domingo, 25 de setembro de 2011

Brothers Unlimited - Whos For The Young 1970

An excellent album of southern funk — and rare, too! We know almost nothing about the Brothers, but they're a 14 piece combo with a tight ensemble funk sound that clearly shows roots of both the Memphis and Muscle Shoals scenes where the album was recorded! There's a lot of fuzzy guitar, almost in a Detroit Westbound mode — but the band's also got a sweetly southern funk style, with lots of organ bubbling underneath the tracks, punctuated by some pretty tight drum work that really makes the best cuts groove nicely in a more righteous take on the Stax/Volt sound of the time. A really wild one — and the kind of record that makes your jaw drop when you realize that some lucky A&R guy was actually able to get an underground soul album released by a major label!

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sexta-feira, 23 de setembro de 2011

Popol Vuh - Yoga 1976

Of the many now-legendary artists to emerge from the Krautrock movement, few anticipated the rise of modern electronic music with the same prescience as Popol Vuh -- the first German band to employ a Moog synthesizer, their work not only anticipated the emergence of ambient, but also proved pioneering in its absorption of worldbeat textures. At much the same time Popol Vuh was formed in Munich in 1969, another group of Norwegian descent adopted the same name, an endless source of confusion in the years to follow; both were inspired by the holy book of Guatemala's Quiche Indians, and according to Mayan researchers, the title roughly translates as "meeting place." Keyboardist Florian Fricke was deeply immersed in Mayan mythology at the time he formed the group with synth player Frank Fiedler and percussionist Holger Trulzsch, and his interests were reflected in the spiritual themes of their 1970 debut, Affenstunde.

The follow-up two years later, In den Garten Pharaos, was Popol Vuh's creative breakthrough, an intensely meditative work fusing ambient textures with organic percussion. In its wake, however, Fricke converted to Christianity, a move which sparked a rejection of electronics in favor of traditional ethnic instrumentation including guitars, oboe, and tamboura; he then tapped korean soprano Djong Yun to lend vocals to 1972's lovely Hosianna Mantra. Fricke next teamed with one-time Amon Düül II drummer Daniel Fichelscher for the next Popol Vuh LP, Seligpreisung; its follow-up, 1975's Einsjager & Siebenjager, remains widely considered among the group's most stunning efforts. That same year, they began a lengthy creative partnership with the celebrated filmmaker Werner Herzog which yielded soundtracks for features including Aguirre, Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Nosferatu.

Throughout the latter half of the '70s, Popol Vuh's fascination with global sounds and instruments continued, with the prominence of sitars, tablas, and tamboura percussion on LPs like 1977's Herz aus Glas and 1979's Die Nacht der Seele: Tantric Songs earning their latter-day sound descriptions like "raga rock." In 1978, Fricke founded the Working Group for Creative Singing and also became a member of the Breathing Therapy Society, traveling the world to lecture on both subjects; ultimately, his outside passions began to overshadow his work in Popol Vuh, and as the '80s dawned, the group began losing steam, calling it quits after 1983's excellent Agape Agape. After reuniting two years later for Spirit of Peace, Fricke again reassembled Popol Vuh for the 1997 LP Shepherd's Symphony. AMG.

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Spring - Spring Two 1972

Spring has a legendary status among keyboard wonks; while many bands bubbled up from the creative ferment of the English progressive scene in 1970, only Spring was cheeky enough to employ three mellotronists in its lineup. To anyone familiar with the exasperating unreliability of the Mellotron, particularly when on the road, it's staggering that this band managed to record and tour for two years without either murdering each other or their instruments.

The band formed in Leicester in 1970, and their unusual lineup was soon noticed by others. After touring the UK as an opening act for the Velvet Underground, in 1971 the band released its first and only eponymous release. Featuring a combination of massed Mellotrons, melodic guitar and smoky vocals, it's comparable in some ways to the Moody Blues or the more pastoral moments of King Crimson. The album's dramatic trifold cover of a fallen redcoat trailing blood into a stream quickly made it a favorite among vinyl collectors.

Although a second album was nearly completed, the band split apart before it could be released. The band members drifted into careers in production and session work; guitarist Ray Martinez went on to play in Airwaves; drummer Pique Withers, after a slight change of name to the more suitably twangy Pick Withers, surfaced as a member of the newly formed Dire Straits in 1978. AMG. Thanks to ChrisGoesRock!

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sexta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2011

Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead 1967

The Grateful Dead's eponymously titled debut long-player was issued in mid-March of 1967. This gave rise to one immediate impediment -- the difficulty in attempting to encapsulate/recreate the Dead's often improvised musical magic onto a single LP. Unfortunately, the sterile environs of the recording studio disregards the subtle and often not-so-subtle ebbs and zeniths that are so evident within a live experience. So, while this studio recording ultimately fails in accurately exhibiting the Grateful Dead's tremendous range, it's a valiant attempt to corral the group's hydra-headed psychedelic jug-band music on vinyl. Under the technical direction of Dave Hassinger -- who had produced the Rolling Stones as well as the Jefferson Airplane -- the Dead recorded the album in Los Angeles during a Ritalin-fuelled "long weekend" in early 1967. Rather than prepare all new material for the recording sessions, a vast majority of the disc is comprised of titles that the band had worked into their concurrent performance repertoire. This accounts for the unusually high ratio (seven:two) of folk and blues standards to original compositions. The entire group took credit for the slightly saccharine "Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)," while Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) is credited for the noir garage-flavored raver "Cream Puff War." Interestingly, both tracks were featured as the respective A- and B-sides of the only 45 rpm single derived from this album. The curious aggregate of cover tunes featured on the Dead's initial outing also demonstrates the band's wide-ranging musical roots and influences. These include Pigpen's greasy harp-fuelled take on Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl" and the minstrel one-man-band folk of Jessie "the Lone Cat" Fuller's "Beat It On Down the Line." The apocalyptic Cold War folk anthem "Morning Dew" (aka "[Walk Me Out in The] Morning Dew") is likewise given a full-bodied electric workout as is the obscure jug-band stomper "Viola Lee Blues." Fittingly, the Dead would continue to play well over half of these tracks in concert for the next 27 years. [Due to the time limitations inherent within the medium, the original release included severely edited performances of "Good Morning Little School Girl," "Sitting on Top of the World," "Cream Puff War," "Morning Dew," and "New, New Minglewood Blues." These tracks were restored in 2001, when the Dead's Warner Brothers catalog was reassessed for the Golden Road (1965-1973) box set.] AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Anthem Of The Sun 1968

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

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Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa 1969

The Grateful Dead's third studio effort was also the first that the band did without any Warner Bros. staff producers or engineers hampering their creative lifestyle and subsequent processes. As they had done with their previous release, Anthem of the Sun, the Dead were actively seeking new forays and pushing envelopes on several fronts simultaneously during Aoxomoxoa (1968) -- which was created under the working title of "Earthquake Country." This was no doubt bolstered by the serendipitous technological revolution which essentially allowed the Dead to re-record the entire contents when given free reign at the appropriately named Pacific High Recording facility. As fate would have it, they gained virtually unlimited access to the newly acquired Ampex MM-1000 -- the very first 16-track tape machines ever produced -- which was absolutely state of the art in late 1968. The band was also experiencing new directions artistically. This was primarily the net result of the budding relationship between primary (by default) melodic contributor Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) and Robert Hunter (lyrics), who began his nearly 30-year association with the Grateful Dead in earnest during these sessions. When the LP hit the racks in the early summer of 1969, Deadheads were greeted by some of the freshest and most innovative sounds to develop from the thriving Bay Area music scene. The disc includes seminal psychedelic rockers such as "St. Stephen," "China Cat Sunflower," and "Cosmic Charlie," as well as hints of the acoustic direction their music would take on the Baroque-influenced "Mountains of the Moon" and "Rosemary." The folky "Dupree's Diamond Blues" -- which itself was loosely based on the traditional "Betty & Dupree" -- would likewise foreshadow the sound of their next two studio long-players, Workingman's Dead (1969) and American Beauty (1970). The too-trippy-for-its-own-good "What's Become of the Baby" is buried beneath layers of over-indulgence. This is unfortunate, as Hunter's surreal lyrics and Garcia's understated vocals languish beneath the soupy sonics. In 1972, Aoxomoxoa was overhauled, and the original mix -- which includes several significant differences such as an a cappella vocal tag at the tail end of "Doin' That Rag" -- has yet to be reissued in any form. When the title was reworked for inclusion in the Golden Road (1965-1973) (2001) box set, three previously unreleased and incomplete studio instrumental jams -- respectively titled "Clementine Jam," "Nobody's Spoonful Jam," and "The Eleven Jam" -- as well as a live rendering of "Cosmic Charlie" from a January 1969 performance were added as "bonus material(s)." AMg.

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Grateful Dead - Live Dead 1969

The Grateful Dead's fourth title was likewise their first extended concert recording. Spread over two LPs, Live/Dead (1969) finally was able to relay the intrinsic sonic magnificence of a Dead show in real time. Additionally, it unleashed several key entries into their repertoire, including the sidelong epic and Deadhead anthem"Dark Star" as well as wailing and otherwise electrified acidic covers of the Rev. Gary Davis blues standard "Death Don't Have No Mercy" and the R&B rave-up "(Turn on Your) Lovelight." Finally, the conundrum of how to bring a lengthy performance experience to the listener has been solved. The album's four sides provided the palette from which to replicate the natural ebb and flow of a typical Dead set circa early 1969. Tomes have been written about the profound impact of "Dark Star" on the Dead and their audience. It also became a cultural touchstone signifying that rock music was becoming increasingly experimental by casting aside the once-accepted demands of the short, self-contained pop song. This version was recorded on February 27, 1969, at the Fillmore West and is presented pretty much the way it went down at the show. The same is true of the seven remaining titles on Live/Dead. The rousing rendition of "St. Stephen" reinvents the Aoxomoxoa (1968) prototype with rip-roaring thunder and an extended ending which slams into an instrumental rhythmic excursion titled "The Eleven" after the jam's tricky time signature. The second LP began with a marathon cover of "(Turn on Your) Lovelight," which had significant success for both Bobby "Blue" Bland and Gene Chandler earlier in the decade. With Ron "Pigpen" McKernan at the throttle, the Dead barrel their way through the work, reproportioning and appointing it with fiery solos from Garcia and lead vocal raps courtesy of McKernan. "Death Don't Have No Mercy" is a languid noir interpretation of Rev. Gary Davis' distinct Piedmont blues. Garcia's fretwork smolders as his solos sear through the melody. Likewise notable is the criminally underrated keyboard work of Tom Constanten, whose airy counterpoint rises like a departing spirit from within the soul of the song. The final pairing of "Feedback" -- which is what is sounds like it might be -- with the "lowering down" funeral dirge "And We Bid You Goodnight" is true to the way that the band concluded a majority of their performances circa 1968-1969. They all join in on an a cappella derivative of Joseph Spence and the Pinder Family's traditional Bahamian distillation. Few recordings have ever represented the essence of an artist in performance as faithfully as Live/Dead. It has become an aural snapshot of this zenith in the Grateful Dead's 30-year evolution and as such is highly recommended for all manner of enthusiasts. The 2001 remastered edition that was included in the Golden Road (1965-1973) (2001) box set tacks on the 45 rpm studio version of "Dark Star" as well as a vintage radio advert for the album. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead 1970

The Grateful Dead were already established as paragons of the free-form, improvisational San Francisco psychedelic sound when they abruptly shifted gears for the acoustic Workingman's Dead, a lovely exploration of American roots music illuminating the group's country, blues, and folk influences. The lilting "Uncle John's Band," their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly. Despite its sharp contrast to the epic live space jams on which the group's legend primarily rests, Workingman's Dead nonetheless spotlights the Dead at their most engaging, stripped of all excess to reveal the true essence of their craft. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - American Beauty 1970

A companion piece to the luminous Workingman's Dead, American Beauty is an even stronger document of the Grateful Dead's return to their musical roots. Sporting a more full-bodied and intricate sound than its predecessor thanks to the addition of subtle electric textures, the record is also more representative of the group as a collective unit, allowing for stunning contributions from Phil Lesh (the poignant opener, "Box of Rain") and Bob Weir ("Sugar Magnolia"); at the top of his game as well is Jerry Garcia, who delivers the superb "Friend of the Devil," "Candyman," and "Ripple." Climaxing with the perennial "Truckin'," American Beauty remains the Dead's studio masterpiece -- never again would they be so musically focused or so emotionally direct. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Skull And Roses (Live) 1971

The Grateful Dead's second live release was an eponymously titled double LP whose cover bears the striking skull-and-roses visual motif that would become instantly recognizable and an indelibly linked trademark of the band. As opposed to their debut concert recording, Live/Dead (1969), this hour and ten minutes concentrates on newer material, which consisted of shorter self-contained originals and covers. Coming off of the quantum-leap success of the studio country-rock efforts Workingman's Dead (1969) and American Beauty, Grateful Dead offers up a pair of new Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter compositions -- "Bertha" and "Wharf Rat" -- both of which garnered a permanent place within the band's live catalog. However, "The Other One" -- joined in progress just as Billy Kreutzmann fires up a blazing percussion solo -- sprawls as the album's centerpiece. The Dead also begin incorporating several traditional folk, blues, and R&B cover tunes, such as Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee," as well as a few that had been in their songbook for several years, including John Phillips' "Me & My Uncle" and "Big Boss Man," a blues standard popularized by Jimmy Reed. Their formidable improvisational chops have begun to take on new facets of lean intricacy as Mickey Hart (percussion) and Tom Constanten (keyboards) were no longer in the band. Additionally, the arrival of Keith Godchaux (organ) and his wife, Donna Godchaux (vocals), had yet to occur. As such, the Grateful Dead spent the spring and summer of 1971 in their original five-piece configuration -- which is when these recordings were documented. The Golden Road (1965-1973) (2001) box set features a remastered version of Grateful Dead and includes two additional covers -- Buddy Holly's "Oh, Boy!" as well as Leiber & Stoller's "(I'm A) Hog for You" -- plus an unmarked vintage radio spot for the album. Enthusiasts should note that this era is likewise represented on the four-CD Ladies and Gentlemen...The Grateful Dead (2000) archival release. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Europe '72 (Live) 1972

The Grateful Dead commemorated their first extended European tour with an extravagant triple-LP set appropriately enough titled Europe '72. This collection is fashioned in much the same way as their previous release -- which had also been a live multi-disc affair. The band mixes a bevy of new material -- such as "Ramble on Rose," "Jack Straw," "Tennessee Jed," "Brown-Eyed Woman," and "He's Gone" -- with revisitations of back-catalog favorites. Among them are "China Cat Sunflower" -- which was now indelibly linked to the longtime Dead cover "I Know You Rider" -- as well as "Cumberland Blues," "Truckin'," "Sugar Magnolia," and "Morning Dew." With the additional album the band was able to again incorporate some of their exceedingly stretched-out instrumental improvisations -- titled "Epilogue" and "Prelude" here. Since their last outing, the group had expanded to include the husband-and-wife team of Keith Godchaux (keyboards) and Donna Jean Godchaux (vocals). Sadly, this European jaunt would be the last of its kind to include the formidable talents and soul of founding member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (organ/mouth harp/vocals), who was in increasingly fragile health. Although few in number, his contributions to Europe '72 are among the most commanding not only of this release, but of his career. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Wake Of The Flood 1973

After satisfying their nine-title/dozen-disc deal with Warner Brothers, the Dead began their own record labels: Grateful Dead Records (for group releases) and Round Records (for solo projects). Wake of the Flood was the first Dead disc issued entirely under the band's supervision -- which also included manufacturing and marketing. Additionally, the personnel had been altered as Ron "Pigpen" McKernan had passed away. The keyboard responsibilities were now in the capable hands of Keith Godchaux -- whose wife Donna Jean Godchaux also provided backing vocals. It had been nearly three years since American Beauty -- their previous and most successful studio album to date -- and, as always, the Dead had been honing the material in concert. A majority of the tracks had been incorporated into their live sets -- some for nearly six months -- prior to entering the recording studio. This gave the band a unique perspective on the material, much of which remained for the next 20-plus years as staples of their concert performances. However, the inspiration and magic of the Grateful Dead's music has always been a challenge to capture in the non-reciprocal confines of a studio. Therefore, while Wake of the Flood was certainly as good -- if not arguably better than -- most of their previous non-live efforts, it falls far short of the incendiary performances the band was giving during this era. There are a few tracks that do tap into some of the Dead's jazzier and exceedingly improvisational nature. "Eyes of the World" contains some brilliant ensemble playing -- although the time limitations inherent in the playback medium result in the track fading out just as the Dead start to really cook. Another highlight is Bob Weir's "Weather Report Suite," which foreshadows the epic proportions that the song would ultimately reach. In later years, the band dropped the opening instrumental "Prelude," as well as "Part One," choosing to pick it up for the extended "Let It Grow" section. The lilting Jerry Garcia ballad "Stella Blue" is another track that works well in this incarnation and remained in the Dead's rotating set list for the remainder of their touring careers. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - From The Mars Hotel 1974

The Grateful Dead made their reputation on the road with their live shows, and they always struggled to capture that magic in the studio. From the Mars Hotel, while not a classic, represents one of their better studio albums. Jerry Garcia sounds engaged throughout and takes the vocal reigns for most of the songs on the album -- although he's not the most gifted vocalist, he proves himself able and versatile. He sings the rollicking opener, "U.S. Blues," with a tongue-in-cheek seriousness that gives the political song an edge, and he lends emotional sincerity to the atmospheric ballad "China Doll." Garcia shines on guitar during the funk workout "Scarlet Begonias," but the ensemble work is best displayed on the album's centerpiece, "Unbroken Chain." During this song, all the musicians are allowed to shine: Phil Lesh, the bassist and songwriter, provides tender vocals over a piano-based arrangement while the bridge allows the guitars and drums to stretch out in classic Grateful Dead style. This album is highly recommended for fans, but casual listeners should start with American Beauty or Workingman's Dead. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Blues For Allah 1975

The Grateful Dead went into a state of latent activity in the fall of 1974 that lasted until the spring of the following year when the band reconvened at guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir's Ace Studios to record Blues for Allah. The disc was likewise the third to be issued on their own Grateful Dead Records label. When the LP hit shelves in September of 1975, the Dead were still not back on the road -- although they had played a few gigs throughout San Francisco. Obviously, the time off had done the band worlds of good, as Blues for Allah -- more than any past or future studio album -- captures the Dead at their most natural and inspired. The opening combo of "Help on the Way," "Slipknot!," and "Franklin's Tower" is a multifaceted suite, owing as much to Miles Davis circa the E.S.P. album as to anything the Grateful Dead had been associated with. "Slipknot!" contains chord changes, progressions, and time signatures which become musical riddles for the band to solve -- which they do in the form of "Franklin's Tower." Another highly evolved piece is the rarely performed "King Solomon's Marbles," an instrumental that spotlights, among other things, Keith Godchaux's tastefully unrestrained Fender Rhodes finger work displaying more than just a tinge of Herbie Hancock inspiration. These more aggressive works contrast the delicate musical and lyrical haiku on "Crazy Fingers" containing some of lyricist Robert Hunter's finest and most beautifully arranged verbal images for the band. Weir's guitar solo in "Sage & Spirit" is based on one of his warm-up fingering exercises. Without a doubt, this is one of Weir's finest moments. The light acoustic melody is tinged with an equally beautiful arrangement. While there is definite merit in Blues for Allah's title suite, the subdued chant-like vocals and meandering melody seems incongruous when compared to the remainder of this thoroughly solid effort. AMG.

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Robert Fripp - Exposure 1979

Throughout his career, guitarist Robert Fripp has continually pushed the boundaries of pop music, as well as pursuing many avant-garde and experimental musical ideas. Fripp began playing professionally with the League of Gentlemen in the mid-'60s, providing instrumental support to many American singers who were touring England. During this time he began Giles, Giles and Fripp with Pete and Mike Giles. The trio only released one album, 1968's The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp, yet the group soon evolved into King Crimson.

Following the release of their 1969 debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson became one of the most respected progressive rock acts of its era. From 1969 to 1974, Fripp was the one mainstay in the group, leading it through its various musical incarnations.

During this time, he pursued several side projects away from King Crimson. Fripp recorded two albums with Brian Eno: No Pussyfooting (1972) and Evening Star (1974). Both of the albums featured the musicians experimenting with avant-garde techniques, including Fripp's "Frippertronics." Frippertronics featured layers of guitars and tape loops, producing a harmonically rich, humming sound; it became a familiar sound on his records. Fripp also produced a handful of albums, mainly records by experimental jazz outfits.

In 1974, Fripp disbanded King Crimson and retired from music. Three years later, he returned to the business, playing on David Bowie's "Heroes." Soon afterward, he produced and played on Peter Gabriel's second self-titled album, as well as Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs. Fripp released his first solo album, Exposure, in 1979. God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manner appeared the following year and in 1981, he assembled a new lineup of King Crimson. While that band recorded and performed, he also led a new band which borrowed its name from his first group, the League of Gentlemen. After releasing three albums, the new version of King Crimson broke up in 1984; The League of Gentlemen split soon afterward.

Fripp released God Save the King in 1985 and began teaching guitar, dubbing his students and school the League of Crafty Guitarists; he released an album recorded with his Crafty Guitarists in 1986, the same year he released the first of two collaborations with his wife, Toyah Wilcox. Fripp re-formed the '80s lineup of King Crimson in late 1994, releasing Thrak in 1995. He returned to recording solo in 1997, releasing That Which Passes.

Conceived as the third part of an MOR trilogy that included Peter Gabriel's second album and Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs, Exposure is concerned with a marketplace that Fripp saw as hostile to experimentation and hungry for product. Strangely, then, Exposure is one of his most varied and successful rock albums, offering a broad selection of styles. "Water Music I and II" is pure Frippertronics; "Disengage" and "I May Not Have Had Enough of Me But I've Had Enough of You" are angular, jagged rock like he would make with the reformed King Crimson; "North Star" is a soulful ballad led by Daryl Hall on vocals, and a less bombastic version of "Here Comes the Flood" with Peter Gabriel singing makes a melancholic ending. Peter Hammill, Terre Roche, and Narada Michael Walden also add vocals to a pleasant experiment in pop, Fripp style. AMG.

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Freddie Hubbard - Sky Dive 1972

Freddie Hubbard's fourth CTI recording (and the second one with Don Sebesky arrangements) certainly has a diverse repertoire. In addition to his originals "Povo" and "Sky Dive" (both of which are superior jam tunes), the trumpeter stretches out on the theme from The Godfather and Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist." The charts for the brass and woodwinds are colorful; there is a fine supporting cast that includes guitarist George Benson, Keith Jarrett on keyboards, and flutist Hubert Laws; and Hubbard takes several outstanding trumpet solos. AMG.

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Soft Machine - Soft Machine Vol. 1 1968

A wild, freewheeling, and ultimately successful attempt to merge psychedelia with jazz-rock, Soft Machine's debut ranges between lovingly performed oblique pop songs and deranged ensemble playing from drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt and organist Mike Ratledge. With only one real break (at the end of side one), the songs merge into each other -- not always smoothly, but always with a sense of flair that rescues any potential miscues. Wyatt takes most of the vocals, and proves himself a surprisingly evocative singer despite his lack of range. Like Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Volume One was one of the few over-ambitious records of the psychedelic era that actually delivered on all its incredible promise. AMG.

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Soft Machine - Volume Two 1969

The first Soft Machine LP usually got the attention, with its movable parts sleeve, as well as the presence of ultra-talented songwriter Kevin Ayers. But musically, Volume Two better conveys the Dada-ist whimsy and powerful avant-rock leanings of the band. Hugh Hopper took over for Ayers on bass, and his fuzz tones and experimental leanings supplanted Ayers' pop emphasis. The creative nucleus behind this most progressive of progressive rock albums, however, is Robert Wyatt. He provides the musical arrangements to Hopper's quirky ideas on the stream-of-consciousness collection of tunes ("Rivmic Melodies") on side one. Unlike the first record, which sounded choppy and often somnolent, this one blends together better, and it has a livelier sound. The addition of session horn players enhanced the Softs' non-guitar lineup, and keyboardist Mike Ratledge, whose musical erudition frequently clashed in the early days with the free-spirited Wyatt, Ayers, and Daevid Allen, lightened his touch here. He even contributes one of the album's highlights with "Pig" ("Virgins are boring/they should be grateful for the things they're ignoring"). But it's Wyatt who lifts this odd musical jewel to its artistic heights. He uses his tender voice like a jazz instrument, scatting (in Spanish!) on "Dada Was Here," and sounding entirely heartfelt in "Have You Ever Bean Green," a brief tribute to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with whom the Softs toured ("Thank you Noel and Mitch, thank you Jim, for our exposure to the crowd"). Fans of the Canterbury scene will also relish "As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still," a loving tribute to ex-bandmate Ayers. This is the one record that effectively assimilates rock, absurdist humor, jazz, and the avant-garde, and it misses classic status only due to some dissonant instrumentation on side two. AMG.

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Stanley Turrentine - Salt Song 1971

Stanley Turrentine's stint with Creed Taylor's CTI label may not have produced any out-and-out classics on the level of the very best LPs by Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, or George Benson, but the bluesy tenorist's output was consistently strong and worthwhile for all but the most stridently anti-fusion listeners. Salt Song was Turrentine's second album for CTI, and while it's perhaps just a small cut below his debut Sugar, it's another fine, eclectic outing that falls squarely into the signature CTI fusion sound: smooth but not slick, accessible but not simplistic. In general, keyboardist Eumir Deodato's arrangements have plenty of light funk and Brazilian underpinnings, the latter often courtesy of percussionist Airto Moreira. The first three cuts are the most memorable, beginning with a ten-minute exploration of the abrupt time signature shifts of Freddie Hubbard's "Gibraltar." Though a hard bop version might have returned to the theme a little less often, Turrentine's solo sections are full of ideas, befitting one of his favorite pieces of the period; plus, guitarist Eric Gale shines as both a rhythm and lead player. The traditional gospel tune "I Told Jesus" features Turrentine at his bluesiest and earthiest, with snatches of ethereal choir vocals floating up behind him. Milton Nascimento's title track, naturally, has the strongest Brazilian flavor of the program, and Turrentine skillfully negotiates its frequent shifts in and out of double time. The 1997 CD reissue also includes Nascimento's "Vera Cruz" as a bonus track. All in all, Salt Song has dated well, partly because the arrangements don't overemphasize electric piano, but mostly on the strength of Turrentine's always-soulful playing. AMG.

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Traffic - Traffic On The Road 1973

Reportedly released as an effort to undercut bootleggers following a world tour, Traffic: On the Road was the band's second live album in three years. The album chronicled a late edition of the band in which original members Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood were augmented not only by percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah, but also by a trio of session musicians from the famed Muscle Shoals studio, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Barry Beckett. The studio pros lent a tightness and proficiency to their characteristic free-form jams, and though they sometimes sounded like they couldn't wait to get the songs over with, the tunes went on and on, four clocking in at over ten minutes. That might have been okay if the choice of material had been more balanced across the band's career, but 1971's Welcome to the Canteen had treated earlier efforts, and the 1973 tour was promoting Shoot out at the Fantasy Factory, from which three of the six selections were drawn. Unfortunately, that album was not one of Traffic's best, and the live versions of its songs were no more impressive than the studio ones had been. Traffic: On the Road featured plenty of room for soloing by some good musicians, but it was the logical extreme of the band's forays into extended performance, with single tunes taking up entire sides on the original LPs. It's not surprising that, after this, Traffic shrunk in size and returned to shorter songs. [Though best known in its two-LP version, Traffic: On the Road was initially released in the U.S. as a single LP containing only four tracks.] AMG.

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George Benson - White Rabbit 1971

For George Benson's second CTI project, producer Creed Taylor and arranger Don Sebesky successfully place the guitarist in a Spanish-flavored setting full of flamenco flourishes, brass fanfares, moody woodwinds and such. The idea works best on "California Dreamin'" (whose chords are based on Andalusian harmonies), where, driven by Jay Berliner's exciting Spanish rhythm guitar, Benson comes through with some terrifically inspired playing. On "El Mar," Berliner is replaced by Benson's protégé Earl Klugh (then only 17) in an inauspicious -- though at the time, widely-heralded -- recorded debut. The title track is another winner, marred only by the out-of-tune brasses at the close, and in a good example of the CTI classical/jazz formula at work, Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Little Train of the Caipira" is given an attractive early-'70s facelift. Herbie Hancock gets plenty of nimble solo space on Rhodes electric piano, Airto Moreira contributes percussion and atmospheric wordless vocals, and Ron Carter and Billy Cobham complete the high-energy rhythm section. In this prime sample of the CTI idiom, everyone wins. AMG.

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Soft Machine - Third 1970

The Soft Machine plunged deeper into jazz and contemporary electronic music on this pivotal release, which incited the Village Voice to call it a milestone achievement when it was released. It's a double album of stunning music, with each side devoted to one composition -- two by Mike Ratledge, and one each by Hopper and Wyatt, with substantial help from a number of backup musicians, including Canterbury mainstays Elton Dean and Jimmy Hastings. The Ratledge songs come closest to fusion jazz, although this is fusion laced with tape loop effects and hypnotic, repetitive keyboard patterns. Hugh Hopper's "Facelift" recalls "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson, although it's more complex, with several quite dissimilar sections. The pulsing rhythms, chaotic horn and keyboard sounds, and dark drones on "Facelift" predate some of what Hopper did as a solo artist later (this song was actually culled from two live performances in 1970). Robert Wyatt draws on musical ideas from early 1967 demos done with producer Giorgio Gomelsky, on his capricious composition "Moon in June." Lyrically, it's a satirical alternative to the pretension displayed by a lot of rock writing of the era, and combined with the Softs' exotic instrumentation, it makes for quite a listen (the collection Triple Echo includes a BBC broadcast recording of this song, with different albeit equally fanciful lyrics). Not exactly rock, Third nonetheless pushed the boundaries of rock into areas previously unexplored, and it managed to do so without sounding self-indulgent. A better introduction to the group is either of the first two records, but once introduced, this is the place to go. AMG.

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Soft Machine - Fourth 1971

The Soft Machine's collective skill is hyper-complex and refined, as they are extremely literate in all fields of musical study. Fourth is the band's free purging of all of that knowledge, woven into noisy, smoky structures of sound. Their arcane rhythms have a stop-and-go mentality of their own that sounds incredibly fresh even though it is sonically steeped in soft and warm tones. Obviously there is a lot of skillful playing going on, as the mix of free jazz, straight-ahead jazz, and Gong-like psychedelia coalesces into a skronky plateau. Robert Wyatt's drumming is impeccable -- so perfect that it at times becomes an unnoticeable map upon which the band takes their instinctive direction. Mike Ratledge's keys are warm throughout, maintaining an earthy quality that keeps its eye on the space between the ground and the heavens that the Soft Machine attempt to inhabit. Elton Dean's saxophone work screams out the most inventive cadence, and since it's hardly rhythmic, it takes front and center, spitting out a crazy language. Certainly the band is the preface to a good portion of Chicago's post-rock output, as they undoubtedly give a nod to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew experiments, which were going on in the U.S. at the same time. AMG.

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Freddie Hubbard - Polar AC 1975

Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's sixth and final CTI studio recording has its moments although it is not on the same level as his first three. Hubbard, backed on four of the five songs by a string section arranged by either Don Sebesky or Bob James, is assisted on songs such as "People Make the World Go Round" and "Betcha By Golly, Wow" by flutist Hubert Laws and guitarist George Benson. "Son of Sky Dive" showcases his trumpet with a sextet including Laws and tenor-saxophonist Junior Cook. The music is enjoyable but not essential and this LP has yet to appear on CD. AMG.

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Ray Manzarek - The Golden Scarab 1974

More than Full Circle and Other Voices, The Golden Scarab is the best embodiment of the Doors by one of the three surviving members, and it is amazing it wasn't a huge underground smash. With mentions of moonlight drives, tightrope rides, and titles of past Doors tunes in "The Solar Boat," drummer Tony Williams, guitarist Larry Carlton, bassist Jerry Scheff, and producer Bruce Botnick generate an eerie sound behind the singer, creating a title track as mysterious and fun as anything by Morrison and company. With intense rhythms and tons of creativity, Ray Manzarek brings us on a musical journey as unique as The Phantom's Divine Comedy, and if Robbie Krieger brought the commercial element to the Doors' gravy train, it is clear here that the eldest of the quartet had more a hand in the development of the Doors persona than he may have been given credit for. One can't fault Krieger and John Densmore for stretching out with Butts Band, but there is a certain responsibility hit artists should have to their audience. The Bright Midnight releases finally address those concerns, but decades before the opening of the Doors tape vaults, that sound from L.A. Woman was most obvious on "The Purpose of Existence Is?" on this solo effort. Yes, Ray Manzarek veers off into his jazz leanings; given the players on this, how could he not? But he gives enough of a taste of past glories to make The Golden Scarab accessible, spoon feeding his musical styles to those who couldn't get enough of the music he was associated with. It's dramatic and cohesive, making more sense than Jim Morrison much of the time, with more controlled insanity. It is amazing that such a fine work as The Golden Scarab escaped the masses, and shameful that classic hits stations don't add this to their incessant repertoire. Had Jim Morrison lived, this is the path the music of the Doors should have taken. Smooth and demanding of repeated spins. AMG.

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domingo, 11 de setembro de 2011

Bernard Lavilliers - Le Stéphanois 1974

Another gift from the MFP, here his third album, enjoy!
The most globe-trotting of French artists. But not the sort that jumps from plane to concert venue to plane. When Lavilliers dumps his suitcases in a place he likes, he hangs around to soak up the atmosphere and bring a bit of it back with him. Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the man from Saint-Etienne has a weakness for, an osmosis with the Southern hemisphere: Sertao, Trenchtown, heat, sweat, Stand the ghetto. Lavilliers' music hopped on to the World Music train well before it became a band wagon.

Bernard was born in Saint Etienne (in central France) on October 7th 1946. His father, who had been involved in the Resistance movement during the Second World War, had recently found work in a weapons factory. His mother was a primary school teacher. The family struggled hard to make ends meet in the difficult post-war years and their struggle was not made any easier when Bernard, a rather weak, sickly child, developed pneumonia at the age of 7.

The family, who did not have the means to send Bernard to a sanatorium, moved to the country in the hope that this might prove beneficial for his health. They returned to Saint Etienne when Bernard was 12 and the young adolescent had his first experience of life on the city's housing estates. Bernard occasionally managed to attend classes at the local grammar school, but he also spent a great deal of time playing truant and eventually ended up in borstal for a year.

Bernard's adolescence was not one of total delinquency however. He was an enthusiastic member of a local boxing club from the age of 13, and even entertained the idea of becoming a professional boxer if he didn't manage to make it as an actor. (Both careers fulfilled the teenage Bernard's deep desire to revolt against society).

In 1962, he put his delinquent days behind him and served an apprenticeship at his father's factory, learning to work as a metal turner. He earnt his living with his new trade up until 1965. But while he worked at the lathes during the day, Bernard, who had developed a passionate interest in music, was busy writing songs and singing in local bars by night.

Bernard soon decided his future in Saint Etienne was looking decidedly grey and uninteresting and, at the age of 19, he packed his bags and set off for Brazil. Life in his new Eldorado was not a bed of roses however. When he arrived in Rio he thought he would easily be able to find work as a docker but, failing to do so, he set off up North, travelling to Salvador in Bahia, then to Belem where he found work as a lorry driver. The following year and a half spent driving clapped-out lorries across miles of pot-holed roads in intense heat proved to be an exciting, albeit gruelling, experience.

Bernard eventually decided to head home, making his way back to France via the Caribbean, then Central and North America. A nasty shock greeted him on his return to France, however, when he received a summons from the French army. Having failed to comply with his military service, Bernard was sent to Germany for a disciplinary hearing and then forced to serve his time in Metz, Lorraine.

At the end of 67 Bernard moved to Paris where he began performing on the cabaret circuit. It was there that the young singer was 'discovered' by Jean-Pierre Hébrard, artistic director of the Decca label, who immediately offered him a record deal. Bernard went into the studio, to record two singles and a début album with lyrics heavily influenced by Léo Ferré.

In the revolutionary atmosphere of 68, Bernard was not to be found anywhere near the student protests raging at the Sorbonne. The young protest singer decided his place was with the workers and he set off to join strikers occupying factories in the provinces. When post-May 68 disillusionment set in in June, Bernard headed off to Brittany where he got by on begging. At the end of that year Bernard became a father for the first time, his wife giving birth to a daughter named Anne-Laure.
1972: "Les poètes"

After a brief period living in Montpellier (in the South of France) Bernard returned to Paris, accompanied by his second wife, Evelyne. Evelyne was extremely supportive of Bernard's singing and songwriting, and actively encouraged him to get his career off the ground.

In June 71 Bernard performed at the "Discophage", a famous Brazilian cabaret in Paris. In October he signed to a new label, Motors (recently set up by Francis Dreyfus) and recorded his second album, "Les poètes". The album was released in 1972 (the same year that his second daughter, Virginie, was born). At this point Bernard was touring alone, accompanying himself on the guitar. Like many other singers of his generation, he was torn between continuing with an acoustic style or taking up the electric guitar (much in vogue among the Anglo-Saxon music stars of the day). Meanwhile, his lyrics continued to be influenced by Ferré and his musical style remained resolutely Latin American.

But it was Lavilliers's third album,"Le Stéfanois", (recorded in 1975, the same year that Evelyne gave birth to the singer's first son, Guillaume) that marked a real turning-point in his career. The song "San Salvador", an innovative form of 'spoken samba', established his reputation as an exotic adventurer as well as a gifted singer/songwriter. Lavilliers was now starting to become a well-known name on the French music scene and performing an ever-increasing number of concerts. After signing to a new label, Barclay, Lavilliers recorded his fourth album, "Barbares", which found him venturing into new rock territory. The lyrics revealed a socially committed singer, denouncing poverty, drugs and the abuse of power. Lavilliers followed the album with a memorable concert at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris (November 76), his first performance at a major venue.

By now the singer was well on the way to stardom and the release of the album, "15ème Round", in 1977 only served to hasten it along. Lavilliers has always referred to "15ème Round" as his favourite album, declaring that it was the first time he could really hear a "group sound" emerging. The album was certainly highly acclaimed by the critics and became a veritable rallying call for a generation of teenagers disillusioned with society. "Juke Box", the highly autobiographical single, was soon rocketing to the top of the French charts.

In October 77 Lavilliers performed at the prestigious Olympia music-hall in Paris for the first time. And the concert proved such a success that he returned for a week in March 78, accompanied on stage by the musicians who had played with him for several years now - bassist Pascal Arroyo, percussionist Mahut and keyboard-player François Bréant. A live album of the March 78 concert was later released under the title "T'es vivant".

By now Lavilliers, the rebel with a social conscience, was gaining a certain notoriety in the media, who were awaiting his next album with bated breath. However, when the concept album "Pouvoirs" (which began with a mammoth 20-minute track) was released in 79 it failed to make the great commercial impact everyone had been predicting. Yet thousands of fans turned out to see Lavilliers during the tour that followed. Indeed, when the singer performed at l'Hippodrome in Pantin (near Paris) he attracted audiences of 6,000 5 nights running.

In April 1979 Lavilliers took a break from his gruelling schedule, flying off to Jamaica to relax. The singer then went on to New York where he met the legendary Portorican percussionist Ray Barretto. He then returned to Brazil, where he spent some time in Rio. This trip proved to be an immense source of inspiration and when the singer returned to France he recorded a new album, entitled "O Gringo". Phenomenally successful, this album produced a string of hit singles including "La Salsa" and "Stand the Ghetto". Lavilliers also recorded "Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent", a poem by Aragon set to music by his old idol Léo Ferré.

The album was followed by a successful series of concerts at the Palais des Sports in Paris in February 1980.

In January 81 Lavilliers was off on his travels again, flying to Los Angeles then heading off for El Salvador (in Central America). On his return he went into the studio to record a new album, "Nuit d'amour", which produced the hit singles "Betty" and "Eldorado". In spite of his immense professional success, Lavilliers's personal life was undergoing a profound crisis, his American girlfriend Lisa having just left him. Weary and depressed, the singer returned to Paris and performed a series of concerts at the Discophage in November 82, which went largely unremarked.
Mademoiselle Li

Following the success of "Idées noires", a duet with singer Nicoletta, and the album "Etat d'Urgence" (which went gold just 3 months after its release), Lavilliers embarked upon a purely acoustic tour with a Brazilian group. He then went back into the studio to record his tenth album, "Tout est permis. Rien n'est possible". After writing the soundtrack for the French film "Rue Barbare", he then returned to the Olympia where he performed in concert for a month.

It was at this point that Lavilliers met a dancer by the name of Melle Li, who was to become his girlfriend and, at the end of 1984, his wife. 84 also proved to be an important year in his career, seeing him appointed artistic director of the Casino de Paris (a well-known concert venue) where he also set up a performing arts school, called "Joséphine B". After a series of professional disputes with the manager of the Casino de Paris, Lavilliers later moved the school elsewhere.

Lavilliers was still suffering from intense wanderlust and the following year he set off on another excursion, this time travelling through Africa. After an extensive trip which took him from Dakar to Senegal via Brazzaville and the Congo, Lavilliers returned to his old stamping-ground Latin America. Once again it was Latin America which was to provide him with the inspiration for his new album, "Voleur de feu". This highly acclaimed album, released in 86, featured the hit song "Noir et blanc", a duet Lavilliers recorded with the Congolese musician Nzongo Soul. Following the album release, the singer performed at the Grande Halle de la Villette in the spring of 86 and thousands of fans turned out to see him.

Despite the fact that Lavilliers was now in his 40's, he continued his exotic travels around the globe. In 1988 he recorded the album "If", a veritable hymn to the travelling lifestyle, which included the songs "On the Road Again", "Nicaragua" and "Haïti Couleur". Two years later his trip to Asia inspired a new album, "Solo". Tracks such as "Faits divers" and "Saïgon" revealed traces of the singer's old disillusionment and earnest revolt against society, but other new compositions such as "Salomé" (named after his third daughter, born to his African partner in 1987) revealed a more tender side. Lavilliers followed this album with a mega-tour of 180 dates which included three weeks at the Olympia. That year he also gave a memorable performance at the "Fête de l'Humanité" (an annual festival organised by the French Communist Party in September) where he was joined on stage by his old idol Léo Ferré.
1994: "Les Champs du possible"

"Les Champs du possible", the album Lavilliers released in 94, was a more introspective work than usual, made up entirely of slow, ballad-like numbers. Traces of the old protest singer remained however on tracks such as "Les Troisièmes Couteaux" (on which the singer denounced all forms of 'corruption and exploitation'). A second version of this album, released in 95, contained two special bonus tracks : a duet with reggae star Jimmy Cliff, entitled "Melody Tempo Harmony" and a new version of Lavilliers's classic "Stand the Ghetto", specially remixed in Jamaica.

Still going strong after 30 years in the record industry, Lavilliers was back at the forefront of the French music scene in June 97 with a new single entitled "Le Venin", followed by a brand new album, "Clair Obscur" in August. This latest album finds Lavilliers returning to the influences which have most marked his career: Latin rhythms and French singer/songwriter Léo Ferré (in fact "Clair Obscur"opens with the Ferré song "Préface").

This album, written and recorded in three months spent between Kingston, Jamaica, and Brussels, features a host of talented guest musicians (including legendary Cuban percussionist Ray Barretto and Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander). In February 98 Lavilliers returned to the Olympia in Paris for an exceptional series of four concerts. These proved so successful that Lavilliers was soon back at the Olympia for another four shows (March 26th-29th). The indefatigable rebel then hit the road again, embarking upon an extensive tour.

Lavilliers kicked off an extensive acoustic tour at the end of the year, but unfortunately the leg scheduled for 1999 was cancelled and fans had to make do with a handful of concerts the singer gave in the summer of '99.

Meanwhile, Lavilliers made his way back into the French album charts in 1998 with a double compilation album entitled "Histoire(s)".

Since the 1970s Lavilliers has earned a reputation for being a committed protest singer, an itinerant rocker and a rebel with a worthy cause. And when he returned to the French music news in June 2001 with a new album entitled "Arrêt sur image", the 12 tracks on his new album proved to be as hard-hitting as ever. Tackling important social themes such as violence, poverty and unemployment, Lavilliers's songs fused anti-establishment sentiment with reggae, bossa nova, Latino rhythms and a hint of electro beats. Lavilliers also introduced a nostalgic note to his new album, including a cover of the legendary French chanson classic "les Feuilles mortes".

Meanwhile, a group of leading French cartoonists got together to pay their own tribute to Lavilliers, illustrating 14 of the singer's most famous songs in a special 'bande dessinée' album entitled "l'Or des fous".

Lavilliers returned to the live circuit in October 2001, performing a week's worth of concerts at the Olympia. Fans turned out in force to see him and, bowing to popular demand, the singer continued to play tour dates right through until the summer of 2002. On 20 December 2001 Lavilliers proved his social commitment once again, performing a special mini-concert for workers in the Vosges region whose factory had closed down.

In 2002 Lavilliers issued a new release of ‘Arrêt sur image’ which included an extra song entitled ‘Jamaica’ and recorded at the mythical Tuff Gong studios in Kingston. Meanwhile, the artist kept touring up and down France with a stopover at the Paléo Festival in Nyons in July 2002.

In November, the singer’s series of concerts scheduled at the Olympia for February 2003 were cancelled without notice. At the same time, Lavilliers was awarded the SACEM Grand Prix de la chanson française (SACEM is the French musical copyright association) for his career as a songwriter and a singer.
2004: "Carnet de bord"

Lavilliers made a welcome comeback to the live circuit in the summer of 2004, playing a number of concert dates across France. Performing on stage with the renowned percussionist Mino Cinelu (whom he has collaborated with since 1973), the singer revisited part of his old repertoire in a new minimalist style. He also gave audiences a taste of forthcoming tracks from his new album, "Carnet de bord", which was finally released in September 2004.

Recorded between France, New York and the legendary Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica, "Carnet de bord" was the result of the globe-trotting singer and musician’s lifetime’s travel on the world’s byroads. The album, which revolved around two main acoustic bases, Cinelu’s superb percussion and Lavilliers’s melodic guitar, transported listeners to distant climes, opening with the appropriately titled track "Voyageur" (Traveller). "Carnet de bord" featured an impressive list of guest contributors including Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly (on the song "Question de peau") and Cape Verde’s "barefoot diva" Cesaria Evora (on "Elle chante"). Lavilliers did not forget his political concerns on his new album, either, including a tribute to the Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Guevara ("La mort du Che") and songs about topical issues such as environmental problems and the status of immigrant workers. On a musical level, "Carnet de bord" achieved a successful fusion of chanson and 'world' rhythms.

At the end of 2004, the singer put the finishing touches to a two-volume collection of his song lyrics, published by Les Editions Christian Pirot as "Les couteaux de la ville" and "La malédiction du voyageur." Proof, if any were needed, that Bernard Lavilliers is not just a globe-trotting adventurer and multi-cultural music maker, but a man deeply committed to political and social causes around the world.

After the publication of his books, Lavilliers hit the road for a new tour which included five dates at Le Grand Rex, in Paris, in March 2005. He put in an appearance at a number of lading music festivals that summer and went on to bring the house down again in Paris, at Le Zénith (on 7 and 8 October 2005). Towards the end of the year, live excerpts from the concerts at Le Grand Rex were released as a DVD and live CD, entitled "Escale au Grand Rex." The DVD also featured two behind-the-scenes documentaries, one shot during rehearsals for the Grand Rex shows, the other during Lavilliers's Americas tour. Meanwhile, a book of photographs of Lavilliers taken by photographer Gert-Peter Bruch (who has been following the singer on various tours and trips since 1988) hit stores.

In September 2006, Lavilliers performed a limited series of Léo Ferré tribute concerts, performing his own versions of the legendary French 'chanson' star's classics including "C'est extra", "La mémoire et la mer" and "Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent."
2008: "Samedi soir à Beyrouth"

Meanwhile the globe-trotting singer, now in his sixties, continued his travels, recording his eighteenth album, "Samedi soir à Beyrouth", between studios in Kingston, Jamaica and Memphis, Tennessee. He began writing material for this new album in February 2006 during a visit to the Lebanese capital, inspired by the strange atmosphere that reigned in the war-torn city.

The title track of the album "Samedi soir à Beyrouth" recounted his observations on a typical Saturday night in Beirut. Lavilliers also turned his attention closer to home, making fun of the political slogan "work more to earn more" (which featured heavily in the French presidential election campaign in 2007) on the song "Bosse", featuring music by Jehro. On a special bonus track, "Balèze", Lavilliers joined forces with the French group Tryo, satirising the actions of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Other songs on the album such as "Rafales" tapped into more of a poetic vein. Musically speaking, Lavilliers's new album mixed elements of soul, blues and Middle Eastern sounds over his habitual reggae base.

The singer is due to hit the road again in February for a new series of tour dates.
2010: "Causes perdues et musiques tropicales"

In many ways, this sentence sums up his career. The title of his album, released in November 2010, “Causes perdues et musiques tropicales”, refers to a retort Lavilliers made to the former French president, François Mitterand when asked to describe his work: “I sing about lost causes set to tropical music”.

Inspired by current combats both at home and abroad, like exile and class issues, the singer had got his old energy back, and invited some familiar faces to play on the album with him. These included Mino Cinelu on “Coupeurs de cannes”, the major Angolan artist Bong on “Angola”, but also Fred Pallem (“Je cours”), David Donatien (“Sourire en coin”) and Cyril Atef and Seb Martel. The New Yorkers from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra even make an appearance on two salsa-tinged tracks. With his raised fist and lilting music, Bernard Lavilliers was true to himself and true to form.

In February, he started a tour of France, with a series of concerts at the Paris Olympia from 5 to 13 March.

On 9 February, he won his first Victoire award for the best chanson album of the year. New link!
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