Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Tom Waits And Crystal Gayle ‎– One From The Heart - The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Of Francis Coppola's Movie (1982)

Style: Lounge, Contemporary Jazz, Easy Listening
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: CBS, Columbia

Tracklist :
01.   Opening Montage: Tom's Piano Intro / Once Upon a Town / The Wages of Love
02.   Is There Any Way out of This Dream?
03.   Picking Up After You
04.   Old Boyfriends
05.   Broken Bicycles
06.   Beg Your Pardon
07.   Little Boy Blue
08.   Instrumental Montage: The Tango / Circus Girl
09.   You Can't Unring a Bell
10.   This One's from the Heart
11.   Take Me Home
12.   Presents
13.   Candy Apple Red
14.   Once Upon a Town / Empty Packets

Credits:
Bass – Greg Cohen
Harp – Gayle Levant
Piano – Pete Jolly, Tom Waits
Tenor Saxophone – Teddy Edwards
Trumpet – Jack Sheldon
Vocals – Crystal Gayle, Tom Waits
Written-By – Tom Waits
Producer, Remix – Bones Howe

One From the Heart is the score to the most misunderstood of Francis Ford Coppola's films. Far ahead of its time in terms of technology, use of color, montage, and set design, its soundtrack is the only thing that grounds it to earth. Coppola's movie is a metaphorical retelling of the exploits of Zeus and Hera set in Las Vegas. Coppola claims to have been taken with the male-female narrative implications of the track "I Don't Talk to Strangers," off Tom Waits' Foreign Affairs album. That cut was a duet with Bette Midler. Midler wasn't available for One From the Heart, however, so Waits chose Crystal Gayle as his vocal foil. The result is one of the most beautifully wrought soundtrack collaborations in history. Along with producer Bones Howe, Waits and Gayle cut their duets largely from the studio floor, live with the small combo-style studio band that included the saxophonist Teddy Edwards, drummer Shelly Manne, trumpeter Jack Sheldon, pianist Pete Jolly, and bassist Greg Cohen, among others. The opening cut, a Waits piano intro that flows into the duet "Once Upon a Town," is a study in contrasts: first there are the stark ivories and the tinkle of a coin falling upon a bar before Waits' then-still-smoky baritone (now ravaged indescribably) entwines with Gayle's clear, ringing, emotionally rich vocal, and then joined by Bob Alcivar's string orchestrations before giving way to a jazzed-out down-tempo blues, where the pair sing in call-and-response counterpoint about the disappointments in life and love. These are echoed a couple of tracks later in another duet, "Picking Up After You," which is the ultimate starstruck breakup tune. And while there are only four duets on the entire set, they are startling in their ragged intimacy, contrasted with a stark yet elegant atmosphere and cool noir-esque irony. Gayle's solo performances on the set, which include the mournfully gorgeous "Is There Any Way out of This Dream," with beautiful accompaniment in a tenor solo by Edwards, and the shimmering melancholy of "Old Boyfriends," are among the finest in her long career. For his part, Waits' "I Beg Your Pardon" and "You Can't Unring a Bell" fit deftly into his post-beat hipster canon, though they are offered with less droll irony and more emotionally honest flair here than they would have if they were on his own solo recordings. Likewise, the piano and vocal duet of "Take Me Home" offers Waits' piano as a canny and intuitive counterpart to the deep sensuality of Gayle's vocal. One From the Heart is a welcome addition to any soundtrack library to be sure, but also an essential one to the shelf of any Waits or Gayle fan.
Thom Jurek / AllMusic

XTC ‎– Mummer (1983)

Style: Pop Rock, Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Virgin, Edisom Lda.

Tracklist:
01.   Beating Of Hearts
02.   Wonderland
03.   Love On A Farmboy's Wages
04.   Great Fire
05.   Deliver Us From The Elements
06.   Human Alchemy
07.   Ladybird
08.   In Loving Memory Of A Name
09.   Me And The Wind
10.   Funk Pop A Roll
11.   Frost Circus
12.   Jump
13.   Toys
14.   Gold
15.   Procession Towards Learning Land
16.   Desert Island

Credits:
Producer – Steve Nye, XTC
Remix – Alex Sadkin, Phil Thornalley
Written-By – Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding

1982s English Settlement had achieved a lot for XTC. Their first top ten album was also home to their first top ten single, and they seemed poised to be one of the key acts for the rest of the 80s. Then, with the worst possible timing, Andy Partridge’s long latent fear of live performance came to the fore then XTC were no longer a touring concern, which put a bit of a dent in their ability to promote new material. Record label Virgin just didn’t know how to market XTC outside of the tried and tested tour, album, tour cycle, and their first top ten album and single would end up being their only top ten hits, while drummer Terry Chambers started to consider his future with the band.

Released 18 months after English Settlement had hit the charts, Mummer was the first XTC album with the band as a studio only proposition. Exploring the loamy textures of its predecessor even further, it saw Partridge and fellow songwriter Colin Moulding put an increasing amount of distance between them and their angular post punk sound of albums like Drums and Wires and Black Sea, adopting a far more gentle sound on many tracks. Early in the sessions Chambers quit the band, so he only appeared on the first two album tracks, before being replaced for the rest of the album by Peter Phipps. From this moment XTC would never have a permanent drummer, and they would continue to transition further away from ‘rock’ to being one of the most uniquely English ‘pop’ bands of any era.

Three of the first four tracks on Mummer would be released as singles to promote the album, though they all struggled to make much of an impact despite their quality. “Wonderland” saw XTC blending their newfound love of pastoral sounds with some very contemporary synth pop sounds, while “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages” may be one of the most unique singles of the 80s, and one of their undisputed classics, while “Great Fire” is one of the few numbers on the album that harks back to their more riff heavy sounds of their past, but still manages to sound distinctly pastoral. All three of these singles deserved to be top ten hits, and the fact that they weren’t ensured that XTC would go into a commercial plummet for the next few years, as Mummer followed the top 5 album chart action of English Settlement by peaking at no. 51.

Along with its follow up, The Big Express, Mummer is an album that can be easy to overlook, as it’s neither part of their climb from critics darlings to commercial success, or their ridiculously hot streak that started from 1986’s Skylarking through to Partridge and Moulding’s last album together, 2000’s Wasp Star. That’s a real shame, as both of those albums have much to recommend them, as Partridge, Moulding and multi instrumentalist and arranger Dave Gregory set about exploring what kind of band they wanted XTC to be now that they were a purely studio based group. Freed from the necessity of having to play these songs live, XTC became much more ambitious in their approach to pop music, and on Mummer in particular there is an extra sheen of sophistication throughout. Sure, some may consider the polishing out of most of the band’s more rough edges resulted in Mummer being one of the least interesting XTC albums in terms of sound, but you cannot deny the quality of the songs that both Partridge and Moulding brought to the table, and that quality shines through the production sheen.

Given that Mummer bombed in comparison to its predecessor, some would assume it is disappointing album. Far from it. In fact Mummer is an album worthy of reinvestigation and reassessment, as it finds XTC making some crucial steps and in doing so recording some of their most charming material. The three singles aside, Mummer is chock full of great, if underrated, songs, with “Ladybird” being one of the Partridge’s most playful numbers, both “Me and the Wind” and “Human Alchemy” recall the experimental material from Black Sea, and “In Loving Memory of a Name” points the direction to the type of material that they would perfect in the second half of the decade. You see, despite Mummer’s disappointing commercial performance, XTC didn’t just become one of the key acts for the rest of the 80s, but far beyond that decade as well.
Jon Bryan / backstreet mafia

Sun Ra Arkestra ‎– Swirling (2020)

Style: Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Strut, Art Yard

Tracklist:
01.   Satellites Are Spinning / Lights On A Satellite
02.   Seductive Fantasy
03.   Swirling
04.   Angels And Demons At Play
05.   Sea Of Darkness / Darkness
06.   Rocket No. 9
07.   Astro Black
08.   Infinity / I'll Wait For You
09.   Sunology
10.   Door Of The Cosmos / Say

Credits:
Bass – Tyler Mitchell
Congas – Atakatune
Drums – Wayne Anthony Smith, Jr.
French Horn – Vincent Chancey
Guitar – Dave Hotep
Lead Vocals, Violin – Tara Middelton
Piano – Farid Barron
Alto Saxophone – Noel Scott
Alto Saxophone, Electronic Valve Instrument – Marshall Allen
Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Danny Ray Thompson
Surdo, Percussion – Elson Nascimento
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – James Stewart
Trombone, Vocals – Dave Davis
Trumpet – Cecil Brooks, Michael Ray

For an album steeped in flighty Afrofuturism, spiky syncopation, and angular everything-else, Swirling—the first new full-length from the Sun Ra Arkestra since 1999—is gleefully set in its ways. It magically makes the past present, recalling the late Ra’s time in Fletcher Henderson’s band in the 1940s as well as his teasing avant-garde efforts of the late ’50s and mid-’70s. Equally represented, for the first time on record, are longtime leader and alto saxophonist Marshall Allen’s twitchy neo-traditionalist interpretive skills. Combined with the Arkestra’s legendarily spacey, spiritual, and sensual way with a song, this makes Swirling free, warm, and familiar; all but two of its tracks come from the Ra playbook. Yet it has an alluring adventurousness not found on the Arkestra’s last new album, A Song for the Sun, both hauntingly odd and playfully succinct.

That’s just what the Arkestra’s brain trust wanted Swirling to be in this moment of pandemic and unrest: a tonic with a sense of directness.

“Everybody now wants distance … there’s always this threat of violence, but music is without distance, without violence,” Allen says from his home at the Ra House in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, the neighborhood that the Arkestra’s founder chose for his communal live-and-work space in the late ’60s. The 96-year-old saxophonist, who’s been an Arkestra member since 1957, confesses to being tired after he, trumpeter Michael Ray (with Ra since 1978), saxophonist Knoel Scott (since 1979), and a 10-year-old trying his hand at drums for the first time (“a future Arkestra member,” Scott laughs) played a safely distanced show for their neighbors the night before our interview.

For an ensemble that toured relentlessly in normal times, a quarantined slowdown such as this has provided a chance to take stock, or better still, “practice and pray,” Ray says. “Ra said that will get you through anything. Act with a sense of urgency and move with alacrity.”

“I think it was the Creator that held this record up until the world really needed it,” Scott adds. “People are hungry for spiritual sustenance. The aura of all the negative forces that we’re being subjected to at this particular time made it crucial that a positive force—the sound of Swirling—be unleashed.” Unleashed indeed; newly reconfigured Ra songs such as “Unmask the Batman” and “Queer Notions” exude freedom the likes of which the Arkestra hasn’t practiced in eons. 

Scott and Ray agree that, with Swirling, Allen has truly come into his own. “I’ve been Marshall’s road roommate for decades, and he’s playing more kora [a West African string instrument] and EVI [electronic valve instrument] than he is alto sax,” Ray says. “I’ve fallen asleep to the tone of Marshall playing kora and woken up to that same sweet sound.”

“Listen to the originals and listen to Marshall’s reinterpretations,” Scott says with excitement. “His stamp is there. He’s pulling us out of our boxes, and away from our concept of what Sun Ra is.” Take the new re-recording of “Satellites Are Spinning/Lights on a Satellite”: “On Sun’s original, the flutes would go ‘dah-dah-dah-dah,’ then John Gilmore [Ra’s longtime tenor saxophonist, who led the Arkestra after Sun’s death in 1993 until his own passing in 1995] would play the melody. On Swirling, Marshall gives the ‘dah-dah-dah-dah’ to the brass, and the melody becomes its harmony for the whole reed section.”

Bolder still is the album’s lone new track—its title tune, penned by Allen—and how it reflects his past beyond Sun Ra. “Marshall isn’t one to talk about himself, but he has this amazing history: dancing before Charlie Parker, playing with James Moody … he has roots,” Scott notes. “Swirling’ reflects his love of Jimmie Lunceford and his big-band arranging style, not a standard eight-bar frame but a six-bar frame, and Marshall makes it into a cycle. Who would think of that? Yet it sounds so natural.”

Swirling was recorded at Philly’s Rittenhouse SoundWorks; producer Jim Hamilton used Sun Ra’s work for the Delmark and Horo labels as touchstones. “The end result is extremely hi-fi,” he says. “The Arkestra blend their voices and sing to the cosmos and the environment changes. If you’re there then, you change too. That’s what Ra was all about.”

Ray is particularly proud of the album’s crystal-clear mixes: “There’s been years with this Arkestra where you couldn’t hear a flute or couldn’t make out an oboe. The first thing we worked on here was how you can hear … differentiate … each sound.”

If Ray has any say, there could be more beyond Swirling in the Arkestra’s future. “There’s always music coming as Marshall writes every day,” the trumpeter states. “If space is the place, there’s music to go with that. Swirling is the tip of the iceberg as to what Sun and Marshall have.”

Allen concurs. “All these different feelings that you have, you write songs about them,” he says with a laugh. “When love was in, everybody wrote about love. Every day I got a song. A pleasant melody, a chaotic melody. That’s the way I live. The vibrations are around. Sit quietly and concentrate and you can hear things, remember things, about being sincere and truthful. So I write what I write because that’s the way I feel today. Tomorrow I will have another feeling and another song. That’s the way the universe is. Everything is going on, and everything has its space. And you know what space is, right?”
A.D. Amorosi / JazzTimes

Jocy de Oliveira ‎– A Música Século XX De Jocy (2020)

Style: Samba, Bossanova, Poetry, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Copacabana, Litoral Records

Tracklist:
A1.   Sofia Suicidou-se
A2.   Pecou A Rosa
A3.   Um Assalto No Morumbi
A4.   Incêndio
A5.   Frida
A6.   Brasília Século I
B1.   Um Crime
B2.   A Lenda Da Chuva
B3.   O Sorriso Da Praia
B4.   Mar De Sal
B5.   A Morte Do Violão
B6.   E A Chuva Nasceu
B7.   Samba Gregoriano

Credits:
Conductor – Eleazar De Carvalho
Flute, Producer – Altamiro Carrilho
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Arranged By – Jocy de Oliveira

A virtuoso pianist and composer of seminal works in early electronic and experimental classical music, Jocy de Oliveira’s musical output has had a great influence within Brazil and abroad. Her sole contribution to Brazilian popular music, her 1959-recorded album, ‘A Música Século XX de Jocy’ in many ways stands apart from the rest of her artistic oeuvre.

The original vinyl release marketed the record as adding to Brazil’s samba heritage with a ‘simple and original dialectic’, naming its style ‘vanguard samba’, which differs from both traditional samba and Bossa Nova, in its infancy at the time.

Listening to Jocy’s ‘20th century music’ in the context of the contemporaneous and vastly more influential Bossa Nova style is especially striking. Where Bossa Nova’s innovators incorporated influences from jazz and French piano music to a samba foundation, Jocy de Oliveira took a greater leap, wedding her century’s classical music to samba. Where Bossa Nova dawned a new epoch of poetic lyricism in Brazilian popular songs with great poets such as Vinicius de Moraes and themes of longing, love and nature, Jocy de Oliveira’s lyrics are concerned with scenes of urban tragedy and decay, presenting an alternative vision to Brazil’s stereotypical tropical paradise image almost 10 years before the emergence of the Tropicália movement.

The sounds and lyrics of Jocy’s landmark release still shock today. Put in the context of a conservative Brazil on the eve of Brasília’s inauguration, it is even more startling that this record ever got made. An unconventional mix of classical and popular musical influences combined with socially critical, ironic and at times journalistic lyrics make for a unique listening experience.

A unique representation of Brazilian popular music, Jocy de Oliveira’s masterpiece ‘A Música Século XX de Jocy’ is reissued for the first time. Meticulously remastered, the record is pressed on high-quality 45-RPM vinyl, with a modernised back cover and printed inner sleeve including previously unseen pictures taken for the record’s release in 1959.