terça-feira, 31 de outubro de 2017

The Mothers of Invention - Burnt Weeny Sandwich 1970

Burnt Weeny Sandwich is the first of two albums by the Mothers of Invention that Frank Zappareleased in 1970, after he had disbanded the original lineup. While Weasels Ripped My Flesh focuses on complex material and improvised stage madness, this collection of studio and live recordings summarizes the leader's various interests and influences at the time. It opens and closes on '50s pop covers, "WPLJ" and "Valarie." "Aybe Sea" is a Zappafied sea shanty, while "Igor's Boogie" is named after composer Igor Stravinsky, the closest thing to a hero Zappa ever worshipped. But the best material is represented by "Holiday in Berlin," a theme that would become central to the music of 200 Motels, and "The Little House I Used to Live In," including a virtuoso piano solo by Ian Underwood. Presented as an extended set of theme and variations, the latter does not reach the same heights as "King Kong." In many places, and with the two aforementioned exceptions in mind, Burnt Weeny Sandwich sounds like a set of outtakes from Uncle Meat, which already summarized to an extent the adventures of the early Mothers. It lacks some direction, but those allergic to the group's grunts and free-form playing will prefer it to the wacky Weasels Ripped My Flesh. AMG.

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Bruce Palmer - The Cycle is Complete 1971

Bruce Palmer (acoustic/electric guitars/Fender bass) is best known for his association with the earliest incarnation of the Buffalo Springfield. It was he and Neil Young who trekked from their native Canada in the latter's hearse (named Mort) to Los Angeles in search of Stephen Stills with the hopes of forming a rocking teen combo. His tenure was cut short by deportation which stemmed from two separate marijuana-related convictions in 1967 and 1968, respectively. The Cycle Is Complete (1971) -- Palmer's only solo effort -- is an eclectic masterwork with stream of consciousness jams that combine folk, jazz, and rock onto a quartet of primarily instrumental sides. Joining him are a seemingly disparate group of musicians who include Ed Roth (organ), Danny Ray aka "Big Black" (conga), and from the West Coast psych-fusion group KaleidoscopeChester Crill (violin), Paul Lagos (drums), Jeff Kaplan (piano), and Richard Aplan (nee Aplanalp) (flute/oboe). Also playing a pivotal part in the musical exchange is one of Palmer's pre-Buffalo Springfield acquaintances from the Toronto-based band the Mynah Birds. Rick Matthews would become better known several years later under his super freaky persona as the funky Rick James. Throughout this release he can be heard on percussion and most notably on the improvised scat-like vocals that materialize from within the instrumentation. Each of the tracks is ultimately as unique as the proverbial fingerprint. They are indeed inclusively well-developed musical statements. "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse" is a frenetic and exploratory quarter-hour of jazzy intonations and features a bluesy vocal by James. Much in the same way that Skip Spence goes for it throughout his magnum opus Oar (1970), these musicians act and react on skill and intuition. The end result is something along the lines of latter-era Traffic and the psychedelic soul of the Rotary Connection. The brief "Interlude" sounds remarkably like "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" as Kaplan and Palmer solidify their respective association. "Oxo" swirls around a heavily Eastern-influenced progression that weaves in and out of some interesting sonic spaces and includes some non-lyrical vocalizations from James. The moody and brooding "Calm Before the Storm" is a languid and dark sojourn that is once again marked by some interesting ideas and, perhaps more importantly, equally engaging execution. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Anthem Of The Sun 1968

As the second long-player by the Grateful DeadAnthem of the Sun (1968) pushed the limits of both the music as well as the medium. General dissatisfaction with their self-titled debut necessitated the search for a methodology to seamlessly juxtapose the more inspired segments of their live performances with the necessary conventions of a single LP. Since issuing their first album, the Dead welcomed lyricist Robert Hunter into the fold -- freeing the performing members to focus on the execution and taking the music to the next level. Another addition was second percussionist Mickey Hart, whose methodical timekeeping would become a staple in the Dead's ability to stop on the proverbial rhythmic dime. Likewise, Tom Constanten (keyboards) added an avant-garde twist to the proceedings with various sonic enhancements that were more akin to John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen than anything else coming from the burgeoning Bay Area music scene. Their extended family also began to incorporate folks like Dan Healy -- whose non-musical contributions and innovations ranged from concert PA amplification to meeting the technical challenges that the band presented off the road as well. On this record Healy's involvement cannot be overstated, as the band were essentially given carte blanche and simultaneous on-the-job training with regards to the ins and outs of the still unfamiliar recording process. The idea to create an aural pastiche from numerous sources -- often running simultaneously -- was a radical concept that allowed consumers worldwide to experience a simulated Dead performance firsthand. One significant pattern which began developing saw the band continuing to refine the same material that they were concurrently playing live night after night prior to entering the studio. The extended "That's It for the Other One" suite is nothing short of a psychedelic roller coaster. The wild ride weaves what begins as a typical song into several divergent performances -- taken from tapes of live shows -- ultimately returning to the home base upon occasion, presumably as a built-in reality check. Lyrically, Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) includes references to their 1967 pot bust ("...the heat came 'round and busted me for smiling on a cloudy day") as well as the band's spiritual figurehead Neal Cassidy ("...there was Cowboy Neal at the wheel on a bus to never ever land"). Although this version smokes from tip to smouldering tail, the piece truly developed a persona all its own and became a rip-roaring monster in concert. The tracks "New Potato Caboose" and Weir's admittedly autobiographically titled "Born Cross-Eyed" are fascinatingly intricate side trips that had developed organically during the extended work's on-stage performance life. "Alligator" is a no-nonsense Ron "Pigpen" McKernanworkout that motors the second extended sonic collage on Anthem of the Sun. His straight-ahead driving blues ethos careens headlong into the Dead's innate improvisational psychedelia. The results are uniformly brilliant as the band thrash and churn behind his rock-solid lead vocals. Musically, the Dead's instrumental excursions wind in and out of the primary theme, ultimately ending up in the equally frenetic "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)." Although the uninitiated might find the album unnervingly difficult to follow, it obliterated the pretension of the post-Sgt. Pepper's "concept album" while reinventing the musical parameters of the 12" LP medium. [The expanded and remastered edition included in the Golden Road (1965-1973) (2001) box set contains a live performance from August 23, 1968, at the Shrine in Los Angeles. This miniset features an incendiary medley of "Alligator" and "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)" concluding with over four minutes of electronic feedback.] AMG.

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David Ackles - David Ackles 1968

Ackles' self-titled debut LP introduced a singer/songwriter quirky even by the standards of Elektra records, possibly the most adventurous independent label of the 1960s. Ackles was a pretty anomalous artist of his time, with a low, grumbling voice that was uncommercial but expressive, and similar to Randy Newman's. As a composer, Ackles bore some similarities to Newman, as well in his downbeat eccentricity and mixture of elements from pop, folk, and theatrical music. All the same, this impressive maiden outing stands on its own, though comparisons to Brecht/Weill (in the songwriting and occasional circus-like tunes) and Tim Buckley (in the arrangements and phrasing) hold to some degree too. This is certainly his most rock-oriented record, courtesy of the typically tasteful, imaginative Elektra arrangements, particularly with Michael Fonfara's celestial organ and the ethereal guitar riffs (which, again, recall those heard on Buckley's early albums). As a songwriter, Ackles was among the darkest princes of his time, though the lyrics were delivered with a subdued resignation that kept them from crossing the line to hysterical gloom. "The Road to Cairo," covered by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger, and the Trinity, is probably the most famous song here. But the others are quality efforts as well, whether the epics tell of religious trial, as in "His Name Is Andrew," or the mini-horror tale of revisiting an old home in "Sonny Come Home." AMG.

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Janis Joplin - Pearl 1971

Janis Joplin's second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out. Thanks also to a more consistent set of songs, the results are magnificent -- given room to breathe, Joplin's trademark rasp conveys an aching, desperate passion on funked-up, bluesy rockers, ballads both dramatic and tender, and her signature song, the posthumous number one hit "Me and Bobby McGee." The unfinished "Buried Alive in the Blues" features no Joplin vocals -- she was scheduled to record them on the day after she was found dead. Its incompleteness mirrors Joplin's career: Pearl's power leaves the listener to wonder what else Joplin could have accomplished, but few artists could ask for a better final statement. AMG.

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Tim Buckley - Goodbye and Hello 1967

Often cited as the ultimate Tim Buckley statement, Goodbye and Hello is indeed a fabulous album, but it's merely one side of Tim Buckley's enormous talent. Recorded in the middle of 1967 (in the afterglow of Sgt. Pepper), this album is clearly inspired by Pepper's exploratory spirit. More often than not, this helps to bring Buckley's awesome musical vision home, but occasionally falters. Not that the album is overrated (it's not), it's just that it is only one side of Buckley. The finest songs on the album were written by him alone, particularly "Once I Was" and "Pleasant Street." Buoyed by Jerry Yester's excellent production, these tracks are easily among the finest example of Buckley's psychedelic/folk vision. A few tracks, namely the title cut and "No Man Can Find the War," were co-written by poet Larry Beckett. While Beckett's lyrics are undoubtedly literate and evocative, they occasionally tend to be too heavy-handed for Buckley. However, this is a minor criticism of an excellent and revolutionary album that was a quantum leap for both Tim Buckley and the audience. AMG.

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Airto Moreira - Virgin Land 1974

An all-star cast accompanies Brazilian percussion master Airto Moreira on this percolating collection of jazz fusion pieces. Produced by drummer extraordinaire Billy Cobham, the album locks into a steamy groove on Stanley Clarke's "Stanley's Tune" and never lets up. The Middle Eastern flavor of some of the melodies, Moreira and wife Flora Purim's unique vocalizations, and the use of unusual instrumentation on several cuts help make this recording a unique highlight of the electric fusion era. Standout soloists include Eddie Daniels on clarinet and guitarists David Amaro and Gabriel DeLorme, while bassist Clarke provides his usual stellar performance. AMG.

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The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland 1968

Jimi Hendrix's third and final album with the original Experience found him taking his funk and psychedelic sounds to the absolute limit. The result was not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix's original musical vision at its absolute apex. When revisionist rock critics refer to him as the maker of a generation's mightiest dope music, this is the album they're referring to. But Electric Ladyland is so much more than just background music for chemical intake. Kudos to engineer Eddie Kramer (who supervised the remastering of the original two-track stereo masters for this 1997 reissue on MCA) for taking Hendrix's visions of a soundscape behind his music and giving it all context, experimenting with odd mic techniques, echo, backward tape, flanging, and chorusing, all new techniques at the time, at least the way they're used here. What Hendrix sonically achieved on this record expanded the concept of what could be gotten out of a modern recording studio in much the same manner as Phil Spector had done a decade before with his Wall of Sound. As an album this influential (and as far as influencing a generation of players and beyond, this was his ultimate statement for many), the highlights speak for themselves: "Crosstown Traffic," his reinterpretation of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," "Burning of the Midnight Lamp," the spacy "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn to Be)," and "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," a landmark in Hendrix's playing. With this double set (now on one compact disc), Hendrix once again pushed the concept album to new horizons. AMG.

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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. "Driftin' & Driftin'" is another well-known tune, and at over nine minutes stretches 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 SykesButterfieldwrote 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 feeling. This is likely the single best Butterfield album of this time period and you'd be well served to pick this one up. AMG.

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Titanic - Titanic 1970

Among so many other great landmarks in the history of rock & roll, the late ‘60s witnessed numerous technological advances when it came to recording and performing equipment, and, thanks in no small part to the emergence of Marshall amplifiers, the decade also gave rise to the era of hard rock and heavy metal. Power trios such as Creamthe Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the deafening Blue Cheerprovided the initial thrust, but once the subsequent holy trinity of Led ZeppelinDeep Purple, and Black Sabbath burst onto the scene, the hard rock virus really spread like a plague across the globe -- even into distant, chilly, staid Norway, from whence came the aptly named Titanic. Founded in Oslo in 1969, Titanic was initially comprised of guitarist Janne Løseth, organist and bassist Kenny Aas, drummer John Lorck, and percussionist Kjell Asperud. But then, in a trend soon to be followed by a number of German heavy rock combos such as Lucifer's FriendBlackwater Park, and EpitaphTitanic hired a British-born singer and lyricist -- one Roy Robinson -- in an effort to raise their international prospects. The ploy worked well enough for Titanic to be offered a deal by the French office of Columbia Records, which duly released the band's eponymous debut later that same year, and later booked them to perform at the Cannes Film Festival's gala screening of the Woodstock motion picture. The members of Titanic then decided to switch their base of operations to the south of France, and perhaps it was the change of environment that helped broaden the band's musical horizons, leading to the incremental classical, jazz, and Latin music influences found on the band's 1971 sophomore album, Sea Wolf. In fact, its biggest single, "Sultana," openly referenced Santana and would go on to chart at number five in the U.K., paving the way for later experiments in this style like 1974's Brazilian music-inspired "Macumba" single. However, Titanic had failed to repeat their prior chart success in the interim, despite a strong showing on 1973's critically acclaimed, once again quite eclectic Eagle Rock (featuring new keyboardist Helge Groslie and bassist Arica Siggs), and appeared to be in creative decline by the release of 1975's surprisingly mellow Ballad of a Rock ‘n' Roll Loser -- their final effort for Columbia.
Titanic would nevertheless soldier on amidst occasional lineup changes and diminishing success throughout the rest of the decade, releasing a couple more albums -- 1977's Return of Drakkar and 1979's Eye of the Hurricane -- on independent labels, but ultimately falling into forgetfulness. Except for dedicated heavy rock fans, of course, who still rate the band's first efforts among the finest examples of proto-metal and heavy prog to emerge off the mainstream beaten path. AMG.

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Randy California - Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds 1972

Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds was Randy California's debut solo album after leaving Spirit, and thus, expectations were high. California, still only 21, opted to return to the influence of his early mentor, Jimi Hendrix, who had died in 1970. California wailed through a series of tunes in a style more reminiscent of the extended arrangements of Electric Ladyland than the tight psychedelic pop singles on Are You ExperiencedBeatles songs like "Day Tripper" and "Rain" became almost unrecognizable frames for California's improvisations. At least the covers were actual songs, which was more than you could say for the originals. Kapt. Kopter ended up proving that California was not ready to be promoted from a group guitarist who sang and wrote occasionally. AMG.

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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.

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segunda-feira, 23 de outubro de 2017

Delaney & Bonnie - D & B Together 1972

The husband-and-wife duo of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett created some of the most distinctive and unique music of the early '70s, but their alchemical sound -- equal parts blue-eyed soul, blues, country, and gospel -- was often marginalized by the attention instead paid to the contributions of their famous "friends," including rock icons like Eric ClaptonDuane Allman and George HarrisonDelaney Bramlett was born July 1, 1939 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, later befriending fellow aspiring musicians Leon Russell and J.J. CaleIt appears as though the Bramletts were pulling in a lot of markers here in the hopes of getting that elusive hit. On D & B Together, listeners find studio versions of "Only You Know and I Know" and "Superstar," both of which were concert highlights over two years before. Surprisingly, the best cut here is a studio take of "Comin' Home," written with Eric Clapton and featured on the On Tour album. While not as loose as the live cut, "Comin' Home" is great music nonetheless. The problem was, nobody seemed to care much anymore. AMG.
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