Grateful Dead

Pacific Northwest ’73-’74: Believe It if You Need It

Rhino

This three-disc distillation of the concurrently released, 19-disc “Pacific Northwest ’73-’74: The Complete Recordings” arranges 20 songs from five of the six previously unreleased shows that comprise the Grateful Dead’s two short exploratory runs through the region.

Unlike the individually numbered, limited-edition (15,000) box set that goes for nearly $200, this $20 version is not chronologically sequenced. “Believe It if You Need It” instead hopscotches between June 1973 and May 1974, creating what could be considered a virtual-reality performance arguably even better than the real thing.

As with last year’s “Cornell ’77,” it’s exquisitely mastered in HDCD by Jeffrey Norman from original master tapes transferred and magically restored by Plangent Processes. This time around, the artwork is by First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers.

The 1973 and 1974 offerings on “Believe It” were recorded just before release of the group’s studio albums “Wake of the Flood” and “From the Mars Hotel,” respectively. Besides selections from those, there’s also a nice assortment from Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir’s first solo albums as well as a few from “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty.”

Because multiple sources were used, some songs finish with quick but clean fadeouts. Tracks that originally segued from and/or into others are mostly left that way. An unexpected treat is “Eyes of the World > China Doll,” a stunning instance of poetic license in which two songs played four days apart are fashioned into a standalone fantasy medley — an impressive feat, especially considering that the former came from a “Trucking’ > Nobody’s Fault But Mine > Eyes of the World > China Doll.”

Another highlight is the 47-minute “Playing in the Band,” reputedly the longest ever performed; there are no side trips here, just a big fat midsection of unadulterated improvisation.

In 1973-74, the Grateful Dead were riding high. They’d just left Warner Bros. and started two of their own labels — Grateful Dead Records for group recordings and Round Records for solo projects — as well as designing the 600-speaker Wall of Sound for their ’74 performances. Those were undoubtedly heady times, and “Believe It” makes a strong case for the era being the most exhilarating of their career.

Tracks
DISC ONE
1. China Cat Sunflower (Portland Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR 5/19/74) >
2. I Know You Rider (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 5/19/74)
3. Bird Song (PNE Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia 6/22/73)
4. Box Of Rain (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 6/24/73)
5. Brown-Eyed Women (Hec Edmundson Pavillion, University of Washington, Seattle 5/21/74)
6. Truckin’ (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 5/19/74) >
7. Jam (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 5/19/74) >
8. Not Fade Away (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 5/19/74) >
9. Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 5/19/74)
10. One More Saturday Night (Portland Memorial Coliseum, 5/19/74)

DISC TWO
1. Here Comes Sunshine (PNE Coliseum, 6/22/73)
2. Eyes Of The World (PNE Coliseum, 5/17/74) >
3. China Doll (Hec Edmundson Pavillion, 5/21/74)
4. Playing In The Band (Hec Edmundson Pavillion, 5/21/74)

DISC THREE
1. Sugaree (PNE Coliseum, 5/17/74)
2. He’s Gone (PNE Coliseum, 6/22/73) >
3. Truckin’ (PNE Coliseum, 6/22/73) >
4. The Other One (PNE Coliseum, 6/22/73) >
5. Wharf Rat (PNE Coliseum, 6/22/73)
6. Sugar Magnolia (PNE Coliseum, 6/22/73)

Total time: 3:54:00

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Little Victor

Deluxe Lo-Fi

Rhythm Bomb

Eight years in the making: as fine a modern recording of old-school Mississippi juke joint blues — right down to the chainsaw-sounding, tremolo-heavy guitar accompanied by vocals that often sound as if they’re coming through a megaphone — as one is likely to find.

It’s Little Victor’s sixth solo release. (He’s also collaborated on two albums each with the late Louisiana Red and with Sophie Kay, among others, and lately has been producing vinyl-sourced compilations for Koko Mojo Records such as “Burning Frets: The Rhythm, The Blues, The Hot Guitar.”)

His apparent mission on “Deluxe Lo-Fi” is to share pleasures derived from raw, heartfelt blues in the vein of Howlin’ Wolf, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Willie Johnson, John Lee Hooker and R.L. Burnside. And while he may or may not be familiar with the works of Tony Joe White, the Blasters and the Stray Cats, some of their work comes to mind when this reviewer listens to this set — most likely because they, too, were influenced by the aforementioned greats.

Mostly made up of original compositions, the exceptionally outstanding album finishes with three covers: Tampa Red’s “Chicago Moan Blues,” Willie Dixon’s “Rockin’ Daddy” and Muddy Waters’ “Country Boy.”

One trip through this set leaves no doubt that, as Little Victor has proclaimed in the media, “lo-fi is the new hi-fi.” And as he claims in the liner notes, “I play guitar the way I really want to and not the way I’m ‘supposed’ to.” But inquisitive minds might wonder how this sweet sound is achieved, so Good New Music caught up with the Beale Street Blues Bopper (aka the King of Grit).

He shared with GNM via email that “the whole point here and the ‘concept’ of this album is about songs captured on old magnetic tape with vintage tube equipment at great vintage studios. … I reckon the last two songs were recorded at a ‘modern’ state-of-the-art studio in Hollywood by the great Jeff ‘Mox’ Moxley but both songs were bounced through a vintage tube desk on magnetic tape, so the outcome sounds just like the other songs and has the same ‘vibe’ and feel.”

Tracks 1 through 12 were recorded at Suprovox Recording Studio in Finland with guitarist Jo’ Buddy and the Down Home Kings (drummer Down Home King III and upright bassist J.P. Prepula). Tracks 13 and 14 were done at Big Jon Atkinson’s old Bigtone Records in Hayward, Calif. (before the studio moved to Virginia), during sessions for the Little Victor-produced album “Travelin’ With the Blues” by Vancouver, British Columbia-based singer/harmonica ace Harpdog Brown. Tracks 15 and 16 were made at Landsberg Studios in North Hollywood.

Jo’ Buddy and the Down Home Kings are “three great (musicians) I worked with for about a decade in northern Europe before doing these recordings,” Little Victor told GNM. “It was a three-day thing at (blues musician and studio owner) Tomi Leino’s place … at the end of a tour with Louisiana Red in the summer of 2010. We headlined a cool little festival in Finland on a Saturday night. The first session was on a Sunday morning and Red and his wife, Dora, didn’t have to catch a plane back home until the next morning. Red wanted to guest on a few songs, but he was not able to make it. He was really tired, and he could not physically climb the ladder that … led to the studio (which) at that time (was) on top of a barn.

“He gave me his guitar, a green 1950s Kay Stratotone with one pickup — the same guitar Elmore James used on his ‘Dust My Broom.’ Red used that guitar for his ‘slide’ songs in open D. I tried to tune it in my own version of ‘standard’ tuning — I tune a full step below the regular concert pitch — but with little luck. Red was using steel guitar strings on that guitar, so it was impossible to play anything that wasn’t slide guitar. So I tuned it back in open D and I recorded ‘Slow Down Baby’ and ‘Rocks’ using Louisiana Red’s guitar — the same guitar he used to play slide on (his albums) ‘Back to the Black Bayou’ and ‘Memphis Mojo.’ I also used two of his slides for my album.

“I recorded the other 10 songs from these sessions on an Epiphone Broadway from the ’80s. The whole thing was recorded on magnetic tape. Tomi Leino recorded over the tape by mistake, so I thought all this stuff was lost forever. Luckily a rough mix done quickly right after the sessions at the studio was recently found. These are basically the first 12 songs. The great Steve Lucky in California added some piano on some tracks and sent them back to me.

“… I used a vintage Harmony H-75 with DeArmond gold foil pickups on ‘Gambler’s Boogie’ — I bought it for 300 bucks at a pawn shop before the Bigtone sessions — and a fabulous 1958 Harmony H-62 for ‘Country Boy’ … (that) was lent to me by the great Rick Holmstrom. … I am now the proud owner of an identical 1958 Harmony H-62 that Rick used to play back in the day, though.”

On three songs, Little Victor focuses on vocals and lets others handle the guitar duties: “What’s the Matter Now” (Jo’ Buddy), “Chicago Moan Blues” (Harpdog Brown guitarist Jordie Edmonds) and “Rockin’ Daddy” (Big Jon Atkinson).

Other guests helping out elsewhere include Tomi Leino (harmonica), Danny Michel (drums), Harpdog Brown (harmonica), Carl Sonny Leyland (piano) and Kim Wilson (harmonica).

Tracks
1. My Mind
2. Graveyard Boogie
3. I Done Got Tired
4. This Letter
5. Slow Down Baby (feat. Steve Lucky)
6. What Kind Of Girl Are You (feat. Tom Leino)
7. Some Ole Day
8. I Wanna Make You Mine
9. Too Late Baby
10. Rocks
11. So Blue
12. What’s The Matter Now (feat. Jo’ Buddy)
13. Gambler’s Boogie (feat. Danny Michel)
14. Chicago Moan Blues (feat. Harpdog Brown)
15. Rockin’ Daddy (feat. Big Jon Atkinson and Carl Sonny Leyland)
16. Country Boy (feat. Kim Wilson)

Total time: 1:01:50

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Joe Goldmark

Blue Steel

Lo-Ball

After seven solo albums of pedal-steel instrumentals (all of which include decidedly non-country covers), Joe Goldmark switched gears two albums ago by incorporating vocal numbers.

His new tack began with 2007’s “Seducing the ’60s” (Goldmark’s second all-covers album — the first being 1997’s “Steelin’ the Beatles”), of which half the tracks variously feature guest vocals by two male singers and one female singer. “The Wham of That Steel Man!” was his 2012 follow-up, a two-CD multigenre exercise comprising an instrumental disc and a vocal disc made up entirely of tunes sung by a female singer.

Now comes “Blue Steel,” another outstanding 50/50 instrumental-and-vocal set enlisting a male and a female singer, with one or the other contributing to the non-instrumental numbers.

This time there’s an R&B/blues/soul theme, a unique approach for a pedal-steel album but not without precedence if the criterion were to be “any type of slide guitar”: Jeff Plankenhorn, who plays a custom-built electric dobro, released an all-soul album entitled “SoulSlide” in 2016.

“Blue Steel” opens with a lively original instrumental, “Night Flight.” Recalling such rockin’ steelers as “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow and Red Rhodes, it’s highlighted by guitarist Gary Potterton’s (Tom Fogerty, Kate Wolf) succinct Duane Eddy-esque solo toward the end.

The first of the vocal numbers is “All Night Worker,” a Rufus Thomas hit in 1964, here sourced from the 1966 version by Tex-Mex band Los Stardusters. Former Hoodoo Rhythm Devils singer Glenn Walters provides the voice. The Stardusters arrangement boasts a “She’s About a Mover” groove, which might not be a coincidence: Los Stardusters were on the Texas-based Tear Drop label, founded by Sir Douglas Quintet producer Huey P. Meaux.

San Francisco singer Dallis Craft handles the female half of the album’s vocal equation, beginning with a stunning rendition of “A Love So Beautiful,” the Roy Orbison-Jeff Lynne co-write from Orbison’s 1989 comeback album, “Mystery Girl.”

And so the album’s pattern is established, with the balance alternating between instrumental and vocal selections. The rest of the vocal tunes are also covers, a refreshingly eclectic collection of songs by Jimmy McCracklin (“The Wobble”), Graham Parker (“Howlin’ Wind”), Lefty Frizzell (“Look What Thoughts Will Do”), B.B. King (“Beautician Blues”) and Dallas Frazier (“True Love Travels on a Gravel Road”).

The balance of the instrumentals are mostly Goldmark originals, with two exceptions: Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread” (sourced from eight-string jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter’s 1997 instrumental reimagining of Marley’s 1974 album of the same name) and “I Want to Be With You Forever” (written especially for “Blue Steel” by Bay Area guitarist and Goldmark colleague Jim Campilongo, who also plays guitars on the track).

Tracks
1. Night Flight
2. All Night Worker (feat. Glenn Walters)
3. A Love So Beautiful (feat. Dallis Craft)
4. Ginger Ale
5. The Wobble (feat. Glenn Walters)
6. Warm Rain
7. Howlin’ Wind (feat. Dallis Craft)
8. Natty Dread
9. Look What Thoughts Will Do (feat. Dallis Craft)
10. Tacky Tango
11. Beautician Blues (feat. Glenn Walters)
12. I Want To Be With You Forever (Jim Campilongo — guitars)
13. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road (feat. Dallis Craft)

Total time: 41:34

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Koch Marshall Trio

Toby Arrives

The Players Club

Every once in a while, someone usually regarded as a rock guitarist comes out of left field with an organ trio album that just blows the socks right off unsuspecting listeners.

A couple of relatively recent examples, both from 2008, are “Hi-Fi Stereo” by Reverend Organdrum (a side project for Jim Heath, aka Reverend Horton Heat) and “The Haunted Melody” by the Steve Howe Trio (yes, Steve Howe of Yes).

Now comes Greg Koch with “Toby Arrives” by the Koch Marshall Trio. Like Howe’s offering, it’s also a father-and-son effort with dad on guitar and son playing drums.

Koch has a sizable back catalog of often instrumental music where getting “out there” is the norm and many genres are covered. But this KMT debut sees a more disciplined Koch distilling his normally “all over the map” sound into a potent blues-jazz blend.

As with many good things, the album coalesced by happenstance. Koch’s drummer son Dylan had been doing gigs in the Twin Cities with a guitarist and an organist, and was always telling his dad to check out the latter sometime. As chance would have it, the organist was going to be in Milwaukee and Dylan persuaded a reluctant Greg into agreeing to a jam. Hammond B-3 player extraordinaire Toby Lee Marshall, expecting only a possibility of a jam at the Koch home, was flabbergasted when Greg took him and Dylan to a studio where drums and an organ were already set up and mic’ed — and the rest is history.

The opening title track is what its name implies: the first of two recorded during that initial March 2017 encounter. Five more tracks were laid down in April, followed by a final one in July. Everything was tracked live in the studio except for an acoustic guitar overdub on “Sin Repent Repeat,” the awesome electric-bottleneck showcase that serves as the set’s denouement.

“Blues-jazz” may be a sufficient modifier in the aggregate, but the trio manages to touch on several sub-subgenres. For instance, the aforementioned “Sin Repent Repeat” has strong gospel overtones.

“Enter the Rats,” with its finger-lickin’ chicken-picking, transitions seamlessly into the ZZ Top-flavored “Boogie Yourself Drade.” For prog fans, the 10-minute “Mysterioso” draws inspiration from Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth and Joe Satriani.

“Funk Meat” is another fine display of chicken-picking that starts out sounding like the theme to an alternate-universe “Sanford and Son” and then throws in a contrapuntal snarl or two from Greg’s 1958 Gibson Les Paul reissue. That ax is also used on the title track, but for the rest the Gristleman uses his 1955 Fender Telecaster Custom Shop model.

With all the great virtuosity, tone and recording/mixing/mastering (by Steve Hamilton at Makin’ Sausage Music), it’s no wonder Ed van Zijl of the Netherlands-based Mascot Label Group made “Toby” the first release on his Players Club imprint — and signed KMT to a multi-album deal.

“I am and have always been a lover of great guitar playing,” van Zijl said when Good New Music took a shot in the dark and reached out to him via email. “(On) The Players Club … you will find freestyle jam music all based around the guitar. It might be instrumental, it might be vocal. The artists do not get any instructions from me, only my trust and belief in them.”

Van Zijl added, “I want an outlet for great musicianship and to let the artists do what they are good at, what they love, and have them not make any compromises whatsoever for commercial reasons.”

When asked if anyone else was lined up for future Players Club releases (“Toby Arrives” and Tommy Emmanuel’s “Accomplice One” are the only entries so far), van Zijl replied: “We currently have two more artists recording for TPC: Vernon Reid … (and) Jan Akkerman. … We have more on our target list, of course, who we will announce in due time. I do not know release dates yet for the above albums, but I estimate fall at the earliest.”

Van Zijl said he has plans for taking the Players Club concept on the road, as well.

“Once we have enough albums out, we want the artists to tour together and in the right circuit,” he told GNM. “Imagine Vernon Reid and Jan Akkerman together — that would make a cool package. Just an idea so far. It will take a little time to start that up as that part is never easy, but touring is part of the plan.

“We just did our first Provogue label tour in Europe under the name Rockin’ the Blues … (and did) seven shows in three countries. You can find plenty of that on YouTube. 2019 will see more countries and shows, and I hope to launch it in the U.S. in two or three years.

“(For) The Players Club we will do something similar … but in a smaller and more specialized circuit with maybe residencies in certain towns.”

Go Ed!

Tracks
1. Toby Arrives
2. Funk Meat
3. Heed The Boogaloo
4. Let’s Get Sinister
5. Mysterioso
6. Enter The Rats
7. Boogie Yourself Drade
8. Sin Repent Repeat

Total time: 50:48

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Winnie Winston

Wanted for Steeling

Richard Weize Archives (ACD 12570)

Unlike most pedal steel players, the late great Winnie (aka Julian) Winston’s background was in folk music rather than country: As an award-winning banjoist in the 1960s, he formed the New York City Ramblers with David Grisman, a group that shared the stage with Bob Dylan at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

In the ’70s Winston switched gears. He designed and built his own pedal steel guitar, and later co-wrote a self-teaching manual called “Pedal Steel Guitar” with Bill Keith. Session work followed — as both banjoist and pedal steel guitarist — for Steve Goodman, David Bromberg, Rosalie Sorrels and Mary McCaslin, among others.

His “solo” pedal-steel albums from that period largely consisted of three obscure, long-out-of-print LPs made with friend and guitarist Hank Davis — the first two of which were issued under the nom de plume “Raunch Radley” (a fictitious country-music legend dreamed up by Davis); the third release bore their real names.

“Wanted for Steeling” is a collection curated by Davis that draws from the above-mentioned three albums as well as from previously unreleased recordings. It’s also another excellent release commissioned by reissue meister Richard Weize for the RWA label, his post-Bear Family Records endeavor.

Though they attended the same New York high school in the late ’50s, Winston and Davis moved in different circles socially and musically, with the former inclined toward folk and the latter preferring rockabilly. Upon graduating, Winston studied industrial design and Davis pursued psychology, and both became teachers. Winston kept up his musical pursuits playing pedal steel in a country band, whereas Davis — who’d wound up at the University of Guelph in Ontario — put recording/performing on the back burner. But then things changed.

The following excerpt from an archival newspaper article in the Kitchener-Waterloo (Ontario) Record tells what happened next:

“(I got a phone call from high school friend) Winnie Winston, a guy I hadn’t seen for 16 years. He played pedal steel guitar in a country band, and he called to say that he had dreamed of me three nights running, and thought he’d better look me up.”

Hank invited Winston to his farm near Puslinch, and Winston brought his pedal steel along.

“We sat around the house playing, and we got real good real fast,” says Hank. “We decided to do a recording session and see what happened.”

Davis and Winston booked time in the Mercey Brothers Studio in Elmira. They recorded 10 songs in 10 takes.

Later, they visited a second studio. Everything about the sessions pleased Hank … except the cost.

“I said to myself, ‘If we’re going to keep making records, I might as well build my own studio at the farm.’ I just went out and bought the equipment and now we record at my place.”

“Wanted for Steeling” documents a telepathic interplay between the visually oriented and psychologically oriented minds, respectively, of Winston and Davis.

This is not flashy hillbilly jazz modeled after 1950s pedal-steel/electric-guitar duo Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant. Davis wears his rock ’n’ roll heart on his sleeve, sometimes enhancing the bed tracks of guitar and pedal steel with his own overdubbed bass, drums, piano or additional guitar. Winston often solos into uncharted territory, using his mind’s eye as a sextant and Davis’ guitar as his North Star.

Davis uses finesse in sequencing the compilation’s tracks, choosing to blend the Raunch Radley selections with the cuts from “Cloud Dancing.”

“With (the) Raunch Radley (material), we were looking to create the feel of vintage ’50s rock ’n’ roll and kind of painted ourselves into a corner,” Davis told Good New Music recently in a telephone interview. “ ‘Cloud Dancing’ (which followed the two Raunch Radley LPs) allowed Winnie to stretch out on pedal steel.”

“Winnie would play the Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis and come here on his way back,” Davis added. “I got used to the fact that he would come in and put his steel guitar on the floor and be ready to go. I remember one year I had everything ready for him in the studio so he could get it done in Take 1.”

When asked who initiated the idea for the compilation, Davis said it was mutual.

“Richard Weize had put out a Jerry Byrd album,” he told GNM. “I said, ‘If you can put out a Byrd album, you can put out a Winston album.’ He asked if I had the tapes, and I said yes. He wanted to know if I could supply archival photos, and I told him I thought so. ‘Let’s do it!’ he said.”

Among the collection’s previously unissued tracks is “Spider Trap,” at once a groovy and laid-back number. “It’s basically blues,” Davis said. “We did that in one take. It was after ‘Cloud Dancing’ and we never did anything with the tape. I had at least 50 tunes recorded with Winnie and I thought, ‘This is it — it has to come out.’ ”

Another song to see its first light of day is the bouncy “Right Out the Door,” which sounds a lot like “Green Green Grass of Home” but with a Luther Perkins-style chug-along rhythm guitar.

“Dancing Steel” is a previously unreleased instrumental reworking of a Davis vocal song, “I Just Don’t Feel Like Dancing.” Davis explained, “I recorded the vocal version with Winnie in the studio in 1974, the first year we got together. I didn’t have a studio at my house yet. I sang and played piano and Winnie played steel. Years later we tried it as instrumental, and I overdubbed drums and bass.”

In fact, Davis incorporates five songs recorded for his own vocal albums on this otherwise instrumental collection. “But I Do,” “What Went Wrong,” “Conversation” and “Mongoose” have remained in the can for nearly 40 years before seeing release here. “Old New Orleans R&B” came out on Davis’ “One Way Track” album.

The vocal songs were included to show that Winston — besides being a great soloist — was also an excellent sideman, Davis told GNM. “(I knew) those songs … wouldn’t go down well with people who buy my albums today. Otherwise, they were just going to sit in the vault.”

Other standout offerings from among the field of 27 songs (all of which are first-rate) are “Steady as She Goes,” aka “Christmas Train” from the “Cloud Dancing” LP; the previously unissued “Thanksgiving Blessing,” one of three such showpiece tunes recorded immediately after one of Winston’s Pedal Steel Guitar Convention gigs (the other two being “Waltzing Matilda” and the Eagles’ “Desperado”); “Drivin’ and Jivin’ ”; “Misty Morn,” which appeared in a different version on Winston’s 1978 solo album “Steel Wool”; “Big Black Machine”; “Bouncing off the Trees”; and “Dreaming at the Bar.”

Tracks
1. Right Out The Door
2. Almost Home
3. Steady As She Goes
4. Downhill Blues
5. Old New Orleans R&B
6. Dancing Steel
7. Truckstop
8. Snowballs In June
9. Cajun Potatoes
10. The Eagle
11. But I Do
12. The Frog Invasion
13. Lonely Boys Like Me
14. Winding Down
15. Thanksgiving Blessing
16. What Went Wrong
17. Drivin’ And Jivin’
18. Misty Morn
19. Spider Trap
20. Waltzing Matilda
21. Conversation
22. Desperado
23. Big Black Machine
24. Old Time Friend
25. Bouncing Off The Trees
26. Dreaming At The Bar
27. Mongoose

Total time: 1:18:19

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