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10 Jul 2017

Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan " Construction №1" 1969 US Jazz Rock












Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan " Construction №1" 1969 US Jazz Rock

full


Genya Ravan’s never received her due. Even if you haven’t heard her music, you should recognize her place in music history. She led Goldie and the Gingerbreads, the first all-woman rock band to record for a major label (ATCO, an Atlantic subsidiary). After her own singing career faded, she became the first established female rock producer, working with the Dead Boys (including “Sonic Reducer”), Ronnie Spector on her comeback, and countless other New York City punk groups in the early ‘80s. Oh, yeah, and all these achievements were preceded by a childhood stint in a concentration camp during World War II.

Of course, we could brush off the accomplishments if the music wasn’t any good, but Ravan left behind a string of records worth finding, if you can. Her solo albums certainly have their moments (including the feminist question mark, “I Won’t Sleep on the Wet Spot No More”), but she’s at her best when that powerful voice is backed by Ten Wheel Drive, as it was for three albums from 1969 to 1971. Though the band changed lineups for each album, primary arrangers Michael Zager and Aram Schefrin stayed in place to, well, steer the band. As skilled as those two were, Ravan needed to put her stamp on the act before it could be something, turning the pop-Broadway songs with overly collegiate lyrics into gutsy rock ‘n’ roll. If you are wondering if it’s worth your time to scurry down a genre crevasse and search the used record shops or eBay for something that won’t fit smoothly anywhere in your collection, trust me—of course, you do.

On 1969’s Construction #1, the band’s first album, these three artists combined perfectly with their horn players and drummer to make a rare statement: a jazz-rock record with as much heart as technical precision, and as much dirt and sweat as brains and finesse. It’s hard to imagine how this album that once reached the charts has managed to fall so far out of sight. With pop music currently fetishizing the past, you’d expect someone to dig up something this strong, but likely its hard-to-classify nature prohibits it from being influential.

The album opens with “Tightrope”, arguably its strongest track. Bill Takas puts down a memorable bass line, and the horns punctuate the groove, echoing Ravan’s vocals throughout the chorus. At the three-quarter mark, the band goes off into an absurd breakdown which makes you think at least eight of the ten wheels have fallen off, before Takas brings them back in line. Then Ravan starts wailing again.

Despite the dictionary-necessitating lyrics, smart arrangements and tight playing, nothing about this band surpasses Ravan’s astonishing voice. Like many singers from the late ‘60s, she owes more to blues and R&B vocalists like Bessie Smith, Etta James, and Billie Holiday than to anyone in the rock scene. Early in her career, she would often cover Ray Charles, and his influence remains strong throughout her recordings. Ravan’s strong and soulful—in her memoir Lollipop Lounge she’s specific about this description meaning “black”; people would often look at the stage and be shocked to see a white woman. She calls to mind a harder-luck Dusty Springfield, and its hard to find an article on her that doesn’t mention Janis Joplin, but she’s got a bigger voice than either of them.

When she uses her voice aggressively, it’s the sound of the world coming unhinged. On the Cream-gone-dizzy “Eye of the Needle”, you don’t need to listen to the lyrics to understand what the song’s about—the music and the singers’ deliveries give better expression to the obstruction and futility experienced by the singer than any literal interpretation of the words. At the same time, Ravan’s repetition of “I can’t make it” turns from a wail of despair into a battle cry as she screeches “I got to make it!” “Limited” here to background vocals, Ravan emotes frustration and anger as well as anyone. The high trumpet intro only suggests the strength that the vocals will bring once they begin. But the song isn’t driven by just emotion; there’s a great sax solo, and at one point Ravan and the uncredited male lead sing not quite together, building a tension between the two vocal lines that won’t be resolved until the horns force their point. This kind of smart structure keeps the album both fun and interesting on repeat listens.

Admittedly, the album isn’t perfect. The band doesn’t harness its energy as well on its slower tracks, such as “Candy Man Blues”, but even that number works in a nice buildup, turning the first half’s background jazz into a hurt blues instrumental—a nice piece of arranging by original songwriter Louie Hoff. When Ravan comes back in after the solo, she sounds fortified, as if the music has pushed her through a rough time.

The record closes with “I Am a Want Ad”, in which Ravan brings the sex from within a horn section that rages out of control even as it stays tied to the grinding bass line. In between hand drums and a cutting trumpet solo, Ravan sings and screams, and I can’t help but imagine her on the ground, Joe Cocker-style, the audience in a frenzy. It’s hard to get a grip on what she’s talking about—the psychedelic abstraction in the lyrics veers from anticapitalist leanings to sultry come-ons—but it doesn’t matter in the least. When the needle skips to the inside of the vinyl, it feels like Ten Wheel Drive has ignited another explosion and is ready for more, even if you’ve been beaten down......BY JUSTIN COBER-LAKE....Pop Matters..............

Boy, this is pretty damn good. Almost a four. And a bit tricky to describe.

I do need to clear one thing up right away: Genya Ravan does not, at all, sound like Janis Joplin. C'mon, guys. There were other women singers in the late 60s, y'know. To my ears, Genya sounds exactly like late 60s Tina Turner when she's singing in a more strident tone, and exactly like Lady Soul-era Aretha Franklin when she's singing in a softer tone. And those don't just work for vocal comparisons; there's a whole lotta soul on this album. And jazz. More soul and jazz than you'd think. But it's loud, heavy jazz/soul/rock. And they've got a five piece horn/woodwind section (the latter being a rarer thing to hear in brass rock) where four of the five guys end up playing multiple instruments over the album. That's not mentioning the drummer who hops on cello at one point, or the organist/pianist who plays clarinet. Their guitarist gets into the bongos at one point. And Genya plays harmonica as well. And their bass player has some tasty, tasty basslines through this.

And that's all ten members. So, ridiculously ambitious genre-busting ten piece band toys with heavy psych, jazz, psych soul, and even disorienting prog on Eye of the Needle, from nineteen goddamned sixty nine, and I've never heard of them? Why? Why is this so obscure? And the only way to get it on CD is through an on-demand web label, the legitimacy of which makes me leery? The hell's going on?

For god's sake, find this. There are a few clunkers, but as an album from 1969, I was blown away.

...y'know what, screw it, it's a four. A hair more consistent and I'd be holding onto it, but I'm stupid. This album needs reevaluation....by.....thrasher2809 ..........

This is the debut album from yet another female-led brass-rock/jazz-rock band, similar in style to both Cold Blood and Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! album, all popping up in 1969.

Ten Wheel Drive is fronted by a terrific vocalist named Genya Ravan, whose voice and delivery is similar to both Janis Joplin and Lydia Pense (from Cold Blood). To be more precise, imagine Janis Joplin fronting Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago, and that's what you'll get with Ten Wheel Drive.

Several tracks (such as "Tightrope," "I Am A Want Ad," or "Polar Bear Rug") feature slamming rock riffs that rival the best blues-rock bands of the era, while a few tracks (such as "Lapidary," "House In Central Park, and, especially, "Candy Man Blues"), or some sections of tracks, such as the lengthy and wildly diverse and ever-shifting "Eye Of The Needle," are a bit lighter and offer a jazzy feel. The guitars generally sizzle, and the occasional piano offers some beautiful accompaniment, while the rhythm section pounds and drives where necessary. And of course, the solid brass section (playing some exciting arrangements that match the jaw-dropping complexity and surprising maturity of early B, S, & T and Chicago) sounds clean and crisp throughout, all creating a perfect backdrop for a vocalist with Genya's powerful style.

Some great stuff! Too bad the band (and Genya herself) never achieved the enduring fame they so greatly deserved.........by.......zap_niles .........

Late sixties debut album with a fitting title of an east coast Jazz-Rock group, with a slightly greater emphasis on Rock than on Jazz. There's a brass section, and there are dirty sounding electric guitars. And then, there is Rock belter Genya Ravan, whose next vocal relative is Janis Joplin. That's not meant as a compliment, however, fortunately, Miss Ravan, herself the eruptive Aries type, mostly manages to do her thing without those hysterical fits which were Joplin's trademark. Aside from the diversity of the songs and the professionalism of the musicians, it's the atmosphere of excitement and adventure behind the recordings that makes the album interesting even to latter day listeners. This was 1969, a truly seminal time for Rock/Pop/Jazz music. Construction #1 shows Ten Wheel Drive as one of the creative forces of that time.........by.......yofriend ..........

In 1970, Janis Joplin died and, while I knew there would never be another Janis, I was desperate to find a female vocalist whose voice had at least some guts and grit to it. Enter Genya Ravan and the Ten Wheel Drive with their album, Brief Replies. Genya could belt out the notes and she had tunes that made me laugh as well as rock. Morning Much Better was one of them, as was my all-time favorite Ten Wheel Drive song, No Next Time, from their album, Peculiar Friends. Sadly, I don't believe either of those records is available on CD. I still have my vinyl copies, but if you don't and you'd like to sample the Great Genya, then pick up this "best of" compliation and discover what you've been missing. Five stars all the way............By B. McEwan..............

Biography


Ten Wheel Drive made their international debut at the first Atlanta
Pop Festival in the incredible summer of 1969. Spearheaded by the powerhouse 
vocals of singer Genya Ravan the band and its wall of sound fusion of Rock, jazz
and R&B took the stage and blow the audience away. By the time they finished an
hour later, the band had created a genuine buzz, and Ravan was positioned to be the next big female rock star
"The Atlanta festival was the absolute best", says Ravan, in retrospect. "It was the real
thing at a time when all of us were creating all this incredible music."
Though Ten Wheel Drive and Ravan attained substantial critical and commercial success, neither reached a celebrity status as high as their respective musical status. Ten Wheel Drive made three albums with Ravan, and, today, the band's music still holds up remarkably well.
"I had come from all R&B type pop and then did a brief stint in a jazz quintet," says Ravan. "When I heard the first Blood Sweat &Tears album with A Kooper I knew I wanted a band like that. I was intrigued by the fusion of jazz, R&B, and rock. That album, more than any other, was my inspiration for Ten Wheel Drive."
Ten Wheel Drive came together as fluidly as it did because Ravan, keyboardist Michael Zager and guitarist Aram Schefrin immediately recognized what they had was magical the first time they plugged in and started wailing.
Though the public and critics knew them always as a ten piece band it was real only those three who were the core of TWD. The rhythm section and five p piece horn section changed with each album and often with each tour. But this never really mattered. During Ten Wheel Drive's entire life span, alI eyes remained on Genya Ravan.
The band went through a five-month writinq and rehearsal period and emerged in the spring of 1969 with producer Walter Raim who recorded their first album in a week.
Even today, Construction #1 jumps out and grabs the listener with its funky brand of horn driven rock and Ravan's unmistakable vocals. From the opening bass riff of the Ravan original, Tightrope, through seven other tracks (mostly all written by Zager and Schefrin), the album is a tour-de force for Genya Ravan.
The record contains many songs that became TWD staples during their four year history. (They were also part of Ravan's solo repertoire). Eye Of The Needle, Candy Man Blues (Ravan's vocal tribute to Billie Holiday) and Ain't Gonna Happen represent just how innovative the band could be.
"I was the drive Zager was the ten and Schefrin was the wheel," says Ravan. "We had a remarkable partnership, and very much a democracy, even though I was the one in the spotlight, I never lost sight of the fact that Michael and Aram wrote most of the music and kept the rest of the musicians together musically."
Schefrin wrote Iyrics; Zager wrote the music and both did the intricate horn charts, and together with Ravan, they placed the final spin on the songs. TWD looked to take straight ahead rock songs and stretch them to their absolute musical limits. Nearly every element in these songs were built into complex, but remarkably natural sounding arrangements. The vocal harmonies wove in and out of the multi-layered horn lines and the band was somehow able to jump back and forth between powerhouse electric guitar solos and smooth, jazz flavored piano highlights.
Construction #1 became a critical and FM radio smash, and the band's appearance in Atlanta sent them well on their way. It was the beginning of a long love/hate relationship between Ravan and the music press, who called her a true musical visionary, but made endless comparisons to Janis Joplin.
The band returned to the studio to record 1970's Brief Replies with producer Guy Draper. Featuring the band's only charting single, Morning Much Better, the highlight of the album was unquestionably the Jerry Yagovoy power ballad, Stay with Me, with Ravan's red hot vocal and saucy blues harmonica. Covered at the same time by Janis Joplin, it was TWD's version of Stay With Me that received the most radio airplay. The coincidence, unfortunately, only intensified the comparisons to Joplin.
By the third album, Peculiar Friends, everyone had become frustrated.. The initial blast experienced after the first album and at the Atlanta Festival failed to ignite into bonafide superstardom and the band found it increasingly hard to support itself on the rood. Fatigue soon set in.
In the spring of 1971, in one last shining moment, Ten Wheel Drive performed a concert at Carnegie Hall with the New York Symphony. Staged for the benefit of the American Indian Zager and Schefrin premiered a 45-minute concept piece that many consider the pinnacle of their songwriting partnership. It was the only time the band performed it.
"It was a wonderful concept piece about the American Indian," says Ravan. "And no one had the insight to think about recording it. It was the time of wounded Knee and Marlon Brando's involvement with Indians and we did this incredible piece of music, by far the best thing we had ever done. After that our frustrations became insurmountable."
In the summer of 1971, Genya Ravan left Ten Wheel Drive.
Ten Wheel Drive made their international debut at the first Atlanta Pop Festival in the incredible summer of 1969. Spearheaded by the powerhouse vocals of singer Genya Ravan the band and its wall of sound fusion of Rock, jazz and R&B took the stage and blow the audience away. By the time they finished an hour later, the band had created a genuine buzz, and Ravan was positioned to be the next
Ten Wheel Drive made their international debut at the first Atlanta Pop Festival in the incredible summer of 1969. Spearheaded by the powerhouse vocals of singer Genya Ravan the band and its wall of sound fusion of Rock, jazz and R&B took the stage and blow the audience away. By the time they finished an hour later, the band had created a genuine buzz, and Ravan was positioned to be the next big female rock star
"The Atlanta festival was the absolute best", says Ravan, in retrospect. "It was the real thing at a time when all of us were creating all this incredible music."
Though Ten Wheel Drive and Ravan attained substantial critical and commercial success, neither reached a celebrity status as high as their respective musical status. Ten Wheel Drive made three albums with Ravan, and, today, the band's music still holds up remarkably well.
"I had come from all R&B type pop and then did a brief stint in a jazz quintet," says Ravan. "When I heard the first Blood Sweat &Tears album with A Kooper I knew I wanted a band like that. I was intrigued by the fusion of jazz, R&B, and rock. That album, more than any other, was my inspiration for Ten Wheel Drive."
Ten Wheel Drive came together as fluidly as it did because Ravan, keyboardist Michael Zager and guitarist Aram Schefrin immediately recognized what they had was magical the first time they plugged in and started wailing.
Though the public and critics knew them always as a ten piece band it was real only those three who were the core of TWD. The rhythm section and five p piece horn section changed with each album and often with each tour. But this never really mattered. During Ten Wheel Drive's entire life span, alI eyes remained on Genya Ravan.
The band went through a five-month writinq and rehearsal period and emerged in the spring of 1969 with producer Walter Raim who recorded their first album in a week.
Even today, Construction #1 jumps out and grabs the listener with its funky brand of horn driven rock and Ravan's unmistakable vocals. From the opening bass riff of the Ravan original, Tightrope, through seven other tracks (mostly all written by Zager and Schefrin), the album is a tour-de force for Genya Ravan.
The record contains
many songs that became TWD staples during their four year history. (They were also part of Ravan's solo repertoire). Eye Of The Needle, Candy Man Blues (Ravan's vocal tribute to Billie Holiday) and Ain't Gonna Happen represent just how innovative the band could be.
"I was the drive Zager was the ten and Schefrin was the wheel," says Ravan. "We had a remarkable partnership, and very much a democracy, even though I was the one in the spotlight, I never lost sight of the fact that Michael and Aram wrote most of the music and kept the rest of the musicians together musically."
Schefrin wrote Iyrics; Zager wrote the music and both did the intricate horn charts, and together with Ravan, they placed the final spin on the songs. TWD looked to take straight ahead rock songs and stretch them to their absolute musical limits. Nearly every element in these songs were built into complex, but remarkably natural sounding arrangements. The vocal harmonies wove in and out of the multi-layered horn lines and the band was somehow able to jump back and forth between powerhouse electric guitar solos and smooth, jazz flavored piano highlights.
Construction #1 became a critical and FM radio smash, and the band's appearance in Atlanta sent them well on their way. It was the beginning of a long love/hate relationship between Ravan and the music press, who called her a true musical visionary, but made endless comparisons to Janis Joplin.
The band returned to the studio to record 1970's Brief Replies with producer Guy Draper. Featuring the band's only charting single, Morning Much Better, the highlight of the album was unquestionably the Jerry Yagovoy power ballad, Stay with Me, with Ravan's red hot vocal and saucy blues harmonica. Covered at the same time by Janis Joplin, it was TWD's version of Stay With Me that received the most radio airplay. The coincidence, unfortunately, only intensified the comparisons to Joplin.
By the third album, Peculiar Friends, everyone had become frustrated.. The initial blast experienced after the first album and at the Atlanta Festival failed to ignite into bonafide superstardom and the band found it increasingly hard to support itself on the rood. Fatigue soon set in.
In the spring of 1971, in one last shining moment, Ten Wheel Drive performed a concert at Carnegie Hall with the New York Symphony. Staged for the benefit of the American Indian Zager and Schefrin premiered a 45-minute concept piece that many consider the pinnacle of their songwriting partnership. It was the only time the band performed it.
"It was a wonderful concept piece about the American Indian," says Ravan. "And no one had the insight to think about recording it. It was the time of wounded Knee and Marlon Brando's involvement with Indians and we did this incredible piece of music, by far the best thing we had ever done. After that our frustrations became insurmountable."
In the summer of 1971, Genya Ravan left Ten Wheel Drive.
She came to this country at the age of seven with her Polish parents after the second World War as Genya Zelkowitz. Settling into a small home in the tenements of New York's Lower East Side, she soon became acclimated to the code of life in Urban America.
"I couldn't speak a word of English when I came," Genya remembers "Ornette Coleman told me later that's why I ended up having such a good ear for music. I was constantly turning to songs to help myself better learn the language."
Ravan joined a street gang called The Furies, and in 1961, on a dare, jumped feet first into the world of rock'n'roll when she became the lead singer of The Escorts, a Manhattan-based band headed by future superstar producer/arranger Richard Perry.
Ravan soon migrated from the stage of Brooklyn's Lollipop Lounge. In 1965, she formed an all girl group called Goldie &The Gingerbreads. Eric Burdon heard them one night in a club on 45th street, and "freaked," says Ravan. By the time Ravan's head stopped spinning, her group was crashing the British charts and touring relentlessly with The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Rollinq Stones.
Though the real scope of her vocal ability was never apparent during her time with The Gingerbreads, Ravan had developed the skill and passion to be a powerful R&B singer.
When Genya returned to the United States, music had changed. The British pop movement had been overtaken by American hippies and The Summer of Love. It was time for another change.
By now it was 1968, and Ravan was being managed by rock impresario Sid Bernstein (the first U.S. promoter to book The Beatles), who, with partner Billy Fields, was eager to place Ravan with the right musicians who could bring out the passion in her voice.
Another manager had been trying to place Zager and Schefrin with the right vocalist. The three managers introduced the three musicians, and, well, that was all it took. Ten Wheel Drive was born as quickly as it took them to start working on the first song together.
After a handful of showcases at New York's Bitter End club the band landed a deal with Polydor Records. One month later, they were slaying audiences at Bill Graham's legendary Fillmore East.
Columbia Records prexy Clive Davis gave Ravan the opportunity to make the jump where he agreed to buy her out of her contract with Polydor and launch her as a solo artist.
"I wanted to get back into the music that I really missed, like R&B. I wanted to do it all. I wanted to get more involved in writing, and in general, I just wanted more control of my own destiny."
Between 1971 and 1980 Ravan recorded Five solo albums - one each for Columbia, ABC Dunhill and Chess/Janus, and two for 20th Century. By 1980, Genya Ravan had decided to stop recording and performing. She started her own indie label and became one of the very first established female producers, waxing discs for the likes of Ronnie Spector, The Dead Boys and a large group of acts emerging from New York's CBGB'S punk scene.
Michael Zager went on to make a handful of successful disco records and is currently running Michael Zager Productions and writing movie scores. Aram a Harvard Law graduate, left the music industry and is now a successful attorney in Providence Rhode Island.
Today, Genya is living back in New York City running Genya Ravan Productions.
Says Ravan, "When I was helping PolyGram put together the songs for this anthology I had to go back and listen to stuff I hadn't heard in almost two decades. It suddenly dawned on me just how good we were as a band. We were doing stuff that was light years ahead of what others were doing at the time."
-- Bruce Pilato..................

Credits
Bass – Bill Takas
Design [Cover] – David Krieger
Drums, Cello, Percussion – Leon Rix
Engineer – Ed Rice
Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Louie Hoff
Flute, Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jay Silva
Guitar, Percussion – Aram Schefrin
Management – Billy Fields (2), Sid Bernstein
Organ, Piano, Clarinet – Mike Zager*
Photography By [Back] – Bruce Meisterman
Photography By [Front Cover] – Robert Golden
Photography By [Interior] – Jane Zager
Producer – Walter Raim
Trombone – Dennis Parisi
Trumpet [Piccolo], Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Peter Hyde (2)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Richard Meisterman
Vocals, Harmonica, Tambourine – Genya Ravan
Written-By – Aram Schefrin, Michael Zager
Notes

Tracklist
A1 Tightrope
Arranged By – Leon Rix
Written-By – Genya Ravan, Leon Rix
5:10
A2 Lapidary 4:32
A3 Eye Of The Needle 8:11
A4 Candy Man Blues
Arranged By – Louie Hoff
Written-By – Elizabeth Hoff, Louie Hoff
4:36
B1 Ain't Gonna Happen 5:37
B2 Polar Bear Rug 4:34
B3 House In Central Park 4:32
B4 I Am A Want Ad 4:27  

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