Roine Stolt’s The Flower King

Manifesto of an Alchemist

Inside Out

Relatively fresh off his amazing 2016 collaborative album with Jon Anderson (“Invention of Knowledge,” under the moniker Anderson-Stolt), Swedish prog vet Roine Stolt perhaps takes a cue from his experience of reassembling bits of unfinished Anderson songs that had accumulated over the years — this time applying it to his own odds and ends dating back 15 years or so.

With his Flower Kings outfit inactive and FK keyboardist Tomas Bodin waylaid by tinnitus, Stolt enlisted bandmates Jonas Reingold and Hasse Froberg, along with a few other musical cohorts, to form “Roine Stolt’s The Flower King” and realize his latest creation.

The cognoscenti will recall that Stolt’s 1994 solo album, “The Flower King,” is considered to be essentially the first Flower Kings album. This new group’s name, therefore, accurately signals that this is neither a Flower Kings proper nor a Stolt solo record.

Stolt has said in interviews that the recording process was relatively quick, compared with his old band’s modus operandi, and that the music benefited from this.

“A lot of the guitar work is actually my spontaneous ‘demo’ guitars and that goes for much of the synth work, too,” he says in the album’s press release. ‘I didn’t want to ‘process’ ideas too much as there is much power in the initial creation — I wanted to keep it that way.”

As always there are obvious influences from prog heroes past, as in the opening two tracks (“Rainsong” and “Lost America”) comprising a 10-minute opus, impressively calling to mind the stylings of guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin — simultaneously.

There are plenty of keyboards to enjoy on “Ze Pawns,” a jazzy guitar ballad boasting some nice synth-Rhodes-organ touches, as well as dynamic (and dynamically recorded) drumming by madman Marco Minnemann of supergroup instrumental power trio The Aristocrats.

“High Road,” clocking in at more than 12 minutes, pays tribute to not one but two classic groups: It starts out a tad “Topographic,” gives way to shades of ELP midway and then comes full circle by revisiting the initial theme — with an added tip of the hat to gone-but-not-forgotten Chris Squire via Stolt’s workout on Rickenbacker bass.

Other highlights include the three instrumentals: “Rio Grande,” a Genesis-like number in the vein of “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos” only less intense; “The Alchemist,” an instrumental bit of sax-laden funky jazz fusion that would do The Headhunters, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever proud; and “Six Thirty Wake-Up,” a dreamy affair complete with flute.

Tracks
1. Rainsong
2. Lost America
3. Ze Pawns
4. High Road
5. Rio Grande
6. Next To A Hurricane
7. The Alchemist
8. Baby Angels
9. Six Thirty Wake-Up
10. The Spell Of Money

Total time: 69:41

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Dave Davies

Decade

Red River/Green Amp

• “The Great Lost Dave Davies Album”
• “The Album That Almost Never Was”
• “Hidden Treasures, Vol. 2”
• “More Unfinished Business — Dave Davies Kronikles, 1971-1979”

Any of the above could serve as alternate titles to Kinks guitarist Dave Davies’ new solo album, “Decade.”

Like 1973’s “The Great Lost Kinks Album,” it contains songs that never made it onto any Kinks LPs.

As with 1987’s “The Album That Never Was” and its more official, expanded counterpart “Hidden Treasures,” the new record is a decades-later facsimile of what might have been.

And in the same vein as 1999’s “Unfinished Business — Dave Davies Kronikles, 1963-1998,” it summarizes his output within a specific, albeit more narrow, period of time.

Predating his official solo debut “AFL1-3603” in 1980, “Decade” rounds up 13 songs and demos recorded 1971-79 mostly at Konk, the London studio base set up for the Kinks in 1973. The tapes were found in attics, closets and even under a bed, Davies has said in interviews.

With the help of two of his sons, the reels were able to be restored and then the music enhanced sonically while retaining the flavor of the era. Little reportedly was added outside of some vocal and guitar parts on a couple of tracks.

Among musicians making cameo appearances are Kinks members Mick Avory on drums (although Davies also plays drums on certain cuts) and John Gosling on Hammond organ.

Shades of the band’s “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One” and “Muswell Hillbillies” LPs can be heard, replete with acoustic and the occasional resonator guitar.

The pensive “Same Old Blues,” while not a blues tune, is among the standouts. However, “If You Are Leaving” features the aforementioned steel-bodied guitar sounds, “Mystic Woman” boasts some tasty electric slide and “The Journey” (one of two instrumentals) makes good use of a mandolin.

Other highlights include “Islands,” with its interesting time signature change; the jaunty “Give You All My Love”; “Mr. Moon,” whose lead guitar riffs emulate sitar runs; and the second instrumental, “Shadows,” which plays up the use of multitracked acoustic and electric guitars.

In the end it’s a solid and pleasantly anachronistic affair that outshines the artist’s previously prime (and consciously conceived) effort, “AFL1-3603.”

Tracks
1. Cradle To The Grave
2. Midnight Sun
3. Islands
4. If You Are Leaving
5. Web Of Time
6. Mystic Woman
7. Give You All My Love
8. The Journey
9. Within Each Day
10. Same Old Blues
11. Mr. Moon
12. Shadows
13. This Precious Time (Long Lonely Road)

Total time: 51:40

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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 band’s most exhilarating.

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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