Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Perry Blake ‎– Broken Statues (2001)

Genre: Electronic, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Naïve

01.   Blackbird
02.   Broken Statue
03.   Genevieve
04.   No Lullabies
05.   Driftwood
06.   House In The Clouds
07.   The Hunchback Of San Francisco
08.   1971
09.   So Long
10.   How Can The Knower Be Known
11.   I'm Still Waiting

Performer– Ensemble Musiques Nouvelle

Recorded live in Brussels on September 29, 2000, Broken Statues is a breathtaking album from acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Perry Blake. Featuring piano and orchestration and songs from his three studio albums (including the at that point unreleased California album), it gives a fair amount of breathing room for Blake to stretch out his dynamic vocal range. The audience remains respectfully silent throughout these mesmerizing performances. The previously unreleased “Blackbird” is pure ecstasy, as Blake hits notes usually reserved for angels. The title track, another exclusive track, is an extended piece of incredible grace and dynamic tension as the stringed notes shadow Blake’s vocals step by step. He brings palpable intensity to his singles from his self-titled debut album, the obsessive-compulsive, “The Hunchback of San Francisco” and the sensuous art-song “Genevieve,” and provides a strong tenderness to the ballad that appeared on the forthcoming California album, “How Can the Knower Be Known?”. Another non-LP track, “I’m Still Waiting,” ends things with a dignified performance that is chilling in its beauty.

Tom Waits ‎– Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (2006)

Style: Blues Rock, Folk Rock, Experimental
Format: 3xCD, Vinyl
Label: Anti-, Epitaph

1.01.   Lie To Me
1.02.   Low Down
1.03.   2:19
1.04.   Fish In The Jailhouse
1.05.   Bottom Of The World
1.06.   Lucinda
1.07.   Ain't Goin' Down To The Well
1.08.   Lord I've Been Changed
1.09.   Puttin' On The Dog
1.10.   Road To Peace
1.11.   All The Time
1.12.   The Return Of Jackie And Judy
1.13.   Walk Away
1.14.   Sea Of Love
1.15.   Buzz Fledderjohn
1.16.   Rains On Me
2.01.   Bend Down The Branches
2.02.   You Can Never Hold Back Spring
2.03.   Long Way Home
2.04.   Widow's Grove
2.05.   Little Drop Of Poison
2.06.   Shiny Things
2.07.   World Keeps Turning
2.08.   Tell It To Me
2.09.   Never Let Go
2.10.   Fannin Street
2.11.   Little Man
2.12.   It's Over
2.13.   If I Have To Go
2.14.   Goodnight Irene
2.15.   The Fall Of Troy
2.16.   Take Care Of All My Children
2.17.   Down There By The Train
2.18.   Danny Says
2.19.   Jayne's Blue Wish
2.20.   Young At Heart
3.01.   What Keeps Mankind Alive
3.02.   Children's Story
3.03.   Heigh Ho
3.04.   Army Ants
3.05.   Books Of Moses
3.06.   Bone Chain
3.07.   Two Sisters
3.08.   First Kiss
3.09.   Dog Door
3.10.   Redrum
3.11.   Nirvana
3.12.   Home I'll Never Be
3.13.   Poor Little Lamb
3.14.   Altar Boy
3.15.   The Pontiac
3.16.   Spidey's Wild Ride
3.17.   King Kong
3.18.   On The Road
3.19.   Dog Treat
3.20.   Missing My Son
Written-By, Arranged By, Producer – Kathleen Brennan
Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Arranged By, Written-By, Pump Organ, Producer – Tom Waits

This three-disc collection of b-sides (“orphans”) captures Tom Waits’s three-pronged approach to songwriting. As a result, each disc is appropriately listed under its own subheading: there’s the 16-track “Brawlers” (rock/blues songs), the 20-track “Bawlers” (softer ballads), and the 18-track “Bastards” (varied Waitsology). The first disc erupts with searing beats from “Lie To Me” and “Low Down” and reveals just how Waits has earned his gravelly timbre over the years. Songs like “Ain’t Goin’ Down To The Well” (a Leadbelly cover) and “Lord I’ve Been Changed” proffer the singer’s own take on the Mississippi Delta blues, while a bare-knuckled “Sea Of Love” cover bares little resemblance to the Phil Phillips original. “Road To Peace,” a song sung from the perspective of a suicide bomber, is easily the most moving track in the entire collection and ranks up with his most impressive work since Rain Dogs.

“Bawlers” offers the gruff-and-humble side to the Waits’s persona with songs that ruminate on spring and taking “the long way home.” These barroom ballads find the singer at his most masterly, tweaking sounds from 60 years ago with a modern stylishness we’ve all come to know. Also assembled for the first time are his soundtrack contributions to films like Pollock and Big Bad Love. “Never Let Go” and “Danny Says,” a Ramones cover posited in classic Waits style, are two other highlights. The sound quality varies a bit on this disc, with some ever-present hiss on a few of the recordings and vocal levels a bit uneven from track-to-track; still, for an album of songs admittedly tossed aside and with no place on another album, it’s a forgivable offense. (Waits says, “Some of the songs were written in turmoil and recorded at night in a moving car, others were written in hotel rooms and recorded in Hollywood during big conflamas…[t]hese are the ones that survived.”) “Bawlers” ends with a wonderfully homemade cover—complete with whistling solo—of the Sinatra classic “Young At Heart.”

The third disc, “Bastards,” brings us Waits at his bizarre best. The experimental numbers here sound like part of a Faust musical written by the likes of William S. Burroughs or Charles Bukowski (one track, “Nirvana,” was actually written by Bukowski). It’s no surprise, then, that several tracks on the disc are not songs at all but spoken-word pieces put to some bare jazz. One reading, “Children’s Story” is likely an outtake from Waits’s Blood Money project, while two others were originally written by Jack Kerouac (“Home I’ll Never Be” and “On The Road”). The album closes with two hidden tracks culled from Waits’s great live show monologues. The successes on this disc can certainly be debated (such as Waits’s beatbox vocalizations on “Spidey’s Wild Ride” and “King Kong”) but as an auditory peek into the songwriter’s creative processes, “Bastards” takes us leaps closer than any Waits release to date.

Being a collection of odds and ends, Orphans isn’t as cohesive a release as Waits’s albums usually are. Arriving complete with a 94-page scrapbook of trashed images and co-opted newspaper articles and stories, don’t expect this collection to lead the way or provide an even narrative. Each orphan stands proudly on its own as the vestige of an old idea or a forgotten path—proving that even Waits’s missteps still manage to point in the right direction.
Jimmy Newlin / SLANT

Charles Wuorinen ‎– Time's Encomium (For Synthesized & Processed Synthesized Sound) (1969)

Style: Experimental, Contemporary
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Nonesuch 

Time's Encomium
A.   Part I
B.   Part II

Art Direction – William S. Harvey
Composed By, Sleeve Notes – Charles Wuorinen

What, when you get right down to it, can be written of music such as Charles Wuorinen's remarkable 1969 essay Time's Encomium? Our usual points of reference are almost all absent, and even after 30-plus years there is still a dearth of good language with which to describe, or even intelligently discuss, purely electronic art music. There is also the fact that a work like Time's Encomium cannot be performed in the usual sense of the word, or even re-recorded -- Time's Encomium is a single recorded realization that does not and cannot exist in any other form, quite unlike a traditional piece of Western music, which exists first as a score and then as a potentially infinite collection of temporally-bound realizations of that score (performances, in our everyday jargon). Therefore, although it is a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of music (1970), and in fact is the first electronic work to receive that award, it is not especially well known or often heard. Aficionados of contemporary music all claim familiarity with Time's Encomium; few, however, have heard it more than a handful of times.

Wuorinen created Time's Encomium using the RCA Synthesizer at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York, a machine that several other prominent American composers employed during those early days of electronic music (including Milton Babbitt). The work is divided into two large hunks of music, one just under 15 minutes long and the other just under 17 minutes. Part I is spacious, filled mostly with slow or slowish gestures. Part II, on the other hand, is much denser and, as is more immediately noticeable, considerably quicker. There are two layers of sound throughout both parts. The fundamental layer is made from original synthesized sound. Wuorinen then processes (i.e., modifies) this fundamental layer, most often by the use of reverberation and stereo relocation, to create a second layer that grows from and develops it. The music is serial through and through: pitches are organized around a twelve-tone row, and rhythms are set up as ratios that derive from that same row.

Developments in computer technology have rendered many of the technical means used to create Time's Encomium obsolete, and the listener should be forgiven if he/she finds that thoughts of 1950s and '60s sci-fi films come to mind when hearing it ("beeps" and "boops" can sometimes start to all sound the same after a time). But Wuorinen was and is first and foremost a composer, and it is not on its circuitry but rather on its rhetoric, and most of all, large-scale structure that Time's Encomium should be judged.

Time's Encomium was commissioned by Nonesuch records, and it has recently been remastered to compact disc under the supervision of the composer.
Blair Johnston / AllMusic