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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jackie Lomax - "Is This What You Want?" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1969 (Apple)

It seemed that a new world was opening up for The Beatles when they started their own record company Apple Records. One of the key releases from that label in 1969 is Jackie Lomax's "Is This What You Want?"  In the spirit of the times, like Leon Russell's first solo album, this is a record that had many big-named musicians playing along with Jackie, mostly due to its producer, George Harrison.   Who is also listed as arranger and wrote "Sour Milk Sea" for his old Liverpool pal.  Somewhere in the background, there's George, Paul, Ringo, Hal Blaine, Nicky Hopkins, Tony Newman, Klaus Voormann, Eric Clapton among others.  

Still, it's very much a Lomax album, due to his songwriting and voice.  He had a beautiful soulful voice, that's rich in quality and tailor-made for soul, but his work is very much crafted in the sense that it's a proper form of songwriting.  "Speak To Me," the opening cut, is very much Lomax pleading to a lover, and the Harrison production kicks in with the female backup vocals and almost a Spector like intensity.  The title song "Is This What You Want?" is my favorite piece here.  A perfect marriage of melody and Lomax's voice, which builds as the song becomes more intense.  

For an artist-run label, Apple was pretty good and had artists like Badfinger, James Taylor, Ronnie Spector, and of course Jackie Lomax.  It's a shame (or not) that Harrison didn't produce more artists.  His work with others I think are some of the strongest aspects of his talent. Lomax's album is a very solid work.  The famous names help, but in actuality, it's Jackie's presence that makes this album essential. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Kinks - "The Kink Kronikles" 2 x Vinyl, Compilation, 1972 (Reprise)

I have always loved The Kinks since I first heard their music in 1964, but it was in the late 60s and early 1970s where I became a fanatic fan.  Their album from 1968 "The Village Green Preservation Society" opened me up in an emotional manner that to this day was a unique experience for me.  I have heard people taking a walk and finding God in their lives, and correspondingly, this is what happened to me with respect to The Kinks.   Throughout the early 1970s, I went to see the band play at the Santa Monica Civic numerous times.  As a teenager, I was liberated at the thought of Ray Davies acting 'camp' in front of an audience, but also his sharp lyrical writing skills of telling a story, or observing a life that's quiet, yet full of emotional meaning.  "The Kink Kronikles" was heaven sent for the American fan because it added Kinks songs that were not available to the U.S. market at the time of its release (1972).

For the first time, I heard songs "Deadend Street," "Autumn Almanac," and "Did You See His Name?"   I don't know how I missed these songs in the first place, but by late 1966 and early '67, the Kinks sort of disappeared in the U.S. marketplace.  "The Kinks Kronikles" is an excellent compilation of those years, and it shows the genius of Ray Davies but also the sound and vision of the band, as they focus on the little things in life that are significant in one's life.  "Lola" a song about gender confusion on the dance floor has enough detail in its story to be a novella.

More important this is an album for the Kink fanatic, and usually, this double-record was passed among other fans, in a secret society of lovers of this type of music.  John Mendelsohn's liner notes describe precisely what made the Kinks a fantastic force in one's life.  For those who are not familiar with the magic that is The Kinks, this is a magnificent collection that will wet your hunger for more.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band - "Paraiso" LP, Vinyl, Album, Limited Edition, Reissue, 2018/1978 (Light in the Attic)

Haruomi Hosono, is without a doubt, one of the most important musicians/record maker in Japan.  If I have to make a comparison with a Westerner, Van Dyke Parks comes to mind.  Hosono is a producer, songwriter, founding member of YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) and very much a music historian.  Of course, there are other figures in Japanese pop music that are important, but Hosono is unique in that he has a perspective that is very much Japanese but also has an understanding about music from other cultures. Also, to note, he knows about outside music that influenced Japanese taste and contemporary culture.  In that sense, he's like Parks in that he knows his history and how to use it or comment on current culture by going back into the past and bringing back music, but in a different way or arrangement. 

To dwell into Hosono's world is difficult just due to the range of music he made in his career.  He went from traditional Japanese pop music to Hawaiian to rock to electro-pop, and ambient.   The unique aspect of Hosono is that each style he investigates he does so with expert knowledge and an organic manner in appreciating the different types of music. It doesn't seem to be on a 'fashionable' or surface level, but a deep appreciation of how music has traveled around the world.  It's interesting to note that Hosono uses the name Harry for these 'exotica' recordings. 

"Paraiso" is a fascinating album that bridges his interest in tropical/exotica music but entering into the electronic world by baby-steps.  Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi make their first appearance here with Hosono before they formed YMO.  So, the album is very much a journey, and it's not the destination that's important but the travel itself.  'Asatoya Yunta" is a traditional Okinawa song, but he also rips into "Fujiyama Mama," an American rockabilly song, which some may think is in rather bad taste, with respect to the bomb.  Nevertheless, with humor and wit, Hosono makes his own planet of music that connects from dot to dot.  A beautiful reissue from Light in the Attic, with a great interview in English with Hosono as an additional plus to the whole package. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ennio Morricone with Joan Baez - "Sacco & Vanzetti" OST, LP, Album, 1971 (RCA)

An incredible score by Ennio Morricone with substantial assistance from Joan Baez on the theme song "Here's To You" as well on Part 1,2, and 3 of "The Ballad of Sacco & Vanzetti."  This is an album that is both lush with full orchestration as well as electronics and effects, from various members of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, the free-form experimental band that consists of Morricone as well as a few of the musicians here Walter Bianchi, Gastone Chiarini with the vocal group I Contori Moderni arranged by Alessandroni.

I have never seen "Sacco & Vanzetti" so I can't comment on how the music is used in the film, but the album is very consistent with the music sung by Joan Baez (who also wrote the lyrics) and the experimental pieces.   I never heard Baez sing in such a modern or borderline avant-garde format, which reminds me of when Bryan Ferry or David Sylvian sings over electronic abstract mood music.  "The Electric Chair" with Sinket played by Walter Bianchi is a sound that one can imagine will go with the executioner's 'hot' chair.   There is a sense of sadness that runs through the album, and the relationship between the 'pop' "Here's To You" mixed in with something like "Electric Chair" is a startling exploration between the melody and ambient sounds.

The Weirdos - "Destroy All Music" Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, Green Vinyl, 2007 (Bomp)

Being a music fan in Los Angeles in the late 1970s was a lot of fun.  At the time we had DEVO, The Screamers, X, LAFMS, and a variety of other artists doing recordings and shows.  My favorite band was The Screamers, and perhaps because they are the most 'rare' of those bands, in that they never released a proper studio recording.  As a live show, they were as great as great can be.  Another band that I enjoyed live was The Weirdos.  I'm not sure of where they came from.  At one time I thought or heard that they were from Cal-Arts, but I'm not too sure about that.  They had a strong visual sensibility, not unlike The Screamers, but more rooted in the tradition of rock n' roll.  To me, they weren't really a "Punk" band, but a well-crafted band who could write songs, and this album clearly shows that aspect of their work/talent. 

"Destroy All Music" is a compilation of recordings that The Weirdos made in the late 1970s.  The first side consists of demos, and "Destroy All Music" EP, and side two is their fantastic "Who? What? When? Where? Why?" six-song 12" EP.   I like side one, but it's side two that shows off the strength of The Weirdos.  I suspect that they shared an aesthetic and love of music with the British band Clash, especially on their first album.  It's rootsy but with classic songwriting touches, I think mostly due to the talent and skill of Cliff Roman with the brothers Dix and John Denney.  The Weirdos are not as brilliant as The Screamers or DEVO (at their height in the mid-70s), but they can deliver a classic garage rock sound that is very much of that era.   "Who? What? When? Where? Why?" is very much wonderful in its recording, and it is a series of moments that showed promise and even perfection. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Gérard Manset - "Le Train du Soir" Vinyl, LP, Album, France, 1981 (EMI)

I know almost nothing about Gérard Manset, except that he's French, songwriter, artist/photographer and made some remarkable music.   I discovered him during the heights of music being on the Internet, and one could download songs/albums on various collector's websites.  I made a note to myself that I should find myself a hard copy of Manset's "Le Train du Soir" as soon as possible. It took me five years, but I found a used vinyl copy in Paris, and I think it's a remarkable album. 

People find it hard to believe, but I don't know the French language except for specific words and a general over-all menu in a cafe.  Still, I have a life-long fascination with anything French, especially literature and cinema.  French pop music was a recent discovery, perhaps 20 years ago when I came upon Serge Gainsbourg. That opened up a whole avenue of artists for me to explore and purchase for the next decade or so.  Still, even in those terms, Gérard Manset is an unknown figure outside of the French-speaking world. 

I get the impression that he's very independent minded, and is skilled as an arranger and musician.  I know he has worked with massive orchestrations on previous and future albums from "Le Train du Soir."  What makes this record so good are the songs, and although they were recorded in 1981, it sounds very 70s to me.  It also reminds me of studio minded artists like Emit Rhoades or Nillson in that there's a great deal of songcraft that goes in his work.  This is without a doubt a rock album, but it is such an album that has music history attached to its presence. 

Not knowing the language thoroughly, I'm sure there is the context within the music that is beyond my knowledge, still, on a listening experience, it's an excellent way of spending 40 minutes or so. There are six songs, including the 12-minute length of "Marchand de Rêves (Dream Merchant)," which is a series of melodies that fit in the song itself.  My favorite cut on the album is "Les Loups (Wolves)" which is a perfect build-up of melody and passion.   I'm frustrated that there seems to be no information in English about this unique artist, but alas, give me time. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Morrissey - "This is Morrissey" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 2018 (Parlophone/Regal)

This is the Morrissey I love.   Not the guy who is giving opinions out like he's a Donald Trump, but the brilliant songwriter, performer, and quite aware of recorded music history.  "This is Morrissey" is a new compilation of music of his the late solo 1980s/early 1990s material.  Seeing this album, I know there are traces of the great wit/artist that is still with us.  As if one who either reads Discogs as a narrative or is a fan of Morrissey, there are a lot of compilations of his music out in the market.  On one level, and on a surface one at that, it seems he floods the market of releases perhaps for the financial stake in doing so.  Which may be true, but it is also the aesthetic of Morrissey to do a compilation album like this.

The label, Regal is very old school compilation where they released music by an artist, and usually not expensive to purchase on a consumer front.  "This is Morrissey, just cost me under $20, and the selection of his music is excellent.  I'm not sure if Morrissey himself selected the songs/tracks or someone from his record label/management, but whoever did an excellent job.  The key tracks to purchase "This is Morrissey" is the Ron Mael/Russell  Mael remix of "Suedehead," which is really the bastard child of Sparks and Morrissey. It's already a beautiful song, but Ron and Russell give it another dimension, and in their mix, they make it into a Sparks piece - but still in spirit, very much of Morrissey.  It is one of the great re-mix recordings, just because it's not a DJ overshadowing the artist, but another artist's approach to something that is already fantastic. It is never meant to replace the original.  The other great song here is "Whatever Happens, I Love You," which initially was on another compilation album, and I'm not sure if it was ever released as a single, or b-side, but it is one of the Morrissey classics.  Beautiful production, and just a wonderful Alain Whyte collaboration with the singer. 

Morrissey's brilliance is not always just the music.  His witty appreciation for the practices of record labels from the 1960s and so forth is very much honored here with this release.  It's Morrissey looking back at his past, and his habitual record buying practices.  So yes, one may have these songs in different formats, but I feel Morrissey is sincere in that he wants to present these collections as an art object, or a work to be admired or thought of in such manner. Even the liner notes which are in French shows an absolute love for the medium.  And this is the Morrissey I love.