sábado, 15 de abril de 2017

Canned Heat and John Lee Hooker- Hooker'n Heat 1971

When this two-LP set was initially released in January 1971, Canned Heat was back to its R&B roots, sporting slightly revised personnel. In the spring of the previous year, Larry "The Mole" Taylor (bass) and Harvey Mandel (guitar) simultaneously accepted invitations to join John Mayall's concurrent incarnation of the Bluesbreakers. This marked the return of Henry "Sunflower" Vestine (guitar) and the incorporation of Antonio "Tony" de la Barreda (bass), a highly skilled constituent of Aldolfo de la Parra (drums). Sadly, it would also be the final effort to include co-founder Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, who passed away in September 1970. Hooker 'n Heat (1971) is a low-key affair split between unaccompanied solo John Lee Hooker (guitar/vocals) tunes, collaborations between Hooker and Wilson (piano/guitar/harmonica), as well as five full-blown confabs between Hooker and Heat. The first platter focuses on Hooker's looser entries that vacillate from the relatively uninspired ramblings of "Send Me Your Pillow" and "Drifter" to the essential and guttural "Feelin' Is Gone" or spirited "Bottle Up and Go." The latter being among those with Wilson on piano. Perhaps the best of the batch is the lengthy seven-minute-plus "World Today," which is languid and poignant talking blues, with Hooker lamenting the concurrent state of affairs around the globe. "I Got My Eyes on You" is an unabashed derivative of Hooker's classic "Dimples," with the title changed for what were most likely legal rather than artistic concerns. That said, the readings of the seminal "Burning Hell" and "Bottle Up and Go" kept their familiar monikers intact. The full-fledged collaborations shine as both parties unleash some of their finest respective work. While Canned Heat get top bill -- probably as it was the group's record company that sprung for Hooker 'n Heat -- make no mistake, as Hooker steers the combo with the same gritty and percussive guitar leads that have become his trademark. The epic "Boogie Chillen No. 2" stretches over 11 and a half minutes and is full of the same swagger as the original, with the support of Canned Heat igniting the verses and simmering on the subsequent instrumental breaks with all killer and no filler. The 2002 two-CD pressing by the French Magic Records label is augmented with "It's All Right," with a single edit of "Whiskey and Wimmen." AMG.

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John Sebastian - John B. Sebastian 1970

When he led the Lovin' Spoonful from 1965 to 1967, John Sebastian experimented with a variety of styles, expanding from the folk, jug band, and rock & roll that were the band's basic mixture to include everything from country ("Nashville Cats") to orchestrated movie scoring ("Darling, Be Home Soon"). Freed from the confines of a four-piece band, he stretched further on his debut solo album, including the samba-flavored "Magical Connection" and the R&B-styled "Baby, Don't Ya Get Crazy" (complete with the Ikettes on backup vocals) in addition to traditional country on "Rainbows All Over Your Blues," which spotlighted Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar. But there were also delicate ballads like the string-filled "She's a Lady," a stripped-down remake of "You're a Big Boy Now," and "The Room Nobody Lives In," the last performed with only a harmonium and bass guitar. And there were pop/rock songs like "Red-Eye Express," "What She Thinks About," and the utopian "I Had a Dream" that you could imagine having fitted easily into the Spoonful's repertoire. The songs continued Sebastian's trend toward a more personal writing style, many of them containing images of travel that corresponded to his peripatetic lifestyle. Like Paul McCartney's McCartney, which followed it into the marketplace by a few months, the album was an eclectic but low-key introduction to the solo career of a former group member whose band was known for more elaborate productions, and all the more effective for that. (John B. Sebastian was the subject of a legal dispute between MGM records and Reprise records, with Reprise winning out, although MGM briefly issued its own version of the LP, apparently taken from a second-generation master. The MGM version is sonically inferior to the Reprise one and has different artwork, but the contents of the two LPs are identical.) AMG.

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Abdullah Ibrahim - Good News From Africa 1973

The melodic sounds of South Africa are fused with the improvisation of jazz and the technical proficiency of classical music by South Africa-born pianist Dollar Brand or, as he's called himself since converting to Islam in 1968, Abdullah Ibrahim. Since attracting international acclaim as a member of the Jazz Epistles, one of South Africa's first jazz bands, Ibrahim has continued to explore new ground with his imaginative playing. Exposed to a variety of music as a youngster, including traditional African music, religious songs, and jazz, Ibrahim began studying piano at the age of seven. Becoming a professional musician in 1949, he performed with such South African groups as the Tuxedo Slickers and the Willie Max Big Band. Ten years later, he joined the Jazz Epistles, a group featuring trumpet player Hugh Masekela and alto saxophonist Kippi Moeketsi. The band, which had been formed in 1959 by American pianist John Mehegan for a recording session, Jazz in Africa, had recorded the first jazz album by South African musicians.
In 1997, Ibrahim collaborated on an album and tour with jazz drummer Max Roach. The following year, Swiss composer Daniel Schnyder arranged several of his compositions for a 22-piece orchestra for a Swiss television production, and for a world tour undertaken by the full-sized Munich Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Barbara Yahr of the United States. Ibrahim continued to perform and record for the remainder of the 1990s and throughout the 2000s, releasing such notable albums as African Suite (1999, Enja), Cape Town Revisited (2000, Enja; recorded in 1997), Ekapa Lodumo (2001, Enja/Tiptoe), African Magic (2003, Enja/Justin Time), Senzo (2008, Sunnyside), and Bombella (2009, Intuition). Ibrahim has also composed the scores for such films as Chocolat and No Fear No DieIn 1962, Ibrahim left South Africa with vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin; the two were married in 1965, and temporarily settled in Zurich. Performing with his trio, which featured bassist Johnny Gertze and drummer Makaya NtshokoIbrahim was heard by Duke Ellington at the Africana Club. Ellington was so impressed that he arranged a recording session for Ibrahim and the trio. The resulting album, Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio, was released on the Reprise label in 1963. He continued to be supported by Ellington following the album's release. In addition to being booked to play (at Ellington's urging) at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1965, Ibrahim served as Ellington's substitute and performed five shows with the Ellington Orchestra the following year. Shortly afterwards, he disbanded the trio and accepted an invitation to join Elvin Jones' quartet. The collaboration with Jones lasted six months. After leaving the Jones quartet, he continued to be involved with a variety of projects. Besides touring as a soloist in 1968, he worked with bands led by Don Cherry and Gato Barbieri. Briefly returning to South Africa in 1976, Ibrahim settled in New York the same year. Although he returned to South Africa to live in 1990, he continued to divide his time between his birthplace and his adopted home in New York. AMG.

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Jimmy Smith - Home Cookin' 1959

The Hammond organ mastery of Jimmy Smith is arguably nowhere as profound as on 1959's Home Cookin'. Support is provided by the formidable trio of drummer Donald Bailey, guitarist Kenny Burrell, and tenor Percy France. Here they couple a few understated cool R&B classics with their own originals. The almost dirge-like cadence of "See See Rider" is given a bluesy and low-key workout, featuring tasty interaction between Smith and Burrell. The languid pace churns steadily as they trade off impressive solos with almost palpable empathy. Burrell's "Sugar Hill" swings with a refined post-bop attack. His call-and-response with Smith conjures the pair's trademark give and take, which is assuredly one of the reasons the two maintained a five-plus-decade association. Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" is nothing short of definitive as the upbeat rhythm immediately propels Smith and Burrell into an otherwise unassuming and practically infectious bounce. Also duly noted is the sturdy backing of Bailey, whose discerning and compact snare is impeccably suited to the arrangement. (Sadly, the track fades just as the band begin to really get loose.) "Messin' Around" and "Gracie" bring France on board, adding a subtle reedy texture to Smith's intricate and advanced melodies. "Come on Baby" is another Burrell composition that slinks with a soulful mid-tempo groove, allowing for some inspired soloing. The title perfectly captures the travelogue nature, proving that getting there is indeed half the fun. Jimmy Smith's voluminous catalog is remarkably solid throughout and Home Cookin' is a recommended starting place for burgeoning enthusiasts as well as a substantial entry for the initiated. [Some reissues add five additional cuts, including an alternate take of "Motorin' Along," two readings of the pop standard "Since I Fell for You" and an impressive cover of Jack McDuff's "Groanin'."] AMG.

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Barry Melton, Levy & Dey Brothers - Melton, Levy & Dey Brothers 1972

Melton, Levy and the Dey Brothers' sole album has a bit of a come-down-from-the-reckless-heights-of-Haight-Ashbury vibe, but is a reasonably accomplished and pleasing record, if an unassuming one. It's got the characteristic San Francisco Bay Area blend of blues, country, rock, and good counterculture cheer, with a more laid-back, soul-influenced approach than Barry Melton had taken with his first band, Country Joe & the Fish. Everyone from the quartet contributes original material, with MeltonRick Dey, and Jay Levy taking roughly equal shares of the writing credits. Some of the more keyboard-oriented tracks sound a little like Paul McCartney's early solo work, as unlikely as that comparison might seem; check the chorus of Jay Levy's "Been So Fine" for an illustration. It's easy to imagine this as suitable rustic rock to play on your escape from the big bad city of San Francisco to a more laid-back locale with similar progressive hippie ethos, but more space and less angst, even if that journey would probably go no further than Marin County. A little bit of Melton's more radical past sneaks through on "Taxpayer's Lament," with its opening bursts of reverb guitar and anguished anti-war lyrics, in a vocal that falls between John Fogerty and Burton Cummings. AMG.

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sexta-feira, 7 de abril de 2017

George Benson - Weekend in L.A. 1977

Recording live at Los Angeles' Roxy club -- then a showcase for many of the hottest acts in pop -- was just the tonic that George Benson and his Breezin' band needed on this often jumping album. With unusually lively crowds (for a record-industry watering hole) shouting encouragement, the band gets deep into the four-on-the-floor funk and Benson digs in hard, his rhythmic instincts on guitar sharp as ever. The balance between vocals and instrumentals is about even -- George's voice sounds more throaty and soul-oriented than before -- and amid the new material, there is a revisit to a favored CTI-era instrumental, the lovely "Ode to a Kudu." This album also introduced "On Broadway," an extended stomping version of the Drifters' hit that would become Benson's climactic showstopper for years. The only superfluous element is the after-the-fact addition of Nick DeCaro's string synthesizer backdrop; the real Claus Ogerman-arranged thing would have been preferable if strings are a must. AMG.

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Lonnie Smith - Turning Point 1969

Most Blue Note soul-jazz albums from the late '60s went one of three ways: it either was a straight-ahead commercial session, a slightly psychedelic outing, or a funky workout with a vague "Black Power" theme. Dr. Lonnie Smith had followed the latter path with Think!, the predecessor to Turning Point, and there are still remnants of that style on this session, particularly in the opening cover of Don Covay's "See Saw." Nevertheless, Turning Point is a more adventurous affair than Think!, finding Smith -- as well as trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Julian Priester, guitarist Melvin Sparks, tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin and drummer Leo Morris -- exploring territory that isn't quite free, but is certainly more "out there" than the average soul-jazz session. In particular, Smith's originals "Slow High" and "Turning Point" reach the outer edges of the style, playing with dissonance, complex melodies and expansive sound structures. Despite all these free flourishes, Turning Point remains a soul-jazz record and it has all the trappings of its era -- the take on "Eleanor Rigby" finds the group approximating psychedelia. While the more adventurous elements of Turning Point make for an intriguing listen, the album isn't quite as enjoyable as the harder grooving sessions or the spacier soul-jazz records from the same era. Nevertheless, it's a worthwhile listen. AMG.

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Bakerloo - Bakerloo 1969

One of the first acts signed to the fledgling Harvest label in 1969, Bakerloo were very much a product of their time, a hard-hitting progressive blues band whose predilections ranged from a straightforward assimilation of Willie Dixon to some positively dazzling flashes of instrumental prowess. Guitarist Dave Clempson's "Big Bear Folly," the opening cut on the band's first and only album, is a dazzling Ten Years After-style showcase, while a jazzy variation on a theme of Bach, the aptly titled "Driving Bachwards," proves that the band wasn't averse to messing with the classics, either. The quartet's virtuosity occasionally overwhelms the songs themselves, although there is no shortage of gripping atmosphere. Bassist Terry Poole unleashes an almost sepulchral vocal across the stygian "Last Blues," a seven-minute marathon that swiftly develops into a full-fledged heavy rocker, punctuated by mood shifts that amount to separate movements -- it's a magnificent piece, rendered with both musical precision and some of producer Gus Dudgeon's most inspired washes and effects. Impressive, too, is "Son of Moonshine," a distorted metal effort that clocks in at double that length and combines Clempson's intensive guitar soloing with a desperately driving blues rhythm. Period comparisons with Cream and early Led Zeppelin really weren't that far off the mark. Bakerloo were not long for this earth -- Clempson quit to join Colosseum shortly after the album's release; Poole reappeared alongside Graham Bond; drummer Keith Baker departed for Uriah Heep; and Bakerloo itself disappeared off the shelves fairly quickly. AMG.

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John G. Perry - Sunset Wading 1976

A minor figure in the mid-'70s U.K. progressive scene (his highest-profile gig was as a bassist in Caravan for a couple of years), John G. Perry only released one album in that decade, 1976's slight but charming Sunset Wading. The album's primary gimmick is that throughout the background of its entire 40-minutes runs an ambient field recording of a rural sunrise, beginning with the first rooster crow of the day. (Why an album with an early-morning theme like this has the word "Sunset" in its title is never adequately explained.) Over this pleasantly unobtrusive environmental sound, Perry and a small group of friends featuring producer Rupert Hine, former Robert Fripp associate Michael Giles, and two members of the cult-heroes Italian progressive group Nova play a largely instrumental song cycle highlighted by some delicate musical passages (as on the absolutely lovely "Birds and Small Furry Beasts") that recall both the more lyrical side of the jazz-influenced Canterbury progressive scene and the poppier Italian progressive rock scene. The seven-minute centerpiece track, "Dawn," is the standout, slowly building from an almost Brian Eno-like ambient introduction to a resounding climax. Other, more rhythmic tracks recall the mid-'70s work of Gong and the post-Robert Wyatt, fusion-oriented Soft Machine. Unfortunately, as this parade of name-dropping shows, Perry never quite manages to put it together enough to sound like a new and inventive artist, himself. Although Sunset Wading is an enjoyable and often very good listen, there's not much new here. AMG.
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A.B. Skhy - Ramblin' On 1970

A.B. Skhy was a blues-rock quartet from San Francisco consisting of guitarist Dennis Geyer, keyboard player Howard Wales, bass player Jim Marcotte, and drummer Terry Andersen. This lineup made the group's debut album, A.B. Skhy, in 1969, with a seven-piece horn section. The album failed to chart, but the instrumental "Camel Back" hit number 100 on the Hot 100 for one week in December. Andersen and Wales then left and were replaced by guitarist James "Curley" Cooke and drummer Rick Jaeger for the group's second album, Ramblin' On (1970), which was produced by Kim Fowley. They broke up during the recording of their third album. AMG.

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Barclay James Harvest - Everyone Is Everybody Else 1974

The group's first album for Polydor is several steps above their EMI work. Most of the psychedelic-era influences are softened here and broadened, and transmuted into something heavier and more serious, even as the Beatlesque harmonies remain intact. The guitars sound real heavy, almost larger than life here, while the swelling Mellotron and synthesizer sounds give the music the feel of an orchestra. By this time, the group had also mastered the Pink Floyd technique of playing pretty tunes really slowly, which made them sound incredibly profound (it's actually a technique that goes back, in different forms, to Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner). John Lees gives superb, virtuoso performances on lead guitar on "Paper Wings" and "For No One." Les Holroyd's gorgeous "Poor Boy Blues" sounded more like Crosby, Stills & Nash than CSN did in those days, and is almost worth the price of the CD. AMG.

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