01. Gamma - Wish I Was
From "Gamma 1", their debut album, released in 1979. Gamma was a US outfit put together by guitarist Ronnie Montrose, who'd previously featured with Edgar Winter, Van Morrison and Boz Scaggs, and also with his own Montrose, the hard rock band that featured vocalist Sammy Hagar and that released the famous hits "Rock The Nations" and "Rock Candy". Three further albums, "Paper Money", in 1974, "Warner Brothers Presents" in 1975 and "Jump On It" in 1976, were released before Ronnie Montrose embarked on a solo career. He released the instrumental "Open Fire" in 1978, which attracted the attention of Lifetime drummer Tony Williams, who invited him to join himself, keyboard player Brian Auger, bassist Mario Cippolina and drummer Billy Cobham on a Japanese tour. Ronnie Montrose then formed Gamma towards the end of the 70's, recruiting Scottish born vocalist Davey Pattison, together with ex-Montrose members, Jim Alcivar on synthesizers and Alan Fitzgerald on bass, with Skip Gillette on drums, and this initial line-up appeared on the featured album. Fitzgerald and Gillette then left the band and were replaced by bassist Glenn Letsch and ex-Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi. This line-up released "Gamma 2" in 1980.
The final Gamma album, the synthesizer-heavy "Gamma 3", which featured Mitch Froom in place of Alcivar, was released in 1982. The band then folded and Ronnie Montrose became involved in production work and, in 1986, released his second solo album, "Territory". Davey Pattison later fronted Robin Trower's band, Denny Carmassi featured with Heart and Alan Fitzgerald was a founding member of Night Ranger. A live Gamma album, recorded in 1979, emerged in 1998 under the "Concert Classics" name. Montrose released a number of solo albums of varying styles during the 80's and 90's before reviving Gamma in the late 90's, and the last studio album, "Gamma 4," which saw him back with Pattison, Letsch and Carmassi, together with keyboard player Ed Roth. This album also featured background vocals from Big Brother and The Holding Company vocalist Lisa Battle and South African singer Jean Michel Byron, who'd worked with Toto.
02). Cobra - Looking At You
Cobra was a supergroup that sadly didn't become a supergroup! They had the potential to be massive, but they just seemed to fade into obscurity after releasing their sole album, ''First Strike", in 1983, following legal and contractual problems. The band featured vocalist Jimi Jamison of Target fame, guitarist Mandy Meyer, ex-Krokus, guitarist Jack Holder, ex-Black Oak Arkansas, bassist Tommy Keiser and drummer Jeff Klaven. One of the best melodic hard rock albums ever recorded, it was released on CBS Records and was an immediate hit, with a number of radio-friendly tracks, together with some fantastic rockers in the Bad Company/Whitesnake/Van Halen mould. Jimi Jamison later went on to find fame with Survivor. Both Tommy Keiser and Jeff Klaven joined Krokus, and Mandy Meyer featured with Asia. Jack Holder later worked with young blues sensation Jonny Lang.
03). Dave Meniketti - Hard As I Try
Taken from "Meniketti", his 2nd solo album, released in 2002. Dave Meniketti is the vocalist, guitarist and co-founder member of San Francisco rockers Y & T, who were formed around 1976. He's a very versatile, stylish and melodic guitarist and he has a great voice. Bassist Myron Dove, who's worked with the likes of Santana, John Lee Hooker, Steve Winwood and others, appears on this album, together with drummer Chris Miller and keyboard player Tony Stead. "MenikettI" is a really fine album, with a great mix of blues ballads and hard rockers. Released on Japanese import, it's not that easy to get hold of, though. His equally good debut album,"On The Blues Side", released in 2000, also featured Myron Dove on bass, together with Meniketti's Y & T buddy, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, Ron Wikso (drums - David Lee Roth, Foreigner, etc), John Seppala (keyboards - Foghat, Jeff Berlin, etc), John Heinemann (keyboards - Robben Ford, Robert Cray, etc) and Mark Stanford (sax/keyboards - Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, etc). Dave Meniketti is certainly one of the better hard rock guitarists around, and with the quality of songwriting and musicianship on these two albums, as well as on his work with Y & T, it's a mystery why he's not more widely regarded than he is.
04). Barbara Dennerlein - Take Off
The title track of her 1995 album, released on the Verve Record label. Beautiful Munich, Germany-born Barbara Dennerlein is without doubt one of the finest keyboard players in the world today, jazz, rock or blues, famous for her "tryptychon", using left and right hand and a virtuoso pedal bass. Playing the organ since the age of 11, she was, by the age of 15, playing regularly at local jazz clubs, which laid the foundations for her fantastic talent. She's been recording professionally since the 80's and has built up a fantastic reputation as a brilliant Hammond B3 player. She's joined by drummer Dennis Chambers, well known as a session drummer and also drummer with Niacin. Other musicians on the album are Lonnie Plaxico on bass (electric & acoustic), Mitch Watkins on guitars (electric & acoustic), Roy Hargrove on trumpet & flugelhorn, Ray Anderson on trombone, Don Alias on percussion, Joe Locke on acoustic & midi vibraphone and Mike Sim on saxes. Other albums by this serious talent that are worthwhile checking out are "Junkanoo", "Outhipped", "Hot Stuff", "Bebab" and "Straight Ahead". She also recorded a great album with the Peter Autschbach Projekt, (guitarist), called ''Feelin' Dunk", in 2002.
05). Ronnie Earl - Moanin'
Born Ronald Horvath, Ronnie Earl, who was influenced by the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Magic Sam and T-Bone Walker, first rose to prominence as a member of Roomful of Blues, who he joined in the mid to late 70's, replacing Duke Robillard. (He adopted the name "Earl" because, when he 'used to sit with Muddy Waters and all those old guys, they couldn't pronounce my last name!'). He was with Roomful of Blues for about eight years. He left the band in the mid 80's to embark on a solo career and he released his debut solo album, "They Call Me Mr. Earl" in 1984. He has become one of the most respected and in demand blues guitarists around today, currently recording on the Stony Plain Record label. He's recorded well over a dozen albums to date, although his debut for Stony Plain, ''I Feel Like Goin' On", released in 2003, is one of his best. The featured track was taken from "Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters - Blues Guitar Vitruoso Live in Europe", released in 1995. Recorded in Bremen, Germany in 1993, the album features Bruce Katz on keyboards, Per Hanson on drums and Rod Carey on bass.
06). Tower of Power - Cruise Control
This stunning instrumental was taken from "T.O.P." in 1993. Undoubtedly the finest soul band in the world, Tower of Power started out in Oakland, California, in the late 60's, initially as "The Motowns/Motown Soul Band". Original members, sax players Emilio Castillo and Steve "Doc" Kupka, bassist Francis ''Rocco" Prestia and drummer David Garibaldi have, through many line-up changes, kept this fantastic band together since then.(Garibaldi did leave for a while in the mid 70's and featured with Jazz/fusion outfit Wishful Thinking, before rejoining the band in 1996). Tower of Power's debut album, ''East Bay Grease", was released on the San Franciscio label in 1970, and from then on, they set the soul/funk scene alight with every subsequent release. Unlike other brass/horn rock outfits, Tower of Power accentuate their horn section as opposed to hide it in the background, so the sheer energy and power of this band is immediately apparent. Their famed and respected horn section has appeared with the likes of Santana, Huey Lewis & The News, Phil Collins and others. As mentioned previously, there have been many line-up changes in Tower of Power, so much so that the original remaining members have a hard time remembering offhand who came and went over the years! Suffice to say, though, that the quality of musicians in this band have always been of the highest order, with Castillo and Kupka the primary songwriters. Numbers such as "Squib Cakes", "What is Hip?", "Just Enough Too Much", "Soul With a Capital 'S' '' and "Down To The Nightclub" are timeless classics, as are many of their numbers. This hard working and exciting band are still around today - their most recent studio album, "Oakland's Own", released a few years ago, proves that they truly are the finest soul band in the world.
They visited SA a few years ago and appeared at the North Sea Jazz festival in Cape Town.
07). Culpeper's Orchard - Mountain Music Part 1
One of Denmark's most famous bands, alongside Burnin' Red Ivanhoe, Midnight Sun and Ache. The band, who were formed in the early seventies by ex-Day Of Phoenix vocalist/guitarist, Englishman Cy Nicklin, who was also part of folk-rock trio Cy, Maia and Robert, released what is considered to be the finest album to see the light of day in Scandinavia, their self-titled debut, from which the featured track is taken. Released in 1971 on the Polydor Record label, it's highly collectible and difficult to find. The initial line-up included Niels Henriksen on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Michael Friis on bass, organ and flute, and Roger Barker on drums. The band released a further two albums, "Second Sight" and "Going For a Song", both in 1972, the latter featuring three ex-members of the excellent but short lived Danish hard rock outfit, Blast Furnace. They then shortened their name to Culpeper in 1976 and they released one further album ("All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go") before splitting.
08). Ginhouse - I Cannot Understand
This great but short-lived Newcastle-based UK hard rock trio released just the one self-titled album in 1971. Apparently a very popular live act, they unfortunately folded in the early 70's. Their album, which featured Stewart Burlison on bass and vocals, Geoff Sharkey on guitar and vocals and Dave Whitaker on drums, was released on the B & C Record label and is rare and quite sought after by collectors. Dave Whitaker joined Kestrel in 1975 and Geoff Sharkey later joined Skin Alley/Atomic Rooster's Nick Graham in Alibi in 1980.
09). Hard Meat - On The Road
Sort of a harder version of Home or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, this great UK folk/rock outfit released two excellent albums, "Hard Meat" and ''Through a Window", from which the featured track was taken, both in 1970, and then split up. The band was formed by the Birmingham-based Dolan brothers, Mike on guitar and vocals and Steve on bass and vocals, together with Mick Carless on drums. Mick Dolan went on to work with UK guitarist/vocalist John Coppin. He also appeared on Luther Grosvenor's (aka "Ariel Bender", ex-Spooky Tooth and Mott The Hoople) "Floodgates" album in 1996. Steve Dolan later worked with Pete Sinfield of King Crimson fame. Both Hard Meat albums are excellent and are worth checking out. (The Australian "Progressive Line" record label released both in a '2-on-1' format a few years back).
10). Mama's Pit - Living In a Ghetto
Previously know as ''Big Fat Mama", this Italian blues outfit features Barbara Vulso on vocals, Alessio Menconi on guitar, Federico Basso on keyboards, Danilo Parodi on bass and Salvatore Cammilleri on drums. Vic Vergeat, of Toad fame, appears as guest guitarist on two tracks on the live album of this double live/studio release. They were formed in the late 90's and were very popular on the live circuit, opening up for Robert Plant, James Cotton, Billy Cobham and others. The track was taken from "Rush Hour", which was released about three years ago.
11). Bugs Henderson - That's The Truth
From ''Live-That's The Truth", in 1995. Texas-based US blues/rock guitarist Bugs Henderson started playing in the mid 60's, and before long, he formed "The Sensors", which later evolved into "Mouse and The Traps". He also featured with the likes of Leon Russell, BB King and The Allman Brothers and had a short stint with US blues/rock outfit Nitzinger before recording his first album, "At Last", in 1978, with Ron Thompson on drums and Robert Chitwood on bass. An album of live tracks called "Legendary Jams", released in 1997 but recorded between 1976 and 1980, featured Henderson playing with the likes of greats such as Roy Buchanan, Ted Nugent, Johnny Winter and Freddie King. Later albums were released under the name of "Bugs Henderson & The Shuffle Kings". He's very popular on the live circuit and he's recorded quite a few albums, live as well as studio. On many of his albums, he devotes a track to talking about the album and the songs. His talent is pretty obvious and he comes across as a very warm and sincere character.
12). Dr. Hector and The Groove Injectors - Fool Like Me
A little known, but certainly very good US blues/American Roots Music outfit who are led by vocalist/guitarist Dru Lombar. The other members are Stuart Baer on keyboards, John Davies on bass and Gene Melendreras on drums. The track was taken from ''Vital Signs'', a live album recorded in Florida during December 2001.
13). Cold Blood - You Got Me Hummin' (5'43)
From "Cold Blood", their debut album, released in 1969 on the San Francisco Record label. The band has been played a few times before on the RockIt Scientist - you can read up on their history elsewhere on the RockIt Scientist website. We've had numerous requests to hear more from their earlier material - their version of the Isaac Hayes and David Porter - penned "You Got Me Hummin" is brilliant, and it did quite well for them. The band split in the mid 70's and reformed a few years ago - a new studio album, "Transfusion", was recently released.
14. Butterfield Blues Band - No Amount Of Loving
Paul Butterfield, who was born on 17 December 1942, was a very famous vocalist and harmonica. player who worked with the likes of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield. Like John Mayall was doing in the UK, Butterfield was helping to shape the development of the blues in the US. He was arguably the first white man to play blues with the intensity of the great black blues harmonica players. He formed his own band in the mid 60's and they released their debut album, ''The Paul Butterfield Blues Band", in 1966. Some well known musicians passed through the ranks of Butterfield's band during the early years, the likes of sax player David Sanborn and guitarist Buzzy Feiten included. He went on to release a number of great albums, including the double "The Butterfield Blues Band Live" album, from which the featured track was taken, in 1970. Butterfield died on May 4th, 1987, of intestinal maladies after years of alcohol and drug abuse. Other recommended albums by this blues legend are "'East-West" (1966), "Keep On Moving" (1969) and "Better Days" (1973).
15). Dreams - Child Of Wisdom
US brass/rock outfit Dreams were formed in the late 60's by drummer Billy Cobham and the Brecker Brothers, Randy on trumpet and flugelhorn and Mike on saxes, together with Doug Lubahn on bass & vocals, Edward Vernon on vocals, Barry Rogers on trombone and tuba, and Jeff Kent on keyboards, guitar and vocals. John Abercrombie also featured on guitar. The band became very popular at places like The Electric Circus, The Village Gate and The Fillmore East as their exciting blend of crossover jazz and rock had many followers. They released two great albums, "Dreams", in 1970, and ''Imagine My Surprise'', from which the featured track was taken, in 1971. This album featured new members, Will Lee on bass, Bob Mann on guitar, flugelhorn and vocals and Don Grolnick on keyboards. The Brecker Brothers later went on to become amongst the most respected horn players in the world. Their Breckers Brothers Band released some fantastic music too, and both became much-in-demand session players. They've both also released a number of solo albums. Billy Cobham later went on to feature with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and embarked on a very successful solo career in 1973.
16). Jericho - Ethiopia
Taken from their second, self-titled album, released in 1972. This Israeli hard rock outfit evolved out of a mid sixties psych outfit called The Churchills, whose members were Robb Huxley (who replaced original guitarist, Yitzhak Klepter) and Haim Romano on guitars and vocals, Michael Gabriellov on bass and vocals, Amy Triebitch on drums and Stan Solomon (who replaced South African immigrant Selvin Lifshiz), on vocals. Ex-The Lions vocalist Danny Shoshan replaced Solomon and the band moved to England, where they became known as Jericho Jones and released one album under that name, "Junkies, Monkeys and Donkeys", on A & M Records. The name was then shortened to Jericho and the featured album was released. Strangely ignored in their home country (the album wasn't even released in Israel), "Jericho" was a fine example of powerful, well written hard rock tunes that certainly deserves a place in the collection of any hard rock aficionado, and it's still highly regarded today. "Ethiopia" has to be one of the all-time heavy rock classics! They visited SA and played alongside Hawk and other well know SA bands.
17). Deep Purple - Black Night
From "In Rock", arguably one of their best albums, released in 1970. The album is also highly regarded as one of the finest exponents of hard rock music, and it recently received the best Classic Album award from England's prestigious Classic Rock magazine. It was also the first studio album to feature vocalist Ian Gillan (who replaced Captain Beyond-bound Rod Evans) and bassist Roger Glover (who replaced Nick Simper, who went on to form Warhorse). Other members were guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and keyboard player Jon Lord. Deep Purple have been well documented elsewhere on The RockIt Scientist website - you can read up more about this important, (and still going strong!) UK band elsewhere on the site. The new Deep Purple album, ''Rapture Of The Deep", was featured on The RockIt Scientist a few weeks ago.
Rapture Of The Deep (including bonus track 'MTV', not released on the South African pressing) is available to download as legal mp3s at subscription website, eMusic.com.
18). Uriah Heep - I'll Keep On Trying
Taken from "Very 'eavy Very 'umble", their debut, released in 1970. Evolving out of various bands, such as Weed, Spice, The Gods, Toe Fat and others, Uriah Heep were formed by vocalist David Byron, guitarist Mick Box, keyboard player Ken Hensley, drummer Al Napier and bassist Paul Newton. Arguably one of their best albums, this brilliant Vertigo/Bronze recording certainly deserves a mention as one of classic rock's all-time great albums, with Mick Box, especially, giving a taste of the great things to come. Uriah Heep's best known recordings were the "Demons & Wizards/Magicians Birthday"-era, with Gary Thain on bass and Lee Kerslake on drums, although the band are now, and have been for the past ten years or so, sounding better than they ever have, with Phil Lanzon on keyboards, Bernie Shaw on vocals, Lee Kerslake on drums, Trevor Bolder on bass and Mick Box on guitar. You can read up on this great band elsewhere on the RockIt Scientist website.
19). Al Di Meola - Race With Devil On Spanish Highway
From "Elegant Gypsy" in 1977, his second solo album. Al Di Meola previously worked with Chick Corea in Return To Forever. He broke away and released his highly acclaimed debut solo album, ''Land Of The Midnight Sun", in 1976. Some really respected musicians appear on the featured album, namely keyboard player Jan Hammer, drummer Steve Gadd, bass player Anthony Jackson and percussionist Mingo Lewis. US metal act Riot did a great version of this track, but it took TWO guitarists to do what Al Di Meola accomplished on his own! He's released many albums of varying styles over the years, from electric fusion to acoustic and flamenco - there aren't too many guitar players that can hold a candle to him. He played at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town in 2004. The organizers had to mop up the floor after his set from all the drooling! Class like this is rare, and his performance was something to be remembered and treasured.
20). Billy Cobham - Stratus
From "Spectrum" in 1973, his debut solo album. Previously with Dreams and Mahavishnu Orchestra, he began his solo career using musicians such as guitarist Tommy Bolin (ex-Zephyr/James Gang, soon to move on to Deep Purple), bass player Lee Sklar and keyboard player Jan Hammer. Bolin, who had also featured with his own fusion outfit, Energy, with flautist Jeremy Steig, played on Alphonse Mouzon's "Mind Transplant" album the same year. CTI Records percussionist Ray Barretto also appears on this album, as does acoustic bass player Ron Carter. Billy Cobham is one of the world's most respected drummers - he's recorded many solo albums since "Spectrum". Other albums worth checking out are ''Total Eclipse", "Crosswinds", "Warning" and "Powerplay", all of which demonstrate the crossover jazz/rock he first attempted, and mastered, as a member of Dreams back in the late 60's/early 70's.