Reviews: Humble Pie, Tangerine Dream, Inevitable Records, Lee Perry and the Upsetters, Quadraphonic Price Guide, Billy Paul, Hues Corporation, Main Ingredient

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Humble Pie

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Official Bootleg Box Set Volume Three (5 CDs)

(HNE Recordings/Cherry Red)

It’s been said before, back when volumes one and two in this series were released, but it’s worth saying again.Of all the bands whose careers are now being recalled via box sets full of largely-similar live shows, if anyone was worth going to see every night, it was Humble Pie.

Of course the box set enshrining the Fillmore run that gave us Rocking the… double is the crown amongst such jewels.But volume three in the bootleg series does not disappoint, serving up two shows apiece from 1972 and 1973, with one of them - Gaelic Park, Riverdale, in August 1972, spread over two discs that will warp your woofer, twist your tweeter and leave you begging for more.

Fast forward three days and you’ve got it, with a seven song set from Tulsa.No “new” songs to speak of, but the performance is just as fresh, just as eye-opening, just as blinding.All the favorites are here, of course; some fun between-song patter; ruthless riffing and soul-baring blues.But there’s more than that, an electricity that still crackles down the years and reminds us of something else.There’s a lot of reasons why a lot of folk describe Pie as the greatest live band they ever saw.And here’s some more.

The 1973 shows hail from Boston and Philly that spring, and again there’s not really much difference in the song selection.But the Blackberries are in primo form behind the band and it’s arguable that only the absence of a genuinely high quality recording from this tour (or the studio, come to that) prevents the Eat It era from topping even the sainted Fillmore recordings as Humble Pie’s finest hour.

Please, someone, give us a box set of that!

Tangerine Dream

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The Official Bootleg Series Volume Three (4 CDs)

(Esoteric/Cherry Red)

With Tangerine Dream about to drop a CD box set that costs more money than you used to spend on an entire year of record collecting, it’s reassuring to know that there’s an ongoing series that… well, it might not offer up the exact same shows, or the precise same fidelity, but Esoteric’s Official Bootleg Series has nevertheless has delivered some remarkable recordings from the Tangs’ “classic” era, and here’s a couple more.

Two shows are here, from Detroit in 1977 and Sydney, Australia in 1982, and Detroit, at least, is spectacular, its seven tracks echoing the majesty of the “official” live album, Encore, but repeating only two, the opening “Cherokee Lane” and “Monolight.”

From there it sweeps on with an energy that the liner notes describe as the band’s own “tribute to the garage rock sounds of the MC5 and the Stooges” - which might be a little over-enthusiastic, but as you listen to the music, you know what they mean.This was, incidentally, only their second ever show in the US.

The Sydney show five years later is very different.With Johannes Schmoelling having replaced Peter Baumann in 1979, the nature of the band had shifted from the lengthy improvisations of yore, towards more “rehearsed” pieces.The recent White Eagle album is performed in its entirety, along with a few older favorites, so yes, they were becoming a “regular” band after years of not.But the performance is flawless, and the sound quality is stellar, an unedited pre-FM tape of Australian radio’s broadcast of the show that places the listener in the heart of the action.

It has never been cheap being a Tangerine Dream collector, between the band’s own insatiable appetite for releases, and the welter of action around their catalog, and it’s about to become even more expensive.But The Official Bootleg Series certainly ranks high among the “must-have” entries into the ever-expanding canon, and it does so at a price that is extremely difficult to sniff at.Unlike some other things we could mention.

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Birth of a Nation - Inevitable Records: An Independent Liverpool 1979-1986 (3 CDs)

(Cherry Red)

For a few years… disc one and half of disc three of this box set, to be precise - Inevitable Records was one of those indies that you bought on the strength of the label, and worried about what it would sound like later.Because you already knew it would be magnificent.

Wah! Heat, Modern Eon, It’s Immaterial, Nightmares in Wax and their transformation into Dead Or Alive… more than any of the better feted Liverpool bands of the earliest 80s, including all the ones with long, silly names, Inevitable tapped a wellspring of such maverick creativity that, if you’d called it the Northern Stiff Records, you’d not have been far wrong.

Wah! debuted the label, with Pete Wylie already, across the debut “Better Scream,” established as the finest singer, songwriter and all-round matinee idol of the post-punk generation.By the time of their second single, the still simply-mammoth “Seven Minutes to Midnight,” it was clear that Wah! were destined for far bigger things than the label could ever deliver.

Likewise Pete Burns’ merry crew, who slipped from the pulsating dance shock of “Black Leather” (as Nightmares…) to the sinister disco goth of “I’m Falling” and “Number Eleven,” before they too headed major label-wards.And likewise China Crisis, who may not be everybody’s favorites among the bands showcased here, but who certainly made their mark with “African and White.”

Dead or Alive and another early trailblazer, It’s Immaterial, resurface on disc three, which rounds up BBC radio/John Peel sessions recorded by the Inevitable roster - and here we get a genuine sneak peek into the future of the former, as the classic “Misty Circles” emerges already fully formed and fabulous, and their latest single “Number Eleven,” is updated by “Number Twelve.”Long before Burns became the superstar that he’d always threatened to be, and the music, sad to say, suffered accordingly, Dead or Alive were probably the most inventive dance act the UK had produced in years.And this is what they sounded like.

The Peel sessions disc concludes with sessions by Freeze Frame and Box of Toys, latter day signings who dominate the first half of disc two - an enjoyable span but somehow lacking the cohesive character of the first.But there again, so did the era (1983-1986) that it represents, and maybe this is the disc that will linger the longest without you feeling the need to play it.But for the remainder of the package, the memories (if you were there), the magic and the sheer magnificence of Inevitable will live with you forever.

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The Upsetters

Clint Eastwood / Many Moods of the Upsetters (2CDs)

(Doctor Bird/Cherry Red)

Lee Scratch Perry

Rainford

(On U Sound)

Two (well, three) faces of Lee Perry, drawn from very opposing ends of his career.The latest in Doctor Bird’s inestimable recreation of a well-dressed early 70s reggae record collection rounds up a pair of albums, from 1969-1970, that are as much a musical tour de force as they are the laboratory in which Perry was constantly learning new tricks.

Some you catch immediately - “hey!I’ve never heard anything like that before.”Others are more subtle, or sketches of sonic notions that will flourish on later projects.But Perry in the studio at this point was relentlessly restless, never simply “recording” a track, so much as planting it and watching it grow, pruning a growth here, grafting a new bloom there, and though he knew that the majority of listeners would probably not even be aware of what he was doing and why, every time a new Perry record hit the turntables, the audience knew exactly who it was.

There are so many stand-outs on these two albums; Clint Eastwood is probably the most powerful overall, with the likes of Dave Barker, U Roy and Winston Holness numbered among its cast, and an opening salvo of “Return of the Ugly,” “For a Few Dollars More” and “Prisoner of Love” that has few peers in period reggae.

The Many Moods is calmer, but the bonus tracks that serve up an extra LP’s worth of music on each disc adjust the balance.Including lots more Dave Barker, a name best known to many as one half of “Double Barrel” hitmakers Dave & Ansell Collins, but even more exuberant in Perry’s presence.

That was then, this is now.Rainford reunites the dream team of Perry and his most visionary acolyte Adrian Sherwood - friends and collaborators for some thirty years now, but still bouncing back and forth off one another like a couple of kids on a first date.

Sherwood has described this as Perry’s most “intimate” album yet, comparing its mood to Rick Rubin’s work with Johnny Cash.But if you’re expecting introspection, look elsewhere.True, “Autobiography of the Upsetter” is exactly what it sounds like, but “Cricket On The Moon” could supplant “Roast Fish and Cornbread” among Perry’s most potent earworms.And throughout Rainford (titled, incidentally, for Perry’s birth name), the 82 year old still raises the bar as high as he has at any time since his Black Ark heyday.

Billy Paul

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Live In Europe

(Vocalion SACD)

Hues Corporation

Hues Corporation/Rockin’ Soul

(Vocalion SACD)

The Main Ingredient

Euphrates River

(Vocalion SACD)

Tamsin Darke

I‘ve Got Four Ears to Hear You - 2019 Price Guide to Quadraphonic Rock, Souyl, R&B, Folk and Jazz Rock on Record and Tape

(book - ISBN 978-0-359-63016-5)

Is it the most unlikely comeback of the entire vinyl revival?Is quadraphonic sound really poised to sweep all its latter-day imitators disdainfully to one side, dump your 5.1s in the dustbin of history, and prove that the seventies were right all along?

Are four ears truly better than two?

Tamsin Darke’s sublimely-titled I’ve Got Four Ears to Hear You offers up a convincing argument why they might be.Similar in format and content to her earlier David Bowie price guide, it’s essentially nothing more than a nuts and bolts guide to exactly what it says in the subtitle, and around 750 quad releases from the first half of the seventies.

Except it’s more than that.At the same time as acknowledging the tyranny of vinyl, Darke delves, too, into the far less documented world of eight-track cartridges and even reel-to-reel, with discographies that don’t simply offer values for a near mint copy of everything, but serve the collector further by noting other data, too.

Her emphasis is on US releases, vinyl and tape, but with a twist.If an album was released in quad vinyl form in the US, fine and good.If not, she seeks out an international equivalent - usually Japanese, sometimes German, occasionally elsewhere, then footnotes any US release (the aforementioned tape formats).There are multiple entries for a very pricey run of BBC quad transcription discs, and a truly eye-opening insight into the world of what might have been… she documents unreleased quad albums by everyone from Al Anderson to ZZ Top.

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Appendices note quad singles and albums, together with a Top 30 list of quad rarities focussing on items that don’t feature in the main list.And the prices, throughout, will astonish you, with a Japanese Jackson 5 quad album valued at close to a grand, and numerous other three figure jewels.Again, her focus is on NM, so don’t go stockpiling charity store Kris Kristofferson in the hope of buying a new roof with the proceeds.(In fact, don’t anyway.Darke values them at $25 apiece.)But if you should stumble across the right releases in the right condition, quad is hotter today than it ever was.

Another intriguing feature is her attention to the occasions on which a seventies quadraphonic release has been transplanted onto a surround sound disc, something that has happened a lot more frequently than you might be aware.And is set to happen even more thanks to the UK label Vocalion.

In fairness, unlike the Billy Paul and Art Garfunkel reissues reviewed last time, the three albums here probably don’t top many collectors’ wants lists, but that is not the point.Preserving and reawakening the “pop” quad catalogs of old is as much a work of cultural history as it is a commercial enterprise - more so, in fact, when you remember how many times you’ve passed over these albums in the racks, but might still be drawn to give them a go in a format you can actually listen to.

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The soft vocal soul of the Hues Corporation, peaking in chart terms with “Rock the Boat,” but laden down with much more of similar quality; the funkier instincts of the Main Ingredient, with the bass sending thunderstorms through the intro to “Summer Breeze”; and the sheer joy of the Billy Paul live show, all take on a whole new character with four channels blaring.

Indeed, the latter’s extended work out through the closing cover of Elton’s “Your Song” comes close to redefining a ballad that always felt wasted as a simple three minute single.A couple of years after Paul first tackled the song, Elton himself was heading for Billy’s home-base Philadelphia, and this might have been the performance that made up his mind for him.

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Quadraphonic vinyl will probably never make a comeback, with even a lot of avid collectors mourning that they don’t have the necessary equipment to play it on.But quadraphonic SACDs are everybody’s opportunity to find out what the fuss was really all about, and you know what?Its original advocates were right.