Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Jean-Luc Ponty - 1976 "Imaginary Voyage"

Imaginary Voyage is a studio album by French Jazz-Fusion artist Jean-Luc Ponty. It was released in 1976 on Atlantic Records.

As of 1976, Jean-Luc Ponty's variations on the Mahavishnu Orchestra theme were still fresh and imaginative, cast in a distinctively different, more lyrical, more controlled framework. For Imaginary Voyage, Ponty's instrumental lineup is identical to that of Mahavishnu -- electric violin, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums -- but he turns the emphasis on its head, with all commands coming directly from the violin (his) and less competitive crossplay emanating from his colleagues. For starters, "New Country" is a lively jazz-rock hoedown, one of those periodic C&W side trips that some fusioneers attempt for a lark, and "The Gardens of Babylon" is a wonderfully memorable tune, the beginnings of which grow out of "New Country." The last half of the LP is taken up by the title composition, a strong four-part suite that hangs together with barely a snag in interest over its 20-minute span. 

If you are a considering buying a Luc Ponty CD and you're not sure where to begin....well the answer is, Imaginary Voyage. I own most of his music and this one stands out as being the most musical and beautiful compostion. (I might add that Egnimatic Ocean is another gem). Listen on all you progressive Jazz lovers :)
Gene

Back in the 70's, I bought this album - the second ponty Album I got after Cosmic Messenger. the music was PERFECT for the time period and for things going through me back then. Like Cosmic messenger, it takes you on that achetypical "trip" that some of us discovered later can be experienced without "medical assistance." ;-) This will do it for you! in fact, this is the sort of music that you put headphones on for and sit it out on your most comfortable chair ... close your eyes and "travel." The music is compelling and extrememly well orchestrated. The melodies are extremely unique keeping in mind when it came out (that is if you heard similar, you probably heard copy cats from later periods.) This is a highly recommended piece of the Ponty Collection which I will keep updating at every improvement of technology (Album to Tape to CD to DVD, whatever ...) This album was part of the "fusion" music that took my out of my high brow classical phase into the "modern era." 

Imaginary Voyage is awesome. Jean Luc Ponty shows that there is such a thing as violin jazz, but his sound is one that can't be pigeonholed. Just listen to county and western influenced 'New Gardens' and it will have you bobbing your head and tapping your feet. The slower paced 'The Gardens of Babylon' is just as powerful. I think that every cut is a winner. Imaginary Voyage Parts I through IV just flows from one cut to the next. You can hear the instruments talk to one another. This is one of my favorite CD's. Try listening to it through earphones. Awesome! Highly recommended.Vannie(~.~)

For his second album of 1976 Jean Luc Ponty finaly realized the combination of musical ideas that would offer him his distinctive sound. While his previous two albums were certainly nothing to skimp on,they were actually part of a process which would lead up to a string of late 70's musical triumphs for him. Beginning with this album. After a period of seeing which,where and how of his own musical ideas fit his sound best,it seemed that everything was building to what happened here. And I can honestly say it's one of his very best musical achievements.

"New Country" is likely one of the most unique compositions ever. It sounds rather like some combination of a country/western howdown and a firey jazz rocker. Very inventive. "The Gardens Of Babylon" and "Once Upon A Dream" showcase the best aspect of his "new sound" very well: sleek,glossy and streamlined fusion with a good emphasis on melody and rhythmically powerful as well. "Tarantula" goes an excellent job at blending the pounding jazz rock with more rhythmic jazz funk. Not as simple to do as one might think but it works here. The title track,a four part rhythmic extravaganza ending with an intense eight minute jazz funk groove again allows for some exciting soloing from Ponty.

Jean Luc Ponty's musical journey was always as ongoing one. I suppose if you followed his musical progression from his earliest days to his latest release the progression would be more obvious. But even taken in scattered bits it's not difficult to hear. This basic format of one half of seperate compositions and another of several parts of the title song would be something he'd stay with for a little while. And it was quite a good concept really. It gave him the chance to lead into his main theme. That way nothing could come off as underwelming. Any way you look at it,in this case it definitely worked on every level. 

Long ago, I got the LP "Imaginary Voyage," and played it until it was worn out. Then I got the cassette tape and played that until it was worn out. Right now, I'm working on the CD version of the album, and am far from tired of listening to it. This is, in my opinion, the best album that Jean-Luc Ponty has recorded: the best variety of music and the best that he has written. Starting with "New Country" and moving into the dreamy "Gardens of Babylon" and "Wandering On The Milky Way," into the urgencies of "Once Upon A Dream" and then into the sharp "Tarantula," Ponty displays a variety of emotions with his mastery of the electric violin. He then tops that with the epic 4-part "Imaginary Voyage," which culminates in the wonderful eight-minute "Part IV." Jean-Luc Ponty has been around a long time and has a lot of recordings, and if you haven't heard this album before, get it. It's definitely worth buying.

(As an aside, I had heard about this album from watching "Soundstage," an old PBS show from long ago, when they had an episode called "Fiddlers Three," featuring Doug Kershaw, Itzahk Perlman and Jean-Luc Ponty. A wonderful show, showing three different types of violin performances: Ponty, so smooth and even in using the bow, even in fast songs, it seemed like he wouldn't break a sweat. Perlman played classical music, his movements so precise, sharp and clean, carefully and exacting in his bow work. Kershaw played Cajun country music, all elbows and movement, the strings on his bow breaking from his sawing motions on the violin, it appeared so sloppy compared to the other two but sounded so good. At the end, all three combined on one song, playing various parts in their own style. A great show with great talent using the same instrument but playing diverse ways.)

Tracks Listing

1. New Country (3:07)
2. The Gardens Of Babylon (5:06)
3. Wandering On The Milky Way (Violin Solo) (1:50)
4. Once Upon A Dream (4:08)
5. Tarantula (4:04)
6. Imaginary Voyage
Part I (2:22)
Part II (4:05)
Part III (5:28)
Part IV (8:00)

Total Time 38:10

Line-up / Musicians

- Jean-Luc Ponty / Electric and acoustic violins, organ and background synthesizers
- Marc Craney / Percussion
- Tom Fowler / Electric bass
- Daryl Steurmer / Electric and acoustic guitars
- Allan Zavod / Electric keyboards and acoustic piano

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bozzio Levin Stevens - 1997 "Black Light Syndrome"

Black Light Syndrome is the first studio album by Bozzio Levin Stevens (a supergroup comprising drummer Terry Bozzio, bassist Tony Levin and guitarist Steve Stevens), released on July 15, 1997 through Magna Carta Records.

This power trio has famous roots, and they've brought it all together masterfully. First cut "The Sun Road" starts off like a tune off of David Gilmour's first solo album and then vanishes into a driving, power-chorded surge of soulful rock. Next, "Dark Corners" is a massive rocker that pulls you under its powerful whirlpool of guitar/bass/drum frenzy. Stevens tortures the guitar into absolute submission without any predictable riffs. Levin looms everywhere, and Bozzio flows in a polyrhythmic jungle. Fine interactive tension and execution everywhere. This goes way beyond King Crimson's Red days.
"Duende" opens with flamenco guitar firebursts, and slowly builds into a decent Spanish-flavored piece. Not my favorite, but well done. The title cut, "Black Light Syndrome," is obviously a play on "Bozzio Levin Stevens." It is a slower-paced dirge and filled to the brim with a variety of well-executed riffs, basslines, and drum tech.
"Falling in Circles" is an early Floydscape dotted with Ronnie Montrose leads, a ballad of driving determination and resolve. Floods of Satriani, Wishbone Ash, Alvin Lee, Fripp, Buck Dharma, and even that Duane Allman tone.
"Book of Hours" took me right back to Wheels of Fire's "Pressed Rat and Warthog," rainy-day dreamy afternoons with a fresh pot of designer coffee. Levin, Bozzio, and Stevens play off of one another precisely as one mind.
On the last cut, "Chaos/Control," you hear that "E7 breakdown" from Hendrix's "Midnight" on War Heroes, and then a jazzy boogie in classic Frank Marino style is laid down. Stevens is a guitarist with a wide range of dynamics.

Terry Bozzio, drummer for Frank Zappa and Jeff Beck. Tony Levin, bassist for King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. Steve Stevens, guitarist for Billy Idol and Michael Jackson. To the typical prog fan, Stevens may seem the odd man out in this trio, but guitar aficionados know that he is a well-respected guitarist and composer of Grammy Award-winning movie soundtracks. Initially conceived as a "names" project (like the Players session with Jeff Berlin, Scott Henderson, T Lavitz and Steve Smith), the endeavor evolved into a very special recording session.

Initiated by Bozzio, only he and Stevens had met before the recording session for a few jams, just to make sure the potential was present. Otherwise, none of the musicians had previously played together. The trio entered the recording studio for four days and spontaneously composed and played the seven songs on this disc.

The opening track, "The Sun Road," was the result of the first studio jam and the version here is the second take. In fact, each song was recorded live in only the first or second take, with no punch-ins to erase bum notes, etc. Before leaving the studio, Levin dubbed in a few extra bass lines with the Chapman Stick, bowed upright bass and so forth, for added tonal coloring. Stevens then took the tapes for five days to overdub some effects and a few extra guitar, guitar-synth and electric sitar lines.

For the most part, though, Black Light Syndrome is a live in the studio jam session with three excellent musicians. The songs were composed in one of two ways: the trio worked out some guideposts and improvised their way from one to the next, or simply let the creative juices flow as they may. Two songs fall into the latter category and, interestingly, they feature Stevens on Flamenco guitar on "Duente" and a jazzy acoustic guitar on "Book of Hours." His chordal work on "Book of Hours" reminded me of John McLaughlin from his Que Alegria album.

The remaining songs are generally oriented to the electric guitar. I do not know if the songs are presented in the order they were recorded, but certainly the chemistry among the three musicians seems to improve as the disc proceeds. The high point, for me, was "Falling in Circles." All three musicians click into a ferocious groove. Stevens' killer chops run the range from bluesy riffs to swirling "the UFOs are landing" metal licks. Bozzio is an outstanding drummer and I particularly liked his cymbal work. Levin simply demonstrates why he is one of the most respected and in-demand session bassists in the business today.

Regardless of whether you classify Black Light Syndrome as instrumental rock or progressive rock, I think you'll find it hard to deny that something wonderful happened when these three musicians entered the studio together."

This is another example of the musicians going into the studio with very little rehearsing and very little time. Four days to be truthful,but we'll let the product speak for itself.

The project started as an idea between Bozzio and Magna Carta's Pete Morticelli. Steve Stevens was suggested by Terry's wife and, as usual, Tony Levin was first choice but was never really considered an option due to his busy schedule.

Terry Bozzio was a name that I had heard of in the music scene but had never heard any of his work. I didn't know what I was missing! He is able to play the fastest and freakest fills / solos I ever heard on any album. Check out the fills in "Chaos/Control" or "Dark Corners"! He has jumped from just a name to one of my favorite drummers. He is up there with the likes of Steve Gadd, Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart, Tim Alexander, etc. This whole album is a highlight of his talent and ability to play many types of musical styles. Also I would like to point out the greatest symbol sound I have heard,I'm not sure if it's the recording or the symbols themselves but I love it!

Tony Levin. What can be said of this guy that hasn't been said a hundred times already? He is the most innovative and diverse bass player I can think of. His master of the instrument has put him on everybody's favorite bass player list. On this album he uses both the bass and the chapman stick,which adds to the diversity of sound on the album. He even uses some distorted bass on "Dark Corners"! I guess the only thing to say he has once again been able to lay a solid foundation will doing some of the coolest lines in the world.

Steve Stevens was the only name that I had doubts about. I was only aware of his playing with Billy Idol and Michael Jackson, which disturbed me a little. I never thought of Steve as an experimental or progressive guitar player but once again I have been pleasently surprised by this album and found that Steve was a good choice for the album. His guitar was quite subdued at times just playing a melody that was perfect to the song, for example "The Sun Road." On the other side I find his use of effects and the whammy bar to be a bit extreme. My highlight of his playing is the acoustic guitar on such tracks as "Duende."

Overall this album has no problems becoming one of my favorite of the Magna Carta label. It gives each instrument / player their own space to explore. I would have no reservations recommending this album to any progressive fan.

...essentially it is a perfect melding of jazz, progressive rock, ambient and just plain jamming that has anovertly '90s feel. This is best exemplified in the stunning, near 15-minute opener "The Sun Road," which highlights all the band's strengths as it begins a melodic fusion-like number and builds in intensity with thunderous percussion and brilliant guitar work that includes some eerie electric leads and fluid flamenco acoustic fills. "Duende" finds each band member playing off the other in this exotic and melodic piece.

Stevens again shines with his flowing acoustic playing. Better still is the brilliant title cut with its tougher textures and slightly Hendrix-like soloing. This really is an exceptional and original album by three musicians who seem to have a good musical empathy and may prove to be the power trio of the decade.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve Stevens.
No.     Title     Length
1.     "The Sun Road"       14:39
2.     "Dark Corners"       8:32
3.     "Duende"       7:26
4.     "Black Light Syndrome"       8:45
5.     "Falling in Circles"       9:08
6.     "Book of Hours"       9:42
7.     "Chaos/Control"       8:48
Total length:
    67:00

Personnel

    Steve Stevens – guitar, production
    Tony Levin – Chapman stick, bass, production
    Terry Bozzio – drums, production

Saturday, April 23, 2016

GRP - 1992 "All-Star Big Band"

The GRP Band was a group compiled in the late 1980s under the direction of Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, principles of GRP Records. The band was a full band, and they mostly played well-known jazz pieces from the 1950s and 1960s written by famous musicians and composers. Many of these pieces were rearranged presenting a character of their own.

GRP is best known as a label specializing in slick and accessible jazz, but, in 1992, labelheads Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen decided to put together a conventional but star-studded big band comprised of their company's top players. The recordings featured such musicians as Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker, Chuck Findley, Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Dave Valentin, John Patitucci, and even Tom Scott, Eric Marienthal, Nelson Rangell, and Lee Ritenour playing straightahead charts of jazz standards from the 1950s and '60s. The recordings actually offer few surprises (other than the fact that Scott and company still remember how to play bop), but are enjoyable outings.

Lee Ritenour, Tom Scott, Randy Brecker and other big names from Dave Grushin's jazz label gather for a one-day, en masse blow-out. The repertoire includes be-bop, post-bop and contemporary standards, with Coltrane's "Blue Train" and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" highlighting a disc that's markedly more spirited than the GRP norm.

Wow! I first heard this album ten years ago while a fledgling jazz musician in high school. This album went on to become the best of my collection - I even spun it so many times in my player that I had to buy another copy of it. What makes this album so amazing is not neccessarily the setlist, but the musicians! GRP assembled some of their great label performers and got them together for this project (with a few more to follow). All of the musicians are incredible, but you'll notice some standout performances from Eric Marienthal (Alto Sax), Arturo Sandoval (Trumpet), Randy Brecker (Trumpet), and Bob Mintzer (Tenor Sax). I read somewhere that music is the closest thing to magic there is, and after listening to this album, you'll see why.
"Airegin" sets the stage nicely, followed by a perfect rendition of Coltrane's "Blue Train", with the best 24 bar blues solo I've ever heard from Bob Mintzer on Tenor Sax. "Donna Lee" features some blistering solo work by Nelson Rangell, Gary Burton, and Eddie Daniels. "Maiden Voyage" is easy and laid back, leading right up to one of the true gems of this album, "Sister Sadie", a crowd-pleaser if ever there was one. Marienthal's amazing Sax work still knocks me back every time I hear it! Up next is "The Sidewinder", and this is an excellent arrangement that Randy Brecker lights up on Trumpet. The next three tunes take it down a notch - "Seven Steps to Heaven" features a great (and rare)Marienthal Tenor Sax solo, and "I Remember Clifford" stands out as the album's premeire ballad. Sandoval is inhumanly good as always, and leads right up to an amazing climax! "Footprints" follows, featuring some great jazz guitar by Lee Ritenour. The last great showstopper of the album is next - Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca". Across the board amazing performances by the ensemble, featuring Dave Valentin (Flute), killer Piano by the Killer Kenny Kirkland, and the ultimate Trumpet battle royale by Sandoval and Brecker! The album is rounded out with more great work on Sax by Ernie Watts on " 'Round Midnight", and closes with a smooth version of Chick Corea's "Spain".
I have a very diverse music collection, and I'm proud to seat this album up at the top with other masterpieces of rock, jazz and classical music. I challenge you to listen to this CD and try- just try not to enjoy it. I dare you!

This album is an absolute must-have for everybody, who likes jazz, because, after you will listen to it, it will make you not just like jazz, but LOVE jazz and become devoted to it. I've had this CD for a couple of years by now, but still I keep listening to it at least five days a week. It's just gorgeous. My favorites are The Sidewinder, Sister Sadie and Blue Train. If you buy this one, you'll never regret it. Guaranteed.

When this CD was released, it was a major surprise. GRP is a label whose initial reputation was made on pop-ish jazz. However, co-founders Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen always had a love for the sound of big bands and for hard bop. For this set, they gathered together some of the most notable players on their label to play 12 jazz standards dating from the mid-'40s ("Donna Lee") up to the early '70s ("Spain"). The lineup of musicians is quite impressive, comprised of trumpeters Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker, and Sal Marquez; trombonist George Bohanon (who had to be imported since GRP did not have any trombonists); a reed section of Eric Marienthal, Nelson Rangell, Bob Mintzer, Ernie Watts and Tom Scott; bassist John Patitucci; drummer Dave Weckl; and several alternating pianists (Grusin, Russell Ferrante, Kenny Kirkland, and David Benoit), plus such guests as guitarist Lee Ritenour, flutist Dave Valentine, vibraphonist Gary Burton, clarinetist Eddie Daniels, and percussionist Alex Acuna. On the strictly straight-ahead set, which has such tunes as "Blue Train," "Sister Sadie," "The Sidewinder," and "Manteca," all of the musicians are featured adequately. It is a particular revelation hearing Marienthal and Rangell sound passable in this setting. Easily recommended to hard bop and big band collectors.

Track listing:

  01 - Airegin
  02 - Blue Train
  03 - Donna Lee
  04 - Maiden Voyage
  05 - Sister Sadie
  06 - The Sidewinder
  07 - Seven Steps To Heaven
  08 - I Remember Clifford
  09 - Footprints
  10 - Manteca
  11 - 'Round Midnight
  12 - Spain

Personnel   

Lee Ritenour (guitar);
Nelson Rangell (flute, piccolo, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone);
Bob Mintzer (flute, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone);
Tom Scott (flute, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone);
Eric Marienthal, Ernie Watts (flute, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone);
Dave Valentin (flute);
Eddie Daniels (clarinet);
Randy Brecker, Sal Marquez, Arturo Sandoval (trumpet, flugelhorn);
George Bohannon (trombone);
Dave Grusin, David Benoit, Kenny Kirkland, Russell Ferrante (piano);
Gary Burton (vibraphone);
Dave Weckl (drums);
Alex Acuña & the Unknowns, Alex Acuña (percussion)

John Patitucci - Bass.

Lost Tribe - 1994 "Soulfish"

Lost Tribe's provocative mix of jazz, funk, progressive rock, heavy metal, and hip-hop is well represented on this 1994 disc. There are moments during "It's Not What It Is" when the '80s rock stylings of Living Color come to mind. Other tracks, such as "Second Story" and "Fuzzy Logic," recall the frenetic, rap-influenced sound of early Steve Coleman and Five Elements. Guitarist Adam Rogers and saxophonist David Binney seem to be the resident metalheads -- witness Rogers' crushing "Steel Orchards" and Binney's avant-thrash composition "H." Former Five Elements guitarist David Gilmore joins Rogers throughout the disc, making for some hot dual guitar work. Bassist Fima Ephron lays down rap vocals on his own "Walkabout," as does drummer Ben Perowsky on his own, less convincing "Daze of Ol'." On a mellower note, "Room of Life" and "La Fontaine" feature a more harmonically colorful side of the band. All music.

The New York quintet Lost Tribe is typical of a new generation of fusion bands which have added hip-hop and funk-metal influences to the usual blend of jazz and rock. These younger musicians have failed, however, to solve the central problem of the fusion field--the tendency to emphasize technical virtuosity over heartfelt composition to the point where the music becomes a bloodless exercise. Lost Tribe's second release, Soulfish, is a case in point, for the five members (who have worked with the likes of Ronald Shannon Jackson, George Russell, Steve Coleman, and Rickie Lee Jones) are superb players one and all but seem incapable of writing a memorable composition. Adam Rogers in particular is notable for his ability to combine a Hendrixian guitar roar with post-bop solos, but his compositions "Whodunit" and "Steel Orchards" are shapeless vamps for jamming rather than real songs. Alto saxophonist David Binney has written two slower, moodier pieces, "Room of Life" and "La Fontaine," but they come uncomfortably close to the aural-wallpaper sound of new age. The rap production team, Rise Robots Rise, helped Lost Tribe create the hip-hop-flavored "Walkabout" and "Daze of Ol',".

A+ 5 stars. What to say.
Purchased this when it was released 20 years ago and very few hold up/get better like this one.
Hard hitting, like Mahavishnu and early, funky Sco even - more refined.
Skilled players and intelligent, mature composers.
NYC for sure, this could not have been conceived in Phoenix, Miami or Paris - no offense to either.
Rumors have it they are working together again, we can only hope! By LW.

 Track Listings

  1. Walkabout
  2. Whodunit
  3. It's Not What It Is
  4. Daze Of Ol'
  5. Room Of Life
  6. Steel Orchards
  7. La Fontaine (The Fountain)
  8. Second Story
  9. Planet Rock
  10. Fuzzy Logic
  11. H

Personnel:

Fima Ephron (vocals, piano, bass);
Ben Perowsky (vocals, piano, drums, percussion);
David Binney (alto, soprano & tenor saxophone, flute);
Adam Rogers (piano, guitar);
David Gilmore (guitar).

Additional personnel:

Benny Nitze (synthesizer, talking drum, background vocals);
Daniel Sadownick (percussion);
D.J. Nas Tee (scratches);
Tracey Amos (background vocals).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Frank Zappa - 1969 [1987] "Uncle Meat"

Uncle Meat is the fifth studio album by The Mothers of Invention, released as a double album in 1969. Uncle Meat was originally developed as a part of No Commercial Potential, a project which spawned three other albums sharing a conceptual connection: We're Only in It for the Money, Lumpy Gravy and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets. This is Official Release #6.
The album also served as a soundtrack album to a proposed science fiction film which would not be completed, though a direct-to-video film containing test footage from the project was released by Zappa in 1987. The music is diverse in style, drawing from orchestral, jazz, blues and rock music. Uncle Meat was a commercial success upon release, and has been highly acclaimed for its innovative recording and editing techniques, including experiments in tape speed and overdubbing, and diverse sound.

Just three years into their recording career, the Mothers of Invention released their second double album, Uncle Meat, which began life as the largely instrumental soundtrack to an unfinished film. It's essentially a transitional work, but it's a fascinating one, showcasing Frank Zappa's ever-increasing compositional dexterity and the Mothers' emerging instrumental prowess. It was potentially easy to overlook Zappa's melodic gifts on albums past, but on Uncle Meat, he thrusts them firmly into the spotlight; what few lyrics there are, Zappa says in the liner notes, are in-jokes relevant only to the band. Thus, Uncle Meat became the point at which Zappa began to establish himself as a composer and he would return to many of these pieces repeatedly over the course of his career. Taken as a whole, Uncle Meat comes off as a hodgepodge, with centerpieces scattered between variations on previous pieces, short concert excerpts, less-realized experiments, doo wop tunes, and comedy bits; the programming often feels as random as the abrupt transitions and tape experiments held over from Zappa's last few projects. But despite the absence of a conceptual framework, the unfocused sprawl of Uncle Meat is actually a big part of its appeal. It's exciting to hear one of the most creatively fertile minds in rock pushing restlessly into new territory, even if he isn't always quite sure where he's going. However, several tracks hint at the jazz-rock fusion soon to come, especially the extended album closer "King Kong"; it's his first unequivocal success in that area, with its odd time signature helping turn it into a rhythmically kinetic blowing vehicle. Though some might miss the gleeful satire of Zappa's previous work with the Mothers, Uncle Meat's continued abundance of musical ideas places it among his most intriguing works.

To get it out of the way, I’ll simply say, Uncle Meat is really out there. Even for Zappa standards, it’s extremely weird. And it’s absurdly magnificent.
Uncle Meat, part of the “No Commercial Potential” series Zappa had going on at the time, Uncle Meat was the proposed soundtrack to a science-fiction film that Zappa had in the works, but never got completed (behind-the-scenes footage would be released in 1987 however). It is perhaps Zappa’s most diverse album, even more than We’re Only In It For The Money. Spanning over seventy-five minutes at its original release on April 21, 1969, it gathered its sound from several genres, from straightforward rock music, to orchestral music, and jazz, et cetera, et cetera.

Drawing the elements from the mostly spoken-word remake of Lumpy Gravy, Uncle Meat went one step further, and not only increased the use of bizarre spoken-word segments, but the use of percussion and orchestral movements. This all showcased Zappa’s ever-growing strengths as a composer and arranger. For example, Nine Types of Industrial Pollution and Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme, are based on percussional instrumentation and are formless in melody. The classic rock ‘n’ Roll influences of the 1950s are effortlessly captured in Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague, which from the start seems as a typical rock track, then turns into an avant-garde group effort dominated by overdubs and the new recording technology of the time. Throughout the album, the band’s unofficial spokeswoman, Suzy Creamcheese would pipe in and tell short stories of The Mothers, and what they were about, serving as quick introductions to the succeeding tracks. Another unique part of the album was the live segments from the band’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall. To say the least, these live portions of the album are the most droll and forgettable recordings The Mothers had the distinction of releasing, and serve no purpose whatsoever to the album.

But the shining moment of Uncle Meat most certainly has to be the finale: King Kong. A side long free jazz behemoth, and clocking in at seventeen minutes, King Kong was the crowning achievement of the original Mothers incarnation without a doubt. Mainly in 3/8 time signature, the suite is one long repetition of the track’s melody in different variations, from a live rendition focusing on saxist Ian Underwood, to a variation of the melody put through various electronic effects, as well as a final variation featuring sped-up gongs, overblown saxophones, and several other instruments.

Although free of the satire associated with many of Zappa and The Mother’s albums and other projects, the abundance of ideas found on Uncle Meat place it among The Mothers’ greatest works. It most certainly is the most difficult of the classic-era albums to get into due to its avant-garde sound, and its inaccessibility compared to other Zappa/Mothers albums. That definitely doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time, because to put it straight: It is worth investing not only seventy-five minutes of your time, but a whole day dedicated to it.

One of the problems with Frank Zappa's immense catalog (nearly 60 releases) is that it can take an interested listenter a long time to find the cream of the crop. I hiope to solve that for you by telling you to BUY THIS CD AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The "Uncle Meat" double CD contains what could be some of the best and most interesting music of our century.

The CD has more than Rock and Roll. In fact, some of the most wonderful things on the discs are the marimba-laden "classical" tracks. Not that the disc doesn't contain fanstatic rock. Zappa knew how to make an _album_, though; the individual songs are difficult to isolate because you will soon think of "Uncle Meat" as a single compositional entity.

There is one hitch to this concept-album-like flow. The CD version (as opposed to the cassette or LP) contains nearly a half an hour of audio footage from the filming of the never-really-completed Uncle Meat movie. Instead of putting the "bonus" stuff at the end of the disc, it has been inserted between songs on the second disc. Your listening enjoyment of the music will come to a grinding halt as you reach for the remote. Don't get me wrong! Listen to the audio footage. There's some great stuff. Listen to it often, if you like. But just be prepared when you're lost in the music to bounce out of your reverie. The position of the bonus audio footage is the only thing that holds me back from heartily and readily giving the CD a perfect 10 rating. END.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1 Time: 57:21
1. Main Title Theme (1:56)
2. The Voice of Cheese (0:26)
3. Nine Types of Industrial Pollution (6:00)
4. Zolar Czakl (0:54)
5. Dog Breath, in the Year of the Plague (3:59)
6. The Legend of the Golden Arches (3:28)
7. Louie Louie (At the Royal Albert Hall) (2:19)
8. The Dog Breath Variations (1:48)
9. Sleeping in a Jar (0:50)
10. Our Bizarre Relationship (1:05)
11. The Uncle Meat Variations (4:46)
12. Electric Aunt Jemima (1:46)
13. Prelude to King Kong (3:38)
14. God Bless America (1:10)
15. A Pound for a Brown on the Bus (1:29)
16. Ian Underwood Whips It Out (5:05)
17. Mr. Green Genes (3:14)
18. We Can Shoot You (2:03)
19. If We'd All Been Living in California... (1:14)
20. The Air (2:57)
21. Project X (4:48)
22. Cruisin' for Burgers (2:18)

Disc 2 Time: 63:05
1. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 1 (37:34)
2. Tengo Na Minchia Tanta (3:46)
3. Uncle Meat Film Excerpt, Pt. 2 (3:50)
4. King Kong Itself [Played by the Mothers] (0:49)
5. King Kong II [Interpreted by Tom Dewild] (1:21)
6. King Kong III [Motorhead Explains It] (1:44)
7. King Kong IV [Gardner Varieties] (6:17)
8. King Kong V (0:34)
9. King Kong VI [Live at Miami Pop Festival] (7:24)

Total Time: 120:26

Line-up / Musicians

- Frank Zappa / guitar, percussion, keyboards, vocals
- Don Preston / bass, keyboards, electric piano
- Jimmy Carl Black / comedy, percussion, drums, voices
- Ray Collins / guitar, vocals
- Aynsley Dunbar / guitar
- Roy Estrada / basses, vocals
- Bunk Gardner / clarinet, flute, bass clarinet, piccolo, saxes, wind
- Ruth Komanofff / percussion, marimba
- Billy Mundi / drums, vocals
- Jim Sherwood / guitar, vocals, wind
- Art Tripp / percussion, chimes, drums, marimba, xylophone, bells, tympani, vibraphone, wood block
- Ian Underwood / organ, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano, celeste, harpsichord, keyboards, saxes, wind, electric organ
- Ruth Underwood / percussion, keyboards
- Nelly Walker / vocals
- Euclid James Sherwood / tenor sax, tambourine, voices 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Robert Fripp & Brian Eno - 1994 "The Essential Fripp & Eno"

This compilation of the recorded collaborations between guitarist Robert Fripp and producer/conceptualist/musician Brian Eno is taken from two album-length recordings made for the Island subsidiary Antilles in 1974 and 1975, No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, with an unreleased 1979 session added on. "The Heavenly Music Corporation" and "Swastika Girls," totaling 39 minutes, make up the whole of No Pussyfooting. Both of these pieces are slowly evolving reel-to-reel tape experiences that are hypnotic and remain revelatory decades later. "Wind on Water" and "Evening Star" account for half of the latter album's first side; they are easily the two most beautiful and "melodic" cuts issued by the pair. The remaining 22 minutes are the previously unissued, four-part "Healthy Colours." These cuts are radically different from their predecessors -- they're more rhythmic, employing digital drum loops, a plethora of dynamic samples, and a wider array of sound effects and treatments. They also point at future projects: Eno's collaboration with David Byrne on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, and King Crimson's reunion album, Discipline, thereby making them compelling listens, while the earlier material is still essential listening decades after its initial release.

"The first two tracks of this release are the complete "No Pussyfooting", which I have reviewed in its section for this web page. The following two tracks are taken from "Evening Star"; the final four tracks--Healthy Colours 1-4--are available only with this release. So put simply, this CD replaces "No Pussyfooting", but the rest of "Evening Star" is, I believe, still quite essential.

"All of that out of the way, I would refer the reader to my review of "No Pussyfooting" and add my comments on "Healthy Colours": This suite of tracks is certainly worth owning, but don't expect to find classic Fripp-Eno. The tracks are far more similar to the Eno-Byrne release, "My Life With Ghosts." An electronic rhythm sequence is played (very obviously by Eno) and over that we hear broadcasts from American talk-radio programs and the occassionally quirky guitar line from Mr. Fripp. All of this is, to my ears, more interesting than a description can possibly convey. Overall, if not classic Eno-Fripp, these tracks make for a nice addition to recorded careers of these two fine artists." 

This compilation includes ALL of the milestone (both tracks complete/unedited from the) 1973 No Pussyfooting album, the seminal ambient/non-ambient recording with guitar and loops, as well as 2 cuts from the 2nd album Evening Star. YOU REALLY SHOULD OWN BOTH OF THESE ALBUMS COMPLETE, ABSOLUTELY - SO GET EVENING STAR AS A SEPARATE RELEASE WELL!
But MOST IMPORTANT of all ON THIS DISC, there is the previously unreleased 20 minutes of workup material for the never finished 3rd (circa 1978) Fripp & Eno album. "Healthy Colors I", "...II", "...III", and "...IV" are actually a precursor to the direction of material (avant funk grooves with found vocals), project that finally ended up as Brian Eno/David Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. The work with Fripp was abandoned, and the direction that Eno wanted to work in found was continued with Byrne, with whom he was a closer collaborator during that period.
An absolutely hilarious radio talk show host is superimposed over this terrain, which is complete with Fripp doing elephant roars on his guitar much before he worked with Belew! In an '80s audience Q&A, Fripp even answered a "when's the 3rd album [of Fripp & Eno] gonna come out?" question with "It's out already - My Life in The Bush Of Ghosts!" (which is why he has an arrangement credit on it, for the one cut that mutated out of Healthy Colours)
Essentially a 5 minute experiment, with each subsequent 5 minute segment [parts II, III, and IV) being subsequent passes with more and more layers added on top.
UNFORTUNATELY, the booklet that comes with this DOESN"T have any explanatory information, and thus the average owner of this item thinks it's some schlock that Virgin tossed together in the 90s, a late entrant in the trend started more than a decade previously by the milestone Bush Of Ghosts recording. NO! THIS is the work THAT caused that project to come into existence! [and BTW, I had a tape of this in '79 from friends in EG Management, as did others close to Eno]
And, of course, it is of a completely different direction - and listening 'head' - than the first two albums, so it is understandable that is a jarring upset when the other material that preceeds it has blsiised you out..

The musical experiments of King Crimson guitarist/founder Robert Fripp and electronic music pioneer/former Roxy Music member Brian Eno were definitely groundbreaking when they were released in the early to mid '70s. The pair released two albums, 1973's "No Pussyfooting" and 1975's "Evening Star", which paved the way for ambient and so-called 'new age' music.
With the 1994 compilation "The Essential Fripp and Eno", we are offered an excellent sampling of the noise that these two musicians made so long ago. The compilation includes the "No Pussyfooting" album in its entirety plus two tracks from "Evening Star" and the previously unreleased "Healthy Colours Parts 1-4" which was recorded in 1978.
"No Pussyfooting's" "The Heavenly Music Corporation" and "Swastika Girls" consist mostly of Robert Fripp performing fluid sustained guitar lines which are manipulated by Brian Eno using tape machines and a primitive synthesizer. It's beautiful and frantic at the same time.
"Wind on Water" and the title track from "Evening Star" have a more quieter surreal mood to them. "Evening Star" in particular has beautiful melodic parts with simplistic piano and guitar lines.
The unreleased "Healthy Colours" suite is quite different from the previous music made by the duo. Each of the four sections consist of repeated rhythm guitar patterns, a bouncy elementary synthesizer line and various tapeloops of speech all set to a primitive drum machine. This music is quite minimalistic and dry-sounding.
All together, "The Essential Fripp and Eno" covers the basics of what Robert Fripp and Brian Eno did as a musical force. Since they only released two albums together, I personally think that releasing this as a 2-disc set with "Healthy Colours" tacked onto the end would have been a better idea (The lenghty "Index of Metals" from "Evening Star" is an essential piece in my opinion). However, I have no complaints with the way this compilation is put together. The sound quality is stellar on this CD and so is the music. Here's hoping that Robert and Brian will reunite for something new real soon.

 Tracks Listing

1. The Heavenly Music Corporation (20:59)
2. Swastika Girls (18:38)
3. Wind on Water (5:29)
4. Evening Star (7:48)
5. Healthy Colours I (5:36)
6. Healthy Colours II (5:39)
7. Healthy Colours III (5:35)
8. Healthy Colours IV (5:35)

Total Time: 75:19

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Fripp / guitar
- Brian Eno / electronics

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

3rd World Electric - 2009 "Kilimanjaro Secret Brew"

A couple of years ago, Roine Stolt recognized that an overdose of Flower Kings material threatened to deter the fans, so he decided to concentrate on some new projects. One of these projects was Agents Of Mercy, still in the familiar territory of prog, but his latest one 3rd World Electric is something different. At least, for Stolt, but not for the music lover because Kilimanjaro Secret Brew takes us back deep into the seventies fusion and jazz-rock scene.

De CD-cover reminds me of the Miles Davis-albums, but the musical style is pure Weather Report. The dominant role of the saxophone and the percussion makes this mixture of jazz, world-music and rock a real tribute to the music Joe Zawinul and his men made in those early days. 3rd World Electric also consists of excellent musicians, just as the groups in those days. Next to guitarist Roine Stolt, we find his band mates bass player Jonas Reingold, drummer Zoltan Csörz, Rhodes-keyboardist Lalle Larson, saxophonist Karl Martin Almqvist - who really does a first-rate job - percussionist Ayi Solomon and even famous drummer Dave Weckl on two tracks.

All tracks on this album last between five and ten minutes, which must have been quite a constraint for Stolt, but it’s a relief for the listeners as these songs manage to keep their attention. There’s nothing original here, but that was certainly not the intention of the group. They wanted to play jazz-rock and they do that quite well. Might this be the return of a long dead scene?

If my reviews of the past few weeks are any indication then it would appear that 70s’ progressive jazz fusion is making something of a quiet comeback. My latest review for the CD “Sessions” from the Cleveland based jazz fusion unit RARE BLEND was reminiscent of the early albums by the group BRAND X – back when Phil Collins was pounding the skins - and now with this new album “Kilimanjaro Secret Brew” by 3rd WORLD ELECTRIC we have a group re-visiting the type of sax dominated fusion created by German multi-instrumentalist Klaus Doldinger and his incredible 70s’ jazz ensemble PASSPORT.
3rd WORLD ELECTRIC is another of the many side projects by FLOWER KINGS guitarist Roine Stolt and bassist Jonas Reingold. But unlike other progressive rock side projects such as TRANSATLANTIC, KARMAKANIC, TANGENT, AGENTS OF MERCY, and CIRCUS BRIMSTONE this time Stolt and Reingold have opted to explore what they consider the unfashionable label of “fusion”, with an homage to masters of the genre such as WEATHER REPORT, RETURN TO FOREVER, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, HERBOE HANDCOCK AND THE HEADHUNTERS, BILLY COBHAM and GEORGE DUKE.
Ironically the mirror image of 3rd WORLD ELECTRIC is PASSPORT, a once popular German fusion group they neglect to mention in their press release. And as a rabid aficionado of that group I can tell you “Kilimanjaro Secret Brew” has more in common with the early PASSPORT albums “Cross-Collateral”, “Second Passport”, “Looking Thru”, “Hand Made”, and “Infinity Machine” than anything you’ll hear on a MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA recording.
That said, I can think of no greater compliment then to suggest “Kilimanjaro Secret Brew” is comparable to the great work of Doldinger’s PASSPORT during the most creative period of their career.
“Kilimanjaro Secret Brew” does not break new ground nor do the members try to re-invent the genre, they simply re-create the kind of kinetic raw energy that made those early 70s’ recording so appealing … excellent compositions, melodic sax leads without those annoying squonking squeals, intricate synth and guitar interplay, and a toe-tapping groove sure to put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face.
To pull this off Stolt and Reingold assembled a talented international cast of players including: Karl Martin Almqvist (Tenor and Soprano saxophone), Lalle Larsson (piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, and synthesizers), Zoltan Csorz (drums), Dave Weckl (drums), and Ayi Solomon (congas & percussion). Together with Roine Stolt (guitars, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Clavinet, MiniMoog), and Jonas Reingold (bass and additional synth) they make up the members of the astounding jazz fusion group 3rd WORLD ELECTRIC.
I highly recommended “Kilimanjaro Secret Brew” for fans of energetic jazz fusion.

If you're already familiar with the member of this project then you'll already be aware of their song-writing and musicianship skills. If you're not, then basically it;'s the crème de la crème of Sweden's rather healthy prog-rock scene, and featured past and present members of the Flower Kings, Karmakanic and others.

But when they decided to get together and write a 70s era fusion record you would have thought they might have bitten off more than they can chew. Not so! This is a gem of an album. presenting music firmly in the style of Weather Report, they go beat the original masters at their own game. The songs, the tunes, and the playing is of an incredibly high quality. And the sound is real authentic. Whilst it boasts a crystal clear modern production, 3rd World Electric create all the Nostalgia of classic era Weather Report of Zawinul Syndicate. And the music is far more interesting and urgent that a lot of material by their fore-fathers which kind of just meanders to nowhere.

The choices of keyboard sounds are especially impressive. Lalle Larson's playing is already known to me, and he's a formidable player. But his excellent choice of sounds show someone who has an incredibly intimate knowledge of the workings of this idiom. Jonas Reingold's fretless bass also helps to create (or re-create) that distinctive sound we all associate with you-know-who, and he has chops to match. Roine Stolt's guitar mainly takes a supporting role her, with only a few, tasteful solos. The playing is bang-on, and once again the sound/production is gorgeous. I'm not familiar with the sax player, but he also shines. And with the powerhouse that is Zoltan Csorzs on drums, and even a guest appearance by Dave Weckly on one track, what more can you ask for?

This album could in many ways be seen as a tribute to Weather Report. Whilst some may say it lacks originality, when the songs are this good, and surpass those they're paying tribute to, who can complain! This is amazing jazz fusion, and they out-do most full-time fusion players with this great little record, a mere side-project to their other wonderful bands!

Like the other reviewer said, If you know the musicians involved it had to be good. I just recently downloaded a copy of Heavy Weather by Weather Report since I hadn't played my album for years and was really enjoying it. So when I read in an interview that Roine, Jonas, Zoltan and Lalle had produced a Weather Report style album and that Dave Wekl had played on it as well I had to have it. Well I haven't been the slightest bit disappointed. It's fantastic! There were favorites the first time through and others have grown on me so much it's hard to decide which one to share with friends first! Roine is one of my favorite humans ever. He is not featured as much as I would prefer, though the solos on the title cut and Tin Can Robots alone are worth the price of admission. Jonas Reingold is one of the best bassists ever and to hear him featured prominently in this style is a real blast! Lalle Larson, who captures Zowinal's style perfectly but never gets too "way out there" is now one of my favorite jazz keyboardists. Almqvist is outstanding on all the different saxophones, style, sound, solos, excellent. With Zoltan, Dave and Ayi holding down the variety of funky beats what can I say. If you like Weather Report or jazz fusion at it's best just GET IT! You'll be so glad you did.

Courtesy original uploader.

Tracks Listing

1. Waterfront Migration (7:50)
2. Ode to Joe (4:59)
3. Capetown Traffic (5:38)
4. Downbeat Dakar (6:16)
5. The Lava Juggler (5:30)
6. Kilimanjaro Secret Brew (7:02)
7. Tin Can Robots (6:04)
8. Children of the Future (9:02)

Line-up / Musicians

.Roine Stolt - Guitars, Rhodes, Minimoog, Clavinet, Percussion
.Jonas Reingold - Fender & Warmoth Basses, Additional Synth
.Lalle Larsson - Piano, Rhodes & Synth
.Karl-Martin Almqvist - Tenor & Soprano Saxophones
.Dave Weckl - Drums
.Zoltan Czörsz - Drums
.Ayi Solomon - Congas, Shakers & Percussion

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Trey Gunn - 2010 "Modulator"

Modulator is Trey Gunn with uber-drummer Marco Minnemann; but with a gigantic twist. This entire recording was composed and produced over the top of a 51 minute, live drum solo by Marco.
For this project, alternatively known as "Normalizer Two", Marco has enlisted several different musicians to create a full cd, each, from the same drum solo. No editing of the drum performance was done. All the music had to fit with what Marco played and, ideally, make it seems like only this drum performance could go with this music.
"This was the hardest recording I have ever taken on," says Gunn. "The challenges of this process prove the old adage that 'with great restrictions come great creative leaps'."

Trey Gunn has a name reminiscent of an Old West outlaw. He is also one of current progressive rock’s go-to soundmakers, mainly wielding his Warr guitar (a Chapman Stick-like instrument built to explore notes from bass to guitar range with a tapping technique), touring and performing with the likes of Tool, Brian Eno, and, most famously, prog giants King Crimson, of which he was a member for nine years and four studio albums.
On Modulator, the music is a thick, weird, pulverizing, battlefield of touch guitars, spacy sound effects, and free jazz drumming. The concept is even weirder—for Modulator, the writing took place backwards, with Gunn writing and overdubbing soundscapes and riffs on top of “rhythmic illusionist” Marco Minnemann’s 51-minute drum solo, recorded live in Senden, Germany in 2006. Gunn spent years toying with the material, literally re-thinking the process of songwriting before finally settling on an appropriate method of deconstruction: 22 tracks of controlled chaos.
Modulator won’t win over any doubters. If your idea of proggy experimentation is “that Coheed album with all the sound effects”, this ain’t gonna float your boat. But if you’re up for the challenge, Gunn, Minnemann, and Modulator offer a headphone-absorbing headfuck that only gets better the closer you listen. If the idea behind “progressive rock” is to literally “progress” rock music beyond its normal confines, exploring the limits and possibilities of what the genre is capable of, then Modulator is one of the most progressive (and interesting) things you’re likely to hear this year…or any.

Fusion and electric avant-garde jazz are two different things. Fusion--as envisioned by Miles Davis, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, and others back in the '70s -- combined jazz with rock and funk in a way that didn't emphasize outside playing, whereas electric avant-garde jazz (as in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and James Blood Ulmer) savors the dissonant pleasures of the outside. But there are times when the two merge, and that is what happens on guitarist Trey Gunn and drummer Marco Minnemann's Modulator. Actually, this instrumental CD is more than a combination of fusion and electric avant-garde jazz; it is a combination of fusion, electric avant-garde jazz, and progressive rock. And Gunn and Minnemann end up sounding like a freewheeling yet coherent "duo," which is interesting in light of how Modulator was put together. Gunn and Minnemann didn't enter the studio at the same time and record as a traditional duo. Instead, an unaccompanied Minnemann recorded a 50-minute drum solo by himself in 2006, gave the recording to Gunn and asked him to compose music for his drumming. Gunn was reluctant at first, but after agreeing to take on the difficult project, he composed some music -- and from 2008-2010, he played various instruments (including guitar, bass, and keyboards) and combined them with Minnemann's drums. Of course, there are those who will argue that recording an album that way has no place in jazz -- that jazz is about real musicians playing together in real time, not musicians playing separately and later mixing it all together. But then, Modulator never pretends to be straight-ahead jazz; this is a hybrid mixture of fusion, electric avant-garde jazz, and prog rock. And as abstract and eccentric as Modulator is at times, the music is also logical; it's clear that Gunn put a lot of thought into what he added to Minnemann's drums. Music this challenging isn't for everyone, but Modulator is well worth exploring if one is the type of broad-minded, eclectic listener who appreciates electric Miles Davis and Coleman's Prime Time as much as he/she appreciates King Crimson

Some concepts look grand on paper, but don’t execute well. Some ideas are great in concept, but fail to launch in practice. Trey Gunn‘s Modulator is a project that succeeds on both counts.
The former King Crimson guitarist approached the making of this album in a unique manner. First, he enlisted the aid of drummer Marco Minnemann. The percussionist set up his kit and recorded a one-hour drum solo. No stopping, one take. I kid you not. Then Gunn took that recording and proceeded to write music to play atop the drum parts. Gunn broke the solo into twenty-two sections, but other than that, did no chopping, channeling or editing. In a Seattle studio more than two years after Minnemann laid down his solo in Germany, Gunn added guitars, basses, keyboards and samples. Save some Uilleann pipes and fiddle on a bit of cacophony called “Spectra,” the recording is only Minnemann and Gunn.

But how does it sound? Modulator is surprisingly accessible and organic. The pieces don’t jump out at the listener all full of hooks, but they’re not cold, remote exercises, either. There’s a constant and welcome juxtaposition between the percussion and the other instrumentation: sometimes when the drums are simple, the other instruments head toward angular, complex territory. When the drums get all complicated, the instruments sometimes traverse smoother sonic regions.

Some sections of Modulator — though it’s broken into tracks, it’s best approached as a single composition with movements — are quite melodic, while others are static and nearly devoid of melody. Both approaches, work set as they are against each other. In a very real sense, even though the music was carefully constructed, most of Modulator feels (and sounds) more like a series of high-level improvisations. One could imagine achieving a similar result (assuming one has players of this caliber) if, say, hours and hours of improvisations were recorded over the period of months. Then an intrepid producer could comb over the tapes, select the best bits and edit them together to create a rewarding finished product.

Alas, that’s not what happened here. Such a course, apparently, would have been too easy, too lacking in challenge. Artists like this are sometimes willing to take chances — because, in the end there was no guarantee that a project like this would yield listenable, enduring music — and adventurous listeners are all the better for having heard it. And if all this weren’t enough, no less than five other musicians — including Mike Keneally — are each planning to take individual cracks at layering their compositions atop Minnemann’s solo. Yikes.

Tracks Listing

1. Contact
2. Flood
3. Spray I
4. Fall Time +/-
5. Fall Time -/+
6. Lumen
7. Switch
8. Daughter
9. Pole
10. Scatter
11. Up Spin
12. Down Spin
13. Spectra
14. Superstish-a-tron
15. Californ-a-tron
16. Spray II
17. Mono-Punkte
18. Coupling
19. Incantation
20. Slingcharm
21. Twisted Pair
22. Hymn

Line-up / Musicians

Marco Minnemann (drums);
Trey Gunn (guitar, fretless guitar, keyboards, sampler);
Michael Connolly (Uilleann pipe)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

James Gang - 1973 [2009] "Bang"

Bang is the sixth studio album by James Gang, released in 1973. This is the first James Gang album featuring lead guitarist Tommy Bolin after Domenic Troiano left the band.

With guitarist Domenic Troiano out of the picture, the post-Joe Walsh James Gang was able to take their career off life support temporarily by adding guitarist Tommy Bolin beginning with this 1973 release. Having just dissolved his short-lived fusion band Energy, Bolin's creative playing injects a little Miles and Mahavishnu into the usually rocking Gang, most noticeably on "From Another Time." Staccato guitar lines and congas begin the song, an old-style James Gang boogie fills the middle, and then a sound effect explosion abruptly brings it all to a jarring, nonsensical close. It's all of the album's problems in a nutshell since the knotty and the normal are at odds throughout, although there are many moments to remember. Even if Bolin's wistful "Alexis" doesn't fit with the other tracks it's a highlight, as is the opening rocker "Standing in the Rain" where conmen ("Your note said you went to Charleston/But I know you went to New Mexico) and cretins ("You left behind a dead father/A sick mother and 4 younger kids") are forced to face up to love. Bang feels less like a band album and more like talented studio musicians on the loose, but die-hard fans of either the Gang or the late Bolin will enjoy it, if only in fits and starts. 

The title of the album gotta qualify as one of the lamest puns ever, what with the album cover and all - ugh, pretty disgusting. Not surprising, then, that it was pretty much ignored by critical attention, and even nowadays this stage in the band's career is casually dismissed as stagnant. Of course, it's not just because of the lame title: since Joe Walsh The Critical Darling left the band, nobody really cared much about it. Too bad. Bang actually shows the band in revitalized form, and the more I listen to it, the more these songs actually grow on me - in fact, on a song by song level, it's hardly any worse than Rides Again, and actually, it's much more consistent, come to think of it.
Of course, nobody can conceal the fact that it's simply a different band. This is where the guitar function passed to newcomer Tommy Bolin, ex-Zephyr and future Deep Purple Mark IV member, and the songwriting is pretty much completely dominated by him, with extra credit sometimes going to vocalist Roy Kenner and sometimes to Jeff Cook and John Tesar, probably some of Tommy's buddies that I don't know anything about. Not a single credit actually goes to Fox or Dale Peters, making the band's rhythm section exactly what it is - a rhythm section, and nothing more. But that's good! Those guys could never really write a good song. And Bolin proves himself a pretty solid master of melody. His lead guitar skills are strangely subdued on this album; he's nowhere near as prominent and flashy as he would be in Deep Purple, and those who love the guy for his impeccable chops can be disappointed, because these chops have to be seriously looked for - most often, they're to be found in subtle subdued licks played underneath the lead vocals, and Tommy really lets rip only in a couple of places. Still, his excellent tasteful style, coupled with melodies that are vaguely interesting and relatively hook-based, makes up for a really refreshing and exciting listen. Strange enough, despite the fact that James Gang came from funk and that Bolin would turn into funk's strongest propagator in his Purple days, there aren't that many pure funky rockers on the record - rootsy countryesque rock, straight-up boogie and moody balladry share an equal function with the funkier stuff, or maybe even more. But they're decent.

Track listing

All songs by Tommy Bolin and John Tesar except where noted.

    "Standing In The Rain" (Tommy Bolin) – 5:05
    "The Devil Is Singing Our Song" – 4:22
    "Must Be Love" (Bolin, Jeff Cook) – 3:48
    "Alexis" (Tommy Bolin, Cook) – 5:07
    "Ride The Wind" (Bolin, Roy Kenner) – 3:45
    "Got No Time For Trouble" – 3:47
    "Rather Be Alone With You (Song For Dale)" (Kenner) – 2:05
    "From Another Time" – 4:00
    "Mystery" – 6:10

Personnel

    Roy Kenner – lead vocals, percussion
    Tommy Bolin – guitars, backing vocals, Lead Vocal on "Alexis", synthesizer
    Dale Peters – bass guitar, backing vocals, percussion
    Jim Fox – drums, backing vocals, percussion, keyboards

Monday, April 4, 2016

Various Artists - 1996 Guitars That Rule the World, Vol. 2 "Smell the Fuzz"

There's no question that Guitars That Rule the World, Vol. 2: Smell the Fuzz is designed with guitar freaks in mind. It's hard to imagine the average listener sitting through these ten guitar showcases without getting antsy, since each piece emphasizes technique and skill, not melody and hooks. However, guitar fanatics should find this quite intriguing, since it offers a number of guitarists (plus bassist Billy Sheehan) on their own original compositions. Some of the cuts fall a little flat, and it may be a little too close to prog-metal for some tastes, but the collection nevertheless offers some fascinating cuts from the Hellecasters, John Christ, Robert Fripp, Kim Thayil & Dark Lord, Alex Lifeson and a solo Billy Corgan, all of whom make the album worth a listen.

I usually don't care for guitar oriented/various artist CD's,but this one was different.I find myself giving it a spin more often than usual.The tunes that I liked best were Victor(Alex Lifeson of Rush)'s "Strip And Go Naked",the smoking Ace Frehley's "Cherokee Boogie",Robert Fripp's "Sunset Collage" and J.Yuenger(White Zombie)'s "Blues For 2-XL".'Guitars That Rule...' assembles some truly outstanding tracks,that I'm not even sure if a consumer can find on any other release.Exclusive music always gives you another reason to get a copy of a title as such. 

This is a fine solo guitar album. Spanning the playfulness of the Hellecaster's Disintonation, the fuzzy motion sickness inducing Blues For 2-XL by J. Yuenger, and the overpowering crunch of Ace Frehley on Cherokee Boogie, Smell the Fuzz should be an exciting listen for any electric guitar fan. Another highlight is the incredible speed of three death metal guitarists on Unheard Of's Explosion. Although some songs left me feeling unsatisfied, this CD spends more time in my stereo than Guitars that Rule the World, Vol. 1.

I found this at my local dollar store. I will say it was definitely worth more than the dollar I paid for it. I happen to be a big fan of instrumental guitar music, so this CD was right up my alley. It's got a pretty good variety of styles and talents. There's ambient looping, robotic blues, beefed up boogie, speed metal and stripped down ballads. Go ahead and try it, it's cheap. 

 Track Listings

  1. Disintonation - Hellecasters
  2. Ascendo - Billy Corgan
  3. Strip & Go Naked - Victor
  4. Blues For 2-XL - J. Yuenger
  5. Cherokee Boogie - Ace Frehley
  6. Brewicide - Dark Load
  7. Explosion - Unheard Of
  8. Niacin - Billy Sheehan
  9. One Song - John Christ
  10. Sunset Collage 1 - Robert Fripp

Various Artists - 1992 "Guitars That Rule the World"

Guitars That Rule the World may be a dubious title -- no matter how talented they are, it's hard to imagine Richie Kotzen or Reb Beach reigning surpreme over anything -- but for guitar fanatics, the budget-line collection may be worth a look. Each of the guitarists are given leeway to run free, performing their own compositions. Naturally, each takes the opportunity to play as much as possible -- these aren't really songs, they're excuses fo lengthy solos. Each of the guitarists acquits themselves well and the record is surprisingly diverse, ranging from uncontrollable metal and frazzled hard-rock, to blues and lyrical pop. If you're not a guitarist or guitar fanatic, Guitars That Rule the World is bound to sound a little tedious -- after all, it's nothing but a guitar showcase -- but for fans of hard-rock and lite-metal guitarists, this certainly offers some intriguing moments.

 This album rules. There are so many great guitar players on it. It's also cool because whoever was on it had total creative freedom, so they could play however they wanted to. This album really has everything from metal to funk to blues.
Former Winger, current Dokken guitar player Reb Beach opens the album with Black Magic. This song is pure metal, and Reb's smokin'. This is my favorite song on the album. Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi is next performing Mr. Sambo. It also features Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres and bass player Hugh McDonald. It is another metal song. It really shows Richie's talent. Next up is Yngwie Malmsteen. Every serious guitar player knows he's amazing so there's no need for me to elaborate on this song. Let me just say that you won't be disappointed. Next up is Paul Gilbert of Racer X and Mr. Big. His playing is amazing. The song I Understand Completely is a primarily acoustic but is filled with sound effects and electric overtones. At the end of the song he comes in full electric. Paul Gilbert's great because he plays with amazing speed and precision. Zakk Wylde does something totally unexpected for his song, Farm Fiddlin'. Being Ozzy's former guitar player and fromntman for the ultra heavy Black Label Society you expect a country intro for his song on this album but that's exactly what you get. He starts off with a lightning speed country piece before kicking into the metal style that he's known for. He like pretty much everyone else on the album plays with amazing speed. This song is also great because it shows all of his influences. In the middle of the song it goes into this whole blues piece before kicking back into metal which ends the song. Next up is Nuno Bettancourt former Extreme guitar player. His song Bumble Bee (Crash Landing) is excellent. He is an amazing guitar player. His playing on this song is no exception. It is however very short. Alex Skolnick is up next. He is the former guitar player in Testament and Savatage. He is also a very underrated guitar player. On Filet of Soul he serves up a very funky type song. It also features Les Claypool of Primus on bass. He is amazing as usual. The middle of the song slows down to display Alex's style. It also shows what a great guitarist he really is. Next up is former Poison current Mr. Big guitarist Richie Kotzen. His song Chype Fluxx shows his talent as a musician because he played all of the instruments on it. The song is successful in showing his guitar playing skill as well as his bass playing which sounds pretty decent. Next up is bluesman Albert Collins. His song "Blues for Stevie" is a tribute to the late master Stevie Ray Vaughan. It features amazing blues playing in the style of Stevie. Next up is former Allman Brothers Band guitar player current Gov't Mule frontman Warren Haynes and Allman Brothers guitar player Dickey Betts. The song Willie and Poor Bob is very different, if I had to describe it I'd say it was country blues. It features impressive slide and harmonica work. Next up is David Bowie's sidekick Reeves Gabrels. His song "Why Do I Feel Like I'm Bleeding" is an excellent song. It shows that he can play fast as well as slow. The song is very hard to describe. There is a drum machine that starts it off then some slow guitar. It doesn't kick in to the fast playing until about the midlle of the song. This album is great, but I only recommend this to guitar players or serious fans of guitar playing. If you like this album I also have a few suggestions such as Joe Satriani-Crystal Planet, Dokken-Erase the Slate, Back for the Attack, Extreme-Pornograffiti, Yngwie Malmsteen-Rising Force,Trilogy, Ozzy-No Rest for the Wicked, Racer X-Street Lethal, and Steve Vai-Passion and Warfare, Fire Garden, The Ultra Zone, Alien Love Secrets.

Well, everyone is correct by saying this album is AMAZING, but I just wanted to make a little side comment. I saw the release date here at Amazon, and it says 1998... well, that's the "commercial" release date, because this album was recorded and "released" actually in 1993 or 1994, and it was sent as a gift to suscribers of a guitar magazine, I forgot which one. I first heard this album in 1994 and was blown away by it. By the way, on the first song, Reb Beach plays all instruments if I'm not mistaken.

Unbelievable! This is one of my cds that I'm surprised isn't worn out. If I had the cassette, it would have been in a week. I love all the songs on this cd, but Zakk Wylde's "Farm Fiddlin'," in my opinion, is one of the best songs ever written by anyone in the history of life on this planet! It is absolutely perfect. As a whole, so is this cd. If you're into guitar music, then you will kick yourself until the day you die if you don't buy this. Then after you're dead, your friends will kick your body. I kid you not. 

3 words - BUY THIS CD. Its quite possibly the greatest guitar album of all time..well, its up there with Rising Force, IMO. It has something in there for every amateur guitarist out there. If you're just picking up the guitar, that intro on the first song will haunt you till you master it. You won't find these tracks anywhere else, even the Leviathan track is a "special edit" just for this CD. Anyways, I feel stupid I'm writing a review for this...bottomline - every guitar player should own this.

This is a fun guitar album which features a lot of big names playing solo material and experimenting with new ideas. Most of the songs have all the instrumentation done by the one guitarist, including a drum machine, but a few of the tracks have other players. Some cool tracks are "Black Magic" by Reb Beach, Leviathan by "Yngwie Malmsteen", and Zakk Wylde's chicken pickin' "Farm Fiddlin'". Nothing really breathtaking here, just a lot of skilled players showing their chops.

 Track Listings

  1. Black Magic - Reb Beach
  2. Mr. Sambo - Richie Sambora
  3. Leviathan - Yngwie Malmsteen
  4. I Understand Completely - Paul Gilbert
  5. Walk On Walden - Elliot Easton
  6. Farm Fiddlin' - Zakk Wylde
  7. Bumble Bee (Crash Landing) - Nuno Bettencourt
  8. Fielt Of SOul - Alex Skolnick
  9. Chype Fluxx - Richie Kotzen
  10. Blues For Stevie - Albert Collins
  11. Wille And Poor Bob - Dickey Betts & Warren Hayes
  12. Why Do I Feel LIke I'm Bleeding? - Reeves Gabrels
  13. Surfer Junkie Dude - Earl Slick 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Shane Theriot - 2009 "Dirty Power"

Dirty Power is the third studio album by guitarist Shane Theriot. It was released in 2009.

Shane Theriot (born in Thibodaux, Louisiana) is an American guitarist and composer. He has performed with many influential musicians, authored guitar instruction books and DVDs, and composed and produced music for MTV and ESPN, among others. He is the guitarist and musical director for Live From Daryl's House, featuring Daryl Hall, on the Palladia Network and VH1. Theriot (pronounced "terry-o") divides his time between New Orleans and the New York City area.

Theriot was first featured on Mark Varney's Guitar on the Edge CD series with an original composition, "In Between." In 1996 he began playing with The Neville Brothers, with whom he performed until 2003, touring nationally and internationally. During this time he also began working as a session guitarist. Theriot has release three albums as a leader since 2000: Dirty Power (2009), The Grease Factor (2003), and Highway 90 (2000).
Theriot's credits include performances or tours with Hall and Oates; LeAnn Rimes; Willie Nelson (makes an uncredited appearance in the movie The Dukes of Hazzard with Willie Nelson in band scene); Idris Muhammad; Blue Floyd; Dr. John; Marc Broussard; Larry Carlton; Sam Moore of Sam and Dave; Madeleine Peyroux; Aaron Neville; Slim Whitman; The Syn (with Chris Squire and Alan White of Yes); and Little Feat.
In the studio, Theriot has added his guitar to sessions by Beyonce; Jewel; Boz Scaggs; Harry Connick Jr.; John Waite; Leni Stern; Maria Muldaur; Dr. John; Marc Broussard; Sam Moore of Sam and Dave; Aaron Neville; and Steve Earle.

Shane's 3rd solo record and last one to date. The most- groove heavy collection of 10 original tunes dripping with New Orleans injected-funk and burning guitar.
Features Jim Keltner, Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters), Richie Hayward (Little Feat), Johnny Vidacovich (drums), Sonny Landreth on slide, Johnny Neel, Hutch Hutchinson, Adam Nitti on bass and members of Preservation Hall and Dirty Dozen Brass Band on horns.

Guitarist Shane Theriot renders a medley of craftily placed spikes and high voltage maneuvers on his third solo endeavor, featuring several legendary drummers amid a who's who of superfine Louisiana musicians and others of note. Theriot's artistry has spread across multiple genres, due to a culmination of recordings and performances with Little Feat, Boz Scaggs, Aaron Neville and Willie Nelson, among an extensive list of jazz-rock, folk and funk undertakings. Armed with superior chops and an affinity for penning memorable compositions, Theriot is a shrewd operator who conveys restraint and a soft touch to contrast his rippling and slashing solo jaunts.

The program boasts a potpourri of snappy, in-the-pocket works, dappled with funk, rock and a flavorful New Orleans edge. With alternating personnel throughout these ten originals, Theriot grinds out a noticeable groove quotient, abetted by David Torkanowsky's soul-drenched Hammond B-3 phrasings, and either Adam Nitti or "Hutch" Hutchinson's deep, bass lines. Highlighted by memorably melodic primary themes, Theriot transmits nuance and a killer dynamic, yet drives it all home with grinding riffs and fluent single note runs.

"Bring It" features trombonist "Big Sam" Williams' punchy phrasings atop a super-funk based motif, nicely accented by drummer Doug Belot's ride-cymbal bell hits. Thoughts of James Brown and vintage Brecker Brothers come to mind, as Theriot ups the ante by whipping matters into submission via his recoiling like, phraseology.

"Memphis," features ace Allman Brothers Band keyboardist Johnny Neel, who also plays harmonica to assist with a sprightly vibe firmed up by Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward's pumping backbeat. On "Kirk's Little Backpack," influential New Orleans jazz drummer Johnny Vidacovich morphs a buoyant shuffle pulse into a brisk rocker, offset by trumpeter Mark Braud's warm choruses and Theriot's sleek, dark-toned voicings.

Theriot's electrifying presentation is a study in dielectric strength, where sparks become discharged on a recurrent basis. More importantly, the guitarist merges a supercharged musical plane with unforgettable hooks and a nicely in-your-face game-plan. It is an irrefutably persuasive agenda.

Track listing:

01    Old Men (5:21)
02    Dirty Power (3:39)
03    Four On the Floor (3:50)
04    Bring It (3:46)
05    Mr. Ed (3:54)
06    Buckshot (4:36)
07    Memphis (4:20)
08    Buckshot (Reprise) (0:49)
09    The Pygmy Love Dance (4:21)
10    Kirk's Little Backpack (3:04)

Personnel:

    Shane Theriot - bass, guitar, baritone guitar, composer, mixing, producer
    Jim Keltner - drums
    Hutch Hutchinson - bass
    Richie Hayward - drums
    Johnny Neel - keys
    Sonny Landreth - guitar
    Zigaboo Modeliste - drums
    Doug Belote - drums
    Adam Nitti - bass
    Johnny Vidacovich - drums
    Kirk Joseph - sousaphone
    Mark Braud - trumpet
    Big Sam Williams - trombone
    Roderick Paulin - sax