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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Beatles - "Free As A Bird" 45 rpm vinyl single

The Beatles - Free As A Bird
Vinyl 7” 45 rpm, U.S. 1995
Apple Records

Doctor Frankenstein  made this album.  John Lennon recorded this demo in 1977, and the Fab Three did overdubs, etc in 1995.  Morbid?  The weird thing for me is to pretend that somehow someone can come back from the dead to make a new recording.   Death is final.  But not in the pop music world.   But beyond that it’s a nice Beatle record.  The additional Paul like chorus or bridge is pure magic in conjunction with this being a Beatle record. Nevertheless it is a depressing record on many accounts.  The B-side is quite interesting.  The Beatles through out most of the 60’s made Christmas greetings on record for their fan club, and this one I believe was done in 1967, has a slight psych touch to it. 

The Beatles - "Baby It's You" Vinyl 7" EP

The Beatles - Baby It’s You
Vinyl 7” EP, 45 RPM, Mono, U.S., 1995
Apple Records

The fab four on BBC radio.  Four songs on this EP, each track features all four Beatles’s lead vocals. The key track here is their version of the Bacharach & David classic with a great Lennon vocal.  Overall this EP covers the Beatles love for the American girl group sounds.  Besides the title cut they also cover “Devil In Her Heart” (George sings it), and Ringo’s “Boys.”  Paul being the spoil sport does his “I’ll Follow The Sun.” 

The EP is a nice snapshot of a time, and one wonders if they knew, at the time of these recordings,  that they could never go back there again.  When I hear early Beatles material, I think of it as a time capsule, and it doesn’t place me in that time frame or point in history, but I feel that they were living for the moment, and they truly didn’t know what will happen around the corner. 

Arthur Lee & The American Four/ Arthur Lee & The Grass Roots - Unissued 1965 Demos 45rpm single

Arthur Lee & The American Four/ Arthur Lee & The Grass Roots - Unissued 1965 Demos
Vinyl 7” 45 RPM, Single, U.S., 2006
Norton Records

These very early demos by Arthur Lee and Love before they were Love, shows that he always had that “it” quality.   “Stay Away” is him and The American Four doing that garage rock thing that doesn’t really himt towards the classic Love sound.  But his voice is there, and it is fascinating to hear the raw Arthur, but then again I don’t think he was ever raw.   On one level it reminds me of  The Stooges “Shake Appeal” with the hypnotic hand-clapping which does give the recording a sense of urgency.

The b-side is  Arthur Lee and the Grass Roots, performing “You’ll Be Following” which is actually a Love song from their first album.  Different lyrics, perhaps “Signed DC?”  The lyrics are fascinating because it is a day in the life of Arthur with his band - of sorts.   His death was a real lost to music in my opinion.  He had that incredible mixture of styles that is only him.  He was an one-of-a-kind cocktail.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Albert Schweitzer - "Bach Volume 5" Vinyl LP

Albert Schweitzer - Bach Volume 5
Vinyl, LP, U.S.
Columbia Masterworks

I’ve been searching for Bach organ music for awhile now.  Specifically Glenn Gould, but can’t find that  on vinyl yet, but I do have this Albert Schweitzer album.   The only thing I knew about Dr. Schweitzer was that he spent time in Africa and he wore a pyth helmet.  I had not the foggiest notion that he was a musician and played Bach on the organ.  Therefore when I found this album in the bargain bin at Amoeba it was a great find for me.  

The fact that this is Volume 5 and therefore must be four other volumes floating in some store’s $1 bins is an exciting thought for me.  But what about his playing or the music?  Well, he is a doctor and therefore must be good with his hands.  The music is played beautifully with that rich sound from the organ that has to be such a heightened experience to hear something like that live.  When he recorded this album is a mystery to me.  There are no dates on it and there is a very long liner notes, that he wrote, but it is all about the music not about the recording of the album.   The pieces played on the album are “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” “Prelude and Fugue in A Major,” “Prelude and Fugue in F Minor,” & “Prelude And Fugue in B Minor.”  It’s a beautiful recording, and I do wish there was some information about the actual album.  Perhaps he recorded it in the jungle with his pyth helmet on?

Andy Starr - "Rockin' Rollin' Stone" 2 x Vinyl 45 RPM EP (Record Store Day)

Andy Starr - Rockin’ Rollin’ Stone
2 x Vinyl, 45 RPM, EP, Limited Edition, Gatefold, U.S. 2013
Sundazed Music

“Hey R-rrr-oo-c-k, R-rrr-oo-c-k” pretty much says it for this limited edition double  45 rpm vinyl set.  Andy Starr is an artist I know noting about, nor have I ever heard of him till I looked up the Sundazed website to see what they were offering  today on Black Friday Record Store day.   Once I saw the cover, I rolled down to Rockaway Records to pick a copy up.   It’s a fantastic set.

“I Wanna Go South” is the key cut for me, because it really builds, builds to a slow burning intensity.  There is something nasty in these tracks and I mean nasty in the right way.  The rhythm is a slow train heading towards the South, where our singer will eventually start his own church and it seemed he made a few X-Rated comedy records as well (according to the liner notes). 

Starr is the real deal.  It is odd of a man such wonderful talent comes to only two EP’s and eight songs in all.  But perhaps that is all needed to light up the world.  The two EP’s were recorded in different times from each other.  The first one is just voice, one guitar, stand-up bass, and drums.  The second disk has back-up vocals, and if you compare the two, the second disk is Elvis at RCA, and the first one is Sun.  Nevertheless it was a mood that made me buy this record, and it shows one needs to be in tuned with one’s mood.  It never fails man.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Master Musicians of Joujouka - "Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka" Vinyl LP

The Master Musicians of Joujouka - Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka
Vinyl LP, U.S., 1971
Rolling Stones Records

For me, Brian Jones is the musician that made The Rolling Stones be the Stones.  One can argue forever with respect how important he was to the band’s make-up, but to me when he left the band (as well as Andrew Loog Oldham) it became a very much of a different music group.  I might add not as one as interesting, because with Brian Jones you get a sense of exploration as well as adventure.  This album pretty much represents the adventure aspect of Brian and his world. 
Sadly I don’t have this record anymore, but Paul Bowles for Folkways or The Library of Congress, was the first one to record The Master Musicians of Joujouka, which in turn inspired a lot of musicians from the West.  Including Brian Jones who at the time must have been looking for something beyond the world of Mick and Keith.  The music here is hypnotic and rhythm orientated.   Brian went to Joujuka with a two-track portable recording machine to capture the magic, and he did.   When he got back to London, he added some stereo effects and did a re-mix of the album.  Its interesting because it is clearly how a western artist looks at another culture, specifically their music. 

It would be a mistake to see this as only music from this particular tribe, because Brian added his sensibility to the mix as well.  Paul Bowles probably captured the essence that is the Musicians, but Brian Jones with this recording added a footnote of sort.  A footnote that is an entrance to another world.   It is tragic that he died, because i suspect he would explore this sort of music more, as well as matching it with the intensity of the blues.  I believe we lost a visionary with the death of Brian Jones.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brian Eno - "Music For Films" CD

Brian Eno - Music For Films
CD Album, Remastered, UK, Europe & U.S., 2005

An interesting concept that this album was made in thought to be soundtracks to films that are imaginary or doesn’t exist.  Eventually over time Producers have used this music, but the original concept is music that is for film, but alas it is only music.   

This is a good but not great album, but I suspect that a lot of the tracks were recorded during Eno’s masterpiece Another Green World but somehow didn’t make it to the final record.  I am not sure about this, and I’m totally guessing - but when I hear this album that is the first thought that comes to my mind. 

Brian Eno - "2: Vocal" 3 x CD Box Set

Brian Eno 2: Vocal
3 x CD, Compilation, Box Set, UK, 1993

This is a very good compilation of Eno’s vocal recordings in one package.  The essential aspect of the box set are the singles that never made it onto the official albums released by Eno.  “Seven Deadly Finns” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” are important early Eno recordings.  As well as the record he made with Snatch “R.A.F.   The rest of the songs  are pretty much available on his other albums, but I think the key thing here is the packaging.  One who is a fan will want the box set of his vocals as well as the Instrumentals package.  It is sort of like owning and controlling the yin & yang.   So this, basically is a great present for the one who doesn’t have Eno’s recordings.  But I think for the hardcore fan, they would be happy to have the original albums as well as trying to locate the 45 singles.  

If one is on a strict budget, I would settle for the instrumental set, because I think there is a great deal of unreleased or hard-to-find tracks in that package.  The Vocal box set is not that obscure with respect to finding the original albums and recordings. 

Also keep in mind that at first look one would presume that his package would represent the entire early albums, but this is not the case.   Getting the original albums are much more of a desire, because those albums are nearly perfect.  Including the sequencing of the songs, which flows beautifully as an album.  

So in the nutshell, good gift item for the person who needs to hear Eno, but for the fan, I would settle for the original albums.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Brian Eno - "1: Instrumental" 3 x CD Box Set, UK

Brian Eno - 1: Instrumental
3 x CD, Compilation Box Set, UK, 1993

The completest that is in my DNA core needs this box set of instrumental cuts from Eno.  Even though I have some strong doubts about his instrumental work in the long run.  Discreet Music and the instrumental parts of Another Green World are masterpieces, but everyone has their peaks and valleys, and although Eno’s work in general is very successful with the music world, I find it a tad conservative. 

It is hard to criticize his work, because it is alway well-made and brilliantly played, but I find the concept or thinking behind the pieces not that strong or consistent.  Although not spoken, and perhaps this is totally from my perspective, I just don’t think he is challenging himself in the long run.  Which is a weird thought when you look at his career on a piece of paper or computer screen, but the first two Roxy albums, and of course the first four solo albums were such a great force, almost a kick in the stomach feeling - where things can never be the same anymore.   But alas, Eno has been dishing out the same material at least in style for a long time now.  There is no doubt that he is border-line genius and often hysterical in his work as well in interviews, but as an avant-garde artist he’s not out there like Christian Marclay or Rutherford Chang and I think someone in his field of interest should be really cutting-edge.  

Of course as an artist he should listen to his inner-voice, but as a listener I am often disappointed with the later results.   Especially the signs of his brilliance from the first Roxy Music to the Obscure record label releases, and now he produces Coldplay…

But still, this instrumental box set which came out in 1993 is an impressive package.   If you are a hardcore Eno fan you would need to own this. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brian Eno - "Before and After Science" Vinyl LP

Brian Eno - Before and After Science
 Vinyl Album, U.S. 1977
Island Records

An album I like but never loved for some reason.  I think more in the context of what Eno was doing during this period of music activity.  At this time he had produced both Talking Heads and Devo’s first album, as well as Ultravox’s debut recording as well.   All albums he produced are very good, but the weak link in all of them is actually Eno’s production.  

I think he took his ideas to these other albums, and in one way they were wonderful, but also I got the feeling that he was more interested in what he can do with the band, then what the band can actually do.  For instance Devo, who I have seen numerous times before the first album was recorded, is much more of an intense force.  But through Eno’s assistance the sound is actually watered down, and I feel the same way about the Talking Heads albums as well.  I missed the noise out of the mix from his early recordings.  In other words his recordings became more respectable and ‘pleasant’ sounding.  The grooves on Before and After Science are funky, sound sonically great, but the genius aspect of Eno’s technique is missing.   Or perhaps it is me that lost the groove with Eno?  

The one classic song on this album is  “King’s Lead Hat” which when I first heard it in 1977, I thought it was a Devo reject.  The rest of the album flows like a flower in a glass of water, yet, I missed the tension of noise, sound, and melody of his earlier works.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brian Eno - "Discreet Music" Vinyl LP

Brian Eno - Discreet Music
Vinyl LP, Album, Reissue, U.S. 1983 (Originally released 1975)
Editions EG (Obscure)

Discreet Music I imagine was a life changer for Brian Eno.  One gets the impression that he was saying goodbye to the ‘pop’ world with Another Green World.  As legend has it the ‘ah ha’ moment happened when Eno was ill and recovering in bed, and friend Judy Nylon brought him an LP of ancient music of some sort.  One of the stereo speakers went out and Eno was too ill to get out of bed to fix it, so he was forced to hear it in this particular situation.  This, inspired him to do Discreet Music, which is one of the great beauties out of the ambient music world.  

I use the music to write by, especially if I need to concentrate on the page, and having difficultly doing so.  It just creeps inside my head, but it doesn’t stop me from the thinking process while writing. I’m the type of writer that needs music while writing, and this album is without a doubt the top three titles to allow me space to do what I have to do on the page. 

There is a melody that floats over the electronics, and one can even hum it if they wished.  But it is best when it is sort of there, but you can’t define it.  Erik Satie invented ‘furniture music’ and Discreet Music (the title says it all) follows the great French eccentric’s point-of-view with respect how music can serve a location or place in mind.   Side two is another favorite of mine, where Eno goes after Pachelbel’s Canon and does his magic over it.  

One time i had the  entire Obscure record label collection, that was curated and owned by Eno.  Looking back this was a very important label, because it not only introduced new composers to the world as well as the standards (John  Cage) but also connected to the pop music world at the time.  Alas, something for me to look for again.  First love is sometimes the best love.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Brian Eno - "Another Green World" Vinyl LP

Brian Eno - Another Green World
Vinyl LP, Album, U.S., 1975
Island Records

The point of no return for Brian Eno and it is on this album that he discovered a new life of sorts as the glam years melt away and he took on a new identity, that to his day, he has kept up.  There is a natural progression from the first to the second and now third solo album in Eno’s career and music.  What strikes me now is how there is tension between the ambient sounds and the melody.  This is not a relaxing album to watch the seasons come and go, but more of an undercurrent of either sexual feelings or violence.  For me this is the last great Eno album. 

“Sky Saw” is one of the great opening tracks on an album ever.  John Cale’s shrieking amplified viola going against the sinister rhythms is the perfect set-piece mood for the rest of the album.  There are gentle moments through out the album, but there is always a sense of danger or intensity just on the other side of that relaxing moment.   Who would have known the great drumming on “Sky Saw” is actually Phil Collins!  This album is a combination of pure blissful beauty but overtures of changes taking place that one may not have control over.  For me a perfect album, but I don’t think Eno will be able to go beyond this.  In fact  he became more of a sound artist than anything else.  So one feels that Another Green World was a goodbye to a certain chapter in Eno’s life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Brian Eno - "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) Vinyl LP

Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Vinyl LP, Album, Gatefold, U.S., 1974
Island Records

The beauty of a classic Eno album are its textures.  Here Come The Warm Jets has great sonic touches that one can listen to it again and again, and still discover new things to hear in it.   Taking Tiger Mountain has the same quality, but it is very much a different type of album than the first Eno release.  In an odd way this album is sort of like a travel journal, where lyrically it hits areas (Asia?) of the world, but it is very much done in an abstract way, where you are not really that sure where this album is placed in the world.  Theme wise it reminds me of David Bowie’s Lodger of a foreigner going to a new land, mostly to escape from one’s own culture.  There are ambient sounds here, but instead of being in the background, it is way out front and it is like a strong beat.  I think of crickets used as a percussion instrument in “The Great Pretender.” 

I remember my friend Gary Friedlander buying this album at the same time I bought it when it was first released.  We rushed to his house to listen to it, and I think we must have played it at least four times. Right away it stuck me as a classic album.  The graphics are great, and the guitar work from Phil Manzanera is simply fantastic.  There should be a death sentence for those who don’t think Manzanera is one of the greats on that instrument.   His mixture of prog sensibilities with surf aesthetic is a unique one in the world of music.  There is not a bad or weak cut on this album.  The band Japan in their masterful Tin Drum record has taken a lot from this album and used the material in a more straight ahead fashion.  Also the Feelies first album has traces of Taking Tiger Mountain as well.  A true classic. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Brian Eno - "Here Come The Warm Jets" Vinyl LP

Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets
Vinyl LP, Album, U.S., 1974
Island Records

I was deeply shocked when I read in Rolling Stone Magazine that Eno left Roxy Music.  The most shocking part to me was Rolling Stone even acknowledging Roxy Music and Eno.  For sure i thought that they didn’t know the band.  At the time, only in the U.K. and perhaps Europe was there media coverage on Bryan Ferry and Company.  The second shock was Eno leaving Roxy Music.  How can that be?  I wasn’t worried about Roxy Music, but I was worried about Eno.  So in 1974 it was a duty for me to purchase his first (and perhaps last at the time) Here Come The Warm Jets.   Well, odd enough, I wasn’t prepared for the sound that came off the vinyl into my ears.  Sonically, I was totally sold.   The first cut off the album “Needles In The Camel’s Eye”  sounded to me like something out of The Velvet Underground’s second album White Light White Heat.  Just a mono sound of grinding guitars with his beautiful vocal fighting against the noise.  I loved it. I still love it.  In fact I love this whole album. 

The first Roxy album prepared me for the sound, and Eno continued using that mixture of sparse electronics and bleeps with distant surf guitar and strong melody.  Also the album is so beautifully planned out - there is not a bad or weak cut on it.  Each song in a sense introduces the next, and it strikes me now that this is a record can only be made in 1974.  Glam was slowly disappearing at the time, and here Eno was introducing a new sound that was glam-like, but yet, something else.  Maybe a hybrid of John Cage with a glam leaning.  I don’t know, all I know is this album is important the way Sgt. Pepper is important to the culture.  

And the one major influence I think is John Cale era Velvets.  Even the song title has a Velvets feel to it.  “Cindy Tells Me,” “Blank Frank,” “Dead Finks Don’t Talk” and so forth.  More New York than West London.   Nevertheless the beauty of “Some Of Them Are Old” and how it gently joins in the last song “Here Come The Warm Jets” is simply a wonderful series of moments.   Oh, and the cover is great as well.

Brett Smiley - "Breathlessly Brett"

Brett Smiley - Breathlessly Brett
CD Reissue Compilation, UK, 2003
RPM Records (I-Tune purchase)

In my quest to locate everything or anything that deals with the magic that is Andrew Loog Oldham I cam across a YouTube of Andrew being interviewed on British TV about his new discovery Brett Smiley.   I became an instant fan within the ten minute interview.  Basically due to one song “Space Ace.”   The perfect throw-away glam masterpiece.   A fey Bowie rip-off that somehow becomes even greater with that comparison or placing.  The production went for broke in relaying this alienation that is partly “Space Oddity” meets the New York Dolls.  The sad thing is that this was recorded when Bowie himself was removing himself from the hardcore glam sound, so the timing was off.  Nevertheless it is one of the great songs from that era, which is perfectly great in my opinion.

Brett, if not having the hits, is at the very least an iconic figure of the lost glam years.  A very good book came out of it by Nina Antonia, The Prettiest Star: Whatever Happened to Brett Smiley, who focuses on the memory of,  and who Brett Smiley is.  The whole album is actually pretty good.  It is interesting to hear Oldham’s take of that era through his production, who still had Phil Spector on his mind.  Some of it sort of reminds me of Spector’s work on the first George Harrison solo album.  The fact that it was unreleased till 2003 is surely a crime of sorts.  But nevertheless one can find it on Spotify or I-Tunes.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Edison Denissov - "Boris Vian/La Vie en Rouge Cycle de mélodies & Colin et Chloé suite de l'opéra 'L'Ecume des Jours'

Edison Denissov - Boris Vian La Vie en Rouge Cycle de mélodies & Colin et Chloé suite de l'opéra 'L'Ecume des Jours'
Vinyl LP, France, 1983
Le Chant du Monde

Very little information about this album, except that Edison Denissov was a Russian composer who lived in Paris, and was quite fond of French literature, including the works of Boris Vian.  Side one is a suite of songs based on Vian's poetry with the vocal talents of Gerda Hartman.  Small orchestration behind the songs, but still quite operatic in style.  

The second side is "Colin et Chloé" an opera based on Vian's L'écume des Jours (Foam of the Daze).   It's is without a doubt an opera and i am not sure if it has ever been staged, but I like it.  There is a nice part of the piece where they use jazz melodies, which of course is the ultimate tribute to Vian and his world.   Interesting odd record within the world of Boris Vian.

Boris Vian, Marie-José Casanova - "Marie-José Casanova chante Boris Vian" Vinyl LP

Boris Vian, Marie-José Casanova - Marie-José Casanova Chante Boris Vian
Vinyl LP, Album, Canada, 1965
Disques Jacques Canetti

A very interesting album on a couple of accounts.  First of all between the songs of Marie-José Casanova (is she a relative?) there is poetry by Vian recited by Pierre Brasseur, an actor who played the  great insane doctor in Les Yeux sans visage (“Eyes Without A Face”)  Also Jimmy Walter who co-wrote a lot of songs with Vian, arranged this album.   So what is one getting is very much an on-hands-because-I knew him approach to this specific record.  Also there is Vian himself either reciting his poetry or making commentary about his work.  I don’t speak French so I am not sure about this.

Nevertheless this is a fantastic album.  In a way it reminds me of Lotte Lenya’s great recordings of her husband Kurt Weil’s music.   Which is not a bad comparison because Casanova covers a Brecht/Weil song here that was translated or re-worked by Vian.  The beauty of this album is that it is very much a late-in-the-evening type of feel.  The arrangements are full but simple, and never gets in the way of Casanova’s smokey bluesy voice.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Boris Vian/ Henri Salvador - "Henri Salvador chante Boris Vian"

Boris Vian/Henri Salvador - Henri Salvador chante Boris Vian
CD, Compilation, France, 2000

Henri Salvador is a superb jazz guitarist who is also a songwriter and all-around performer.  Proabably most think of him as a goofy character, but on the other hand he was one of Boris Vian’s great friends.  Salvador wrote music to Vian’s words, and both shared a sense of humor and maybe a certain amount of outrage towards the world.  He was Vian’s last partner in crime, before his timely death of a heart attack due to his bad heart.   When you hear these recordings, they are one of great joy.  

I never heard of Henri Salvador till I went to Japan, where he has a following with the Swing dance set.    I had to go to the French section at Tower Shibuya to pick up some of his recordings.  I found this album there as well.  Most of it I believe was recorded after Vian’s death, so it’s a tribute to his friend.  Salvador based instincts is jazz, with pop or early rock n’ roll overtures.  He became knows for his parody songs, but I suspect he had a sharp focus, and had an understanding of the French pop culture of his times.  It makes perfect sense the Vian fitted in his world.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Boris Vian By Various - "À Boris Vian "On N'Est Pas Là Pour Se Faire Engueuler !”

Boris Vian By Various - À Boris Vian "On N'Est Pas Là Pour Se Faire Engueuler !”
2 x CD, Album, Enhanced, Reissue, France, 2009

Contemporary French pop singers paying their tribute to the Boris Vian songbook.  In theory this is a no-brainer, and a compilation that needed to be made.  But saying that, it should have been something more…. exciting.  Every cut here is well-recorded and extremely well-arranged, but it lacks a sense of danger that is truly Boris Vian.   One can wonder what this collection would have been like under the ears and eyes of someone like John Zorn.  Zorn is an artist who is a jazzier, but who goes beyond that category into another world.  He would have given these songs a fresh touch but faithful to the vision of Vian.  

The songs here are workable and perhaps it is a good introduction to the Vian songbook to those who don’t know his world.  But I think the hardcore Vian fan would want something more challenging or subversive.   But saying that, there are recordings here that work for me.  “Quand J’Aurais Du Vent Dans Mon Crane” is a great song - and actually the music is by Serge Gainsbourg.  He has the monster talent to make anything he touches into something special.   Vian had three serious songwriting partners that he worked with:  Alain Goraguer, Henri Salvador, and Jimmy Walter.  The hits are here, but also some new music attached to his poetry.  It is all very tasteful and respectful, but one misses Vian the Rebel.