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Thursday, November 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Vinyl Cave: Catch and release with Beggar's Opera, Frijid Pink, Jamie Carr, Bay City Rollers, Leonard Cohen, Jim Peterik
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Must reduce the stacks! Otherwise, these albums would probably sit around without being listened to again for quite a while... so it seems better to send them back into the wild. Well, except maybe for the Lenny.


Beggar's Opera: Act One
Some truly crazy cover art adorns a relatively crazy prog-rock opus featuring good heavy guitar, plus lots of Keith Emerson-ish classically-inspired and/or -recycled keyboards. The group was around for most of the '70s (usually without the apostrophe), but from what I can tell by a quick online search this was their only U.S. release. (Verve, 1970)

Frijid Pink: Earth Omen
The first two Frijid Pink albums are over the top, crazed blues rock/psych guaranteed to lower your IQ, and awesome in a sort of Vanilla Fudge-meets-MC5 way. Earth Omen, as it turns out, includes only drummer Rick Stevers from that version of the band. While the update may have possibly included more competent musicians, this is not necessarily an improvement for Frijid Pink. The blues-on-crack edge -- for those who have heard their debut, think "I Wanna Be Your Lover" -- is largely supplanted by generic hippierock moves. Album closer "Mr. Blood" is pretty cool, though. Despite years in the wilderness due to band management (including the fact that at one point a group including no original members legally controlled the name), drummer Stevers has continued to work to keep the band's name alive all these years later. His current version of the group released a new album in 2011! (Lion, 1972)

Jamie Carr: Awakening
One of the many obscure late '60s-early '70s releases on Capitol, this particular disc is intriguing due to the fact it is a cutout. Capitol normally recycled their returns rather than sending them out to the budget bins, so I'm not sure how this one escaped to live again. Anyway, Awakening is big, glossy '60s pop-rock, produced by Artie Kornfeld. Carr wrote the whole thing, and his soul-influenced vocals alternate between rough-edged crooning and growlily Tim Rose-esque. Despite the psychedelic cover art, fans of that style will not be into much of this album, but fans of vaguely groovy '60s proto-singer-songwriter efforts will dig it. FYI: This is not Southern soul singer James Carr. (Capitol, 1969)

Bay City Rollers: Once Upon a Star
Sometimes when you see a record covered with a lot of continually descending price stickers, you should avoid it. This is the Rollers second album. It makes the Paley Brothers LP sound like GWAR. Heck, it makes "Saturday Night" sound like Black Sabbath Oh, teen idols, why can't you rock? The song "Let's Go" should do so, but will have to wait for an enterprising power pop band to cover it. And "Rock and Roll Honeymoon" gets points for trying. (Arista UK, 1975)

Leonard Cohen: Death of a Ladies Man
The concept of this album even existing seems somewhat suspect: Combine the King of Spare with the Wall of Sound? Well, the evidence exists, though it was generally disparaged and quickly shunted to bargain bins at the time. In a 1977 interview in The New York Times with Janet Maslin, Cohen himself declares that he doesn't like the record and that Spector essentially finished it without his input -- but also that he loves Spector and the record is a classic, saying "This record is in the area of extremism. Sometimes that has its own appeal." That about sums it up. It's disorienting on first listen to hear Cohen's plain vocal style engulfed in reverbed-out pop orchestrations. But in many cases, the tone of Cohen's lyrics match the over the top frenzy whipped up by Spector. I mean, there's a song here called "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-on," so any baiting of the faint-of-heart was intentional; this time the package also included some musical baiting for Cohen's already existing fan base. Death of a Ladies' Man is an album tailor-made to irritate fans of his earlier acoustic work and utterly confuse newcomers, so it's no surprise that in the intervening years it has developed a devoted following. It'll take me a few more spins to determine which camp I'm in. (Warner Brothers, 1977).

Jim Peterik: Don't Fight the Feeling
The first solo effort by the vocalist/guitarist/songwriter of Ides of March looks forward to what would be Peterik's next band -- Survivor -- as a good chunk of that group's lineup forms the backing band here. Don't Fight the Feeling also sounds somewhat reminiscent of fellow Illinoisan hitmakers Styx at times. That's no accident, since Tommy Shaw and James Young contribute backing vocals on most of the album. Between those two facts, one would probably guess that we've got some serious '70s AOR going on here, and one would be correct. It's solid Midwest rock, if lacking the garage-pop genius of the original teenage Ides of March or the horn-rock drive of that band's "Vehicle" era. Peterik mostly sings in his natural voice here, rather than in David Clayton-Thomas mode. He still lives in the Chicago area, and remains busy as a professional songwriter and performer with several bands, including a re-formed Ides of March. (Epic, 1976).

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