Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!



CHANGES: Surviving MONKEES Micky Dolenz (drums, guitar, vocals) and Michael Nesmith (lead guitar, vocals) have announced that the band's forthcoming Fall 2021 North American tour will mark their collective farewell to the concert stage. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell weighs the beloved band's options in Monkees Farewell Tour. Click on the Monkees Farewell Tour link under the Previous Posts heading at right for the full story. Pictured above: Michael Nesmith is shadowed by his former self on stage (Click on the above image to enlarge).

WELCOME TO THE INTERET HOME
FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE
SINCE 1975 -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE
FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.

Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

AUDREY'S MUSICAL JOURNEY:

Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

In a free standing article, the MONKEES prepare for what they have dubbed their Farewell Tour, scheduled to cross North America in September.

The abrupt cancellation after five acclaimed seasons of CBC's sitcom, Kim's Convenience has drawn fire from the faithful and cast alike, including series stat Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.

In a free standing interview, Mutants alumnus and REARRANGEMENTS co-founder Patrick "Pasadena" Supina discusses the final days of the Mutants, along with the formation of his new  supergroup with the Plugs' Jeff Shoemaker, as well as the band's debut album.

Sorry to report the passing of WE FIVE guitarist and co-founder JERRY BURGAN in late March, after suffering a stroke. Burgan was 76.

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The music produced throughout the greater San Diego area during rock and roll's most creative period finally gets proper recognition via the magnificent new Relampago-go label anthology, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 - 1973

Roger Maglio's Gear Fab label has added to its acclaimed Psychedelic States series with one of its most solid offerings yet: West Virginia In The '60s.

Rock N' Roll School For Girls is the first career spanning look at the work of the veteran band, the CATHOLIC GIRLS.

The 7a label continues its impressive series of the finest Monkees-related releases with Cosmic Partners, the landmark 1973 live concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop by MICHAEL NESMITH AND RED RHODES.

IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

Verve Records has released the highly anticipated final album in the long and extraordinary career of jazz visionary and keyboard man, DAVE BRUBECK. Lullabies was recorded as a blessing for his grandchildren, and includes a wealth of standards and duly inspired originals. \\

Veteran Southern California synth band BERLIN has returned with Strings Attached, a new look at their classic catalog with symphonic embellishments.

Her remarkable ability to bring out elements of relentless optimism in the face of despair is but one of the many attributes evidenced in Bright Shining Stars, the new Vizztone label release by the Boston-based composer, guitarist and vocalist DANIELLE MIRAGLIA

With dozens of albums to his credit, JEREMY MORRIS keeps on Living The Dream with his latest JAM Records release, combining classic material by Rick Nelson, the Flamin' Groovies, Shoes, Norman Greenbaum and Rick Springfield with duly inspired original material.

Veteran composer and multi-instrumentalist DANA COUNTRYMAN takes a more laid back approach in his latest Stirling Swan release, Come Into My Studio.

Veteran blues rockers SAVOY BROWN have once again come out swinging on their latest album, Ain't Done Yet, their forty-first release overall.

Room Full Of Blues cofounder and Fabulous Thunderbirds veteran DUKE ROBILLARD tackles a series of chestnuts by Roy Milton, Ike Turner, Dave Bartholomew, Helen Humes and others in Blues Bash!, his latest release for Stony Plain Records. 

POINT co-founder (and one time Blitz Magazine Art Director) TOM ALFORD continues to impress with his latest Eye label CD EP, Moving In To Love.

Tuesday

MONOGROOVE / RIN LENNON INTERVIEW



YOU'VE GOT WHAT I WANT: The road has been a long and challenging one for one time ON THE AIR lead vocalist RIN LENNON, who has nonetheless more than sustained her momentum with There's Something Here, her latest album with her long time band, MONOGROOVE. Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell recently spoke at length with Lennon (pictured above in the studio in January 2021) about turning tragedy into triumph. Their exchange follows below. Photo by Ray Martell. (Click on above image to enlarge).

FROM ON THE AIR
TO MONOGROOVE:
AN INTERVIEW WITH
RIN LENNON
By Michael McDowell

"Those who remain will become champions".

That observation was made some years ago the late University Of Michigan Marching Band director, George R. Cavender. With it came the implication that success on such a level stems in part from overcoming various trials and tribulations over a sustained period of time.


In the case of veteran composer, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Rin Lennon, success came early in the process with her acclaimed quartet, On The Air. Together with guitarist Jennifer Dorfman, bassist Anne Bogen and drummer Sue Chicko, Lennon and On The Air became a leading light in the Southern California musical movement during the 1980s. The band was chronicled extensively in Blitz Magazine at the time.


However, as was the case with many of the front runners throughout that era, On The Air eventually went its separate ways. Sadly, both Bogen and Chicko are now deceased.


Meanwhile, as one of music's most ambitious and respected five-tool players, Lennon kept her musical mission statement alive with the formation of Monogroove in 1997. Yet despite great promise on stage and record, history seemed to repeat itself, as Monogroove also endured its own share of personnel changes and losses.


Nonetheless, with the 2020 release of their latest album, There's Something Here, Monogroove has released its most cohesive and charismatic album to date. A power trio in the classic sense of the term, the band's current line up finds Lennon joined by drummer Ken Cratty (ex-Teeni L Band and acclaimed stage actor) and new bassist Woody Cross. All three contribute exponentially to the band's lavish, upbeat sound, which belies the perceived limitations of the three piece template.


On There's Something Here, Monogroove has also utilized the services of some highly respected colleagues. They include Wedge alumnus and long time Brian Wilson Band member Probyn Gregory (who contributes trumpet on the album's lone cover, Magical Mystery Tour), as well as Cockeyed Ghost, Pacific Soul Limited and Chaos Band alumnus, Karma Frog Records President, and current host of the popular travelogue, Adam Walks Around, Adam Marsland on keyboards. The majority of the material therein is comprised of Lennon's trademark accessible yet thought provoking original compositions.


Blitz Magazine recently spoke with Lennon about her ongoing successes in triumphing over adversity. A most inspiring saga in these changing times, to be certain.


BLITZ: Your first musical project of note was the much missed On The Air. Ironically, the band came into the fold just as the Southern California musical movement was beginning to fragment and splinter. Nonetheless, On The Air flourished in spite of it. What steps did the band take to sustain its momentum in those transitional times?


LENNON: We actually all ventured out into different projects with different bands. Anne and I joined the Remarks and the Insiders. I was the drummer and Anne was the bass guitarist. Jennifer joined the local band, Wednesday Week. Sue retired as a drummer after our tour to Japan was canceled.


The band was growing stagnant. We had started a record with Dan Matovina and Bill Inglot. We ran out of money. So we took a break from On The Air.


We still got together from time to time. Sort of an acoustic set up at Karman and Ross, where Jennifer and I both worked.


The loss of Sue was a hard pill to swallow. She was so amazing. She bowed out because of the Japan tour. She quit her high paying job just to go there. Then she was out of work and frustrated. I can't blame her.


While we were creating music with other bands, I actually started putting On The Air back together. Joann Norton stepped in on drums. Anne of course was on bass guitar, with myself on guitar. Jennifer came around periodically.


But nothing was solid until Anne's friend, Eric Milne introduced us to Jamie Garcia. Garcia took over the part of lead guitarist, with Anne on bass, Joann on drums and myself on guitar.


We made one recording with this line up as On The Air. It was a little four track! We ran it off quickly in a couple of takes.


Later that evening, we drove it over to Rodney Bingenheimer at KROQ. As we were driving away from the station, he put it straight on the air. I was pretty happy about that! It was December, and it was the only Christmas song we ever wrote, Another Year.


A few months later, Anne had to bow out. Her parents were bed ridden. She was the only sibling around to take care of them.


Also bowing out was Joann Norton, the drummer. She left the area to attend college in Berkley. I approached Jennifer and asked her to come back as the bass guitarist. I left the front of the band to play drums.


Jamie had some cash. So when we told her that we had started a record, she paid for the rest of it to get done. Dan came back as sole producer. We recorded at various places until it was finished.


On the twelve-inch EP, that is Sue on drums, Anne on bass guitar, me on guitar, as well as Jamie and Jennifer. The only song on that record on which I am playing drums is This Can't Be Real. The rest is Sue. Jamie and Jennifer took turns playing the lead parts for different songs.


BLITZ: As noted, at that time you were also working in tandem with Chipmunks keeper of the flame, Ross Bagdasarian Junior. Did that particular collaboration provide experience that you could transition into your own musical endeavors?


LENNON: Yes! Both Jennifer and I were sound engineers at Karman And Ross Studios. We arranged and recorded rehearsals for many bands that passed through those doors. Some include the Police, REM, Oingo Boingo, Guns And Roses, the Rain Parade, Tex And The Horseheads, Dream 6 (Concrete Blonde) and many others. We met many producers and opened for many of the power pop bands with which we crossed paths.


Ross needed a song for his upcoming Valentines Day special with the Chipmunks. At that time, we had just finished a cassette demo. I handed him the tape, with four songs on it.


Two weeks later, he rang me up and had me come to his home in Beverly Hills, where I signed a contract for the use of I Give Up On Love. For copyright reasons, they changed the name to I Give Up On You. It has been airing now since the mid 1980s. That was when I realized that's how you make money, by getting your songs used in films, TV or commercials.


In the late 1980s, Ross sold those infamous studios to a car paint store. I never spoke with him after they closed the doors. We have lost contact over the years.


There was so much crammed together in those days. I can talk about that band for weeks!


Anne Bogen passed away in 2008, an accidental death. Jamie passed away in 2012 of cancer. Sue Chicko also passed away, but her cause of death is unknown. Jennifer and I are the only remaining members still alive today.


BLITZ: You were still based in Southern California when Monogroove got its start. How did you come to join forces with drummer Ken Cratty?


LENNON: Monogroove had its share of revolving members, mostly drummers and vocalists. As you know, it's hard to keep a band going for a long time.


Monogroove formed in 1997. Long time member Scott Halper was with the band from the beginning. Scott was introduced to us through Probyn Gregory. He held the bass guitar slot for the longest time, fifteen years.


Our original drummer, Macbeth died of breast cancer in 2001. Another long time member was singer / songwriter Hector Garcia. He left after Five Minute Cat Wash to raise his two sons. Hector passed away in December 2018.


We went through a few drummers. Most notable was RC, who played on Five Minute Cat Wash in 2002. Then we had Ray on Real, released in 2006. He bowed out to pursue a project that was playing regularly at Disneyland.


In those days, we advertised once again in The Recycler, a long time go to paper for musicians. Ken saw the ad and listened to our songs.


Ken was in the original cast of Beatlemania. He rang me up. We talked about the Beatles and other rock groups that we liked from the '60s and the '70s. He said, "We can really do something together here. I really like your songs".


So Ken now holds the throne for the longest drummer in Monogroove. He joined in 2007. Ken has made two records with us so far, Echoes In The Glass and There's Something Here. There are also many videos that can be viewed on YouTube.


BLITZ: You eventually began to work with Steve Refling of Cockeyed Ghost as producer. He of course also collaborated in Cockeyed Ghost with Adam Marsland of Adam Marsland's Chaos Band, who is currently the CEO of Karma Frog Records and host of the acclaimed video series, Adam Walks Around. They became catalysts in the rise of a new composer / vocalist movement that also includes Rob Martinez, Dana Countryman, Jeremy Morris, Lisa Mychols and a few others of similar intent. To what degree (if any) did Monogroove become involved with that movement as a result?


LENNON: Working with Steve Refling has been amazing. Steve engineered and recorded our last four records, Five Minute Cat Wash, Real, Echoes and There's Something Here.


We began recording the new record here at Monogroove Studios. Then we relocated to Redwood Studios, which is owned and operated by Ray Martell. Ray engineered all the basic tracks and some of the overdubs, all while conversing with Refling. Refling would be producing and mixing everything down.


Everything came to a halt, due to the shut down. But we were anxious to finish. So Mr. Refling drove up from Southern California. We finished the record here in my home, separating different rooms for different sounds. The final mastering was done by Ken Cratty. He's so gifted in so many ways, and my best friend, as well.


I knew about Lisa and Adam. Also Evie Sands. We have remained good friends, and admire each other's works.


BLITZ: Despite its name, Monogroove thankfully records in stereo. What was the inspiration behind that name?


LENNON: I have been a record collector since I was six years old. The co-founder, Andrea Ireland was also very much intrigued by vinyl, as was our original drummer, Macbeth.


It was Macbeth who actually came up with the name. It is the definition of a monaural recording of a record. Breaking it down, it also means one groove. We all loved that idea.


BLITZ: For a three piece band, your There's Something Here album boasts a rich, full sound. Obviously some overdubbing was necessary in the studio. Has that ever produced any challenges for Monogroove in reproducing that material in a live setting?


LENNON: For starters, we have a really great line up. Everyone sings, plays and writes. It is a big plus when you have three engines!


I am on guitar and vocals. Newcomer Woody Cross is on bass guitar and vocals. Woody is also in two other bands, the Other Guys and Caucasian Persuasion. And of course there is Ken Cratty on drums. Both of these gentlemen know their craft very well.


As it is with most bands, it's different for live shows. I have to wear a few hats, changing from rhythm to lead, to different effects boxes, and then jumping back on the mic.


I've been performing on stage since I was sixteen with my first band, the R-Band. Silly name, but we were just a little cover band.


With the three of us, we seem to make it work by overplaying parts to fill in the missing overdubs for live performances. This was actually Woody's first time making a record and the first time singing on one. I think he did a fine job.


BLITZ: Among the many solid originals on There's Something Here is a faithful cover of Magical Mystery Tour, complete with horn charts. From a purist perspective, it works. Was that perspective the intention?


LENNON: There is an older version of this from a demo from years back with the original line up. I thought, "Let's really do this right".


Once again, we asked Probyn to put his infamous trumpets on the tune. He said, "I'll do it just like the record, with a little bit of my take on it".


Especially at the extended portion at the end, combining the Ventures' Hawaii Five-O, with a smudge of Led Zeppelin thrown in, and then paying homage to Emerson, Lake And Palmer with "See the show!" from Brain Salad Surgery.


We also asked Adam Marsland for the B3 organ. You can hear each of us take a bit of a solo in the end part of the song. Me on lead guitar, with Ken doing a quick drum piece after my solo. Woody takes the helm after that, really ripping it up on his Rickenbacker.


Then Adam comes firing in with a tasty B3 organ bit. Adam is a pro. He's a wonderful talent and did a great job. Probyn also provides enormous talent throughout the song, giving it everything he's got.


BLITZ: Please elaborate on the original material in the album.


LENNON: Some songs are very personal. But I try to leave them open, so other people can interpret their own lives, journeys, experiences, loves, gains and losses. God Please is an important song to me, as it's about saving the planet.


Back Seat was just something to get people's attention. That was co-written by Anne Bogen, who started writing it back in the '80s. It sat there unfinished for decades until 2019, when I finally finished what she started. I wanted Anne to be a part of the project.


There are a few on the album that were originally performed by On The Air. But they were never recorded, except for a few very rough demos. They are If I Were To Say, which was previously recorded on a self-titled twelve-inch On The Air EP. Also from On The Air's day were All I Want Is You, Can I Take A Chance, There For You and Up In The Attic.


In between On The Air and Monogroove is when I wrote The Looking Glass and The Rain. I wrote The Looking Glass about my mother, when I was going through some hard times. We had a rocky relationship until we both got sober. Then it was great, until her death in 2009.


I'll Never Know is about a missing child, and you never know what happened to them. In my case, I wrote it long ago about the only children I've ever had, my animals. I often combine my two passions of music and animals. I guess most writers do!


One of my favorite tracks is one I wrote in 2018, Now And Forever. It's about saying goodbye to a loved one before they are gone.


We are just a little power pop / garage rock band. Three people who are like minded, and who do the best we can with what we have to work with!

REARRANGEMENTS / PASADENA INTERVIEW



SO AMERICAN: When alumni of such proven bands as the Mutants, Plugs and Weasels join forces to form a new band, the results can be nothing less than remarkable. True to form, the REARRANGEMENTS have lived up to that promise with their debut album, At Sixes And Sevens. In the following exchange with Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell, Mutants alumnus and Rearrangements co-founder Patrick "Pasadena" Supina discusses the final days of his much missed Mutants, while at the same time bringing to the table great promise with his tales behind the creation of the the Rearrangements' debut (Back cover pictured above).  (Click on the above image to enlarge).

HAPPY WEASELS:
A CONVERSATION WITH
THE REARRANGEMENTS'
(AND MUTANTS ALUMNUS)
PASADENA
By Michael McDowell
There were no two ways about it. The protracted aesthetic slump in which mainstream music found itself throughout the early to mid 1970s set the stage out of necessity for a rescue mission of epic proportions.

To that effect, with the advent of the so-called punk / new wave movement in the mid to late 1970s, there was once again hope for the future of music. As a result, regional scenes sprang up across the country in short order. 

The greater Detroit, Michigan area was no exception. Independent releases were the order of the day, supported by a flourishing retail market. Blitz Magazine was there in the thick of it all, covering these and other bands of similar intent with each succeeding issue.

Before long, front runners began to emerge. Among them were the Romantics, the Ivories, Cinecyde, the Reruns, Flirt, the Rushlow King Combo and the Mutants.  

Of those bands, the Mutants in particular drew attention for their unique brand of humor. Comprised of lead vocalist Art Lyzak, lead guitarist Tom Morwatts, guitarist / keyboard man Patrick "Pasadena" Supina, bassist John Kordosh and drummer Steve Sortor, the Mutants brought their trademark cavalier approach to such acclaimed singles as So American and I Say Yeah, both for their FTM label. In 1980, So American was included in Blitz Magazine's once per decade Blitz Awards as one of the Best Singles of the 1970s. After years of toiling within the club circuit (most notably at Lili's in suburban Hamtramck), the Mutants went on hiatus in 1985. 

After a promising reunion in 1996, the Mutants again went their separate ways. Lead vocalist Lyzak subsequently relocated to Southern California, while Pasadena remained in the Detroit area to chart his future musical course. Sadly, Morwatts, Kordosh and Sortor are all deceased. 

"After the Mutants reunion, my son Jeff and I ended up playing in 1999 and 2000 with a reformed Elvis Hitler", said Pasadena.

"I played bass and Jeff played drums. He was eighteen at the time. It was just a three piece, with Jim Leedy on guitar and vocals. 

"It kind of happened by accident. We ended up working for the same company and just ran into each other. Neither of us were doing anything at the time. So with both of us having the itch to play, that new lineup of Elvis Hitler came together".

However, by definition, such a venture was destined to be short lived.

"After that broke up in late 2000, I really had no definite plans", said Pasadena.

"But I knew that I still wanted to play". 

Thankfully, good things come to those who wait. Especially in a musical community where collaborations are an ongoing and frequent attribute.

"Several years later, my current drummer, Jim Bialk and I ended up rehearsing on and off with Rich Cole and Wally Palmar from the Romantics", said Pasadena.

"While we weren't doing any original songs, we were picking pretty obscure tunes that you don't hear anyone else playing. Album cuts by bands like the Small Faces, the Pretty Things, the Move and the Blues Magoos; stuff that we all liked.

"It looked like we might play an occasional local gig when the Romantics had time off. But nothing ever came of it. After that, Jim and I tried to decide what we were going to do".

Once again, the collaboration factor came into play.

One of the many promising bands that sprang up in the latter stages of the area's forward momentum in the late 1970s was an ambitious quintet called the Plugs. The band, which was also covered at length in Blitz Magazine at the time, released an acclaimed single, I Like My Dad

The Plugs were led by Jeff Shoemaker, who concurrently worked at a record store in suburban Royal Oak. That vantage point gave Shoemaker an inside track to both the burgeoning collectors market, as well as direct access to the many area musicians who frequented the store.

"Jeff Shoemaker was still on Facebook at the time", said Pasadena.

"So out of the blue I asked him if he wanted to get a band together. He said he was interested. So he started coming over. We were just going over Mutants and Plugs songs, with Jeff playing bass".

But once again, an unexpected blessing availed itself. This time it came via the celebration of an annual area gala of sorts. 

"One Paczki day in Hamtramck, Gerry (Paz), who is now our bass player, approached me while we were listening to the Polish Muslims", said Pasadena.

"I didn't know him, but he knew me. He said that one of his old bands, the Weasels had opened for the Mutants more than once. 

"I had no memory of that! But I asked him if he was interested in playing bass with us. He said he was".

Happily, Paz's inclusion came full circle with an endorsement from Shoemaker.

"I was amazed that Jeff and Gerry knew each other from years earlier", said Pasadena.

"So now Gerry was on bass and Jeff Shoemaker switched to rhythm guitar. We played three shows as the Blackouts, performing Mutants and Plugs songs. 

"We even did a gig on Mackinac Island, playing three sets a night for two nights. So we included a lot of the covers that Jim and I had rehearsed with Rich and Wally".

But after a season of reliving one another's individual triumphs, it inevitably became obvious to all concerned that a vision with an eye towards establishing and building upon a collective legacy was a more feasible goal.

"After playing another gig at the Loving Touch with See Dick Run, still playing Mutants and Plugs songs, we decided that we wanted to be our own band and start writing new material", said Pasadena.

"Jeff Shoemaker had been writing all along. So we had material to work with right away".

To be certain, the resultant At Sixes And Sevens is one of the highlights of the decade to date. Comprised of eleven solid originals, the album is the first release under the band's current name, the Rearrangements. 

"One song on our album called Tears In The Ocean was a Shoemaker song that he wrote for his '90s band, the Figure Four", said Pasadena.

"They played it almost as a soft ballad. Jeff asked if we wanted to use it, since it was his song. I told him that if we do it, we are going to have to rock it up a little.

"So I came up with the arrangement that is on the album. In fact, a lot of the songs that Shoemaker brought to rehearsal I helped rearrange. It's no coincidence that the band is called the Rearrangements!"

Their name may indeed be the Rearrangements. But Pasadena's notion of rocking it up is as much of a factor in accomplishing that goal. Indeed, the Mutants and the Plugs both rose to prominence at a time when albums rife with full bodied arrangements with solid execution (augmented by sympathetic production) were an integral part of the proceedings. The results could be found in everything from the works of Huey Lewis And The News and the Producers to the Plimsouls and the Tremblers. 

And while incorporating such attributes into a given work might have meant that an endeavor such as the one at hand may well have been lost in the shuffle at that time, in the modern day setting, such an approach is indeed a breath of fresh air. As such, At Sixes And Sevens follows suit, with strong original material that draws from a rich variety of inspirations. 

"We all have a love of good pop songs, and I think that shows on the album", said Pasadena.

"We also all love the '60s style garage band Nuggets type tunes. I think we captured that pretty well on the two songs where I play the Vox organ on the album". 

The band also received an unexpected and most welcome profile boost from the early 2020 release of the Hold Fast label's two LP compilation, End Of The Night (1976 - 1983), which features rare and previously unreleased tracks by the Mutants, Plugs, Cinecyde, Ivories, Flirt, Reruns, Seatbelts, Ramrods and other area front runners from the dawn of the movement. That limited edition collection was a U.K. Record Store Day exclusive in April 2020, and an instant sellout in its initial pressing.

"Of course there was going to be some high energy, guitar dominated Detroit style rock and roll", said Pasadena.

"I think Invincible gets that point across. To me, it sounds like something that would have fit on the MC5's High Time album or the Stooges' Raw Power album".

Thankfully, songwriting adheres to democratic principles within the band, thereby allowing for the creative juices to flow from all concerned. In the process, the need to rely upon previous individual triumphs is eased somewhat, although not eliminated altogether.

"(Jeff Shoemaker composed) everything except Snow Files and I Just Wanna Be Seen", said Pasadena.

"Jeff and I co-wrote Wish That Girl Was Mine"

Elsewhere on the album, the notion of a collaboration takes on a slightly different approach.

"The song on the album called Ghost is interesting. The Plugs used to do a cover of the Mutants' song, Machine, using that music, but keeping the Amore lyrics", said Pasadena, in reference to Kordosh's John Amore stage persona. 

"To me, that one sounds like it could have come from an early Alice Cooper album. Black Ju Ju (from 1971's Love It To Death) comes to mind".

For Pasadena, a significant portion of the gratification came from the recording process itself.

"The new songs are all in the same vein", he said.

"Some pop, some garage and some Detroit style high energy rock and roll. I've never had so much fun with a band. I think the chemistry shows on this first album".

To be certain, some of that chemistry is borne of their adherence to the aforementioned democratic process.

"Jeff does sing lead vocals most of the time", Pasadena affirmed.

"But the songs that Gerry writes, he sings lead. I simply wrote music for some of the songs, and Gerry or Jeff will write lyrics. For instance, I wrote the music for Snow Flies, and Gerry wrote the lyrics".

Inevitably, the material occasionally takes on a personal perspective.

"The song is actually about some difficult times that his daughter was going through", said Pasadena.

"But she persevered and came out of it in great shape. 

"With the new songs, it's the same. The ones I wrote, I simply came up with the music and riffs. Jeff Shoemaker wrote lyrics. I am really excited about one song called Upside Down World. I think it's a hit single, with a riff that is somewhere between (the Monkees') Last Train To Clarksville and (the Beatles') Paperback Writer."

Like the Monkees and the Beatles, being a self-contained band has worked out quite well for the Rearrangements in the studio.

"On the album, I did the lead guitar work, the Vox Continental organ parts and a few backup vocals", said Pasadena.

"Jeff played rhythm. Gerry played bass and did a lot of the backup vocals. My son Jeff, who is an exceptional drummer, helped with some of the backup vocals and percussion, (including tambourine and castanets)".

In fact, Pasadena kept the process largely a family affair by bringing it full circle in the studio.

"My other son Mike, who was the shredding guitar player in A Wilhelm Scream, engineered and recorded the album", he said.

"He also mixed and produced it. He is a big reason why it sounds so good. The album was recorded in my house".

But while home recording has become the order of the day out of necessity during the pandemic era, the Rearrangements have proven that sonic quality need not be compromised in the process.

"Mike is extremely fussy when it comes to recording", said Pasadena.

"(He does) things like comparing the drum sound over and over after just moving a microphone a half inch closer or father from a particular drum. Same when recording the guitars. Microphone placement has to be just right.

"He also sets up open air mics to get just what he is looking for. The effects on the vocals on some songs and on the guitars were his idea. And he recorded us on his laptop!"

All of which makes At Sixes And Sevens a most promising debut.

"We are all really happy with the way that the album turned out", said Pasadena.

"We plan on putting Mike back to work soon to record the new material".

In fact, with their debut barely realized at this point, the Rearrangements have already taken decisive steps towards the completion of their follow up effort.

"Rehearsals continue, and we now have several new songs fully realized for the next album", said Pasadena. 

"There are more written that just have to be rehearsed".

Albeit with one key difference from their first outing.

"Whereas Jeff wrote most of the songs on the first album, the new material is more spread out among Jeff, Gerry and myself. I wrote three of the new ones, Gerry wrote two, and Jeff wrote two of the ones that we now have rehearsed".

All of which, to draw from a maxim that is frequently invoked within Gospel music circles, makes for a joyful noise.

"The band is stoked (with) the new songs we are rehearsing", said Pasadena.

"One of them would have fit on the first or second Monkees album. But I am getting ahead of myself. I am having a blast with this band! And so are the other guys". 

Given the principles involved, all of those elements should combine to make a democratically executed musical celebration. And that, in the words of the Mutants, is a tried and true method for success that is, among other things, So American.



Saturday

BITS AND PIECES - NEWS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS By Michael McDowell


TAKE EACH DAY AS IT COMES: JERRY BURGAN, co-founder and guitarist for the legendary folk rock band, the WE FIVE succumbed to the effects of a stroke in late March.  Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell remembers his remarkable career below.  (Click on above image to enlarge).

"OKAY, SEE YOU":
KIM'S CONVENIENCE FAREWELL
DRAWS FIRE FROM CAST AND FAITHFUL

Be careful what you love. It may well leave you.

That perhaps not so cynical observation seems to have applied in abundance to network television programming over the past year. 

In early 2020, Blitz Magazine published its once per decade Blitz Awards, saluting the best of the decade of the 2010s. In the Best Network Television Series category, a number of acclaimed programs that were still in production at that time have nonetheless since been canceled, including Frankie Drake Mysteries, Stumptown, Superstore, and NBC's utterly stupendous Perfect Harmony, with the CW's beloved Supergirl and CBS' game changing sitcom/drama hybrid, Mom scheduled to follow suit later this year.

But while such developments seem to fly in the face of each series' strong viewer support, perhaps no such finale has come with greater surprise than that of CBC's magnificent Kim's Convenience. Starring Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Toronto, Ontario convenience store proprietor Appa Kim, Jean Yoon as his wife Umma Kim, Andrea Bang as their aspiring photographer daughter Janet, Simu Liu as their estranged son Jung, Andrew Phung as Jung's friend and Handy Rental Car exec, Arnold "Kimchee" Han, and Nicole Power as Jung and Kimchee's boss, Shannon Ross, Kim's Convenience debuted in 2016. Despite ongoing accolades throughout its five season run for its warmer than average portrayal of the Kim's family's adventures, CBC announced that the show was ceasing production due to the decision of its creators, Ins Choi and Kevin White to, "pursue other projects".

But reaction from the cast itself has inferred that such a cut and dry finale may not exactly have been the case.

In an appearance on CBC's nightly news program, The National on 13 April following the airing of the series finale earlier that evening, Lee said he was "blindsided" by the decision.

"They are my family", said Lee of his fellow cast members, underscoring the point via both emotional testimony and by wearing a cap that sported the word, "Bitter".

Replacements were initially sought for Choi and White. However, it was ultimately decided that production could not continue at optimum level without their input. 

As such, Appa Kim's trademark benediction of, "Okay, see you" will have to sustain the faithful, as the beloved series continues for the time being in reruns. Meanwhile, a salute to one of the most magnificent casts in sitcom history: Job well done.

TAKE EACH DAY AS IT COMES:
REMEMBERING WE FIVE
CO-FOUNDER JERRY BURGAN

Small World, isn't it?

That catch phrase, while invoked in a variety of capacities over the decades, also set the stage for an extraordinary musical legacy. Originally brought to center stage via a version by Johnny Mathis on Columbia, Small World ended up being covered as a B-side in 1965 by an ambitious San Francisco-based quintet, the We Five. With its sparse acoustic guitar backing and otherworldly vocal harmonies, the We Five rendition of Small World suggested great things to come.

And come they did. The A-side of that single, You Were On My Mind was one of the best new releases of that most crucial year, and ultimately earned a respectful cover version by the late Crispian Saint Peters on Jamie.

Before 1965 drew to a close, We Five returned with one of the earliest versions of Let's Get Together, which became an anthem of sorts before decade's end via renditions by the Youngbloods, the Dave Clark Five and others. Their momentum continued unabated at A&M with such superb releases as There Stands The Door and You Let A Love Burn Out.

While the mainstream media often directed much of its focus on the band towards lead vocalist Beverly Bivens and band co-founder Mike Stewart (brother of the Kingston Trio's John Stewart), it was guitarist Jerry Burgan who kept the band going in spite of numerous personnel changes. The group eventually signed with the late Ed Cobb's AVI Records, releasing the acclaimed Take Each Day As It Comes album for the label in 1977.

Under Burgan's oversight, We Five persevered into the twenty first century. Amidst the occasional release, Burgan also completed an autobiography in 2014. Around that time, Burgan also discussed a video project proposal with Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell and renowned composer / vocalist and filmmaker Tom Guard, although other pressing projects on the part of all concerned ultimately took precedence.

Burgan reportedly suffered a stroke on 29 March, and passed away the following day. Sadly, now only Beverly Bivens and bassist Pete Fullerton survive from the band's A&M-era line up. Burgan was 76.

NOT SO SLIGHT RETURN:
UNRELEASED JIMI HEDRIX
EXPERIENCE LIVE ALBUM

Few artists have been so prolific that their catalogs continue to provide a wealth of unreleased material decades after their passing.

To wit, following his death in a Tennessee plane crash on 31 July 1964, the legacy of country music great Jim Reeves continued to enjoy a steady string of new releases into the 1980s. Likewise, jazz visionary John Coltrane (who passed away in 1967) was the subject of three new albums' worth of previously unreleased material within the past few years. And the discovery of a treasure trove of long lost material in the early 2000s literally doubled the catalog of country music's absolute master, Hank Williams (who died in January 1953) overnight.

Likewise, a half century after his September 1970 passing, guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix is the subject of a heretofore unavailable live album. Scheduled for 20 November release, The Jimi Hendrix Experience Live In Maui also features bassist Billy Cox and Riot Squad alumnus, original Experience drummer and avid record collector and musicologist, Mitch Mitchell. 

Filmed in tandem with the production of the motion picture, Rainbow Bridge, much of the material that comprises the two live sets slated for inclusion here was not featured in the film itself. Of remarkably high audio and video quality, these two performances find the Jimi Hendrix Experience offering first rate renditions of such band landmarks as Fire, Foxy Lady, Purple Haze, Spanish Castle Magic and Stone Free, as well as such relatively newer material as Dolly Dagger and In From The Storm.

Arrangements for the band's appearance in the film were at best haphazard. The trio had a schedule conflict in place with a concert on the first of August 1970 in Honolulu. Ultimately, only seventeen minutes of concert footage of relatively marginal audio quality made the final cut in the Rainbow Bridge film, with drummer Mitch Mitchell having to re-cut his drum parts in the Electric Lady Studios in 1971 in order for the material to be suitable for inclusion.

Suffice to say that the project at hand is at last up to the Jimi Hendrix Experience's usual impeccable standards. Experience Hendrix and Legacy Music will be releasing Live In Maui as a blu-ray DVD concert film, with the audio versions available in both a three CD set and a two album vinyl set, complete with an extensive essay and unreleased photos.

WILD MAN:
THE SHADOWS OF KNIGHT
 DROP NEW SINGLE

It has been suggested to never send in a rookie to do a veteran's job. 

This is not to say that an aspiring artist is bereft of merit. Quite the contrary. Many a new artist has come along throughout the years and managed to hit a home run with their first at bat in the recording studio.

Nonetheless, few musical experiences are more satisfying than to hear new material from seasoned greats who remain at the top of their art. And in one particular recent instance, it was a relative newcomer who played an integral part in bringing these veteran artists' latest musical vision to fruition.

Such is the case with first generation garage rock giants, the Shadows Of Knight. The Chicago-based band recorded two superb albums in 1966 for Atlantic's affiliate Dunwich label, Gloria and Back Door Men. Their mastery of the genre also served them well through a series of classic singles for the label, including Oh Yeah (and its utterly stupendous flip side, Light Bulb Blues), Bad Little Woman, I'm Gonna Make You Mine, and their early 1966 signature single, their sublime and definitive version of the monster classic, Gloria.

Following his successful run with the Shadows Of Knight, rhythm guitarist Jerry McGeorge went on to spend a season with H.P. Lovecraft during the latter band's tenure with Mercury's affiliate Philips label. Meanwhile, lead vocalist Jim Sohns continued to front various incarnations of the Shadows Of Knight through a series of acclaimed singles for the Team, Atco and Super K labels. Sadly, original Shadows Of Knight lead guitarist Joe Kelley is deceased, having succumbed to lung cancer in September 2013.

Happily, band co-founders McGeorge and Sohns have returned to the studio with new lead guitarist, Michael Weber to record an all new single, Wild Man. Co-authored by Sohns and Weber, Wild Man marks Sohns' and McGeorge's first studio collaboration since 1967. 

For their current project, Weber is one relative rookie who definitely got the job done, having also contributed organ, bass and drums to the Wild Man sessions. The Wild Man video also features action shots of the original band during their heyday with Dunwich. It is hoped that a new album will follow shortly.


Wednesday

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (REISSUES AND ANTHOLOGIES) By Michael McDowell



WATCH YOUR STEP: The music of the greater San Diego area that was produced throughout rock and roll's most fertile period at last gets its due via this magnificent Relampago-go label anthology, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 - 1973.  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look below at this landmark collection. (Click on above image to enlarge).

 CD AND LP REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES
(REVIEWS ARE POSTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY ARTIST)

ROCK N' ROLL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS - 
The Catholic Girls (JSP)

Among other things, the study of the legacy of the Catholic Girls is a study of the reassessment of priorities.

Prior to the advent of the so-called punk / new wave era in the mid - 1970s, the belief of many a band and solo artist was that their success was best reflected in statistics, as well as being embraced by the mainstream media. Such optimistic (yet ultimately futile) reasoning was articulated throughout the decades via such memorable singles as Bobby Bare's The All American Boy, the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star and the Raspberries' Overnight Sensation.

Thankfully, the rise of the so-called independent music press (of which Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People remains the lone still-active publication) in tandem with the aforementioned punk / new wave movement called out such aspirations for what they ultimately were: an exercise in futility. But given the short shelf life afforded the vast majority of those who managed to crack that glass ceiling, the long term loyalty afforded the proven artist in the indie press was a welcome relief for those who opted to stay the course for the long run.

In the case of New Jersey's Catholic Girls, that reality check came about in short order. Their professed musical mission statement was countered on all fronts at the onset by the mainstream media over concerns regarding periphery that the band had not even taken into consideration, let alone incorporated into their vision. 

Thankfully and true to form, various factions within the indie press contingent came forward and welcomed the Catholic Girls with open arms. The band reciprocated by amassing a recorded legacy that consistently showcased the strength of their material via the consistent incorporation of a variety of attributes into the mix.

Put another way, the Catholic Girls did not consistently defer to the basics of songwriting (a solid verse, chorus and bridge template) to sustain their momentum. Like the late visionary genius Michael Holliday (who amassed an impressive legacy via his years ahead of its time technical acumen, augmented by a deliberately understated delivery that invariably drew the listener into the proceedings), the Catholic Girls often opted to tell their tale in near stream of consciousness manner, deferring to the consistence of the high drama element in their delivery (which worked particularly well in live settings) to sustain their momentum. It was an attribute that was also found in the works of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Luxury (particularly in their acclaimed 1979 Green Hearts single), and one that has long been used with resounding success in network television's so-called daytime serials. 

It is the best of the Catholic Girls' accomplishments in that respect that are gathered in this career spanning two CD collection. Compiled and remixed by Vincent Mazella and John H. Haley (who also provided a detailed account of the sessions in the accompanying booklet), the proceedings herein are equally divided between previously available material and various alternate takes and heretofore unissued demos. 

Within the latter group, there are signs of individuality from the onset. To wit, Private School incorporates snippets of landmark moments from earlier works by the Shangri-Las, Whyte Boots and Pleasure Seekers into a high drama setting that set a precedent for later works by the duly inspired On The Air and Dragster Barbie. In turn, Summer Boy (Summer Vacation) takes a Gene Pitney-like crescendo approach to paint a vivid portrait of a familiar yet captivating study in pathos. The brief instrumental workout in the final moments underscores the point quite succinctly. 

Meanwhile, amongst other things, the second disc celebrates the band's debut album for MCA. Subsequent studio sweetening was kept to a minimum, as the original 1982 sessions were well recorded to begin with, in keeping with MCA's unwavering standards in that respect. To be certain, the material in Catholic Girls was designed to be best appreciated in a live setting. The band took decisive steps to bring that concept to fruition at the time via various appearances with the Kinks, Martha And The Vandellas' Martha Reeves, Tom Petty and others. 

Ongoing support from Long Beach's KNAC-FM and Pasadena's KROQ-FM also helped, as did consistent accolades in the indie press. Nonetheless, the band and MCA eventually parted ways. Undaunted, the Catholic Girls pressed ahead, albeit despite occasional personnel changes. To that effect, lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Gail Petersen, lead guitarist Roxy Andersen, bassist Joanne Holland and drummers Kyd Ellsworth and Doreen Holmes have been among the most consistent presences within their ranks. Their subsequent endeavors are well represented in Disc One via the inclusion of such memorable fare as If No One Fell In Love and It Doesn't Become You.

As a testament to their resilience, the Catholic Girls have persevered to the present day. And with hope currently springing eternal for an eventual return to live appearances, the time was most fortuitous to revisit their remarkable catalog in a commemorative manner. Most assuredly, this Rock N' Roll School For Girls has produced ongoing results on a grad school level.

THE LOST BERLIN TAPES  -
Ella Fitzgerald (Verve)

"That was an attention getter".

The late Jackie Gleason invoked that prototypical expression of understatement while apprehending a suspect in his role as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the classic 1977 motion picture, Smokey And The Bandit. To underscore his displeasure, Sheriff Justice administered the proverbial kick in the pants to the perpetrator. 

That said, displeasure in and of itself is most assuredly the antithesis of the proceedings at hand. Even so, the inevitable reaction is as attention getting as would be Gleason's method of discipline. 

Founded in 1956 by Norman Granz to provide a consistent label home for the extraordinary artist showcased here, Verve Records went on to become one of music's leading lights in short order. Among the top drawer artists to have been a part of the Verve roster were Rick Nelson, Cal Tjader, Wes Montgomery, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, the Righteous Brothers, Walter Wanderley, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, the Mothers Of Invention, Dizzy Gillespie, the Velvet Underground and Hank Williams Junior in his Bocephus alter ego, as well as such visionaries as the Hombres, Janis Ian, the Blues Project, the Paupers and Friend And Lover on the company's affiliate Verve Forecast label. 

In her earlier recordings for Decca, Newport News, Virginia native Ella Jane Fitzgerald was all over the musical map. Her vast and vaunted catalog includes collaborations with such fellow visionaries as the Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Louis Jordan, Buddy Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Chick Webb, Buddy Rich, the Delta Rhythm Boys, Eddie Heywood and others. 

In the majority of those projects, all concerned inspired one another to greater heights. Not surprisingly, the result was a disproportionately higher percentage of top drawer material. 

However, upon occasion (primarily during solo projects during her tenure with Decca), Fitzgerald would opt for the so-called mood piece. And while such ventures were invariably well executed, they did to some listeners lean towards the anti-climactic, especially to those who favored her more spirited and upbeat approach.

Which is exactly why The Lost Berlin Tapes is indeed an attention getter.

Recorded at the Sportpalast on 25 March 1962, The Lost Berlin Tapes stems from high quality stereo recordings found in Grantz's extensive archives. Herein, Fitzgerald is accompanied by pianist Paul Smith, bassist Wilfred Middlebrooks and drummer Stan Levey, all of whom inspire her to unprecedented heights.

Indeed, from the opening rendition of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' 1935 Irving Berlin-penned Cheek To Cheek, Fitzgerald absolutely soars like never before. She gains even greater momentum via her interpretation of Matt Monro's My Kind Of Girl as He's My Kind Of Boy, invoking everyone from Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte to Perry Como, Count Basie and Billy Eckstine in the process. 

The momentum continues to build as Fitzgerald glides decisively through the likes of Benny Goodman's Jersey Bounce, Ray Charles' Hallelujah I Love Her (Him) So, and Gordon MacRae's Cole Porter-penned C'est Magnifique. She even invokes a moment of self-realization and good natured self-depreciation during the prerequisite ballad arrangement of George Gershwin's often-covered Summertime.

By the set's end, as Fitzgerald tears into the Bobby Darin / Louis Armstrong standard, Mack The Knife, the audience is literally eating out of her hand and responds with near deafening applause. As such, the set closer, Joe Turner's Wee Baby Blues becomes as much a bid from the stage for a return to decorum among the audience members to allow for a gracious and timely exit as it does a showcase for genre diversity. 

Although she was blessed with a remarkable career that spanned nearly six decades, Fitzgerald sadly succumbed to complications from diabetes in June 1996. However, as a fitting testimony to her God given abilities, The Lost Berlin Tapes may well take its place in the upper echelons of her overall recorded legacy. And that, to be certain, is an attention getter of the highest order.

COSMIC PARTNERS:
THE McCABE's TAPES - 
Michael Nesmith And Red Rhodes (7a)

Orville J. "Red" Rhodes was definitely a man whose reputation had preceded him.

In the early 1980s, Blitz Magazine paid a visit to Rhodes at his Hollywood, California-based guitar shop. In the wake of the dissolution of the First National Band several years earlier, Rhodes had opted to apply his considerable acumen as a steel guitar virtuoso and all around master of stringed instruments at large to a different career path.

Rhodes had established a formidable reputation via a series of solo recordings for the vaunted Crown and Somerset labels, followed by an acclaimed live album (recorded at the Palomino in North Hollywood) with the Detours for Era Records' affiliate Happy Tiger label. In 1969, he reached his career pinnacle by cofounding the supergroup, the First National Band with ace drummer John Ware, Monkees lead guitarist and resident visionary Michael Nesmith, and bassist extraordinaire John London (who had been an integral part of the legendary Lewis And Clarke Expedition, whose 1967 signature single. I Feel Good (I Feel Bad) featured Nesmith on backing vocals). 

Blitz Magazine had in its archives at the time a Gibson Les Paul copy electric guitar, which was in rather poor condition. However, the general consensus in the Southern California music community was that if any such instrument could be restored to fighting shape, Rhodes was the man for the job. With that, the somewhat battered guitar was brought to him for consideration.

"Sure, I'll see what I can do", Rhodes said, with a slight grin suggesting amusement at the notion of that much interest in a knock off model.

"I'll give you a call when it's ready".

True to his word, Rhodes phoned several days later to advise that the job had been completed. And in keeping with his legacy, that Les Paul copy model had been upgraded to the degree that it could have held its own with a Gibson original.

At that point, in addition to thanking him for his extraordinary work, Blitz Magazine took the opportunity to compliment Rhodes on his formidable legacy with the First National Band. The quartet's early 1970s albums and singles for RCA Victor pretty much set the standard of excellence in the country rock genre, with their 1970 Magnetic South album finishing in second place (behind Dave Edmunds' 1977 Get It! album for Swan Song) in Blitz Magazine's picks for Best Albums Of The 1970s.

With those words of praise, a slight smile of both pleasure and gratitude came over Rhodes' face.

"Come on back here", Rhodes said, gesturing towards the back room of his shop.

"I think you'll like this"

.In that back room was a well used steel guitar. Rhodes sat down in front of it and proceeded to play a magnificent version of The Crippled Lion from the Magnetic South album that brought his visitor to the brink of tears. 

Such is the power of absolute masters in their element.

As such, while it took the collective and considerable musical muscle of Ware, London and Rhodes to bring Nesmith's extraordinary musical vision to fruition, the notion of reproducing any of it in a live setting would have been inconceivable without at least the presence of Rhodes. 

All of which is evidenced in abundance in the 7a label's Cosmic Partners. Recorded live on 18 August 1973 at the Santa Monica-based McCabe's Guitar Shop (whose most recent musical guests include the legendary and beloved composer and vocalist, Evie Sands), Cosmic Partners is a rare intimate glimpse of giants in transition. By that time, the First National Band and spinoff Second National Band had run their respective courses, with Nesmith and Rhodes persevering as a duo for RCA Victor for a brief season. 

In place of Ware and London for this live date were bassist Colin Cameron and drummer Danny Lane, who, while supremely competent in those roles, nonetheless astutely held back here just enough to let the light duly shine on Nesmith and Rhodes. And shine they did, in a set that offered a sublime mix of the highlights of the First and Second National Band's brief but most formidable legacy.

Interspersed among Nesmith's trademark tales of the musician's life are some of the most compelling examples of the genre ever committed to record, from Tomorrow And Me, The Crippled Lion and Some Of Shelley's Blues (which had been covered by both the Stone Poneys and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to the classic singles Silver Moon, Joanne and Propinquity (which had been a staple of the live set of veteran rockers the Chantays for much of the 1980s). To their considerable credit, Nesmith and Rhodes also offered up that evening a spot on rendition of their sublime cover of Bobby Garrett's Rose City Chimes, which had initially been issued as the B-side of the First National Band's Little Red Rider at the end of 1969.

Sadly, only Michael Nesmith and John Ware survive from that classic First National Band line up. Red Rhodes passed away in August 1995 at age 65, while the great John London died in his home state of Texas in February 2000 at age 58. 

With John Ware retired from live performances, Nesmith has in recent years has revisited his First National Band legacy with a revised group that he calls the First National Band Redux. He and beloved drummer Micky Dolenz likewise continue to soldier on as the Monkees in the wake of the tragic passing of band co-founder and bassist/keyboardsman Peter Tork in February 2019, with a series of live dates scheduled throughout 2020. The Monkees of course also turned out one of the twenty-first century's definitive masterpieces to date with their 2016 fiftieth anniversary album, Good Times! for Rhino Records.

And in keeping with their mission statement of releasing the finest of Monkees solo and related projects, Cosmic Partners comes with a highly detailed 24 page book, as well as being available as a picture disc in the vinyl album configuration. And, in the words of one of the standout tracks from the First National Band's Loose Salute album, Thanx For The Ride.

PSYCHEDELIC STATES:
WEST VIRGINIA IN THE '60s -
Various Artists 
(Gear Fab)

Sometimes it's all a matter of perspective.

With respect to the state of West Virginia, how a visitor approaches the state may well have a direct impact on how that visitor ultimately perceives it. For example, the area known as the state's Northern Panhandle is a relatively narrow stretch of land, which measures approximately thirteen miles from west to east. It can be accessed by car via Ohio from the west, or by Pennsylvania from the east. 

During that thirteen mile stretch, the visitor will encounter multiple truck stops. Among the most prominent attractions there is the acclaimed Eat And Park restaurant chain. 

But the landmark of note within that relatively brief drive is the city of Wheeling. The seat of Ohio County, Wheeling is known primarily for the West Virginia Independence Hall, which presently serves as a museum of early American history. The city also boasts a number of above average antique shops and thrift stores.

However, if a brief journey through the Northern Panhandle becomes the visitor's total experience of the state of West Virginia, they will have based their assessment solely on a visit to an area that comprises less than five percent of the state overall. 

Or to paraphrase the late Ellas "Bo Diddley" McDaniel, sometimes you can't judge a pan by its handle.

In the latest installment of his acclaimed Psychedelic States CD reissue series, Gear Fab Records founder and CEO Roger Maglio underscores that analogy quite decisively. West Virginia In The '60s features twenty-nine tracks which irrefutably demonstrate that the state could more than hold its own in the first generation garage rock movement with the best of them.

To underscore the point, in the project's sizeable and painstakingly detailed accompanying essay, Maglio within the first sentence refers to West Virginia as the Great Mountain State. The reasoning behind the emphasis becomes apparent in short order, with the biographical accounts of each artist denoting a level of vision and originality that supersedes the presumptive opinion.

To be certain, many an exponent of first generation garage rock has relied upon familiar cover material. In some respects, that proved to be counter productive to the movement at large. 

However, the artists herein show themselves to be worthy of accolades by instead contributing strong and reasonably diverse original material. Witness Disappointed In You by Al's Dynamics, or the Mojos' haunting What She's Done (with high drama atmosphere that was seemingly inspired by Bobby Jameson's I'm Lonely). In turn, the Plastic Menagerie draws from period devices (the "watery" Leslie sound) for maximum effect in Hold Your Baby Close. 

Conversely, the Evil Enc. Group's Hey You and the Satisfied Minds' I Can't Take It stick to the basics, with optimum results. Strong showings are also made by the Mysterians (Walking Home), the Scarlets (If I Had A Girl) and the Blue Crowd's Barry McGuire-ish Need A Friend.

But as further testimony to some of the artists' resolve to strive for originality, several of the tracks herein take decisive leaps forward into sparsely charted territory. The Fantastic Emanons do so in tongue in cheek manner with Duh, a unique hybrid of the Blendells' La La and the Driving Stupid's Horror Asparagus Stories.

Meanwhile, the Sabres' Need Your Lovin' sports a strong horn chart with pertinent changes in dynamics, a la the Mauds. J.T. And The Trolls' I Can't Believe It takes that concept a step further with a decisive Northern Soul flavor, while Royal (also known as the Royals Band) make a decisive leap forward into funk with their stereo cut, Star Goddess.

The one group herein to venture into both realms with equal success are the Long Brothers. Their Lonely Time evokes the New Colony Six's I Lie Awake (complete with horn charts), while its flip side, Dream Girl falls somewhere in between Sonny And Cher's Little Man and the Music Explosion's Little Black Egg.

Interestingly enough, with one exception (the aforementioned Long Brothers, whose pair of contributions here were originally released on Jubilee Records), each and every single in this gem of a collection initially appeared on the most basic of indie labels, which typifies the spirit of the genre at its best. Not that either option irrefutably factors into the outcome of the respective performances. But it does reiterate that each of these bands opted to not be deterred by their seeming geographic isolation. 

Rather, all concerned used their circumstances to strive for originality and delivered solidly on their own terms in the process. Perhaps the Flys' September 1966 Myskatonic label single defined the collective mission statement best: Be What You Is.

LOOK OUT!
THE SAN DIEGO SCENE 1958 - 1973 --
Various Artists 
(Relampago-go)

Curiously, one issue that musical developments have in common in the states of California and Michigan is a peripheral one: geography.

Throughout each state, various genres came to fruition and were celebrated accordingly within their respective home bases. In the case of Michigan, much of that was due to the liability of provincialism, in which undue emphasis is placed on a perceived "home town" focal point. Almost invariably, that relegates the likes of musical merit to secondary concern. 

Nonetheless, three highly productive scenes developed there during rock and roll's most fertile and creative period. In the western part of Michigan's lower peninsula, such first generation garage rock greats as the Kingtones, the Sheffields, Me And Dem Guys, the Five Emprees and the Quests made their mark decisively. 

Meanwhile, to the Northeast in the midsection of the lower peninsula (an area that encompasses Bay City, Saginaw and the surrounding communities, including Flint), the Bossmen, the Cherry Slush, Question Mark And The Mysterians and Terry Knight And The Pack all joined forces to take first generation garage rock to the next level. All but the Cherry Slush (who were recruited by the Chicago-based USA label) found a sympathetic home at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Cameo / Parkway family of labels, which at the time, under the oversight of Neil Bogart in terms of artist development became one of the world's front runners in that capacity.

And to the south, greater Detroit was showcasing what was arguably first generation garage rock's most productive movement ever. The wealth of top drawer protagonists of the movement speaks for itself: Bob Seger And The Last Heard, the Rationals, the Unrelated Segments, the Tidal Waves, Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, the Underdogs, the Woolies, the Human Beings, the Young Men, the Scot Richard Case, Tim Tam And The Turn-Ons, the Thyme, the Shy Guys, the Pleasure Seekers, the Capreez, the Torquays, the Lazy Eggs and the Wanted, to name but a few. The concurrent quantum leaps being made there in Northern Soul via the Motown empire and such forward thinking labels as Revilot, Golden World, Ric-Tic and Groovesville served to make a phenomenal movement even more so.

However, as evidence of the aforementioned liability of provincialism, these three musical movements operated largely independently of one another, despite being separated by at most 150 miles. As such, artists who flourished within their home bases were often unknown just a two hour drive up the road. Not surprisingly, the attention spans of the rank and file were short lived, as their attention was eventually diverted by whatever "next big things" would assuage their jingoistic leanings.

Conversely, in California, the sheer vast size of the state enabled three individual movements to grow and flourish, while the proximity of the entertainment industry afforded all concerned the prerequisite exposure on a national and international level. 

The Bay Area earned the lion's share of attention through such venues as the late Tom Donahue's Autumn label, the recording home of the Vejtables, the Tikis (later Harpers Bizarre), the Mojo Men and the Beau Brummels. In turn, bands such as the Charlatans and the Great Society brought a wealth of diverse inspirations into the mix, paving the way for the over the top game changing success of Big Brother And The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and others. 

And a five hour drive to the south, in the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles continued to lead the way. Artists including Jan And Dean, the Standells, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, Love, the Palace Guard, the Leaves, the Yellow Balloon, the Byrds, the Doors and the Mamas And Papas each contributed exponentially to assure Los Angeles' decisive dominance in that respect. 

Meanwhile, just a two hour drive south of Los Angeles, yet another highly productive musical movement was flourishing. But as was the case with the aforementioned dichotomy concurrently happening in Michigan, it was one that went largely unnoticed in its two counterparts to the north.

Situated near the border with Baja California, San Diego and its suburbs were a home to military bases, a successful manufacturing industry and certainly as much musical talent as that which its northern neighbors boasted. Yet despite the occasional inroads made by John Gummoe's Cascades and the Lyrics (both represented here), it was a development that for all practical purposes was the area's best kept secret.

For the past few decades, Tell-Tale Hearts co-founder and Ugly Things Magazine editor, Mike Stax has been a tireless crusader for his home town cause. Having released several acclaimed projects chronicling the area's musical developments on his own label, he now lends his considerable acumen in that respect to this, the most comprehensive such project to date.

"I just helped out with liner notes, and now distribution", said Stax, with characteristic understatement.

In reality, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973 makes a stronger case for the defense than any other such project to date. While first generation garage rock is represented in copious amounts among the more than two dozen tracks included here, Look Out! also takes into consideration the area's noteworthy developments in rockabilly, R&B and frat rock.

The collection opens with 1958's That Crazy Little House On The Hill. Composed by beloved Federal label era-Platters alumnus and co-author of the Penguins' signature single, Earth Angel, Gaynel Hodge, That Crazy Little House On The Hill made for a most rambunctious outing in the hands of rockabilly great Gene Lamarr and his Blue Flames. It is followed by the Strangers' wonderful 1959 single, The Caterpillar Crawl, best described as a hybrid of John Zacherle's Dinner With Drac and the Chargers' The Large Charge.

From there, the proceedings diversify in short order. Highlights include Ervin "Big Boy" Groves' cryptic 1962 Bucket Of Blood single (which owes more to Gradie O'Neal's Turkey Neck Stretch than either artist may have realized), the Nomads' 1963 James Brown-inspired Let's Do The Freeze, the Imperialites' 1964 take on Richard Berry's Have Love Will Travel (which showcases the piece's inherent Louie, Louie leanings more so than does the version by the Sonics), the Lyrics' Era label garage rocker, So What!! (which stands in marked contrast to their subsequent R&B leanings in their later work for GNP Crescendo), Steve And The Holidays' magnificent (and timeless) lament, Unemployment, Ervin Rucker's 1965 She's Alright (best described as variations on a theme by Bobby Bland), the aforementioned Cascades' lavishly arranged, psych-tinged I Bet You Won't Stay, the Five Pound Grin's wonderfully screwy Not This Time and Anita May And Interstate 5's haunting period piece, When It's Dark.

In keeping with the precedent set by industry front runners Gear Fab, Rare Rockin' Records and other labels which specialize in the reissue of archival material, the National City-based Ralampago-go label has taken decisive steps to assure a first class production. Not just in terms of the cleanest mastering possible (invariably a challenge when dealing with diverse source material), but with detailed session data and copious amounts of rare photographs. True to form, Mike Stax fills in the gaps magnificently via his painstakingly detailed essays on each track.

In the process, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973 makes a significant step forward in terms of bringing the level of recognition for the region's musical accomplishments closer to that long enjoyed by its two counterparts to the north. As the Mixed Grill cautions herein, it's essential. Don't Throw It Away.

THE VISCAYNES AND FRIENDS -
The Viscaynes (Org Music)

More often than not, the term "budget label" has proven to be somewhat of an oxymoron.

From the late 1950s, throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the bargain bins at many a record retail outlet were well stocked with releases on labels such as Spin-O-Rama, Design, Hit, Tops, Sutton, Springboard, Trip, Avon, Crown, Grand Prix, Carnaby, Arc, Coronet and others of similar intent. Generally priced somewhat below the standard $3.98 stereo and $2.98 monaural of the day, the so-called budget albums tended to be overlooked by some who presumed that price and presentation suggested a lower standard.

In reality, the opposite has been very much the case. Generally, the labels covered a wide variety of concepts, formats and artists, from spot on covers of current releases (Hit, Carnaby), to thematic releases inspired by other artists (Design's 1967 Tijuana Christmas by the Border Brass, as well as Spin-O-Rama's over the top brilliant pair of David Seville-influenced albums by Eddie Maynard and the Grasshoppers). Others such as Design and Springboard devoted much of their catalog to Various Artists collections which showcased some of the best in music, with artists such as the Five Satins, Wilbert Harrison, Faye Adams, the Soul Survivors, the Turtles, the Trashmen and the Fendermen among those who were represented in their numerous releases.

One other approach common to many of those labels was to highlight worthwhile material by up and coming artists that was either heretofore unreleased or which had seen limited accessibility on other labels. Early catalog gems by Ronnie Dove, Bobby Rydell, Paul Revere And The Raiders and Tommy Roe were all given a second chance in this manner, as was the Beach Nuts' monster classic, Cycle Annie.

It was through one such project that the work of an extraordinarily gifted Northern California group was allotted the larger scale exposure that their earlier single releases, as great as they were, did not afford them up to that point.

In 1963, Sutton Records issued a multi-artist collection entitled Jumpin! With Pop Hits Of Tomorrow. Issued in both the stereo and monaural configurations, the album featured recent recordings by a promising group of artists that included the Sparkplugs, Dal Cory, the Sims Sisters and Diane Coley. 

As great as each of their contributions were, one track on that album stood so far above the rest that its appearance on a so-called budget label compilation instead of on a hugely successful 45 RPM single simply defied logic.

That track was You're My Only Love, recorded in 1961 and unreleased up to that point. The group responsible for it was the Viscaynes, a supremely talented six member group from Vallejo, California.

Comprised of Frank Arellano, Maria Boldway, Charlene Imhoff, Sylvester Stewart and brothers Charles and Vernon Gebhardt, the Viscaynes met and got together in due course while all were students at Franklin Junior High School and Vallejo High School. The Gebhardt brothers' father was the football coach at a nearby college, and the siblings were active in various sports programs at their high school. The Gebhardts also participated in school plays, as did neighbors Imhoff (who also kept score for the school's baseball team), Arellano and Boldway. 

It was at that point that each learned of one another's passion for singing. At Arellano's behest, they soon joined forces with Stewart, who was a member of the school's basketball program and gave lessons in both tennis and piano to other students. Active as a musician in his church for years at that point, Stewart also brought into the vocal mix a gift for arranging that would serve the Viscaynes well.

The group rehearsed diligently several days per week in the Gebhardts' home. They initially called themselves the Viscounts, but had to acquiesce when the instrumental group of the same name from New Jersey scored with their classic single, Harlem Nocturne on Madison in 1959 (and again in November 1965 with a reissue on Bell's affiliate Amy label). Determined to persevere with a "V" name, the group decided to parlay their affinity for Chevrolet's Biscayne model into a viable solution by becoming the Viscaynes. 

The Viscaynes participated in numerous talent shows, almost invariably taking top honors. An appearance on Dick Stewart's Dance Party television program also earned the group the grand prize, as well as the attention of producer George Motola. Having irrefutably established his acumen in that respect with the legendary Jesse Belvin's 1956 Modern label signature single, Goodnight My Love, Motola took the Viscaynes into the studio and captured their sublime vocal blend on a number of great sides. 

One of them, Yellow Moon took the mission statement of such like minded vocal greats as the Demensions a step further, and became a fair sized success for the VPM label in 1961. A fitting showcase for their impeccable vocal blend, Yellow Moon was nonetheless ultimately eclipsed in impact by its flip side, Uncle Sam Needs You. Backed by the Continental Band, Uncle Sam Needs You was a prototype of things to come (alongside such like minded efforts as Wilbert Harrison's 1960 for the Fury label), expressing as it does with Olympics-inspired humor the group's collective disillusion with the notion of cumpulsory military service. 

As if Yellow Moon and Uncle Sam Needs You were not sufficient enough evidence, the Viscaynes managed to cut several more sides that irrefutably demonstrated their formidable acumen as one of the most adept and capable vocal groups ever. Help Me With My Broken Heart was a Bert Berns-flavored masterpiece of high drama in the Gene McDaniels, Roy Hamilton and Ben E. King vein, while the otherworldly and sublime vocal harmonies of Imhoff and Boldway found in You've Forgotten Me set the stage for what is arguably one of Stewart's most commanding ever lead vocals. Likewise the sublime doo wop ballad A Long Time Alone, which saw release on the Hollywood-based Luke label as a solo Sylvester Stewart single under the name Danny Stewart. 

With a formidable repertoire in place and a consistent demand for live appearances, the stage seemed to be set for large scale acclaim for the Viscaynes. However, high school graduation found them instead going in separate directions, and the group sadly splintered without realizing their full potential. 

True to the tale told in their Uncle Sam Needs You single, Frank Arellano joined the United States Air Force, while the Gebhardt brothers went on to play college football. In fact, outside commitments often took Vernon Gebhardt away from the Viscaynes to such an extent that by 1961, his role in the group was assumed by Mike Stevens.

Meanwhile, Charlene Imhoff married and started a family soon after the group disbanded. Maria Boldway went on to become Miss Solano County and eventually the runner up for the title of Miss California in 1963. Sadly, Boldway is now deceased.

Not surprisingly (given his well developed skills at that point as a five tool player), Sylvester Stewart was recruited by the late Tom Donahue as a staff producer for his vaunted Autumn label, the recording home of such giants as Bobby Freeman, the Mojo Men, the Beau Brummels, the Tikis, the Vejtables, the Great Society, the Chosen Few and Rico And The Ravens. Stewart himself also recorded a pair of singles for Autumn, including Buttermilk under the name Sly. Interestingly enough, Stewart's sister, Rose went on to become musical director for the vocal group Newsong, one of the house vocal groups at Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California. 

For decades, the most accessible touchstone with respect to the Viscaynes' legacy was through the appearance of You're My Only Love on the aforementioned Sutton label compilation. Irrespective of the subsequent accomplishments of the group's alumni, with its utterly stupendous vocal harmonies and soaring lead vocal by Stewart, You're My Only Love eventually became widely recognized as one of vocal harmony's definitive masterpieces.

Thankfully, Org Music's long overdue vinyl release of the aforementioned Viscaynes sides with The Viscaynes And Friends at last makes You're My Only Love and the other essential components of the group's legacy once again available on a wide scale, along with three other George Motola productions by the Precisions and the Individuals. Blessed with a superb essay on the group's history by Rickey Vincent, the cover also sports a fine array of rare group photographs and press clippings.

To be certain, as the catalogs of the so-called budget labels served to underscore, the wealth of music that they and other companies championed is so vast that it is still being unearthed, researched, chronicled and celebrated more than a half century after the fact. And in the case of the Viscaynes, A Long Time Alone coming in terms of recognition will now reap exponential dividends in terms of accolades with this most essential compilation. A solid contender for best reissue of the year.