quinta-feira, 28 de julho de 2011

The Charles Mingus Quintet plus Max Roach - The Charles Mingus Quintet + Max Roach 1955

Irascible, demanding, bullying, and probably a genius, Charles Mingus cut himself a uniquely iconoclastic path through jazz in the middle of the 20th century, creating a legacy that became universally lauded only after he was no longer around to bug people. As a bassist, he knew few peers, blessed with a powerful tone and pulsating sense of rhythm, capable of elevating the instrument into the front line of a band. But had he been just a string player, few would know his name today. Rather, he was the greatest bass-playing leader/composer jazz has ever known, one who always kept his ears and fingers on the pulse, spirit, spontaneity, and ferocious expressive power of jazz.

Intensely ambitious yet often earthy in expression, simultaneously radical and deeply traditional, Mingus' music took elements from everything he had experienced -- from gospel and blues through New Orleans jazz, swing, bop, Latin music, modern classical music, even the jazz avant-garde. His touchstone was Duke Ellington, but Mingus took the sonic blend and harmonies of Ellingtonia much further, throwing in abrasive dissonances and abrupt changes in meter and tempo, introducing tremendously exhilarating accelerations that generated a momentum of their own. While his early works were written out in a classical fashion, by the mid-'50s, he had worked out a new way of getting his unconventional visions across, dictating the parts to his musicians while allowing plenty of room for the players' own musical personalities and ideas. He was also a formidable pianist, fully capable of taking that role in a group -- which he did in his 1961-62 bands, hiring another bassist to fill in for him.

Along the way, Mingus made a lot of enemies, causing sometimes violent confrontations on and off the bandstand. A big man physically, he used his bulk as a weapon of intimidation, and he was not above halting concerts to chew out inattentive audiences or errant sidemen, even cashiering a musician now and then on the spot. At one of his concerts in Philadelphia -- and a memorial to a dead colleague at that -- he broke up the show by slamming the piano lid down, nearly smashing his pianist's hands, and then punched trombonist Jimmy Knepper in the mouth. For a savage physical portrait of the emotions that seethed within him, check out the photo on the cover of Duke Ellington's Money Jungle; Mingus looks as if he is about to kill someone. But he could also be a gentle giant as his moods permitted, and that quality can be felt in some of his music.

Mingus felt the lash of racial prejudice very intensely -- which, combined with the frustrations of making it in the music business on his own terms, found its outlet in music. Indeed, some of his bizarre titles were political in nature, such as Fables of Faubus (referring to the Arkansas governor who tried to keep Little Rock schools segregated), "Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me" or "Remember Rockefeller at Attica." But he could also be wildly humorous, the most notorious example being "If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats" (later shortened to "Gunslinging Bird").

Born in a Nogales Army camp, Mingus was shortly thereafter taken to the Watts district of Los Angeles, where he grew up. The first music he heard was that of the church -- the only music his stepmother allowed around the house -- but one day, despite the threat of punishment, he tuned in Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" on his father's crystal set, his first exposure to jazz. He tried to learn the trombone at six and then the cello, but he became fed up with incompetent teachers and ended up on the double bass by the time he reached high school. His early teachers were Red Callender and an ex-New York Philharmonic bassist named Herman Rheinschagen, and he also studied composition with Lloyd Reese. A proto-third stream composition written by Mingus in 1940-41, "Half-Mast Inhibition" (recorded in 1960), reveals an extraordinary timbral imagination for a teenager.

As a bass prodigy, Mingus performed with Kid Ory in Barney Bigard's group in 1942 and went on the road with Louis Armstrong the following year. He would gravitate toward the R&B side of the road later in the '40s, working with the Lionel Hampton band in 1947-48, backing R&B and jazz performers, and leading ensembles in various idioms under the name Baron Von Mingus. He began to attract real national attention as a bassist for Red Norvo's trio with Tal Farlow in 1950-51, and after leaving that group, he moved to New York and began working with several stellar jazz performers, including Billy Taylor, Stan Getz and Art Tatum. He was the bassist in the famous 1953 Massey Hall concert in Toronto with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Max Roach, and he briefly joined his idol Ellington, where he had the dubious distinction of being the only man Duke ever personally fired from his band.

Around this time, Mingus tried to make himself into a rallying point for the jazz community. He founded Debut Records in partnership with his then-wife Celia and Roach in 1952, seeing to it that the label recorded a wide variety of jazz from bebop to experimental music until its demise in 1957. Among Debut's most notable releases were the Massey Hall concert, an album by Miles Davis, and several Mingus sessions that traced the development of his ideas. He also contributed composed works to the Jazz Composers' Workshop from 1953 to 1955, and later in '55, he founded his own Jazz Workshop repertory group that found him moving away from strict notation toward his looser, dictated manner of composing.

By 1956, with the release of Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic), Mingus had clearly found himself as a composer and leader, creating pulsating, ever-shifting compendiums of jazz's past and present, feeling his way into the free jazz of the future. For the next decade, he would pour forth an extraordinary body of work for several labels, including key albums like The Clown, New Tijuana Moods, Mingus Ah Um, Blues and Roots and Oh Yeah; standards like "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," "Better Git It in Your Soul," "Haitian Fight Song" and "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting," and extended works like Meditations on Integration and Epitaph. Through ensembles ranging in size from a quartet to an 11-piece big band, a procession of noted sidemen like Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, J.R. Monterose, Jimmy Knepper, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin, and John Handy would pass, with Mingus' commanding bass and volatile personality pushing his musicians further than some of them might have liked to go. The groups with the great Dolphy (heard live on Mingus at Antibes) in the early '60s might have been his most dynamic, and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963), an extended ballet for big band that captures the anguished/joyful split Mingus personality in full, passionately wild cry -- may be his masterpiece.

However, Mingus' obsessive efforts to free himself from the economic hazards and larceny of the music business nearly undermined his sanity in the 1960s (indeed, some of the liner notes for The Black Saint album were written by his psychologist, Dr. Edmund Pollock). He tried to compete with the Newport festivals by organizing his own Jazz Artists Guild in 1960 that purported to give musicians more control over their work, but that collapsed with the by-now-routine rancor that accompanied so many Mingus ventures. A calamitous, self-presented New York Town Hall concert in 1962; another, shorter-lived recording venture, Charles Mingus Records, in 1964-65; the failure to find a publisher for his autobiography Beneath the Underdog, and other setbacks broke his bank account and ultimately his spirit. He quit music almost entirely from 1966 until 1969, resuming performances in June 1969 only because he desperately needed money.

Financial angels in the forms of a Guggenheim Fellowship in composition, the publication of Beneath the Underdog in 1971, and the purchase of his Debut masters by Fantasy boosted Mingus' spirits, and a new stimulating Columbia album Let My Children Hear Music thrust him back into public attention. By 1974, he had formed a new young quintet, anchored by his loyal drummer Dannie Richmond and featuring Jack Walrath, Don Pullen and George Adams, and more compositions came forth, including the massive, kaleidoscopic, Colombian-based "Cumbia and Jazz Fusion" that began its life as a film score.

Respect was growing, but time, alas, was running out, for in fall 1977, Mingus was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), and by the following year, he was unable to play the bass. Though confined to a wheelchair, he nevertheless carried on, leading recording sessions, and receiving honors at a White House concert on June 18, 1978. His last project was a collaboration, Mingus with folk-rock singer Joni Mitchell, who wrote lyrics to Mingus' music and included samples of Mingus' voice on the record.

Since his death, Mingus' importance and fame increased remarkably, thanks in large part to the determined efforts of Sue Mingus, his widow. A posthumous repertory group, Mingus Dynasty, was formed almost immediately after his death, and that concept was expanded in 1991 into the exciting Mingus Big Band, which has resurrected many of Mingus' most challenging scores. Epitaph was finally reconstructed, performed and recorded in 1989 to general acclaim, and several box sets of portions of Mingus' output have been issued by Rhino/Atlantic, Mosaic and Fantasy. Beyond re-creations, the Mingus influence can be heard on Branford Marsalis' early Scenes in the City album, and especially in the big band writing of his brother Wynton. The Mingus blend of wildly colorful eclecticism solidly rooted in jazz history should serve his legacy well in a future increasingly populated by young conservatives who want to pay their respects to tradition and try something different. AMG.

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Steamhammer - MK II 1969

The second version of the British combo Steamhammer released its first LP utilizing the talents of Steve Davy (bass), Martin Pugh (guitars), and Kieran White (vocals/guitar/harmonica/Jew's harp) from the original band as well as new recruits Steve Jolliffe (woodwind/brass/harpsichord/vocals) and Mick Bradley (drums). It was the blues that initially drove the combo on its debut long-player, Reflection (1969), likewise known as Junior's Wailing. This lineup adds more exploratory and intricate melodies, courtesy of the multi-instrumental talents and sonic sculpting of future Tangerine Dream member Jolliffe. While this version of the band would not remain past this album, its unique fusion would arguably peak on Mountains (1970), the follow-up to MK II (1969). There are definite shapes of things to come throughout this effort, thanks to the aggressive interaction of the new recruits. They immediately step up to the plate, providing a variety of interesting melodic and instrumental textures. These range from the full-speed gallop of Jolliffe's "Johnny Carl Morton" or the Baroque waltz "Turn Around" -- both of which are punctuated by some prominent harpsichord interjections reminiscent of other U.K. progressive groups such as Family and Blossom Toes.

Pugh's guitar work is another of the band's conspicuous assets, as he is able to fluidly waft between the acoustic romanticism of the diminutive "Sunset Chase" to the bluesy and tongue-in-cheek "Contemporary Chick Con Song." The latter track includes a stretched-out instrumental jam that captures Pugh's criminally underrated electric fretwork. Steamhammer's various and seemingly disparate musical elements coalesce on the manic "6/8 for Amiran." They blend the complexities inherent in the time signature with a tightly executed and churning blues -- much in the same way that early Jethro Tull was able to do on sides such as "Nothing Is Easy" or "For Our Mothers." The second side consists of a suite containing "Down Along the Grove," "Another Travelling Tune," and "Fran and Dee Take a Ride." This 16-plus minute epic allows Steamhammer to improvise and stretch out. The open structure makes room for the various musical styles to be thoroughly explored with more intricacy than a majority of the three- and four-minute tunes. The double lead electric guitars, courtesy of the song's co-authors, Pugh and White, blend well with Jolliffe's jazzy sax and flute improvisations. Enthusiasts are encouraged not only to seek this platter, but the Mountains (1970) follow-up as well. AMG.

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The Flamin' Groovies - Teenage Head 1971

Miriam Linna once opined that the Roy Loney-era lineup of the Flamin' Groovies suggested what the Rolling Stones would have sounded like if they'd sworn their allegiance to the sound and style of Sun Records instead of Chess Records. If one wants to buy this theory (and it sounds reasonable to me), then Teenage Head was the Groovies' alternate-universe version of Sticky Fingers, an album that delivered their toughest rock & roll beside their most introspective blues workouts. (In his liner notes to Buddha's 1999 CD reissue of Teenage Head, Andy Kotowicz writes that Mick Jagger noticed the similarities between the two albums and thought the Groovies did the better job.) While the Flamin' Groovies didn't dip into the blues often, they always did right by 'em, and "City Lights" and "Yesterday's Numbers" find them embracing the mournful soul of the blues to superb effect, while their covers of "Doctor Boogie" and "32-20" honor the originals while adding a energy and attitude that was all their own. And the rockers are among the best stuff this band ever put to tape, especially "High Flying Baby," "Have You Seen My Baby?," and the brilliant title track. And unlike Flamingo, Teenage Head sounds just as good as it deserves to; Richard Robinson's production is clean, sharp, and gets the details onto tape with a clarity that never gets in the way of the band's sweaty raunch. While Flamingo rocks a bit harder, Teenage Head is ultimately the best album the Flamin' Groovies would ever make, and after Roy Loney left the band within a few months of its release, they'd never sound like this again. [Buddha reissued the album in 1999, adding quite a few bonus tracks in the process.] AMG.

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R Dean Taylor - Indiana Wants Me 1979

R. Dean Taylor remains one of the most underrated acts ever to record under the Motown aegis. After first proving his mettle as a chart-topping staff songwriter, his own single "Indiana Wants Me" was a Top Five smash in 1970, becoming one of the label's first major crossover hits performed by a white artist. Born Richard Dean Taylor in Toronto in 1939, he began his singing career at age 12, performing at local country showcases before embracing rock & roll. In 1960, he signed to the Toronto-based Audiomaster label to cut his rockabilly-flavored debut single, "At the High School Dance," supported via appearances on the CBC as well as a brief tour of the northeastern U.S. Taylor relocated to New York City in 1962, signing to the Amy/Mala label to cut a pair of singles, "I'll Remember" and the novelty effort "We Fell in Love as We Tangoed." Neither attracted much notice, and the following year a friend in the Detroit region recommended he audition for Berry Gordy's up-and-coming Motown Records.

While not the label's first white artist, Taylor would prove one of its most successful. Paired with Eddie Holland of the fabled Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting/production team, he quickly proved an essential cog in the Motown assembly line, co-writing hits like the Supremes' number one pop blockbuster "Love Child," the Temptations' "All I Need," and the Four Tops' "I'll Turn to Stone." In 1965, Taylor issued his own Motown debut, the protest anthem "Let's Go Somewhere." The record went nowhere, and while the same fate greeted the follow-up, "There's a Ghost in My House," it would later enjoy a renaissance as one of the most beloved cult classics within Britain's Northern soul club scene. With 1967's "Gotta See Jane," Taylor cracked the U.K. Top 20, but Motown continued focusing its promotion muscle on its established acts and the record barely registered at home in the U.S.

Upon relocating to Rare Earth, the fledgling Motown subsidiary formed to support its growing roster of white artists, Taylor finally hit paydirt with 1970's "Indiana Wants Me." A major hit in Detroit and across Lake Erie in Windsor, Ontario, its local success galvanized Motown's marketing forces, and the record peaked in the Billboard Top Five. The album I Think, Therefore I Am soon followed, but subsequent singles like 1971's "Candy Apple Red" and the following year's "Taos, New Mexico" failed to maintain Taylor's commercial momentum, and when Rare Earth folded in 1976, his Motown career came to a close. After the 1981 comeback attempt "Let's Talk It Over" fizzled, Taylor retired from performing for over a decade, resurfacing in the late '90s as the headliner at several overseas Northern soul showcases. AMG.

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Rainbow Press - Sunday Funnies 1969

Not too much info about this group, but it worths the listen, get it!
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sábado, 23 de julho de 2011

Traffic - Welcome to the Canteen 1971

Following the success of John Barleycorn Must Die, Traffic planned a concert album for the fall of 1970, and it got as far as a test pressing before being canceled. A recording was necessary to satisfy the terms of British label Island records' licensing deal with American label United Artists, which had provided for five albums, of which four had been delivered. With Island starting to release its own albums in the U.S., the UA contract had to be completed, and hopefully not with the potentially lucrative studio follow-up to John Barleycorn Must Die. Thus, Traffic tried again to come up with a live album by recording shows on a British tour in July 1971. Joining for six dates of the tour was twice-dismissed Traffic singer/guitarist Dave Mason, who had subsequently scored a solo success with his Alone Together album. The resulting collection, Welcome to the Canteen (which was technically credited to the seven individual musicians, not to Traffic), proved how good a contractual obligation album could be. Sound quality was not the best (and it still isn't on the 2002 remastered CD reissue, though it's better), with the vocals under-recorded and stray sounds honing in, but the playing was exemplary, and the set list was an excellent mixture of old Traffic songs and recent Mason favorites. "Dear Mr. Fantasy" got an extended workout, and the capper was a rearranged version of Steve Winwood's old Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'." Welcome to the Canteen's status as only a semi-legitimate offering was emphasized by the release, after a mere two months, of a new Traffic studio album on Island (The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys) that undercut its sales. But that doesn't make it any less appealing as a summing up of the Winwood/Mason/Traffic musical world. AMG.

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The Nice - Nice 1969

The Nice's third album was their first to break them into the star recording bracket in the U.K., where it reached number three on the charts. Though only measuring six songs in all, it covered a lot of territory, in a rich mixture of psychedelic rock, jazz, and classical that did a lot to map the format for progressive rock. The extended pretension of some of the numbers, viewed less forgivingly, might also seem like an antecedent to pop/rock. But the studio side of the LP (in its pre-CD incarnation) included one of their best tracks, a cover of Tim Hardin's "Hang on to a Dream," with grand Keith Emerson classical lines and an angelic choir. It also included a reworking of the B-side of their first single in "Azrael Revisited," a slight throwback to the more playful psychedelia of their roots with "Diary of an Empty Day," and the nine-minute "For Example," in which Emerson stretched out his jazz-classical mutations to a fuller length, throwing in a quote from "Norwegian Wood" along the way. More attention was given to the second side of the LP, recorded live at the Fillmore East, with a berserk workout of a number from their debut album, "Rondo" and a 12-minute overhaul of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me." AMG.

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The Love Affair - The Everlasting Love Affair 1967

Their first single, "She Smiled Sweetly", written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, released on Decca Records flopped, but they reached the top of the UK Singles Chart in January 1968 with "Everlasting Love". By this time the group had relocated to CBS Records. The song was first recorded by Robert Knight, whose version had reached No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the autumn of 1967, and it was previously offered to the Marmalade, who turned it down as they thought it too pop-oriented for them. On the B-side was a cover version "Gone Are the Songs of Yesterday" by Phillip Goodhand-Tait. After its success, Goodhand-Tait saw an opportunity and signed a contract with The Love Affair's managers John Cockell and Sid Bacon. Goodhand-Tait would go on to write many more hits for The Love Affair.[2]

Ellis had a similar vocal style to Steve Marriott of the Small Faces, and the production was similar to a Motown soul record. Controversy ensued when the group admitted they had not played on the record, but that all the work was done by session musicians, although such a practice had long since been common.[3] Ironically their first recording of the song, produced by Muff Winwood, had featured them playing all the instruments.[4] But the record label rejected this version in favour of one produced by Mike Smith, recorded with a recording studio rhythm section, strings, brass, flutes and backing vocalists, arranged by Keith Mansfield[4] - and Ellis the only member of the group to be heard.[1]

Four further Top 20 hits followed, "Rainbow Valley", "A Day Without Love" (both 1968), "One Road" and "Bringing on Back the Good Times" (both 1969).[3] Love Affair sold more singles in 1968 in the UK than any other band, except for The Beatles. At the end of that year, they released the album Everlasting Love Affair.

The group became frustrated at being treated like teen idols, unable to hear themselves on stage because of the constant screaming, and at being pigeonholed as a "pop group". All the A-sides featured heavy orchestral and brass arrangements behind Ellis's vocals, with minimal participation from the others, although they wrote and played on the heavier B-sides themselves.[4]

As Ellis wrote in the booklet notes to a later compilation CD, Singles A's and B's, "In an attempt to break the mould we recorded a song far removed from the anthemic-like previous hits. The song was called "Baby I Know". Released at the end of 1969, competing with releases from other big names for a place in the charts over Christmas, it failed completely. Ellis felt the band had run its course, and he left in December 1969 for a solo career: "We never really made it big anywhere but Britain and I think that if we had started to happen in America, I wouldn't have left".[5] The rest of the band soldiered on without any further success, continuing briefly as L.A. with new vocalist, August Eadon (aka Gus Yeadon). Further releases likewise never charted.

The group has since been revived, though sometimes without any original members, for cabaret dates; and Ellis has also performed live with a reconstituted Steve Ellis's Love Affair.

Love Affair's first hit song, "Everlasting Love", was used in the film, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. However, the CD of the soundtrack contains Jamie Cullum's cover version, instead of the Love Affair version actually used in the film. Jamie Cullum's version is played over the end credits.

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Quantum Jump - Barracuda 1977

By 1975, Rupert Hine was already beginning to gain credibility as a producer and session musician, but he had also released two of that era's most cryptic solo albums in Pick Up a Bone and Unfinished Picture. The latter in particular demonstrated that Hine had few peers when it came to shaping elaborate instrumental textures and atmospheres without departing from a song-based format. Most listeners' overriding feeling on hearing them, however, was one of perplexity, and sales were correspondingly minuscule. But throughout his career, Hine has shown himself perfectly willing to rein in his more experimental tendencies for the sake of shifting a few more units. In the '80s, for instance, he largely subsumed the complexities of his three solo albums for Island beneath the hard and shiny surface of his faux band, Thinkman. And that's pretty much what he did in 1975 when he formed Quantum Jump, which is not to say that the band represented a blatant bid for chart success -- far from it. But in stark contrast to the somewhat austere Unfinished Picture, Quantum Jump's first album wasn't afraid to get funky.

The band formed after Hine became a regular visitor to a countryside studio owned by drummer Trevor Morais. The two became the nucleus of Quantum Jump and were soon joined by bassist John G. Perry, recently a member of Caravan and a regular contributor to Hine's solo work and his early productions of albums by Kevin Ayers and Yvonne Elliman. Auditions for a guitarist followed, during which Andy Summers was among those passed over, but the job eventually went to the Washington, D.C.-born Mark Warner. The final ingredient was provided by lyricist David MacIver, with whom Hine had made his first recordings in 1966 as Rupert & David. One song, however ("Starbright Park"), had lyrics by Jeanette Obstoj, marking the beginning of a working relationship that continued long after Quantum Jump's demise, and which would one day find them writing for Tina Turner.

Inspired by Warner's formidable technique and by their love of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the bandmembers wanted to see if it were possible to combine jazz-rock arrangements with a pop sensibility. Things looked promising when their first single -- the untypically whimsical "The Lone Ranger" (which hinted that the Masked Man had a crush on Tonto) -- became a minor hit in the U.K. The album, though, steadfastly refused to follow suit, and for the band's follow-up, Barracuda, a more polished style closer in spirit to progressive rock was adopted. Needless to say, 1976 was not the year to be launching a new prog rock band, and Quantum Jump folded soon after. AMG.

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Stalk-Forrest Group - The Elektra Recordings 1970

For a band that issued only one single, only pressed in a quantity of a few hundred, the Stalk-Forrest Group have a very confusing history, and are very well known by collectors. Much of this notoriety stems from the fact that the group evolved into Blue Oyster Cult shortly after the one Stalk-Forrest Group 45 was issued by Elektra. The Stalk-Forrest Group did manage to record an entire unreleased album for Elektra in 1970, in a much lighter and more psychedelic style than that for which Blue Oyster Cult became known. In the late '60s, the nucleus of the Long Island band that would become Blue Oyster Cult was playing under the name of Soft White Underbelly. With Les Braunstein as lead singer, they were signed by Elektra; Buck Dharma has recalled that Elektra exec Jac Holzman may have been looking for an East Coast Doors. An album was attempted, but eventually abandoned, in early 1969, and Braunstein was replaced by the band's equipment manager and sound man, Eric Bloom. Soft White Underbelly had been signed in large part because of Braunstein, and it took them a while to convince Elektra that they would be viable with the higher-voiced Bloom as lead singer.

In early 1970, however, the band, now renamed the Stalk-Forrest Group, were able to record an album for Elektra in Los Angeles. Co-produced by Sandy Pearlman and Jay Lee, the group was under the impression that it would get released, but it never was. Material from the album circulated among collectors for a long time, and shows a band considerably different than Blue Oyster Cult. The songs were psychedelic and tuneful, somewhat in the manner of two other Elektra acts, Love and the Doors, although poppier than either of those two groups. The arrangements were full of high harmonies and fluid, accomplished psychedelic guitar interplay, and the songs dominated by rather fanciful and oblique trippy imagery, as was evident from titles like "Ragamuffin's Dumplin," "Bonomo's Turkish Tuffy," "Arthur Comics," and "A Fact About Sneakers." Though perhaps in need of fine tuning or embellishment, it was certainly up to release quality.

Elektra tried to get Don Gallucci (from the band Don & the Goodtimes) in to produce them, but after an exploratory meeting he left for California without informing the group. Around the time Joe Bouchard replaced Andy Winters on bass, they were dropped from Elektra, although the label did press about 200 copies of a single with two of the songs from the unreleased album sessions, "What Is Quicksand?"/"Arthur Comics." After running through some more band names, the musicians finally got their recording career off the ground as Blue Oyster Cult in the early '70s, playing in a harder rock style than they had as the Stalk-Forrest Group. An extremely limited edition LP of ten songs from the unreleased Stalk-Forrest Group album sessions came out in Germany in 1998. Thanks to ChrisGoesRock.

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Graham Nash - Songs for Beginners 1971

Songs for Beginners is Graham Nash's solo debut apart from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Released in 1971, it is a collection of songs that reflect change, transition, and starting over. The set was recorded in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, in the immediate aftermath of Nash's traumatic breakup with Joni Mitchell. Unlike the colorful dynamism of Stephen Stills' eponymous debut recording, or the acid-drenched cosmic cowboy spaciness of David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name, Nash's album is by contrast a much more humble and direct offering. It is a true, mostly introspective songwriter's album full of beautifully performed and wonderfully recorded songs that reflect transition, movement, the desire to look backward and forward simultaneously. Like the aforementioned offering, this one is star-studded in its choice of players and singers: Crosby, Chris Ethridge, Jerry Garcia, Rita Coolidge, Clydie King, Venetta Fields, Dave Mason, Neil Young (under the pseudonym "Joe Yankee"), David Lindley, Bobby Keys, Phil Lesh, Dallas Taylor, and drummer John Barbata reflect some of the personnel on this heady yet humble session. The album is bookended by two of Nash's best-known tunes, the anthemic "Military Madness" that remains timeless in the 21st century, and "Chicago," that doesn't. That said, they are among the weakest songs here -- which reveals what a solid collection it is. Unlike many recordings birthed from personal angst, Nash's engages in no self pity; instead, he focuses on the craft of songwriting itself. Despite its personal darkness, "Better Days," with its swirling piano and pronounced bassline, is also an actual paean to self-determination and perseverance, the logic being that there were better days in the past, so there must be better ones in the future as well. "I Used to Be a King," with Garcia on a gorgeous pedal steel and Lesh on bass, is a direct, mature response to "King Midas in Reverse," a song Nash wrote and recorded with the Hollies. "Simple Man," with its sparse melody and strings and a fine backing vocal from Coolidge, was written on the afternoon of the breakup with Mitchell. The violin-cello backdrop to Nash's piano is particularly effective and makes this one of his most memorable songs. The parlor room country waltz that commences "Man in the Mirror," features Garcia's steel, Young's piano, ex-Flying Burrito Brother Ethridge, and drummer Barbata; it shifts keys, tempo, and feel about a third of the way in with a very long bridge that transforms the song's sentiment as well. Ultimately, Songs for Beginners is the strongest of Nash's solo efforts (outside of his work with Crosby). AMG.

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Tower of Power - We Came to Play 1978

The renowned horn-driven funk outfit Tower of Power has been issuing albums and touring the world steadily since the early '70s, in addition to backing up countless other musicians. The group's leader since the beginning has always been tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo, who was born in Detroit, but opted to pursue his musical dreams in Oakland, CA. It was in Oakland that Castillo put together a group called the Motowns, which as its name suggested, specialized in '60s-era soul. Castillo teamed up with a baritone sax player (and Motowns fan) Stephen "Doc" Kupka, and soon the Motowns had transformed into Tower of Power (one of the first tunes the duo penned together was "You're Still a Young Man," which would eventually go on to be one of the TOP's signature compositions). Tower of Power played regularly in the Bay Area throughout the late '60s, as its lineup often swelled up to ten members, including such other mainstays as Greg Adams on trumpet and vocals and Rocco Prestia on bass. By 1970, the funk outfit had inked a recording contract with Bill Graham's San Francisco Records, resulting in the group's debut the same year, East Bay Grease, which failed to make an impression on the charts as TOP was still trying to find their own sound.

But it all came together quickly for the group, as 1972's Bump City would touch off a string of classic hit releases, including 1973's self-titled release (which included another one of the group's most enduring tunes, "What Is Hip?"), 1974's Back to Oakland, plus 1975's Urban Renewal and In the Slot. While Tower of Power remained a must-see live act, the quality of their subsequent records became erratic, resulting in some admirable releases (Ain't Nothin' Stoppin' Us Now, Live and in Living Color) and several uninspired albums that are best skipped over (We Came to Play, Back on the Streets).

Despite the dip in the quality of their albums, Tower of Power remained a much in-demand backing group for some of pop/rock's biggest names, including Elton John, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Little Feat, David Sanborn, Michelle Shocked, Paula Abdul, Aaron Neville, Aerosmith, Michael Bolton, Billy Preston, PiL, Rod Stewart, Toto, Merl Saunders, and others. Tower of Power remains very active to this day, keeping up a brisk touring schedule and issuing such new albums as 1999's Soul Vaccination: Live; while several compilations were issued around the same time: Rhino's double disc What Is Hip?: The Tower of Power Anthology (1999) and Very Best of Tower of Power: The Warner Years (2001), plus Epic/Legacy's Soul With a Capital "S": The Best of Tower of Power (2001). The band celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008 and still retains 5 original founding members. AMG.

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Pacific Gas & Electric - Live N Kicking At Lexington 1970

The seeds of Pacific Gas & Electric were sown in Los Angeles back in 1966 when self-taught guitarist Tom Marshall formed Bluesberry Jam, whose ranks included drummer Charlie Allen. Allen turned out to be such a fine vocalist that he ended up becoming the frontman; his drum chair was filled by Adolfo de la Parra in 1968. Later that year, de La Parra left to join Canned Heat, replacing Frank Cook who then joined Bluesberry Jam. After adding guitarist Glenn Schwartz and bassist Brent Block later in 1968, the group changed their name to Pacific Gas & Electric.

Their first album, Get It On, was released by Kent in 1968, but failed to make much of an impact. However, following their appearance at the Miami Pop Festival in late 1968, Pacific Gas & Electric signed with Columbia, who released Pacific Gas & Electric in 1969. Their next album, Are You Ready, supplied their first hit, the title track, which made it into the Top 20 in the summer of 1970.

Despite this success, all the bandmembers left, forcing Charlie Allen to build a new Pacific Gas & Electric around him. Enter guitarist Ken Utterback, bassist Frank Petricca, Ron Woods on drums, Jerry Aiello on keyboards, trumpet player Stanley Abernathy, sax players Alfred Gallegos and Virgil Gonsalves, and percussionist Joe Lala. Around this time, the Pacific Gas & Electric Utility Company asked the band to change their name, which was shortened to PG&E, also the title of their 1971 album. They also appeared in and provided music for the Otto Preminger film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon starring Liza Minnelli.

After 1972 or so, PG&E basically turned into a solo Charlie Allen vehicle. They released Starring Charlie Allen on Dunhill in 1973, then called it quits.
This live album by Pacific Gas & Electric was slated for release by Columbia, but, due to legal problems, they never actually issued it. Thirty seven years later, Wounded Bird finally provided the record's first release. AMG.

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Triangle - Anthologie 1969-1974

French rock group, unknown and hard to find as good as any rock group of the time, give it a listen! (new link)

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sexta-feira, 15 de julho de 2011

Edwards Hand - Edwards Hand 1968

Originally formed in 1967 as Picadilly Line by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, English psychedelic pop group Edwards Hand released three albums before disbanding in the mid-'70s (1968's The Huge World of Emily Small [as Picadilly Line] featured the talents of Danny Thompson, Alan Hawkshaw, Jan Barber, Herbie Flowers, and Harold McNair). The group's highly collectible eponymous debut was produced by George Martin, who worked with very few pop acts outside of the Beatles. The record received its share of critical acclaim, earning comparisons to the Bee Gees, as well as the aforementioned Fab Four. Stranded (1970) and Rainshine (1973) were also produced by Martin.
Because Edwards Hand were one of the few pop/rock acts other than the Beatles who were produced by George Martin in the late 1960s, their obscure self-titled debut album has generated some rough comparisons to the Beatles' own work. It's true that the harmonies, melodies, and orchestrations bear some similarity to those heard on the very most pop-oriented of the Beatles' productions, though in truth there's a stronger resemblance to the ornate pop-psychedelia of the late-'60s Bee Gees. Throwing those names into the hat so quickly, though, is a little misleading and might spark hopes for a buried treasure that's better than it is. For the actual songs are certainly coyer and more saccharine than the compositions of the Beatles, and even make the Bee Gees' late-'60s stuff sound melancholy and a little hard-edged. It's more something of a combination of Beatles/Bee Gees-lite with poppier, soaring, sometimes fruity orchestral arrangements -- most likely Martin's strongest contribution to the record -- and more of a middle of the road/sunshine pop/toytown psychedelic influence than the Bee Gees (and certainly the Beatles) admitted. Certainly some of the lyrics make one blanch a bit on the printed page, with their fey references to picture books, kings and queens, bringing flowers in the morning, walking down London's Charing Cross Road, magic cars, and the like. If you like those elements, of course, there are things to enjoy about this record. It has reasonably catchy though not stunning melodies, good duo vocal harmonies, and an ambience that captures something of the most innocuous side of the Swinging London/flower power era. It does sound best, however, when it gets most serious and Bee Gees-like, "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" and "Orange Peel" being two examples. AMG.

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Fields - Fields USA 1969

This obscure trio from Southern California released just one self-titled album in 1969, containing a heady mix of rock, blues, soul, and psychedelia; but by then, vocalist/guitarist Richard Fortunato, bassist Patrick Burke, and drummer Steven Lagana had already traveled a long and colorful road. Fortunato and Lagana first played together in the mid-'60s, in a garage band called the Preachers, but it wasn't until they joined forces with Burke and another couple of musicians under the long-winded moniker the W.C. Fields Memorial String Band that they recorded a few singles -- most notably 1966's "Hippy Elevator Operator." By the following year and next single, "Mushroom People," they were simply called ESB (short for the Electric String Band), and then, finally, Fields, after evolving into a pared-down trio molded after Cream. That, of course, led to the aforementioned LP, which was released in a gatefold sleeve and featured backing vocals from Motown legend Brenda Holloway and the Raelettes, but still fell mostly on deaf ears and resulted in the band's demise shortly thereafter.
A single self-titled album -- that's what the California power trio Fields left behind in 1969. Guitarist Richard Fortunato, bassist Patrick Burke, and drummer Steven Lagana had been deeply influenced by Cream, by the sound of things. Fields recorded this slab for UNI with producer Bill Rinehart (formerly of Emitt Rhodes' Merry-Go-Round). The first four cuts are solidly in the hard and heavy blues-rock terrain, with twinges of psychedelia tossed in the opening "Elysian Fields" and "Jump on You," two standouts with lots of great guitar work. Things begin to change a bit on "Sun Would Set," where the wasted psychedelia takes precedence over the rough and tumble; even with the Raelettes on backing vocals and the spaced-out wasted lyrics, it's still guitar-drenched and driven into the red so the impressionistic touches are hardly noticeable. Side two is comprised of a single cut -- "Love Is the Word" is nearly 19 minutes long and is one of those utterly ambitious and crazy experiments that actually worked, with bluesed-out acid rock guitar, whomping basslines, and a skittering though steady snare and shimmering cymbals. An overdriven organ enters the picture and then comes the fuzz. After about five minutes of power soloing, a Stax-inspired soul riff is established, the horns come pushing their way in, and we're off to the races. Along with the band, Northern soul chanteuse (courtesy of Motown Records) Brenda Holloway and the Raelettes come in from outer space and enter the groove, making this a full-blown psychedelic-soul tune that never, ever gives up its groove, grease, or grit. The vocals here are almost as deliriously powerful and lusty as the screaming six-string and overblown bass groove. Thank the gods that the Fields' LP has been dusted off, remastered, and reissued by Fallout on CD. Simply amazing. AMG.

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Dennis Olivieri - Come To The Party 1968

Freeform folky psych rock with organ, rocksichord, sax, guitar, percussion. Weird, uncommercial
LP produced by songwriter Tandyn Almer, this has been used for samples. Olivieri was primarily
a TV actor, and this LP release parallels Rex Holman's in some ways.

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Electric Sandwich - Electric Sandwich 1973

With plenty of Mellotron lending itself to a base of jazz-rock fusion, the members of Electric Sandwich used improvisation and the skills they had learned from other bands to create a spirited self-titled album. Each track grasps a different type of progressive rock element and tempo so that something new arises with every cut. The lyrics are intelligent and conceptual, effusing a folklore essence in their poetry. But the words soon become overshadowed, especially in the introductory track entitled "China," thanks to the peculiar swing and quiver of the saxophone. "China" is easily the album's strongest, combining a hippie-esque sway to the beatnik pounce of the background drums. When prominent, Jochen Carthaus' vocals reflect a semi-gruff fringe blues sound that clings tightly to the instruments, even when the keyboards are accompanying him. "Devil's Dream" soars on the unaccustomed texture of Carthaus' singing, but it's the mysterious-sounding guitar riff and an unsteady, unfamiliar rhythm that makes it unique. In "Material Darkness," the unmitigated horn work makes for an expansive jazz-like backdrop for the guitar and keys. On the whole, Electric Sandwich is a rather pleasing assortment of numerous progressive styles, all of which are steered unwaveringly by a rock-induced composite. Sadly, the band's talents wouldn't prosper any further. After this album, many of Electric Sandwich's personnel demanded the band take on a jazzier sound, which led to a dismantling of the group a short time after this release. AMG.
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Friend & Lover - Reach Out Of The Darkness 1968

Jim Post was a member of a Canadian folk group called the Rum Runners when he met Cathy Conn, who was part of a dance company appearing at the same state fair that he was playing. She gave up dancing and married Post, and he taught her enough about singing so that the two made a credible duo on stage. They lacked Ian & Sylvia's delicate interweaving of voices, but Conn could really belt out a chorus, and Post had a pleasing tenor. Billing themselves as Friend & Lover, they played clubs while developing a sound and a repertory, and cut their debut single, "If Tomorrow," produced by Joe South, for ABC-Paramount. It failed to chart, and though they were good enough to rate support act status with the Buckinghams and even Cream, the duo seemed to be going nowhere until Jerry Schoenbaum, the head of MGM/Verve, became impressed with Post's song "Reach Out of the Darkness." An upbeat, ebullient song that crossed midway between Spanky & Our Gang and the early Jefferson Airplane, it was ideal for the summer of 1968, a point when the last, lingering glow of the previous year's psychedelic summer was still visible' if only through eyes clouded by nostalgic longing amid the worsening political strife of the period. The song itself was a distant cousin to the Byrds' "Renaissance Fair," David Crosby's stunningly beautiful musical memory of the first San Francisco Be-In; in this case, the inspiration was Post's having attended a love-in in New York City, and the sense of freedom that was in the air. The record struck a responsive chord, making number ten on the national charts, but the duo was never able to follow it up with any success, despite two singles and an LP issued in their wake. They played out their Verve contract, losing a lucrative offer from Columbia Records in the process when Verve wouldn't let them go, and then moved to Cadet Records as Jim & Cathy. The couple later divorced, ending the duo's history, and Post has since recorded for a multitude of labels and ventured into playwriting and theatrical production.
Friend & Lover's "Reach Out of the Darkness," with its infectious opening rally cry of "I think it's so groovy now that people are finally gettin' together" provided the flower power movement -- and a late-'80s television commercial for the Freedom Rock box set -- with an unofficial anthem for the swinging '60s. The husband-and-wife team of Jim Post (Friend) and Cathy Conn (Lover) never managed to score another hit, but their little gift to the protest movement has -- for better or for worse -- shown an impressive amount of staying power. A colorful mix of early Jefferson Airplane-style idealism, soul, and psychedelic pop, their 1968 debut harbored more than just the signature tune that graced its cover. "The Way We Were in the Beginning" is pure Odessa-era Bee Gees, "Boston Is a Lovely Town" sounds like the sequel to Petula Clark's "Downtown," and "Weddin' March (I Feel Groovy)" could have given Sonny & Cher a run for their money. While nothing on Reach Out of the Darkness radiates any sort of social gravity or depth, it's also not in the least bit pretentious. In fact, listeners with the cognitive abilities to bypass lyrics like "I wonder why people do not like the lovely dandelion," from the Donovan-esque "Ode to a Dandelion," may find themselves dancing and laughing along at the sheer innocence of it all. AMG.

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David Friesen & John Stowell - Through The Listening Glass 1978

On first glance, Through the Listening Glass is a duet recording between bassist David Friesen and guitarist John Stowell, at the time two burgeoning jazz fusion musicians whose kinship to the world sound of the group Oregon is easy to recognize. As one absorbs this music, you realize this album could easily be titled "The Art of the Overdub." Using multiple basses and guitars, percussion instruments, and the soprano sax of Gary Campbell, Friesen and Stowell create landscapes and skyscapes of sound on sound, at times a bit busy, mostly reaching for inner truths and a connection to some other dimension. There's no modicum of earthiness, but they strive to reach for the heavens, and use the technology of the times to create conversations within basic texts, layering them to a degree approaching epiphany. Friesen's spiritual center is quite prevalent on pieces like "Wings of Light" yet has a jazzier construct, and a pared-down focus among the three players. "Autumn Ballet" is the most uncomplicated piece, a simple bass/guitar duet with no accoutrements, while a similar sparse style is identified with a dual bass excursion in the intro, Stowell's 12-string invited to cozy up on "High Places/Secret Moments of Silence." The larger, orchestral-oriented "Peace for the Enduring Heart" is pastoral, featuring four bowed bass tracks, and two soprano and one tenor sax overdub from Campbell. "Opening Out" features the always-far-reaching Stowell on his own with two 12-string guitars, a six-string, and a cymbal in loose refrains. The title track, as beautifully rendered as all of the other selections, is particularly angelic and lovely in its ultra-melodic, memorable stance that resonates with Friesen's bass, Stowell's 12-string and Campbell's two soaring soprano sax tracks dancing the joyous, passionate night away. There's some African-influenced music here too, as log drums and shakuhachi flutes are employed during the more new age, space-music track "Wisdom's Star." "Ancient Kings" is perhaps a definitive track that uses the overdub technique to the hilt, as a mbira and log drum played by Stowell buoy Campbell's two soprano tracks, and Friesen's bowed morning horizon, semi-tropical bass/bass/percussion, and a cymbal stroke here and there. The unlikely quick, romping and rolling beat of "Carousel Parade" with just the headline participants seems a rushed afterthought, but still is fun to listen to. This album has been reissued on CD, and along with Stowell's Golden Delicious, Friesen's Star Dance, and Waterfall Rainbow, and the duo's Other Mansions provides a five-part look at what these quite capable artists were creating as fusion waned in the late '70s. AMG.

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Deep Purple - Fireball 1971

One of Deep Purple's four indispensable albums (the others being In Rock, Machine Head, and Burn), 1971's Fireball saw the band broadening out from the no-holds-barred hard rock direction of the previous year's cacophonous In Rock. Metal machine noises introduced the sizzling title track -- an unusually compact but explosively tight group effort on which Jon Lord's organ truly shined. The somewhat tiring repetitions of "No No No" actually threatened to drop the ball next, but the fantastic single "Strange Kind of Woman" nimbly caught and set it rolling again, just in time for the innuendo-encrusted hilarity of "Anyone's Daughter," featuring one of singer Ian Gillan's first (and still best) humorous storylines to go with one of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's most uncharacteristic, bluesiest performances ever. "The Mule" opened the vinyl album's second side with what is perhaps Purple's finest instrumental, and on the hyper-extended "Fools," the bandmembers proved they could flirt with progressive rock without plunging off its cliff (although the song could probably have done without its drawn-out middle section). And closing the album was the exceptional "No One Came," where intertwining instrumental lines locked together beautifully, Gillan wove another entertaining yarn that was part autobiography and part Monty Python, and the often underrated skills of drummer Ian Paice helped the song sound so unreservedly fresh and intuitive that one could almost be convinced the band had winged it on the spot. Sure, the following year's Machine Head would provide Deep Purple with their commercial peak, but on Fireball, the formidable quintet was already firing on all cylinders. AMG.

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Champion Jack Dupree - From New Orleans To Chicago 1966

A formidable contender in the ring before he shifted his focus to pounding the piano instead, Champion Jack Dupree often injected his lyrics with a rowdy sense of down-home humor. But there was nothing lighthearted about his rock-solid way with a boogie; when he shouted "Shake Baby Shake," the entire room had no choice but to acquiesce.

Dupree was notoriously vague about his beginnings, claiming in some interviews that his parents died in a fire set by the Ku Klux Klan, at other times saying that the blaze was accidental. Whatever the circumstances of the tragic conflagration, Dupree grew up in New Orleans' Colored Waifs' Home for Boys (Louis Armstrong also spent his formative years there). Learning his trade from barrelhouse 88s ace Willie "Drive 'em Down" Hall, Dupree left the Crescent City in 1930 for Chicago and then Detroit. By 1935, he was boxing professionally in Indianapolis, battling in an estimated 107 bouts.

In 1940, Dupree made his recording debut for Chicago A&R man extraordinaire Lester Melrose and OKeh Records. Dupree's 1940-1941 output for the Columbia subsidiary exhibited a strong New Orleans tinge despite the Chicago surroundings; his driving "Junker's Blues" was later cleaned up as Fats Domino's 1949 debut, "The Fat Man." After a stretch in the Navy during World War II (he was a Japanese P.O.W. for two years), Dupree decided tickling the 88s beat pugilism any old day. He spent most of his time in New York and quickly became a prolific recording artist, cutting for Continental, Joe Davis, Alert, Apollo, and Red Robin (where he cut a blasting "Shim Sham Shimmy" in 1953), often in the company of Brownie McGhee. Contracts meant little; Dupree masqueraded as Brother Blues on Abbey, Lightnin' Jr. on Empire, and the truly imaginative Meat Head Johnson for Gotham and Apex.

King Records corralled Dupree in 1953 and held onto him through 1955 (the year he enjoyed his only R&B chart hit, the relaxed "Walking the Blues.") Dupree's King output rates with his very best; the romping "Mail Order Woman," "Let the Doorbell Ring," and "Big Leg Emma's" contrasting with the rural "Me and My Mule" (Dupree's vocal on the latter emphasizing a harelip speech impediment for politically incorrect pseudo-comic effect).

After a year on RCA's Groove and Vik subsidiaries, Dupree made a masterpiece LP for Atlantic. 1958's Blues From the Gutter is a magnificent testament to Dupree's barrelhouse background, boasting marvelous readings of "Stack-O-Lee," "Junker's Blues," and "Frankie & Johnny" beside the risqué "Nasty Boogie." Dupree was one of the first bluesmen to leave his native country for a less racially polarized European existence in 1959. He lived in a variety of countries overseas, continuing to record prolifically for Storyville, British Decca (with John Mayall and Eric Clapton lending a hand at a 1966 date), and many other firms.

Perhaps sensing his own mortality, Dupree returned to New Orleans in 1990 for his first visit in 36 years. While there, he played the Jazz & Heritage Festival and laid down a zesty album for Bullseye Blues, Back Home in New Orleans. Two more albums of new material were captured by the company the next year prior to the pianist's death in January of 1992. Jack Dupree was a champ to the very end. AMG.

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Dada - Dada 1971

Fronted by the talented lead singer Elkie Brooks (who was quite popular in England at the time), Dada was a short-lived band project. Sounding something like a slightly arty, British version of Delaney and Bonnie, Dada's sound was heavy, gospel-oriented rock & roll. Unfortunately, the 'heavy' part of this is where a lot of the performances on this record suffer. Oftentimes, the arrangements are too heavy for their own good, and tend to weaken under their own weight. Many of the original songs are a bit dated and somewhat mediocre, with the one notable exception "Seed of Peace." A simple, gospel-soaked piano drives the chorus, led by Brooks' excellent lead. It's a wonderful track, somewhat reminiscent of Delaney & Bonnie's "Getto." It succeeds precisely because of the understatement in its arrangement. Unfortunately, this is one of the few examples of a laidback approach on the album; they could have done more of these. AMG.

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Alphonse Mouzon - Virtue 1976

Germany's MPS, in 1976, and the label issued it in 1977. As far as fusion records go, these were not particularly good years, but Virtue is an example of the very best of what electric jazz had to offer at the time. Mouzon was half of a pair of drummers who defined the fusion era -- the other was Billy Cobham. Beginning with his tenure in the Eleventh House with guitarist Larry Coryell, and carrying it over into his work with Weather Report and McCoy Tyner, Jaco Pastorius, and Albert Mangelsdorff, to name a few, Mouzon is, in his way, one of those defining drummers; a musician who carried his own musical vision into both electric and acoustic jazz and was too mercurial to be pinned down by either, though he is perhaps too often panned in by critics as strictly a fusion drummer. Wrong!

The band on Virtue is stellar. For starters, the great saxophonist Gary Bartz is in the house, as is former Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Stu Goldberg (who also recorded solo for MPS, see Eye of the Beholder), and bassist/arranger Welton Gite, who has worked with everyone from the Jacksons to Willie Bobo, Billy Preston, Thelma Houston, and Ronnie and Hubert Laws. The set is comprised entirely of originals, beginning with the monster "Master Funk" that lays down the grooves without apology, but keeps both improvisation and spontaneity alive throughout. The basslines by Gite are viral, and Bartz's work on alto creates a sense of drama in the melody as Mouzon's breaks and Goldberg's keyboards lay down the clacking, bottom-heavy funk. "Baker's Daughter" is one of the most impressive electric jazz tracks of the '70s. Its taut structure introduced by the spaciousness of Goldberg and Bartz on soprano offers a languid melody that quickly gets built into an exploratory, knotty jam that, for all its instrumental acumen, never loses sight of the emotion and sense of flow in the melody. "Nyctophobia" is a Mouzon tune that was originally recorded with the Eleventh House, but the version here, even without Coryell's scorching guitar, is superior because of its clean, sharp tempo changes and seamless sense of movement. The many angles in the composition are glided over by the tautness of this rhythm section, with Bartz executing some very impressive solo playing, moving all over the driving, multi-tracked keyboards that act as another percussion instrument. The title track is the longest here; it carries within it the very spirit of John Coltrane's search and ascent. While Goldberg and Gite drop through one set of fusion clusters and funky maneuvers after another, Mouzon pushes the beat until it disappears into pure rhythm and Bartz solos with a fantastic, modal sense of harmonic invention. Produced by the great Joachim Ernst Berendt, Virtue is, despite being almost totally unknown in the United States, one of the great albums of electric jazz and perhaps Mouzon's finest and most inspired moment as a leader. The set has been available in Japan in the past, but SPV and MPS Germany have found a way to issue great sounding Japanese mastered CDs for a very reasonable price and get them distributed in America. AMG.

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