Monthly Archives: November 2021

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Angel Station review JV

Angel Station Review

by Joe Viglione [-]

Vocalist Chris Thompson’s last album with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is dressed up in Mann’s beautiful keyboards. Angel Station has some key moments — “You Angel You,” a Bob Dylan tune that sounds nothing like Dylan, and not the way their Top Ten version of “Quinn the Eskimo”/”The Mighty Quinn” was reinvented. “You Angel You” has a strong hook with topnotch Anthony Moore production work, and it melts into the title track of Harriet Schock’s landmark Hollywood Town album, the source of Helen Reddy’s “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.” The Manfred Mann version is interesting, and explores the possibilities of the composition, though Schock’s version is perfect country-pop and hard to top. It is nice to see a rock band with such good taste. “Angelz at My Gate,” co-written by Manfred Mann, leads off side two and is another dreamy “angel” tune. It sounds mysteriously like “Games Without Frontiers,” the Peter Gabriel radio hit from his 1980 third self-titled solo album. Now since this was released the year before, do you think Gabriel found inspiration from the grooves of Angel Station? While artists like Gary Wright and Jordan Rudess overwhelm you with the keyboards, Manfred Mann’s are indeed the lead instrument, but he uses them to augment the vocals, not to overpower. The John Shaw-photographed album cover looks innocent enough until you turn it upside down — there a female dark angel, in open black cape, exposes her breasts. So blatant, but upside down it probably went right by many retailers, and with no hit single, it probably didn’t cause too much of a stir. It’s interesting that, like Gary Wright, the Earth Band recorded for Warner Bros., yet both acts only eked out a couple of hit singles. As with Wright’s Headin’ Home LP, this 1979 album has more than its share of good material, both keyboard players being intuitive artists with credentials and past chart success. Despite good performances on Heron’s “Don’t Kill It Carol” and a simply wonderful cover of Billy Falcon’s 1978 release, “Waiting for the Rain,” this is yet another album that deserved a better fate. The rendition of the Falcon tune may be the best performance of one of that singer’s compositions ever. The two Manfred Mann songs on side two are excellent: “You Are – I Am” is good and pleasant while “Resurrection” has lyrics that display clever sarcasm and religious — or sacrilegious — overtones. Angel Station is well-crafted music by an industry veteran. Collapse ↑

Varulven Records Legal Defense Fund!

Our Preservation of Boston Music is Key to New England Music History

We have been swindled by a scurrilous individual and have countersued for Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars. Pleae help with our legal bills.

Varulven Records is “Boston’s Original Rock Label” ™ In 2018 an individual contacted us about purchasing the “ephemera,” paper goods. He started taking master tapes, dozens of Varulven Magazine #1 that he was not entitled to, he ransacked the Varulven storage units, and then sued the small but vibrant independent label for $5,000.00 out in North Adams, Massachusetts so that the elder owner of the label had to trek out to Western Massachusetts on multiple occasions. The label filed a countersuit for $25,000.00 which is being heard in court as you read this. Varulven needs to hire a good, strong attorney to fight the malicious activities of the malicious person who took our property and then sued. Clearly, he was trying to get the label to default to abscond with the copyrights as well. Varulven Records is an important independent label with over 30 compilation albums which have chronicled the history of Boston Music since 1976, and we intend to release many more with rare and exciting finds in our vaults. For donations over $30.00 you will get Richard Nolan’s “Track Dog” 45 RPM and a copy of the new, critically acclaimed Boston Rock and Roll Anthology #21. The person who took our items without cataloguing them as promised and without the honor to work with the president of the label claims to have “… taught American studies, American history and the history of religion at leading institutions such as Williams College, Bennington College, and Emerson College. He (claims to have) held research fellowships at the Warburg Institute, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Bennington College.” We trusted that individual because of his alleged credentials. His malicious suit has cost us time and money that could be spent on future projects. This is a real heartbreaker and our important indie label needs your help. We have documented the New England Music Scene for decades and that scurrilous individual has broken our momentum, broken our spirit, and interfered in our important work. Do NOT let Varulven be swindled by a selfish individual attempting to hijack and defame our legacy. This suit is also important so that other record labels and historians are not taken advantage of by a smooth-talking swindler who wants your intellectual property and who will sue you after he breaches contract and reneges on the deal. This is an important case which can prevent further historians from being abused by a petty street hustler. Judge Judy wanted the case and would have settled it, but the violent man would rather threaten an elder person in a storage unit than settle. His objective is to hijack our precious materials. He is a snake oil salesman, not a historian and we need your help to hire legal counsel to protect our valuables. We so appreciate any donations and will send you a gift of a recording for helping out this righteous cause. Thanks!

Thank You


Feedback Review by Joe Viglione

Feedback is one of the strangest happenings in rock, more dramatic than Michael MacDonald taking over the Doobie Brothers, but more successful artistically than it was financially, and a chapter of the group that is sadly forgotten. The original band was produced by Lou Adler and built around guitar prodigy Randy California, and a bit of history is in order to understand this hybrid project. David Briggs, producer of Kathi MacDonald, Alice Cooper’s Easy Action, and Neil Young, helped the band forge their classic Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus and was retained for this follow-up. William Ruhlmann’s liner notes to Spirit’s Time Circle Epic/Legacy release notes that Randy California resigned from the group at this point. Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson formed Jo Jo Gunne with Curly Smith, and Smith’s friends, the Staehely Brothers, joined Cassidy and company. What Ed Cassidy and keyboard player John Locke created with producer David Briggs was a phenomenal reinvention of Spirit, which worked, sometimes better than the original group. Bassist/vocalist Al Staehely wrote the music, with guitar chores and backing vocals by his brother J. Christian Staehely. “Witch,” the final track on the disc, is typical of this new Spirit sound, a fusion of pop/jazz/rock with a dab of country. It would have been a perfect blend for Randy California to step back into, though his ego might have been the stumbling block here. In concert, this version of Spirit was serious and precise, playing with a cool efficiency. David Briggs was the perfect guy to oversee this project, allowing the musicians their space and developing a true counterpart to The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, considered by many to be the band’s highpoint. The cover is in eerie aqua blue with the faces looking like spirits peering out of a distorted television. The gatefold contains a band photo and a smart evolutionary image for this eclectic and underrated West Coast band. Here’s the clincher: musically, some of the best work on Feedback are the two instrumentals by keyboard player John Locke, “Puesta Del Scam” and “Trancas Fog-Out,” fragments of the original “Spirit” performed by this new quartet. The stuff is brilliant, and that it was excised from Time Circle is a pity. It was this writer who put Epic/Legacy in touch with Randy California in the development of 1991’s Time Circle compilation project, and certainly the elegant “Darkness,” the third John Locke title, deserved to be included on that double disc, and some representation of this remarkable work would have been appropriate rather than nine whopping cuts from The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Jo Jo Gunne guitarist Matthew Andes (brother of Spirit’s Mark Andes) co-wrote “Mellow Morning” with Al Staehely, and it, along with “Right on Time” and “Ripe and Ready,” all display the Spirit vibe, even hinting at some Jo Jo Gunne, as strange as that may seem. The Cassidy/Locke/Staehely/Staehely combo added enough jazz to Spirit to temper the all out assault that was Jo Jo Gunne, and therein lies the difference. This is not David Bowie’s ex-drummer and bassist forming the Spiders From Mars; keep in mind that Ed Cassidy was not only the band’s insignia with his Yul Brynner look, he was this group’s spiritual leader. As Randy California’s step-dad, it’s a shame he didn’t get more firm with the boy and demand they all be “the family that plays together.” Had the Staehely brothers and John Locke stayed on board for Cassidy and Randy California’s next project, the erratic Potatoland disc may have mutated into something totally brilliant. The best of Al Staehely, John Locke, and Randy California would have been truly something. Feedback is a solid performance and remarkable album which deserves its place in the Spirit catalog, and not the status of bastard son. It is a legitimate Spirit project and it is very, very good. Collapse ↑

by Joe Viglione [-] Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King Review
by Joe Viglione [-]
Make no doubt about it, this is possibly Carole King’s most important work since Tapestry, and why a similar album didn’t follow Tapestry or its follow-up, Music, was a marketing blunder and a mystery. Missing here is Lou Adler’s production, though King and her co-producer Mark Hallman are hardly inefficient. It’s just that some songs get more attention than others. “Dancin’ With Tears in My Eyes” opens the collection, a pleasant new addition to their repertoire, but next to “Locomotion,” “One Fine Day,” “Chains,” and “Snow Queen,” its purpose is more to bring the album full circle than to try to compete with these classics. “One Fine Day,” the song the Chiffons brought Top Five, was the hit, going Top 15 from this set 17 years later. The reworking of the Freddie Scott/Bobby Vee/Donny Osmond hit “Hey Girl” is breathtaking. Here King is backed by lush production and a bluesy vocal that surpasses anything else on this record, as well as much of what was on the charts at this time. Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King is the set the artist’s longtime fans craved when Tapestry made her more than a household name. This album deserves its place right next to Tapestry.