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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kevin Ayers - "Odd Ditties" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 1976 (Harvest)

Kevin Ayers is an artist that took me years to appreciate.  A dear old friend of mine introduced me to his music around 1976 when this compilation came out.  Mostly b-sides and singles that never made it on an official album.  For the Ayers fan, this album is essential.  There are 14 songs here, and 11 are essential songs to hear and enjoy.  The last three songs lean toward his uncreative side of the world. Songs like "Fake Mexican Tourist Blues" is just stupidity at work.  On the other hand, you're not going to find a greater form of pop songs like "Lady Rachel," "Gemini Child," and others.  When Ayers was good, he's great.  The Harvest years expressed the best of his lengthy career.  

My favorite Ayers albums are his first two: "Joy of a Toy" and "Shooting At The Moon."  After that, it gets spotty with fantastic work mixed with something forgettable.  Still, Ayers is a wonderful artist who gives more gems than sorrow.   I recommend this album to the die hard Ayers fan, because the selection here is essential (even for the weaker songs) and it exposes a remarkable presence that I wish was still on this planet. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Richard Wagner/George Szell, The Cleveland Orchestra - "Wagner Showpieces" Vinyl, Album, 1967 (Columbia Masterworks)

Unfiltered and pure Richard Wagner.   In no fashion in my life at this moment can I sit down or watch an entire Wagner opera.  One, I could care less for him, but on the other hand, I'm in love with "Prelude and Love-Death from Tristan and Isolde."  The intensity builds, releases a bit and builds again.  It never let's go and it's like standing on the ledge of a building and thinking about jumping.  But you don't!   "Tannhäuser Overture" and "Die Meistersinger Prelude" are just perfect melodic pieces of clouds floating over one's soul and ears.  

I bought this album for a dollar and to me, it's worth seven times that amount.  I even like the album cover.  The lightning over nature, just about to give the landscape hell.  Wagner is all about mood, and the overtures and preludes are just enough Wagner for me. I don't need anymore.  I also love Uri Caine's small combo versions of Wagner's set pieces as well.   That and this album is all the Wagner I need.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Love - "Four Sail" Album, Vinyl, LP, 1969 (Elektra)

The fourth and last album for Elektra Records, Love narrows down in the arrangements with all new members, except for Arthur Lee of course.   As a producer, I feel he needed someone else to expand on the sounds.  The album is very two guitars, bass, and drums.  What makes it unusual is Lee's brilliant singing as well as his superb songwriting.  I've been avoiding "Four Sail" (the punning title is bad enough) due that I loved the first three Love albums, and I can't imagine an album without the original band.   Now listening to it, I do miss the guys in Love Mark one.  Still, songs like "Always See Your Face" is a classic Arthur Lee song/performance.  His sense of rhythm with a remembrance of the samba or traces of jazz overtures, he's a writer to me that is very close to Burt Bachrach.  I don't think it was an accident that Love recorded his "My Little Red Book," and that there is an aesthetic connection between the two songwriters. 

Song wise not that different from the early Love.  Lee's songs are hard to pin down, and they're highly sophisticated works.  A unique artist, who sounds like no one else. "Four Sail" is not my favorite Love album, but then again, just because it's Arthur Lee, it is a fantastic album in parts.  If he had full orchestration on this album, and recorded by someone who is more into textures of sound, this could have been another masterpiece by Love.  

Elvis Presley - "The Other Sides: Worldwide Gold Award Hits - Vol 2" 4 x Vinyl, Compilation, Mono, 1971 (RCA)

Since I own and play Elvis Worldwide Gold Award Hits Volume 1, I clearly need to have the four disk box set of Elvis' B-sides as well.  My theory is that the A-side is the conscious side of the music, but the B-sides express the inner workings of an artist.  Both sets are in Mono, which is a must for me regarding songs in the 1950s and 1960s.  There are famous Elvis cuts here, such as "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" (wasn't this an A-side) and (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" but it's the songs I don't know that's the fun treasure hunt here. Oddly enough I don't think there is such a thing as a bad Elvis record.   Of course, there are the masterpieces, and then there are the 'others,' but in truth, he never gave a bad performance in a recording.   As mentioned playing the entire 4 album set is a trip to the artist's subconscious. There is always that feeling of regret that Elvis should have worked with David Bowie, or other producers and arrangers.  Alas, that obviously didn't happen.  Still, this is a very impressive collection of music.  Another highlight of the packaging is the inner sleeves show all the Elvis releases on RCA at the time of 1971, the release of this box set. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mick Harvey - "Pink Elephants" CD, Album, 1997 (Mute)

Volume two of Mick Harvey's heroic tribute to the genius of Serge Gainsbourg. "Pink Elephants" is my favorite of the Harvey/Gainsbourg albums, due to the song "Scenic Railway" which is beauty captured in a glass jar.  A sad but such an observant song.  Gainsbourg's genius is that he can mix in the outrageous with the profound in equal quantities in one song. "Requiem..." is another wonder and Harvey again captures the essence of the original.   If you hear the original Gainsbourg recordings, Harvey is very respectful to its arrangements, but of course, he adds touches here and there.  There are no miss-steps in Harvey's approach to the Gainsbourg songs.  Gainsbourg's recording career was from the 1950s to 1990s, and on this album, Harvey covers material from the 50s to the early 70s which are the masterpiece years of Gainsbourg. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bryan Ferry "Frantic" CD, Album, 2002 (Virgin)

For me, it's the last great Bryan Ferry album.  And I suspect that the album was recorded in different locations, as well as with various producers, and with lots of guitarists.  Perhaps all the musicians were not in the same room.  Still, "Frantic" is a remarkable album with some of the great (non)classic Ferry songs.  He covers two Dylan songs here, which seems to be an obsession with him for some odd reason.   I don't fully understand Ferry's take on Dylan's work,  but I suspect that the framework of the songwriter's music is a  huge canvas for Ferry to reflect and find endlessly textures within the veteran songwriter.  His version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is the absolute best.

The other interesting aspect of Ferry is that he consistently surrounds himself with strong individualistic musicians, who add their specific sound into the mix.  One finds someone like Mick Green who is a remarkable guitarist who worked with the legendary Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, mixing it up with Chris Speeding.   And Eno makes appearances here and there on "Frantic" as well.

The album is a sampler of the Ferry aesthetic, but a very well thought out and planned release. All the strengths are here, and none of the weakness.   I don't think the album sold and did that well, but I highly recommend that Ferry / Roxy fans check out this album.  There are a lot of jewels within its tracks.   

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Rolling Stones - "Beggars Banquet" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1968 (London)

I would think most people will think of "Beggars Banquet" as the classic Rolling Stones album, but to me, it's not as good as their previous albums.   "Sympathy for the Devil" is incredible, as well as "Street Fighting Man" (as a record, but as commentary?) and "Jig-Saw Puzzle" as well as "Salt of the Earth" are pretty fantastic as well.   This is the first album produced by Jimmy Miller after Andrew Loog Oldham left the Stones world.   A good solid record producer, but doesn't add the usual drama of a Stones recording, except for the opening epic "Sympathy for the Devil."  After that, I feel the Stones are mirroring their rhythm and blues angle, but not with the same conviction and passion of their early recordings.  Not a bad album by any means or imagination, but I wish there were a tad more of the Brian Jones magic within the grooves. Also lyrically, besides the songs I mentioned already, the rest of the tunes are slight with no great insight or observation sensibility.  On the other hand, Nicky Hopkins does fantastic piano throughout the album.