An exciting exploration of psycho-acoustics

Posted June 30, 2014 by Jeff Ash
Categories: June 2014

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That’s how they billed the record they gave away when you bought a pair of Koss Phase/2+2 Quadrafone headphones in 1975.

So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, that’s the trip we’re taking.

koss perspectives lp

Side 1 of “Koss Perspectives” provided extended instructions in the proper use of your new quadraphonic headphones.

“This album has been specially created by Koss and ABC Records for use with the new Koss Phase/2+2 Quadrafone. The unique application of psychoacoustic design principles into the product in combination with the exclusively mixed program material in this record produce a major milestone in the advancement of musical realism in quadraphonics.”

Side 2 was an extended mix intended to demonstrate the quadrophonic capability of said headphones. It sampled:

Michael Omartian — “Take Me Down”
Dusty Springfield — “Easy Evil”
B.B. King — “Lucille’s Granny”
Rufus — “Tell Me Something Good”
The Crusaders — “Stomp And Buck Dance”
Keith Jarrett — “Treasure Island”
Jimmy Buffett — “They Don’t Dance Like Carmen No More”
Joe Walsh — “Falling Down” (opening section)
John Lee Hooker — “Homework”
The Crusaders — “Whispering Pines”
Joe Walsh — “Falling Down” (closing section)
Bobby Bland — “This Time I’m Gone For Good”

Of course, we have Side 2 from “Koss Perspectives,” 1975. It’s out of print. It runs 19:20.

“The selections contained are the results of extensive consultation between Koss and ABC to choose works of unusual fidelity, dimensional characteristics and psycho-acoustic ‘potential.’ Each selection was remixed from the original multi-track master tapes … to recapture the exciting depth and special qualities of the live recording session.”

If you insist.

I can’t find how much these headphones cost, but I did find this description of how they worked, from Charles G. Hill at

“(They had) horridly complicated cabling, which wanted to come loose from the control box every chance it got. … It was endlessly fascinating for about the first couple of weeks, after which playing with the little switches became more trouble than it was worth.”

Quadraphonics aside, this record is kinda cool, actually. It’s like a flashback to the wonderful nights of free-form FM radio we enjoyed in 1975.

The lady behind the liner notes

Posted May 3, 2014 by Jeff Ash
Categories: May 2014

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Among the charms of old records are liner notes.

When found on the back jacket of a record, it was promotional copy meant to help convince shoppers to buy that LP. But I wonder how many people actually chose a record because of what was written on the back.

So tonight, as y0u listen to this vintage side on The Midnight Tracker, enjoy the liner notes that accompanied it in the record bins of 1969.

willie mitchell soul bag lp 2

“Everyday People,” “Knock On Wood,” “Grand Slam,” “Honey Pot,” “Hawaii Five -O” and “Set Free,” Willie Mitchell, from “Soul Bag,” 1969. It’s out of print. This is Side 2. It runs 14:05.

“On the flip side of the album, ‘EVERYDAY PEOPLE’ kicks it off. The organ carries the melody singing out a very familiar tune, while the horns handle the chorus.

“The million-seller Eddie Floyd standard ‘KNOCK ON WOOD’ is Willie’s next outing and he does beautiful justice to it. At any dance you attend you will be bound to hear request after request for this song, but you will never hear an arrangement that quite touches Willie’s.

“Another original ‘GRAND SLAM’ is included that demonstrates the nationally known ‘Memphis Sound.’ It’s the only slow tune on the album, so relax and just enjoy it.

“The nicest horns yet are in ‘HONEY POT,’ another Memphis-based tune. The changing tempos used make this song one of my very favorites.

“To close the LP Willie uses ‘HAWAII 5-0,’ the popular television show theme with an easy tempo and horns in the lead, and also an original entitled ‘SET FREE.’ This tune is up tempo with very effective guitar work that will not let you sit down.

“Willie has definitely out-done himself again and it seems as if this album is a contest against the last. The album speaks for itself and you will really hate to hear it end. So don’t let it, just pick the needle up and start it over again … And again … And again … And again.”

Those liner notes were written in 1969 by Linda Alter, who was a music publicist for more than 35 years.

But that year, Alter was working at Pop Tunes, a record store in her hometown of Memphis. She was so good and so personable that she was promoted to head buyer for its parent company, Poplar Tunes, which also had a wholesale arm that sold records to stores and jukeboxes throughout the South.

“Soul Bag” came out on Hi Records, so Alter likely was quite familiar with it, and with Willie Mitchell. They all were part of the Poplar Tunes family. Hi — for whom Mitchell started recording in 1960, then became a producer and vice president — was founded by Poplar Tunes co-owner Joe Cuoghi.

In 1974, Alter moved to Los Angeles and became the national promotion chief for Shelter Records, one of the first women to have such a job. Leon Russell, who co-founded Shelter in 1969, was one of her first big clients. Alter later worked for the Bang, Motown and Arista labels and became one of the most influential women in the music business. She died in 2005 at age 58.

Ike and Tina: The end

Posted March 31, 2014 by Jeff Ash
Categories: March 2014

Tags: ,

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have a side that might best be described as part historical document, part curiosity.


It’s from “The Edge,” a 1980 album by Ike Turner. And, yeah, that cover art is about a subtle as a sledgehammer. Ike liked cocaine, and was deep into it at the time.

While Ike’s name is in the biggest type, it’s not a solo record.

Side 2 is Ike playing his own songs and backed by Home Grown Funk, a popular Memphis group that had gone to Los Angeles in the mid-’70s to try to make it big.

Side 1 — tonight’s side — is Ike and Tina Turner together on record for the last time (at least until the compilations and reissues started coming).

It’s a bunch of covers from the mid-’70s, recorded at the end of Ike and Tina’s time together. They split personally and professionally in 1976 and divorced in 1978. When this record came out in 1980, both Ike and Tina were struggling to make it on their own.

Hear, then, what the end of Ike and Tina Turner sounded like. Tina was in her mid-30s at the time and had been with Ike for 15 years.

“Shame, Shame, Shame,” “Lean On Me,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Use Me” and “Only Women Bleed,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “The Edge,” 1980. This is Side 1. It runs 17:40. It’s out of print. Three of the cuts are available digitally on “Ike and Tina Turner Sing Great Rock & Pop Classics,” a 2011 compilation CD of covers.

All but “Philadelphia Freedom” are fairly interesting interpretations. The original versions were by Shirley & Company in 1974, Bill Withers in 1972, Elton John in 1975, Withers in 1972 and Alice Cooper in 1975.

No small irony that the last song is about a battered wife.

Digging beyond ‘Timothy’

Posted February 17, 2014 by Jeff Ash
Categories: February 2014

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Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, emerging from the sweet blue haze of time, we have a side from a record brought back into the light last month over on our companion blog.

While digging at one of our local indie record stores not too long ago, I came across “Dinner Music,” an LP by the Buoys. Wondering what they sounded like once you got past “Timothy,” the 1971 single notorious for being about cannibalism, I picked it up for $1.

As noted over on AM, Then FM, listening to the Buoys beyond “Timothy” for the first time, the five songs written by Rupert Holmes clearly foreshadow his stage music to come. Yes, Rupert Holmes, is the guy who did “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” in 1979, but he also wrote “Drood,” a murder mystery/musical that won all kinds of Broadway awards in 1985.

Holmes wasn’t in the band, though. He was a songwriter who worked with the Buoys — a group out of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania — when they got a record deal from Scepter Records. Holmes arranged the entire LP, save for “Timothy,” but it isn’t clear whether he sings or plays on the record. Some sources credit Holmes as playing piano on the record, but its liner notes don’t say so.

That said, “Dinner Music” is a remarkably sophisticated record for 1971.


“Timothy,” “Tell Me Heaven Is Here,” “Bloodknot,” “Tomorrow” and “Absent Friend,” the Buoys, from “Dinner Music,” 1971. It’s out of print. This is Side 2. It runs 15:17.

Holmes wrote “Timothy,” which you probably know, along with “Bloodknot” and “Tomorrow.” “Bloodknot” has the feel of something from a film score, perhaps from a chase scene. “Tomorrow” is a gentle but unremarkable ballad.

The five Buoys — Bill Kelly (lead guitar and flute), Gerry Hludzik (bass), Fran Brozena (guitar and keyboards), Carl Siracuse (guitar, keyboard and flute) and Chris Hanlon (drums and percussion) — are tight, finding just the right grooves for a diverse bunch of songs.

“Tell Me Heaven Is Here,” one of their songs on this side, seems inspired by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The other, “Absent Friends,” is a solo vocal and acoustic guitar piece by Kelly that has a bit of an early prog feel to it.

Finally going beyond the best of

Posted December 1, 2013 by Jeff Ash
Categories: December 2013

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“The Best of the Guess Who” was one of the first records I bought back in the ’70s. It has sufficed all these years.

But for the past couple of years, I’ve been noodling with the notion that maybe I ought to dig beyond all those great AM radio hits. I’ve always passed on “Share The Land” because of five of its eight cuts are on that greatest-hits comp.

But during an early-morning digging excursion on Black Friday, I found a nice copy of “American Woman” among the dollar records at one of our local indie record stores.


So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we go digging beyond “American Woman” and the other familiar cuts on Side 1 of this LP from 1970. You know three of the four cuts on that side — the title track, “No Time” and “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.”

On Side 2, from which there were no North American singles, you’re reminded again that Burton Cummings was a tremendous singer and that Randy Bachman was a most versatile guitarist. This was Bachman’s last LP with the group for more than a decade.

On “Humpty’s Blues,” appropriately enough, you hear Cummings the blues shouter. In so doing, he stands toe to toe with Robert Plant. (“Led Zeppelin II” was released while the Guess Who was recording this LP. Both Cummings and Plant were in their early 20s at the time.)

“969 (The Oldest Man)” is an instrumental that blends “American Woman” riffs into a cool roadhouse jazz vibe.

Another cool cut is “8:15,” which foreshadows “Bus Rider,” released later that year. Cummings co-wrote the former with Bachman, the latter with Bachman’s replacement, Kurt Winter (even though Winter brought it from his old band, Brother).

Also worth noting: “Proper Stranger” was released as a single only in Australia, where it reached No. 85.

“969 (The Oldest Man),” “When Friends Fall Out,” “8:15,” “Proper Stranger” and “Humpty’s Blues (American Woman epilogue),” the Guess Who, from “American Woman,” 1970. This is Side 2. It runs 19:01. (The buy link is to a remastered CD from 2000 with one additional track.) Also available digitally.

Soulful strutting, then and now

Posted September 2, 2013 by Jeff Ash
Categories: September 2013

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In the last week, I’ve heard “Soulful Strut” covered twice by one of Wisconsin’s best bands, and we heard the original on satellite radio last night.

The laid-back soul-jazz instrumental was released as a single in November 1968. It hit No. 3 on the charts for Young-Holt Unlimited, a three-man combo out of Chicago.

However, none of the members of Young-Holt Unlimited — neither bass player Eldee Young nor drummer Red Holt nor keyboardist Ken Chaney — played on it.

The tune was the backing track for “Am I The Same Girl,” a song co-written by Eugene Record, the husband of singer Barbara Acklin. She recorded the song first for Brunswick Records — Young-Holt’s label — but producer Carl Davis and arranger and co-writer Sonny Sanders stripped her vocal tracks and dropped in a piano solo by session man Floyd Morris to create the instrumental.

So, though credited to Young-Holt Unlimited and released on their LP of the same name, “Soulful Strut” was created by Brunswick Records session musicians. Young-Holt took one for the team.

youngholt soulfulstrutlp2

“Who’s Making Love,” “Please Sunrise, Please,” “Be By My Side,” “What Now My Love,” “Baby Your Light Is Out” and “Soulful Strut,” Young-Holt Unlimited, from “Soulful Strut,” 1968. This is Side 1. It runs 17:40. The LP is out of print, but the last two cuts are available on “The Definitive Young-Holt Unlimited,” a 2005 CD release.

Copper Box, that fine band out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, puts its own twist on “Soulful Strut.” Danny Jerabek replaces the horns with his button accordion and Michelle Jerabek adds the vocals from “Am I The Same Girl.” That version is available on “People Change,” the band’s 2011 CD.

Their version just happens to be the first sample on this promo video.

Freed, Nelson Mandela

Posted July 1, 2013 by Jeff Ash
Categories: July 2013

Tags: ,

Among my great memories of the mid-’80s are the politically-tinged protest songs so often heard on WORT-FM, then and now the intensely local, intensely progressive radio station in Madison, Wisconsin.

There was “If I Had A Rocket Launcher,” Bruce Cockburn’s lament for the plight of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico.

There was “World Destruction,” a fierce, desperate, bleak view of the future from John Lydon and Afrika Bambaataa working together as Time Zone.

There was “Five Minutes,” the  hip-hop tune that used snippets of Ronald Reagan’s radio gaffe to satirize Reagan’s policies, with Jerry Harrison and Bootsy Collins and pals billing themselves as Bonzo Goes To Washington.

Those songs shared a sense of anger, and rightly so, given the world in 1984.

There was one more that year, another call for action. It was no less urgent.

But unlike the others, “Free Nelson Mandela” by the Special A.K.A. was a joyful noise, a ska song written in England by Jerry Dammers, its rhythms partly inspired by South African music.

Unlike the others, it expressed hope.

Hope that the anti-apartheid activist would be freed from prison after what was then “21 years in captivity.” Hope that came to pass in the decade that followed the release of “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1984. Apartheid was ended. The song became an anthem. Mandela was elected South Africa’s president, served for five years, then remained active in the cause until retiring.

Nelson Mandela is much in the news, much in our thoughts these days, gravely ill. But he long ago passed into legend, one of the giants of our time.

special aka free nelson mandela lp

“Free Nelson Mandela (instrumental)” and “Free Nelson Mandela (LP version),” the Special A.K.A., from “Free Nelson Mandela: The Special Remix,” 1984. This is Side 2 of the 12-inch American release on Chrysalis. It runs 8:20.

I’ve had it since 1984. Tonight, it emerges from that not-so-long-ago time as our side on The Midnight Tracker.



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