segunda-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2019

Roger Daltrey - Daltrey 1973

Although Roger Daltrey was by no means the first member of the Who to take the solo plunge (both John Entwistle and Pete Townshend beat him to the punch), he was the first to make any kind of commercial impact. While "Giving It All Away" peeled off his self-titled debut album to hit the U.K. Top Five, the album itself went Top 50 in America and, almost as an afterthought, introduced the writing talents of the young and then-unknown Leo Sayer to the public at large. Eight months ahead of his own breakthrough hit, "The Show Must Go On," Sayer and writing partner Dave Courtney composed eight of Daltrey's ten tracks; Courtney co-produced the album with Adam Faith, then wrote the remaining pair with Faith himself. Of Sayer's contributions, both "Giving It All Away" and the opening "One Man Band" would subsequently reappear on his own Just a Boy album, itself titled for the chorus line of "Giving It All Away." Daltrey's majestically plaintive rendition remains the definitive version, however, all the more so when linked with the "It's a Hard Life" lament that serves as prelude to the song on Daltrey. Far from the rocking bombast for which the Who were traditionally renowned, but far, too, from the somewhat maudlin melancholy of Pete Townshend's period balladeering, "Giving It All Away" showcases the sheer emotional dynamism that Daltrey was so capable of, a mood that the remainder of the album stretched in any number of directions. From the mock reggae of "The Story So Far" to the achingly fragile "You Are Yourself," Daltrey portrays its maker in colors that the Who could never have emulated -- a sometimes horrifying shock for die-hard fans, but a pleasant surprise for anyone tired of hearing him voice the increasingly dictatorial Townshend's self-aggrandizement. Indeed, the string-haunted "When the Music Stops" could almost be an open letter to his bandmate, just as "One Man Band" should have determined Daltrey's own immediate future. Sadly, however, his solo adventuring would remain just that, something to do between Who projects, with all the sad baggage that implies. There was a time, however, when Daltrey proved himself capable of operating far outside the Who's sphere of influence. And Daltrey still bristles with the pride of that discovery. AMG.

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V.A. - The Vertigo Annual 1970

A two-LP label sampler from the nascent Vertigo label -- Polygram's answer to EMI's progressive -- psychedelic boutique, Harvest. Overall, for a label sampler, this was a better than average double slab of vinyl, with tried-and-true heavy cuts (from Black SabbathUriah HeepJuicy LucyMay Blitz) jostling for space with lighter stuff (Magna CartaDr. Strangely Strange). Rod Stewart turns up as well, with an early solo outing on "Handbags and Gladrags." AMG.

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Joe Cocker - Joe Cocker! 1969

Joe Cocker's first three A&M albums form the bedrock of a career that spans over three decades. While Cocker certainly wasn't always in top form during this stretch -- thanks to alcohol problems and questionable comeback moves in the '80s and '90s -- his early records did inform the classic pub rock sound later credited to proto-punk figures like Graham Parker and Brinsley Schwarz. On those early records, Cocker mixed elements of late-'60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set. Russell's sophisticated swamp blues aesthetic is felt directly with versions of his gospel ballad "Hello, Little Friend" and Beatles-inspired bit of New Orleans pop -- and one of Cocker's biggest hits -- "Delta Lady." Following up on the huge success of an earlier cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends," Cocker mines more Beatles gold with very respectable renditions of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something." And rounding out this impressive set are equally astute takes on Dylan's "Dear Landlord," Leonard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire," and John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon." Throughout, Cocker gets superb support from his regular backing group of the time, the Grease Band. A fine introduction to the singer's classic, late-'60s and early-'70s period. AMG.

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Mountain - Nantucket Sleighride 1971

Following the success of Climbing! and appearances at Woodstock and other outdoor festivals of the day, Mountain recorded more of the same for Nantucket Sleighride. The title track is a nice mixture of classical-leaning intertwined with moderate rock; both "Don't Look Around" and "The Animal Trainer and the Toad" continue on the hard rock path so well-worn by this band. Not groundbreaking, but it is well worth listening to. AMG.

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The Sons Of Champlin - Welcome To The Dance 1973

The Sons of Champlin were written off after the commercial washout of their third album, Follow Your Heart, but they came roaring back two years later with Welcome to the Dance. The crucial difference for a band as committed to funky rhythms as the Sons was an all-new rhythm section: bassist Al Strongand drummer Bill Bowen had been replaced by David Schallock and James Preston, respectively, giving the band the sort of soul groove R&B fanatic Bill Champlin had always sought. Champlin brought in his strongest bunch of material since the Sons' debut, Loosen Up Naturally (1969), once again returning in his lyrics to themes of personal responsibility and encouragement. You've got to wonder how a guy who liked to sing lines like "It's up to us to rearrange" and "We can do it now" ever got tagged as a hippie, especially since his musical inspirations seemed to be James Brown for his vocals and Jimmy Smith for his organ playing. But guitarist Terry Haggerty confirmed the band's psychedelic credentials with his biting, often complex solos, and the songs tended to go off into jams after a couple of choruses. Welcome to the Dance was the Sons' best realized album yet, a good compromise between their need for coherent structure and their desire to play free. Had it not been sabotaged by record company machinations, it might have been the record that finally broke this long star-crossed outfit. [The 2001 CD reissue by the British Acadia label bands both of the medleys on the album, so that what was originally the third track, "Who/Heaven Only Knows," now makes up the third and fourth tracks, and the 12-minute, four-part "Welcome to the Dance" medley that was the seventh track is now tracks eight, nine, ten, and eleven.] AMG.

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Dr. John - City Lights 1978

After the release of Mardi Gras in 1975, Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) left Atlantic Records. In late 1977, he signed with A&M's Horizon imprint -- a label whose purpose was to showcase the jazz side of its parent company. City Lights is the better of two recordings he cut there. Produced by Tommy LiPumaand Hugh McCrackenCity Lights was recorded at New York's Hit Factory Studios with a band of studio aces: drummer Steve Gadd, guitarists Cornell Dupree and John Tropea, bassist Will Lee, and Richard Tee as an additional keyboardist; Arthur Jenkins added percussive effects. The five-piece horn section included both David Sanborn and Ronnie Cuber. What's really startling, however, is the material. For most of the 1970s, Rebennack had been playing well-known tunes by other Crescent City luminaries and pop songwriters, contributing precious little of his material to his albums. On City Lights he wrote or co-wrote everything on the set. His songwriting partner for part of this date was none other than Doc Pomus. The best of both men is captured on the opener, "Dance the Night Away with You," a strolling New Orleans R&B number. Pomus' words are wrapped in beautiful romantic fantasies of late nights, the magic of city streets, and the acknowledgement between lovers that they are the only people in the world. Rebennack's music is filled with plinking upright piano, a killer horn chart, a languid pace, and some background effects that reinforce the song's imagery. Rebennack's own funky "Snake Eyes" is another killer on the set, even as it's set somewhere between a pulsing bossa rhythm and an uptown blues tune. When the good doctor begins his low growling moan on the vocal, it all comes together with phase-shifted Steely Dan-style slippery guitars, impressionistic synths, rimshot snares, and that trademark piano that is always in the cut. Even moodier is his "Rain," a beautiful slow jazz ballad with great support from George Young's tenor saxophone filling the tags, and a fine string arrangement by Claus Ogerman. There are some uptempo tunes as well, such as "Wild Honey," written with Bobby Charles, and the righteously funky "Fire of Love," written with Alvin Robinson. The two closing numbers are the icing on the cake. First is a medley, "Sonata/He's a Hero." It begins with a lithe, post-midnight piano solo by Rebennack and segues right into the fat and funky latter tune with a tight percussive horn chart and great, street-swaggering lyrics about a lonely ne'er-do-well by PomusRebennack and Pomus showcase the other side of this urban soundscape on the blues-drenched closing title track with its slow boogie-woogie-style piano, gorgeous swirling strings, and Pomus' gorgeous words that could have come right from Mose Allison: "Too many city lights/Too many midnights on the wrong side of life/Too many honky tonks...gave me no time to find a good wife of my own/All my yesterdays and tomorrows/Are all starting to look the same/All the places are filled with people/Without faces, without names." It's a perfect whispering finish. After 1972's Gumbo, this is Rebennack's most consistently satisfying recording of the '70s; it also disproves the "Punter 101" theory that "slick" = "bad"; far from it. City Lights finally appeared on compact disc in 2008 as part of Verve's excellent Originals series.

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quarta-feira, 30 de janeiro de 2019

The Band - Music From Big Pink 1968

None of the Band's previous work gave much of a clue about how they would sound when they released their first album in July 1968. As it was, Music from Big Pink came as a surprise. At first blush, the group seemed to affect the sound of a loose jam session, alternating emphasis on different instruments, while the lead and harmony vocals passed back and forth as if the singers were making up their blend on the spot. In retrospect, especially as the lyrics sank in, the arrangements seemed far more considered and crafted to support a group of songs that took family, faith, and rural life as their subjects and proceeded to imbue their values with uncertainty. Some songs took on the theme of declining institutions less clearly than others, but the points were made musically as much as lyrically. Tenor Richard Manuel's haunting, lonely voice gave the album much of its frightening aspect, while Rick Danko's and Levon Helm's rough-hewn styles reinforced the songs' rustic fervor. The dominant instrument was Garth Hudson's often icy and majestic organ, while Robbie Robertson's unusual guitar work further destabilized the sound. The result was an album that reflected the turmoil of the late '60s in a way that emphasized the tragedy inherent in the conflicts. Music from Big Pink came off as a shockingly divergent musical statement only a year after the ornate productions of Sgt. Pepper, and initially attracted attention because of the three songs Bob Dylan had either written or co-written. However, as soon as "The Weight" became a minor singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre. AMG.

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Stomu Yamashta, Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve - Go 1976

Go (1976) is a concept album in the truest sense of the term, fusing pop/rock with tinges of jazz and elements of classical all connected by a central motif of space travel. More specifically, according to Robin Denselow's liner essay, the theme deals with "change and polarity-fantasy and reality, death and re-birth, things changing to their opposites." Stomu YamashtaSteve Winwood and Michael Shrievelead an impressive ensemble through soundscapes, unveiled in a variety of perspectives. Perhaps it is the international cast of performers that allows for such an unfettered consortium of ideas that brought together former Spencer Davis GroupTraffic and Blind Faith member Steve Winwood, as well as Santana co-founder Michael Shrieve and mid-'70s era Santana percussionist Yamashta -- the latter of whom were key benefactors to the criminally underrated Santana long-player Borboletta (1974). Ably assisting the festivities are Return to Forever's Al DiMeola (guitar), Klaus Schulze (synthesizer) whose contributions to Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel remain unequaled, and Winwood's one-time Traffic accomplice Rosko Gee (bass), who also had a fruitful run with Can. Each side of the original LP contains a complete suite of interconnected and continuous music. The haunting and brooding "Crossing the Line" is reminiscent of prog-rockers Alan Parsons Project or pretentious Pink Floyd [read: anything past Meddle (1971)]. Winwood's echo-laden vocals give him an almost palpable and uncomfortable quality, perfectly suited for the austere setting that is light years away from the likes of "Sea of Joy" or "Gimmie Some Lovin'," yet is remarkably akin to "No Time to Live" from Traffic's self-titled platter. Exceedingly soulful is the propellant "Ghost Machine," with DiMeola's fiery fretwork at its best. The funky "Time Is Here" gives Winwood a perfect outlet for his R&B roots, while "Winner/Loser" -- boasting the project's only lyrics penned by Winwood -- concludes with what is arguably the most accessible pop excursion. Robin Denselow's aforementioned essay goes into great detail regarding a rather involved story line aimed at further unifying the otherwise disparate pieces. While the plot won't be ruined here for potential consumers, if your non-musical interests include Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars and other Brainiac-related activities, the two song cycles that comprise Go will definitely be right up your alley. It scored considerably well with audiences in 1976, reaching number 60 on the Pop Album chart. In 2004, Hip-O Select compiled both Go and the companion concert. Go Live From Paris (1977). on to a limited-edition (of 2,500) two-CD package with audio remastered by Gavin Lurssen of the illustrious Mastering Lab. AMG.

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Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity - Jools & Brian 1969

The debut album from the formation of Julie DriscollBrian Auger & The Trinity, this record introduced to America a group that had been making some noise in England for some time already. The album is a bit fragmented, containing a few Julie Driscoll solo tracks, as well as some Auger/Trinity efforts without Driscoll. One of the most amazing moments opens the record: Driscoll's solo hit (in Europe), "I Know You Love Me Not." A swirling, churning string arrangement - not unlike a psychedelic Phil Spector - is the ground work for Driscoll's steely vocals. She come across as a combination of Dusty Springfieldand Annie Lennox with a passionate performance. It's truly one of the great lost British records of the era, and alone is worth the price of the record. There is, though, a lot more. Some excellent moments for Auger, such as the swinging-jazz drenched. "Kiko" illustrate what incredible jazz chops they had. There is also an excellent cover of "Didn't Want To Have To Do It," which renders this John Sebastion classic is a new, soulful light. An inspiring, fresh debut, and swinging London at it's finest. AMG.

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Jim Capaldi - Whale Meat Again 1974

Whale Meat AgainJim Capaldi's second solo album, appeared in 1974, just before Traffic released their final album, When the Eagle Flies, and while it, like Oh How We Danced before it, has appearances from his Traffic colleagues Steve Winwood and Rebop Kwaku Baah, it feels like a break from his band in ways that his debut never did. True, it's not a drastic break, but where Traffic was getting jazzier with each album, Capaldi kept things down to earth, relying heavily on the blues whether it was in the Plastic Ono grind of the title track, or in the sighing dobros of "Yellow Sun," a lengthy jam that's all about groove, not what's being played. Oh How We Danced also maintained a groovy, mellow feel but the emphasis there was clearly on the songs, and here it's more about mood: not the instrumental interplay, but ratcheting up the soulfulness in the performances and singing, giving this album a funkier, open feel that lingers longer than the songs. AMG.

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