Sundays With Marty: Rod Stewart, War, Moby Grape, Jimi Hendrix, Pearls Before Swine, JJ Cale And More

MAGNET’s Kevin Friedman works next to a record store, which on Sundays is manned by a man named Marty, who puts out vinyl LPs from his own collection for a couple bucks each. Marty doesn’t adhere to any specific genre; the emphasis is on classic rock but there’s plenty of jazz, soul and funk in there, too. Kevin goes over at least twice a month with about $20 to see what he can find. Here is what he picked up this week:

The Meters Look-Ka Py Py: $2
Basically all instrumental, excepting several shouts throughout, the second album from these New Orleans funk progenitors is an old-school classic that features the group in its prime, highlighting heavy organ, minimalistic scratch guitar, funky syncopation and deep grooves. Drop the needle anywhere on here and you can’t miss. My favorite is “The Mob,” with its slowly insistent and suggestive vibe. Little “Old Money Maker” is an uptempo body rocker. Founded by Art Neville, who went on to further fame with his brothers, and featuring the incredibly influential-yet-singular guitar work of Leo Nocentelli, the Meters had a style that was so unique, so understated, but simultaneously created amazing energy with their tight arrangements, counterpoint and sweet funk. Produced by the legendary Allen Toussaint with Marshall Sehorn.

Rod Stewart Never A Dull Moment: $1
In 1972, Rod Stewart was jumping between solo albums like this while continuing to record and tour with the Faces. There were other overlappers, too, including Ron Wood, Ian MacLagin, Ronnie Lane and Kenny Jones. This is as strong as anything Stewart has ever done, though going back to his debut with the Jeff Beck Group, there isn’t much to complain about on any of his early releases. This is a cover-to-cover classic of folk-inflected, post-skiffle, blues, rock and soul. Everything that one associates with Stewart’s early work—the 12-string acoustic on “Lost Paraguayos,” the soaring smoke-distorted scratch of his vocals on “Angel,” the post-coital melancholia of “True Blue”—with the overt sexuality of “You Wear It Well” and the plaintive soul of “I’d Rather Go Blind” make this an amazing representative of the early-’70s British rock scene.

Beck, Bogert & Appice Beck, Bogert & Appice: $2
Imagine a really clichéd blues-rock bar band with an amazing guitarist but a terrible singer doubling on drums and you’ve got this album. Even Jeff Beck’s guitar flash can’t save this, particularly because the flash is subdued throughout to make way for the atrocious vocals. Its not the quality of Carmine Appice’s voice that’s so bad, but the lyrical content is pure drivel. There are some moments where all three members harmonize for pop effect that brings the level up a tad, but that’s not really why anyone buys a Jeff Beck album.

Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis Kooper Session: $4
This marked the debut for 15-year-old guitarist Shuggie Otis. Al Kooper had struck gold with his Super Session album, combining a bunch of great players for in-studio jam sessions, and this continues that formula, with the historically notable introduction of Otis to the world. The songs vary between the gospel of “Bury My Body” to the blues rock of “Double Or Nothin’” to the soul of “One Room Country Shack,” the latter being the standout on side one, allowing Otis to stretch out and display both his incredible tone and tastefulness. “Shuggie’s Old Time Slide Boogie” highlights Otis on an acoustic resonator and is remarkable given his age at the time. Ultimately, this is novel due to its historical significance more than its strength as an album; still, there are standout moments.

War War: $1
The first post-Eric Burdon release by the band took it in to a decidedly more soulful and psychedelic direction, particularly on the rather nutty “Fidel’s Fantasy,” a spoken-word-over-’60s-groove that lectures Castro on the error of his ways. Better are lushly arranged, sun-drenched soul jams like “Sun Oh Son” and “Lonely Feeling.” There weren’t any hits on this album, but it’s still great for barbeques and bliss.

Moby Grape Wow: $2
The second album from a band considered one of the better from the San Francisco psychedelic scene that failed to reach its potential. It’s generally agreed that Moby Grape’s excessive drug use and inability to see eye to eye ultimately undermined its early promise. With a three-guitar lineup and harmonies to rival the Byrds, they’re comparable to Buffalo Springfield. The guitar prowess of Jerry Miller, Skip Spence and Peter Lewis is evidenced on “Murder In My Heart For The Judge” and “Bitter Wind,” which fit easily into the bluesy acid rock of the time. “Just Like Gene Autry” is a throwback to be played on 78, which my turntable can’t. Trippy acoustic ballad “He” is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd, and “Three Four” is a beautiful waltzing bit of country soul. “Rose Colored Eyes” is 12-string folk rock with CSN-style harmonies, but the standout is “Miller’s Blues,” a red-hot piece of blues complemented by a driving horn section.

Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys: $1
After breaking up the Experience, Jimi Hendrix formed the Band Of Gypsys with army buddy Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. This live album is a compilation of songs played over two days at the Winterland Theater in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve 1969-70. Side one features two songs, “Who Knows” and “Machine Gun.” While these days we’re plenty accustomed to extended feedback jams, they were still relatively novel in the late-’60s. One of Hendrix’s greatest innovations was his creative use of controlled noise and manipulating the overdriven overtones emanating from is amps. “Machine Gun” is a perfect example of this as his guitar becomes another instrument altogether, practically a Theremin, which he conducts with both awesome power and stunning grace. On “Who Knows,” another stretched-out jam, Hendrix uses the Otavio effect, creating a phase-shifted sound on his tone. Side two leans toward Miles’ heavy soul influence with “Them Changes and “We Gotta Live Together” sandwiching a few more riff-heavy Hendrix songs “Power Of Soul” and “Message To Love.”

Pearls Before Swine One Nation Underground: $3
Psychadelic ’60s folk from Florida. Very experimental, falling somewhere between Donovan, Dylan and Bert Jansch. Frontman Tom Rapp claimed to be only under the influence of Winston cigarettes while recording thus album, but the hallucinatory sounds and cover image by Hieronymus Bosch say otherwise. Marty told me that the ESP label was famous for recording everything in one take and pressing the records as fast as possible. Even so, this all sounds pretty tight (I use that term relatively), but Rapp’s voice is high, wistful and plaintive, not unlike Roy Harper’s (except when he imitates Dylan as on “Playmate” and “Uncle John”), while his acoustic guitar recalls Jansch and Nick Drake—or even Paul Simon.  The songs are augmented by organ, sarangi, celeste, something called a Swinehorn, finger cymbals, harpsichords and an audio oscillator. It’s pretty groovy, man.

JJ Cale Really: $1
Most people know JJ Cale as the guy who wrote such ’70s classics as “Cocaine,” “After Midnight” and “They Call Me The Breeze,” which is a pretty impressive triptych in rock history. His hallmark is an understated delivery of laid-back and smoky rock often labeled “The Tulsa Sound.” Really helped establish the formula, combining his mesquite vocals with his tweedy guitar sound. It’s perfect music for a long drive across the country. It moves, but not too fast. “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma,” is a perfect example that also features legendary fiddler Vassar Clements. The guitar sounds and solos sound like they influenced Mark Knopfler as much as Clapton or any of the countless others. The cover of Lonnie Smith’s “Going Down,” with its pedal-tone bass and Fender Rhodes keys, replaces the gritty crunch of the original with a pillow minimalism that’s effective in a slightly hazier but still totally effective manner.