Saturday, September 24, 2016

John Scofield - 1992 "Grace Under Pressure"

Grace Under Pressure is a studio album by jazz musician John Scofield, featuring guitarist Bill Frisell as a co-lead voice.

ohn Scofield and Bill Frisell, two of the most distinctive guitarists of the 1990s (they previously fronted Marc Johnson's band Bass Desires,) team up on this quartet date with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Joey Baron. While Scofield contributed all ten originals, Frisell with his wide variety of sounds and eccentric solos often comes close to stealing the show altogether. Five of the ten numbers add a three-piece brass section for color. The interplay between the two very different yet complementary guitarists is notable. 

Fantastic John Scofield set. This was my first John Scofield purchase after having had some exposure to him by way of Jaco Pastorius' instructional bass video and John Patitucci's solo album Sketchbook.

Overall, I think this is a fantastic album. John's writing is sometimes traditional, sometimes clever -- the opening track, "You Bet," is the first song I think I would ever describe as 'fun' -- but always smart and clean and easy to follow and listen to.

I get the idea that John was thinking outside of the box on this album, owing to his having Bill Frisell (guitar), Charlie Haden (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) back him, along with a small brass section on a few of the tunes. These guys each bring their own distinctive styles to the table and the result is a smorgasbord of rich sonic textures and unabashed musical adventure.

For those familiar with John's work before or after this disc, the music may surprise you. The first three numbers are fairly straightforward and are pretty much straight ahead jazz, but gears quickly shift when we reach "Scenes From A Marriage." Once the head is stated, Charlie and Joey kick into overdrive and John just goes with the flow and keeps right up with them even though he probably has no idea where they may be going. John wraps up his solo and Bill takes the cake by beautifully playing a variation on the main theme while Charlie and Joey switch to a more free jazz backing.

Then Bill stomps on the gas and switches to his distorted sound and provides his own loops in the background. He gets crazy with the theme and then brings it back down a notch by providing an ethereal ambience while John restates the head. Charlie and Joey then break off to do some free jazz and then the whole gang comes back in to wrap the tune up.

"Twang" is a blues-inflected swinger and "Pat Me" -- a nod to Pat Metheny -- gives Bill the chance to showcase his acoustic skills. "Pretty Out" is musical mayhem waiting to happen and Bill certainly doesn't disappoint on this tune, either. This song, however, may wear on some people and even John has a hard time getting the rest of the guys back on the same sheet to restate the head. They finally do it and Bill's ending loop -- which fades out to end the track -- is picture perfect and is wonderfully accentuated by Charlie's unchractersically laid-back bass with John's overchorused chords floating above them both. The mental picture I get just from the sound of it is like picking up a far-away radio broadcast with an old transistor radio.

Up next is "Bill Me" and gives Bill some room to stretch out. After that is "Same Axe." It's a short tune built around a typically Scofield A-A-B-A riff and both guitarists solo simultaneously before restating the head and ending the tune. "Unique New York" is the quietest tune of the bunch -- and the only one with a tongue-twister as a title -- and as the closing song on the album, it's definitely in sharp contrast to most of the rest of the tunes in this set, kind of like a sonic sorbet to cleanse the palate.

All in all, I think this a classic disc. While John almost seems to be overshadowed by the likes of Bill and Charlie at times, with their preponderance for running out into left field, he manages to rein them in when needed and is actually pushed by their musical experimentation to try some new and different stuff himself.

A must-have for either the serious Scofield fan or the serious Frisell fan.


I'm surprised that there are only a handful of reviews here. In my opinion, Scofield's CDs of the early 90s will someday be considered jazz classics. ("Time on My Hands", "Meant to Be", "What We Do", and this one.) The writing is top-notch, original, and quite often brilliant. The playing is inspired, cohesive, and virtuosic. The line-ups are amazing. On this album, Bill Frissell is just the perfect complement to Scofield's playing -- smooth to Sco's angular. His solo on "You Bet" is one of those rare pieces of improvisation that sounds truly composed. Charlie Haden is, well, Charlie Haden. Superb. Joey Baron, on drums, is a great choice to glue together these quirky tunes and musicians -- he's a very, very interesting (and excellent) player. Scofield is, as usual, totally in the pocket.
The tunes here are, to be honest, not overall my favorite of Scofield's. "You Bet" is brilliant; "Bill Me" as well. Sco's foray into horn arrangements is a nice touch, but strikes me as experimental here, and overlayed rather than integral. (A bit tenuous, too, come to think of it.) I think he's at his best when he's more minimal in his arrangements.
If you're not familiar with Scofield's work of the early 90s, check out "Time on My Hands", and if you like that, definitely give this album a spin.  


Track listing

All tracks composed by John Scofield

    "You Bet"
    "Grace Under Pressure"
    "Honest I Do"
    "Scenes From A Marriage"
    "Twang"
    "Pat Me"
    "Pretty Out"
    "Bill Me"
    "Same Axe"
    "Unique New York"

Personnel

    John Scofield - electric guitar
    Bill Frisell - electric & acoustic guitars
    Charlie Haden - bass
    Joey Baron - drums

On 3,5,6,8,10:

    Randy Brecker - flugelhorn
    Jim Pugh - trombone
    John Clark - French horn

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

John Mclaughlin - 1984 [2013] "Mahavishnu"

Mahavishnu is an album by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, released in 1984 by Warner Bros. Records. During the 1980s, John McLaughlin reformed the Mahavishnu Orchestra for release of the two albums Mahavishnu and Adventures in Radioland. This band's overall sound was radically different from the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, in particular because of McLaughlin's extensive use of the Synclavier synthesiser system. This album features original Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham.

John McLaughlin is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of music. Making albums from the 60's through the present, his intense guitar work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis gave birth to jazz/fusion. In 1984 he formed a reincarnation of sorts of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Featuring original Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham, plus saxophonist Bill Evans and bassist Jonas Hellborg, this high-energy electric album is regarded as one of his best efforts and has been his most sought after album for CD reissue. It is making its worldwide CD debut!

Alot of people don't know this but John McLaughlin was one of, if not the first guitarist to utilize the guitar synthesizer. Now in this recording he utilizes it effectively on many pieces.
For those who are expecting commemoration of the old Mahavishnu Orchestra, you might be disappointed. It's a different band with a more "refined" sound without losing the propulsiveness and/or drive.
Bill Evans saxophone work lends this edition of the band a different feel. Jonas Hellborg is a marvelous bassist and provides a strong undercurrent throughout.
Remember this was done in '85, so the pieces are more structured than the runaway jams of the seventies. Yet the virtousity is there. This and the follow up "Adventures in Radioland" were two of the finer fusion recordings of the eighties.
There is less of the eastern influence in this recording. McLaughlin tone is frankly better here than in earlier recordings. He's less frenetic and is more to the point. Yes, you will find the flying fingers of the fretboard wizardry here but not as an end to itself.
This recording runs the gamut of fusion sensibilities. Bill Evans shines on tenor saxophone. Billy Cobham is Billy Cobham. Just a monster (I mean that in a good way). The pieces run the gamut from introspective to a down right fusion "throwdown".
Put aside your preconceptions and reminiscences about how you remember Mahavishnu. This is a new band and this is a very good recording, well worth getting.

I first bought this album on vinyl in 1986 at Tower Records, Piccadilly Circus, London. There came a point where I no longer had a turntable so I got rid of all my vinyl albums (big mistake!). I was delighted to see the album had been re-issued on CD as I could vividly remember the rush of first listening to this album. This album is a delight for any lover of good music and especially for fans of mclaughlin/mahavishnu/jazz/fusion. There is a veritable feast of delights inducing all kinds of emotions. Like all good jazz you must allow each of the tracks to develop and reach their climax to achieve the emotional high. Beautiful and Nostalgic.

John McLaughlin resurrected the esteemed old Mahavishnu Orchestra for his mid-'80s quintet, even getting old mate Billy Cobham to fill the drum slot on the band's first album. But this is an entirely different conception than any of the '70s Mahavishnu outfits. The sound is cooler, less strident, more thoroughly dominated by advanced electronic textures -- including a sleekly elegant digital guitar played through a Synclavier. Instead of a violin, Bill Evans contributes some swirling and sometimes bop-flavored work on saxes, and McLaughlin gets mobile but not overly combustible support from keyboardist Mitch Forman and bassist Jonas Hellborg. The homages continue; the opening of "Nostalgia" is exactly that, a throwback to "In a Silent Way" as filtered through digital gear. While this is undeniably prog-minded, beautifully played electric music.

Track listing:

1. Radio-Activity (6:53)
2. Nostalgia (5:57)
3. Nightriders (3:49)
4. East Side, West Side (4:49)
5. Clarendon Hills (6:05)
6. Jazz (1:45)
7. The Unbeliever (2:49)
8. Pacific Express (6:32)
9. When Blue Turns Gold (3:22)

Personnel:

    John McLaughlin - Synclavier II, Digital Guitar, Les Paul Special
    Mitchel Forman - Fender Rhodes, Yamaha DX7, Yamaha "Blow Torch" Piano on "Clarendon Hills"
    Jonas Hellborg - Fretless Bass Guitar, Fretted Bass Guitar
    Bill Evans - Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute
    Billy Cobham - Drums, Percussion

Additional Personnel:

    Danny Gottlieb: Percussion
    Hari Prasad Chaurasia: Flute on "When Blue Turns Gold"
    Zakir Hussain: Tabla on "When Blue Turns Gold"
    Katia Labeque: Synclavier II with Velocity/Pressure Keyboard (VPK), Yamaha DX7, and Acoustic Piano on "When Blue Turns Gold"

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Genesis - 1972 [2008] "Foxtrot" [Remaster]

Foxtrot is the fourth studio album from the English rock band Genesis, released in October 1972 on Charisma Records. The album was recorded following the tour in support of their previous album, Nursery Cryme. Side two features "Supper's Ready", a 23-minute track that is considered a key work in progressive rock and has been described by AllMusic as the band's "undisputed masterpiece".
Foxtrot was the band's greatest commercial and critical success at the time of its release, reaching number 12 in the UK and receiving largely positive reviews. As with their previous two albums, Foxtrot initially failed to chart in the United States. A single from the album, "Watcher of the Skies", was released as a single in October 1972. Foxtrot was reissued with a new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix as part of their 2008 Genesis 1970–1975 box set.

By 1972, the seventh Genesis line-up of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins were touring in support their previous album, Nursery Cryme. They started to tour Belgium and Italy after having chart success there and played to new, enthusiastic crowds. Following the tour's conclusion in August 1972, the five proceeded to work on their next studio album. Hackett had considered leaving the band after feeling "fairly shattered" from touring, but the rest of the band persuaded him to stay.

The band wrote and rehearsed enough material for the album in a space underneath the Una Billings School of Dance in Shepherd's Bush, London. Some of Hackett's material that was used for his first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, was in fact rehearsed by the band during the Foxtrot sessions but was not developed further. Material that became "Watcher of the Skies" and "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" were performed live in the time running up to the recording of Foxtrot, which took place from August to September 1972 at Island Studios. They had recorded a new song, "Happy The Man", with producer John Anthony around the same time, but escalating recording costs due to slow progress caused disagreements among Anthony and Charisma Records, the group's label, caused an end to their association with Anthony. Recording began with Bob Potter as engineer, who had worked with fellow Charisma group Lindisfarne, but Potter took a dislike to the band's music. Working with Tony Platt was unsuccessful after personality clashes before the band settled with Dave Hitchcock as co-producer with John Burns as engineer, who went on to produce the following three Genesis albums.

"Watcher of the Skies" takes its title from a line of the 1817 sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer by John Keats. The song begins with a solo played on a Mellotron Mk II that the band had bought from King Crimson. Banks was "searching for chords that actually sounded good ... because of its tuning problems" and settled on the opening two chords "that sounded great ... There was an atmosphere about them". Banks and Rutherford wrote the lyrics during band rehearsals at an airfield in April 1972 during their first Italian tour while supporting Nursery Cryme. They wondered what an empty Earth would look like if surveyed by an alien visitor. Banks described them as "a sort of sci-fi fantasy" loosely based on the novel Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Rutherford thought they were "interesting words but they didn't sing very well". Collins felt the need to bring in "some tricky arrangements" into the song's rhythm from seeing Yes perform live.
"Time Table" features a romantic theme that yearns for tradition and decency.
"Get 'Em Out by Friday" is a song described as a "comic opera" that Gabriel described as "part social comment, part prophetic". Similar to "Harold the Barrel" and "The Fountain of Salmacis" from Nursery Cryme, the song features characters with Gabriel adopting a different vocal style for each one. The track features four characters: John Pebble, a business man of Styx Enterprises; Mark Hall (aka The Winkler) an employee of Styx who evicts tenants; Mrs. Barrow, a tenant of a house owned by Pebble; and Joe Everybody, a customer in a pub. The song starts with Hall informing Mrs. Barrow that her property has been purchased and must be evicted, but she refuses to leave, leaving Pebble to raise her rent. Hall then offers Mrs. Barrow £400 to move to a new property in Harlow New Town, which she does, before Pebble raises her rent again. After an instrumental section, the date is 18 September 2012 and Genetic Control announce on a Dial-A-Program television service its decision to shorten the height of all humans to 4ft. Joe reasons this so housing blocks will be able to accommodate twice as many people. Rutherford and Collins singled out "Get 'Em Out by Friday" as one of the early Genesis songs that suffered from Gabriel writing too many vocals, making the track busy and crowded. Collins reasoned this as a downfall to the band's typical method of song writing whereby a track recorded instrumentally with the vocals written and recorded afterwards.
"Can-Utility and the Coastliners" is based on King Canute.
Side two begins with "Horizons", a short guitar instrumental performed by Hackett that was recorded while Potter was the album's producer. The track took inspiration from the Prelude of Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 for cello by Bach. After playing the track to the band in a rehearsal, Hackett remembered Collins saying, "'It sounds like there ought to be applause at the end of it'." Hackett wrote the piece with composers of the Tudor period in mind, including William Byrd.
"Supper's Ready", a 22-minute track formed of seven parts, occupies most of the album's second side and remains the band's longest recorded track. Gabriel believed the band's growing support as a live act gave them the confidence to start writing extended pieces. The song and its theme of good versus evil was inspired by an experience Gabriel and his then-wife Jill had with Anthony at Kensington Palace, where Anthony, interested in spiritualism, was telling Jill about the subject when Jill reportedly entered a trance state as the room's windows suddenly blew open. Gabriel compared the ordeal to a scene from "a Hammer Horror film". Initially, the song took form as an acoustic track similar to "Stagnation" from Trespass or "The Musical Box" from Nursery Cryme, something the band wished to avoid repeating. To develop the piece further, Gabriel pitched his idea for what became the song's fifth section, titled "Willow Farm", on the piano. Banks noted the change from the song's more romantic introduction into "Willow Farm", with its "ugly chord sequence", worked as it took the song "into another dimension". The following section, "Apocalypse in 9/8", features an instrumental section performed in a 9/8 time signature. Banks assumed his organ solo would have no vocals, but after Gabriel proceeded to record lyrics over it, something that he disagreed with initially, he said, "it only took about ten seconds to think 'This sounds fantastic, it's so strong'".[27] Banks picked "Apocalypse in 9/8" and "As Sure as Eggs Is Eggs" as "the best piece of composition" Genesis recorded during Gabriel's tenure as lead singer.

The album's cover was completed by Paul Whitehead, a former art director for the London-based magazine Time Out who also designed the covers of Trespass and Nursery Cryme. The original illustrations for the three albums were stolen from Charisma Records when the label was sold to Virgin Records in 1983. Whitehead claimed that the staff at Charisma got wind of the imminent sale and proceeded to loot its office. On the back, the front cover of Nursery Cryme can be seen depicted in the background. The cover was not positively received by the band at the time. Gabriel felt less pleased with the design than Whitehead's previous works. Hackett felt "usure" about the cover when he saw it for the first time, calling it a "strange" design that has made more sense to him over time. Banks thought it was the weakest cover Whitehead designed for Genesis. Rutherford felt the design was a decline in quality following the "lovely atmosphere" of the Trespass and Nursery Cryme covers, to Foxtrot which was "a little bit weak". Collins thought it was not "particularly special" and lacked a professional look.

Foxtrot is where Genesis began to pull all of its varied inspirations into a cohesive sound -- which doesn't necessarily mean that the album is streamlined, for this is a group that always was grandiose even when they were cohesive, or even when they rocked, which they truly do for the first time here. Indeed, the startling thing about the opening "Watcher of the Skies" is that it's the first time that Genesis attacked like a rock band, playing with a visceral power. There's might and majesty here, and it, along with "Get 'Em Out by Friday," is the truest sign that Genesis has grown muscle without abandoning the whimsy. Certainly, they've rarely sounded as fantastical or odd as they do on the epic 22-minute closer "Supper's Ready," a nearly side-long suite that remains one of the group's signature moments. It ebbs, flows, teases, and taunts, see-sawing between coiled instrumental attacks and delicate pastoral fairy tales. If Peter Gabriel remained a rather inscrutable lyricist, his gift for imagery is abundant, as there are passages throughout the album that are hauntingly evocative in their precious prose. But what impresses most about Foxtrot is how that precociousness is delivered with pure musical force. This is the rare art-rock album that excels at both the art and the rock, and it's a pinnacle of the genre (and decade) because of it.

Tracks Listing

1. Watcher of the Skies (7:19)
2. Time Table (4:40)
3. Get 'em out by Friday (8:35)
4. Can-Utility and the Coastliners (5:43)
5. Horizons (1:38)
6. Supper's Ready (22:58)
- a. Lover's Leap
- b. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man
- c. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men
- d. How Dare I Be So Beautiful?
- e. Willow Farm
- f. Apocalypse in 9/8 (featuring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)
- g. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, flute, oboe, tambourine, bass drum
- Steve Hackett / guitars (electric, acoustic 6- & 12-string)
- Tony Banks / organ, Mellotron MkII, piano & electric piano, 12-string guitar, backing vocals
- Mike Rutherford / bass guitar, bass pedals, 12-string guitar, cello, backing vocals
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion, backing vocals

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Genesis - 1973 [1994] "Live" [Remaster]

Genesis Live is the first live album from the English rock band Genesis, released in July 1973 on Charisma Records. Initially recorded for radio broadcast on the American rock program King Biscuit Flower Hour, the album is formed from the recordings of shows at Free Trade Hall, Manchester and De Montfort Hall, Leicester in February 1973 during the band's tour supporting their fourth studio album Foxtrot (1972).
Genesis Live is the band's first album to enter the top 10 in the UK, reaching No. 9. Following its US release in 1974, it peaked at No. 105.

In early 1973, Genesis allowed the taping of a couple of live shows for broadcast in America as part of the King Biscuit Flower Hour syndicated radio show -- most of their current set, drawn from their albums up through 1972's Foxtrot, was represented. A few months later, Tony Stratton-Smith, the head of Charisma, to which the group was signed, approached them about allowing him to fill the extended gap between Foxtrot and their next album, Selling England by the Pound, by releasing a live album from this same taped performance. The bandmembers, who now say they were somewhat distracted at the time by their work on the new album, agreed to it. And the result was Live, which was originally the only official document of the group in performance with Peter Gabriel in the lineup. And it's not just the singer, but everyone who shines here -- it's doubtful that anyone ever got a richer sound out of a Mellotron on-stage than Tony Banks does on this album, and Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins' playing is all quite amazing as a whole unit, holding together some very complex music in a live setting. And on that basis alone, this album was an essential acquisition for fans of the group, as well as a key link in solidifying their growing popularity -- the intensity of the performances on "Watcher of the Skies," "Get 'Em Out by Friday," "Return of the Giant Hogweed," "The Knife, and, especially, "The Musical Box," easily transcend the work (superb though it was) on the studio originals, and is an in-your-face presentation of the theatrical intensity that Gabriel and company brought to their work on-stage. What's more, the very fact that the band could pull off some of what they do on-stage -- and this was in an era where other prog rock bands, such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, were running up against a brick wall in terms of re-creating their complex studio sounds in concert -- is mighty impressive. Additionally, in the case of "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," both songs originally recorded on Nursery Cryme, the versions here documented this lineup's true approach to these pieces -- at the time when Nursery Cryme was recorded, guitarist Steve Hackett had barely joined the group (and fragments of music composed by his predecessor, Anthony Phillips, still exist on the album), and most of the guitar parts there were actually the work of bassist Mike Rutherford (who did, in fact, take over most of the group's guitar chores after Hackett's departure in the late '70s). So what we hear on this album are the definitive interpretations of these pieces by this version of the band, more so than the studio originals. And one also gets to hear the classic version of the band tackle the oldest part of their repertory, "The Knife," which went back to their first Charisma album -- and it's a killer compared to the original. And one could say that about the whole album, as well as being the best representation of this version of the band at this point in their history, but for one glaring flaw -- the original King Biscuit broadcast included the epic "Supper's Ready" from Foxtrot, which Stratton-Smith was compelled to leave off of the album, rather than face the economic challenge of issuing a three-sided double-LP. That flaw aside, this is about the best single-LP representation of what this band could do on-stage, and to the surprise of a lot of people, it actually won them lots of new fans ahead of the release of Selling England by the Pound

1973's "Genesis Live" is the only live album in the Genesis catalog from the Peter Gabriel era, documenting the band on tour for their 1972 album, "Foxtrot." It's a brilliant but much-too-brief live Genesis set, leaving the listener hungry for more. Still, what the album does contain on it is classic live Genesis, with Gabriel, Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford & Steve Hackett rocking through their prog classics "Watcher Of The Skies," "Get 'Em Out By Friday," "The Return Of The Giant Hogweed," "The Musical Box," and the grand finale, "The Knife," with great relish. Also featuring the occasional bit of song introductions from Gabriel, "Genesis Live" also gives glimpses into what a grand showman Gabriel was as the group's flamboyant frontman.But with just five tracks on it (albeit long tracks), "Genesis Live" is still too darn short. It was originally planned as a double live album that also would've included the band's magnum opus, "Supper's Ready," at the album's conclusion, but was trimmed at the last minute in order to make the album more affordable. Thankfully, the problem has been corrected somewhat, as there's now more live Gabriel-era stuff to be found on the band's "Genesis Archives Vol. 1" box set, including the coveted live version of "Supper's Ready." However, keep in mind that that's a bigger, separate purchase (though totally worth it).Still, "Genesis Live" is a great little slice of vintage live Genesis, so if you love the band's early days with Peter Gabriel, you can't go wrong by adding "Genesis Live" to your collection.

As brilliant as they are in the studio, they often perform their songs even better live. "The Musical Box" is a real highlight here; it sounds like there are dueling lead guitars in the middle, but actually it's Steve Hackett on guitar dueling with Tony Banks on a clavinet; you also get to hear Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins sing in a call & response manner -- the sort of thing that's been missing since Pete's departure; and let's not forget Mike Rutherford's unacompanied bass pedal solo (though don't we hear him tuning his cello there?). One thing that made them so interesting to listen to is that they went to great lenghts to get a variety of tones and it worked out really beautifully. You hear both Mike and Steve using 6-string electric and 12-string accoustic guitars. Mike would also use a double-neck instrument that allowed him to instantly switch between electric bass and electric 12-string guitar while supplementing his sound with bass pedals. Tony was already using several different keyboard instruments, and he would also play a bit of 12-string guitar. Phil had his drum kit, but he also had a set of bells. Pete not only had the same unique, beautiful, powerful voice he does today, but you also hear him playing wonderful flute lines as well as suplementary bits of percussion. [If you are lucky enough to see footage from this period, you will see that Pete was as much an actor & dancer as a musician when Genesis performed live.] The other thing that makes them so interesting to listen to is the way the songs are written. There is so much dramatic contrast, both from song to song, and within individual songs. One passage or song can be really mellow and pretty, while the next can be hard as nails. Either way, the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies were almost always worth many listenings.

Rolling Stone gave the album a brief but positive review, commenting that "this album goes a long way toward capturing the gripping power and mysticism that has many fans acclaiming Genesis as 'the greatest live band ever.

Tracks Listing

1. Watcher of the Skies (8:34)
2. Get 'em out by Friday (9:14)
3. The Return of the Giant Hogweed (8:14)
4. The Musical Box (10:55)
5. The Knife (9:46)

Total Time: 46:43

Line-up / Musicians

- Tony Banks / organ, mellotron, piano, acoustic 12 string guitar, backing vocals
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Peter Gabriel / lead vocals, flute, bass drum, tambourine
- Steve Hackett / electric guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar
- Mike Rutherford / acoustic 12 string guitar, bass guitar, bass pedals, backing vocals

Friday, September 9, 2016

Genesis - 1971 [2008] "Nursery Cryme" [Remaster]

Nursery Cryme is the third studio album from the English rock band Genesis, released in November 1971 on Charisma Records. The album is the first with drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett in the band's line-up. It was recorded in August 1971 following their 1970–71 tour supporting their previous album, Trespass.
Nursery Cryme was not a commercial success upon its release. It did not enter the UK chart until 1974, when it peaked at number 39. The band toured in the UK and abroad for a year to promote the album, and the tour included a successful Italian leg in April 1972.

Genesis returned to a five-member formation after the addition of guitarist Steve Hackett in January 1971. For a few months prior, the group performed live as a four piece with singer Peter Gabriel, keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist Mike Rutherford, and drummer Phil Collins who had joined in 1970. As a four-man formation, Banks played guitar and keyboard parts which he credits in improving his keyboard technique as it required him to play two keyboards simultaneously. Genesis toured the UK on their Trespass tour before its conclusion in July 1971 so work on the next album could begin. The band wrote and rehearsed at a country home in Crowborough in East Sussex owned by Tony Stratton-Smith.

Nursery Cryme was recorded in August 1971 at Trident Studios in London with John Anthony as producer. The album sleeve, painted by Paul Whitehead who also did the artwork on the previous and next Genesis albums, Trespass and Foxtrot, depicts scenes from "The Musical Box" and Coxhill, the manor house with a croquet lawn, where Gabriel grew up.
"The Musical Box" originated as an instrumental written by former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips called "F#" which was later re-recorded as "Manipulation" on the Jackson Tapes and released on the box set Genesis 1970–1975. The guitar solo was written by lead guitarist Mick Barnard, who replaced Phillips in 1970 prior to Hackett joining the band. The Genesis tribute band The Musical Box named themselves after the song. "For Absent Friends" is the first Genesis song with Phil Collins as lead vocalist. "The Return of the Giant Hogweed" warns of the spread of the toxic plant Heracleum mantegazzianum after it was "captured" in Russia and brought to England by a Victorian explorer.

If Genesis truly established themselves as progressive rockers on Trespass, Nursery Cryme is where their signature persona was unveiled: true English eccentrics, one part Lewis Carroll and one part Syd Barrett, creating a fanciful world that emphasized the band's instrumental prowess as much as Peter Gabriel's theatricality. Which isn't to say that all of Nursery Cryme works. There are times when the whimsy is overwhelming, just as there are periods when there's too much instrumental indulgence, yet there's a charm to this indulgence, since the group is letting itself run wild. Even if they've yet to find the furthest reaches of their imagination, part of the charm is hearing them test out its limits, something that does result in genuine masterpieces, as on "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," two epics that dominate the first side of the album and give it its foundation. If the second side isn't quite as compelling or quite as structured, it doesn't quite matter because these are the songs that showed what Genesis could do, and they still stand as pinnacles of what the band could achieve. 

Released in 1971, this is the first album with the "classic" Genesis lineup and the first to feature the distinctive ensemble sound that would characterize their work up to late 1976.

What is particularly noticeable about some of the longer pieces on this album including "The Musical Box" and "Return of the Giant Hogweed" is an aggressive and harsh sound that is largely reflected in Steve Hackett's guitar work. Although I do not know this for certain, I suspect that this heaviness may have resulted from exposure to the music of fellow Charisma label band Van der graaf Generator while on "package" tours in Britain.

One other new element that helped shape the classic Genesis sound was the addition of superb drummer Phil Collins, who brought a superior level of musicianship to the band that the previous drummer (John Mayhew) was not able to. As such, the use of unusual time signatures increased and the ensemble work became a bit more sophisticated over that found on Trespass (1970). Other interesting developments include the use of the mellotron by keyboardist Tony Banks, an instrument which is featured prominently on "Seven Stones" and the excellent "The Fountain of Salmacis", a piece that Tony wrote while studying physics at Sussex University. Quieter pieces on the album include "For Absent Friends" (which features Phil Collins on vocals) and "Harlequin", while "Harold the Barrel" is somewhere in the middle.

Interestingly enough, Tony Banks has been quoted as saying he did not feel that Nursery Cryme was much of an improvement over Trespass (1970). Although this may only hold partially true musically, conceptually and lyrically this is a completely different story. With regard to the lyrics, the cosmic and surreal imagery that would dominate the Peter Gabriel years was first expressed on Nursery Cryme. For example, "Return of the Giant Hogweed" describes (in anthropomorphic terms) how the invasive wetland plant species Heracleum mantegazziani (giant hogweed) threatens to take over the countryside. As a biologist, the thought of an invasive plant (that grows to 15-20 feet in height) shouting, "Human bodies soon will know our anger. Kill them with your Hogweed hairs!" tickled me pink.

Other bizarre imagery includes a young boy that ages suddenly, dies, and his spirit then takes up residence in a musical box belonging to his playmate. Consumed by a "lifetimes worth of desires", the spirit of "young Henry" lunges at the girl, only to have the nanny rush into the room and destroy the musical box, thus killing poor Henry.

All in all, this is a great album that initiates a four-year period where Genesis was at a creative and artistic peak. Although the production quality is somewhat muddy, and it does not possess the polish and sophistication of "Selling England by the Pound" (1973), this is still an excellent album and is recommended.

Nursery Cryme came at perhaps the most interesting time in the band's career. They had just picked up much needed muscle with Hackett and Collins, but were still trying to find their voice as a band. The result is some of the oddest, most original music they have ever composed, played at a new level of competency. For me the most fascinating progressive rock can be the strangest, and--make no mistake--Nursery Cryme is Genesis at their strangest. Here they move away from the folky tendencies of the albums that preceeded it, but are not yet producing music as streamlined and professional as that which would soon come. This is one of the most unique albums in prog rock history.
One of the best things about this album is that the ego jostling has yet to set in. Steve Hackett plays a large role and Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford sing background prominently in some places. Banks even delivers the "Mighty Hogweed" line in "Return of the Giant Hogweed," which is, by the way, a good example of a song with the bizarreness I alluded to earlier.
There are others. "Harold the Barrel" is a off-center but moving mini-opera that takes place in about three minutes, and "Seven Stones" reveals the influence that the first King Crimson album must have had on the band, especially Hackett's guitar solo in the middle and the Mellotronic thunder at the end. Kind of a creepy song in its own way. And speaking of creepy, while "The Musical Box" is an acknowledged epic masterpiece, its theme of a reincarnated (...)fixated villain is so disturbingly obscure that they had to explain the story on the liner notes of the remastered CD (whose sound IS much better than the original vinyl pressing).
The oddness of the music of this record is certainly reflected in the band's colorful stage persona at the time, all infused with a wonderful sense of artistic discovery. We know the three albums to come are the five star classics, but there is something singularly exciting about this record that you won't find anywhere else.

Tracks Listing

1. The Musical Box (10:24)
2. For Absent Friends (1:44)
3. The Return of the Giant Hogweed (8:10)
4. Seven Stones (5:10)
5. Harold the Barrel (2:55)
6. Harlequin (2:52)
7. The Fountain of Salmacis (7:54)

Total Time: 42:35

Line-up / Musicians

- Tony Banks / organ, mellotron, piano, electric piano, 12 string guitar, voices
- Phil Collins / drums, voices, percussion, lead vocals(2)
- Peter Gabriel / lead voice, flute, tambourine, bass drum
- Steve Hackett / electric and 12 string guitar
- Mike Rutherford / bass guitar, bass pedals, 12 string guitar, backing vocals

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Jaco Pastorius Big Band - 1982 [2013] "Twins I"

Originally taped for a Japanese television broadcast, and not intended for sale, the Twins Tour bootleg video features great camera work and editing. The performances are uniformly solid, but in a big-band setting, only a handful of musicians get to step up for solos. These solos, though, are superior. The featured Word of Mouth players in this 40-minute videotape include Othello Molineaux (steel pans), Bob Mintzer (reeds), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Toots Thielemans (harmonica), and David Bargeron (tuba). Molineaux is a standout, soloing often throughout the concert. Jaco takes center stage on a truncated rendition of "Continuum" and performs a beautiful, languid duet with Thielemans on "Sophisticated Lady." All five compositions on this videotape are included on the recently released Twins Tour double CD and its single-disc companion, Invitation.

Until Birthday Concert came along, this was the only decent live recording of the big band that Jaco assembled for a world tour in 1982, after taking a permanent break from Weather Report. The only big name big band formed in the 1980s, its inclusion of non-traditional instruments shows the influence of Gil Evans' bands (and the exclusion of piano and guitar is really refreshing). This recording nearly masks the fact that Jaco was sinking deeply into manic depression, and losing some of his edge. Still, you get to hear a rare and excellent performance of Elegant People (not available on the truncated American release Invitation), and an interesting bass solo in the monumental Reza. Also included are live versions of Liberty City, Three Views, Okonkole, and Continuum, all notable for their arrangement and presentation by a very fine band. But Twins, named for his recently born twin boys, is so much banging and clanging. Entirely too much time is given to Toots Theilemans (assuming a harmonica is warranted for such a band, Jaco would have been better served by a gutbucket soul man). The recording suffers a bit from the polite Japanese audience, dutifully applauding, where any other audience would have screamed approval. The band collapsed after this tour, weighed down by expense and Jaco's mounting emotional difficulties. If you collect recordings by Jaco, this would be a good one to buy, after Jaco Pastorius and Word of Mouth.

I almost rated this recording a 4 because of the 20+ year old recording technology. But then I listened more seriously and was truly taken back with the fun roller coaster ride that Jaco and his 20 piece band took me on. With players like Don Alias on Percussion, Randy Brecker on Trumpet, Peter Erskine playing smoking drums and too many other heavyweights to mention I was taken to a really good place. From Jaco's incredible playing to Erskine, Brecker, french horns, tuba etc. this album goes where very few go even today. All I can say is buy it and hold on to your seat!

I have Jaco's studio recordings and I like them a lot, but these live renditions reveal an even greater depth to Jaco's abilities as a writer and arranger of big band music. It's difficult to believe he was on the verge of complete breakdown when this music was being made.

Jaco's Genius for Modern Big Band is on full display in this now classic early 80s recording. Interesting that it has been repackaged as the Jaco Pastorius Big Band when in fact it was called the Word of Mouth Big Band (or Orchestra). A true all-star affair that Jaco was rightfully proud of. Big Band funk? "You got it." Among his many contributions to contemporary music and jazz, his big band arrangements are fresh and glowing with vitality. One can only wonder how far and how high he might have climbed as he breathed new life into a form that had not seen much movement in decades. ANYONE who loves Jaco, or is a big band fan (on the modern tip) will be thrilled by these performances. Only one other authorized recording showcases this particular side of his genius: The Birthday Concert on WB records. Fortunately for all of us, that unforgettable evening (Jaco threw a birthday concert for himself in Ft. Lauderdale and brought the entire Word of Mouth Big Band in for the occasion) was recorded and finally released.

Bassist Jaco Pastorius formed this big band for a 1982 world tour, which had some magical performances and incredible frustrations away from the stage.

The band ultimately imploded due to the deteriorating health of Pastorius - who threw his bass into Hiroshima Bay, along with exhibiting other signs of self-destructive behavior. But these 13 selections released in Japan in 1983 - and in a condensed U.S. version, entitled, Invitation - highlights the triumph before the curtain abruptly fell on Jaco's remarkable career.

The textured layers of instruments - the Word of Mouth Big Band lineup of Don Alias (per), Randy Brecker (tr), Peter Erskine (d), Bobby Mintzer (sax), Othello Molineaux (steel dr), Toots Thielemans (har), along with 14 guest musicians appearing in the two September shows - compliments Jaco's tenacious leadership through his rapid, melodic bass runs.

Liberty City is a gem, with other top-flight cuts in the mix; Three Views of a Secret, Reza/Giant Steps/Reza and Pac-Man Blues (Fannie Mae). The music is even more electrifying and fresh some 25-plus years later through the digitally-remastering, which utilizes 24-bit technology. This is truly a gem that deserves to finally be heard in its entirety.


Track listing:

1    Invitation 8:30
2    Soul Intro. / The Chicken 6:47
3    Continuum 4:30
4    Liberty City 11:32
5    Three Views Of A Secret 5:55
6    Sophisticated Lady 7:05

Personnel:

    Jaco Pastorius: Electric Bass
    Don Alias: Percussion
    Randy Brecker: Trumpet
    Peter Erskine: Drums, Timpani
    Bobby Mintzer: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
    Othello Molineaux: Steel Drums
    Toots Thielemans: Harmonica
    Jon Faddis: Lead Trumpet
    Elmer Brown: Trumpet
    Forrest Buchtel: Trumpet
    Ron Tooley: Trumpet
    Wayne Andre: Lead Trombone
    David Bargeron: Trombone, Tuba
    Peter Graves: Bass Trombone, Co-Conductor
    Bill Reichenbach: Bass Trombone
    Mario Cruz: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Alto Flute
    Randy Emerick: Baritone Sax, Clarinet, Alto Flute
    Alex Foster: Tenor, Alto & Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Piccolo
    Paul McCandliss: Tenor Sax, Oboe, English Horn
    Peter Gordon: French Horn
    Brad Warnaar: French Horn 

Jaco Pastorius Big Band - 1982 [2013] "Twins II"

Originally taped for a Japanese television broadcast, and not intended for sale, the Twins Tour bootleg video features great camera work and editing. The performances are uniformly solid, but in a big-band setting, only a handful of musicians get to step up for solos. These solos, though, are superior. The featured Word of Mouth players in this 40-minute videotape include Othello Molineaux (steel pans), Bob Mintzer (reeds), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Toots Thielemans (harmonica), and David Bargeron (tuba). Molineaux is a standout, soloing often throughout the concert. Jaco takes center stage on a truncated rendition of "Continuum" and performs a beautiful, languid duet with Thielemans on "Sophisticated Lady." All five compositions on this videotape are included on the recently released Twins Tour double CD and its single-disc companion, Invitation.

Until Birthday Concert came along, this was the only decent live recording of the big band that Jaco assembled for a world tour in 1982, after taking a permanent break from Weather Report. The only big name big band formed in the 1980s, its inclusion of non-traditional instruments shows the influence of Gil Evans' bands (and the exclusion of piano and guitar is really refreshing). This recording nearly masks the fact that Jaco was sinking deeply into manic depression, and losing some of his edge. Still, you get to hear a rare and excellent performance of Elegant People (not available on the truncated American release Invitation), and an interesting bass solo in the monumental Reza. Also included are live versions of Liberty City, Three Views, Okonkole, and Continuum, all notable for their arrangement and presentation by a very fine band. But Twins, named for his recently born twin boys, is so much banging and clanging. Entirely too much time is given to Toots Theilemans (assuming a harmonica is warranted for such a band, Jaco would have been better served by a gutbucket soul man). The recording suffers a bit from the polite Japanese audience, dutifully applauding, where any other audience would have screamed approval. The band collapsed after this tour, weighed down by expense and Jaco's mounting emotional difficulties. If you collect recordings by Jaco, this would be a good one to buy, after Jaco Pastorius and Word of Mouth.

I almost rated this recording a 4 because of the 20+ year old recording technology. But then I listened more seriously and was truly taken back with the fun roller coaster ride that Jaco and his 20 piece band took me on. With players like Don Alias on Percussion, Randy Brecker on Trumpet, Peter Erskine playing smoking drums and too many other heavyweights to mention I was taken to a really good place. From Jaco's incredible playing to Erskine, Brecker, french horns, tuba etc. this album goes where very few go even today. All I can say is buy it and hold on to your seat!

I have Jaco's studio recordings and I like them a lot, but these live renditions reveal an even greater depth to Jaco's abilities as a writer and arranger of big band music. It's difficult to believe he was on the verge of complete breakdown when this music was being made.

Jaco's Genius for Modern Big Band is on full display in this now classic early 80s recording. Interesting that it has been repackaged as the Jaco Pastorius Big Band when in fact it was called the Word of Mouth Big Band (or Orchestra). A true all-star affair that Jaco was rightfully proud of. Big Band funk? "You got it." Among his many contributions to contemporary music and jazz, his big band arrangements are fresh and glowing with vitality. One can only wonder how far and how high he might have climbed as he breathed new life into a form that had not seen much movement in decades. ANYONE who loves Jaco, or is a big band fan (on the modern tip) will be thrilled by these performances. Only one other authorized recording showcases this particular side of his genius: The Birthday Concert on WB records. Fortunately for all of us, that unforgettable evening (Jaco threw a birthday concert for himself in Ft. Lauderdale and brought the entire Word of Mouth Big Band in for the occasion) was recorded and finally released.

Bassist Jaco Pastorius formed this big band for a 1982 world tour, which had some magical performances and incredible frustrations away from the stage.

The band ultimately imploded due to the deteriorating health of Pastorius - who threw his bass into Hiroshima Bay, along with exhibiting other signs of self-destructive behavior. But these 13 selections released in Japan in 1983 - and in a condensed U.S. version, entitled, Invitation - highlights the triumph before the curtain abruptly fell on Jaco's remarkable career.

The textured layers of instruments - the Word of Mouth Big Band lineup of Don Alias (per), Randy Brecker (tr), Peter Erskine (d), Bobby Mintzer (sax), Othello Molineaux (steel dr), Toots Thielemans (har), along with 14 guest musicians appearing in the two September shows - compliments Jaco's tenacious leadership through his rapid, melodic bass runs.

Liberty City is a gem, with other top-flight cuts in the mix; Three Views of a Secret, Reza/Giant Steps/Reza and Pac-Man Blues (Fannie Mae). The music is even more electrifying and fresh some 25-plus years later through the digitally-remastering, which utilizes 24-bit technology. This is truly a gem that deserves to finally be heard in its entirety.


Track listing:

1    Amerika 1:10
2    Okonkole’ Y Trompa 7:00
3    Reza / Giant Steps / Reza 14:39
4    Elegant People 12:40
5    Twins 6:03
6    Pac-Man Blues (Fannie Mae) 3:00
7    Eleven 0:27

Personnel:

    Jaco Pastorius: Electric Bass
    Don Alias: Percussion
    Randy Brecker: Trumpet
    Peter Erskine: Drums, Timpani
    Bobby Mintzer: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
    Othello Molineaux: Steel Drums
    Toots Thielemans: Harmonica
    Jon Faddis: Lead Trumpet
    Elmer Brown: Trumpet
    Forrest Buchtel: Trumpet
    Ron Tooley: Trumpet
    Wayne Andre: Lead Trombone
    David Bargeron: Trombone, Tuba
    Peter Graves: Bass Trombone, Co-Conductor
    Bill Reichenbach: Bass Trombone
    Mario Cruz: Tenor & Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Alto Flute
    Randy Emerick: Baritone Sax, Clarinet, Alto Flute
    Alex Foster: Tenor, Alto & Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Piccolo
    Paul McCandliss: Tenor Sax, Oboe, English Horn
    Peter Gordon: French Horn
    Brad Warnaar: French Horn 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Zephyr - 1971 [1994] "Going Back To Colorado"

Zephyr is one heck of a great band! Like many people, I wanted to hear this album because of Tommy Bolin's fantastic guitar playing. He's one of the most underrated rock guitarists of the 70's. I knew the guitar playing would be great, but I had no idea the songwriting would be entirely unique and diverse. Each song on this Zephyr album can either be considered pop rock or jam rock. Seriously, each song is filled with many little tasty instrumental goodies to satisfy almost anyone who appreciates rock music from the 60's and 70's. The lead singer understands how to connect to the listener with emotional vocals too.

You have the title song which reminds me of something Rush would do on their second album, "Keep Me" reminds me of the kind of emotional brilliance Carole King is known for, and "Take My Love" is like a blend between Miles Davis, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Jefferson Airplane. That bassline is addicting, and the vocals are fantastic as well. The jazzy solo is another highlight. Absolutely love this track.

The second song called "Miss Libertine" reminds me of the Jefferson Airplane yet again. Remember how Jefferson Airplane had the talent to be creative, experimental geniuses who sounded like *no one* else? Well, Zephyr has that same talent. An extraordinary band. The last song on the album has a psychedelic piano melody with some neat drumming included.

The rest of the songs are just really high quality rock songs that can be filled with tasty instrumental bits underneath the vocals, and some of the most creative and underrated songwriting abilities I have ever heard. An easy perfect rating for this album. I seriously hope more people check out this incredible album, because right at this very moment, I'm totally shocked it wasn't more popular than it was. Trust me, this is a wonderful album for every single second.

Every song has its own sound and style, the songwriting is unbelievably catchy, and the instrumental bits are really satisfying for anyone who likes to jam out. It's perfect!

I saw Zephyr live in Colorado Springs at Kelker Junction, when the album came out new, stellar show one of the best I ever saw and the album did the group proud. Candy Givens death was a tragic loss of a truly unique vocal talent. 

 According to David Givens, Tommy jammed with Brown Sugar at a one of their regular Wednesday night gigs in Boulder at the Buff Room, and the results were so inspiring that within a few weeks they played again with Tommy, John Faris and an unidentified drummer. They then decided to break up their current bands and reform with a new drummer. Otis Taylor recommended Robbie Chamberlin, and a jam at the Folklore Center in Denver resulted with Chamberlin welcomed to the drum chair. With the firm lineup intact, they dropped the "Ethereal" from the name of Tommy and John’s band and became Zephyr.

In September, 1970 the band went into Electric Lady Studios in New York City to start recording their second album with famous engineer/producer Eddie Kramer at the helm. They were now signed with Warner Brothers, as Probe had folded. Kramer had worked with some of the top names in rock, such as Led Zeppelin and especially Jimi Hendrix, with whom Kramer had an extremely productive relationship. The sessions for the second album, Going Back to Colorado, were marred by Kramer’s distraction due emotional fallout following the death of Hendrix as well as a climactic romance with Carly Simon. The sessions for the album wrapped in October, and the album was released in January, 1971.

Going Back to Colorado was in many ways an improvement over Zephyr, in large part due to better presentation of Candy’s vocals, but it still wasn’t the commercial breakthrough that the band was hoping for. Both are extremely valuable and engaging documents, however, to fans of Tommy and of musical power and adventure. Going Back to Colorado is more song-oriented and polished, while Zephyr offers more raw exposure to Tommy’s guitar work.

Whatever difficulties Tommy faced during the recording of the album were mitigated by the important contacts he was making with important fusion musicians such as Jeremy Steig and Jan Hammer, who would soon play major roles in Tommy’s successful move into fusion.

Track listing:

1. Going Back To Colorado (Tommy Bolin, J. Tesar, Candy Givens) - 4:15
2. Miss Libertine (Candy Givens, David Givens) - 3:19 
3. Night Fades Softly (David Givens) - 3:20 
4. The Radio Song (David Givens) - 2:30 
5. See My People Come Together (Tommy Bolin) - 6:06 
6. Showbizzy (Tommy Bolin) - 2:30 
7. Keep Me (Tommy Bolin, J. Tesar) - 4:20 
8. Take My Love (John Faris) - 4:16 
9. I'll Be Right Here (Tommy Bolin) - 4:26 
10.At This Very Moment (Candy Givens) - 5:55

Personnel:

*Candy Givens - Piano, Vocals, Harmonica
*Bobby Berge - Drumss
*David Givens - Bass, Vocals
*John Faris - Organ, Piano, Soprano Sax, Flute, Vocal
*Tommy Bolin - Steel, Acoustic, Electric Guitars, Vibes

Guests
*Paul Conley - Moog Synthesizer
*Eddie Kramer - Piano, Clavinet, Perscussion
*Paul Fleisher - Saxophones
*Buzzy Linhart - Vocals
*Gerard "Ginger Face" McMahon - Vocals
*Albertine Robinson, Eileen Gilbert, Tasha Thomas - Vocals

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Atomic Rooster - 1972 [1994] "Made In England"

Made in England is the fourth album by British rock band Atomic Rooster. Although previously known for generally having a progressive rock style, this album saw the band moving in more of a funk/soul direction, largely influenced by new singer Chris Farlowe. Apart from founder member Vincent Crane, the album was recorded by an entirely different lineup to that of the band's prior effort, In Hearing of Atomic Rooster. Previous members John Du Cann and Paul Hammond had departed in protest at Crane's intended new musical direction.
In the UK and Germany, original copies of the LP came wrapped in an actual denim sleeve. Later pressings came in a standard art sleeve. In the US, the record was issued on Elektra in the standard sleeve. It was further reissued in Germany in 1977, this time in yet another new sleeve and retitled This is Atomic Rooster.
The only UK single from Made in England was "Stand by Me".

The third incarnation of English prog rockers, Atomic Rooster make their debut on Made in England (1972). The group began as a trio featuring former Crazy World of Arthur Brown member Vincent Crane (organ), Nick Graham (bass), and Carl Palmer (drums). After a few significant shuffles within the lineup, only Crane continued with the name, recruiting Mick Jagger protégé Chris Farlowe (vocals), Rick Parnell (percussion), and Steve Bolton (guitars) as the next generation. They have an edgy and somewhat brooding sound, recalling early Mott the Hoople discs such as the highly underrated Mad Shadows (1970). Much of the material reveals the quartet's slightly funky groove, such as the pulsating "Stand by Me," or the gospel-inflection on the spoken "Introduction," which prefaces the Crane instrumental "Breathless." Somewhat misplaced is the orchestration -- especially on "Time Take My Life" -- which tends to congest the otherwise driving arrangement. Parnell penned a pair of the finest contributions on Made in England, the slinky "Little Bit of Inner Air," as well as the Southern rock-tinged "All in Satan's Name." The latter comes off like a blend of the Allman Brothers and Deep Purple. Bolton supplies the power ballad "Never to Lose," as well as "Space Cowboy," which develops into an electric hoedown following a somewhat off-balance and synth-heavy keyboard intro. Bolton would be the next casualty of the combo, leading to the formation of the criminally underrated Headstone. A successful North American tour resulted in Made in England, which charted briefly in the U.S., and would be the final Atomic Rooster album to do so. The band would successfully continue under Crane's tutelage until the early '80s, when he joined up with a post-"Come on Eileen" Dexys Midnight Runners

I found this album to be a variable mix of three genres of music. First progressive, second hard rock (leaning to heavy metal early in the bands existence), and thirdly avant garde jazz. This is one of the better incarnations of Atomic Rooster (the one heard on 'in the hearing of..' a close second). For any one interested in hearing music that is different, very powerful, yet atmospheric I sincerely recommend this album.

Though I was already well aware the band headed towards a significantly funkier direction for this outing, I'm by no means disappointed by the majority of the songwriting. Made In England proves that Atomic Rooster is honestly very very good at the funk genre.

"Time Is My Life" has an orchestration during the intro (or at least, it definitely sounds like one even though it probably wasn't necessary) and shortly after that, the vocal melody comes in. This song sets the pace for the rest of the album- one catchy vocal melody after another. In this particular track, the vocals remind me of Jack Bruce from Cream fame. "Stand By Me" features vocals that instantly remind me of John Lawton from Lucifer's Friend. This is where the actual funkiness begins, and it doesn't let up for a good portion of the album. As for the song... I love it. Perhaps the chorus repeats a tad too much, but when it's memorable I don't really care.

For those out there who admire the Tommy Bolin period of the James Gang (and especially their Bang classic) "Little Bit of Inner Air" might remind some of a Tommy Bolin-type, slow-moving and eerily quiet blues track. It's highly memorable too, though it took a few close listens to really win me over. "Don't Know What Went Wrong" takes us back to the John Lawton similarities, and I'm thoroughly impressed once again. The piano jam at the end is pretty tasty too. "Never To Lose" is the albums underrated soul ballad I guess you could call it. A VERY effective vocal melody. Honestly, I don't notice Atomic Rooster losing any steam whatsoever, so the lack of popularity concerning this album is sort of mysterious to me.

Brace yourself for the second side. WOW!! "Breathless" in an *extremely* exciting piano-based funk jam with the adrenaline level pushed up dramatically, and "Space Cowboy" continues the theme with a really good vocal melody to boot. No, in case you're wondering, it's not related to the Steve Miller Band song of the same name. This is actually MUCH better. "People You Can't Trust" is probably a Sly & the Family Stone interpretation, and it's a good one. It definitely stands out from the rest of the album. "All In Satan's Name" is... I honestly don't know WHAT this is. It's funky, it's very very heavy, and the vocals are good enough. "Close Your Eyes" is a soulful ballad with piano playing and vocals reminiscent of either the Guess Who or Lee Michaels. Not sure which one exactly. I love it though.

Tracks Listing:
 
1. Time Take My Life (6:02)
2. Stand By Me (3:45)
3. Little Bit Of Inner Air (2:39)
4. Don't Know What Went Wrong (3:59)
5. Never To Lose (3:16)
6. Introduction (0:26)
7. Breathless (instrumental) (4:49)
8. Space Cowboy (3:20)
9. People You Can't Trust (3:52)
10. All In Satan's Name (4:43)
11. Close Your Eyes (3:48)

Musicians:
 
- Chris Farlowe / vocals
- Vincent Crane / Hammond organ, piano, electric pianos, A.R.P. synthesizer
- Steve Bolton / electric guitars, 12-string guitar
- Rick Parnell / drums, congas, timbales and additional percussion, vocals on «Little Bit Of Inner Air»

+ Bill Smith / electric bass on «Stand By Me»
- Doris Troy and Liza Strike / backing vocals on «Stand By Me» and «People You Can't Trust»

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Adam Holzman & Brave New World - 1997 "The Big Picture"

Jazz keyboardist Adam Holzman (b. February 15, 1958, in New York, NY) has had an interesting career trajectory. The son of Jac Holzman, the president of Elektra Records during its late-'60s heyday, Holzman learned keyboards at an early age, picking up the instrument when he was in the third grade. Since he was in the inner circle of Elektra, he was not only exposed to many of the era's trailblazers, but he was also able to see how they worked. He hung out at Doors rehearsals, met Love, and saw the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in their prime. Like many musicians of his era, he was also heavily influenced by the Beatles. He found himself attracted to the music of Butterfield and the Fab Four, which led him to explore a number of different artists from Leon Russell to Joe Cocker, eventually leading to keyboard-dominated prog-rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. Holzman's infatuation with prog-rock turned out to be the doorway to his passion for jazz-fusion and synthesizers. In a matter of time, ELP gave way to Chick Corea's groundbreaking Return to Forever and Herbie Hancock's innovative early-'70s work. By the early '80s, he was working at Goodman's Music, a respected instrument store in Los Angeles. At Goodman's, he became an expert in MIDI technology and synth programming, which led to regular studio gigs. Soon, he had attracted the attention of Miles Davis, who was interested in MIDI. He joined Davis' band in 1985. Holzman stayed with the legendary musician for four years, spending his final year -- from 1988 to 1989 -- as the musical director for the entire band. Following his tenure with Davis, he toured and recorded with a variety of artists, including Chaka Khan, Michel Petrucciani, Wayne Shorter, Kolvynator and Kenny Garrett. In the spring of 1997, he joined Grover Washington Jr.'s band. By the late '90s, he was also playing with FM Tribe and Francis M'Bappe in New York City. In addition to his role as a sideman, Holzman pursued many of his own projects. He led the Los Angeles-based jazz-rock group the Fents with guitarist Ted Hall; they released The Other Side on Passport Jazz in 1987. He also formed the prog-influenced Mona Lisa Overdrive, who released an eponymous album in 1993. In the '90s, he released several solo albums -- In a Loud Way (1991), Overdrive (1994) and Big Picture (1997) -- before forming the New York-based, funk-inflected group Brave New World, who were a recording entity in their own right, releasing Worldwind in the fall of 1998. 

Holzman manned the keyboards in the late 80s Miles Davis Band. By '85, he became musical director for the band. The music is a punchy fusion. Electronic musicians sample jazz grooves, now here is a jazz band that introduced some of their tracks with ear-catching samples. It is a rhythm intensive effort with a clouded demeanor. An exciting album, having avoided any jazz fusion cliches. It could be considered rock where sax takes over guitar duties.

Adam Holzman and his band Brave New World have created an edgy progressive-funk concept album for the post-millenial age of fear. Inspired by bizarre events while on tour in Eastern Europe, The Big Picture is a science fiction soundtrack blending heavy funk, 90's cyber jazz, Miles and Weather Report influences. Former Miles Davis keyboardist Adam Holzman continues to carve out his own unique approach to hard-edge keyboard playing. He burns on Wurlitzer electric piano and synthesizers. Drummer Juju House and bass player Freddy Cash lay down some ridiculously thick grooves. Plus, these guys can write. Adventurous and powerful.

In the early 1980s, Holzman founded the Fents with Ted Hall. In 1985, he was hired by Miles Davis to play keyboards on the trumpeter's Tutu album, and stayed with him for four years, eventually becoming his musical director. He can be seen performing in the Davis concert video That's What Happened: Live in Germany 1987. In the early 1990s, he founded the band Mona Lisa Overdrive, which subsequently changed its name to Brave New World due to copyright issues.
Holzman has performed as a sideman with numerous performers and bands including: Abstract Truth, the Jason Becker Tribute, the Bob Belden Ensemble, Big Horns Bee, Bob's Book Club, Tom Browne, Miles Davis, the Miles Davis Tribute, Cesare Dell’Anna, Ray DeTone, Norman Dozier, Wayne Escoffery, Charles Fambrough, Anton Fig, Robben Ford, Jane Getter, Randy Hall, the Jimi Hendrix Tribute, Robin Kenyatta, Kelvynator, Chaka Khan, Steve Louw, the Teo Macero Project, Ed Maguire, the Mahavishnu Project, Ray Manzarek, Francis M'Bappe, Jason Miles, Marcus Miller, Mark Muller, Shaun Mullins, Takanori Niida, Michel Petrucciani, Kim Plainfield, Lincoln Goines, Twana Rhodes, Wallace Roney, Section 31, Sponge, Steps Ahead, Supa Group, David Taylor, Grover Washington, Jr., Lenny White, Ray Wilson, and Steven Wilson. Many of these performers he has also produced, arranged and composed for.

Tracklist:

01     Toxic Waste Introduction     0:59
02     Iron Curtain     3:07
03     Mad Cow Disease     4:09
04     The Longest Day     7:31
05     Chaos Theory     2:12
06     Second World     6:30
07     The Hot Zone     7:31
08     The Sky Is Falling     5:36
09     My Game Is Strong     5:23
10     Comrad Russell     0:12
11     Fred-Ex     6:03
12     Failed Industrial Belt     7:58

Personnel:

    Acoustic Guitar, Steel Guitar – Jane Getter
    Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Shaker, Alto Flute – Aaron Heick
    Bass, Programmed By [Bass] – Freddie Cash Jr.*
    Drums, Shaker, Percussion [Drum Loop, Trash Cans] – Ju Ju House
    Guitar – Allen Burroughs
    Guitar, Vocals, Voice – Mitch Stein
    Guitar, Voice – Mike Campbell (3)
    Organ, Drum Programming, Producer, Clavinet, Programmed By, Electric Piano [Wurlitzer], Keyboards, Arranged By, Piano, Synthesizer – Adam Holzman
    Vocals – Michael "Dino" Campbell*