Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jeff Sturges and Universe

And now for something completely different! I have ripped and posted just about all of my postpunk rarities (i.e. out of print and not already served up on another blog), so for the time being I'm going to take a side journey into other odds and ends that fall outside of the stylistic tone of this blog to date. The first such oddity is the 1971 album by Jeff Sturges and Universe, a hard-rock big band recorded live at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Sturges is the arranger and conductor; the mammoth band he assembled comprised:
  • Trumpets: Bobby Shew (lead), Tommy Porrello, Jon Murakami, Rich Cooper, Derek Watkins
  • Trombones: Jim Trimble (lead), Bill Booth, Dan Trinter, Stan Nishamura (bass trombone)
  • Saxes: Archie Wheeler, Burt Esterman, Don Menza, John Phillips, Gary Freyman
  • French Horns: Art Maebe, Dick Perissi, Aubrey Bouck, Ralph Pollock
  • Lead Guitar: Dean Parks
  • Bass: Dennis Kelly, Don Baldwin
  • Organ, Electric Piano: Hal Stesch
  • Percussion: Roger Rampton
  • Congas, Bongos: Mike Lewis
  • Drums: Jimmy Manone

That's eighteen horns, mostly playing full blast; this record is anything but subtle. Apart from one Sturges original, all the tracks are covers, the most recognizable today being Mountain's "Mississippi Queen"; "bombastic" hardly begins to describe it. The full track list is:

  1. Junior Saw It Happen (Jim Pulte via the Steve Miller Band)
  2. Sin's a Good Man's Brother (Grand Funk Railroad)
  3. Never In My Life (Mountain)
  4. Clown (The Flock)
  5. Rice Pudding (Jeff Beck)
  6. Mississippi Queen (Mountain)
  7. Acid West (Sturges)
  8. Keep On Burnin' (credited to Ryan/Devers, Berwill Publishing... ???)

I can't find any information on whatever happened to Jeff Sturges after this, but if you like to rock out with horns turned up to eleven, he left a nice artifact for you to enjoy. My vinyl copy is in pretty sad shape, and while I did run a click removal on the whole recording, there is still noticeable surface noise. But for now it's the best (i.e. only) rip available, and hey, surface noise adds character! If someone puts up a better one, I will gladly redirect to that one. For now, get the vinyl rip here or here.


Anonymous said...

I was in the audience the day that this was recorded at one of the Las Vegas Strip Hotels (I forget which one)and I can tell you it was hot...and the album when it was released was quickly scooped up by me and my cut in particular, keep on burning, was treated used for a lascivious dance number by my then girlfriend

Fantod said...

Wow, that must have been a smokin' show, I love the album. How cool that you were there for the performance!

Dan said...

This albums cooks. Too bad it's not on CD

sptdfb said...

Sturges was a member of the One O'Clock Lab Band at North Texas State and went on to become musical director for Tom Jones. In fact, I think this was the Tom Jones band. The album was on Parrot in the U.S., which was Jones' U.S. record label. Sturges came back to Denton a year after this came out (alas, without Dean Parks) and did several of these numbers with the One O'Clock. Don't know what happened to him after that.

Anonymous said...

I bought this album when I was in high school. I still have it. It's great. He published one big band chart that I know of, but not off this album. (Aunt Tissy's Blues, which I also have.) If he did anything else puiblished or recorded, I don't know.

Francis said...

When I was about 13 or 14 I got Gilbert O'Sullivan's LP (Nothing Rhymed?) for a christmas present. There was oem sort of mix up and Geoff Sturges Universe was inside! A slightly different sound to say the least!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this relic, buddy. I never thougt i would find this!
I'm adding your amazing blog as a favourite.

David Miller said...

Hahaha Jeffery Sturges is my grandfather, he currently still conducts and writes all the music for engelbert humperdink, has since 1974. If anyone would like anymore information post another comment and ill ask my grandpa the questions have a good day in this universe!

Rich said...

This is excellent man! I am formulating an orchestral hard rock compilation for my blog and I have only found one other outfit as perfect for it as this. That is CCS: who are famous for blazing big band Zeppelin covers. You may also be interested in the UK album by Heaven which was a Brass/Hard rock combination:

There's a few more finds I could show you, let me know on my blog if you like. Thanks again for Jeff Sturges!!

Fantod said...

Rich, I dig CCS as well, and would have ripped that one for the blog but it was already on offer elsewhere. No sense in duplicating efforts! I am definitely interested in hearing more hard rock/big band stuff--will check out your blog. Thanks for the note!


Fantod said...

David, wow, nice to hear from Jeff Sturges' grandson! Based on the strength of this album, I guess I should really check out some Engelbert Humperdinck material.

On a related note, I saw Bryan Ferry on his 2002 tour, and he had a guitarist I didn't recognize who positively kicked ass. Turned out he was Mick Green, who was in Johnny Kidd & the Pirates in the 60s, and had been with Humperdinck for the last 25 years or so. He was amazing, and totally made up for the absence of Phil Manzanera. So I guess my question is, does Humperdinck actually rock?


David Miller said...

Fantod, Engelbert is more of a love singer with orchestras, My grandfather is still full force with music! He is teaching me his ways haha!

Ralph Pollock said...

This is a real find for me. I downloaded the album, it's way better than my vinyl. I played on this album, Ralph Pollock, French Horn.

I can't begin to talk about this!

Ralph Pollock said...

Perhaps you could tell Jeff hello from me. I would really like to talk with him after all these years.

Ralph Pollock

Fantod said...

Rich from one of the comments above has made good on his promise of a brass-rock compilation; if you like this album, don't miss Rich's comp at:

Anonymous said...

Any chance for a re-post of Jeff Sturges and Universe "Live"? Both the Rapidshare and Mediafire links are dead. Thanks.

Damian said...


Also hoping you'll post a new download of Jeff Sturges and Universe "Live".

Did you keep the wav/flac files?


daveedwards said...

I was a member of the Granada High Jazz Ensemble in Livermore, CA and I remember playing "Acid West" frequently. Don't know if it was an "official" chart, but this brought back a lot of great memories.

Dale S. said...

David, I met your grandpa in March 1972 when myself and some friends went to Vegas to visit Bobby Shed and his then wife Lisa. We were high school jazz band students at Golden HS in Golden Colorado. Bobby had clinic / concert with us in Golden at the invite of our director Ernie Kazmier. We visited Bobby in Vegas,met your grandpa, practiced with Universe at an afternoon session (sat in with them). Got to watch the Tom Jones show from the wings one night, after your told a pissy TJ that if we couldn't stay for the show, he and the band walk. Jones didn't want us there. Your grandpa won out. We caught the show. TJ was great entertainer but a real prick at the time. Went to your grandpa's home the next day with Bobby and hung out for half a day. Lot more stories from that weekend. Quite an incredible weekend for six high school kids from Golden. Universe also did another single if not an album called San Antonio, I believe. Had a 45 of the title song a long time ago. Does he have any of those old recordings? And how the heck is he doing these days?

Anonymous said...

could you please repost this, possibly in alac, it will have to do until they release this great record on cd

Anonymous said...

As the previous commenter pointed out, both of the links are down. Any possibility of reposting?

propylaen2001 said...

Sadly still not available anywhere else!
Could you please repost this tiny oddity?
Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

have the lp and wishing to sell it (it's MINT)
was hoping to find a hires rip...but here's a working link to .mp3