sábado, 16 de março de 2019

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Illuminations 1969

In the year 2000, the Wire magazine picked this spaced out gem from Native American folksinger and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie as one the "100 Albums That Set the World on Fire." Released in 1969, and now on CD, as of 2001, it was reissued as an import on 180 gram vinyl with its original glorious artwork and package. Interestingly enough, it's a record Sainte-Marie doesn't even list on her discography on her website. It doesn't matter whether she cares for it or not, of course, because Illuminations is as prophetic a record as the first album by Can or the psychedelic work of John Martin on Solid Air. For starters, all of the sounds with the exception of a lead guitar on one track and a rhythm section employed on three of the last four selections are completely synthesized from the voice and guitar of Sainte-Marieherself. There are tracks whose vocals are completely electronically altered and seem to come from the ether -- check out "Mary" and "Better to Find Out for Yourself" as a sample. But the track "Adam," with its distorted bassline and Sainte-Marie throwing her voice all over the mix in a tale of Adam's fall and his realization -- too late -- that he could have lived forever, is a spooky, wondrous tune as full of magic as it is mystery and electronic innovation. The songs here, while clearly written, are open form structures that, despite their brevity (the longest cut here is under four minutes), break down the barriers between folk music, rock, pop, European avant-garde music and Native American styles (this is some of the same territory Tim Buckley explores on Lorca and Starsailor). It's not a synthesis in any way, but a completely different mode of travel. This is poetry as musical tapestry and music as mythopoetic sonic landscape; the weirdness on this disc is over-exaggerated in comparison to its poetic beauty. It's gothic in temperament, for that time anyway, but it speaks to issues and affairs of the heart that are only now beginning to be addressed with any sort of constancy -- check out the opener "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot" or the syncopated blues wail in "Suffer the Children" or the arpeggiated synthesized lyrics of "The Vampire." When the guitars begin their wail and drone on "The Angel," the whole record lifts off into such a heavenly space that Hans Joachim Rodelius must have heard it back in the day, because he uses those chords, in the same order and dynamic sense, so often in his own music. Some may be put off by Sainte-Marie's dramatic delivery, but that's their loss; this music comes from the heart -- and even space has a heart, you know. One listen to the depth of love expressed on "The Angel" should level even the crustiest cynic in his chair. Combine this with the shriek, moan, and pure-lust wail of "With You, Honey" and "He's a Keeper of the Fire" -- you can hear where Tim Buckley conceived (read: stole) the entirety of Greetings From LA from, and Diamanda Galas figured out how to move across octaves so quickly. The disc closes with the gothic folk classic "Poppies," the most tripped out, operatic, druggily beautiful medieval ballad ever psychedelically sung. That an album like Illuminations can continue to offer pleasure 32 years after it was recorded is no surprise given its quality; that it can continue to mystify, move, and baffle listeners is what makes it a treasure that is still ahead of its time. AMG.

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Jerry Moore - Life Is A Constant Journey Home 1967

This 1967 reissue is definitely of its time. recorded shortly before his ordination as a preacher, Jerry Moore’s “Life is a Constant Journey Home” is a meditative plea for peace and faith, delivered in a smooth plaintive voice and utilizing many of the familiar folk, country, Soul and light blues of era. Moore’s message is subtly Christian, but its overtly compassionate and fiery defense of love is certainly all-inclusive.

With light soulful blues, lyrics gently chiding, the title song opens things up with a mellow but edgy tone. This is a call to wake up, a search for a fast track to insight and redemption. Again, the music is dated and might seem more appropriate to an ad for a senior citizen health product than a memorable invocation to eternal love, but Moore’s voice, like that of more recently, Alexi Murdoch or Stuart Staples, has a gritty world-wise depth behind the lush croon.

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Dave Van Ronk - No Dirty Names 1966

While this is certainly among the more obscure of Dave Van Ronk's early LPs (none of which were exactly big sellers), it's one of the better ones. It's not radically different from most of the folk-blues albums he made in his early career. But there's a little more variety to the arrangements and repertoire than usual, with just as much of Van Ronk's growling gruff voice as always. For one thing, it's not solely Van Ronk and his acoustic guitar; there's also some acoustic guitar by Dave Woods and, more surprisingly, bass by Chuck Israels, a member of the Bill Evans Trio for much of the '60s. Van Ronk's tendency toward hokey good-time vaudeville-ragtime is kept in check, resulting in a moodier and more varied outing than many others in his catalog. While many of the 13 tracks are the kinds of folk and blues standards you might expect in a Van Ronk set (like "One Meatball" and "Statesboro Blues"), there's also a pretty good five-minute cover of Brecht-Weill's "Alabama Song." Stranger is "Zen Koans Gonna Rise Again," featuring a ghostly organ by Barry Kornfeld (though none of the other songs feature organ). Van Ronk's jazz influence comes to the fore in covers of Mose Allison's "One of These Days" and a rambunctious interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie's "Blues Chante" that's about as close as Van Ronkcomes to R&B on the LP. For collectors, though, the major alarm bells are rung by the plaintive if unexceptional "The Old Man." For it's an early Bob Dylan song that was never covered by anyone else, and made its first appearance on this album, though Van Ronk re-recorded it for subsequent releases many years later (Dylan's own version, an outtake from his first album, finally surfaced on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3, where it was titled "Man on the Street"). And you've got to be aware of Dylan's authorial involvement beforehand to recognize the song as one of his works, since no writing credits are given for the tracks on the back cover (though they're on the inner label). AMG.

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Bruce Cockburn - Bruce Cockburn 1970

Bruce Cockburn's self-titled debut's blend of diversity, enthusiasm, and innocence never quite resurfaced again in his work, especially in his more clinical, politically inclined tracts of later decades. The opening number, "Going to the Country," still evokes that hippie-esque, back-to-the-earth movement as well as any song ever recorded, complete with a sly wink that keeps it fresh to this day. And since this was 1970, the album also comes equipped with some of those quaint excesses of the period; try the nasal tone poem gracing "The Bicycle Trip." "Musical Friends" remains a lively, happy-go-lucky classic with piano signature lifted from Paul McCartney's playbook; it's difficult to picture the dour Cockburn of more recent years ever having this much fun. In contrast, "Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon" offers a trance-like, introspective atmosphere reminiscent of British folkie legend Nick Drake. AMG.

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domingo, 10 de março de 2019

The Byrds - Ballad Of Easy Rider 1969

If Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde found Roger McGuinn having to re-create the Byrds after massive personnel turnovers (and not having an easy time of it), Ballad of Easy Rider was the album where the new lineup really hit its stride. Gracefully moving back and forth between serene folk-rock (the title cut, still one of McGuinn's most beautiful melodies), sure-footed rock & roll ("Jesus Is Just All Right"), heartfelt country-rock ("Oil In My Lamp" and "Tulsa County"), and even a dash of R&B (the unexpectedly funky "Fido," which even features a percussion solo), Ballad of Easy Rider sounds confident and committed where Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde often seemed tentative. The band sounds tight, self-assured, and fully in touch with the music's emotional palette, and Clarence White's guitar work is truly a pleasure to hear (if Roger McGuinn's fabled 12-string work seems to take a back seat to White's superb string bends, it is doubtful that any but the most fanatical fans would think to object). While not generally regarded as one of the group's major works, in retrospect this release stands alongside Untitled as the finest work of the Byrds' final period. AMG.

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Archie Shepp - The Magic Of Juju 1967

On this 1967 Impulse release, tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp unleashed his 18-minute tour de force "The Magic of Ju-Ju," combining free jazz tenor with steady frenetic African drumming. Shepp's emotional and fiery tenor takes off immediately, gradually morphing with the five percussionists -- Beaver HarrisNorman ConnorEd BlackwellFrank Charles, and Dennis Charles -- who perform on instruments including rhythm logs and talking drums. Shepp never loses the initial energy, moving forward like a man possessed as the drumming simultaneously builds into a fury. Upon the final three minutes, the trumpets of Martin Banks and Michael Zwerin make an abrupt brief appearance, apparently to ground the piece to a halt. This is one of Shepp's most chaotic yet rhythmically hypnotic pieces. The three remaining tracks, somewhat overshadowed by the title piece, are quick flourishes of free bop on "Shazam," "Sorry Bout That," and the slower, waltz-paced "You're What This Day Is All About." AMG.

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The Underdogs - Wasting Our Time 1970

Well known throughout New Zealand and Australia, The Underdogs - on this, their first LP for PYE- entertain with the total comparison, guts, and brilliance of Pig, Mann and Edwards (The Underdogs). With this jacket blurb, we want to convince the uninformed that he should have listened.

We know you'll dig it. As the producer i enjoyed every minute of the 3-day session, listening to Harvey, Neil and Glen begin a song and build it on, and punch and polish it here and there -it was like watching a flower unfold. The time was right (recording had been postponed for 2 years), the material was (and is) right, and the mood was warm ebullient.

Executive producer John Kerr wisely decided that if the album was to get off the ground, Harvey, Neil, and Glenn would have to do it their way. As a consequence, words and sounds simply fell into place naturally and beautifully. Hear these fantastic: Glen's introduction to "It's a Blessing" and his extended solo on "Garden of Eden", Harvey's country solo on "Clover In The Air" and his accoustiphonic guitar and singing on his own "Tomorrow's Child", Neil's talking frog Bass on "Is he going to Die?" and his down-home singing on "Clover In The Air".

As a close friend of the group, I have seen their ruthless personal humanity blossom into superb musicianship and expression that you will hear on this album.
by Bob Gillet, October 1970, Auckland, New Zealand.

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Bob Marley and The Wailers - Kaya 1978

By 1978, Bob Marley was by far the best-known reggae musician in the world and a major star in the U.K. and Europe as well as his native Jamaica. However, he was still little more than a cult figure in the United States, and by many accounts Marley was eager to attract a larger audience in America, seeing it as a new challenge. Released in 1978, Kaya wasn't necessarily made with American tastes in mind, but it was an album that presented a more accessible version of Bob Marley. Lyrically, the songs avoided the political commentary or Rastafarian philosophizing that was at the forefront of Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration, and instead emphasized tunes about love and ganga, such as "Easy Skanking" and the title cut. And the palpable musical tension that simmered beneath the surface on the Wailers' earlier material gave way to a more laid-back riddim that was more comfortable but a bit less demanding. Kaya presented a gentler and friendlier version of Bob Marley & the Wailers, but it also documented Marley and his group at the peak of their abilities. The nuance in Marley's vocals on "Running Away," "She's Gone," and "Is This Love" showed how much he'd grown as a performer since Catch a Fire, and his passion elevates "Misty Morning" into one of the album's highlights. The Wailers were capable of cutting a groove that was both powerfully muscular and seemingly effortless, with Aston "Family Man" Barrett and Carlton Barrett once again reaffirming their status as one of the finest rhythm sections on earth, and Junior Murvin and Marley offering a master class in how the concept of "less is more" can be applied to the guitar. Though Kaya offered a less aggressive message than one might have expected from Marley, the songs were far from lazy, and "Time Will Tell," "Is This Love," and "Running Away" are resonant, top-shelf work. Kaya was a minor effort for Bob Marley as a prophet or a commentator, but it's a rich and rewarding set from Marley the musician. AMG.

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Andy Fraser Band - Andy Fraser Band 1975

A classically trained pianist who switched to bass just in time to get his first professional gig at the age of 15, Andy Fraser was best known as a main songwriter and bassist for the legendary and groundbreaking British blues-rock band Free. When that band exploded due to drug addiction and internal strife, Fraser worked with other musicians, eventually becoming well respected as a hitmaking songwriter based in Los Angeles.
Born in 1952 in London, Fraser took to playing piano at the age of five. Classically trained, he was able to make the transition to guitar without much fuss. Taking up the bass -- at that time still not considered to be the ideal step to rock stardom -- turned out to be the right decision for Fraser. Well, that and making friends with Sappho Korner, daughter of British blues legend Alexis Korner, who suggested to a bass player-less John Mayall to hire the 15-year-old Fraser. Playing in the Bluesbreakers (at the time featuring an 18-year-old Mick Taylor, who would eventually join the Rolling Stones) only lasted until Fraser was 16, and after he was replaced, Korner put him in touch with guitarist Paul Kossoff, who, along with drummer Simon Kirke and vocalist Paul Rodgers, had been on an unsuccessful search for a competent bass player to round out their new band. The resulting band, Free, eventually signed with Island Records chief Chris Blackwell -- thanks to more help from Alexis Korner -- and became one of the cornerstones in the second wave of heavy British blues-rock, alongside bands such as Led Zeppelinand Black SabbathFree's peak came with the single "All Right Now," a critical and commercial smash that was co-written and produced by Fraser.
Although plaudits and commercial success were plentiful for the band, guitarist Paul Kossoff's battle with drugs and power struggles with Paul Rodgers eventually pulled Free apart, once in 1971 and again in 1972. Fraser kept plugging along, forming a number of different bands. The first, Toby, came together during the first breakup of Free. Consisting of Fraser, guitarist Adrian Fisher, and drummer Stan Speake, the band recorded but came to an end when Fraser chose to join the re-formed Free in 1972. The second exodus from Free for Fraser, and also his last, came that same year. Fraser lasted just one album with his new band the Sharks -- Snips(vocals), Chris Spedding (guitars), and drummer Marty Simon -- before forming the Andy Fraser Band, with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. After two albums, the band split, and so did Fraser. Relocating to California, Fraser set upon creating a new band, the Stealers, but chose not to release the band's work. One of the songs, "Every Kinda People," a song from the sessions, found its way to Robert Palmer, who made the song a huge hit on his 1978 U.S. breakthrough LP Double Fun.
Songwriting became Fraser's main trade, and artists such as Joe CockerChaka KhanTed NugentPaul Carrack, and Rod Stewart eventually covered Fraser's song work. As a recording artist, Fraser returned in 1984 as a solo artist, releasing the record Fine, Fine Line. This time, Fraser was vocalist rather than bassist. At this point, personal and health issues took to the fore, with Fraser coming to terms with his homosexuality, coming down with and overcoming cancer, and sadly contracting AIDS. Fraser continued to work, albeit in small quantities and sporadic at best. In 1994, he reunited with Paul Rodgers at Woodstock '94 and in 2005 released the solo album Naked... and Finally Free. In 2006, he made his first public appearance since 1994 with two shows in California. Andy Fraser died in March 2015 at his home in California; he was 62 years old. AMG.

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sábado, 9 de março de 2019

ZZ Top - Tres Hombres 1973

Tres Hombres is the record that brought ZZ Top their first Top Ten record, making them stars in the process. It couldn't have happened to a better record. ZZ Top finally got their low-down, cheerfully sleazy blooze-n-boogie right on this, their third album. As their sound gelled, producer Bill Ham discovered how to record the trio so simply that they sound indestructible, and the group brought the best set of songs they'd ever have to the table. On the surface, there's nothing really special about the record, since it's just a driving blues-rock album from a Texas bar band, but that's what's special about it. It has a filthy groove and an infectious feel, thanks to Billy Gibbons' growling guitars and the steady propulsion of Dusty Hilland Frank Beard's rhythm section. They get the blend of bluesy shuffles, gut-bucket rocking, and off-beat humor just right. ZZ Top's very identity comes from this earthy sound and songs as utterly infectious as "Waitin' for the Bus," "Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Move Me on Down the Line," and the John Lee Hooker boogie "La Grange." In a sense, they kept trying to remake this record from this point on -- what is Eliminator if not Tres Hombres with sequencers and synthesizers? -- but they never got it better than they did here. AMG.

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Yaqui - Yaqui 1973

Yaqui was a rock band of the 70s from East L.A. whose roots went deeply back into the golden age of the East L.A. music scene of the 60s, as did many other Eastside bands of the early 70s such as El Chicano, Tierra, Macondo, and my band of the same era, Tango.  Yaqui recorded and released a self-titled album, "Yaqui," on Hugh Hefner's Playboy Records in 1972 that was extremely well played, well sung, with some very good songs.  Yaqui was part of a stable of artists, managed by Art Brambila, which also included Tierra and yours truly, when I was a solo artist.  Art secured major record deals for all three of his artists.  It was the beginning of what we all hoped would be a Chicano Motown.  For various reasons that's not the way it worked out, but that story is perhaps for another time and place.  The members of Yaqui were George Ochoa, lead vocals; Eddie Serrano, lead vocals; Ronnie Reyes, lead guitar; Art Sanchez, bass; Ray Rodriguez, drums; Larry Cronen, keyboards; and Rudy Regalado, timbales and percussion."

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José Afonso - Coro Dos Tribunais 1974

Coro dos Tribunais is an album of original songs by the musician José Afonso, published in Christmas 1974.

In a Portugal returned to "normality", after the revolution of the carnations of 25 of April, this album is published in freedom. It is a new phase of his music, characterized by the African rhythms of songs he had made in Mozambique, to which Fausto lends his wisdom in the arrangements.

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Carmen Maki - Adam and Eve 1970

With a career that spans the mid-60s right up to the present day, Carmen Maki is something of a fixture in Japanese music. In 1968 she was a member of Shuji Terayama’s Tenjo Sajiki theatre company, during which time she was briefly involved with J.A. Caesar. Following two solo albums for CBS in 1969 Maki sung with Kazuo Takeda’s Blues Creation, releasing the excellent LP “Carmen Maki & Blues Creation” in 1971. In 1975 she formed Carmen Maki and Oz. Carmen Maki’s second solo album, “Adam and Eve” is arguably her best album. The material is stunning ranging from female psyched out vocals underscored with fuzz burnouts and erotic moaning, to feel good harmony pop ala a Japanese Dusty Springfield via a journey through a sleazy lounge or 60s French film noire; on this disc Maki does it all, still trying to pin down her trademark style. Almost every song is a winner on this varied album. One of the nicest female psych influenced vocal albums to seep out of Japan.

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Chris Darrow - Fretless 1979

Chris Darrow was born on July 30, 1944, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to a military dad who soon afterward moved his family to Southern California, where Darrow still makes his home. He began learning to play anything he could get his hands on that had strings, and over the course of the next 30-plus years, became one of the most sought-after multi-instrumentalists in professional music. Shortly after high school graduation, Darrow put together a bluegrass band called the Dry City Scat Band with David LindleySteve CahillRichard Greene, and Pete Madlem. Within a couple of years, the Scat Band would become one of the hottest bluegrass ensembles in Southern California. During the summer of 1964, the Scat Band got a gig at Disneyland, which was steady work, and Darrow was able to support his new bride. During this period, signs were starting to appear indicating imminent changes in the hearts of some of the purest bluegrass musicians. Bandmate Richard Greene introduced Darrow to a friend of his who played in the Chad Mitchell Trio and who had just returned from England raving about the British music scene. Darrow had never before seen anyone with Beatle boots and long hair. The gentleman happened to be future Byrds founder Roger McGuinn. Later that summer, the Scat Band was replaced by the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers and mandolinist Chris Hillman, a hardcore bluegrass purist who quietly and sheepishly said to Darrow, "I joined a rock & roll band. I need the money. They're called the Byrds."
In the latter part of the '60s, Darrow had his first major breakthrough by putting a band together, called Kaleidoscope, with David LindleySolomon Feldthouse, and Max Buda. American folk, Middle Eastern, country & western, and blues, which would have seemed an unlikely combination of musical flavors, proved to mix very well and ultimately became successful. Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page was quoted as saying that, "Kaleidoscope was his favorite band of all time." Kaleidoscope went on to release several albums in the late '60s with no hit singles, but with a large cult following that is still growing.
In late 1967, Darrow was asked to join the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as a fiddle player/singer replacing predecessors Jackson Browne, who left to embark upon a solo career, and Bruce Kunkel, who left the band because of philosophical differences. As it turned out, the Dirt Band abruptly adopted a more electric sound anyway, which is what Kunkel had been campaigning for, but was resigned to defeat. In the meantime, Darrow's presence gave the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band some glory by virtue of their performance in the smash musical comedy flick Paint Your Wagon. The Dirt Band's short-lived and waning success would soon cause a breakup, but it would later reorganize with different personnel. Darrow, on the other hand, who has more sides to him than a mirror ball, hung out his shingle attracting a great number of new opportunities.
One of these opportunities was in the form of an intermittent working relationship with Linda Ronstadtthat came as the result of an introduction by a primate. Former Monkee Michael Nesmith produced a couple of singles for a band called the Corvettes, founded by Darrow and former Dirt Band mate Jeff Hanna. The Corvettes would soon become Ronstadt's backup band. She had heard about them through Nesmith, who was the writer of her hit song "Different Drum." Darrow stayed with Ronstadt's band off and on for a number of years, witnessing a personnel change whereby Bernie Leadon came in to replace Hanna, who had decided to make his exit and re-form the Dirt Band.
Darrow was offered a recording contract by United Artists Records in 1972. He recorded the albums Chris Darrow, followed up by Under My Own Disguise the following year. "Whipping Boy," from the former, received critical acclaim and is still viewed as an attractive "cover" prospect. Over the years, he has continued to be called upon by other artists who wanted his multifaceted musical influence on their albums. Artists such as James TaylorSonny & CherGene VincentHelen Reddy, and John Fahey are only a few examples.
In the mid-'90s, Darrow started recording for the Taxim label of Germany. In 2000, the label released a two-CD set, called Coyote: Straight from the Heart. It includes a 40-minute instrumental suite and 20 original songs. Taxim also released FretlessSouthern California Drive, Los Chumps with Max Buda, and Mojave, a Darrow-produced album featuring members of Emmylou Harris's band, Lone Justice, and the Byrds. In early 2001, BGO Records in England released Darrow's second and third albums, Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise, as a two-for-one package.
All of Kaleidoscope's early records have been re-released on Demon Records in England and Sony/Legacy in the U.S. Darrow's fabulous slide guitar work is featured on a compilation album called Everybody Slides, Vol. 2. The album features cuts by such slide greats as Lowell GeorgeJohn HammondDavid Lindley, and Rory Block. It is on Sky Ranch Records in France with Virgin distribution, as well as Rykodisc in the United States. Darrow also appears on two Takoma Records compilations, Takoma Slide and Takoma Eclectic Sampler, Vol. 2.
Other sides of this mirror ball (metaphorically speaking) lay in business and photography. Darrow planned to publish a book containing photographs he has taken over the last few decades, many of which appear on album covers. By his own admission, he said he decided to take his photojournalism to a professional level after he learned that the man with whom his wife ran off was a photographer.
In retrospect, during the late '60s and through the '70s, there seemed to be a delicate balance of relationships that would influence the evolution of country rock music (as it would come to be known) for the remainder of the 20th century and beyond. Chris Darrow was right in the middle of all of this and played an integral part of the formation and ultimate success of more than just a handful of his contemporaries. In 2013, his 1972 self-titled debut was re-released by Drag City with great fanfare; the original album was appended with a handful of bonus tracks. AMG.

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