"Just Say No to Yes" may not have been an actual bumpersticker in '77, but it should have been. At the time Yes were kings of the Prog mountain, and after such pomposities as Tales From Topographic Oceans they had much to answer for. Or so it seemed at least, considering the beat-downs they were taking in the hip rock papers. Of course those very same magazines had swooned over Close to the Edge five years earlier. From Richard Cromelin's original review in Rolling Stone: "It shines with a freshness and crispness that doesn't seem likely to tarnish quickly". Standing
Recently by Greg Barbrick
Author Will Romano goes deep into the making, meaning, and impact of Close to the Edge, still a beloved album after 45 years.
From the rainy streets of Portland come We the Wild, with one of the most eclectic debut albums ever.
"Where do we draw the line, between feeding a habit and having a good time?" ask We the Wild, a young band from Portland. The line is from a song titled "Terrible, Terrible" and it is one of ten tracks on their debut album From the Cities We Fled. The rainy streets of Portland are as hostile to youth as anyplace else, and it is those types of struggles that their lyrics chronicle. But it is the music that makes this self-released disc such a gem. We the Wild have a hardcore background, but they mix in all sorts of
The Days of Wine and Roses opened a lot of doors back in 1982, and remarkably enough, it sounds better than ever today.
The Days of Wine and Roses (1982) by The Dream Syndicate is one of those records that just seems to get better as the years go by. The band were one of the leaders of the early '80's Paisley Underground scene in Los Angeles, and The Days of Wine and Roses was their full-length debut. For this listener, the album is like a great film. The nine songs tell a story, and that story sometimes changes, depending on your mood. Such a personal connection to the music is a rare thing anymore, and is probably one of the reasons the
The Simple Truth by The Jeff Austin Band is one of the few recordings I have heard so far this year that rewards multiple listenings.
The Simple Truth is the title of the surprising debut album from The Jeff Austin Band. Austin's name should be a familiar one to fans of the jam band scene, as he was a founding member of the Yonder Mountain String Boys. As a mandolin player in the YMS, Austin's affinity towards bluegrass was quite evident. And while many so-called jam bands have a deep respect for musical diversity, The Simple Truth takes that approach much further. This ten-song set spans country, power pop, bluegrass, soul, and good old rock and roll to create a gem of an album. Besides
The sparkling hooks and unforgettable lyrics of John Andrew Fredrick make Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy more than the sum of its parts.
Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy by The Black Watch takes me back to a moment in high school that I will never forget. I read a poem in creative writing class, and afterwards a girl who I never thought I had a chance with asked me out. From that point on, being called a "sensitive young man" would never bother me again. I believe that The Black Watch's John Andrew Fredrick once made a similar discovery. There is a great deal of poetry in his lyrics, and his music strikes an artful balance between acoustic and electric. There is a sense
Laibach and Plastikman are part of the Mute legacy, but there is nothing nostalgic about Spectre or EX, these albums are as modern and current as anything released in 2014.
Mute Records has been the home of cutting-edge artists since Daniel Miller founded it in 1978. While it would be ridiculous to consider the label an independent today, it remains surprisingly true to Miller's original vision. As 2014 comes to a close, it occurs to me that two of the years' best records came from artists who have been with Mute for a long time. Laibach's Spectre and Plastikman's EX are great examples of what Miller is still doing right, allowing the artist to make their music without interference.The fact that Laibach released a new album in 2014 was a
The new album from The Sevens Collective A Too Much Divided Heart is a fantastic showcase for everyone involved.
The release of A Too Much Divided Heart by The Sevens Collective is something of an all-star event from the mysterious Beta-lactam Ring Records label. From their very beginnings the boutique label have created their own niche by coupling handcrafted artwork with exquisitely intricate music. A Too Much Divided Heart by The Sevens Collective also features Beta-lactam artists and associates from around the world. Much like the recent work of Current 93 or The Legendary Pink Dots, there is a peaceful aura about many of these songs, at least on the surface. Listen a little closer however and things become
Book Review: The Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Most Progressive Music by Will Romano
The Prog Rock FAQ is very much recommended for those who just cannot get enough of the stuff.
I love progressive rock, and always have. Yes were the band who lured me away from the Top 40 hits and into more adventurous musical areas. Fragile, Close to the Edge, and The Yes Album are all-time favorites, as well as later works such as Relayer, Going for the One, and Tormato. The big gaping hole in that Yes-ography is Tales From Topographic Oceans, which is either the greatest prog album of all time, or the worst. I bring all of this up because I had high expectations for The Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's
Drifting in Silence embody everything implied in the idea of post-ambient music.
As is often the case in electronic music, the name Drifting in Silence refers not to a band, but to an individual who does everything himself. His name is Derrick Stembridge, and he is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has just latest a nine-song album titled Desire. Stembridge calls his music "post-ambient," which is just about the perfect term for this recording. Somehow Drifting in Silence manage to update the ambient genre while retaining the vintage "chill out" vibe of the early Nineties. Besides stand-alone recordings, Drifting in Silence have also worked on videogame soundtracks, such as Ninjatown. There is
Who Killed Mister Moonlight? is the one-of-a-kind memoir of Bauhaus bassist David J.
In many ways, Bauhaus were the ultimate goth band, and as such they have always been clouded in mystery. The classic Bauhaus lineup of Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J ran from 1978 - 1983, in which time they released four albums. Unfortunately, their existence was pretty much a secret in the United States, and a lot of American fans did not even discover them until after they had broken up. David J has lifted the veil on Bauhaus with his new memoir Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction, and it is as fascinating
As an in-depth history of Ozzy Osbourne's post-Sabbath career, this book has just about everything a fan could ask for.
Ozzy Osbourne is a heavy metal legend, and his rise to solo stardom after Black Sabbath is one of the most unlikely tales in rock history. As a solo artist for over 34 years now, Osbourne has become a household name, and has even been to the White House. In the new book Steal Away the Night: An Ozzy Osbourne Day-by-Day, author Martin Popoff chronicles Osbourne's amazing career, with an emphasis on his post-Sabbath success. The brief first chapter takes us up to 1979, when Osbourne was fired from the band. As Ozzy has indicated many times, those were some
No matter what level of Rush fan you are, there is something for everyone in the new Rush FAQ book.
"When did Rush become cool?" asked Dave Grohl at the induction of Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it was a great question. In the new Rush FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Greatest Power Trio, author Max Mobley sets out to answer that, and many other questions.Early on, Mobley breaks down the Rush audience into four categories. There are the "Original Fans" who were there before the release of their breakthrough Moving Pictures album. "Second Generation Fans" came along right after Moving Pictures, while "Rush Fans The Next Generation" began filling the giant
Mike Segretto's Who FAQ book truly does explore "All That's Left to Know About Fifty Years of Maximum R&B."
The history of The Who is one of the most unlikely stories in music history. Like so many of their peers, the band are nearing their 50-year golden anniversary, and it might seem as if everything there is to say about them has already been said. But this is where the FAQ series from Backbeat Books comes in. The title of the new book by Mike Segretto speaks for itself: The Who FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Fifty Years of Maximum R&B. As an avid rock-book reader, I have become very familiar with the FAQ series, and have
Styles For About a Mile is electronic music at its very best.
The nostalgia cycle is a funny thing. A couple of weeks ago I spotted a piece in Rolling Stone about the top 20 albums of 1994, which they called "The year Alternative music peaked." There was another type of music that "peaked" in 1994 as well, and it is as difficult to describe today as it was then. Whatever you wish to call it though, the new album by Dirt Diamond (a.k.a. Will Green), Styles For About A Mile nails it.The common term back then was "ambient techno," although "chill out" and IDM (intelligent dance music) were also used. There
The playing of the great Jaco Pastorius is already fully-formed in this release of his 1974 demo sessions at the Criteria studios.
Bass players get no respect. Well, very little at least. The bass is just not an instrument that gets much attention. Sir Paul McCartney's playing is justly celebrated, and the late John Entwistle's rock-solid performance held the manic music of The Who together. In jazz, there was Charles Mingus of course, but not too many other household names. While there are a zillion superstar guitarists, or keyboard players for that matter, virtuoso bass players are a rare breed. Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) was certainly one of them. Adrian Belew called him "arguably the most important and ground-breaking electric bassist in history."
Book Review: The Nirvana FAQ: All That's Left To Know About the Most Important Band of the 1990s by John D. Luerssen
Nirvana FAQ offers few revelations but chronicles well the influential Hall of Fame trio...
With the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, and Nirvana's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month, it seems like a good time for a new book about the band. The Nirvana FAQ: All That's Left To Know About the Most Important Band of the 1990s by John D. Luerssen is that book, and is another entry in Backbeat Book's FAQ series. I have read a number of these rock biographies now, and have always been impressed by them. The Nirvana FAQ is a good one-stop for a history of the band.One thing that surprised me
Interesting book that tells the long history of UFO.
In his Forward to Neil Daniels' new High Stakes & Dangerous Men: The UFO Story, Eddie Trunk states that the band's Strangers in the Night (1979) is not only his favorite live album, it is his favorite album ever made. Now Trunk is not just your average fan, he is currently the host of two radio shows, as well as the VH1 program That Metal Show. I would say that he knows his stuff, and to call Strangers in the Night the greatest album of all-time is really saying something. Whether you agree with him or not, there is no
Even the most rabid music fans may find themselves a bit flummoxed by the genre of Psychedelic (or Acid) Folk. It never caught on in a big way, although heavyweights like Robert Plant have been extolling the virtues of such artists as the Incredible String Band for decades now. Psychedelic Folk was definitely more of a British phenomenon than an American one, at least in the beginning. So it seems appropriate that the English Jawbone Books have published the definitive book about the music: Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk by Jeanette Leech. The book is
Deep Purple are one of the founding fathers of heavy metal, and by all rights should already be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were nominated for inclusion this year, but did not make the cut. The fact that they are still waiting is a travesty, but they have been honored in other ways. The most recent example is from the premiere CD company Audio Fidelity, who have just released The Deep Purple Audio Fidelity Collection. The set features remastered editions of the band's four greatest albums on 24K Gold CDs, housed in a numbered, limited edition
The FAQ series from Backbeat Books is just about the best thing going these days for serious fans. The FAQ catalog includes books about Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and other musicians, and even features titles about films and Star Trek. The long strange trip of The Grateful Dead is the subject of the new The Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History by Tony Sclafani. When I heard about this book, the only question I had was "What took 'em so long?" What makes these FAQ books so good is
Even vinyl-loving audiophiles will have to admit Miles Davis' music has never sounded better than it does on this set!
Yes, they do sound better - remarkably better as a matter of fact. Since the first question on everybody's mind in regards to the new Miles Davis box set The Original Mono Recordings will be whether the sound quality is actually improved or not, I thought I would answer it immediately. These nine CDs sound so superior to the previous releases that it is almost shocking. The reasons behind this are two-fold. One is that the original recordings were made with the dominant mode of play in mind, which was mono. The other has to do with the source material.
John Lennon was always credited as being the "avant-garde" Beatle, which rankled Paul McCartney to no end. McCartney was there first, but he did not publicize his affiliations, and had already moved on by the time Lennon got interested. When Lennon did discover the underground, he jumped in headfirst - and in a very public manner with Yoko Ono. In the new documentary Going Underground: Paul McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture, the full story of this fascinating era is told.The film begins with a discussion of the early days of the counter-culture in England, and the influence of
As part of their 40th anniversary this year, Pablo Records are reissuing some classic titles under the Original Jazz Classics banner. The OJC series has been going for a while now, and for jazz fans, it is practically the gold standard. The tapes have been meticulously remastered, bonus tracks are almost always included, and new liner notes have been commissioned. All of this is done in the spirit of the original though, as the cover art and original liner notes have been retained as well. All of this is to say that I have never been disappointed by any of
The best by one of the greats...
Duane Allman's recording career lasted just six years, but not a moment of it was wasted. This is made abundantly clear on the seven-disc Skydog retrospective, which has just been reissued by Rounder Records. The first edition of the package was released last March, came in a box meant to resemble a guitar case, and even included a guitar pick - along with the discs and book. It was a limited run, and while the reissue may not be quite as fancy, it is still pretty damned cool. The seven CDs contain a total of 129 songs, and the book
In the digital age, is there room for such a thing as analog electronic music? Marvin Wilson certainly thinks so, and shows us how it is done with his latest release, Synchronism. The nine tracks on the album were proudly created "with hardware and tape," as he puts it, and the results are some of the warmest, and most "human" electronic music I have heard in ages. Synchronism has been released by the Scottish Alex Tronic Records label, and they are something of a brand name for me. I have been impressed by everything I have heard from them, but
Big Star were the quintessential "best band you never heard" of the 1970's, yet their influence on subsequent generations of musicians has been enormous. While they were together though, the lack of public acceptance took its toll. There was enough drama surrounding this band to rival a Greek tragedy. It is a fascinating tale, and in the newly revised and updated edition of Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band, Rob Jovanovic captures it all. Big Star formed in 1971 in Memphis, and featured Alex Chilton (vocals, guitar, piano), Chris Bell (vocals, guitar), Andy Hummel (bass, vocals), and Jody
John Fahey (1939 - 2001) loved to take older, familiar forms of music and present them in new contexts. The title of his first Christmas album certainly speaks to this, The New Possibility (1968). He clearly enjoyed giving Christmas songs the "Fahey touch," and the new Christmas Guitar Soli draws from the four holiday albums he recorded. Besides The New Possibility, they are Christmas with John Fahey Volume II (1975), Christmas Guitar Volume I (1982), and Popular Songs of Christmas & New Years (1983). Christmas Guitar Soli is a 14 song compilation, with new artwork by Tom Weller. Weller designed
At the very least the new collaboration between System 7 and Rovo titled Phoenix Rising proves that music is the universal language. This is a true East meets West affair, and one of the finest electronic albums of the year. It should be, considering the pedigrees of the artists involved. Rovo are a six-piece band from Japan who have redefined EDM (Electronic Dance Music) as MDT (Man Driven Trance). With two drummers, they have no need for drum machines, and also utilize electric violin, guitar, bass, and synthesizer. They have been together since 1996. System 7 are Steve Hillage and
Like a lot of people, my first exposure to Devo was on Saturday Night Live in October, 1978. I was pretty young, and had no frame of reference, yet their version of "Satisfaction" knocked me out. As a teenager in the sticks 50 miles outside of Seattle, anything new or different at the time was considered "punk," and Devo definitely were new and different. I bought their debut album, and enjoyed it, but by the time of their breakthrough hit "Whip It," I had moved on. From the outside, you could tell that there was some sort of underlying "theme"
The soundtrack to the film works, even with some unusual choices.
I have yet to see the film CBGB (2013), but the reviews I have read have so far been a mixed bag. There is no question about the soundtrack though, it is terrific. Over the years, there has been a lot of debate as to what the contents of the perfect punk rock mix-tape would be. There is plenty of room for debate among the 20 songs chosen for the CBGB soundtrack. Please note, this collection is (almost) "All-American," no Saints or Clash, the only "foreigners" present are The Police with "Roxanne." Go figure, there are odd choices galore here.
The quintet on Skol is led by Oscar Peterson (piano), but for my money the violin of Stephane Grappelli and guitar of Joe Pass are just as important. The quintet is rounded out by bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, and drummer Mickey Roker. The occasion was a concert in Copenhagen, on July 6, 1979. As part of the ongoing 40th anniversary of Pablo Records, a remastered edition of Skol has just been released. This new Skol also includes three previously unreleased bonus tracks from the concert. With such an all-star cast, it is really kind of silly to pick out certain
If ever there were a band whose career deserves a thorough examination, it is Wire. With Read & Burn, author Wilson Neate has delivered that, and much more. It is a book I have been waiting a long time for, and had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing. I have read a lot of rock biographies over the years, and this is one of the few that truly does justice to the group at hand. In chapter one, "Four People in a Book," Neate introduces us to Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar),
Music Review: Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - The Ellington Suites (Pablo 40th Anniversary Edition)
The reissue of perhaps the rarest album in the world.
As part of the 40th anniversary of Pablo Records, the Concord Music Group have been reissuing select classics from their catalog. The Ellington Suites by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra is among the latest batch, and contains one of the rarest, and most beautiful musical suites I have ever heard. I am speaking of the "Queen's Suite," which was composed and recorded in 1959 for Queen Elizabeth II. Ellington pressed a single vinyl copy of it, presented it to the Queen, then destroyed the acetate. I have heard of single pressings before, done as artistic statements, but never of anything
The fact that there are not tons of Pantera books lining the shelves is surprising to me. Their story is truly unique, and the December 8, 2004 murder of Dimebag Darrel while onstage with Damageplan provides an awful finality to the tale. As the cliché goes, you just can't make this stuff up. As author Neil Daniels notes in Reinventing Metal: The True Story of Pantera and the Tragically Short Life of Dimebag Darrell, only Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott by Zac Crain (2009) which is really the story of
Peter Connors explores the world of jam bands and the jam band culture by talking to those closest to it...
A genuine grassroots musical movement appeared in the 1990's that was virtually ignored by the mainstream for most of the decade. It came to be called the "jam band" scene, and while everybody associated with it hates the term, it stuck. JAMerica: The History of the Jam Band and Festival Scenes by Peter Connors is the first jam band book I have ever seen, and it is long overdue. While Phish are probably the most famous jam band, there are many more. Some other fairly well-known groups include Widespread Panic, The Dave Matthews Band, and Blues Traveler. There are also
There have been some great Jazz box-sets over the years, but the one I would like to see will probably never happen. The box I have in mind would be a ten-CD set by John Coltrane (1926-1967), and titled My Favorite "My Favorite Things." That would be over ten hours of him playing his signature tune, which I think could easily be filled by all of the live versions he recorded over the years. It would take a little research, and maybe fans could vote their choices, but I think it would be a very cool thing. Besides the nearly
The Legendary Pink Dots emerged out of the London post-punk scene in 1980. The fact that they are still making some of the most intriguing music around today is nothing short of incredible. The core of the group has always been Edward Ka-Spell (vocals, keyboards) and Phil Knight, a.k.a. The Silverman (keyboards, effects). For the new album The Gethsemane Option, the duo are joined by Erik Drost (guitars, bass), and Raymond Steeg (sonix). Your guess is as good as mine as to what "sonix" are, but that is Steeg's credit on this recording. If you include live albums and compilations,
Imagine going into a country music karaoke bar and rather than singing to a machine, you get The Buckaroos to provide your musical accompaniment. That was sort of the idea behind The Buck Owens Songbook by The Buckaroos, when it was initially released in 1965. The album marked the first time the group had recorded without Buck, and featured 12 instrumental versions of his songs. Fans really were encouraged to sing along with the record too, as this quote from the original liner notes indicates: "Just in case you're not sure of all the words, we are enclosing a sheet
One of the greatest things about Steve Swallow is his ability to surprise. When I first heard about his new ECM recording Into the Woodwork, I had no idea what to expect. Swallow has created some of the most beautiful music of the past few decades, as well as some of the most challenging. Both he, and partner Carla Bley have shown themselves to be just as comfortable in the mainstream as they are in the avant-garde. While I have enjoyed the more "controversial" sides of his music, there is no question that Into the Woodwork is much more radio-friendly.
The Buckaroos were best known as Buck Owens' band, but they were a force to be reckoned with in their own right. The group started out with Buck in Bakersfield, CA, and had a bit of a revolving door in the beginning. As a matter of fact, Merle Haggard was a Buckaroo before he went solo. As it turns out though, while the billing was always Buck Owens and The Buckaroos, the real leader of The Buckaroos was Don Rich. Rich was a fine guitarist, but as a fiddler, he was incredible. Omnivore Records has just released Rich's extremely rare
When the Concord Music Group purchased Fantasy Records in 2004, they became the owners of what I consider to be the finest jazz catalog in the world. What made the catalog so rich was that in addition to the artists on Fantasy itself, the company owned the masters of pioneering labels such as Prestige and Riverside as well. Riverside was formed in 1953 by Bill Grauer and Orrin Keepnews, and are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. As part of this milestone event, they have reissued five legendary recordings, which span the years 1957-1962. The discs have been remastered by
The FAQ series from Backbeat books are designed with the serious fan in mind. As the title of the new Jimi Hendrix FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Voodoo Child by Gary J. Jucha indicates, the book contains a lot of lesser known material about Hendrix. Having been very impressed by previous titles such as the Neil Young FAQ by Glen Boyd, and the Beach Boys FAQ by Jon Stebbins, I had high expectations for this one. Jucha does not disappoint, as his Hendrix FAQ has been meticulously researched and brings to light all sorts of interesting facts
As a young rock 'n roller looking to explore jazz, my first step was to buy Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. I loved it so much that I bought other Miles albums, plus recordings by the other players on Blue, such as Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. As a quick and dirty method of introducing yourself to some of the finest jazz ever made, this turned out to be a very effective method, and one I would recommend to others. I probably would have checked out Evans and Coltrane anyway, but the real find for me
The Rockbeat record label have been responsible for some of the coolest reissues I have seen lately. A few recent must-haves from them include Magic Sam's Raw Blues Live, Dickie Goodman's Long Live The King, Jack Kerouac's Blues and Haikus, and the fabulous four-disc Surf-Age Nuggets. The Surf-Age set contains 104 tracks, mostly songs, but also period-perfect bits such as a "Surfing Soft Drink Commercial," and the trailer for the Horror of Beach Party movie. Awesome stuff to be sure, but I think they may have topped it with their new Pulp and Pop Culture Box. The Pulp and Pop
Howard Kaylan, a.k.a. Eddie of Flo & Eddie, has been in the rock and roll game for just about 50 years now. Considering some of the amazing backstage tales in his new autobiography Shell Shocked: My Life with The Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc...he is doing very indeed. In fact, he even remembers most of what happened during those crazy days. With his legendary sense of humor still intact, Kaylan and co-writer Jeff Tamarkin have come up with one hell of a rock memoir. Despite all of the great music Kaylan has made over the years, his
With Shaking the Habitual, The Knife have created some of the most sinuous noise I have ever heard. The songs are long, of 13 on this double-disc set, only four clock in under the six-minute mark. The longest, "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized" is 19:02, which puts them right up there with Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans. The Knife's agenda is a far cry from Yes' oceanic musings however. The Swedish brother and sister duo of Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson have titled their album Shaking the Habitual as a reference to a quote from Michael Foucalt: "The
There was a small window of time in the late '80s that I remember as a vinyl junkie's paradise. The entire industry had embraced the "unbreakable" compact disc, and big bucks were being made with reissues of classic rock titles. To make room for CDs, record stores were getting rid of their LPs as quickly as possible. The $1.00 bin was ubiquitous, and for those of us who did not toss out our turntables, it was fantastic. I bought a lot of records by artists that I had always been curious about, and Townes Van Zandt was one of them.
Mark Lanegan has one of the most distinctive voices I have ever heard, and it only gets better with age. His new collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood is titled Black Pudding, and has just been released on the Ipecac label. I must say that darkness has never sounded as inviting as this. Black Pudding is a record that will take you anywhere you choose to go, but be careful. Listen closely enough you may just find yourself at the crossroads Robert Johnson once sang about. Listen again and you will find yourself saying yes to the inevitable question, for this
Captain Beyond were one of those "only in the '70s" bands, who sound something like the bastard child of The Stooges and The Grateful Dead. Although the sound quality is not the best, the newly released Live in Texas October 6, 1973 captures them in their prime on a wild night. The four-piece band could be considered something of an early-seventies "supergroup," depending on one's definition of the term. Throughout their history, the lineup of Captain Beyond was fairly volatile. For this tour, the band featured two former members of Iron Butterfly: Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt (guitar), and Lee Dorman (bass);
Swamp Dogg was once described by Dave Marsh as "Soul music's chief eccentric." It is a title he more than lives up to on his third full-length release Gag A Maggot (1973), which has just been reissued by the Alive Records label. With Swamp Dogg, the entire LP package was important, and he seems to have had a particular interest in creating the worst album covers ever. In the reissue's liner notes, he even laments the fact that the artwork for Gag A Maggot (with him in a trashcan) did not get as many votes for "worst album cover ever"
"The Soul Queen of New Orleans" is what they call Irma Thomas, and after listening to her newly reissued In Between Tears, I can certainly see why. The album was initially released in 1973 on the homegrown Fungus Records label, so it has remained well under the radar for the past 40 years. As part of what is turning out to be a remarkable reissue program, Alive Records have just re-released In Between Tears. The record has been fully remastered, and two bonus tracks have been added. It is one of the finest examples of early '70s soul I have
The 49 Americans were a band only in the very loosest sense of the word. As sometime member David Toop puts in the liner notes to the newly reissued We Know Nonsense, "Think of The 49 Americans as a band in the conventional sense, and you're lost." The We Know Nonsense compact disc features that album, plus 23 (!) bonus tracks. It is one of the most unusual collections of music I have ever heard, and one could easily get "lost" just trying to get to the bottom of it all. On the eve of their 15th anniversary, the Staubgold
I just might be the worst fair-weather fan the Zion, Illinois band who call themselves Shoes ever had. Their 1979 major label debut Present Tense is a true classic, my very favorite power-pop album. I pretty much lost sight of them after their second Elektra album Tongue Twister (1981) though. It was an oversight I have come to regret very much, because as indicated by the title 35 Years - The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977-2012, Shoes continued to make a lot of great music. This recently released compilation is the first of its kind for Shoes, and these 21 tracks
The sound of Eberhard Weber's bass is one of the most distinctive that I have ever heard. He is best known in jazz circles, and his unique tones have graced recordings by Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, and Jan Garbarek, among others. It was actually through the music of Kate Bush that I first came to hear Weber though. His playing on her Hounds of Love album just knocked me out. No matter what the musical context is, Weber's style remains his, and his alone. His recent ECM disc, Resume may well be the finest collection of "pure" Weber of all.
Albert King (1923-1992) will be posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18, 2013. It is a fitting tribute to the blues legend that his Stax Records debut Born Under A Bad Sign has just been reissued - completely remastered, with the addition of five bonus tracks. The extras are nice, but not really necessary, for this is one of the greatest blues albums I have ever heard. King had been around for a while before he came to Stax, having previously recorded for the Vee-Jay, Parrot, and Bobbin labels. It took his association with
Swedish jazz, and a whole lot more.
There is a certain beauty to the music of Lena Willemark, Jonas Knuttson, and Mats Oberg that defies easy description. The trio identify as jazz, but as broad as that term is, it does not do justice their new album, Alla Drommars Sang. Maybe it comes from their Swedish heritage, and a culture that I am not very familiar with. But there is more to it than that. Music is universal, not geographical, and there is something about this recording that drew me in immediately. After numerous spins, the attraction has only grown deeper. Alla Drommars Sang translates to Song
I became a Steve Forbert fan purely by chance. A lot of people first heard him via his hit single "Romeo's Tune" in 1980, but not me. No, it was "The Oil Song" that did it, and it was a freebie to boot. Back in the late '70s I bought an album at Tower Records, and they offered me a promo single to go with it. That single turned out to be Steve Forbert's "The Oil Song," and if I remember right, the same tune was on both sides. As a hard rockin' KISS and Ted Nugent fan, this long
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see that 1985 was not one of the greatest years in musical history. It was a year of change; punk had morphed into hardcore, hair metal was on the rise, and the dulcet tones of Whitney Houston were everywhere. There also seemed to be a psychedelic revival of sorts just beginning. This would be fully explored a few years later by bands such as the Screaming Trees, but the first great shot was fired by the Fuzztones, with their album Lysergic Emanations (1985). The record was not a hit by any
These albums should have been re-released years ago!
"I am very proud of the fact that this album cover has been considered and nominated as one of the top ten 'Worst Album Covers' in the history of album covers. The left-handed accolade has helped this masterpiece to sell and avoid obscurity." Those are the opening words of Swamp Dogg's a.k.a. Jerry Williams Jr.'s liner notes to the Alive Records reissue of his second album, Rat On! (1971) In reading his statement, the first thing I thought about was his great sense of humor, but he is also quite correct. I have been aware of Swamp Dogg for years,
Some of the greatest music I have heard comes from the DIY (do it yourself) underground. The DIY spirit dates back (at least) to the mid-'70s, when the music industry had become a bloated beast. Kids in garages could never hope to be Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, so they just bashed it out. While the music of Cloud Cult has very little to do with that of the Ramones or Sex Pistols, the motivations are certainly similar. Do it yourself, or die trying. Cloud Cult are an eight-piece "experimental chamber rock band from the Midwest," as their press release
A wild debut from Norway's Grand General
For 15 years now, the Rune Grammofon label have been releasing some of the most adventurous music around. The new, self-titled debut from Grand General upholds this legacy in every way. Grand General is a powerful set, stuffed with monster riffs, psychotic prog, and wild jazz-filled flights of fury. There are so many elements to this band that I hardly know where to begin. The opening 12:20 tour de force "Antics" is a hell of a start. Guitarist Even Helte Hermansen's metallic guitar is the first sound we hear, and when it gives way to the searing violin of Ola
Black Sun is filled with excellent electronic pop from the Australian band Gold Fields.
Once in a while a song will come along that is so captivating as to become an instant classic. "Dark Again" from Australia's Gold Fields is just such a tune. The song is filled with hooks, soaring harmonies, and intelligent lyrics. It provides a marvelous introduction to the band's full-length debut album, Black SunThe Astralwerks label have been responsible for some of the finest electronic music of the past 20 years. Their signing of Gold Fields just adds to this very strong legacy. The band is a five-piece outfit, featuring Mark Robert Fuller (vocals), Vin Andanar (guitar/vocals), Rob Clifton (keys/percussion),
There are only a handful of Djs who really qualify as "superstars," and Paul van Dyk (PvD) is definitely one of them. In the world of electronic music, careers are notoriously short. Not so with PvD however, his first full-length album was released in 1994, and he just seems to get better with time. Last year's Evolution was his sixth release, and to these ears at least, his finest to date. With (R)evolution, the tables have been turned a bit. The digital-only release features 16 remixes of Evolution tracks, plus the radio edit of "Such a Feeling," and a remake
During the early ‘90s, the independent music scene blew up. Suddenly there were so many great “alternative” bands out there that it became difficult to keep up. I always felt that Bettie Serveert were a group who never really broke big because of this. They released some great records, and received good (if limited) press, but they were still something of a well-kept secret. To those of us who were listening though, they were one of the finest groups going.Their first two albums Palomine (1992) and Lamprey (1994) were just about perfect in my book. And now, some 21 years
An excellent tribute to an outstanding guitarist...
Huw Lloyd-Langton (1951-2012) was probably best known for his stints with Hawkwind. As most Motorhead fans know, Lemmy Kilminster also started out with the space rock pioneers. Although the Hawkwind experience was a pretty good springboard for Lemmy, for Lloyd-Langton, it may not have worked completely in his favor. The band had a very intense science-fiction vibe, and the brilliant delicacy of his playing was sometimes swallowed up in the whole. Still, he did create some powerful music with them, so it was probably a positive experience in the end. Lloyd-Langton recorded a wealth of music outside of Hawkwind over
Jarrett's 1979 album has been issued on CD for the very first time.
In Keith Jarrett’s long and storied career, there has never been an album quite like Hymns/Spheres. The original double-LP was recorded in 1976 at the Benedictine Abbey in Ottobeuren, Germany. This is the home of the massive Karl Joseph Riepp "Trinity" Baroque pipe organ, with which Jarrett utilized to create this truly unique set of music. Although the album was recorded in 1976, and released in 1979, it has never been issued on compact disc before. In 2000, ECM released Spheres, which was a single CD containing excerpts from the set. The full program is finally available as a double-CD,
More than "just guitar"
When listening to solo music, one of my favorites is flamenco guitar, as played by a master. A marvelous example of this is the new ECM release by José Luis Montón, titled Solo Guitarra. The album grew out of sessions for another ECM recording, Arco Iris by Amina Alaoui. When Manfred Eicher heard Monton’s playing, it was obvious that the guitarist was ready for a solo turn. Exactly one year after the Alaoui sessions, Monton returned to the Auditorium RSI Lugano in Switzerland, with Eicher in the producer’s chair, to record Solo Guitarra. The 13 pieces that make up Solo Guitarra make a magnificent introduction for
One of those rare dance records which are eminently listenable both on and off the dance floor...
With the 1982 release of "Planet Rock," Afrika Bambaataa invented the short-lived, but brilliant genre of electro-funk. He had help of course, most notably from precursors like Kraftwerk, and his fellow Tommy Boy artists. Hipsters like Beck have revisited the music over the years, but I have never heard anyone get it so right as Daniel Maloso does on his new album In and Out. In and Out is much more than a simple acknowledgement of a very cool musical form though. His record label Comeme specializes in what they describe as “Latin-influenced dance music.” I will certainly not argue
A Christmas essential is even better...
When the holiday season rolls around, I look forward to watching my two favorite programs, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I give Rudolph a slight nod as a TV show, but for music, there is none better than the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. Although I did not realize it when I was a kid, A Charlie Brown Christmas also served as my introduction to jazz. Although the soundtrack is quite naturally relegated to the “Christmas music” genre, it really is a marvelous jazz album. Vince Guaraldi had a long and successful
Quicksilver Messenger Service were one of the great bands of the Haight-Ashbury scene. Due to a variety of unfortunate incidents, they are all but forgotten these days, at least in comparison to bands such as The Grateful Dead, Santana, and Jefferson Airplane. I doubt that the recent Quicksilver Messenger Service: Anthology Box 1966-1970 will remedy the situation, but it sure is a cool set. The Anthology is a three-CD, single-DVD collection, with a scarf and a badge, all housed in a very sturdy box. The packaging alone is worth noting, because once again, Cleopatra have done an outstanding job. Then
In the early days of CD box-sets, the Rhino label were responsible for some of the finest ever. One of these was the Jack Kerouac Collection. The three-CD set was released in 1990, and went out of print rather quickly. My guess is that the audience for beat poetry set to jazz is rather specialized. I though I had missed the boat for good regarding this material. So when I heard that the Rock Beat label were issuing both Poetry for the Beat Generation and Blues and Haikus as stand-alone discs, I was stoked. The idea behind each album was
As we recently discovered with the release of Keith Jarrett’s Sleeper album, there are some treasures locked away in the vaults of ECM Records. This should not really come as any big surprise, considering the fact that the label has been running under the benevolent rule of Manfred Eicher for over 40 years now. There have been no great shake-ups, or hurried profit-taking vault raids. But what did surprise me was the incredible quality of that concert. When something is put on the shelf for 30-some years, it is usually because the music is not quite up to par. Sleeper
As we recently discovered with the release of Keith Jarrett’s Sleeper album, there are some treasures locked away in the vaults of ECM Records. This should not really come as any big surprise, considering the fact that the label has been running under the benevolent rule of Manfred Eicher for over 40 years now. There have been no great shake-ups, or hurried profit-taking vault raids. But what did surprise me was the incredible quality of that concert. When something is put on the shelf for 30-some years, it is usually because the music is not quite up to par. Sleeper
The Royal Philharmonic Play the Music of Rush is a wonderful addition to any Rush fan’s collection
When I first heard that there was to be an album featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing the music of Rush I had no idea what to expect. In the ‘70s, Rush recorded a number of extended pieces which definitely had potential to be adapted into the classical world. It is a different world today though, and the era of the 20-minute song seems very long ago and far away. Out of curiosity more than anything else, I took the plunge and picked up this intriguing set. Much like the recent release of Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and
The Best Reissue Series Of The Year
In music, 25 years is an eternity. I came of “musical age” in the ‘70s, and even though The Beatles had broken up less than 10 years earlier, they seemed like ancient history to me. I can only imagine what the MP3 generation thinks of Loop, a band who came together so long ago that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were still in office. Thanks to the Reactor label’s series of reissues though, we have an excellent opportunity to hear one of the truly great groups of that era. I have seen plenty of high-quality reissues over the years, but
Tangerine Dream remains relevant on latest effort...
The new album Under Cover by Tangerine Dream is something I never thought I would see. As the title indicates, this is a set of cover songs from the venerable space rockers. I have to say that on the face of it, this idea first struck me as absurd. I mean really, Tangerine Dream doing “Hotel California?“ The concept had disaster written all over it. As a connoisseur of the perverse, I could not wait to hear it. Well, I was wrong. Under Cover is not at all the unintentionally hilarious set I thought it would be. As a matter
Ambient electronica done right...
Keser are an electronic duo from Scotland who formed in 2005. Audemaus is their third recording, following Esoteric Escape (2006) and Robo Ghost (2009). All three have been released by the Scottish label Alex Tronic Records, and they just keep getting better and better. The title Audemaus is Latin for “Let Us Dare,” and is a most appropriate term to describe what the duo have accomplished here. Keser have released one of the finest ambient/electronic albums of the year, with their only real competition being label-mates Neu Gestalt’s earlier Weightless Hours. I always have to be careful in using the
Norway may not be the music capital of the world but Stian Westerhus is a name you need to know...
Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus is one of the most original musicians I have heard in some time. He is also quite prolific, having recorded three solo albums and collaborating with a number of equally experimental artists over the past few years. A few of these include the bands Puma and Monolithic (with Motorpsycho drummer Kenneth Kapstad), and a fascinating excursion with vocalist Sidsel Endresen titled Didymoi Dreams. The latter has just been released by the Rune Grammofon label, and is pretty wild.The 11 tracks that comprise Didymoi Dreams were recorded live at the Nattjazz Festival in Bergen, Norway. Sidsel Endresen
Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop, the Sweet, Dave Davies, Ginger Baker Unite For 'Who You Are: An All-Star Tribute To The Who'
A rare tribute album that lives up its billing and does justice to its inspiration...
In these trying times for the music industry, Cleopatra Records have found a number of innovative ways to stay relevant. Through their Purple Pyramid imprint, they have found a great niche in releasing some very cool box sets. Their recent Outlaws Anthology is but one example of this. Another has been in the realm of superstar tributes to legendary bands, such as the new Who Are You: An All-Star Tribute to The Who. While the idea of such tributes has been around for decades, they are often hit and miss affairs. In the end, it comes down to the various
Comedian/actor/Spinal Tap man Harry Shearer teams up with some big time music talents on latest music...
As “Harry Shearer,” Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap has achieved an enormous amount of success. He has conquered the worlds of television, film, radio, and as a solo musician. It is with this in mind that I wonder if the title of his latest album is a direct statement to his Tap bandmates Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins. Can’t Take a Hint seems sum up his feelings about his ne’er do-well partners, but maybe that is the whole point. In deference to Small’s obvious wishes to keep himself and “Harry Shearer” separate, I will try and refer to him
Songs of the Century: An All-Star Tribute To Supertramp (feat. Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Steve Morse, Robby Krieger)
An excellent marriage of prog rock legends and the music of Supertramp...
There is something about tribute albums that always sends me back to the bands in question. With the new Cleopatra tribute to Supertramp, Songs of the Century, it was no different But I must say that this collection is certainly an impressive one. For one thing, it is hard to beat the all-star progressive rock lineup. A partial list of participants includes John Wetton; Tony Levin; Rick Wakeman; Robby Krieger; Colin Moulding; Steve Morse; Chris Squire; Peter Banks; and Rod Argent, and many, many more. The funny thing is, I never really considered Supertramp to be a prog group. There
Among the best electro-acoustic albums of 2012...
Jim Coleman has been pushing at the musical barricades for well over two decades now, and does not seem interested in pulling back anytime soon. He first came to my attention as part of the industrial band Cop Shoot Cop. CSC had a unique lineup. No other band had a two-bass, no guitar approach, and it set them apart immediately. CSC never enjoyed much mainstream success, but they were revered by their fans. Another element of their popularity was Jim Coleman’s interest in experimental film, which led to some of the most original music videos ever. Cop Shoot Cop ceased
The Very Best of Cannonball Adderley; The Bill Evans Trio; Dave Brubeck; Vince Guaraldi; and Thelonious Monk - CD Reviews
Concord Music Group has released five new collections that serve as great introductions to some of the 20th century's finest jazzmen...
The Concord Music Group have been releasing some interesting jazz collections lately, under it’s Very Best of series. The first five came out a couple of months ago, and featured Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins and Wes Montgomery. The second edition of the series has just been released, and spotlights Cannonball Adderley, The Bill Evans Trio, Dave Brubeck, Vince Guaraldi, and Thelonious Monk. The key to these collections is that they were all recorded for the Fantasy and Riverside labels, during the 50s and early '60s. For this listener, the only other competition for classic “beatnik” jazz
Review: Keith Jarrett, Palle Danielsson, Jan Garbarek, Jon Christensen | Sleeper: Tokyo, April 16, 1979
The mysterious "vaults" have yielded another musical treasure...
This is quite a find. Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records has been in business for 43 years now, and for the first time in the label’s history, they have raided the vaults for an outstanding, and previously unreleased concert. Sleeper is the title, and the artist is Keith Jarrett. The concert was recorded in Tokyo on April 16, 1979, with one of his finest quartets. The magnificent piano of Mr. Jarrett is accompanied by Jan Garbarek (saxophones, flute, percussion), Palle Danielsson (double-bass), and Jon Christensen (drums, percussion). Sleeper is the perfect title for this two-disc set, for it will undoubtedly cause
The Grateful Dead Dick's Picks 31: 8/4-5 Philadelphia Civic Center; 8/6/74 Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ
Dick Vatala knew what he was doing when he picked these concerts...
The Grateful Dead’s 1974 tour is famous for being the one which Owsley “Bear” Stanley’s (1935-2011) “Wall of Sound” system was used. At the time, Bear was their sound manager, and his agile mind went to work on creating the ultimate sound system. It was so complex that it featured separate channels for each string of Phil Lesh’s bass. It was a monumental structure, but proved to be far too costly and troublesome to be used on a coast to coast tour. As the concerts captured on Dick’s Picks 31 show us though, the brilliance of Bear’s setup was undeniable.
A strange saga on one disc...
I was a little young to appreciate importance of the Lenny Kaye-collated Nuggets compilation when it was released in 1972. But a few years later, when punk hit, and everyone was talking about how influential the collection had been, I understood. There is just no denying “Psychotic Reaction” by The Count Five, “Dirty Water“ by The Standells, and the opening track, “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by the Electric Prunes. For most people I imagine that these classic songs were where our interests began and ended in terms of the individual bands. But in the case of
Like The Rolling Stones, '72 was a watershed moment for The Dead on stage...
While I would probably never define myself as a true “Deadhead,” the more I hear of the Dick’s Picks sets, the closer I come to identifying as one. For those who are unfamiliar with this series, it was put together by a man who could have made a very valid case as being the “ultimate” Deadhead - the late Dick Vatala (1943-1999). With the group’s blessing, he combed their extensive concert archives to present concerts he felt were the best representatives of the band live. They were released directly through the Dead’s mail-order (and later on-line) business, and were met
A good starting point for one of the under-heralded greats...
When one thinks of great jazz guitarists, only a handful come to mind. The early pioneers such as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian are certainly on the list, as are more commercially successful artists such as George Benson and Pat Metheny. Then there is the case of John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery (March 6, 1923 – June 15, 1968). In many ways, Montgomery bridged the gap between what was once considered an exotic instrument in the genre, to becoming a valued addition to the music. The fact that he was able to do so much in such a brief period (he
A nice sampler but you really need to hear it all when it comes to the great Sonny Rollins...
Besides John Coltrane, I would have to say that Sonny Rollins is my favorite saxophone player. As part of the new Prestige Records Very Best of series, his work for the label is spotlighted on this new single disc, ten-track collection. Like many of the other artists in this series, I think Rollins did some of his finest work for the label. Albums represented on The Very Best of Sonny Rollins include undisputed classics such as Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West, Freedom Suite, and Tenor Madness (with John Coltrane). Out of a career spanning over 60 years, those four are
The new Very Best of series from Prestige Records offers an excellent opportunity to hear relatively early material from some of the most legendary figures in jazz. One of the first artists in this series is Miles Davis, who recorded for the label from 1951 to 1956. The Very Best of the Miles Davis Quintet is particularly interesting, as it features most of what would come be known as his first “great” band. The ten tracks on this single CD feature almost the full group who would record the legendary Kind of Blue in 1959. Besides Miles, the quintet includes
Restoring the power to a classic album...
There is a piece of home video footage included in Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam film Twenty (2011), which says a lot. It was a shot backstage prior to a late-eighties Jane’s Addiction concert in Seattle, and just about every future “grunge” superstar is there. For a number of reasons, Jane’s were never considered a grunge band. But as this footage makes clear, their album Nothing’s Shocking was a huge influence on the whole scene. Even though it did not sell huge numbers initially, the album was recognized as an instant classic by those who did hear it. At the time,
A sampler at Coltrane's Prestige era...
The list of jazz legends who recorded for Prestige in the '50s is very impressive. Among the plethora of talent the label boasted were John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, and Chet Baker. The Very Best of is a new, budget priced series from the label, and each title works as an excellent sampler of the featured artist. John Coltrane began his solo career with Prestige, as a sideman with Miles Davis. As surprising as it may seem, ‘Trane was a bit self-conscious in the beginning. It took the belief of Prestige Records founder Bob Weinstock, to
There is a remarkable beauty in the music of Les Scott, aka Neu Gestalt over the course of his extraordinary new release Weightless Hours. Three years have passed since the debut of Neu Gestalt, the nearly pure electronica of Altered Carbon. With Weightless Hours, Les Scott has created an album of almost indescribable beauty. His use of field recordings, such as that of the rain and other elements, in conjunction with more traditional instrumentation puts Weightless Hours squarely in the realm of what is generally referred to as “electro-acoustic” music. It is a recording with a haunting ambiance that I
a magnificent realization of the music of Don Carlo Gesualdo...
The Hilliard Ensemble is a British male vocal quartet who were formed in 1974. Their modus operandi has been to perform early music such as that of the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Of the original lineup, only countertenor David James remains. The other three members are Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), Steven Harrold (tenor), and Gordon Jones (baritone). The quartet have had a long association with the ECM label, which began back in 1987 with the Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah album. The ECM New Series line has been a perfect fit for the Ensemble, as they have enjoyed a number of very
A most original take on The Beatles' finest album
The question “What is your favorite Beatles album?” is such a cliché among music fans that I hesitate to use it here. But since the whole point of the new book Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll by Robert Rodriguez is a variation on that (in)famous question, I just had to pose it. The funny thing about this question is that it is never intended to reveal anything about The Beatles. The query is about you, the fan, and what “period“ of The Beatles you prefer. In a way, it is the ultimate musical Rorschach test. Some people
Pianist Steve Kuhn and bassist Steve Swallow first played the title track of the new ECM album Wisteria together back in the early 60’s. At the time, both were members of Art Farmer’s band, who wrote the tune. The two have played together a number of times in the intervening decades, and have a warm rapport. The third member of the Wisteria trio is drummer Joey Baron, who appeared on Kuhn’s 2009 Mostly Coltrane project. Wisteria represents the first recording of this trio, and it is a great example of three musicians playing at the top of their form. Of
Sheffield's Audiolub label has uncovered another gem...
The Sheffield-based Audiobulb label are known for being the home of “exploratory electronic music,“ including a wide variety of electroacoustic artists. The trio who call themselves The Hole Punch Generation’s music is more in line with the world of three-minute radio-ready songs. Consequently, The Hole Punch Generation’s self-titled album represents a departure of sorts for the label. But never let it be said that Audiobulb’s David Newman does not have a good ear, for this set contains some great tunes. The record is certainly programmed well, for one of the finest tracks on it was chosen as the opener. “Don’t
a masterful performance by one of the great musicians of our time
Hungarian cellist Miklos Perenyi studied at the Franz Lizst at the Academy of Music in Budapest, and has recorded with Andras Schiff, Denes Varjon, and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra. He even studied with Pablo Casals in the mid-sixties. Perenyi’s first solo outing with the ECM label contains a fascinating mix of some of the finest cello suites ever written. The composers and their compositions are as follows; Benjamin Britten: Third Cello Suite op. 87, Johann Sebastian Bach: Suite VI D-Major BWV 1012, and Gyorgy Ligeti: Sonata. In Perenyi’s hands, these three unrelated pieces work together to form a suite of
Simply one of the greatest jazz concerts of all time.
I came of musical age in the mid-seventies, during the time of Boston, Peter Frampton, and Foreigner. I worshipped at the altar of The Beatles and Stones as well, since we were already being force-fed the idea that Boomer classic rock was the only music that had ever really mattered. Still, I had to believe that there was more out there than what I was hearing on the radio. Thus began my ongoing quest for alternatives, which began with jazz. Weather Report and even Spyro Gyra were ok, but I knew that the real stuff was buried somewhere in the
Monk sets the tone for hard-bop in stone with this performance.
The Thelonious Monk Quartet’s Misterioso was recorded during their landmark 1958 engagement at the Five Spot Café in New York. The Quartet featured some of the heaviest hitters in jazz at the time, in addition to the genius piano of Monk, the group included Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). This recording virtually defined the direction Monk’s music would follow for the rest of his career. All but one of the compositions here were written by Monk, and they display his willingness to experiment with the form in heretofore unprecedented ways. The die is cast
Evans' first post-Scott LaFaro Trio recording.
Most jazz afficionados would agree that the Bill Evans Trio of 1959-1961, which featured Evans (piano), Paul Motian (drums), and Scott LaFaro (bass.) was one of the finest in the music’s storied history. Their Waltz for Debbie (1961) is a cornerstone of Evans’ catalog, as is Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Both were recorded at the same Vanguard date, and show the remarkable empathy these three musicians shared. LaFaro’s death in an auto accident later that year was a huge loss, and affected Evans particularly hard. He took some time off, and Moonbeams represents the first post-LaFaro Trio recording. As
Norwegian jazz pianist Jon Balke formed Batagraf in 2002, who have a fascinating approach. They are percussion based, with the addition of poetic element, and Balke’s own keyboards. Batagraf’s mission is a basic one, a weave of drum grooves and words, commented on by the occasional piano interlude. Speaking of Batagraf‘s style, Jon says, "Drumming is speaking and language is a miracle, in all its manifestations.” We last heard from Jon Balke on the wonderful collaboration he did with Amina Aloui, titled Siwan, on the ECM label. Say & Play is his latest ECM release, with Batagraf, and it
Infinite possibilities between the empty spaces...
Elainie Lillios is a brilliant composer whose solo electroacoustic debut Entre espaces has just been released on the Empreintes DIGITALes label. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term “electroacoustic,” it refers to a wide variety of electronic music. The genre is somewhat broad, as it covers a wide range of sound experimentation. Some of the forms include musique concrete, computer music, tape music - basically electronic music of all sorts. It is no surprise that she is recording for Empreintes DIGITALes, who are one of the most innovative labels around. The seven works that make up Entre espaces
Prog stalwarts Nektar reissue albums from 1980 and 2004.
Nektar were a German progressive rock band who hit a commercial and artistic peak in 1974, with their Remember The Future album. In many ways, 1974 was the last year that prog was taken seriously in the marketplace. People quickly soured on double-Lps PP devoted to a single song (see Tales From Topographic Oceans by Yes), and punk was just around the corner. Nektar didn’t get the memo however, and pressed forward. By 1980, they had released a couple more albums, and dramatically re-shuffled their lineup. Meanwhile, prog had bogged down into a wasteland of failed ideas, and had been
A wild ride of an album...
Mouse on Mars have never sounded so weirdly retro-futuristic than on their latest album, Parastrophics. Along with a vast array of equipment, Mouse on Mars are comprised of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma. Ever the enigmatic musicians, there has been a long period of silence from them since their 2007 collaboration with Mark E. Smith of The Fall (as Von Sudenfed). Parastrophics marks their triumphant return to electronic music, and is wildly eclectic. When listening to this disc, there are times when I wondered if their equipment placed ads in the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist. It sure seems
The title says it all and I wouldn't have it any other way!
The Vibrators were part of the great English punk explosion of 1977, the year their classic debut Pure Mania was released. Although they did not receive the amount of press in the U.S. that the Sex Pistols and The Clash did, they made a big impression on those of us who heard them. Pure Mania remains a favorite all these years later, and V2 was a solid follow-up as well. After their first breakup in 1980, I kind of lost touch with the band, although they released a number of records after reforming in 1983. So I was pleasantly surprised
"Abstract lullabies" is just one description
Tord Gustavsen is a Norwegian pianist who performs a form of jazz I have never encountered before. In an interview with Christian Stolberg he recently alluded to a “notion of abstract lullabies [which] still describes what I do quite well.” It is an amazing statement. I cannot thing of another musician who would have the guts to say such a thing. Moreover, after listening to The Well, it is an incredibly accurate description of the feelings one gets when listening to this music. The Well contains 11 songs, all of which fall on the relatively “peaceful” side of the
Swedish jazz from another world
If someone were to ask me what my first impression was of the new Anders Jormin disc Ad Lucem, I probably would have called it "Swedish jazz from another world." Upon further listening however, I realized that what I was hearing were actually ancient (and beautiful) Latin texts, accompanied by some highly inventive music. Anders Jormin is a master of the double-bass, and on Ad Lucem he is joined by Frederick Ljungkvist (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone), Jon Falt (drums), and the vocals of Mariam Wallentin and Erika Angell. Ad Lucem is his third recording as leader for the ECM
The ultimate rhythm section go all in dub-style
It has been a while since I have heard a really good, solid dub album. But if anybody could do it, and do it right, it would have to be Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. The pair comprise the ultimate reggae rhythm section, and are legends in their field. Sly’s drums and Robbie’s bass have anchored some of the greatest songs of the past 30 plus years, and they are still going strong. Blackwood Dub is a return to their roots, and is their first pure dub album in years. One thing about these studio mainstays is the fact that
Music Review: Various Artists - The Dark Box (Ultimate Goth, Wave, and Industrial Collection 1980-2011)
Ghoulish fun all the way through.
There are only one or two old-school record stores left where I live, the types that carry deep catalog and such. I always like to browse the “various artists” sections there, because if you find a good one, you can really get your money’s worth. There is one label who carries a number of box sets that has always intrigued me, and that is Cleopatra. I have bought some individual Cleopatra titles before, but had yet to get one of their box sets. I finally took the leap with the four-CD Dark Box, and I must say, it turned out
Review: Carolin Widmann & Alexander Lonquich - Franz Schubert: Fantasie D-Dur, Rondo h-Moll, Sonate A-Dur
Fascinating collection of works from the legendary composer.
One of the more notable features about recordings on the ECM New Series classical imprint is the artist’s tendency to shake things up a bit. Often we will find the musicians linking various, unrelated compositions together in unexpected ways. This can take the form of placing current works next to established classics to illustrate the themes. Or, as in the case of the new Carolin Widmann (violin) and Alexander Lonquich’s (piano) Franz Schubert: Fantasie D-Dur, Rondo h-Moll, Sonate A-Dur release, the pieces may all be written by the same composer - at very different times in his career. In this
The Fall's latest is another step forward for the amazingly versatile Mark E. Smith.
The Fall’s latest release Ersatz GB is the group’s 29th studio album. Their first, Live At The Witch Trials came out in 1979, and there have been so many permutations of the group since then they could fill a book. The Fall has always been the Mark E. Smith show, he is the only constant in the band’s 33 year history. If one were to include the various live recordings, compilations, and Smith’s two solo records, the total number of releases is over 100. I mention all of this because one might expect the level of quality to have declined
Three pieces bridging the music of Franz Liszt with current composers.
Last October 22 was the 200th anniversary of the brilliant composer Franz Liszt’s birth. The new ECM release Precipitando by pianist Denes Varjon is something of a tribute to Liszt, and features an incredible interpretation of the composer’s “Sonata in b-minor.” The piece is considered Liszt’s crowning achievement, and the beautiful piano of Varjon certainly does it justice. The sound of the instrument alone is so crisp and clear, yet it is Varjon’s playing which makes the piece truly come alive. Denes Varjon’s affiliation with Liszt stretches back at least 1984, when he attended the Fernc Liszt Academy of Music
An excellent introduction to the work of this seminal composer.
I first became aware of Philip Glass when he released Einstein On The Beach, way back in the mid-seventies. At the time, I was strictly a rock and roll kid, but the opera received so much attention in the rock press that it really intrigued me. Not enough to plunk down the bucks for a four-album set mind you, but enough to keep his name in my head. When I finally came across an album of his in the used bin at a local shop, I figured it was about time to see what all the fuss was about. That
Fantastic Scottish electronic music
Alex Tronic is the nom de plume of Paul Croan, a musician who works out of Edinburgh, Scotland. His latest release is the Electricals EP - a recording which contains some of the finest electronic music I have heard in some time. A four-track, 17-minute EP may not seem to be something worthy of a lengthy discussion - but this one is. Much like the AFX release Analogue Bubblebath, way back in 1994, this is an EP that is so creative as to nearly qualify as a full album’s worth of material. To be honest, one attraction for me is
Dead Kennedy's guitar legend East Bay Ray is back with his new band the Killer Smiles.
I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that East Bay Ray was the “secret ingredient” in the Dead Kennedy’s, but I always felt he never received the recognition he deserved in that band. His melding of classic surf-tones with the speeded-up qualities of punk was simply brilliant. One listen to “Holiday In Cambodia” confirms this even 30+ years later. This was the type of combination I was hoping for with East Bay Ray and the Killer Smiles. As it turns out, it is an interesting album, and something of a mixed bag. The vocals of Skip McKipster are a
The finest road-warrior I have heard in a long time
A friend of mine sent me a copy of The Habit - Lincoln has Won, and told me he thought I would like it. Well I gotta say, it surprised me right off the bat. The sound reminded me of the good-old days of what we used to call “college rock.” You know what I mean, the sounds in the mid-eighties of bands such as R.E.M. and such. Not to put this style of music down in any way, but what once sounded so fresh in 1985 has changed quite a bit over the years. The fact that The Habit
Two Rock 'N Roll Survivors from the first all female band who ever released a major label album.
Does anyone remember the group Fanny? They were briefly popular in the mid-seventies, and had something of a hit with a song called “Butter Boy” in 1975. It was a pretty catchy tune, and was on the great Casablanca label - which at the time was cool enough in my book. They never really went anywhere after that song, so when an album by June And Jean Millington, titled Play Like A Girl showed up in my mailbox, I was more than a little surprised. To my utter amazement, it turns out that Fanny were the very first all-female group
The Krautrock legend and Goth queen collaborate for a magnificent concert.
Although the Klaus Schulze/Lisa Gerrard concert DVD Dziekuje Bardzo has been out for a while now, it has been somewhat difficult to find until recently. With that in mind, I thought a review of it might be of interest to some of our readers. Both of the artists have impeccable credentials. Klaus Schulze is a Krautrock legend. He was a founding member of Tangerine Dream, and left them to form Ash Ra Tempel, in 1971. But it was as a solo artist that Schulze really hit his stride. Beginning in 1972 with Irrlicht, Klaus has released somewhere upwards of 200
Okay, she doesn’t have the name or the look of a Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix, but Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen is the most exciting guitar player I have heard this year. I hate having to say this, but image is everything in music today - and this stunningly beautiful Norwegian woman plays like a soul possessed. It is hard to believe that Shoot! is the Hedvig Mollestad Trio’s debut recording, because it is a master class in how a group can meld rock and jazz in 2011 without sounding hopelessly retro. The one thing I cannot stress enough is that
Since leaving The Rolling Stones in 1992, Bill Wyman has quietly stayed busy with his Rhythm Kings. Formed in 1997, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings have featured a rotating all-star cast in both the studio and live performance. The newly released five-disc Collector’s Edition Box Set contains the first four albums that the group recorded. These are Struttin’ Our Stuff (1997), Anyway The Wind Blows (1999), Groovin' (2000), and the two-CD live package Double Bill (2001). Wyman’s status as a founding member of the Stones, plus his consummate playing ability led to a wide variety of guest stars on these albums.
Soundtrack to the acclaimed ECM Records documentary
The recent DVD issue of Sounds And Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher has become a celebrated event among fans of Eicher and his label ECM Records. In the film we find the normally reclusive Eicher interacting with label artists such Arvo Part, Marilyn Mazur, and Dino Saluzzi, among many others. In each segment we see Mr. Eicher consulting with the mucians in an attempt to find the perfect sound. Whether they are preparing for a perfomance, or are in the studio recording, Eicher’s input is always regarded as a necessary adjunct to the proceedings.Like the film, the soundtrack begins with
One of the finest solo achievements in Roedelius' long career.
The career of Hans-Joachim Roedelius has been nothing if not prolific over the years. He formed the influential Kluster (later Cluster) with Dieter Moebius in 1969, and the two later teamed up with Brian Eno for Harmonia in 1976. After Harmonia, Roedelius embarked on his solo career. By 1982 he was already up to his tenth recording, Wasser Im Wind. At this point his solo material had been very much in the vein of Harmonia. Never completely ambient or New Age, much of his solo work had fallen somewhere in between the two styles. In many ways, Wasser Im Wind
A triple-disc package of inspired British absurdity.
G. F. Fitz-Gerald & Lol Coxhill’s The Poppy Seed Affair is a triple-disc package filled with inspired DIY creativity. The Poppy Seed Affair itself is a 30-minute DVD filmed in 1981. Featured in the movie are The Matchbox Purveyors, Ian Hinshcliffe, Jeff Nuttall, Mark Long, and Foxy. The film is a stream of conscious take on life, which basically makes no literal sense at all. The quality is not quite IMAX level, as it was filmed on the fly some 30 years ago. In addition to Coxhill, the soundtrack features Robert Wyatt and Archie Leggett. It is a charming slice
Lumiere is a lost masterpiece of the musique concrete form.
Dub Taylor is a U.S. composer, engineer, and designer who once studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen. His admiration of Edgard Varese would also prove to be a pivotal component of his work. Taylor's brilliantly experimental album Lumiere would be released by the Varese International lable in 1973, and has been out of print ever since. It is a lost masterpiece of the musique concrete form. To put this proudly avant-garde style into a (somewhat) mainstream context, think of John Lennon's "Revolution 9." Actually, Lennon's intonation of "Number nine, number nine, number nine..." serves to make the track far more accessible than pieces
A very tasty encounter.
By the time of 1987's Momenti Felici, Krautrock legend Hans-Joachim Roedelius had been recording in a solo environment for many years. When he split off from Cluster partner Dieter Moebius in the late seventies after their groundbreaking work with Brian Eno in Harmonia, Roedelius pursued a similar musical style, but in a manner all his own. The Selbsportrait series was a particular example of this. While continuing to utilize electronics, his music became much more personal and reflective. Perhaps the most telling example of this approach was the 24-minute "Hommage A Forst" from The Diary Of The Unforgotten - Selbsportrait
Dokument .02 is a trip, both literally and figuratively.
Dadavistic Orchestra consists of former members of the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia paired up with The Black Dog. Both groups became known for their work as electronic/ambient/drone pioneers. As the Dokument .02 title suggests, this is the Orchestra’s second release. Listening to it is akin to taking a trip through the ambient gutter. Music For Airports this is not, although there are some similarities to The Black Dog’s 2010 update of the Brian Eno classic, Music For Real Airports. When Eno released his landmark ambient 1978 classic, the idea was to create a soothing background soundscape for the (then) weirdly
An all-star production recorded in 1985 is finally released.
Although Mike Batt is relatively unknown in the United States, he is a huge person of influence in British music. As Deputy Chairman of the British Phonographic Industry, people tend to listen to him. Before that he was responsible for one of the most popular children’s shows in England, The Wombles. Between these achievements came Batt’s most ambitious project ever, The Hunting Of The Snark. The various tribulations Batt encountered in bringing his musical version of the Lewis Carroll poem to life are almost as intriguing as the work itself. Having secured the talents of (among others), George Harrison, Roger
A wild and hazy ride with Sir Paul.
Paul and Linda McCartney famously claimed that the only time they ever spent apart was when Paul was incarcerated in a Japanese jail on a marijuana bust. This happened in 1980, the same year his second solo album was released, McCartney II. After listening to the remastered, two-disc Paul McCartney Archive Collection edition of McCartney II, I have to wonder if it really was a drug bust. From the audio evidence presented here, my guess is that the event was really a well-disguised intervention. How else does one explain such songs as “Bogey Music” and “Frozen Jap,” except as the result
Paul's solo debut has been remastered, and features a second disc of bonus tracks.
Paul McCartney very famously turned the release of his first solo album into a major event. For one thing, he convinced EMI to push back the release of The Beatles' Let It Be to release his first. But that was nothing compared to the “interview” included in the package. In it, Macca announced the break-up of The Beatles. Predictably, the bombshell made headlines around the world. It’s too bad all this furor was created over such a mediocre record. Actually, mediocre may not be the right word to describe McCartney. Unfinished is what it really is. For a craftsman as
Classic Tony Bennett recordings from his own Improv Records label.
Tony Bennett has one of the all-time great voices in music but there was a period of time where his style had fallen out of favor, and he grew restless. Similar changes in popular taste affected artists such as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, but they for the most part waited things out. Tony was different. He decided to take a proactive approach. In the mid seventies, Tony Bennett and his partners formed Improv Records. Although the label was unsuccessful due to the usual music business chicanery with independents, Bennett managed to record an extraordinary amount of music there. So
Three of the Irish bluesman's great mid-seventies efforts.
Rory Gallagher was one busy Irishman in the early seventies. Between 1971-1973 he had already issued four LPs. Rory Gallagher, Deuce, and Blueprint were studio efforts, and there was also the self-explanatory Live In Europe. These four were recently re-mastered and re-released by Eagle Rock, with bonus tracks added. The hard-working musician also recorded Tattoo in 1973, which kicks off Eagle’s latest reissue series. In addition to his live work, Tattoo has taken its place as a favorite of Rory’s fans. The record features his anthemic concert staples, “Tattoo’d Lady” and “Cradle Rock." There is also the great acoustic guitar-led, harmonica-driven
A solid blast of vintage German rock.
Epitaph were a four-piece German rock band of the early seventies. While this places them in the stellar company of the Krautrock contingent, their music actually had very little in common with that of bands such as Can or Neu! Epitaph were a lot closer to what Rory Gallagher once termed “meat and potatoes” rock. Epitaph’s 1974 release Outside The Law was their third effort, and undoubtedly their shining moment. If it were not for persistent management troubles, the group would have had a very real shot at cracking the US market. In fact, none other than Irving Azoff expressed
a great set of music from four legendary jazz musicians...
The nights of December 9 and 10, 2009 were very special ones at New York’s famed Birdland. Four jazz legends came together those evenings to play in a strictly old-school format. They were working without a net, or to be more precise, without a set list. It takes a lot of talent, not to mention guts, to get up onstage and just call the tunes on the spot. With these players, talent and confidence are in no short supply. The four in question are Lee Konitz (alto sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), Charlie Haden (double bass), and Paul Motian (drums). Manfred
In a Rolling Stone interview, Jimi Hendrix was asked what it was like to be the world’s greatest guitar player. “I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher,” was his reply. Hendrix was not particularly known for his compliments to fellow musicians, in fact he once dismissed Brian Wilson’s “Heroes And Villains” as “psychedelic barber-shop music.” Nevertheless, Jimi recognized a kindred spirit in Rory. Rory Gallagher (1948-1995) never rose above cult status in the United States, although he was huge in Europe. In Ireland, Rory is practically a saint. It seems like nearly every Irish town in the country has some
Rory Gallagher (1948 - 1995) was as proudly Irish as a man could be, but he certainly had an affinity for San Francisco. After winding up his 1978 tour in Japan, Gallagher and the band flew directly to the city by the Bay to record the album that would eventually be called Notes From San Francisco. Although the 12 songs the group recorded were outstanding, Rory became so frustrated with the mixing process that he shelved the project indefinitely. In fact during this stay, Gallagher had something of an epiphany. He attended the Sex Pistols’ final show at Winterland, and
The return of an old friend, 19 years in the making...
After 19 years away from the limelight, The Feelies have returned with a superbly reflective album. While Here Before is not exactly a middle-aged New Waver’s September Of My Years, there is the scent of rumination about it. For some of us, the record feels like the return of a long lost friend. The eternal debate among Feelies fans concerns the dichotomy between the jagged, nervous tension of their first LP, Crazy Rhythms (1980) versus the mellower, country-tinged sound they pursued after their second, The Good Earth (1986). Produced by Peter Buck, their sophomore effort seemed like the work of
Klaus Schulz has been at the forefront of German electronic music for over four decades now, and shows no signs of letting up. After his recent well-received collaborations with Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard, Schulz traveled to Japan for a few solo shows. Although the most common criticism of his music is that it is too repetitive - even boring, I find it to be nothing of the sort. Schulz’s latest live recording, Big In Japan: Live In Tokyo 2010 may contain some extended tracks, but dull? Not at all. The set opens with “The Crystal Returns” (38:03),
The Vibrators were part of the great English punk explosion of 1977, the year their classic debut Pure Mania was released. Although they did not receive the type of press in the U.S. that the Sex Pistols and The Clash did, they made a big impression on those of us who heard them. Pure Mania remains a favorite all these years later, and V2 was a solid follow-up as well. After their first breakup in 1980, I kind of lost touch with the band, although they released a number of records after reforming in 1983. So I was pleasantly
Fine thrash/punk from Tacoma, WA
The always reliable Ever Rat Records have just issued the latest by Yuck Fu, System In Effect. Ever Rat have a storied history in the Northwest through their release of seminal albums from the Dehumanizers, Antiseptic, and hair metal gods Show 'N Tell. Yuck Fou are their latest acquisition, and System In Effect is thrash/punk at its best. "Strait Outta Tacoma" should have been their subtitle however, because it does not get any more Tacoma, WA than this seven song collection. I grew up in T-Town, and while not proud of it - I do know the city pretty well,
Debut recording from this improvisational jazz trio.
One of the things about the improvisational trio format is the fact that there is no room to lay back. This is certainly the case for the Colin Vallon Trio, whose debut Rruga has just been released by ECM. The trio consists of Vallon (piano), Patrice Moret (double-bass), and Samuel Rohrer (drums). Although Vallon is clearly the leader, the trio share compositional credits fairly democratically. Where one truly hears the cooperative nature of the players most effectively though is in the music itself. The bright and beautiful piano of Colin Vallon opens the disc with “Telepathy.“ But it would be
Rory Gallagher in top form, touring a very dangerous Ireland in 1974.
"Rory, Rory, Rory," chants an Irish crowd sometime in 1974, and as the tension builds, we know that tonight will be something special. Tony Palmer's brilliant document of those dates, titled Rory Gallagher: '74 Irish Tour captures all the greatness of Rory and his four-piece band onstage that season. The performances alone make this a definitive Gallagher concert film, but Palmer's cameras also show us what was going on around the island at the time - making this one of the great "rock-docs" of all time. Touring Ireland was a dicey prospect in the early seventies. This was a time