Last September, SPV Records released a killer double disc set of by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen recorded in 1973 and '75 at the Armadillo World Headquarters and at the Capitol Theater respectively. The former recording contained what was missing from the record company hatchet job officially released as a live album from '74.

The latter show was previously unreleased. Apparently, SPV's Blue label, along with the band’s lead vocalist Billy C. Farlow, were just whetting our appetites. On January 15, 2008, they are releasing a double disc of the earliest recorded material from Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and another killer double set of recordings by the Billy C. Farlow and his pre-Lost Planet Airmen band, the Sunshine.

blog image 1Entitled Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: The Early Years, 1967-1970, the set collects 35 previously unreleased cuts from the units in its infancy and at the very beginning of their ascent to becoming a legend. There are demos from 1968, live radio sessions from the venerable WCBN on the University of Michigan campus in 1969, and cuts from live shows at the Fillmore West (’69), Family Dog Reggie's Garage Studio, and the Longbranch Saloon in Berkeley in '70, as well as an Oakland rehearsal tape from the same year. This is the band at their rawest, working out original material that became staples like “Semi-Truck,” “Lost in the Ozone,” and “What’s the Matter Now,” as well as covers of tracks which would make them all but a household name: “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Lookin’ at the World Through a Windshield,” and “Midnight Shift.” See a complete tracklist here.

blog image 2Farlow’s tapes are perhaps intentionally misnamed. The first disc in this collection includes his three earliest recordings that date from 1964 and 1965 playing solo. The quality of this trio of tracks is a bit dodgy, but it’s obvious that this kid who was raised in Texas, Alabama, and Indiana and landed in Detroit of all places, had a heady musical brew in his possession. Beginning on track four in ‘65, the story changes: Billy C.’s fronting the Sunshine, perhaps the only white blues band in the Motor City who could cut the mustard in the clubs playing a mix of fine originals and covers. These recordings take up all of disc one, and end in 1968 at the Chessmate after Billy had already made a commitment to front the Lost Planet Airmen and convinced his drummer, the late Lance Dickerson, to join. Disc two begins in the post-Commander Cody years, with Billy C. and his reformed Sunshine playing at Cosmo’s Factory with the Creedence Clearwater rhythm section of Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, in addition to his touring band. The sound changed to encompass the wild roots eclecticism of the Airmen. Later selections feature the great bluesman Sam Lay on drums. These recordings are all previously unreleased and are far better than missing links -- they are untold aural chapter in the enigmatic Billy C. Farlow’s story. Combined, these sets make an interesting soundtrack to Farlow’s forthcoming autobiography, Too Much Fun: A Life in Music & Mayhem. Here's a complete tracklist.