Sunday, October 7, 2012

Madura ... well I sure like the album cover.

As members of Bangor Flying Circus, guitarist Alan De Carlo and singer/keyboardist David "Hawk" Wolinski recorded a decent 1969 album for ABC Dunhill.  When that outfit folded in 1970, the pair elected to continue their partnership as the Chicago-based Madura with the addition of drummer Ross Salomone.
Columbia promo photo left to right: De Carlo - Wolinski - Salomone
Finding a sponsor in the form of James William Guerico (who'd enjoyed considerable success with The Buckinghams and The Chicago Transit Authority), the trio subsequently won a contract with Columbia Records.  With Guerico producing, at least to my ears much of 1971's "Madura" sounded like an early Chicago album though thankfully without the irritating horns.  With all three members sharing writing duties (there was one outside cover), the collection bounced around between pop ('I Think I'm Dreaming'), FM-oriented rock ('Drinking No Wine'), jazzy interludes (''My Love is Free'), and more experimental excursions ('Hawk Piano').  These guys were clearly quite talented.  Wolinski had a nice voice that sounded a bit like a cross between Chicago's Terry Kath and Robert Lamm, (he also played a mean Hammond organ),.  De Carlo also had a decent voice and a knack for spinning off catchy jazz-tinged solos.  While there were several strong compositions, allowing the trio to stretch out over four sides was probably a mistake since it forced them to fill up lots of space with poorly deigned jams and experimentation ('Plain as Day').   Hard to imagine Columbia, or any major label allowing a new band to debut with a double album, nineteen track set in this day and age ...
- The instrumental 'Hawk Piano' started the album off with a minute and a half of atonal, discordant keyboards ...  not an impressive way to start a double album set.  rating: * star
- Showcasing Wolinski's likeable voice, 'Drinking No Wine' offered up a much more conventional and commercial piece.  A nice slice of FM-oriented rock, like quite a few songs on the set this one sound a bit like Robert Lamm and Chicago.  rating: *** stars
- 'Dreams' started out as a breezy, mid-tempo slice of pop that had some radio potential.   rating: ** stars  
- 'Plain as Day' was one of those compositions that never really got in gear.  Within the span of five minutes the track managed to bounce between pop, rock, jazz, and experimentation without ever finding its groove.  Shame since buried in the mess were the basics of a good song.  The song also included a great De Carlo fuzz guitar solo (which would have made Terry Kath proud).  rating: ** stars  
- 'My Love is Free' was another song that unsuccessfully tried to blend different genres into a coherent end product.  The song had distinct pop elements, including some nice harmony vocals, but spread over seven minutes the pop focus kept getting lost in a meandering jazz jam.   Forgettable ...   rating: ** stars  
- Showcasing De Carlo's tasty fuzz guitar and one of the more focused melodies, the rocker 'Free from the Devil' stands as my choice for standout performance.   With a bit of judicious editing it would have made a dandy single.    rating: **** stars  
- Free from the Devil' flowed right into the equally enjoyable rocker 'My My What a World' and then the album hit a brick wall ...   rating: **** stars    
- 'Stimulation' was a four minute Salomone drum solo (his only contribution to the writing chores).  Unless you were a drummer, this wasn't going to do much for you.  Need I say anything else ?     rating: * star  
- A brief and straight-forward rocker, 'Don't Be Afraid' was another album highpoint  (especially coming after the drum solo).   rating: **** stars
- 'Damnation' found the band showing they could handle a bluesy-rocker.  Laidback and slinky, it made a nice change from the jazz-tinged numbers.   rating: *** stars
- The first half of 'See for Yourself'' was a nice, blues ballad that captured the band at their most focused and enjoyable.  It could have been a nice single, but the second half of the song found the band starting to wander all over the place, including some ill-advised scat singing..   rating: *** stars
- Side three started with one of the album's most commercial offerings - the pop-tinged 'I Think I'm Dreaming'.   Yeah, De Carlo's falsetto was an acquired taste, but he made up for it with a great guitar solo.   rating: *** stars
- Coming completely out of left field, 'It's a Good Time for Loving' was a surprisingly commercial slice of blue-eyed soul with some simply gorgeous harmony vocals and some of Salomone's best drumming; his solo was short and sweet on this one.  Absolutely nothing like the rest of the album and one of my picks for standout performance.   rating: **** stars
-  Complete with Robert Lamm styled vocals (okay, I don't think Lamm ever tried to scat), and Terry Kath-styled guitar pyrotechnics 'Trapped'' was a bad idea made worse by the seven plus minute length,  Blame producer Guerico for not having made it clear they were not the band Chicago.  rating: ** stars
- I'll leave it up to others to judge their strange cover of the Chuck Berry classic 'Johnny B. Goode'.  For what it's worth, I didn't think much of it ...  Turning it into a lame soul-jazz number complete with painful scat segment just seemed to be a terrible way to treat the song.  You had to wonder why in the world Columbia would have tapped this as the single when there were so many better performances on the album.   rating: ** stars  
- Ouch, 'Realization' started out sounded like ELP with Geddy Lee sitting in for a jam session.  rating: ** stars  
- What are you suppose to make of a song with a title like 'Man's Rebirth through Childbirth (Parts 1 and 2)' ?   This was another Wolinski composition that wanted to have it both ways - progressive and commercial at the same time.  The song actually had a conventional chorus and could have actually been quite good had it stuck with that particular melody, but then fell headlong into over-the-top pretentious and wannabe progressive complete with Uriah Heep-styled Hammond keyboards.   rating: ** stars    
- Almost Gospel-tinged, De Carlo and Wolinski shared lead vocals on  'Joy in Old Age by Way of Self Observation'.  Yeah, their performances quickly got out of hand and shrieky, but the big surprise was the band's sweet harmony vocals - this was one of their finest displays of this particular talent.   rating: *** stars 
- A heavily orchestrated ballad (complete with layers of strings and horns), 'Talking to Myself' was pretty, but vapid.  It reminded me of a mid-1980s Chicago track ...  like something Peter Cetera might have written for the band with a goal of radio domination.   rating: *** stars       

The album also spun off a single in the form of:
Japanese picture sleeve
- 1971's 'Johnny B. Goode' (Part 1) b/w 'Johnny B. Goode' (Part 2) (Columbia catalog number 4-45483)

gatefold sleeve
"Madura" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Hawk Piano (instrumental)  (David Wolinski) - 1:23
2.) Drinking No Wine   (David Wolinski) -  4:18
3.) Dreams   (David Wolinski) -  4:24
4.) Plain as Day   (David Wolinski) -  5:35
5.) My Love is Free   (David Wolinski) - 7:09 

(side 2)
1.) Free from the Devil  (A.J. DeCarlo) - 2:10
2.) My My What a World  (A.J. DeCarlo) - 1:01
3.) Stimulation (instrumental)   (R.A. Salomone) - 3:56
4.) Don't Be Afraid   (A.J. DeCarlo) -2:01
5.) Damnation   (David Wolinski) - 3:49
6.) See for Yourself   (A.J. DeCarlo) - 5:59 

(side 3)
1.) I Think I'm Dreaming (A.J. DeCarlo) -  4:23
2.) It's a Good Time for Loving   (David Wolinski) -  4:55
3.) Trapped   (David Wolinski) - 7:45
4.) Johnny B. Goode   (Chuck Berry) - 6:02

(side 4)
1.) Realization   (David Wolinski) - 3:17
2.) Man's Rebirth through Childbirth Part I   (David Wolinski) - 2:52
3.) Man's Rebirth through Childbirth Part II    (David Wolinski) - 1:12
4.) Joy in Old Age by Way of Self Observation   (David Wolinski) -  4:03
5.) Talking to Myself    (David Wolinski) - 4:53
For anyone interested in hearing a snippet of the band live, YouTube has a brief clip of them performing 'Free from the Devil'.  The performance is pulled from the James William Guercio produced and directed film Electra Glide in Blue:

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