segunda-feira, 28 de maio de 2012

Chris Harwood - Nice To Meet Miss Christine 1970

Nowadays Chris Harwood is being touted as Britain's great lost female folksinger. That's understandable -- her sole record, Nice to Meet Miss Christine, launched the tiny indie Birth label in 1970. The album disappeared soon after, probably because most listeners were unable to get beyond the first track, the exceedingly self-righteous, anti-racist "Mama," whose justified anger doesn't exonerate the song's lack of melody. Or maybe it was due to the fact that Nice wasn't really a folk album at all, as the guest musician roster makes clear. Guitarist Peter Banks was a founding member of Yes, pianist/organist Tommy Eyre would soon be joining Rainbow, brass and woodwind player Ian McDonald hailed from King Crimson, drummer Pete York came from the Spencer Davis Group, and guitarist Mike Maran would eventually become Britain's top musical arranger. Not a folkie in sight, but one hell of a lineup, expanding the sound of what one assumes was Harwood's own group -- guitarist Dave Lambert, bassist Roger Sutton, and drummer J. Kay Boots. Thus the songs sound phenomenal (even if the transfer to CD creates a hollowness at the center), the musicianship is flawless, and the set is as eclectic as one would imagine with these players on board. Jazzy fusion, jammy prog rock, pomp rock, revved-up R&B, and combinations of all of the above swirl across the set. The musicians are so busy showboating that melodies are mostly ignored, most spectacularly on the covers of Dave Mason's "Crying to Be Heard" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Wooden Ships," a situation Harwood does little to resolve. She's best showcased on the sultry blues of "Flies Like a Bird," but elsewhere too often slides into waspishness or worse -- harangues. A musical Margaret Thatcher is no good thing, but that's how Harwood comes across, all hectoring tones and wagging finger, even on the love songs. It's no surprise, then, that the iron chanteuse never made another record, but if you can ignore her, the backing is sensational. AMG. Thanks to ChrisGoesRock! listen here

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Just for Love 1970

With the return of Gary Duncan and the recording debut of founder Dino Valenti, Just for Love, Quicksilver's fourth album, marked their debut as the band they were intended to be. The ironic thing about that is that, led by singer/songwriter Valenti, they were a much more pop-oriented band than their fans had come to expect. On Just for Love, Quicksilver finally was Valenti's backup group (he wrote all but one of the songs), and while this gave them greater coherence and accessibility, as well as their only Top 50 single in "Fresh Air," it also made them less the boogie band they had been. And it meant the band's days were numbered. AMG. listen here

Quicksilver Messenger Service - What About Me 1971

Musically, there is little to delineate the fifth long-player from Quicksilver Messenger Service, What About Me, from their previous effort, Just for Love. Not surprisingly, material for both was initiated during a prolific two-month retreat to the Opaelua Lodge in Haleiwa, HI, during May and June of 1970. The quartet version of Quicksilver Messenger Service -- which had yielded the band's first two LPs -- expanded once again to include Dino Valenti (aka Chester A. Powers, Chet Powers, and most notably on this album, Jesse Oris Farrow) as well as British session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins. The additional talents of Mark Naftalin (keyboards) were incorporated when Hopkins was unavailable. This began his short stint with Quicksilver Messenger Service, which lasted through their sixth LP, Quicksilver (1972). The most apparent change in Quicksilver Messenger Service's sound can be directly attributed to the return of Valenti. The group has departed the long, free-flowing improvisations that prevailed on both their self-titled debut and follow-up, Happy Trails. The songs are now shorter and more notably structured, with an added emphasis on Valenti's compositions. The title track, "What About Me," became an ethical and sociological anthem with challenging and direct lyrical references to the political and social instability of the early '70s. Valenti, whose songwriting credits on this disc are both numerous and attributed to his Farrow persona, also comes up with some passable introspective love songs, such as "Baby Baby" and "Long Haired Lady," as well as a couple of interesting collaborations with Gary Duncan (bass/vocals). The psychedelic samba "All in My Mind" also highlights the often overlooked percussive contributions from Jose Reyes. Two of the more distinguished entries on What About Me are John Cipollina's raunchy blues instrumental "Local Color" -- replete with a driving backbeat reminiscent of their take on the Robert Johnson standard "Walkin' Blues" -- as well as Nicky Hopkins' emotive "Spindrifter." AMG. listen here

Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970)

Produced by Captain Beefheart himself, Lick My Decals Off, Baby was a further refining and exploration of the musical ideas posited on Trout Mask Replica. As such, the imaginative fervor of Trout Mask is toned down somewhat, but in its place is an increased self-assurance; the tone of Decals is also a bit darker, examining environmental issues in some songs rather than simply concentrating on surreal wordplay. Whatever the differences, the jagged, complex rhythms and guitar interplay continue to amaze. Those wanting to dig deeper after the essential Trout Mask Replica are advised to begin doing so here. AMG. listen here

terça-feira, 15 de maio de 2012

Al Kooper with Shuggie Otis - Kooper Session 1970

In 1969, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist Al Kooper added "talent scout" to his already lengthy résumé on the follow-up to the highly successful Super Session disc, which had been issued the previous year. One major difference between the two, however, is the relatively unknown cast featured on Kooper Session. Both albums again converge with the presentation of top-shelf musicianship and inspired performances. At only 15 years of age, guitarist Shuggie Otis is equally potent a performer as the seasoned keyboardist/guitarist Kooper. The duo is able to manifest an aggregate of material whose success leans as much on Kooper's experience as it does on Otis' sheer inspired youthful energy. The LP is divided between a side of shorter works (aka "songs") and a few extended instrumentals (aka "blues"). Kooper and Otis steer their house band, which includes Stu Woods (bass), Wells Kelly (drums), and Mark Klingman (piano). The tight arrangements aptly reveal Kooper's uncanny ability as a musical conduit. "Bury My Body" -- a variation on "In My Time of Dyin'" -- has been reworked into a gospel rave-up and features Kooper on one of the album's only vocals. Conversely, "Double or Nothing" is a spot-on re-creation of a Booker T. & the MG's track, which not only retains every Memphis-inspired intonation, but also shows off Otis' ability to cop Steve Cropper's guitar solo note for note. The blues instrumental jams are documented live and presented on this album the way that they originally went down at the recording sessions. The descriptively titled "Shuggie's Old Time Dee-Di-Lee-Di-Leet-Deet Slide Boogie" is endowed with a nostalgic piano/bottleneck slide duet and even features the added production value of manufactured surface noise. Both "12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues" and "Shuggie's Shuffle" are certainly no less traditional, allowing both Otis and Kooper the chance to stretch out and interact in real time. AMG. listen here

Charles Mingus - Mingus Moves 1974

On this Atlantic LP, Charles Mingus introduced his new group which at the time included trumpeter Ronald Hampton, tenor-saxophonist George Adams, pianist Don Pullen and his longtime drummer Dannie Richmond. Together this excellent quintet performed seven recent compositions including one ("Moves") that features the vocals of Honey Gordon and Doug Hammond. Only three of the pieces are by Mingus but all of the music is greatly influenced by his searching and unpredictable style. AMG. listen here

Bembeya Jazz - Authenticite 73 1962

Bembeya Jazz National (originally known as Orchestre de Beyla) is a Guinean jazz group that gained fame in the 1960s for their Afropop rhythms. They are considered one of the most significant bands in Guinean music. Many of their recordings are based on traditional folk music in the country and have been fused with jazz and Afropop style.[1] Featuring guitarist Sekou 'Diamond Fingers' Diabaté, who grew up in a traditional griot musical family, the band won over fans in Conakry, Guinea's capital city, during the heady days of that country's newfound independence. Bembeya Jazz fell onto harder times in the 1980s and disbanded for a number of years, but reformed in the late 1990s and has toured Europe and North America in the early 2000s.
In the aftermath of the Guinean Independence in 1958 and through the cultural policy of "authenticité", which encouraged cultural pride, numerous bands were created throughout the regions of Guinea. Guinea's President, Ahmed Sékou Touré, disbanded all private dance orchestras and replaced them with state-supported groups, such as Keletigui et ses Tambourinis and Balla et ses Balladins. The most popular was Bembeya Jazz National, formed in 1961.

Bembeya Jazz, also referred to as the Orchestre de Beyla in the early days, started as the regional orchestra from the town of Beyla in southern Guinea. They were formed with the help of the local governor, Emile Kondé,[3] to act as the region’s "orchestre moderne". The initial line up included Sékou Camara and Achken Kaba in the brass section on trumpets, Sékou Diabaté on guitar who was the youngest member at the time, Hamidou Diaouné on bass and Mory "Mangala" Condé on drums. Leo Sarkisian (who went on to join the Africa Service of the Voice of America in 1963) recorded Orchestre de Beyla in 1961 for the Hollywood based Tempo International label (Tempo 7015). The band were just being formed in Beyla and according to Sarkisian, called themselves Orchestra Bembeya, after a local river. The session also featured the female singer Jenne Camara as part of the band. The recording, one of ten Tempo LPs featuring a variety of Guinean music recorded by Sarkisian, was not released commercially. All 10 LPs were pressed in limited editions of 2,500 and released in 1962, but the majority of them were sent to the Guinean government. Bembeya's album was titled Sons nouveaux d'une nation nouvelle. République de Guinée. 2 Octobre 1962. 4ème anniversaire de l'independance nationale. Orchestre de Beyla and included the songs Présentation, Yarabi, Lele, Din ye kassila, Wonkaha douba, Seneiro, Wassoulou and Maniamba.

They became better known as Bembeya Jazz after the release of their first album and added singers Aboubacar Demba Camara and Salifou Kaba to the band.

Specializing in modern arrangements of Manding classic tunes, Bembeya Jazz National won 1st prize at two national arts festival's in 1964 and 1965 and were crowned "National Orchestra" in 1966.

Initially an acoustic group, featuring a Latin-flavored horn section of saxophone, trumpet, and clarinet, Bembeya Jazz National reached its apex with the addition of lead singer Aboubacar Demba Camara. The group toured widely, and became one of the most well-known groups in Africa. Among their biggest hits were the songs "Mami Wata" and "Armee Guineenne".

Bembeya Jazz National’s most ambitious album, Regard Sur Le Passe, released in 1968, was a musical tribute to the memory of Samory Touré, who founded a Mande conquest state in much of what is now northern Guinea in 1870, and who became a nationalist emblem following 1958.
A live album, 10 Ans De Succes, was recorded during a 1971 concert, but set-back for the band came on April 5, 1973 when Demba Camara was killed in an auto accident on his way to a concert in Dakar. Although they remained together, Bembeya Jazz National was unable to duplicate the success of their earliest years. The group disbanded in 1991 with Sekou Diabaté and Sekouba Bambino Diabaté going on to successful solo careers.

The band reformed in the late 1990s. Bembeya Jazz came together again in 2002 to perform at the Musiques Metisses d’Angoulême world music festival in France. They remained there to record their first new album in 14 years for the director of the festival, Christian Mousset's Marabi label. The album, Bembeya, is a reworking of orchestra's greatest hits. They went on to tour Europe and North America.

In 2010 they were featured in the documentary film Sur les traces du Bembeya Jazz. listen here

Al Stewart - Year of the Cat 1976

Al Stewart had found his voice on Past, Present & Future and found his sound on Modern Times. He then perfected it all on 1976's Year of the Cat, arguably his masterpiece. There is no overarching theme here, as there was on its two immediate predecessors, but the impossible lushness of Alan Parsons' production and Stewart's evocative Continental narratives give the record a welcome feeling of cohesion that keeps the record enchanting as it moves from "Lord Grenville" to "Midas Shadow" to "Broadway Hotel," before it ends with the haunting title track. Along the way, Stewart doesn't dwell too deeply in any area, preferring to trace out mysteries with his evocative lyrical imagery and a spinning array of self-consciously sophisticated music, songs that evoke American and European folk and pop with a deliberate grace. This could be unbearably precious if it didn't work so well. Stewart is detached from his music, but only in the sense that he gives this album a stylish elegance, and Parsons is his perfect foil, giving the music a rich, panoramic sweep that mimics Stewart's globe-trotting songs. The result is a tremendous example of how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and songwriter -- and if you're a fan of either prog or pop and haven't given Al Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted. AMG. listen here

Caetano Veloso - Jóia 1975

Jóia was released simultaneously with Qualquer Coisa in 1975, and bears resemblance both to that album and Caetano Veloso's previous and highly experimental studio album Araçá Azul. As on Qualquer Coisa, the sound is quiet, soft, and mainly acoustic. If anything, Jóia comes across as even more soft and quiet than Qualquer Coisa. There are many very beautiful melodies on the record, and two of the finest are "Lua, Lua, Lua" and "Guá." Unlike Qualquer Coisa, almost all of the songs here are Veloso originals, but there is also an unusual interpretation of "Help!," the famous Beatles song. The soft general tone of the album and some experimental tracks perhaps make Jóia less directly accessible than other Veloso classics, like for example his next album, Bicho. Nevertheless, the album is a great one and, to many people, one of the best Veloso has ever recorded. AMG. listen here

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run 1975

Bruce Springsteen's make-or-break third album represented a sonic leap from his first two, which had been made for modest sums at a suburban studio; Born to Run was cut on a superstar budget, mostly at the Record Plant in New York. Springsteen's backup band had changed, with his two virtuoso players, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Vini Lopez, replaced by the professional but less flashy Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg. The result was a full, highly produced sound that contained elements of Phil Spector's melodramatic work of the 1960s. Layers of guitar, layers of echo on the vocals, lots of keyboards, thunderous drums -- Born to Run had a big sound, and Springsteen wrote big songs to match it. The overall theme of the album was similar to that of The E Street Shuffle; Springsteen was describing, and saying farewell to, a romanticized teenage street life. But where he had been affectionate, even humorous before, he was becoming increasingly bitter. If Springsteen had celebrated his dead-end kids on his first album and viewed them nostalgically on his second, on his third he seemed to despise their failure, perhaps because he was beginning to fear he was trapped himself. Nevertheless, he now felt removed, composing an updated West Side Story with spectacular music that owed more to Bernstein than to Berry. To call Born to Run overblown is to miss the point; Springsteen's precise intention is to blow things up, both in the sense of expanding them to gargantuan size and of exploding them. If The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle was an accidental miracle, Born to Run was an intentional masterpiece. It declared its own greatness with songs and a sound that lived up to Springsteen's promise, and though some thought it took itself too seriously, many found that exalting. AMG. listen here

Bootsy Collins - This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N 1979

Following three straight masterworks that balanced hard funk workouts with laid-back bedroom jams, This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N ditched the balancing act, offering up straight, relentless hard funk. This is great for those who just want the sweaty workouts Bootsy Collins had proven himself well capable of delivering on his own as well as with Parliament-Funkadelic. In fact, if that's what you're looking for -- hard-hitting, unrelenting funk -- look no further, for This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N is absolutely teeming with it. However, the lack of slower, softer material can quickly lead to weariness if you're not ready for a nonstop dance party. Endurance is required here, make no mistake. "Under the Influence of a Groove," "Bootsy Get Live," and "Jam Fan (Hot)" are all standouts, reflecting the kookiness of "Bootzilla" from the year before. But without slower songs à la "I'd Rather Be with You," This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N is just too much for anyone who's not a hardcore funkateer. Consequently, the album isn't as easily recommended as Bootsy's past few, and really is of primary interest to P-Funk aficionados. With so many excellent P-Funk albums released throughout the 1970s, it's easy to pass over this one, as it certainly features some first-rate hard funk but is relatively short on ideas, with an absence of new ones altogether. This shortage of new ideas would lead to the varied degrees of experimentation that would characterize Bootsy's subsequent albums, Ultra Wave (1980) and, especially, The One Giveth, the Count Taketh Away (1982). Granted, those albums weren't as successful as This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N -- just as it wasn't as successful as its predecessors -- but they're more interesting for their experimentation and their eccentricities. In comparison to their flights of fancy, as well as the balance songwriting of Bootsy's first three albums, This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N seems unmemorable in retrospect. It's a wild, heart-racing listen while it's playing, yet afterward leaves little impression otherwise. AMG. listen here

Canned Heat - Living The Blues 1968

Canned Heat's third collection, Living the Blues (1968), was likewise their first double-LP, heralding the rural hippie anthem "Going Up the Country" as well as the nearly three-quarter-hour "Refried Boogie." However, rather than distracting their audience, it became one of rock & roll's first two-LP sets to make a substantial showing on the charts, reaching the Top 20. Not surprising as the rest of the album -- essentially all of disc one -- is as solid (if not arguably more so) than their previous long player Boogie with Canned Heat (1968). Featured is the "classic" Heat lineup of Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (guitar/harmonica/vocals), Larry "The Mole" Taylor (bass), Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar), Adolfo "Fido" de la Parra (drums), and Bob "The Bear" Hite (vocals), who unleash another batch of strong originals and engaging overhauls of a few blues staples -- including the solid cover of Charley Patton's "Pony Blues" that commences the effort. Right out of the gate, the formidable team of Wilson and Vestine explore their musical passions with a focused drive that would significantly diminish in the years and on the records to follow. One of the primary factors in the package's commercial success was their update of Henry Thomas' "Going Down South," which they turned into the breezy "Goin' Up the Country." The song not only became one of their biggest hits, it was also used in the Woodstock (1970) documentary and a live version -- from the actual concert -- was presented on the soundtrack. Canned Heat are joined by one of their contemporaries as Brit bluesman John Mayall contributes to the compact reading of Jimmy Rogers'"Walking By Myself," not on guitar, but rather piano. He also tosses around the '88s during the "Bear Wires" movement of the side-long "Parthenogenesis" suite. While on the subject of guest keyboardists, Mac Rebbenack (aka Dr. John) joins in on the groovy ode to "Boogie Music." "One Kind Favour" (aka "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean") drives hard with Hite belting out behind the ensemble's propelling rhythms. Aside from the slightly indulgent "Refried Boogie," Living the Blues (1968) stands as a testament to Canned Heat's prowess as modernizers of the blues and recommended as one of the most cohesive works from this incarnation. AMG. listen here

RE-POST: Canned Heat - Boogie With Canned Heat 1968

Canned Heat's second long-player, Boogie with Canned Heat (1968), pretty well sums up the bona fide blend of amplified late-'60s electric rhythm and blues, with an expressed emphasis on loose and limber boogie-woogie. The quintet -- consisting of Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (guitar/harmonica/vocals), Larry "The Mole" Taylor (bass), Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar), Aldolfo "Fido" Dela Parra (drums), and Bob "The Bear" Hite (vocals) -- follow up their debut effort with another batch of authentic interpretations, augmented by their own exceptional instrumentation. One development is their incorporation of strong original compositions. "On the Road Again" -- which became the combo's first, and arguably, most significant hit -- as well as the Albert King inspired anti-speed anthem, "Amphetamine Annie," were not only programmed on the then-burgeoning underground FM radio waves, but also on the more adventuresome AM Top 40 stations. Their love of authentic R&B informs "World in a Jug," the dark "Turpentine Blues," and Hite's update of Tommy McClennan's "Whiskey Headed Woman." The Creole anthem "Marie Laveau" is nothing like the more familiar cut by Bobby Bare, although similarities in content are most likely derived from a common source. The side, as rendered here, is arguably most notable for the driving interaction between guitarists Wilson and Vestine as they wail and moan over Hite's imposing leads. Saving the best for last, the Heat are at the height of their prowess during the lengthy audio biography on "Fried Hockey Boogie." Each member is introduced by Hite and given a chance to solo before they kick out the jams, culminating in Hite's crescendo of " ... Don't forget to boogie!" In 1999 the French label, Magic Records, issued an expanded edition of Boogie with Canned Heat supplemented by half-a-dozen sides, such as the 45 RPM edits of "On the Road Again," "Boogie Music" and "Goin' Up the Country." Also included are the once difficult-to-locate 45-only "One Kind Favor," as well as the seasonal offering "Christmas Blues" and "The Chipmunk Song" -- with guest shots from none other than Alvin, Simon, Theodore, and David Seville of the one and only Chipmunks. For enthusiasts as well as listeners curious about the oft-overlooked combo, this is an essential, if not compulsory platter.AMG. listen here

RE-POST: Canned Heat - Canned Heat 1967

This debut long-player from Canned Heat was issued shortly after their appearance at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. That performance, for all intents and purposes, was not only the combo's entrée into the burgeoning underground rock & roll scene, but was also among the first high-profile showcases to garner national and international attention. The quartet featured on Canned Heat (1967) includes the unique personnel of Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (guitar/vocals), Larry "The Mole" Taylor (bass), Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar), Bob "The Bear" Hite (vocals), and Frank Cook (drums). Cook's tenure with the Heat would be exceedingly brief, however, as he was replaced by Aldolfo "Fido" Dela Parra (drums) a few months later. Although their blues might have suggested that the aggregate hailed from the likes of Chicago or Memphis, Canned Heat actually formed in the Los Angeles suburb of Topanga Canyon, where they were contemporaries of other up-and-coming rockers Spirit and Kaleidoscope. Wilson and Hite's almost scholarly approach created a unique synthesis when blended with the band's amplified rock & roll. After their initial studio sessions in April of 1967 produced favorable demos, they returned several weeks later to begin work in earnest on this platter. The dearth of original material on Canned Heat was less of a result of any songwriting deficiencies, but rather exemplifies their authentic renderings of traditionals such as the open-throttled boogie of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" -- which is rightfully recognized as having been derived from the Muddy Waters arrangement. Similarly, a rousing reading of Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom" is co-credited to Elmore James. Blues aficionados will undoubtedly notice references to a pair of Howlin' Wolf classics -- "Smokestack Lightning" as well as "I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)" -- as part of the rambling "Road Song." While decidedly more obscure to the casual listener, Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones "Story of My Life" is both a high point on this recording, as well as one of the fiercest renditions ever committed to tape. Until a thorough overhaul of Canned Heat's catalog materializes, this title can be found on the Canned Heat/Boogie With Canned Heat (2003) two-fer that couples this title with their 1968 follow-up. AMG. listen here

Baby Face Willette - Face To Face 1961

While it's true that Baby Face Willette's Stop and Listen is widely regarded as his finest recording, this, his Blue Note debut from January of 1961, should not by any means be overlooked. After all, before this session he had the same lot most of Blue Note artists did at the time; they played as sidemen on other's recordings before being allowed to headline their own dates. Willette performed on dates by Grant Green (Grant's First Stand) and Lou Donaldson (Here 'Tis). Face to Face boasts a mighty meat and potatoes soul-jazz lineup: Green on guitar, Fred Jackson on tenor, and drummer Ben Dixon. Comprised of six cuts (and two alternates on the Blue Note CD), five of them are Willette originals. The evidence of the rough and rowdy side of Willette's playing is evident from the opener, "Swinging at Sugar Ray's." His approach to the B-3 is far more percussive than Jimmy Smith's, each note is a distinct punch; not only in his solos, but in his chord and head approaches. His solo is a nasty, knotty blues sprint that encompasses gospel licks and R&B fills, too. The other notable thing about the cut is Green's guitar break that shows a side of him we seldom got to hear early on, where he's bending strings, playing in the high register, and using intense single-note runs. It's nearly a breathless way to open a record. Things slow down on the blues "Goin' Down" that features a nice emotive solo by Jackson. The mambo-infused "Whatever Lola Wants" by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross comes next and includes some beautiful stop-and-and start moves in the melody, as well as beautiful call and response between Jackson and Willette, while Dixon's drums shift around the outside before the whole thing breaks down into a groover. The poppin' funky title track has one of those beautiful hard bop heads that's instantly memorable. Sure, it's not terribly sophisticated but it's full of soul and a relaxed yet quick group of changes before Jackson begins to blow. "Somethin' Strange" is pure blues, Chicago style, before moving into tough funky soul. The set closes with "High 'N' Low," a relaxed show-closing groove joint; it's all blues with fine contributions from Green, Jackson, and Willette. The two alternates are not necessarily revelatory, but they do keep the solid vibes happening for another 13 minutes or so. Certainly it's true that these compositions don't show a ton of imagination conceptually, but that doesn't mean anything. The group interplay here is the thing, it works seamlessly. The other notable is the looseness with which Green was playing on the date, and the true introduction of Willette's trademark approach to the B-3. That's all here. These tunes have their own little trademark knots and notches all over them. Highly recommended. [A bonus track version was also released.] AMG. listen here

sexta-feira, 11 de maio de 2012

Papa John Creach - Playing My Fiddle For You 1974

Fronting a six-piece band called Zulu, Papa John Creach produces a set of R&B, jump blues, ballads, and rock. A horn section augments the proceedings, as Creach and Zulu take on an instrumental version of "Milk Train" co-written by Grace Slick and featured on the 1972 Jefferson Airplane album Long John Silver and the similarly soaring "String Jet Continues." But "I Miss You So" is an old pop ballad, "Golden Dreams" is an airy instrumental, and "Playing My Music" is Creach's autobiography-in-song. A varied collection. AMG. listen here

Norman Connors - Dance Of Magic 1973

Recorded with a who's who of fusion titans including trumpeter Eddie Henderson, bassist Stanley Clarke, and keyboardist Herbie Hancock, Dance of Magic channels the lessons drummer Norman Connors learned in the employ of Pharoah Sanders, Sam Rivers, and Sun Ra, marshaling Latin rhythms, electronic textures, and cosmic mysticism to create nondenominational yet deeply spiritual funk-jazz. The sprawling 21-minute title cut spans the entirety of the record's first half, capturing a monumental jam session that explores the outer edges of free improvisation but never steps past the point of no return. Connors' furious drumming is like a trail of bread crumbs that leads his collaborators back home. The remaining three tracks are smaller in scale but no less epic in scope, culminating with the blistering "Give the Drummer Some." AMG. listen here

Modern Folk Quartet - Changes 1964

More notable for their later achievements and peripheral connections to important industry figures than for their music, the Modern Folk Quartet made commercially minded folk in the early '60s with an emphasis on group harmonies. They were not far removed from the Kingston Trio in sound, though they were mildly hipper than the most mainstream outfits like Chad Mitchell. Each of the quartet would go on to make a significant mark in music or media that had little to do with the folk revival. Jerry Yester did some production for the Association and Tim Buckley, was briefly in the Lovin' Spoonful as Zal Yanovsky's replacement, and made a fine, overlooked psychedelic pop album with his wife of the time, Judy Henske, for Frank Zappa's Straight label. Cyrus Faryar recorded for Elektra as a singer/songwriter in the early '70s, played sessions (including some for Linda Ronstadt and Fred Neil) and provided astrological narration for Zodiac's Cosmic Sounds (1967), one of the most zonked-out psychedelic concept albums ever. Henry Diltz became a top rock photographer, and Chip Douglas became a bassist and producer, most notably on some albums by the Monkees.

Get all these guys together in a room and you'd no doubt hear some great stories, but their two albums for Warner Bros. were fairly bland, clean-cut folk with no original tunes. They were a little more adventurous than the average such group: they covered material that bore the songwriting credit of Chester Powers (aka Dino Valente), did songs by Bob Dylan ("Farewell") and Phil Ochs ("The Bells"), and employed fuller arrangements than many such LPs did. Their first album was produced by Jim Dickson, who would shortly go on to manage the Byrds in their early years. After the Byrds made it big, the MFQ, like several other similar groups, modernized their sound and went into electric folk-rock, attracting the attention of Phil Spector, who was looking to modernize his sound himself. The MFQ recorded a Spector-produced, Harry Nilsson-written song, "This Could Be the Night," that was used as the theme to the rock concert film The Big TNT Show. Sadly, the song never came out, as Spector began to withdraw from the music business entirely in 1966, although it's on Spector's Back to Mono box set. the Modern Folk Quartet disbanded shortly afterwards. AMG. Thanks to B.! listen here

Paul Bley - Improvisie 1971

Pianist Paul Bley, whose earliest recordings sound like Al Haig or Bud Powell, took the styles and techniques associated with Oscar Peterson, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans to new levels of creative experimentation, becoming an indispensable force in modern music by combining the best elements in bop and early modern jazz with extended free improvisation and procedural dynamics often found in 20th century chamber music. This approach places him in league with artists as diverse as Red Garland, Elmo Hope, Mal Waldron, Jaki Byard, Stanley Cowell, Keith Jarrett, Andrew Hill, Lennie Tristano, Cecil Taylor, Ran Blake, Sun Ra, and Marilyn Crispell. Even a cursory overview of Bley's life and work can be pleasantly overwhelming, for he is among the most heavily recorded of all jazz pianists and his story is inextricably intertwined with the evolution of modern jazz during the second half of the 20th century.

Hyman Paul Bley was born in Montreal, Canada on November 10, 1932. A violin prodigy at five, he began playing piano at eight and studied at the McGill Conservatorium, earning his diploma at age eleven. Before long, Hy "Buzzy" Bley was sitting in with jazz bands and had formed his own group. Already a skilled pianist, he landed a steady gig at the Alberta Lounge soon after Oscar Peterson left to begin working for Norman Granz in 1949. The following year Bley continued his musical education at the Juilliard School in New York while gigging in the clubs with trumpeter Roy Eldridge, trombonist Bill Harris, and saxophonists Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, and Charlie Parker. While enrolled at Juilliard he played in a group with trumpeter Donald Byrd, saxophonist Jackie McLean, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Art Taylor. He also hung out at Lennie Tristano's residential studio, absorbing ideas.

Paul Bley's earliest known recordings survive as soundtracks from Canadian television; the first in 1950 with tenor saxophonist Brew Moore and the second in February 1953 with Charlie Parker, special invited guest of the Montreal Jazz Workshop, an artist-run organization Bley helped to establish. His first studio recording date took place in November 1953 with bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Art Blakey. The young pianist's constant interaction with archetypal and influential musicians was phenomenal; he also sat in with trumpeter Chet Baker and saxophonist Lester Young. In 1954 he led three different recording sessions with bassists Peter Ind and Percy Heath, and drummer Alan Levitt. At this stage of his career Paul Bley was an inspired, extremely adept bop pianist whose first decisively innovative period was just about to commence.

The plot thickened when Bley moved to California in 1957 and began holding down a steady engagement at the Hillcrest Club in Los Angeles, where he was recorded in 1958 with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Billy Higgins. He also performed with Canadian trumpeter Herb Spanier and recorded an album with vibraphonist Dave Pike, featuring liner notes and one composition by Karen Borg, a brilliant musician who married the pianist in 1957 and changed her name to Carla Bley. In 1959 the Bleys moved to New York City where they continued to interact with musicians who were operating on the cutting edge of modern jazz including multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, saxophonist and composer Oliver Nelson; composer and bandleader George Russell; composer, bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus; trumpeter and bandleader Don Ellis; bassists Gary Peacock and Steve Swallow; drummer Pete La Roca and multi-reedman Jimmy Giuffre. In 1961 Paul Bley made his first visit to Europe.

In 1963 Bley toured Japan with Sonny Rollins and participated in the tenor saxophonist's historic jousting session with Coleman Hawkins. The following year Paul and Carla Bley accepted trumpeter Bill Dixon's invitation to join the Jazz Composer's Guild. This brought them into direct contact with Austrian-American composer and trumpeter Michael Mantler; trombonists Bennie Green and Roswell Rudd; saxophonists Archie Shepp and John Tchicai and pianist Cecil Taylor. Bley, who also worked with saxophonist Albert Ayler, taped a session with tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian, and then began recording for the independent ESP-Disk label. Barrage featured a quintet with bassist Eddie Gomez, drummer Milford Graves and two who like Gilmore were closely affiliated with Sun Ra: trumpeter Dewey Johnson and altoist Marshall Allen; all of the pieces were composed by Carla Bley. Recorded in 1965 and released as Closer, the first of many albums involving drummer Barry Altschul featured works by Carla Bley, Ornette Coleman and Gary Peacock's wife Annette Peacock. Several trio projects materialized in Scandinavia during the years 1965-1966; from this point on Bley would spend increasing amounts of time performing and recording in Europe.

Soon after he was divorced from Carla Bley in 1967, Paul Bley married composer and vocalist Annette Peacock. As was the case with Carla, the influence of this woman upon Paul Bley was profound and lasting, as he combined his own continuously evolving improvisational methodology with her intriguing tonal formations. She sometimes sang with Bley's groups as he began to experiment with electronic instrumentation including ARP and Moog synthesizers. Recorded in December 1970 and January 1971, an album called the Paul Bley Synthesizer Show spotlighted the futuristic instrument backed by multiple players including drummers Bobby Moses and Han Bennink. In 1972 the Bley/Annette Peacock partnership was dissolved.

Two years later Bley and his new companion, video artist Carol Goss, founded the Improvising Artists record label. Soon they set precedents for the gradually emerging format of music videos. During two back to back sessions in 1974, Paul Bley introduced to the scene a pair of promising young musicians: guitarist Pat Metheny and bassist Jaco Pastorius. Bley and Goss were married in 1980 and soon moved the Improvising Artists operation out of New York City to Cherry Valley in central New York State. The '80s saw Bley reaffirming his links with the Canadian music scene while engaging in recording projects with saxophonist John Surman; guitarists John Abercrombie, John Scofield and Bill Frisell; bassists Jesper Lundgaard, Red Mitchell, Ron McClure and Bob Cranshaw; drummers George Cross MacDonald, Aage Tanggaard, Keith Copeland and Billy Hart.

Throughout the '90s Paul Bley's creative activities became ever more diverse and international in scope. This healthy tendency was epitomized by a hat Art album bearing the title 12 (+6) In a Row, recorded in Boswil, Switzerland during May 1990 with flugelhornist Franz Koglmann and clarinetist/saxophonist Hans Koch. Other collaborations from this period involved vibraphonist Gary Burton, bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and vocalist Tiziana Ghiglioni. In 1993, Bley, now a faculty member of the New England Conservatory of Music, released an album of piano solos with overdubbed synthesizers called Synth Thesis. His seemingly inexhaustible appetite for creative interaction with modern improvisers led him to record with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, saxophonists Lee Konitz, Evan Parker and Ralph Simon; with guitarist Sonny Greenwich, bassists Jay Anderson, Dave Young and Barre Phillips; drummers Stich Wynston, Adam Nussbaum and Bruce Ditmas; pianists Satoko Fuji, Stéphan Oliva and Hans Ludemann and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as poet and vocalist Paul Haines. In 1997 Bley was heard with an ensemble led by bassist and composer Maarten Altena. During the first decade of the 21st century he recorded with saxophonists Keshavan Maslak, François Carrier and Yuri Honing; guitarist Andreas Willers, bassist Mario Pavone and vocalist Jeanette Lambert. AMG. listen here

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw 1967

The 1968 edition of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band featured a larger ensemble with a horn section, allowing for a jazzier feeling while retaining its Chicago blues core. They also adopted the psychedelic flower power stance of the era, as evidenced by a few selections, the rather oblique title, and the stunning pastiche art work on the cover. Butterfield himself was really coming into his own playing harmonica and singing, while his band of keyboardist Mark Naftalin, guitarist Elvin Bishop, drummer Phil Wilson, electric bassist Bugsy Maugh, and the horns featuring young alto saxophonist David Sanborn was as cohesive a unit as you'd find in this time period. Butterfield's most well known song "One More Heartache" kicks off the album, a definitive blues-rock radio favorite with great harmonica and an infectious beat urged on by the top-notch horns. The band covers "Born Under a Bad Sign" at a time when Cream also did it -- which one was better? "Driftin' & Driftin'" is another well known tune, and over nine minutes is stretched out with the horns cryin' and sighin', including a definitive solo from Sanborn over the choruses. There's the Otis Rush tune "Double Trouble," and "Drivin' Wheel" penned by Roosevelt Sykes; Butterfield wrote two tunes, including "Run Out of Time" and the somewhat psychedelic "Tollin' Bells" where Bishop's guitar and Naftalin's slow ringing, resonant keyboard evokes a haunting sound. Likely this is the single best Butterfield album of this time period, and though compilations or "best-of" discs are available (Golden Butter being the best), you'd be well served to pick this one first and go from there. AMG. listen here

Roberta Flack - Chapter Two 1970

A great album and the release that made Roberta Flack a major soul and R&B artist in the early '70s. She had a soft, compelling, alluring voice, and was able to convincingly switch gears and also convey anger, regret, hurt, or despair. Those who thought Flack was a one-hit wonder, or didn't think she could make the transition from doing mostly jazz to other styles, were convinced otherwise. AMG. listen here

terça-feira, 8 de maio de 2012

Peter Gabriel - 2 (1978)

The pairing sounds ideal -- the former front man of Genesis, as produced by the leading light of King Crimson. Unfortunately, Peter Gabriel's second album (like his first, eponymous) fails to meet those grandiose expectations, even though it seems to at first. "On the Air" and "D.I.Y." are stunning slices of modern rock circa 1978, bubbling with synths, insistent rhythms, and polished processed guitars, all enclosed in a streamlined production that nevertheless sounds as large as a stadium. Then, things begin to drift, at first in a pleasant way ("A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World" is surprisingly nimble), but by the end, it all seems a little formless. It's not that the music is overly challenging -- it's that the record is unfocused. There are great moments scattered throughout the record, yet it never captivates, either through intoxicating, messy creativity (as he did on his debut) or through cohesion (the way the third Peter Gabriel album, two years later, would). Certain songs work well on their own -- not just the opening numbers, but the mini-epic "White Shadow," the tight "Animal Magic," the tense yet catchy "Perspective," the reflective closer "Home Sweet Home" -- yet for all the tracks that work, they never work well together. Ironically, it holds together a bit better than its predecessor, yet it never reaches the brilliant heights of that record. In short, it's a transitional effort that's well worth the time of serious listeners, even it's still somewhat unsatisfying. AMG. listen here

The Four Tops - Reach Out 1967

Though it's one of the best Four Tops records of the '60s, Reach Out still feels weighted down by a few vain attempts at adult pop crossover. It certainly starts out right, with the glorious "Reach out, I'll Be There," the group's second pop/R&B chart-topper. After a faithful cover of the Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee," though, listeners are forced to sit through trite versions of "If I Were a Carpenter," "Last Train to Clarksville," and "I'm a Believer" to get to real highlights like the dramatic, impassioned "Standing in the Shadows of Love" and "Bernadette." There is room for a great lesser single ("I'll Turn to Stone"), but the flip side finds the Four Tops taking on "Cherish," which could've worked well but didn't. Reach Out still did better than any other original LP by the group, almost breaking the Top Ten. AMG. listen here

James Gang - Rides Again 1970

With their second album Rides Again, the James Gang came into their own. Under the direction of guitarist Joe Walsh, the group -- now featuring bassist Dale Peters -- began incorporating keyboards into their hard rock, which helped open up their musical horizons. For much of the first side of Rides Again, the group tear through a bunch of boogie numbers, most notably the heavy groove of "Funk #49." On the second side, the James Gang departs from their trademark sound, adding keyboard flourishes and elements of country-rock to their hard rock. Walsh's songwriting had improved, giving the band solid support for their stylistic experiments. What ties the two sides of the record together is the strength of the band's musicianship, which burns brightly and powerfully on the hardest rockers, as well as on the sensitive ballads. AMG. listen here

Warren Zevon - Warren Zevon 1976

Warren Zevon was a ten-year music industry veteran who had written songs for the Turtles, backed up Phil Everly, done years of session work, and been befriended by Jackson Browne by the time he cut his self-titled album in 1976 (which wasn't his debut, though the less said about 1969's misbegotten Wanted Dead or Alive the better). Even though Warren Zevon was on good terms with L.A.'s Mellow Mafia, he sure didn't think (or write) like any of his pals in the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac; Zevon's music was full of blood, bile, and mean-spirited irony, and the glossy surfaces of Jackson Browne's production failed to disguise the bitter heart of the songs on Warren Zevon. The album opened with a jaunty celebration of a pair of Old West thieves and gunfighters ("Frank and Jesse James"), and went on to tell remarkable, slightly unnerving tales of ambitious pimps ("The French Inhaler"), lonesome junkies ("Carmelita"), wired, hard-living lunatics ("I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"), and truly dastardly womanizers ("Poor Poor Pitiful Me"), and even Zevon's celebrations of life in Los Angeles, long a staple of the soft rock genre, had both a menace and an epic sweep his contemporaries could never match ("Join Me in L.A." and "Desperados Under the Eaves"). But for all their darkness, Zevon's songs also possessed a steely intelligence, a winning wit, and an unusually sophisticated melodic sense, and he certainly made the most of the high-priced help who backed him on the album. Warren Zevon may not have been the songwriter's debut, but it was the album that confirmed he was a major talent, and it remains a black-hearted pop delight. AMG. listen here

The Undertones - The Undertones 1979

What is a perfect album? One could make an argument that a perfect album is one that sets out a specific set of artistic criteria and then fulfills them flawlessly. In that respect, and many others, the Undertones' 1979 debut is a perfect album. The Northern Ireland quintet's brief story is no different than that of literally dozens of other bands to form in the wake of the Clash and, more importantly, the Buzzcocks, but the group infuses so much unabashed joy in their two-minute three-chord pop songs, and there's so little pretension in their unapologetically teenage worldview, that even the darker hints of life in songs like the suicide-themed "Jimmy Jimmy" are delivered with a sense of optimism at odds with so many of their contemporaries. There's no fewer than three all-time punk-pop classics here; besides that song, the singles "Teenage Kicks" and "Get Over You" are simple declarations of teenage hormonal lust that somehow manage to be cute instead of Neanderthal; perhaps it's Feargal Sharkey's endearingly adenoidal whine, or the chipper way the O'Neill brothers pitch in on schoolboy harmonies, like a teenage Irish Kinks. All of the other 13 songs, even the 47-second blip "Casbah Rock," are nearly to that level of brilliance, with the frenetic "Girls Don't Like It" a particular standout. The Rykodisc CD adds seven demos and single sides, and also includes an entirely different, punkier version of "True Confessions" than the nervous, new wave-influenced throb of the version on the original U.K. vinyl. AMG. listen here

The Flock - Inside out 1975

Forming in late-'60s Chicago, the Flock forever languished in the shadow of the Chicago Transit Authority (later famous as just plain Chicago), whose peculiar approach to art rock -- incorporating horns and other unorthodox instrumentation into rock and jazz forms -- they also pursued. But though they clearly lacked Chicago's smash-hit-penning abilities, the Flock possessed a secret weapon in masterful violinist Jerry Goodman, and their genre-smashing compositions were often even more extreme, if not exactly Top 40 material.

Rick Canoff (vocals, saxophone) and Fred Glickstein (vocals, guitar, organ) were already performing in a garage band called the Exclusives in 1965 when they decided to rename themselves the Flock. The duo recorded a number of independent singles with various backing musicians over the next few years, but it wasn't until they discovered that their guitar tech, one Jerry Goodman, also happened to be a virtuoso violinist and invited him into the fold that the Flock's sound truly began to take shape. By 1969, the septet was completed by Jerry Smith (bass), Ron Karpman (drums), John Gerber (sax, flute, banjo), and Tom Webb (sax, flute), and had scored a deal with Columbia Records, for whom they recorded their groundbreaking eponymous debut that same year. But, not even enthusiastic endorsements from some of the era's most respected musicians (including English blues legend John Mayall, who famously dubbed them the "best American band" he'd heard and wrote the album's liner notes) could help sell the Flock's complicated music, which simply proved too unusual and inaccessible for most consumers. The band continued to plug along on the live circuit, including a stint at the prestigious 1970 Bath Festival (where they performed before a then-skyrocketing Led Zeppelin), but their label, Columbia, was already beginning to lose faith. Complicating matters further, 1971's Dinosaur Swamps proved a disappointing second effort, falling well short of its predecessor's inspirational flights; it is perhaps best-remembered for its beautiful cover artwork, rather than the songs contained within. A third LP, reportedly to be called "Flock Rock," was summarily shelved uncompleted, and the Flock had fallen apart by 1972. Violinist Goodman later worked with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Dixie Dregs, among others, but except for a brief, disastrous reunion which yielded 1975's ill-received Inside Out album, the remaining members of the Flock soon faded into rock & roll obscurity. AMG. listen here

Paul McCartney - Band on the Run 1973

Neither the dippy, rustic Wild Life nor the slick AOR flourishes of Red Rose Speedway earned Paul McCartney much respect, so he made the self-consciously ambitious Band on the Run to rebuke his critics. On the surface, Band on the Run appears to be constructed as a song cycle in the vein of Abbey Road, but subsequent listens reveal that the only similarities the two albums share are simply superficial. McCartney's talent for songcraft and nuanced arrangements is in ample display throughout the record, which makes many of the songs -- including the nonsensical title track -- sound more substantial than they actually are. While a handful of the songs are excellent -- the surging, inspired surrealism of "Jet" is by far one of his best solo recordings, "Bluebird" is sunny acoustic pop, and "Helen Wheels" captures McCartney rocking with abandon -- most of the songs are more style than substance. Yet McCartney's melodies are more consistent than any of his previous solo records, and there are no throwaways; the songs just happen to be not very good. Still, the record is enjoyable, whether it's the minor-key "Mrs. Vandebilt" or "Let Me Roll It," a silly response to John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?," which does make Band on the Run one of McCartney's finest solo efforts. However, there's little of real substance on the record. No matter how elaborate the production is, or how cleverly his mini-suites are constructed, Band on the Run is nothing more than a triumph of showmanship. AMG. listen here

sábado, 5 de maio de 2012

Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere 1969

Neil Young's second solo album, released only four months after his first, was nearly a total rejection of that polished effort. Though a couple of songs, "Round Round (It Won't Be Long)" and "The Losing End (When You're On)," shared that album's country-folk style, they were altogether livelier and more assured. The difference was that, while Neil Young was a solo effort, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere marked the beginning of Young's recording association with Crazy Horse, the trio of Danny Whitten (guitar), Ralph Molina (drums), and Billy Talbot (bass) that Young had drawn from the struggling local Los Angeles group the Rockets. With them, Young quickly cut a set of loose, guitar-heavy rock songs -- "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" -- that redefined him as a rock & roll artist. The songs were deliberately underwritten and sketchy as compositions, their lyrics more suggestive than complete, but that made them useful as frames on which to hang the extended improvisations ("River" and "Cowgirl" were each in the nine-to-ten-minute range) Young played with Crazy Horse and to reflect the ominous tone of his singing. Young lowered his voice from the near-falsetto employed on his debut to a more expressive range, and he sang with greater confidence, accompanied by Whitten and, on "Round Round," by Robin Lane. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes, becoming a moderate hit. (Young's joining Crosby, Stills & Nash the month after its release didn't hurt his profile, of course.) A year and a half after its release, it became a gold album, and it has since gone platinum. And it set a musical pattern Young and his many musical descendants have followed ever since; almost 30 years later, he was still playing this sort of music with Crazy Horse, and a lot of contemporary bands were playing music clearly influenced by it. AMG. listen here

Otis Redding - Complete & Unbelievable The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul 1966

Recorded and released in 1966, Otis Redding's fifth album, Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul found the rugged-voiced deep soul singer continuing to expand the boundaries of his style while staying true to his rough and passionate signature sound. Redding's ambitious interpretations of "Tennessee Waltz" and especially "Try A Little Tenderness" found him approaching material well outside the traditional boundaries of R&B and allowing his emotionally charged musical personality to take them to new and unexpected places, and while his cover of "Day Tripper" wasn't his first attempt to confront the British Invasion, his invigorating and idiosyncratic take on The Beatles' cynical pop tune proved Redding's view of the pop music universe was broader than anyone might have expected at the time. While Redding's experiments with covers on this set were successful and satisfying, it was on his own material that he sounded most at home, and "My Lover's Prayer" and "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)" are deep Southern soul at its finest, with Redding's forceful but lovelorn voice delivering an Academy Award-worthy performance. And once again, the Stax house band (centered around Booker T. and the MG's and The Memphis Horns) prove themselves both thoroughly distinctive and remarkably adaptable, fitting to the nooks and crannies of Redding's voice with their supple but muscular performances. With the exception of his duet album with Carla Thomas, Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul was the last studio album Otis Redding would fully complete before his death, and it proves his desire for a broader musical statement didn't begin when he encountered "the love crowd" at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. AMG. listen here

Re-Post: Osibisa - Osibisa 1971

Osibisa's self-titled album opened up their unique blend of African and Western styled music to a wider audience, charting in both the U.S. and Europe. Produced by Tony Visconti, Osibisa's extraordinary merger of African drum beats, colorful rhythms, and rock-inspired keyboard and horn parts give it an expansive sound that infuses countless musical influences. Even the melodies take bits of rhythm & blues and modern rock and affix them to the accompanying percussion beats to come up with a contemporary feel with an avant-garde atmosphere. Tracks such as "Dawn," "Phallus C," and "Oranges" incorporate fragments of traditional jazz and jazz fusion mainly because of the flute and saxophone into their core, but then fashions the result to resemble the band's true heritage. Each song conjures up a certain African mysticism with its stressed rhythms and semi-primordial tempos. The most impressive track, "Music for Gong Gong," became a minor hit in the U.K. thanks to the well- balanced vocal charge and the beauty that's felt in the shingled layers of guitar, organ, and drum work. In both "Ayiko Bia" and "Akwaaba," Osibisa's Ghanian and Nigerian roots come alive through the use of the flute, flugelhorn, and trumpet -- not exactly the traditional instruments of West Africa, but they are transformed and molded to take on the band's fundamental sound. What may be the most predominant aspect about Osibisa is that the vast blend of instruments and the playful lyrics inject just enough of a modern element into the album that it's properly kept from being labeled as world music or as new age. AMG. listen here

Nara Leão - Os meus amigos são um barato 1977

Nara Leão, the Musa da Bossa Nova (Bossa Nova's Muse, as she is affectionately known), was a prominent figure in bossa nova. She didn't restrict herself as a bossa nova singer, though, and was one of the first artists to engage in the movement later known as "canção de protesto" (protest song), an artistic movement which denounced military dictatorship in Brazil. She launched the careers of such composers/interpreters as Chico Buarque, Zé Keti, Martinho da Vila, Edu Lobo, Paulinho da Viola, and Fagner. An international performer in spite of her short, uneducated voice, she left an expressive discography even though death caught her by surprise at such a precocious age.

When she was a year old, she and her family left Vitória for Rio. In 1954, she took her first violão classes with Solon Ayala and Patrício Teixeira, and then with Roberto Menescal and Carlos Lyra. As an amateur, she participated in the first university presentations where bossa nova was coming together as an organized movement. She performed with names such as João Gilberto, Luiz Eça, Ronaldo Bôscoli (with whom she would have a love affair and later become his fiancée), Carlos Lyra, and others. At that time, she was a reporter for Rio's newspaper Última Hora. The ample apartment of her complacent parents in Rio's south side (zona sul), Copacabana, Posto 4, became a meeting point for musicians, which led many to erroneously establish it as a bossa nova cradle (actually, the cradle was, to some extent, the Cantina do César, but even more appropriately, the Plaza nightclub around 1952). In 1963, she debuted as a professional, working in the musical comedy Pobre Menina Rica, by Vinícius de Moraes and Carlos Lyra. While working on the play, they also acted at the Carioca nightclub Au bon Gourmet. She also debuted in that year in recording studios, singing "Naná" (Moacir Santos), which was included in the movie soundtrack to Ganga Zumba, Rei dos Palmares (Cacá Diegues). She also recorded two tracks on Carlos Lyra's LP Depois do Carnaval (Philips): the marcha-rancho "Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas" (Carlos Lyra/Vinícius de Moraes) and the samba-jazz "Promessas de Você" (Carlos Lyra/Nelson Lins e Barros). Also in 1963, she toured Brazil, Japan, and France with Sérgio Mendes. When they toured the Northeast, Leão was introduced by Roberto Santana to the so-called Vila Velha Gang, the baianos Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, and Maria Bethânia. Her first LP (Nara), recorded by Elenco, launched the sambista do morro (sambista of the hill) Zé Keti into the middle-class circle with great success with his song "Diz que Fui por Aí" (with H. Rocha). She also reintroduced to the same circle the older sambista do morro Cartola ("O Sol Nascerá," together with Elton Medeiros). Along with these two songs, which became all-time hits, another two songs recorded on that album had the same success: "Consolação" (Baden Powell/Vinícius de Moraes) and "O Morro" (Carlos Lyra/Gianfrancesco Guarnieri). On that album, she evidenced her social concerns (still a bit naïve), choosing a non-bossa repertoire. These concerns were even more evident in the following phase of her career when a coup took power over Brazil and installed the military dictatorship; this event provoked her to actively denounce it. Her second album, Opinião de Nara (Leão's opinion, Philips, 1964), brought "Opinião" (Zé Keti). In December 1964, she made a great success with the show Opinião (Gianfrancesco Guarnieri/Augusto Boal) at the Teatro Opinião (Rio). The show brought together Leão, a middle-class young girl, Zé Keti, representing the morro people, and João do Vale, from the poor region of Northeast. The show was such a longtime success that it robbed the middle-class audiences making the important samba redoubt Zicartola profitable, which was owned by Cartola himself; it closed its doors soon afterwards. It also killed bossa nova in Brazil. Leão delivered passionate speeches against bossa nova in that time, calling it an "alienating" movement. At the same time, the instrumental backing of the show Opinião was pure bossa, as can be heard on a CD reissued in 1994, informing that the rupture, at that time, was more ideological than musical. In 1965, she presented Chico Buarque with his songs "Pedro Pedreiro" (strong social thematic) and "Olê, Olá." Also in that year, she participated in the Teatro Opinião show Liberdade, Liberdade (freedom, freedom), by Flávio Rangel/Millôr Fernandes. She also appeared on Elis Regina/Jair Rodrigues' regular TV show O Fino da Bossa, which eventually also had Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Edu Lobo, Tom Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes, and Ivan Lins. In 1966, she recorded her album Manhã de Liberdade (Philips). Defending Chico Buarque's "A Banda," together with him at TV Record's II FMPB (1966, São Paulo), she won first place (together with "Disparada," by Geraldo Vandré and Théo de Barros). Leão recorded "A Banda," together with the first song composed by the duo Gilberto Gil/Capinam, "Ladainha." The next year, she sang, together with its author, "A Estrada e o Violeiro" (Sidney Miller), at the III FMPB. The song was awarded for Best Lyrics. Between 1966 and 1967, she and Chico Buarque had a regular weekly TV show (Pra Ver a Banda Passar, TV Record). In 1966, she was almost framed in the National Security Law by the War department due to a direct critique against the military in an interview with the Carioca newspaper Diário de Notícias ("our military forces are of no avail"). In 1967, she recorded the LP Canto Livre de Nara. In 1968, she joined the Tropicalista movement, joining Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Rogério Duprat, Tom Zé, Capinam, Os Mutantes, Torquato Neto, and Gal Costa on the LP Tropicália ou Panis et Cirsensis. The same year, she recorded her LP Nara Leão, on which she sang Ernesto Nazareth's "Odeon" that had Vinícius de Moraes' lyrics written especially for her. The LP, released at the Carioca nightclub Le Bilboquet, brought two of Veloso's compositions, ("Mamãe Coragem" and "Deus vos Salve Esta Casa Santa," both with Torquato Neto) and the arrangements of Rogério Duprat, which helped establish a connection with Tropicalia. She had decided to stay out of television for a whole year, for not agreeing with the short vision of art of the producers. In the next year, she moved to France and recorded another LP. In 1971, she recorded Dez Anos Depois (Polydor) in Paris and then went back to Brazil. In the next year, she appeared in the film Quando o Carnaval Chegar (by Cacá Diegues, her husband), together with Chico Buarque and Maria Bethânia. In the following years, she began her psychology college studies, leaving music aside. In that period, she made only sporadic appearances on shows and albums from other artists, such as Fagner. In the late '70s, she released her LP Meus Amigos são um Barato (Philips, 1977), with appearances by Tom Jobim, Carlos Lyra, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Roberto Menescal, and others. As she learned she had cancer, she returned with full impetus to her career, recording another 11 LPs until 1988. In 1997, she was the theme of the first play by renowned moviemaker Júlio Brassane, Vida-Névoa-Nada. AMG. listen here

Lulu - To Sir With Love Very Best Of 1967-68

This compilation collects 19 sides from Lulu during her burgeoning ascent as a British pop diva. The tracks include the contents of the long-players To Sir With Love (1967) and Love Loves to Love Lulu (1967) -- which share pretty much the same 11-song tune stack. The remainder were issued on a variety of singles in the U.K. as well as stateside. Although the vast majority failed to make much of an impact, she did top the pop singles chart with the title song of this package as well as from the film To Sir With Love (1967), where she likewise debuted as an actress. She played the smarmy lower-middle-class student "Miss" Barbara Pegg alongside Sidney Poitier's brilliant portrayal of high-school educator "Sir" Mark Thackeray. Her only other platter to hit the Top 40 in the U.S. was "Best of Both Worlds" -- which features an opulent score from Peter Knight. Keen-eared listeners may well hear several striking similarities between the introductory orchestration, which is a variation on a theme that Knight was concurrently incorporating into his work with the Moody Blues on their groundbreaking Days of Future Passed (1967). Specifically, musical quotes that surround the recitation (read: "Breath deep/The gather gloom...") at the end of "Nights in White Satin" are used here for a similar sonic flare. Lulu remained at the center of the mod scene in the U.K., rivaling other top British vocalists such as Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black for airplay and record sales, under the direction of Mickie Most (producer/arranger) and his crew -- which often included the distinct work of John Paul Jones (string arrangement/bass/guitar/brass) several years prior to his commitment to Led Zeppelin. In addition to co-arranging with Knight, Jones' multi-instrumental prowess can be heard on practically every track. His contributions include the Burt Bacharach/Hal David feel on the poppy "Let's Pretend" as well as the Brian Auger-like electric organ runs on the syncopated R&B-influenced "Take Me in Your Arms (And Love Me)."

Also included in her repertoire are a few interesting cover tunes -- including a soulful reading of "Morning Dew" and Neil Diamond's spunky and freewheelin' "The Boat That I Row." The same results are not quite achieved on the decidedly produced and over the top version of "Day Tripper." Her marriage to Bee Gees co-founder Maurice Gibb may have had some bearing on the affective remake of "To Love Somebody." Without a doubt, the tastefully arranged and implemented small string section on Harry Nilsson's "Without Him" is quite different from Al Kooper's swinging bossa nova reading of "Without Her" from Child Is Father to the Man. In fact, this version rivals the equally infectious reading from Astrud Gilberto from her underrated I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do (1969) LP. Lulu's influence has reached through the generations with the sampling and looping of the electric guitar intro to the upbeat and ultra mod "Love Loves to Love Love," which was featured on the 1996 Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) track "Santa Cruz." The sound quality on this collection is, quite frankly, immaculate. The entire contents were remastered -- if not perhaps remixed -- from the one and only multi-track master tapes, which yielded seven previously unissued stereo mixes. Unlike the songs gleaned from the To Sir With Love or Love Loves to Love Lulu albums, the remainder of the sides were not released in anything other than traditional mono. To Sir With Love: The Very Best of 1967-1968 is arguably the best Lulu primer available. AMG. listen here

The Spencer Davis Group - I'm A Man 1966

Stevie Winwood and Muff Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group just a few months before the summer 1967 release of their second U.S. album, which nonetheless was entirely comprised of songs done by the original lineup. Like their first U.S. album, Gimme Some Lovin', it was a more or less arbitrary assortment of songs that had been recorded by the band at various points in the mid-'60s. And again, the big hit, "I'm a Man," was a classic soul-rock group original that outclassed everything else on the record. Otherwise it was standard British R&B-rock that varied from average to very good. The standouts were their covers of John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" and the relatively little-known American soul tunes "I Can't Stand It" and "Look Away." The cooking Stevie Winwood-penned instrumental "On the Green Light" had dynamic organ and blues guitar. The 2001 CD reissue on Sundazed adds add bonus tracks from the same era, including some of their best efforts: the percolating cover of "Watch Your Step," the anguished original blues ballad "Hey Darling," "Let Me Down Easy," "Strong Love," and the instrumental "Waltz for Lumumba," which anticipates Traffic with its unusual percussion and jazzy accents. AMG. listen here

Maffit And Davies - The Rise And Fall Of Honesty 1968

Maffitt/Davies was a short lived duo who released one album off Capitol in 1968. Judging by the cover you’d expect psychedelic fireworks but The Rise and Fall of Honesty is really an Ameriana folk-rock record. This is another good one that never saw release in the cd era. I found a vinyl copy in the Boston area for only $15 dollars though lately this lp has been somewhat hard to come by. While labelmate lps by the Common People and Food attract more attention I think that Maffitt/Davies was a much, much better group.

The record starts off with a brilliant version of Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman. Maffitt/Davies transform this standard into a heartbreaking orchestrated folk track that must surely rank as one of the best versions of this song.

Forest Lawn, the album’s failed single, has a distinct Face to Face Kink’s sound though it’s notable for its dobro and freaky church organ. Tom Thumb’s Blues is the other Dylan cover on this record and shows the band taking a Byrds/Everly Brothers vocal harmony approach. The playing is topnotch throughout the record (check out instrumental Lungi Dal Caro Beni) and the duo’s vocal harmonies are tight if a bit unconventional. This is a quiet, tranquil record that never bores and reminds me of prime late 60’s Dillards on their folk-rock outings.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is Landscape Grown Cold. This is a visionary slice of American music that predates the alt. country/folk boom with dark lyrics, strings, phasing towards the end, and a vibe similar to Texas band Euphoria. More noteworthy tracks are Kingswood Manor which is a good folk-rock track that flirts with psychedelia by way of tabla (and drug references within the lyrics) while country-rocker City Sidewalks is very trancey and will appeal to any true Byrds fan. About 3 or 4 tracks on the album include drums though electric guitar fans should note with caution that most of this disc is acoustic.

The music is time worn, ancient and has that lived in feel but always inventive and never short on ideas. What ever happened to these musicians? Does anyone know? Anyway, if Americana or folk-rock is your bag, prepare yourself for a really good one. The Rising Storm. listen here

Herbie Mann - Big Boss Mann 1965

Herbie Mann played a wide variety of music throughout his career. He became quite popular in the 1960s, but in the '70s became so immersed in pop and various types of world music that he seemed lost to jazz. However, Mann never lost his ability to improvise creatively as his later recordings attest.

Herbie Mann began on clarinet when he was nine but was soon also playing flute and tenor. After serving in the Army, he was with Mat Mathews' Quintet (1953-1954) and then started working and recording as a leader. During 1954-1958 Mann stuck mostly to playing bop, sometimes collaborating with such players as Phil Woods, Buddy Collette, Sam Most, Bobby Jaspar, and Charlie Rouse. He doubled on cool-toned tenor and was one of the few jazz musicians in the '50s who recorded on bass clarinet; he also recorded a full album in 1957 (for Savoy) of unaccompanied flute.

After spending time playing and writing music for television, Mann formed his Afro-Jazz Sextet, in 1959, a group using several percussionists, vibes (either Johnny Rae, Hagood Hardy, or Dave Pike) and the leader's flute. He toured Africa (1960) and Brazil (1961), had a hit with "Comin' Home Baby," and recorded with Bill Evans. The most popular jazz flutist during the era, Mann explored bossa nova (even recording in Brazil in 1962), incorporated music from many cultures (plus current pop tunes) into his repertoire, and had among his sidemen such top young musicians as Willie Bobo, Chick Corea (1965), Attila Zoller, and Roy Ayers; at the 1972 Newport Festival his sextet included David Newman and Sonny Sharrock. By then Mann had been a producer at Embroyo (a subsidiary of Atlantic) for three years and was frequently stretching his music outside of jazz. As the '70s advanced, Mann became much more involved in rock, pop, reggae, and even disco. After leaving Atlantic at the end of the '70s, Mann had his own label for awhile and gradually came back to jazz. He recorded for Chesky, made a record with Dave Valentin, and in the '90s founded the Kokopelli label on which before breaking away in 1996, he was free to pursue his wide range of musical interests. Through the years, he recorded as a leader for Bethlehem, Prestige, Epic, Riverside, Savoy, Mode, New Jazz, Chesky, Kokopelli, and most significantly Atlantic. He passed away on July 1, 2003, following an extended battle with prostate cancer. His last record was 2004's posthumously released Beyond Brooklyn for Telarc. AMG. listen here

quinta-feira, 3 de maio de 2012

Harry Chapin - Short Stories 1973

The pensive tales of personal relationships on Short Stories belong to a bygone era, when the summer of love was yielding to the autumn of adulthood and the mundane realities that attended it. Like Jim Croce and James Taylor, Harry Chapin observes the melancholy side of life in self-contained character studies: the midlife assessment of a failed career and marriage on the poignant "WOLD," a dry cleaner whose pretense to a singing career is exposed on "Mr. Tanner," the meager dreams of a poor farmer and his mail-order bride on "Mail Order Annie." Yet the album's overall tone is sober rather than somber. Perhaps "Song for Myself" expresses it best when Chapin offers up the challenge: "Are we all gonna sit here with a stoned out smile and simply watch the world go 'way?" For the songwriter, it's a rhetorical question. If the subjects are flawed, unhappy, unable to appreciate or hold on to love, it's the reality left in the wake of the '60s overweening idealism. The loss of free love is lamented on "They Call Her Easy," replaced by the cynicism of experience in "Changes." Musically, the album has much in common with the work of Cat Stevens, leaning on Paul Leka's orchestral arrangements to embellish otherwise dry songs. Chapin lacks Stevens' affection for inventive melodies and off-kilter rhythms, but compared to a toned-down record like Catch Bull at Four, the two are strikingly similar. The fact remains that casual fans will be better served with a greatest-hits compilation that includes "WOLD" than wading through all of Short Stories. Those with a predilection for Chapin's bittersweet muse will be better served by the whole album. AMG. listen here