domingo, 15 de julho de 2018

Nils Frahm ‎– All Melody (2018)

Style: Modern Classical, Abstract
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Erased Tapes Records

01.   The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched
02.   Sunson
03.   A Place
04.   My Friend The Forest
05.   Human Range
06.   Forever Changeless
07.   All Melody
08.   #2
09.   Momentum
10.   Fundamental Values
11.   Kaleidoscope
12.   Harm Hymn

Alto Vocals [Shards] – Kate Huggett, Rose Martin (4), Sarah Latto
Bass Vocals [Shards] – Augustus Perkins Ray, Dan D'Souza, John Laichena
Cello – Anne Müller (tracks: 3 to 5, 10)
Choir – Shards (5) (tracks: 1, 3, 5, 9, 11)
Conductor [Shards], Arranged By [Shards, Co-Arranged By] – Kieran Brunt
Drums – Tatu Rönkkö (tracks: 2, 5)
Guitar [Processed Guitar], Sounds [Unheard Sounds] – Erik Skodvin
Instruments, Written-By, Producer, Piano [Pianos], Harmonium, Celesta, Percussion, Mellotron, Organ [Pipe Organ], Drum Machine, Effects, Recorded By, Mixed By, Synthesizer [Juno, SH2, Taurus, PS3100, 4Voice, Modular] – Nils Frahm
Marimba [Bass Marimba] – Sven Kacirek (tracks: 2, 4 to 8, 10)
Percussion – Tatu Rönkkö (tracks: 2, 3, 5)
Soprano Vocals [Shards] – Bethany Horak-Hallett, Héloïse Werner, Lucy Cronin
Technician [Piano Technician] – Carsten Schulz (2)
Tenor Vocals [Shards] – Kieran Brunt, Oliver Martin-Smith, Sam Oladeinde
Timpani, Gong [Gongs], Bass Drum, Percussion [Melodic Percussion] – Sytze Pruiksma (tracks: 5, 9)
Trumpet – Richard Koch (tracks: 5, 10)
Viola – Viktor Orri Árnason (tracks: 2, 3, 5)
Mastered By – Zino Mikorey

It’s hard for Nils Frahm to resist the pull of a good concept. For 2011’s Felt, the German pianist draped a heavy cloth over the strings of his instrument—a gesture of respect for his neighbors that yielded an alluringly tactile sound. The following year’s Screws, written and recorded with a broken thumb, comprised nine songs for nine fingers. And the year after that, to capture the grandeur of his live shows—neoclassical, post-techno, maximally minimalist affairs performed on multiple acoustic and electronic keyboard instruments, in the spread-eagled style of the progressive-rock keyboardists of yore—he collaged Spaces out of two years’ worth of thrumming, rippling concert recordings. But a recent collaboration with the German musician F.S. Blumm proved that he’s just as good, if not better, without a big conceptual framework to prop him up. Their album Tag Eins Tag Zwei is a wonderfully low-key set of improvisations. 
All Melody is Frahm’s first major work since 2015’s Solo, and it feels like his biggest statement yet. He has fleshed out his usual arsenal of keyboard instruments—piano, synthesizer, pipe organ, etc.—with strings, trumpet, tympani, gongs, even bass marimba. The whole thing was recorded in the Funkhaus, a 1950s-era recording complex in the former East Berlin where he spent two years painstakingly building his dream room, right down to a custom-built mixing desk. The album’s rich dynamics are a direct extension of that building’s pristine acoustics. He availed himself of the Funkhaus’ natural reverb chambers—concrete rooms into which sound is projected and re-recorded—and he fashioned his own jury-rigged version out of a dry well at a friend’s house on the Spanish island of Mallorca. There’s even a choir, London’s Shards, whose wordless voices open the album on “The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched,” a bold scene-setter whose melody moves like wind through reeds. The title alone suggests that Frahm is swinging for the fences. 
But All Melody never feels imposing or overwrought. Despite its ambitious scope and somber mood, it is infused with the same exploratory spirit that made Tag Eins Tag Zwei such a delight. True, it’s not a wildly varied record: The tempos are generally slow, the moods contemplative, the melancholy almost all-pervasive. But within that framework, he explores as much ground as he can, from grand, sweeping choral passages reminiscent of Arvo Pärt to understated piano études. “Human Range,” where a silvery trumpet melody tangles with a mossy ambient backing, is reminiscent of Bill Laswell’s extended remix of the Miles Davis catalog; the more electronic, rhythmically oriented cuts, particularly the twin centerpieces “All Melody” and “#2,” find common cause with the British producer Floating Points’ way of balancing programmed and improvised music. 
If there’s a theme here, it’s that holistic idea hinted at in the title: the ur-sound, the pedal tone of spiritual unity. In the liner notes, Frahm rhapsodizes about the morphological orchestra of his dreams: “My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string.” That sense of fluidity gives the record its shape-shifting identity. It’s often unclear what you’re listening to at any given moment; even songs that sound like solo piano turn out to have cello and bass marimba lurking somewhere within their folds. Turn it up loud enough, and you can get lost in details like the creaking of the hammers on Frahm’s piano, or the sound of birdsong, presumably recorded outside his riverside studio, along the banks of the Spree. 
The Funkhaus is a mazelike complex, and the way the record is structured often feels like a scale model of its sprawl. Across 12 songs and 74 minutes, All Melody functions as a single, cohesive piece of music, with recurring themes interwoven throughout. It’s easy to get lost in the album and then, hearing a familiar motif, come up short, as if turning a corner in a long hallway and wondering if you hadn’t passed the same spot just a moment ago. It’s a pleasantly disorienting sensation. And after traversing long, repetitive tracks like “Sunson,” “All Melody,” and “#2,” encountering a highlight like “Forever Changeless,” a short, melodic sketch for piano, feels like stumbling upon a hidden chamber illuminated by a stained-glass window. 
Yes, he can be tasteful to a fault, and some of his melodic instincts occasionally tip slightly too far toward drawing-room prettiness. But the gorgeous closing track, “Harm Hymn”—a kind of coda for the whole album, just a handful of chords played on a whisper-soft harmonium—shows that his strength as a musician isn’t in the complexity of his composition, but in the nuances he gets out of his instruments and onto the tape; it’s in the echo and in the air, and in the way that he plays the room itself. For once in his career, there is no grand concept—just the space of the Funkhaus itself, which proves to be more than enough.
Philip Sherburne / Pitchfork

Jon Hassell ‎– Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) (2018)

Style: Ambient, Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ndeya

1.   Dreaming
2.   Picnic
3.   Slipstream
4.   Al-Kongo Udu
5.   Pastorale Vassant
6.   Manga Scene
7.   Her First Rain
8.   Ndeya

Trumpet, Keyboards, Orchestrated By [Orchestration], Composed By [All Compositions] – Jon Hassell
Violin [Electric Violin], Electronics – Hugh Marsh
Violin, Sampler – Kheir-Eddine M'Kachiche (tracks: 8)
Bass [(Lightwave) Bass] – Christian Jacob (tracks: 3), Christoph Harbonnier (tracks: 3)
Bass, Drums, Electronics – John von Seggern
Bass, Electronics – Peter Freeman (2) (tracks: 2, 3, 7)
Drum Programming ["Kongo" Drum programming] – Ralph Cumbers (tracks: 2)
Electric Guitar, Sampler – Eivind Aarset (tracks: 8)
Electronics – Michel Redolfi (tracks: 3)
Guitar, Synth [OP-1 Synth], Electronics – Rick Cox
Management [Publishing] – Petra Gehrmann
Mastered By [Additional Mastering] – Arnaud Mercier, Valgeir Sigurðsson
Mastered By [Mastering] – Al Carlson
Research [Album Art Sources And Inspiration] – Mati Klarwein
Co-producer [Co-produced By] – Rick Cox
Coordinator [Production Coordinator] – Britton Powell
Executive-Producer – Matthew Jones (6)

In the late 70s, long before terms such as “world music” or “cultural appropriation” were in common usage, the trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell devised the term “Fourth World” to describe his music. It explored what he called “primitive futurism”, where shantytown squalor coexisted with hi-tech western studio technology, fusing Hassell’s early minimalist work with Terry Riley and La Monte Young with his studies of Indian, African and Indonesian music. 
Brian Eno was an early adopter of Hassell’s aesthetic and, before long, other champions of pan-cultural fusion – David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, Ry Cooder – were collaborating with Hassell and employing his methodology. As dozens more musicians started plundering exotic global sounds and placing them through electronic filters, Hassell was off exploring other worlds – adding his distinctive trumpet sound for artists as diverse as Björk, Tears for Fears, kd lang and 808 State; flirting with hip-hop and electro; creating “coffee-coloured” classical music with the Senegalese drummer Abdou Mboup; exploring ambient jazz with the likes of Naná Vasconcelos, Jacky Terrasson and Anouar Brahem. 
Astonishingly, Hassell is now 81 and making the most forward-looking and experimental music of his career. His new album, Listening to Pictures (out on 9 June), is his first in nine years. Instead of using a live band, like his last album for the ECM label, this is a much more studio-bound project, using mutilated samples and distorted layers of voicings, reminiscent of his 1980 Possible Musics LP, with Eno. 
Hassell’s trumpet still plays a key role, even if it is often buried deep in the mix. On Manga Scene, he sounds like Miles Davis playing over a clanking, sonically mutilated smooth jazz session. On Al Kongo Udu, it resembles a bamboo flute, blowing gently as manipulated samples of African drums ricochet around the mix. On Dreaming, Hassell plays through a harmoniser to create an eerie choir of horns over a riot of quivering percussion and throbbing synths. It seems just one spoon-fed breakbeat from turning into a rave anthem, and is one of the many moments here where Hassell’s electronic soundscapes recall the work of Oneohtrix Point Never, Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin. 
This is, apparently, Volume I in Hassell’s Pentimento series, an analogy with the artistic term for the layers of discarded drawings that exist underneath a finished painting. Hassell is into exploring the multiple layers that exist in his sound, what he calls “vertical listening” – and this is certainly dense, endlessly mutating music that rewards multiple listenings.
John Lewis / The Guardian

sexta-feira, 13 de julho de 2018

Marvin Gaye ‎– What's Going On (1971)

Style: Soul / Funk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Tamla

A1.   What's Going On
A2.   What's Happening Brother
A3.   Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)
A4.   Save The Children
A5.   God Is Love
A6.   Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
B1.   Right On
B2.   Wholy Holy
B3.   Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Piano – Marvin Gaye
Alto Saxophone – Angelo Carlisi
Baritone Saxophone – Tate Houston
Tenor Saxophone – George Benson
Trombone – Carl Raetz
Trumpet – John Trudell, Maurice Davis
Vibraphone – Jack Brokensha
Bass – Bob Babbit, James Jamerson
Bass – Max Janowsky
Congas – Earl DeRouen, Eddie Brown
Percussion – Jack Ashford
Drums – Chet Forest
Tambourine – Jack Ashford
Flute – Dayna Hartwick, William Perich
Guitar – Joe Messina, Robert White
Harp – Carole Crosby
Celesta – Johnny Griffith
Cello – Edward Korkigian, Italo Babini, Thaddeus Markiewicz
Bongos – Earl DeRouen, Eddie Brown
Soloist, Alto Saxophone – Eli Fountain
Soloist, Tenor Saxophone – William "Wild Bill" Moore
Soprano Saxophone – Larry Nozero
Viola – David Ireland, Edouard Kesner, Meyer Shapiro, Nathan Gordon
Violin – Alvin Score, Beatriz Budinszky, Felix Resnick, Gordon Staples, James Waring, Lillian Downs, Richard Margitza, Virginia Halfmann, Zinovi Bistritzky
Backing Vocals – Elgie Stover, Lem Barney, Mel Farr, Bobby Rodgers, The Andantes
Conductor, Arranged By – David Van DePitte
Producer – Marvin Gaye

Easily one of the greatest albums of all time, What’s Going On is nothing short of a masterpiece. Like Bob Marley’s Exodus, it mixes gritty social commentary and anguished dissatisfaction with expressions of religious devotion; indeed, the singer once stated that the album had been written by God, with Gaye merely the vehicle selected to deliver its messages. And like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, its non-standard musical arrangements, which heralded a new sound at the time, gives it a chilling edge that ultimately underscores its gravity, with subtle orchestral enhancements offset by percolating congas, expertly layered above James Jamerson’s bubbling bass. For a singer that had built his career on pop records written by others, What’s Going On was a very bold departure, and considering that Motown boss Berry Gordy was flatly against issuing it, Gaye’s determination in seeing the project to fruition is certainly something to be celebrated. 
Ten years ago, for the 30th anniversary reissue, Universal unearthed the album’s alternate early mix, done in Detroit, shortly before Marvin and Motown shifted camp to Los Angeles; this less-cluttered mix is highly instructive, allowing listeners to hear the disc from a new vantage point. The 30th set also had a live bonus set, taken from a 1972 performance; but this time around, the collected bonus tracks include original mono mixes of the album’s 45 RPM single releases, plus some unreleased outtakes from the LP, as well as an entire second CD of funk jams Marvin cut with Hamilton Bohannon’s band. Much of this material has never been released before. This time around, the Detroit mix of the album has been relegated to vinyl only (good news for those who prefer that format to compact disc), while the accompanying LP-sized booklet has brief essays by biographers David Ritz and Ben Edmonds, giving a bit of context to the proceedings. 
In any form, What’s Going On is an album that everyone should have in their collection; no matter how many times you play it, there is always something else to discover, from the post-Vietnam psychosis of What’s Happening Brother to the pusher’s ode of Flyin’ High; from the terror of Mercy Mercy Me to the hopefulness of Right On and the righteous indignation of Inner City Blues. If you’ve already got both mixes of What’s Going On, the funk jams make this release a welcome package; if you haven’t heard the album for a while, or never got your hands on the Detroit mix, this 40th anniversary edition is a must-have.
David Katz / BBC Review

Alice Coltrane Featuring Pharoah Sanders And Joe Henderson ‎– Ptah, The El Daoud (1970)

Style: Soul-Jazz, Space-Age
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Impulse!, ABC Records

A1.   Ptah, The El Daoud
A2.   Turiya & Ramakrishna
B1.   Blue Nile
B2.   Mantra

Credits: Bass – Ron Carter Drums – Ben Riley Piano, Harp – Alice Coltrane Tenor Saxophone, Alto Flute – Joe Henderson Tenor Saxophone, Alto Flute, Bells – Pharoah Sanders Producer – Ed Michel Engineer – W.L. Barneke

The word avant-garde is simply a term for the “leftovers” of music that don't fit neatly into any category. Given the breadth of experimental possibilities, it is rather meaningless by definition in conveying any prior sense of what to expect before actually hearing a new musical piece. Such is the case for ALICE COLTRANE and her masterpiece PTAH THE EL DAOUD (Ptah is an Egyptian God and El Daoud simply means The Beloved.) This sounds absolutely nothing like many of the other jazz artists lumped into the avant-garde such as Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra etc. Upon first listen it seems to me that Alice simply created something in the jazz world that is similar to what emerged in the rock world that later become known as post-rock, meaning rock instrumentation focused on ambiance and soundscapes rather than preordained musical compositions. ALICE COLTRANE does just that. It is clearly jazz by the sounds of the saxes and flutes, yet it's like the scarab beetle that graces this beautiful album cover. Alice's musical vision is the soft spiritually-infused fleshy part on the inside and the jazz instrumentation is the hard exoskeleton giving it a form. Just like post-rock, this post-jazz has additional instruments not usually heard in jazz. In this case the harp played with full virtuosity by Alice herself. And a super satisfying performance I may add. 
This album is just brilliant! It is a return to the modal jazz composition of the previous decade that was quickly being abandoned for a more fusion approach in the jazz world, yet it wasn't just being retrospective. It was also fresh and original taking jazz to new places. At times the piano reminds me more of soul or gospel adding a warmth and a gentleness to the ferociousness of the musical performance that feels like a battle between order and chaos and at times it truly does have a free-jazz feel especially when Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson are competing on the left and right channels with their saxophones. The free form performances of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Ben Riley show that it really is the sum of the parts that make this album come together. None of the individual instruments would sound right without the contrast. The strange thing about this album is that despite feeling like a mystical spiritual journey the music doesn't particularly evoke any feel towards the Ancient Egyptian imagery depicted on the cover art. Doesn't matter a bit though. I find this music satisfying from beginning to end and wishing more albums of the sort had been made like it. However, I guess that would diminish from its uniqueness.  5 stars.
SiLLy puPPy / Music Archives

Bobby Hutcherson Featuring Harold Land ‎– San Francisco (1971)

Style: Free Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blue Note

A1.   Goin' Down South
A2.   Prints Tie
A3.   Jazz
B1.   Ummh
B2.   Procession
B3.   A Night In Barcelona

Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussion – Bobby Hutcherson
Bass, Bass – John Williams
Drums – Mickey Roker
Piano, Electric Piano – Joe Sample
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Oboe – Harold Land
Producer – Duke Pearson
Engineer – David Brand

Bobby Hutcherson's late-'60s partnership with tenor saxophonist Harold Land always produced soulful results, but not until San Francisco did that translate into a literal flirtation with funk and rock. After watching several advanced post-bop sessions gather dust in the vaults, Hutcherson decided to experiment with his sound a bit, but San Francisco still doesn't wind up the commercial jazz-funk extravaganza that purists might fear. Instead, Hutcherson and Land stake out a warm and engaging middle ground between muscular funk and Coltrane-style modality; in other words, they have their cake and eat it too. Joined by pianist/keyboardist Joe Sample (also of the Jazz Crusaders), acoustic/electric bassist John Williams, and drummer Mickey Roker, Hutcherson and Land cook up a series of spacious, breezy grooves that sound unlike any other record in the vibist's discography (even his more commercial fusion sessions). The selections -- all group-member originals -- often skirt the edges of fusion, but rarely play it as expected; they might float some spare tradeoffs over a loping, heavy bass groove, throw in an oboe solo by Land, or -- as on the slowest piece -- keep time only with intermittently spaced piano chords. It's all done with enough imagination and harmonic sophistication to achieve the rare feat of holding appeal for traditional jazz and rare-groove fans alike. It's a shame Hutcherson didn't explore this direction more, because San Francisco is not only one of his best albums, but also one of his most appealing and accessible.
Steve Huey / AllMusic

quinta-feira, 12 de julho de 2018

Sly & The Family Stone ‎– There's A Riot Goin' On (1971)

Style: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Epic

A1.   Luv N' Haight
A2.   Just Like A Baby
A3.   Poet
A4.   Family Affair
A5.   Africa Talks To You "The Asphalt Jungle"
A6.   There's A Riot Goin' On
B1.   Brave & Strong
B2.   (You Caught Me) Smilin'
B3.   Time
B4.   Spaced Cowboy
B5.   Runnin' Away
B6.   Thank You For Talking To Me Africa

Written-By, Arranged By, Producer – Sly Stone, Sylvester Stewart

As the 1970s dawned, and Altamont, Vietnam and civil unrest signalled the disintegration of the hippy era, Sly & the Family Stone were in a similar state of disarray. Their riotous Rainbow Coalition of funk, soul and rock had captured the optimistic spirit of the psychedelic era. Now, though, leader Sly Stone spent countless unproductive hours in the recording studio, fuelled by a fearsome amount of illicit chemicals, recording mostly alone, with funk luminaries like Bobby Womack, Ike Turner and Billy Preston adding occasional instrumental assistance. 
Released in 1971, There’s a Riot Goin’ On replaced the Family Stone’s bright and bold pop with a sound that was blurred by Sly’s endless overdubbing, murky but potent, as troubled as the times themselves. The grooves were edgy, restless: opener Luv n’ Haight was a desperate call-and-response set to fiercely combative licks; Thank You for Talking to Me Africa rewrote their upbeat 1970 anthem Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) as a ghostly, enervated jam: still effortlessly funky, but unsettling rather than uplifting. The gonzo yodel-thon of Spaced Cowboy, meanwhile, sounds every bit as drugged-out and lunatic as the session which yielded it. 
Against this backdrop of paranoid and brilliant funk, Riot’s pop moments shone brightly, though this context also lent them a darker edge. (You Caught Me) Smilin’ was winningly vulnerable, a brief flash of joy; Runnin’ Away chuckled bitterly at Sly’s self-destructive tendencies (“making blues of night and day / ha ha, hee hee”). Family Affair, meanwhile, found a mush-mouthed Sly whispering tales of domestic tumult – warring brothers, anguished newlyweds – over drum-machine pulse and melting Fender Rhodes chords, while sister Rose Stone’s soulful vocal hook offered a precious note of optimism. 
The song’s blend of painful wisdom and enduring hope (Sly’s croak of “Blood’s thicker than mud”) delivered the group a #1 single, but the parent album’s hazy, disquieting funk left long-term fans puzzled. Years on, however, There’s a Riot Goin’ On is rightfully regarded as a masterpiece for its unique sound, for its bleak tone and wasted mood, summing up the unease and menace of its era as perfectly as their earlier hits had captured the positivity of the late-1960s.
Stevie Chick / BBC Reviews

Miles Davis ‎– In A Silent Way (1969)

Style: Post Bop, Fusion, Modal
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Columbia

A1.   Shhh / Peaceful
B1.   In A Silent Way
B2.   It's About That Time

Bass – Dave Holland
Drums – Tony Williams
Electric Piano – Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock
Guitar – John McLaughlin
Organ, Electric Piano – Josef Zawinul
Producer – Teo Macero
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trumpet – Miles Davis
Engineer – Russ Payne, Stan Tonkel

Recording in February 1969, Miles Davis seemed to pick up the vibe of what was going to go down that crazy summer. It was a tumultuous time as the sixties came to a close. First came the Manson Family, then the murder during the Stones' Altamont show overshadowing the na've utopia of Woodstock. With In a Silent Way Davis seemed to sum up the dying of the light as the war and violence took over from love and peace. Certainly his most somber record since Kind of Blue , it was a reflective record that would bridge the gap from one of the greatest quintets in jazz history to the most controversial era of Miles Davis' work.  
In a Silent Way is a foreboding and deeply meditative record that has an almost spiritual quality. Following on his first real plunge into jazz-rock fusion on Filles de Kilimanjaro , the quintet's last record, In a Silent Way was a real head twister. Following Filles' blues-rock-jazz ideology, Davis really pulled together the methods that he began with on the previous release. But the change was the low-lying, almost silent feel. Gone were the funky up-tempo tracks, replaced with two long tracks with sparse arrangements that relied more on atmosphere than any of Miles' earlier records.  
Holding onto Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter from the quintet, Miles added future fusion gods Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, as well as Dave Holland (filling Ron Carter's shoes on bass) and organist/pianist/composer Joe Zawinul. In a Silent Way tackles the tone palette of Kind of Blue , setting into an electric fusion. Opening with the subtle and quiet "Shhh/Peaceful," the record begins a soothing adventure, led by Zawinul's trippy drops of organ. Slowly the track picks up with Williams doing double time on the hi-hat throughout. But McLaughlin is the major soloist, and what would become his signature guitar chops softly intertwine throughout. Finally Miles and Wayne take the stage and fill the holes in with killer solos that rival some their best work from Miles Smiles and Nefertiti. But the B-side with "In a Silent Way/It's About that Time" opens with silence and Williams continuing where he left off—a continuing groove would be played to dreadful bore on On the Corner three years later. The track really shifts as the jam of "It's About that Time" takes off and builds into some classic Davis/Shorter playing that really lays out what is about to come on Bitches Brew. The tracks eases off again and goes back into "In a Silent Way."  
Without hearing this overlooked gem, many fans of jazz have missed out on one of the genre's most original and all-encompassing works. The record has recently gotten the full treatment with Columbia/ Legacy's Complete Sessions box set and it continues to prove how vital it is to the Davis catalogue. The record is an essential piece to understanding Miles and where jazz was heading. Its mix of rock and fusion point to Remembering Jack Johnson (rock) and Bitches Brew (fusion). Two important notes are the emergence of Joe Zawinul and the editing and production of Teo Macero who would both be focal points in the movement of Miles' music. Zawinul's presence on organ gives the record its otherworldly feel, but the groove and layout of the record are credited much to Macero's time at the knobs. His splicing and rearranging would become instrumental in the emergence of Miles' sound especially on Bitches Brew and On the Corner. Building and peaking the long tracks so that their flow was consistent and maintained the ideology of the piece.  
In a Silent Way is a one of kind record that mixed the late-'60s pop and underground movement into the jazz realm. On this record Miles began to hook into the late '60s sounds that flowed from the jam bands in San Francisco. No more is that more evident that in the otherworld-like organ of Zawinul. Starting with Filles the groove of Jimi Hendrix really started to take shape in the work that Miles began 1968. This is best shown on disc one of the Complete Sessions. The opener "Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)" has its foundation based on Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary." Through Macero's production and Miles utilizing the same musicians would bare similar but ever-evolving grooves with each release. They would never make a record like it again, an absolutely timeless work that proves that Miles Davis and crew were some of the most innovative thinkers in modern music.

The Band ‎– Music From Big Pink (1968)

Style: Folk Rock, Acoustic, Blues Rock, Rock & Roll
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Capitol Records

A1.   Tears Of Rage
A2.   To Kingdom Come
A3.   In A Station
A4.   Caledonia Mission
A5.   The Weight
B1.   We Can Talk
B2.   Long Black Veil
B3.   Chest Fever
B4.   Lonesome Suzie
B5.   This Wheel's On Fire
B6.   I Shall Be Released

Arranged By [Business Arrangements] – Albert Grossman
Engineer – Don Hahn, Rex Updegraft, Shelly Yakus, Tony May
Performer – Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Jaime Robbie Robertson
Producer – John Simon

One of the most eclectic rock works of all time, Music From Big Pink was the debut album for Toronto roots-rockers The Band. Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with this simply named outfit, you’re among the large number of popular music listeners living in complete ignorance. Oh the joy I get when someone asks me who I’m listening to and I say The Band only to be asked the question over and over again. 
Try combining the sounds of roots rock, Americana, country, folk, blues, and jazz, and THEN mix it with three-part harmonies and a badass organ, and you have the foundation for Music From Big Pink. In their ability to create such a musical assortment, The Band truly were musical pioneers. Levon Helm of Arkansas, Rick Danko of Simcoe, Richard Manuel of Stratford, Robbie Robertson of Toronto, and Garth Hudson of Windsor started out backing infamous showman Ronnie Hawkins before parting ways and testing out their luck as a main attraction. However, as Big Pink demonstrates, luck was never needed. 
The Band moved to West Saugerties, New York, where they purchased a small home in the Catskill Mountains which they called Big Pink (due to the house’s brightly colored exterior). It was here that the members of The Band, alongside good friend and frequent collaborator Bob Dylan, sat and wrote the songs that would make up their debut album. Among the most notable of these songs sits “The Weight”, a track that has been used countless number of times throughout popular culture and remains one of The Band’s greatest hits. Listed at #41 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “The Weight” possesses a certain southern-gospel aesthetic and perfectly combines the unique voices of Manuel, Danko, and Helm to create a passionately soulful vocal blend. 
Their ability to showcase each individual member’s talent is perhaps what made the album so successful; Levon’s tasteful drum fills and farm-boy vocals, Robbie’s raunchy guitar licks, Rick’s hoppy bass-lines and eccentric vocals, Garths classically tasteful musicianship, and Richard’s soulful presence and piano abilities all take their turn at the helm (pun intended) of Music From Big Pink. And these talents are seldom overlooked; Rolling Stone Magazine lists the album at #34 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, and headlining acts such as Pink Floyd, My Morning Jacket, and Wilco have all listed the album as a major influence. 
Music From Big Pink also came at a time when the British were musically kicking North America’s ass. The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles; the British Invasion was in full effect and showed no signs of slowing down. Thankfully The Band showed up and proved to the world that Canadian music was still significant and influential on its own. In fact, Big Pink was so influential that it was a major factor in Eric Clapton’s decision to quit his then-successful rock trio Cream (he’s even known to admit that he always dreamed of being a member of The Band). If that doesn’t convince you of the importance of this album then I don’t know what will. 
I could go on for hours about each tiny little detail of every single song on the album — how “Chest Fever” has some of the coolest drum fills I’ve ever heard, how the lyrics to “Long Black Veil” tell one of the greatest, most ironic stories in North American folklore, or how Richard Manuel’s falsetto whimpering in “I Shall Be Released” stills puts a lump in my throat to this day — but really, what’s the point? The most incredibly poetic assortment of words wouldn’t do this album an iota of justice. You just have to sit back, take a load off, and get lost in the music.
Adam Lalama / Noisey Vice

quarta-feira, 11 de julho de 2018

Dr. John, The Night Tripper ‎– Gris-Gris (1968)

Style: Soul-Jazz, Fusion, Bayou Funk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ATCO Records

A1.   Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
A2.   Danse Kalinda Ba Doom
A3.   Mama Roux
A4.   Danse Fambeaux
B1.   Croker Courtbullion
B2.   Jump Sturdy
B3.   I Walk On Guilded Splinters

Bass – Senator Bob West, Dr. Battiste
Congas – Dido
Drums – Dr. Boudreaux
Flute – Dr. Bolden
Guitar [Bottleneck] – Dr. Mann
Mandolin – Dr. McLean
Percussion – Dr. Ditmus
Saxophone – Govenor Plas Johnson
Remastered By – Isao Kikuchi

Long careers generally mean the raw and rough edges of the early days are smoothed out, and that audiences forget just how edgy and unusual the artist’s music actually was. 
So it is with Dr John whose career reaches way back to playing piano in bars as teenager in New Orleans during the 50s alongside legendary figures such as Professor Longhair and Huey Smith. 
The Dr -- Malcolm “Mac” Rebennack, born in 1940 -- grew up immersed in the musical culture of his birthplace New Orleans, became a session player, learned voodoo culture from the likes of local mystics such as Prince LaLa, moved to LA where he played on numerous Phil Spector, Sonny and Cher, and Sam Cooke sessions, and over time honed his live act to emerge as Dr John the Night Tripper swathed in colourful cloaks, charms, smoke and mystery. 
He conjured up the spirit of the bayou and New Orleans’ black Indian/voodoo culture and old school r’n’b. And being tall, bearded and carrying carved walking sticks (like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) he cut a strange figure on the margins of rock. 
He had been bedevilled by drug problems which in the late 60s only added to his allure, and had already established his song writing credentials writing hits for Joe Tex and Art Neville when he launched his career with the album Zu Zu Man in ‘65. 
But it was the follow-up Gris Gris in ‘68 which confirmed his reputation as a strange one coming from a very different corner. 
Gris Gris was a dark album which connected back to old Creole chants and mojo magic, but also caught the mood of the psychedelic period: it was the ideal album to smoke a joint to and drift away into some personal bayou filled with spook spirits, funk and menacing percussion, bird calls and brooding mystery. 
And although it sounded like it was recorded in shack on the outskirts of New Orleans it was actually pulled together in LA in late ‘67. 
The album is full of incantations and repeated chants, trippy improvisations (the six minute Croker Courtbullion is a back-to-Africa journey) but also has smatterings of r’n’b pop (Jump Study sounds like a whacked-out white-label single ). Surprisingly it also contained something approaching a “hit” in the seven minutes-plus Gilded Splinters which became something of a signature tune for Dr John. 
In later years was covered by numerous artists including Humble Pie, the Allman Brothers, Marsha Hunt and, most surprisingly, Paul Weller. It has also been sampled by Beck and PM Dawn. 
With odd song titles and some Franglaise scattered throughout, plus Dr John inventing his own version of language (“guilded splendours” became “guilded splinters”), the album caught the imagination of all who heard it, even if it went largely misunderstood as just another stoner album in the hippie era. 
Grounded in the church and Afro-Cajun New Orleans culture, it bewildered and much as it beguiled. 
Within a few years however Dr John had almost become almost mainstream, the spook circus performances were pushed away and by the 80s he was doing covers albums, saluting Duke Ellington in his own way, and far removed from the spirit of Gris Gris. 
He never really returned to this style -- although Weller and others hauled him back a bit for the ’98 album Anutha Zone which reconnected him with that period. 
These days Dr John can reflect on a career of funky hits (Right Place Wrong Time, Such A Night), stellar studio work with everyone from Van Morrison to the Stones, television and film spots (he was in The Last Waltz) and a dedication to his hometown destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. 
He has won awards, acclaim and respect for his singular body of work -- but nothing is quite as singular as Gris Gris. 
In The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion published in 2000 Gris Gris was the Dr John album it singled out for his “grafting voodoo’s dark, esoteric heart to a hypnotic groove with funky blues, sparse, repetitive minor chord melodies, funereal keyboard and Afro-Cuban syncopation shot through with feral noises, gibberish and metaphysical threats and boasts, creating an unwholesome witchy brew of sorcery and chicanery that fascinates as much as it disturbs”.
Graham Reid / elsewhere

terça-feira, 10 de julho de 2018

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band ‎– Trout Mask Replica (1969)

Style: Avantgarde, Electric Blues, Psychedelic Rock, Experimental
Format: CDVinylCass.
Label: Straight

01.   Frownland
02.   The Dust Blows Forward 'N The Dust Blows Back
03.   Dachau Blues
04.   Ella Guru
05.   Hair Pie: Bake 1
06.   Moonlight On Vermont
07.   Pachuco Cadaver
08.   Bills Corpse
09.   Sweet Sweet Bulbs
10.   Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish
11.   China Pig
12.   My Human Gets Me Blues
13.   Dali's Car
14.   Hair Pie: Bake 2
15.   Pena
16.   Well
17.   When Big Joan Sets Up
18.   Fallin' Ditch
19.   Sugar 'N Spikes
20.   Ant Man Bee
21.   Orange Claw Hammer
22.   Wild Life
23.   She's Too Much For My Mirror
24.   Hobo Chang Ba
25.   The Blimp (Mousetrapreplica)
26.   Steal Softly Thru Snow
27.   Old Fart At Play
28.   Veteran's Day Poppy

Bass Clarinet, Vocals, Illustration [On Insert Sheet] – The Mascara Snake
Bass Guitar, Narrator – Rockette Morton
Drums [Uncredited], Translated By [Music Score, Uncredited] – John French
Slide Guitar [Glass Finger Guitar], Flute – Zoot Horn Rollo
Slide Guitar [Steel Appendage Guitar] – Antennae Jimmy Semens
Songwriter – Captain Beefheart
Vocals, Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone [Saxophones Played Simultaneously] – Captain Beefheart
Engineer, Technician [Electronic Modification Of Equipment] – Dick Kunc
Producer – Frank Zappa

Though it’s hard to tell by listening, the first two albums by Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) found him creatively frustrated. Safe as Milk from 1967 and Strictly Personal from the following year were inventive blues-rock records, but Beefheart had bigger ambitions. At that point, his group the Magic Band were a mostly democratic collective, and since Beefheart had less musical expertise than his colleagues, his odder suggestions were vetoed as too unconventional. “That really pissed him off,” said bassist Gary Marker. “[Because] he had all these ideas in his head and he had no way of getting them across to people.” 
To gain the control he needed to express his vision, Beefheart morphed the Magic Band into a kind of musical cult. In mid-1968, he replaced some members of the group with younger, more impressionable players (guitarist Bill Harkleroad and bassist Mark Boston were each just 19), gave everyone a nickname to match his own, and holed up with them in a house on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The sessions in the house have since become a crucial part of rock legend, the subject of contradictory stories and much myth-making. By many accounts, Beefheart imposed weird lifestyle rules and played mind games that bordered on brainwashing. Some claim the musicians couldn’t leave the premises save for a weekly grocery trip, and drummer John “Drumbo” French said he spent one month eating only a cup of soybeans every day. 
Beefheart put a piano in the house—despite not knowing how to play it—and banged out ideas, which French transcribed and assembled into tunes. The resulting pieces were more like puzzles than songs, giving different instruments conflicting time signatures and varying part lengths that had to somehow meet at specific points. French compared it to building a solid wall with bricks of unequal size. This unorthodox complexity forced the Magic Band to rehearse 12 hours or more a day, usually without Beefheart. Often they would sleep right where they had just practiced, and immediately continue upon waking. 
After six months of this bunkered mania, the Magic Band entered a studio with Beefheart’s friend Frank Zappa, who “produced” them by staying out of the way. Riding the adrenaline of their intense woodshedding, the group recorded 20 songs in less than six hours. Beefheart added vocals separately, syncing uncannily with the music despite rarely having rehearsed with the band and eschewing headphones during takes. In less than a week, after adding two tracks from an earlier session and a few more made at the group’s house, Trout Mask Replica was born. As Third Man’s new reissue makes clear, this 28-song double album might be the strangest record in major-label rock history. Beefheart made more accessible music before and after, but his most difficult work is still his most famous, defining his musical legacy and the sound of the Magic Band for going on five decades. 
Its enduring place in the canon is due in part to the allure of Trout Mask Replica’s singular logic. Like life in a cult, the music seems crazy to an outside observer but makes perfect sense once you’re inside. In a 1993 BBC documentary, “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening said it took him just seven listens to go from hating the album to deciding it was the greatest of all time. Few records lend themselves to such a transformation, where they eventually click into place while still sounding so thrillingly wrong. The rules that Trout Mask Replica shattered haven’t been reassembled in quite this way by anyone since. After all, capturing its sound would mean somehow retracing the steps from Beefheart’s enigmatic brain to French’s devout hands to the Magic Band’s inhuman toil. 
The thrill of Trout Mask Replica also lies in the boggling assemblage of stylistic and thematic strands. There are shards of rock and blues in the band’s deconstructed grooves; free jazz in Beefheart’s primitive, Ornette Coleman-inspired saxophone playing; literary surrealism in his obscure yet oddly resonant lyrics; outsider folk in his growled a capella songs; and postmodern collage in the album’s diverse sound sources, which include field recordings, spoken skits, studio banter, and even vocals recorded over the phone. Though the songs seem to reject convention, there are references to musical history scattered throughout Trout Mask Replica, from snippets of melody borrowed from traditional tunes to lyrical quotes like Beefheart’s chant of “Come out to show them” in “Moonlight in Vermont,” taken from Steve Reich’s tape experiment from two years earlier. Though Beefheart’s lyrics were mostly oblique conundrums, he could also be bluntly topical, singing boldly about the Holocaust and the Vietnam War. 
And though Beefheart could be pathologically controlling with his bandmates, he was surprisingly open to chance and accident throughout Trout Mask Replica. He left in the sounds of the tape player pausing in his acapella songs, inserted recordings of himself wandering the weeds into others, included mistakes and under-breath commentary in pre-song skits, and created one spontaneous track, “The Blimp,” by having guitarist Jeff “Antennae Jimmy Semens” Cotton call Zappa and read him a poem, which Zappa recorded while his own band, the Mothers of Invention, played in the background. 
Perhaps most surprising is how catchy Trout Mask Replica’s jagged songs turn out to be. Some even have verses and choruses, albeit filtered through the band’s sonic contradictions and Beefheart’s skewed timing. The rushing climaxes of “Ella Guru,” the building swing of “Pachuco Cadaver,” and the swaying blues of “She’s Too Much for My Mirror” are all earworm inducers, as their multiple sonic elements coagulate into melody, like filaments spastically aligned by a magnet. 
Over five decades, Trout Mask Replica has proven incredibly durable, still sounding as bracing and radical as any rock music since. That’s even clearer in this remaster, sourced not from the decayed original masters but from less-worn backups. But was the music worth what Beefheart put the Magic Band through? French and Harkleroad have both said that though they wouldn’t want to endure it all again, they were thrilled to have created such a landmark. They certainly deserve more credit than they got from Beefheart, who often claimed to be the sole songwriter (he even left French off the original album credits completely, apparently as punishment for leaving the band before it was released). But luckily each member’s vital contribution is loud and clear in every note, beat, and weird and wonderful turn. Captain Beefheart might have led this cult, but Trout Mask Replica is the work of a collective—a serendipitous line of charged neurons that wired together to make something truly magical.
Marc Masters / Pitchfork