quinta-feira, 25 de maio de 2017

John Hanlon - Floating 1973

This was John’s very first album. Many of the songs were short and catchy and more like folk music. Some are quite beautiful. While it demonstrates his potential as a songwriter, both John and Mike Harvey the arranger/producer were clearly still learning the ropes with this album. Their best was yet to come. Thanks B.!

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Alex Bevan - No Truth To Sell 1971

Bevan began his musical career playing the French horn with his teacher Ruffier at Chambers Elementary School. In 1965, while at Shaw High School in East Cleveland, he acquired a six-string classical guitar. He played local night clubs and various coffeehouses in the Cleveland area such as "La Cave" and "Faragher’s Back Room". His first position in a group was as a backup musician with Irish folk singers Gusty & Sean at Fagan's Beacon House in the Flats of Cleveland, Ohio. While a student at the University of Akron, Bevan was introduced to his first producer, Eric Stevens, who signed him to Big Tree Records. His first album, No Truth to Sell, was released with the single "Linda’s Song", which got some airplay. Between 1971 and 1976, Bevan performed as an opening act for such headliners as the Earl Scruggs Review, Pure Prairie League, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Livingston Taylor, Billy Joel and others. Thanks to B.!

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sexta-feira, 12 de maio de 2017

The Steve Miller Band - Sailor 1968

Most definitely a part of the late-'60s West Coast psychedelic blues revolution that was becoming hipper than hip, Steve Miller was also always acutely aware of both the British psychedelic movement that was swirling in tandem and of where the future lay, and how that would evolve into something even more remarkable. The result of all those ideas, of course, came together on 1968's magnificent Sailor LP. What was begun on Children of the Future is more fully realized on Sailor, most notably on the opening "Song for Our Ancestors," which begins with a foghorn and only gets stranger from there. Indeed, the song precognizes Pink Floyd's 1971 opus "Echoes" to such an extent that one wonders how much the latter enjoyed Miller's own wild ride. Elsewhere, the beautiful, slow "Dear Mary" positively shimmers in a haze of declared love, while the heavy drumbeats and rock riffing guitar of "Living in the U.S.A." are a powerful reminder that the Steve Miller Band, no matter what other paths they meandered down, could rock out with the best of them. And, of course, this is the LP that introduced many to the Johnny "Guitar" Watson classic "Gangster of Love," a song that would become almost wholly Miller's own, giving the fans an alter ego to caress long before "The Joker" arose to show his hand. Rounding out Miller's love of the blues is an excellent rendering of Jimmy Reed's "You're So Fine." At their blues-loving best, Sailor is a classic Miller recording and a must-have -- especially for the more contemporary fan, where it becomes an initiation into a past of mythic proportion AMG. 

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The Pretty Things - Parachute 1970

If S.F. Sorrow is the Pretty Things' Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and Yellow Submarine wrapped in one, then Parachute is their more succinct White Album and Abbey Road. It's not just a time line comparison. The Pretties made this fascinating LP in the same studio as the Fab Four, London's Abbey Road, with Beatles engineer Norman Smith producing. "The Good Mr. Square" replicates the three-part harmony the Beatles were so proud of on "Because." Two songs later, the group assembles a brief, interconnected three-song suite like the famous ones on side two of Abbey Road. Bassist Wally Allen's vocals on tracks such as "Sickle Clowns" have the same throaty, mad anguish that John Lennon exhibited on "Yer Blues" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." If S.F. Sorrow is hard rock grandeur, then Parachute is its more bitter twist, the dream dying and the witching hour upon us. Yet, if this isn't as much of a triumph, the creative neurons are still firing throughout a multi-varied, cohesive LP. Like S.F. Sorrow, it's a surprisingly palatable concept LP. This time the topic is a generation caught between the conflicting calls of (rural) peace, love, and boredom, and (urban) sophistication, sex, and squalor in a harsh world. Somehow the departure of the band's main creative force, Dick Taylor, didn't diminish the writing and inspired variety. Allen stepped up big time into the collaborator role with singer Phil May. The harmonies remain a strong point on an otherwise rock-inclined record, and the nasty edge of perfectly balanced bombast in the best songs have been a lost art ever since. (There are 18 minutes of good stuff tacked on the Snapper edition, taken from singles.) AMG.

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Sly & The Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On 1971

It's easy to write off There's a Riot Goin' On as one of two things -- Sly Stone's disgusted social commentary or the beginning of his slow descent into addiction. It's both of these things, of course, but pigeonholing it as either winds up dismissing the album as a whole, since it is so bloody hard to categorize. What's certain is that Riot is unlike any of Sly & the Family Stone's other albums, stripped of the effervescence that flowed through even such politically aware records as Stand! This is idealism soured, as hope is slowly replaced by cynicism, joy by skepticism, enthusiasm by weariness, sex by pornography, thrills by narcotics. Joy isn't entirely gone -- it creeps through the cracks every once and awhile and, more disturbing, Sly revels in his stoned decadence. What makes Riot so remarkable is that it's hard not to get drawn in with him, as you're seduced by the narcotic grooves, seductive vocals slurs, leering electric pianos, and crawling guitars. As the themes surface, it's hard not to nod in agreement, but it's a junkie nod, induced by the comforting coma of the music. And damn if this music isn't funk at its deepest and most impenetrable -- this is dense music, nearly impenetrable, but not from its deep grooves, but its utter weariness. Sly's songwriting remains remarkably sharp, but only when he wants to write -- the foreboding opener "Luv N' Haight," the scarily resigned "Family Affair," the cracked cynical blues "Time," and "(You Caught Me) Smilin'." Ultimately, the music is the message, and while it's dark music, it's not alienating -- it's seductive despair, and that's the scariest thing about it. AMG.

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Sandy Hurvitz - Sandy's Album is Here at Last 1968

The teenage Hurvitz, prior to becoming Essra Mohawk, made this hit and miss recording for Frank Zappa's Bizarre label. Zappa was the project's original producer, before various disagreements saw him replaced by Ian Underwood. The results suggest that Underwood was narcoleptic, or a perpetual absentee -- it's hard to credit his input with a title so lofty as producer. Hurvitz's songs -- long, formless, intense creations -- may in all likelihood be of the very finest, but it's impossible to tell. All the cuts seem to have been recorded through a dense, woolen sock, and each is nearly impenetrable as a result. Apart from the occasional intrusion of a small band, and a flautist, it's essentially a solo recital -- just Hurvitz and her piano -- but even the songs most bare of instrumentation are clouded and marred by the rotten production job, which also succeeds in making Hurvitz' lyrics completely unintelligible. The song titles -- "Arch Godliness of Purplefull Magic," "Tree of Trees," and "The Sun" -- point towards a bright, sparkling imagination, but the sound quality of Sandy's Album means that even that cannot be verified. AMG. 

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Jeff Beck - Truth 1968

Despite being the premiere of heavy metal, Jeff Beck's Truth has never quite carried its reputation the way the early albums by Led Zeppelin did, or even Cream's two most popular LPs, mostly as a result of the erratic nature of the guitarist's subsequent work. Time has muted some of its daring, radical nature, elements of which were appropriated by practically every metal band (and most arena rock bands) that followed. Truth was almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first BeatlesRolling Stones, or Who albums. Its attributes weren't all new -- Cream and Jimi Hendrix had been moving in similar directions -- but the combination was: the wailing, heart-stoppingly dramatic vocalizing by Rod Stewart, the thunderous rhythm section of Ron Wood's bass and Mickey Waller's drums, and Beck's blistering lead guitar, which sounds like his amp is turned up to 13 and ready to short out. Beck opens the proceedings in a strikingly bold manner, using his old Yardbirds hit "Shapes of Things" as a jumping-off point, deliberately rebuilding the song from the ground up so it sounds closer to Howlin' Wolf. There are lots of unexpected moments on this record: a bone-pounding version of Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me"; a version of Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man River" done as a slow electric blues; a brief plunge into folk territory with a solo acoustic guitar version of "Greensleeves" (which was intended as filler but audiences loved); the progressive blues of "Beck's Bolero"; the extended live "Blues Deluxe"; and "I Ain't Superstitious," a blazing reworking of another Willie Dixon song. It was a triumph -- a number 15 album in America, astoundingly good for a band that had been utterly unknown in the U.S. just six months earlier -- and a very improbable success. AMG.

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Caravan - Waterloo Lily 1972

Before the recording of Waterloo LilyDavid Sinclair departed Caravan to join forces with Soft Machine skinsman Robert Wyatt and form Matching Mole. With the subsequent arrival of former Delivery member Steve Miller and an overwhelming jazz influence, the edgier progressive rock and folk elements that were so prevalent on their previous albums are somewhat repressed. The band's performance level did not suffer in the transition. In fact, the addition of Miller only punctuates Caravan's previously honed improvisational skills. Beginning with Waterloo Lily's leadoff title track, there is a sound more akin to the jazzier efforts of TrafficMiller's "Nothing at All" incorporates the jazz fusion even further as the long instrumental introduction more than hints at Steely Dan circa Katy Lied. The up-tempo staccato bop featuring Miller's electric piano accents, when juxtaposed with Pye Hastings' liquid-toned electric guitar could easily be mistaken for that of Walter Becker and Donald Fagan. The remainder of the album centers on a couple of pieces that evoke the sound and spirit of the previous Caravan outings. Most reminiscent of the classic sound is Hastings' epic "The Love in Your Eye" suite. The track recalls the laid-back intensity and phenomenal improvisational synergy of earlier tracks such as "For Richard" and "Where, but for Caravan Would I," while wisely incorporating Miller's formidable jazz chops to give the instrumental sections sustained substance throughout. The remastered CD offers three additional compositions circa the Waterloo Lily sessions. "Pye's June Thing" and "Ferdinand" are two of Hastings' acoustic demos. A considerably more complete "Looking Left, Looking Right" is a treasured recovery from the vaults. Originally vaulted due to the time limitations of vinyl, this track, along with "Pye's Loop" -- which acts as a coda to "Looking Left..." -- mark their debut release here. AMG.

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Savoy Brown - Looking In 1970

Savoy Brown's blues-rock sound takes on a much more defined feel on 1970's Looking In and is one of this band's best efforts. Kim Simmonds is utterly bewildering on guitar, while Lonesome Dave Peverett does a fine job taking over lead singing duties from Chris Youlden who left halfway through the year. But it's the captivating arrangements and alluring ease of the music that makes this a superb listen. The pleading strain transformed through Simmonds' guitar on "Money Can't Save Your Soul" is mud-thick with raw blues, and the comfort of "Sunday Night" is extremely smooth and laid back. "Take It Easy" sounds like it could have been a B.B. King tune as it's doused with relaxed guitar fingering. The entire album is saturated with a simple, British blues sound but the pace and the marbled strands of bubbly instrumental perkiness fill it with life. Even the Yardbirds-flavored "Leaving Again" is appealing with its naïve hooks, capped off with a heart-stopping guitar solo. This album along with Street Corner Talking best exemplify Savoy Brown's tranquilizing style. AMG.

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Carter Jefferson - The Rise Of Atlantis 1978

Tenor saxophonist Carter Jefferson made somewhat of a name for himself when trumpeter Woody Shaw chose him as a member of his first working quintet. Shaw is the producer of this album,Jefferson's fine debut (and evidently only) recording as a leader. Taking a cue from Shaw, the saxophonist sticks essentially to a quintet of trumpet and sax backed by all-star rhythm sections. Three of the tracks include hard bop trumpeter Terumasa Hino while the other three feature little-known Japanese trumpeter Shunzo Ono. Most of the tunes are firmly in the school of hard bop, the sort of music that Woody Shaw played so well. While there is not any new ground broken, it is all performed competently enough. While not as emotionally charged as his work with ShawJefferson impresses with a fluid, mobile attack that shows a solid grasp of his material. If the groups seem to be sometimes merely going through the motions, there are nonetheless enough fine moments to make this a worthwhile purchase. AMG.

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The Strawbs - Strawbs 1969

The Strawbs had done an album with Sandy Denny handling many of the vocals, and had also done quite a bit of unreleased recordings (now on the double CD Preserves Uncanned) prior to 1969's Strawbs. This is still their first proper album, but their wealth of prior live and studio experience most likely helped make it sound more confident and fully formed than many a debut effort. The group distinguished itself among the burgeoning school of British folk-rockers by delivering bittersweet folk-rock with a storytelling flavor. Dave Cousins' songwriting was on the sober and occasionally over-earnest side, but nonetheless the record was strong and alluring enough to immediately establish the Strawbs as one of the better first-generation U.K. folk-rock outfits. Some of these songs had been around for a while, as the presence of some of them on Preserves Uncanned and Sandy Denny & the Strawbs attests. However, the group took big strides from bare-bones folk-rock in the studio by dressing these in arrangements -- sometimes with light recorder, choral backup vocals, and orchestration -- that gave the Elizabethan melodies a pastoral, quasi-classical feel at times, without losing sight of an acoustic base. "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" and "Where Is This Dream of Your Youth" are among their best and most ambitious songs, and even if the compositions can sometimes take themselves too seriously, the music's never less than respectable. AMG.

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sábado, 29 de abril de 2017

John Mayall - Looking Back 1969

Reasonably interesting collection of non-LP singles from 1964 to 1968, featuring almost all of the notable musicians that passed through the Bluesbreakers throughout the decade. "Sitting in the Rain" (with Peter Green) showcases fine fingerpicking, the haunting "Jenny" is one of Mayall's best originals, and "Stormy Monday" is one of the few cuts from 1966 that briefly featured both Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. AMG.

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Caetano Veloso - Araçá Azul 1972

Araçá Azul marks the end of Caetano Veloso's pop- and rock-oriented phase made up by his previous four studio albums. Araçá Azul is also the most experimental and "difficult" album that Veloso has ever made, and it bears few similarities to his earlier recordings. Many people who bought the album when it was newly released had expected it to be a natural and similar follow-up to 1972's Transa. After having listened to it, many of people got so disappointed with Araçá Azul that they actually went back to the stores where they had bought it and demanded a refund. On the other hand, Araçá Azul was very much acclaimed by critics. Typical tracks on the album are the fascinating "De Conversa," which doesn't have a melody or real lyrics, and the playful "Gilberto Misterioso." Another good track is the psychedelic, almost punk-styled "Eu Quero Essa Mulher." There is also the delicate and beautiful "Júla/Moreno" and the equally beautiful "Tu Me Acostumbraste," with lyrics in Spanish. These last two songs perhaps give a hint of what Veloso would soon produce on '70s masterpieces like JóiaBicho, and Cinema Transcendental. As a whole, though, this album, with all its experimentalism and sound effects, probably isn't something that one would put on while having friends visit, but for a fan of experimental music or for someone in the right mood, it's a very good record. AMG.

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Affinity - Affinity 1970

The self-titled album by the short-lived outfit Affinity displays a lot of potential, which if not wholly successful has an individuality separating them from their more jazzy and progressive peers. If Linda Hoyle's talent for fusing the vocal traits of Bessie SmithGrace Slick, and Sandy Denny together semi-successfully is the defining point, then Lynton Naiff's pounding Hammond workouts fall somewhere between the exceptional and the overdone. With the addition of John Paul Jones' fine brass arrangements, which are to the fore throughout, a very soulful feel reminiscent of the latter work of Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll & the Trinity is created. And the album's variety of moods sustains interest throughout. "Coconut Grove" (the Lovin' Spoonful song) is given a similar slow treatment to Donovan's diversions into jazz on Sunshine Superman, notably "The Observation," while a heavier element is supplied by a few heavy Hammond numbers, with a take on Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" being the most impressive. Although over 11 minutes long, some complex progressive organ work similar to Caravan's David Sinclair is displayed, preventing it from becoming predictable. A forlorn baroque Harpsichord interpretation of the Everly Brothers' "I Wonder if I Care as Much" adds a haunting quality to the set with Jones' string arrangements and Hoyle's vocals working hand in hand, and "Mr. Joy" allows the young singer to pay patronage to her heroine, Grace Slick, in which the Jefferson Airplane comparisons can really be heard. At times overambitious. And a plethora of cover versions given the progressive treatment instead of Affinity originals is a major letdown. But as an early work of post-'60s progression, this album is a pleasurable experience recalling the days when musicians and singers really worked hard at what they did. AMG.

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Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum 1968

Rock & roll had grown louder and wilder by leaps and bounds during the '60s, but when Blue Cheer emerged from San Francisco onto the national rock scene in 1968 with their debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, they crossed a line which most musicians and fans hadn't even thought to draw yet. Vincebus Eruptum sounds monolithically loud and primal today, but it must have seemed like some sort of frontal assault upon first release; Blue Cheer are often cited as the first genuine heavy metal band, but that in itself doesn't quite sum up the true impact of this music, which even at a low volume sounds crushingly forceful. Though Blue Cheer's songs were primarily rooted in the blues, what set them apart from blues-rock progenitors such as the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds was the massive physical force of their musical attack. Jimi Hendrixthe Who, and the MC5 may have anticipated the sound and fury of this music, but Blue Cheer's secret was not just being louder than anyone else, but staying simple enough to give each member the space to do damage both as individuals and as a group. Paul Whaley's drumming combined a crashing dustbin tone with a constant, rolling pummel that suggested Ginger Baker with less finesse and more bludgeoning velocity. Dickie Peterson's basslines were as thick as tar and bubbled like primordial ooze as he bellowed out his lyrics with a fire and attitude that compensated for his lack of vocal range. And guitarist Leigh Stephens may have been the first genius of noise rock; Lester Bangs once wrote that Stephens' "sub-sub-sub-sub-Hendrix guitar overdubs stumbled around each other so ineptly they verged on a truly bracing atonality," and though that doesn't sound like a compliment, the lumbering chaos of his roaring, feedback-laden leads birthed a more glorious monster than many more skillful players could conjure. Put them together, and Blue Cheer's primal din was an ideal corrective for anyone who wondered if full-on rock & roll was going to have a place in the psychedelic revolution. From the opening rampage through Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" (which miraculously became a hit single), to the final one-two punch of "Parchment Farm" and "Second Time Around," Vincebus Eruptum is a glorious celebration of rock & roll primitivism run through enough Marshall amps to deafen an army; only a few of Blue Cheer's peers could come up with anything remotely this heavy (the MC5's Kick Out the Jams and side two of the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat were its closest rivals back in the day), and no one could summon so much thunder with just three people. If you want to wake the neighbors, this is still the album to get, and it was Blue Cheer's simplest and most forceful musical statement. AMG.

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