sábado, 28 de novembro de 2020

Strawberry Alarm Clock - Incense and Peppermints 1967

This is the debut long-player from the southern California-based Strawberry Alarm Clock -- the title track of this album topped national singles charts in December of 1967. As the cover art might suggest, their image practically defined both the musical as well as peripheral aspects of the pseudo-psychedelic counterculture. However, below that mostly visual veneer, Strawberry Alarm Clock actually have more in common with other "Summer of Love" bands such as Love and Kak than the bubblegum acts they have long been associated with. Prior to Strawberry Alarm Clock, the band was initially named Thee Sixpence and issued a 45 -- "In the Building" b/w "Hey Joe" -- in the spring of 1966. As legend has it, none of the actual bandmembers sang lead on the hit single; the singer was in fact a vocalist named Greg Munford, who was attending the session as a visitor. The track was originally issued by Thee Sixpence on the regional All-American label. By the second pressing, however, the band's name had changed to Strawberry Alarm Clock. Sensing the possibility of a national hit, they were scooped up by the MCA Records subsidiary Uni and given the go-ahead to commence recording this, their debut LP. Much of the band's sound is due at least in part to the writing styles of George Bunnell (bass/vocals) and the uncredited Steve Bartok (flute/vocals). The edgy fuzz-toned guitar sound of "Birds in My Tree" and the Los Angeles freeway-inspired "Paxton's Back Street Carnival" exude a garage rock flavor similar in style to that of Spirit's self-titled debut long-player. Another distinguishing factor is Strawberry Alarm Clock's multi-layered vocals. "Hummin' Happy" and "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow" are precursors to the sophisticated harmonies that would also inform "Tomorrow" and "Pretty Song From Psych-Out," from their follow-up long-player, Wake Up...It's Tomorrow. AMG.

listen here

Randy Newman - 12 Songs 1970

On his debut album, Randy Newman sounded as if he was still getting used to the notion of performing his own songs in the studio (despite years of cutting songwriting demos), but apparently he was a pretty quick study, and his second long-player, 12 Songs, was a striking step forward for Newman as a recording artist. While much of Randy Newman was heavily orchestrated, 12 Songs was cut with a small combo (Ry Cooder and Clarence White take turns on guitar), leaving a lot more room for Newman's Fats Domino-gone-cynical piano and the bluesier side of his vocal style, and Randy sounds far more confident and comfortable in this context. And Newman's second batch of songs were even stronger than his first (no small accomplishment), rocking more and grooving harder but losing none of their intelligence and careful craft in the process. "Have You Seen My Baby?" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come" are a pair of sly, updated New Orleans-style rockers (both of which would be much-covered in the coming years); "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield" and "Suzanne" are subtly ominous tales of love and sex; "Yellow Man" was an early meditation on one of Newman's favorite themes, the absurdity of racial prejudice (which he would also glance at in his straight-but-twisted cover of "Underneath the Harlem Moon"); and "My Old Kentucky Home" is a hilarious and quite uncharitable look at life in the deep South (another theme that would pop up in his later work). Newman's humor started getting more acidic with 12 Songs, but here even his most mordant character studies boast a recognizable humanity, which often make his subjects both pitiable and all the more loathsome. Superb material brilliantly executed, 12 Songs was Randy Newman's first great album, and is still one of his finest moments on record. AMG.

listen here

Yes - Yessongs 1973

In many ways, the extravagance of this package equates the profligacy of the prog-rock combo themselves. After all, how else but on a triple-LP collection could one hope to re-create -- or merely contain -- an adequate sampling of Yes' live presentation? Especially since their tunes typically clocked in in excess of ten minutes. Although they had turned in five studio long-players, the vast majority of Yessongs (1973) is drawn from their three most recent endeavors The Yes Album (1970), Fragile (1971), and Close to the Edge (1972). There are two exceptions, the first being the "Opening (Excerpt from "Firebird Suite")" -- which comes from the 1969 Boston Symphony Orchestra's recording, conducted by Seiji Ozawa. The other is Rick Wakeman's keyboard solo "Excerpts from 'The Six Wives Of Henry VIII'." Yes had just undergone a personnel change shortly after concluding work on Close to the Edge as Bill Bruford (percussion) left to join King Crimson in July of 1972. Bruford can be heard on "Perpetual Change," as well as the medley of "Long Distance Runaround" and "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)." Enthusiasts keen on various and arguably irrelevant minutia should note the spelling of "praimaturus" as credited on Yessongs. It is slightly different from Fragile, which is denoted as "praematurus." That bit of trivia aside, the new lineup finds Alan White (drums), quite ably filling Bruford's shoes, alongside Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitars), Chris Squire (bass/vocals), and Rick Wakeman (keyboards). One of their trademarks has always been an ability to re-create their often densely layered sound in concert. They effortlessly pull off the tricky chord progressions and changes in time signatures of "Siberian Khatru" and a sublime "Heart of the Sunrise," which unquestionably bests the dexterity of its carefully crafted studio counterpart. Both Howe and Squire's respective solos during "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)" are highlights as they give the entire unit an opportunity to show off their capacity for dramatic dynamics. The remainder of Yessongs is similarly strong, particularly the note-perfect "Close to the Edge," and the inspired concluding instrumental jam during "Starship Trooper." However, one criticism that can be leveled at the entire Yessongs release is the less than optimal audio quality throughout. The sound is generally muddy with no real fidelity to speak of and an even less precise stereoscope. But until someone goes back to the multi-tracks and remixes them for 21st-century ears, this is as good as it gets when documenting Yes during this seminal transition period. AMG.

listen here

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Next... 1973

After making an impressive and promising debut with Framedthe Sensational Alex Harvey Band perfected their unique, glam-inspired fusion of hard rock and cabaret styles on Next. It also happens to be their best-sounding album, thanks to the efforts of Phil Wainman, a producer best known for his work as a bubblegum-pop svengali to the likes of Sweet and the Bay City Rollers. Wainman puts the band's sound over the top by adding a sense of studio polish that fleshes out their odd combination of styles without taking away from the music's sense of rock & roll power. The result is an album that has all the muscle of a good hard-rock recording but tempers its bombast with a sense of big-production depth and clarity that brings outs the band's tight musicianship. Next also produced the Sensational Alex Harvey Band's first hit single with "Faith Healer," the creepy tale of a religious con artist that blends an intense vocal from Harvey with a thunderous, guitar-driven wall of sound production. Other standout moments include the title track, a frenzied reading of a ribald Jacques Brel tune that effectively pits Harvey's anguished wail against lovely orchestrations, and "The Last Of The Teenage Idols," an autobiographical exploration of Harvey's travails in the music business that shows off the band's versatility through an arrangement that encompasses hard rock, big-band soul, and even doo-wop. To sum up, Next is one of the true high points of the English glam-rock boom and required listening for anyone with an interest in Alex Harvey's music. AMG.

listen here

Naná Vasconcelos - Africadeus 1970

Naná Vasconcelos was one of the clusters of endlessly inventive Brazilian percussionists who changed the direction and sounds of Brazilian jazz in the post-bossa nova 1970s. Vasconcelos was an especially inventive virtuoso of the berimbau, the expressive instrument shaped like an archer's bow, and he is also adept at the odd-numbered meters (5/4, 7/4) that were used frequently in the north but not the south of Brazil. As the son of a guitarist, Vasconcelos got his start in his father's band at age 12 playing bongos and maracas. Taking on a drum kit as part of his arsenal, he moved to Rio de Janeiro in the mid-'60s and caught on with the young Milton Nascimento, picking up several other Brazilian percussion instruments in the process. Gato Barbieri heard him and snatched him up for tours in Argentina, Europe, and a U.S. jaunt in 1971; Vasconcelos can be heard on a number of Barbieri's Flying Dutchman albums. Following the tour, he lived in Paris for two years, occasionally gigging with Don Cherry in Sweden. In 1976, he made a remarkable duo album with Brazilian guitarist/wood flute player Egberto GismontiDança Das Cabeças, the first of several dates as a leader or sideman on the ECM label. He reunited with Cherry in 1978 and, with Collin Walcott, formed Codona, a trio that played a fusion of music from four continents until Walcott's death in 1984.

In the meantime, Vasconcelos joined the Pat Metheny Group from 1980 to 1983 as a "special guest," one who had the effect of rerouting Metheny's music in the general direction of Brazil. Since then, Vasconcelos has played on and off with Cherry, toured and recorded with Jan Garbarek, played on many recording sessions, and, in 1995, formed an unusual duo with the Scottish classical percussionist Evelyn Glennie at the Bath International Music Festival. Throughout the '90s and early 2000s, he composed and played on film scores to much acclaim (and Grammy nominations). In addition, he kept to a heavy touring schedule.

Vasconcelos continued to perform and record as an in-demand sideman. In 2015, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent treatment. He recorded the album Café no Bule in collaboration with Zeca Baleiro and Paulo Lepetit but his health continued to deteriorate. He passed away from respiratory failure on March 9, 2016, at home in Recife. AMG.

listen here

sábado, 21 de novembro de 2020

Fire And Ice, Ltd - The Happening 1966

Spontaneously, in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and many other parts of the nation young musicians are assembling to create for themselves and their friends a new kind of sound. As Lewis Carroll's Alice stepped through the drawing-room mirror into a world of rich imagining, so these gifted young experimentalists are determinedly breaking through the limitations of the old familiar forms - rock, and jazz, and folk, and blues, etcetera - freeing themselves to create a sound that encompasses all the as-yet unexplored possibilities of music. 

These get-togethers are called musical happenings. The sounds they produce are called by some spontaneous music, and by others free-form music. Some also call it 'mind-manifesting music'. And as one of the performers in this album half humorously stated, it might with equal aptness and equal imprecision be called 'ethnic psychedelic Afro-Cuban folk rock'. It is an exhilarating, exciting, galvanizing symphony of musical moods, an exploration into a kind of completely unchained sound that has never happened before. But it's happening now! In the forefront of the musical organizations creating spontaneous music today is Fire and Ice, Ltd. Fire and Ice is the brainchild of two brilliant young men of many talents. 

Pianist and organist Tony Scott was a child prodigy who gave early concerts in his native city of London. A strikingly handsome six-footer, he has been seen as an actor in leading roles in a multiplicity of feature films and television dramas in England, Italy, and America. Flutist and vocalist Paris Sheppard first sought artistic expression as a San Francisco poet amid comrades who included Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Leonard the Locomotive, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. 

So great was the demand for Paris s readings in Bay Area coffee houses that he found he could not write enough material to appease his audience's appetite for them. "So," he says, "I just began going on the stage cold and creating prose poems on the spot with no previous preparation." The spontaneous facility with words that this experience gave him is reflected in the strangely beautiful lyrics he sings in this album. These also were created by him spontaneously before the microphones as a direct inspiration of the music.

listen here

The Butterfield Blues Band - East-West 1966

The raw immediacy and tight instrumental attack of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's self-titled debut album were startling and impressive in 1965, but the following year, the group significantly upped the ante with its second LP, East-West. The debut showed that Butterfield and his bandmates could cut tough, authentic blues (not a given for an integrated band during the era in which fans were still debating if a white boy could play the blues) with the energy of rock & roll, but East-West was a far more ambitious set, with the band showing an effective command of jazz, Indian raga, and garagey proto-psychedelia as well as razor-sharp electric blues. Butterfield was the frontman, and his harp work was fierce and potent, but the core of the band was the dueling guitar work of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, especially Bloomfield's ferocious, acrobatic solos, while Mark Naftalin's keyboards added welcome washes of melodic color, and the rhythm section of bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Billy Davenport were capable of both the rock-solid support of veteran blues players and the more flexible and artful pulse of a jazz combo, rising and relaxing with the dynamics of a performance. The Butterfield Blues Band sounded muscular and exciting on classic blues workouts like "Walkin' Blues," "Two Trains Running," and "I Got a Mind to Give Up Living," but the highlights came when the band pushed into new territory, such as the taut New Orleans proto-funk of "Get Out of My Life, Woman," the buzzy and mildly trippy "Mary, Mary," and especially two lengthy instrumental workouts, the free-flowing jazz of Nat Adderley's "Work Song" and the title track, a fiery mix of blues, psychedelia, Indian musical patterns, and several other stops in between, with ButterfieldBloomfield, and Bishop blowing for all their worth. East-West would prove to be a pivotal album in the new blues-rock movement, and it was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's greatest achievement; Bloomfield would be gone by the time they cut their next LP to form the Electric Flag, and as good as Bishop was, losing the thrust and parry between the two guitarists was a major blow. But East-West captures a great group in high flight as the bandmembers join together in something even more remarkable than their estimable skills as individuals would suggest, and its importance as a nexus point between rock, blues, jazz, and world music cannot be overestimated. AMG.

listen here

Maajun - Vivre La Mort Du Vieux Monde 1971


Excellent french prog blues from the early seventies, give it a listen.

listen here

Fairport Convention - Full House 1970

Fairport Convention is a group that has always beaten the odds -- that's why a version of the band is working in the 21st century. By the time of this, the group's fifth album, key members Ashley Hutchings and Sandy Denny had exited the lineup, yet the group continued here without skipping a beat, for the first time without a female singer -- and it turned out not to make a major difference. Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick took over as singers, and Dave Pegg (more recently of Jethro Tull) joined on bass, and the resulting album was actually more viscerally exciting than its predecessor, Liege and Lief, if not quite as important as that record, since it came first. Even vocally, this version of the group needed offer no apologies. ThompsonSwarbrickPegg, and Simon Nicol harmonize beautifully around strong lead vocals. Not only does the singing here retain the high standard of the earlier incarnation of the group (check out the harmony singing on "Sir Patrick Spens" and "Flowers of the Forest"), but the playing throughout has greater urgency and punch, from the rousing Thompson-Swarbrick opener "Walk Awhile" to the haunting, moody, dazzling nine-minute "Sloth," which remained part of the group's live set for years. An indispensable recording, and one that anybody who wants to truly know this band, or to take in some of the best work of Richard Thompson's career, must own (his playing on "Sloth" and "Doctor of Physick" makes it worthwhile). Swarbrick's fiddle and viola playing is also among the best of his career. Ironically, Thompson would make this his last full-time studio venture with Fairport, but what a way to go! AMG.

listen here

Cousineau - Cousineau 1973


An interesting album from Canada formed by Cousineau brothers, a mix of rock, funk, soul and folk. Hard to find more info about. Give it a listen.

listen here

Amon Duul II - Wolf City 1972


Amon Düül II's fifth studio album is a more conventional recording than most, though there's still a lot of the involved experimenting and dark undercurrent which sets the band apart from the mainstream, along with the off-kilter hooks and odd humor which saved them from being lumped alongside more serious (and less easy to take seriously) prog-rock outfits. After the lengthy explorations of Tanz der LemmingeWolf City seems targeted to an extent at a commercial English-speaking audience, perhaps reflective of their increased status in the United Kingdom, if not in America. Regardless, the opening song "Surrounded by the Stars," the longest track on the album at just under eight minutes, is also one of the band's best, with strong vocals from Renate Knaup-Kroetenschwanz, a dramatic building verse (complete with mock choir), an equally dramatic violin-accompanied instrumental break, and a catchy chorus leading to a fun little freakout. Knaup actually takes the lead vocals more often this time out and turns in some lovely performances, as on the beautiful, perhaps slightly precious "Green-Bubble-Raincoated-Man," with a great full-band performance that grows from a nice restraint to a slam-bang, epic rock out. Lothar Meid gets his moments in as well, his sometimes straightforward, sometimes not-so-much vocals adding to the overall effect as before. The one full instrumental, "Wie der Wind am Ende Einer Strasse," is excellent, with guest Indian musicians adding extra instrumentation to an intoxicating, spacious performance. While Wolf City generally sounds like a tight band playing things live or near-live, there are some equally gripping moments clearly resulting from studio work, like the strange loop opening the title track (percussion, guitar?). Concluding with the groovy good-time "Sleepwalker's Timeless Bridge," including some fantastic E-Bow guitar work, Wolf City works the balance between art and accessibility and does so with resounding success. AMG.

listen here

Barney Wilen - Moshi 1973

In 1970 Barney Wilen assembled a team of filmmakers, technicians, and musicians to travel to Africa for the purpose of recording the music of the native pygmy tribes. Upon returning to Paris two years later, he created Moshi, a dark, eccentric effort fusing avant jazz sensibilities with African rhythms, ambient sound effects, and melodies rooted in American blues traditions. Cut with French and African players including guitarist Pierre Chaze, pianist Michel Graillier, and percussionist Didier Leon, this is music with few precedents or followers, spanning from extraterrestrial dissonance to earthbound, street-legal funk. Wilen pays little heed to conventional structure, assembling tracks like "Afrika Freak Out" and "Zombizar" from spare parts of indeterminate origins. AMG.

listen here

Blue Magic - The Magic Of Blue 1975

Blue Magic's sublime sophomore effort manages to retain the delicate beauty of their debut while summoning a more confident, robust approach to group harmony. The Magic of the Blue is above all a celebration of the human voice in all its myriad forms of expression. Whether transcending contrived ballads like "Three-Ring Circus" (a bland rewrite of the earlier hit "Sideshow") or soaring on the strength of up-tempo dance tunes like the excellent title cut, Blue Magic's harmonies are impeccable, showcased by arrangers Norman HarrisBobby Eli, and Vince Montana in a series of elegant, richly detailed contexts as unique to Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell. AMG.

listen here

Faces - First Step 1970

The notorious sloppiness of the Faces was apparent on their debut, almost moreso on the cover than on the music, as the group was stilled billed as the Small Faces on this 1970 debut although without Steve Marriott in front, and with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood in tow, they were no longer Small. They were now larger than life, or at least mythic, because it's hard to call an album that concludes with a riotous ode to a hand-me-down suit as larger than life. That was the charm of the Faces, a group who always seemed like the boys next door made good, no matter where next door was. Part of the reason they seemed so relatable was that legendary messiness -- after all, it's hard not to love somebody if they so openly displayed their flaws -- but on their debut, it was hard not to see the messiness as merely the result of the old Faces getting accustomed to the new guys. Fresh from their seminal work with Jeff BeckRod and Ron bring a healthy dose of Beck's powerful bastardized blues, bracingly heard on the opening cover of "Wicked Messenger," but there's a key difference here; without Beck's guitar genius, this roar doesn't sound quite so titanic, it hits in the gut. That can also be heard and Rod and Woody's "Around the Plynth," or "Three Button Hand Me Down," which is ragged rocking at its finest. Combine that with Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan finding their ways as songwriters in the wake of the Small Faces' mod implosion, and this goes in even more directions. Lane unveils his gentle, folky side on "Stone," McLagan kicks in "Looking Out the Window" and "Three Button Hand Me Down." All these are moments that are good, often great, but the record doesn't quite gel, yet that doesn't quite matter. The Faces is a band that proves that sometimes loose ends are as great as tidiness, that living in the moment is what's necessary, and this First Step is a record filled with individual moments, each one to be savored. AMG.

listen here

Waves - Waves 1975

Waves was the debut album by New Zealand folk-rock band Waves. It was released in 1975 and reached No.7 on the New Zealand album charts. The album, which became a sought-after collector's item on vinyl, was re-released in 2013 on vinyl and CD with a bonus disc, Misfit, a previously unreleased album recorded by the band in 1976.

listen here

segunda-feira, 16 de novembro de 2020

Jeff Beck - Truth 1968

Despite being the premiere of heavy metal, Jeff Beck's Truth has never quite carried its reputation the way the early albums by Led Zeppelin did, or even Cream's two most popular LPs, mostly as a result of the erratic nature of the guitarist's subsequent work. Time has muted some of its daring, radical nature, elements of which were appropriated by practically every metal band (and most arena rock bands) that followed. Truth was almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first BeatlesRolling Stones, or Who albums. Its attributes weren't all new -- Cream and Jimi Hendrix had been moving in similar directions -- but the combination was: the wailing, heart-stoppingly dramatic vocalizing by Rod Stewart, the thunderous rhythm section of Ron Wood's bass and Mickey Waller's drums, and Beck's blistering lead guitar, which sounds like his amp is turned up to 13 and ready to short out. Beck opens the proceedings in a strikingly bold manner, using his old Yardbirds hit "Shapes of Things" as a jumping-off point, deliberately rebuilding the song from the ground up so it sounds closer to Howlin' Wolf. There are lots of unexpected moments on this record: a bone-pounding version of Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me"; a version of Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man River" done as a slow electric blues; a brief plunge into folk territory with a solo acoustic guitar version of "Greensleeves" (which was intended as filler but audiences loved); the progressive blues of "Beck's Bolero"; the extended live "Blues Deluxe"; and "I Ain't Superstitious," a blazing reworking of another Willie Dixon song. It was a triumph -- a number 15 album in America, astoundingly good for a band that had been utterly unknown in the U.S. just six months earlier -- and a very improbable success. AMG.

listen here