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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Oscar Levant - "Oscar Levant Plays Chopin" Vinyl LP, 1952 (Columbia Masterworks)

As Oscar Levant was once quoted that "what the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left."  Which comes to mind while listening to Levant's recording and playing Chopin.  Both were clearly the genius, in their ability to change one's landscape to fit their presence in that world.  I'm a long time fan of Levant's wit and Chopin's melodies.  A lunatic, like him and another quotable genius, Serge Gainsbourg, loved Chopin's music.  One wonders what they saw in him that made them both be such fans.   There is sadness in Chopin's music, and I suspect both suffered from the dregs of depression.  I wouldn't say they were depressive artists, but more of the fact that they had to run ahead of the dark depression as it tries to take over their soul/lives. 

This is an album of Chopin hits performed by the hysterical lunatic Oscar Levant.  I can't think of a more perfect relationship.  For Levant playing Chopin and for the listener to dwell in both of their worlds. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kenny Graham - "The Small World of Sammy Lee" Vinyl, LP, Album (Trunk Records) 2014

For a guy who lives in Los Angeles, I'm totally obsessed with the subject matter of 1960s London, especially the years before the Fab Four (Beatles) hit the scene.  One of the key figures in that time was an entertainer, songwriter, performer Anthony Newley.  An inspiration to a young David Bowie, Newley struck me as an eccentric artist.  But that thought is mostly due that I'm an American, and the British, even though we share a language (of sorts), our cultures are distant apart.  Nevertheless, there is an obscure film made in 1963, "The Small World of Sammy Lee," starring Newley as a nightclub owner in Soho London, who owes money to his bookie.  He has a certain amount of hours to find that money, and there we have "The Small World of Sammy Lee."

The other interest in this little narrative is the soundtrack to this film.  Composed by British Jazz musician Kenny Graham.  I know one other Graham recording, and it's "Moondog and Suncat Suites."  An album that is a mixture of Graham's compositions as well as songs by the great New York City composer Moondog.  If that is not odd enough, that album is engineered by Joe Meek!   The thought of Meek was working on Moondog's music ... Is mind blowing.  

Johnny Trunk, the brains, and power behind Trunk Records is a Kenny Graham fan. He located this 'lost' soundtrack through Graham's daughter, who had it stored away in her attic.  Trunk found a box that said "Sammy, " and five years later he has this release on his label.  "Soho at Dawn," the opening cut for this album and I presume the film, is a beauty.  It smells like Soho at that time of the day, and I get a sense of a chill as if I was walking a Soho street.  The rest of the album is just as cinematic with obvious jazz touches, but it's very focused on its theme of urgency, yet sadness at the same time.  A moody work.  

There is not a whole lot of information on Graham.  Just a handful of vinyl releases through the years,  and although he seems to be a man at the right spot and time, his place in history appear to pass him by.  Which is a shame.   I have also read that he wrote essays about music, and was very much an anti-rock n' roll guy, yet he was intrigued with electronics and I have a feeling that in an aesthetic sense, must have worked will with Meek.  "The Small World of Sammy Lee" doesn't have that much information on it, with respect who played what on the album.  Was Meek involved?  I doubt it since it was recorded in 1963, and I think at that time it was the height of Meek doing what he's famous for. On the other hand, it's wonderful to have this obscure and slightly eccentric album in my hands and through my ears.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Various - "La Musique dans Le Film D' Alain Resnais" Vinyl, LP, 2017 (Doxy)

Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet's film La Valse De Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) is a masterpiece that is not to everyone's liking.  The ultimate chic arty film of all time.  The score to that movie is the hit off this album of Resnais' soundtrack music to his films made in the 1960s.   All of side one is devoted to Marienbad, and it's written and performed on organ by Francis Seyrig, whose sister is the star of the film, Delphine Seyrig.  It seems he did this score and he also made the music for Robert Bresson's "Procès De Jeanne D'Arc"  -  so his career may have been short, but was clearly talented and in the right place at the right time.  The Marienbad soundtrack is just an organ.  I'm presuming a large pipe organ.  Incredible sound.  And very dark goth sounding that I think would have made a great piece of music before the band Bauhaus came on the stage.   When you see the film, you can't imagine another score attach to it.  The music represents the imagery which is beautiful, sexual, and a sense of regret or at the very least, a bad mood.   A very precise and pointed music.  The music was originally released as a 7" EP single.   I can't imagine how great that must have sound - just having that powerful organ coming from a speaker in the early 1960s. 

"Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Suite)" is by Georges Delerue and famed Italian film composer Giovanni Fusco.   It reminds me of early Stravinsky.  The film "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" is a doomed romance between a French woman and a Japanese man.  Like Marienbad, it deals with memory or how one perceives things in contemporary life.  Another excellent package from the mysterious Doxy Records. 

Georges Delerue / Piero Piccioni - "Le Mépris, The Complete Original Soundtrack" 2 x Vinyl, LP, 2014 (Doxy)

The Georges Delerue score for "Contempt" (Le Mépris) is perfect. A haunting theme that expresses the down mood of the Jean-Luc Godard film.  I have so many versions of this particular soundtrack - mostly all on CD, except for this vinyl set.  The unusual aspect of this package is that it has the obscure and Italian soundtrack to the film by Piero Piccioni.  How did that happen?  That, I don't know.   I think the nature of the cinema movie world at the time of the 1960s were complicated, and for whatever reason, the Italian distributor decided on the Piccioni score for its Italian release. 

I prefer the Delerue music, just because it has been a consistent reminder of this cinematic masterpiece as well as being a great piece of music, with or without the images attached to the work.  The Piccioni score is a good listening experience, but nowhere near the genius French take on the soundtrack.  

Doxy is an excellent and a very mysterious label.  It's a borderline bootleg record company that seems to make use of the copyright laws in Europe.  Saying that I find the recordings themselves pretty great, and their packaging, although often vague, is superb.  The vagueness comes to solid information, for instance,  where did they get their sound resource?  From the original tapes, or is it from a digital resource?  I don't know.   On the other hand, they either take the original packing of albums or do their own take on whatever the album is.  I have at least a dozen titles from Doxy, and I'm happy with all of their albums in my collection.  Also, they are very much a curated company that they only release albums and artists that are truly great - and, or, very hard to find as an original (official) release.  So they're serving a purpose to the vinyl fan, and "Le Mépris" is a fantastic and fascinating double album.  To get both recordings in one package is pretty amazing. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Andy Starr - "Rockin' Rolllin' Stone" 2 x Vinyl, 7", 45 RPM, EP, Limited Edition (Sundazed/MGM)

Rockabilly music is for sure, falling into the rabbit hole and struggling to get up for some air.  It's a potential minefield of great recordings lost to history.  I have never heard of Andy Starr, until one day at Rockaway record shop, I decided to pick up this disc due to its cover.  I'm glad I did because it's an excellent record.

I imagine at one time there were thousands of Andy Starrs' out there, making records and then having those recordings disappear into the mist of time.   Luckily, this has recently been released as a double 45 single set,  and it's hardcore rockabilly that reminds me of the essence of someone like Jack Scott.   The band on these recordings are excellent - and very much the standard set-up of stand-up bass, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar.  The backup vocalists are also superb, which again, reminds me of Scott's arrangements and recordings.  Nevertheless,  Starr is not unique, but clearly wonderful. 

The four songs here pretty much captures the Starr universe.  I don't think there are any more recordings by Starr in commercial existence, but what we have here is four exceptional performances with great vocals and band, doing their best to burn down the studio and elsewhere beyond its walls.   Great rockabilly music.  

The Honeycombs - "Something Better Beginning"/"I'll See You Tomorrow" 45 rpm vinyl single (Pye Records)

"Something Better Beginning" is one of my favorite Ray Davies tunes.   It has an incredible amount of drama, and the comparison between The Kinks recording and The Honeycombs version is the drama is presented in a much higher state.  I'm presuming that Ivor Raymonde is responsible for the sound/recording of this song - or it could be Joe Meek.  But it doesn't have the Meek eccentricity.  Still, a beautiful record and The Honeycombs nail the pathos of a romance that may or may not happens. 

B-side "I'll See You Tomorrow" is pure Meek via the songwriting talent of Howard Blaikley (actually two songwriters credited as one).   The melody I believe is based on a Shubert composition.  Dennis D'Ell is one of my favorite singers from the British Invasion era - and Meek really knew how to use his voice.  I often think that D'Ell is the character that Meek imagines himself as - at least vocal wise. A great 45 rpm single.  The Honeycombs are the most underrated band from the British 1960s. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Martial Solal Joue Michel Magne - "Electrode" Vinyl, LP, 1966 (Cacophonic)

Martial Solal + Michel Magne + Jean-Claude Vannier = Wow!   Kind of a super band or super musicians getting together for one album.  What we have here is the amazing talents of Martial Solal and trio (Gilbert Rovère on bass and Charles Gellonzi on drums) plus composer Michel Magne's orchestration and then with the additional genius of Jean-Claude Vannier's arrangements.  First of all, when you hear the very first note on Solal's piano, you're immediately drawn to Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" in which Solal did the soundtrack.   And not surprisingly, when one hears "Electrode," you think soundtrack music because there is something incredibly visual within the music. 

Magne composed the music here, and Vannier takes that music to another planet.  It is jazz, but with avant-garde leanings and sounds from Magne and Vannier, who both can be experimental on their own each recording.  So what we have here is the Solal trio doing what they do, which is magic, and Magne's composition which is pushing the envelope between the medium of jazz and 20th century written score.  Vannier then kicks the whole project into another soccer stadium.  Recorded in 1966, it's a lively energetic album.  And for those who are hung up on the sounds of early Godard (like me) will find this album amazing. 

Brian Eno - "The Ship" vinyl, LP, Album (Warp Records)

It seems I have spent my adult life with Brian Eno.  I have been buying albums from this artist over the years - some are masterpieces, some are OK, some are not-so-OK, and some that leave me just scratching my head.   In a nutshell, one of my favorite noisemakers.   Eno is not a genius, but he's smart, and his approach to throwing in the musical avant-garde ideas into the rock n' roll mix is brilliant.  Like any artist that has decades of work behind them, they falter here and there.  In my opinion, his recent works have regained his edge, which I thought he lost.  But alas, Eno is back!
"The Ship" is an exquisite almost ambient piece of music with vocals altered by electronics.  It's murky with the sound of a ship going down in the ocean.  It reminds me of Gavin Bryars' great piece of music "The Sinking of the Titanic" which in theory is relative to this work.  Eno was the first to record the Bryars piece for his Obscure record label.  What's interesting is that Eno mostly has made music for institutions, airports - but places that don't have a strong identity, and are neutral landscapes.  This album makes me think of location or place that is very specific in mind.  It's a ship that is sinking or lost.  You can't find this on a map, but one has a picture of it in their mind.   It's a lonely and sad album.   It ends up with some sort of light by his version of Lou Reed's (through his band The Velvet Underground) "I'm Set Free."  
The other key ingredient on the album is the use of strings.  I don't recall Eno ever using a string section, except for the b-side of his album "Discreet Music."   I would like to hear more recordings from him using orchestration. I think it's an area that he can explore more depth and sound textures.   On vinyl, it's a double album, and the essence of the work needs to be listened to from the beginning to the end.  There is a narrative that is in place, but not a story.  Just a mood that you need to experience in a format that doesn't jump around.  The emotional punch of the Lou Reed song is not strong if you don't play the other part of the recording first.  It is very much a composition.    Great.  

Ennio Morricone - "Controfase" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1972/1915 (The Omni Recording Corporation)

A lost album that has been found, thanks to the record label, The Omni Recording Corporation.   Ennio Morricone is a master.  In my opinion, the greatest composer to come out of the 20th century.  To choose one, or even a few of his albums is something I can't do.  One has to accept none or all.  I choose 'all.'   I think in my collection I have over 50 albums - on CD and vinyl.  I tend to hover towards his more experimental work, then his big symphonic orchestra pieces.  But I'm such a fan; there is so such thing as a bad music from Morricone.   It's impossible!

"Controfase" is a recording that was lost to history but found by the label a few years ago.  It is a perfect example or almost a sampler of Morricone's interest in sound design and orchestration.   The mood on this album is creepy and dark.  It also features the talent of a fellow composer/arranger Bruno Nicolai as well as the great vocalist Edda dell'Orso and Morricone's experimental noise band Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza.   So on one album, you have the legendary collaborators that come and go into Morricone's recordings of the 1970s. 

Morricone's music varies between highly melodic pieces to dark noise.  This album is very much the latter.  The eight selections or pieces express every shade of darkness.  Anyone who has an interest in recording sound would find this album fascinating.  Incredibly textured, with layers of unexpected orchestrations with respect to various instruments and electronic effects.  This album just keeps on giving the gift of great music.  

Serge Reggiani - "Poètes 1" Vinyl, LP, Album, France, 1973 (Polydor)

One of my favorite figures from the French cinema world, who also happens to be a great singer.  To make a comparison, he reminds me of Bryan Ferry.  Not his identity or characteristics, but his voice. Ferry singing other people songs naturally make it is own, due to the limitations and tone of his voice.  Serge Reggiani is exactly the same.  Reggiani doesn't do the American songbook but instead tackles the poetry of Jacques Prévert, Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, and Louis Bessières.   On "Poètes 1" it's bare music with a focus on the words.  My inability to understand French may limit me the enjoyment of this album, but that's not fully the case here.  Reggiani brings a sense of cool, but passion at the same time.   There is a long tradition of making songs out of poetry in France, and Reggiani is one of the greats to take on this medium.   There is "Chanson De Maglia" with music by Serge Gainsbourg.  How great is it to hear music with credit: written by Victor Hugo and Serge Gainsbourg.   I have three other albums by Serge Reggiani that features more Gainsbourg, but also Boris Vian material.  Reggiani is one of my favorite vocalists.  And not a bad actor!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Jacques Dutronc - "Jacques Dutronc" Vinyl, LP, 1968 (Disques Vogue)

Soundwise, a mixture of Bob Dylan "Highway 61 Revisited" with overtures to Ray Davies circa The Kinks 1965/1966.   Everything else wise, Jacques Dutronc is an original artist.   Dutronc started off as a session guitarist in Paris, and eventually met up with lyricist Jacques Lanzmann, and wrote many hits in the 60s.   The interesting aspect of their partnership is that Lanzmann is a much older gentleman than Dutronc, and I suspect that his lyrics reflect and make humor of issues that took place in the 1960s.    So there is the edge of two minds working as one. 

"Jacques Dutronc" is 12 songs.  I suspect that this recording is a 12" version of 3  7" EPs.   Every song here is a gem.  Borderline psych-rock but very much in a pop mode,  Dutronc expresses a great deal of fun though his music.   The Kinks reference for me is that I sense intelligence, that is beyond the hit-making process.  Dutronc's visuals on his album cover almost convey a joke, but I also think there is something serious under the joking.   For anyone who even has the slightest interest in French pop, need to have this album.  Dutronc's career is a long one, and his much later recordings are of keen interest as well.  More on that later!

Scritti Politti - "Songs To Remember" Vinyl, LP, Album (Celluloid/France) Rough Trade, 1982

One of the few great albums released in the early 1980s is Scritti Politti's "Songs To Remember."  As a young man, in the 80s, I remember buying all the 12" singles off this album, due to the re-mixed more sonic versions.  If you can find it, I strongly recommend to purchase "Faithless," which is great on this album, but the 12" single goes on and on, and it's an incredible piece of music.

 The basic sound of Scritti Politti is one of great sophistication.  A touch of reggae, soul, jazz, and singer/songwriter.  The main honcho of the band, Green Gartside,  had an interesting take on 'pop music' culture, which for him was seen through the eyes of a political theorist.   Well-read, and a one-time hardcore Maoist type of Leftie, he looked at the love song as a political statement or through the eyes of Derrida's reconstruct of things in front of him.

On the other hand, this album has the greatest groove flow.  The nine songs here are close to perfection, and there are great musicians on this album.   Green's voice is very white, but the backing is black in spirit, and even though there is this philosophical separation between thought and sound, it's a black soul orientated work.   Robert Wyatt makes an appearance or two, and one can clearly hear his influence on those tracks.  Scritti Politti made other fine and splendid records, but "Songs To Remember" is a masterpiece.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rod McKuen - "Rod McKuen Sings Jacques Brel" Album, Vinyl, 1973

My one and only Rod McKuen album in my collection of vinyl.  The only reason I purchase this record is because it's music by Jacques Brel, sung by McKuen, who also translated the lyrics from French to English.  Beyond that, the album is great. 

I never warmed to McKuen's boho image, which I find very showbusiness related.  It's not he's talentless, it is just he's the mainstream American versions of someone 'out there' and that he's ain't. 
On the other hand, he is one of the first English-speaking artist (besides Scott Walker) who has committed himself in doing Brel recordings, as well as translating his words.  The truth is, McKuen does an excellent job in performing Brel's works. His voice is not the typical showman type of vocalist, but he in his gravel way gives the material real grit and soul.   The orchestrations on the album are also great - in being true to the material, and backing McKuen's vocalization.  This album is the flip side to Scott Walker's recordings of Brel's music.  I would get both.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Evariste - "Do You Know The Beast?" LP, Vinyl 45 rpm, Limited Edition (Nosmoke)

I discovered Evariste's music either on YouTube (still there, look) or on someone's website.  My first reaction to this French Ye-Ye singer was 'oh a Jacques Dutronc" type.  Very little information on Evariste in  English.  For one, he's a Ph.D. doctorate in theoretical physics, at the age of 23, and was very much swept up in the May 68 Paris world of politics.  His hairstyle was extreme with one side short and the other very long.   And watching the promotional films he made in 1968 struck me as eccentric.  And that may all be the case, but also his music is great.  

Michel Colombier did the production and musical arrangements, and this is his best work.  That's saying a lot considering Colombier's work with the great Serge Gainsbourg and others, but here his arrangments are out-of-this-world.  Evariste's songs are over-the-top, and his vocal mannerisms are humorous, but re-listening to his work on vinyl  I now find it fascinating.  There is almost a musique concrete aspect to his vocals, in that he uses different tones, voices, and Colombier seemed to have an endless amount of impressions done musically to fit with the songs as well as the character of Evariste. 

The scientist aspect of his work is alluring and very much part of the image of Evariste.  His real name is Joel Sternheimer, and he took the name from Évariste Galois, a brilliant mathematician, who was able to determine a condition for a polynomial math problem when he was a teenager in 1829.   Galois was killed in a dual when he was 20.   The James Dean of Science!

Hearing Evariste's recordings on vinyl is like being in the country air for the first time after being locked up in a smokey room.  This 45 rpm master of 10 songs by Evariste, who only released two French EP's (four songs each) and one 45 rpm single (two songs) is the complete works.  Beautifully arranged and recorded, Evariste needs to be heard in its proper format.  The videos are great as well.  

Evariste, December 2012, photo by David Tinkham

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Miles Davis - "Asceseur Pour L'Échafaud" Vinyl 10" album, Limited Edition, Mono (Sam Records)

My favorite Miles Davis music.  Recorded in 1958, in Paris, with the great French musicians Pierre Michelot, René Urtreger, Barney Wilen, and the legendary American drummer Kenny Clarke.  This album has been re-released numerous times.  But I think Sam Records version is the best.  For one, they went back to the original analog tape to make this disc as well as the original negatives of the front and back cover.   Sam Records is a one-man operation, and he focuses on jazz that was recorded in France, mostly from the 1950s.  

Limited edition of 1,000 copies, is not the easiest find, but once you do, you'll love it.  For one, the sound is incredible.  The music for me is like if someone turned the lights off by a switch.  A mood changer that works like no other music.   A beautiful smokey aural experience. 

The other item of interest for me is that they have the original liner notes including the one by Boris Vian.   Long-time readers of my blog and my work know that I have an intense passion for Vian's writing and his social world.    It's a great reminder of his presence and importance in the French and American Jazz world. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

V.A. - "Fluxus Anthology" Vinyl, White, LP, Limited edition of 500

Edited by Maurizio Nannucci, this is a superb collection of recordings from various artists from the Fluxus art movement.   Incredibly entertaining with many highlights, for instance, Joseph Beuys' pure pop song "Sonne stat reagan" to what sounds like a toilet flushing by Yoko Ono.  For me, the album is very musical, and clearly, there are moments here of great beauty and grace.   Nam June Paik's "My julilee ist unverhemmet" is bone-chilling perfection to me.  What sounds like an old recording of a Wagner like a piece of music, but slowed down with an overlayer of vinyl hitting the needle, becomes a sorrowful and moving work.  

It is an anthology, so it serves the purpose as an introduction to these artists.  Probably the most known work here is John Cage's "Radio Music (1956), " but it's the obscure works (at least for me) by artists I kind of heard of, but not really know their art.   Milan Knizak reminds me of Christian Marclay's broken records material, but I suspect since his selection on this album came from 1979, he may have been first.  "Broken Music Composition" is an intoxicating aural pleasure.  There is nothing really weak in this collection of sound art or pieces.  La Monte Young's "Dream House (an excerpt) is just incredible, Wol Vostell who I believe is a visual artist, expresses great intensity through his "Elektronischer dé-col/age.  Happening Raum, 1968," which I believe is an installation artwork, which has audio.  
Limited edition of 500, I strongly recommend those who have a passion for avant-garde art from the 20th century, to run out and nab a copy for yourself.  Great packaging as well.    The artists on the album are:  Eric Andersen (another highlight), Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Philip Corner, Robert Filiou, Ken Friedman, Juan Hidalgo, Dick Higgins, Milan Kinzak, Alison Knowles, Walter Marchetti, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Gen Vaufier, Wolf Vostell, Emmett Williams, Robert Watt, and La Monte Young. 

Michel Legrand - "Play for Dancers" Vinyl LP (Philips) 1964

What I have is the U.S. version that is called "Michel Legrand Plays For Dancers"  It is known in France as "Archi-Cordes" and in other parts of Europe as "Violent Violins."  Which the latter is actually description of this classic Legrand album.   Once you hear "Di-Gue-Ding-Ding" you never forget it.  The song will be grilled in your head till the day you die.  Which, with this particular song, is a very good thing.   The whole album is fantastic, and the U.S. cover is mis-reading the album.  One would think it will be just an album of tunes that one can do the Wobble, or Hully Gully and of course the Shimmy - but in fact, this is a recording made by Legrand that has his best work as an arranger.  The violent strings are biting and the rest of the album is almost electronic in its feel and behavior.  More Joe Meek than Henry Mancini and with a great deal of the Legrand melodies and presence.   Sound - wise it's a witty piece of work as well.  There are arrangments that will make one smile, just by its aural possiblities.  An unique album and one of Michel Legrand's greatest works.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Move - "Live at the Fillmore 1969" Vinyl double album (Not Bad Records)

The fab four - Roy Wood, Carl Wayne, Bev, and Rick Price.   In other words The Move.  I was so in tuned to the music of that time when I was a teenager, yet, getting into The Move were not that simple to get ahold of, due to the fact that they were kind of obscure in the United States.   The Jeff Lynne Move years were easy to obtain, but the early albums, one had to find an import copy - and that was usually by luck than anything else.   Nevertheless, The Move was an incredible band.  
It was their odd mixture of hard rock, pure pop, and incredible songwriting from Roy Wood.  But also they had a singer, Carl Wayne, that didn't come off as a hard rocker, but more of a middle-of-the-road singer being backed by a nutty rock band.   Why they never made it big in America, I think is because of their eccentricity.    The Move Live at Fillmore East is an album that should have come out in 1969.  If so, I think they may have been at the very least, have a Humble Pie type of success in the states.  Alas, that didn't happen.
This is a fantastic live album, showing off The Move's love for American rock/pop, yet filtered through the Move aesthetic and style.  So it's heavy but smart.    Carl, Roy, and gang were not shy in doing covers, and their choices are brilliant.  Not obvious stuff, but the off Carole King cut - more like the b-side of a single type of thing than anything else.  I'm presuming Roy Wood was an obsessive record collector.   His guitar playing, by the way, is great throughout the set/recording, and for me, Rick Price's heavy bass playing is something else.  He and Bev as the rhythm section are like a tractor going over rocks.  If we lived in a better world, this album would have been a super hit - and by now have a deluxe mix, but the tapes were being held by Wayne for safe-keeping.    It sounded like they went through major sound operation to save or improve the aural aspect of this album.  It's great.  Get it. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Henry Badowski - "Life Is a Grand..." Vinyl LP, 1981 (A&M)

Henry Badowski's "Life Is a Grand..." is a perfect gem of an album.  I can't remember why I bought this album back in 1981.  I suspect that I liked the cover, and one of the songs is called "My Face," which at the time, I thought to myself 'what a great title for a song!'   There are albums one listens to, and it's a series of perfect moments.  "Life Is a Grand..." is a blissful listening experience.  It reminds of solo Syd Barrett, a touch of Kevin Ayers, and basically beautiful melodies.  Very much an album made by one man.  Henry Badowski is a mystery to me.  I know he's associated with The Damned and played with Wreckless Eric, but beyond that, why only this one solo album?

Always a great record to play in the background, because as you're sitting there or standing by the wall, you are drawn into the music, like a seductive pull of an alluring woman.  Or man.  For me, it's a masterpiece.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sneakers - "Sneakers" Vinyl 10" EP Limited Edition (Omnivore Records)

Sometime in the 1970's, at the height of punk and power pop, I went to Bomp Records to look for something new, and this poorly shabby made 45 rpm cover by the band Sneakers caught my attention.   I think one of the songs titled "Love's Like a Cuban Crisis" made me decide to take a chance on it, and as a 7" 33 1/3 record, it had six songs.  Surely there must be one good song on this disc?    It took me an hour to get home, and once I put it on my turntable I realize that this record was a work of genius, and Sneakers were the greatest band in America.  40 and something years later, I still feel the same way about this record. 

Chris Stamey, the main Sneaker, strikes me now as the Roy Wood of American rock.  The textures of various guitars done all in what sounds like a mono mix are borderline chaotic.  It does remind me of early Move recordings, but entirely original in its love for pure pop done in a very dynamic mode, but smart as well.   I find it disturbing that Chris Stamey is not considered to be one of the greats in American music.  His later solo albums are brilliant as well - and it seems to me if there were no Stamey there would be no REM, and lots of the indie rock bands of the 1980s and so forth.  Stamey has the vision of Tom Verlaine with respect to his guitar skills and imagination and a superb songwriter.   Sneakers rule big time.   

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wizzard - "Wizzard Brew" Vinyl LP, 1973 (Harvest)

Roy Wood's Wizzard is the very definition of eccentricity.   There are albums that when I first hear it, I shake my head.  Not in hatred or disgust, but more a huge question mark appears in my brain.  Then, for whatever reason, I can't leave it but neither do I love it.  Do I just 'like' it?   There are two albums that affect me in that manner.  One is Van Dyke Parks' "Song Cycle" and Wizzard's "Wizzard Brew."  I have sold both albums back to the store and consistently purchase them back again.  As of now, I have the vinyl copy of this album as well as the CD version, which comes with the Wizzard hits of that time.  Tonight I focused on the vinyl.

The eccentric aspect of Wood's music - especially with Wizzard is that he has an obsession with rock n' roll, but his rock n' roll is very different from someone else's rock.  It is obvious he has a love for the medium, and I'm guessing that he worships Phil Spector's recordings  - just due to the fact that he has so many instruments on each song, that the combination makes me feel dizzy.  There are at least two different tubas, various saxophones, and horns, and then, of course, there's the cello, bassoon, string bass as well as electric bass trombone, recorder (a Wood favorite), harpsichord, French horn trumpet, bugle, clarinet, two drummers, plus congas.   And that is for one song! 

"Wear A Fast Gun" is a beautiful Wood ballad, yet, the song goes into directions that you wouldn't think it would go to.  There are strong jazz riffs as well as retro fifties aesthetics mixed with Jimi Hendrix like grooves.  Like the title, it is truly a Wizzard brew.   It's loud, muffled, and brilliant.  Wizzard is eccentricity at work. 

David Bowie - "Alabama Song"/"Space Oddity" 45 rpm Vinyl, 1980 (RCA)

There is no better song than "Alabama Song."   I only know four versions:  Lotte Lenya, The Doors, David Johansen (N.Y. Dolls) and of course, David Bowie.  All versions of this song are great.  Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil wrote it.  And thinking about it now, this song I knew since I was a baby.  My family household played the "Lotte Lenya Singing Weil" album, and my German grandmother had the album as well.  So no escaping from "Alabama Song."  Nor do I want to flee from this song.   Bowie does a great version, which was recorded during his "Lodger" period, and I presume with the same band that is on the album.    A commentary on his times in Berlin, when he lived there with Iggy Pop during the making of "The Idiot" and "Lust for Life."   There is a sense that he's singing this song as if it was something from his past. Even though it was a few years in the past, it had the bite of discovery.  I think for him, and for me as a listener.   It's a beautiful melody, and all versions are sung if the melody is crashing into a wall.   What comes afterward is a new beginning.  A new something. 

"Space Oddity, " this version recorded in 1980 is the best.  Sparse, and very much reminds me of John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" recording.  The minimal approach is piano, loud drums, and maybe a touch of an electric guitar, with the acoustic.  It has always been a beautiful song, and by far, this version is the best.    Not sure if it is easy to track down - or if it is in a best of Bowie album somewhere in the world.  But do get it. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot - "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus" b/c "Bonnie & Clyde" 45 rpm (Philips)

I think most of us have heard the Brigitte Bardot/Gainsbourg recording of his "Je T'aime Moi Non Plus, but in actuality, I bet most of us only heard the Jane Birkin/Gainsbourg recording.  That officially came out in the late 1960s, but it took ten years for the Bardot version to be released on the French/world market.  According to legend, the then married (to someone else) Bardot was having an affair with Serge, and they recorded this rather literate song of eros.   Gainsbourg wrote the song for her, and it seems he was crushed when Bardot requested that he doesn't release the song, due to the husband's jealousy at the time.  

Both versions of the song are excellent, but I have to choose between the two, it will be the Bardot version.   For one,  Michel Colombier's arrangement is superb.  The strings are lush, romantic and feverish.  It's the most erotic part of the recording.  Bardot and Gainsbourg are very cool in their delivery of the song.  Birkin, on the other hand, does the heavy breathing, and the format is more organ/guitar orientated than the Bardot crazed orchestration.   Not to make a personal judgment between the two great female icons of the 20th century, but Bardot strikes me as a master of a cool sexuality that is smart and perhaps deadly.  Birkin is very much the girl next door - erotically fun and beautiful of course, but perhaps not fully aware of the world - or the seduction techniques of the Gainsbourg method.   Bardot is acutely conscious of the 'whole' game.  

But like all things that deal with Eros, it is very much part of the listeners take on such a magnificent song and recording.   If you have the chance, do compare the two versions, and come to your own conclusion.  

Traffic - "Heaven Is In Your Mind" Vinyl, Reissue, Mono (Sundered Music)

one of my all-time favorite albums.  I first bought it I think in 1967, or early 1968. "Heaven Is In Your Head" is confusing, due that there is another version of this album that came out in the UK, and I think even in the U.S. there may have been at least two versions of this album.  Nevertheless,  and over many years, I now have this specific version.  It's a re-issue and in mono. 

Steve Winwood and friends (sometimes Dave Mason, who is on and off this album) made the perfect psychedelic pop with touches of European flavor.   The songwriting on the album is superb and incredibly textured.   Jim Capaldi (co-writer) and Chris Wood were magnificent additional visionaries for this first release.   Like all great things, the band soured for me by their second album.  They did nothing wrong, but compared to the first album, I felt they lost their spark or originality.  Perhaps they were in the right place and time.  A great band that could have been greater, but "Heaven Is In Your Mind" is a remarkable aural/sonic work.   It's hard to believe that Winwood was still a teenager when he made this recording. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Guernica - 電離層からの眼差し CD, album, Japan (Teichiku Records)

In my year-long exile (1989) in Japan, I discovered this remarkable CD I think at the Wave music store in Roppongi.   I was immediately intrigued by the graphics on this CD, and thought to myself, how can this possibly go wrong?    It's a masterpiece. 

Guernica is a musical project with music by Koji Ueno, lyrics by Keiichi Ohta, and most remarkable of them all - Jun Togawa singer.  She is like every great new wave singer from the 1980s rolled into one body or mouth.     The music is highly orchestrated with real strings, horns, and it's so retro that it's basically an avant-garde pop album.  The album even has tap dancing, which I think is real.  The roots go back to the 1930s, with a touch of Busby Berkeley.  Togawa's vocals are operatic, to small Judy Garland "Wizard of Oz" era vocals to the vocal range of someone like Yma Sumac.  

This is not easy listening music.  It's very much in your face and totally doesn't take any prisoners.  The closest thing I can think of is "Song Cycle" by Van Dyke Parks.   It's a militant aesthetic that looks toward the past but to make something totally new.   This album is totally unique.   Hard to find, even in Japan, but worth the hunt.   I strongly recommend this album to anyone who is interested in orchestrated pop, baroque pop, and experimental music. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Robert Wyatt - "Rock Bottom" Vinyl, LP, Reissue (Domino)

Is it possible for anyone on this planet to dislike Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom?"  The album is very much the definition of "classic" or better yet, perfection.  The dreamy textures, the hidden melodies that come bubbling up from the mix, and the beautiful playing by Robert and company, it's just a superb work.  The balance of humor and tragedy is walking on a highwire.  At the same time, the music is very sad but hysterical at the same time.  "Rock Bottom" is a very unique listening experience.  The production/recording by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason is exquisite.  Not only one of my favorite all-time albums, but I suspect that many feel this way.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

David Bowie - "Live Nassau Coliseum" 2 x Vinyl (Parlophone)

What an odd occurrence to purchase this live album today, that was recorded on March 23, 1976, at the Nassau Coliseum - and today's date is March 23.  I didn't realize that till I was half-way listening to this record.   So that is one surprise, the other shocking thing to me is that I never heard these recordings before. I know it's on the recent boxset that came out last year, as well as part of "Station to Station" package that included the original album as well as this live recording from the same period.   The third 'sort of' surprise is how much Bowie was influenced by American Black music.   Of course one hears it on "Young American," but for some weird reason, I never thought about it regarding the "Station to Station" album.
There is a strong funk element to these songs.  I have always thought that the material was 'rock,' as the foundation that has 'funk' or 'soul' touches, but I was totally wrong.  "Station to Station," the album, is very much a soul/funk work with rock touches.  'Word on a Wing" is a classic soul ballad, and of course "Stay" is a funk workout with these incredible textures mixed in with the overall sound.  The live recording of this album is very different from the studio versions.  The band here is fantastic.  

Carlos Alomar on rhythm guitar, Stacy Heydon on lead, George Murray on bass, Tony Kaye (one prog rock guy) on keyboards and the great Dennis Davis on drums.  They are not credited on the album sleeve, although Bowie acknowledges them on the disc/concert.   A good purchase for one's Bowie collection. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

V.A. - "Electronic Music IV" (Turnabout) Vinyl, LP, U.S., 1968

I have been exposed to Electonic music for my entire life.  It was about two years ago that I started to seriously purchase 'electronic' works from the 1950s and 1960s on vinyl.  On my journey of record buying and music listening, I discovered a name, Vladimir Ussachevsky who consistently turns up incredible music.  Along with Milton Babbitt and George Balch Wilson, all three were judges in a contest devoted to electronic music.  This album "Electronic Music IV" is the results of that competition.  Five winners.

The winner is Olly W. Wilson, a composer I know nothing about, except that he's African American, and known for establishing the TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts) at Oberlin Conservatory, the first program devoted to electronic arts.  His winning piece "Cetus" (1967) opens the album, and it's a beauty.  Pure electric sine wave which slowly evolves into something dramatic. 

William Hellermann's "Ariel (1967) is a work that is a live performance, not a composition.  The source of the sound was a gong, and after that, it is anyone's guess.  This piece was realized in the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, which is where the great Ussachevsky made his recordings.   To me, this is the Sun Records of Electronic Music.

"Dixi" (1967) composed by Eugeniusz Rudnik is a highly textural work in electronics.   Recorded in Poland, it's an intense listening experience.  The tone changes and I found the music to be very visual.  Not all music is visual to me, in fact, this album is mostly an aural experience - but this particular cut has an additional flavor to it.  Outside of Poland, he seems to be an obscure music figure.  He just passed away last year.  For sure, I'm going to hunt for his music. 

Pril Smiley, a great name, and the only female composer/performer here on this album have a composition "Eclipse" (1967) that is also recorded at Sun Records, I mean at Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center.  85% is electronic sounds, but she added pre-recorded percussion to the mix as well.  Moody and very efficient work.  

Bohdan Mazurek, another Polish composer, has "Bozzetti" (1967) is another artist here where I want to check his other works.  This music is four pieces, and of them has a violin that is almost shocking to hear in the context of electronic music.  I like the mixture of real instruments and electronic effects.  One of the reasons why I really love Ussachesky is his ability to use instruments with the dials and switches.  The tension between wooden or metal instruments with the electric is a fabulous cocktail to me.  "Bozzetti" is mostly if not all electric, except for that violin and I think voices. 

Jozef Malovec from Czechoslovakia ends the album with his "Orthogenesis" (1966-1967) is pure hardcore electronic and the tape machine.  The purity of the two is another version of a classic cocktail.  A splendid album.  A good one for my collection. 

V.A. - "Oh! You Pretty Things - The Songs of David Bowie" CD, UK, (Castle Music) 2006

A well-thought out curated CD of music written by David Bowie, but performed by other artists.  Some directly under his influence or hand, and others dependably from the Glam King.   It's a great mixture of time periods of Bowie's music career being represented in this collection.  There is a focus on the early pre-glam, pre-fame Bowie, with songs like "Over The Wall We Go" by Oscar and The Beatstlakers' Silver Tree Top School For Boys" for example.   The only weird choice here is Lou Reed's "Wagon Wheel" which is a song produced by Bowie, but not written by Bowie, but by Lou.  I have to presume that the record company wanted a Lou recording on this compilation CD, but with respect to the theme of the album, it shouldn't be here. 

The picture you get from this collection is Bowie as a working songwriter in the mode of a Brills Buiding artist who presents songs to other artists.  So these are songs that Bowie wanted to be recorded or in high hopes of being huge or medium sized hits - but alas, that didn't happen.  The big surprise here is "Man Who Sold The World" performed by John Couger Mellencamp.  I never heard or realized that this recording existed before purchasing this CD.   On a listenable plane, this is a wonderful collection of music. It's another way of hearing Bowie, but the focus on him as a songwriter.  I personally like all the recordings on this CD.  It represents the Bowie magic quite well. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Kinks - "Till Death Do Us Part"/"People Take Pictures Of Each Other"/"This Is Where I Belong"/"Do You Remember Walter?" Vinyl 7" EP, 2016 (Sanctuary Records)

Throughout the 1960s The Kinks had a series of perfect moments.  This EP release is perhaps my favorite moment in the Kinks' world.  Two of the songs are from the great "Village Green Preservation Society" album, one from "Something Else" and the other, or title tune is for a soundtrack TV show.  Limited edition of 2500 was made, and I'm one of that number that has this in their collection.

I never heard "Till Death Do Us Part" and it's a fantastic piece of music.  It's classic Ray Davies stating he's only him, and not better or even good.  In the years 1964 thru 69, they could do no wrong.  I don't know if there was something in his diet, or what sounds to me on the verge of an emotional breakdown, but Davies proved to be the best of the greats.  In my young life as a pop lover, Ray was the first pop star who had a questionable sexuality that I couldn't put my finger on.  But what I hear from him and the band was something personal, and I never had that experience with pop before the Kinks. 

The other three cuts on this EP are classics, but probably only known to those who drank the liquid that is The Kinks.  "Do You Remember Walter?"  is my favorite cut from "Village Green," and again, it has an intimate aspect to it.  The singer to the other character, or is that character the audience?  It is probably one of the most moving songs I have ever heard. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Françoise Hardy - "C'est a l'amour auquel je pense"/"Ca a Rate"/Le Temps de L'Amour"/J'ai jeté mon coeur" (Disques Vogue) EP, 7" 45RPM, 1962

Is there a more perfect recording than "Le Temps de l'Amour?"   I suspect the hand of Jacques Dutronc is part of the songwriting, but it's the Hardy magic that makes it work.  Her iconic coolness slips off the vinyl and she is a unique artist in the French pop music world.  Since I don't understand the French language, her approach to her singing is a mystery to me.  The four song EP is a perfect format, and I'm sorry that it doesn't really exist anymore as an art form for recording artists.  The French seemed to have a thing for that format in the early 1960s.  Hardy had released a lot of her great material as an EP, and it's like a brief time with a great lover.

"Le Temps de l'Amour" and the three other songs on this EP are exceptional.  It's like a well-balanced meal and I'm fully satisfied as a listener.  The orchestration behind her is just guitar, percussion and perhaps an electric bass - it's very simple sound, but it's all there to support her voice. French pop music of this time, like France Gall, is an aural sculpture to me.  I feel I can walk through the sounds and look at it from a distance.