Friday, November 06, 2020

More music deaths including Len Barry

Not being a great fan of progressive rock I never paid too much attention to Uriah Heap, although various of their LPs have passed through my hands (and onto Ebay) over the years. I was therefore unaware until reading up on the life of guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley, who has died aged 75, that prior to Heap he was a member of two bands whose LPs are now highly collectable - The Gods and Head Machine - examples of which I picked up for next to nothing in charity shops a few years back.
Hensley founded the Gods in 1965 with future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor (another member was Greg Lake). The band recorded two LPs, including 'To Samuel A Son', and several singles before breaking up and a third LP featuring Hensley was later released under the name of 'Orgasm' by Head Machine. All three albums were produced by David Paramor. Hensley briefly joined Cliff Bennett's new band Toefat before joining prog rock band Spice, which changed its name to Uriah Heap in 1970. Hensley was the main songwriter with the band and Uriah Heap had great success in the seventies with albums such as 'Very 'Eavy ...Very 'Umble', 'Salisbury', 'Demons and Wizards' and 'The Magician's Birthday'. After leaving Uriah Heap in 1980 Hensley formed Shotgun and then moved to the US where he joined the hard rock band Blackfoot. Based in St Louis in semi retirement he recorded from time to time with WASP and Cinderella and took part in a Uriah Heap reunion in 2000. He recorded a solo album called 'Running Blind' in 2002 and was subsequently involved in various Uriah Heap related projects.

Another recent death is that of Bishop Rance Allen, (71) whose gospel group based in Ohio made many exciting recordings for Stax. Rance had an extraordinary vocal range which is shown to good effect on tracks such as 'Showdown' and 'I Got To Be Myself'. Rance's group featured in the movie Wattstax in 1972. I never got to see them live but by all accounts the Rance Allen Group's live act was superb.

The recent deaths of Jerry Jeff Walker and Johnny Bush have been something of a body blow for the Texas based 'outlaw' scene. Now a third singer/song writer of the genre has died - Billy Joe Shaver, at the age of 81. His song writing led to an album of his songs being recorded by Waylon Jennings and others such as Elvis and Kris Kristofferson also recorded his material. His own albums, recorded from 1973 onwards, included 'Old Five and Dimers Like Me', 'When I Get My Wings', 'Gypsy Boy' and 'Salt Of The Earth'.
The latest death is that of the great Len Barry, one of the best blue eyed soul singers of the sixties. He was lead singer of the Dovells, whose smash Cameo Parkway hits included 'Bristol Stomp', 'Hully Gully Baby', 'You Can't Sit Down' and 'Bristol Twistin' Annie'. When he went solo with US Decca he had a huge hit with '1-2-3' (a number one hit on my personal top ten) and followed up with another big hit in 'Like A Baby'. Other solo 45s included 'Somewhere', 'It's That Time Of The Year', 'I Struck It Rich' and, after moving to RCA, 'The Moving Finger Writes' - all of them excellent records.
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