Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Various Artists - Bearsville Finds A New Home (1974-1980)

(Various Artists 1974-1980)
The record label 'Bearsville' was founded in 1970 by Albert Grossman and its artist roster included more Rock/Pop oriented acts like Todd Rundgren and Foghat.
After his group Nazz broke up, Todd Rundgren signed with Grossman's management and began producing records for others, including many of the early albums for the Ampex label. By late 1970, Bearsville was established as a label on its own, with Rundgren the main producer and ultimately, its most well known artist. The Bearsville label was brown, with a logo that resembled a cartoon bear's head. Most promotional labels were the same, with a "Promotion Not For Sale" overprint, although white-label promos are known to exist.
But more interesting for Disco lovers are the Funky Soul/Disco work of Tony Wilson and the solo releases by former Chic vocalist Norma Jean Wright, who recorded for Bearsville as just 'Norma Jean'. Actually Chic's Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards wrote and produced Norma's two 1978 hit songs; "Saturday" and "Sorcerer" as well as 1979's "High Society". The label finally folded in 1984.
Bearsville’s initial distributor was Ampex Records. From 1972 until its demise, the label was distributed by Warner Bros. Records. Today Rhino Records distributes the Bearsville catalog. For a complete listing of the Bearsville back catalogue see Warner Brothers Records Story
FOGHAT (Selftitled, Live, Boogie Motel)
Foghat were a British rock band that had their peak success in the mid- to late-1970s. Their style can be described as "blues-rock," or boogie-rock dominated by electric and electric slide guitar. The band has achieved five gold records. The group remained popular during the disco era, but their popularity waned in the early 1980s.
The band initially featured Dave Peverett ("Lonesome Dave") on guitar and vocal, Tony Stevens on bass, and Roger Earl on drums. After leaving Savoy Brown in December 1970, they added Rod Price on guitar/slide guitar and formed Foghat in January 1971. Their 1972 album 'Foghat' was produced by Dave Edmunds and included a cover of Willie Dixon's "I Just Want to Make Love to You" which received much airplay, especially on FM stations, and is featured on this sampler.
The band's second self-titled album was also known as Rock and Roll for its cover photo of a rock and a bread roll, and it went gold. Energized came out in 1974, followed by Rock and Roll Outlaws and Fool for the City in 1975, the year that Stevens left the band after objecting to their endless touring schedule. Stevens was replaced temporarily by producer Nick Jameson in 1975 when the band recorded Fool For The City. In the next year, he was replaced by Craig MacGregor and the group produced Night Shift in 1976, a live album in 1977, and Stone Blue in 1978, each reaching "gold" record sales. Fool for the City spawned the hit single "Slow Ride" (which reached number 20 on the US charts), but the greatest sales figures were for Foghat Live, which sold over 2,000,000 copies. More hits followed: "Drivin' Wheel", "I Just Want to Make Love to You" (from the live album), "Stone Blue" and "Third Time Lucky (The First Time I Was a Fool)". But Rod Price, unhappy with the group's still constant touring and the shift away from their hard boogie sound towards a more New Wave influenced Pop direction, left the band in November 1980. After months of auditions he was replaced by Erik Cartwright by February 1981.
After 1978, Foghat record sales began to slip, and their last album for the Bearsville label, Zig-Zag Walk in 1983, only briefly touched the charts at #192.
Note: Foghat Live eventually sold over two million copies and is certified 2x platinum in the United States.

Todd Rundgren (Hermit Of Mink Hollow)
Enigmatic whizz-kid, virtuoso guitarist and studio master Todd Rundgren was born in Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby in 1948. He began his band life in a local rock 'n' roll outfit, Woody's Truckstop, before forming English Mod-influenced flash-rock outfit The Nazz in 1968. The Nazz were unusual in Philadelphia for providing a viable alternative to the San Francisco sound dominating American music at time, as they attempted to personify everything "swinging London", from their clothes to their Beatle-influenced material. With Rundgren on guitar were Robert "Stewkey" Antoni (keyboards, vocals), Carson van Osten (baas) and Thorn Mooney (drums).
Nazz were characterised by recording and playing sophistication that heralded the end of the '60s era and a newer, more professional sound. Probably too advanced for their period they succeeded with two minor U.S. hit singles, though only Hello It's Me (Boston's most requested, four times re-released AM song) made it to the bottom rungs of national charts.
Among the huge number of acts that Rundgren has worked with in studio are The Band, Jesse Winchester, Butterfield Blues Band, New York Dolls, Fanny, Grand Funk, Halfnelson (later Sparks), Janis Joplin, Badfinger, Hello People and James Cotton.
Meanwhile his own solo career blossomed with Ballad Of Todd Rundgren (1971) assisted by the sons of New York society figure Soupy Sales, Hunt (bass) and Tony Sales (drums). Always attempting to push the barriers of rock to new heights Rundgren made an initial attempt to launch his Utopia Road Show with a lighting system and effects that could match visually his futuristic music.
A double, 'Something/Anything' (1972), contained Rundgren's most diverse styles to date; he had seemingly mastered every angle from soul to Beach Boys to raw daring of a Hendrix. Many of songs represent his finest hour in eyes of fanatical following that began to worship Rundgren as a rock 'n' roll saviour. Certainly, there is no doubting the appeal of numbers like "I Saw The Light", "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference" or "Couldn't I Just Tell You?"
Todd Rundgren's career has produced a diverse range of recordings as solo artist, and during the seventies and eighties with the band Utopia. He has also been prolific as a producer and engineer on the recorded work of other musicians.
His 1976 album Faithful marked a return to the pop/rock genre, featuring one side of original songs and one side of covers of significant songs from 1966, including the Yardbirds' "Happening Ten Years Time Ago" (the B-side of that Yardbirds single gave Nazz its name) and a nearly identical re-creation of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". Faithful was followed by Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978); this included the hit ballad "Can We Still Be Friends", which reached #29 in the U.S. and was accompanied by an innovative self-produced music video, and the album became the second most successful of his career (after Something? Anything!), reaching #36 in the U.S.
Randy Vanwarmer (Warmer)
Randy Vanwarmer (March 30, 1955 – January 12, 2004) was an American songwriter and guitarist. His biggest success was the pop hit, "Just When I Needed You Most". It reached #8 on the UK Singles Chart in September 1979 after peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart earlier that year. There are several cover versions of this song, including those by Dolly Parton, Daniel Selby and Smokie.
In 1979, after struggling in obscurity for a few years, Bearsville Records in New York released a VanWarmer single, "Gotta Get Out of Here," a mildly catchy pop tune. "Just When I Needed You Most" was the B-side of the single. Somewhere, on a whim, a DJ decided to play the flip side instead, and it slowly rose to the Top 10 in a market saturated with disco. As VanWarmer told Release, Albert Grossman, the head of Bearsville, who was acting as VanWarmer's manager, would not let him do television or tour the United States, a strategy that did not prove successful.
Utopia (Oops! Wrong Planet, Adventures In Utopia)
Utopia was an American progressive rock band, led by Todd Rundgren that toured and recorded from 1973 to 1986.
Utopia was initially an ensemble, formed by Todd Rungren as a counter-point to his solo work. Various musicians came and went, but the main stays of the band were Roger Powell (keyboards), Kasim Sulton (bass), and Jon "willie" Wilcox (drums), and of course Todd himself handling the guitar work, all four members supplied both lead and harmony vocals.
Despite its breadth of styles and strong talents, Utopia had only one Billboard top 40 hit. "Set Me Free", from their best selling album Adventures in Utopia, peaked at #27 in 1980. Poised on the verge of mainstream success, the band sidetracked for the next two LPs before returning to the head-on pop format by which time the momentum from Adventures had been lost.
They managed to hold cult status throughout the 1980s with their albums, concert performances and videos that were shown on MTV in its early years.

Jesse Winchester (Selftitled, A Touch On The Rainy Side)
Jesse Winchester is a musician and songwriter who was born and raised in the southern United States. To avoid the Vietnam War draft he moved to Canada in 1967, which is where and when he began his career as a solo artist.
After a few years of playing piano in Canadian bars and teaching himself to write songs, Jesse met Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist and main writer for The Band, the legendary quintet of former Dylan backing musicians, “through a friend of a friend.” Robertson produced Jesse’s self-titled debut album, enlisting fellow Band-mate Levon Helm on drums and mandolin and whiz-kid musician Todd Rundgren as engineer. That first album was released with the most low-key packaging possible – no printed lyrics and a gatefold cover with the same photo of Jesse on all four panels, resembling a 19th Century “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster.
Winchester’s self-titled debut (first released in 1970 on the Apmex label) still seems as fresh, perfect and balanced today as it did when first released. With Robbie Robertson of 'The Band' producing and playing guitar, accompanied by fellow Band-mate Levon Helm on drums and a whole host of excellent Canadian musicians, the accompaniment is first-rate. As a collection of songs, the album is still nearly without peer. Winchester covers all the bases here, with songs about God, sin, good times, casual attraction, and the fragility of love all fitting comfortably together, achieving an effortless thematic cohesion that more pretentious “concept” albums of the day could only strain for. From the dark and brooding “Black Dog” to a tale of lost love in "The Brand New Tennessee Waltz", nearly every song is a classic. And while many of these works achieved greater commercial success for the better-known singers who later recorded them, Winchester’s own singing on this album is remarkably strong, versatile and attractive, with unmatched intelligence and understanding gracing every interpretation.
The ampex label became defunct shortly afterwards and Winchester reverted to Ampex's parent company, Bearsville for the release of his next 7 albums.
Paul Butterfield (Better Days)
Paul Butterfield (17 December 1942 – 4 May 1987) was an American blues vocalist and harmonica player, who founded the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the early 1960s and performed at the original Woodstock Festival.
Following the releases of 'Live in 1970' and 'Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smiling' in 1971, Butterfield broke up his blues/horn based Butterfield Band and formed a new group with Chris Parker on drums, guitarist Amos Garrett, Geoff Muldaur, pianist Ronnie Barron and bassist Billy Rich, naming the ensemble "Better Days." The group released Paul Butterfield's 'Better Days' and 'It All Comes Back in 1972 and 1973, respectively on the Bearsville label.
Although this is another record sampler by a major record company, it was not available for sale to the general public and was probably used for promotional purposes to showcase the Bearsville label throughout the 70's. I suspect Bearsville made it freely available to radio stations in an attempt to boost record sales, and appears to have been distributed through Festival Records here in Australia (see front cover). Anyhow, there are certainly some classic hits on this sampler although some artists like Elizabeth Barracough, Tony Wilson and Nick Jameson were unknowns here in the land of Oz.
Note: Bearsville released a second record sampler (pictured right) shortly after this one which was available for sale and is therefore more commonly found on eBay and alike. The record sampler featured in this post, however, is extremely rare as I have yet to see it anywhere else on the web.
The post consists of a rip taken from Vinyl at 320kps which has had any crackle or pops removed manually. Full album artwork is included, although the album cover isn't really anything to rave about !
Track Listing
01 - Just When I Needed You Most (Randy Vanwarmer)

02 - Third Time Lucky (Foghat)

03 - Use Your Heart (Elizabeth Barraclough)

04 - Having A Party (Norma Jean)

05 - The Politican (Tony Wilson)

06 - Home In My Hand "Live" (Foghat)

07 - I Ain't Searching (Nick Jameson)

08 - Can We Still Be Friends (Todd Rundgren)

09 - Call Me (Randy Vanwarmer)

10 - Sassy (Jesse Winchester)

11 - I Just Wanna Make Love To You (Foghat)

12 - My Angel (Utopia)

13 - Highway 28 (Paul Butterfield)
14 - The Brand New Tenessee Waltz (Jesse Winchester)

15 - Set Me Free (Utopia)

Bearsville Link (126Mb) New Link 04/11/2014

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