segunda-feira, 29 de setembro de 2014

Lee Moses - Time and Place 1967-1971

Lee Moses' 1971 LP on Maple Records called Time and Place has long been the Holy Grail for R&B and soul collectors, and one listen to this Atlanta musician's scratchy and funky guitar playing and his raspy and throat shedding deep soul singing style should be enough to convince anyone that he was indeed a great lost soul treasure. Moses, who died unsung in Atlanta in 1997, recorded a handful of singles for the Musicor, Dynamo and Gates imprints in the late '60s and early '70s as well as that sole LP, and Castle Music has finally put all of it together in what is essentially a complete recorded works package. It's easy to hear what all the fuss is about. This guy was the real deal, playing and singing with an uncommon passion and tracks here like the powerfully emotional "I'm Sad About It," the funky and name-checking tour de force "Got That Will," and the stunning ballad "My Adorable One" (there are two versions of this song included here, and both are gems) should have been huge radio hits in a fair and equitable world. Also impressive are the instrumental versions of "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Day Tripper" which were originally released as a doubled-sided single by Musicor in 1967, both cuts exhibiting an engagingly ragged and soulful exuberance that still sounds fresh and vital forty-odd years later and show Moses to be a finely nuanced and undeniably funky guitarist. But it is Moses' searing vocals that will garner most of the attention, which is as it should be. Taken as a whole, this edition ofTime and Place sounds like a secular gospel meeting with Moses' singing passing for a fired-up preacher's impassioned sermon as he shouts, growls and purrs through the ins and outs and the ups and downs of love as convincingly as any soul singer one can name. That Moses never had so much as a regional hit seems criminal and his death in 1997 in complete obscurity is an incalculable tragedy. Big thanks go out to Castle Music for bringing these remarkable lost treasures of Lee Mosesback into the world. [Time and Place was also released with bonus tracks.] AMG.

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Nils Lofgren - Cry Tough 1976

After releasing a solo debut that made a great case for his talent but didn't deliver the rock & roll goods as expected, Nils Lofgren turned up the guitar heroics on his 1976 album Cry Tough and the results were a lot closer to what fans had hoped for from the whiz kid from Grin. However, Cry Tough also unwittingly revealed the Achilles' Heel that would haunt Lofgren's solo career for the next three decades -- there's no denying that the guy is a great guitar player, but his gifts as a guitarist and songwriter have been maddeningly inconsistent, and while 1975's self-titled solo debut was one of his high-water marks as a tunesmith, he gave himself more room to strut his stuff on guitar here without bringing many memorable tunes to the table ("Jailbait" and the title cut are particularly faulty). It's significant that two of the sharpest and most effective tracks on Cry Tough, "Incidentally … It's Over" and "Can't Get Closer (WCGC)," feature the same rhythm section that backed Lofgren on his debut; produced by David Briggs, they sound straightforward, compelling, and emotionally direct, while most of the rest of the album (produced by Al Kooper) features a larger band, a glossier approach, and somehow allows Lofgren to effectively sound lost on his own album. Lofgren certainly plays up a storm on Cry Tough, and his soloing on "You Lit a Fire" and "It's Not a Crime" is inspired, but that's not enough to keep this record afloat. Cry Tough is at its best when it is also at its simplest; if the whole album had been as good as "Incidentally … It's Over" and "Can't Get Closer (WCGC)," it would have been a winner, but instead it was the first in a long line of disappointments from a gifted but problematic talent. AMG.

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Caroline Peyton - Intuition 1977

Released to some critical acclaim but little else -- not surprising for any effort in 1977 that only appeared on a tiny regional label well removed from any wider distribution -- Caroline Peyton's second solo effort is all the more unusual for not getting a major-label release at the time. Effortlessly nestling in the sonic space outlined by performers ranging from Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt to Fleetwood Mac, but with a style all its own, Intuition avoids basic genre classification for its own easygoing blend; if not as exploratory in general like other peers or even some of her earlier efforts, it's still warm and winning for those inclined to the sounds of that era. Peyton's excellent singing, honed by years of performing, ranges from the sweet to the sassy and back again, and any number of moments, like her vocal break on "Together," showcase her talent readily. The standout song, "Call of the Wild," is a rich number given moving but not overwhelming backing from other musicians; with Peyton's performance on the chorus the killer touch, it almost foretells later efforts from groups like Bel Canto in its blend of serene folk and electronics. Perhaps the most intriguing sign of how she engaged her music and the time comes with the "disco number" -- and it does have to be said that Peyton's singing, while still excellent, doesn't quite have the heft that such a performance would require. But unlike any number of dull moves at the time from people with no funk in their system at all, "Party Line," while definitely polite and loungey in feel, almost feels more like a quietly reflective Philly soul number thanks to its stop-start feel breaking up the straight-up pulse. AMG.

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Woody's Truck Stop - Woody's Truck Stop 1969

Woody's Truck Stop's biggest claim to fame was that they were one of Todd Rundgren's early groups prior to forming the NazzRundgren had moved to the resort town of Wildwood, NJ, after graduating from high school, and began sitting in with a few local bands, including Woody's Truck Stop. After seeing Rundgren play incredible slide guitar one day, drummer/group leader Bob Radeloff convinced lead guitarist Alan Miller that having two lead guitarists -- like Paul Butterfield's band -- might be good for the band. Rundgren joined, and soon they were based in Philadelphia, where some of the members were going to college. From the first day, Miller and Rundgren were at loggerheads about the band's direction; Miller wanted the band to remain more blues-oriented, while Rundgren wanted to venture off in a more psych-pop direction (inspired by the Beatles and the Who). Woody's Truck Stop, meanwhile, was signed to Smash Records, and played many high-profile gigs in the Philadelphia area. In May 1967, after a particularly awful gig, Rundgren quit to concentrate on his own music; he was replaced by rhythm guitarist Greg Radcliffe. Bassist Ron Bogeon replaced Caron Van Osten, who eventually ended up in Rundgren's new band, the Nazz. This lineup recorded the band's first album,Woody's Truck Stop, at Regent Sound in New York City. It was released in early 1969. The electric blues of Paul Butterfield and the Blues Project, and the Chicago-based blues of Junior Wells andSonny Boy Williamson -- both artists are covered here -- provide the band's main influence. There are a handful of ballads too -- "Marble Reflections," "Tryin' So Hard," "Everything Is Fine," and "Just to Be With You" -- but the best track is the heavy psych-rocker "Color Scheme." The album failed to bring the band success, and soon after its release, Woody's Truck Stop called it a day. AMG.

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Steve Ashley - Stroll On 1974

Upon release, Steve Ashley's debut album was rated The Sunday Telegraph's folk album of the year, and even landed its maker a U.S. deal with Motown, which released it to wild acclaim in America in 1975. Across the board, Ashley seemed set for a powerful career. Instead, he all but vanished, releasing new albums with infuriating irregularity and condemning Stroll On to a "lost treasure" status that wholly undervalues its importance. Stroll On was originally recorded in 1971 (Ashley suffered some 30 rejections before Gull finally picked it up), but the timelessness of its contents barely registered the delay. The sparse accompaniment of a band built around drummer Dave Mattacks, but diversifying to encompass tablas, concertina, pedal steel (the redoubtable B.J. Cole), fretless bass, and, on one occasion, the Albion Band, offers an exquisite backdrop to Ashley's thoughtful, almost foreboding voice, yet is happy to remain subservient to it. The monastic chant that opens "Fire and Wine," for example, remains in the ears long after the musicians kick in with chiming electric riffery, while "Candlemas Carol" echoes with the midwinter chill that this ancient festival once guarded against, no matter how warm Robert Kirby's recorders grow. Much of the album seems to concern the seasons -- the grip of deep winter, the fleeting joys of summer -- and this, too, contributes to the album's mood, not because talking about the weather is such a popular occupation, but because the moods induced by the changing seasons truly are eternal. And it does listeners good to be reminded of that sometimes. AMG. Thanks to ChrisGoesRock.

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Caetano Veloso - Bicho 1977

Just prior to the recording of BichoCaetano Veloso was invited to take part in the Negro Festival of Art and Culture in Lagos, Nigeria. Veloso was so knocked out by the music he heard that he scrapped his original plans for the album to record something more redolent of his experiences in Lagos. Veloso himself refers to Bicho as "sweet melodies on a hot rhythm," and he's absolutely right. A marvelous record. For the record, bicho is the Portuguese word for beast. AMG.

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Wisse Scheper Topaz - Rainbow 1972

Cool and obscure dutch early 70's pop/singer-songwriter album produced by jazz flautist Chris Hinze. Wisse Scheper is the main composer, lead singer and he plays a plethora of instruments too, and Topaz is actually the backing band's name. It *could* have been dreadful really, the kind of bland and melodramatic SSW stuff that was so common in the early 70's, but Hinze's background in jazz fusion ensures that unusual sounds, nice instrumental breaks and all sorts of cool little touches abound. Unfortunately, there are also some irritating vocal mannerisms too (ie : Our love will be strong..). Songwise, this falls between a poppier Peter Hammill and Bowie circa Hunky Dory maybe. Not bad at all on the whole - better than you would expect anyway. Wonderful cover art too, simple yet brilliant. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is actually some lost psychedelic masterpiece, or weird German jazz fusion upon seeing that cover for the first time. This is anything but - yet it's quite nice for what it is. Hard to find!

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quarta-feira, 24 de setembro de 2014

Jack Traylor & Steelwind - Child of Nature 1973

A basic desire of any species is reproduction, and occasionally the urge strikes bands as well.  Paul McCartney became the surrogate father of Badfinger and helped kick off the nostalgia influenced power-pop of the 70s, while Jefferson Airplane step-parented Steelwind.  It is almost simple one-to-one substitution - Jack Traylor was the main songwriter and vocalist, and sticks to unvarnished acoustic rhythm guitar (Kantner).  The have a female vocalist, Diana Harris, who also happens to play some piano (Slick), a lead guitarist who mainly sticks to electric (Kaukonen), a third guitar player, Skip Morairty (Balin), and a bassist (Casady).  Plus, longtime Airplane producer Al Schmitt produced their debut, Child of Nature.   Sure, it is not quite that simple, and this comparison is far more interesting than Steelwind's music.  I wish I would stop running across these albums from the Airplane's vanity label, Grunt.  Traylor's an okay singer/songwriter (the title track is catchy) but outside of Chaquico, who later hald the same position in Jefferson Starship, the group's backing is vanilla folk/soft rock stuff (plenty of lame 70s flute courtesy of Skip Morairty).  When they did pick things up a bit, Steelwind sounds like an Airplane knockoff (the politically themed "Smile", "Gone to Canada").  The young Chaquito gets in some nice work , and has one extended solo which owes a lot more to flashy rock than folk ("Time to be Happy"), but beyond that your pulse will not rise too much.  Child of Nauture is instantly forgettable, pleasant 70s music, but its dated political content insures that it will not be played in a bank lobby near you anytime soon.  Besides Traylor and Chaquico, the other members of Steelwind dropped off the face of the planet.  The drummer is Malo member Rick Quintanal, and Freiberg plays faint mellotron on one track.  "Caveat Emptor" indeed.

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Bernard Lavilliers - Le Stéphanois 1974

With the body of a bouncer, the looks of a movie star, and a low, sensual voice, Bernard Lavilliersstarted as a left-wing singer following in the footsteps of Léo Ferré. This boxer-singer rose to stardom in France in the mid-'70s (other Francophone countries followed quickly) and became an icon of the free-thinking singer/songwriter, the conscience of the French bourgeoisie. A serious traveler and occasional reporter, Lavilliers has made long stays in many South American and African countries, always bringing back songs (and sometimes musicians) with him. He was one of the first French singers to make "world music."
Lavilliers (b. 1946) comes from a lower-class family. His father was a steel worker and unionist. Gifted with a solid frame and a resolute mind, the young Lavilliers was prompt to argue and fight -- he picked up boxing as a hobby at age 13. After spending a year in reformatory, he joined his father at the steel mill in 1962. Three years later, he'd had enough and took off to Brazil, working there as a jungle truck driver. Back in France in 1967, he was incarcerated for skipping his military service.
His big break came in 1976, at age 30. Signed by Barclay, he was presented with two musicians who would become his first solid backup players and invaluable contributors: Pascal Arroyo andFrançois Bréant. Together they recorded Les Barbares, which propelled Lavilliers to the top. Political and severe in his judgments, the singer threw one hit off after another, up to 1979 when the dark and cold LP Pouvoirs chilled both media and public. Another South American trip later, he recorded O Gringo, which became his biggest seller, thanks to a return to exotic rhythms. The end of a torrid affair with the American body-building star Lisa Lyons is at the heart of État d'Urgence (1983), which included the song "Idées Noires." A hit-scorer and a touring dynamo, Lavilliers turned more and more to South American and African rhythms, as he investigated the situations in Nicaragua and Cuba. If (1988) yielded one of his biggest international hits to date, "On the Road Again," topped only by "Melody Tempo Harmony" in 1995. Slowing down his activities as he crossed the 50-year bar, he continued to release albums regularly and has made a couple of big tours in the late '90s. At the beginning and throughout the ‘00s, he released a plethora of albums, the highlights being 2005’s Escale Au Grand Rex and 2008’s Samedi Soir A Beyrouth.Back in his days at the factory, Lavilliers had begun to write songs. In prison he persevered and once out, started to perform in Paris' cabarets. Jean-Pierre Hébrard of Decca gave him a record contract in late 1967. The singer recorded two singles and an eponymous LP, his acoustic anarchist songs putting him very close to Ferré. He also tried other careers, going back to boxing for a moment, managing night clubs the next. In 1972, he released his second album, Les Poètes. Three years later, Le Stéphanois yielded the minor classic "San Salvador." AMG.

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Little Richard - Here's Little Richard 1957

Little Richard had been making records for four years before he rolled into Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio in New Orleans and cut the epochal "Tutti Frutti" in the fall of 1955, but everything else he'd done -- and much of what others had recorded -- faded into insignificance when Richard wailed "A wop bop a loo mop a lomp bomp bomp" and kicked off one of the first great wailers in rock history. In retrospect,Little Richard's style doesn't seem so strikingly innovative as captured in 1956's Here's Little Richard-- his boogie-woogie piano stylings weren't all that different from what Fats Domino had been laying down since 1949, and his band pumped out the New Orleans backbeat that would define the Crescent City's R&B for the next two decades, albeit with precision and plenty of groove. But what set Richardapart was his willingness to ramp up the tempos and turn the outrage meter up to ten; "Tutti Frutti," "Rip It Up," and "Jenny Jenny" still sound outrageous a half-century after they were waxed, and it's difficult but intriguing to imagine how people must have reacted to Little Richard at a time when African-American performers were expected to be polite, and the notion of a gay man venturing out of the closet simply didn't exist (Richard's songs were thoroughly heterosexual on the surface, but the nudge and wink of "Tutti Frutti" and "Baby" is faint but visible, and his bop threads, mile-high process, and eye makeup clearly categorized him as someone "different"). These 12 tunes may not represent the alpha and omega of Little Richard's best music, but every song is a classic and unlike many of his peers, time has refused to render this first album quaint -- Richard's grainy scream remains one of the great sounds in rock & roll history, and the thunder of his piano and the frantic wail of the band is still the glorious call of a Friday night with pay in the pocket and trouble in mind. Brilliant stuff. AMG.

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Caetano Veloso - Qualquer Coisa 1975

On Qualquer CoisaCaetano Veloso still wasn't the superstar he became in the '80s, when he turned himself in a mainstream pop artist. This album sounds underground in its voice/violão renditions, parsimony in the arrangements, and absence of luxury effects or electronics -- in other words, the focus is on Veloso's guitar, voice, melodies, and lyrics. His wonderful cool interpretations for "Qualquer Coisa," "Samba e Amor," "A Tua Presença Morena," "Drume Negrinha," "Jorge da Capadócia," "Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," "Lady Madonna," and "La Flor de la Canela," among others, became classics. AMG.

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Lightnin' Rod - Hustlers Convention 1973

A former member of the Last PoetsLightnin' Rod helped pioneer the spoken-rhyme style that would one day become rap. His most renowned album, Hustler's Convention, told the story of an ill-fated ghetto "player" and featured backing instrumentation by Kool & the Gang. AMG.

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Lester Bowie - The 5th Power 1978

From the 1970s until his death in 1999, Lester Bowie was the preeminent trumpeter of the jazz avant-garde -- one of the few trumpet players of his generation to adopt the techniques of free jazz successfully and completely. Indeed, Bowie was the most successful in translating the expressive demands of the music -- so well suited to the tonally pliant saxophone -- to the more difficult-to-manipulate brass instrument. Like a saxophonist such as David Murray or Eric DolphyBowieinvested his sound with a variety of timbral effects; his work had a more vocal quality when compared with that of most contemporary trumpeters. In a sense, he was a throwback to the pre-modern jazz ofCootie Williams or Bubber Miley, though Bowie was by no means a revivalist. Though he was certainly not afraid to appropriate the growls, whinnies, slurs, and slides of the early jazzers, it was always in the service of a thoroughly modern sensibility. And Bowie had chops; his style was quirky, to be sure, but grounded in fundamental jazz concepts of melody, harmony, and rhythm.
Bowie grew up in St. Louis, playing in local jazz and rhythm & blues bands, including those led byLittle Milton and Albert KingBowie moved to Chicago in 1965, where he became musical director for singer Fontella Bass. There Bowie met most of the musicians with whom he would go on to make his name -- saxophonists Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell and drummer Jack DeJohnette among them. He was a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musiciansand (in 1969) the Art Ensemble of ChicagoBowie's various bands included From the Root to the Source -- a sort of gospel/jazz/rock fusion group -- and Brass Fantasy, an all-brass, postmodern big band that became his most popular vehicle. Bowie's catholic tastes were evidenced by the band's repertoire; on albums, they covered a nutty assortment of tunes, ranging from Jimmy Lunceford's "Siesta for the Fiesta" to Michael Jackson's "Black and White." Besides his work as a leader and withthe Art EnsembleBowie recorded as a sideman with DeJohnette, percussionist Kahil El'zabar, composer Kip Hanrahan, and saxophonist David Murray. He was also a member of the mid-'80s all-star cooperative the Leaders.  Bowie's music occasionally leaned too heavily on parody and aural slapstick to be truly affecting, but at its best, a Bowie-led ensemble could open the mind and move the feet in equal measure. AMG.

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sexta-feira, 19 de setembro de 2014

Taste - Taste 1969

The fact that they, like so many late-'60s contemporaries, were molded in the image of Cream has often been cited to diminish the stature of Irish power trio Taste. But, all things being equal, it's impossible to dismiss their fine eponymous debut based solely on obvious source of inspiration, nor, by any means, the singular talents of the band's creative and performing focal point, vocalist and guitarist Rory Gallagher -- barely 20 years of age upon its release in 1969. After opening with the menacing staccatos and power chords of the forward-looking, proto-metal classic "Blister on the Moon," Taste turn right back around and indulge their retro-fueled Brit-blues influences with a bottleneck run through Leadbelly's "Leavin' Blues" -- a show of contrasts that speaks volumes to the breadth of Gallagher's instrumental versatility. The blues keep coming with the guitarist's self-penned showcase "Sugar Mama" and a more restrained acoustic "Hail," then the hard rock fires are stoked once again with "Born on the Wrong Side of Town" -- a track whose regional folk music accents did much to foment Gallagher's enduring status as a blue-collar, Emerald Isle legend. And so it goes until the album's conclusion: with alternating glimpses of past and future musical tendencies peppering remaining tracks "Same Old Story," "Dual Carriageway Pain" (both gritty blues-rockers showing riffs that sometimes smacked of the then brand-new Led Zeppelin), "Catfish" (a traditional blues standard turned monster jam), and "I'm Moving On" (a spare but spunk-filled Hank Snow cover). Ultimately, it's a stylistic stew that would arguably get honed to better focus and achieve greater distinction from the competition on Taste's second album, a year later. But who's to say that Taste didn't have almost as much influence as Cream on future bands such as Rush, whose early records are quite literally mapped out on this release -- a worthy addition to collections of this exciting period in British rock. AMG.

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