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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Atack


A couple of years back, when I first wrote about '70s Teen Pop band Child on these pages, I wasn't entirely sure whether brothers Tim & Keith Atack, in their post Child venture Atack, ever recorded a full album as such.  Only known to me at the time were the duo's two single releases "Don't You Believe in Magic" (1981) and "Don't Wind Me Up" (1982).


However, thanks to '70s Teenpop friend Chus, it has now been confirmed that there was indeed a full Atack album issued in 1982.  Tracklisting is as follows:

Side A
Don't Wind Me Up
Time Slipped Away
Maybe I've Been Foolin'
Take 'em Back
Girl it's You
I'm in Danger

Side B
If Only I Could Find A Way
Don't You Believe in Magic
Stay
Why Can't We Talk It Over?
Don't Let The World Run Out of Love
We've Come To Know

Scans of both the cover (above) and back cover (below) also come from Chus.  Many thanks, Chus!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Eric Carmen

 
The lead singer/songwriter for one of the greatest bands of the early '70s, the Raspberries, Eric Carmen went solo in 1975, after what seems to have been a particularly painful break-up within the band.  Having penned - and sung - power pop classics such as "Go All the Way", "I Wanna Be With You", and "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" for his former band, it was abundantly clear that the Cleveland native was no slouch in the singing-songwriting department.  

 
And so, with former Raspberries producer Jimmy Ienner and Clive Davis' newly established Arista Records in his corner, Eric Carmen confidently went out on his own.  And, to make a long story short, his debut self-titled solo album issued in late 1975 is a triumph - a minor pop classic in fact.  The lead-off single, power ballad "All By Myself", quickly hit no. 2 on the U.S. Billboard singles chart, eventually becoming Carmen's best known composition to date yielding covers by both Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra - to name but two.
 

 
Other songs off the album include "That's Rock 'N Roll" (a U.S. Top 10 for Shaun Cassidy in 1977.  The Runaways also included it in their early stage show but regrettfully never recorded it), "No Hard Feelings" (about the Raspberries' break-up), and another power ballad - and a Top 20 U.S. hit - "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again".
 

 
Nothing against Barry Manilow, but as accomplished as the "Eric Carmen" album on the whole was, it unfortunately veered too much towards BM territory at times, which sort of colors many folks' (perhaps unaware of his power pop past) perception of Carmen to this day. 
But to be fair, the Raspberries' repertoire also always had its fair share of blatant balladry.  A case in point: "Starting Over", the title track and a highlight from their fourth and last long player in 1974.  Also, the Bay City Rollers, with the aid and, undoubtingly, under the influence of Raspberries/Carmen producer Jimmy Ienner, took a competent stab at one of the 'berries best melodic moments, "Let's Pretend" ("If 'Don't Worry Baby' and 'Mr. Tambourine Man' had a baby" - Eric Carmen, 2013), which appeared on their 1976 album "Dedication".
 

 
"Boats Against the Current", the difficult second album, was issued in the summer of 1977.  The title track, duly covered by both Frankie Valli and Olivia Newton-John, was yet another piano-based ballad.  The Beach Boys-influenced single "She Did it" went Top 20 in the U.S. while the excellent "Marathon Man" unjustly flopped.  With the album an overall disappointment, both artistically and commercially, Carmen could though find some solace in the fact that Shaun Cassidy hit the Top 10 with another one of his compositions, "Hey Deanie", which was also included on the next Eric Carmen album "Change of Heart" in 1978.  The title track went Top 20 as a single but the album as such flopped miserably.  And thus ended Eric Carmen's association with Arista - for the time being.
 


Although managing a minor hit here and there over the next few years (1980's naughty "Tonight You're Mine" was, well, interesting) Eric Carmen was no longer a viable option, or so it seemed.  That is, until a certain blockbuster movie called "Dirty Dancing" became the surprise hit of 1987.  And Eric Carmen just happened to have a song, "Hungry Eyes", on the otherwise - almost - oldies dominated soundtrack album (one of the other new songs included was "I've Had the Time of My Life" by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes).  And with that, Eric Carmen was back up where he belonged again - in the Top 10...
 

 
1988's "Make Me Lose Control" was an even bigger hit, peaking at no. 3 Stateside - his highest chart placing since "All By Myself"...
 

 
"The Best of Eric Carmen" compilation was issued on Arista.  It did especially well on Compact Disc - the new format all the kids were raving about.  Albums were soooooo out!
And so, apparently, was our Eric.  Instead of following this success up properly he seems to have slipped into a semi-retirement from recording, although touring with Ringo Starr's All Starr Band in the new millennium, and with the temporarily reformed Raspberries a few years later kept him somewhat active in the live arena as time went on.
In 2014 his first new recording for over a decade appeared on a new "Essential Eric Carmen" double CD issued by Arista/Sony Legacy; the Brian Wilson-esque "Brand New Year", where he was aptly enough backed by some of his hero's much lauded backing band: Jeffrey Foskett, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Walusko.  The latter two being also members of power popsters Wondermints.  Let us just hope it is indeed the beginning of something brand new for Eric Carmen...
 
 
Eric Carmen, recommended listening:
 
Eric Carmen/"Eric Carmen" (Arista LP, 1975)
Eric Carmen/"The Essential Eric Carmen" (Arista/Sony Legacy 2CD, 2014)
 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Rubinoos Turn 45!


It's nothing less than mind-boggling to comprehend, but those lovable rascals the Rubinoos are currently celebrating their 45th year as a working unit.  And although only singer Jon Rubin and guitarist/main songwriter Tommy Dunbar still remain from the original pre-teen line-up (bassist Al Chan is also a longish serving/suffering member), it's pretty darn impressive to have stayed together this long, never mind sustained a career out of it (the band enjoys especially loyal following in both Japan and Spain), but to be still issuing albums of new and original material truly tops it all.
Admittedly, although primarily a big fan of their first two albums, 1977's "The Rubinoos", and 1979's "Back to the Drawing Board" (and the career-spanning "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About The Rubinoos" CD box set from a few years back is also a must), I haven't been keeping up much with the Rubes recently.  So, the other day, after reading a favorable review of their latest outing, the simply and aptly titled "45", I found myself inclined to improve on that sad situation.  And, upon heading straight to www.rubinoos.com I dutifully ordered their two latest CD's, the aforementioned "45", as well as 2010's Spanish-import "Automatic Toaster" - not to mention, for good measure, an XL-sized T-shirt.
In 2010 the Rubinoos teamed up with Power Pop legend and former child actor (I'm not even going to mention cousin Oliver here!) Robbie Rist, who not only produced the "Automatic Toaster" album, but also played drums on it.  Clocking in at just under the half hour mark, it's a sparse and to the point effort.  It's also ample in energy and sheer power...pop, as opener "Two Guitars, Bass, And Drums" very ably demonstrates, like this live version from Spanish television perfectly proves.

 
The Rubinoos' goofy, Monkees-like humor is also never too far from the precedings, which might be one of the reasons why "Earth #1" was also recorded for their children's album(!) "Biff-Boff-Boing!" (2010).
 

 
All in all, "Automatic Toaster" is an enjoyable and hook-heavy Power Pop primer from true masters of the genre.  The wheel isn't exactly being invented here but who cares.  Only unnecessary cover "Black is Black" and novelty (children's?) songs "Zombie Night in Madrid" and "Cave Girls" test this listener's patience.
*** (3 out of 5)
 
 
Four years later and we're up to date with the brand-spanking-new Rubinoos album "45".  Off the bat,  it's obviously not quite as energy-driven as its predecessor.  The guitars have been turned down a tad, there's balladry a plenty and the Rubes' love of early pop styles such as Doo Wop is very well served indeed - especially in the sole cover here which comes in the form of Lou Christie's "Rhapsody in the Rain" (their cover of Christie's "If My Car Could Only Speak" from a good decade back is excellent and far exceeds the original IMHO).  Their love of Richard Berry's Garage Rock classic "Louie Louie" is even addressed in, well, "I Love Louie Louie".  But it wouldn't be a proper Rubinoos album without the pure pop hooks and here they are in abundance.
Unfortunately there don't seem to be any videos to songs from the album on the otherwise almighty YouTube, so you, much like I did, just have to head over to www.rubinoos.com and order the ACTUAL CD - you won't be sorry.
**** (4 out of 5)   
And yes, the T-shirt's very comfy.  ***** out of 5, as a matter of fact :-)
 
And just in case you aren't entirely convinced of the Rubinoos proper '70s Teen Pop credentials, here are a few minor, near and non-hits they scored during the latter part of that fabulous decade.  Enjoy...

 
Update, February 10th 2015.
 
I received the following e-mal from Rubinoo Tommy Dunbar yesterday:
 
Thanks for the nice review of our recent recordings, glad you liked them! I only wanted to mention that our drummer Donn Spindt has been with us since 1970. He was off doing other things for a moment in the 80s, but he's been with us almost all of that time. Our bass player (Al Chan) has been with us since 1980. He's the NEW guy! ;-}  
 
Duly noted, Tommy.  And sorry for the blunder!  Rock & Roll on :-) 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alvin Stardust R.I.P.

 
A chart maker in three consecutive decades, Alvin Stardust first emerged as "moody guy" Shane Fenton during the mid '60s, although he is undoubtly most fondly remembered for his early to mid '70s Gene Vincent-inspired Glam Rock persona responsible for top flight U.K. hits such as "Jealous Mind" (#1, 1974), and "My Coo Ca Choo" (#2, 1973).


And, as if that wasn't enough, he made an unlikely second comeback a decade later with hits such as "Pretend" (U.K.#4, 1981), and "I Feel Like Buddy Holly" (U.K. #4, 1984).

 
Well, to make a long story short, we lost Alvin this past week.  And, according to all accounts, he was an all around professional and a nice guy to boot.  He will be sorely missed.  R.I.P., Alvin Stardust/Shane Fenton...
 


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nobby Clark - The Lost Roller



It's quite remarkable how many major acts have a Pete Best-type lurking about as footnotes in their biographies - i.e. someone who left or was sacked from the group at the cusp of their success. 
I am not entirely certain that the man himself would agree with that label, but whether he likes it or not, Gordon "Nobby" Clark is the Bay City Rollers' very own Pete Best. 
A founding member and the Rollers' lead singer for seven years of blood, sweat and tears, fed up with life on the road and Tam Paton's dubious managerial practises among other things, Nobby left the band just as their breakthrough hit "Remember" was climbing the U.K. charts in January 1974.  I'd like to say he never looked back, but that's not exactly true and now he has written a book about it all. 
The aptly titled "The Lost Roller" (Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2014) chronicles Nobby's life and times, from growing up dirt-poor in Edinburgh with an abusive and alcoholic father, through his time with the Rollers as a teen-aged minor pop star, and onto his own troubles of being addicted to both alcohol and gambling.  It's a tough and turbulent life but in the end our hero prevails, having beaten - hopefully for good - his disease, albeit not all of his demons.
The first-hand account of those very early Roller years fascinate the most since other books on the band have come up somewhat short on the subject.  At long last, actual personalities and minor character traits can be applied to names such as Archie Marr and Dave "The Rave" Pettigrew, both early members of the band, as were David Paton and Billy Lyall who later found mid '70s chart success with Pilot ("Magic", "January").
However, I do have some gripes with some details of the story at times.  In particular regarding certain errors and inaccuracies when it comes to the Rollers' recorded and released output.  For instance, it is truly puzzling why Nobby insists that the 1976 No. 1 U.S. hit version of "Saturday Night" is "his" version of the song, when, in fact, the original 1973 Nobby Clark-sung flop version of the song is an altogether different recording to the Les McKeown-sung hit version of the song, which was recorded in 1974 for the debut Rollers album "Rollin'".  Why anyone - and a musician at that - is unable to tell the difference between this (the Nobby Clark '73 version):

 
And this (the Les McKeown '74/'76 version):
 

 
...is beyond me.  They sound like two entirely different recordings to me at least, although I am willing to leave room for the possibility that the original recording was so severely remixed and Nobby's BACKING vocal may be buried in the mix there somewhere along with all the other Rollers' voices.  But it most certainly isn't his LEAD vocal as he states numerous times in the book.
That being said, I am 100% on Nobby's side that he deserves some of the famous "Rollers millions", since songs containing his lead vocals (The original versions of "Keep on Dancing", "Saturday Night" and "Remember" in particular), not to mentioned a song written by him ("Because I Love You", the B-side of third single "Manana") have been issued and reissued countless of times during the past forty years without him earning a single cent from it, and that is just plain wrong.
However, still more errors occur when Nobby lists the records "his" recordings are reportedly on, and he is therefore allegedly owed money for.  There he lists, among other things, an obscure Taiwanese bootleg which, of course, has nothing at all to do with Arista or Sony.  Also he claims "his" songs, such as single B-sides "Bye Bye Barbara" and "Hey! C.B." are included on the 1974 version of the "Rollin'" L.P.  That is incorrect.  These songs first appeared as bonus tracks on the U.K. CD re-issue of said album in 2004.  And that's just one example off the top of my head.
Unfortunately, as a result, poor research like that lessens the overall credibility of the work, which is as I stated before, fascinating at times.  Also, Nobby's nasty jabs at Eric Faulkner ("An unclean person"; "A nervous wreck") seem uncalled for and do little to support the statement to the effect that he doesn't hate anyone; he just wants his fair share of the pie.  
In any event, the book is a must for any self-respecting Roller fan and a very welcomed, although flawed, addition to the published printed material already available on the band, especially regarding its early history.
 
*** (3 out of 5)
 


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bobby Sherman - Easy Come, Easy Go...

Poor old Bobby Sherman.  People are being hard on him these days.  Way too hard if you ask moi.  Quoting at least one comment made about the man on the almighty world wide web, he apparently is/was the "Poor man's Davidy Cassidy".  Dear, oh dear.
But to be absolutely fair to the guy, he enjoyed a handful of memorable hits in the late '60s/early '70s, was a regular presence on our T.V. screens, and, as a result, became a bona-fide Teen Pop idol to be reckoned with.

 
As much as an actor as a singer (He guest-starred on The Monkees' T.V. show in the late '60s), Bobby Sherman's both main talents were equally utilized on the T.V. series "Here Come the Brides" (The title track "Seattle" was sung by Bobby), co-starring another actor/singer David Soul, who later in the '70s found further fame in "Starsky and Hutch", as well as with a parallel, lucrative singing career ("Don't Give Up on Us", "Silver Lady", "Let's Have a Quiet Night in").
 
 
 
Bobby Sherman's fortunes were furthered with a #3 U.S. hit "Little Woman" in 1969.
 

 
However, a couple of his best remembered and more enduring hits came in 1970: "Julie Do Ya Love Me" (U.S. #5) and "Easy Come, Easy Go" (U.S. #9).
 

 
But Bobby Sherman's star was already rapidly diminishing.  The aforementioned David Cassidy, not to mention the Osmonds and/or the Jackson Five, appeared on the scene and somewhat stole Bobby's thunder.  Ironically, Bobby guest-starred on Cassidy's the Partridge Family T.V. show and was even cast as a lead in a short-lived spin-off from that very show, "Getting Together".  David Cassidy, in his autobiography a couple of decades later, perhaps also unwittingly commenting on his own teen idol demise, described Bobby by that time as merely "Sad".
 
  
 
So, understandably perhaps, singing took a back seat to acting in Bobby Sherman's life over the next few years.  However, in the mid '70s he apparently found his true calling as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the Los Angeles police department, which is, as far as I know, a position he has held ever since.  But ever so often he has part-taken in the odd teen idols type package tour as well as appeared on the T.V. talk show circuit of the Oprah/Rosie O'Donnell variety.
 
  
Recommended listening: "The Very Best of" Bobby Sherman (1991 Restless Records/Bobby Sherman Enterprises)