segunda-feira, 26 de novembro de 2018

Al Kooper - Easy Does It 1970

This is the third solo effort from rock & roll wunderkind Al Kooper. Originally issued as a two-LP set, Easy Does It (1970) is a diverse album that reveals the layer upon layer of musicality that has become synonymous with the artist. He draws deeply upon his skills as a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and equally engaging arranger. The extended run-time of the double album format likewise allows Kooper to thoroughly exhibit his wide-ranging and virtually mythical adaptability as an artist whose sheer talent defies the boundaries of genre or style. The set kicks off with the youthfully optimistic rocker "Brand New Day." This is the first of two tracks Kooper used in his score for Hal Ashby's directorial cinematic debut, The Landlord, a highly affable counterculture classic starring Beau Bridges. The haunting "The Landlord Love Theme" is also included, and is poignantly dovetailed with one of the disc's profoundly affective epics. "Buckskin Boy" is an uptempo rocker that lyrically offers a brutally honest assessment of the Native American situation, which was quickly becoming a national plague upon the social conscience of the country in the early '70s. The song is replete with Kooper's dynamic chord changes and trademark phrasing. The "morning after" fallout from a particularly potent experience with LSD is credited as the inspiration behind "Sad, Sad Sunshine." The cut features some heavily Eastern-influenced lead sitar work reminiscent of the sounds of Donovan circa Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) and the burgeoning Canterbury-based progressive folk movement of the late '60s and early '70s. There is a decidedly Yankee contrast on the country-rocker "I Bought You the Shoes (You're Walking Away In)" as well as the cover of John Loudermilk's "A Rose and a Baby Ruth." Other well-placed cover tunes include a classy, soulfully subdued reading of Ray Charles "I Got a Woman'" as well as the spacy and well-jammed-out version of "Baby Please Don't Go." Throughout the 12-plus minute side there are definite recollections of the extended instrumental interaction that defined Kooper's former band, the Blues Project, as well as some of the inspirational improvisation heard on the original Super Session (1968). This performance alone is more than worth the time and effort of seeking out Easy Does It. AMG.

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Looking Glass - Looking Glass 1972

The eight songs are evenly distributed between singer/guitarist Elliot Lurie and bassist/vocalist Piet Sweval, but Lurie wins the prize, as "Brandy" is one of those timeless and very special number one hits that come from out of the blue and make their mark. This one launched in the summer of 1972, and the New Jersey answer to the Beach Boys' '60s work could have led to an entire industry à la Brian Wilson's crew had they only had that concept in mind. The problem with the self-titled debut album is that it goes nowhere, much like the Arif Mardin-produced follow-up, Subway Serenade, in 1973, which had the "Brandy" clone song "Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne," itself a Top 40 hit, but in the lower regions of the Top 40, and a last gasp instead of new life. The credits list the brilliant Larry Fallon as horn and string arranger, but Fallon claims that he is the actual uncredited producer. Perhaps he felt his contributions lifted the band out of the realm of the mundane, and he would have a point. It's the additions of his horns, even on "Don't It Make You Feel Good," which give the proceedings a touch of something extra. Bob Lifton is credited as "audio consultant" and co-producer with the band, while the Toys' co-producer, Sandy Linzer, is thanked as a "guardian." The album is as complete as the 31 exact minutes it clocks in at -- able to be heard in the time one could watch a half-hour situation comedy on television. The back cover has the equipment in the studio shot Atlantic utilized when they had no Velvet Underground to photograph on the Loaded album, while the front has the four men, three with beard and moustache, looking pretty out of place. That's the frustration with this recording. Nothing comes close to the heights of "Brandy," James Giampa's congas on the hit not found anywhere else on the disc. What was needed was some strong outside material to capitalize on the success of the single and a band who needed to understand why they were successful. Lurie's deadpan vocal doesn't fit the Poco style of "Golden Rainbow," and outside of their attempt to rewrite the original hit, everything on this sounds like a "B" side. Get the hit single and you won't have to suffer through "From Stanton Station" or "One by One." Brian Wilson they were not. 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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domingo, 25 de novembro de 2018

Gun - Gun 1968

Adrian and Paul Gurvitz might be better known for their travels with Ginger Baker in the Baker Gurvitz Army, but in the late '60s the brothers helmed the heavy rock trio Gun and caught a whiff of success in the U.K. with their debut single "Race with the Devil." Using the less-ethnic surname Curtis, Adrian(guitar) and Paul (bass) teamed up with drummer Louis Farrell and pounded out some distinctive psych-flavored proto-metal. Floating about in the mix along with the guitar pyrotechnics and drum workouts are brass and string sections that aren't always welcome, but "Race with the Devil" uses these potentially square instruments well, adding texture to an otherwise brutal stomp. "Yellow Cab Man" is the highlight of the set, a hard pop number with a buzzing guitar hook and frantic, heavily distorted soloing from Adrian. The obligatory freak-out comes with the finale, the 11-minute "Take Off" which begins with the sound of jet roar, then explodes into feedback, drum solos, backward guitars, and silly psychedelic exhortations to "take a deep breath and try to count to five." Elsewhere are half-baked orchestral interludes and some questionable songwriting chops, but the band is truly firing on all cylinders throughout and their interplay is solid like a fist. When Gun pours it on, the results are visceral and exciting enough to forgive the occasional wrong turn. The album artwork is impressively grotesque for the era, a flaming mass of squirming demons that wouldn't be out of place on a Slayer T-shirt today. There isn't any Satanism invoked in the grooves of Gun, but it's a lost gem for fans of the power trio format. AMG.

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The Outlaw Blues Band - Breaking In 1969

The Outlaw Blues Band And The People brought the band a certain amount of acclaim, and they would score high-profile gigs playing with artists as diverse as Canned Heat, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Spirit, Taj Mahal, the Jefferson Airplane, and others. The truth is, however, that the album didn't sell especially well. The long delay between its recording and release (over a year) had found the band evolving towards an even more eclectic sound, while rifts caused by poor management would change the band's musical chemistry as members left and new ones didn't quite fit in the same way. Interesting second album.

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Band of Light - The Archer 1974

Band Of Light were formed in October 1972 by Phil Key (vocalist and rhythm guitarist from legendary New Zealand band The La De Da’s). Ian Rilen (later a key member of both Rose Tattoo and X) replaced Peter Roberts (also ex-Freshwater and La De Da’s) on bass after just 3 gigs. Master slide guitarist Norm Roue (who had come from Sydney band Gutbucket) and experienced drummer Tony Buettel (from Bay City Union, Levi Smith's Clefs, Fraternity and Band Of Talabene) completed the line-up.
Key’s first mission was to ensure that Roue’s stinging slide technique was put to good use. If you ever wondered what a nascent Rose Tattoo may have sounded like then this is a good place to start: on a good night, Roue could be matched with the likes of ‘Sleepy’ Greg Lawrie from Carson and La De Das’ Kevin Borich as one of the best slide players in the country, and at the bottom end, Rilen and Buettel always kept the rhythm firm and funky. Band Of Light immediately established a slow, heavy blues style dominated by Roue's stinging slide work. Key also introduced a quasi-religious philosophy into the band's lyrics that espoused racial equality, social justice and spiritual harmony.
The band worked consistently on the Sydney and Melbourne pub/festival/dance circuits, alongside other staple acts of the day like Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Carson, Coloured Balls, Chain, Madder Lake and Buffalo. Rock On Vinyl.

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Alexander "Skip" Spence - Oar 1969

Like a rough, more obscure counterpart to Syd BarrettSkip Spence was one of the late '60s' most colorful acid casualties. The original Jefferson Airplane drummer (although he was a guitarist who had never played drums before joining the group), Spence left after their first album to join Moby Grape. Like every member of that legendary band, he was a strong presence on their first album, playing guitar, singing, and writing "Omaha." The group ran into rough times in 1968, and Spence had the roughest, flipping out and (according to varying accounts) running amok in a record studio with a fire axe; he ended up being committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital. Upon his release, Spence cut an acid-charred classic, Oar, in 1969. Though released on a major label (Columbia), this was reportedly one of the lowest-selling items in its catalog and is hence one of the most valued psychedelic collector items. Much rawer and more homespun than the early Graperecords, it features Spence on all (mostly acoustic) guitars, percussion, and vocals. With an overriding blues influence and doses of country, gospel, and acid freakout thrown in, this sounds something like Mississippi Fred McDowell imbued with the spirit of Haight-Ashbury 1967. It also featured cryptic, punning lyrics and wraithlike vocals that range from a low Fred Neil with gravel hoarseness to a barely there high wisp. Sadly, it was his only solo recording; more sadly, mental illness prevented Spence from reaching a fully functional state throughout the remainder of his lifetime. He died April 16, 1999, just two days short of his 53rd birthday; the tribute album, More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander "Skip" Spence, featuring performances by Robert PlantBeck, and Tom Waits, appeared just a few weeks later. AMG.

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Savoy Brown - Blue Matter 1969

The third release by Kim Simmonds and company, but the first to feature the most memorable lineup of the group: Simmonds, "Lonesome" Dave Peverett, Tony "Tone" Stevens, Roger Earl, and charismatic singer Chris Youlden. This one serves up a nice mixture of blues covers and originals, with the first side devoted to studio cuts and the second a live club date recording. Certainly the standout track, indeed a signature song by the band, is the tour de force "Train to Nowhere," with its patient, insistent buildup and pounding train-whistle climax. Additionally, David Anstey's detailed, imaginative sleeve art further boosts this a notch above most other British blues efforts. AMG.

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Tony Kosinec - Bad Girl Songs 1971

Singer/songwriter Tony Kosinec began his long recording career in 1969 with the album Processes, and the single "Simple Emotion." Both were released under the Columbia Records label. More albums followed through the next two decades, with at least one album being reissued in the '90s. When the new millennium rolled around, Kosinec was still on the music scene, writing scores for television shows like Joan of Arc, a mini-series on CBS.
Raised in Toronto, Canada, Kosinec really began his professional musical career in the United States. In places like New York, he landed spots opening for popular acts at the time like Blood, Sweat & Tears. Those early gigs in the '60s gave Kosinec the chance to learn his craft, and to begin to build a fan base of his own. He had some success with his debut album, and with the sophomore, Bad Girl Songs, released in 1970. His third album, Consider the Heart, brought him his first big triumph with the hit single "All Things Come From God."
Although a number of recordings followed through the '70s and into the '80s, Kosinec also found other outlets for his creative energy, doing some acting now and then, and spending a lot of time writing jingles, even the theme song for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.
In 1998, Bad Girl Songs was re-released. A few of the tracks from the album are "I Use Her," "Come and Go," "The Sun Wants Me to Love You," "Dinner Time," "The World Still," and "Me and My Friends." A couple of years later, Kosinec began work on some new songs for an album, as well as pulling together some old songs for what he hoped to be a "best-of" collection. AMG.

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Alexis Korner - I Wonder Who 1967

Recorded in a mere two sessions, this had the potential to be a decent, if hardly innovative, effort. At this point, Korner's group was in one its most stripped-down phases, featuring just Alexis on guitar, Danny Thompson on bass, and Terry Cox on drums. Very shortly after this disc, Thompson and Cox would form the rhythm section of Pentangle, so these cuts are somewhat akin to hearing the bare bones of Pentangle in a much more blues/jazz-based context. The musical backing is not the problem, nor is the material, divided between Korner originals and blues standards by the likes of Jimmy SmithPercy MayfieldMa Rainey, and Jelly Roll Morton. The problem is that Korner elected to sing these himself in his gruff, scraggly croak. It's not like listening to Dylan or Buffy Sainte-Marie, who take some getting used to, but have considerable, idiosyncratic talent -- Korner simply cannot, objectively speaking, sing. (His butchering of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" has to be heard to be believed.) And that makes this album downright difficult to bear, despite the fine, spare musical arrangements (the instrumental cover of Jimmy Smith's "Chicken Shack Back Home" is a major standout in this context). If Korner had the wisdom to employ even a minor-league British bluesman like, say, Duffy Power (who guested with him occasionally during this time) as his singer for these sessions, the results would have been immeasurably better. AMG.

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Sonny Boy Williamson II - The Real Folk Blues 1967

Sonny Boy Williamson was, in many ways, the ultimate blues legend. By the time of his death in 1965, he had been around long enough to have played with Robert Johnson at the start of his career and Eric ClaptonJimmy Page and Robbie Robertson at the end of it. In between, he drank a lot of whiskey, hoboed around the country, had a successful radio show for 15 years, toured Europe to great acclaim and simply wrote, played and sang some of the greatest blues ever etched into black phonograph records. His delivery was sly, evil and world-weary, while his harp-playing was full of short, rhythmic bursts one minute and powerful, impassioned blowing the next. His songs were chock-full of mordant wit, with largely autobiographical lyrics that hold up to the scrutiny of the printed page. Though he took his namesake from another well-known harmonica player, no one really sounded like him. AMG.

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Bemibem - Bemowe Frazy 1974

Ewa and Aleksander Bem - wonderful siblings of Polish pop music at that time. Each song in which Alexander Bem dipped his fingers is worth attention. Interesting album.

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Archie Shepp - Things Have Got to Change 1971

Archie Shepp has been at various times a feared firebrand and radical, soulful throwback and contemplative veteran. He was viewed in the '60s as perhaps the most articulate and disturbing member of the free generation, a published playwright willing to speak on the record in unsparing, explicit fashion about social injustice and the anger and rage he felt. His tenor sax solos were searing, harsh, and unrelenting, played with a vivid intensity. But in the '70s, Shepp employed a fatback/swing-based R&B approach, and in the '80s he mixed straight bebop, ballads, and blues pieces displaying little of the fury and fire from his earlier days. Shepp studied dramatic literature at Goddard College, earning his degree in 1959. He played alto sax in dance bands and sought theatrical work in New York. But Shepp switched to tenor, playing in several free jazz bands. He worked with Cecil Taylor, co-led groups with Bill Dixonand played in the New York Contemporary Five with Don Cherry and John Tchicai. He led his own bands in the mid-'60s with Roswell RuddBobby HutchersonBeaver Harris, and Grachan Moncur III. His Impulse albums included poetry readings and quotes from James Baldwin and Malcolm XShepp's releases sought to paint an aural picture of African-American life, and included compositions based on incidents like Attica or folk sayings. He also produced plays in New York, among them The Communist in 1965 and Lady Day: A Musical Tragedy in 1972 with trumpeter/composer Cal Massey. But starting in the late '60s, the rhetoric was toned down and the anger began to disappear from Shepp's albums. He substituted a more celebratory, and at times reflective attitude. Shepp turned to academia in the late '60s, teaching at SUNY in Buffalo, then the University of Massachusetts. He was named an associate professor there in 1978. Shepp toured and recorded extensively in Europe during the '80s, cutting some fine albums with Horace ParlanNiels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and Jasper van't HofShepp continued to tour and record throughout the '90s and '00s. Moving from provocative free-jazz icon in his youth to elder jazz journeyman in his latter years, Shepp has appeared on a variety of labels over the years including Impulse, Byg, Arista/Freedom, Phonogram, Steeplechase, Denon, Enja, EPM, and Soul Note. AMG.

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quinta-feira, 8 de novembro de 2018

The Great Society With Grace Slick - Conspicuous Only In It's Absence 1966

Before joining Jefferson AirplaneGrace Slick sang lead and played various instruments for the Great Society, who were nearly as popular as Jefferson Airplane in the early days of the San Francisco psychedelic scene. Instrumentally, the Great Society were not as disciplined as Airplane. But they were at least their equals in imagination, infusing their probing songwriting with Indian influences, minor key melodic shifts, and groundbreaking, reverb-soaked psychedelic guitar by Slick's brother-in-law, Darby SlickDarby was also responsible for penning "Somebody to Love," which Grace brought with her to Airplane, who took it into the Top Five in 1967. The Great Society broke up in late 1966 after recording only one locally released single; after Jefferson Airplane became stars, Columbia issued a couple of live albums of the Great Society performing at San Francisco's Matrix Club in 1966. AMG.

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Link Wray - Be What You Want To 1973

Link Wray's release prior to Be What You Want To had proven the man's versatility. The self-titled album had obvious influences coming from many different genres including R&B, country, blues, and, of course, rock. Be What You Want To continues this trend. Country-rock, country, rock & roll; it's all here. This diverse range of genres may not be to everyone's liking, however, and the album must be approached with an open mind. Wray employed a huge number of musicians to play on Be What You Want To, including Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Of course, the main part of the talent comes from Link Wray himself. His amazing ability as lyricist, songwriter, and musician is noticeably brought to the fore on this album. Be What You Want To is consistently enjoyable to listen to and always impressive musically. The man's growling vocals and rocking guitar will undoubtedly enthrall many first-time listeners and also keep longtime fans happy. AMG.

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Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers 1971

Re-teaming with producer Guy StevensMott the Hoople delivered the great forgotten British hard rock album with their fourth outing, Brain CapersStevens was a legendary rock & roll wildman and he kept Mott careening through their performances; they sound harder than ever, even dangerous at times. Fortunately, this coincided with Ian Hunter's emergence as a fantastic songwriter, as tuneful and clever as any of his peers. All these changes are evident from the moment Brain Capers kicks in with the monumental "Death May Be Your Santa Claus," a phenomenally pile-driving number that just seems inevitable. As it gives way to a cover of Dion's "Your Own Backyard," it becomes clear that Mott have pulled off the trick of being sensitive while still rocking. And that's not the end of it -- they ride an epic wave on the nine-minute "The Journey," pull off a love song on "Sweet Angeline," and generally rock like hell throughout the record. The most amazing thing about the album is that none of the songs really change character -- it's all straightforward hard rock, graced with Dylanesque organ -- but there are all sorts of variations on that basic sound, proving how versatile they are. It's a fantastic album, and stands as the culmination of their early years. When a record this confident and tremendous is stiffed, it's little wonder they thought about chucking it all in; and it isn't a surprise that, when they decided to continue, it was with a change in sound. They couldn't have topped this if they tried. AMG.

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Lee Michaels - Recital 1968

After a somewhat uneven debut album, Lee Michaels found his footing on this record. Michaels, a keen student of R&B as well as classical music, was obviously able to wrangle a bit more artistic control at A&M, and it shows. Overdubs of piano, harpsichord, and organ by Michaels created a wonderful sonic depth, and along with John Barbata's solid drumming, the result is staggering. Michaels was not exactly a singer/songwriter, but on this record, songs such as "Blind" and "Fell in Love Today" find a real voice for his R&B leanings. The record also contains the fabulous single "If I Lose You," which should have been a Top 40 hit. In the end, Recital is a very funky pop album that was ahead of its time. AMG.

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Letta Mbulu - Naturally 1972

With her performance at the Unity Festival Apartheid in 1991, Letta Mbulu returned triumphantly to her homeland of South Africa. Having been exiled, due to Apartheid, for more than a quarter century, Mbuluhad gone from a teenager in the groundbreaking South African musical production King Kong of 1960 to one of the most influential singers to ever come out South Africa. In addition to recording such South African hits as "I Need Your Love," "Buza," and "Everybody Sing Along," Mbulu added her soulful vocals to recordings and/or concerts with late jazz saxophonist Cannonball AdderlyMichael Jackson, and Harry BelafonteMbulu, whose screen credits include, A Warm December and The Color Purple, performed the opening title track and most of the African music for the historical 1970s miniseries Roots, part one and part two. According to Quincy Jones who produced her collaboration with Michael Jackson, "Liberian Girl," and co-produced The Colour Purple, "Mbulu is the roots lady, projecting a sophistication and warmth which stirs hope for attaining pure love, beauty, and unity in the world."
During her lengthy exile, Mbulu remained committed to the music of her birth land. She helped to form South African Artists United (SAAU) in 1986, basing the group on the Union of South African Artists that grew from the African Jazz and Variety for whom she made her early debut. Mbulu's husband, Caiphus Semenya, who she met while touring with King Kong, plays an essential role in her music. AMG.

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