segunda-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2022

Lou Reed - Lou Reed Live 1975

Taken from the same series of concerts that provided the basis of "Rock 'n' Roll Animal", "Lou Reed Live" captures much of the same raw energy and outrageous compositions/playing that created that live masterpiece. AMG.

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domingo, 27 de fevereiro de 2022

Stud - Stud 1971

A bit of a halfway house or rest stop, the short-lived Stud provided a brief but welcome respite for a trio of musicians at loose ends. Bassist Richard McCracken and drummer John Wilson were at a loss when Rory Gallagher pulled the plug on Taste and launched his solo career. Guitarist Jim Cregan was similarly undecided what to do after leaving Blossom Toes. All three wanted to move in a new direction, but as their 1971 eponymous debut album proved, they weren't quite sure where they wanted to go, nor quite ready to leave their pasts behind. In an interview, McCracken later explained that the set was entirely unplanned, giving no thought to commercial appeal or audience reaction: "We just wrote and played whatever we felt like on the day." That spontaneity is arguably the album's greatest strength, but also its greatest weakness, for at times the set feels uncomfortably unfocused. A good producer would have solved that problem, but unfortunately the trio was lumbered with Billy Kennedy, the totally inexperienced son of their manager. Even so, Stud has its moments. The pair of acoustic numbers -- "Turn Over the Pages" and "Song" -- are both lovely, their gentle moods occasionally hinting at Blossom Toes' whimsy. "Sail On" has a similar feel, although the wind in its sails comes courtesy of electric guitars. With a jazzy undertow and harder proggy overtones, this ship is an amalgamation of the band's diverse leanings. "Harpo's Head," in contrast, is more Tastey, beginning and ending in quiet jazz, but storming off into progressive rock in the middle. "1112235," one of two epic ten-plus-minute numbers, is also a fusion piece. It slides from avant-garde jazz into hard rock and showcases a long intricate drum solo as well as ferocious work from Cregan, before going out in a progressive rock vein. The other expansive number, "Horizon," is its polar opposite. Initially combining acoustic guitars, vibraphone, and violin from Family's John Weider, the piece blends a jazzy aura with an almost pastoral atmosphere. In the song's second half, the tempo quickens, the strings thicken, Cregan's electric guitar storms in, and the number enters jazzy prog rock, with a hint of funk licking around its heels. So, with one foot in the past, another in the future, and unclear which way they wanted to turn, Stud delivered a diverse set filled with possibility. The album, however, sank like a stone, although in Germany the band's live performances garnered them another record deal. After recording SeptemberMcCracken rode off with the Spencer Davis Group and Cregan left for Family, leaving Wilson to piece together a new lineup. It didn't last long, and by mid-1972 this Stud was retired for good. AMG.

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Laura Nyro - New York Tendaberry 1969

Although New York Tendaberry was nearly as strong a record as its predecessor, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, it wasn't as accessible. In large part that's because, unlike her first two albums, it didn't have three or four songs that would become instantly recognizable hits in the hands of other artists. But it was also because the mood of the record was considerably darker and the production quite a bit starker. It was hardly a gloomy affair, but the emphasis was on soulful laments and arrangements that often featured, in part or whole, nothing but her voice and piano. Without at all sounding blatantly derived from gospel, it often sounded very much in the spirit of gospel in its fervid passion, though using melodies from a wide pop/blues-soul canvas and addressing concerns far more secular and personal. There were crafty, dramatic punctuations of orchestration, yet these were far more subdued than they had been on the more jubilant Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. "Save the Country" (along with the upbeat section of "Time and Love") is really the only song here that has the immediate uplifting impact of her most famous early tunes, and even that track could have benefited from a less-bare setting. It's a rewarding album, but one that takes some effort to fully appreciate. The 2002 CD reissue adds two bonus tracks: the mono single version of "Save the Country," which has a far fuller arrangement than the album take, and the jaunty, previously unreleased "In the Country Way." AMG.

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Tommy James & The Shondells - Cellophane Symphony 1969

Cellophane Symphony, credited to Tommy James & the Shondells, came only seven catalog numbers after the Crimson & Clover album, but oddly got a Top Ten hit in between the four hits that the earlier disc spawned. "Sweet Cherry Wine" is as good a pop song as one will ever hear, hitting the Top Ten in April of 1969, five months after "Do Something to Me" and five months before "Sugar on Sunday," both from Crimson & Clover (though it was the Clique who clicked with their version of "Sugar on Sunday"). This beautiful song, "Sweet Cherry Wine," is the epitome of peace, love, and '60s understanding, with a sound that is very much like TJ's own version of "Sugar on Sunday."  The radio attention to a single on the highly experimental Cellophane Symphony is equally extraordinary because the album is very much like Tommy James doing his own Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are oddities, like side one's closer, "Papa Rolled His Own," which could be "When I'm Sixty Four" meets "You Know My Name, Look up the Number"; two Beatles offbeat ditties; and the almost as wacky "On Behalf of the Entire Staff & Management," which ends side two. In between is some lovely pop music, which one finds after they trip their way through the amazing nine and a half minutes of the title track. The instrumental song "Cellophane Symphony" is early Pink Floyd meets "20,000 Light Years From Home" when the Stones gave Satanic Majesties Request. It is the only title credited to the entire band, followed by two of five Ritchie Cordell/Tommy James co-writes the poppy and excellent "Makin' Good Time" and the beautiful "Evergreen." Covered in keyboards and acoustic guitar, "Evergreen" is Tommy James being the folky and the pop star, a unique look at this underrated and important artist. It's a perfect setup to "Sweet Cherry Wine," which is the standout track, the subtle intro exploding into a chorus of the best type of anti-war sentiment: "Let's just get along." Pete Lucia writes two songs with James, one being the amazing "Changes," which opens side two, while Mike Vale helps James on "Loved One," making this a very special collection of ten songs wrapped up in a stunning black-and-white psychedelic cover of a hatch shell, empty benches, and cool '60s photography. Though Tommy James is all over the book Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth, he is beyond just an artist who hit with that genre. He's an artist whose value is evident on his country album, My Hed, My Bed, and My Red Guitar, as well as other catalog treats, like this disc with its strong compositions "Loved One," "The Love of a Woman," and the Richard Grasso/Tommy James hit that is a true pop classic, "Sweet Cherry Wine." AMG.

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Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night 1973

After the musical uncertainty of Waterloo LilyCaravan returned with their most inspired recording since In the Land of the Grey and Pink. The splendidly titled For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night is several steps ahead in terms of fresh musical ideas that wholly incorporate the band's trademark humor within the otherwise serious and challenging sonic structures. Two of the more dominant reasons for the change in Caravan's sound were the return of keyboardist Dave Sinclair and the addition of violist Peter Geoffrey Richardson. Die-hard fans gladly welcomed Sinclair back, however, Richardson was met with heckles from enthusiasts during live appearances. They were soon silenced as his place on For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night easily ranks among Caravan's watershed moments. There are perhaps none better than the mesmerizing counterpoint melodies he weaves during the "L'Auberge Du Sanglier" suite. While not completely abandoning their jazz leanings, For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night is considerably focused back into the rock genre. Ironically, the album also features some rather elaborate orchestration. In context, it is quite effective in creating emphasis -- especially on the leadoff track "Memory Lain, Hugh," as well as the dreamy mid-tempo "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again." The remastered CD also includes five additional tracks. The first four are demos featuring the band without orchestra and with some notable differences, such as the distinct lead guitar opening to "Memory Lain, Hugh." "Derek's Long Thing" is another instrumental piece penned by keyboardist Derek Austin -- one of the two transitional Caravan members chosen to replace Steve Miller. A must-own for inclined parties. AMG.

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Caetano Veloso - Transa 1972

Released in 1972, Transa was recorded by Caetano Veloso during his exile in London, England, shortly before his return to Brazil. The sound of '70s electric rock predominates, fused with Brazilian rhythms and percussion, berimbau sounds, and his own violão playing. Several lyrics in English, and also in Portuguese, carefully avoid direct reference to politics, which may be found disguised in all songs, especially in the melancholic and depressed images of the poem by Gregório de Matos, "Triste Bahia," for which Veloso wrote the music. "It's a Long Way" also makes ciphered references to the political situation and was broadly played in the '70s. The broad use of pontos de capoeira (music used for accompaniment of capoeira, a martial art developed by Brazilian slaves as a resistance against the whites) can also be understood in that sense. The album also has "Mora na Filosofia," a classic and beautiful samba by Monsueto that scandalized people with its rock rendition. AMG.

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Ellen McIlwaine - Honky Tonk Angel 1972

Although she has remained arguably unknown, Ellen McIlwaine (guitar/vocals) is one of the more profound figures to have risen through the ranks of the 1970s singer/songwriter movement. Having grown up the daughter of missionaries stationed in Japan, she gleaned eclectic (to say the least) tastes from listening to Armed Forces Radio broadcasts of Ray Charles and Professor Longhair, among others. Initially she developed significant prowess emulating her piano-pounding heroes, although she traded off for the guitar after relocating back to the States in the early 1960s. After settling in Atlanta, Georgia McIlwaine emerged as a key figure in the R&B and soul-based gospel scene. Her fretwork garnered the attention of Native American folkie Patrick Sky, who was having nominal but noticeable success in Greenwich Village. McIlwaine quickly became a fixture supporting legends such as Muddy WatersElvin Bishop and Tim Buckley. She returned to Atlanta forming the combo Fear Itself. Sadly, their belligerent and ballsy sound was a bit too much for the locals, yielding one mostly dismissed self-titled long-player. This rejection prompted a return to New York, where the band settled into the burgeoning upstate community in and around Woodstock. While Fear Itself were local fave raves, McIlwaine eventually split to develop her solo act, culminating in Honky Tonk Angel (1973). The album captures her remarkable live presence and equally incendiary studio sides. The entire affair was recorded in New York City, with the concert tracks documented at the Bitter End, while the remainder were cut at the Record Plant. The platter consists primarily of McIlwaine's reinventions and interpretations of everything from soul ("Toe Hold" ) and rock ("Up From the Skies") to traditional country ("It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels") and African jazz ("Pinebo (My Story)"). McIlwaine contributed a few exemplary originals, including the swaggering Delta blues of "Losing You"and the pulsating funky "Wings of a Horse." The single-disc compilation Up From the Skies: The Polydor Years (1998) features this album, and her follow-up We the People (1973), with a previously unreleased reading of Smokey Robinson's "It's Growing." AMG.

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Eddie Cochran - Never To Be Forgotten 1962

Eddie Cochran was an American rock and roll musician. Cochran's songs, such as "Twenty Flight Rock", "Summertime Blues", "C'mon Everybody", and "Somethin' Else", captured teenage frustration and desire in the mid-1950s and early 1960s. He experimented with multitrack recording, distortion techniques, and overdubbing even on his earliest singles. He played the guitar, piano, bass, and drums. His image as a sharply dressed and attractive young man with a rebellious attitude epitomized the stance of the 1950s rocker, and in death, he achieved iconic status.

Cochran was involved with music from an early age, playing in the school band and teaching himself to play blues guitar. In 1954, he formed a duet with the guitarist Hank Cochran (no relation). When they split the following year, Eddie began a songwriting career with Jerry Capehart. His first success came when he performed the song "Twenty Flight Rock" in the film The Girl Can't Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield. Soon afterward, he signed a recording contract with Liberty Records, and his first record for the label, "Sittin' in the Balcony", rose to number 18 on the Billboard charts.

Cochran died at age 21 in St Martin's Hospital, Bath, Somerset, after a road accident in Chippenham, Wiltshire, at the end of his British tour in April 1960. He had just performed at the Bristol Hippodrome. Though his best-known songs were released during his lifetime, more of his songs were released posthumously. In 1987, Cochran was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His songs have been recorded by a wide variety of recording artists.

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'Igginbottom's Wrench - 'Igginbottom 1969

Comprising Dave Freeman (drums), Steve Robinson (guitar, vocals), Allan Holdsworth (b. 6 August 1946, Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England; guitar/vocals) and Mick Skelly (bass), Igginbottom was formed in the late 60s in an attempt to fuse rock and jazz traditions. Certainly there was nothing wrong with the musicianship on display on the band’s debut, 1969’s Igginbottom’s Wrench, but a series of endless (seemingly improvised) solos revealed an absence of direction and forethought. However, the album, released on Deram Records, is notable for featuring the recorded debut of Holdsworth, who went on to play with Jon Hiseman’s Tempest, Soft Machine and later Level 42. Igginbottom never recorded a follow-up record and their sole album is now a treasured obscurity among collectors. AMG.

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Matching Mole - Matching Mole 1972

The opening track, "O Caroline," is indicative of Wyatt at his best: art rock with a human face, a playful vocal, and soul. Much of the record is instrumental improvisation, though, with the humor largely confined to the song titles ("Instant Pussy," "Dedicated to Hugh, But You Weren't Listening"). For every nifty passage (the extended melancholy Mellotron solo on "Immediate Curtain," the goofy scat vocals on "Signed Curtain"), there's equal or greater instrumental patter. Some art rock devotees really get behind this album, but it doesn't count among the more enduring statements by the Canterbury crowd. AMG.

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Noah - Brain Suck 1969

The posthumous release of early 1969s recordings from obscure hard rock/prog band with long tracks and lots of hammond/guitar interplay. Overall vibe ranges from Iron Butterfly drama to a more jammy Deep Purple/Captain Beyond style.

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quinta-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2022

Jade Warrior - Last Autumn's Dream 1972

Jade Warrior never scored a hit single and it seems bizarre to think that anyone ever dreamed it could. Buried away on side two of its third album, however, "The Demon Trucker" not only has unexpected smash written all over it, but the words were large enough that the band's U.K. label Vertigo clearly felt the same way. One must sincerely regret there never came a day when a nation's pop kids were ordered to "throw their hands up to the ceiling, get out on the floor and stamp your feet with feeling." Or maybe they were, but only when Slade told them to. Coming from a band better-known for weird flute solos and complicated time signatures, the demand was possibly less compulsive. It's still a great song, though, one of the finest rock & rolling dance numbers of the age and, if the remainder of Last Autumn's Dream doesn't quite match those same pounding, resounding peaks, that's only because the band was busy elsewhere, piecing together some of the best-realized songs (as opposed to moods, scapes, and symphonies) of its career. By that token, then, Last Autumn's Dream takes a lot more getting used to than longtime fans might have expected; the funkily pretty "May Queen," the proto-Eno-esque "Borne on the Solar Wind," and the freaked guitar rage of "The Snake" all emerge out of nowhere to slice away at preconceptions, while even the "typical" numbers have atypical moments. For anybody just discovering Jade WarriorLast Autumn's Dream is certainly the last of its truly essential albums; subsequent releases for the Island label have their moments, but they grow scarcer as time elapses. For anyone schooled in the delights of the first two LPs alone, however, there are things in here you might never forgive, like "The Demon Trucker." AMG.

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Paul McCartney - McCartney (1970)

Paul McCartney retreated from the spotlight of the Beatles by recording his first solo album at his home studio, performing nearly all of the instruments himself. Appropriately, McCartney has an endearingly ragged, homemade quality that makes even its filler -- and there is quite a bit of filler -- rather ingratiating. Only a handful of songs rank as full-fledged McCartney classics, but those songs -- the light folk-pop of "That Would Be Something," the sweet, gentle "Every Night," the ramshackle Beatles leftover "Teddy Boy," and the staggering "Maybe I'm Amazed" (not coincidentally the only rocker on the album) -- are full of all the easy melodic charm that is McCartney's trademark. The rest of the album is charmingly slight, especially if it is read as a way to bring Paul back to earth after the heights of the Beatles. At the time the throwaway nature of much of the material was a shock, but it has become charming in retrospect. Unfortunately, in retrospect, it also appears as a harbinger of the nagging mediocrity that would plague McCartney's entire solo career. AMG.

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Jackson Browne - Running On Empty 1977

Having acknowledged a certain creative desperation on The PretenderJackson Browne lowered his sights (and raised his commercial appeal) considerably with Running on Empty, which was more a concept album about the road than an actual live album, even though its songs were sometimes recorded on-stage (and sometimes on the bus or in the hotel). Unlike most live albums, though, it consisted of previously unrecorded songs. Browne had less creative participation on this album than on any he ever made, solely composing only two songs, co-writing four others, and covering another four. And he had less to say -- the title song and leadoff track neatly conjoined his artistic and escapist themes. Figuratively and creatively, he was out of gas, but like "the pretender," he still had to make a living. The songs covered all aspects of touring, from Danny O'Keefe's "The Road," which detailed romantic encounters, and "Rosie" (co-written by Browne and his manager Donald Miller), in which a soundman pays tribute to auto-eroticism, to, well, "Cocaine," to the travails of being a roadie ("The Load-Out"). Audience noises, humorous asides, loose playing -- they were all part of a rough-around-the-edges musical evocation of the rock & roll touring life. It was not what fans had come to expect from Browne, of course, but the disaffected were more than outnumbered by the newly converted. (It didn't hurt that "Running on Empty" and "The Load-Out"/"Stay" both became Top 40 hits.) As a result, Browne's least ambitious, but perhaps most accessible, album ironically became his biggest seller. But it is not characteristic of his other work: for many, it will be the only Browne album they will want to own, just as others always will regard it disdainfully as "Jackson Browne lite." AMG.

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Daylight - Daylight 1971

An interesting album, Daylight was formed by Mike Silver (guitar, vocals), Steve Hatton (guitar, vocals), and Chrissy Quaye (guitar, vocals), they were joined by Tony Carr on drums and Spikey Heatley on bass. The LP featured many influences ranging from folk, rock, Latin and was beautifully recorded with Mike and Chrissy’s vocals blending well together. Steve would contribute two songs, Yes and Never Say Never as well as the funky Carry Me, which was a joint composition with Mike. Worth the listen.

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Craig Nuttycombe - It's Just A Lifetime 1978

After being part of country folk duo Lambert and Nuttycombe, Craig Nuttycombe released an album with some of Fairport Convention musicians produced by Andy-Fairweather Low.

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J.F. Murphy and Free Flowing Salt - The Last Illusion 1973

J. F. Murphy and Salt was an utterly unique sextet that became a popular college campus fixture during the early 1970s. The band's rebellious stance against the Vietnam War was part of the picture, but it was the original compositions by bandleader, J.F. Murphy, and an overtly creative non-traditional approach to the covers they developed that brought them such a dedicated fan base.

Dropped by MGM the band signed with Elektra.  Produced by Eddie Kramer, 1972's "JF Murphy and Salt" was a mostly live set capturing the band at a series of college performances including dates at The University of Hartford, Nassau Community College, and Trent State College.  The closing country-flavored track ' If Wishes Were Horses' was clearly a studio effort. Musically the set showcased the band's weird mixture of blues ('Kansas City'), country ('Country Jam'), jazz-rock fusion, traditional Irish tunes, straight-ahead rock, and social and political activism (the anti-war 'Waiting Hymn of the Republic').  It was definitely different and occasionally a bit disconcerting; particularly when they mixed all the genres together in one song - check out 'First Born', or 'Silver Horn' - the latter having a plotline about a young guy trying to pass himself off as a Leprechaun at an Irish dance). Murphy was an okay singer who occasionally reminded me a bit of a bluesier Burton Cummings.  

All six members were impressive musicians (guitarist Joe Parrino deserved special notice), and there was no denying their professionalism, but there just wasn't much here that caught my ear.   The need to stretch out musically also didn't do the band any favors.  Their cover of the blues classic 'Kansas City' went on for over 12 minutes and was basically unlistenable. Guess you had to be in the audience to get the full effect.

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Doug Sahm - Groover's Paradise 1974

Anyone who finds hippies irritating might want to throw this record across the room -- and that's a good review right there since it has been long established via intense scientific study that music which somehow motivates people to throw records across the room is usually quite good. No exception to this rule here, as fans of Doug Sahm often choose this as a personal favorite, while it is also one of the better side projects of the Creedence Clearwater Revival rhythm section. If Sahm was writing the review himself in 1974, he would have no doubt described the whole thing as some kind of "trip"; after all, this expression is used three times alone on the back cover of this album, actually less than one might expect considering the stoned-out nature of the accompanying comics. These black-and-white illustrations by Kelly Fitzgerald are a great part of the record's enduring charm, but the music itself is deeper than the coolie hippie vibe. This is simply a great roots rock album, and like much of Sahm's work, it is loaded with complex details as well as the loving interplay between the musicians. These tracks indicate mastery of many basic forms such as blues, rhythm & blues, norteño, country, and Cajun and the players always seem to be probing beyond this to find something new. Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug Clifford produced as well as played, and did a superior job, irrigating the proceedings with a range of available Sahm streams like some kind of master gardener. The use of horns is excellent, not only providing plenty of punch in the arrangements but memorable effects such as the spooky baritone sax solo on "Just Groove Me."  A large section of the sonic spread is always reserved for Sahm's lush guitar playing, including lots of rock, country, and blues licks, while bassist Stu Cook sometimes adds additional guitar, expertly mocking the patented hypnotic John Fogerty sound for an effect that is not unlike Sahm sitting in on a Creedence album. Of course, the range of that classic '60s and '70s rock group seems quite limited compared to Sahm, who whips off an expert version of the Tex-Mex instrumental "La Cacahueta," the only track here which he did not compose himself. The well-crafted yet daringly personal and unembarrassed songs include haunting country-influenced ballads such as "Her Dream Man Never Came," as well as really top-notch examples of good old rock & roll, the hilarious "For the Sake of Rock 'N' Roll" and the bewitchingly cooking "Devil Heart." The second side of the original vinyl is one of this artist's most perfect sets of songs. The final track, "Catch Me in the Morning," is one of several on this album that benefits from a long, satisfying arrangement -- hardly the kind of simple dirt that is often tossed off the shovel in the quest for roots rock. The band tends to move through these pieces with confidence as if already expecting to have lost the attention of the simpletons in the crowd. At the same time, there are those listeners who will find it hard to believe a simple song, let alone such a magnum opus, could be created from the almost nonexistent message of this song. "Call me in the morning, I am too tired to talk right now," is just about all this song says, and it is one of the marvels of Sahm that he is able to parlay a near-operatic sense of importance into such a typical part of daily life. Giving him an instrumental credit for being a "dreamer" -- nicely enough, it comes right after the credit for bajo sexto -- is one of the most appropriate details, or "trips," on Groover's Paradise. AMG.

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Gilberto Gil - Refazenda 1975

Recorded the same year as Gil e Jorge, his brilliant collaboration with Jorge BenRefazenda keeps up the pace, but in a completely different way. Instead of the acoustic Brazilian folk of Gil e JorgeGil focuses on breezy pop. "Jeca Total," "Ê, Povo, Ê," "Tenho Sede," and the title track are dominated by flute, accordion, horns, and gentle strings. Gil is in excellent voice, whether he's delivering a driving song like "Essa é Pra Tocar No Rádio" or more intimate ballads like the last two tracks, "Lamento Sertanejo" and "Meditação." Though "Pai e Mãe" and a few other tracks are slightly reminiscent of the Gil e Jorge LP, Gil reasserts himself here as the pop star whom all of Brazil had expected him to be. AMG.

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Dull Knife - Electric Indian 1971

With a heavy sound, Dull Knife ranges from the hard prog with some good blues vein, where robust guitar solos and a mighty Hammond take over much of the record. English vocals with clear opulence and distortion of voices, most likely caused by a Vocoder, a kind of human voice synthesizer widely used in the 1970s and 1980s. The lyrics are based in gospel speech, often marked by aggressive riffs, intense vocals, leading to believe it to be a gospel record, however, with all the experimental Krautrock vein.

Recorded in 1971, the album was produced by Dieter Dierks, who was primarily responsible for Scorpions' meteoric commercial success in the '70s. The vocalist and also keyboardist, Gottfried Janko joined Jane for the recording of the album Lady in 1975, leaving the band after its release.

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Aretha Franklin - Young, Gifted and Black 1972

It's nearly impossible to single out any of Aretha Franklin's early-'70s albums for Atlantic as being her best, particularly given the breadth of her output during this era. In terms of albums rather than singles, it's probably her strongest era, and if you count live albums like Amazing Grace, choosing a standout or a favorite record isn't any easier. Yet of this stunning era, Young, Gifted and Black certainly ranks highly among her studio efforts, with many arguing that it may be her greatest. And with songs like "Rock Steady," that may be a valid argument. But there's much more here than just a few highlights. If you really want to go song by song, you'd be hard-pressed to find any throwaways here -- this is quite honestly an album that merits play from beginning to end. You have upbeat songs like the aforementioned "Rock Steady" that will get you up out of your seat moving and grooving, yet then you also have a number of more introspective songs that slow down the tempo and are more likely to relax than rouse. And if that wide spectrum of moods isn't enough reason to celebrate this album, you get some unlikely songs like a take on "The Long and Winding Road." Plus, you also have to keep in mind that Franklin was in her prime here, not only in terms of voice but also in terms of confidence -- you can just feel her exuding her status as the best of the best. Furthermore, her ensemble of musicians competes with any that she had worked with on previous albums. So even if this isn't the greatest Aretha Franklin album of the early '70s, it's certainly a contender, the sort of album that you can't go wrong with. AMG.

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