sexta-feira, 24 de junho de 2022

Fela Kuti - Shakara 1972

Fela Kuti was often described as "the James Brown of Africa," but one could also argue that he was Africa's equivalent of Miles Davis or John Coltrane. Truth be told, either description is valid. Kuti was highly eclectic, and his innovative, visionary music contained elements of funk/soul, jazz, and blues, as well as African music. That eclectic spirit proves to be a major asset on Shakara, which consists of two 13-minute performances by Kuti's Africa 70 band: "Lady" and "Shakara (Oloie)." Performed in English, "Lady" finds Kuti criticizing modern African women in a humorous way for becoming what he sees as overly westernized and embracing a western view of feminism. You might agree or disagree with the song's viewpoint, but the groove and the beat are irresistible. Equally addictive -- and equally sarcastic -- is "Shakara (Oloje)," which is sung in both Yoruba and English and makes fun of the type of pompous, loud-mouthed braggarts who can never make good on their empty boasts. AMG.

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John Uzonyi's Peacepipe - Peacepipe 1970

Peacepipe were the brainchild of guitarist John Uzonyi. They were a power trio that played Southern California and Arizona in the late '60s. They released a single during their existence, and also cut this album, which remained unreleased until the mid-'90s. Originally released on Rockadelic on vinyl only, Shadoks has now reissued it on compact disc, remastered from the original tapes. If you're into heavy psych guitar, you really need to hear this album. Uzonyi has a monstrous tone on guitar, similar at times to Jimi Hendrix's feedback dive-bombing, but the two have very different playing styles. Uzonyi is aided by drummer Gary Tsuruda and keyboard player Rick Abts, but the show belongs to Uzonyi. There are at least two guitars present most of the time, Uzonyi is the singer, and he most likely plays the bass tracks as well. The material ranges from superheavy guitar insanity to more poppy material. To be honest, Uzonyi's lyrics and vocals are nothing to write home about (especially the awful lyrics to "Angel of Love"), but his guitar playing saves the day. There's no studio trickery to speak of (except for the weird tremolo vocals on the last track), although engineer Eirik Wangberg did a masterful job of capturing what Uzonyi was trying to do, and came up with a great, dynamic mix and fun stereo panning effects. The album sounds of its day, but some of the guitar playing still sounds inventive. Shadoks specializes in releasing unknown, obscure material, and they've dug up a great one here. AMG.

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Krokodil - Krokodil 1969

Debut album for Psychedelic Rock/ Blues Rock/ Hard Rock/ Prog Rock Swiss group. Give it a listen.

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Max Roach, Archie Shepp - Force; Sweet Mao - Suid Afrika '76 1976

Max Roach with Archie Shepp (sax) duets. Extended pieces from two virtuosos. Quintessential. AMG.

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Faust - Faust IV 1973

Coming on the heels of the cut-and-paste sound-collage schizophrenia of The Faust Tapes, Faust IV seems relatively subdued and conventional, though it's still a far cry from what anyone outside the German avant-garde rock scene was doing. The album's disparate threads don't quite jell into something larger (as in the past), but there's still much to recommend it. The nearly 12-minute electro-acoustic opener "Krautrock" is sometimes viewed as a comment on Faust's droning, long-winded contemporaries, albeit one that would lose its point by following the same conventions. There are a couple of oddball pop numbers that capture the group's surreal sense of whimsy: one, "The Sad Skinhead," through its reggae-ish beat, and another, "It's a Bit of a Pain," by interrupting a pastoral acoustic guitar number with the most obnoxious synth noises the band can conjure. Aside from "Krautrock," there is a trend toward shorter track lengths and more vocals, but there are still some unpredictably sudden shifts in the instrumental pieces, even though it only occasionally feels like an idea is being interrupted at random (quite unlike The Faust Tapes). There are several beat-less, mostly electronic soundscapes full of fluttering, blooping synth effects, as well as plenty of the group's trademark Velvet Underground-inspired guitar primitivism, and even a Frank Zappa-esque jazz-rock passage. Overall, Faust IV comes off as more a series of not-always-related experiments, but there are more than enough intriguing moments to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, it would be the last album the group recorded (at least in its first go-round). AMG.

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Mother Earth - Satisfied 1970

By the time of Satisfied, Mother Earth had become pretty much a vehicle for Tracy Nelson plus backing band. There's just one original on this set, Nelson's "Andy Song," and the album sticks to a loose but R&B-focused groove, sometimes stretching the songs out in a fashion that probably would have been more tightly edited had such an approach not been in vogue in 1970. Nelson's vocals are consistently strong and stirring, and the material is commendably diverse, though overall it's just an okay album that could use a little more oomph. The white R&B vibe is tempered by strong streaks of gospel, New Orleans music, and even a bit of jazz, particularly on the smoother parts of "Groovy Way." AMG.

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Oscar - Oscar 1974

Formed in 1973, Manchester, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. Disbanded, 1978
In addition to albums, they released a number of singles, made several pub tours in the UK (as The Variety Show), were the "opening act" with Leo Sayer and the group Caravan, they toured Turkey and Iran, which gave them certain importance in the eyes of the cynical show business, but they did not have the strength, ability, and talent to climb from the foot of the British musical Olympus to its top, and soon they were lost somewhere along the way during this difficult and thorny climbing. While their albums are rarely mentioned in the music press these days, they certainly cause considerable interest among the restless and inquisitive sound archaeologists as a very curious artifact of vinyl British "rock scene" of the seventies of the twentieth century.

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sexta-feira, 17 de junho de 2022

Derroll Adams - Feelin' Fine 1972

Banjo player was born on the 27th of November 1925 in Portland (OR, USA). He was traveling around the American West Coast and recording with Ramblin' Jack Elliott in the 1950s. He moved to England and later to Antwerpen (Belgium) where he died on the 6th of February 2000.
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Formula 3 - Dies Irae 1970

One of the most important Italian rock bands of the 1970s, one of the bands that lead beat music to psychedelia and forwards to prog rock. Before beginning their own career they usually were Lucio Battisti's backing band.

The debut album "Dies Irae" is a mixture of beat-psych-prog rock with dark guitar sound interplayed with heavy pumping keyboards and good drumming, pop-oriented songs, Latin spoken words (Dies Irae) some fine psychedelic moods, typical Mediterranean melodies, and classical 1969 sounds.

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Häxmjolk - Eskimo Heat 1976

Häxmjölk was a Swedish jazz-funk band, founded by ex-EGBA and Resa members Jan Tolf (guitar) and Harald Svensson (keyboard), as well as Lennart Åberg (saxophone), Guy Roellinger (bass), and Malando Gassama (drums, percussion). They released one album, Eskimo Heat, in 1976, for which Jan Tolf wrote all the music.

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The Mysterious Flying Orchestra - The Mysterious Flying Orchestra 1977

Bob Thiele (1922-96) is best remembered as a producer who oversaw a great many historic jazz sessions from the 1940s through the 1990s, most notably supervising Impulse recordings during its golden period (1960-69). The producer is most appreciated by jazz listeners for giving John Coltrane carte blanche to record exactly how he pleased and as much as he pleased while at Impulse. What's not so well known is that Thiele recorded a number of albums under his own name, including Thoroughly Modern (1967), Do The Love (1967), Light My Fire (1967, with Gabor Szabo), Head Start (1970, with Tom Scott), Those Were The Days (1971), The 20s Score Again (1974), I Saw Pinetop Spit Blood (1975, with Oliver Nelson), Sunrise Sunset (1991, with David Murray), Louis Satchmo (1992) and Lion Hearted (1993). It's an odd lot, to be sure, and there's not a classic in the bunch. Thiele, whose participation on these records was limited to "musical director" and occasional percussion, gathered some of the high-caliber talent he'd nurtured elsewhere to play some music that was probably a little outside their usual scope of interest. No doubt, they were glad to get a paycheck. But, even as strange as some of it is, there are buried little treasures to be found here and there that will have appeal to fans of each record's almost legendary musical participants. One of the more notable treasures in this lot is a Bob Thiele album that doesn't even bear his name - or anyone else's! - called, enigmatically enough, The Mysterious Flying Orchestra (TMFO - one wonders if the letters were meant to convey something else). Issued in early 1977 on RCA, where Thiele's Flying Dutchman had recently been folded into extinction, this LP - which is unlikely to ever see the light of day on CD - comes across almost as a joke…until you listen to it.

The LP's cover is enough to put off even the most ardent crate digger. It bears the strikingly strange airbrushed image of the middle-aged Thiele, thumbs up Fonzie style, in a vintage 20s-era pilot's get up. Wasn't Snoopy doing this sort of thing in The Peanuts too? This goofy pose inspired the equally silly icon for Thiele's Doctor Jazz logo and again (!) for his later Red Baron imprint. The back cover lists no song titles and criminally neglects musician credits (mysterious, indeed!) and sillies up the proceedings by picturing a number of musicians as bats - yes, bats - flying around a hilltop castle.

TMFO, though, is a star-studded fusion bacchanalia that, unlike so many other projects under Bob Thiele's name, gets much more right than wrong. An impressive array of jazz soloists are present here, including Larry Coryell, Steve Marcus, Eddie Daniels, Bob Mintzer, Lonnie Liston Smith and Charlie Mariano and the cream of New York's session players: Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Don Grolnick, Gene Bertoncini, Jerry Friedman, Wilbur Bascomb (a key point of the album's success), Andy Newmark and Guilhermo Franco. This mysterious orchestra really gets down to it and flies particularly well on the record's first side, or "side one" for those of you that remember LP-speak. Horace Ott's "Improvisational Rondo For Saxophone And Guitar" starts things off in a roaring way, fading in from the ether to reveal a rambunctious, startling piece of jazz funk. The groove may call up disco to many, but what's going on is clearly freeform jazz engaging with orchestral flourishes in a soulful, get-down setting. Ott lays down a thumping funky rhythm that seems to pick up a pace firmly in line with the players' adrenaline. Driven by Wilbur Bascomb's energetic bass patterns, Ott embellishes with some striking and playful string work that evolves and grows more interesting as the groove deepens. On top of all that, Larry Coryell's guitar matches wits with Steve Marcus's soprano sax and both play freely in and around all the fascinating lines Ott spins. Coryell featured on Marcus's earliest recordings, which explains the ideal synergy the two share here on this first-rate funk jam.

Lonnie Liston Smith contributes two pieces to the album, including the wonderfully moody "Shadows," up next. Smith, whose earliest records were supervised by Thiele, had already recorded "Shadows" and "Summer Days" for his 1975 album Expansions (Flying Dutchman). Smith's melody is rather slight, which requires TMFO, in Ott's arrangement, to create the right atmosphere, perfectly voiced by the horn section. Smith is heard beautifully dancing throughout the piece on electric piano, offering a voice that was already one of the instrument's most distinctive at this point. Marcus solos on tenor sax.

Next up is "A Dream Deferred," Bob Thiele and Glenn Osser's tribute to Oliver Nelson, a frequent Thiele associate, who had died shortly before this recording was made. It's vexingly appealing. It's like a waltz that never gets going but manages to sustain interest through some well-considered playing. Horace Ott's gorgeous strings carry the melody and the solos are by Don Grolnick on electric piano and Eddie Daniels on flute. Thiele would later resurrect this theme, to decidedly lesser and lazier effect, on David Murray's MX (1992), but here the title - which comes from Langston Hughes - gets a cheesy dedication to "JFK, Malcolm, John Coltrane, etc." with no mention of Nelson whatsoever.

Side two of TMFO is substantially less interesting, but not altogether awful, with Smith's "Summer Days," a MOR fusion number showcasing worthy solos from brother Donald on flute and Charlie Mariano on soprano sax (Lonnie does not play), and Horace Ott's mildly funky "Nice 'N Spicy" (in a David Matthews bag), featuring Daniels on flute and Marcus and Bob Mintzer on dueling tenor saxes. The less said about Theresa Brewer's vocal feature on the sappy "There Was A Man Named John" (for John Coltrane), the better. Mariano solos here too.

TMFO is a strange, not altogether perfect album. But if funky fusion made by some of jazz's best improvisers appeals to you, this record's first side is absolutely essential. Considering side two as the album's "bonus tracks" makes the meaty content seem pretty brief. But it's 19 minutes of exciting music that's worth hearing over and over again.  

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Cuero - Tiempo Despues 1973

The Debut album by Cuero an Argentinian band was released in 1973 and is a great heavy psych–rock & blues-rock album, very rare and hard to find as an original. Stunning guitar work and Spanish languaged vocals, seven long tracks, all original compositions.
 

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Fela Kuti - Gentleman 1973

Gentleman is both an Africa 70 and Afro-beat masterpiece. High marks go to the scathing commentary that Fela Anikulapo Kuti lets loose but also to the instrumentation and the overall arrangements, as they prove to be some of the most interesting and innovative of Fela's '70s material. When the great tenor saxophone player Igo Chico left the Africa 70 organization in 1973, Fela Kuti declared he would be the replacement. So in addition to bandleader, soothsayer, and organ player, Fela picked up the horn and learned to play it quite quickly -- even developing a certain personal voice with it. To show off that fact, "Gentleman" gets rolling with a loose improvisatory solo saxophone performance that Tony Allen eventually pats along with before the entire band drops in with classic Afro-beat magnificence. "Gentleman" is also a great example of Fela's directed wit at the post-colonial West African sociopolitical state of affairs. His focus is on the Africans that still had a colonial mentality after the Brits were gone and then parallels that life with his own. He wonders why his fellow Africans would wear so much clothing in the African heat: "I know what to wear but my friend don't know" and also points out that "I am not a gentleman like that!/I be Africa man original." To support "Gentleman," the B-side features equally hot jazzy numbers, "Fefe Naa Efe" and "Igbe," making this an absolute must-have release. [In 2000, MCA released Confusion and Gentleman as a two-fer.] AMG.

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sexta-feira, 10 de junho de 2022

Collusion - Collusion 1971

Genuine UK prog-rock obscurity from 1971, originally released in a tiny run on the custom SRT label. Collusion was a Dagenham-based six-piece with twin guitars and interwoven male/female vocals as the main ingredients. Expect hard-edged prog-rock with tasty folk and jazz elements. 

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Procol Harum - Home 1970

The group's hardest-rocking classic album is, beyond some superb vocalizing by Gary Brooker, principally a showcase for Robin Trower's high-powered guitar and a rock-hard rhythm section, with B.J. Wilson only a little less animated than Ginger Baker on some of the music. Procol Harum had a split personality by this time, the band juxtaposing straight-ahead rock & roll numbers like "Still There'll Be More" and the Elvis Presley-influenced "Whisky Train" with darker, more dramatic pieces like "Nothing That I Didn't Know" and "Barnyard Story." Chris Copping doubles on organ, replacing Matthew Fisher, but the overall sound is that of a leaner Procol Harum, all except for the ambitious "Whaling Stories" -- even it was a compromise that nearly worked, showcasing Trower's larger-than-life guitar sound (coming off here like King Crimson's Robert Fripp in one of his heavier moments) within a somewhat pretentious art rock concept. It shows the strains within their lineup that the producers chose the lighter, more obviously accessible "Your Own Choice" -- on which Gary Brooker's piano is the lead instrument -- to end the album after "Whaling Stories"' pyrotechnic finish. [Home has appeared several times on CD, in a poor-sounding edition from A&M ages ago, on a rather better-sounding Mobile Fidelity edition in the late '80s, and at the opening of the new century in a Remastered Edition from Europe's Westside label that not only features significantly increased clarity on all of the instruments, but also detailed annotation and the presence of nine bonus tracks from the same sessions, mostly rock & roll warm-ups and early takes of the finished material. And in 2015, Esoteric Recordings reissued Home in a Remastered and Expanded Edition featuring the U.S. single edit of "Whisky Train" as a bonus track. Esoteric also released a two-CD Deluxe Remastered & Expanded Edition of the album that year, featuring 11 bonus tracks including remixes, alternate takes, a previously unreleased BBC session track from 1970, and more; fully restored artwork; and new liner notes by Henry Scott-Irvine.] AMG.

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