RetroActive Records

November, 2000 
CD Reviews



Heaven Is In Your Mind
Mr. Fantasy
(Island / Universal)

Offering a unique perspective of an album that shaped progressive rock and pop way back in 1967, the new Island Records ‘double fantasy’ release of Mr. Fantasy and Heaven Is In Your Mind is a real windfall for Traffic fans. The group’s original label, Island, has chosen to reissue two different CDs of the Mr. Fantasy album including the original United Artists Records stereo mix of the U.S. version as it was first heard Stateside. As good as the original U.K. mono mix of Mr. Fantasy is, it was the first U.S. LP release of Mr. Fantasy, (now reissued here as Heaven) on on U.A. Records which remains the more incredible sounding version. Released in ‘67, the American version of Mr. Fantasy featured an up-to-date Traffic with their first U.S. hit, “Paper Sun”. Sound wise, the stereo mix of the U.S. Mr. Fantasy, now Heaven Is In Your Mind, is more spatial sounding and, with the inclusion of four bonus tracks in stereo, makes it the version to hear. The mono version of the U.K. Mr. Fantasy adds in three bonus tracks (including “Paper Sun” and “Hole In My Shoe”) in mono, of course. There’s incredible packaging, key liner notes and photos on the mono Mr. Fantasy and the complete artwork (+ a nice surprise) but no notes on the U.S. stereo version of Mr. Fantasy released as the Heaven CD. Key point in retrospect: the inability of founding members Steve Winwood and band mate Dave Mason to deal with each other (Mason wasn’t even pictured on the cover of the U.S. Mr. Fantasy) lead to a premature break-up of the original Traffic, with Winwood moving on to Blind Faith.  /



Listen to RealAudio sample: Hardtop Lincoln 

Down Old Woody

One of the most incredible albums from 1980, Flatbroke by the great Jim Pembroke finally sees the light of day as a CD reissue. First released during the Summer of 1980 on the Finnish label Johanna, the album was reissued again on Lp in the early ‘80s on Finnish Parlophone / EMI Records who now issue it 20 years later on CD in Finland. Few songwriters can touch Pembroke - as a vocalist and a composer - when it comes to matching a timeless pop hook and clever lyric with a rock solid backdrop. Comparison abound - imagine a cross between Yardbird’s singer Keith Relf and Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker. Back in the late ‘60s, Pembroke honed his craft recording numerous now-fabled albums with Blues Section and then Wigwam, while his solo albums always carried on the tradition of Beatles-inspired pop and the crafty progressive rock of Wigwam. For Pembroke’s long time drumming ace and founding band mate in both Blues Section and Wigwam, the late, great Ronnie Osterberg, Flatbroke was to be his last ever album with Jim at the helm. Influences abound on this album. Pembroke’s long time affinity for the music of Bob Dylan, The Band and John Lennon comes to play on various tracks here. The 10 track array of solid progressive rock and roll is further decorated by some great guitarists including the rarefied country twang of great Finnish pedal steel and slide guitarist Olli Haavisto. Ronnie’s drumming is/was brilliant in what was to be his final year while the rock steady foundation work of original Wigwam bassist Mats Hulden is most impressive indeed. Better than just about anything else I can think of from the Summer of ‘80, Flatbroke is Pembroke at his finest, and that’s saying something. The CD liner notes (in Finnish) by Haavisto will be difficult for most of us, but the music within remains as large scale and sweeping as can be. Anyway, unless we see a U.S. issue of the CD (with a lyric sheet) any time soon, Parlophone’s Flatbroke should still be considered essential listening for rock and roll believers.


Fresh Garbage:
Rarities 1969-1977

Without a doubt, Wigwam were the most important rock band to emerge from Finland during the late ‘60s. Rising from the vestiges of the group known as Blues Section, Wigwam was spearheaded by the great Jim Pembroke, the U.K. native who moved to Finland during the ‘60s and who, more or less, pioneered the English-speaking rock scene in Finland. Finland has always had a reputation for spawning virtuoso rock musicians and, fittingly, the early Wigwam featured gifted musicians such as Pekka Pohjola (bass), Jukka Gustavson (keyboards) and the late, great drumming ace Ronnie Osterberg. Wigwam mutated a bit during the mid ‘70s moving on to a more commercial sound with the international release of their greatest album Nuclear Nightclub. The new Love Records double disc release of Fresh Garbage compiles a variety of rare studio and live Wigwam tracks, including the band’s earliest singles from 1969 along with mid ‘70s singles and dedicated live covers of The Band, John Lennon and Spirit. In addition to a prominent front cover art, the double disc set includes detailed liner notes, track data and incredible color photos. It might not be the best introduction to the phenomenal Wigwam, yet Fresh Garbage is nevertheless filled with noteworthy rock sounds and is a must for the group’s ever growing fan base. 


This Is Easy:
The Best Of Marshall Crenshaw
(Warner Archives / Rhino)

Pop genius Marshall Crenshaw has been a mainstay on the pop music scene since the early ‘80s and time and again he’s constantly delivered the goods for pop fans. Crenshaw cites greats like Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach among his big influences, yet since his groundbreaking 1982 album debut he’s managed to carve out an immediately identifiable niche thanks to first class songwriting and ample guitar chops to boot. In spite of major label woes early on in his career, (he parted company with both Warner Bros. and MCA) Crenshaw continues to record for the feisty NYC indy label Razor & Tie. Looking back on his early albums with both Warner Bros. and MCA, Rhino’s newly released This Is Easy is a fitting compilation spotlighting 22 of the best Crenshaw tracks from the past 20 years. Early ‘80s Crenshaw favorites like “Someday, Someway” and “Monday Morning Rock” seque into the best of his Warner Bros. and MCA years including evergreens from his all-time classic Mary Jean & 9 Others (produced by Don Dixon) and Life’s Too Short from his one and only MCA album. With rare photos and track by track data by Marshall, This Is Easy is a veritable encyclopedia of Crenshaw’s timeless pop sounds. Rhino has also simultaneously reissued Crenshaw’s self-titled 1982 album debut, Marshall Crenshaw complete with 9 unreleased tracks. 


(Columbia / Legacy)

Legacy recently unveiled their long overdue Al Di Meola double CD set appropriately called Anthology. Recalling just how trend-setting Di Meola’s guitar work was with Chick Corea and Return To Forever, Bill Milkowski hits the nail on the head in the set’s liner notes as to how the whole ‘70s American jazz/rock scene came into being. Following his brilliant work on the final Lp by Return To Forever, entitled Romantic Warrior, Di Meola set sail on a solo career going on to record a number of brilliant albums for Columbia Records. Anthology encapsulates work from his now classic debut, Land Of The Midnight Sun (recorded in 8/75 in NYC), as well as six more Columbia albums released between 77-82. The musicians appearing on Anthology reads like a who’s who of the jazz / rock world of the time, including appearances from the late great bassist Jaco Pastorius and Phil Collins (drums) to name just a few. Other highlights include a number of stellar tracks Di Meola recorded with keyboard giant Jan Hammer on 1983’s Scenario. Recalling his early albums Di Meola muses, “Looking back on it today, I can see why we did what we did in the ‘70s. We had a lot of energy back then, we were young. We had a lot of fire and we were displaying it. It was great. For the times, it was wonderful.” In addition to the comprehensive liner notes, the double disc Al Di Meola Anthology adds in key bonus cuts recorded on Long Island in ‘78 and 1982 in Holland. 



Greatest Hits

Since his ‘89 album debut Let Love Rule, rock superstar Lenny Kravitz has gone on to release five albums including his highly successful ‘98 album 5, which spawned the Kravitz cover of The Guess Who classic “American Woman”. Concerning that Grammy-winning song, Kravitz adds, “I always loved the song; the vocal was genius.” The fifteen track Greatest Hits covers music from each of Lenny’s five studio albums and even adds in a new track entitled “Again”. Concerning “Again” Kravitz claims, “it kind of felt like it wasn’t meant for the next studio album. I felt it would be cool for this album because it’s very ‘sing-along-y’. I recorded it five times before I was happy with it.” Commenting on the release his new best-of collection, Kravitz claims, “I think I’ve covered a lot of ground, There are a lot of different elements in my music, and this really shows where I’ve been and where I’m going as well.” Kravitz has long been applauded for his hip blending of rock, funk, soul, pop and psychedelic sounds. Greatest Hits is proof that Kravitz is a major player music fans will be hearing alot more of. 


I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Mass In F Minor
(Collectors’ Choice / Rhino)

Way back in early ‘67, The Electric Prunes nearly hit the top 10 with their timely debut single smash “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)”. Written for The Prunes by the songwriting team of Annette Tucker and Nancy Mantz, the song became the group’s calling card. That song and the group’s follow-up (and near) hit, “Get Me To The World On Time”, again written by Tucker, was the highlight of the Prunes ‘67 album debut appropriately called I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night). Fascinating artifacts of ‘60s psychedelic rock, the first three Electric Prunes albums, originally released on Reprise Records, have just been reissued by Collectors’ Choice. Following I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), The Prunes released Underground and Mass In F Minor. Neither album was able to generate mass enthusiasm, yet were eagerly devoured by the group’s devotees. Collectors’ Choice has done a great job with their Electric Prunes CD’s, repackaging the discs with the original Reprise Records artwork and new liner notes by Richie Unterberger along with recent interviews featuring the original band members. For those interested in classic ‘60s rock and roll CD reissues, look no further then the extensive Collectors’ Choice catalog which features releases by every major reissue label on the planet. The Collectors’ Choice label is really going gangbusters lately with recent CD reissues from folk-rock great Phil Ochs, German space rockers Faust, cosmic folk-rocker Donovan and the Brian Wilson-produced girl group The Honeys. 



Wind Of Change

It’s taken a while but fans of the great Peter Frampton can breath a sigh of relief now that his early solo albums have finally been reissued on his original label A&M Records. Unfortunately there’s no liner notes to speak of, but each CD has been newly remastered from the master tapes. Following a series of ground-breaking rock albums with Humble Pie, Frampton embarked on a solo career with the release of his debut album, Wind Of Change from October, 1972. For many fans the album remains one of Frampton’s finest solo albums to date. Appearing with the guitar great for the Wind Of Change sessions are some of the real heavyweight musicians of the time including Beatles’s timekeeper Ringo Starr and string arranger Del Newman. For the follow-up to Wind Of Change, Frampton formed Frampton’s Camel and released the band’s self-titled album in June, 1973. Frampton’s Camel features the original studio version of the song classic “Do You Feel Like We Do”, which was later revived on the 16 million seller Frampton Comes Alive. Never released Stateside before, Frampton’s Camel remains another milestone in the guitar great’s career. When it rains it pours and A&M also recently released several other titles from Frampton’s prolific back catalog including Something’s Happening (March 1974 w/ Nicky Hopkins), Frampton (March 1975) and I’m In You (released June 1977 w/ Stevie Wonder).


The Anthology
(MCA / Chess)

A charter member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame since 1986 who was awarded a Grammy in ‘84 for being “one of the most influential and creative innovators in the history of American popular music”, the great Chuck Berry was further honored by his long time label Chess Records with a recent 50 track 2 CD set spanning his Chess years, 1955-’73. Chronologically sequenced, the CD set is broken up into two halves with disc one featuring some of the greatest ‘50s rockers ever recorded while disc two focuses on Berry’s ‘60s hits like “Come On”, “Promised Land” and “Nadine (Is It You?). A super sounding compilation, The Anthology figures in extensive liner notes, track-by-track data and period piece photos. Pop great Brian Wilson has proclaimed that Berry wrote, “all the great songs and came up with all the rock ‘n’ roll beats”. Berry’s recent release, The Anthology proves Wilson’s point perfectly. 


Child Is Father To The Man
Blood, Sweat & Tears
(Columbia Legacy)

Created by keyboardist, producer and songwriting genius Al Kooper way back after he left The Blues Project in ‘67, Blood, Sweat & Tears will always be remembered for their first two groundbreaking albums, both of which have just been reissued again, this time as expanded edition CDs by Columbia Legacy. Kooper’s trademark pop songs and vocals clearly are the brilliance behind the group’s early ‘68 album debut, Child Is Father To The Man. One thing clear in retrospect is that is was Kooper’s idea to pair his new rock band with a solid brass section. Produced by the esteemed John Simon, B, S & T released Child to critical acclaim. In addition to Kooper classics like “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” and “I Can’t Quit Her”, the album featured other classic songs by Harry Nilsson and the songwriting team of Goffin / King. Unfortunately, Kooper did leave the band following a rift within the B, S & T ranks. Legacy’s 2000 reissue of the first B, S & T album tacks on several bonus tracks and illuminating new liner notes by Kooper. With Kooper out of the group, B, S & T reformed with the bluesy vocals of David Clayton-Thomas and released their self-titled second album in early ‘69. In an ironic twist of fate, the B, S & T Lp went on to sell three million, even winning a Grammy for record of the year. Legacy’s new reissue of is surely the most famous B, S & T album now features two bonus tracks, new liner notes and fresh remembrances by original B, S & T drummer Bobby Columby. Both albums, especially Child Is Father To The Man, remain critical listening by all devotees of ‘60s rock. 


Spaced Out

Listen to RealAudio sample: Knowing When To Leave

A fitting memento of the wild and crazy spirit of the ‘60s, Space Out was clearly one of the spacier moments from band leader Enoch Light. Light recorded dozens of easy listening instrumental albums, and like his contemporaries on the ‘60s lounge and lite music scene, Martin Denny and Les Baxter, Light also dabbled in easy listening psychedelia. Recorded at the tail end of the ‘60s, Spaced Out is described as “exploratory trips through the music of Bach, Bacharach and The Beatles”. Light’s big pop band features a wild and mild mix of moog synths, electric guitars, electric harpsichords, flugelhorns and more. Among the songs given the Enoch Light treatment here are “Eleanor Rigby”, “Get Back” and “Norwegian Wood”. Other highlights include evocative originals and covers of “Walk On By” and “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” A far-out look back at the late ‘60s, Spaced Out is essential for ‘60s easy listening music buffs and lounge lovers alike. contact: 631-231-7171

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249

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