Southern Rock Allstars and Blackfoot drummer Jakson "Thunderfoot" Spires (53) passed away Wednesday, March 16, 2005 from a brain aneurysm, in Ft Pierce, Florida.
Blackfoot - No Reservations (HF9530) 1975
Blackfoot's debut is a hard rocking and muscular take on Lynyrd Skynyrd's southern rock 'n' roll sound. However, Rick Medlock, who was with Skynyrd for a time, has a slightly more metallic style. "No Reservations" is also a bit more bluesy than much of the Southern rock that was coming out at the time. For some reason this disc is one of the hardest to find in the band's catalogue. My copy seems to be a bootleg or independant release by the band. While the packaging and pressing are quite professional there is no record label or copyright information given.
Blackfoot - Flyin' High (Collectables) 1976
1. "Feelin' Good"
Originally released on Epic Records back in 1976, this was the first of six of a string of fantastic rockin' albums from Rickey Medlocke and Co. The sad thing about "Flyin' High" is that despite it being such a solid Southern Rock album and being released on a major label, it's a relatively unheard of record. Many people think that "Strikes" was the first Blackfoot record. That is partially due to the fact that "Flyin' High" was out of print for over a decade, unlike the Atco releases which are very easy to come by. Another reason is that the album didn't have any charting singles, unlike Strikes which had a few. However, fans of this style of music aren't usually interested in radio singles. It's all about rockin' and "Flyin' High" rocks hard. "Flyin' High", "Dancin' Man", and "Junkies Dream" all have killer, powerhouse guitar riffs. The production is raw as well, which adds to the overall appeal. The songs mix Medlock's native-American heritage with the time he spent in Skynyrd and a dose of 70's heavy metal attitude. However I do think the songs here feel a little more constrained to the more outrageous stuff that would come in the future like "Road Fever" or "Good Morning". "Flyin' High" is still a solid Southern rock album and will forever remain the lost gem in the Blackfoot catalog.
This particular CD reissue on Collebtables Records was released on July 25, 2000. It's about time someone re-released this classic album on CD.
1. "Road Fever"
"Strikes" is a heavy Southern rock album. Actually, this album belongs to a very small group of bands that mixed the classic Southern Rock sound (Lynyrd Skynynd, Allman Brothers) with a blend of classic 1970's heavy metal influences. It's odd that more people didn't go the way of this sound in the late 70's and early 80's considering the popularity of bands like Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot. "Strikes" may very well be the band's most well known album, not only for it's striking album cover art depicting the venomous king cobra, but also for songs such as "Highway Song" and "Train, Train". Both songs are classic rock radio staples. "Highway Song" is a rockin' track that I would describe as Blackfoot's "Freebird." This song starts off as a melodic number and builds up into a guitar jam. Those jams are one of the things I like best about classic Southern rock. "Train, Train" is a heavy rocker complimented with some killer harmonica playing by Shorty Medlocke, father of Rickey Medlocke. However, "Strikes" also features such forgotten gems as the melodic "Left Turn on a Red Light" and the gritty rocker "Road Fever". There is also a great cover version of Free's "Wishing Well", a song that would also covered by Gary Moore a few years later. Medlock's chops are outstanding throughout and his slightly gravely voice is one of the band's signatures. Simply put, "Strikes" is one of the band's best and is one of those classic albums that no fan of 70's hard rock and heavy metal should be without..
Blackfoot - Tomcattin' (Atco) 1980
1. "Warped" (4:12)
1980 and Blackfoot showed no signs of slowing down at this point. They were even gaining major popularity in the European NWOBHM scene. 'Tomcattin'" was Blackfoot's second major label effort. Many were disappointed that this album didn't contain any obvious made for rock radio hits, including the record company from what I have read. Still at this point in the band's career, their popularity was climbing. The lack of radio hits may have been a scare to the record company executives but I think this was a good thing. "Tomcattin" is 100% pure, whiskey soaked, rebel flag waving, Southern rock 'n' roll laced with a heavy metal edge. The album opens at full tilt with "Warped" before finding moving into a more midpaced groove in killer songs like "On the Run," "Dream On," Street Fighter" and one of my favorites "Reckless Abandoner". "Every Man Should Know (Queenie)" could very well have been a radio hit as it has a monster rhythm guitar hook, some very cool slide guitar and some choice guitar solos. "Gimme Gimme Gimme" would have fit nicely on any Molly Hatchet record with it's heavy boogie rhythm, tough vocals, and some more slick slide guitar work. Of course what would a Southern rock album be without at least one song with some harp blowing, and "Tomcattin'" doesn't fail to deliver this with the bluesy "In the Night.""Spendin' Cabbage" brings home some Medlocke southern blues. The final track has Rick's father Shorty Medlocke introducing the song "Fox Chase."
1. "Good Morning"
Blackfoot's "Marauder" is a fantastic album and continued in the same vein as their previous rockers "Strikes" and "Tomcattin`". The timing was right and "Marauder" should have been a giganitic hit for the band worldwide. Their popularity had been growing over the past couple albums they had a unique sound and they belonged to a small, but elite group of bands that were mixing the classic Southern Rock sound with a heavy metal edge. "Marauder" was quite successful for the band Europe and hit home with the growing hordes of NWOBHM fans. In the U.S., however, "Marauder" didn't make a dent. Why it was not a hit in the U.S. is a mystery although I have read that it was mostly the fault of poor marketing and indifference by their label. Why is it that American's are so stinking reliant on labels and trends to tell them what to listen to?
Blackfoot - Highway Song Live (Wounded Bird) 1982
1. "Gimme Gimme Gimme"
The infamous live album that was released in Europe, but was never released in the U.S. until this 2002 CD reissue. Unfortunately I have a feeling it will be out of print and rare in no time at all. However, "Highway Song Live" is a rambunctious, heavy and energetic live album that features some of Medlock's finest material. The crowd was obviously pumped and ready for this show, as is evident by the massive crowd chant "Howay the Lads". Can imagine the energy on the stage must have been high feeding off a crowd like that. Of course, the standout cut here is the title track which, along with "Train Train" are Blackfoot's signature songs. Spectacular guitar duo courtesy of Medlock and Spires. Absolutely one of the finest live albums to ever be released. If I could only own one Blackfoot CD, this would be the one I would want to own.
'Siogo' marked a change in style for Blackfoot and the end of an era for the band as well. In an attempt to boost the band's popularity after the nosedive southern rock had taken in the early 80's, Blackfoot decided to add a keyboardist. Enter ex-Uriah Heep keyboardist/songwriter Ken Hensely. Apparently, as I read, Ken was lured to the band with the promise that he would be given a free Hammond B3 Organ. Also, as part of the making the band more current, the band's label attempted to change the band's look, which apparently didn't go over well with Charlie Hargett. With all this going on, 'Siogo' was to be the last album for Charlie who was one of original members of the band. During the recording for the next album Charlie left. According to Hargett:
Despite this the band managed to put out one more decent record, albeit far from the Southern jams of the past. "Siogo" is much more straight forward hard rock/heavy metal, although this is far from what heavy metal was becoming in the early 80's with bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden breaking down doors. The better songs on the album are the more driving numbers and the keyboard saturated single, "Teenage Idol." One noticeable thing about this disc is the outstanding drum work of Jakson Spires.
A bit of trivial. When the record came out the record company promoted the cd saying the word SIOGO was Indian for 'closeness,' which is apparently what the band told them. However, S.I.O.G.O. is actually an acronym that was coined by the band's roadies and put on a sign on the tour bus for when the groupies came on board. (Let's just say it's foul and doesn't need to be repeated.)
Blackfoot - King Biscuit Flower Hour Live (King Biscuit) 1998
1. "Rattlesnake Rock
& Roller" (4:20)
An awesome live performance recorded live at the Palladium in Hollywood, CA, USA on August 10, 1983. Rickey Medlocke and Charlie Hargrett trading licks and guitar tricks back and forth. The generous friend who gave me this disc described it like this: It is a real raucous, energetic performance. It sounds more to me like the Allman Bros. borrowing Dan McCafferty from Nazareth, and injecting equal doses of Nugent's attitude and Raven's reckless abandon into their own thing. I'm actually thinking the studio records are going to be pretty tame in comparison. I couldn't have said it better myself. High energy swamp music! Lots of highlights on this disc but the biggest surprise was a furious cover of Hensley's Uriah Heep hit "Easy Livin'." This superb recording features Rickey Medlocke (Vocals, lead and slide Guitar), Greg T Walker (Bass), Charlie Hargrett (lead Guitar), Jakson Spires (Drums) and Ken Hensley (Hammond Organ and Slide Guitar). The 17 minute Interview with Rickey Medlocke closes out the CD with Rick discussing the European tours, Shorty Medlocke, "Highway Song" the album and why it was never released in the States and Rick's ideas on what made the band what it was. Not that I care much for interviews, but it is quite annoying that the interview cuts off while Rick is in the middle of a sentence. There is another version of this disc out simply titled LIVE that omits the interview and has very cheap packaging.
Blackfoot - Vertical Smiles (Wounded Bird) 1984
1. "Morning Dew"
Man, the 80's really destroyed many of the classic rock bands of the 70's because of record company pressure to sound more current. "Vertical Smiles" is a lackluster release for Blackfoot. Everything is toned down from the rattlesnake guitar antics of Rick Medlocke to the usually manic drumming of Jakson Spires. Charlie Hargrett is nowhere to be found on this disc, and was given his walking papers long before the disc was recorded. Apparently the powers that be felt his image wasn't cool enough for the younger crowds. This disc was yet another attempt to update Blackfoot's sound to something more 80's sounding, but only achieves making the band sound watered down and tired. A couple of exceptions in "Morning Dew", the infectious "Livin' In the Limelight" and "Summer Days". This would be the last Blackoot disc to feature most of the original members.
Rick Medlocke And Blackfoot (Wounded Bird) 1987
1. "Back On The Streets"
The story here is similar to Tony Iommi's (Black Sabbath) "Seventh Sign" CD in that both artists were wanting to release a solo album, but the record companies would not allow them to release their albums without the band moniker on the cover, thus Rick Medlocke and Blackfoot. So, despite the name there are no Blackfoot members on this disc, other than Rick. Also, the music sounds nothing like the Blackfoot of old. In the mid-80's Southern rock was in a sad state, with bands like Molly Hatchet, .38 Special and Blackfoot turning from their Southern rock boogie to a polished pop rock sound. It worked well for .38 Special as they were never a real heavy band to begin with, so it wasn't really a stretch. For Hatchet and Blackfoot, however, the turn to a watered down pop sound just didn't suit them after releasing so many heavy Southern rock n' roll platters. That is totally the case here. While there are a few songs that rock, like "Steady Rockin'" and the cliché "Rock N Roll Tonight", overall this album is Rick's weakest effort.
Rick Medlocke And Blackfoot was originally issued in 1987 on Atlantic Records and quickly went out of print. It was the last album Rick recorded for a major label before rejoining Lynyrd Skynrd a few years down the road. Wounded Bird Records finally remastered and re-released Rick Medlocke And Blackfoot in 2003.
"Liar" is a cover of the Russ Ballard penned Three Dog Night hit.
I could find very little information about this disc on the internet for some strange reasons. AMG, whose reviews I generally don't trust, had a review of 'Medicine Man' but they gave it very poor ratings. I can see why some long time fans would be disappointed as Rick Medlocke, who has always been the heart and soul of this band, is the only original member of the band and has toned down the band's heavy metal vibe quite a bit. Still, "Medicine Man" is obviously a disc that Rick wanted to write, as opposed to "Siogo" or "Vertical Smiles' which were Rick under pressure from record company executives to write hits. 'Medicine Man' returns to the more down home southern rock and blues of the past. As with many artists who are no longer on big labels, Rick seems much more comfortable writing in his own style, rather than trying to change with the times, as he was being forced to do in the past. So, while this album may not be the masterwork of 'Strikes' it is still a very enjoyable disc and I cannot imagine any fan of Medlocke being disappointed.
Blackfoot - After the Reign (Bullet Proof) 1994
1. "Sittin' on Top
of the World" (4:41)
This album is simply awesome. It's a bit bluesier than anything Rick had done in the past, but it's all done with a passion that can be felt within each and every song. Rick's vocals bring the songs to life. He has a soulful, passionate voice that works well with this type of mostly acoustic, bluesy affair. There are several covers, a Van Morrison cover, a Bonnie Raitt tune, and the blues standard "Sittin' On Top Of the World." All are excellent and fit well with the originals. Rick Medlocke was just made to do this kind of stuff, even if some would call it predictable. Others have tried and failed miserably, but Rick is a master at his craft.