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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Who - "Live At Leeds" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1970 (Decca)

My copy of The Who's "Live AT Leeds" is battered and well-played by my guess, a teenager.  If one used a DNA test on the vinyl surface, my assumption that they would find body fluids as well as various meals, and traces of dope.  I bought my copy at Rockaway Records in Silver Lake, and it was appropriately priced due to its condition.  It also had some, not all of the inserts.  For instance, the black and white photo image of The Who was missing, as well as the other photographs, including the poster.   I have to presume that more likely the original owner probably placed the photos as well as the poster on their bedroom wall, but the contracts and other paper stuff is still intact. 

Since the original release, it has been remastered, remixed, and more songs added to the package, but still, I prefer the old scratched version of this early live masterpiece.  This is The Who stretching out as a band, and it's interesting that side two only lasts around 14 minutes, when side two's "My Generation" lasts for 14:27.  And it includes a 7-minute version of "The Magic Bus."  "Live At Leeds" represents not only the live Who but a very heavy sounding Who.  One can imagine that the volume for one, must have been like a Jet taking off in a closed room.  As you can gather, The Who consisted of a lead singer, lead guitarist, lead bassist, and of course, the lead drums.  No one in the band holds back.  It's full-frontal attack that only ends in quiet dynamics of a song piece, or at the end of the show. 

"Live At Leeds" by no means is my favorite Who album, but still, it represents the year 1970, and what that meant in rock.  Clearly an important documentation of a live album, and it's aesthetic.  Songs are not intended to ape the recordings, but actually, a re-thinking of the original records or maybe the live version is the original, and the studio recordings were a softer xerox.  Nevertheless, listening to my version of this album puts me in place when I was 15 years old, and I think I actually know the kid that owned and played this album - in theory at least! 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Rolling Stones - "12 X 5" Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono, 1964 (London Records)

The second "American" Rolling Stones album.    One of the secret pleasures of this album is that the recording of "Time Is On My Side" is the organ-heavy version, rather than the guitar orientated track. Most of the album was recorded in Chicago, which at the time, was ground zero for the Stones' interest in the blues.  The key cuts for me are "Time Is On My Side," and their great version of Bobby and Shirley Womack's "It's All Over Now."   Also, the songwriting talents of Jagger and Richards was slowly put to use on their "Good Times, Bad Times."  In a sense, it was a look back as they moved forward in time. 

"12 X 5" should and must remain as a Mono recording.  I would argue that the Stones entire work with Andrew Loog Oldham should stay in mono.   The earthiness of these recordings is made for transistor radios and one giant speaker.   Stereo would open up the process, but this is music made in a specific area of sound, and it should remain murky, dark, and wonderfully mysterious. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Roberto Pregadio & Romano Mussolini - "Satanik" OST, Vinyl, LP, Album, 2017/1967, Limited Edition, Red Vinyl (Dagored)

The soundtrack to Piero Vivarelli's film "Satanik" based on an Italian comic book series.  The score is jazz, with touches of soundtrack melodies coming here and there.  Mostly the listener feels like they're sitting in a small Rome bar and listening to the band.   Not too far off from a Henry Mancini or even John Barry type of jazz feel.  So we're not talking Miles or Monk here, but a very cool version of jazz, that is more likely played by men in suits and sunglasses and of course, in the middle of the night.   

I know nothing of the composers/musicians Roberto Pregadio and Romano Mussolini.  Pregadio is a jazz pianist who did a lot of Italian soundtracks.   Mussolini is the youngest son of the Italian dictator, and reportedly has no interest in politics, but hugely into jazz.  He played piano and had often worked with Pregadio for soundtracks.  Mussolini is very much a known pianist in Italy and had a long career in that country.   

The soundtrack aspect of the music I think is more Pregadio than Mussolini.  In such moments, the incidental music reminds me a bit of Nino Rota, not in his over-the-top arrangements, but a quiet sense of melody suitable for 3 in the morning. Pergadio is credited as the conductor and director of the orchestra, while the music is credited to both Pregadio and Mussolini.   Or more likely Mussolini made the jazz music.  There is no clear credit on the album.  

The album is red vinyl and in a limited edition of 500.  It's a nice soundtrack album, that's not the best out there, but alas, it gives me pleasure. 

Frank Sinatra - "To Be Perfectly ...Frank" Vinyl LP, Album, Bootleg (Retrospect)

I wrote a commentary on the CD version of "To Be Perfectly... Frank" a few months ago, but finally found this Frank Sinatra bootleg on vinyl the other day.   It's my favorite Sinatra album.   In 1953, Sinatra had a weekly radio show in Los Angeles where he played DJ, and then he would do one song live on the show.  The album (and CD) is a compilation of those recordings, and they're a remarkable document of this incredible American artist.   Which sounds academic-like, but in reality a real joy to listen to these recordings. 

What makes these recordings so unique is that it's Sinatra with a small band, including an electric jazz guitar, bass, drums, and Piano, and one can easily imagine all these musicians plus Frank, in a tiny radio studio together.  The intimacy is very much part of these recordings.    The songs are all from the classic American songbook, but with quite a few of obscurities as well.   Also, note that there are more songs on the CD version than the LP.   I found this (sealed) vinyl by getting on my knees in a record store and going through the floor-level bins.  It's amazing what one can find (or do) on one's delicate knees. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Robert Wyatt - "Nothing Can Stop Us" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1982 (Rough Trade)

Robert Wyatt can cover anyone's song and make it sound like a Wyatt original masterpiece.  One of the great soulful singers of the 20th century and beyond.  The beauty of his 'hairy' voice is that it's very demanding and draws the listener into his world.  The Wyatt world is a part absurdity, total pop, Jazz-leanings, and the political song.  "Nothing Can Stop Us" is very much a political work set in a Wyatt style pop format. 

For one there is only one Original Wyatt composition on the album "Born Again Cretin."  An appeal to have Mandela free, but Wyatt doesn't do slogans, his approach is a very thoughtful and voice pleads with great sincerity but also a pain.  The song opens up with Wyatt doing a scat-jazz-horn solo with his voice, as well as an overdubbed sea of vocals, with a very minimal keyboard.  It's a beautiful, tender recording that's about something not tender, nor good.  The rest of the album is covers, and which are basically either politically driven or Wyatt gives what seems like a love song, a political intensity.  Chic's "At Last, I'm Free" is a beautiful ballad by Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards, that on this set of songs, is something more than a plea for a lover to return their love to the singer.   Wyatt's take is of someone asking something from a position of weakness or one who has no power.  

There are two songs sung in Spanish, and they are "Caimanera" which is first known to English language ears as "Guantanamera," a hit soft-pop song by the group The Sandpipers.  The very left-wing folk group from the 50s, The Weavers (with Pete Seeger) were probably the first to introduce the song in the English-speaking world, but even their version is in Spanish.   Wyatt's take is very close to the melody, but I believe the lyrics (in Spanish) are more explicit in its politics that took place in Central America at the time.  The other song in Spanish is "Arauco" dealing issues in Chilean politics.  

The oddity on the album is "Grass" a tune by Ivor Cutler, a known eccentric and poet.   Indian pop filtered through the sensibility of Wyatt.  And then he gives two tracks over to Dishari and poet/writer  Peter Blackman.   In actuality, most of the songs here have been released as singles, so it doesn't feel like an album, even though there is the Left perspective on all the songs.  Including a haunting version of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit."    Wonderful. 

The Damned - "Machine Gun Etiquette" Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, 2016/1979 (Chiswick Records)

Is it even possible to dislike a band like The Damned?   I can see people hating Radiohead or Arcade Fire, but The Damned to me seems anti-hate proof, in that its purpose is to entertain and treat the world in a comic book vision, where one lives in a world of punk.  But the punk here is not one type of individual because The Damned represents unique individuals who are members of The Damned.   Rat Scabies is basically a Keith Moon, Algy Ward is the journeyman Punk rocker, Captain Sensible is the punk clown with color, and Dave Vanian is the goth king, but not on the goth planet, but the punk planet.  Clearly, on paper at the very least, a perfect band.  

The first two Damned albums had Brian James in the band, and he wrote all their material. Similar to Syd Barrett who was the chief writer for Pink Floyd, - when James left the group, the thought of the time was, 'there's no band without Brian James (or Syd).  Alas, the other musicians come up to the bat and somehow became even more successful than the original lineup.   "Machine Gun Etiquette" is very much the 'great' rock album.   One would say 'punk, ' but I feel that the music on this album goes beyond the punk, but at the same time, that aesthetic is very much the foundation for the record.  The fact that they had Nick Mason (they wanted Syd, but ...) produce their second album says a lot about their outlook and their presence in their own world, and how they look beyond the island of punk. 

Captain Sensible (proper name) as a guitarist has a robust approach to pop melody, and "Machine Gun Etiquette" is full of catchy and beautiful melodies.  The piano beginning of "Melody Lee" is one of my favorite pieces of music.  I can listen to a much longer version of that work, even if it lasts for one hour.  That is just an introduction when the song turns to the volume of 11, and while keeping the melody intact, it is like having a hyperactive child on one's lap.  The album is chaos, but it works from that format into a pop symphony of sorts. 

As I listened to it recently, it reminds me very much of The Who during their "A Quick One" and "The Who Sell Out" era.  Lots of thrashing with beautiful melodies, but also a sneaking ambition in song concept and projection.  At times, I even think of "Machine Gun Etiquette" as the great lost John Entwistle album.  Or for sure, if The Damned was just a touch younger, Kit Lambert would have surely signed them to Track Records, and produce their recordings.  Then again, perhaps that's my overactive imagination at work.  Nevertheless, "Machine Gun Etiquette" is an album that never ages. A beautiful piece of work. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jean Ledrut - "The Trial" OST, Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, 2017/1962 (Doxy Music)

I know very little to nothing about the musician/composer Jean Ledrut.  Looking at his Discography, I can only find this album 'The Trial," as well as the original release of the same title but as a 7" EP and the full-length album as well.   This is the original soundtrack to Orson Welles' film of 1962, "The Trial" based on the novel by Franz Kafka.  It's a great film, and I think it's an Orson Welles masterpiece. Beyond that, I have a thing for Tomaso Albinoni's "Adagio in G Minor."  The music is used throughout the film, which gives it a slightly sad and depressed presence to "The Trial." The fact that the film/novel is very black humor in its practice, but seen as some as a 'heavy' statement of our culture, is an additional layer of pleasure for both the film and the soundtrack. 

Beside Ledrut, the other strong presence on the album is the great jazz pianist/film track composer Martial Solal.   He also wrote the score for Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless."  Here he does piano work for the jazzy score that is very much part of this project.   The main theme is Albinoni's music - arranged with strings, but also with solo organ (my favorite) and then various 'jazz' versions of the theme.  Ledrut I believe did the arrangements of the "Adagio in G Minor" but also wrote the Incidental music that's on the album as well.  

There's not a whole lot of information on the album, which is a real minus, especially since the composer/artist is an unknown figure in the English speaking world, but on the other hand, Doxy once again has made a work that wasn't available to the music market, and one has to appreciate their taste and expertise in getting this soundtrack out to the world.  I have written about Doxy (the label) in other posts/commentary, but I don't know anything about them. I suspect that they're from Italy, but even that is a mystery.  They do a lot of reissues of soundtrack albums and jazz/pop recordings. All good if not excellent taste in music and presentation.  Still, I suspect that they are a bootleg company that puts out music in between official labels, or works that become public domain.  Nevertheless, I never had a bad recording from this record label, and again, their taste is superb.