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7 Feb 2017

J.J. Light “Heya” 1969 US Psych Native Rock





J.J. Light “Heya” 1969 US Psych Native Rock
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J.J. Light is actually Jim Stallings, former bassist of the Sir Douglas Quintet, who played on the excellent Mendocino lp onwards. Prior to 1969’s Heya, Stallings released some singles in the early 60’s which are reportedly in a doo-wop style. The notorious Bob Markley had some involvement with the Heya lp, as he supposedly wrote some of the album’s lyrics and coined the J.J. Light name.

Heya is a diverse program that rocks hard in spots but also showcases a unique brand of music that is no doubt influenced by Stallings’ Native American roots. Both Na Ru Ka and Heya combine hard rock and ethnic influences into something that’s new and refreshing. I have heard other reviewers describe Stallings’ music as “hypnotic” though I hear more of a hard rock sound that’s laced with country and folk roots. Sure, there are a few excellent psychedelic cuts that will catch your ear first, like the rollicking It’s Wednesday and the acid fried country-rocker Gallup, New Mexico. The fuzz propelled, late period garage rock track Follow Me Girl is also top of the heap. But folk-rock and country numbers Silently Sleeping and Hello, Hello, Hello give the album its diversity and display a strong Bob Dylan influence. All the above tracks are fine statements indeed, though this album has major grower qualities that might not be apparent upon first listen.

The recent Sunbeam Records reissue (there is also a CD Baby reissue) includes an unreleased 2nd album from 1969 that Stallings had been keeping on a dusty shelf. After his recording career as J.J. Light, Stallings played bass for the band Truth, who released the trippy P.S. (Prognosis Stegnosis) 45. While being a part of Doug Sahm’s band, Stallings and the group also released an lp without Doug’s involvement entitled Future Tense by the Quintet. In it’s day the Heya album was hardly known in the States (it was never issued in the U.S.), so it was somewhat strange when the lp sold large numbers in Europe, Japan, South America, and New Zealand. Definitely a solid 4 star record, Heya is truly a lost gem by one of rock’s unknown legends....Rising Storm review........

Jim Stallings was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who had been knocking around the Los Angeles music scene for a few years when he met Bob Markley, a wealthy hipster and producer who had worked with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Markley took Stallings under his wing, scored him a record deal, and christened him with a new stage name, J.J. Light, which was imagined to better fit his Native American heritage.

J.J. Light scored an international hit single with 1969's "Heya," and the album of the same title sold respectably in Europe, Scandinavia, and South America, but for some reason the LP was never released in the United States, and a follow-up recorded later the same year was never released at all; Stallings became a member of Doug Sahm's Sir Douglas Quintet, joining in time to play bass on the classic Together After Five album.

This release from the U.K.-based Sunbeam Records features the Heya! LP in full along with 11 songs recorded for Light's unreleased second album, only one of which ("Kent State Massacre") has previously surfaced. Heya! is an engaging exercise in psychedelia lite; Stallings' songs are strong and to the point while boasting radio-ready melodies alongside lyrics that often deal with Native American issues, and his vocals are gutsy and passionate without sounding ragged, recalling Johnny Rivers with an extra portion of soul.

Stallings also had some fine help in the studio, including keyboard man Larry Knechtel, drummers Earl Palmer and Jim Gordon, and guitarists Gary Rowles and Ron Morgan (the former worked with Arthur Lee's 1969-1970 edition of Love, and the latter played in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band), and the music isn't afraid to cut deep while leaning toward the sunny side.

The unreleased material was rescued from old acetates and the sound quality is flawed, but the songs and performances are as good if not better than what Stallings brought to his first album, and it's hard to imagine why work this good was forced to collect dust in the vaults for so long. Heya! certainly deserves a higher profile in Stallings' homeland, and until some American label picks this up for a stateside issue, Sunbeam's release gives his songs the hearing they clearly deserve, while Tim Forster's liner notes tell the story behind this music and J.J. Light's short-lived career.
by Mark Deming...............

Jim Stallings was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who had been knocking around the Los Angeles music scene for a few years when he met Bob Markley, a wealthy hipster and producer who had worked with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Markley took Stallings under his wing, scored him a record deal, and christened him with a new stage name, J.J. Light, which was imagined to better fit his Native American heritage. J.J. Light scored an international hit single with 1969's "Heya," and the album of the same title sold respectably in Europe, Scandinavia, and South America, but for some reason the LP was never released in the United States, and a follow-up recorded later the same year was never released at all; Stallings became a member of Doug Sahm's Sir Douglas Quintet, joining in time to play bass on the classic Together After Five album. This release from the U.K.-based Sunbeam Records features the Heya! LP in full along with 11 songs recorded for Light's unreleased second album, only one of which ("Kent State Massacre") has previously surfaced. Heya! is an engaging exercise in psychedelia lite; Stallings' songs are strong and to the point while boasting radio-ready melodies alongside lyrics that often deal with Native American issues, and his vocals are gutsy and passionate without sounding ragged, recalling Johnny Rivers with an extra portion of soul. Stallings also had some fine help in the studio, including keyboard man Larry Knechtel, drummers Earl Palmer and Jim Gordon, and guitarists Gary Rowles and Ron Morgan (the former worked with Arthur Lee's 1969-1970 edition of Love, and the latter played in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band), and the music isn't afraid to cut deep while leaning toward the sunny side. The unreleased material was rescued from old acetates and the sound quality is flawed, but the songs and performances are as good if not better than what Stallings brought to his first album, and it's hard to imagine why work this good was forced to collect dust in the vaults for so long. Heya! certainly deserves a higher profile in Stallings' homeland, and until some American label picks this up for a stateside issue, Sunbeam's release gives his songs the hearing they clearly deserve, while Tim Forster's liner notes tell the story behind this music and J.J. Light's short-lived career. ....by Mark Deming.............

One area of my record collection that is, shall I say, underdeveloped is Native American rock. I have a few Redbone albums and a couple by Blackfoot and not much more than that. But my favorite album by a Native American artist is J.J. Light’s Heya, originally released in 1969. Light is a pseudonym for Jim Stallings, a Navajo New Mexican who came to Los Angeles in the late ’50s to pursue fame and fortune as a pop musician. After playing in a few groups (including a Mariachi band) and releasing a couple singles that flopped, Stallings met up with Bob Markley, an associate of Kim Fowley and the self-appointed frontman for the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Now, Markley was a charismatic scenester and Stallings quickly fell under his influence. It was Markley who convinced Stallings to adopt the stage name J.J. Light and to develop material that reflected his Native American roots (no doubt inspired by the various world music incursions into rock ’n’ roll that were characteristic of the late sixties).
Signed to Liberty Records, Light went into the studio straightaway to begin work on Heya. Markley was on board as producer and the backing band was impressive: Jim Gordon and Earl Palmer on drums, Joe Osborn on bass, Larry Knechtel on piano and organ and Gary Rowles (later of Love) on guitar. The sessions were completed quickly and the album delivered to Liberty, who, as we will see, were uncertain exactly what to do with it.
Heya is, on the whole, an amalgam of Tex-Mex, Native American and folk-rock influences. It is, from beginning to end, a thoroughly enjoyable listen, the band loose and in the groove and Light’s vocals at once casual and passionate. The opening track, “Na Ru Ka,” is a garage rock raga piece with wild lead guitar and vocals that alternate between chanting and shouting. “Silenting Sleeping” is a gentle folk number with a traditional melody and lover-left-me lyrics. “Follow Me Girl” returns to the garage—fuzz guitar with “c’mon” and “follow me girl” laid over and over and over. “It’s Wednesday” opens with a 6/8 piano motif and then switches to a more characteristic fuzz guitar riff and a straight boogie. “Until it Snows” is a sweet waltz ballad with a wordless vocal chorus of staccato “ba-da-ba-da-dahs.” “Hello Hello, Hello” is a mid-tempo pop number that approximates a simple Lobo feel with rollicking piano. “Heya” is the most clearly Native American-influenced song with almost militant lyrics—the most distinctive song on the album. “While the World Turns to Stone” open with a “Like a Rolling Stone” organ part and approximates a Dylanesque feel throughout. “Henry Glover” continues in the Dylan vein, though this time in a third-person ballad. “Hey Yo Hanna Wa” is another song that alternates between chanting and garage shouting; the intro is “Indian Giver” and the tag a freak-out guitar solo. “Indian Disneyland” laments the marginalized status of Native Americans, placed in contrast to the plastic pleasures of Disney’s theme park. “On the Road Now” closes the album with a shambling, lite-psych groove.
Perhaps nervous about the ethnic vibe of the album, Liberty hesitated to release the album domestically. Instead, a single—the song “Heya” b/w “On the Road Now”—was released in Europe and South America and was a substantial international hit. Shortly thereafter, the album was released in many of those same markets and sold reasonably well. It is clear that Liberty was ambivalent about a U.S. release, as a U.S. promo 45 of “Heya” was pressed and distributed and a Liberty LP number was assigned to the album. Still, neither the album nor the single was ever given a U.S. release. Stallings, of course, went on to join the Sir Douglas Quintet as a bassist and appeared on several of their later LPs.....By Peter Marston.................

Musicians
*Jim Stallings - Vocals, Bass, Guitar
*Gary Rowles - Guitar
*Ron Morgan - Guitar
*Larry Knechtel - Piano, Organ
*Joe Osborne - Bass
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Earl Palmer - Drums

Tracklist
A1 Na Ru Ka
A2 Silently Sleeping
A3 Follow Me Girl
A4 It's Wednesday
A5 Until It Snows
A6 The Electric Land Band
A7 Hello, Hello, Hello
B1 Heya
B2 While The World Turns To Stone
B3 Henry Glover
B4 Hey Yo Hanna Wa
B5 Indian Disneyland
B6 Gallup, New Mexico
B7 On The Road Now

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..