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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

Real Gone Announces Hendrix-Produced LP from Cat Mother, Plus Grateful Dead, Rod McKuen, The Hello People, Freddie King, More

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Cat MotherFrom a lost classic produced by Jimi Hendrix to Grateful Dead playing Warren Zevon, Real Gone Music’s February release slate has a little bit of soul, rock, pop, blues and even poetry!  The label founded by Gordon Anderson and Gabby Castellana has an impressive line-up of titles due on February 26, including the first-ever standalone CD reissue of the Richard Perry-produced Reprise debut of Fanny (the first all-female rock group signed to a major label), a definitive 2-CD singles collection from blues great Freddie King, two expanded albums from poet and musician Rod McKuen, and the Jimi Hendrix-helmed LP from Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys.  (They don’t make band names like that anymore, do they?)  And that’s not all.  There’s more from Grateful Dead and The Hello People!

Plus: eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that Real Gone’s two promised collections of Patty Duke’s four United Artists albums have disappeared from the January 29 release calendar.  These two releases have been rescheduled for February 26.

Hit the jump for the press release for Real Gone’s February schedule, plus pre-order links to all titles! Read the rest of this entry »