Stone the Crows was a tough-luck, working class, progressive soul band that came out of the pubs of Scotland in the early '70s. They had everything going for them at the start: not one, but two gritty singers, a talented guitarist, a rhythm section that had played with John Mayall, and the name recognition of having Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant as their producer. Despite favorable reviews by the critics, however, they never managed to sell their hybridized soul music to a large audience. In addition, they lost two of their key members early on, one of whom was tragically electrocuted, and the group broke up after four albums. Their biggest contribution to rock was the immense vocal talent of one Maggie Bell. Winner of several Top Girl Singer awards in Britain, Bell had a raunchy, gutbucket voice that, although it fell short of the naked emotion and range of Janis Joplin's, came probably closer to her style than any other female singer.
With 1980's Borderline, Ry Cooder followed the foray into R&B and soul of his previous effort, Bop Till You Drop, but this time out with a little shot of the Southwest thrown in. At the same time, he also continues the primarily electric sound of that record. As far as his selection of material goes, Borderline may sometimes lack the surprising, esoteric charm of his earlier recordings, but there are still some terrific finds, including the Tex-Mex-flavored "The Girls from Texas," which may be the album's finest moment. Other highlights include one of John Hiatt's best, the written-to-order "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," as well as Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Crazy 'Bout an Automobile," which Cooder had been performing live for a number of years, and the soulful Maurice & Mac treasure "Why Don't You Try Me." And while it's moments like these that help make Cooder's records special, he also takes on some better-known '50s and '60s offerings with moderate success.
The Grass Roots had a series of major hits – most notably "Let's Live for Today," "Midnight Confessions," "Temptation Eyes," and "Two Divided by Love" – that help define the essence of the era's best AM radio. Although the group's members weren't even close to being recognizable, and their in-house songwriting was next to irrelevant, the Grass Roots managed to chart 14 Top 40 hits, including seven gold singles and one platinum single, and two had hits collections that effortlessly went gold…
Live at Ludlow Garage 1970 features 91 minutes of the Allman Brothers Band in concert at a Cincinnati venue that they loved, nearly a year before their legendary Fillmore shows. The acoustics are good, though a little shaky – the tape was made at seven-and-a-half IPS, the bare minimum professional standard, which leaves more hiss than one might like and a bit less clarity than a fully professional live album might show. On the other hand, the group's sound imparts its own punch and clarity, and it was done in stereo, and if not for the existence of the Fillmore tapes, and the fact that the albums they yielded sold a kajillion copies, this show might well have been released in the 1970s. It isn't as intense as the Fillmore shows, but it does capture the group as a little-known working band with but a single album out and building a reputation – and with Dickey Betts yet to emerge as either a singer or composer and their sound still being worked out ("Statesboro Blues" gets a startlingly subdued performance, anticipating the acoustic version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" from the '90s recording An Evening with the Allman Brothers Band: 2nd Set).