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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Steve Reich - "Drumming/Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ/Six Pianos" 3XVinyl Box Set, 1974 (Deutsche Grammophon)


The ultimate recording from Steve Reich.  Three albums of minimal persuasion and keyboard work that is maximum in scope and sound.   Reich's work is not meditative music, but one where the listener has to sit in front of the speakers and let this aural wash come and take you over. I have to presume that these three albums were released separately, but due to some marketing genius on the label has decided to make it into a Box-Set.  Going through all three albums in one sitting may be tough, not because of the work itself, but each piece is a demanding presence in one's life. For me, it has an exotic appeal, because I think of mallets coming from a foreign island in the Pacific.  Again, what do I know, but that is the visual image I get while listening to "Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ." 

All pieces by Reich strike me as a pattern.  When I hear this music, I see structures or things being attached to each other.  There is an architectural quality to Reich's compositions.  There's a foundation built, and then he adds textures on top of that landscape, and I feel he's building from the ground and then up to the sky.   I'm sure there is a spiritual aspect to Reich, but for me, it is more about the mechanics of life, as if it was a cycle.  The Four Seasons, Sunday through Saturday, the 24-hour day, I feel all of that is very much part of Reich's aesthetic.  So when you go into Reich's world, you have to surrender 'your' sense of time and be merged into the Reich world. 




Saturday, September 23, 2017

Michel Legrand & Emil Stern - "Twenty Moods for Pianos" Vinyl, LP, Album,


In one word to describe this album: charm.  There is something about Michel Legrand that rings out all the ugly emotion within me and turn it all into pure bliss.  Hearing his music throughout the years just makes me happy.  I love his soundtrack work (especially with the legendary Jacques Demy), pop songs, elevator music, and his jazz playing with such as Miles Davis.  Even his vocals are fantastic, and the album he did with Jack Jones, superb! 

The beauty of Michel Legrand is that he masters all sorts of music, yet, he remains French sounding.  Even his recordings with American Be-Bop legendary greats sounds like a French man playing with the dudes from New York City - and yet, it's incredible.  And then on top of that, he did a whole album of just him playing on the piano, Erik Satie music.   What is there not to like about him?  Here he teams up with another French pianist/musician Emil Stern.  There are 20 songs on this album that goes by quickly and incredibly enjoyable.  Backed by a stand-up bass and drums, this is a dynamic adventure into the Left as well as the Right Bank of Paris culture.  There are songs by Gilbert Becaud, and oddly enough Eddie Constantine, who was the leading actor in Godard's "Alphaville."  He was an American who somehow got himself in France and became a massive European star.  I knew he sang (they all do you know) but he also wrote two pieces on this album.  There's also a pair of Cole Porter songs -of course, dealing with Pariee.   

As mentioned, like all of Legrand's work, there is a charm to its music or performance. It's not a sickly cute charm, but one of great character and Legrand strikes me as a professional and artist who always gives his best.  So yeah, in essence, this is music to have a drink to before dinner.  The only darkness on this album is the color of the vinyl.   A great find for me at Rockaway Records a few years ago.  Researching this record, it came from South Africa, but not sure of its release date.  I guess that the release date is in the early 50s before Legrand really got huge.  His dad was a very successful orchestrational leader, and his sister, Christiane Legrand is a God-given talent as a singer.  A great family that's full of beautiful music.  I'm happy. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Michel Polnareff - "Âme Caline" EP, Vinyl, 7" 45 RPM, France, 1967 (Disc'Az)


If Lou Christie was French.  This perfect French pop EP is Michel Poinareff at his height, creatively speaking.  Polnareff has the tendency to go over-the-top, in that I suspect his life was one of the great lows and intense highs.  "Ame Caline", the opening song of this EP, is a piano ballad, but sweeping strings, and Polnareff's Lou Christie-like high voice coming in, as a wave hits the beach.  Compared to other French pop at the time there is a bite and a greater music scope or landscape in his work.  A lot of his early work is an odd combination of garage rock meets grandeur arrangements.  "Le Roi des Fourmis" has a lot of percussion, a prominent organ, and is beautifully arranged into a wall of sound.  

Beside this EP, I have a greatest hits collection that I purchased in Fukuoka Japan.  Again, it's not hard to locate Polareff in Japan, it seems he's a well-known figure there compared to the United States, which is not the easiest place to find his recordings (although, not impossible).   Since I don't read French, I'm sure there's information about him that is missed between the languages.  Still, I suspect that he's a very unique figure in the French pop world.  He writes his material, and I sense no one controls his output except himself.  

There are four songs on this EP, besides the two mentioned already there's "Fat Madame" sung in English and co-written by Ray Singer, who worked with the British band Nirvana.  An excellent track which weirdly reminds me of Cockney Rebel.  Or if Steve Harley meets Peter Noone of Herman Hermits fame.  The last track "Le Saule Pleureur" is a sonic soup of various ingredients.  A mixture of flute, unique backup vocal, - in 1967, it was a great year for experimentation in the pop format, and I think Polnareff was very much part of that world. 



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chantal Goya - "Masculin Féminin" CD, EP, French, OST, 1966/2006 (Magic Records)


It's funny that I can recall the day when I found a CD version of the OST EP of Jean-Luc Godard's "Masculin Feminin."  I was shopping in Tower Shinjuku Tokyo and was with a friend, and bingo, this came out of nowhere.  I bought a copy for a friend who was taking me around Tokyo that day, and one for myself.   As an artifact, it's priceless, as art, it's not bad.  What makes it great is that it's the soundtrack to Godard's great film.   In essence, one feels that they own something that is from ground zero on the planet French New Wave.  

Originally the "Masculin Feminin" was released as a 7" EP in 1966.   It has six songs on it, which is unusual because most French 7" EP's had only four songs.  Nevertheless, this is a compact pop history that is even hard for me to write about with respect if it's good or not.   The last three songs (on vinyl, side two) are superb and iconic Yé-Yé recordings.  The first three is good, but for me, it's side two that kicks butt.   

On the other hand, compared to artists like France Gall and of course Hardy, she doesn't come close to their greatness.  Still, this being connected to such a perfection that is Godard's work, it's a must for anyone who has the Jean-Luc bug.   Very difficult to find in any format at the moment.  The French label Sam Records has put out a lot of fascinating (CD) reissues from the 1960s, including British artists as well as French, of course.   They do great packaging as well as preserving essential music that may have fallen through the cracks of time. 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Roxy Music - "Pyjamarama b/w "The Pride And The Pain" 45 rpm vinyl, 1973 (Island)


The b-side to "Pyjamarama" the great song by Roxy Music, is"The Pride And The Pain" which sounds like if Bryan Ferry left the band and was replaced by Ennio Morricone.  It took me awhile to find this recording because once I heard it, I loved it.  There is a CD version that is on one of their Roxy Music box sets put out some years ago, but finally, I have the single.  

"The Pride and The Pain" is written by Andy Mackay.  It features his distinctive oboe playing but mixed in with the minimal piano, Phil Manzanera's Italian sounding electric guitar, Eno's (I presume) sound of the wind and off-mike vocals or talking, and like the title, it does bring Morricone's great spaghetti western soundtracks from the 1960s.  This recording is too great to be lost in the heaps of b-sides that never made it onto albums. 

"Pyjamarama" is essential early Roxy.  The great guitar cords in the beginning, but before the melody and Ferry's voice kicks in - it's a natural music high at this point.  One wonders why this song is not on the "For Your Pleasure" album, but at the same time, it does exist quite well as a stand-alone single.  It's a classic Roxy piece, but again, the b-side "The Pride And The Pain" is really amazing.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Associates - "Perhaps" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1985 (WEA)


Billy MacKenzie's passions were in this order:  His dogs,  his family, and then music.  And I suspect he hated the music business. Which explains why he didn't go for the gold when it was evident that his talents were placed above so many others in the music world.  Without a doubt, his greatness was magnified by his work with Alan Rankine.  The first three Associates albums were magnificent in its scope, design and of course, the voice of MacKenzie.  When Rankine left the partnership, MacKenzie lost the driver, yet, he still made gorgeous pop music. 

"Perhaps" is the first album without Rankine, and it's produced by various people on different tracks. Martin Rushent did half, and Martyn Ware of Human League/Heaven 17/B.E.F. did the others, with some self-production by MacKenzie.  As a whole, the album sounds like a bunch of singles with the additional b-sides added to the package.   It doesn't have a consistency as the other Associates' albums.  On the other hand, you're going to get pop perfection in all its glory with songs like the title cut "Perhaps," "Those First Impressions," "Breakfast," "Thirteen Feelings," and others.  For one, the songwriting of Billy MacKenzie doesn't falter.  As a lyricist he's superb, but also he can sing the text off a cereal box and make it magnificent sounding.  For sure, with Rankine, he was pushing boundaries, and here he's singing magnificent pop.  The production makes the record sound very 1985, but if you go beyond that, there are incredible songs on this album.   In fact, over time in 1985, MacKenzie did a live concert with just his voice and a piano player.  Hardcore Billy music.  One of the great figures from the Post-Punk world, this album is essential to the Associates' world.  If for nothing else, for the comparison of the two sides of The Associates and just a reminder how great the Rankine/MacKenzie team were. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sacha Distel - "La La Song" 7" 45rpm EP, French, 1964 (RCA)


The Last of the International Playboys, if that were a social club, then surely French singer/guitarist Sacha Distel would have been a member.   I discovered him through my obsession with the world that surrounded Boris Vian, the author I published with my press TamTam Books.  Distel was a guy who was in the right place, Paris, and to be specific, at the Saint-Germain des Prés nightclubs and had an obsession with be-bop jazz.   Studied under and pal with the great Henri Salvador, Distel played guitar with artists like The Modern Jazz Quartet, Dizzy Gillespie, as well as with top French jazz musicians.  In the late 1950s, he became internationally famous for being Brigitte Bardot's lover, which in turn introduced himself into a favourite vocalist.

When I think of Sacha Distel, it is in two separate compartments.  One as a massive French pop singer star, and the other as a great jazz guitarist.  Rarely did the two forms of music met on his recordings.  For the casual fan, he is probably thought of as an entertainer who sings.   It's much harder to locate his work on vinyl/CD of his Jazz-leaning guitar work.  I went to Amoeba yesterday and found this French issued 7" EP, of Sacha singing  "La La Song," which is not fantastic, but nevertheless a good French pop song.  The other three songs on the EP are based on Amerian songs with French lyrics written by Maurice Tézé, who worked a lot as a lyricist with Distel.   The best song on this EP is J'aimerais Être Là (I Wanna Be Around) which is based on a Johnny Mercer tune.   The real stars of these recordings are the arrangers.  Three songs are arranged by the Boris Vian/Serge Gainsbourg associate Alain Gorgaguer (as well as doing the futuristic soundtrack to the animated "La Planète Sauvage) and Michel Colombier, another artist who worked with Gainsbourg.  For those in the know, when you see those names attached to a recording, it is usually a good sign that they're good. 



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Duane Eddy His 'Twangy' Guitar and the Rebels - "Peter Gunn" b/w "Along the Navajo Trail" 7" 45 rpm vinyl, 1960 (Jamie)


The killer riff of all riffs of all time.  Henry Mancini's recording of "Peter Gunn" is just as fantastic, to be honest, but of course, for that sound that breaks doors and a few windows, Duane Eddy's great recording of this song is essential.   I purchased this 45 rpm single about a month ago, and when I put it on my hi-fi system, it was like unleashing a powerful presence in the room.   Even on a piece of vinyl that is 57 years old, it still a shock of a listening experience. 

The honkin' sax that floats over the guitar riff, the relentless rhythm section, and the magic touch of just hearing the guitar by itself, and then the bass comes on, and the whole band joins in.  The record is architecture.  It has a foundation that the sounds are built on, and it's perfection.  Lee Hazelwood and Lester Sill made a mountain of sound for this recording. 

It's a shock to flip to the b-side of "Along the Navajo Trail" which is classic pre-rock pop, with backup vocals, that for me, makes me focus on than Eddy's guitar.  A cool recording, but by no means is it "Peter Gunn."  In fact, nothing in this world comes close to "Peter Gunn."  


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ennio Morricone - "Indagine su un Cittadino ai di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto" OST, Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, 1981/2015 (AMS Records)


One of Ennio Morricone's playful scores.  "Indagine Su un Cittadino ai di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto" (Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion) sounds like a dark comedy, but the fact is the film is a suspense movie.  The thing about Morricone is that he never gives you what one expects, but something extra.  If you have to categorize his works, for instance, his avant-garde scores compared to his 'pop' pieces, lush orchestrations, then this one would be his melodic soundtrack.  It borderlines on his Spaghetti western soundtracks.  There are the 'boings' and odd percussion throughout the score.  The record is chamber music, in that it's not a large ensemble playing this music.  Everything is understated, for the exposure of the main melody.  Unusual harpsicords come in the mix, with perhaps a trombone is thrown in for good measure.   There is a delicacy in the playing and within the score's arrangements.  The album is a perfect introduction to Morricone's work for the beginner.  Intriguing melodies played over a perfect mixture of instruments.  

This edition of "Indagine Su un Cittadino ai di Sopra di Ogni Sospetto" is the one to get.  Incredible packaging with liner notes, and a separate LP sized poster of lobby cards for the film.  A film geek's sense of heaven.  In a limited edition of 500.



Various Artists - "Jack Good's 'Oh Boy!'" Vinyl, LP, Album, UK, 1958/1978 (EMI)


The 'commercial' roots of British rock n' roll is all here on this album.  Jack Good, who is still alive at the age of 86, was a pioneer for rock n' roll TV.   His British show "Oh Boy!" was the first variety program devoted to British (pre) rock artists such as Cliff Richard and Billy Fury.  The show lasted for 30 minutes and it was packed with non-stop music.  No song lasted more than a minute, and it was like a variety show with an Amphetamine approach to its timing and management.  The other significant wrench is that Good allowed the audience to be part of the show, with the artists surrounding themselves with the audience, most if not all teenagers.  

"Jack Good's 'Oh Boy!" album is a live soundtrack to the show.  Listening to it now in 2017, it's a weird reminder of how rock was packaged almost 60 years ago.  Cliff Richard sings seven songs, but also includes the talents of the incredible John Barry Seven, way before his work on the James Bond films.  Other artists here are Vince Eager, Two Vernon Girls, and Neville Taylor & The Cutters.  The beauty and the essence of this recording are not really the music, but a snapshot view of British showbiz before the Beatles hit the scene.   Jack Good eventually made it over to America where he created the show "Shindig!" (1964-1966) which focused on the British Invasion at the time, as well as popular pop/rock acts.  

"Oh Boy!" is one of the first shows specifically made for the British teenage market.  It's interesting how the teenager became a vocal/social, and even more important, an economic model that fueled an industry.  The 'beat' cannot be ignored anymore!



Friday, September 15, 2017

Television - "Marquee Moon" CD, Album, Reissue, Remastered, 1977 (Elektra/Rhino)


The stark image by Robert Mapplethorpe of Fred Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca A.KA. Television sets the tone what is inside the package.  Before the Internet, and yes, there's radio, but it was pretty useless for those who live in Los Angeles and therefore didn't have access to the tidal wave of new bands in New York at the time.  I've read about Television, and even more intrigued by their photographs of the time.  They never smiled, nor do they look like they enjoy each other's company.  The only goofy/fun one was Richard Hell, but he left the band by the time of this album's release.  

I think I first heard of the band in 1975, so through publications like The Village Voice, I kept track of this band and was very curious what their sound was like.   The critical response from their shows seemed chaotic from boredom to spiritual enlightenment.  Alas, I purchased the 45 rpm single of "Johnny Little Jewel" (Part 1 and 2, like a James Brown single from the late 1960s), and was transformed by the words, Verlaine's voice, and of course, those two magical guitars working at and against the slippery bass and drums.  When they reissued this remastered CD, the folks on the label were smart to add this song to the package.  

"Marquee Moon" is without a doubt, a classic recording.  The albums' mixture of intensity, beauty, drama, and you know these guys probably didn't move much on the stage.  Verlaine's lyrics/poetry would read like Raymond Chandler if he were a beat poet.  Romantic, yet tough, but with strong visual poetics that gives a picture while listening to the music.  Their stance of attachment or coolness mixed in with a focus on a classic rock two guitars, bass, drums sound is essentially fantastic. In my mind, since Elektra originally signed the band, I think of them as younger brothers to the other Elektra acts Love and The Stooges.  Of all the labels in the world, Television is an Elektra band.  With respect to the band's devotion to the music, and doing things their way.   The way Verlaine and Lloyd would work their guitars separate from each other, and in a sense giving little stabs, stings, and a sense of play, and then on the chorus, they join sensually and sexually manner.  There are a lot of great guitar bands, and one can argue who is better than the other.  The truth is Television is unique, and I think it's not only due to the talents of Verlaine's writing (although I suspect the others had their two or three cents in) the whole chemistry of the band, working together.  Indeed a gang, a group at work.  Perfection practiced by professionals. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Giovanni Fusco - "L'Eclisse" Vinyl, LP, OST, Album, Limited Edition (500), 2016 (Doxy Cinematic)


"L'Eclisse" is an Italian film made in 1962, starring Monica Vitti and Alain Delon, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  The soundtrack to the movie is by Giovanni Fusco, who also did the music for Alain Resnais'"Hiroshima, Mon Amour," as well for other Antonioni films.  About a week ago I saw "L'Eclisse, " and I loved the soundtrack.  I located a copy very recently, and I'm very impressed with Fusco's music.   The music is so much of the visuals, but here, I try to not think of the film, and just focus on the music. 

On this album, we get six versions of Mina's "Eclisse Twist."  One in Italian (of course), French, Spanish, English, an instrumental, and a slow-downed version.  That alone is worth the price of the album.   The additional greatness is Fusco's moody music that is minimal and dramatic.  While listening to Fusco's music, it reminded me of Angelo Badalamenti's work with David Lynch.  Perhaps due to the juxtaposition of a rock n' roll tune ("Eclisse Twist") with Fusco's borderline avant-garde composing.  In the same manner of a Roy Orbison song fitting into Badalamenti's score for "Blue Velvet," the same goes for the dynamic combination of Mina (an Italian 60s pop singer) and Fusco. 

The film "L'Eclisse" is slow-paced and takes its time to unveil its seductive relationship between Delon and Vitti, as well as presenting the world that is empty.  The music also conveys that unbalanced where things are not settled.  "Eclisse Twist" throws a wrench in the process, and it's very effective to go from one mood (celebrating) to the other (contemplating).   And back again.  The film and the soundtrack is a beautiful piece of work.  

Also, I want to give praise for the label Doxy or Doxy Cinematic.  I suspect that they operate in the gray area of bootlegging, but do a superb job concerning the sound of the vinyl, as well as the design work, and even more important, their ability to curate their series in a thoughtful and excellently manner.  







Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Explorers - "Explorers" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1985


What would Roxy Music sound like without Bryan Ferry?  The Explorers are the answer to that question.  It's a band that made only one album, and it included Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay from  Roxy Music. James Wraith is the vocalist for this band, and if I'm not mistaken the other musicians on this album also played in the Roxy Music format.  When Bryan Ferry got himself in the recording of "Boys and Girls" after their iconic nod to the smooth pop world of "Avalon," Phil and Andy made their move with The Explorers.  

Listening to the album, I can imagine some of these songs being Roxy Music material.  One can easily imagine Ferry taking over the vocals of Wraith.  In fact, Wraith, here and there, sounds like a Ferry imitator.  Or perhaps he was instructed by Manzanera and Mackay to do so.  In that sense, the songs here sound like demos for a future Roxy Music album.  "Explorers" is not the worse album in the world, but it's a weak record.  On the other hand, it's interesting to hear the Roxy textures that are on these recordings.  As I have stated before, Manzanera and Mackay are very much the sound of Roxy Music, and it's not all Bryan Ferry.  

There are three excellent songs here, that would fit perfectly in a Roxy project.  They are "Lorelei," "Breath of Life," and "Venus De Milo" (and no, it's not the Television song).  These songs are right in the middle of side one, which thinks gives hope for side two.  Alas, that's not the case.  The other disturbing aspect of this album is that Phil and Andy don't leap over the fence like they did with respect to their first solo albums.   One of the things I loved about Mackay's first solo album that it was a crazed mixture of Joe Meek sounds, with a degree of camp thrown in - and Manzanera's "Diamond Head" is a great mix of Latin/pop/prog/avant-garde touches.  "Explorers" unlike that very name, is a band playing it safe in the mid-80s.  It's a shame that they went for a commercial sound than something experimental and wild.  In fact, it's shocking that those two didn't forge ahead in making sounds that maybe similar to Eno or even David Sylvian of that time.   If you're a Roxy Music completest and must fill that missing hole in their history, then, by all means, do get the album.  As mentioned there are some highlights, but it's like a human being looking for water in Death Valley.  

Morrissey - "Bona Drag" CD, Compilation, 1990 (Sire)


I'm one of the few (or not) that feel 'solo' Morrissey is better than The Smiths.  Nothing against the brilliance of Johnny Marr and the other lads in that band, but more of Morrissey becoming a better writer and singer.  "Bona Drag" is a greatest hits album in theory, but also a perfect snapshot of Morrissey's stance and work in 1990, the release of this collection of singles, b-sides, and choice album cuts.  For me, there is not one weak cut here, and on top of that, there are some of my all-time favorite Morrissey songs.  For example:  "Interesting Drug," "The Last of the Famous International Playboys,"  (the magnificent) "Ouija Ouija Board," "Hairdresser on Fire," and "Disappointed."  I would add more but be listing songs is boring to read! 

The great thing about Morrissey is that he's culture.  It's not really about Morrissey (for me), but also the ingredients that he brings to "Morrissey."  For instance the kitchen-sink British literature and films, forgotten music hall artists, gay icons, and so forth.  He's a great curator or someone who likes 'Show & Tell."  He brings his influences out front and exposes them to a wider audience, yet, still keep their mystery and charisma intact.  In that sense, Morrissey is the gift that keeps on giving.  Everything he does is coded within and from the Morrissey world.  I'm sincerely thankful for his presence in my life. 

Also of note, it's interesting that when one brings up the word "Morrissey" to a mixed crowd, one is going to hear strong opinions for and against this provocateur artist.  In a world of crashing bores, it is an accomplishment to have a figure like Morrissey that can still cause a reaction from people's gut, soul, and brain.  Sometimes I feel there is general 'logic, ' but Morrissey operates on his own 'logic,' that is sometimes confusing, frustrating, and weird.  Still, if you go pass that, Morrissey is clearly one of the great British lyricists of our times/era.   He never pleases the listener with something digestible and easy to swallow.   And not every song is a masterpiece; still, he's a remarkable public figure and artist. 

1990 was a peak year for Morrissey.  "Bona Drag" is an excellent record of those times, and he's truly one-of-a-kind figure in modern pop culture.  For those who love him, he will always be around, and if you hate him, at the very least, he's an outlet for one's frustration against the world.  Genius sometimes doesn't play by the rules.  Feel free to criticize the artist that's Morrissey, but understand to do so is very much part of the masterstroke of his genius.  Attention is something that will always be in Morrissey's hands. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Japan - "Quiet Life" CD, Album, Reissue, 2001/1979 (BMG)


When the most unfashionable band in existence became the most fashionable band in the era of the new romantic.   How they made that work is a total mystery to me.  Japan's first two albums I have heard bits and pieces but never could take them seriously due to their appearance and worse, the name of their band.  It's common knowledge that bands that name themselves after places, especially countries, in theory, suck.   Yet somehow, David Sylvian, Mick Karn, Steve Jansen (David's brother), Richard Barbieri and guitarist Rob Dean managed to turn themselves into sophisticated sonic artists. 
It's like they made a deal with Satan at the crossroads.  Nevertheless, it must have been an 'ah-ha' moment for all those involved. 

What's interesting, and who I think is an essential person in their change of tactics is their producer John Punter.  Punter worked with Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music on their/his early solo recordings  The first thing I think of when listening to Japan is Roxy Music.  Sylvian took on the Bryan Ferry voice mannerisms, and the instruments became more Roxy like, but with additional sonic textures that were their own making.  The interesting thing about Sylvian is that he truly transform himself into a different type of singer/performer/writer.  Sylvian's songs reflected his mood, but with a European icy aesthetic that pretty much removed them from their London roots.  Also in future recordings, they worked with Steve Nye, another long-term Roxy/Eno associate.  The results of these relationships and in the band's artistry is remarkable. 

"Quiet Life" is the first 'new' version of Japan.  The original vinyl album had eight songs, but the CD reissue has 12 altogether, with two being remixes for the 12" market, and the additional "Life in Tokyo" produced and co-written by the great Giorgio Moroder.   Sylvian is not a man of action, but a figure who reflects on his surroundings, and contemplates on the nature of his world.  With his deep ballad (Ferry like) croon, his voice floats over the instrumentation, which has one very particular instrument - and that's Mick Karn's fretless bass.  Karn is the secret ingredient to Japan's success. Sylvian looked like a cross-dressing fashion model out of Vogue, but Karn had a Mediterranian good looking vibe, but also his distinctive playing of the bass is a huge part of their overall sound.  In a sense, it is like there are two singers in Japan.  Sylvian with his voice and the other voice is the bass.  Also noted is that the front cover is Sylvian by himself, but the back cover is Karn. Which suggests that the band is Sylvan on one side, and the other is Karn, with the rest of the group being in the middle of those two, as they are displayed in the inner sleeve. The keyboard work from  Barbieri (as well as Sylvian) is never based on chords, but more with sound. It's very organized musiques concréte, with jazz-like drumming from Jansen.  

The weird juxtaposition of them being pin-up teen idols, but with a very sophisticated sound must have been an odd experience for both the fan and musicians.   Although the music is loose, it is still very contained in an airless box, which makes listening to a "Quiet Life" an exciting experience.  The songs are all beautiful.  The pacing is quite slow, but it's the textures that keep one's interest throughout the album.  Their cover of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" is a perfect vehicle of a song for them to do.  On the surface captures the sense of dread within a social world, and Japan, at this point, is out of that world, and in a much-confined inner-world.  

"Quiet Life" is by no means an ambient album, but I think a listener can tell that the group was heading toward a place that is 'furniture music' (Satie), but here they still explore the boundaries of the pop music format.  If the new listener can get past their silly name, one will be awarded an impressive landscape that is Japan's music. 



Monday, September 11, 2017

LCD Soundsystem - "American Dream" 2 X Vinyl, LP, Album, 2017 (Columbia/DFA)


To be honest with you, I had a gut reaction or feeling about bands coming from the New York City area in the 21st century.   The feeling is, I've done that and been there.   When I read about bands like LCD Soundsystem, it didn't sound appealing.  Especially when its leader James Murphy started producing bands like Arcade Fire, which is not exactly a passionate love for me, but actually a band I can't stand.  Still, I wonder, is this more of a 'me' problem than an LCD Soundtrack problem.  Listening to their new album "American Dream," I have decided that I'm a music snob, and regional (not) sensitive.  But alas, I have the vinyl of this album, and I blasted it through my speakers, and it's... terrific.

First of all listening to this album, I think of Pulp, David Bowie (Lodger), Talking Heads (Remain in Light), and oddly enough Public Image Ltd.   So yes, in my first listening experience I'm playing the game of 'where have I heard this sound before?"   And it's true, Murphy is obviously a fan of all that I mentioned above, yet, is that a bad thing?   No.  

I can't speak for his other recordings, due that my prejudice stopped me from even hearing one note of the older material.  So "American Dream" is very much the only experience I have with LCD Soundsystem.   First off, this is a fantastic sounding record (on vinyl).   The mix and textures are superb, and Murphy's and the other's melodies are really good.  He doesn't do original, but what he does well is taste.  He has the 'taste' to capture moments from other bands and make it his own, in a fashion.   I do have this snob thing about originality, but fuck that.  I think I found a new category of music that's influenced and very much part of a music's history, but a new work.  It kind of reminds me of how David Sylvian in Japan adopted Erik Satie to one of his songs.  Murphy is smart, and as mentioned, he has a taste. 

The record is also analog-ish, and I suspect Murphy is an instrument junkie. One other thing, even though the inner sleeve shows all eight musicians, this album is basically all James Murphy playing most of the instruments, with maybe two others at a time, helping him out on the recordings.  Nevertheless, there is not a bad cut on the record.   "Call The Police," "American Dream," (especially this song) is good as one can get, and the last track is a sonic beauty "Black Screen" which I suspect is about Bowie's death.  The other groove like here is that three sides have the inner-groove (is that what it's called?) where the song keeps going.  Nice vinyl touch.   Great album. 

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich - "Greatest Hits" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 1984 (Philips)


The annoying thing about this band from the British Invasion 1960s is their name: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (future reference for this piece DD-DBMT).  God knows what happens if one dropped out of the band, but reading the liner notes on this specific album, all their names are fake.  So in theory, the musicians can be replaceable, because anyone can be Tich.  The other problem I have is due to my memory, I can't recall the name of their band if I didn't have a piece of paper in front of me with their name on it.  I can remember up to Dave Dee, and I know there's a Mick somewhere there, but beyond that, memory failure.    On the other hand, they're one of my favorite 'pop' bands of that period.   Their music lacks any authentic feelings, and in fact is pure pop wallpaper music.  Which is often bad, but somehow DD-DBMT is brilliant at it. 

Their key element is that all their songs are written by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, sometimes known as Howard Blaikley on liner notes or label credits.  They are also responsible for The Honeycombs (Joe Meek band), one of my favorite all time bands.   On one level, they're hack songwriters, but like DD-DBMT, they have a particularly brilliant zeal to their work.  And interesting enough, their songs for DD-DBMT are entirely different from The Honeycombs. I wouldn't think they were the same songwriters.  The Honeycombs are theatrical mood pieces, set to a pop medium, but DD-DBMT is almost goofy and clearly in their later years very much over-the-top productions.  

I first heard DD-DBMT watching an early performance piece on video by Gilbert and George.  They did a great dance to "Bend It," one of DD-DBMT's greatest songs.   It may have been a minor hit on American airwaves as well, but my memory (like remembering this band's name) is cloudy, but for sure the song made a huge impression on me through the talents of Gilbert & George.  I have three separate greatest hits collections by them.  Two are on vinyl, one on CD, and I also on my computer have their original albums issued in Japan about ten years ago.   The early DD-DBMT material was very straight ahead mod-like pop.  But very commercial with incredibly strong choruses.  Catchy as hell!  In a nutshell, superb 45 rpm singles. 

What's interesting about the compilation album I'm writing about now, are the songs on side two.  All are made later in their careers and very ambitious in sound and scope.  Still, entirely in the pop medium, but kind of koo-koo in theory and sound wise.  "Zabadak" and "Legend of Xanadu" are ridiculous.  Which is a big aspect of their appeal or specialness.  Fake exotica with a crazed production, it's a hard piece of work to avoid or ignore.  One of their greatest songs is "Last Night in Soho," one of the best, if not THE most fantastic song regarding that part of London, and its nightlife.   My advice is to track down the greatest hits albums (I think there are many editions throughout the world) and swing with the songs.  Pure ear candy. 



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sparks - "Hippopotamus" 2 x Vinyl, LP, Album, 2017 (BMG)


Sparks equal perfection.   I can never fully understand how someone can write beautiful melodies and equally write words to these songs that fit perfectly, yet are jarring in their meaning and juxtaposition of the melody and lyric.  It's supernatural forces at work, yet, I do know them, and what they do is meet every day, except maybe on Sunday's, to work on their writing/recordings.   A lot of people do that, yet they come up with crap.  Sparks come up with works of genius.

"Hippopotamus" is a collection of songs, for whatever reason, I find moving. There's the humor, but it has a foundation in everyday life, and it reflects on the follies and disappointments that come with the world that we live in.  Russell Mael's singing/voice is the perfect instrument to Ron's words.  It is not only Russell's vocal abilities (which are great) but the knack to get into characters, and not come off as sounding cold, or smart-alecky.  There is a lot of soul in these set of songs by Sparks. 

The title song "Hippopotamus" is like a John Ashbery (or some other New York School of Poet) set to music.  Although nothing alike, the spirit is very modern with the ability to explore the potential of language.  Reading the lyrics to all the songs on this album is interesting because you can see the craft that is put into the works, and it doesn't lack passion, but the appreciation of the songwriting craft.   Bowie always struck me as a songwriter that is schooled in a craft, and that they are not only artists but incredible craftsman in their work.   Sparks is like a master shoemaker.  They know how to take your foot and measure it correctly to make one the perfect pair of shoes.  This whole album fits perfectly into my consciousness.  

My favorite cuts on this album are not the obvious great hits here, and there is plenty of that - but songs like "A Little Bit Fun" is a beautiful meditation on joy, fun, and love.  Its sentiment is simple, but with the minimal melody, psychedelic underneath texture, and Russell's tonality, it's a masterpiece.  I have a top ten Sparks fave list that keeps changing, but this song is on that list for sure, and not only that, I played this song six times in a row today!  "Life With The Macbeths" is another sonic beauty of a song.  A perfect closing to this album.    A humorous lyric, but the music is pure deadly.   Haunted melody; kind of perfect to play around 3 in the morning, and playing it loud.  

The single from this album should be a huge hit.  "Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)" is a mood piece yet entirely in the pop format.  I wonder if a song with such feeling/wit, can ever truly be a hit. It's the album of the year, but even more important than those stupid ways of acknowledging an album's worth, this is a major work of art. 15 songs, not a weak link anywhere.   You can hang this album right next to "Mona Lisa."  - Tosh Berman

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Small Faces - "From The Beginning" Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Mono, 2015/1967 (Decca)


In theory, this is a band that yells out "in mono" and not digitalized.  Small Faces is a series of moments that are brilliant.  The ultimate 'mod' band that could have taken over the world, but somehow kept missing the bus, train, or boat to the journey to conquer the world.   Small Faces were the perfect combo - a great lead singer, with excellent support from the other three, and all were small in height.   The foundation to their sound is dynamic R n' B but done in garage style fashion.  Their songs were not art statements, but an excellent observation of the world around them.  "My Mind's Eye" (one of the great psych songs), "Hey Girl" (one of the best "Hey" songs), "All or Nothing," and their non-original song "What'cha Gonna Do About It." 

This is youth music made by youth.  With that in mind, Small Faces were totally fucked in the management department, where they had to shop on the owner's dime.  The great thing about Steve Marriott is that he's from a big showbiz planet.  He was in the original production of "Oliver," and had quite a history even before Small Faces.  Ronnie Lane (his co-writer and the equal half), the great organ playing by Ian McLagan, and the crazed drumming by Kenny Jones.  All four elements equal a great sense of noise and purpose. 

Historically and culturally one often compares Small Faces to The Who.   They do share a vibe, in that both early careers (for Small Faces it was only 'early') seemed to be a mirror image of each other.  Pete Townshend is very much the observer who had school smarts, but Marriott and company's intelligence comes from the streets.   These four lads lived hard.  And that aspect comes through their music.  "From The Beginning" is a fantastic album.  It grooves from side one to the end of side two  Totally Mod-tastic.  

Phil Manzanera - "Diamond Head" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1975 (Atco Records)


Roxy Music is not only a band, but also a foundation where some lived, and eventually explored the outer-world through various solo albums.   To be a Roxy fan was an expensive ride, because of not only the Roxy Music albums, but also purchasing the various Eno albums, the solo Bryan Ferry recordings, and then, of course, the Andy Mackay album, and then Phil Manzanera's solo album.  And even that, there are the Fripp & Eno albums, which means one should purchase a Robert Fripp album, and on and on it goes.  One thing I miss from the 1970s are the solo albums that came out of one band.   The only band I can think of in contemporary times is Radiohead because Thom York has various side projects as well as the other musicians in that group.  On the other hand, that is not a financial problem for me, because I don't really like Radiohead.  Roxy Music, on the other hand, is great, and therefore one needs to jump into the various solo recording of the current members of Roxy, as well as those who left the fold (Eno).    Which comes to "Diamond Head" by Manzanera.  

The role of Phil Manzanera in Roxy Music cannot be underestimated.   His guitar work is intelligent, masterful, and a perfect ingredient that's in the Roxy Music soup.  The same for Andy Mackay as well.  Here, Phil steps out of the Bryan Ferry world and makes his own statement with everyone from the Roxy world, except their lead singer.   It's a heady mixture of great talent:  Robert Wyatt, Eno, Andy Mackay, Paul Thompson, John Wetton, Eddie Jobson, Charles Hayward and Manzanera as the ring leader in this temporary circus.  

The beauty of "Diamond Head" is although there are many voices on this album, it is very much orchestrated by Manzanera, and he doesn't lose himself in the mix.  There are classic pieces here, like the title cut, his work with Eno, "Miss Shapiro," "Big Day," and the great opening song with Robert Wyatt "Frontera."  These are voices that are very distinct, and Wyatt/Eno don't hold back, but Manzanera can place himself in these guys without himself losing his identity.   The Manzanera guitar sound is a combination of classic Jimi Hendrix touches, mixed with his South American roots and one foot in prog.  It's a heady sonic experience.  It's hard to believe that this album is 42 years old.  As a solo artist, this is Manzanera's best album, as a guitarist who worked on many albums, he is still a fantastic talent.  When one sees his name in the credits, you're getting yourself into a classy world. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

The All Seeing I - "Pickled Eggs & Sherbet" CD, Album, 1999 (London Records)


The All Seeing I is an obscure music project from the town Sheffield, and its existence is really due to the honor and being proud of one's town.   The feeling here is a group of musicians who asked for volunteers to help out on Sheffield Proud Day.  The good thing is that Sheffield is very rich in talent, and therefore you have the Human League's Phil Oakey, Tony Christie (the Jack Jones of Sheffield, and that's a compliment), the electro-DJ- team All Seeing I, with Sheffield's leading citizen of 1999, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.  

The All Seeing I is the foundation for this album, and pretty much wrote most of the music with Jarvis writing the lyrics.  There is also a cover of Sonny Bono's great "The Beat Goes On," and the other vocalists Lisa Millett, Steve Edwards are also very much part of the Sheffield world.  In a sense, this album is an aural documentary on Sheffield the city and its culture.  It is also a great album.

Jarvis Cocker is the chief reason why I purchased this CD, and I was intrigued that he wrote a song for Phil Oakey to sing, "1st Man in Space" which sounds more like Human League than any thing else.  Which is fantastic.   Human League is very much a band that is clearly from Sheffield. It's outer space music, and sort of treat their home town as if it was a city on another planet.  A great technique to write about one's world, as something outer-worldly.   Cocker at times appears to be an alien as well, but one who was grounded by the city's character.  Which comes to Tony Christie, who is obscure, underrated, and fantastic.  His songs on the album "Happy Birthday Nicola," "Stars on Sunday," and the single from the album "Walk Like A Panther" are brilliant.  Christie has that lounge aesthetic but with something extra.   Perhaps hooking up with these misfits has given Christie a unique edge.  "Pickled Eggs & Sherbet" is a great one-off project, and for me, puts Sheffield into my consciousness, just like Hollywood or vintage Manhattan. 


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Steve Reich, Ensemble Avantgarde - "Four Organs" / "Phase Patterns" / "Pendulum Music" Limited Edition, Vinyl, LP, 2014 (Karlrecords)


"Four Organs" is actually more than four organs, it also features the maracas, which is a big part of the piece.  Four electric organs that play in short bursts of a note, but as the piece goes on, the notes become longer, yet the crazy maracas stay in place and in the beat. What makes this work listenable to me at the very least, is the dynamic relationship between the organs and maracas.   It's a remarkable piece of music, and when played loud, it brings a new meaning to a sense of bliss. 

"Pendulum Music" is an early work (1968) that consist of microphones, amplifiers, and loudspeakers.   It sounds like a sea creature in a mating call.  The key element here is the rhythm, which is prominent in all three pieces here by Steve Reich.  "Phase Patterns" is another work with four organs, and it's more frantic, but oddly enough a meditative piece of work. Reich always seemed to me to be a composer who is inspired by the sounds of life - traffic noise, electricity running through a fridge or speakers - he makes these sounds into a strong rhythmic melody.  I have to imagine that it's a high of sorts for the musician who plays these music pieces.  It's about discipline.  A lot of modern works, such as John Cage, is about noise being organized.  I think Cage and Reich do have a relationship through their music.  Different sounds, techniques, yet there is a rigid way of looking at the world.  Open, yet see the world in a frame.  

Pierre Schaeffer / Pierre Henry "Symphonie Pour un Homme Seul" / "Concerto des Ambiguïtés" Vinyl, LP, Album,


The two giants, or as I like to say "the two Pierres'" are the great poles of the French Musique Concréte.  Side one is a work by both Pierres, ' and it's a masterpiece.  The piano riff alone is worth the price of the album, and what comes within its mix, the textures, is something, in one word, awesome. Side two is Pierre Henry's "Concerto des Ambiguites, important" and it's foundation is two pianos but filtered through layers of electronic effects.  Speeded up, slowed down, it's like a world turned over, or at the very least a soundtrack to a Warner Brothers cartoon from the 1950s.  Both pieces were written in 1950, which must have been like a new horizon or possibilities in what one can do with the aural world.   As necessary, and a joy to listen to.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Jacques Lejeune - "Early Works 1969 - 1970" Vinyl, LP, Compilation, 2015 (Robot Records)


I picked this album up because the artist is French and due to the oversized bird sculpture or the puppet on the album cover. It reminded me of either Jean Cocteau or Franju film.   So, in the world of chances, this album must be good.   Jacques Lejeune is a composer who I gather is focused on musiques concréte or tape manipulations.  

The piece on side one is "D'une Multitude En Fête," and there is something ceremonial about its presentation.  It's a series of sonic snapshots of an event.  There's a focus on crowd noise, mechanical sounds, and music coming from another recording or radio.  In that sense, it's very much like the David Tudor/John Cage recordings/happenings that took place in the late 1950s, where everything is going on including the kitchen sink, and the hot stove.  Lejeune's piece is humorous.  There is a sense of fun in its process and of course, the listening part of the relationship as well.  My emotional state in listening to this cut is one waiting for the main artist or piece of music to be played.  There is lots of anticipation as the music gets quiet, and one feels something big will happen around the corner. 

Side two starts with "Géodes" is music for tape.  The overall sound is what seems like objects that come with an audio aspect to it but filtered through a process where the noise comes in waves like an ocean.  Lejeune's music is very naturalistic in that it conveys the world as one experiences it.  Of course, it's subjective, but there is something "every day" about what is confronting us on this album.  He's very much of a composer of that moment. 

"Petite Suite" is five pieces of music.  This is an impressive work due that it is based on a traditional musical form, the orchestra.   I'm not sure if this is total work on tape or real instruments filtered through a tape.  There are "voices" that sound like seals or dolphins singing, with the backing of a real drummer and electric guitarist.   Then comes the sound of the audience, laughing or at the very least being amused in what they are hearing. 

With my understanding, this is Lejeune's early works, and here it seems he's fascinated with the idea of transforming everyday performance noise into something compositional or with a foundation attached to the presentation.  I sense that this is not an album to listen to at home, but actually to be in a particular location to get the full flavor of the music by Jacques Lejeune. Impressive work. 


Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Beach Boys - "Pet Sounds" Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Mono, 50th Anniversary, 1966/2016 (Capital)




I have a copy of The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" in Mono, but it's trashed by time and lack of care.  As I was strolling at a local record store in Atwater Village (Jacknife), I found a new copy or edition of this classic in Mono.   I bought it, and in our darkened living room I played the album.  Some records define the time of day, for instance, some recordings work great in the morning, and others in the afternoon. "Pet Sounds" strikes me as a work that is perfect for the late evening.  I'm a firm believer that one should go to, or prepare for bed in a sad state of mind.   "Pet Sounds" is the perfect soundtrack for that mood.

Hearing a fresh new copy is a gift that keeps on giving.  I think one can only listen to The Beach Boys in Mono.  Not only due to Brian Wilson being deaf in one ear, but the aesthetic of the recording needs to come from one direction.   It's a very compressed recording, where you feel the emotion is being put in a tiny room.   Yet the feelings are expansive and vast.  There is lots of tension that runs through the album.  I have written about "Pet Sounds" back in 2013 on this blog.  My feelings are the same, but listening to it last night, strikes me as a very intimate experience.  It's not a record that I'm compelled to share, but to be in a dark room in the middle of the evening - that's the perfect setting for The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sandie Shaw - "Sandie Shaw" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1965 (Reprise)


The greatest British Yé-Yè singer ever.   A pop vocalist who had/has a look that shook the United Kingdom.  Wearing no shoes on stage, or in her publicity photos, she is no hippie, but a Juliette Gréco for the teenage set, and of course, in a British sense.   Her main creative partner is Chris Andrews, a man I know little about, except that he made recordings under his name, which is pretty fantastic.  Yet, his work with Sandie Shaw is remarkable.  His "I'll Stop at Nothing," "Talk About Love," "Girl Don't Come" (great song title), and others made Sandie a classic artist, along with her distinctive vocal style.   And Robert Wyatt recorded a version of his "Yesterday Man."

Back to Sandie Shaw, the pure pop here is not sugar coated, but it is full of emotion.  She's classic 'girl-pop' with a vengeance.  "Girl Don't Come" has menace.   One of my favorite pop records to come out of the British Invasion.   Now, reading the title, it has sexual overtures, but in fact is about a woman who won't show up. Still, unusual phrase.  And perhaps it's a duality, but not sure how songwriters thought out their song titles in the 1960s.  Still, this is Sandie Shaw's first American release, and it's classic British girl pop.   Sassy, sexual, tender, and for those who love The Pretenders, a must-have.   

Mick Karn - "Titles" CD, Album, Reissue, 1990/1982 (Caroline)


Bass playing in my listening experience is not always, but usually distinctive to a specific player.  Mick Karn, I can identify within a few seconds of his playing. For one, he plays a fretless bass, and the way he treats melodies is like containing water by cupping your hand. It will slowly leak out, but the essence of the taste of the cool water will stay with you.  Karn's playing works in the same fashion.   It throbs with sexuality, and it is almost like hearing someone crying.   Karn was a member of the band Japan.   His bass playing for that band was essential to their overall sound.  David Sylvian the lead singer and writer for Japan never really changed that much in his solo recordings, except maybe be more experimental in its overall sound.  Still, when I hear the Sylvian solo release, I think, where is Mick?    And when I listen to Karn's solo recordings, I think "where's David."  In truth, or whatever their problem was, they needed each other.  The original band should have never broken up, even though I do enjoy the solo recordings by both artists. 

"Titles" is the first solo Mick Karn album.   One would not expect that much because he's not known as a composer or songwriter, but still, the bass playing is the essence of everything he did.  The truth is "Titles" is a very good album.  Ambient in parts, and totally exotic sounding throughout the record.  It reminds me of David Bowie's "Low," in that Karn gives in to the instrumental side of the world.  The album features members of Japan (except David of course), but it's mostly Karn doing all the overdubs and it's great noise.  Spiritual in a pop sensibility way, the album is Karn stretching out his muscles and brain.  His death from Cancer was a terrible tragedy.  As I mention, the bass playing is very individual practice, and with him out of the picture, we lost a unique and brilliant musician. 

Roxy Music - "Roxy Music" Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, Limited Edition, 1972/2008 (Virgin)


There are only a handful of albums that had such a powerful effect on me on the first listening of such a record.  I can still remember when I played "Roxy Music" for the first time.  It was in the evening at our home in Topanga, and on the first cut "Re-make, Re-model," I thought to myself that this is the sound of 1972.  By the time of the second song "Ladytron," it was like if someone brought a brand new language into my life.  I never heard anything like Roxy Music. 

"Roxy Music" is a combination of camp, serious noise in the avant-garde world, futuristic sounds, and a glance to the past.  Years later I can pick up on the influences of the album - vintage Hollywood cinema, Joe Meek recordings, 1950s kitsch aesthetics, a touch of prog-rock,  and an appreciation of artists like Marcel Duchamp.   It's a heady brew of images and sound, that to this day still gives me the kick that never tires.     The first thing one notices is Bryan Ferry's voice - a croon that seemed manufactured but with incredible lyrics that painted a picture in one's head.   Borderline outrageous, but with a firm footing on a foundation that is art, cinema and music history.  One can hear the traces of David Bowie's presence, but it's like Roxy Music was hearing Bowie, not at the present time (1972) but in a sometime way in the future.   

There is not a bad cut on this album.  One of the great strengths that are Roxy Music is that it is truly a band.  Bryan Ferry wrote all the songs/lyrics, but it takes someone like Andy Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Paul Thompson, Graham Simpson (one of many bass players in this band), and of course, Eno.  The electronics are all over "Roxy Music."  Through the sound of vintage synths, to the layered electronic sounds of treated guitars, vocals, and god knows what else on this album.   I can't say that this album changed my life, but for sure made me appreciate the layers of textures that make a sound, and that is what I heard on "Roxy Music."  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Various - "Mister Melody - Les Interprètes de Serge Gainsbourg" 4 x CD, Box Set, Compilation, 2006 (Mercury)


The problem or the genuine delight, there is not one Serge Gainsbourg album to purchase.  I shudder when someone asks me advice with respect to choosing their first Serge album.  My honest reaction is to buy them all!   Although when push comes to a shove or a kick, I would easily recommend the box set called "Mister Melody."   What makes it unique is that it's 4 cd's that covers every major (and nonmajor) period in Gainsbourg's music career.  Besides making his own albums, his bread and butter job was writing songs for other artists.  This CD Box Set focuses on Serge Gainsbourg as the composer (or co-songwriter).

I bought this album at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, just right before I enter my plane back to Los Angeles.  It's funny that I couldn't find anything to buy for myself in Paris, and it was at the airport that I found the greatest music package.  For a package that has almost 100 songs, it's rich with quality.  There are the songs that we all know and love with Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, and France Gall, but it's the rare or unknown cuts, at least for this American, that are the delights of this CD set.  Marianne Faithfull's "Hier Ou Demain" is a standout track as well as recordings by Michèle Torr, Régine, Nico ("Strip Tease" - a wow), Catherine Sauvage and so forth. 

Gainsbourg was a genius.  He also worked with the best talents, such as arrangers Jean-Claude Vannier, Alain Goraguer, Michel Colombier - all of them superb and their talents were individualistic.  Not all female artists, there are some male artists here as well.  But Gainsbourg actually knew how to use the female's sensibility in getting his songs across to the public.  "Mr. Melody" is clearly a work of many decades, and the one thing that is consistent is Gainsbourg's excellence throughout the years.  Even the later years have their gems.  Fantastic.  



James Brown - "Live at the Apollo" Vinyl, LP, Album, Reissue, 1963 (Polydor)


The best live album ever.   A great aural snapshot of a genius writer/performer at the tip of his greatness.   Another album that I was raised on.  My parents had this record, and my dad played it on a regular basis.  I remember putting the album on in his studio numerous times while he worked on his art.   As I have mentioned before, if Wallace (my dad) liked a record, he would play it over and over till it becomes a meditative or ambient presence in that room.  

When I play this album, I get such a vivid image in my head.  James Brown with a cape wrapped around his shoulder as he's being led off the stage.  But the intensity of the moment is too high, and he throws off the cape and runs back to the microphone.  James does this over and over again.  The repetition becomes a burning fuse, and one wonders if he is just going to explode.  The practice or discipline of art is very prominent in Brown's work.   That is what he has in common with Wallace Berman.  A performer is a performer no matter if they're on a stage or in the studio.  The mediums are different, and they have their own set of rules and practices, but the essence of repetition is to build the intensity to a level that is a natural high.  

When you look at the songs, Brown performed that night in 1963, that itself is perfection.   As I read the song listing, such as "I'll Go Crazy," "Think," "Lost Someone," and then the incredible melody on side two, it's all there in my head.  I can hear it now, as well as the audience screaming in ecstasy.  So yes, an incredible document of a time and place (the Apollo), but also a great work of art.  You can't beat the Four B's.   Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Brown.