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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thelonious Monk Trio - "Bemsha Swing" Vinyl, 7", EP, 45 RPM, France, 1960 (Barclay)


I found this slightly battered copy of this French 7" EP at Rockaway Records this evening.   These are four songs that were selected from his 1952 recording with the great drummer Max Roach and bassist Gary Mapp.   This is 7" of magic.  Offhand, I'm having dirty sexual thoughts tying this, but alas, I'm talking about the aural pleasure that comes with the name Thelonious Monk.  

There are four songs on this EP, and they are "Bemsha Swing," Reflections" and then go to side two, for "Trinkle Tinkle" and classic beautiful "These Foolish Things" written by Strackey and Link.  Monk wrote the other three and they are brilliant.   There are three great pianists that I'm aware of, one is Glenn Gould, the other is Ron Mael from Sparks, and then there is Monk.   This is an artist who sees music as a piece of sculpture, and what he does is gently trace the melody as if it was on thin rice paper.   I never heard another pianist who had this approach to melody and treating it like a beautiful lover.   

I'm imaging that this EP was once owned by someone like Juliette Gréco, who played it while drinking wine in a juice glass and looking outside her window and watching the leaves fall from trees.  I imagine a lot of things, but I always have a soundtrack to my fantasies.  Here's one of many. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Legendary Stardust Cowboy - "Launch Pad Favorites" 2 X Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 2016 (Munster Records)


Ziggy Stardust came out of Legendary Stardust Cowboy.  David Bowie discovered him in America when he first came to the country as a Mercury recording artist.  Going through the other artists on this label he found a 45 rpm single of "Paralyzed," probably one of the more unusual releases from a major U.S. label ever.  Perhaps two or three minutes of noise, that one would gather had roots in rockabilly music.  Bowie thought it was a work of genius, and clearly, he's a man who not only has taste but knows 'weird' like no other artist at that time. 

There is a school of art called Brut, or better known in English as 'outside artists.'  Legendary Stardust Cowboy, real name is Norman Carl Odam may be a cowboy from outer space.  Which makes him very outside artist.   There seem to be two interests in Odam's life - rockabilly music and space travel.  It's not unusual for 1950s musicians to be obsessed with outer space life, but Legendary Stardust Cowboy brings it to another level.   For instance, he's not really what we call a singer.  Yet, there is something about his voice, especially with the addition of his songwriting.   He's a great songwriter.   You have to go through the most shocking sound of his records, and really (REALLY) listen to his music, but there is nothing more beautiful out there than his "I Took A Trip (On A Gemini Spaceship)."  Probably the most romantic outer space song ever.  Up their with Bowie's "Space Oddity," which by hook or crook, Odam did a cover of that song.  Either as a tribute to Bowie's support or a genuine appreciation of Bowie's interest in outer space songs.  Bowie eventually did a cover of "I Took A Trip" on "Heathen."   If you hear the Bowie version and not look at the credits, you would think, "of course Bowie wrote this."   Perhaps Bowie was influenced not only by Odam's song, but his lyrical writing as well.  "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" is a combination of Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Vince Taylor.  Two outside and perhaps 'insane' artists who went too far off the map.  Norman Carl Odam is  still here with us, and his remarkable work is represented so well in this compilatiion "Launch Pad Favorites."   

There is not a bad cut on this album.  The other classic songs beside "I Took A Trip" is "Radar" and "Linda."  Still, one can admire "I Hate CD's."   There are a few compilations of Legendary Stardust Cowboy's work, but this collection put together by Spain's Munster Records is superb.  Also nice packaging with a lyric sheet.   As mentioned, Odam is a very good and talented lyricist.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mickey Spillane/Stan Purdy - "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Story" Vinyl, 10", 331/3, 1954 (The Fifth Corp.)


There is nothing artistic about Mickey Spillane's work or even his almost 'performance artist' level of being a writer.   For me, and I'm sure there were others, but I'm just not aware of them, Spillane is the first public image of what a writer should act like.  There is no reason why one should separate the writer from their work.  It was obvious to me that Spillane was not writing fiction, but an autobiography.   That is not the case whatsoever.  He was a fictional writer, and he went beyond that and made himself "Mickey Spillane" as a fictional character.  

At the height of Spillane's fame and glory, he made this 10" album where side one is a short narrative by him, and with the author reading the text.  The background is music by Stan Purdy, a composer that Spillane discovered somewhere in the music world.  As far as I know, this is Purdy's only recorded work.  In other words, he was Spillane's music composer under his wing or company.   As mentioned, I don't think his work as a writer is that artistic, but on the other hand, Spillane was an artist in the sense he made himself bigger than his literature.  The only writer I can think of who did something similar is Yukio Mishima.   I wonder if Spillane knew of Mishima, as a writer, and in the same sense as the noir author, a performance artist? 

Beyond the identity issue, this 10" album is great.  The first side is entertaining because Spillane gives his story a sense of character in his performance.  Side two is all music.  And it's very much the Jazzy Crime TV/Film soundtrack that was very common during the 1950s.  Not as cool or brilliant as Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn" but still, a cool snapshot of that time and period.  The packaging is brilliant.   The front cover painting is by G.R. Wilson, and at this time and moment, I can't find anything else by this artist.  Like Purdy, it seems he existed all for Mickey Spillane's purpose and vision. 



  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Can - "The Singles" Vinyl, LP, Compliation, 2017 (Spoon Records)


I purchased my first Can album this year (2017).  "Singles" is my second purchase of the year with respect to Can.  I mostly know Can from Holger Czukay's work with David Sylvian, Jah Wobble, and his superb solo album "Movies."  Why it took me so long in obtaining two Can (at the very least) is a mystery to me.  Nevertheless, late as I am, I greatly admire their music.  Jaki Liebezeit is the glue that keeps the groove on, with respect to their recordings.  They could have called this collection of singles "Can Dance Party."   

Liebezeit is an incredible drummer.  There is something mechanical about the beat, but it has a touch of eccentricity as well.   I especially like it when there are bongos or some sort of hand drums added to the mix.  "Singles" cover the entire Can career, and therefore an introduction to their basic sound.  What's left out are the experimental/noise of some of the "Taga Mago" pieces, and more of a focus of their driven funk/groove with superb melodies on top of it.  There are four stages of Can:  The first with lead singer Malcolm Mooney, then Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki took over those duties.  He left, and then the band's guitarist Michael Karoli did some vocals, and toward the end of Can, they added Rebop Kwaku Baah on additional percussion and Rosko Lee on bass.  Czukay was very much the bass player, but later added electronic touches as well as engineering and editing the music afterward the recording.   Irmin Schmidt was the keyboard player - and all went in the same direction and page as the others.  

Some of their instrumental passages remind me of Miles Davis during his electric band period. Especially with Kwaku Baah and Lee in the band.  Not with respect to the free form of the music but the tightness and focus on the rhythm and groove.  Also like Czukay, Miles' producer/engineer Teo Macero was famous for editing and splicing the long jams.  So there is a live aspect to the band, but also equally devoted to the studio as an instrument with the help of the engineer (Czukay in Can's case and Macero in Miles world).  

"Singles" is a collection of all the Can 45 rpm 7" records.   So, in theory, this is music for commercial/radio or DJ's.  It's an incredible entrance to the Can planet, and one can also explore the differences between Mooney and Suzuki as well as when they worked as a four-man band, and of course, the addition of Lee and Kwaku Baah.   The strong sense of melody is the sweetener and its catchiness is pure candy that is digestible and still leaves you hungry for more.  


Sunday, November 12, 2017

V.A. - "Ork Records: New York, New York" Box Set, 4 x Vinyl Compilation, Book, 2015 (Numero Group)

"Ork Records: New York, New York" is a crazed pandora's box. Once opened, it's hard to keep that energy contained within its packaging.  One of the best thought-out box sets ever in the vinyl world, "Ork Records" exposes the foundation, and how everything changed from the floor and up.  The record label had to happen due to the dynamic music being made in New York City in the mid and late 1970s.  With respect to Terry Ork and Charles Ball's label, Ork Records, it was ground zero for a literal rebirth of rock n' roll, when rock almost lost its roll.   It's a label that attracted brilliant and troubled characters as well as visionary geniuses who used the sonic abilities to capture inspiration as it was being made and processed through the local NYC presses at the time. 

Terry Ork sounds like he would make a great Patricia Highsmith character.  Gay, with numerous name changes to avoid the law, and an obsessed fascination with the cinema also had a thing about drugs and sleeping with young men.  What brings him to our attention is his cultivated taste for great music and the artists who committed themselves to their music.  The band that opened up the world of possibilities was Television.   It was Television's idea of doing an independent single release of one of their great songs, "Little Johnny Jewel."  Both Television members Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell were into poetry and printed their own book of poems, which was not an unusual practice for poets at that time (and still), but in that fashion, why not put out a record in such a manner as printing up a book of poems.  Terry Ork helped financed the move, and as a tribute to their manager, they named the label Ork Records.   Later with Charles Ball, who had more financial smarts, released a few dozen   45 rpm singles of various bands and artists.   This box set is the result of those releases.  The tremendous and weird thing about all of this is that there isn't a stinker in any of their releases on Ork Records.  Terry and Charles had the touch of genius in choosing their artists.  

With Terry (and Charles) being the center of the perfect storm, Ork Records was the springboard for New York City punk and new wave music at the time.  Television release of their single, brought Richard Hell's first record, and which meant Hell's guitarist Robert Quine making a record with rock writer legend Lester Bangs recording, which drew on Television's Richard Lloyd recordings, which got Chris Stamey, which led to Alex Chilton and so forth.   Ork was the head engine struggling to get over the steep hill, and they were carrying all these great musicians in their train compartments.  

"Ork Records" is a work of perfection.  The box set consists of four vinyl LP's and a hardcover book.  The book alone is worth the price of the whole package, but the music is exceptional.  As a teenager in Los Angeles, I have found New York as this mystical land where great things happen. When I hunted down the original Ork Records singles, such as the Hell and Television recordings, it was like getting a message from another part of the world.  I got the same feeling when I purchased the Chris Stamey recordings as well - his Ork release as well as music from his own label, Car Records.  It was an extraordinary world at the time, and re-listening to these recordings on this box set does not disappoint.  They were indeed excellent recordings of their time, and they still kick ass.  It's great to hear the Alex Chilton records in the context of this box set, because it's part of the narrative and it's essential that it is part of the story or Ork and the others who were involved in this world.  

By however anyone looks at this package, it's essential for those who will study NYC cultural history of the 70s.  For instance, if you are studying the arts such as conceptual art, painting, and especially poetry, you must have the Ork Records box set.  It's part of the puzzle or piece that when you look at it, the story becomes more evident. It shows how a group of individuals can make marginal music (due to the financial and structional cultural world of its time) and how in its weird way is sort of the mirror image of Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes. 



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Tosh Talks - Joe Meek part1 The Honeycombs





My talk on the great British record producer Joe Meek.  Part 1

Barry Ryan - "Eloise" b/w "Love I Almost Found You" Vinyl, 7" Single, 1968 (MGM)


At the length of 5 minutes and 26 seconds, this is not your average 45 rpm single, but more of a statement of purpose.  There is the wall of sound, but the arrangement and direction by Johnny Arthey are similar to containing a typhoon in a recording studio.  "Eloise" is a song/recording that will not be forgotten once heard.  On one level it's about a loss of a girl named "Eloise," but the song is more about naked emotional feelings, and this is the landscape where excellent pop music is made.  

In 1967 there was a partnership made from the very beginning.  England's Paul and Barry Ryan were identical twin brothers, and both had the strong vocal talent of such artists like Tom Jones.  Paul became the songwriter of the duo, and eventually, he got burned out being on stage, touring, and made a new arrangement that he will be the songwriter, and Barry will be the solo singer.   Out of this partnership came "Eloise."  

Without a doubt one of the great 45 rpm single release from the 1960s.  This is a record that was going to be tremendous or fails miserably.   I recommend playing this at full volume and surrender to its big sound that is one huge sonic aural organism.   The b-side "Love, I Almost Found You" is almost as wonderful as the A-side. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Brian Eno - "Rarities" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 1983 (Editions EG)



I'm such a total record/vinyl geek these days.  I often wake up ashamed of my passion, but then I think of the enjoyment I get from hunting, looking and of course, listening to these damn types of vinyl.  We live in such a horror landscape that even for a few minutes (which I turn to lasting for days) I love being lost in a world that is both exotic and obsessive.  For one, I  have been looking for a vinyl release of Brian Eno's single "Seven Deadly Finns"(1974) and one he did around "Another Green World" "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which was originally a folk song.  I did find copies of the 45 rpm singles but were way too expensive for me to buy.  Then, suddenly I came upon the "Rarities" disc that was part of a large package "Working Backwards: 1983-1973, which at the time of this boxset release was the entire discography of solo Eno.  Since I have all the albums in this box set, all I wanted was the "Rarities" disc.  It took years, but someone on the Internet was willing to sell just the "Rarities" EP.   Moving like a Seal Navy soldier of fortune, I snapped the record from the other collector.  

"Seven Deadly Finns" is very much the aesthetic of the first two Eno solo albums.  It's a sonic rush of pure mayhem.  I don't know who plays on the recording, but it's such a perfect blend of action - it reminds me of Jackson Pollack doing a painting in front of a movie camera.  If one wants to put the recording in a category I would call it 'hyper-glam.'   "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is minimal in a sense, but somehow sounds maximum.   Eno overdubs his vocals which is a tribute to a 20-century take on folk, which became a hit pop song with the group The Tokens in the 1960s.  Eno loves vocal music and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is the perfect piece of canvas for him to do his painting on.  

The other side is three instrumentals, and all sound like it was recorded during his time working with David Byrne and Talking Heads.  Electro-funk and I haven't the foggiest idea who is on the recordings besides Eno.   The songs are "Strong Flashes of Light," "More Volts," and "Mist/Rhythm."  All three are excellent works. 




Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bob McFadden & Dor: "The Mummy" b/w "The Beat Generation" Vinyl, 7" 45 rpm, 1959 (Brunswick)


It took me around 40 years to discover Bob McFadden and Dor's "The Beat Generation," and my only interest in this particular novelty song is that Richard Hell based his "The Blank Generation" on it.  Rod McKuen wrote the song and I guess he was sort of a 'Beatnik' for the masses in the late 1950s.   Listening to the recording, I can hear McKuen's vocals, as well as McFadden, who was a voice-over actor for cartoons and commercials.    In such a fashion, McKuen is one of the mainstream artists who hammered the nail into the Beat coffin, but still, this is a good tune.  It's crap, but it has its charm.  Hell's "The Blank Generation" is way better.  Still, I think it's great that Hell got to this record and made his own take on it. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Procol Harum - "Shine On Brightly" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1968 (A&M)


Procol Harum couldn't do no wrong in my brain and ears.  It's the odd mixture of Gary Brooker's rhythm n' blues vocals singing the baroque type of classical orientated pop.  It's obvious that the band is schooled in classic black American music, but their sound is a twisted version of a mod like psychedelia yet grounded in great musicianship.   One can argue that perhaps they have a prog leanings, but they are more rooted in the arrangement of Bach-like melodies or the way that composer adds layers of melody on top of one another.  On a later album, they worked with Christiane Legrand who was a member of the Swingle Singers.  Not an odd choice of an artist to work with, because like the Swingle Singers who had a jazz background approaching the classics is very similar to Procol Harum, who have a strong R n' B foundation being sucked into something that is very Bach-like in fashion and sound. 

"Shine On Brightly" is Procol Harum's second album, and it's different from their first masterpiece album.  For one, the arrangements are more playful, and there is a certain aspect of joy in these set of songs.  Side two is a very piece called "In Held Twas I" that is similar to the second side of The Beatles "Abbey Road" album, in that it's a suite of miniature pop songs.  Not that far off from The Who's "A Quick One..."  

I always felt the secret weapon in Procol Harum was their drummer B.J. Wilson.  He's perfect for the majestic sound of the band, and there is such a powerful percussion presence on their albums, for instance like this one.   It makes perfect sense that he worked with Lou Reed on "Berlin" which I feel was very much influenced by Procol Harum's approach to dramatic orchestration.  The dynamic tension between Brooker's piano and Morgan Fisher's organ is another aspect of this musical relationship.   Brooker plays power cord piano, and the organ answers his call, in some fashion, its a conversation between these two, with Robin Trower's guitar and Wilson's drumming as sort of being the guys in between the discussion.   Everyone from The Bad Seeds to The Band I think was influenced by this band, not only due to the piano/organ relationship, but also the dramatic quality of telling a tale.  Keif Reid is their lyricist and his surrealistic or impressionistic lyrics adds another element to the package.  Brooker sings his words not with intense passion, but almost in a detached manner, which makes its own intensity between voice and the word.  "Shine On Brightly" is a great collection of songs, and I think it's criminally overlooked in our contemporary times.   

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lewis Furey - "The Humours Of" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1976 (A&M)


Lewis Furey is one of those incredibly talented individuals that oddly enough fell through the cracks of acknowledgment and fame.  Although I believe he's known in France, where he lives, and made recordings in Paris, as well as directing and writing films.   "The Humours Of" is Furey's second album for A&M.  His first album "Lewis Furey" sounds like an off-Broadway collection of songs attached to a small theatre somewhere in the Village.   This album is not cinematic, but more of an expansive Broadway production, with an expensive production by Roy Thomas Baker. 

The early to mid-70s belong to Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, and Lou/John Cale solo albums.  Furey quickly falls into the world of the Velvets, but only if Lou/Cale were writing songs for a huge Broadway show.   I bring these other artists up because Furey dwells into the urban landscape of decadence or street life.   His first two albums are interesting bookends at the time.  Just due that one had an intimate (the first album) approach, and the second is to wow the listener over.  "Rubber Gun Show" is a great opening song and leads to a very sexualized existence throughout the album.  And there is even a fantastic run-on groove on the end of side two.  The record will never end. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

V.A. - "Sounds of New Music" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, Limited Edition, Reissue, 2017/1957 (Modern Silence)


A remarkable album (document) from 1957, but recently reissued by the excellent record label Modern Silence.  Folkways Records put together a compilation of new experimental music, mostly focusing on the work of Vladimir Ussachevsky, who had a sound studio in Columbia New York, where he and fellow composer Otto Luening experimented with organic and electronic sounds to make music.  I have a small collection of both of these composers, and they never fail to give me great listening pleasure.  

The album is divided by the two sides.  The first side is focusing on experimentation but with real instruments, but often played in a new way.  For instance, the big two stars here are John Cage and Edgard Varese.  Cage is of great interest in this package because of "Dance" which is work on a prepared piano.   The composer attached rubber, metal and wooden objects to the piano strings which gives it a gamelan orchestration sound.  It's a beautiful piece of work that borders on exotica.  Varese is an orchestration ("Ionization") which uses siren but with different pitches.  The work here that really turned my ears around is Henry Cowell's "Aeolian Harp" which is a work for piano, but him or the performer playing the instrument by leaning fists, arms and palms across the keyboard, as well as plucking the piano strings.   This is the only work here that has a strong sense of melody.  Listening to "Aeolian Harp" reminds me of The Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad."   Almost the same melody and I wonder if the band was familiar with Cowell's work.  

On this side is a work that I know of, and that's Otto Luening's "Fantasy in Space."  It's a flute piece that is manipulated by tape recorder.   It reminds me very much what Brian Eno did with Roxy Music, but this is twenty-something years earlier.    It's a piece that borders on exotica (now that's a genre that mixes quite well in experimental music) and of course, deals with the thought of space travel.  Perhaps finding that utopia that we can't have here on Earth.  Side one starts off with an early piece of music from Russia that sounds very much like Spike Jones, but more animated sounding - like Warner Brothers cartoon music.  And then there are orchestrations where they imitate the sounds of the factory, for instance, a steel mill.   There is nothing gimmicky about any of this music.  The roots of industrial music, recorded in the Twenties. 

Side two is more instructional where we can hear how a tape machine can change a sound, either by pitch or other filters.  Most of the work here on side two is by Ussachevsky, and like Luening's work, it's a remarkable set of beautiful sounds.  The album ends with an actual narration explaining how the composer Henry Jacobs made his "Sonata for Loudspeakers."  I'm not a huge fan of recorded lectures but this of great interest to anyone who's into the recording as a craft or art form.  Surely the first strains of sampling here.  And the final product (the composition) is really fantastic.  



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Paul McCartney - "McCartney" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1970 (Apple)


If memory serves me correctly, this album was made secretly and released once Paul McCartney announced that he's leaving The Beatles.  Which caused a poop-storm in the Fab Four world for them and the fans.  Also one could not help notice the contrast between John Lennon's first solo album (Plastic Ono Band) and Paul's.   As an 'oh my god' it was clearly Lennon that won the what's the hell? A brilliant outrage that Lennon was going through at the time, and then Paul's record which is "Lovely Linda."   To this day there is still the Beatle debate of who's the heavier of the two.  Lennon had the chops, but McCartney had both the genius ability for melody and eccentricity.  This is an album made by a man who is on a vacation of some sort, and he's in the garage working on carpentry or fixing things around the house - except it's not a home but a music project. 

Low-fi, and no ambition whatsoever, this is an album of great charm, and McCartney stretching out not musically really, but almost trying out the new reel-to-reel tape machine he bought to make this album.   What I find essential is "Teddy Boy" which is one of my favorite Paul songs.  Totally a post-war song about losing a dad and dealing with mom's love life afterward.  Of course one would think of the 'Teds' but in actuality, it's a boy name Ted, but the song takes place in the generation of the Teddy Boys.  McCartney writes a lot of his lyrics as a narrative, a story, where Lennon is often more fragmented.  Of all the Paul albums, "McCartney" is very loose in structure.  There are three instrumentals here that touch on exotica as well as Link Wray.   The guitars on this record (everything played by Paul) are heavy sounding.  There are undoubtedly roots to music from the 1950s, specifically rockabilly, but circa Paul's take on that form of music.    Paul throughout his career has been attracted to the rough side of rock but against his middle-of-the-road nature.  It's an interesting tension throughout all his solo work.   For me, he's very hit-or-miss, but I can't deny his greatness.  It just comes in unexpectedly. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Japan - "Oil On Canvas" 2 X Vinyl, LP, Album, Live, 1983 (Virgin)


David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen and on this album, guest guitarist from the country Japan is Masami Tsuchiya.  Not to be confused with the name of the band, which is Japan.  I loathe groups that name themselves after countries, cities or even states, but Japan is a different type of category.   As mentioned before in other of my writings, I have always felt Japan were influenced by Roxy Music, if not in style, in the music adventuresome of the Eno era of that band.   What I first thought was imitation, it eventually turns into originality.   I can't think of another group at the moment that had that odd journey to me.    I fell in love with Japan because of Mick Karn's darkened eyes and David Sylvian's mixture of preppy clothing and makeup.  Japan physically and musically changed in a rapid process from glam rock guys after that movement to a more spiritual and at times, border on a New Age aesthetic.  Sylvian and company have the good taste to go to the root of their obsessions.  Joseph Beuys, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, and a Westerner's fascination with the Asian East.  That, in a nutshell, is Japan. 

One thing Japan never was, is an overnight sensation.  With the assistance from their (brilliant memoirist) Simon Napier-Bell, he engineered their changes and a darker melancholy into a salable hit in England and oddly enough, in Japan.   The band at the end of their career as a group worked out a sound that was minimal and ambient but still had a funk rhythm, with Sylvian sad sounding vocalizing.  The combination was hard for me to avoid, and I ended up purchasing not only their original albums but also all the 12" remixes and the very few b-sides.   "Oil On Canvas" was the last official release from Japan, and it's a live album.  

For the tour, they brought in Masami Tsuchiya, who was at the time, in a band called Ippu-do.   At the time that band sounded like a combination of Bill Nelson and Japan, so his guitar work, as well as his aesthetic (makeup), fitted perfectly in the Japan format and sound.  It's a shame that he never became a permanent band member for recordings.   Still, this is a live album that is not a museum nor a document of a live show.   Among the live recordings are three studio pieces.  "Oil on Canvas" (composed and performed by Sylvian, and very Satie sounding), "Voices Raised In Welcome, Hands Held in Prayer" (composed and performed by Sylvian and Jansen) and to finish off the album "Temple of Dawn" composed and performed by Barbieri.    It's interesting that these instrumentals are placed in the beginning, the end of side two, and the last is the finishing track on side 4.   All of them frame the live material in the sense that these pieces expose the musicians' interest and future, while the rest of the album is very much like the studio recordings.  The riffs are longer, and the songs are stretched out, but not that far from the studio work.   So like "Oil on Canvas" as you mix paint, it becomes something new or an added texture.  I think Japan was of that opinion in that line of thought as well.   I don't feel this album is a product but in actuality a statement of sorts.  The great painter, Frank Auerbach's work, is on the cover, and he's known for his portraits that merge from massive paint strokes.  

The classic Japan sound is really two instruments up front.  That is David Sylvian's voice and Mick Karn's fretless bass.  The rest of the instrumentation backs up those two sounds, and this is what makes Japan so unique and wonderful.  



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Jack Nitzsche - "The Lonely Surfer" LP, Album, Stereo, 1961 (Reprise)


More likely if one has Jack Nitzsche even in the studio while one is making a recording, there is a good chance that the record will be a masterpiece. Nitzsche was a brilliant arranger, producer, and on the classic Phil Spector recordings, the producer's right-handed man. It was his arrangements of "He's A Rebel," and "Da Doo Ron Ron" that gave it such magnificent power. "The Lonely Surfer" was Jack's first solo album, of his arrangments of various songs of that time. One can imagine "The Lonely Surfer" as a surf album, but it's surf as if it was arranged by a 19-century Russian composer. The fact is, I never heard such a sad sounding instrumental album before this one. Even an up-tempo "Baja" or "Puerto Vallarta" has a depressing aspect of exotica island music. The depth of feeling is Nitzsche's genius.

His version of "Da Doo Ron Ron," and as mentioned, he made the original arrangement, but here he slows it down that it's almost not identifiable. A sharp-suited man on the album cover, yet his eyes expose a certain hesitation or maybe even fear. There is a lot to read on this album, and it is one of my favorite records in my collection. I love all of Nitzsche's solo albums (three all together, then the soundtrack recordings, and of course production/arrangement works) and he gives any work that he's involved in a broad sense of feeling, which is unusual for a pop record of the 1960s. It's almost like he's giving the record a foot-note, giving it more depth or layer of emotion that is not yet settled. A classic Wrecking Crew era record album, but also one that I think is the best of the lot - including the Phil Spector recordings. Nitzsche was the real deal.



Vince Taylor and his Playboys - "Le Rock C'est Ca! Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 2015 (Rumble Records)


All serious students of David Bowie know that Vince Taylor had a role in Ziggy Stardust mythology. Vince was an American who moved to England at a young age, became a rock n' roller before the Fab Four hit the radio waves.  Eventually, he became a mega-star in France and had a series of hit songs/EPs.  He also went insane for a while, which at this point, David Bowie met him somewhere in London, and Vince went off about God, and therefore the long link from religion to rocking.  More than his music, Vince Taylor had a strong visual image that was extreme and highly sexual.  Watching old film clips of Vince and band on YouTube, is a combination of a Kenneth Anger film and a visual interpretation of the entrance of hell, through a rock n' roll performance.  Clad in black leather and heavy chains around his neck, Vince even outdid Elvis with his hips, which seems to be more made out of flexible rubber than bone. 

To be honest, his actual singing is just average, but the whole package is the real deal, the real art.  Vince Taylor and the Playboys are a combination of classic Gene Vincent and genius Eddie Cochran. The 18 songs on "Le Rock C'est Ca!" is a snapshot of how a French sensibility eroticizes the rock n' roll imagery.  Mostly a collection of French EP's released in the early 1960s, this is music that will go will with the photographs of Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger, another European sensibility who understood the visual and erotic power of rock n' roll. Musically not as important as Gene Vincent, but visually and presence:  Essential rock n' roll.  


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Roxy Music - "Country Life" Vinyl, LP, Album, 2009/1974 (Virgin)


The fourth Roxy Music album.  The band always has that sound, but each record is quite different from the other.   Perhaps due to the change of producer, but also I suspect that Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay probably added new textures to the overall sound of Roxy Music.   John Punter co-produced "Country Life"  as well as it's engineer.  It's interesting that a few years later he worked with Japan, a band who I think was profoundly influenced by Roxy Music.  

The sound of "Country Life" is thicker and at times, mono sounding record-wise.  If Phil Spector was half sane, and still at full-power, I can imagine this being his production.  Compared to the previous Roxy Music songs, those on the album are very straightforward, and Bryan Ferry to my ears (and head) is losing his abstraction or New York school of poetry to focus on communicating on romance, and the world surrounding that emotional high.  In theory a more commercial approach, but perhaps the after effects of Ferry's various solo recordings at the time  - specifically his first two solo albums which are covers.   I sense Ferry chose those songs, not only because he loved them, but interested in its structure and what makes a song a song. 

"Country Life" is a great album.  It's not a masterpiece compared to "For Your Pleasure" or "Stranded" (and never compare their brilliance on that first album!), but still a remarkable set of songs.   The Jimi Hendrix inspired "Out of the Blue" is simply a magnificent guitar set-piece from Manzanera.   "The Thrill of it All," the opening cut and the end "Prarie Rose" are bookends that resemble a wild storm, but somehow controlled by Ferry and company.  It's a sandwich of sorts, with different tastes and textures between the opening and closing songs.  

Gilbert & George - "The Thoughts of Gilbert & George" Vinyl, LP, Album, Spoken Word, Limited Edition (MoMA)


I'm very much of a veggie-meat & potatoes type of chap, and I think of Gilbert & George the same, with respect to their stance and art.  Ever since I was a teenager, I have followed this duo in all of their work, and sudden u-turns, and their ability to remain British to the core.   I also have a deep curiosity about how artists work together or collaborate on specific art pieces.  To this day, the more time I spend with Gilbert & George, the less I know about them.  They're a complete mystery to me.  

They have lived in East London for decades, and reportedly they eat at their local caff (cafe), which I think is part of their building or right next door. Legend has it that they purchased the local restaurant, and eat there every day.   They have a work ethic going, where they are in their building/studio every day, and consistently making art.  One can presume that they are a couple or lovers, but I'm not even sure if that's the case or not.  All I know is that I love them.

This is very much a spoken word album, with a song "Underneath The Arches"  The focus of the album and Gilbert & George's obsession is this British  1930's era Depression pop song.  It's a lovely tune.  They found the recording in a second-hand shop, and bingo, it becomes an essential performance piece by the duo.   It's a beautiful song about dreaming upward when everything is pretty much hell.  Gilbert & George generally deal with oppression due to politics, sexual mores, and culture. For fifty years their theme has been consistent, although their artwork has changed or they use different mediums, they are still a unique work of art.  I say that because they treat themselves as objects and whatever they do it becomes a work of art or an art object.  

"The Thoughts of Gilbert & George" is them talking about their aesthetic, but even that itself is an art piece.  That, and their focus on "Underneath The Arches" makes this album remarkable 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ennio Morricone - "Crime and Dissonance" CD, Compilation, 2005 (Ipecac Recordings)


Ennio Morricone is the most magnificent composer in the 20th century.   He does film work, and of course, a film composer is an integral part of the film aesthetic, but I often feel that Morricone's music is usually more important than the actual films he worked for.  It allowed him to experiment, mix music genres, and make awesome (soundtrack) albums.  Mike Patton, a superb singer for various groups and sessions, has his own label, Ipecac, and here he has put together the more experimental and moody works in one package.  It's an excellent introduction to Morricone's inner-world and avoids a lot of his famous melodies, but a focus here on his more experimental touches. 

If you take the entire works of Morricone, it can be divided into sections.  The spaghetti westerns,  Mafia/crime narratives, high-comedy or farces, soft-sex films, and horror.  This collection consists mostly his work on horror films as well as crime.   As a package, it is going to either attract one to listen more, or you may run away from the speakers.  If you stay, you're going to be awarded many hours of pleasure, if you track down the original editions of these masterful soundtracks.  

Beside Patton, John Zorn is the only other artist to capture the whole spectrum of Morricone's work.  He initially did an album of his music, and that was my first introduction to this Italian composer.  It's a love affair that never ends. 

Serge Gainsbourg - "Du Jazz Dans Le Ravin" CD, Compilation, Remastered, 1996 (Mercury)


In the year 1996, Philips/Mercury organized a series of releases focusing on a specific time and music style of Serge Gainsbourg.   For me, it was my first real introduction to Gainsbourg's music and his world.   So, for the last 21 years, I have been obsessing about this man's music, which led me to publish a full biography of Serge as well as releasing a fictional work by him as well, with my press TamTam Books.   

"du jazz dans le ravin" is a collection of Gainsbourg's early recordings, that are mostly jazz-based, but still in a pop song format.  Lyrically, he was on the button of greatness.  Like most English speaking people I sort of knew Gainsbourg through his recordings with Brigitte Bardot and of course, Jane Birkin.  Beyond that, I knew very little till I bought this CD compilation.   Compared to his pop and Latin-based pop music, I love his jazz period.  At this time, he was singing in a croon, that conveyed wickedness and someone who can give great advice.   The music is very seductive,  but not always in the physical, sexual sense.  He was a writer that could convey a world and make it into a "Gainsbourgian" landscape, and us listeners are just passing through the neighborhood.  

His partner-in-crime was the great arranger/songwriter/jazz player Alain Goraguer.  Gainsbourg throughout his career depended on these sort of musical characters, and Goraguer was the jazz guy for him.   It's either Goraguer's jazz arrangements or the great recordings with electric guitarist Elek Bacsik and double bass player Michel Gaudry.  A Minimal arrangement with Gainsbourg's voice floating over these two instruments.  Yet, the songs are incredible. "Chez Les Yé-Yé" and others are Serge's most excellent commentary on the Paris world at that time (the late 1950s/early 1960s).  

Often I'm overwhelmed when someone asks me what's the entrance to Serge Gainsbourg's music.  For me, I'm one of those who gets one,  I must have everything.   To properly understand his work, you have to dive in with head and body - and head first!



Monday, October 23, 2017

Sparks - "Big Beat" CD, Album, 1994/1976 (Island Masters)


A really good album that could have been great, if say, someone like Mick Ronson produced "Big Beat."   It's an unusual (well, they all are in a sense) Sparks album because it's very 'rawk' with a great pinch of glam in its mixture.   The driving force of the sound is Russell's vocals, the drums, and snarly guitar.  The album, recorded in 1976, has one eye looking at that time, the current CBGB's 'punk' aesthetic, and yet, still keeping the songwriting to that perfect pitch, which is consistently brilliant and unique. 
"Big Beat" as mentioned, I think Mick Ronson was planning to take over the production or at the very least be part of the band at the time.  Instead, the album is produced by Rupert Holmes with assistance from Jeffrey Lesser.  If it was another Sparks project, I could see Holmes being involved, because of his work, although Holmes has strong middle-of-the-road songs, lyrically there is something else going on in his world.  Holmes reminds me of 10cc, in that the humor can go over a lot of listeners' heads and ears, due to the pop perfection of the production/sound.   What doesn't fit with the Holmes aesthetic, is that this album is very much of a rock album, with the genius songwriting/lyrics of Ron Mael.    Ronson, in theory, can give the songs on this album a great meeting ground between glam and rock 'n roll.   Holmes I think is more comfortable in the AM radio world of easy pop. 

Beyond the weak production, this is a wonderful collection of songs, that are satirical, witty, and comes off to me as a Voltaire/Johnathan Swift sensibility in political/social humor.   One can be offended by some of the songs here, for instance, "Throw Her Away (And Get A New One)," but again it's a work of satire, and commenting on a landscape that's pretty disgusting.  On this CD release, there are two fantastic bonus cuts:  "Tearing the Place Apart" and "Gone With The Wind." It's worth to find this specific CD for those two songs.   

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.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mick Harvey - "Intoxicated Women" Vinyl, LP, Album, 2017 (Mute)


The fourth album by Mick Harvey focusing on the French songwriting genius Serge Gainsbourg.  Sort of an answer or the 'she' part to the 'he' "Intoxicated Man" that was his first tribute album of Gainsbourg songs.  "Intoxicated Women" focuses on songs that women sang under the guidance of Gainsbourg.   So for the France Gall, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, and one song ("Striptease") famously covered by Juliette Gréco as well as Nico before her Velvet Underground adventure. 

Mick Harvey is a man of taste and sophistication, and it clearly shows on these four albums devoted to Gainsbourg's music.  The beauty of this project is that he doesn't follow the originals like a science paper, but as an artist with pen on hand doing a still-life.  It's an interpretation of Gainsbourg's work and is not meant to be the last word of this genius' life or work.   The focus on songs that were sung by other women is an interesting choice.  Gainsbourg was very much the professional songwriter, who wanted to have hits, but yet he always remained a strong voice or representation, even when others cover his music.  You can't erase the Gainsbourg identity when performing his songs.  Harvey's approach is with Bad Seeds' (which he was a member for many years) technique of covering a song with the right amount of arrangement skill in conveying the full force of that music.  "Intoxicated Women" is not the best of the four because, in truth, all four solo Mick Harvey albums are one work. An excellent introduction into the world of Serge Gainsbourg, and French pop music.  After this, then go to the original recordings.   

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Glenn Gould - "Plays His Own Transcriptions of Wagner Orchestral Showpieces" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1973 (Columbia Masterworks)


I don't know what is more fascinating, Glenn Gould making an arrangement of Wagner's music for the piano, or that he mentions Ferrante and Teicher in the interview that comes with the album.  Still, Wagner has always been a favorite of mine, but to a point.  My problem is that I feel that Wagner's music gets lost in the orchestration, and through his iconic ego.   The beautiful melodies that he wrote are superb, yet they get lost in the Wagner world or mix. 

Glenn Gould transcribed the orchestration to piano music, and doing so, brings Wagner back to planet Earth, where us other humans live as well.   Wagner is very much a genius from the 19th century, and Gould is a brilliant contemporary artist.  The two (well, Wagner's music) meet in a recording studio in 1973, and it's hearing these beautiful melodies in a fresh and new way.  I suspect the actual Viking Wagner lunatic will probably hate this album, but for me, it's a masterpiece. 

Gould keeps the romantic feelings intact, but it's on a smaller scale.  Reading his interview that comes with this vinyl disc, it's interesting that he points out that Liszt, a masterful pianist, did transcriptions of Beethoven's orchestrational music.  Besides the aesthetic flavor of doing something, it is also a proper technique in presenting a composer's music to places that couldn't afford a full orchestra.  Gould's purpose is to re-think Wagner, and I think he also wanted to dominate the music, instead of the music dominating him.  

As far as I know, Gould played and recorded Liszt's transcripts of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but the Wagner piece is the only one that he actually wrote an arrangement for piano.  There are three pieces by Wagner on the album:  "Meistersinger Prelude," Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey from "Götterdämmerung," and on side two "Siegfried Idyll." The Gould pace is slow on "Siegfried Idyll."  It's a thoughtful approach to this music, with pauses, almost if someone is meditating on what is being played, as he works through the piece.  A beautiful method with respect to performing Wagner. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Miles Davis - "Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants" CD, Album, 1989/1959 (Prestige)


One of my favorite all-time recordings is "The Man I Love," the Gershwin song here performed by Miles Davis, Kenny Clarke, Percy Heath, Milt Jackson, and the incredible Thelonious Monk.  There are two versions of it on the CD release from 1989.  Both are sonic perfection.  The solos are fascinating.  Miles' solo is slow and soulful, and Jackson's vibes bring it up to a faster pace, but Monk's solo is abstract painting as music.  His piano sketches the beautiful melody like he's tracing something on paper on the sand on a windy day.  I believe its take two where Monk even goes slower and plays with the melody as if having liquid slowly disappear between the fingers.   I get the impression that Miles probably wanted to throw his trumpet at Monk for going so slow, and playing with the melody as if a cat is is batting a toy mouse.   The whole album is terrific, but to have the two versions of "The Man I Love" opening and closing this album is just perfection being practiced by these giants of music (jazz). 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ultravox - "Three Into One" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 1980 (Antilles)


This is how I see the world.  The center of the world is Roxy Music.   From that world (in theory) came Magazine.   And then there's another layer, and that's Ultravox when John Foxx was their chief lyricist and singer.  Keep in mind that these bands didn't imitate Bryan Ferry and company, but soundwise they do share a certain vibe.   Magazine to me is magnificent, Roxy is beyond magnificent, and Ultravox is the little brother that tries very hard to be magnificent.   Foxx and company do have that JG Ballard vibe as well, but I think there are other bands out there that were better than Ultravox in that respect.  Still, a world with Ultravox is not a bad thing at all. In fact, I enjoy the first three Ultravox albums a lot.   "Three Into One" is a compilation of the first three Ultravox albums, and issued after Foxx left the band.   What was Ultravox then, is different with Midge Ure in the lineup. 

I think the critical elements for Ultravox in general (both versions of the band) is Billy Currie's violin playing mixed in with his keyboard talents.  He has a very distinctive sound, and at times he can sound like Dave Formula, Magazine's keyboard player) who ironically enough worked with Steve Strange's Visage project.  In actuality, it's one big family.  The other is John Foxx, whose presence I presume is one from the Punk aesthetic but has a deep interest in science fiction literature, and like Bowie adopting literary works to his music, Foxx did the same.  "My Sex," "The Man  Who Dies Everyday," and "Hiroshima Mon Amour" have traces of a Ballard landscape, and it's interesting that Foxx never saw the film "Hiroshima Mon Amour" but took the title for his own purposes. 

Ultravox is conservative compared to Magazine.  Not politically speaking of course, but in the sense that their music is rarely experimental and is straightforward rock, but with added touches of electronica that gives their music so much flavor.  They can also come up with gorgeous melodies such as "My Sex" and "Hiroshima Mon Amour."   In a nutshell, Ultravox is a good band, that made good albums, but nothing exceptional about them.  Perfectly workable and enjoyable in an equal manner.  They also worked with the greats of their time:  Eno, Steve Lillywhite, and Connie Plank.  A good singles band.  Nothing wrong with that!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Various - "Les Zazous: 1940 - 1945" 2 x vinyl, LP, Compilation, 1977 (Pathé Marconi)


Truly a dangerous underground movement of swing kids during the French Occupation from 1940 to 1944.  The Vichy Administration didn't look upon these French kids with a great deal of love. Musically it's all swing jazz, but the nerve behind their swing dancing and partying in the horrible world of the Occupation is one of wonder and the beauty of youth itself. 

Les Zazous were hardcore dance and fashion lunatics who pretty much ignored the Occupation like it didn't exist, but of course, it did dangerously.  When Jews were forced to wear the Yellow Star, so did Les Zazous, but they did it voluntarily, and within the yellow star it said "Swing."  The men dressed in long draped jackets, zootsuit pants, but the cuff rolled up, and hair was worn very long but combed back in Rockabilly (before that) style. Often they dine at Vegetarian restaurants.  Also, they like to carry around umbrellas that are rolled up and never been used.   They were fond of carrying newspapers or books in the English language.  Not to read but as a fashion statement.   This you can imagine was an easy target for the Vichy cops as well as the Fascist thugs.   Often when caught they were either killed or forced to get a haircut, which must have been horrible for a dandy like-minded Zazous. 

They would have secret record parties where they danced to American (banned of course) and French jazz music.  These are club kids with an edge.  "Les Zazous" is an album of music made at the time of the occupation, and what I presume was favored by the Les Zazous.   The famous names for Americans are Charles Trenet and Django Reinhardt.  The rest are known in  France, such as Michel Legrand's dad Raymond, who had a famous orchestra at the time, Gus Viseur (gypsy accordionist), Jacques Pills (ain't that a punk rock name), and others.   Some of the songs do have the word "zazous"  The word more likely came from American genius musician Cab Calloway, from his song "Zah Zuh Zah."

This double album came out in 1977, and to this day, there are not a lot of photographs of Les Zazous.  The images that are in the record are all drawings from that period.   A snapshot of a time that was horrible, yet the music is upbeat, happy, and looking forward to better days.  The spirit of music cannot be crushed that easily.