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Monday, December 30, 2013

Annie Cordy - "Cigarettes, Whisky et P’tit’s Pépées" EP

Annie Cordy - Cigarettes, Whisky et P’tit’s Pépées EP

One of the greatest recordings I heard this year, and it came somewhere in the internet and onto my computer.  For the past two years I have been trying to track down French EP’s because I like the format and design of these precious objects of desire.   Nevertheless, and sadly I can only find the music through other’s blogs.  Finding a copy one can hold is not impossible, but takes a great deal of time to track down.  Annie Cordy’s ep Cigarettes, Whisky et P’tit’s Pépées is such a haunted piece of recorded music.   My guess is the recording is from the early 50’s and what stands out is Cordy’s great vocal, but with an understated organ, and a crisp electric guitar.  The other three songs are not that special, but the leading track is a real ‘wow’ to me. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Andy Chango - "Boris Vian"

Andy Chango - Boris Vian

This is an album I know very little about, except that Andy Chango is from Buenos Aires and it seems he likes Boris Vian’s music.   Chango covers all the Vian hits on this very respectful album to his aesthetic or style.  And that is why I have trouble with it.  The music is well-arranged, well sung, and very properly respectful, and this is the problem.  I think Vian needs a John Zorn or an artist of that range to really transfer the Vian aesthetic to another plane on this planet.  The only singer (besides Vian) that I think does a proper job on his songs is Serge Reggiani, who odd enough reminds me of Bryan Ferry.  Still, the Vian world is a small one, and for the collection one must have this album, no?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Animals - "The Best Of The Animals"

The Animals - The Best Of The Animals
CD, Compilation, Download
ABKCO Records

I never liked an actual Animals album due to the fact that they were slaves to the R&B sound, when in fact I loved their ‘hit’ singles.   “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” to me is close to perfection as a pop masterpiece.  The Best Of The Animals in all honesty is a good compilation of their different early sounds.  And one has to separate the Eric Burdon & The Animals, from just the plain Animals.  

In many ways, The Animals remind me of Manfred Mann, the same strong organ sound that runs through their material, and their very basis of Rhythm and Blues is very much part of their foundation as well.   But I prefer the voice of Paul Jones over Eric Burdon.  Perhaps because Jones played the pop star better than the very serious Burdon?  Nevertheless this is like comparing apples to oranges, The Animals were pretty great. 

“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” is essential rock anthem.  The great thing about The Animals is that they had good taste in material.  They wrote very little, yet they had the natural talent in finding the  right song that is suitable for Burdon’s voice.  The producer Mikie Most is also an underrated genius.  He just understood the nature of a good pop hit.  Not exciting, but a guy who I think by instinct knew how to fill a record with sound, and the right sound with the right artist.  Not always an easy thing to do.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

André Popp - "If You Go Away"

André Popp - If You Go Away
Vinyl LP, UK, 1972
Circle of Sound (Download)

Probably the worst album in my collection that is still, somewhat interesting due to the fact that he knew Boris Vian.  André Popp was one of the key arrangers during the post-war years in France.  Worked with Bardot and Gréco on their recordings and also with Boris Vian, right before he passed away.   Popp in the Fifties made almost experimental ‘lounge’ music, especially for the hi-fi market that was a big thing at the time.  Vian, without a doubt, being an mechanical engineer, had an interest in new recording equipment and developments in that world.  Would he liked the CD format?  Nevertheless this is not an important album to own. In fact it is on my computer, so it is almost not really here in physical space. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

André Almuro - "Poésie de Cruauté"

André Almuro - Artaud, Genet, Lorca, Cocteau, Larronde, Almuro - Poésie de Cruauté
Vinyl LP (Download), 1962
Disques Mouloudji

A mysterious album that I downloaded from god knows where, but what a cool piece of vinyl.  I’m on the hunt for it.  The little I know is that André Almuro worked in radio, and was or is (he’s still alive at 82) a figure in the French Music Conncréte world.  He met a 15 year old Pierre Clémenti and worked together making films, and recording Clémenti’s poetry.  Eventually in the 40’s he hooked up with the legendary Pierre Schaeffer and joined his Radio Télévision Française.  

Poésie de Cruauté is a fascinating piece of work.  Here Almuro makes music behind the narration of various poems by Artaud, Lorca, Genet, Cocteau and Olivier Larronde, who I don’t know at all.  The poems are read by Jean Bollery and Pierre Frilay, with a certain amount of vocal effects for their voices.  A great album, and without a doubt I am going to look for Almuro’s films.  Fascinating.

Also of great interest is that this album was released on the great Left-Bank (Vian pal) Mouloudji’s record label.

Blues Incorporated - "R&B From The Marquee"

Blues Incorporated - R&B From The Marquee
CD, Album, UK, 1962

Ground zero for British blues.  On paper it is a weird image of Europeans singing American black music.  But then again, why not?   What is important to me is the location.  And the title of this album says it all for me.  The Marquee Club.  Nevertheless this album is recorded in a recording studio somewhere in North London, and not in the legendary club.  But the pop/cultural monster that is in me pretends that this is a live recording in a rainy Soho night. 

Musically I don’t think it’s an important record, but on a historical cultural level super important.  So many British musicians probably owned or seen this band that it is probably tattooed on their DNA in some form or fashion.   The key players in this group is Alexis Korner on acoustic guitar, Cyril Davies on harmonica and vocal, Long John Baldry on vocals, and Dick Heckstall-Smith on saxophone.  A super band of sorts in the early era of Cliff Richard mania U.K.  

One thing I do imagine, and I think it is real, is these characters must have been a fascinating bunch.   Total obsession of a certain music, always makes a great character.  I will always love this album cover and the name of the band.  It is very romantic to me. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Blue Stars Of France - "Lullaby of Birdland & Other Famous Hits"

The Blue Stars of France - Lullaby of Birdland & Other Famous Hits
Vinyl LP, 1952

I just purchase this album from the Pasadena Record Swap Meet, and I have been looking for this on vinyl for an awhile now.  I have a secret passion for Christiane Legrand, whose brother is Michel the great soundtrack composer, songwriter and damn good piano player.  She is not the easiest to find.  In Japan there is a CD collection of her solo recordings, and she is even a guest vocalist on Procol Harum’s Grand Hotel album.  But there is not a lot of information that is out there on this vocalist.  She is also a key member of the Swingle Singers.  But before all that she was part of the The Blue Stars, or as they say in  France Les Blue Stars.  A vocal group started up by the legendary Blossom Dearie.  Also in this group is Christian Chevallier and Roger Guérin, very noted and great French jazz musicians.  So one can think of the Blue Stars as an early super-group.

Jazz vocalizing is not something I have a great passion for, but alas, once I opened up my ears to these voices, oh my oh my, a magnificent experience.  It is not just the vocals, but also the tasteful instrumentation behind them that is fantastic.  A lot of the music was arranged by Michel Legrand, and it shows the master’s touch.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

British Electric Foundation - "Music Of Quality and Distinction Volume 3

British Electric Foundation - Music of Quality and Distinction Volume 3
16 x File, MP3, Album, UK, 2013
Wall of Sound

I thought the chances would be very slim that this would even be listenable, but alas, it’s a fantastic album.   It guess it took British Electric Foundation 20 some odd years to recover from Volume 2, which, without a doubt,  I tremendously disliked with a certain amount of passion.  But Volume 3 which came out of nowhere, well basically a typing mistake on Spotify, it came up upon my eyes. 

Like the other two volumes, British Electric Foundation (Heaven 17) chose specific artists to cover a song, and usually the song choices are really good, but sometimes I feel there is a subtext to their choices as well.  Nevertheless we Boy George doing Lou Reed’s “Make Up” and surprisingly The Stooges’ “I wanna Be Your Dog.”  Now that sounds like a strange mash-up of singer and song, but George does it well, and its a great track on this album.  

The one that really made me go gaga is someone named Maxim, who is a Russian pop singer.  He does the fantastic “The Day Before You Came” a masterpiece song from late ABBA.  His performance of the song resembles Joel Gray’s character in Cabaret.  Campy as hell and it works.  Glenn Gregory, who is the Heaven 17 singer comes up quite nicely with Frank Sinatra’ middle-age angst “It Was A Very Good Year” and a beautiful piano version of Billy MacKenzie’s (Associates) “Party Fears Two.”   And do we need another version of “God Only Knows?”  Sure, why not.  It is such a beautiful ballad, a Brian Wilson piece of genius work.  Overall this is a great collection of songs re-thunk by Martyn Ware.  In other words New Wave’s revenge.

British Electric Foundation - "Music Of Quality and Distinction Volume 2"

British Electric Foundation - Music of Quality and Distinction Volume 2
CD, Album, UK, 1991
10 Records

No.  Just plain no.  Compared to volume one, this is a major disappointment.  Not due to the talent that is involved with the album, but the arrangements and the song choices I feel are mediocre at best.  Even the great Billy MacKenzie comes off so-so, and a man of his talent should never ever be in that taste bracket.   The album reeks of middle-age thinking with a great lack of passion.  Imagine going to the worst yuppie bar on the planet, and this album being played - it will be the perfect soundtrack for that environment.    In theory this could have been an interesting album, with the Heaven 17 guys doing their take on soul music, but alas, it is passionate music done un-passion like.  No.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

British Electric Foundation - "Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 1"

British Electric Foundation - Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 1
I-Tunes, British, 1981

For a brief time in my world, Heaven 17 were a very important band.   For one I was totally caught up in their juxtaposition of politics and pure electro-pop music.  To me they were an updated version of folk-music from Greenwich Village New York, but with suits and keyboards strapped on.  Also I liked their concept that their parent company was or is called British Electric Foundation, that sort of issues the Heaven 17 brand.  At the time they were in theory sort of the more commercial version of Public Image LTD.    One of the projects from the British Electric Foundation was their Music Of Quality & Distinction series, and this being number 1.  

When I got this album, I was totally intrigued on numerous levels.  On one level, it is Heaven 17 with interesting cast of characters doing their favorite songs.  But knowing their political point of view, I also saw it as a political statement of some sort, which to this day is very vague.  Nevertheless this album recorded in 1981, features songs from the ’60’s to the early ’70’s.   The ’70’s work being David Bowie and Lou Reed songs.  So there is a glam aspect to the package, with Reed, Bowie, and having Gary Glitter (the king of  glam?) doing an Elvis cover.  

I get the feeling that B.E.F. chose their artists for this album for both musical reasons as well as a cultural iconic stance.  A statement of some sort.  Tina Turner’s recording of “Ball of Confusion” started her even bigger career in the ’80’s and also brought forward ’60’s icon Sandie Shaw as well to the soup that is this album.  The Shadows’ legendary guitar player Hank Marvin plays on “It’s Over,” the great Roy Orbison song, here sung by the equally fantastic Billy MacKenzie.  

The talents of Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware (with their singer Glenn Gregory) made an interesting observation on music-past.  All the song selections are very much in-tuned to the world of Human League as well as Heaven 17 (of course).    A fascinating record of its time that still sounds good.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brigitte Fontaine - "Prohibition"

Brigitte Fontaine - Prohibition
I-Tunes, France, 2009

Older, and still beautiful.  “Prohibition” is Brigitte Fontaine going forward.  She strikes me as total ‘now’ person, and not someone who really looks back.  The album has the electronica sound with middle -eastern flourishes but it is still 100% Brigitte.  With Grace Jones as well!  

It’s funny but i never heard of her till my friend Howard request that I locate a specific CD for him, that was only released in France and Japan.  And since I was in Tokyo at the time, his request lead me to discover her music.  But one cannot really be exposed to her by one album, you have to suck up and get everything by her.  She is an unique artist, and gone through many changes over the years.  In that sense she is like Gainsbourg, who was always true to his identity, but changed musically with the times - and in most cases, not getting buried under the weight of change, but rolling with it.  Fontaine is superb, and “Prohibition” is a strong ‘pop’ album.  Pretty great considering she was around 70 years old during this recording. 

Brigitte Fontaine - "Comme a la Radio"

Brigitte Fontaine - Comme à la Radio
I-Tunes, France, 1971

One of those great mood shifters, where France meets American avant-jazz that equals a French sensibility.  Magnificent percussion with the low sounds of a stand-up bass is a very seductive sound. Middle-eastern sounds creep into the framework, and Brigitte Fontaine is simply part of the landscape.  I often think of her as the French Grace Jones, due to her going into unknown territory with no fear.  The music is wonderful and The Art Ensemble of Chicago offers layers of sounds that suits Fontaine’s  voice perfectly.  Torch singing for the adventuress and those who lurk in the 3 AM night. 

Brigitte Fontaine - "Brigitte Fontaine Est...Folle"

Brigitte Fontaine - Brigitte Fontaine Est…Folle
I-Tunes, MP3, France

The beautiful marriage between voice/thought with arrangement.  Brigitte Fontaine, along with the great arranger Jean-Claude Vannier made a 1968 classic, that is slowly crawling across to the English language world.  Vannier of course is greatly responsible for Gainsbourg’s Melody Nelson album, as well as countless others.  The beauty of his work is his playfulness and being true to the material on hand as well.  Its a balancing act that he never ever trips over that thin clear rope.  Fontaine, I think, is an artist who likes to work with others, and for her, that is her strength in that she doesn’t lose her identity or sense of purpose.   A classic piece of music making.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brigitte Fontaine - "13 Chansons Décadentes et Fantasmagoriques" CD Album

Brigitte Fontaine - 13 Chansons Décadentes et Fantasmagoriques
CD, Album, France, 2002 (originally recorded 1966)
Disques Jacques Canetti

What planet is this woman from, and why am I not born on this same planet?   Brigitte Fontaine, is a force that goes forward and rarely looks back.  But for me who just discovered her maybe five years ago, I have a lot to catch up on.  So I believe this may be her first album.  Chansons Décadentes et Fantasmagoriques.  Fontaine, who I know very little of, with respect to her background, but I have a strong suspicion that she is the bohemian’s bo-ho.  A chanson singer by trade, but one who took that form into another world.  Her singing style is very theatrical with a tinge of contemporary feeling or soul.   What is interesting to me (among a lot of stuff regarding her) is that Jimmy Walter arranged this album, and also worked with Boris Vian.   And she also did an album of recordings of Vian’s music as well.  So that thread between Saint Germain des Prés culture is very much part of Fontaine’s world, yet different because it is being made for the May ’68 generation.  This is an artist who didn’t stand still. I want to belong to her cult.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Brigitte Bardot - "Show" CD

Brigitte Bardot - Show
CD, Album, France, 1999
Magic Records

Now this is the ultimate and great Bardot album.  I think the material on this CD is all based on her TV show she did in the late ’60’s  - in other words hardcore Gainsbourg period.  I’m not even sure if this was an official release by her or her record company.  The great retro garage rock Yé-Yé label Magic Records put this out, and it has a bootleg feel to the packaging, but nevertheless this is the Bardot to get. 

For one it has the classic electro-funk “Contact” written by Gainsbourg, and even though the recording is around, not many are aware of this Brigitte gem.   Another stunner is “Le Diable Est Anglais” both the English(“The Devil’s In Town”) and the French version.  The English version sounds sort of pissed off, and her accent is very strong which adds a certain amount of charm to the track.  But it is also has a touch of menace as well. It is one of my favorite all-time recordings.    “Le Soleil” is just a great lazy sounding track.  It pours sex that is so natural from Bardot.  When you get down to it she just has the ‘it’ quality that you have to be born with.  So yes, ignore the others, and get this one if you want to have  that special Bardot as pure sensual sound that will eat you up.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Brigitte Bardot - "La Madrague" CD, Compilation

Brigitte Bardot - La Madrague
CD, Compilation, France, 1991

One can criticize Brigitte Bardot, but it won’t be from me.  For one, she was the first movie star I have ever seen on a big screen.  I may have been in a movie theater before, but seeing Roger Vadim’s “A God Created Woman” was my first experience, and in a sense Bardot was my first woman, besides my Mom, in acknowledging a female presence in my life.  A lot of women are beautiful, but Bardot somehow went even beyond that.  

This collection of Bardot’s hits are a part of an interesting series that France Philips put together called ‘Actrices.’   A collection of releases by iconic actresses who happened to make music, and it looks like every major French female movie star made a recording of some sort.  Most of them were lucky enough to have the talents or arrangers Alain Goraguer, Andre Popp and the writing talents of Serge Gainsbourg.  Bardot had them all, well at least musically.  

Still, this is not a great collection, because they left out major Bardot recordings like “Contact” and avoided some of her more ‘odd’ recordings.  But all have the Bardot personality stamped on the grooves, and she doesn’t disappoint as a vocalist.  A limited vocalist yes, but her personality and sexuality comes through as if it was transparent paper.   Her work with Gainsbourg are noting but masterpieces.  Her version with Serge of the classic erotica Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus is a must and worth the price of this CD/Vinyl.  Much more lush than the Birkin version, this is one of the key songs by Serge, and Bardot adds an equal amount of sexuality on this record.  Essential.  Not an easy find anymore, but there are better Bardot collections out there, but still it does have Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus, the original version.