Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Was (Not Was) ‎– Was (Not Was) (1981)

Genre: Electronic, Rock, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Fontana, ZE Records, Island Records

1.   Out Come The Freaks
2.   Where Did Your Heart Go?
3.   Tell Me That I'm Dreaming
4.   Oh, Mr Friction
5.   Carry Me Back To Old Morocco
6.   It's An Attack!
7.   The Sky's Ablaze
8.   Go... Now!

Alto Saxophone – David Was
Bass – Don Was, Jervonny Collier, Lamont Johnson
Drums – Franklin K. Funklyn McCullers, Jerry Jones
Guitar – Bruce Nazarian, Ricardo Rouse, Wayne Kramer
Keyboards – Don Was, Luis Resto, Mark Johnson, Raymond Johnson
Percussion – Carl "Butch" Small, Kevin Tschirhart, Larry Fratangelo
Piano – David Was, Irwin Krinsky
Saxophone – Armand Angeloni, David McMurray
Trumpet – Marcus Belgrave
Vocals – David Was, Don Was, Harry Bowens, Sweet Pea Atkinso
Backing Vocals – Carol Hall, Caroline Crawford, Kathy Kosins, Michelle Goulet, Sheila Horne
Written-By – David Was, Don Was, Douglas Pieger, Ron Banks
Producer – David Was, Don Was, Jack Tann

At the beginning of the '80s, David and Don Was weren't gathering bedfellows as strange as Ozzy Osborne and Mel Tormé -- as they would a few years later, seemingly inspired by the P-Funk All Stars as much as Battle of the Network Stars -- but the Oak Park, MI, natives were nonetheless generating collaborations as unlikely and successful as Brian Eno before them. (Partial roll call: MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Mingus associate Marcus Belgrave, and future Eminem accomplice Luis Resto, along with regular vocalists Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens.) In fact, prior to crossing over into a realm of silliness not unfamiliar to Weird Al, the Was brothers and company made some of the baddest, strangest disco-funk imaginable. Key versions of two such cuts appeared on the original version of the first Was (Not Was) album, referred to as both Was (Not Was) and Out Come the Freaks. "Tell Me That I'm Dreaming" is big-band disco, blistering funk, and a spaghetti Western score at once, with call-and-response vocals that are as nonsensical as they are deeply biting. An address from then-President Ronald Reagan is sampled during the breakdown: "Can we who man the ship of state deny that it is somewhat out of control?" The "me" decade is uniquely summed up by vocalist Harry Bowens, who steps in to proclaim, "The man likes milk, now he owns a million cows." The other monster is "Out Come the Freaks," which carries another athletic groove and ridiculous, shared vocals between a host of people. Time hasn't been as kind to the remainder of the album, but the material remains enjoyable in a "throw it on the wall, see if it sticks" kind of way, dishing out passable funk and throwing in an exceptional radioplay throwback for the hell of it. 
Andy Kellman / AllMusic

The Comet Is Coming ‎– Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery (2019)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Impulse!

1.   Because The End Is Really The Beginning
2.   Birth Of Creation
3.   Summon The Fire
4.   Blood Of The Past
5.   Super Zodiac
6.   Astral Flying
7.   Timewave Zero
8.   Unity
9.   The Universe Wakes Up

Drums, Synthesizer, Sampler – Betamax
Synthesizers, Sampler , Vocoder – Danalogue
Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – King Shabaka
Violin – Granny
Vocals – Kate Tempest
Written-By – Betamax, Danalogue, Kate Tempest, King Shabaka

Shabaka Hutchings is the reigning king of British jazz. The bandleader of the Mercury-nominated Sons of Kemet, the curator of the scene’s defining compilation We Out Here, and an icon for much of the new generation, he’s been a driving force behind the UK jazz explosion the media has been banging on about for the last year. Yet listen to his latest project – as one of third of the cosmic-minded The Comet is Coming – and you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was hardly jazz at all. 
Much has been made of how the new wave of British jazz incorporates elements of grime, dubstep and British bass music in all its forms. Yet to date, there’s never been a clearer example of that tendency than Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. Across nine tracks and forty-five minutes, Hutchings – or King Shabaka as the album’s liner notes refer to him – alongside Keyboard player Danalogue (Dan Leavers) and drummer Betamax (Max Hallett) take us on a tour of their boundaryless world, where Sun Ra, Slimzee, and 808 State sit side by side as key influences. 
Take lead single ‘Summon the Fire’ for example, a rowdy 160bpm cut that blends pounding drumlines with appropriately spacey synths. Hutchings’ saxophone carries the melody, squawking through various effects until it reaches a triumphant hook that wouldn’t sound amiss on a Prodigy record. So boisterous is the track’s bridge that at times it threatens to morph into the kind of happy hardcore revivalism that’s dominating the UK’s clubs. If this is jazz, it’s jazz for football hooligans, and it is utterly glorious. 
That theme continues on ‘Super Zodiac’ which after a relatively sedate introduction launches into a euphoric burst of shimmering keys and propulsive drums. Blasts of Hutchings saxophone compete for space in the mix, building to an overwhelming peak that makes you wonder how on earth only three people can make this much noise. 
Like the dance music pioneers whose influence runs through the album, The Comet Is Coming know that the secret of success is all about tension and relief. While Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery is at its best when battering the listener with the combined histories of cosmic jazz and British rave, its quieter moments are just as key to the album’s strength. Opening track ‘Because The End is Really The Beginning’ is a masterclass in mood-setting. Totally overdramatic with lumbering cinematic horns and ominous drum fills, it sounds like being dropped into the futuristic wasteland in which this album makes it home. It makes a fitting tribute to the influence that the group themselves admit Blade Runner has had on them. 
Both dance music and cosmic jazz have a propensity for lengthy tracks, prioritising space for the listener to get lost in over radio-play. But most of the songs on Trust… are kept short, often wrapping things up around the five-minute mark. The exception is the Kate Tempest-featuring ‘Blood of The Past’, an eight-minute epic at the core of the record. The only track to feature vocals, ‘Blood of The Past’ takes the Prodigy influence of ‘Summon the Fire’ and warps it into an industrial, head-banging anthem with Tempest informing the listener “it is too late for dreaming” and warning us of the error of our ways. 
If the group’s dystopian tendencies get the better of them on ‘Blood of The Past’, all is forgotten by the time they reach ‘Astral Flying’, ‘Timewave Zero’, and ‘Unity’, a trio of songs that bring The Comet Is Coming back to greener, jazzier pastures. Afrobeat drums carry ‘Timewave Zero’, saxophone and keys gliding harmoniously over the top with just a hint of melancholy underpinning the whole thing, while ‘Unity’ recalls the gentle approach of London jazz peers KOKOROKO, with sublime horns and hints of the city’s hustle running through the track. 
The Comet Is Coming have been pushing jazz beyond its limits since their inception. However, on Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, the group seem to have finally broken through the atmosphere and are now soaring in uncharted territory. There’s no denying the importance of Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra as influences on the album but rather than being weighed down by those legacies, The Comet Is Coming have turned them into fuel, accelerating their sound, and with it, the sound of jazz today. Hutchings’ playing on this record is as distinctive as anything John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins put to wax and Leavers’, and Hallett’s instrumentation is unmistakably contemporary. It’s not hard to imagine fans of instrumental grime or darker jungle finding and loving this record with no knowledge of jazz at all. Yet as much as it’s bound to piss off bebop purists and avant-garde experimentalists alike, few can deny that Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery is a jazz record. To paraphrase a notable space explorer, this is jazz, Jim, but not as we know it. 
Mike Vinti / The Quietus

Virginia Astley ‎– Had I The Heavens (1996)

Style: Acoustic, Neo-Classical, Ethereal
Format: CD
Label: Rosebud Music, Happy Valley Records

01.   It's Over Now
02.   Over The Edge Of The World
03.   Nothing Is As It Seems
04.   Broken
05.   Where I Belong (A Thousand Nights)
06.   I Can't Say Goodbye
07.   Had I The Heavens
08.   Another Road
09.   How Can I Do This To You
10.   I Know A Tune We Could Sing
11.   A Long Long Year

Produced by Virginia Astley and Graham Henderson

Virginia Astley ‎– All Shall Be Well (1992)

Style: Acoustic, Ethereal
Format: CD
Label: Happy Valley Records, Rosebud Music

01.   My Smallest Friend
02.   All Shall Be Well
03.   You Take Me Away
04.   I Live For The Day
05.   Love's Eloquence
06.   Although I Know
07.   Martin
08.   Blue Sky, White Sky
09.   How I Miss You
10.   My Smallest Friend (Instrumental)

Violin– Andrew Roberts
Cello – Nicholas Roberts
Guitar – Anthony Coote
Songwriter, Oboe, Vocals – Kate St. John
Backing Vocals – Florence Astley
Strings – Andrew Roberts, Clare Fimnimore, Nicholas Roberts, Robert Salter
Arranged By – Ted Astley
Songwriter, Producer – Virginia Astley

Virginia Astley ‎– Tender (1985)

Style: Ethereal, Art Rock, Minimal, Abstract
Format: 12"
Label: Elektra

A1.   Tender
B1.   Mindless Days
B2.   Tender (Instrumental)
B3.   A Long Time Ago

Cello, Backing Vocals – Anne Stephenson
Viola – Jon Astley, Ted Astley
Violin – Jocelyn Pook
Written-By – Virginia Astley

Virginia Astley ‎– Promise Nothing (1983)

Style: Minimal, Ambient, Experimental, Ethereal
Format: Vinyl
Label: Why Fi, Sire; Columbia, Les Disques Du Crépuscule

A1.   We Will Meet Them Again
A2.   Arctic Death
A3.   Angel Crying
A4.   Sanctus
B1.   Love's A Lonely Place To Be
B2.   Soaring
B3.   Futility
B4.   A Summer Long Since Passed
B5.   It's Too Hot To Sleep

Producer – Jon Astley, Phil Chapman, Russell Webb