Thursday, 7 May 2020

Ramsey Lewis ‎– Mother Nature's Son (1968)

Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Chess, Deutsche Grammophon, Cadet, Gemma

A1.   Mother Nature's Son
A2.   Rocky Raccoon
A3.   Julia
A4.   Back In The USSR
A5.   Dear Prudence
B1.   Cry Baby Cry
B2.   Good Night
B3.   Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
B4.   Sexy Sadie
B5.   Black Bird

Arranged By , Orchestra Conductor, Synthesizer, Producer – Charles Stepney

Ramsey Lewis didn’t want to record a Beatles cover album. It was sometime in late 1968, just after the Beatles released their sprawling, self-titled masterpiece commonly known as The White Album, and Charles Stepney—who would soon produce albums for Earth, Wind & Fire—suggested Lewis cover the album. As Lewis told Mojo in 2012, “I wasn’t a Beatles fan. I’d recorded ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ ‘Day Tripper’ and ‘And I Love Her’ before, but I didn’t really get them. But my producer Charles Stepney told me to think about doing a Beatles covers album. I didn’t think that they had enough songs to do an entire album but he gave me a copy of The White Album and told me to listen. I did, but couldn’t see how I could do anything with it. He was like, ‘You didn’t really listen.’ So he arranged a few songs for me and then it was, ‘I get it now.’” 
The resulting album, Mother Nature’s Son, shows just how much Lewis got it. Of course, it’s an old truism of songwriting that a great song will work no matter how you play it, but Lewis and Stepney produced something as timeless as the original—and much like George Benson and Booker T. and the M.G.’s, he did it merely one month after the original came out. 
Mother Nature’s Son starts on the title track with some far-out zaps from a Moog synthesizer—an as-yet-unexplored instrument for the most part, and one the Beatles themselves would soon employ—before bursting into Lewis’s distinctive blend of jazz with the soaring orchestral accompaniment emblematic of the Chicago Sound. In fact, the Moog is used expertly throughout, mostly to create texture. But, on “Cry Baby Cry,” it takes the melody while making it seem that a UFO is about to land. 
The aspect of Mother Nature’s Son that really commands attention, however, is the funk. Lewis and Stepney have absolutely no mercy on these songs. The take on “Rocky Raccoon” makes Paul McCartney’s silly little Western into the sonic embodiment of cool with a Rhodes tone that is smoother than sculpted marble. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence” simmer with understated grooves, while “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” retains the raucous, manic energy of the original but pairs it with a rhythm track that prefigures hip-hop. 
Ultimately, Mother Nature’s Son succeeds in the same way that Benson’s The Other Side of Abbey Road and Booker T. and the M.G.’s McLemore Avenue succeed—it uses the Beatles as a jumping off point to make a statement that is far bigger than a simple cover, and it retains the indelible imprint of the artist who made it. You might get lost in this one for a while.
Travis Atria / Wax Poetics

AbztraQt Sir Q - Yarnati Machine (2017)

Style: Art Rock, Experimental, Avant-Pop
Format: CD, FLAC
Label: NAU

01.   The lake in the middle of the lak
02.   Soleil d'artifice
03.   Small practicalities
04.   Flit to and fro
05.   Yarnati machine
06.   Wild trees
07.   Last kane
08.   Queen eats male
09.   Kowtow
10.   Awake
11.   Gamin
12.   Mizzle to drible

Composed By, Written By – AbztraQt Sir Q
Producer – Hugo Correia

Eis os AbztraQt Sir Q, músicos com uma liberdade criativa a que se deixam subjugar. De lírica concreta, polilinguismo e música do mundo em sentido lato, contracultura que desobedece às leis da apatia. Em cada som um acto de nutrimento. O caos organiza-se antes de se mostrar: ritmo, métrica, timbre em permanente associação. Bateria, baixo, guitarra, voz e brinquedos, porque a música também deve ser lúdica. A ousadia do vigor que agita. Rock’n’roll, enquanto fusão afro-europeia em território índio. Orientalismo, recuos nórdicos, música de intervenção de atitude disforme. Fazer o que apetece, mas que deve ser feito. O complexo talvez não possa ser tratado de maneira simples, a estrutura convencional pertencerá à ordem, quebrando-se quando a isso as mentes absorventes se impelem. 
Formaram-se em meados de 2005 e na Primavera do ano seguinte lançaram o EP/Demo “Xing Palace Place” que disponibilizaram para download gratuito na sua página do Myspace.  Em 2007 fizeram uma digressão pelo Reino Unido e gravaram o seu primeiro ábum. “Qorn Pop Garden”, editado em Novembro de 2008 pela Meifumado Fonogramas. O álbum foi produzido por Zé Nando Pimenta e contou com a participação de João Peste (Pop Dell’ Arte) no tema “Sorry O”. Em Maio de 2008 integraram a comitiva portuguesa na Bienal dos Jovens Criadores da Europa e do Mediterrâneo que se realizou em Bari, Itália. 
Em 2009 gravaram o segundo álbum, “Extimolotion”, novamente com Zé Nando Pimenta. “Extimolotion” foi editado pela Meifumado em Maio de 2010. Nesse mesmo mês foi também editada em Hong Kong e Macau (e posteriormente em Portugal) a compilação T(H)REE, um projecto que reúne colaborações entre artistas de Portugal, Hong Kong e Macau. Os AbztraQt Sir Q contribuíram com o tema “HonQon” em parceria com Joey Chu (HK). 
Em 2012 editaram o EP “Warmony”, o primeiro registo com a nova vocalista Dichma Rahma. À semelhança dos dois álbuns anteriores, “Warmony” foi considerado um dos 10 melhores discos portugueses do ano pelo jornal Expresso. Em 2017 os AbztraQt Sir Q editam o seu terceiro álbum, “Yarnati Machine”, produzido por Hugo Correia (Fadomorse, O Lendário Homem do Trigo), com 12 temas compostos ao longo de 3 anos. Esta edição tem o selo NAU – criado por Bernardo Devlin – e contou com o apoio da Fundação GDA no âmbito do concurso para Edição Fonográfica de Intérprete.
Glam Magazine

Pet Shop Boys ‎– Behaviour (1990)

Genre: Electronic, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: EMI, Parlophone

01.   Being Boring
02.   This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave
03.   To Face The Truth
04.   How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?
05.   Only The Wind
06.   My October Symphony
07.   So Hard
08.   Nervously
09.   The End Of The World
10.   Jealousy

Programmed By – Dominic Clarke
Written-By – Tennant/Lowe
Producer – Harold Faltermeyer, Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys arrived in the second half of the ’80s to out-gay essentially everybody. Combining Oscar Wilde-ian wit, compositional and lyrical sophistication that harkened back to Cole Porter and Noël Coward, sartorial style that split the difference between uptown chic (singer Neil Tennant) and downtown rough trade (keyboardist Chris Lowe), and a command of ’80s club music that soon proved itself far more comprehensive than most of their contemporaries, this North England-raised/London-based synthpop duo aestheticized gay life long before Tennant came out in 1994. Every LGBT person knew exactly what the pair meant in the chorus of “It’s A Sin,” arguably the angriest and certainly most overtly anti-Catholic chorus ever to top the UK pop chart and reach the U.S. Top 10: 
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin 
But after becoming one of the most internationally prominent acts of the ’80s with hits like their UK/U.S. #1 “West End Girls,” Tennant and Lowe entered the ’90s knowing their “imperial phase” of uninterrupted success was over: Setting “Ché Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat,” their quintessential manifesto “Left to My Own Devices” stalled at #84 on Billboard’s pop chart in late ’88; their ’89 collaboration with Liza Minnelli, Results, pretty much flopped in North America beyond gay dancefloors, and the ’90 comeback they helped helm for Dusty Springfield, Reputation, didn’t even get a U.S. release—despite all of them doing quite well in the UK. 
Following these alternately sunny and frosty records, they released their decidedly autumnal fourth album Behaviour in the fall of 1990. Like the Cure’s Disintegration, Depeche Mode’s Violator, and George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice, it would transition their creators into the new decade by both refining and breaking from the past. The time was right, for the duo and indeed much of its following were now in mourning. Singer/lyricist Tennant’s longtime best friend had recently died of AIDS. So had Robert Mapplethorpe, who shot some of their Please-period publicity photos, and Keith Haring, who similarly intersected fine art and the club scene. Reported U.S. AIDS cases were well over 100,000, with millions on the way globally, and despite the earliest AIDS drugs like AZT, which in those days often made people sicker, an HIV-positive test result was still pretty much a death sentence. Created in resistance to a mainstream that treated LGBTs as subhuman, the queer culture of defiance and liberation that shaped ’70s disco and much of ’80s pop—particularly PSB’s hybrid of both—was literally dying. 
Unfolding like an elegy for much of what had gone before, Behaviour shifted the Boys from sly commentators to reserved-but-pained participants, with its understated but devastating lead track, “Being Boring.” The first verse presents the singer looking through keepsakes, as one does after losing a loved one. He finds a party invite paraphrasing Zelda Fitzgerald’s “Eulogy on the Flapper,” specifically the line “She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.” Boredom was a prickly subject for the pair: Their early deadpan videos and TV appearances were routinely dismissed by clueless critics as generating it. 
Set in the ’70s, the next verse depicts the singer leaving his hometown, a mandatory rite of LGBT passage. He softly declares, “I’d bolted through a closing door,” an image evoking both the end of his closeted adolescence and the beginning of fully realized adulthood. By the third verse, which is set in the ’90s, the singer is self-actualized, but reflective: “All the people I was kissing/Some are here, and some are missing.” That simple rhyme still reduces gay men who lived through this era to tears, for AIDS had sorted our intimates into these two categories—those who died young, and those who might soon follow suit, including ourselves. If you hadn’t seen your gay neighbors and friends and former sexual partners around town, chances were they were dead, had gone home to die, or were nursing the dying just like you. “But I thought in spite of dreams,” the survivor sings of his fallen pal, “you’d be sitting somewhere here with me.” 
Fashion photographer Bruce Weber shot the song’s lush B&W video, which features models enacting a fantasy version of the parties Tennant attended in the ’70s. The tension between the freedom of Weber’s imagery and the sadness of the third verse makes the eulogy even more devastating, but some fleeting nudity meant that MTV in America had an excuse not to show it. Still, “Being Boring”—ostensibly a dance track, but one featuring fluttering rhythms, a Larry Heard-style deep house bassline that appears only as the album version fades out, a subtle upward chorus modulation that adds sweetness to the sorrow, and a whirring plastic tube conjuring spectral cries—eventually earned its rightful acclaim. A fan site solely devoted to it dwarfs the official web presence of many bands, and on its 20th anniversary, a Guardian critic proclaimed it the greatest single of all time. Even Axl Rose allegedly bemoaned its non-appearance during the duo’s 1991 tour. 
That tour, Performance, their first in North America, transformed the staginess of their videos into opulent theater just as Blonde Ambition did for Madonna the year before; in the Pets’ case, it was so over-budget that the well-attended trek still lost half-a-million dollars. And just as the autobiographical Like a Prayer fed Blonde Ambition, the personal nature of Behaviour lent Performance pathos. The dirge that opened the show, “This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave,” affirmed that, like Madonna, Tennant suffered major Catholic damage. The tune is hummable, but the tone intersects opera and Joy Division as it evokes Catholic mass, freezing rain, and grey architecture. No wonder the Pets eschewed the church for wit and disco. 
True to their queer sensibility, PSB are intrinsically contrary, even with themselves, and just as their previous release, 1988’s Introspective, is all 12”-length dance numbers, Behaviour is mostly ballads. Even on overt club cuts, its lead single “So Hard” and “The End of the World,” the dance grooves that defined the duo are muted: No more big ’80s drums, no electro rumble or hi-NRG clatter, even if “So Hard” ramps up the trademark orchestral blasts of their previous hits. Rather than the sample-heavy rave bleeps that ruled 1990 UK pop, the album favors analogue synths overseen by co-producer Harold Faltermeyer, the Munich synth whiz who’d been Giorgio Moroder’s key player and had scored with Beverly Hills Cop’s “Axel F.” 
But though the instrumentation is mostly as synthetic as before, it’s less pointedly so; the future was no longer as inviting as it had been in the duo’s formative years, when they dreamt of man-machines and home computers. Embracing their humanism to mirror their messages, the pair often blur the boundaries between synthetic and natural sounds: Mirroring the instability of post-communist Russia, “My October Symphony” fuses banging Italo-house piano, “Funky Drummer” syncopation, Marvin Gaye-esque yearning, and the classical strings of Balanescu Quartet, which all blend with the Prophets and Rolands and Marr’s wah-wah guitar so seamlessly that the hybrid suggests Shostakovich going Blaxploitation. You certainly couldn't call it just “synthpop.” 
In the booklet for the album’s 2001 deluxe reissue, Tennant paints the unabashed love aria “To Face the Truth” as the story of a man who cannot acknowledge his girlfriend’s infidelities. But like so many PSB songs, it makes more sense in an LGBT context; that his lover is a bisexual who dodges their emotional bond. Having same-gender sex dictates that you’re homosexual, but loving someone of your own gender makes you gay—a step too far for some. “I wonder if you care and cannot bear the proof/It hurts too much to face the truth,” Tennant croons at the top of his tenor. Having just worked with Liza and Dusty, he’d suddenly become a more expressive singer, one here as adept at conveying sincerity as he’d always been at generating irony. The programmed rhythms hail from ’80s R&B, but his vocal is ’70s Bee Gees; had this been on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, we’d all know it. 
Lyrically the most old-school PSB-y song of the lot, “How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?” roasts sanctimonious rock stars who claim to hate fame’s machinations but nevertheless align themselves with the trendiest causes. There’d been plenty of those in the wake of Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid, and “We Are the World,” and they pretty much wiped out the more subversive and often queer “New Pop” movement that spawned the Pets. The album version is set atypically to a New Jack Swing beat, the kind that gave even Boy George a US R&B radio hit with “Don’t Take My Mind on a Trip” the year before, but the seldom heard single/video version remixed it into a more flattering Soul II Soul-style shuffle. Back home, its critique was bolstered by appearing on the flipside of their newly recorded medley of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” and the Four Seasons’ “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” which echoed Boys Town Gang’s shamelessly camp disco-ization of the latter. Bono, who spotted the satirical finger being pointed in his direction, quipped, “What have we done to deserve this?” 
As straightforward as “Seriously” is skewed, album closer “Jealousy” goes furthest in a quasi-symphonic direction. Played on keyboards but booming like a massive orchestra, it’s fraught with romantic angst like their earliest work, yet it suits their new phase of unfettered emotionality. The scene-setting opening conjures the outsized ardor of 19th-century art song: “At dead of night when strangers roam/The streets in search of anyone who’ll take them home/I lie alone…” And the rest similarly picks up where Scott Walker’s covers of Jacques Brel left off. 
A crooner, not a belter, Tennant sets his vocal understatement against the over-the-top nature of his blinding passion for an unrequited love. This conflict mirrors the LGBT experience itself: You’ve got all this desire that must somehow be contained to a small percentage of the population, lest you find yourself making a pass at someone who might not share your sexuality and who might respond with condemnation or even violence. So you keep your outer voice small and whispery like Tennant’s, but that constant monitoring and muting only intensifies your inner life, and so you bear the burden of these feelings—here represented by the grandness of the orchestration, the despair of the descending vocal melody, the processional horns that bear a stubbornly regal retreat. There’s no apology implied—quite the opposite. 
Simpatico women understand this proud juxtaposition: Liza Minnelli considers Tennant and Lowe geniuses akin to Broadway maestro Stephen Sondheim or her dad. Pet Shop Boys critique masculinity the way classic rock bands exude it, but rather than the flamboyance that’s intrinsic to the gay pop star from Little Richard onward, PSB offer the calm control of the outsider looking in, their noses pressed against the shop window. 
Having experienced worldwide eminence exactly when their people fell into deeper crisis than ever, they rarely took the easy path, and on subsequent releases like Very’s “Dreaming of the Queen,” they imagined a world in which there were no more lovers left alive. Fortunately, people kept dancing, and Pet Shop Boys still supply their nocturnal soundtrack. Last month, Billboard announced PSB as the all-time top male act on its dance club chart: With last year’s “The Pop Kids,” they landed their 40th hit on that list in 30 years, and 11th No. 1. That they did so with a song as wistful as those on Behaviour makes this achievement truly singular. Embracing disposable pop, they’ve created lasting queer culture just as it was in danger of disappearing. They celebrate the melancholia of being gay.
Barry Walters / Pitchfork

Matthew A. Tavares & Leland Whitty ‎– Visions (2020)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CDVinylFLAC
Label: Mr Bongo

01.   Through The Looking Glass
02.   Woah
03.   Blue
04.   Symbols Of Transformation
05.   Visions Of You
06.   Eyes
07.   Awakenings
08.   Heat Of The Moon
09.   Black Magic
10.   Symbols Of Transformation II
11.   Living Water Assembly

Saxophone, Flute – Leland Whitty
Bass – Julian Anderson-Bowes
Drums – Matthew Chalmers
Guitar, Piano – Matthew Tavares
Strings Arranged, Mixed By – Matthew Tavares
Producer – Leland Whitty, Matthew Tavares

Even though keyboardist and guitarist Matthew Tavares announced his departure from Toronto jazz-post-rockers Badbadnotgood last October, the announcement of a spin-off collaboration with that combo’s saxophonist, flautist and co-founder Leland Whitty raised the possibility of the material being moulded less as catharsis than self-indulgent vanity project. Rest assured, as even a cursory listen will quickly quash any such suspicions: the free-flowing, organic and intuitive ‘Visions’ brazenly shifts cadences, moods and styles through its cauldron of eleven impressionistic and enveloping pieces, while mapping out dreamlike mosaic territory between mystical improvisation and gleaming composition.  
As befits two veteran components of a cross-pollinating group who shifted its tone from album to album, ‘Visions’ moves, track by track, between a plethora of canvases, throbbing with the meditative grace of modal jazz, the drifting clouds of electronica, the unassailable swell of post-rock and the kinetic strut of lounge-soul. Their palpably simpatico relationship manifests itself in the rich colours of the soundscapes, with cushiony bass and filigree acoustic guitars rubbing up against gathering, exhortative storms of pulverising fury and extended forays into stirring catharsis offset by Tavares’s satin string arrangements.

Tavares’s piano and guitar and Whitty’s sax and flute come ably supported here by the fervent bedrock of a pristine rhythm section of bassist Julian Anderson-Bowes and drummer Matthew Chalmers. The quartet often takes the bare bones of an idea or a pretty sequence and proceed to bombard it with steadily increasing purpose and fire: ‘Blue’ is a classic example, careering as it does from a cornball, lounge-style strum to surging histrionics and back, with murder strings embroidering ominously throughout.  
‘Visions’ commences with the blaring ‘Through The Looking Glass’, whose airy, meditative and Jan Garbarek-like prologue gradually unleashes a blistering, martial crescendo of vertiginous ferocity akin to an extended coda by the Canadian post-rockists Godspeed You Black Emperor! Straight away, the listener knows they’re in for something weighty and consciously cultivated. 
This is followed by the aptly titled ‘Woah!’, a track which swims and shrieks between three distinct sections: a tumbling free-jazz opening segueing into a becalming, serene midpoint girded by the sonority of Tavares’s piano and the cotton wool of Whitty’s dreamier woodwind playing before the Coltrane-styled blitzkrieg in its thundering tidal breakdown. Here it’s lovely to hear the gleeful eclipsing of comfort zones and the ebb and flow of conceptual and musical horizons, with seething dissonance bleeding into velvet-crushed sounds and Tavares’ signature cosmic keys navigating skulking drums and weightier textures. 
‘Visions of You’ is the record’s pensive centrepiece, a lyrical slab of spiritually inclined modal jazz that’s permeated by echoes of the great British composer Matthew Halsall before morphing into the liquid electronica of the Cinematic Orchestra; Whitty’s goosebump-inducing flute is rhapsodic here. ‘Eyes’ and ‘Heat of the Moon’ pivot around Tavares’s piano playing, solo and minimalist on the former, duelling and swinging with Whitty on the latter.  
‘Visions’ is sculpted with immense energy and no little ambition; whilst it’s ostensibly cut from the cloth of jazz it uses its musical dressing up box deftly and without ever summoning the dreaded ‘jazz- fusion’. It will be fascinating to see where this takes them next. 
Michael Sumsion / Vinyl Chapters