Ken Kessler

Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Less than year since Michael Jackson’s passing, armed as we are with 40 years’ worth of 20/20 hindsight, it’s hard to be objective about this, their second LP. For those – like me – who couldn’t stand their teeth-jarring precocity, beaten only in the saccharine stakes by their contemporaries, the too-clean-to-be-real Osmonds, it was simply Motown For Kids. But on reflection, this is so polished, irresistible and, it must be admitted, funky, that one must subjugate any preference for the Temps and admit that it’s as catchy as a dose of the clap in Magaluf. Most eerily, the tracks beyond the title hit sound – sophistication-wise – like they’re sung by a 35-year-old.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
It simply doesn’t get any better than this if you’re a Motown addict. This LP from ’67 contains a half-dozen gems, eg, ‘Bernadette’, that are forever associated with the ’Tops, plus a couple of covers they made their own: ‘Walk Away Renee’ and ‘If I Were A Carpenter’. With 20/20 hindsight, considering that The Monkees have been reassessed and found not to be the infra dig swill that snobs once deemed them to be, we learn here just how appealing was the material they chose: the ’Tops cover two of their hits, turning ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ and ‘I’m A Believer’ into almost-credible Motown stompers. Reach Out is the quintessence of the group’s and the label’s sound.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
This LP’s rarity value alone commands attention: Topham was the Yardbirds’ founder guitarist, who had to leave the band because he was only 15. By 1969, at the age of 22, he delivered this solo LP, a long-forgotten take on the blues, far removed from the Yardbirds. Despite its Blue Horizon pedigree, it’s not of the Brit Blues school per se and is a stylistic mish-mash, more akin to Andrew Loog Oldham’s covers of the Stones’ canon, but its worth to Yardbirds hard-core is unparalleled. If you could find a mint original, you’d have to part with £100+.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
There’s no end to the astonishingly good albums that the psychedelic era produced, which were overshadowed by the genre’s giants. Although Fever Tree’s origins are Texan, the group sounds like it could have been part of Boston’s ‘Bosstown’ sound or from New York’s artier element, with its heavy orchestration and baroque touches. And while their eponymous debut from ’68 features fascinating originals, like the hit ‘San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)’, what’s more intriguing are interpretations of the Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper/We can Work it Out’ and Neil Young’s ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’. Another great find for hard-up collectors from Sundazed.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Christmas in July! Here, in glorious mono – but of course – is what many regard as the greatest rock ’n’ roll Christmas LP of all time: Phil Spector’s deliriously joyful showcase for his Philles Records stable of pop maestri, from 1963. You get the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans, backed by one of the finest assemblies of session players ever to enter a studio: the amazing Wrecking Crew, with Leon Russell, Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono in its ranks. The package offers 13 Christmas pop standards, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear a more uplifting take of ‘White Christmas’. The Wall of Sound rules, beyond prison walls.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Humble Pie embodies a genre yet to find a name, the division of ‘stadium rock’ that seemed to consist entirely of ex-pat British bands who did better in the USA than they ever could back home. Amusingly, as Smokin’ – their biggest-seller – shows, they were simply feeding back to America what Yanks rockers invented: southern-fried HM boogie, only now with an Essex twang. But when the line-up included ex-Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott, one of the best hard-rock vocalists ever, the results were miles away from the pedestrian. Marriott’s mod roots are evident, with covers of ‘Road Runner’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’, but elevated to a tougher, harder level.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Interesting re-packaging of the US version of Hendrix’s debut, but not absolutely necessary if you bought this 17-track expanded release in 1997. This adds only cooler packaging and a 17-minute DVD of engineer Eddie Kramer and three now-departed figures – Hendrix’s one-time manager, Chas Chandler, and the members of the Experience, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding – talking about the recording sessions. But if you don’t own any Hendrix, this is the best place to start: it’s an utterly incendiary album bursting with invention, the blueprint for psychedelia, jazz-rock and so much more. An ear-opener then, a touchstone now for every guitarist since.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 09, 2010  |  0 comments
Yes, an LP of the CD I’ve been boring you with for six years. While probably a digital original, the album lends itself beautifully to the analogue medium because it’s just so damned rich: perfectly-recorded piano; fluid guitar, Dobro and bass; Keb’ Mo’s textured vocals. This was his ‘covers album’, the bluesman choosing nine peace ’n’ love folk and rock classics, mainly from the 1960s, like ‘Get Together’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’. They serve as a statement that’s as relevant in 2010 as when the songs were new.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Ms Ross, exactly 80 years old on the day that I’m writing this, is one of the UK’s best-kept secrets: jazz aficionados who know their onions appreciate that she is one of the best interpreters of standards in the business, so this set from World Pacific back in 1959 – featuring Zoot Sims on sax – ranks with any ‘Great American Songbook’ you can imagine. The stance here differs from her more famous work as part of Lambert, Hicks & Ross, the crack sextet (with a touch of big-band class provided by Mel Lewis on drums) accenting her vocals with uncanny precision. It may be a half-century old, but it can teach a few tricks to today’s crop of wannabees. Mesmerising.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
On Main Street, this has been made available as a separate purchase for those who didn’t buy the luxury box set. It is probably more Stones than you’ll ever need or want unless you’re truly part of their hardcore following: a documentary running to over two hours dealing with the making of a single album. Admittedly, some consider Exile to be their best, so it’s no conceit to honour it in the way one would document Sgt Pepper or Blonde On Blonde. Using amazing footage, and contemporary and new interviews, it tells the entire saga of their most louche period.

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