Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jack Wilkins 1991 [1996] "Alien Army"

A superior, slightly underrated improviser, Jack Wilkins has proven on his infrequent recordings as a leader that he ranks near the top. Wilkins, who studied with John Mehegan early on, learned vibes, piano, and classical guitar, but has stuck to jazz guitar throughout his career. He gained a strong reputation during his long association with Buddy Rich. Since then, he has recorded as a sideman with Jack DeJohnette, Eddie Gomez, Phil Woods, Harvie Swartz, and the Brecker Brothers, among others. But it is his own recordings for Mainstream, Music Masters, CTI, and especially his pair of essential Chiaroscuro albums in 1977 (the single CD Merge reissued all of the music except one song) that allow one to hear what a talented player Jack Wilkins has always been.

Alien Army, the name of the disc, is also the name of this new Big Apple-based band led by guitarist Jack Wilkins.

At a time when the adult contemporary airwaves are saturated with jazz wannabees, Wilkins offers modern music rooted in tradition, filled with energy, and rock-solid in its depth. Wilkins' collaborators both as performers and writers are drummer Mike Clark (back from last year's fine Wilkins outing Call Him Reckless), the double bassist Michael Formanek, and keyboard player Marc Puricelli.

The band's inability to be pigeonholed makes the listening all the more fun. Wilkins & Co. constantly are throwing surprises into the mix. Just when your feet get used to tapping along to the lively swing of one passage of a weird medley called Fun Fat, things turn avant-garde. Puricelli's No Time but Now is an R&B-rooted burn.

Wilkins shifts from electric guitar to acoustic for the lovely gypsy-tinged original Moon Rain, which is enriched by Puricelli's haunting synthesizer work. Other dandies include She's the One, Barcelona Rising and a wishful ballad aptly called Romance.

Guitarist Jack Wilkins has been on the International jazz scene since the early 1970's. His flawless technique and imaginative chordal approach have inspired collaborations with Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan, Bob Brookmeyer, and Buddy Rich among many others. A native of Brooklyn, Jack began playing guitar at age thirteen. His mentors included Johnny Smith, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Bill Evans, Clifford Brown and Freddie Hubbard.

“Windows”, his first album as a leader (Mainstream, 1973,) also available in transcription published by Hal Leonard Publications has been critically acclaimed as a dazzling, seminal guitar trio work.

Later recordings, “Merge”, “Mexico”, “Call Him Reckless”, “Alien Army”, “Keep in Touch”, and “Trioart”, feature the Brecker Brothers, Eddie Gomez, Jack De Johnette, Al Foster, Phil Woods, Kenny Drew, Jr., and many others. Project G7, a two CD set tribute to Wes Montgomery, features Kenny Burrell among others.

In recent years, Jack has played many international festivals with jazz greats Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Heath, The Mingus Epitaph, 5 Guitars play Mingus, Red Rodney, Ira Sullivan, Johnny Griffin and others.

A consummate accompanist, Wilkins has played and recorded with renowned singers Mel Torme, Ray Charles, Morgana King, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis Jr, Tony Bennett, Manhattan Transfer, Nancy Marano, Chris Conner, Cassandra Wilson, and Jay Clayton. Wilkins was awarded an NEA grant in recognition of his work and contribution to the guitar. He has been widely and prominently profiled in such publications as Guitar Player, Just Jazz Guitar, Downbeat, 20th Century Guitar and Leonard Feather’s Jazz Encyclopedia. Jack was invited to the Smithsonian Institution as part of the Blue Guitars exhibit, and appeared on the P.S. I. first live jazz Internet concert. He was also featured on the J.V.C. festival tributes to Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis, and Barney Kessel

Wilkins teaches at The New School, Manhattan School of Music, NYU, and LIU. He was invited to judge the Monk Institute Guitar Competitions in Washington. He also conducts seminars on the “Great American Songbook”, and guitar clinics, both in New York and abroad. His latest CD's, "Reunion", “Christmas Jazz Guitar” the DVD”s, “The Benedetto Players in Concert”, “The Benedetto Players and Guild Jazz Masters”, and “Jazz Guitar Workshop” are all currently available. A new CD is now available called “Until It’s Time” on the Maxjazz label.

When talking to Jack Wilkins, you hear the phrase "to me" more than any other. While the opinions he expresses are deeply held and reflect great thought, he seems intent on not forcing those opinions on others.

Born in 1944, Wilkins began playing very early and played "the rock and roll of my day". He did not attend college to study music but studied privately with several teachers, even studying classical guitar for five years and piano for two years. His first professional gig was at 18 and he played with many local bands in his native New York.

Since those humble beginnings, Wilkins has played with a wide range of the truly great musicians of our time including (to name only a few) Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Bill Evans, Zoot Sims, Dizzy Gillespie, Manhattan Transfer, the Brecker Brothers, and Phil Woods.

Currently, Wilkins lives in New York city, plays several nights per week, travels, records and is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, NYU, and Long Island University.

His latest recording, "Alien Army" is available on the Music Masters label.

Track listing:

1 Happy Eyes 5:41
2 Barcelona Rising 6:57
3 Chess 7:41
4 No Time But Now 5:45
5 Fun Fat (Sweet) Fornix 3:40
6 Clean Dreamer 1:54
7 Pod Dance 8:19
8 Moon Rain 5:58
9 She's the One 5:33
10 Romance 2:40


Jack Wilkins - Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
Marc Puricelli - Piano, Keyboards
Mike Clark - Drums
Michael Clark - Bass
Michael Formanek - Bass, Bass (Acoustic)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thelonious Monk - 1961 [1992] "With John Coltrane"

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane is a 1961 album by Thelonious Monk issued on Jazzland Records, a subsidiary of Riverside Records. It consists of material recorded four years earlier when Monk worked extensively with John Coltrane, issued after Coltrane had become a leader and jazz star in his own right.
The album was assembled by the label with material from three different sessions. The impetus for the album was the discovery of three usable studio tracks recorded by the Monk Quartet with Coltrane in July of 1957 at the beginning of the band's six-month residency at New York's legendary Five Spot club near Cooper Square. To round out the release, producer Keepnews included two outtakes from the Monk's Music album recorded the previous month, and an additional outtake from Thelonious Himself recorded in April. The latter selection, "Functional," is a solo piano piece by Monk.
It was reissued in 2000 on Fantasy Records as part of its series for back catalogue using the JVC 20-bit K2 coding system. Because of the historical significance of this album it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.

Universally regarded as one of the greatest collaborations between the two most influential musicians in modern jazz (Miles Davis notwithstanding), the Jazzland sessions from Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane should be recognized on other levels. While the mastery of the principals is beyond reproach, credit should also be given to peerless bassist Wilbur Ware, as mighty an anchor as anyone could want. These 1957 dates also sport a variety in drummerless trio, quartet, septet, or solo piano settings, all emphasizing the compelling and quirky compositions of Monk. A shouted-out, pronounced "Off Minor" and robust, three-minute "Epistrophy" with legendary saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Gigi Gryce, and the brilliant, underappreciated trumpeter Ray Copeland are hallmark tracks that every jazz fan should revere. Of the four quartet sessions, the fleet "Trinkle Tinkle" tests Coltrane's mettle, as he's perfectly matched alongside Monk, but conversely unforced during "Nutty" before taking off. Monk's solo piano effort, "Functional," is flavored with blues, stride, and boogie-woogie, while a bonus track, "Monk's Mood," has a Monk-Ware-Coltrane tandem (minus drummer Shadow Wilson) back for an eight-minute excursion primarily with Monk in a long intro, 'Trane in late, and Ware's bass accents booming through the studio. This will always be an essential item standing proudly among unearthed live sessions from Monk and Coltrane, demarcating a pivotal point during the most significant year in all types of music, from a technical and creative standpoint, but especially the jazz of the immediate future. 

Among Thelonious Monk's long stays at New York's legendary Five Spot was a six-month period in 1957 with possibly his most brilliant band, with John Coltrane finding fuel in Monk's music for his harmonic explorations. The quartet only recorded three studio tracks: a sublime reading of Monk's ballad "Ruby, My Dear"; a loping version of "Nutty"; and a stunning version of "Trinkle Tinkle" on which Trane's tenor mirrors Monk's piano part. The CD is completed with outtakes from an octet session that joined Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins and an extended solo version of "Functional."

For five months in 1957 at the New York Five Spot Cafe, the genius Thelonious Monk Quartet included avante-garde tenor saxophone player John Coltrane. Unfortunately, only three songs on this CD feature the Quartet. Personally, I would have much loved to have heard more.
"Ruby My Dear" is a classic Monk tune where Coltrane plays an amazing saxophone on both the melody and on his solo. The genius is Monk's soloing is present in this song, as Monk simply reharmonizes the melody, adding licks with his clumsy style of playing that fits in so perfectly with his melodies.
"Trinkle Tinkle" is my favorite performance on this album, featuring a killer melody and rivetting solos from both Coltrane and Monk. But, a standout here is bassist Wilbur Ware's solo. It is a truly amazing bass solo. When monk plays the bridge during the solo, Ware makes that work with his own solo, which is great musicianship.
"Off Minor" is not the Quartet playing; it is Monk, Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, and other horn players. This song has a truly great melody with some solos that are great, but not standouts.
"Nutty" once again features the Quartet. The melody is one of my favorites by Monk because of its playful nature. It does not sound like a typical Monk piece... I hear more Ellington in the melody than Monk. The soloing is also awesome on this song.
"Epistrophy" features the same band as "Off Minor", but this is my favorite version of "Epistrophy" and it features a killer solo from Coltrane.
The final track is obviously a filler with its 9 and a half minutes of Monk playing piano solo on one of his songs called "Functional". The melody and the soloing are both impressive on this song, but it's obvious it was just added becasue they didn't have a lot of material to really make an album of just Monk/Coltrane.
I recommend this album to all jazz fans. I find it so cool when jazz geniuses play together. Ella and Louis, Ellington and Coltrane, Bird and Diz, just to name a few. This is your chance to experience Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, two people who were not widely known as geniuses in 1957, but would emerge to be some of the most legendary jazzmen ever. There may only be 3 songs where the Thelonious Monk Quartet features Coltrane on tenor sax, but in them is so much creativity and superb musicianship.

In the Fifties, jazz artists like John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk were among a handful of musicians who shaped the future of modern American music for several decades. The fact that they played together and that their sessions at The Five Spot Cafe were recorded is nearly a miracle, since they were under contract to different record labels. They both appear on another record ( Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants- Prestige LP 7150 ), but they don't play together! So this disc is the sole representation of their musical collaboration.
Ruby My Dear shows the young 'Trane playing mostly in the upper register of his tenor sax, with much vibrato, punctuating the sentiment in the tune. We can hear instantly the facility with which he deals with Monk's harmonic structure in this poignant ballad. Ironic piano solos are commonplace for Monk, but here he is more straighforward, with a half chorus that veers away from the polysyllabic phrasing of 'Trane's tenor. Monk's comping under Coltrane's restatement of the melody is unobtrusively perfect!
On Nutty, Monk's solo echos lines that 'Trane has drawn, showing that the conversation between sax and piano is between equals. The high point of this disc is that Monk and 'Trane clearly speak each other's musical language. Over and over, you can hear the attention they pay to the phrasing of one another, such that they complement rather than compete.
Two of the tunes add several other horns, including Coleman Hawkins, who gives forth with a taut chorus on Off Minor. The drummer here is Art Blakey, whose touch is very different from Shadow Wilson, more cymbal oriented, except for the characteristic press rolls that add exclamation points to solos.
The disc ends with an unaccompanied piano solo -- Functional -- by Monk. It's very sad that there isn't a cellar in Lower Manhattan with a box of tape from other Five Spot session waiting to be discovered. This is the sort of music I never tire of hearing. 

Track Listing

  1. Ruby, My Dear
  2. Trinkle, Tinkle
  3. Off Minor
  4. Nutty
  5. Epistrophy
  6. Functional


    Thelonious Monk — piano
    John Coltrane — tenor saxophone
    Ray Copeland — trumpet on "Off Minor" and "Epistrophy"
    Gigi Gryce — alto saxophone on "Off Minor" and "Epistrophy"
    Coleman Hawkins — tenor saxophone on "Off Minor" and "Epistrophy"
    Wilbur Ware — bass
    Shadow Wilson — drums on "Ruby, My Dear," "Trinkle, Tinkle," and "Nutty"
    Art Blakey — drums on "Off Minor" and "Epistrophy"

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Weather Report - 1984 [2015] "Domino Theory"

Domino Theory is the fourteenth studio album by Weather Report, released in February 1984. It is the second album to feature the Hakim-Bailey-Rossy rhythm section.

Here's more proof that Weather Report actually became a more potent, life-affirming musical force after the departures of its best-known sidemen. Things begin on an oddly commercial note with a pop song "Can It Be Done," sung by Carl Anderson, that actually lays out Weather Report's credo, searching for sounds never heard before. Then Joe Zawinul and company get down to business with the funky "D-Flat Waltz," marked by Omar Hakim's flamboyantly complex drumming. Zawinul's synthesizer textures become thicker and more flexible with the help of newly-introduced digital instruments, and the funk element in general becomes more pronounced than on any record since Tale Spinnin'. Victor Bailey (bass), who spins his wheels on the title track, and Jose Rossy (percussion) remain on board (though Rossy left shortly thereafter) and Wayne Shorter's tenor sax has a rawer, tougher edge than it has in awhile. Though not quite as triumphant as Procession, a triumph nonetheless. 

Domino Theory was the second album for the Hakim-Bailey-Rossy rhythm section, and Josef Zawinul spoke enthusiastically about it in the March 1984 issue of Keyboard magazine.

    “It’s coming out in February,” Zawinul told Greg Armbruster. “We had so much fun making it that it was one of the easiest albums we’ve ever done. There are three live performances on it, and those were done after we had played 84 concerts. Then we went into the studio and recorded four more songs with this feeling from the live performances. On this album, we’re also dealing with a question; the first song is appropriately called ‘Can it Be Done?’, which is sung by Carl Anderson. We don’t have any answers, but we have questions. The next song, ‘D Flat Waltz,’ is eleven minutes long. After I wrote it, I analyzed it, and it’s more or less a Johann Strauss kind of form. There are different movements and there’s another melody every eight bars, and yet, altogether, it works well. The last song on Side A is ‘The Peasant.’

    “Side B opens with ‘Predator,’ a Wayne Shorter composition, followed by ‘Blue Sound, Note Three,’ which my son Erich named. The third song is called ‘Swamp Cabbage,’ by Wayne. I use an accordion-type sound on that tune. The last song is the title cut, ‘Domino Theory,’ with the drum machine. The album has a strong feeling throughout, a certain musical reference that creates the whole feeling. For instance, part of the intro to the very first song is found in the intro to ‘Blue Sound, Note Three,’ on Side B. I did certain background lines on Wayne’s song which are continued on ‘Domino Theory.’ You can listen to the album from beginning to end and feel a completeness.”

In a 1984 interview for Modern Drummer magazine, Robin Tolleson asked Omar Hakim about his co-producer credit. “Well, producer is such a vague word, but for me it did have a meaning. I was mixing the record. I have a great interest in studio stuff. All my friends know I’m a fanatic about that stuff… Joe knew I was a fanatic, so he brought me in and he trusted me a lot. I was very involved. It was actually hands-on for all of us. I mixed, and made some suggestions about effects, and made some arrangement suggestions occassionally. I learned so much from Joe and Wayne–just their sense of placing sounds in the music. What Joe would do is say, ‘You got it.’ He would leave the studio and so I would mix it the way I heard it. I would do a mix, Joe would come back and say, ‘Okay, see you later. Go get something to eat,’ and then he would do something. After that, we would work on it together. Then we would program things into the NECAM [a Neve computer system that could record certain mix settings], and do more things together. Then we would do panning, and set up echoes and delays. Like I said, I’m crazy about that stuff, so we had a lot of fun.”

The August 1984 issue of Down Beat described Zawinul’s keyboard arsenal at the time of Domino Theory. Zawinul’s stage setup included seven keyboards: an Oberheim 8 Voice, an ARP Quadra, an E-Mu Emulator, a Rhodes Chroma, a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, a Korg Vocoder with auxiliary keyboard, and a Prophet T-8. The T-8 was Zawinul’s newest instrument, an eight-voice synthesizer with a touch-sensitive keyboard. “I have as much control as you can have,” Zawinul said of the T-8. “It’s velocity- and touch-sensitive so when you touch down, you can get your own vibrato; you can preprogram your vibrato and speed.” In addition, Zawinul used a Linn LM-1 drum machine, a Sequential Circuits Polysequencer, and various harmonizers and digital delay units.

Zawinul’s keyboard technician Jim Swanson, explained to Down Beat some of the modifications he had made to the Prophet 5. “There’s no other Prophet in the world like that,” he said. “The way it’s hooked up now with the MIDI is polyphonically. So when I throw [a] switch, it shuts off the audio of voices one through four, takes its own control voltage-out, and feeds it back to its control voltage-in so that voice one is making no noise but sending its control voltage and driving voice five. So that every new note you play, like on the Korg [Vocoder] up here, will trigger a note on the Prophet and jump it around so you get that flute-on-top-of-strings effect.” The article went on to describe the equipment in Zawinul’s home recording studio: “In his home recording studio he has an Amek 2016B 24-track mixing desk, an Ampex MM-1200 24-track tape recorder, and for mix-down an Otari MX5050 two-track machine. He listens to his music through Yamaha and Tannoy speakers. And despite his wealth of electronics, in the middle of it all, sits a Yamaha acoustic grand piano.”

Track listing

All tracks composed by Joe Zawinul, except where indicated.

    "Can It Be Done" (Wilson Tee) – 4:02
    "D Flat Waltz" – 11:10
    "The Peasant" – 8:16
    "Predator" (Wayne Shorter) – 5:21
    "Blue Sound - Note 3" – 6:52
    "Swamp Cabbage" (Wayne Shorter) – 5:22
    "Domino Theory" – 6:09


    Josef Zawinul - keyboards and synthesizers
    Wayne Shorter - saxophones
    Omar Hakim - drums
    Victor Bailey - bass
    José Rossy - percussion
    Carl Anderson - vocals on "Can It Be Done"

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Weather Report - 1973 [1996] "Sweetnighter"

Sweetnighter is Weather Report's fourth album, released on Columbia Records in 1973. The group had recorded the songs in a five-day stretch during February of the same year. It was to be the last album to feature founding member Miroslav Vitouš as the primary bassist. Zawinul began to assert greater control of the band, steering it away from the collective improvisation that marked its live performances toward more structured compositions emphasizing funk and groove. This was exemplified by the album's two dominant tracks, "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and "125th Street Congress," as well as the closer, "Non-Stop Home." Other tracks were reminiscent of Weather Report's previous albums. Sweetnighter is considered to be the most stylistically transitional release by the band as it bridged the gap between the more open, improvisational earlier style to a more compositionally structured format. Also, the more prominent use of electric bass is evident here. Zawinul had taken the decision to add some funky beats in the band's sounds, so he recruited drummer Herschel Dwellingham and percussionist Muruga Booker to play on the album. Andrew White was hired to play the English horn, but also handled the bass for three tracks of the album. Sweetnighter was recorded at a Connecticut recording studio in less than a week, and was released in April 1973.

"Boogie Woogie Waltz" was frequently in the band's live sets through the 1970s, and a live version from 1978 appeared on the album 8:30. Also in 1978, Vitouš recorded a new version of "Will" with Terje Rypdal and Jack DeJohnette on their collective album for ECM.

Right from the start, a vastly different Weather Report emerges here, one that reflects co-leader Joe Zawinul's developing obsession with the groove. It is the groove that rules this mesmerizing album, leading off with the irresistible 3/4 marathon deceptively tagged as the "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and proceeding through a variety of Latin-grounded hip-shakers. It is a record of discovery for Zawinul, who augments his Rhodes electric piano with a funky wah-wah pedal, unveils the ARP synthesizer as a melodic instrument and sound-effects device, and often coasts along on one chord. The once fiery Wayne Shorter has been tamed, for he now contributes mostly sustained ethereal tunes on soprano sax, his tone sometimes doubled for a pleasing octave effect. The wane of freewheeling ensemble interplay is more than offset by the big increase in rhythmic push; bassist Miroslav Vitous, drummer Eric Gravatt, and percussionist Dom Um Romao are now cogs in one of jazz's great swinging machines. 

“I don’t know what the next record will be,” Josef Zawinul said in the summer of 1972, “but it’ll be something else! We’ve been learning every night, and we’re still growing.”

Indeed, Sweetnighter was something else. Zawinul began to assert greater control of band, steering it away from the collective improvisation that marked its live performances toward more structured compositions emphasizing funk and groove. This was exemplified by the album’s two dominant tracks, “Boogie Woogie Waltz” and “125th Street Congress,” as well as the closer, “Non-Stop Home.” Other tracks were reminiscent of Weather Report’s previous albums, making Sweetnighter a transition from the band’s first phase to what one might call its mature phase.

The 1970's was a very interesting time for Jazz music. The once traditional fundamentals of Jazz were now being ignored, as musicians began incorporating aspects of other genres into their music. These new heretical ideas expanded the conventions of Jazz with improvisatory and experimental approaches, providing the genre with endless possibilities for new techniques and alterations. The Weather Report is one of the few musical groups that fully examined all of the different templates that served as defining characteristics of early Jazz Fusion. Their first two albums, Weather Report and I Sing The Body Electric, explored the more progressive aspects of Jazz Fusion, as the musical orchestrations embraced the usage of ambient effects and complex instrumental passages.

Sweetnighter, on the other hand, is a reflection of a new trend that was beginning to become very prominent in the Jazz Fusion scene. Albums like Miles Davis' On The Corner and Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters began incorporating Funk elements into their typical Jazz routines, introducing a sound that emphasized more on rhythmic grooves rather than elaborate soloistic musicianship. In "Boogie Woogie Waltz", we encounter a completely different musical style that we had never heard in the previous efforts by The Weather Report. Joe Zawinul's synthesizer immediately asserts itself as the centerpiece of the music, deploying an eminent usage of Wah-wah effects to produce a propulsive rhythmic framework for the other instruments. Wayne Shorter's saxophone sets out on its own musical expeditions, delivering solos that not only compliment Joe Zawinul's synthesizer, but also manages to distinguish itself by voyaging along on its own melodies. The song also features a dominating percussive arrangement, using maracas and conga drumbeats to help provide a very Latin-influenced groove.

"125th Street Congress" further expands on this new and more conventional musical style, but is approached with a very different concept. This time, Miroslav Vitouš' basslines dominate the direction of the music, with the other instruments serving to compliment the framework of the groove. This is certainly one of the major highlights of the album as the music induces a very infectious melodic atmosphere that is simply impossible to not lose yourself in. "Manolete" is one of the few songs that manages to deviate from the more funkier theme of the album. "Manolete" is, for the most part, a return to the roots of traditional Jazz. Eric Gravatt dictates the rhythm of the song with some really captivating and bombastic drumbeats. Wayne Shorter's saxophone takes the lead as it carries us along, while mesmerizing us with such exquisite musicianship. But as we approach the climax, we begin to see the song enter into a more abstract territory, with Joe Zawinul providing some really disorienting psychedelic flourishes.

"Non-Stop Home" serves as a truly mesmerizing postlude. This is one of the few times that The Weather Report channel the experimental tendencies of their previous albums. It is a descension into a very progressive environment, indulgently exuding a sense of psychedelia from every pore. Joe Zawinul, yet again, steals the spotlight with some truly innovative synthesizer effects that induce a perceptually overwhelming sense of surrealism. In the end, Sweetnighter proves to be the exact type of album that everyone has been anticipating from The Weather Report. It's content is highly accessible, emphasizing on a more jubilant atmosphere, and leaving behind all of the esoteric and tentative musical procedures of their previous albums.

“Weather Report isn’t the first band to try the multi-percussion trip but so far it has been the most successful. The Grávátt-Dewllingham-Romão-Muruga team plays more than polyrhythms. It blows percussion with the same inventiveness and crispness that Shorter brings to his horns, Zawinul to his keyboards, Vitous to the bass. Perhaps to even the number of melody players versus percussionists, Andrew White has been added on English horn… One interesting thing about Weather Report is that this is a band that lives between categories. There are things here, as on the previous albums, that will grab a jazz audience, a rock audience, or an audience that is into classical music. And yet Weather Report is of none of these worlds–truly a band for which there is no pigeon hole.”

“In the year since I Sing the Body Electric, Weather Report has added an ethereal electronic quality to its acoustic soundscape. Their music is now colored by eerie synthesized qualities, haunted by saxophone lyricism and nervous South American rhythms. Musical thoughts are as much implied as real, likewise the suggestions of foreign places are both geographical and neurological. Thus, Sweetnighter is strictly a travelogue of the Seventies… Weather Report’s true musical peers are groups like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Herbie Hancock Sextet. Like them, they fuse rock, jazz and electronics into a descriptive music that is brilliantly innovative and accessible. In this they seem to me the epitome of a significant avant-garde trend.”

Track listing

    "Boogie Woogie Waltz" (J. Zawinul)– 13:06
    "Manolete" (W. Shorter)– 5:58
    "Adios" (J. Zawinul)– 3:02
    "125th Street Congress" (J. Zawinul)– 12:16
    "Will" (M. Vitouš)– 6:22
    "Non-Stop Home" (W. Shorter)– 3:53


    Josef Zawinul – piano (2-6), electric piano (1-5), synthesizer (1-2-6)
    Wayne Shorter – saxophone
    Miroslav Vitouš – bass (acoustic 1-2-4 & electric 3-5)
    Andrew White - bass (electric 1-4-6), english horn (3-5)
    Herschel Dwellingham - drums (tracks 1-2-4-6)
    Eric Gravatt - drums (tracks 2-4-6)
    Moroccan Clay - drums (tracks 1-2)
    Roller Toy - drums (track 3)
    Israeli Jar - drums (track 4)
    Muruga Booker - drums
    Dom Um Romão - percussion, wood flute

Al Di Meola - 1980 [1990] "Splendido Hotel"

Splendido Hotel is an album by Italian-American jazz fusion and Latin jazz guitarist Al Di Meola released in 1980 as a double LP, and later CD.

 Talk about ambitious. This two-LP set finds guitarist Al di Meola performing with his quintet of the time (featuring keyboardist Philippe Saisse), with studio musicians, solo, in a reunion with pianist Chick Corea, singing a love song, and welcoming veteran Les Paul for a version of "Spanish Eyes." Most of the music works quite well and it shows that di Meola (best-known for his speedy rock-oriented solos) is a surprisingly well-rounded and versatile musician. 

 A lot has been said about Al Di Meola and his music outside of Return To Forever. Overall he tends to be viewed as a musician of extremes. He either embodies what are viewed as fusion’s best or most unflattering qualities. And there’s a lot of truth on both ends. He is a master musician with an ability and playing dexterity, from mild to wild that you could believe. On the other hand his music could be overly technical and sometimes presented him more as a musicians musician than anyone out to entertain or be intensely creative.

Debates aside he entered the 80’s at a time where even in fusion poppier, more compressed musical sounds such as the type Bob James and Quincy Jones were starting to pioneer became the acceptable standard. The question was would Di Meola, one of the purveyors of the most pyrotechnical variety of fusion be able to adapt to the change. Actually he did an excellent job and delivered one of the strongest albums of his career.

This albums eleven songs find Di Meola moving through a series of songs in many different styles, mostly showcasing his more flamenco style of guitar playing as opposed to the rockier variety and, by and large avoiding anything too melodramatic. “Alien Chase On The Arabian Desert”, “Dinner Music Of The Gods” and the slower “Isfahan”, all between 8 and 11 minutes a piece all have a strong late 70’s/early 80’s latin rock flavour similar to the kind of music you’d find on Santana’s Marathon or Zebop from the same era.

Since leaving Return To Forever, Al Di Meola has gradually developed a reputation as of the most accomplished (and tasteful) guitarists in the contemporary jazz field. In the present age, the consensus seems to be that his more questionable mannerisms of earlier times (which often led to the accusation that his playing was completely without emotion) are a thing of the past. Di Meola clearly rates among the best guitarists in his field, and has the respect (if not always the direct admiration) of most members of the interested public.

Splendido Hotel, however, is an album from an earlier time. A product of the age of jazz-fusion, it straddles the period of time separating his "early" and "late" careers. A case could be made that it leans more towards the former than the latter.

This is not, of course, to be necessarily regarded as a bad thing. If his early works are sometimes criticized for self-indulgence, his more recent endeavours (like those of John McLaughlin, his occasional musical companion) have often been regarded as too "safe" -- achieving respectability at the cost of some of the original creative spark that originally set his career in motion.

Splendido Hotel has moments of daring musicality, matched with occasional moments of unfocused rambling. The good generally prevails over the bad, but there are some moments in which the struggle is about even - there's also one complete misstep, but we'll get to that later. For the most part, this is an ideal jazz-fusion album for those wishing to make somewhat of a risk in their purchasing habits -- it's not a complete triumph from the first note to the last, but those "highs" which do exist more than make up for the "lows".

The album begins with "Alien Chase On Arabian Desert" (a title which might seem vaguely familiar to owners of a previous AdM album). After a brief "sci-fi" introduction on keys, AdM unfolds a work of rather extreme internal diversity, shifting from one "scene" to another in a rather rapid manner (as per the "film" connotations of the title, I suppose). The track "proper" begins with overtly "Arabian" guitar and percussion lines (only an expansive musical setting, presumably not unrelated to desert imagery). This then leads to a "chase scene", which generally sets the basis for the rest of the work. The guitar lines are impressive throughout, and the Zappa-esque percussion from Colon is a nice touch. After an "ascending" guitar section (vaguely similar in form -- and perhaps content as well -- to "The Fountain Of Salmacis"), the chase scene begins anew, leading eventually to a surprise ending on a more conventional fusion arrangement. This is, in sum, a curious montage of numerous themes related more by visual/plot matters than actual musical themes. Still, it's extremely impressive throughout, and works as a coherent whole. The second-best song on the work.

This leads to "Silent Story In Her Eyes", the second "extended suite" in a row. This one, sadly, is held back somewhat by one of its component parts. It begins in a promising enough manner, with a somewhat classically-oriented acoustic guitar performance. This, sadly, leads to a somewhat "dinner music (and not of the gods)" section, with fairly light accompaniment on drums and percussion to a lead melody that, on its own merits, isn't really of much note. Di Meola is still in good form throughout this section, but the arrangement leaves much to be desired. Then, a third section of the song emerges, revealing a switch to more substantial fusion themes (including a strong keyboard presence) with enough quirkiness to generally save the track. AdM provides another virtuoso performance here, and Corea does his part well. The track then adopts a somewhat soft-sell "conclusion", quickly reprising with (sadly) the mediocre second section of the song (albeit with this of the irritating percussion). This one is a bit trying at times, but there's ultimately enough quality material here to justify the high rating.

Saisse's "Roller Jubilee" is far from the most essential thing here. A xylophone introduction leads to a full band arrangement (led by acoustic guitar). From here, a fairly interesting jazz-era-Zappa melody develops ... or, rather, it should develop, but ultimately becomes weighed down by its repetition. There's nothing terribly wrong with the track, but it never really "breaks through" with a strong statement of its potential musicality.

"Two To Tango" is better, a Di Meola/Corea duet featuring a haunting melody which is not disturbed by AdM's displays of technical virtuosity throughout. I don't really have terribly much else to say about this piece -- it's quite good, and shows both musicians in impressive form.

And then we come to another "montage" track. "Al Di's Dream Theme" begins in a manner oddly reminiscent of the infamous second section of "Silent Story In Her Eyes", albeit somewhat better -- cocktail jazz, and not really all that essential. Perhaps this was simply meant to represent the artist's slow journey into a state of dreaming -- an abrupt shift leads to further "sci-fi" musical themes, thereupon leading to a soaring guitar line over equally impressive bass and percussion lines. This "actual dream theme" lasts considerably longer than the middling first section, and features some extremely good guitar soloing (as well as some sparse moments). The lead melody is quite good. Di Meola deserves credit for this one.

"Dinner Music Of The Gods" begins with a deliberately jarring guitar line (proto-prog-metal?) over another appearance of the aforementioned FZ-esque percussion. The guitar leads which emerge as the first section develops are quite impressive. A slight shift brings Landers's bass to a more dominant position (the bass and the drumming, I might note, are quite good throughout as well). AdM's picking techniques on the Fylde acoustic are worthwhile, as is the harpsichord-esque section in mid-track. Though some might accuse the artist of self-indulgence on this piece, it's ultimately one of the best things here. As with previous long works on the album, this is somewhat of a "montage" work.

"Splendido Sundance" begins with an acoustic passage which struck me, upon the listening session for this review, as being strongly rooted in Mediterranean traditions. Not surprisingly, the piece from there onwards turns out to be an alternate version of "Mediterranean Sundance" (from AdM's Elegant Gypsy album). This version, of course, has some very impressive moments, though one might wonder if (i) AdM places a bit too much emphasis on rhythm guitar accents, and (ii) if it's really necessary. Still, another well-performed version of AdM's trademark tune isn't much to complain about.

After this comes the tragedy of the album. "I Can Tell" features only AdM and Saisse as contributing musicians; it would not be beyond reason to suggest that it would have been difficult to "sell" the piece to the other musicians on the album. The piece is, essentially, the negation of everything else on the album -- a sub-mediocre pop-fusion track that might be best described as "Steely Dan gone horribly, horribly wrong". The attempts at mingling jazz and pop themes sound terribly hackneyed, the cliched vocals are an embarrassment, and AdM's limited vocal skills suggest that the very idea of the track may have been doomed from the start. A brief instrumental section is tacked on at the end of the work; it's good, but not enough enough to seriously improve the rating of the song. This is the sort of track for which "skip" buttons are made.

Things improve again with a version of "Spanish Eyes", featuring a guest appearance from Les Paul (by the way ... no matter what the credits say, I can clearly hear Paul's distinctive guitar stylings coming from my right speaker, making me wonder if I have a slightly defective copy ... oh well ...). As a "song-oriented" jazz track fashioned in the style of turn-of-the-decade fusion, it's fairly enjoyable; as against this, the arrangement could probably have been improved somewhat (not much seems to be holding the track together).

The triumph of the album is "Isfahan", a track co-written by Corea. The work begins with the Columbus Boy's Choir singing the Arabic love song (in English, of course) without musical accompaniment. After this, a string quartet emerges, accompanied by Di Meola and Corea. The choir eventually returns, after which the musicians shift to more distinctly Arabic themes. While a mere description of the song's structure cannot clearly convey the merit of this track, it is easily the best number here -- befitting of the jazz-fusion tradition at its best while partaking in completely different forms as well. One might wonder if this really can be considered an "Al Di Meola track" per se, but it's no less beautiful one way or the other.

And, finally, the album ends with "Bianca's Midnight Lullaby", a brief acoustic guitar solo from AdM. This is a rather gentle piece, somewhat classical in structure (as befits the title). This seems an appropriate way for the album to end.

While this album won't appeal to everyone, it would certainly be appreciated (for the most part) by those interested in the jazz-fusion genre. Recommended as such.

Tracks Listing

1. Alien Chase On Arabian Desert (8:59)
2. Silent Story In Her Eyes (7:35)
3. Roller Jubilee (4:44)
4. Two To Tango (4:13)
5. Al Di`s Dream Theme (6:50)
6. Dinner Music Of The Gods (8:33)
7. Splendido Sundance (4:51)
8. I Can Tell (4:01)
9. Spanish Eyes (5:11)
10. Isfahan (11:35)
11. Bianca`s Midnight Lullaby (1:54)

Total Time: 68:26


    Al Di Meola: Guitars, mandocello, percussion, keyboards, drums, vocals.
    Les Paul: Guitar on "Spanish Eyes".
    Anthony Jackson: Bass guitar (tracks 2, 3, 5, 9).
    Tim Landers: Bass guitar (tracks 1, 5, 6).
    Chick Corea: Acoustic Piano (tracks 2, 4, 10).
    Philippe Saisse: Keyboards, Marimba, Vocals (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8).
    Peter Cannarozzi: Synthesizer.
    Jan Hammer: Moog Solo on "Al Di's Dream Theme".
    Robbie Gonzalez: Drums (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6).
    Steve Gadd: Drums (tracks 3, 9).
    Mingo Lewis: Percussion (tracks 2, 3, 5).
    Eddie Colon: Percussion (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6).
    David Campbell: Violin.
    Carol Shive: Viola.
    Dennis Karmzyn: Cello
    Raymond Kelley: Cello.
    The Columbus Boychoir.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Budgie - 1996 "An Ecstacy Of Fumbling"

An Ecstasy of Fumbling – The Definitive Anthology was the third compilation album by Welsh rock band Budgie. The album contained two discs and featured songs from their first album, Budgie, to their tenth, Deliver Us from Evil. The album also features one rare track, "Beautiful Lies", that has never featured on any other Budgie album, as well as two live tracks.
The title of the album is taken from the Wilfred Owen poem, "Dulce et Decorum est."

By spanning their entire career, this may be the most comprehensive Budgie collection, but it's hardly the best. Disc one is flawless, showcasing the band's early '70s material where bassist/vocalist Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge combined adventurous songwriting with uncompromising heaviness to great effect. These classics include "Homicidal Suicidal," "In for the Kill," "Breaking All the House Rules," "Crash Course in Brain Surgery," and their masterpiece, "Breadfan" (these last two were famously covered by Metallica in the '80s). Disc two, on the other hand, reveals a band gradually running out of inspiration ("Melt the Ice Away"), fighting to stay relevant by incorporating more commercial elements ("Superstar"), and finally transforming into a cliche-ridden, second-class metal band ("Forearm Smash"). To anyone interested in '70s hard rock and heavy metal, Budgie remains an essential band, but most would do well to stick with their MCA releases through 1975. 

Dear young and old, far and wide:
This 2 CD compilation is an excellent starting point for digging into the monumental sound of Budgie, formerly Six Ton Budgie. (That’s a really heavy bird!) Helmed by the Geddy Lee lookalike Burke Shelley and his shifting cast of players, Budgie is a power trio and the prototype for the sound of bands as diverse as Rush, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. Formed in ’67, Budgie predate them all.
Want some proto-Sabbath sludge? It’s here. AC/DC-type fast riff rockers with simple beats? Also here. Songs driven by catchy, eloquent basslines? Look no further. Metallic gallops? These guys were doing it while Steve Harris was still struggling away in Gypsy’s Kiss! Everything good that happened with heavy metal had already been done by Budgie before those sounds hit the mainstream. All with a singer who could have been Geddy Lee’s long lost brother (and look at those glasses too)!

This album includes some of the best tracks from their albums 1971-1982. It also includes B-sides, single versions, and EP tracks. Burke Shelley stopped gigging with Budgie in the late 80’s but returned with some serious thunder and a 2006 comeback album. This stuff, however, is some of the creme de la creme of the initial phase of Budgie.

Truly, Budgie were way ahead of their time. Chances are the kids on your street have never heard any of these songs, except when covered by Metallica and Iron Maiden. Now it’s time to prove to them who knows their rock music. Pick this, or any Budgie album, up today.  If you go with this one, you’ll also get a gigantic booklet with ample liner notes about the band and every single track.  I consider it a great stroke of luck, the day that one of my customers sold this one to me.  (His name was Dan and he’s the same guy who sold me tons of great stuff before.)  I was aware of Budgie because of Maiden and Metallica, but mostly because Martin Popoff raved about them in his first book, Riff Kills Man!  I had to have it.  I’m glad I bought it.
If I Were Britannia I’d Waive The Rules, but I would also make sure that everybody knew who Budgie was!

Track listing:

Disc one
01.     "Homicidal Suicidal"       6:44
02.     "Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman" (single version)     4:09
03.     "Whiskey River"       3:21
04.     "Hot as a Docker's Armpit"       5:52
05.     "In the Grip of a Tyrefitter's Hand"       6:24
06.     "Breadfan"       6:06
07.     "Parents"       10:21
08.     "In for the Kill"       6:26
09.     "Crash Course in Brain Surgery"       2:37
10.     "Napoleon Bona-Parts One and Two"       7:16
11.     "Who Do You Want for Your Love?"       6:09
12.     "Breaking All the House Rules"       7:24
13.     "Beautiful Lies" (previously unreleased)     5:01

Disc two
01.     "Anne Neggen"       4:08
02.     "If I Were Britannia I'd Waive the Rules"       5:51
03.     "Black Velvet Stallion"       8:07
04.     "Melt the Ice Away"       3:29
05.     "Forearm Smash"       5:40
06.     "Time to Remember"       5:28
07.     "Wild Fire"       5:13
08.     "Lies of Jim (The E-Type Lover)"       4:47
09.     "I Turned to Stone"       6:10
10.     "She Used Me Up"       3:18
11.     "Superstar"       3:29
12.     "Don't Cry"       3:19
13.     "Truth Drug"       4:24
14.     "Hold On to Love"       4:19
15.     "Superstar" (Live)     4:09
16.     "Panzer Division Destroyed" (Live)     6:18


    Burke Shelley - bass & vocals (all tracks)
    Tony Bourge - guitar (tracks 1-11 & 13-16)
    John Thomas - guitar (tracks 12 & 17-24)
    Ray Phillips - drums (tracks 1-7)
    Pete Boot - drums (tracks 8 & 9)
    Steve Williams - drums (tracks 10-24)

Friday, November 11, 2016

RUSH - 2011 "Sector 2" [5 CD Box]

Limited six disc (five CDs + DVD) box set from the Canadian Rock trio. Contains the albums A Farewell To Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures and Exit...Stage Left plus the DVD-Audio mix of A Farewell To Kings. Each Sector contains five of their 15 Mercury albums in chronological order, all transferred to high resolution 96kHz/24-bit and digitally premastered for optimal quality. In addition, each volume includes an exclusive booklet packed with unpublished photos, original album lyrics and credits, and features one album specifically remixed on DVD in high resolution 96 kHz/24-bit, 5.1 surround sound and stereo, compatible with both DVD Audio players and DVD-Video players. Each album is packaged in a replica vinyl mini-jacket of the original album release with all 3 sets forming a Rush CD road case.

Perhaps the most lavish box set ever released within the realm of progressive rock, this wonderfully designed, all-inclusive 3 section box set contains every release from this seminal band's career with Mercury Records. The collection is divided into 3 "sectors" each with 4 studio albums and the live album corresponding to that era. Plus, one album in each sector contains an additional DVD with 5.1 mix. The box construction is sturdy heavy cardboard, and when the 3 sectors are placed next to each other on a shelf or table top they form a road case with all the Rush logos on the outside. Nice. But from a cosmetic standpoint, the best feature of this reissue would have to be the individual albums. Each CD is housed within a mini album sleeve that is an exact replica of the original LP art and layout. For those that remember the double gate-fold style LP's from the 70's, these miniatures will bring back some great memories. However, since this "miniaturized" rendering makes some of the lyrical content too small to decipher, the band wisely chose to release a separate booklet (one for each sector) which contains photos artwork and reprinted, more legible lyrics from the corresponding albums in that set. The only disappointment here is that there are no additional liner notes in any of these booklets, and no lyrics are included for Rush and Fly By Night. Additionally, each recording has been digitally remastered so the sound quality is phenomenal. The lack of bonus material on any of the discs may be a disappointment to some, but for Rush purists this is a plus. The intent here was obviously to retain as much of the "original" feel of the releases, just translated into digital format. The only way, perhaps, to provide a better collection of Rush's Mercury years would be to release the same set with LP's instead of CD's and DVD's. Until that day, though, this is a wonderful way to cull the band's most prolific and most lauded recordings into a concise, yet comprehensive and complete package.

1977 [2011] A Farewell to Kings

 A Farewell to Kings is the fifth studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1977. It was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, and mixed at Advision Studios in London. A Farewell to Kings would become Rush's first US gold-selling album, receiving the certification within two months of its release, and was eventually certified platinum.

On 1977's A Farewell to Kings it quickly becomes apparent that Rush had improved their songwriting and strengthened their focus and musical approach. Synthesizers also mark their first prominent appearance on a Rush album, a direction the band would continue to pursue on future releases. With the popular hit single "Closer to the Heart," the trio showed that they could compose concise and traditionally structured songs, while the 11-minute "Xanadu" remains an outstanding accomplishment all these years later (superb musicianship merged with vivid lyrics help create one of Rush's best all-time tracks). The album-opening title track begins with a tasty classical guitar/synth passage, before erupting into a powerful rocker. The underrated "Madrigal" proves to be a delicately beautiful composition, while "Cinderella Man" is one of Rush's few songs to include lyrics penned entirely by Geddy Lee. The ten-minute tale of a dangerous black hole, "Cygnus X-1," closes the album on an unpredictable note, slightly comparable to the two bizarre extended songs on 1975's Caress of Steel. A Farewell to Kings successfully built on the promise of their breakthrough 2112, and helped broaden their audience. 

Tracks Listing

1. A Farewell To Kings (5:49)
2. Xanadu (11:04)
3. Closer To The Heart (2:51)
4. Cinderella Man (4:19)
5. Madrigal (2:33)
6. Cygnus X-1 (10:21)

Total Time: 36:57

Line-up / Musicians

- Alex Lifeson / guitars (6- & 12-strings electric and acoustic, classical), bass pedals
- Geddy Lee / bass, bass pedals, Mini-Moog, 12-string guitar, vocals
- Neil Peart / drums, orchestral & tubular bells, wind chimes, vibra-slap, percussions

1978 [2011] Hemispheres

 Hemispheres is the sixth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1978. The album was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales and mixed at Trident Studios in London. It was the last of two albums they would record in the United Kingdom before returning to their homes in Canada.

Following themes going back to Rush's second album, Fly by Night, on Hemispheres lyricist Neil Peart continued to utilize fantasy and science fiction motifs. Similar to their 1976 release, 2112, the title track on Hemispheres takes up the entire first side of the album, and is a suite of songs telling a story - in this case, a continuation of the story begun in "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage" on the band's previous album A Farewell to Kings. The second side consists of two conventional tracks, "Circumstances" and "The Trees," and the band's first standalone instrumental, "La Villa Strangiato." According to drummer Neil Peart, they spent more time recording "La Villa Strangiato" than they did recording the entire Fly by Night album.
The album contains examples of Rush's adherence to progressive rock standards including the use of fantasy lyrics, multi-movement song structures, and complex rhythms and time signatures. In the 2010 documentary film Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, the band members comment that the stress of recording Hemispheres was a major factor in their decision to start moving away from suites and long-form pieces in their songwriting. That change in philosophy would manifest itself in the band's next album, the considerably more accessible Permanent Waves. The band's seventh album would mark their commercial success, paving the way for the multi-platinum Moving Pictures.

While such albums as 1980's Permanent Waves and 1981's Moving Pictures are usually considered Rush's masterpieces (and with good reason), 1978's Hemispheres is just as deserving. Maybe the fact that the album consists of only four compositions (half are lengthy pieces) was a bit too intimidating for some, but the near 20-minute-long "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" is arguably the band's finest extended track. While the story line isn't as comprehensible as "2112" was, it's much more consistent musically, twisting and turning through five different sections which contrast heavy rock sections against more sedate pieces. Neil Peart had become one of rock's most accomplished lyricists by this point, as evidenced by "The Trees," which deals with racism and inequality in a unique way (set in a forest!). And as always, the trio prove to be experts at their instruments, this time on the complex instrumental "La Villa Strangiato." Geddy Lee's shrieking vocals on the otherwise solid "Circumstances" may border on the irritating, but Hemispheres remains one of Rush's greatest releases. 

Tracks Listing

1. Cygnus X-1 Book II Hemispheres (18:04)
- I Prelude (4:27)
- II Apollo/III Dionysus (4:36)
- IV Armageddon (2:55)
- V Cygnus (5:01)
- VI The Sphere (1:02)
2. Circumstances (3:40)
3. The Trees (4:42)
4. La Villa Strangiato (9:35)
- Buenos Nochas, Mein Froinds!
- To Sleep, Perchance To Dream...
- Strangiato Theme
- A Lerxst In Wonderland
- Monsters!
- The Ghost Of The Aragon
- Danforth And Pape
- The Waltz Of The Shreves
- Never Turn Your Back On A Monster
- Monsters! (Reprise)
- Strangiato Theme (Reprise)
- A Farewell To Things

Total Time: 37:00

Line-up / Musicians

- Alex Lifeson / guitars (6- & 12-strings electric and acoustic, classical, Roland synth), bass pedals
- Geddy Lee / basses, Taurus bass pedals, Mini-Moog, Oberheim polyphonic synth, vocals
- Neil Peart / drums, orchestra bells, wind chimes, tympani, gong, crotales, percussions

1980 [2011] Permanent Waves

 Permanent Waves is the seventh studio album by Canadian rock band Rush, released on January 14, 1980. It was recorded at Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec, and mixed at Trident Studios in London, UK. Permanent Waves became Rush's first US top five album, hitting #4 on the Billboard 200, and their fifth gold (later platinum) selling album. The album marks a distinct transition from long, conceptual pieces, into a more accessible, radio-friendly style and consequently, a significant increase in record sales for the band. The singles "The Spirit of Radio" and "Freewill" both received significant radio airplay.

Since Neil Peart joined the band in time for 1975's Fly by Night, Rush had been experimenting and growing musically with each successive release. By 1980's Permanent Waves, the modern sounds of new wave (the Police, Peter Gabriel, etc.) began to creep into Rush's sound, but the trio still kept their hard rock roots intact. The new approach paid off -- two of their most popular songs, the "make a difference" anthem "Freewill," and a tribute to the Toronto radio station CFNY, "The Spirit of Radio" (the latter a U.K. Top 15 hit), are spectacular highlights. Also included were two "epics," the stormy "Jacob's Ladder" and the album-closing "Natural Science," which contains a middle section that contains elements of reggae. Geddy Lee also began singing in a slightly lower register around this time, which made their music more accessible to fans outside of the heavy prog rock circle. The album proved to be the final breakthrough Rush needed to become an arena headliner throughout the world, beginning a string of albums that would reach inside the Top Five of the U.S. Billboard album charts. Permanent Waves is an undisputed hard rock classic, but Rush would outdo themselves with their next release. 

Permanent Waves is the band’s seventh studio album, released on January 14th, 1980. It was recorded at Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec, and mixed at Trident Studios in London. The tracks were laid down just shy of four weeks, in part attributed to the idyllic working conditions of Morin Heights.
The album marks a transition from long, conceptual pieces, into a more accessible, radio-friendly style. “The Spirit Of Radio” is one of the most commercial songs Rush has ever produced, containing several different musical elements, even a touch of reggae. At the time, Alex recalled:
“We’ve always played around with reggae in the studio and we used to do a reggae intro to Working Man onstage, so when it came to doing Spirit Of Radio we just thought we’d do the reggae bit to make us smile and have a little fun.”
The waving man in the background of the album cover is actually Hugh Syme, the band’s long time design collaborator.

Tracks Listing

1. The Spirit of Radio (4:56)
2. Freewill (5:21)
3. Jacob's Ladder (7:26)
4. Entre Nous (4:37)
5. Different Strings (3:48)
6. Natural Science (9:17)
-I Tide Pools
-II Hyperspace
-III Permanent Waves

Total Time: 35:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Alex Lifeson / 6- & 12-strings electric and acoustic guitars, Taurus bass pedals
- Geddy Lee / basses, bass pedals, synthesizers (Oberheim polyphonic, OB-1, Mini-Moog), vocals
- Neil Peart / drums, tympani, orchestral & tubular bells, timbales, wind chimes, crotales, triangle

- Hugh Syme / piano (5)
- Erwig Chuapchuaduah / steel drums (1)

1981 [2011] Exit Stage Left 

Exit...Stage Left is a live album by Canadian band Rush, released in 1981. A video release of the same name, with slightly different content, was released in 1982 on VHS and later on LaserDisc, and in 2007 on DVD.
The album was voted 9th best live album of all time in a poll by Classic Rock Magazine in 2004.

The first, third, and fourth sides of the original vinyl issue were recorded in Canada during the Moving Pictures tour, while the second side was recorded in the UK during the Permanent Waves tour.
The original CD issue removed "A Passage to Bangkok", as CDs could only hold 75 minutes at the time. It was included on the 1997 remaster, as CD capacity had increased to 80 minutes by that time. Before the remastered version was released, the same live version of "A Passage to Bangkok" was released on the compilation Chronicles in 1990.

Exit… Stage Left, the band’s second live album, was recorded at The Apollo in Glasgow, Scotland on June 10th & 11th, 1980 and at The Forum in Montreal, Quebec in March 27th, 1981. A video release with the same name, with slightly different content, was released in 1982 on VHS and later on Laserdisc, and in 2007 on DVD.
As Rush advanced technologically into the early 80s, capturing flawless recorded performances became more and more challenging:
“Yes, we made a few repairs to the record. A part here and there would ruin an otherwise perfect song, so we patched up the odd bit. Sometimes we had hit the wrong thing or gone suddenly out of tune. It would be so much easier if we were perfect.” – Neil Peart, 1981.
Exit… Stage Left was among the first Rush albums to be digitally mastered. As the world moved to the CD digital format, digital masters created from original analog recordings became a necessity. Rush’s previous studio album, Moving Pictures, was one of the first rock albums to be digitally mixed and mastered.

Live albums usually lack something in recording and instrumental quality. Not this one. As a big Rush fan who has most of their albums, I truly believe they were at the peak of their careers when they recorded this album. Neil Peart's drumming is incredible and listening to him live makes it even more dynamic. The drum solo in YYZ is worth the price of admission alone. All the great songs from their previous albums are here. My personal favorite is "The Trees", which sends shivers down my spine and I like the live version better then the original version. This is, IMO, the greatest Live Rock album ever produced. 

Tracks Listing

1. Spirit Of Radio (5:12)
2. Red Barchetta (6:48)
3. YYZ (7:44)
4. Closer To The Heart 3:09)
5. Beneath, Between and Behind (2:34)
6. Jacobs Ladder (8:47)
7. Broon's Bane (1:37)
8. The Trees (4:50)
9. Xanadu (12:10)
10. Freewill (5:33)
11. Tom Sawyer (5:01)
12. La Villa Strangiato (9:38)

Total Time: 76:29

Line-up / Musicians

- Geddy Lee / bass, bass pedals, synthesizers, vocals, rhythm guitar
- Alex Lifeson / guitars, bass pedals
- Neil Peart / drums, percussion

1981 [2011] Moving Pictures

 Moving Pictures is the eighth studio album by Canadian rock band Rush. It was recorded and mixed from October to November 1980 at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada, and released on February 12, 1981. Building on their previous album, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures follows a more radio-friendly format and includes several of the band's best-known songs, such as the singles "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight", the rock radio standard "Red Barchetta", and the instrumental "YYZ".
Moving Pictures became the band's highest-selling album in the United States, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200, and it remains the band's most commercially successful recording. The album was one of the first to be certified multi-platinum by the RIAA upon establishment of the certification in October 1984, and eventually went quadruple platinum. Moving Pictures is one of two Rush albums listed in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2112 is the other). Kerrang! magazine listed the album at #43 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time". In 2012, Moving Pictures was listed as #10 on 'Your Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time' by Rolling Stone. In 2014, readers of Rhythm voted Moving Pictures the greatest drumming album in the history of progressive rock.
The album cover art is a visual pun on the title, and a triple entendre. The first meaning is represented by the movers carrying pictures, with the second by the people watching them who are emotionally moved by the pictures. The third meaning is shown on the back cover, where the entire scene is revealed to be a set for a motion picture.

What can you say? Moving Pictures became the band’s biggest selling album in the U.S., rising to #3 on the Billboard charts. It remains Rush’s most popular and commercially successful studio recording. Rush’s complex songwriting and musical virtuosity reached new heights on this album.
Recorded and mixed from October to November 1980 at Le StudioMoving Pictures followed a more radio-friendly format and includes several signature tracks, including “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” “Red Barchetta,” and the band’s highly praised instrumental, “YYZ,” which is the IATA airport identification code of Toronto Pearson International Airport.
The album cover is a monument to triple entendre. Movers are physically moving pictures, people are crying because the pictures passing by are emotionally “moving,” and the back cover depicts a film crew making a “moving picture” of the whole scene.

Not only is 1981's Moving Pictures Rush's best album, it is undeniably one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. The new wave meets hard rock approach of Permanent Waves is honed to perfection -- all seven of the tracks are classics (four are still featured regularly in concert and on classic rock radio). While other hard rock bands at the time experimented unsuccessfully with other musical styles, Rush were one of the few to successfully cross over. The whole entire first side is perfect -- their most renowned song, "Tom Sawyer," kicks things off, and is soon followed by the racing "Red Barchetta," the instrumental "YYZ," and a song that examines the pros and cons of stardom, "Limelight." And while the second side isn't as instantly striking as the first, it is ultimately rewarding. The long and winding "The Camera Eye" begins with a synth-driven piece before transforming into one of the band's more straight-ahead epics, while "Witch Hunt" and "Vital Signs" remain two of the trio's more underrated rock compositions. Rush proved with Moving Pictures that there was still uncharted territory to explore within the hard rock format, and were rewarded with their most enduring and popular album. 

Tracks Listing

1. Tom Sawyer (4:34)
2. Red Barchetta (6:08)
3. YYZ (4:24)
4. Limelight (4:21)
5. The Camera Eye (10:57)
6. Witch Hunt (Part III of Fear) (4:44)
7. Vital Signs (4:47)

Total Time: 39:55

Line-up / Musicians

- Alex Lifeson / 6- & 12-strings electric and acoustic guitars, Taurus bass pedals
- Geddy Lee / basses, bass pedals, synthesizers (Oberheim polyphonic, OB-X, Mini-Moog), vocals
- Neil Peart / drums, timbales, orchestra bells, glockenspiel, wind chimes, crotales, percussions

- Hugh Syme / synthesizers (6)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Brett Garsed, T.J. Helmerich - 2001 "Uncle Moe's Space Ranch"

World renowned fusion drummer Dennis Chambers (Santana Parliament/Funkadelic, John McLaughlin, Niacin, Mike Stern) joins forces with Tribal Tech's Gary Willis and Scott Kinsey (Joe Zawinul, Bill Evans, Robben Ford) and legendary guitar duo Garsed/Helmerich for a no holds barred fusion super session. Uncle Moe's Space Ranch features some of the hottest grooves and most unrestrained fusion ensemble and solo work ever recorded.

Finally a band that dares to stretch the meaning of the word "Jazz Fusion". This is a CD that takes the listener on a musical journey packed with influences from many styles...but nothing direct. The term "Jazz" used to mean new..fresh..cutting edge. Teamed up with the term "Fusion" ...for rock influenced, one should expect some very interesting results. Uncle Moe's Space Ranch lives up to the challenge! Fresh ideas, beautiful playing, total interaction...Only a hand full of bands in the last 20 years have sparked my imagination like this one. I highly recomend this CD to anyone who longs for a breath of fresh air. Not only is UMSR groundbreaking musicaly, but the recording quality is exceptional, giving the listener with a good system a REAL treat! Turn it up and enjoy the trip!

The album's first tune, Colliding Chimps, picks up where Tribal Tech's Rocket Science left off with Astro Chimp, pounding the listener with Chambers's explosive drum fills leading to a soaring rock riff. From that point on, a gang of five fuzoid renegades at Uncle Moe's ushers the listener into a musical phantasmagoria never heard before. Many of the songs spiral with wonderfully twisted changes of styles and moods, keeping the listener riveted to the chair or making her shoot through the ceiling (depending on how she reacts to pumping adrenaline).
A slew of influences are apparent on this album: good ol' jazz-rock, rock-jazz, Eastern music, Middle-Eastern music, techno/electronica, hip-hop, kangaroos, southern rock, funk, Allan Holdsworth, New Orleans, Tribal Tech, Robocop, heavy metal, rattlesnakes, progressive rock, etc. Yet they skillfully and artfully melt them all in a kind of tongue-twisting rock-fusion stew that defies characterization, as good fusion should defy any attempt for characterization. I've been listening to fusion since the early '70s, but I've never heard anything quite like this.
Although each player is virtuosic and dazzling, I hear no gratuitous display of ego or pomposity. On the contrary, everyone does his own thing with passion and kinetic energy, at times with a sense of off-kilter humor, contributing to make an organic whole. This is not a "deep" piece of music, not in the sense of Mahavishnu; if you want self-contemplative music, look elsewhere. This is for the most part rave-up, balls-to-the-wall, jovial album full of twisted, mesmerizing complexity that needs to be heard with a devil-may-care attitude. Yet the music is strangely evocative. The album is an actual proof of the proverbial: sometimes the right combination of musicians engenders a fresh, magical result.
Dennis Chambers lays down his patented, continually thrilling drumming; he has a lot to do with the success of this album. What propels Uncle Moe's into high flight is his soulful drumming with sheer power, funk groove, and pyrotechnics.

Having recorded two excellent CDs for Mark Varney's Legato label in the 90s, Brett Garsed and T.J. Helmerich make their debut on (brother of Mark) Mike Varney's Tone Center. They have assembled a top-flight backing band: Scott Kinsey on keys, Gary Willis on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums (Virgil Donati features on one track). The presence of Kinsey and Willis in particular appears to have influenced the song-writing process. The spectre of Tribal Tech and Weather Report looms large throughout this superb CD.
The compositions are strong, the playing spectacular. Garsed, the brilliant Australian musician best known for his work with John Farnham, is the stand-out performer. He is at the peak of his powers on this CD, displaying formidable technique and impeccable taste in equal measure. Kinsey, too, makes an impressive contribution, whether comping or soloing in a style that might be described as neo-Zawinul. He is a significant talent.
If there's been a better fusion release in 2001, I've not heard it. Highly recommended.

This is why people love fusion!!! This is progressive music at its best! These musicians are masters of their art and they let you know it! Their instuments unite into a living and breathing machine of sound. If you like simple, then this may not be for you. If that's the case, check the "elevator music" section of your local music store for the latest "prozac jazz" releases.
Highly recommended for fans of other progressive acts such as "Tribal Tech", "McGill/Manring/Stevens", "Hellborg/Lane/Sipe", "Vital Tech Tones", "MacAlpine/Brunel/Chambers" and "Liquid Tension Experiment".
If you think you are ready, crank it and blast off to the "Space Ranch"... the future of fusion!!

The fourth offering from the guitar partners Brett Garsed and T.J. Helmerich finds the duo surrounded by some of fusion's best. The music has a distinctive Tribal Tech influence thanks to the presence of bassist Gary Willis, but the guitarists' distinctive voices make this a unique sounding quintet. Garsed's long flowing lines are complemented nicely by Helmerich's experimental sonic adventures, which are cohesively held together by the excellent supporting cast. Drummer Virgil Donati makes a memorable guest appearance on "SighBorg," while fusion master Dennis Chambers propels the band on the remaining tracks. The selections include the full-throttle fusion of "SighBorg," the metal-ish "Swarming Goblets," and the Zappa-influenced "I Want to Be a Pine Cone," and there's even some slide guitar on "A Thousand Days." While by no means groundbreaking, this is an enjoyable recording from two of fusion's most intelligent torchbearers.


1 Colliding Chimps     6:17
2 Tjhelmerich@earthlink.net     7:04
3 Swarming Coblets     7:14
4 SighBorg     7:22
5 He Is Havin' All That's His To Be Had     7:16
6 Minx     9:09
7 I Want A Pine Cone     6:42
8 A Thousand Days     5:30
9 Untitled [Hidden Track]     4:20


Brett Garsed - Guitar,
Dennis Chambers - Drums,
Gary Willis - Bass,
Scott Kinsey - Keyboards,
T.J. Helmerich - Guitar