Friday, 8 January 2021

Gavin Bryars With Tom Waits ‎– Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1993)

Style: Abstract, Contemporary, Minimal
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Point Music

Tracklist:
1.   Tramp With Orchestra I (String Quartet)
2.   Tramp With Orchestra II (Low Strings)
3.   Tramp With Orchestra III (No Strings)
4.   Tramp With Orchestra IV (Full Strings)
5.   Tramp And Tom Waits With Full Orchestra
6.   Coda: Tom Waits With High Strings

Credits:
Hampton String Quartet, Cello – John Reed 
Hampton String Quartet, Viola – Richard Maximoff
Hampton String Quartet, 1st Violin –Regis Iandiorio
Hampton String Quartet, Violin – Richard Henrickson
Chorus, Alto Vocals – Elsa Higby, Katie Geissinger, Margo Grib
Chorus, Baritone Vocals – Gregory Purnhagen, Jeffrey Kensmoe, Peter Stewart
Chorus, Soprano Vocals – Kristin Norderval, Lisa Bielawa, Marion Beckenstein, Michele Eaton
Chorus, Tenor Vocals – Eric Lamp, Jeffrey Johnson, John Koch
Orchestra, Viola – Alfred Brown, Juliet Haffner, Olivia Koppel, Paul Peabod
Orchestra, Bassoon – Kim Laskowski
Orchestra, Clarinet – Allen Blustine, Steven Hartman
Orchestra, Contrabassoon – Jeffrey Marchand
Orchestra, Double Bass – Barbara Wilson, Homer Mensch, John Beal
Orchestra, Flute – Michael Parloff
Orchestra, French Horn – Ann Yarborough, Ron Sell, Sharon Moe, Tony Miranda
Orchestra, Guitar – Brian Koonin
Orchestra, Harp – Karen Lindquist, Nina Kellman
Orchestra, Oboe – Dorothy Darlington
Orchestra, Organ – Michael Riesman
Orchestra, Percussion – Frank Cassara
Orchestra, Tuba – Alan Raph
Orchestra, Cello – Beverly Lauridsen, Clay Ruede, Jeanne LeBlanc, Jesse Levy, Mark Shuman, Semyon Fridman
Orchestra, Trombone – James Pugh, Keith O'Quinn
Orchestra, Trumpet – Neil Balm, Wilmer Wisey
Orchestra, Violin – Dale Stuckenbruck, David Nadien, Donna Tecco, Elena Barere, Eriko Sato-Oei, Jan Mullen, Jean Ingraham, Laura Seaton, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Mayuki Fukuhara, Nancy McAlhany, Richard Sortomme, Sanford Allen
Pre-Production, Tape Op – Nick Gilpin
Tom Waits' Vocals – Mark "Mooka" Rennick
Additional Vocals Performed By – Tom Waits
Producer, Conductor – Michael Riesman

Jesus' Blood never failed me yet is built on the idea of untainted religious conviction: the fragile, trusting voice of a tramp, recorded solo then converted into a tape-loop and treated to a seamless, slowly evolving harmonic accompaniment. Although strong in visual suggestion the song itself (recorded in 1970) was actually discarded from material originally intended for a film about tramps in London. Gavin Bryars acquired the tape from filmmaker Alan Powers, composed a chordal backing and married it to a separate 16mm film centring around the idea of an old man walking towards the camera. Performances followed (both with and without the film), and the first phase of the work' s evolution climaxed in a recording made for Brian Eno's Obscure label back in 1975. Michael Nyman was one of the participating performers, while the LP coupling—Bryars's The Sinking of the Titanic incorporated material conducted by John Adams. It was a significant first release for an exciting new label, but Jesus' Blood never failed me yet didn't really appeal beyond a relatively small band of initiates. It has taken CD superior media coverage and the now-widely accepted, variously 'minimalist' musical languages of Philip Glass (the current recording's executive producer), Reich, even Gorecki, to pave the way for a wider acceptance of Bryars's masterpiece.
In calling it a masterpiece, I don't believe that I'm overstating the case. The sum-effect of the work, whether in 1975 or 1993, is rather akin to having the main protagonist placed within a variety of visual contexts: a park bench, perhaps, or a shop doorway, a city thoroughfare, or a field at dusk. For me, each setting seems to reflect the one essential idea simple faith in the midst of life.
But the two versions are in fact quite unalike For the first 25 minutes of the re-make, Bryars keeps his design very much as it was: the old man alone, backed first by a quietly supportive string quintet, then by winds, brass and pizzicato guitar. However, we're en route not for 25, but nearly 75 minutes of continuous music, and the succeeding sections greatly expand on the relatively modest textures of Bryars's original. Cellos, basses, horns trombones, contrabassoon and varieties of percussion carry the piece through five phases, each clothing the voice in a new swathe of sonority—warm, lustrous, sympathetic and deeply nostalgic. The tam-tam is often prominent, as the organ is later on; but the real difference between the old and the new reveals itself in the last 21 or so minutes of the revision, where the grainy voice of Tom Waits casually enters into a posthumous duet (the tramp had died years before), the folksy 'pro' set alongside the tramp's private, restrained musings. Ultimately, Waits is the only voice that survives.
At first, I recoiled, thinking the newcomer too stylized by far. But then, as the work gradually drew towards its high-reaching, ethereal close and Waits himself wandered into the aural distance the idea suddenly dawned: the old man may have died, but his faith lives on. The effect is ultimately poignant, a fitting conclusion to a beautiful work minimalist in its basic musical language, but universal in its message and impact.'

Perry Blake ‎– California (2002)

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

Tracklist:
01.  This Life
02.   California
03.   Pretty Love Songs
04.   Saying Goodbye
05.   The Road To Hollywood
06.   How Can The Knower Be Known
07.   Ordinary Day
08.   A Face In The Crowd
09.   Morning Song
10.   Venus Of The Canyon

Credits:
Producer – Marco Sabiu, Perry Blake

Perry Blake, Sligo-born singer / songwriter, isapparently one of music’s great untapped resources. California arrives ashis fourth major release, with previous efforts including the soundtrack for french film Presque Rien and a live recording reworked with the help of theEnsemble Musiques Nouvelles.

You may very well wonder what to expect of analbum with American West Coast orientations from an Irishman who happens tobe critically acclaimed on the Continent but is largely ignored in Britain.

Thankfully, Blake lives up to his billing withapparent ease. His songwriting is evidently mature and melodic; heincorporates lush orchestral arrangements with tender vocals; and combinespop-like hooks with a deep sonic texture.

It is indeed very tempting to say that California is a true slow-burner, gradually revealing Blake’s profoundand gentle (though not depressing by any stretch) nature. However, the manclearly values his pop ideals, and California is both a short- and long-termtreat.

Album opener This Life is cosmetically simple, butpragmatically rich. Blake’s falsetto is hardly Dan Hawkins, and withstandsmany repeat listens without getting old. Close harmonies and heartfeltlyrics lounge over a string section that alternates between delicate andsweeping. It immerses you with such grace that you can’t help but wonder whyPerry Blake isn’t up there with the likes of Coldplay and Ben Folds.

Hot on the heels of This Life comes title-track California,which, though perhaps not particularly Californian except for the lyrics,remains an impressive song. Even better, however, is the indelible PrettyLove Songs. To be concise, the song is The Verve at their peak, though farmore fragile and balmy.

Saying Goodbye is thick and luxurious, providing theperfect platform on which Blake’s vocals glide and spiral. It isparticularly touching whilst never sounding deflated, which is frankly an achievement, and testament to Perry Blake’s obvious talent.

Of course, the album is not perfect. How Can The Knower Be Known?, though verdant, does not quite match the exceptionally high standards met elsewhere on California. Similarly, Ordinary Day may take a few listens to sink in.

However, these are minor gripes. What really counts is that California is a thriving and absorbing collection of songs in which orchestral arrangements strain with emotion, melodies thrive and bloom, and Blake nurtures profound sentiments with ethereal tones. It istestament to his reputation, and pours mystery on his distinct lack ofcommercial recognition on these shores.

As the man says himself, “It’s thesepretty love songs, they’re what keep us alive.” As such, California is ether for the soul – a truly magnificent and touching collection of frankly beautiful songs.
David Welch / OMH

Tom Waits ‎– Bad As Me (2011)

Style: Blues Rock, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Anti-, Epitaph

Tracklist:
01.   Chicago
02.   Raised Right Men
03.   Talking At The Same Time
04.   Get Lost
05.   Face To The Highway
06.   Pay Me
07.   Back In The Crowd
08.   Bad As Me
09.   Kiss Me
10.   Satisfied
11.   Last Leaf
12.   Hell Broke Luce
13.   New Year's Eve

Credits:
Written-By, Producer – Kathleen Brennan
Written-By, Producer, Photography By – Tom Waits
Sixty-one-year-old artists releasing the 17th studio album of their careers have normally earned the right not to make things easy for anyone. That theory should go double for song men such as Tom Waits, a bloody-minded old goat not overly given to the vagaries of commerce or fashion. He sings with a gulletful of acid reflux. He wears hats like it's 1947. There is only the one (unofficial) dubstep remix of his work online and it's not half bad.

And yet Waits's latest album is a primer of what a reality TV show host might call his best bits. It is the sort of disc you can hand to a Waits novice or sceptic with the confidence that this collection of brawlers, bawlers and bastards (as he characterised the three-way split in his work on his 2006 compilation) will do the job of conversion. All Waits is here, more or less: the barfly, the romantic, the curmudgeon, the method actor and the self-parodist. Only the clangorous experimentalist of The Black Rider is missing. Laughing along with Waits isn't hard. "Yerrr the sayme kinda bad as muy!" he yowls on the lurid, cartoonish title track, keeping up the appearance of a dissolute lowlife despite being a happily partnered-up man whose missus helps him write this stuff. Indeed, the terrific second track rues the lack of men "raised right", like someone ringing into a 5 Live phone-in.

"Satisfied" is another hoot. Taking its cue from the infamous Rolling Stones track, Waits demands satisfaction, but more in the florid style of an 18th-century duellist. "Now Mr Jagger! And Mr Richards! I will scratch where I been itching!" he blusters, as the very same Mr Richards struts and frets conspiratorially along on his guitar. Having cropped up as a guest on previous Waits albums, Richards lends a hand on four songs here, and it's easy to imagine Waits as having written "Bad As Me" as a love song to this twin soul.

For all the excellent clowning around, Bad As Me is, chiefly, an album full of compassion, anger and sorrow – the stuff that puts Waits on the same page as upstanding Bruce Springsteen and the emotional surgeon Leonard Cohen, as well as bad old Nick Cave and professional drunks the Pogues. "Pay Me" tells the story of an exile with a woozy weep that sounds both sentimentally Irish and quintessentially French. "They pay me not to come home," Waits rasps stoically. There are compromised men hitting the road here, failed relationships starting again (in "Chicago"), and lovers trying to rekindle their spark. The terrific "Kiss Me" is all vinyl hiss and jazzy antiquity, with Waits doing his gruffest bluesman growl. The warmongers and bankers get it in the neck so hard, you can't help but punch the air. "Talking at the Same Time" rues the downward turn of the economy with restrained elegance, while "Hell Broke Luce" is a lot angrier – a Waits-own rap set to left-right marching and machine gunfire. Indeed, Bad As Me's 13 tracks fairly rip along, alerting a new generation that there are few as fine as Waits.
Kitty Empire / The Guardian

Fifty Foot Hose ‎– Cauldron - Plus (1968)

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Experimental, Electronic
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Big Beat Records, Limelight

Tracklist:
01.   Fifty Foot Hose - And After
02.   Fifty Foot Hose - If Not This Time
03.   Fifty Foot Hose - Opus 777
04.   Fifty Foot Hose - The Things That Concern You
05.   Fifty Foot Hose - Opus 11
06.   Fifty Foot Hose - Red The Sign P0ost
07.   Fifty Foot Hose - For Paula
08.   Fifty Foot Hose - Rose
09.   Fifty Foot Hose - Fantasy
10.   Fifty Foot Hose - God Bless The Child
11.   Fifty Foot Hose - Cauldron
12.   Fifty Foot Hose - If Not This Time (Demo)
13.   Fifty Foot Hose - Red The Sign Post (Demo)
14.   Fifty Foot Hose - Fly Free (Demo)
15.   Fifty Foot Hose - Desire (Demo)
16.   The Ethix - Bad Trip (33 rpm)
17.   The Ethix - Skins
18.   The Ethix - Bad Trip (45 rpm)

Credits:
Bass – Terry Hansley
Drums, Percussion – Kim Kimsey
Electronics – Cork Marcheschi
Guitar, Piano, Kalimba – David Blossom
Vocals – Nancy Blossom
Vocals, Guitar – Larry Evans
Written-By – C. Marcheschi, D. Blossom
Producer, Engineer – Dan Healy

This is a true forgotten classic. Out of the great San Francisco acid wave, bassist Louis “Cork” Marcheschi -- along with husband and wife, guitarist and Slick vocalist David and Nancy Blossom, bonus guitarist Larry Evans, and Kim Kimsey on drums -- produced but one album in 1967, then basically faded away into normalcy. At the time, critic Ralph J. Gleason said, “I don’t know if they’re immature or premature.” I believe history has proven them to be the latter. While the razor-bladed blues rock fuzz and love laden “I’m just trying to free my mind” lyricism may have been par for the course for that era, the Blossom’s jazz influences met with Marcheschi’s homemade Radiophonic synths and Theremins to create a sound tragically ahead of its time. Acid Mothers Temple makes a decent living these days doing basically the same thing, touring with a Roland synth, but, since Cork made his own, the aural electricity smothering Cauldron in space sounds is just too fantastically dirty and totally original.

Each Doctor Who warp and UFO multidimensional warble is a Technicolor snowflake caught in a notion where time is no longer relevant, totally unable to be absorbed by a mind without blowing it. These remarkable noises augment a solid base of haphazard prog-blues and Nancy’s dispassionate vocals to make an undeniably classic and deservedly legendary LP, easily on par with the greatest works from the Elephant 6 catalogue or anyone who played at the only good Woodstock. I can see why the ’60s generation may not have dug it, though. The synthetic opening “And After” sounds like a broken stylus making a feeble impression of a healthy needle as it digs deeper and deeper into the virgin vinyl. Many copies were probably returned on this notion, let alone the fact this is the next level shit today. When this album came out, it was like showing a Shatner-era Star Trek fan The Matrix. They couldn’t really form a full idea as to what they really had in front of them. You sure missed out, 1967.
Alan Ranta / Tiny Mix Tapes