Real Gone Music To Release: Surf Punks, Amazing Rhythm Aces & Grateful Dead

Punk rock...'70s country...Southern rock...jam band...and the utterly unclassifiable. Real Gone Music has once again leapfrogged all genres and eras with its June 4 line-up. Leading off are two titles from a true American original, Mason Williams, he of "Classical Gas" fame. RGM's two titles offer that famous tune along with more of Williams' ahead-of-their-time postmodern takes on pop music. Then the label vaults forward several decades and up several notches in attitude with the Surf Punks' sophomore release, Locals Only, produced with band founder Dennis Dragon's full involvement. The first two releases from legendary Southern rockers Amazing Rhythm Aces, Stacked Deck and Too Stuffed to Jump, get a sonic makeover and a bonus track. Teen rocker turned country star Dickey Lee gets his first-ever comprehensive country hits collection. Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys' second album, Albion Doo-Wah, a lost masterpiece of early '70s roots rock, makes its CD debut. And Real Gone's series of Dick's Picks concert collections from the Grateful Dead continues with a show from the peak year of 1972.

He won an Emmy Award as head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and has published many books of poetry and prose. He is an accomplished visual artist, with a piece ("Bus") in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. And he penned and performed a #1 hit instrumental ("Classical Gas"). He's Mason Williams, and that brief summation of his accomplishments doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the man's many talents. Now, Real Gone Music presents the first two solo albums Williams recorded for Warner Bros., "The Mason Williams Phonograph Record" (which features "Classical Gas") and "The Mason Williams Ear Show" (which makes its CD debut), the records that introduced America to one of its real Renaissance men. As you might expect given Williams' background, these albums are quirky, eclectic and wholly unique affairs combining pop, rock, folk, bluegrass and no shortage of whimsy; they're like having a conversation with a brilliant raconteur who also happens to be a prodigiously talented musician. Gene Sculatti provided the notes for both releases, with fresh quotes and photos from Mason Williams himself.

Surf Punks were what washed up when the late-'70s punk wave crashed on the SoCal beach scene. Formed by Dennis Dragon (son of composer Carmen, brother of Daryl of Captain & Tennille fame) and Drew Steele, the group cut their first album in 1979 on their own Day Glo label, which Epic picked up for distribution in slightly different form, then moved to Restless/Enigma in 1982 for "Locals Only." Locals Only kicks sand in the face of just about every strain of sunbleached subculture, from Valley girls to Westside rich chicks to lifeguards, and manages to be catchy at the same time; it belongs on your shelf next to (and came out the same year as) Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and it's been out of print for 15 years. Real Gone's reissue features a fresh remastering and liner notes from Dennis Dragon himself plus two bonus tracks.

With their unique blend of Memphis soul, country and pop, the Amazing Rhythm Aces have long been hailed as one of the finest country rock outfits of the '70s, and their first two albums, "Stacked Deck" and "Too Stuffed to Jump" capture them at the peak of their game. But, the availability of these two records has been spotty, as contractual reasons (the Amazing Rhythm Aces recorded for ABC but the masters ended up being controlled by Sony) delayed their release on CD, and the twofer that offered both albums has been out of print for several years. Now, Real Gone Music is giving this pair of classics a sonic makeover, as both albums appear here remastered together by Vic Anesini at Sony's own Battery Studios in NYC from the original analog master tapes for the first time. Plus, as a bonus track RGM has added the non-LP cut "Mystery Train," which was the B-side to their big hit "Third Rate Romance." '70s southern rock expert Scott Schinder supplies the notes.

He went from being a '60s teen idol to being one of the biggest stars in '70s country music, but Royden Dickey Lipscomb a.k.a. Dickey Lee has never enjoyed a collection of his original hit RCA '70s country sides worthy of the name. But here, at last, is a retrospective that breaks through the flotsam and jetsam of budget packages and re-records that's currently available: "Dickey Lee: Original Greatest Hits" presents 20 tracks, all but one of 'em a hit, and the one song that isn't a hit is Dickey's own version of "She Thinks I Still Care," which he wrote and George Jones took to the top of the charts. All beautifully remastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, with notes by Bill Dahl featuring quotes from Dickey himself.

After the success of their Jimi Hendrix-produced debut album The Street Giveth...and the Street Taketh Away (also available from Real Gone) and its hit "Good Old Rock 'N' Roll," the members of Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys repaired to their Woodstock cabin (pictured in the album gatefold reproduced here) and started writing songs for "Albion Doo-Wah." The record had much more pastoral, country feel to it, no doubt in part due to the replacement of Charlie Chin by multi-instrumentalist folkie Jay Ungar, who also brought several songs to the group. But there was definitely something in the air in the late'-60s/early '70s Woodstock scene; Albion Doo-Wah has several scoops of that timeless, Americana-laced Basement Tapes/Music from Big Pink fairy dust. CD debut, and one long, long requested by the band's fans, with a gorgeous remastering job by Maria Triana at Battery Studios.

It's the topic of endless argument, but, bolstered by the legendary Europe '72 album and tour, consensus opinion holds that 1972 was the peak year for Grateful Dead live shows. And "Dick's Picks Vol. 23--Baltimore Civic Center Baltimore, MD 9/17/72" certainly adds to the weight of evidence in favor of that view; recorded exactly three months after Pigpen left the band due to health reasons, this beautifully recorded (by Bear, presented here in HDCD sound) show features the organic yet focused ebbs and flows and unexpected improvisational twists that are characteristic of a classic Dead show. Among the highlights (and they are many) are a sublime, exploratory reading of "Playing in the Band," a soaring "Bird Song," a potent coupling of "China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider" and a surging, emotional hour-long medley of "He's Gone"/"The Other One"/"Sing Me Back Home." Out of print for years and a real keeper.

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