Where Have You Gone
Rise to Fall
Fire and Ice
Back in the Blues
Jump Right Out
A Different Game
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Meic Stevens may not be a familiar name in much of the world, but in his native Wales the singer-songwriter's stature is often compared to that of Bob Dylan. A local legend whose psych-folk influence can be heard in such contemporary Welsh groups as Super Furry Animals and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Stevens also founded his country's first independent record company, the estimable Sain label.
Stevens sang mostly in his native language, a political act not unlike speaking Basque in Spain or Cherokee in the U.S. His one English-language album is 1970'sOutlander, an outstanding marriage of musicianship and eclecticism. Arising from the same fertile soil as the work of the late-'60s icons, Stevens's album nonetheless manages to avoid easy comparisons. Its jazz-Indo-psych ragas merge seamlessly with its acid folksongs and Dylan-esque meditations on relationships and politics. Performed by a remarkable cast of musicians hand-picked by English rock tastemaker Ian Samwell, Outlander was created with a minimum of rehearsal and consists largely of first takes.
Greeted with critical acclaim upon Outlander's U.K. release, Stevens traveled Stateside for a two-week tour in the summer of 1970. But the album never crossed the Atlantic; its very first U.S. release is this expanded, remastered Rhino Handmade issue. Copies of the LP have fetched upwards of $500 on the collectors' market, a testimony to the enduring quality of its songs. Now, fans can enjoy the original album in its entirety, along with nine bonus tracks, including outtakes, alternate versions, and the 1970 B-side "Blue Sleep."
02. Love Owed
03. Left Over Time
04. Lying To Myself
05. The Sailor And Madonna
08. Midnight Comes
09. Ghost Town
10. Dau Rhosyn Coch
11. Ballad Of Old Joe Blind
12. GREAT HOUDINI
13. ALL ABOUT A DREAM (Bonus)
14. EVENING COMES UP (Bonus)
15. UPON THE MOUNTAIN (Bonus)
16. WHERE HAVE ALL MY PEOPLE GONE (Bonus)
17. YORRIC (Early Version) (Bonus)
18. THE SAILOR AND MADONNA (Early Version) (Bonus)
19. BLUE SLEEP (Bonus)
20. BALLAD OF JOE BLIND (Alternate Version) (Bonus)
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This week we have a very impressive recording from what could be described as a super-group jam band, comprised of fairly well-known musicians of two generations. They call themselves Frogwings, and their new CD is Croakin’ at Toad’s.
Frogwings could be described as a kind of offshoot of the Allman Brothers Band, with founding member Butch Trucks on drums, and the current percussionist and bassist from the Allmans, Marc Quinones and Otiel Burbridge, also among the ranks of the Frogwings. Other members include Butch Trucks' nephew, the teenage guitar phenomenon Derek Trucks, who has already put out a very impressive solo albumm of his own, plus guitarist Jimmy Herring of another jazzy rock band The Aquarium Rescue Unit, Kofi Burbridge, Otiel's brother on flute and keyboards, and vocalist and harmonica man John Popper from Blues Traveler, a blues-rock band which enjoyed considerable success in its own right. Making it an even more appropriate album for a jam band is the fact that Croakin’ at Toad’s was recorded live, appropriately at a venue called Toad’s, located in New Haven, Connecticut.
Naturally, expectations for a band with the players on the calibre of Frogwings would be high, and the group fully lives up to those promises. Herring and the younger Trucks are great guitarists, Popper's fancy harmonica work adds some spice, and little touches like Kofi Burbridge's occasional flute add a lot to the sound. But while there may be some jam bands around with more technically skilled players, Frogwings really knows how to get up a groove and run with it -- in two cases on this CD for a quarter hour or more -- while keeping things interesting and showing great musical interaction. The two really long jams are instrumentals, but even the vocal tracks, sung by Popper, allow plenty of room for musical interaction, further enhanced by presence of the live audience.
With four of the seven players in Frogwings either members of the Allman Brothers or associated with the group, there is naturally a musical resemblance between the styles of the two bands, but that is nothing to complain about, with the Allmans having been responsible for some of the great rock jams going back to the early 1970s. Frogwings sometimes brings in a little Latin influence, incorporates the blues, thanks to John Popper, and can get a bit jazzy, owing to the inclinations of the two guitarists.
The album begins with one of its longest jams, and one of its best. The instrumental track Kick n Bach starts with a slow groove reminiscent of the Allmans' In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. <<>> It provides ample solo opportunities, including for Otiel Burbridge with his simultaneous bass and vocals similar to his work with the Aquarium Rescue Unit... <<>> before the piece picks up and gets into a Latin-influenced beat for the second guitar solo, which I am guessing was played by Herring. <<>>
The first of the vocals is a John Popper composition called Hurdy Gurdy Fandango. This upbeat song has much briefer solos but still provides a chance for good instrumentalizing... <<>> ... especially by percussionist Quinones. <<>>
Pattern is a joint composition by John Popper and Otiel Burbridge that is one of the highest energy rockers on the album with some musical homage paid to various Southern bands of the past. It's a track that has it moments, but does not rank as the album's most memorable. <<>>
The bluesier side of Frogwings comes out on Just One, another John Popper composition. Popper puts in one of his best performances on the CD, both vocally and on harmonica. <<>>
Also in the Southern Rock musical tradition is a joint band composition called Ganga, which the group really sinks their teeth into, including the Allmanesque dual lead guitar lines. <<>>
The album's longest jam, at over 16 minutes in length is another instrumental, this one by Herring and Otiel Burbridge. Eddie's Got a Boyfriend has a melodic line that sounds like a school-yard taunt of the title. Though the playing is quite good throughout, this is one instance where a bit more succinctness might have been helpful. <<>>
For me, the most interesting track on the CD is Deviant Dreams, in which Frogwings break out of their stylistic mode some, with some distinctive lyrics and a kind of progressive-rock direction. Otiel Burbridge is heard on his flute. <<>>
The album ends with Among Your Pillows, not its strongest track, but one marked by good instrumental work nonetheless. <<>>
Frogwings represents a kind of dream-team jam band, with members of the Allman Brothers, Blues Traveler and the Aquarium Rescue Unit combining forces in a great live album marked by solid playing and the kind of musical interaction that makes a jam band performance so memorable. And the fact that this is a live recording enhances the experience and leads the players to a higher level musically. Their material is, for the most part, worthwhile, though in a jam band situation like this, the compositions take a back seat to the improvisations by the players involved, and the latter are all world-class. (by George Graham http://georgegraham.com/reviews/frogwing.html )
1.Kick N Bach
4.Eddie's Got a Boyfriend
8.Among Your Pillows
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