Thursday, 15 October 2020

Robert Wyatt ‎– Comicopera (2007)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Domino

01.   Stay Tuned
02.   Just As You Are
03.   You You
04.   Hattie
05.   Comic Opera
06.   Beautiful Peace
07.   Do Us A Favour
08.   On The Town Square
09.   Mob Rule
10.   Beautiful War
11.   Something Unbelievable
12.   Del Mondo
13.   Mar De Sueno
14.   Pastafari
15.   Just As You Are Loop
16.   Hasta Siempre

Mixed By – Jamie Johnson
Producer – Robert Wyatt
Written-By – Benge, Eno, Wyatt

Three years on from Cuckooland, Comicopera is just that: A tragicomedy split into three parts dealing with matters domestic, political and spiritual. Robert Wyatt is a man who we’ve come to expect to behave like an ‘institution’, if only by dint of the fact that he’s now been turning out brilliant work virtually undiminished since the late 60s (including his amazing work as Soft Machine’s drummer). Thus, it seems like a rude awakening that the first third of this album concerns itself with a story of domestic strife that mirrors his own recent battle with alcoholism.

But then you realise that it’s a story told by the other - now inextricable - half of Team Wyatt - his partner, Alfreda Benge. With all the honesty, modesty and candour that’s made Robert and Alfie such enduring treasures in an increasingly vapid musical landscape, they fearlessly chronicle the foibles that nearly tore them apart. The key text here is the duet with Karen Mantler about the pitfalls of long-term partnership on “Just As You Are”.

Wyatt himself would be the first to admit to a fondness for pop in its purest form, and so it is that Comicopera is dotted with some quite exquisite tunes. It’s a more jazz-inflected offering than the previous album which eschewed the lo-fi vibe that really suits his delivery. Just listen to him muttering about flattened roadkill on the beginning of “A Beautiful Peace”…

Comicopera still retains the loping, swing-inflected forms that never bludgeon you with polemic or too much structure but gently entice you in to a parallel world where Wyatt’s voice - often approaching the sound of an interior monologue - makes you feel right at home. As such the album’s politicised middle section – Here And Now – becomes doubly effective as thought-provoking material. It addresses issues such as theological uncertainty (“Be Serious”) or the two sides of a middle Eastern bombing raid with “A Beautiful War” and “Out Of The Blue” which disarmingly describes the devastation wrought with the line ‘something unbelievable is happening to the floor’.

Aided by the usual suspects like Eno (creepy vocals on “Out Of The Blue”), Phil Manzanera, Paul Weller and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, Comicopera only dips slightly in its last third – Away With The Fairies – where with having spent all his bile in English, he continues entirely in Spanish. The songs remain as delicately effecting, though Lorca’s poetry (on “Cancion De Julieta”) may be wasted on English ears. But no matter; it’s still an album of this or any other year.
Chris Jones / BBC Review

Bruce And Vlady ‎– The Reality (1970)

Genre: Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Vampi Soul

01.   Reality (Part I)
02.   Blue Variations
03.   Reality (Part II)
04.   Wild Enough
05.   Reality's Monologue
06.   No Nuthin' At All
07.   Prince Vlady (Part I)
08.   I Need You Now
09.   Prince Vlady (Part II)
10.   The Master

Drums – Wladyslaw Jagiello
Organ, Vocals, Written-By – Bruce Powell
Producer – Rune Wallebom

Imagine the scene in a Stockholm jazz club sometime in 1970. The Gyllene Cirkeln had been host to performers like Eddie Harris and Ornette Coleman (who recorded a pair of Blue Note albums there). Its owner normally booked artists for simply a two-night stand, but he was so impressed by one act that he booked them for 16 days straight. This group was an unusual duo: an American organist born in Waukegan, Illinois and a Polish drummer. Bruce Powell and Wladyslaw “Vlady” Jagiello recorded only one album, and Vampisoul’s essential reissue of The Reality has rescued this forgotten music from obscurity.

The album is a jazz-funk-R&B-rock hybrid as swirling and mesmerizing as its cover. Credited as Bruce and Vlady, the musicians are pictured on a background of concentric circles, separate but visually connected by these recurring lines much as their music goes in different directions yet is connected through an unlikely musical friendship.

Although the 50-minute album lists 10 track titles, the recording unfolds as a continuous suite. “Listen… we’re going to tell the people how reality begins,” Powell says as he introduces an album that is mostly instrumental, but comes off as a strange kind of jazz sermon with avant-garde testifying as well as swirling impassioned Hammond chords. Beats shift from a conventional swing to psychedelic power at the drop of a snare. No matter how wild the music gets, Jagiello maintains an effortlessly shifting pulse from rock to R&B to jazz and back again, keeping a consistent groove from the album’s more contemplative moments through its most intensely virtuosic outbursts.

Powell’s voice comes back at intervals throughout the album, which adds to the sense that he’s delivering an unusual sermon about reality. He quotes the Isley Brothers and James Brown: “Open up the door/ I’ll get it myself!” He waxes on soft drinks: “Even though I got Coca-Cola on my fingers the first time I’ll try again/ … They call that real, to me!”Near the end of the album, out of nowhere, he seems to place a drink order: “Cubes of sugar for me/ I like my coffee that way.” The spoken interludes feel like casual, tossed-off observances whose import ebbs and flows with the music from a duo that was completely in tune with each other. This is indeed reality, but a particularly concentrated form of it defined in keyboard swirls and driving beats.

The duo came together by accident. Powell was in Stockholm for a gig that fell through when his Hammond B-3 was damaged in transit on a cruise ship. Instead of returning home, Powell and his wife stayed in Sweden while he had his instrument repaired, and he looked for work on his own. At a rock club, Powell met Jagiello sitting in with another band. The pair hit if off musically and booked club dates that caught the attention of Rune Wallebom, co-owner of Svensk American Records. Wallebom promised that if they could sell 20,000 records in Sweden, he would get them wider distribution in England and a gig at Ronnie Scott’s famous London club. But after The Reality was released, the label owner announced that his wife and label co-owner was divorcing him. Svensk American dissolved, and Powell and Jagiello never saw any royalties from their album.

The duo recorded four takes for this sole studio album, and it reaches feverish improvisational heights. One can only imagine what the duo was capable of during their club residency. Powell left Stockholm in 1970 and never saw Jagiello again. The drummer mysterious circumstances in 2009. If Powell’s spoken word remarks and inspired playing occasionally seems church bound, it’s no accident.. Today he is musical director at a church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

An original copy of Bruce and Vlady’s album is currently available on Discogs for nearly $800, but Vampisoul’s CD reissue sounds fantastic, and presumably the vinyl edition is of the same quality. The only downside to this rediscovery is that there isn’t more of it. That’s The Reality, a fantastic musical document and a heightened way of life.
Pat Padua / Spectrum Culture

Lizzy Mercier Descloux ‎– Mambo Nassau (1981)

Genre: Rock, Funk / Soul, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: ZE Records, Philips, Light In The Attic

01.   Lady O K'pele
02.   Room Mate
03.   Sports Spootnicks
04.   Payola
05.   Milk Sheik
06.   Funky Stuff
07.   Slipped Disc
08.   It's You Sort Of
09.   Bim Bam Boom
10.   Five Troubles Mambo
11.   Les Baisers D'Amants
12.   Maita
13.   Mister Soweto
14.   Sun Is Shining
15.   Corpo Molli Pau Duro
16.   Don't You Try To Stop Me

Bass – Philippe Le Mongne
Guitar – Yahn Leker
Percussion – Gregori Czerkinsky
Synthesizer – Wally Badarou
Vocals – Arto Lindsay, Philippe Krootchey 
Producer – Adam Kidron, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Michel Bassignani), Steven Stanley

Out in some alternate universe, where old songs float around in space, there is a bridge that links Talking Heads' "I Zimbra" to the same band's "Born Under Punches." That bridge is formed by nine of the ten songs that make up Mambo Nassau, Lizzy Mercier Descloux's second solo album. Whether or not Descloux's severe yet foreseeable change in approach had anything to do with Talking Heads' own development is not (widely) known. It is known that she had become inspired by the traditional world music released on France's Ocora label, and in 1980 she took drummer Bill Perry down to Nassau to record at Compass Point, where she was aided by a number of people, including keyboard wiz, arranger, and -- ding ding! -- future Talking Heads associate Wally Badarou. The intent was to incorporate African elements into Descloux's existing vibrant mix of arty funk, disco, and film music, and the result was an album that nearly rivals just about any other rhythmically inventive release that came from the rock world at the time. Naturally, Mambo Nassau is even more adventurous than Press Color. The instrumental setup -- with the exception of some of the percussion -- is completely Western and rock-oriented, with Badarou's excitable synthesizer often figuring prominently, whether churning out squiggled melodies or affecting the mood of the song with sensitive accents. The interplay between all of the instruments is positively acrobatic, including off-kilter time-keeping, wriggling guitars, and plump basslines that seem to twist in place. And, of course, there's Descloux's voice at the center of it all, adding even more life to the material with infectious wide-eyed exuberance. Eight of the album's ten songs are originals. Once you hear the cover of Kool & the Gang's "Funky Stuff," you'll realize that no one has ever had as much fun as Descloux had playing that song.
Andy Kellman / AllMusic