Lost Albums in the 1970's (Part 1)

Today I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the wonderful "Lost" albums of the 1970's.  There were many excellent records that popped up on my radar whenever I would go through the album racks in various record stores during this particular rock & roll era.  As a matter of fact, many times I would discover some very unique and special albums in the $1.00 bins.  So, without further adieu, let's check out some of the great lost albums of the 70's!


Van Morrison - Veedon Fleece

As a physical fact, Morrison may have the richest and most expressive voice pop music has produced since Elvis Presley, and with a sense of himself as an artist that Elvis was always denied.” (Greil Marcus, writer)

Veedon Fleece was Van Morrison's 8th album which was recorded in October 1974. Van's main inspiration for the album was most probably his recent divorce from wife Janet (Planet) Rigsbee.  Over the years, along with Van's Astral Weeks album, Veedon Fleece has been a popular album in my house.

In a 1978 interview by journalist Colin Heylin, Morrison recalled that he recorded the songs about four weeks after writing them: "Veedon Fleece was a bunch of songs that I wrote and then I just recorded it about four weeks after I wrote it. When you make an album you write some songs; you might have four songs and maybe you write two more, suddenly you've got enough songs for an album." 

According to the drummer Dahaud Shaar, the tracks were laid down in a very informal manner: 'During that time I kinda haunted the studio, and Van would come in and we'd just do tracks.' David Hayes (bassist) recalled about the recording sessions: 'Every night for about a week he came in with two or three new tunes and we just started playing with him.' Jim Rothermel (flute, recorder) also recalled that during the California recording sessions for the album the songs were often a first take and that the band members had sometimes not heard the songs previously.

The strings and woodwinds were arranged by Jef Labes in a New York studio. The song Come Here My Love was inspired during the week of the sessions and another song Country Fair was a track that was left over from the Hard Nose the Highway album which proved to be an excellent choice for closing the album.

The tracks Bulbs and Cul de Sac were recut in New York later with musicians who Morrison had never worked with before: John Tropea (guitar), Joe Macho (bass) and Allen Schwarzberg (drums). The two songs, which were given a rock & roll treatment, were released as the single from the album.

Van Morrison - Veedon Fleece

 

When asked about the album's title, Morrison simply stated that: "I haven't a clue about what the title means. It's actually a person's name. I have a whole set of characters in my head that I'm trying to fit into things. Veedon Fleece is one of them and I just suddenly started singing it in one of these songs, It's like a stream of consciousness thing." 

Morrison once told a fan when questioned about the meaning, "It doesn't mean anything, I made it up myself."  Ah!  The mysteries of the Van Morrison muse!


 

Dwight Twilley Band - Sincerely

The Dwight Twilley Band broke out onto the rock scene in 1976 and Sincerely, their debut album, brought some very fresh sounds to the rock scene.  The Dwight Twilley Band included the following players: Dwight Twilley (guitar, piano, lead and harmony vocals) Phil Seymour (drums, bass, percussion, lead and harmony vocals and Bill Pitcock IV (lead guitar).

 

From Wikipedia: "The songs on Sincerely come from three distinct recording periods: the band's first Tulsa and Los Angeles sessions for Shelter Records in 1974, which were intended by the label as rehearsals and demos but produced both of the first two singles (the top 20 hit I'm on Fire and You Were So Warm), a recording session produced by Robin Cable at Trident Studios in London that produced an entire album of material (tentatively called Fire), and the band's sessions in Tulsa after returning from London. Due to the split between Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, Shelter Records lost its distribution deal in 1975 and was essentially out of business for a year. Had Fire been released as planned in late 1975, the album would have made a big splash on the rock scene."

The extensive delay in releasing the Sincerely album after  the single release of I'm on Fire certainly contributed to the Sincerely album's lack of sales success. Due to the complications within Shelter Records which caused the label to be unable to produce their releases, the label finally settled with the EMI label for distribution.  Sincerely went out of print on LP within a couple of years after release and was basically remembered for some time as a 'lost' album.

 

Dwight Twilley Band - I'm On Fire

 

Here's a review from the All Music Site by Mark Deming: "Dwight Twilley's first album, Sincerely, opens with I'm on Fire, a pop tune so unstoppable that it became a Top 20 single even though Twilley and his partner Phil Seymour didn't have an album to go with it when it hit radio in the spring of 1975. It would be close to a year before Sincerely finally emerged, after sessions at London's Trident Studio were scrapped in favor of material recorded in Twilley's hometown of Tulsa, OK. Commercially, the decision was nearly fatal to Twilley's career momentum, but it's hard to argue with what he and Seymour came up with; with the two handling nearly all the vocals and instruments themselves, they crafted a power pop masterpiece, one that merged their Anglophile leanings with the Southern roots of rock & roll better than any of their contemporaries (including Big Star, who never seemed as comfortable with Memphis soul as they were with Liverpool pop). While nothing on the album quite matches the genius of I'm on Fire...the rest of the album is a consistently impressive...the strength of Twilley's songwriting and Seymour's versatile vocal chops bring a welcome unity to these many shades of pop perfection. While Twilley and Seymour would both enjoy long careers with a certain degree of success, neither ever made an album quite as good as Sincerely -- though they came close."


Link Wray - Self-Titled album

 

If you're not familiar with Link Wray's overall musical history, he was originally known for being one of the first heavy guitarists in the 50's.  His biggest hit, Rumble, typifies his overall approach, using thick distortion and power chords (pre-Pete Townshend, folks) to get his point across. 

By the early 1970’s, Link Wray’s music career has slowed down considerably.  “Link Wray picked up and moved to rural Accokeek, and eventually recorded hundreds of songs on a three-track in a dismal little shed that resembled, at first glance, a coal miner’s dwelling. On the first album from these Three Track Shack sessions, 1971’s Link Wray, Link did something exhilarating: he sang. Virtually for the first time… In Accokeek, Link’s life took a thrilling, meandering turn, the thwarted promise giving way to a long-awaited second wind… recorded in the house’s basement at first. Then they swept out a shed and built a room off of it, installing Doug’s high school drum set and a wheezy piano. They called it Wray’s Shack 3 Tracks. They loved letting the tape roll to see what they could come up with...his forlorn, one-lunged, loping baritone. It carries such desolation. Such lovely distress! As if Van Morrison and Cat Stevens had fallen down a flight of stairs together. What’s truly amazing and heartbreaking is that Link had to be wheedled into it. Vernon had the pipes. Link hated his own voice. Nightclubs and demos, fine. Records, no thanks. And yet, all of a sudden, here he is, sailing from the tiniest intimacies to brawling, primal haymakers, his voice beating through the entire human emotional registry...They loved letting the tape roll to see what they could come up with. Link, though, was fortyish and unhappy. He was being scandalously underpaid to churn out the old hits at military nightclubs. Doug ran a barbershop, Vernon a grocery store and pool hall. They were struggling. Waiting for something better to come along...."  (Mystic Chords, John O'Connor, Oxford American, 2018)

 

Link Wray - Fire and Brimstone

Wray, in particular, seemed to anticipate the future revolution in which musicians would record outside of traditional studios.  In his case, he remodeled an old chicken coop on his family's farm in Maryland and, using only rudimentary recording gear, Wray managed to craft this low-fi masterpiece.

From the Wikipedia site: "The album was recorded in 1971 by Link's brother Vernon Wray at Wray's Shack Three Track, a three-track studio Link Wray had converted from an old chicken shack on his farm in Accokeek, Maryland, and mixed by Chuck Irwin. During louder numbers, the recording team placed the speakers for Link Wray's guitar outside in the yard and miked the windows. For a time no drum kit was available, so on several tracks the musicians stomped on the floor for the bass drum and shook a can of nails for the snare drum."

The simplicity of the sound that was made in that ol' chicken coop studio came about naturally in an atmosphere of pure music making.  When Wray was interviewed by Sounds Magazine just prior to the album's release he stated that "In a way I couldn't care less if the album didn't sell a single copy. We're happy with it and we've done it our way."

Wray's 1971 album sold modestly upon its release but, much like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, the album became a cult favorite that would pick up a devoted following with each passing year.  For me, this album truly stands the test of time.


Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue

This album caught me by surprise.  Dennis Wilson never really pursued a solo career but in 1977 he completed an album titled Pacific Ocean Blue.  Often considered the "wild one" of the Beach Boys, somewhere along the line, Dennis Wilson suddenly became a musical artist.  

"Much is made of his older brother Brian's tortured genius, but Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson had his own deeply artistic statement to make - one he made with moody, heartrending beauty and fathomless, soulful introspection on his 1977 masterpiece, Pacific Ocean Blue

Besides being the first solo album by a member of the Beach Boys, Pacific Ocean Blue is a lost classic of '70s West Coast rock, a richly orchestrated opus that swaths the singer-songwriters delicate and profoundly personal observations in epic, wide-screen arrangements that easily match the drama of the celluloid blockbusters made in his Hollywood back yard."  (bignoisenow.com)

"Though the roots of this 1977 album go back to the early '70s, Dennis Wilson's one issued solo project, Pacific Ocean Blue, is certainly a product of its time, both musically and texturally. The set's 12 songs reveal a songwriter who was looking to stretch out on his own and engage a vision of music that stood far outside what the Beach Boys were capable of handling or executing...Pacific Ocean Blue is a moody view of the SoCal landscape, and of Wilson's own interior life -- or his struggle to have one. From the environmental lament, River Song, that opens the disc, we can hear a new kind of West Coast music emerging. It's not steeped in the weighty philosophical and political concerns that other Angelenos such as Jackson Browne were penning. Instead, it's a wispy rock tune revolving around a beautiful piano figure, shuffling guitars, and lyrics that take a personal concern for the state of the nature crumbling around it. Dreamer is a classic piece of '70s rock as it wound itself around the emerging R&B of the time, with interlaced horn lines, synths, and funky basslines cutting through the bridge and into the final verses; all steeped in a gorgeous, lush groove that even at this relaxed tempo won't quit. Mostly, however, Pacific Ocean Blue is a diary. Given that it was recorded over nearly seven years, the songs reflect the snapshot quality of Wilson's life in the studio: what he was capable of, what he learned, and how he stretched himself. Take, for example, the tender stoner balladry of Thoughts of You and Time; with their languid, echoing piano hovering in the mix with a shadow presence as Wilson sings with a longing that is true, yet muted by his seeming resignation to things being a total loss. The latter track also features a moody trumpet solo reminiscent of Chet Baker and transforms itself into a horn-driven anthem by its end." (All Music site)

Sadly, Dennis Wilson intended to record a follow-up to Pacific Ocean Blue that would be called Bambu but the album was left unfinished at the time of his death in December 1983.

 

Pacific Ocean Blue

 

'Everything that I am or will ever be is in the music. If you want to know me, just listen.' 


Crabby Appleton - Self Titled album

Crabby Appleton was a gem of a rock band that could never break through to the masses.  Rolling Stone magazine stated that "This LP was straight-ahead California rock, but impeccably done: catchy, compelling and nearly faultless. Years later, it still sounds fresh."

Crabby Appleton released a single called Go Back which managed to slip into the Top 40, but the band broke up after their follow-up LP, Rotten To The Core, flopped.  Michael Fennelly, the band's leader, went on to release two albums in England, and later worked with Steely Dan on some backing vocals.

Crabby Appleton - Go Back

"Though nearly everyone in the group was from a Los Angeles, California-based band called Stonehenge, the group's line-up was revamped with the introduction of Michael Fennelly, who had been one of the principal vocalists and songwriters in The Millennium. The group's other members included Felix Flaco Falcon (percussion), Casey Foutz (keyboards), Hank Harvey (bass), and Phil Jones (drums). Jones, previously of Oskaloosa, Iowa, but more recently of Laurel Canyon, helped form the band after meeting Fennelly at Thee Experience, a club on the Sunset Strip. Jones had heard the song, To Claudia on Thursday, which Fennelly wrote and sang with his group The Millennium, and, encouraged by record producer David Anderle, recruited Fennelly to join Stonehenge as lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter. The group was renamed Crabby Appleton after a character from the Tom Terrific cartoon.

Crabby Appleton signed with Elektra Records and recorded their first album Crabby Appleton, produced by Don Gallucci and released in 1970. The band's debut single, Go Back, climbed to No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The band opened for the Doors, Sly and the Family Stone, Three Dog Night, Guess Who, ABBA, and George Carlin. They appeared on American Bandstand, the Real Don Steele Show, What's Happening with John Byner, and enjoyed critical success. Both of their albums, Crabby Appleton and Rotten to the Core, received rave reviews in Rolling Stone and Creem magazines. 

The band's second album, Rotten to the Core, was recorded in 1971, but sales were disappointing and the band split up. Following the disbanding of the group, Fennelly recorded two solo records: Lane Changer recorded in England in 1974; and Stranger's Bed, recorded in Los Angeles the following year. 

Jones plays as a drummer and percussionist in the Los Angeles music scene and has recorded and toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Joe Walsh, Roy Orbison, Cracker, Susanna Hoffs, Roger McGuinn, and is playing with the Waddy Wachtel Band." (Wikipedia)


Modern Lovers

Released on the indie-label Beserkley Records in 1976, The Modern Lovers album appeared like a godsend to many rock & rollers.  The Modern Lovers album was simple and it was revelatory to each person who listened to this historic album.

 

The Modern Lovers - Roadrunner

The Modern Lovers were formed in 1970 by teenage singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jonathan Richman. In early 1971, the band's membership was settled as Richman, Jerry Harrison (keyboards), Ernie Brooks (bass) and David Robinson (drums), with Richman's friend and original band member John Felice joining them occasionally as his school commitments allowed. By the autumn of 1971, through their live performances in Boston and New York, they had begun to attract the attention of several record company A&R men, including Stuart Love at Warner Brothers, and Allan Mason and Matthew Kaufman at A&M. The band made their first recordings for Warner Brothers at the Intermedia studios in Boston in late 1971; these included the version of Hospital which was later to appear on the album.

In April 1972, The Modern Lovers travelled to Los Angeles where they held two demo sessions; the first was produced for Warner Brothers by John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground, while the second was produced by Allan Mason and Robert Appere for A&M. Both of these sessions yielded tracks which found their way onto the album. The Cale sessions produced Roadrunner, Astral Plane, Old World, Pablo Picasso, She Cracked and Someone I Care About. The A&M sessions yielded Girl Friend, Modern World, and Dignified and Old (which, although not included on the original LP, was included on later CD reissues). 

In the beginning, the band were undecided over which record company they should sign with.  After returning to Boston, The Modern Lovers did some recordings by wild man Kim Fowley which were produced by Stuart "Dinky" Dawson. In 1973, The Modern Lovers finally signed with Warner Brothers and agreed that John Cale should produce their long awaited debut album. When the band returned to California to work with Cale, it became obvious  that the Cale and the band had developed personality clashes.  Suddenly Richman decided that he wanted to take a different approach to his songs.  He had decided he no longer wanted to play his songs in a hard rock genre and stated that he desired to record his songs in a mellow musical style.  Sadly, the sessions with Cale came to an end  before any new recordings could be completed. Warner Brothers then hired Kim Fowley to work with the band, but  Richman refused to perform any of his most popular earlier songs live. Warner Brothers then withdrew support from the band, and, early in 1974, the original Modern Lovers split up.

In late 1974, Richman signed as a solo artist with Matthew King Kaufman's new label, Home of the Hits, soon to be renamed Beserkley Records, and recorded four tracks with backing by the bands Earth Quake and The Rubinoos, including new versions of both Roadrunner and Government Center. These tracks were first issued as singles, and then on an album Beserkley Chartbusters Vol.1 in 1975. In 1976, with a new line-up of the Modern Lovers, Richman began recording what he went on to regard as his debut album, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

However, in the meantime, Kaufman also put together the album The Modern Lovers from remixed versions of the tracks recorded four or more years earlier for Warner Brothers and A&M, and released it in August 1976.

 


Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom is the second solo album by former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt. It was released on 26 July 1974 on the Virgin Records label. Produced by Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason, the album was recorded following a 1973 accident which left Wyatt a paraplegic. The  musicians who performed on this album include Ivor Cutler, Hugh Hopper, Richard Sinclair, Laurie Allan, Mike Oldfield and Fred Frith.

 

Robert Wyatt - Sea Song

Pitchfork Magazine: "Rock Bottom was in the planning stages when Robert Wyatt survived a fall from a fourth-floor window, a tumble that left him confined to a wheelchair and ended his career as British art-rock’s most endearingly maverick drummer. It’s impossible not to hear the stretched-out time of convalescence in its drones and long melodies as Wyatt devotes himself to keyboards, whittling at his synths as quizzically as he hones his lyrics, which gnarl with surreal wordplay but temper the brilliantly grounded wit that flashed across his earlier work. 

With no need to keep up a working band, Wyatt surrounds himself with his best Canterbury colleagues—there are cameos by Fred Frith and Mike Oldfield, as well as regular support from fellow Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper—and, bound to the studio, he invented the next phase of his career. The melancholy that buoys his classic “Sea Song” doesn’t block the exquisite melody, which assuages regrets before they can even creep in, and as Wyatt croaks his fascination for the strange real-life lover that he was about to marry, he settles for tapping the beat on a single, handheld drum."


Emitt Rhodes - self-titled album

Over the years, I've often heard folks declare that this Emitt Rhodes album is a hidden treasure and I certainly agree.  While Rhodes had recorded his very first album, The American Dream, as a contractual obligation to a label, he yearned to create an album that reflected his true talents.  In 1970, it finally happened when Dunhill Records signed him to their label and gave Rhodes cart blanche to do what he was best at.

Rhodes recorded the Emitt Rhodes album in his home studio. At the time, union rules required that recordings released on major labels must be recorded in proper studios, so the fact that this was a home recording could not be mentioned on the cover. The runout groove of the original LP release on Dunhill Records revealed a surprise message: Recorded at Home. At one point Rhodes said he wanted to name the album Homecooking, but Dunhill decided to go with the simple title of Emitt Rhodes

Left to his own device in the studio, Rhodes recorded the instruments on a four-track recorder and then approached Dunhill, who gave him a contract. He transferred the four-track instrumental recordings to an eight-track recorder to add the vocals on the four additional channels along with employing better microphones.  The personnel in the studio who produced this classic album: Emitt Rhodes - all instruments and voices, Keith Olsen - mixdown engineer and Curt Boettcher - mixdown engineer.

 

Emitt Rhodes - Fresh As A Daisy

 

"This multi-talented multi-instrumentalist is a classic example of a musician who got royally screwed by the industry.  Emitt Rhodes had been a member of two fledgling Sixties bands, The Palace Guard and Merry-Go-Round, and after they disbanded, Rhodes continued writing and recording songs to fulfill their contract with A&M Records, but they chose not to release his songs.  Instead, he invested in recording equipment and set up a home studio in his parents’ garage, playing all the instruments and singing and producing his own album.  He got a contract with ABC/Dunhill, and the album reached #29 on the charts in 1971, and was a big hit with critics as well.  Fresh as a Daisy, Somebody Made for Me, Long Time No See, Lullabye and With My Face on the Floor all have irresistible Beatlesque hooks and vocals that recall Paul McCartney.  A&M then released his earlier work, which confused buyers, and ABC demanded he release a new album every six months, a grueling pace that he found impossible to meet.  Discouraged, he soon quit the business but built a career as a producer/engineer." (hackbackpages.com)


John Cale - Paris 1919

This album is another one that I discovered in a record store's $1 bin.  Upon taking this gem home I became fascinated with the entire album.  I immediately fell in love with the album's title song that has the catchy chorus line, "you're a ghost la la la la la la lala!"  As the day went along, I ended up listening to the album 9 times in a row!  After that, Cale's brilliant album became a regular feature on my turntable forever after.  Amen!

Here's an interesting Warner Bros. promo sheet on Paris 1919

 

John Cale - Paris 1919

 

Recently, I came across a review of the Paris 1919 album on the NoRipcord website by a writer named Angel Aquilar:

"John Cale’s confidence is boundless. Classically trained and possessing a keen intellect, he’s actually driven by intuition, taking bold musical leaps that defy conventional thinking and eschew the beaten path. This Welshman for all seasons has had a long, varied musical career as a classical viola player, avant-garde explorer, Velvet Underground provocateur, producer, and arranger. Paris 1919, his third solo effort, draws from this multifaceted background, adding to the mix well-honed songwriting skills. 

Cale had an extraordinary group of musicians behind him. The album was produced by Chris Thomas, whose classical music background matched his. The studio players included members of Little Feat, a band that could change musical styles at the drop of a hat. The album opens with their patterned slide guitar, but it is Cale’s show all the way through. 

Child’s Christmas In Wales is imbued with warm nostalgia. A church organ and Cale’s wistful voice evoke purifying rituals, communal prayers, and lost innocence. Songs like these are the most valued by Cale’s fans, but you don’t get a complete picture of the artist without his dark humor. 

The album’s lyrics are cryptic, anchored on the themes of literary creation and wanderlust. It’s the music that makes it a worthwhile journey. At the time, bands like Deep Purple and Procol Harum had played with symphony orchestras, resulting in music that left little room for subtlety. Cale avoids that pitfall on songs like Hanky Panky No How and The Endless Plain Of Fortune. The latter features grave cellos in counterpoint with sawing high strings, yet this polyphony is used to heighten the song’s drama, not to smother it. 

Andalucia sounds like a Spanish air played with steel-stringed instruments, but it works. A fetching melody and courtly love lyrics make the song one of the album’s highlights. Macbeth breaks the spell with a hard-driving brontosaurus beat. It’s a glam rocker that could fit easily as a Roy Wood album track. It has my favorite line: 'Alas for poor Macbeth/He found a shallow grave/ But better than a painful death/And quicker than his dying breath.' 

The title song brings to mind the Paris Peace Conference held there after World War I, a crucial moment in history when the world map was redrawn but little else changed. There are some references to it in the song, but the approach is more personal. The singer deals with an annoying ghostly visitor, who casually appears from the clock across the hall. The low strings have the lead here, giving the song a stately feel that transports us to another time and place. You won’t find better songs about time warps. 

Graham Greene has the flavor of British colonial times. The band makes the most of a playful reggae beat, and Cale sings with a sly Jamaican accent. All the same, it portraits a frail world that crumbles before our eyes. 

Half Past France is a meditation presented as a playlet. A passenger on a train looks out a window, pensive, while everyone sleeps around him. It’s a moment for self-examination: even well-travelled men who enjoy the good life yearn for home. 

Antarctica Starts Here, the album’s closer, is sung in a low, brittle voice. The lyrics are about a fading Hollywood beauty, but the music’s tempo suggests last rites. It’s an intriguing piece, with a jumble of images that beg the listener’s participation to connect them at will. This open-ended approach is used throughout the album and is one reason fans like me keep going back to its nine tracks. 

Paris 1919 was not a chart success, none of Cale’s albums have been. Few of us care or remember what was on the charts back then. Cale never attached himself to fads anyway -- his music is meant for the ages. This, being his best collection of songs, has become a perennial favorite. In recent years, he has performed the full album live. If he does it again, don’t miss the chance. You’ll be in for a treat."

 


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