren connection!

Fanny, Fanny (RGM-0118)

Maybe the tongue-in-cheek cover didn’t do the band a great service.  The band was called Fanny, and the album cover showed the all-female band’s four members, their backs to the camera, their fannies for all to see.  For good measure, Alice De Buhr grabbed June Millington’s fanny.  But beyond the goofy cover, the eleven tracks on the 1970 Reprise Records debut album Fanny show a band that was maybe a bit ahead of its time, and could really, well, play.  Real Gone Music has just reissued Fanny in its first stand-alone CD edition following the 2003 box set from Rhino Handmade which contained all of the band’s Reprise recordings on four CDs.

De Buhr (drums/percussion/vocals), Millington (guitar/vocals), her sister Jean (bass/vocals) and Nicoel Barclay (piano/organ/vocals) were a tight four-piece ensemble that, when signed by then-young producer Richard Perry to Reprise, became one of the very first all-female rock bands on a major label.  Fanny was born from the ashes of previous girl groups dotting the regional scene from California to Iowa (!) and was a self-contained unit, not calling on the services of the L.A. Wrecking Crew or anybody else to craft their debut.  Even more impressively, each song other than two covers was written by one or more members of the band.

Fanny still sounds remarkably fresh and varied today and not at all like a curio.  Harmonies cascade on June and Jean Millington’s effervescent, melodic opener “Come and Hold Me.”  Musically, it would sound at home with the glossiest of Fleetwood Mac’s hit productions just a few years later; lyrically, it’s a simple poem of devotion and pastoral imagery set to music.  It’s pure, sunny California folk-rock, with no horns or strings sweetening it, and just the slightest hint of a Latin groove.  (That feel is explored more prominently on Nickie Barclay’s funk-infused “Shade Me.”)  “Bitter Wine” is also very much in this vein with its textured vocal arrangement.  It showcases every member to fine advantage, incorporating harsh guitar licks and AM-friendly piano into a distinct and cohesive blend.  What impresses most, throughout the album, is the interplay between band members.

The Millingtons’ funky, soulful “Candlelighter Man” is another opportunity for each member to show off, particularly Barclay on organ.  Her own piano ballad “Conversation with a Cop” is a quirky little piece (“Do I have to have a license to be lonely?  It’s a warm night and I couldn’t get to sleep…yet you worry that I might disturb the peace”) that demonstrates her versatility. Fanny has frequently been cited as a “hard rock” band, and that side is very much in evidence, too.  The shrieking vocals on “I Just Realized” seem to predate Heart’s style, and June’s guitar is appropriately tough.  The raw, ferocious “Seven Roads,” the album’s closer, is far-removed from the sun-kissed “Come and Hold Me.”  The two cover songs, too, were well-selected by the band.  The take on Cream’s “Badge” shows off the band’s chops.  Barclay’s piano brings a nice new color to the song even as June’s guitar channels Clapton.  The other cover, Booker T. Jones and Alvertis Isbell’s “It Takes a Lot of Good Lovin’,” adds edgy rock to the smokin’ R&B of the original.  Barclay’s boogie-woogie piano, tight guitar and bass interaction, insistent drumming, and proto-punk energy surge through the song.

Richard Perry went on to produce two of Fanny’s next three albums; the fourth, 1973’s Mother’s Pride, was helmed by Todd Rundgren.  Perry also enlisted the band to play on sessions for Barbra Streisand’s first foray into the rock genre, Barbra Joan Streisand.  Along the way, Fanny also won the affection of one David Bowie, who counted himself as a fan of the band.  Real Gone’s reissue happily includes a lengthy reminiscence from June Millington and shorter ones from Jean Millington and Alice De Buhr, as well as the original gatefold artwork from the 1970 LP.  The sound quality is strong, though no remastering engineer is credited on the reissue.  There are no bonus tracks present, although an alternate version of the first album does exist (with different takes as well as wholly different songs) and would have made for a fine bonus or even a stand-alone release itself.

Why didn’t Fanny’s commercial fortunes soar?  Perhaps the band was too AM for FM, but too FM for AM?  The lack of a clear-cut hit single might have accounted for the group’s lack of widespread fame; producer Perry wished to show off every side of these versatile musicians and singers and so Fanny’s musical identity might have been lost on some.  But thankfully, Real Gone has rediscovered a real gem.

After the jump: we look at The Hello People’s Fusion and Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys’ Jimi Hendrix production! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 13, 2013 at 09:47

“Essential Oils” Collects Greatest Hits Of Aussie Rock Legends On New 2-CD Set (UPDATED WITH PRE-ORDER LINK!)

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Midnight Oil - Essential OilsColumbia Records and Legacy Recordings are burning the midnight oil with the April 30 release of Essential Oils, a 2-CD, 36-song chronicle of one of Australia’s favorite bands, Midnight Oil.  This new survey of the rockers’ long career takes in all twelve of Midnight Oil’s studio albums in addition to two rare EPs.

Midnight Oil had its roots in the band Farm.  Founded in 1972, Farm performed familiar classic rock as part of its repertoire and evolved to touch on the burgeoning sounds of progressive rock.  Eventually, the members of Farm – Peter Garrett on vocals and synthesizer, Rob Hirst on drums, Andrew James on bass guitar and Jim Moginie on keyboards and lead guitar – developed a hard-rock approach all their own, and the group’s style solidified further with the addition in 1977 of guitarist Martin Rotsey.  Soon, the renamed and re-energized Midnight Oil was recording its first, self-titled album.   The group jumped from its independent Powderworks label to CBS with the 1981 release of the Glyn Johns-produced Place Without a Postcard, but its true breakthrough didn’t come until one year later with 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  Of course, there had been a personnel change by this point – Peter Gifford had replaced Andrew James on bass – but Midnight Oil scored a No. 3 hit in Australia with the album lasting 171 weeks on the chart.  10, 9 was also the group’s first album to be picked up for U.S. distribution by Columbia Records.  All of these key early career highlights, and beyond, are captured on Essential Oils.

The first disc of the chronologically-assembled Essential Oils spotlights the band’s formative years, through 1985’s Species Diseases EP, while the second disc picks up with 1988’s international hit Diesel and Dust and ends up all the way at 2002’s swansong  Capricornia.  All told, 28 single sides are joined by eight album and EP tracks.  David Fricke of Rolling Stone has provided the new liner notes, writing, “In their time, on stage and record, there was nothing in rock – in Australia or anywhere else – like Midnight Oil.” Fricke details the “14-album, 25 year campaign against glitz, injustice and complacency, corporate greed and environmental crime, by a band that had everything going against it but believed – stubbornly, rightly – that nothing would stop it.”  With Australian chart-topper Diesel and Dust, too, the band successfully penetrated the American consciousness.  From 1988 to 1993, Midnight Oil placed nearly a dozen songs on the Top 20 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts, starting in 1988 with “Beds Are Burning.”  “The Dead Heart” and “Dreamworld” built on the popularity of “Beds,” and Midnight Oil achieved platinum sales certifications (and gold in the U.K.) for the Diesel album.  It spent more than one year on the Billboard 200.

There’s more on Midnight Oil’s anthology after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 13, 2013 at 09:35