Inside The Outsider

ORDER OF ASSASSINS (The Psychology of Murder) by Colin Wilson. Published by Rupert Hart-Davis, £2.25.

Completing Colin Wilson’s ‘murder trilogy’ is Order Of Assassins. The earlier two works were An Encyclopedia of Murder and A Casebook Of Murder. This new volume examines ‘motiveless’ murder, as opposed to the ones committed for economic, passionate or some other definable reason.

Wilson convincingly argues that ‘murder committed for its own sake’ is very much a phenomenon related to the individual’s lack of self-fulfillment and to frustration due to low self-esteem, as well as the obvious tendencies to space-age living to take away any possible ‘adventure’ out of life. The author believes that the ‘will-drive’ is the most important potential force in a man or woman and when this is frustrated it deprives the individual of needed self-expansion and drive.

He notes too that psychotic violence is swiftly becoming one of the most terrifying problems of our age. As the people of the ‘developed’ countries progress from the basic problems of having to gather in the material necessities of life, this leaves the average person with more time to explore his or her own areas of existence and development. To some, the lack of material problems, the banality of urban living, the need to create — amongst other functions – helps decidedly to turn some individuals into walking death machines, capable of the most horrific and violent crimes imaginable.

Wilson also argues that to describe, or categorise, tha deeds of the ‘Moors’ killer, Ian Brady, the novels and ‘fantasies’ of de Sade, as well as the Manson ‘family’ slayings, as being just sadistic, or fulfilling a sexual perversion, is to miss the point. It is in fact all too easy to dismiss these crimes with these labels. The author insists that these fantasies and murders are the perpetrator’s attempts at self-assertation, due – as said earlier – to the frustration of the ‘will-drive’. Whereas an artist can satisfy his/her inbuilt creativity by painting, this new type of killer has no such outlet. He/she is aware of their own ability to create – to assert – but cannot find the medium through which to express the ‘will-drive’.

Throughout the book, Wilson illustrates his arguments and ideas with numerous examples of ‘motiveless’ murder, each adding to the pattern of events which leads him to suppose that this problem needs serious investigating and re-thinking before society can attempt to check the growth of the ‘new assassins’.

An example of what I understand Wilson to be getting at is possibly what the alleged killer of Sarah Gibson, who was murdered at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London, last July, wrote anonymously to the police. He said: “I found a strange sense of power in depriving a body of life”. Surely a sex-killer would have just gloated over the sexual outrages he committed on the lifeless body. It seems as if the real motive for the unnecessary killing by the alleged murderer David Froom, was an act of self-assertion — a destructive act of creation to satisfy an inner craving.

Order Of Assassins is a powerfully relevant book by one of the most important ‘thinkers’ writing today. Colin Wilson’s message is more than just a warning, for it is also an indictment of twentieth century life and its lack of creative evolution.

The answer is certainly not what happened to the corpse of the rooftop gunman in New Orleans recently. After killing the assassin with armour piercing bullets, the lifeless body was riddled with more shells of the type mentioned for another three or four minutes, till it resembled a refugee from a butcher’s shop rather than a dead human being. The question is, why did this 23-year-old man invite death and why did he decide to kill as many others as possible before he met what almost certainly was his inevitable fate? ‘Motiveless’ murder?

It Came From The Bog, Honest

THE WILD NIGHT COMPANY (Irish Tales of Terror) Edited by Peter Haining. Introduced by Ray Bradbury. Sphere, 40p.

This collection of horror/ghost stories certainly lives up to its description on the book’s cover.

And as the sub-title states, all the contents are set in, or connected to, Ireland. Also the contributors are either Irish or writers inspired by the supernatural in the ‘Emerald Isle’.

The tales range from traditional winter’s night ghost stories, through to macabre haunting terror produced by the pen of a writer such as H. P. Lovecraft. Magic, mystery and folklore also turn up amongst the 317 pages of the book.

In all there are 22 short stories. Amongst the writers contributing, apart from the one already mentioned, are Daniel Defoe, Sheridan Le Fanu, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Hope Hodgson, Lady Wilde. W. B. Yeats and Ray Bradbury.

The Wild Night Company is an extremely fine collection for the connoisseur of horror, fantasy and the supernatural.

Motorway To Times Past

FELLINI’S ROMADirected by Federico Fellini. Starring Peter Gonzales, Fiona Florence. Distributed by United Artists. Cert ‘X’

As with The Clowns, Fellini continues his mock documentary technique with his latest full length film, Fellini’s Roma. And as he did with , he uses his extraordinary visionary and stylistic skills to replace what can only be called a fantastic travelogue.

Rome – the city of illusions is, when seen through Fellini’s eyes, both timeless and immediate. The scenes of his early childhood and his growing obsession with Rome open the film which moves on to his arrival in that city at the beginning of Italy’s involvement in World War 2. This is the Rome of Mussolini and the Fascists, but by using ingenious intercutting, makes one notice that the swaggering fascists are not so very different from the brutal, mindless police who set upon a crowd of hippies in modern-day Rome later on in the Film.

The intercutting of scenes from both the past and present is continuous throughout the movie, from Fellini’s first memories and reactions to the city, up to his impressions of encroaching technology and its destructive/horrific effects and impersonality. Fellini’s swirling series of memory images is more than just a’reconstruction of events. The people – the Romans – are shown as we possibly have never seen them before. At all times they are boisterous, alive people, displaying an openness and awareness that is only limited by the ever-dominating power and influence of the Roman church.

Fellini, as usual, displays his hilarious sense of humour to the utmost. The centrepiece of the film is the high society Ecclesiastical Fashion Show – a nostalgic fantasy of an old world-weary princess, who manically craves for the high protocol and exclusive glittering customs of the past. This spectacular sequence has to be seen to be believed. The models show off the latest creations for priests, nuns and the rest of the Roman Church’s hierarchy by walking, swaying, hopping, cycling, roller-skating, etc around a horseshoe shaped platform. The rest of the fashions and the opulent, magnificent final scene of this sequence are better left for movie-goers to discover for themselves.

Fellini also creates a traffic jam, which is equal to anything previously staged in either Jacques Tati’s Traffic or Godard’s Weekend.

Other sequences which immediately spring to the mind of this reviewer, who has had his senses battered and dazed in the way he comes to expect with a Fellini film, are the showing of subway excavators unearthing beautiful, ancient frescoes which soon evaporate through contact with air; the reconstuction of Roman music-hall, and the bizarre meetings of the sexes in both seedy and luxurious whore-houses. And the Romans’ passion for constantly eating is displayed as funny and very human.

Peter Gonzales excellently plays the part of the young Fellini when he first arrives in Rome. Whilst the music of Nino Rota, once again, provides the perfect accompaniment to the moods and events portrayed.

Fellini’s Roma is more than just an enjoyable and successful film – it is a statement of Super Realism*, “where beauty and ugliness exist as absolute forms, without flaws.” It is also a chance for audiences to share the expanding and perceptive visions of an artist, through a mosaic of memory, actuality and imagination.

* John Calendo, Andy Warhol’s Interview, November 1972.

Fun Bubble Boggles Eyes

THE BUBBLEWritten, directed and produced by Arch Oboler. Starring Michael Cole, Deborah Walley and Johnny Desmond. Distributed by LMG. Cert ‘A’.

Sometimes gimmicks work, sometimes they don’t. The idea of 3D seemed a perfect one in the fifties for halting the decline in cinema audiences. But, as cinema historians will remember, 3D was a dismal failure. The special glasses needed to be worn were a nuisance and the films that were only partly produced in the new ‘wonder’ process ruined the continuity of the whole film. And in general, apart from one or two notable exceptions, ie House Of Wax, the gimmick was little more than a lot of spectacular advance publicity.

Despite the past, at the beginning of 1973, along comes Space-Vision. And this time the gimmick is far more than just a novelty, for this newly developed technique really adds another dimension to popular cinema, without the amateurishness and limitations of the earlier process. The vehicle to introduce Space-Vision is a science fiction film called The Bubble.

The story tells of a young married couple, Catherine (Deborah Walley) and Mark (Michael Cole). At the beginning of the film they are aboard a small plane that lands in what they and their pilot Tony (Johnny Desmond) suppose is a small outlying landing strip. The wife is prematurely in labour, thus the necessity to reach a town and find medical aid. After touching down they discover that they have in fact, landed in a deserted street. Mike, the husband, soon notices the oddness of the nearby town’s inhabitants and the strangely miscellaneous architecture as he wanders around whilst his wife is giving birth to their first child in the local hospital. And a few days later, Mike and Catherine, along with their baby and the pilot, Tony, discover that the town and the surrounding area is covered by an impenetrable transparent bubble. To tell you more of the story would spoil the twists and turns of the plot as well as giving a way the final outcome, to any of you who may go along to see the film for yourselves.

The film, despite the somewhat vague storyline at times and the often wooden acting, has a number of simple social messages to put across, similar to Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And The Bubble, considering the entertainment level it is working on, is fairly successful and frequently becomes quite exciting.

But it is the Space-Vision technique that makes the whole production such good entertainment. It’s a must for kids of course, and will also give much pleasure to those who are not averse to honest to goodness fun. Some of the effects are a bit corny now and again, as they nearly all were with 3D, but more often than not they are deservedly successful and at times quite amazing.

Objects really do appear to leave the screen and come gliding out into the auditorium. The audience still has to wear special viewing glasses, this supposedly accounts for the rise in seat prices for this film. The glasses though are not uncomfortable to wear, as the 3D ones were, and they are easy to slip on top of an ordinary pair of spectacles. Incidentally the use of the added dimension is continuous throughout the show.

The Bubble is a fun film with a message if you care to notice it. The movie is also a valid attempt to bring excitement and adventure back to the cinema. I am looking forward to seeing more films using the Space-Vision process in the future.

Merry Melodies

THE DEVINE MISS MBette Midler – Atlantic K40453

In 1972 it was undoubtedly David Bowie who came in first as far as the superstar stakes were concerned. Quite justifiably too. But even before this year is a month old, it looks very much like a very talented lauy called Bette Midler is going to be the sensation of this year, If not for some time to come.

Rumours have been crossing the Atlantic from the States for the past few months about Miss Midler, or the Devine Miss M, as she is better known nowadays. After having a part in the Broadway production of Fiddler On The Roof, for three years, Miss Midler, originally from Hawaii, decided it was time to begin a solo career. Word soon got around about her after the success of her unusual singing debut at mens saunas in New York.

To quote her from a recent article in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, “The boys from the baths were the ones to give me the initial push … and they are still the foundation of my career.”

After a few television appearances, and a concert at Carnegie Hall, there was no looking back for Miss M.

Britain’s first taste of her is the recently released album The Devine Miss M. And it’s really pleasing to find that all the rumours were true.

She does at times sound a little like Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Laura Nyro, Janis Joplin and Barbra Streisand. In fact Miss Streisand should watch out, she has some competition now. But it’s Bette Midler’s own talent that makes her so remarkable.

The opening track of the album is Bobby Freeman’s pop classic Do You Wanna Dance. And what a performance she gives. Taken at a slightly slower pace than usual, she oozes a silken sensuality that is enough to make you purr. The next cut is a version of the Dixie Cup’s 60’s hit Chapel Of Love. With this song she puts the word camp on a completely new and exciting level. The other rock and roll track included is Leader Of The Pack, which doesn’t work quite as well, although it would probably come over better at a live performance.

The Carpenters’ hit Superstar is also on side one. The song is about adolescent misery, so Miss M becomes a teenager, full of pain and teen tears.

The outstanding track of the first side though Is Am I Blue, a smokey torch song from the 1930’s. On this she excells herself, capturing the essence of the song completely. It is clear by now that what is so amazing about Miss M is the immense range of material she uses, and everything her tonsils touch turns to gold.

On side two, she increases this wide range by including John Prine’s Hello In There, a song of middle-aged loneliness and heartache. And it isn’t just camp this time, Miss M really does become a sad, ageing Middle American, living in an empty, despairing world. Two tracks later she is into Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, sounding, through multi-tracking, like the Andrews Sisters of the 1940’s.

Bette Midler’s first album is an unqualified success. From beginning to end the professionalism she possesses and the impact of her innumerable styles spells STAR all the way through. Let’s hope it’s not too long before we have a chance of seeing Bette Midler in person, becoming what must be the first genuine cabaret superstar rock music has produced.

ME AND THE FIRST LADY – George Jones & Tammy Wynette – Epic 65347

On Me And The First Lady, one of the first ladies of American country and western music, Tammy Wynette, is joined by her husband George jones. And there’s no need for me to explain what the message of the record is. The album’s title and songs, like We Believe In Each Other, You And Me Together and A Perfect Match, make it all too obvious.

Each and every album Tammy releases is a must for my record collection, and this one is no exception. But I think I perhaps enjoy her recordings for the wrong reasons. The slightly whining love stories about ever so conventional relationships often have me shrieking with laughter. They really can be hilarious, despite the fact that in the southern states of America, her fans take Tammy’s lyrics very seriously. If any of you can remember the context in which her songs were used in the film Five Easy Pieces, you’ll know precisely what I’m getting at.

Subsequently I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Me And The First Lady to anyone with a liking for country music and a sense of humour.

CLEAR SPOT – Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band – Reprise K54007.

Of all the rock groups currently recording, Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band are possibly the most esoteric.

To underestimate the Captain, one could say his vocals and lyrics are bizarre, whilst the Magic Band have a most original style of playing, quite unlike anybody else.

I find this new album a lot easier than usual to come to terms with, although I’ve been nothing but amazed and delighted with the Captain’s music since I discovered his first album, Safe As Milk, way back in 1968.

This is one rock band I’ve never been able to turn anyone on to. You either accept the Captain and his band completely, or think anyone who does, even to the point of just listening to them is utterly insane and beyond all hope.

It’s all a matter of taste you see. To those who are unaware of the Captain’s charms, and are willing to take the risk of being initiated into the strange and weird world of Beefheart music, have a listen to the first track on side one, Low Yo Yo Stuff.

You’ll either be completely converted, or will avoid his recordings like the plague in future.

ALBUM III – Loudon Wainwright III – CBS 65238

As the title of this album suggests, this is the third recording to be released by Loudon Wainwright III. Like Captain Beefheart, Loudon’s songs and style are very much an acquired taste, although his new record is exceedingly more accessible than his previous two outings for Atlantic Records.

There is a direct honesty about his lyrics that is hard to ignore. It is up to the individual listener whether they find Loudon’s world as fascinating as I do.

Unlike the sparse backings of Loudon’s earlier albums, on many of the tracks included here, he is joined by a group called White Cloud, who do much to expand the overall sound. Perhaps the more rock orientated backings will help capture the attention of those who found his past work limited.

But in the end the attraction of Loudon Wainwright is his words, and if you can get into those you’ll join the growing number of people realising the amount of talent this man possesses.

VALERIE SIMPSONTamla Motown STML 11219
THELMA HOUSTONMowest MWS 7003

The first album releases from Tamla Motown this year are very excellent recordings by two extremely talented ladies. One is Valerie Simpson, the other is from Thelma Houston. Both are second album releases from the two ladies concerned, and it is interesting to note that both Valerie and Thelma had their initial recordings sadly neglected by the record buying public, despite rave reviews from rock critics and journalists.

Valerie Simpson, with her partner, Nickolas Ashford, started working for Tamla Motown just over five years ago as songwriters, following the success of their song Let’s Go Get Stoned when recorded by Ray Charles. During this period, Valerie and Nick have shown themselves to be one of the strongest songwriting/production teams working at Motown, with a string of hits, far too numerous to mention, to their credit.

In 1971, Valerie cut Exposed, her first album as a solo artist, and as I said before it received much critical acclaim, but created little or no reaction from the public. The release of this new record, simply titled Valerie Simpson, should replace the past neglect with justified praise and recognition of her and Nick’s combined talents.

One label that is being bandied about at present to describe Valerie is ‘the black Carole King’. There arc occasional similarities, but it is unjust to let this phrase mean much more than a reviewers dilemma to find an easy category to put this artist in. Valerie’s music stands up in its own right as being both original and attractively commercial, with depths of feeling that many other performers of contemporary soul could well do with.

As an introduction to Valerie’s album, have a listen to Fix It Alright which opens side one. You won’t be disappointed.

Thelma Houston’s first album was called Sunflower, and all but one of the songs were written by one of the most important songwriters around – Jim Webb. The other track was an amazingly soulful version of the Jagger/Richard composition Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Like Valerie Simpson’s Exposed album, Sunflower too was overlooked by most people. It has been re-released recently on the Probe label, and hopefully more people will listen to it now than they did before.

This new release of Thelma’s is her first for Mowest and is going to do a lot to get her the recognition she too rightly deserves. Included are fourteen songs which gives the listener ample opportunity to discover the full range of Thelma’s ability. Whilst each track has something to recommend it, the standout cuts are No One’s Gonna Be A Fool Forever, Nothing Left To Give, And I thought You Loved Me and I Ain’t That Easy To Lose. Also included is a very moving version of Me and Bobby McGee.

Thelma has a naturally funky voice that can be both powerful and tender, depending on the material she is singing. And like Valerie Simpson, Thelma Houston looks as if she will become one of the big names of 1973.

PAINTED HEAD – Tim Hardin – CBS 65209

Earlier in his career, Tim Hardin was responsible for some of the most beautiful and stimulating songs to come out of the late 1960s.

Since then Hardin has never repeated the peaks he reached with songs like Don’t Make Promises, Reason to Believe and If I Were A Carpenter. And sadly his new album Painted Head isn’t going to renew the mass popularity he once enjoyed.

To start with, none of the ten songs on the record have been written by Hardin. A bad mistake for he has always been at his best when singing his own material. The unexciting middle of the road arrangements don’t help matters much either, and the at times excessive use of electric instruments arc completely out of keeping with Hardin’s vocal delivery and the moods he tries to create. Also the delicate phrasing that made songs of his like Misty Roses and It’ll Never Happen Again so enchanting, is replaced by a slurred and often dreary style.

Painted Head is, I’m afraid, a totally disappointing album. Perhaps he’ll get it together for his next release.

LOGGINS AND MESSINACBA 65194

In the States Ken Loggins and Jim Messina’s second album is high in the charts. And a single taken from it, Your Mamma Don’t Dance is one of the top selling singles. Judging from the amount of air-plays this song is receiving on Radio 1 and 2, it looks as if it’s going to repeat its success over here.

That song, I must admit, is particularly attractive, and is a welcome replacement for some of the shoddy, uninspired records currently highly placed in our hit parade. But the rest of the album, whilst recognising their sheer professionalism and Messina’s excellence as a record producer, leaves me somewhat unsatisfied.

Technique and style are not, for me, enough to keep my interest for more than a few tracks. After a while I start to listen for something new and original. And I don’t find it on this album. The position of Your Mama Don’t Dance in the charts will no doubt be the deciding factor as to whether the album is commercially successful. I just wish the rest of the material was of that standard.

AN ANTHOLOGY – Duane Allman — Capricorn K67502.

An Anthology, a double album set, featuring the guitar work of the late Duane Allman is a fitting memorial to one of the very best rock guitarists to emerge in recent years. Motorbike riding Duane died in October 1971, from the injuries he received when he swerved to avoid a lorry. It was a great loss, for he was just beginning to realise his own potential. Also, at the time of his death, his group, the Allman Brothers Band, were being recognised everywhere as outstanding musicians, the success of the groups albums clarifying their rise to fame.

Previously, he had spent many years as a session musician, Duane being one of the few white blues guitarists who could hold his own in the company of black musicians. He also played with Eric Clapton’s Derek and The Dominoes group. His slide guitar playing with them met with much acclaim.

The first three sides of An Anthology are taken up with tracing Duane’s career up until the time of the Allman Brothers Band. Side one opens up with an example of his playing with an earlier group of his called Hourglass. There is also a track from the solo album he tried to make but later abandoned. But the most important material is his work with artists such as Clarence Carter, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Boz Scaggs and Wilson Pickett. Duane’s guitar on Pickett’s version of Hey Jude was one of the turning points in his career, as was his opportunity to record with Clapton’s Derek and The Dominoes. His time with Clapton is represented by Layla, one of the greatest rock recordings ever.

Side four of the anthology is a selection of tracks from the three albums by the Allman Brothers Band. Included is the group’s theme tune, Statesboro Blues. The side ends with a soft, sensitive cut, Little Martha, showing a side of Duane’s playing rarely heard.

Duane Allman’s untimely death was a terrible tragedy. It also robbed the world of one of rock music’s geniuses. At least we can remember his artistry, especially his slide guitar work, through records such as this and the other recordings he made during his short career.

The Best Of The New Paperbacks

THE HONOURED SOCIETY (The Mafia Conspiracy Observed) by Norman Lewis. Penguin, 50p.

The social disease best known as the Mafia has attracted much attention during the last few months. The film made of Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather’ has broken box office records in nearly every country it has been shown in. The popular press recently has given a large amount of column inches to the ‘honoured society’ and its offshoots. A fair number of books, and especially pulp paperbacks, have appeared on the subject, most of them attempting to imitate Puzo’s successful novel. CBS records have even released a comedy album called ‘Everything You Wanted To Know About The Godfather (But Don’t Ask)’

In other words, all and sundry have been trying to cash in on the public’s current interest in one of the most depraved, corrupting and murderous criminal organisations that this planet has ever known.

If you are at all fascinated by the Mafia, and would prefer to find out its factual origins and how it has managed to increase its destructive power over the years, I thoroughly recommend you to read The Honoured Society by Norman Lewis. Originally published in paperback in 1967, Penguin have seen fit to re-issue it during the current ‘craze’.

It is an important book, because it does without the colour magazine gloss and celluloid glamour that has made the Mafia somehow romantic to those whose knowledge just touches the surface of what the ‘honoured society’ is all about. The book is an unemotional study of this social phenomenon, backed up with hard facts that bring the whole disgusting menace back to the realms of reality.

Even though The Honoured Society concerns itself with historical actualities, Lewis has produced an absorbing and at times astonishing document, that many would do well to read.

TEST YOUR NQ (Nostalgia Quotient) by Denis Gifford. New English Library, 30p.

Denis Gifford was responsible for the long running radio programme ‘Sounds Familiar?’ and is now currently involved in the visual version of that show, now called ‘Looks Familiar?’ which Thames Television started screening last autumn. This paperback is an extension of that television series.

Included are 1247 mind teasers to test your memory on contemporary nostalgia, and if that’s what turns you on, this book’ll prove delightful. For Test Your NQ is amusing, entertaining and informative.

ROCK FILE edited by Charlie Gillett. New English Library, 40p.

Whilst concerning a different type of nostalgia to the last book mentioned. Rock File, edited by Charlie Gillett and compiled by Pete and Annie Fowler, is as entertaining and enlightening. And to rock and roll critics and fanatics it is absolutely essential.

For this book is a short guide to contemporary music and features a list of every Top-20 hit in the British charts from 1955 to 1969.

It is great fun to be reminded of these past ‘oldies but goodies’ and is also an encouragement to dig out those battered old singles, that are bound to amaze younger listeners.

MY SECRET LIFE by ‘Walter’. Edited and introduced by Gordon Grimley. Panther, 50p.

At long last ‘Walter’s’ My Secret Life is freely and legally available in this country. Unfortunately this edited version has much missing from what was originally an eleven volume work, but the essence of the book is intact, if not the sexual explicitness.

This ‘underground’ classic from the Victorian era is a valuable work because of the unique insight it gives the reader into one man’s sexual appetites and obsessions. ‘Walter’, living in a period when openness about sex is a social taboo, and the whole subject was hidden beneath a wealth of repression, fear and misinformation. The sketches of Victorian life and its class structure portrayed, also prove to be fascinating and historically informative.

The complete text of My Secret Life has only recently been available in the United States. Let us hope it will not be long before we have the opportunity to freely read this incomparable document into human sexual responses in its entirety.

SATAN WANTS YOU by Arthur Lyons. Mayflower, 35p.
A HANDBOOK ON WITCHES by Gillian Tindall, Mayflower, 35p.

Satanism and witchcraft are still proving to be intriguing and fascinating to as many people as they have done for some time now, during this current boom of interest in these and other related subjects. And to a growing number they mean a lot more than just reading about cults, devil-worship and the ‘old religions’.

Satan Wants You and A Handbook On Witches are worthwhile additions to the wealth of material published on these dark’ matters. Both are written and presented with illustrations in an intelligent and revealing manner, and fortunately do without the unnecessary over-sensationalism, often leading to misinformation one associates with much of what is already available.

OUTLAWS OF AMERICA by Roger Lewis, Pelican, 40p.

Roger Lewis’s book Outlaws of America is subtitled The Underground Press and its Context: Notes on a Cultural Revolution’. And that’s exactly what it is. It also contains many references to the ‘underground’ press in Europe, especially to those publications that appear in Great Britain.

The ‘alternative/underground’ press has come about in recent years, and has already proved itself to be a valuable contribution to society, very often covering events that do not appear in national or even local newspapers, as well as supporting and giving space to the struggles, aims and ideas of minority groups, ie blacks, gays, etc. As such it is important that those unaware of the necessity for this form of media should enlighten themselves as to why it has such a significant role to play in society.

Outlaws of America succeeds well in informing those whose knowledge of the subject is small. It also serves as a useful record of what has taken place so far during the ‘alternative’ press’s short but impressive history to those who already find these publications a vital addition to the accepted media.

Whilst on this topic. Gay News is classified by many as an ‘underground’ newspaper. In some ways it is, I suppose, but it is also trying to break out of the confines of this categorisation and open up areas which have been overlooked for far too long.

THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND by William Hope Hodgson. Panther, 30p.

To be honest I haven’t yet finished this book. I’m about two thirds through it, so even if I wanted to, I can’t give the end away.

Suffice it to say I find this little book absolutely obsessive reading. It is a fantasy/supernatural work of the highest order, and the worlds I have travelled to whilst progressing through it, make me wonder where the tale will terminate.

The author, William Hope Hodgson, was killed in action in 1918. But it is only recently that his macabre, haunting story has been re-issued, although his works are regularly published in the United States. Amongst Hodgson’s numerous admirers was H. P. Lovecraft, who, along with many others, considered The House On The Borderland to be his greatest novel.

Looney Toones

LAST AUTUMN’S DREAMJade Warrior — Vertigo 6360079

Last Autumn’s Dream is Jade Warrior’s third album to be released. And unlike the group’s last one Released, which used a large amount of brass work, this new album is a return to the area they were working in with their initial release, simply titled Jade Warrior. And as such it is a far more rewarding effort than their last record and the continuation of the ideas and strange rhythmic patterns developed on the first album, make for a most pleasingly successful venture.

Jade Warrior is a group that is a pain for reviewers, for the type of music they are producing is extremely difficult to label, let alone define. But make no mistake, what they are doing is composing and playing music that is on a very high level, for it is both inventive and progressive in the realms it is exploring. A basic feeling that runs through their sound is one of a Japanese/Chinese influence, joined by African rhythms from the drums, tabla and congas. But what completely foils any attempt at musical classification is the soaring, unconventionally tuned guitar work of Tony Duhig. This combined with Jon Field’s superb flute playing makes their music even more exciting. If I really wanted to give their style(s) a name though, I would call it ‘dream music’.

Jade Warrior are a very talented bunch of musicians, and it is groups such as this, unafraid of experimentation in rarely explored areas, that are the backbone of the vitality that makes the contemporary British music scene what it is.


THE ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS OF ROY ORBISONMonument MNT 67290

Roy Orbison has had a long successful career and this specially priced two-record set will be a welcome release for his many fans and admirers.

At £2.99 the double album is extremely good value, for it contains twenty of the most popular songs he has recorded. All of them have been single hits, some of them even earning Gold records for over a million sales. Surprisingly, despite the age of some of the tracks, very few sound at all dated. Even Only The Lonely, his first smash hit, with the quaint “dum dum dum dumdowah” vocal backing, sounds as pleasing as it did when first released.

Apart from the track already mentioned, other golden oldies of his included are In Dreams, Crying, Dream Baby, Blue Angel, Running Scared and Oh, Pretty Woman. And these and all the rest really do live up to being The All-Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison.


JERMAINEJermaine Jackson — Tamla Motown STML 11221

Following the example of Michael Jackson of recording a solo album, along comes Jermaine Jackson with his first solo outing. And a very fine record it turns out to be.

Whilst not containing single tracks as outstanding as Michael’s Got To Be There, Ain’t No Sunshine, or Rockin’ Robin, all of which became top twenty hits, Jermain’s album is more evenly balanced than his brother’s. The first track is That’s How Love Goes, which with its foot tapping infectious beat, proves to be a good opening number. And the other songs, although in different ways, are all as successful. A few Motown standards are included, such as I’m In A Different World, Take Me In Your Arms, and Ain’t That Peculiar. Jermaine also does a version of Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound.

All in all, a very excellent first album, well up to the level set by his brother’s earlier venture. In the States the record is a big seller, and I won’t be surprised to see it receiving the same sort of attention in this country.

Wonder which brother is going to be next for solo honours?


JOURNEY THROUGH THE PASTNeil Young – Reprise K64015

Although Neil Young is a superstar high in the popularity stakes at present, I think that the soundtrack of his film Journey Through The Past is strictly for his most ardent fans only.

This double set retails at £3.49 which is really far too high a price to pay for the tracks included. There is only one new song as far as I can see, and that is Soldier. And that’s not a particularly memorable track. The majority of the cuts are ‘live’ versions of songs he has recorded on his solo albums, plus a few from his work with Crosby, Stills and Nash. The recording quality of most of them is rather poor, but the nearly sixteen minute version of Words is outstanding, reminding me of the excellence of his Neil Young With Crazy Horse album.

Also included are ‘live’ recordings of songs he recorded when still with The Buffalo Springfield, such as For What It’s Worth and Rock & Roll Women. But here again they don’t compare with the originals. They are no doubt historically interesting to devoted Young-ologists and to those who still remember how good the group was.

Side four contains rather freaky renderings of Handel’s Messiah and King Of Kings. Whilst the last track is Brian Wilson’s Let’s Go Away For A While, from the classic Beach Boy’s album Pet Sounds.

As a soundtrack to the film the music is probably fine, but when it appears on these two records, it is rather a disjointed collection of tracks. But as I said earlier, it is certain to be a must for Neil Young’s most fanatical followers. And that includes me. Really, he is about the only pop singer I’d become a groupie for.


BUSTIN’ OUTPure Prairie League – RCA LSP 4769 (US import at UK price)

Of the many types of music I am particularly attracted to. it is modern country music that finds its way mostoften onto my turntable. By country music I don’t mean the somewhat limited range of the more traditional C&W artists such as Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr or Tammy Wynnette. Their music is fine, but with the younger country musicians one finds that they are unafraid of also incorporating contemporary folk and rock influences into their overall sound.

Such a band working in this area is a Canadian group called Pure Prairie League and their style is perfectly portrayed with their newly released first album titled Bustin’ Out.

Apart from the styles and attributes already mentioned, the group are not averse to using string arrangements to supplement their sound. And very tasteful they are too. But it is the vocals and the splendid harmonies that get me so excited about them. I really love good singers and singing and the tones the lead vocalists of this group come across with are as satisfying as I could wish for.

The sentiments and emotions expressed in the words of the songs also contribute strongly to this extremely successful initial outing.

On the strength of this first record, Pure Prairie League deserve to be discovered by a wide audience and I expect future recordings to be even more impressive. Hear them.


DARKNESS DARKNESSPhillip Upchurch — Blue Thumb ILPS 9219

Phillip Upchurch’s mainclaim to fame up till now, apart from first rate sessionwork during the past few years, was his smash hit You Can’t Sit Down.

On this album, which, I believe, is his first solo venture for some time, he does five extended instrumental workouts on numbers such as Darkness, Darkness, Fire and Rain and Inner City Blues. (Don’t believe the cover which lists only four tracks.) His guitar playing is very different to his hit single days, but it certainly isn’t disappointing. Over the years Phillip (formerly Phil) has developed a mature relaxed style that explores every possibility within the existing framework of the songs he has chosen to record here. The backup musicians he uses also contribute much to making this a most enjoyable album, that is better suited for listening to than for dancing.


MILLIE JACKSONMojo 2918005

Mojo Records, marketed by Polydor is one of the finest small soul labels available in this country. They specialise in re-issuing past soul hits that have been difficult to obtain here, and also in releasing recordings by small American soul labels.

In 1971 they put out the classic Doris Duke album I’m a Loser and at the end of 1972 they issued what must be one of the best soul releases of the year, the first album of Millie Jackson (no relation to the Jackson Five clan).

And what a soulful record it is too. It is worth buying just for the incredible A Child Of God track, which was sadly ignored when released as a single. But all the other cuts are first rate uptown funk, making it one of the rare soul albums that is consistently good throughout both the sides of the disc.

Millie Jackson’s initial collection of songs is certainly a must for soul enthusiasts to hear and is likely to attract other ears if it is given the promotion it deserves.


EUROPE ’72Grateful Dead – Warner Bros K66019

After an enormously successful series of concerts throughout Europe last year, the Grateful Dead have released a three-record set to commemorate that tour. It is titled Europe ’72 and is priced at £4.99.

I have been a devoted Dead fan ever since their first album, released way back in the ‘flower power’ summer of 1967, and it has been a rewarding series of experiences, following this band, for with each new record or set of records issued they improve, develop and expand the accomplishments of their previous outings. I have usually found that their ‘live’ recordings are ultimately far more satisfying than their studio efforts, with the exception of one or two notable albums such as American Beauty or Workingman’s Dead. And the just over 109 minutes of music on this triple set is going to keep me happy and contented for some time to come.

A large amount of the record buying public are still unfamiliar with the Dead’s music. That’s a shame, for anyone interested in the immense advancements in rock music over the last few years would do well to listen to one of the instigators of what was once called psychedelic music. The Grateful Dead, and this set of albums particularly, are a perfect example of what is so exciting and significant about contemporary rock music.


FOR THE ROSESJoni Mitchell – Asylum SYLA 8753

The exceptional talents possessed by Joni Mitchell finally gained the recognition and the attention of a wider audience which they richly deserve, with her last album, Blue. Joni’s new release For The Roses is nothing less than a further extention of this impressive level.

As usual the songs included are observations and comments about her experiences and the people she’s been involved with. And although the situations she sings about are often deeply personal, it in no way prevents the listener from relating to them, in whatever way he or she may want to. A remarkable achievement, when one considers how difficult communication generally is in our space age societies.

Joni Mitchell manages beautifully to express so many of the fears, hopes and joys we can all feel and know about, if we bother to take time out to experience them. This comes from her very obvious concern for humanity and its oblivious ways.

In conclusion, For The Roses is an extremely moving, very aware album that is far more than just another record to rave over.

Christmas – Season Of Goodwill?

I have very mixed feelings about Christmas and all that it implies in the countries which celebrate this age old Christian/pagan festival. I am not a believer in organised religion, for most of them I view with a mixture of cynicism and despair. But at the same time I like to think myself tolerant of those who do profess faith in such institutions. So long as they don’t try to dictate or violate my own search for spiritual awareness.

The doctrine of peace and goodwill is mighty fine, but is Christmas the only time to preach such ideologies? It will mean very little to the people in Ulster, a strongly religious country, I’m afraid. That country will need more than carols, turkey and the Queen’s speech to heal the festering wounds that scar it and its population. I doubt if the Pope’s message to the world will do much for the bitter Orangemen of Belfast, or even the extremists of Catholic Londonderry.

What will Christmas mean to Vietnam, apart from extra rations for American troops. It won’t make the destruction of crops, fields and villages as well as the continual massacre of innocent civilians an easier burden for that truly God forsaken country to bear.

Even here in Great Britain, will the few days of loosening up and declaration of love and friendship for the rest of humanity, really mean anything will be different once the holiday is over. All the fine words and gestures are soon forgotten as New Year’s Day hangovers take their place. Do black people really expect to be treated as equals next year as a result of Christmas? Will women suddenly find themselves freed from the oppression of being classed second class citizens? Will material wealth still be the most popular way of assessing a human being, rather than looking for strength of character or conviction? Am I expected to believe that gays will no longer be classiFied as sick or perverted, and be released from the intolerance and misunderstandings that have been their lot throughout the course of history.

I’m not as bitter as I may sound. It’s just that I would be kidding myself if I thought Christmas could really do anything it is supposed to do, except increase the ringing of cash registers, worry parliament with rising inflation figures and kill a few score more people on our roads. I truly wish that the dreams of Christmas were as real as advertising executives make them seem, but the world has got to change and evolve a great deal before this period of over-indulgence and mass commercialism will mean much more than heartburn and lots of empties.

Christmas for many hard working people is a holiday and a time for relaxation and enjoyment. I like to think that I fit into this category of reveller. But I have no time for bigots and hypocrites who, for a couple of weeks preach religion and righteousness, and before you know it are back into the same non-thinking, exploitative patterns they left on the 24th December.

Despite my lack of conFidence and somewhat harsh attitude towards the Christmas ‘spirit’, I hope that you all will have a good time, and perhaps give a little thought to the injustice and inhumanity so many have to endure. As gays we know something about that. So isn’t it only right that we should at least be aware of the plight of countless others.

Artists And Records Of The Year

David Bowie — Artist of the Year

It at first seemed like a difficult task to choose just one artist out of the scores of successful ones currently recording. But thinking back over the last year, it soon became apparent that one performer stood head, shoulders, faded jeans and eye shadow over all the rest. It is of course, David Bowie, the man who brought showbiz and glamour back to rock and roll.

Bowie’s major release this year was the brilliant The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. No other album has received such critical acclaim or enabled an artist to be rocketed with such speed to the pinnacle of his profession. Even Alice Cooper’s Mrs Mary Whitehouse upsetter School’s Out pales in comparison.

Ziggy Stardust is made up of a series of songs, and even if it isn’t a concept album as such, all the tracks are inter-related. Amongst the basic futuristic themes are apocalyptic visions of the world of tomorrow. These are told in part by Bowie as a narrator, and also by the mythical superstar ‘Ziggy Stardust’, who is Bowie himself. One of Bowie’s main attributes is his insight into what he is and what he is expected to be. And accordingly he plays the part of a superstar placed on a pedestal to the limit. Through this kind of awareness of image and of the medium he is working in, the lyrics, although extravagant, never sink to the level of just being pretentious or embarrassingly self-conscious.

Recently Bowie has had two of his previous albums re-released. They are Space Oddity (1968) and The Man Who Sold The World (1970). Both are important records, which were way ahead of their time when first issued. A new single by Bowie, The Jean Genie, has come out during the last couple of weeks. The title is, of course, a word play on Jean Genet, the French author, who is perhaps best known in this country for his novel Our Lady Of The Flowers. The lyrics are stranger than ever and their meaning is best left up to the individual listener to fathom out.

Apart from success in the recording field, Bowie has also been responsible for bringing entertainment back to rock concerts. For too long groups and solo artists have had trite, lack-lustre stage acts. But after a David Bowie concert, audiences will be reluctant to accept the mediocre, slipshod stage presentations of the past.

Bowie’s theatrical, uninhibited professionalism when giving a ‘live’ performance, has broken through many social barriers and taboos. And everywhere audiences have reacted enthusiastically to his assaults on accepted convention and narrow-minded morality. Mind you, he has brought out the worst forms of imbedded Puritanism from many rock journalists. But make no mistakes, if Bowie is limp-wristed then Muhammed Ali is queen of the fairies.

The terms Glam Rock and Gay Rock have been invented to try and categorise Bowie and the few other rock artists who have progressed beyond the rigid conformity that has governed the stage presentation of rock/pop groups in this country for quite some time. Even the puppet prancings of Mick Jagger look mechanical when compared to the high energy performances that Bowie gives.

Incidentally, Bowie is giving a concert at the Rainbow, Finsbury Park, on 24th December. I couldn’t recommend a better, more spectacular start to the Christmas holidays. I also expect David Bowie’s recordings and performances in 1973 to be a significantly influential to the modern music scene as they have been during the last year.

The World of David BowieDecca SPA 58
Space OddityRCA LSP 48133
The Man Who Sold The WorldRCA LSP 4816
Hunky DoryRCA SF 8244
Ziggy StardustRCA SF 8287
The Jean GenieRCA 2302


Roxy Music — Group of the Year

No other group has amassed such a strong following over the last year as Roxy Music. They have also caused a fair amount of controversy amongst rock purists, who have found it difficult to come to terms with the wild mixture of music and electronics the group deliver. But a hit single removed most of the sceptical criticism they initially received.

Their album, Roxy Music, is certainly one of the strangest to be released in 1972. The record defies all attempts at categorisation and its acceptance depends on the limitations of taste the listener may or may not have. Even if you find the album difficult to relate to at first, it is worth the effort of hearing it a number of times. If one analyses the Roxy’s sound, apart from the electronics and use of modern phasing techniques, the underlying inspiration seems to come from fifties

On stage, Roxy Music have seemingly been following the footsteps of David Bowie. Their stage presentation, physical appearance and clothes are extreme almost to excess but, like Bowie, they are into entertainment as much as they are into producing good and exciting music.

Despite the limited number of ‘live’ appearances by the group and the sparse air-play their album has received on the radio, the last few months have been extremely eventful for them. In 1973 I expect Roxy Music to reach both a far wider audience and receive even greater acceptance of their most original style.

Roxy MusicIsland ILPS 9200


Bill Withers — Soul Artist of the Year

Soul music isn’t just screams and wild dancing, as Bill Withers undeniably proves. Soul is the amount of depth and feeling an artist puts into a song, and Withers certainly doesn’t hold anything back.

His Still Bill album contains some of the most memorable and moving adult songs, about love and relationships, that I have heard this year, and is frequently to be found on my turntable.

Withers recent concert appearance in London showed that his talents aren’t just limited to a recording studio. As a member of the audience at that gig, I was impressed by the warm, responsive two-way relationship he created between the stage and the crowded auditorium, as he sang his sensitive rhythmic songs about matters which touch us all at some time or other.

Purists may prefer to stick to the wilder aspects of soul music, but Withers, with his Still Bill album especially, will make soul music many new friends and admirers. His previous release, Just As I Am, also contains some very good material, including the song which looks like becoming a soul classic, Ain’t No Sunshine. Through these two albums and his hit single Lean On Me, Bill Withers has firmly established himself as an outstanding new talent, who one can expect even greater things from, next year.

Just As I AmA&M AMLS 65002
Still BillA&M AMLS 68107


Seals & Crofts — Folk Artists of the Year

Whilst not working in the traditional areas of folk music, the American duo, Seals & Crofts are certainly the most pleasing contemporary folk artists performing and recording today.

At present their current release, Summer Breeze is highly placed in the American album charts, and this comes as no surprise. The record is filled with happy and sincere songs, that tell of love, life, a passing season and the things that all too quickly pass us by. There is also mention of the duo’s religious convictions, but without any undue pressure being placed on the listener to be converted to their particular beliefs.

James Seals and Dash Crofts with Summer Breeze deliver a series of often beautiful, relaxing and rewarding experiences for those who care to listen. This is an album I shall play for some time to come, besides eagerly awaiting their subsequent releases in 1973.

Summer BreezeWarner Bros, K46173.


Tamla Motown Album of the Year

There is no looking back for Diana Ross. After an extremely rewarding career with The Supremes, she has continued her success as a solo artist. And her Greatest Hits album shows why. Most of the songs are of the high standard one expects from Tamla Motown, whilst a few are bound to remain firm favourites for some time to come.

This compilation record of Diana’s contains all her hit singles, plus some of the best tracks from her past albums. The twelve cuts selected make for very good value, and the inclusion of the full six minute version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is an added bonus.

As I said earlier, one expects a high quality performance from Motown artists, and this album is a perfect example of how good records from them can be. You can rest assured that many fine sounds will be coming from the company and its stable of artists next year.

Diana Ross Greatest HitsTamla Motown STMA 8006


Taj Mahal — Blues Artist of the Year

One of the most important exponents of the blues alive today is Taj Mahal. Although still only a young man, his performances to date, whether in concert or on record, have been some of the most significant developments in this particular area of music.

Traditional country blues have always been the basis of Taj’s sound, but over the last few years he has impressively experimented with all aspects of his music. No two of his albums are alike, and the originality of his latest release. Recycling The Blues and Other Related Stuff, surpasses even the best of what he has issued before and makes me wonder what he is going to do next. The other album he has released this year, Happy Just To Be Like I Am, is a necessary addition to any serious collection of modern blues.

One thing I always love about Taj Mahal is his wonderful sense of humour, which he successfully instils into all his music.

Taj is a great blues artist, and hasn’t had to wait for recognition till he was either in his old age or dead, before people have become aware of his potential and significance.

Happy Just To Be Like I AmCBS 64447
Recycling the Blues & Other Related StuffCBS 65090


Reggae Record Of The Year

Reggae has had a long hard fight to gain mass acceptance in this country, but the soundtrack album from the Jamaican film The Harder They Come, may well prove to be the record that gains this music the wider audience it deserves.

The album is made up of tracks from various artists. Particularly of note is Jimmy Cliff, who sings four numbers, including the title track and a very beautiful song called Many Rivers To Cross. Other excellent contributions are made by lesser known reggae artists, such as Desmond Dekker and the Maytals.

If you have always thought of reggae as a rather limited musical form, give this album a listen. It’s a cert to change your mind, and will become an essential ingredient of any party you are holding or attending.

The Harder They ComeIsland ILPS 9202


Rock Album of the Year

To pick one rock record out of the hundreds issued during the last twelve months was nearly as difficult as picking out the most important and influential artist of the year.

But an album by a little known American guitarist is my choice. It is the first recorded outing of Roy Buchanan, who plays some of the cleanest, captivating guitar I’ve heard in a long time.

Whilst the backings are adequate and the singing bearable, it is the guitar playing that is always to the front. As it should be, for one doesn’t often have the chance of hearing such excellent rock musicianship. Roy Buchanan makes it all sound so simple too, but as any guitarist or passionate follower of rock music will tell you. some of the things he lets loose coma solely from years of playing and practising, and are only likely to be heard from the most proficient of artists. Of the incluences in Buchanan’s playing, apart from rock and roll, the most noticeable are country and blues.

As an introduction to this man’s work, I suggest you listen to Sweet Dreams which opens side one, and the mind-boggling The Messiah Will Come Again on side two. If these two tracks don’t immediately convert you, nothing will. So if you want to hear something a little different to the usual heavy rock sound being produced by the majority of bands, then make the effort to hear this album, you won’t be disappointed.

Roy BuchananPolydor 2391042


Laid Back Album of the Year

The term ‘laid back’ has come into use frequently during the last year. Basically it refers to a relaxed, unhurried musical style, but in no way means that the quality of the sounds is impaired.

A perfect example of this style is an album called Naturally by J. J. Cale. His music is a combination of blues, country and rock influences, whilst he delivers the vocals in a gravelly relaxed manner.

No single track stands out from the rest, but this does not mean that there are any duff tracks included. All make for worthwhile listening and the album comes into its own if heard late at night, when one is relaxed and doesn’t want anything too overpowering to cope with. Cale’s guitar playing is nothing less than stunning and one hangs onto every note of the never overlong breaks he allows himself. The After Midnight track on side two when released as a single in the States sold extremely well, and I recommend you to hear this cut as an introduction to the album.

Naturally is one hell of an album, by a musician/composer of the highest calibre. There will be more recorded delight? coming from him next year, when it is also planned for him to come over to this country for concert performances.

NaturallyA&M AMLS 68105


Colin Blunstone — Rising Talent of the Year.

In the early sixties Colin Blunstone was part of the now legendary group known as the Zombies. After a break from the music industry, Colin returned last year with an album called One Year which was favourably received by the pop press, but in no way shot him up the ladder to stardom, despite the success of a track that was taken from the album and released as a single.

Now his second album has been issued. It’s called Ennismore, and it is bound to take him a lot further than his previous solo effort. And with him starting to give ‘live’ performances around the country, it is just a matter of time before this very gifted singer/songwriter gets the recognition he deserves.

The songs on Ennismore are all concerned with relationships — the ones that worked and those that proved disastrous. There is a compelling directness in the lyrics that makes them easy to identify with. This results in shared experiences rather than just listening to those of someone else’s. The opening track, I Don’t Believe In Miracles, says far more about Blunstone’s work than I can, and as it is currently headed for the top of the singles charts, you can see and hear why I am so enthusiastic about this artist’s work for yourselves.

Ennismore will open up new horizons for Colin Blunstone, and the coming new year should establish him as one of this country’s leading singers and lyricists.

One YearEpic EPC 64557
EnnismoreEpic EPC 65278

Albums For Christmas

The albums and artists of the year have taken up so much room there is very little space to say much about the numerous albums which have been issued recently. Although it is unfair to comment on a record in only a few lines, I would like to say a little about what I consider to be the best of the new releases. Albums make ideal presents, and those mentioned here I strongly recommend as being excellent gifts, depending of course on the recipient’s musical tastes.

The most outstanding release is Lou Reed’s second solo album Transformer (RCA LSP 4807), which I cannot commend highly enough. One track. Walk On The Wild Side, also put out as a single, has to be heard to be believed, whilst the cut Make Up is the best Gay Lib song I have heard. Production is by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson, but whereas with Bowie’s involvement in the latest Mott the Hoople album that record came out just sounding like an extension of Bowie, his work on Transformer just adds to bringing out the explicitly stunning and original talents of Lou Reed.

Transformer is an essential record and is currently top of the Gay News hit parade. The record sleeve, especially the reverse side, is remarkable too.

Tamla Motown have brought out two excellent records in time for Christmas. One is the new Temptations album All Directions (STML 11218). It is well up to the standard of this group’s past work, with the 11 min 45 sec Papa Was A Rolling Stone being a monster success. The other album needs no introduction to recommend its guaranteed quality. It’s the latest in the Motown Chartbusters series, this one being Volume Seven (STML 11215). Included are sixteen of the best and most successful cuts the company have put out over the last few months. Amongst the artists contributing to the volume are The Supremes, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Mary Welles, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder.

Bread are currently riding high in the charts with their single The Guitar Man. Now they have released an album with that cut as the title track. Guitar Man (Elektra K52004) contains twelve tracks, and is a first rate followup to their recently released Best of Bread disc. Bread fans will be delighted with this new effort, as will any new converts to the group.

Some of the raviest, rocking music produced over the last few years came from Delaney and Bonnie. This husband and wife team have now sadly parted and have gone their separate ways. But they can well be remembered with The Best of Delaney and Bonnie (Atlantic K 40429) which truly lives up to the album title. Just listen to Soul Shake to be convinced that Bonnie Bramlett delivers some of the best white blues/soul vocals ever.

The Moody Blues keep on bringing out one fine album after another, and Seventh Sojourn (Threshold THS7) is no exception. Moody fans will need no recommendation to know that this album is a must for them, whilst anyone new to the group’s work will find this release a good way to discover why they have such a large following. As usual the production is faultless, with the When You’re A Free Man track standing out as the most impressive.

Shirley Bassey devotees will find her new album And I Love You So (UAS 29385) a welcome release. Of the songs tackled by Miss Bassey on this record, the following are the most outstanding: Someday, The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, Day By Day (from ‘Godspell’), Ballad Of The Sad Young Men, I Don’t Know How To Love Him (from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) and Don McLean’s And I Love You So.

The West Country group, Stackridge follow up their excellent first album with this new offering, Friendliness (MCA MKPS 2025). Stackridge have a sunny magical charm which comes over even stronger on this release than before, and is guaranteed to find them an even wider audience. Largely responsible for the musical inventiveness on this record and ultimately the group’s success is the playing of Mike Evans (violin and cello) and “Mutter” Slater (flute) whose contributions equal the guitar work of James Warren and Andy Davis’s keyboards. A happy, friendly record this, that will remove many worried frowns and long faces.