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Sunday, June 30, 2013

André Previn - "Previn Plays The Piano" Vinyl 10" RCA

André Previn – Previn Plays The Piano
Vinyl, 10”, 1947
RCA Victor

When I hear this 10” I think of gin martini's which compared to Vodka martini's, they knock me out. There's a toxic aspect to composer André Previn's piano playing. Very intelligent, and I like the combination of Previn's piano with the guitar work by Al Viola in the song “Hallelujah.” Also the introduction to “Just One Of Those Things” is very percussive with the piano keys on one hand and the other he does a speed riff along with the electric guitar. I suspect this is Previn's first record and the way he handles these standards is from the viewpoint of youth. It has the freshness of the new, and it titters between be-bop and standard jazz. An odd tension between the old and the new.

What attracted me to this record is the 10” size as well as the cover. I am a sucker for 1940's album covers. One thing I notice is that album covers always convey the 'now' or whatever that decade is. There are of course some made now (and maybe then?) that is retro – like the Bryan Ferry Orchestra for instance, but mostly the graphics convey the year or the era quite honestly. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

André Hodeir - "L'écume Des Jours, Bande Originale du Film" Vinyl 7" EP

André Hodeir – L'écume Des Jours – Bande Originale Du Film
Vinyl 7” EP, 1968

It took me forever to find this 7” EP. Found it once at Baby Doll in Tokyo but it was too expensive for me. Eventually found it on Ebay for around $50 – and worth every cent! André Hodeir's mixture of choir, electronics and jazz is a remarkable record. The soundtrack to a very obscure film that's based on Boris Vian's novel of the late '40s called L'écume des jours (Foam of the Daze), and although that film does have its moments, its the soundtrack that is the main interest here.

Also the EP cover is fantastic. I think it pretty much describes the novel visually, and I often find this image on postcards. But the beauty of this haunted music is superb. It's sad, a mood piece that fits the mood of the novel more than the film itself.  Also I collect anything that deals with Boris Vian, and this EP is probably my most precious part of my collection.

Friday, June 28, 2013

André Hodeir - "Jazz et Jazz" Vinyl Mono Album

André Hodeir – Jazz et Jazz
Vinyl album, Mono 1960

The opening track “Jazz et Jazz” is a piece of music that is ahead of its time. Its a combination of jazz (of course), Musique Concrete, and tape manipulations. The swilling of the horns and then the beat comes in with the bop piano is one kick in the air. On the surface its gimmicky, but it is a beautifully arranged tune. Why this record didn't make a bigger noise out there is a total mystery to me. There is small combo jazz and then there's this. Jazz orchestration used by Hodeir almost as a singular vision. There are aspects of the music and arrangement that is over-studied, but that is also part of the charm with respect to Hodeir's work. 

André Hodeir - "Anna Livia Plurabelle"

André Hodeir – Anna Livia Plurabelle
Vinyl LP, 1966

An jazz opera? A conceptual jazz recording? It's André Hodeir which means something unique, a tad strange, and beautifully played. Hodeir was a jazz composer, jazz theorist, film composer and conductor. Almost border-line avant-garde but with strong be-bop roots. In many ways he's the Gil Evans of France. Also a pal of Boris Vian and other American jazz players as well as working with the leading French jazz musicians of his time. So in my book that makes him an exceptional fellow.

Here he's working with the French greats including the dynamic vocalist Nicole Croisille, with words by James Joyce, this is a textural jazz big band piece. Which sounds like its forced on paper is actually an incredible listening experience.  I smell a whiff of genius whenever I hear the name of André Hodeir.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Alex Chilton - "Live In London" CD Album

Alex Chilton – Live in London
CD, Album 1980
Line Records

Certain musicians compress all their taste and knowledge in their music. Alex Chilton was not only an incredible songwriter but also a curator of sorts with respect to musical history. A man who loved the most obscure rockabilly song to American songwriting standards. He had that whole world in his hands, and the beauty of his work is how he put his stamp on the music. It is sort of like he is the driver, and you are the passenger, and off you go!

I suspect one thing that Clinton never had a concern about is a typical 'music career.' It seems he had a strong 'fuck you' attitude to the business side of that world. But what is impressive about the man is that when I saw him in various clubs around the world, he was like a human jukebox. Mind you he was not going to take any requests (at least when I saw him) but if he wanted to – he could do anything musically. And the fact he's dead now, he left an enormous empty hole in contemporary music. But alas, there are the recordings....

"Live in London" with a pick-up band which I believe are members of the Soft Boys. He rocks in an intense way that is partly existential, spiritual, and just nasty rock. But never forgetting the beautiful melodies that come out of the evening's chaos. Live in London is that and more. Recorded right after he put out his masterpiece Likes Flies on Sherbet this is an album that goes right into his past from the Box Top's “The Letter” to Big Star songs. One of my favorite live albums, in fact, one of my favorite albums period.

Aldo Ciccolini / Erik Satie - "Piano Music of Erik Satie, Vol 2"

Aldo Ciccolini / Erik Satie – Piano Music of Erik Satie, Vol 2
Vinyl LP, Stereo
Angel Records

Some of this music on this album sounds very music hall. I imagine a lot of drinking and drunks dancing around the piano and its piano player. Specifically “Le Belle Excentrique.” Erik Satie is so one with his melodic writings that it's kind of scary. Aldo Ciccolini is also very much in Satie's skin while playing his music. He captures the humor but also understands the specific beauty of the work as well. Dreamy, but dreamy in a world where one doesn't or can't dream. There is tension between the two worlds and I am not sure if its Satie or Ciccolini driving us to that entrance way. Nevertheless beautiful.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Aldo Ciccolini /Erik Satie - "Piano Music of Erik Satie, Vol 1" Vinyl Album

Aldo Ciccolini / Erik Satie – Piano Music of Erik Satie, Vol. 1
Vinyl LP Stereo, 1968
Angel Records

There are a handful of records (and we will get to all of them in this blog) that I was raised up with. So in a sense Aldo Ciccolini's recordings of Erik Satie's music are very much part of my DNA. I remember lazy warm afternoons at Beverly Glenn house and having this album at full volume in my parents' mono one huge speaker system. The house was basically a shack in the canyon between the Valley and Beverly Hills. The fact that this particular album had a Picasso portrait on its cover and a Jean Cocteau drawing on the back, pretty much made this album the soundtrack of my parents1960's boho life. 

 The melodies are so seductive, it has reached a large audience in the mid- to late 20th century. It is the sound of reflection, even though Satie was a total nutter with an incredible sense of humor. Nevertheless I can't help to think of my childhood when I hear this album. Or when I see the Angel record label I immediately think it is this album. One time in my life I thought Angel Records only issued one title in their catalog and this is it! Alas, I was wrong, but whenever I play this album I do think of the past.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Alan Klein - "Well At Least Its British" CD Album

Alan Klein – Well At Least Its British
CD, Album, Reissued 2008, original issue 1964

Here's a curiosity of importance! Alan Klein, a songwriter and performer made Well At Least Its British in 1964, when British music was trying hard to be American. But Klein went totally the other direction and presented himself as a Cockney working-class lad whose music bordered on British music-hall pop. Totally forgotten, till Blur's Damon Albarn gave him a creative check-in for the early Blur music, RPM the label re-issued this album as well as an obscure single produced by Joe Meek.

Klein's take on pop was that there wasn't an English voice and he didn't see the point imitating an American voice. Not that he's exactly a Nationalist, but the self-expression through his songs is one of an everyday Englishman. Specifically an Islington chap.

Hearing the album now, it seems so quaint and twee. But I keep coming back to it, I think mostly due to my interest in 20th century London culture. If I hear it enough, I feel like a gate will open to a new discovery. In many ways I hear traces of Jake Thackray in his music and words. Both have that 'everyman' approach to their songs, but alas, it is somehow totally unique.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Alan Goraguer - "Go-go-Goraguer CD Album

Alain Goraguer – Go-go-Goraguer
CD album, 2001 (recored 1956 in Paris)
Universal Music (France)

Alain Goraguer is one of the amazing music figures in contemporary French music. In the late '50s he was Serge Gainsbourg's arranger, and made some incredible recordings with him, and a tad earlier he made this album Go-go-Goraguer. Hearing this I imagine Alain Delon playing a gangster walking into a crowded bistro in a Jean-Pierre Melville film. The music reflects on the beauty of its time and its played somewhere between between dusk and dawn. Jazz is always cinamatic to me, and especially French jazz. I can practically smell Pigalle off these melodies.

Goraguer plays the piano in a manner that is bopish but with a sense of lightness. Beautifully and tastefully backed by Double Bass Paul Rovére and drums by Christian Garros. Also do note that Goraguer in the early '70s made a remarkable electronic soundtrack to the film La Planéte Sauvage as well as composing the imfamous Boris Vian related J'iri cracher sur vos tombes.

AIR - "Sexy Boy" CD Single

AIR – Sexy Boy
CD Single, 1998
Caroline Records

To this day I have never fully heard the lyrics to “Sexy Boy.” But I always think of it as a children's song, due to the sweet catchy melody. There is nothing menacing about the 'sexy boy' in this context, it is part of nature. But once in awhile while I listen to this song, I sense an urge of evil of some sort. The beauty of a classic pop song or recording is that it conveys different moods, and I think it is more in the head of the listener than anything else. So if I feel sinister that is what I hear. But mostly when I listen to Air's “Sexy Boy” I think of lost innocence of some sort. I imagine an older gentleman singing this song, with some regrets about their life.

The Sex Kino Mix by Beck is also charming. The munching of a carrot in the beginning gives the song a cartoon touch - perhaps Bugs Bunny?

AIR - "Moon Safari" CD Album

AIR – Moon Safari
CD Album, 1998

The first Air album for me. A grand introduction to their seductive world of floating melodies, and pretty images that one gets in their heads. Psychedelic music for those who don't indulge. And I don't, so I need music like this. Its a world that is made-up, fluffy, and everything is beautiful. I think the fact that my life is beautiful makes this music a perfect fit for me. Anytime I have a sense of doubt or I can't make it, just play “Sexy Boy” and the world is all of sudden all right again.

Pop music has many purposes, but I think Air understands how music can affect one's mood whatever its happiness or sadness. Basically if you think about it, its really the one and the same. Music used as a soundtrack to one's life is something that goes beyond the sense of mood. I have always felt a sense of dread, and this music as well as its happiness, can easily reflect the sadness in life as well. I don't understand how any one can not like this album. You don't have to love it, but to hate it – I would think that's impossible.

AIR - "The Virgin Suicides OST"

AIR – The Virgin Suicides OST
CD Album, 2000

Love the album, I think mostly because it reminds me of one of my favorite soundtrack albums Emmanuelle. Here you have one song and then the rest of the album is incidental music. Its very lush, minimal, tune-full, and very beautiful. There is no mistaking it for it not being a Soundtrack album. The leading song “Playground Love” is nice, but I much prefer the following songs that sort of play with the leading melody. The sounds are sensual and velvety, it is almost a record that you want to take your shoes off before entering its world. Outside it's too dirty, but in here, you're perfectly safe, clean and OK. 

AIR - "Radio #1/Radio #1 (Senior Coconut Remix) /Radio #1 (Call Out Hook #1)

AIR – Radio #1 / Radio #1 (Senor Coconut Remix) / Radio #1 (Call Out Hook #1) ' Radio #1 (Call Out Hook #2)
CD Single, 2001, US Promo 4-track CD

One of those perfect singles. Radio #1 is a radio hit, even if there are no more radios. Dreamy melody but the song almost rocks which makes it perfectly charming. The lyrics flirts with psychedelic imagery. The whole AIR motif is one where it reminds you of another era, but that era is sort of an imagined one, it may have never existed. Which gives their work a certain amount of sadness.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Air - "Premiers Symptomes" CD Album

AIR – Premiers Symptomes
CD Album, 1999

Only if all airport terminal music can sound like this. Dreamy, relaxing, and not a sign or a sigh of stress or tension, just the need to float with the music. Air, the dynamic Parisian duo, has made a recording that is ambient to a point, but also has close ties to easy listening music of the early 60's or late 50's. Done on vintage electronic instruments there is something so pure about it all. And that may be its overall weakness, but still, it is like eating an over-sweet candy or a surgery alcoholic cocktail – it goes down well, but maybe too much of it will give you a bad headache or tummy ache.

But all of that aside, it is music that is hard to put-down. For one, these are guys who know their music history. There is nothing causal about the music, it is very much a focused understanding of the nature of ambient electronics, european soundtracks, and the beauty of slight stereophonic sounds.

And come to think of it the music will work well as background for making-out. So its a win-win album.

Adam Faith (and John Barry) - "Adam" CD Album, Mono & Stereo

Adam Faith – Adam
CD album, Mono & Stereo, 1960

When I hear this album I feel like I fell in a time-wrap but that specific time doesn't really exist. The main interest for me is that Adam is arranged and conducted by the great John Barry. Even if I sang on this album, it would be interesting! But to be fair to Adam Faith, he does have an intimate way of singing. But I get the impression that he came in after everything is recorded and he's just following directions on a sheet of paper. But actually hearing this album is a surreal experience, because it is two albums in one. As I mentioned the Barry arrangements are right in your face, and then the vocals seems to be an afterthought. But Faith is an interesting cat. He was in the business in all its positions. He was a teen star, actor, a manager and eventually an investment advisor – not a very good one. But he's a lad who made out OK.

So on the surface I don't like this album, but there is something that attracts me to the music. And it maybe due to my appreciation of British music history and people like John Barry. A dream world for me, and listening to this album puts me in world of not my making, but one that I can imagine. Even though Barry and Faith more likely won't recognize that world. 

Adam Ant - "Antics In The Forbidden Zone" CD Compilation, Remastered

Adam Ant – Antics In The Forbidden Zone
CD Compilation, Remastered

Adam Ant's survey from the first album From Dirk Wears White Sox to Vive Le Rock. Impressive work and maybe the best way to hear Adam's work. Not saying that he's solely a singles artist, but choosing specific cuts gives his work a greater strength. Here's a great resume to give out to someone who haven't heard Adam or his Ants.

I always felt he was extremely underrated, and sort of a joke figure, where in fact his recordings (especially with Marco his long-termed guitarist) are really forward sounding, but taking sounds from the past. In that sense it is similar to the first Roxy Music album. Traces are there to remind one of a past, but what we are talking about is the future or at the very worst, the now. Through out the early years – both with the Ants and solo, his work has been commercial, but with a specific edge and respect to its roots. Adam knows his history – mostly culturally, and uses it in his music and visuals. There is not a bad cut on this 'greatest hits' collection, its all pure sunlight, but we all know the darkness that lurked behind that brightness.  

Adam And The Ants - "Prince Charming" CD Album Remastered

Adam And The AntsPrince Charming
CD Album, remastered 2006

This album was made in the height of Ant-madness and one can hear a bigger budget but also very much conscious of the fact that it needs to do something newish compared to the last album, which of course is a masterpiece. In other words we have the curse of the second album following a strong debut album. “Five Gun West” is not new, and goes back to the sound of their Kings Of The Wild Frontier. And that is good because it is the super uber sound of Morricone filtered through the Adam magic. Also the mix or the recording is much milder compared to the last album. It needs that extra amount of chaos or being abandoned by the violence of the beat. Nevertheless there are the (and rightfully so) classics here such as the above song, “Stand and Deliver” and “Prince Charming” of course. Also one gets the feeling that everything that need to be said was said on Kings Of The Wild Frontier. But on the other hand there are traces of something new...

Adam And The Ants - "Prince Charming" b/w "Christian D'Or" Vinyl 45 RPM 7" Single

Adam And The Ants – Prince Charming b/w Christian D'Or
Vinyl 45 rpm 7”

If I had one theme song when I enter a room I want it to be “Prince Charming.” In 3 minutes and 16 seconds, Adam conveys a very important issue of knowing when one's a dandy and to live up to that promise. And of course I love the Prince Charming dance. I love the whole spectacle of “Prince Charming” and its a perfect single, because it say a lot more than a song in that it conveys a world where one has to make a perfect presentation of that world. And Adam is nothing else but an aesthetic man re-building the world to his liking. And the single allows nothing to get in the way of such a world. The b-side “Christian D'Or” is another side of the obsession of perfection. “Christian D'Or” is a name of high-standard life, yet Adam seems to be a prisoner of his own aesthetic or dandy ways. So the single is a one-two punch on the same theme. The lighter side of it all is on the first side, and the b-side is darkness of that world.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Adam and the Ants - "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" CD Remastered

Adam And The AntsKings Of The Wild Frontier
CD Album, remastered, 2006

It was goodbye 1970's and hello 1980's with this particular album when it came out the summer of 1980. At the time it was such an odd new sound. The mixture of spaghetti western sounds with tribal drumming was an original concept and is still fresh today. At the time I really didn't know the sounds or music of Ennio Morricone, except I slightly knew his work from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly but that was it. And for sure I knew nothing of the Burundi drums. So hearing Adam And The Ants was totally new to my ears. Listening to it now there is something very Gene Vincent about it all. Or maybe its a throw-back to the Rockabilly 50's era. All of that is in the music of Adam, and like a great magician he mixes the potent powers of each genre of music and made something new. The beauty of pop is its ability to borrow from different cultures to hopefully to make a new soup. The 80's were open to that possibility – especially in the U.K.

The one-two punch of “Dog Eat Dog” and “Antmusic” is one of the great openings of an album. Perfectly paced this is a record that stands as a manifesto as well. Adam didn't only want to make music but I think he wanted to change or put his stamp on contemporary culture of the time. And that he did. And one has to note the importance of Marco Pirroni in its mix. His rockabilly meets Morricone guitar mix is very much part of the sound that makes up The Ants. Superb.

ABC - "That Was Then But This Is Now" Vinyl 7" Single

ABC – That Was Then But This Is Now
Vinyl 7” Single, 45 rpm, 1983

For me, my favorite ABC song. After the hype, the over-the-top arrangements of their first album The Lexicon of Love and all the visuals that came with it, this record was a refreshing but still biting and angry sound from Martin and company. In their own fashion it was their Anarchy in the U.K. What's interesting is that they obviously felt the need to throw off the image of the first album, into something more edgy and guitar orientated. And again, I feel they were following or looking up to Roxy Music and how they transformed their sound/image (very slightly) at this time period. ABC never returned to the sound of That Was Then..., but it was a glorious noise from what I feel is an extremely underrated band.  

ABC - "The Lexicon of Love"

ABC – The Lexicon of Love
Vinyl LP Album, 1982

ABC wouldn't exist without Roxy Music, but with even that Martin Fry and company has brought a certain amount of glamour angst to the pop world circa 1982. And it is not only the music but the visuals as well. The Lexicon of Love is an over-the-top concept, that includes the music (of course) but also the graphics of the album cover and 12” & 7” sleeves as well as the videos – and their one hour film by Julian Temple that sort of puts the whole theme in one package. The film “Mantrap” is not great, but the individual videos are still of great charm and intelligence.

Trevor Horn, the producer and his team, brought the songs aurally into the scale of a full-color 1950's cinemascope film. This album and the first album by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, is Horn's masterpiece of production and conception. But one can't underestimate Fry's lyrics/conceptual skills and the sophisticated funk/pop of the band. Also beyond the visuals, one is struck by Fry's face which is acne-scarred, yet beautiful in the context of the ABC world. In other words it adds a certain amount of soul into the illusion of their world.

I remember seeing ABC at the height of the hype for The Lexicon of Love at the Hollywood Palladium with a full orchestra. It was a great spectacle, and ABC is very much about spectacle.

ABBA - "More Abba Gold"

CD, US 1993

If ABBA's Gold the lightness, then More ABBA Gold is the poison leaked from that supposed happiness. On repeated listens, this can be the most depressing album ever. Or just a romantic mood about to fall over. Songs like The Day Before You Came list the hours before finding perhaps Mr. or Ms. Of one's life - but there is something so banal and depressing about it all.

The genius of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' music and words is that its music for the every person, but to acknowledge such romantic dreams and failure turns it into an operatic theater piece of sorts. Its beautiful and full of surface feelings, but if you dig underneath their image, you'll find a certain amount of despair. ABBA is so unique and one with its time. Essential pop that doesn't really speak for its era (the 70's) but in its own time-warp. ABBA reminds me of some outside artists who make up their own world and there is our world and then there's ABBA's world. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ABBA - "Gold" CD Album

ABBA – Gold
CD Album, US

ABBA is always fascinating because on the surface they're pure kitsch, but if you really listen to their music and words, there is a darkness that leaks out of the glitter. Over-the-top arrangements that seemed to be full of sugar, is actually quite spicy. “The Winner Takes It All,” “Fernando,” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” has the tinge of darkness that makes one take a pause. So things don't seem to be a technicolor brilliance, but there is a sadness in their music that makes it into a hard grey color.

Gold is the ultimate greatest hits package from these two (at the time) married couples. One wonders if they see it as a memoir of sorts, or is it just song-writing done on a very professional manner. I suspect a bit of both. 

A Certain Ratio - "Early" CD Album

A Certain Ratio – Early
CD Album, UK 2002
Soul Jazz Records

Factory Records hit me hard as a young man in his super early 20's. Joy Division spoke to me at that age, and also the visuals were incredibly important as well. Ian Curtis was so haunted, it made my heart ache. But now, I can barely listen to their music. Not that I hate it, but more to the fact that the music doesn't speak for me anymore. I used it, it used me, and I was satisfied. Next!

For that label, and what a more lasting effect, is A Certain Ratio. The visuals of the band were even more striking to me than Joy Division. They had this sort of Lawrence of the Arabia without the robes look. Military baggy shorts, 1930's haircuts, thick boy scout or military socks that go up to the knee, and basically sort of look like British prisoners of war circa the early days of World War 2. And the music is …. dub jazz funk. It was like if Miles Davis started a British band in the late 70's. To me I think this was Factory Records head Tony Wilson's great discovery.

Early is the ultimate collection of all the early and hard to find singles by A Certain Ratio. The spacey dub effects and the self-obsessed funk makes this band the bad and slightly darker version of Joy Division's rock stance. If Ian and company looked up to Iggy, The Doors, and Velvets, then A Certain Ratio looked up to obscure funk singles and Miles electric music era. In many ways they perfectly complimented each other. But the lasting effect for me is A Certain Ratio. 

801 "801 Live" CD Album

801- 801 Live
CD, Album, US, Original release 1976
EG - EGCD 26

A side project by Roxy Music's great guitarist Phil Manzanera, with an all-star cast of musicians that were making a big noise in the year of punk 1976. Here we have a combination of three albums or artists promoting their work in one swoop. Manzanera's side band Quiet Sun, his first proper solo album, and Eno's early solo albums. The great thing about Manzanera is that he's half prog and half Ventures/Shadows. His range of styles go from world music to Joe Meek. 801, named after an Eno lyric, uses the skills of prog/jazz into the pure rush of something like “Baby's on Fire.” The beauty of “Diamond Head” is almost Shadows like in that the guitar plays a hypnotic melody and it just builds and builds. Two interesting covers on this live set; The Kinks “You Really Got Me” and The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” which perfectly conveys the interest in dream-like pop with the grittiness of British invasion rock via The Kinks.

The arrangements on 801 are beautifully put together. “Rongwrong” truly an exquisite piece of dreamy music starts off like an Eno out-take from Another Green World and then goes into this wishful melody. One of the great things about 801 is that you can clearly hear every instrument, so everyone stands out, yet the whole sound or picture is extremely sophisticated – and the cuts blend into each other effortlessly.

To give band full credit: Phil Manzanera guitar, Bill MacCormick on bass, Francis Monkman electric piano, Simon Phillips drums, Lloyd Watson guitar, and Brian Eno on everything else. All splendid here.

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