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Monday, 16 March 2020

Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come (Raw Hardrock US 1970)


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Kingdom Come is the debut studio album by American heavy metal band Sir Lord Baltimore, released on Mercury Records in 1970.

All of the songs on Kingdom Come were co-written and arranged by Mike Appel, who would later become Bruce Springsteen's manager. Co-produced by Appel and Jim Cretecos, the album was recorded at Vantone Studios in West Orange, New Jersey, before being mixed by Eddie Kramer and Kim King at Electric Lady Studios in New York, New York. Kramer is well known for his work with Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and Curtis Mayfield.


This album is notable for the fact that its 1971 review in Creem contains an early documented use of the term "heavy metal" to refer to a style of music. It features distorted guitar, enhanced by extensive use of multi-tracking, and has been compared to Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Van Halen (?), Kiss and the Stooges.

Kingdom Come is also considered to be a pioneer of stoner rock.

When Sir Lord Baltimore released Kingdom Come in 1970, heavy metal was just a twinkle in Black Sabbath's eyes (the Birmingham legends' first album had only just hit record stores), and the term itself was years away from widespread acceptance as the definition of an entire category of rock music. So much so, that present-day listeners might find this album's songs as comparable to those of so-called "early punks" The Stooges or MC5, as they are to other proto-metal outfits like Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, and certainly Sabbath themselves. As was the case with every one of these acts, Sir Lord Baltimore's music was fundamentally rooted in unbridled aggression, deafening distortion, and raw power: like Nuggets, the next generation. In other words, there was little finesse to be found in savage album cuts like "Helium Head," "Hard Rain Fallin'," and "Pumped Up" -- just bludgeoning hard rock seemingly ever on the verge of spontaneous self-combustion under the command of vocalist John Garner's wild-eyed, howling, vocal acrobatics. 

Clues of the group's influence by the classic '60s power trios (Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, etc.) were evident on bluesier, but still reliably tee-total numbers like "I Got a Woman" "Hell Hound," and "Lady of Fire"; while "Master Heartache" was jump-started by a monstrous bassline foreshadowing of Motörhead, and the leaden title track somehow managed to echo both the dying psychedelic movement and emerging doom. 

Finally, there was album wildcard "Lake Isle of Innersfree": a shockingly sedate and civilized, Baroque combination of harpsichord and 12-string guitars topped by suitably psychedelic lyrics which, not surprisingly, was crafted with the help of the band's managers (namely future Bruce Springsteen Svengali Mike Appel, trivia fans). As well as a true anomaly, the latter hinted at Sir Lord Baltimore's growing stylistic broadening which would both diversify and dilute their second and final album, leaving Kingdom Come to stand the test of time as the band's authoritative work. 

And, even though it was generally dismissed by critics and misunderstood by listeners of the day (as were Sabbath and the Stooges, of course), the album gradually grew in stature to become one of early heavy metal's best-loved documents, and most consistently sought-out cult items.

Brooklyn, NY's Sir Lord Baltimore were arguably America's first bona fide heavy metal band, and the funny thing is, they didn't even know it, since the style had yet to establish itself when the band first burst onto the scene. And because SLB's precocious, raw talent was offset by their immaturity and utter lack of business acumen, their budding career was summarily derailed after just two generally underrated albums. Thus, they were cursed to endure decades of obscurity until their music was rediscovered, vindicated, and often covered or flat-out copied by many stoner rock bands of the 1990s and beyond.

If anything makes sense in the ill-fated Sir Lord Baltimore story, it's the fact that the commercial success attained during their existence was as modest as the band's inner-city roots. Vocalist/drummer John Garner, guitarist Louis Dambra, and bassist Gary Justin were recently graduated from high school and had only been rehearsing for a few months when they auditioned for talent scout Mike Appel, who would later help launch the career of one Bruce Springsteen. Impressed by the band's undeniable power and chemistry, and assured by Dambra (who had just recorded an album with another group named the Koala) that the ferocious riffs he was playing were in fact not copped from Jimmy Page, Appel decided to take the inexperienced young trio under his wing. 


So, after fine-tuning and rearranging their raw materials into a strong batch of songs, Sir Lord Baltimore began recording their debut album, Kingdom Come, in West Orange, NJ, where they reportedly impressed a visiting Pink Floyd and attracted the attention of high-powered artist manager Dee Anthony, who wasted little time pushing out Appel and taking over the group's day-to-day operation.

Anthony then commissioned Jimi Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer to mix the finished Kingdom Come at the legendary guitarist's own Electric Ladyland studios in Manhattan, before securing a deal with Mercury Records for its release in mid-1970. Unfortunately, mainstream critics and consumers of the time didn't seem to know what to make of Sir Lord Baltimore's thundering hard rock (or, for that matter, those of any other similar band, like the Stooges or the MC5, unless they originated in the U.K.), which presciently yielded the first documented use of the term "heavy metal" to describe this kind of music in a contemporary review by Creem magazine.

Nevertheless, Anthony's contacts in high places were strong enough to secure SLB opening slots on tours with Black Sabbath (including two nights at the Fillmore East) and Humble Pie, but perhaps a tad prematurely, as it was on-stage that Sir Lord Baltimore's lack of experience and underdeveloped showmanship were revealed for all to see, sending them back to Brooklyn with tails between legs and egos in check to ponder their next move. 

This would eventually entail the addition of Louis' brother Joey Dambra on second guitar, leading up to the recording of their second, eponymous album, in 1971, where a concerted effort was made to both rein in the band's wild energy and broaden its sound into more progressive realms, with some success but nowhere near as much spontaneous combustion captured within the grooves. And when these "improvements" also fell short of commercial expectations, Sir Lord Baltimore were unceremoniously dropped by Mercury and left to their own devices shortly thereafter by their fickle Svengali. 

The bandmembers still began working on new music with hopes of finding another interested label, but finally gave up the fight in 1976 after a new contract for a rumored third album failed to materialize, resigning themselves to a life outside rock & roll as their records collected dust in cutout bins.

But the eventual rise of hard rock and heavy metal and, in particular, its mid-'90s offshoot, stoner rock, finally sparked a retroactive reevaluation of Sir Lord Baltimore's work, and vindicated the now middle-aged fans and music collectors who had always championed their cause. It also jolted John Garner and Louis Dambra (now a pastor ministering to homeless families in Los Angeles) out of their musical retirement in 2006, with the goal of recording the material intended for that never-made third album. 

Bassist Gary Justin hadn't picked up his instrument in years and declined to take part, but a few session players, including journeyman Tony Franklin, were drafted to help finish Sir Lord Baltimore III Raw, which was made available for sale through Sir Lord Baltimore's official website, all of 30 years after their breakup. Garner has since fielded several offers to perform select reunion shows in the U.S. and abroad, but has yet to come to terms that would bring Sir Lord Baltimore back to the live stage.

Personnel:
John Garner - lead vocals, drums
 Louis Dambra - guitar
★ Gary Justin - bass

01. "Master Heartache"  04:37
02. "Hard Rain Fallin'"  02:56
03. "Lady of Fire"  02:53
04. "Lake Isle of Innersfree"  04:03
05. "Pumped Up"  04:07
06. "Kingdom Come"  06:35
07. "I Got a Woman" (writers: Ray Charles, Renald Richard)  03:03
08. "Hell Hound"  03:20
09. "Helium Head (I Got a Love)"  04:02
10. "Ain't Got Hung on You"  02:24

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Anno Domini - On This New Day (Folkrock UK 1971)


Size: 92.4 MB
Bitrate: 320
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Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
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"Rare and sought-after UK psych-folk album from 1971. Formed in Ireland by Tiger Taylor (Ex Eire Apparent), their album makes one think of how The Byrds would have sounded had they been British. 


Mostly original songs, although they do a brilliant cover of 'So You Want To Be A Rock'n'Roll Star,' the record combines melodic folk tunes with other guitar-drenched rockers; great voices and delicious original songs. If you like The Byrds but are a fan of British psychedelia, this is for you. Limited edition of 500 copies with original artwork."

01. So You Want to Be a Rock'n Roll Star  05:10
02. On This New Day  01:59
03. Bad Lands of Ardguth  03:18
04. Regency Days  02:55
05. Hitchcock Railway  05:15
06. The Good Life I Have Known  03:15
07. The Trapper  02:30
08. Daddy Rowlin  04:17
09. Five O' Clock in the Morning  03:09
10. June Tremayne  03:24

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Mike Vernon - Bring it Back Home (Blue Horizon UK 1971)


Size: 142 MB
Bitrate: 320
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Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
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Mike Vernon produced some of the greatest blues records of all time. A full decade after retiring, he's back in the studio with some of the British blues scene's brightest lights.

Mention the name Mike Vernon to any self‑respecting blues fan, and you can guarantee that it won't be long before said fan is reeling off the names of classic records he made as a producer during the late‑'60s British blues boom. As well as manning the helm for many of John Mayall's recordings — including the groundbreaking 1966 album Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton — Vernon produced numerous other Brit blues artists including Chicken Shack, Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac and Ten Years After, and US blues stars including Otis Spann, Champion Jack Dupree and Eddie Boyd also recorded albums with Mike, for his legendary Blue Horizon label.

Michael William Hugh "Mike" Vernon (born 20 November 1944) is an English music executive studio owner, and record producer from Harrow, Middlesex. He produced albums for British blues artists and groups in the 1960s, working with the Bluesbreakers, David Bowie, Duster Bennett, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Climax Blues Band, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, John Mayall, Christine McVie and Ten Years After amongst others.

Vernon is best known as founder of the blues record label, Blue Horizon. He worked at Decca Records starting in 1963. He served as producer for the Mayall-Clapton collaboration Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (1966).


In 1973 Sire Records,(SAS 7410) Vernon released a solo album, Moment of Madness. He was also a member of Olympic Runners (1974–1979) and acted as producer for them. He was a producer and member of Rocky Sharpe and the Replays (1979–1983). With the Replays he sang bass under the psudonym of Eric Rondo. He founded the Indigo and Code Blue record labels in the 1990s.

Vernon came out of retirement to produce Dani Wilde's album Shine, and the second album by the British blues prodigy, Oli Brown. Brown's album entitled Heads I Win, Tails You Lose was released in March 2010.

In October 2013, Vernon was rewarded with a BASCA Gold Badge Award, in recognition of his unique contribution to music.

On 7 September 2018, Vernon's first album on Manhaton Records, Beyond The Blues Horizon, was released. It featured twelve tracks, including nine new self-penned originals, and three covers from the catalogues of Brook Benton, Mose Allison and Clarence "Frogman" Henry. The release was supported by a European tour under the billing of 'Mike Vernon & The Mighty Combo'. Vernon's band, The Mighty Combo, consisted of Kid Carlos (guitar), Ian Jennings (upright bass), Matt Little (keyboards), Paul Tasker (saxophone) and Mike Hellier (drums).


Blue Horizon Records was a British blues independent record label, founded by Mike Vernon and Neil Slaven in 1965, as an adjunct to their fanzine, R&B Monthly, and was the foremost label at the time of the British blues boom in the mid to late 1960s.

Blue Horizon's first release was a 45 rpm single by Hubert Sumlin, then working as Howlin' Wolf's guitarist. Other releases soon followed on the Outasite and Purdah labels, the latter of which released just four 7" singles; including "Flapjacks" by Stone's Masonry (featuring Martin Stone, later to join Savoy Brown and Mighty Baby); and another by John Mayall and Eric Clapton "Bernard Jenkins", and "Lonely Years". Only 99 copies of each are thought to have been pressed - limited originally to avoid purchase tax - although it has also been said that the number was as high as 1000.

45 rpm releases continued on the Blue Horizon label, generally reissues of rare and hard-to-find singles from a handful of American blues musicians, although two releases — one by guitarist J.B. Lenoir, and another, by Champion Jack Dupree and British guitarist Tony "T.S" McPhee — presented new material. Blue Horizon's first LP was by one-man band Doctor Ross, recorded in a London hotel room while he was on tour with the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival. 

A world-wide licensing and distribution deal with CBS, reached late in 1967, heralded the glory years of the label. Starting with two 7" singles with combined CBS/Blue Horizon stamps featuring Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and Aynsley Dunbar 's Retaliation, there followed a string of singles and albums by both British and American blues artists, both licensed and newly recorded. Some releases featured Mike Vernon produced recordings of US artists such as Otis Spann and Champion Jack Dupree, backed by British blues players including Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff, Stan Webb and Pete Wingfield. Other UK artists signed to the label included Chicken Shack, Duster Bennett, Key Largo, Gordon Smith, Jellybread and Christine Perfect (later to be Christine McVie).

The label produced chart hit singles for Fleetwood Mac "Need Your Love So Bad" "Black Magic Woman" and the number 1 "Albatross" and Chicken Shack 's "I'd Rather Go Blind" and a string of albums in imaginative sleeves mostly designed by Terence Ibbott. The distinctive blue label singles eventually gave way to red and then no-centre white labels as the blues boom died away, although further chart success was had with Dutch band Focus - "Hocus Pocus" reaching the UK top 20. The label ceased production in the early 1970s but all of its titles are collectible today. Later vinyl re-releases by Sire Records in the US kept interest alive but CD reissues were limited until Vernon himself re-emerged in the 21st century to remaster some of the material.

In 2010, it was reported that the label would be reactivated by Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer, whom with Mike and Richard Vernon were the US and UK directors of Blue Horizon Records, although it would not have access to the original catalogue - in 2012 Tank Full Of Blues by Dion was issued.

On 12 June 2012, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Cerys Matthews' Blue Horizon a documentary about Blue Horizon Records.

The label was lampooned by The Liverpool Scene with their song "I've Got These Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, John Mayall Can't Fail Blues".

Blue Horizon Records was also an independent label set up by Josie Wilson in Seattle, Washington in 1959-60 to promote The Ventures first recordings, and later some instrumental recordings by The Marksmen.

Where It All Started:
Mike Vernon fell in love with music at a very early age and was soon "sponging up” all the rhythm & blues, rock & roll and blues tracks he could find. He began working for Decca Records in 1962 while he was still in his teens.

"I didn't really have [a job description] in those days,” says Mike. "I suppose it was what you'd now call a gofer — 'Make the tea, go for this, go for that, take this up to the studio' — and that was about as far as it went. It was a stuffy old place, full of stuffy old people, and I just felt that it needed an injection. I was far too young to ever say such a thing, but I just felt that there would come a time where Decca would become part of the real world, and I'd like to think, actually, that I did have some major part in that, along with my immediate boss, Hugh Mendl, who gave me enough rope to hang myself 10 times — put it that way!”

It was Mike Vernon's obsession with the budding London blues scene that helped him develop into one of Decca's youngest record producers.

"I just took opportunities,” he explains. "I was such a blues freak, and I was always out at night in London at any one of about half a dozen clubs, listening to the Yardbirds and so forth, and that's how I got to meet Eric Clapton in the first place. I used to go see John Mayall at the Flamingo and we became known to each other and that's really how John Mayall got the renewed deal at Decca… I went to Hugh Mendl and said, 'We need to pay some attention to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, especially now he's got this young ex‑Yardbirds guitar player, Eric Clapton, who's turning the blues scene completely upside down. He's going to be a major force as a guitar player in the future. We need to nab this band while we've got the chance.' And he said, 'If you say so, go ahead and do it!' so we negotiated the deal. I got involved as producer immediately, and that was really how it all started.”

Beano:
Mike Vernon tells us about the challenges he had while recording John Mayall's classic 1966 Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton LP, fondly known as the 'Beano album', due to the fact that Eric Clapton was snapped reading a copy of the famed kids' comic on the sleeve.

"The whole plan was to make that record as live‑sounding as we possibly could, and in those days that was not easy, because there were so many restrictions in terms of the way people used to do things,” says Mike. "Everything was always, 'Well, you must do it this way, you must do it that way, you must always have the microphone only so far from the actual cone of the amplifier and the amplifier must only be turned up to three or four for the optimum sound reproduction!'

"Clapton had said, 'This is going to be your biggest challenge, recording my sound!' We didn't realise how big a challenge it was going to be but, thank God, we had a young engineer who became a very famous producer, Gus Dudgeon, who was ready for any challenge whatsoever. Sadly, he's no longer with us [Dudgeon died in a road accident in 2002], but I can remember seeing his face the very first time Clapton plugged into the Marshall stack and turned it up and started playing at the sort of volume he was going to play. You could almost see Gus's eyes meet over the middle of his nose, and it was almost like he was just going to fall over from the sheer power of it all! But he dealt with it in inimitable style, and after an enormous amount of fiddling around and moving amps around, we got a sound that worked. I think all the solos, with the possible exception of 'Stepping Out', were done live. You can actually tell they were, because the drums suffer as a result of it. There was an enormous amount of guitar on the drums. The studio wasn't very big — it was big enough, but nobody had had to deal with a band making that kind of noise.”

In 1968, just two years after the great success of the 'Beano' record, Mike Vernon left Decca and went independent. The move was largely a result of the fact that Vernon's cult Blue Horizon label — upon which he'd been releasing small‑run blues recordings since the mid‑'60s — had gained such a great reputation on the British blues scene.

"It just sort of snowballed, to the point where Peter Green was going to leave John Mayall and form his own band and he said to me, 'I want you to record our records and I want them out on Blue Horizon. I don't mind if we're with Decca, but I don't want it on any other label but Blue Horizon,'” explains Vernon. "I did the very first demos with what would become Fleetwood Mac, and they got offered to Decca, and they weren't rejected, but they wouldn't put the record out on the Blue Horizon label… so we offered it to CBS and CBS took it and took the label identity as well. But once that record came out and was something of a success, I got the dreaded phone call from the seventh floor at Decca, got called in and was told, 'You can't produce records for other record companies!' I said, 'Well, I did offer it to you and you rejected it, so I took it to someone else'. And they said, 'OK, fair enough, but you can't do these two things at once, so you either have to resign or we'll fire you!' So I said, 'Right, I resign as of now,' went away, and about three weeks later I came back and signed an independent production deal with Decca, and that's how I continued on as an independent producer for Decca… and other companies.”

The rest, as they say, is history, and Mike Vernon spent the next few years as an independent producer, pioneering one classic blues record after another. After the blues-boom bubble burst at the beginning of the '70s, Vernon started a recording studio in Chipping Norton with his brother, Richard, which continued to be a successful enterprise through to its closure in the late '90s, just a few years prior to Mike's initial retirement.

Band members on the Album:
Paul Butler - Guitar
 Rory Gallagher - Guitar
 Laurence Garman - Harmonica
 Richie Hayward - Guitar
 Paul Kossoff - Guitar
 Kenny Lamb - Drums
 Dick Parry - Saxophone
 Jimmy Reed - Composer
 Mike Vernon - Harmonica, Percussion, Primary Artist, Vocals
 Pete Wingfield - Keyboards

01.Let`s Try It Again  04:26
02.Move Away  04:16
03.Mississippi Joe  03:58
04.Brown Alligator  11:46
05.Come Back Baby  02:05
06.War Pains  03:46
07.Dark Road Blues  03:25
08.(She Said) She Didn`t Have Time  05:56
09.Ain`t That Lovin` You Baby  03:11
10.My Say Blues  05:56

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Neil Merryweather - Word of Mouth (w. Steve Miller) (Canada 1969)


Size: 152 MB
Bitrate: 320
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Artwork Included
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Source: 24-Bit Remaster

One of the less known Canadian groups to work on the 1960s US West Coast scene was the short-lived Merryweather, a talented bunch of Ontario musicians, fronted by former Mynah Birds member, bass player Neil Lillie (today better known as Neil Merryweather).

Slightly reminiscent of the early Steve Miller Band, Merryweather also shared the same label, Capitol Records, with whom they had signed with in January 1969 and produced two albums, including the double "super-jam" record, Word of Mouth before imploding later that year. It all began in Toronto in 1963 with a suburban band known as The XLs. Formed by organist Ed Roth (b. 16 February 1947, Toronto, Ontario) with bass player Brian Hughes, and later joined by drummer Bob Ablack and American-born guitarist Bill Ross, The XLs were essentially an instrumentals outfit. That is until singer Gary Muir came on board during early 1964 and remodelled them as Gary & The Reflections.

Muir's tenure was brief, however, as a few months later singer Neil Lillie (b. Robert Neilson Lillie, 27 December 1945, Winnipeg, Manitoba) had ousted him as front man. Lead singer with local rivals, Night-tricks, Lillie's band shared the same agents as Gary & The Reflections.

With the change in personnel came a new identify, The Ookpiks, named after a native-designed stuffed toy owl called Ookpik, which the Canadian government was promoting at the time.

Unfortunately another Ookpiks group already existed and so for a brief period, the band took on another moniker, The Sikusis, named after another stuffed toy. Once again, the musicians found themselves in trouble. Unable to get permission from the Canadian government to use the name without compensation, they settled on The Just Us at the end of 1964.

While all of this was going on the band scored a recording deal with Quality Records and a lone single, "I Don't Love You" c/w "I Can Tell" was launched on an unsuspecting public in early 1965. Despite its raw energy and undoubted appeal, the single bombed, which is perhaps not surprising in light of the fact that some copies were credited to The Ookpiks, some to The Sikusis and some to The Just Us! Almost impossible to get hold of now, the single's a-side, "I Don't Love You" has resurfaced on at least one CD compilation – Nightmares From The Underworld.

Soon afterwards, drummer Bob Ablack briefly left for personal reasons. Al Morrison took up the drum stool before making way for Ted Sherrill, who would fill in for Ablack intermittently over the next few years. The Just Us ploughed on but Neil Lillie (who had been using the stage name Bobby Neilson) and Bill Ross were increasingly coming to blows and around December 1965 Ross was given the elbow. Ross's dramatic ousting coincided with original member Brian Hughes' decision to quit the band and continue his studies. Bill Ross, meanwhile, reunited with Al Morrison in The Bossmen, which was formed in January 1966 to back up future Blood, Sweat & Tears singer David Clayton-Thomas after he left The Shays.

To fill the vacant spots, Lillie brought in former Mynah Byrds singer, the late Jimmy Livingstone (b. 28 February 1938, Toronto, Ontario), initially as a second keyboard player and vocalist. Livingstone by all accounts was a wildly eccentric man. A somewhat mercurial character, he's often been described by musicians that knew him as being "ahead of his time" and his musical talents were greatly respected.

"Jim was incredibly funny and musically fearless," remembers Roth. "We did arrangements that were totally unique and often off the cuff. He was one of my greatest musical influences. He would do anything on stage. Sometimes we would break into an opera in a totally made-up language. Sometimes, the jams went on and on, but most of the time they were fascinating and pretty funky. We were a band that could turn on a dime."

Livingstone had started singing in the late 1950s rockabilly outfit, Jimmy Lee & The Countdowns. Much later on he shared the vocal duties with future Motown funk star, Rick James (then known as Ricky James Matthews) in the early Mynah Birds. After splitting from that group in mid-1965, Livingstone briefly fronted The Muddy Yorks alongside bass player Wayne Davis (b. 28 April 1946, Toronto, Ontario). This connection probably explains how Davis was recruited as Brian Hughes' replacement in The Just Us in early 1966. And if this was indeed the case, it was probably Davis who found Ross's successor, guitarist Stan Endersby (b. 17 July 1947, Lachine, Quebec) as both musicians had previously worked together in C J Feeney & The Spellbinders.


With Bob Ablack back in The Just Us' ranks, the band met an English producer who secured some studio time at Arc Sound in the spring of 1966 and oversaw the recording of an entire album, the tapes of which later disappeared when the producer took off for New York. Not withstanding this disappointment, the old battle over the group's name soon reared its ugly head again when an American duo called The Just Us scored a minor US hit with "You Can't Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree" in April 1966.

If the struggle for the band's name wasn't bad enough, Wayne Davis left the band during early June to join Bobby Kris & The Imperials. With a prestigious show opening for The Byrds at Toronto's Varsity Stadium pencilled in for 22 June, Lillie had little choice but to learn the bass in two weeks!

Assuming the name Group Therapy for the show, the band once again ran into legal problems over the name. However, it didn't matter in the long run. Aware of the changing undercurrent in the local music scene and the dawn of the psychedelic era, The Just Us eventually assumed a more appropriate moniker in September 1966, and one that fitted perfectly with the times, The Tripp.

In its new guise, the group eschewed the R&B numbers to concentrate more on original material, which was far more improvisational and experimental in style. Early on, the band shared a bill with Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights and impressed by the pianist, Rick Bell, Lillie asked him to join The Tripp.

Rare footage of The Tripp appearing on the Canadian Broadcasting Company's The Sunday Show has resurfaced in recent years and is something of a revelation. Presented by Canadian singer/songwriter Ian Tyson, The Tripp can be seen tearing through a bizarre improvisational number, which clearly leaves the rather conservative studio audience looking dumbfounded and noticeably shocked!

"They put a lot of money into filming our psychedelic numbers with lots of effects and lights and smoke machines," remembers Endersby. "There was an article that said something like 'the singer screams, howls like a chicken and never sings a word'. I mean Jimmy Livingstone was very original, one of a kind. On the show Rick Bell would be inside his piano pulling at the strings and I was playing slide with a lipstick tube. It was all very bizarre."

Perhaps it was the band's uncompromising attitude and unwillingness to fall in line with the current music fads or maybe it was just that Canada's fledging music industry simply didn't know how to market the band's adventurous spirit. Whatever the reason, The Tripp sadly never got the opportunity to record anything for posterity.

By the spring of 1967, Rick Bell was gone. Joining forces with Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks, he would resurface a few years later in Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band, appearing on the troubled singer's classic Pearl album. After years playing a multitude of sessions, Bell would ultimately wind up with Hawkins' former backing group, The Band.


Neil Lillie was losing interest too and when former Mynah Birds singer Ricky James Matthews turned up at one of The Tripp's shows in late May and offered him a potentially lucrative offer, he didn't need much convincing. "After the show, Rick asked me if I wanted to sign to Motown as a member of The 'Myna Byrds' that he was reforming," remembers Lillie. "Billy Ross was there and was joining with Al Morrison."

As it turned out, 'Myna Byrds' fell apart as quickly as they had been reformed. By September 1967, Lillie was playing bass and singing with a new Toronto band called The Flying Circus, fronted by none other than folk singer/songwriter and guitarist Bruce Cockburn.

Lillie stuck with The Flying Circus until March 1968 but eventually left over "creative differences" with Cockburn. Intent on finding an outlet for the new material he was writing, Lillie started to look around for suitable partners. Within a matter of weeks, he had reunited with his former cohorts from The Tripp – Ed Roth and Jimmy Livingstone, both of whom had kept the old group going under the guise of Livingstone's Tripp and then Livingstone's Journey.

While Roth had stuck with the band to the bitter end, Livingstone had left unexpectedly in October 1967 and after a brief respite had dabbled unsuccessfully with a new group called The Boiler Room. When that didn't work out, Livingstone ran into drummer Gary Hall (b. 6 October 1946, Toronto, Ontario), who was teaching percussion at the Toronto Conservatory.

"I had a student named Norman Kelp, a drummer from New Brunswick and his friend was [guitarist] David Kindred," recalls Hall. "David and I became friends and he moved in with me and my family. We thought we'd better put a band together, were looking for somebody and I think he knew Jimmy Livingstone."

Livingstone was already hanging out with Neil Lillie who was looking to put together a new group. Having recruited Ed Roth, who was looking around for fresh challenges after Livingstone's Journey had dissolved, the trio approached Hall and Kindred but the line up was short-lived. During June 1968, Kindred moved on to replace Mike McKenna in the legendary, Ugly Ducklings.

It was then that the Ducks' singer Dave Bingham directed the group to the guitarist they were looking for, 19-year-old David Colin Burt (b. 19 September 1948, Hamilton, Ontario), formerly a member of Hamilton groups, The Roots of All Evil and The Incredible Sons of Dr Funk. Burt, who was currently playing with St Catherine's band, The Fraser Loveman Group, had already tried out for the lead guitar spot in the Ducks before Kindred but turned the offer down. "I went and did some rehearsals with them and I just felt like the band was on its way out, so I bowed out," he recalls.

Sticking with his current outfit, Burt remembers playing at a school gymnasium somewhere between Toronto and Hamilton one night when the others, on Bingham's recommendation, dropped by to check the young guitarist out. "I saw the whole band standing out there on the dance floor and on the break they said, 'Do you want to go to California with us?'"

The decision to try their luck in Los Angeles came about after Lillie and Livingstone had run into former Buffalo Springfield bass player Bruce Palmer at his brother's house in Toronto. Palmer, who had recently been busted for marijuana possession and deported to Canada "put this whole picture of California in our heads," explains Lillie. "After hearing Bruce's stories of how great L.A. was, I decided to form a band specifically to go to California, not to play locally."

Within days of signing up, Dave Burt found himself rehearsing with the group, which was tentatively called New King Boiler (after the brand name inscribed on the furnace) in Neil Lillie's grandmother's basement. It soon became apparent that Gary Hall was a prodigious coffee drinker and such was his habit that Lillie's grandmother nicknamed him "Coffee". The band picked up on it and from then on Gary Hall became known as 'Coffi' Hall.

A short while later, the group befriended June Nelson. "While hanging out at Bruce's brother's place, we met June who was sort of his girlfriend at the time," recalls Lillie. "She had been Mo Osten's secretary [at Warner Brothers in Los Angeles] before coming to Toronto." Nelson had written a poem called Heather Merryweather and, taken with the title, the musicians decided to adopt it as the band's new name. Nelson also promised to help make arrangements for the group once they got to Los Angeles that summer.

Before setting off in early August, Heather Merryweather went into Arc Studios in Toronto and recorded three tracks. The first, a co-write by Lillie and Livingstone, "Little Man" would resurface on the band's debut album the following year, albeit in a different form. The remaining tracks, however, were never recorded again and remain unreleased to this day. One is the June Nelson poem, "Heather Merryweather", put to music by the group, while the other is Lillie's "Foolish I Guess".

With the recordings done, the entire group, plus Gary Hall's brother, jumped in an old Chevy and drove non-stop to Los Angeles in about three days. With no instruments and armed only with an acetate of the three songs, the group had a rude awakening after finally reaching their destination. "When we got there we found out that June [Nelson] didn't have any preparations for us," recalls Burt.

With little money, Heather Merryweather had to depend on the kindness of strangers to get by. "At first we lived in a motel called the Hollywood Center," remembers Roth. "One week in, some guy tried to commit suicide there by filling his cottage with gas from the stove and lighting it. He survived somehow. I'll never forget coming home to the motel and seeing all the venetian blinds blown out of the windows."

After various potential offers failed to come through, Lillie contacted Bruce Palmer who put the group in touch with a local singer/songwriter called Linda Stevens and she put the entire band up at her place in Topanga Canyon, where blues singer Taj Mahal was her neighbour. It was the perfect spot to rehearse.

"While staying there we arranged to have our instruments flown down to L.A. and we got a gig at the Big Pink," remembers Roth. "Topanga's main club, the legendary Corral, had been firebombed by right-wing neighbours and so a lot of the Topanga people went to the Big Pink, in the Valley. Members of The Doors and Spirit used to come see us."

Debuting at the Big Pink on 22 September, Lillie, who had quit an art school scholarship to pursue music full-time while with The Just Us, designed the poster to promote the show. "That picture was taken in Toronto before we left for Los Angeles," notes Roth. "Neil thought my hair looked too short and puffed it out with a marker to make it more like an Afro!"

Increasingly unpredictable, Jimmy Livingstone was given the elbow after the Big Pink shows. "Jimmy disappeared with Linda for a couple of days. I think they went into the bush for a while," remembers Burt. "Jimmy came back and I don't know if he was too unstable or whether he just didn't want to stay with us. He was too much of a free spirit."

"I vaguely remember a day at the motel when Jim jumped into the pool with his clothes on (for effect) and taking issue with Dave saying 'whatever' to some musical point [he] was trying to make," adds Roth. "I think that was about it for us. Jim's being in Topanga was disastrous in hindsight. He began having serious hallucinations. [He] was never the same. This was a tragedy for all of us who knew him."

"It was over," explains Lillie. "We got together and I said, 'Look, we can't get a record deal like this'. The thing was he let us all down. When we played that club everybody heard about us and word spread that we were something to see. So when we did play there, Jimmy wasn't Jimmy and he wasn't the guy we wanted to be that he was in the past. It was almost like he got scared. I fired him because he cared more about partying than being part of the band."

With Livingstone gone, Lillie took over the lead vocal spot and also assumed creative control over the group's direction. He immediately made an impression on the others. "We didn't realise he had such a great voice and he could compose like crazy," recalls Burt. "He would write from the bass so he had all this room. He would be playing all these bass lines and singing all these interesting melodies and Ed Roth and I would put all the harmonic movement to it."

Shortly before Livingstone's departure, the band's luck changed when Morey Alexander, an aspiring manager from Chicago, spotted them, promised to land a record deal and get them a gig at the famed Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood. According to Roth, the band was impressed that Alexander shared an office with singer Bobby Gentry, but more importantly he gave them money to live on and paid for them to stay at the Hollywood Center.

"We started rehearsing, and when the time had come for our big debut, Morey had arranged to have record people there," says Roth. "One was Bill Cosby [who] had just started Tetragrammaton Records. Before the gig we went out and bought new shirts and kerchiefs and we hitchhiked to the gig. I'll never forget us standing on Sunset Boulevard with our thumbs out, guitar, bass, flute and snare drum in hand."

In early October, Heather Merryweather opened for The Chicago Transit Authority, who were making one of their first L.A. appearances. By all accounts, the band's performance was well received and in January 1969, producer John Gross signed Heather Merryweather to Capitol Records to a seven-year deal.

A short while later, Dave Burt remembers the label paying to record some demos, which included Lillie's "Mr Richman" to see how they would come across in the studio.

Cut at Independent Recorders in the Valley with John Gross in the production seat and abetted by legendary engineer Jim Lockert, who "wrote the book" on recording in Nashville and later worked with The Beach Boys, the sessions ran smoothly. Buoyed by the early recordings, Capitol arranged for some studio time to start recording an album, once again working with Gross and Lockert.

The group began recording in earnest and proceeded to lay down 10 tracks, most written by Lillie. "The first sessions for the album were done at Capitol," remembers Roth. "Wow! It was like a dirigible hangar! I think we did 'No Passengers Allowed' there. Back then recording was kind of formal – recording staff wore ties. We set up the whole band in the middle of this huge room, and placed mics very high above us on booms. We invited some friends from the coffee house we went to, to come and watch. I think they joined in, in the 'chant' at the end of the piece."

Most of the rest of the album was done back at Independent Recorders where the assistant engineer was Jo Stafford's son. A former member of The Lettermen, whose brother was a Capitol executive, owned the studio. "The studio was our sandbox," continues Roth. "We tried everything. In Toronto the most we recorded on was three-track. Here we had eight [and] later sixteen on our next album. We rented strange instruments – a cello, an Ondioline, boom bams, whatever we wanted. Dave and I had never touched a cello, but we played them on the album. It was fun."

Although Lillie sang the lead vocals on all of the tracks, Burt remembers Jimmy Livingstone turning up in the studio one day unexpectedly and laying down a vocal. "Jimmy rolled in to the studio covered in mud," recalls Burt. "Apparently, he had been walking down the big viaducts. He came into the studio and I think he sang something. I remember the shock when I saw him because it looked like he'd been on acid for weeks."

Roth confirms that Livingstone did come into the studio to record a vocal but says that it wasn't for the record. It was to help record a dada-esque radio advert for the album that the group's organist feels turned out better. Shortly after completing the recordings in February 1969, Neil Lillie legally changed his surname to Merryweather after shortening the group's name. "Heather Merryweather was dropped because there was no person called Heather Merryweather," explains Merryweather. "When I said I was in a band called Heather Merryweather, people asked me if Heather was the lead singer! We dropped it because after all, there was already a band called Alice Cooper."

"Dave, Coffi and I didn't know Neil had become Merryweather until we saw a proof from the inside of the cover," recalls Roth on the surprise that awaited the others. "Neil was the driving force behind the band, so I don't begrudge him the name."

"The reason I took the name was I never like the name Lillie," explains Merryweather in his defence. "It always sounded funny to me and kind of bugged me, so I used my first two names – Robert Neilson. When I came down here and I saw that I had to take the reins of the band and that I was doing 90 per cent of the writing and directing everybody, I thought, 'This time if something goes wrong, I want to make sure that I have some longevity'. When I set up Merryweather Music, Morey and I went to BMI and I got two advances of over $10,000 to support Merryweather during our time together."

Decked in a double sleeved jacket designed by Ivan Nagy, which showed the band sitting barefooted, the group's eponymous album arrived in the record stores that spring but received very little, if any, publicity. That's something of a shame because Merryweather was a strong debut and contained some brilliant individual songs, most notably, Neil Merryweather's "Mr Richman", which opened proceedings and "No Passenger's Allowed". Other highlights include the Merryweather-Burt collaboration, "A Feeling of Freedom" and the aforementioned "Little Man".

Not long afterwards, Merryweather made a prestigious appearance at Newport '69, a huge rock festival held at Devonshire Downs in Northridge on the weekend of 20-22 June. The three-day festivities also featured The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds and Poco among others.

"We opened up on the Sunday morning and it was great," remembers Neil Merryweather. "I had this guy in the audience that had an American flag with the peace symbol in the middle climb the hundred foot sound speaker towers and put it up at the top and everybody went ballistic. That was a great thing for us."

Back in Los Angeles, Merryweather returned to the Whisky A Go Go for a show opening for Leslie West's group, Mountain on 29 July. Earlier that month, work had begun on the band's second album, which was produced once again by John Gross. On this occasion, Merryweather were joined by various musicians, including Steve Miller, Howard Roberts, Barry Goldberg, Charlie Musselwhite and former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason to record a "super jam" album. As Ed Roth explains, aside from Mason who the band met on the street, the others were introduced to Merryweather on the day of the session in the studio.

The album kicks off in fine form with Merryweather's heavy-rock workout, "I Found Love", which features tasty guitar and organ solos and an amazing throat shredding vocal from Neil Merryweather. Other highlights include the catchy, "Teach You How To Fly", a band collaboration with guitarist Howard Roberts and the Merryweather-Roth co-write, "Where I Am", with stirring violin from Bobby Notkoff.

By this time, the band was starting to establish a following around the L.A area. On 21-23 September, Merryweather played one of their most high profile concerts to date, headlining at Thee Experience. Incidentally, it was at this gig that Neil Merryweather introduced his future girlfriend and musical partner, Lynn Carey, then singer with blues-rock band, C K Strong and invited her up on stage to jam with the group.

Burt remembers the three-night stand for different reasons. On the first night, Jimi Hendrix and The Band of Gypsies dropped by for an after hours jam after spending the day recording in a nearby studio. "Coffi Hall told me that they used to sit at the back of the club and listen to us until we finished our show," says the band's guitarist. "The first night, I get a tap on my shoulder and there's Jimi Hendrix standing beside me with his guitar asking to use my amp."

Hendrix, says Burt, would then get up on stage and conduct an amazing jam session. Merryweather's guitarist remembers Hendrix turning up the second night with Johnny Winter and on the last night with Frank Zappa, who was there to produce headlining act, Jean-Luc Ponty's Experience for a live album. To Roth's chagrin, the group had already left the club.

Though Merryweather had started to attract something of a following in late 1969, ironically, the group played probably its best-received show on the day it broke up, October 12. On the day in question, Merryweather had travelled down the coast to perform at the Balboa Stadium in San Diego on a bill that also featured Country Joe & The Fish, Poco and Chicago. According to Burt, Merryweather pretty much stole the show. "It was probably our biggest success and we were at least second on the bill," he recalls. "The crowd was already pumped up for us.

"[After we had played] they were screaming for us to come up for a third or fourth encore I believe and Neil was yelling at me, "Do you hear that? Do you hear that?' I said, 'Yeah, I hear it', but by this time some of the business stuff was very shady with the band. Also by this time Rick James had shown up."

Burt's relationship with Merryweather had been deteriorating for some time and the two musicians had increasingly been coming to blows. "Dave Burt lived with some chick in the valley, while Roth, Hall and I lived at our rehearsal facility," says Merryweather, who has his own take on the final split. "Burt was always late for rehearsals and became less a member and more of a burden. I was going to fire him and replace him with the guitarist from a Canadian group called Lighthouse.

"We were staying at a motel in Hollywood when Burt showed up and we had a fight. I'd had enough, so I quit. When I was going out the door, Rick James was about to knock. He was coming over to see me. I said, 'Rick, here's a ready-made band – they're yours.' "

For Merryweather, there was a sad footnote to the whole saga. "The piss off is three weeks [before Rick James turned up] Chris Sarns, the road manager for Crosby, Stills & Nash came to see me on behalf of Stephen Stills to ask me and Ed to join their band. I had jammed with Stephen when we hung out together some months before. Our double album had just been released, so I was loyal to the thought that Merryweather had a shot, so I turned down the CSN bass job. At that time, Rick James blew in to town with Greg Reeves. Reeves took the gig with CSN and I gave Rick my band."

Left without a group Merryweather secured a one-off album deal with Kent Records and rounded up some Canadian friends from the Toronto music scene to help pull an album together in L.A. The guitarist was John Richardson, formerly a member of The Lords of London and Nucleus, while the drummer, Robin Boers, was from the Ugly Ducklings. Keyboard player J J Velker meanwhile was a brief member of Calgary group The 49th Parallel and was working in Los Angeles at the time.

Credited to Merryweather, Richardson and Boers, the record, while patchy, does include some excellent material, most notably, the Merryweather, Richardson and Boers collaboration, "Flat Back", Merryweather and girlfriend Lynn Carey's "You Must Live It" and Merryweather's "Aren't You Glad That You Know".

Very few copies of the album appeared to have been pressed and soon afterwards, Merryweather abandoned the project to look for new musical partners. "RCA called me and asked if I would come there and do a jam album for them," explains Merryweather. "I called Charlie Musselwhite and Barry Goldberg and incorporated Lynn Carey into the project. [Ivar Avenue Reunion's] cover was done by Dean Torrance of Jan & Dean. Upon hearing the tight vocals between Lynn and me, RCA signed us as Merryweather and Carey and we did Vacuum Cleaner."

In 1971, Merryweather and Carey put a whole new band together called Mama Lion, which featured former Merryweather drummer Coffi Hall and keyboardist James Newton Howard, today a successful film composer. The band recorded two albums before evolving into Space Rangers for further recordings.

Looking back over his career, Merryweather says he has plans to release everything that he has done. He is also getting his website on-line. "I spoke to Ed and put across the idea that I wanted him to add keyboards to all my unreleased material and he expressed interest in doing it. "

And then there is talk of a Merryweather reunion with Hall, Roth and Burt. "It is a possibility but it will probably be summer 2007," says Merryweather. With everyone available, it is a tempting proposition and perhaps the promise of a reunion plus Merryweather's plans to release his back catalogue will finally give the band the recognition it deserves.

The Band:
Neil Merryweather - bass, vocals
 Steve Miller - guitar, vocals
 Dave Mason - guitar, bass, vocals
 Charlie Musselwhite - harmonica, vocals
★ Barry Goldberg - organ
 Howard Roberts - guitar
 Bobby Notkoff - violin
 Dave Burt - guitar, vocals
 Coffi Hall - drums
★ Ed Roth - organ, piano, fiddle, rocksichord, vocals

01. I Found Love  03:09
02. Teach You How to Fly  03:24
03. Just a Little Bit  03:42
04. Where I Am  03:45
05. Hello Little Girl  02:59
06. Mrs. Roberts' Son  08:56
07. Licked the Spoon  03:01
08. Sun Down Lady  06:00
09. The Hard Times  03:07
10. News  03:07
11. We Can Make It  04:32
12. Rough Dried Woman  03:38
13. Dr. Mason  04:45
14. Hooker Blues  03:30

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