segunda-feira, 31 de julho de 2017

R.J. Fox - Retrospective Dreams 1971

RJ Fox never released an album and was virtually unknown outside Marin County, which is precisely the reason why the two-CD, 39-track collection Retrospective Dreams is such a magical document. This two-guys-and-a-girl acoustic trio transplanted itself to San Francisco all the way from Detroit in the heady days of 1971, managed to finagle their way into the studio where David Crosby was recording his masterpiece, If I Could Only Remember My Name, and proceeded to stun Crosby and his producer Stephen Barncard with progressive folk songs of endless depth (both lyrical and musical) and brilliant three-part modal harmonies. 
They recorded an album for Atlantic that was shelved at the last minute due to some shady record-industry dealings, as well as a wealth of other recordings, experimental sessions, and solo demos over the next several years, none of which ever saw the light of day until reissued in this 1993 set. The first eight songs of disc one offer the legendary, unreleased 1971 Atlantic LP in its entirety, and the legend is dearly deserved. Offering four cuts apiece from Richard Hovey and Joel Siegel, the album is consistently thrilling, bathed in the same hazy beauty as all of Barncard's productions from the period. Songs like "Cheesecake," the stunningly labyrinthine "Lament #1," the loping country-gospel of "Amanda," and "Night of Rides" have such intricate, flawless harmonies that even CSN would have trouble hitting them, as well as wonderfully dense acoustic arrangements and progressive chord shifts. The rest of the first disc and the entirety of disc two consist of recordings made by various permutations of the group between 1971 and 1978, including eight selections from the 1973 album by Oasis, which essentially was Siegel and Sherry Fox's spin-off unit. Of these, Fox's chilling Joni Mitchell-like performances on "Parallel Trains," her own piano ode "Nobody's Home," and "Music Man" are nothing less than astounding (as is her singing throughout), but many of the other 30-odd songs are near-equals to the ones on the Atlantic record, some just a step or two below. Everything is remixed and remastered by Barncard himself, and the package is rounded out with a nice booklet of notes and photographs. Still, it was released in only a limited edition of 1,000 CDs, so may be difficult to come by. But if you've ever wondered why so many music lovers remain devoted to the era, it is because of an out-of-the-blue discovery like the stockpile of songs on Retrospective Dreams, an unearthing almost as astounding as that of Merrell Fankhauser's Mu recordings. AMG.

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Fingletoad, Strange & Siho - Mazzola 1970

Fingletoad, Strange & Siho were a country-rock trio that made two trips into the studio in 1969 (sans Siho) and 1970, possible for posterity purposes only. Back in the day, less than 100 acetates were pressed to document each event, and the sessions remained unreleased until a double CD, Mazzola, was produced in 2006. Both recordings consist of all original compositions and bear the influence of genre groups of the day, such as the BandGrateful DeadFlying Burrito Brothers, and Neil Young -- who had the biggest affect on the young songwriters. The material is, for the most part, quite good, and the trio often transcend their influences, as when adding Beatlesque basslines or Hendrix-like flash. Their harmonies are strong as well, especially on the acoustic "City Woman," which sounds like a Grateful Dead tune augmented by the Beatles. A stray lyric is cringe-worthy from time to time (or altogether embarrassing), but the three show a lot of depth and maturity, too, making up for any clumsiness. There isn't a big difference in the sound of the sessions, even though Siho did not participate in the first (the second disc here) and the sway of both folk and electric blues is more apparent on the initial recording date. With that in mind, the complete works could have easily fit on one CD, and the decision to separate them is perplexing and unnecessary. Still, fans of early country-rock who are looking for something obscure and out of the ordinary will find Mazzola worth the higher-than-necessary price tag. AMG.

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Wings - Wild Life 1971

The irony of the first Wings album is that it seems more domesticated than Ram, feeling more like a Paul 'n' Linda effort than that record. Perhaps it's because this album is filled with music that's defiantly lightweight -- not just the cloying cover of "Love Is Strange" but two versions apiece of songs called "Mumbo" and "Bip Bop." If this is a great musician bringing his band up to speed, so be it, but it never seems that way -- it feels like one step removed from coasting, which is wanking. It's easy to get irritated by the upfront cutesiness, since it's married to music that's featherweight at best. Then again, that's what makes this record bizarrely fascinating -- it's hard to imagine a record with less substance, especially from an artist who's not just among the most influential of the 20th century, but from one known for precise song and studiocraft. Here, he's thrown it all to the wind, trying to make a record that sounds as pastoral and relaxed as the album's cover photo. He makes something that sounds easy -- easy enough that you and a couple of neighbors who you don't know very well could knock it out in your garage on a lazy Saturday afternoon -- and that's what's frustrating and amazing about it. Yeah, it's possible to call this a terrible record, but it's so strange in its domestic bent and feigned ordinariness that it winds up being a pop album like no other. AMG.

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World Experience Oschestra - As Time Flows On 1977

The World Experience Orchestra was an underground jazz collective led by bassist, composer, and arranger John Jamyll Jones and was active on the fertile Boston scene between the early 1970s and the early '80s. A workshop group, their sound wed avant-garde, modal, and spiritual soul-jazz to post-bop. The lineup included anywhere from nine to 18 players and singers. During its existence, the WEO issued two privately pressed albums: 1975's The Beginning of a New Birth (recorded in a church basement), and 1980's As Time Flows On, on their World Productions label. Almost impossibly rare and sought after by collectors, interest in the group was globally rekindled when Gilles Peterson included "The Prayer" (which made up an entire side of their debut album) on his 2005 compilation Gilles Peterson Digs America. A bootleg version of The Beginning of a New Birth appeared briefly on Funky Planet. Now-Again officially released As Time Flows On (with participation from its creators) through its subscription Now-Again Reserve series in a deluxe multi-disc package during the summer of 2016. AMG.

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Sandy Denny - Sandy 1972

Sandy Denny's second post-Fairport solo offering, produced by then-future husband Trevor Lucas, is a beautiful blend of the traditional style with which she is most often associated and a slightly more lavish sound that would become more prevalent in her later work. Lucas does an excellent job of balancing the two and creates an exquisite backdrop for Denny's gorgeous songs and majestic voice. Nearly every track has the radiance and timelessness of her best Fairport work, along with an accessibility she had merely hinted at prior to this. "Listen, Listen," with its soaring chorus and bed of strings and mandolin, the lovely "The Lady," and the layered a cappella vocal arrangement of Richard Fariña's "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" (featuring Dave Swarbrick's haunting solo violin coda) are perfect examples of Denny's enormous talents, and only a few of the many pleasures found here. Touches such as lush strings, Allen Toussaint's horn arrangement on "For Nobody to Hear," Sneaky Pete Kleinow's steel guitar and former Fairport partner Richard Thompson's guitars and mandolin bring out the many dimensions in Denny's music without obscuring it. Sandy also boasts her best collection of original material, as well as terrific covers of Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," featuring Linda Thompson Peters on backing vocals, and the aforementioned "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood." If you're simply looking for a quick introduction to a wonderful songwriter and one of the finest voices in popular music, go for the single-disc best-of collection, but if you would like to hear Sandy Denny's definitive (solo) musical statement, search out Sandy. AMG.

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Gary Bartz - Juju Man 1976

Although altoist Gary Bartz's career was beginning to become a bit aimless during this period (as if he were searching for commercial success), and his recordings tended to be erratic, this mostly straight-ahead outing was a major exception. Bartz teams up with pianist Charles Mims, bassist Curtis Robertson and drummer Howard King for a stimulating set of music. While "Ju Ju Man" effectively uses voices in a tribute of sorts to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," "My Funny Valentine" is a feature for the warm vocal of Syreeta'Trane's "Straight Street" and Bartz's "Pisces Daddy Blue" are both swinging and "Chelsea Bridge" finds the leader taking rare solos on soprano and clarinet. This was Gary Bartz'sbest jazz session as a leader until he re-emerged on Mapleshade in 1987; it is a pity that the Catalyst label's LPs are difficult to find. AMG.

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Horace Tapscott & Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra - Flight 17 1978

Other than half an album cut in 1969 for Flying Dutchman (which was shared with the John Carter/Bobby Bradford group), this release was pianist Horace Tapscott's recording debut as a leader. Tapscott's Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (consisting of two pianos, six reeds, two trombones, Red Callender on tuba, cello, two basses, a drummer, and a percussionist) had an unusual sound and made three records during 1978-1979. The band performs five group originals; surprisingly none were written by the leader. While there are some individual solos (particularly by Tapscott), it is the dense and frequently exciting ensembles that are most notable in this avant-garde but rhythmic music. AMG.

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Ivan Lins - A Noite 1979

Renowned as a carioca songwriter, vocalist, and pianist, Ivan Lins recorded several albums for EMI Brasil and Reprise, as well as writing Brazilian standards. Born in 1945, Lins came to fame in Brazil in 1970 when Elis Regina recorded his song "Magdalena" for a hit. His worldwide debut, A Noite, appeared in 1979. Lins' most famous composition, "Love Dance" ("Lembrança"), has been recorded by dozens of jazz artists, including Kenny BurrellSarah VaughanBetty CarterNancy WilsonMark MurphyGeorge BensonDiane Schuur, and James Blood Ulmer. Other noted songs by Lins("The Island," "Comecar de Novo," "Dona Palmeira," "Nocturna") have been recorded by artists including Airto MoreiraHerbie Mann, and Terence Blanchard

This album contains impassioned performances of some of Lins's best-known songs -- "Antes Que SejaTarde," "Comecar de Novo" ("The Island"), and "Velas" (a Grammy winner as recorded by Quincy Jones). AMG

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quarta-feira, 26 de julho de 2017

The Harvard Lampoon - The Surprising Sheep & Other Mind Excursions 1969

"The Surprising Sheep and Other Mind Excursions," is a remarkable musical feat that's even been getting air play on Boston radio. All this in spite of the fact that the Lampoon had run upon hard times. Rare to find. Thanks to M---.

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J.D. Souther - John David Souther 1972

John David Souther was among the first artists signed to David Geffen's Asylum Records imprint, joining the likes of other SoCal talents Judee SillJackson BrowneDavid Blue, and the EaglesSouther's on-again/off-again collaborations with fellow Detroit, MI native Glenn Frey began when the pair formed a folk duo called the Longbranch Pennywhistle. Their sole outing is definitely worth finding as it boasted contributions from the likes of James Burton (guitar), Ry Cooder (guitar), Doug Kershaw(fiddle), Jim Gordon (drums), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), and Joe Osborn (bass). For Souther's 1972 debut, the singer/songwriter enlists the aid of not only his one-time partner Frey, but also a few other notable names consisting of Ned Doheny (guitar), Gib Guilbeau (fiddle), former Things to Comemember Bryan Garofalo (bass), and soon-to-be-session musician extraordinaire Gary Mallaber(drums). John David Souther (1972) bears the same earthy Southwestern textures that are inextricably linked to the roots of the country/rock subgenre.  "The Fast One" commences with a midtempo rocker that bears the sonic stamp of Guilbeau's unmistakable fiddling. "Run Like a Thief" follows with a prime example of Souther's often underrated lyrical capacity. He draws upon sacred themes during "Jesus in 3/4 Time" with a feel that isn't too far removed from the Gram Parsons-era Byrds. "Kite Woman" is a love song for codependents, reiterating an understated craftsmanship within Souther's wordplay as he reflects on one whose "got you strung-out somewhere down the line." "Some People Call It Music" is marked by some superlative string work from Souther and Doheny, with the former's harmonies practically predicting the compact, rural vocals that the Eagles would adopt in fairly short order. Joel Tepp (harmonica) -- whose recent résumé listed a guest shot on Crazy Horse's Loose -- provides a few greasy harp licks to the blues-fuelled "White Wing." The palpable loneliness of "It's the Same" and the concluding "Lullaby" are countered by the rocker "How Long." Although the latter title was initially issued by Souther as a single from this album, it resurfaced some 36 years later on the Eagles' reunion studio platter Long Road out of Eden (2007). It would become a Grammy award winner for them under the "Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal" category. The nod reinforced an already prolific collaboration between Souther and the combo, as he supplied several key LP cuts for them during the '70s, including co-writing "The Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town," and "Heartache Tonight." AMG.

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Bonnie Dobson - Bonnie Dobson 1969

Bonnie Dobson did not make the transition from folk to rock well, as this 1969 album attests. With its pop trimmings and orchestration, the impression is that RCA was trying to put Dobson into the pop market, rather than the rock or even folk-rock one. The arrangements aren't awful, but they aren't inspired either, and don't suit the songs well. It's as if someone was trying to make her over into a folk Bobbie Gentry. And the material isn't the greatest either. Getting an opportunity to do an electric version of her own "Morning Dew" would seem to have been the greatest opportunity that the author of the song could have, yet it's no more than adequate, and in any case had been beaten to the punch through prior versions by Tim Rosethe Grateful Deadthe Jeff Beck GroupLulu, and others. Same thing with her covers of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talking" and Dino Valenti's "Let's Get Together": would have been a great idea in early 1967, but was running behind the pack a couple of years later. (At least her cover of Jackson Frank's "You Never Me" was a more obscure, daring choice.) Five of the 12 songs are her own compositions, but with the exception of "Morning Dew" they're inoffensively forgettable, easygoing pop-folk-rock. A sitar (or possibly an electric sitar) pops up a couple of times, but it sounds more trendy than far-out. As an early-1960s folk singer, Dobson made notable if little-known contributions to the folk scene, but this album indicates that she wasn't able to either maximize her potential or capitalize on her assets in a timely fashion. AMG. 

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The Staple Singers - Soul Folk in Action 1968

This is one you are probably going to have to search out, but this gem is worth all the effort. First, take the stunning voices of the Staple Singers, with the closely blending harmonies that can only come from the years of a family singing together. Put in the crack vibrato guitar of Pops (he was a blues player early on), add in a top-notch rhythm section that play as close as it gets, and throw in the Memphis Horns. Then add some material that was just about custom-tailored for them, mixed and mastered by Steve Cropper, and you have the makings of a fantastic disc. Still, how many times have we seen all the right ingredients and been disappointed? Not this time. The only disappointment might come from the brevity of the disc; you just want it to continue. The power and majesty that these voices carry comes as close to heaven as can be felt here on earth. They are truly performers who give their all. There are few performers who could rival Otis Redding, and to try and do one of his songs while he was still alive was almost considered sacrilege, yet listen to what they do with "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." It is a completely different take, yet it loses absolutely nothing and in fact gains a new dimension with their controlled power. True, it probably helps that Steve Cropper, the co-writer of the song, is leading the backing band. Two of the highlights of an incredibly strong disc are "Slow Train," for its slow adept building of potency, and "The Weight." It is a vital testament to belief and love, and you will thank yourself for following a hunch. AMG.

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Van Morrison - Hard Nose The Highway 1973

Although it marks a decline from the astonishing run of five great albums Van Morrison had made from 1968 through 1972, Hard Nose the Highway is still a respectable, if uneven, effort, notably containing "Snow in San Anselmo" (which features the Oakland Symphony Chamber Chorus) and "Warm Love." Nevertheless, it marks the end of Morrison's greatest period of creativity and accomplishment . AMG.

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Leon Thomas - Spirits Known and Unknown 1969

Leon Thomas' debut solo recording after his tenure with Pharoah Sanders is a fine one. Teaming with a cast of musicians that includes bassist Cecil McBee, flutist James Spaulding, Roy Haynes, Lonnie Liston Smith, Richard Davis, and Sanders (listed here as "Little Rock"), etc. Thomas' patented yodel is in fine shape here, displayed alongside his singular lyric style and scat singing trademark. The set begins with a shorter, more lyrical version of Thomas' signature tune "The Creator Has a Master Plan," with the lyric riding easy and smooth alongside the yodel, which bubbles up only in the refrains. It's a different story on his own "One," with Davis' piano leading the charge and Spaulding blowing through the center of the track, Thomas alternates scatting and his moaning, yodeling, howling, across the lyrics, through them under them and in spite of them. It's an intense ride and one that sets up the glorious "Echoes." This tune is Thomas at his most spiritual and uplifting, carrying the mysterious drift of his tune entwined with Spaulding's flute and a set of Pan pipes, fluttering in and out of the mix before his wail comes to the fore as a solo. The end of side one reaches into Thomas' past (he sang with everyone from Count Basie to Grant Green and Mary Lou Williams) for a highly original read of Horace Silver's classic "Song for My Father." Thomas imbues the tune with so much emotion, it's a wonder he can keep it under wraps. Side two is more free from in nature with "Damn Nam," a near rant, but one possessed with melodic vision and harmonic invention with this band. There's also the deeply moving "Malcolm's Gone," a co-write between Thomas and Sanders that features the latter's gorgeous blowing, hard and true in the middle of the mix, and a wildly spiritual Eastern vibe coming through in the improvisation. It's the longest track on the record, and one of the most criminally ignored in Thomas' long career. The album closes with Bell and Houston's "Let the Rain Fall on Me." It's a shimmering straight jazz number with a beautiful piano solo by Smith. It sends out a visionary album out on a sweet, soulful note. Ultimately, this is among Thomas' finest moments on vinyl, proving his versatility and accessibility to an audience who, for too long already, had associated him too closely with the avant-garde and free jazz. AMG.

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Bull Angus - Free For All 1972

While "Bull Angus" didn't do a great deal commercially, it garnered generally favorable reviews from the critics, leading Mercury to finance a second album - 1972's 'Free For All' produced by Vinny Testa including a cover version of The Beatles 'Savoy Truffle', and supported the likes of Deep Purple and Fleetwood Mac. Their brand of post-psychedelic heavy blues successfully crossed between Southern rock jam and budding Prog.

Frankie Previte subsequently relocated back to New Jersey where he formed the much more smooth and AOR dealing Franke And The Knockouts, dropping the 'i' in Frankie in the process. He also co-wrote music for the hit soundtrack to the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" with co-composers John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz.

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Arthur Verocai - Arthur Verocai 1972

Arthur Verocai's long-lost solo LP straddles the continents to fuse Brazilian tropicalia with American funk, yielding a shimmering, dreamlike mosaic of sound that both celebrates and advances the creative spirit. Employing a dizzyingly lush 20-piece string section, stiletto-sharp bursts of brass, and electric piano melodies that twinkle like stars, Verocai's heady productions draw on folk, jazz, and pop traditions from both sides of the equator to make music that is both immediately familiar and quite unlike anything else you've ever experienced. While its sun-kissed arrangements and insistent rhythms clearly evoke its Brazilian origins, Arthur Verocai nevertheless seems to exist somewhere far outside of space and time. AMG.

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