Grinderswitch

This southern rock act plays with more soul than just about any group of white men who ever recorded.  Always a second tier act, they opened for many of the styles top performers (Allman Bros., Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels etc.) but never broke into the mainstream.  They played glorious soul inflected blues rock with hard rock overtones, and their live shows were tremendous.  A sadly forgotten relic from the prime southern rock era, they truly jam nonstop live.

City Boy

City Boy was active from the mid seventies to the early eightiesThey defied their contesomporaries, bucking the new wave and punk tendencies of their day.  City Boy was a rock band.  They had great power hooks and glam/psych/prog tinges to their songs, throwing in some soul and funk with killer, melt butter harmonies.  Of all the rock bands I’ve heard, this group utilized harmonic flourishes to more effect than City Boy.  Maybe the Beatles, or CSN, or someone else to be sure–but it seems like City Boy crams as much harmony in their songs as they can.

I’d compare them to a steroided ELO without the strings, throw in some Queen bombast with similar vocals.  Plus they are kind of neo hairmetal writing anthems you could see Whitesnake playing.  I think they were really ahead of their time, perhaps the eighties hair era would have been a better placement.

I love this group.  They are one of my sinful pleasures.  All of their albums are good, consistent.  I like exploring them while cleaning or doing yardwork–their music makes the time go by fast.  They had little chart success, if any.  Obscure to the max, although I’ve scored five high quality bootlegs from the seventies.  There are some City Boy fans out there somewhere, I just haven’t been introduced.

Emitt Rhodes

Rhodes began a solo career in 1969, after a modicum of success with the boroque pop outfit The Merry-Go-Round.  Strongly influenced by Paul McCartney, Rhodes produced four strong, critically acclaimed albums from 1970-1973 (his debut, lauded as a masterpiece by some, was recorded in his parents basement with Emmit on all instruments).  His music is in the singer/songwriter vein, and he retired from the performing side of the music business after his fourth studio release.  His LP’s are easily found in record store bargain bins and worth whatever price you pay for them.

Be Bop Deluxe

Be Bop Deluxe was a British Rock group active from 1972-1978.  Their music sounded like a cross section of glam rock, progressive rock, and hard rock, with some pop elements thrown in for good measure.  Added is a splash of pub rock, like linking a bridge between Brinsley Schwarz to Dire Straits.  A million miles away from the mainstream in the USA, Be Bop scored a few hits in their native Britain, likely because of their leader Bill Nelson’s prowess on lead guitar.  They didn’t release any true classics in my estimation, except for maybe their Live! In The Air Age. but their music is easy for me to listen to and they sound great live.

Gracious!

This band was tremendous, a true pioneer of progressive rock.  The keyboard players name is Kitcat and he plays mellotron as a lead instrument.  Sadly, these two albums are all they offered, and Gracious! was nothing but a footnote.  C.B.S. off of This is…..is funky smoking rock with prog flourishes.  But each of these albums are worth repeated spins.

Marc Benno

Native Texan Marc Benno cut his teeth in Austin TX before he began working with Leon Russell in the early 70’s.  His solo output produced notable singer songwriter country soul rock gospel pop blues talents.  His discography is scarce, although he’s released some local indies in Austin in the last 15 years.  During the heyday of classic rock this guy is truly a forgotten performer.  I have this disc released in 2006 labeled Marc Benno And The Nightcrawlers–Crawlin’  and, while it has no documentation of any kind, the AMG credits list Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Mike Utley, and Stevie Ray Vaughan!  I have no idea when it was originally recorded but it has to be some early seventies vintage.  It’s good, but it won’t blow you away.  His other albums are good and fun on a rainy day

Spirit

In my eyes Spirit is THE forgotten act of the classic rock era, aside from their biggest hit ” I Got A Line On You” you won’t hear any of their tunes on the radio  (and you’ll rarely hear that all-time classic, for that matter).  Spirit had 11 charting albums, albeit on the lower end, in the US from 1968-1977.  Incessantly eclectic, the band started with a sixteen year old Randy California (the California moniker was given by Jimi Hendrix) on guitar and his step-dad, 44 year old Ed Cassidy on drums.  The band could and would play a psychedelic rave-up then a fingerpicked folk song and then a ten minute jazz instrumental and then a blissed-out california pop song.  Centered around California’s guitar prowess (although all members of the group composed songs, with John Locke contributing many notable intstrumentals), The original group splintered in 1972 (with two members leaving to form another lost classic rock act, Jo Jo Gunne), but Cassidy and California carried on well into the ’90’s until California tragically drowned.  The group put out several high quality releases in the ’60’s and ’70’s and are sadly underrated in the pantheon of rock greats.  I truly enjoy listening to this band.

I wish they sold Spirit T-shirts at Wal-Mart mixed in with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix shirts high school kids wear these days.

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