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Are You Ready: Now Sounds Expands “The Association,” Real Gone Uncovers “Hexagram 16”

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The Association“Where have I gone, where have I gone?” pondered Terry Kirkman on the haunting opening track to The Association’s 1969 long-player.  Though the group’s fifth album, it was simply titled The Association, signifying an artistic rebirth.  Gone were the session players and ornate Bones Howe production that marked their previous album, 1968’s Birthday.  Taking the production reins themselves in tandem with John Boylan, The Association – Kirkman, Russ Giguere, Brian Cole, Jim Yester, Larry Ramos, Ted Bluechel., Jr. and the just-returned Jules Alexander – created one of their most beguilingly eclectic collections.  The Association, also known as “The Stonehenge album” for its spacey cover, didn’t contain any hit singles.  But it showed off the group’s trademark harmonies in gleaming form as each man’s songwriting continued to grow in maturity.  Now Sounds has just delivered The Association in a deluxe stereo expanded edition with 10 bonus tracks, many in mono.

The Association addressed the heady, rapidly-changing times with the very first song as Kirkman pondered over an ethereal chorale, “Oh, it’s a hard way down to the time I raised my hand and swore I’d gladly die for my God and Uncle Sam/There was so much I didn’t know, and what I know, I didn’t understand/Look at me, look at me/Where have I gone, where I have gone?”  But soon, Kirkman turned his questioning outward, too, with “Look at Me, Look at You.”  The voices were familiar but the accompaniment, flecked with Doug Dillard’s banjo, acknowledged country-rock.  Jim Yester leaned in that direction, too, with “What Were the Words.”  This look back from relationship’s end was originally written for The Dillards, and incorporates twangy instrumentation alongside those lush voices.  Jules Alexander wrote his own country-rock song with the reflective “Dubuque Blues.”  This was, doubtless, an earthier Association, although folk influences had been a major component of the band since their earliest days.  On The Association, the multi-layered vocals hadn’t lost the sheer and exhilarating beauty of “Everything That Touches You” or “Cherish,” but frequently hinted at a darker place.

Even the love songs took on a more subtle air.  Alexander’s “Love Affair,” yearningly sung by Yester, paints a picture of “kids to the world of the old” with “dreams that we’re living [which] they will never know…you in your Levis and I in my hair…”  The imagery is spare yet potent, and very much of a window into the time though its author opines in reissue producer Steve Stanley’s comprehensive new liner notes that it “was about a woman I was going with at the time…nothing more than that, really.”  Bluechel co-wrote the ambitious “The Nest,” juxtaposing downbeat solo verses (“Without love, home’s an empty house/And you might be the one who’s left within it”) with a more optimistic group-sung chorus in which the famed sunshine pop purveyors were at least hinting at a ray of sunshine.

The most commercial track on The Association was producer Boylan’s “Yes I Will.” Warner Bros. correctly selected the track for single release, but it couldn’t rise above a disappointing No. 120 on the pop chart.  Still, it’s one of the band’s stronger rock-inflected songs, packing a simple yet powerful punch, even if it feels somewhat out of place on this more subtly reflective set.  “Goodbye Forever,” written by Kirkman, Alexander and Rita Martinson, was originally submitted as a title song to the 1969 film Goodbye Columbus, but was rejected in favor of Jim Yester’s stab at a title song for the movie.  It was retitled for The Association’s recording, and boasts a catchy melody if rather silly lyrics playing on the film’s then-risqué, hip and contemporary themes:    “Not just another pretty bottom/But a genuine blue boobie/Not just another pretty bottom/But a genuine cheap groovy…”

Larry Ramos and Tony Ortega’s frenetic soul rocker, “Are You Ready,” has a tough guitar riff and some horns arranged by Bones Howe’s frequent collaborator Bob Alcivar.  Brian Cole and Jules Alexander’s “I Am Up for Europe” (“…or any other place where I don’t speak the language or recognize a face”) emphasizes heavy guitars to a restless and searching lyric espousing a “gentle revolution.”  Russ Giguere’s only songwriting contribution is the jokey “Broccoli,” about, well, broccoli.  Kirkman closed out the album on a suitably poetic note, though, with “Boy on the Mountain,” co-written with arranger Richard Thompson (not of Fairport Convention fame).

After the jump: what bonus material will you find on The Association?  Plus: a look at Russ Giguere’s solo album Hexagram 16! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 7, 2013 at 12:18

One Kiss Leads To Another: Real Gone Unearths Hackamore Brick, Grateful Dead, The Association’s Russ Giguere and More

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Hackamore BrickReal Gone Music has just announced its slate for July 2, and it’s clear that the prolific label isn’t taking a summer vacation!  A number of cult favorites and new-to-CD titles populate this batch of records that won’t be “real gone” for much longer.

Atop the list is a true rarity.  Real Gone will be bringing One Kiss Leads to Another from Hackamore Brick to CD and vinyl in a newly-remastered and expanded edition.  Who is Hackamore Brick, you might ask?  The Brooklyn band’s 1970 album was an anomaly for the bubblegum specialists at Kama Sutra Records.  It’s most often spoken of in the same breath as The Velvet Underground, and it sounds as if it were built on the groundwork laid by that quintessential New York band.  Yet Hackamore Brick’s songwriters Tommy Moonlight and Chick Newman claimed to not have heard Lou, John and co. till after their album was recorded.  But indebted to that group or not, the quartet offers up a heady brew of its own.  Country-style harmonies and punk attitude sit alongside Doors-esque blues flourishes, incisive, Kinks-style lyrics, and primal rock simplicity on this true lost album.

Real Gone has also rescued a solo effort from The Association’s Russ Giguere.  Hexagram 16 offers songs from the likes of Judee Sill and Randy Newman and guest spots from Judy Henske, Jerry Yester and Bernie Leadon.  There’s a country-rock flavor on Hexagram, but Real Gone also offers more traditional country with the Nashville-style folk-pop of fifties favorites The Browns on Complete Pop and Country Hits.  Country, of course, also played a role in the Americana stew of The Grateful Dead, and Real Gone continues its reissuing of the Dick’s Picks series with some psychedelia from 1968.  A long-lost reggae tribute to the Dead is also reappearing in July.  Finally, Real Gone teams with Dusty Groove for three more deep-cut jazz albums from Ahmed Abdul-Malik, George Braith, and the duo of Stan Hunter and Sonny Fortune.

After the jump, Real Gone provides all of the details via the label’s press release, and we have pre-order links for all titles for you! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 15, 2013 at 10:13