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Articles Home » 1974 Articles » Elf - 1974 Carolina County Ball
Elf - 1974 Carolina County Ball

ALBUM: Carolina County Ball
LABEL: Purple Records
YEAR: 1974
CD REISSUE: 1991, Line (Germany), LICD 9.00115 0 * 2008, Airmail (Japan), AIRAC-1516


LINEUP: Ronnie Dio - vocals * Steve Edwards - guitar * Micky Lee Soule - keyboards, vocals * Craig Gruber - bass * Gary Discoll - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Carolina County Ball * 02 L.A 59 * 03 Ain't It All Amusing * 04 Happy * 05 Annie New Orleans * 06 Rocking Chair Rock N Roll Blues * 07 Rainbow * 08 Do The Same Thing * 09 Blanche

The first couple of Dio albums, being 'Holy Diver' and 'The Last In Line' will always be very special to me, especially while at school. Previously I had heard of our Ronnie only by listening to Rainbow compilations originally purchased due to the singles and became more and more attracted to the Ronnie vocal led tracks, which led to me buying the early Rainbow and Black Sabbath albums, even to the point of 'Butterfly Ball' for the excellent track 'Love Is All', where the animation film it came from appeared one morning on my little black and white TV, in the middle of me loading bootleg games on my ZX Spectrum computer. So obsessed was I of all things Dio, that I even went back to his early days with Elf. Of course, Elf music was nothing like the material I was used to, so it was very much a surprise what I heard coming from my record player. Yes, I was originally disappointed, your talking to someone who at the time wouldn't buy anything with the mention of keyboards, how times have changed. But I persevered, I was at school, and 6.99 was a lot of money to me at the time, so I was determined to listen to this for many hours until I got used to it and the style. I wonder, if I had brought it more recently, at a time when I buy too many CDs with auction sites making it easier to buy many at low prices would I have spent so much time and effect, probably not. Actually it must be a good 15 years, since I last played this, I even had to shift CD racks to get to this piece of vinyl, without managing to injure my back in the process or pulled muscles. After a stretch and breathing in my stomach, I managed to pull out this icon of 70's music. Originally released in 1974, it bears the time with its 70's cover. The lettering similar to that of football cards I used to collect, this is when Carlisle United graced the top of the league for a blink of an eye and you collected their star players, well 4 of them at least.

The Songs
'Carolina County Ball' begins proceedings with a combination of piano, trombone and trumpet and very reminiscent of a County Ball rather than a rock concert. Guitars take some time to break through, having a touch of Lynryrd Skynyrd. Vocals are still perfect backed up by lots of church style vocals. You can imagine my shock when I heard this boogie and blues fused mix for the first time.

'L.A 59'.. again the piano takes centre stage with gospel backing vocals, but does have more of a 'rock influence' than the title track. These guys were no first time amateurs, as Ronnie had been in various bands since 1957 and it shows. Perfect song to be performed in bars together with an upright piano. Vocals sounding very soulful, no yells, just power.

'Ain't It All Amusing', has that early 70's feel, a steam train beat throughout the song, it is a shame that Steve Edwards only has a couple of times to highlight his talent as his guitar breaks through. Sometimes it is a mix of hyperspeed Rolling Stones with a touch of The Doobie Brothers.

Side 1 ends with 'Happy', this is a very slow tune, with both Ronnie and Micky Lee Soule on vocals. The most blues tune I have ever heard from Ronnie. All the first side songs are very well arranged, due to the production by Roger Glover. As we head to the finish, it even sounds quite sorrowful, then the lyrics 'very happy' is annoyingly sang more times than Ronnie would mention 'Rainbow' in his whole career!

Side 2, opens similar to the title track with the uplifting 'Annie New Orleans' again with piano and it is the first time the drum beat comes to the fore, rather than being left in the background. Strong southern influenced guitar solo, another catchy track but next comes the potential life changing track.

'Rocking Chair Rock 'N' Roll Blues' is the pinnacle of this album and the best song in the short career of Elf. In the midst of time I was sure I had heard this performed by other artists, but never found any trace of this. The introduction, well it has just dawned on me, that may not be Ronnie singing the opening lines, but by the time you get to 'it's starting to rain', Ronnie's tones take over. The term 'pomp classic' may be an over used term, even in my own reviews, but I would add this to the list, not drenched in keyboards, I grant you but it is how the song develops. With the guitar riff and the 'heys' provided by Ronnie, the song turns the corner into 'rock', we may even be getting a 'devil's horns' hand gesture moment. I feel this song could still be performed today, the drum solo at the end has an influence which morphs into 'Rainbow'.

The following tracks never reach the quality and passion, incredibly the next track is called 'Rainbow', oh yes it is a mid tempo track with country and southern influences, however it tends to drag, especially with the chorus.

The Suzi Quatro mixed with glam introduction of 'Do The Same Thing' is a real classic bit of 70's fun. Roxy Music style piano, stomping classic with a crunching guitar solo, where did Steve Edwards go after this? Obviously he would had been too much potential competition as a rhythm guitarist for Ritchie to enlist in the first Rainbow line up.

'Blanche' a little song which contains the words 'rainy days' too many times and the reject button is speedily pressed.

In Summary
Elf were to continue long enough to release 'Trying To Burn the Sun', which I also picked up a couple of years later, and although more accessible, I probably didn't invest enough quality time for it to sink in, (this may be due to increased pocket money) but the song, 'Black Swampy Water' seems to have stayed in my memory. This appeared in 1975, before the fairy tale for Ronnie began, and he set sail with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, which after Ronnie's request, took the remaining Elf members, bar Steve Edwards (hardly surprising), before Ritchie dispensing, (pushed overboard?) with all but Ronnie to record the masterpiece 'Rising'. If Ronnie ever decides to take a break, most of us would be looking forward to a peaceful retirement when we reach our 60's, he couldn't go far wrong if he re-visited his early days, he could sit in his rocking chair to blast out the best track on the album. Even after 35 years the album still resonates lots of character and the talent of Ronnie is very much evident, in another 25 years it will be classed as an antique and be studied by experts rubbing their chins, amazed at the quality of songs and performances. It provided a clear message of the future expectations and greatness of what Ronnie was to achieve. As we much of history, we should not ignore it, in fact we should learn from it and Ronnie's contribution has been enormous, isn't it time he was inducted to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame?

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#1 | gdazegod on February 09 2009 01:21:16
Elf = dwarf + little + Dio.. secret
#2 | Eric on February 09 2009 01:54:39
These guys toured a lot, including a long stretch with Deep Purple which is where I'm sure Blackmore first heard Ronnie. Good southern rock that's often overlooked.
#3 | sabace on May 23 2010 14:55:00
decent enough lp! R I P RONNIE!
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