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Elliott Randall Guitar Archives Volume One

1. Easy Ridin' Buggy
7. Mumblin' to Myself

Information about the music gathered by listening to the record. Information about the artists mostly derived from the Net, except where there are comments by Elliott Randall.

Recognised by aficionados as one of the world's finest rock musicians, Elliott Randall has played with countless bands and sessions over the years. His guitar solos on Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years" and "Fame" (the motion picture) have entered Rock history annals.

This first volume of Elliott's "Guitar Archives" covers a diverse range of styles, with some solid blues and some stand out guitar tracks, notably "Sour Flower", "Take Tomorrow" and "Bodhisattva". Elliott also exhibits his chops as a songwriter, with some great originals from the '70s, fusing psychedelic, blues and rock influences.

1. Easy Ridin' BuggyBack to top

(Arthur Gunter)

Elliott Randall (guitar)
Tommy Tate (Drums & Vocal)
Don Barrett (Fender Bass)
Unknown (Piano)
Recorded in Jackson, Mississippi, 1969

The collection opens with "Easy Ridin' Buggy", one of five tracks referred to on the liner notes as "rural blues recorded in a garage in Mississippi".

Tommy Tate's power vocals and no frills time-keeping drive "Easy Ridin' Buggy" -- a raw, uncomplicated, easy-going blues song, with Elliott playing the response licks of the call-and-response style with considerable restraint and maturity. This track features a gritty choral guitar sound which I guess is reverb or tremelo (or both) to the max.

Not being an encyclopaedia of the blues, I used the net to search for references and found Tommy Tate's writing credits sprinkled through southern blues re-issues. His songs were mostly covered by other artists, however he recorded under the name Tommy Tate & the Torpedos and had at least one record on his own (Love Me Now).

The author of "Easy Ridin' Buggy" was Arthur Gunter, most known for writing "Baby Lets' Play House" which became famous when recorded by Elvis for Sun Records.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: Mississippi Blues Tapes (tracks 1-5)

While producing an R&B project in Jackson, Mississippi in 1969, I was invited to play on these recordings. The producer's idea was to record a bunch of old blues tunes, using a vintage mono Ampex recorder and a few old tube microphones. He was then going to claim to have 'discovered' these tapes 'from the 50's.'

2. SPOONFULBack to top

(Willie Dixon)

personnel as in (1.)

"Spoonful" is a Willie Dixon Chicago blues staple. The intro grunts and writhes with a G to E* thump like repeatedly falling off a cliff. I imagine this is the "Spoonful" that was also recorded by Cream on Fresh Cream in 1966. I haven't got the record to hand, but there's something there that reminds me.

Other connections: Willie Dixon's version of "Spoonful" is available on a record called "I am the blues", also the title of a book of autobiographical interviews with Willie Dixon -- and the title of a harrowingly beautiful song on Laura Nyro's Smile (1976).

* I thought This was G major to E major but Elliott pointed out that: "actually, since the chords had no 3rds, they're technically neither major nor minor - just fifths." These 2 note chords (tonic and fifth) are also called "power chords".


(Tyrone G Smith)

personnel as in (1.)

The song and its author are pretty obscure, as far as I can tell. Like "Easy Ridin' Buggy" the song is a standard blues arrangement with the vocal leading and the guitar echoing.


(Sam Hopkins*)

personnel as in (1.)

*This song is called "Five Long Years" and credited to Eddie Boyd on Eric Clapton's From the Cradle (1994). It is reported in Delta Snake Blues that "Eddie Boyd was a piano bluesman. His 1952 version is a slower, soulful wail. It's available on Rhino Records' Blues Masters series (volume 2 Postwar Chicago Blues)."

This track is much more a blues guitar showcase than the others from this session. Although a renowned soloist Elliott's is very much an integral part of the combo on these tracks which are a vehicle for Tommy's rich blues vocals.

The song opens with a guitar and the piano bass and drums drop in and then Tommy's voice. In some places it sounds as though Elliott might have been playing slide.

In other places, as he does elsewhere on this record, he does weird things with his instrument. (Restrained weirdness, only relating to sound, no lighter fluid, as far as I can tell.) Tommy says "Play the blues boy", to bring in his last verse.

Elliott notes here in an email response that it certainly 'sounded like' but wasn't slide - just straight playing.


(B Mack Joe Medwich Veasey and Don D.Robey)

personnel as in (1.)

This honky-tonk flavoured blues song was also covered by Eric Clapton. The Tommy Tate version doesn't, as far as I can tell, involve much guitar playing. There are a couple of couplets in the intro, and a couple of shiny chords in the ending but that's about it. Unless Elliott is picking out the bass riff along with Don Barrett.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: The tracks do have a '50s flavor; we just let the tape roll, played the five tunes, and there you have it. No overdubs, no 'fancy stuff' - just guys playing music. Incidentally, the vocals were performed by the drummer as he was drumming. So much for the 'need for total separation of instruments in the recording studio.'

6. SOUR FLOWER (BETA)Back to top

(E Randall)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Carson Whitsett (Hammond B3 Organ)
Bill Lordan (Drums)
Willie Weeks (Fender Bass)
Paul Fleisher (Sax)
Recorded by Edwin H. Kramer Live at the Fillmore East 1970.

"Sour Flower" comes from the era of the Randall's Island project, which resulted in an LP of the same name. This fearless live version is introduced as being "about Tim Rose" which is pretty funny since it's an instrumental.

In Chris Hodenfeld's liner notes for the LP Randall's Island he notes (perhaps exaggerating) that Elliott had even then "... played in at least a hundred rock 'n' roll bands. Lately The Voices of East Harlem, Sea Train, Eric Mercury ... and Tim Rose."

Tim Rose was a folk singer who is often credited as writing the song "Morning Dew" which was in fact written by Bonnie Dobson. (see interview with Bonnie Dobson)

"Sour Flower" is a scorching guitar track that begins, oddly enough, with a long ending, an extended loose solo over staggering drums, then coalesces into a descending crescendo that starts the song. The groove is set up with punchy chords on guitar and Hammond organ, while the sax and bass play in unison. Elliott breaks out and plays over the top of the groove, the biting dexterity of lead breaks and couplets played like power chords.

This live version isn't as complex as the one on the Randall's Island record -- it's the short, sharp rocking version -- a showcase for Elliott's inventive playing, effortless time-keeping and technical brilliance.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 6. Sour Flower.beta This is an earlier version of the Sour Flower that was featured on the 1st Randall's Island record. I'd written the 'beta' version in 1967, while in Tim Rose's band. We recorded this live performance at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in N.Y. I was the musical director of Eric Mercury's band called 'Birthright' - and this incarnation of the group featured 2 youngsters: Willie Weeks and Bill Lordan, then fresh out of Minneapolis. I'd also recruited Carson Whittsett (who later replaced Booker T. in the MGs) on Hammond B3.

The Randall's Island project came about after Elliott came into contact with the Stigwood Organisation through his friend Eric Mercury. Stigwood was managing Mecury at the time and soon approached Elliott with a deal, which he accepted. A year later Stigwood's Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar contracted Randall's Island to play in the show.

Bonnie Dobson interview

7. Mumblin' to MyselfBack to top

(E Randall & P Fleisher)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Eric Mercury (Vocal)
Paul Fleisher (Sax)
Allen Herman (Drums)
Andy Muson (Fender Bass)
Paul Fleisher (Sax)
Phillip Namanworth (Hammond B3 Organ)
Recorded and mixed by Edwin H. Kramer 1970 Sound Ideas, NYC

In the same vein as "Sour Flower" and also a song on the Randall's Island record (where Bob Piazza does the vocal) "Mumblin' To Myself" is a strong, blues-influenced rock number, featuring (on this recording) the resinous vocals of Eric Mercury.

The song features a riff of chords in the intro, then the rhythm section settles in nicely behind Eric and and Elliott (call & response), Paul Fleisher's sax adding texture to the beat and keeping it solid.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 7. Mumblin' To Myself

Another forerunner to a version on the first Randall's Island record. It was one of two 'demos' that I recorded for Polydor, which got me my first record deal. Eddie Kramer and I had become friendly, and I asked him to engineer and co-produce it with me. Eddie was very hot, having become Jimi Hendrix' producer (along with a host of other credits including engineering some of my favorite 'Traffic' albums)

8. ON MY WAYBack to top

(E Randall)

Elliott Randall (Guitar & vocal)
Steve Gadd (Drums)
Tony Levin (Fender Bass)
Recorded and mixed by John Fausty 1972 Good Vibrations Studio, NY

"On My Way" is a slower song, with plenty of angst and soulful 70s optimism, woven through shifting 7ths and minor chords. Reminiscent of the more orchestral and possibly more top-heavy "All I Am's" on Randall's Island, this track features sweet chords played on (probably a gibson) acoustic, a tasty solo, (probably on the strat) over the top, and Elliott's vocals.

Elliot reports that his songwriting influences at the time were many and varied: "The writing influences came from all over; a lot of rhythm and blues, soul-Brit (ie Traffic, Procol Harum), pseudo-classical (Moody Blues) and jazzy (Howard Roberts)."


1972 - I had just written my first tune stemming from the guilt of a young-first-marriage gone wrong, and this is it. I invited Steve Gadd and Tony Levin to the studio for one of our first 'after-midnite' jams, and this particular evening we recorded 'On My Way' and 'Work Song', which appears later on the CD. One of the more fascinating technical aspects of this recording is that is recorded onto 35mm film 'mag' stripes. The studio we used had been previously owned by the film company RKO; this is where they 'dubbed' the music onto film. We used half a dozen machines (2 tracks per machine), and they were synched up by marking and then matching the sprocket holes of the film. In those days, most tape recorders ran at a top speed of 15 inches per second, whereas these mag machines ran at 22.5 inches per second, allowing for better sound quality.

9. TAKE TOMORROWBack to top

(E Randall)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Allen Schwartzberg (Drums)
Don Payne (Fender Bass)
Recorded and mixed by: Jon Fausty
Autumn 1972 Good Vibrations Studios, NYC

"Take Tomorrow" is jazzy acoustic guitar track with strong bass line, and crisp, minimal drumming. Elliott thinks the acoustic, which plays both guitar tracks, was probably a Gibson*. I'm ashamed to say I lost the email in which he mentioned exactly what it was -- maybe he can dig it up....

[*Elliott came to the rescue here- it was a Gibson J200]

Having listened to this collection a few times now, "Take Tomorrow" is beginning to shine. The playing is relaxed and chunky, the jazz chords are clean and bright and clearly articulated, and the range of sounds is intriguing. A very satisfying track.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 9. Take Tomorrow

I'd recently met Don Payne and Allen Schwartzberg, two of the 'staple' New York studio musicians of the time, and this recording demonstrates why they were. Simplicity and elegance... not a single drum fill - just dynamics! They had just completed recording one of Harry Chapin's hits when we cut this.

10. PISTOL CANDY LADDBack to top

(E Randall & E Mercury)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Eric Mercury (Vocal)
Paul Fleisher (Flute)
Allen Herman (Drums)
Bob Piazza (Fender Bass)

Recorded and mixed by: Jon Fausty Spring, 1970 Delta Sound Studios, NYC

"Pistol Candy Ladd" was written by Elliott Randall and Eric Mercury;. The song was recorded at the beginning of the Randall's Island project, but not included on the LP. It features Paul Fleisher on flute, Elliott providing rhythm guitar.

A short song, with cryptic lyrics. Paul Fleisher takes the solo on flute.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 10. Pistol Candy Ladd

I wrote this tune with Eric Mercury, then went into DelataSound Studios with Allan Herman and Bob Piazza of Genya Ravan's 'Ten Wheel Drive'.

Shortly afterwards, they joined the Randall's Island project. Paul Fleisher is featured on flute.

11. AFTER THE AFFAIRBack to top

(E Randall, C Whitsett, T Whitsett)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Tommy Tate (Drums)
Don Barrett (Fender Bass)
Carson Whitsett (B3 Organ)
Recorded 1969 Jackson, Mississippi

"After the Affair" is an instrumental track, recorded with the same personnel as the blues tracks 1-5, with the exception of the unknown piano player, who isn't on this one. Instead, co-author Carson Whitsett is on Hammond. This song is reminiscent of slow jazz standards and uncomplicated late night bar music, a slow dance number -- or perhaps the underscore of movie scenes that are shot through vaseline and fade to black.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 11. After The Affair

On a subsequent trip to Jackson, Mississippi I co-wrote this instrumental piece with Tim and Carson Whittsett. We recorded it at BJ Thomas' studio, which was located at the rear of his nightclub, coincidentally named BJ's. The Bar-Kays recorded a cover version.

12. SEARCHIN'Back to top

(E Randall)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Sam Wright (Vocal)
Allen Herman (Drums)
Wolf Friedman (Fender Bass)
Recorded and mixed by: Jon Fausty
1971 Good Vibrations Studios, NYC

Another Elliott Randall original built around buzz saw lead guitar and a tight R&B sound. While Sam Wright's vocal is strong and clear, Elliott's stabbing slashing strat dominates the song.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 12. Searchin'

From the Jesus Christ Superstar (on Broadway) days, the personnel includes Sam Wright (vocals) who played the role of Judas, and Wolf Freidman (an Ellington Band alumnus) on Fender Bass. Another after midnite 'hey, come on down and jam' session.

13.WORK SONGBack to top

(Nat Adderly & Oscar Brown Jr)

Elliott Randall (Guitar and Vocal)
Steve Gadd (Drums)
Tony Levin (Fender Bass)
Victoria Berdichevskaya (Percussion)
Recorded and mixed by: Jon Fausty
Autumn 1972 Good Vibrations Studios, NYC

A great version of this Oscar Brown Jr. classic (breakin up big rocks on the chain gang) with Elliott singing in unison with the guitar melody. Another guitar with wah wah mixed in the back. Elliott's solo on this one reminiscent of his work with Steely Dan. There's a prolonged scat vocal interplay, mostly in unison with the guitar, to finish out the track.

The first guitar sound you hear on this track is a Fender/Fender combination; the second one is a straightforward rhythm wahwah track.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 13. Work Song

This is another Steve Gadd and Tony Levin track, with a youthful exuberance (meaning: not laid back). Recorded on the same session as 'On My Way'.

14. BODHISATTVABack to top

(Walter Becker & Donald Fagen)

Elliott Randall (Guitar)
Jeff Baxter (Guitar)
Chris Bishop (Fender Bass)
Michael Dawe (Drums)
Phillip Namanworth (Piano)
Joe Cerisano (Vocals)
Special Guest (Vocals and Keyboards)|Recorded Live in New York, 1987
Engineered and mixed by Larry Collen

This live recording of the classic opener to Steely Dan's Countdown to Ecstacy dates from several years later than most of the other material on this collection. After the drums count in the song, the duelling guitars (Elliott and Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter) peel out those supercharged riffs. Although the song is credited to both Becker and Fagen, apparently Donald Fagen wrote the song on his own without Becker's input.

The "Special Guest" on vocals and keyboards does a fair rendition of Donald Fagen's vocal style. There is a beautiful piano solo by Phillip Namanworth, and although it's difficult to say which guitar solo is which, I guess the more extravagant ones are Elliott's.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 14. Bodhisattva

Becker, Fagen and I got to know each other when we were part of the back-up band for Jay & The Americans, several years before the creation of Steely Dan. It seemed only fitting to add this live version, from one of my 'New York Band' shows.

15. MUSHROOM JAMBack to top

(E Randall)

A free-form piece, with:
Elliott Randall (Guitar and Vocal)
Allen Herman (Drums)
Bob Piazza (Fender Bass)
Recorded and mixed by: Jon Fausty
Feb 22, 1970 Delta Sound Studios, NYC

Back to 1970 for the 15th and final track in this collection. It has sections of experimental playing and finishes with a low-key drum solo.

Note: At the time of this recording, Allen Herman and Bob Piazza were members of Ten Wheel Drive, one of the very first jazz rock fusion groups.

ELLIOTT'S NOTES: 15. Mushroom Jam

The bridge from the mid sixties to the early seventies... A true sampling of the psychedelic era. But for the record, let me say that "I never inhaled." ;-)

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