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Velvert Turner Group - Velvert Group Turner
 

Velvert Turner Group - Velvert Group Turner

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Title:  The Velvert Turner Group
Company: Philips
Catalog: FPS 2704
Year: 1972
Country/State: Brooklyn, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

So after years of obscurity, in death Velvert (not Velvet - note the 'r' in his name) Turner starts to achieve a measure of fame and recognition ... Same old story about life as an artist - nobody gives you the time of day when you're alive. The minute you pass, suddenly everyone wants a piece of your memory. It doesn't make a great deal of sense to me .... It really is kind of funny in a sad fashion ...

When I stumbled on to Velvert Turner's album about five years ago there literally wasn't anything on the web about Turner. What little there was tended to be inaccurate, or simply outright wrong. There's now quite a bit more material, but the same cautions are true - much of that information is wrong.  

Anyhow, having found a cheap copy of Turner's album, I figured I'd give another spin and update my original comments.

The late Velvert Turner was definitely an interesting guy. For what it's worth, here's a copy of Turner's obituary in the New York Times:

"A noted musician and former understudy of Jimi Hendrix, passed away on the morning of December 11, 2000, at his home in Brooklyn, New York. Velvert was born October 12, 1951, and is survived by his mother, Helen Harris. Mr. Turner was an accomplished guitarist who crossed paths with Jimi Hendrix as a young teenager growing up in New York City in 1966. He was befriended by Hendrix, who recognized the young scholar's passion for the electric guitar. The legendary guitarist served as a mentor to Mr. Turner, offering both guitar instruction and professional advice to the young musician. Following Hendrix's death in September, 1970, Mr. Turner pursued his own musical career, forming the Velvert Turner Group with Prescott Niles and Tim McGovern. He continued to tour and record for almost two decades. In recent years, Mr. Turner was employed by Samaritan Village in Brooklyn, New York. His efforts on behalf of those struggling with substance abuse made a significant difference in the lives of countless people."

So today Turner's best known for three things. 1.) His 'relationship' with Jimi Hendrix - depending who you listen to they were close friends, Hendrix having taught a school aged Turner how to play guitar in the mid-1960s, 2.) His Hendrix-inspired guitar tutorials (which you can still find on-line), and 3.) The fact his sole album was re-issued by Morris Levy's infamous Tiger Lily tax scam label. 



The first of these characteristics is controversial. Turner's friends and co-workers, including Velvert Turner Band band mates Prescott Niles and Chris Robinson insist that Turner and Hendrix were close friends. Not that it sheds much light into the relationship, but Turner was himself interviewed for 'The Making of Electric Ladyland' though he only shows up briefly and his recollections don't seem to jive with what other people have to say. At the other end of the spectrum there are Hendrix loyalists who have a somewhat different view of the relationship. I don't have a horse in the race so my advice would be to read what Turner band mates Niles and Robinson have to say on the subject. 

As for his second claim to fame - I don't play guitar, but my older son does and he's told me Turner's tutorial isn't bad, though he only handles the narrative; a guy by the name of Andy Aledolt actually played the guitar. 

Luckily, I own 1972's "The Velvert Turner Band' LP and I'm more than willing to talk about it. Those of you who know something about this outfit will undoubtedly want to know where this is the psych guitar version, or the soul version of the album - it's the psych guitar mix. Self-produced, the album is one of the best Hendrix influenced LPs I've heard. Mind you, there's precious little here that's particularly original, but judging by tracks such as 'Madonna (Of the Seven Moons)', 'Talking About My Baby' and 'Three O'Clock Train' Turner must have been a fairly gifted student. He clearly had Hendrix's vocal mannerisms nailed and he has some of Hendrix's guitar moves down pat (just check out the ballad '(Love Rides ...) The Slow Swirling Seas' or his cover of Hendrix's 'Freedom'). The backing from drummer Time McGovern, bassist Prescott Niles, keyboardist Christopher Robinson, and a handful of guests was consistently tight and enthusiastic. McGovern, Niles and Robinson also kicked in a couple of songs with tracks such as 'Country Chicken', 'Strangely Neww' (sic) and 'Scarlet Warrior' adding a nice touch of musical diversity to the mix. Normally I'm not that thrilled by Hendrix-wannabes (Frank Marino, Robin Trower, etc.), but this one is simply goofy enough to make the cut. Even the clunky numbers were worth hearing - check out the children's chorus on 'Scarlet Warrior'. It somehow managed to salvage Turner's out of tune lead vocals ... beats me how it worked.

- 'Madonna (Of the Seven Moons)' was a perfect example of the album's strengths and weaknesses. The track simply dripped with Hendrix influences including Turner's vocals, the wah-wah guitar that kicked in at the end of the track, the song's overall structure, the hippy-dippy subject matter, etc. An up-tempo rocker with some likeable give and take vocals, this happened to be one of the album's stronger performances. **** stars
- 'Talking About My Baby' was a mid-tempo number that sounded like second tier Hendrix. To my ears the highlights were the start-and-stop chorus and Niles' rumbling bass line. ** stars
- Penned and presumably sung by Robinson, 'Country Chicken' sported a country-rock flavored feel. Normally that wouldn't have done a great deal for me, but it a decent melody (love the backing harmony vocals) and it made for a nice change of pace. *** stars
- Kicked along by some Robinson barrelhouse piano, 'Strangely Neww' was a strange effort, if only due to the fact the group chose to sing the song employing an extremely high and uncomfortable falsetto. Turner's fuzz guitar and Niles hyperactive bass kicked in at the end of the song, but it was too little, too late. ** stars
- Up to this point Turner's vocals had been quite good, but on the martial 'Scarlet Warrior' you were left to wonder whether he'd be able to make it through the song. Whatever range and flexibility he'd displayed on the earlier performances was completely absent here, replaced by an irritating children's chorus and a frog-like croak. Hideous. ** stars
- 'Three O'Clock Train' started side two with another Hendrix-styled rocker. Like 'Madonna (Of the Seven Moons)' this one was sheet imitation without any attempt to modify r improve on the source material. That said, it wasn't half bad when you remember imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Needless piece of trivia, but this one was erroneously attributed to Hendrix on numerous bootlegs. *** stars
- 'Just Look and See' had a bluesy-base, but suffered from a Broadway-esque feel; this may sound stupid but it actually sounded like it was lifted from the Sharks and Jets fight scene in West Side Story ... rating: ** stars
- Perhaps my second favorite performance, ''Xcuse Me, Gentlemen (The Fall of Atlantis' had a vocal that bore an uncanny resemblance to Hendrix, and an amazing Niles bass pattern. Great song. **** stars
- '(Love Rides ...) The Slow Swirling Seas' was a pretty painful listening experience. The song actually sounded like a bluesy demo piece that had never really been finished, rather had female backing singers and various studio effects slapped on top of it. ** stars
- Maybe because it was the lone Hendrix original. 'Freedom' gets my nod for the standout performance. Again, the song bares an uncanny resemblance to Hendrix himself which may be off-putting to some folks.

"Velvert Turner Group" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Madonna (Of the Seven Moons) (Velvert Turner) - 3:35
2.) Talking About My Baby (Velvert Turner) - 4:00
3.) Country Chicken (Christopher Robinson) - 2:56
4.) Strangely Neww (Prescott Niles - Christopher Robinson) - 6:05
5.) Scarlet Warrior (Prescott Niles - Tim McGovern) - 3:32

(side 2)
1.) Three O'Clock Train (Velvert Turner) - 5:05
2.) Just Look and See (Prescott Niles - Velvert Turner) - 4:15
3.) 'Xcuse Me, Gentlemen (The Fall of Atlantis) (Velvert Turner) - 4:32
4.) (Love Rides ...) The Slow Swirling Seas (Velvert Turner) - 3:50
5.) Freedom (Jimi Hendrix) - 6:17

Back to the earlier tidbit about the two versions of the album - the only way you can tell the difference is to look at the matrix numbers. Matrix #16741 is the rock version, sporting an overdubbed second guitar. Matrix #16951 is the soul version and lacks the overdubbed guitar. Both versions are supposedly worth owning.
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