Saturday, February 16, 2008

Unsung Legends Of Rock Profile : Sir Lord Baltimore

Formed in 1968, Sir Lord Baltimore stormed out of Brooklyn, New York with their debut release 'Kingdom Come' in 1970. SLB were a band ahead of their time. Playing a frenzied brand of heavy rock which was in stark contrast to the sounds which were extremely popular during the early 70's, the band put out two of the most molten slabs of heavy rock in '70's 'Kingdom Come' and '71's self titled follow up. Featuring the incredible vocals of John Garner (also sitting behind the kit, becoming one of rock's first singing drummers ), this is a man who could literally sing the phone book and make it sound suitably heavy. Rounding things out was guitarist Louis Dambra( later joined by brother Joey on guitar for the 2nd album) and Jack Bruce influenced bassist Gary Justin, this was one of the best bands too many have never heard.

Discovered by manager Dee Anthony, who also helped launch the careers of Humble Pie, Free and Joe Cocker, a debut album mixed by Hendrix's right hand man Eddie Kramer, featuring the involvement of future Bruce Springsteen manager Mike Appel, who co-wrote and helped arrange all of the songs on their first LP, this is a band who deserved to be HUGE. So, why weren't they? Garner has blamed drugs, relatively low record sales and being ripped off monetarily as the factors in their eventual breakup, but it may be also that they were just ahead of their time.

Listen to "Lady Of Fire," from 'Kingdom Come' and you can hear where Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore snagged the riff to "Woman From Tokyo". The band was reportedly a huge influence on the fledgling KISS, namely Stanley and Simmons, who would regularly show up at their shows on Long Island. Add to the legend the fact that in a now legendary review of the first album in Creem Magazine, the first reference to "heavy metal" as a genre was used, all adding up to a story of a trio who while never getting their due in a commercial sense, one whose influence has spread throughout the years to mythic proportions.

Remarkably, some 30 years after the band's break-up, Garner and Louis Dambra have reunited to record and self-distribute a new album, 'Sir Lord Baltimore III Raw,' a slab of classic sludge metal true to the original sound. Over three decades may have passed, but the music contained on this release, the majority written back then, albeit a bit raw (hence the name) is classic proto metal. Produced by Garner, the six tracks on display here show conclusively that even after three decades, the man hasn't lost a step vocally. While contemporaries such as Gillan, Plant and Daltrey are showing their age, the vocals here are nothing short of revelatory. While recently recorded, they're vital enough to have been laid down thirty years ago. Joined on this trek by ex Firm bassist Tony Franklin, who contributed most of the bass parts, with guitarist Anthony Guido and bass player Sam Powell as guest musicians, this is a true trip to rock's heavy past.

Interview with John Garner of Sir Lord Baltimore :

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