Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Marc Johnson - 1998 "The Sound Of Summer Running"

The Sound of Summer Running is a 1997 studio album by jazz bassist Marc Johnson released on the label of Verve Records.

The poetry implied in the title of Marc Johnson's latest disc is very much a part of who he is and the way he creates music. He's one of those bassists who makes his presence felt rather than known. Listen to how he coalesces with Bill Evans on Turn Out The Stars (Warner Bros.) or both volumes of the still-not-on-CD gem Paris Concerts. He follows deeply explored paths, without tripping for effect or falling all over the soloist to capture the spotlight. Even when he is exploring in center stage, he doesn't break mood for downbeat introspection or wild flings. Considering the diversity of music he's explored (with Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Pat Martino and Elaine Elias), Marc Johnson realizes a true jazz axiom: he strives and often achieves to capture experiences that are intended to be sensed, not described.

That's why it's difficult to attach words or comments to a beautiful disc like The Sound of Summer Running. It's like what you think about the wind. Either it reaches you emotionally and spiritually deep within or you just never think about it. Johnson adds two significant string stylists in Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny and rounds it out with a drummer who can handle (or join) any style well, Joey Baron. A more simpatico quartet of musical explorers is difficult to imagine. The thrill of hearing Frisell with Metheny is especially rewarding (even more so since Metheny avoids his dreaded guitar synth altogether here).

The Sound of Summer Running is a follow-up of sorts to Baron's highest profile gig, Bass Desires. For that quartet, Johnson brought together emerging guitarists (and forces of nature), Bill Frisell and John Scofield, added drummer Peter Erskine and recorded two ECM albums, including its debut, Bass Desires—which remains the best, most memorable release of the eighties. The same welcome "sound of surprise" from that 1985 group is all over the place on this 1998 release.

Johnson wrote or co-wrote seven of the ten tunes, all so seemingly warm and familiar as if to be standards. Even the improvisation is sufficiently song-like as to melt into the melody. The high level of improvisation is, in fact, the element of this music's success. Johnson, Frisell, Metheny and Baron all have the considerable ability to think and react outside of jazz. And the musical forms they explore never bog down by preconceived notions of jazz nor suffer the spruced-up hyperbole of native instrumentation.
Consider it a sort of Music Americana. It takes in country pop ("Faith in You"), Western (Frisell's evocative "Ghost Town"), slow hillbilly blues ("With My Boots On," one of Johnson's few features), folk (the finger-snapping "Union Pacific") and rockabilly ("Dingy-Dongy Day"). What sets The Sound of Summer Running apart, oddly, are those moments that will be most familiar to jazz listeners. There is Johnson's mellifluous, hit-worthy Metheny tribute, "Summer Running," (featuring notable Frisell fret work). Then check out how Metheny dances over Frisell's Frisell-like "The Adventures of Max and Ben." Or dig how expertly Metheny crafts a Bill Evans-like synergy for the quartet on "For a Thousand Years," perhaps his grandest moment as a composer and a sumptuous showcase for Johnson's playing.

The Sound of Summer Running is the sound of creative music attaining a beauty and personality too rarely heard in contemporary jazz—and another feather in the cap of this 45-year-old bassist's musical history. During the last minute or so of the disc's final track, there are some brief musical sketches (including "House of the Rising Sun") included that suggest this quartet has so much more to say. Here's hoping they have the opportunity.

Mention should be also made of this disc's producer, Lee Townsend, who has been at the helm of all of 1998's best, most creative jazz: from Joey Baron, Bill Frisell and Marc Johnson to John Scofield's excellent collaboration with Medeski, Martin and Wood, A Go Go (also on Verve).

I had no idea who bassist Marc Johnson was before I bought this beautiful 1998 release. The first thing that caught my attention was the picture of the little girl on the CD cover. The sky was so blue, and she looked so happy and carefree that I was just drawn - and not in a sinister way, mind you. It's just that somehow in my mind, I thought that if this CD could make me feel as happy and carefree as she looked, I wanted it.

The second thing that caught my eye (and clinched the deal) was the clear sticker on the front of the CD which told me that Pat Metheny was on it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Pat doesn't just play with anyone and I knew even without listening to it, that this was an album I would love. Well, that was eight years ago and this is still one of my favorite CDs ever.

I didn't know who Bill Frisell was either at that time but since buying this, I've become a huge fan of both Johnson and Frisell, who by the way gives one of the most exciting performances on this album that I've heard from him yet. I say it with the utmost respect, both to him and any other guitarists he's played with but I believe that with Metheny playing alongside him, Frisell simply had to raise his game to the utmost. And he truly does.

Joey Baron's drumming is incredible and right from the opener, "Faith In You", all participants let us know what we're in for: An hour or so of pure enjoyment. Johnson pens all the songs except for Bill Frisell's "Ghost Town"; a really good version of the tune he used to title his excellent CD of the same name in 2000 (another one I never got round to reviewing) and "The Adventures of Max and Ben". "In a Quiet Place" was written by Johnson and Eliane Elias and the beautiful closer, "For a Thousand Years", was written by Metheny.

Bill Frisell plays electric and acoustic guitars, Pat Metheny plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar and 42-string pikasso guitar, and Joey Baron plays drums and tambourine. Produced by the seemingly omniscient Lee Townsend, this excellent CD is truly the Sound of Summer Running. I love all the songs but the opener and closer are still firm favorites.

I am a big enthusiast of Pat Metheny's music. This was my first contact with Bill Frisell, who can rival in talent with Metheny.
It was a great surprise to hear such instrumental album, even though sometimes it just gets distant from standard jazz, from such great musicians.
It evokes memories from places we might have never seen but gets to musically make these places close.
The title is maybe a quote to a Ray Bradbury short tale where the author remembers his youth after buying a new sport shoes and goes around the fields to run while the summer starts.
While it musically traces the atmospheres of the country side of America, it also presents a summary of the music
we would hear there.
Bill Frisell and Metheny simply create very inspiring guitar melodies.
Altough the music might not be complex, after all it is based on simple ideas, it is rich and it will please your brain and fill it with images.

Track listing

01.     "Faith In You"       5:53
02.     "Ghost Town"       5:35
03.     "Summer Running[5]"       5:56
04.     "With My Boots On"       4:25
05.     "Union Pacific"       5:29
06.     "Porch Swing"       4:12
07.     "Dingy-Dong Day"       3:51
08.     "The Adventures Of Max And Ben"       6:08
09.     "In A Quiet Place"       5:17
10.     "For A Thousand Years"       6:28 


    Marc Johnson – bass
    Bill Frisell – electric & acoustic guitars
    Pat Metheny – electric & acoustic guitar (42-string Pikasso)
    Joey Baron – drums & tambourine


    Tracks 1 3 4 5 6 7 composed by – Marc Johnson
    Tracks 2 8 composed by – Bill Frisell
    Track 9 composed by – Eliane Elias & Marc Johnson
    Track 10 composed by – Pat Metheny

Wes Montgomery - 1960 [1987] "The Incredible Jazz Guitar"

The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery is the fourth album by American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery. Most of its tracks are considered to be the best examples of Wes Montgomery's two distinguishing techniques - "thumb picking" and the use of octaves.

The album is considered by many fans and critics to be the pinnacle of Montgomery's recorded studio work. The Penguin Guide to Jazz selected this album as part of its suggested "Core Collection", calling it "probably the best Montgomery record currently available".

Of the CD reissue, critic Chris May of All About Jazz wrote: "The Incredible Jazz Guitar burst onto the US scene in 1960 like a benign hurricane, and it still sounds like a gale almost 50 years later... Montgomery—empathetically accompanied by pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Percy Heath (then riding high with the Modern Jazz Quartet), and drummer Albert Heath—makes the guitar sound like it never had before. It has sounded similar since, of course, thanks to the legion of Montgomery-influenced players, but rarely so close to perfection.... The Incredible Jazz Guitar endures, and will continue to do so.
The incredible Wes Montgomery of 1960 was more discernible and distinctive than the guitarist who would emerge a few years later as a pop stylist and precursor to George Benson in the '70s. On this landmark recording, Montgomery veered away from his home Indianapolis-based organ combo with Melvin Rhyne, the California-based Montgomery Brothers band, and other studio sidemen he had been placed with briefly. Off to New York City and a date with Tommy Flanagan's trio, Montgomery seems in his post- to hard bop element, swinging fluently with purpose, drive, and vigor not heard in an electric guitarist since bop progenitor Charlie Christian. Setting him apart from the rest, this recording established Montgomery as the most formidable modern guitarist of the era, and eventually its most influential. There's some classic material here, including the cat-quick but perhaps a trifle anxious version of the Sonny Rollins bop evergreen "Airegin," the famous repeated modal progressive and hard bop jam "Four on Six," and Montgomery's immortal soul waltz "West Coast Blues," effortlessly rendered with its memorable melody and flowing, elegant chiffon-like lines. Flanagan, at a time shortly after leaving his native Detroit, is the perfect pianist for this session. He plays forcefully but never overtly so on the bop tracks, offering up his trademark delicacy on the laid-back "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and easy-as-pie "Gone with the Wind." With the dynamic Philadelphia rhythm section of brothers Percy Heath on bass and drummer Albert Heath, they play a healthy Latin beat on the choppy and dramatic melody of Montgomery's original "Mr. Walker." Montgomery is clearly talented beyond convention, consistently brilliant, and indeed incredible in the company of his sidemen, and this recording -- an essential addition to every jazz guitarist fan's collection -- put him on the map. 

As the very useful liner notes to this release point out, this 1960 recording was a bit of a coming-out party for Montgomery, arguably the best and most influential jazz guitarist of the last half century. The title is not hyperbole; the guitar playing here is indeed incredible, although Wes sets aside mere flash for meaningful swing.
The guitarist benefits from a crack band behind him: Al and Percy Heath on drums and bass, respectively, and the flawless Tommy Flanagan on piano. Flanagan had shortly before this date contributed mightily to Coltrane's "Giant Steps," and his ability to seamlessly slip in behind Montgomery on a date that couldn't be more different than Coltrane's is testimony to his taste and his chops.
Wes's startling chording will be a revelation to those who haven't heard him before, but even if you've listened to him a lot you'll still find his work on, for example, "Four on Six" and "West Coast Blues" immensely satisfying. On both these cuts, he flows endlessly between chords and octaves, creating a smooth river of sound. Beautiful.
Also of note is his treatment of "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," a chestnut that Wes turns into a lovely romance that sounds new and fresh. This is a great CD for the jazz guitar lover, who will realize immediately that it doesn't get much better than this.

This is my favorite Jazz Guitar album and one that I've had for some time, first on a cassette that I got from my brother and eventually on CD. I used to listen to this in my car and didn't even know the names of the songs or who had written them. All I knew was that I really dug Montgomery's guitar playing.

After getting the 1987 version of the CD, I learned that the album included Sonny Rollins' "Airegin", Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way", 2 standards, and 4 originals by Montgomery. I also learned that his supporting cast included Tommy Flanagan on piano and the Heath brothers on bass and drums.

This album is a real pleasure to listen to, not just for Montgomery's truly incredible guitar playing, but also for the relaxing atmosphere all 4 musicians create. This is a perfect album to play late at night before going to bed; just turn down the lights, lie down on your couch, and let the music soothe your soul.

My only complaint about the CD I owned (the 1987 remastering) was that the sound was kind of muddy. While reviewing that version, I learned that this "Keepnews Collection" version had been released, so I ordered it to compare the sound. It does have slightly better sound, mainly stronger bass. In retrospect, I suspect that the "muddiness" I heard in the 1987 version was mostly in Montgomery's own sound or in the source tapes.

The real value of the 2008 version, however, is the new booklet with a new essay by Orin Keepnews, who produced the original sessions. He explains how he first heard about Montgomery from Cannonball Adderly, talks about the first two records (including this one) that Montgomery cut for Riverside, and explains the boastful title. He also puts the album in the broader context of Montgomery's brief but brilliant 9 year career. 

Track listing

1.    "Airegin" (Sonny Rollins) – 4:26
2.    "D-Natural Blues" (Wes Montgomery) – 5:23
3.    "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" (Jimmy Van Heusen) – 4:44
4.    "Four on Six" (Montgomery) – 6:15
5.    "West Coast Blues" (Montgomery) – 7:26
6.    "In Your Own Sweet Way" (Dave Brubeck) – 4:53
7.    "Mr. Walker" (Montgomery) – 4:33
8.    "Gone With the Wind" (Allie Wrubel) – 6:24

    Songs 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, January 26, 1960
    Songs 3, 7, and 8 recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, January 28, 1960

Riverside RLP 12-320, RLP 1169; Fantasy OJC 036, OJCCD 036-2

    Wes Montgomery- electric guitar
    Tommy Flanagan - piano
    Percy Heath - bass
    Albert Heath - drums

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bruford Levin - 2000 "B.L.U.E. Nights"

B.L.U.E. Nights is an album by Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, recorded live in Japan and the USA during 1998 and released in 2000.

This recording chronicles the live performances of Bruford Levin Upper Extremities from 1998. The disc showcases the band's unique blend of jazzy modes with Crimson-esque textures and, occasionally, just plain weirdness. Many of the tracks become looser jams in the live performance. For those who saw this tour, the disc will be a great memento. For those who didn't, it will serve as a shining example of what they missed, and encouragement to be more careful not to pass up subsequent tours. The band is Tony Levin, Bill Bruford, Chris Botti, and David Torn. Levin is certainly one of the greatest living electric bass players, and the disc shows that fact off in fine fashion. Bill Bruford's percussion work comes across as both very creative and quite impeccable. Trumpeter Chris Botti calls to mind Miles Davis at times, while carving out his own particular style. The last link, David Torn, has a style that is nearly indefinable, combining strange guitar textures with loop work for an art form that is almost peerless. And the whole of this group, despite each member's separate abilities, is so much more than the sum of the parts. 

On this record, these guys find new ways to expand the consciousness of the listener. The combination of the poly-metric blending of time signitures between the bass/stick and drums, the weird and sometimes eerie Tornian soundscapes, and the lonely Miles inspired trumpet takes fusion somewhere I've never heard it go. While the studio record they did was interesting, this record is visceral and alive and at times totally breathtaking. I want to be in this band.

This is a 2 CD set taken from live club shows in 1998. The sound is very good and there is very little audience noise. It sounds like the audiences were very small, like the concerts were done in half filled clubs. The first disc is 48 minutes and the second disc is 58 minutes with the addition of a bonus track from the original release. The packaging is fairly cheap looking.

This is jazz fusion. Some of it is discordant, especially the opening track. Mostly the music is lively, entertaining but very rough and hard. It is along the lines of what King Crimson was doing at the time, only more accessible. With Chris Botti playing on trumpet, much of the music sounds like a harder version of Miles Davis.

This band came together right after King Crimson was in it's "Projecks" and "Thrak" stages. Both Bill Bruford and Tony Levin were in King Crimson at the time. King Crimson was a sextet at the time and doing all kinds of experimentation with different combinations of the members of the band. They put out a number of CD's where any "C" in the title was replaced with a "K". The music was hard and metallic. Much of it was pure noise with members of the group just going off in any direction. Some of it was very interesting.

I think that Bruford and Levin take all that experimentation with King Crimson and evolve it into something much better. David Torn on guitar sounds like Robert Fripp under control. And the trumpet really adds a new dimension to the music.

Levin is always a very interesting artist. Another album to check out is his Double Espresso, which is more traditional fusion and new wave jazz. I think his best album (besides the 1980's King Crimson material) is Levin, Bozzio, Stevens Blacklight Syndrome. That is a CD to search out and cherish.

So to speak, it's a double live version of B.L.U.E. Including some other & a bonus track, of course. As for me, I'm fond of studio version more rather than this live one. But it's great that some tracks from studio are extended for live play. & some tracks are improvs or jams. Higly recommended for guys & girls who like each or at least one of Bill Bruford,Tony Levin and David Torn. These three good performers gathered once before at Torn's excellent work "Cloud about mercury". Though I haven't experienced any other Chris Botti, he is good especially at "Original Sin". By the way, Torn doesn't play impressively in this project to me. 

Tracks Listing

Disc One:
1. Piercing Glances (7:54)
2. Etude Revisited (5:24)
3. A Palace Of Pearls (5:58)
4. Original Sin (8:14)
5. Dentures Of The Gods (6:25)
6. Deeper Blue (6:32)
7. Cobalt Canyons (7:30)

Disc Two:
1. Fin De Siècle (5:46)
2. Picnic On Vesuvius (9:28)
3. Cerulean Sea (7:03)
4. Bent Taqasim
5. Torn Drumbass (5:40)
6. Cracking The Midnight Glass (6:53)
7. Presidents Day (6:47)
8. 3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment (10:54)
9. Outer Blue (6:06)

Total Time: 103:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion
- Tony Levin / basses, stick
- David Torn / guitars, loops, oud
- Chris Botti / trumpet

Monday, March 21, 2016

Miles Davis - 1976 [2002] "Water Babies"

Water Babies is a studio album by Miles Davis. Released during Miles Davis's retirement in the second half of the seventies, it is a collection of stylistically diverse "leftovers" spanning eighteen months, from the Nefertiti sessions with the Miles Davis Quintet (1967) to the experimental, transitional period between Filles de Kilimanjaro and In a Silent Way (late 1968).
Due to these recordings being released years after they were recorded, the three Wayne Shorter compositions recorded during the 1967 session had made their first appearance in 1969 on Shorter's album Super Nova in a much more free jazz, avant-garde style.
Side 1 features the second great quintet of Davis, Shorter, Hancock, Williams and Carter. On Side 2, Ron Carter is replaced by Dave Holland and Chick Corea doubles with Hancock on electric piano; this line-up is very similar to the one that recorded In a Silent Way, tracks 4 to 6 being from those sessions. Shorter would switch from tenor to soprano saxophone after this session.

This studio LP was first released almost a decade after it was recorded. The first half features the 1967 Quintet (with Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams) performing three otherwise unknown Shorter compositions. The flip side finds Davis in 1968 leading the same group (with possibly Chick Corea and Dave Holland replacing Hancock and Carter) on two early fusion jams that look a bit toward Bitches Brew. Although not an essential set, this album fills in some gaps during Davis's transitional period from adventurous acoustic playing to early electric performances. 

Side one contains three Shorter compositions recorded on Wayne's 1969 Super Nova (Blue Note); comparisons between the performances confirm Hancock's 1969 comment that "Miles ... shapes all the tunes that come into his band." He shaped his accompanists as well, editing and muting their more extroverted tendencies — at least Shorter, Hancock and Williams sound quite different on their own Blue Note albums of the time. Yet the drummer's simple cymbal dance behind Davis' gentle "Water Babies" solo, and his melodic accompaniment for Shorter on the same piece, are still overwhelming. Carter also gets a chance to dance around Hancock's chorded spot.

The smoking "Capricorn" bears Miles' mark in the use of piano — Hancock lays out through most of the track and solos only with his right hand. Miles harks back to 1956 in his solo, but Carter and Williams boil and evaporate behind him in more contemporary fashion. The way Shorter's thoughts unravel, growing denser and more complex yet still referring to the theme, is marvelous. "Sweet Pea" (dedicated to composer and Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn) has a mysterious, floating theme statement. The intensely shaped sorrow in Miles' tone is buoyed by Spanish tinges in the rhythm section, Shorter's sound offers a beautiful complement, and Hancock offers homage to 1959 Bill Evans.

Both tracks on side two feature Hancock and Chick Corea on subdued electric pianos, with the keyboard on left speaker (probably Hancock) dominating throughout. Shorter's "Two Faced" sounds like a dry run for the In a Silent Way sessions; I find it more successful. Williams, Carter and the pianists converse with great spirit, and Shorter plays off the rolling keyboards brilliantly. The long Davis solo is a sustained sigh with more acute hurt occasionally cracking through. "Dual Mr. Tillman Anthony" is credited to one "W. Process" (Tillman is the first name of Anthony Williams' father); it's a funky, syncopated riff, 14 measures long, repeated for 13 minutes by Corea, Carter and bassist Dave Holland while the others cook. Miles is magnificent here, gliding over the line at his own internal, slower tempo while Hancock and Williams bubble around him. Shorter swaggers, recalling the tenor's historical lineage, and Williams takes the piece out.

Time has revealed this band to be as daring and fascinating as any in the long Davis career, and Water Babies contains some of its best music. There is simply so much happening here; hear it.

In 1976, when Miles’ withdrawal from the scene seemed to go on forever, Columbia released an album bringing together two different periods on each side of a single LP.  Side A featured three sublime pieces composed by Wayne Shorter in the spring of 1967. The opening waltz inspired each member of the quintet to such heights that one doesn’t  know who to listen to first—even if the major part was nothing but a concerto grosso of cymbals that accompanied the improbable score of nuances modulating the regular beat of the Charleston cymbal. In “Capricorn,” Herbie Hancock doesn’t come in at all until his right hand solo, but on “Sweet Pea,” his two hands join with those of Ron Carter and Tony Williams in a collective improvisation that the rhythm section maintains throughout Shorter’s homage to Billy Strayhorn. Side B offers two strange constructions from November 11 and 12, 1968. The electric piano’s swabs of color and the unison of the piano and double bass continued the shift that had begun with Filles De Kilimanjaro, leading to In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew the following year.

Track listing

All songs composed by Wayne Shorter except as noted.

1.    "Water Babies" – 5:06
2.    "Capricorn" – 8:26
3.    "Sweet Pea" – 7:59
4.    "Two Faced" – 18:00
5.    "Dual Mr. Anthony Tillmon Williams Process" (Miles Davis, Tony Williams) – 13:20
6.    "Splash" (Miles Davis) – 10:05


Tracks 1-3

    Miles Davis – trumpet
    Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone
    Herbie Hancock – piano
    Ron Carter – bass
    Tony Williams – drums

Tracks 4-6

    Miles Davis – trumpet
    Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone
    Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock – electric piano
    Dave Holland – bass
    Tony Williams – drums

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dave Weckl - 1992 "Heads Up"

On drummer Dave Weckl's GRP set the rhythms are funky but complex and intelligent, Weckl's sidemen are very complementary and the grooves are quite infectious. Altoist Eric Marienthal and tenor saxophonist Steve Tavaglione get to blow up a storm twice apiece over vamps, Jay Oliver's synth spot recalls Chick Corea on "Tomatillo" and there are strong cameos by trumpeters Randy Brecker and Jeff Beal. Listeners who hate the sound of electronics would best avoid this date, but within its genre Heads Up is a superior effort.

"Heads-Up" was the follow up recording to "Master Plan. A lot had changed for Dave, as he had recently moved to California.

This record was the first recording completed in his home studio. Like all the GRP-era recordings, "Heads Up" was a "project record," with no band concept in mind. Jay Oliver and Dave used the computer quite a bit for composition and production, and most of the bass on this record was programmed.

However, Jimmy Earl made an appearance on a few tunes, as well as Gary Novak (the drummer!) also playing bass on a tune Dave co-wrote with him!

I thought that this was a great cd for al drumers that want to hear some seriously good druming. Weckl shows off his awsome chops in his solos, and weavs intricate beats that fit perfectly with the groove. I got bored of the backup music and wanted to hear more weckl almost imediatly. I would rather have less synth also, but that's just me. I wouldn't pass this one up.

Dave Weckl is a fantastic drummer and he really shines on this CD. The recording quality is great the drums are mixed "out-front." Dave has great chops!


1. 7th Ave. South (5:15)
2. Heads Up (6:42)
3. Taboo (5:23)
4. Tomatillo (5:36)
5. Peripheral Vision (5:13)
6. Tee Funk (5:34)
7. Against the Wall (5:46)
8. Full Moon (5:39)
9. Trigger Happy (3:58)

Total Time: 49:12


- Dave Weckl / drums, percussion, bass (track 2)
- Jay Oliver / keyboards, synth programming, piano (track 2)
- Jimmy Earl / bass (tracks 1, 3-6)
- Eric Marienthal / soprano sax (tracks 1 and 2), alto sax (tracks 3 and 6)
- Randy Brecker / trumpet (track 1)
- John Patitucci / bass (tracks 3 and 8), keyboards (track 8)
- Steve Tavaglione / tenor sax (tracks 5 and 8)
- Jeff Beal / muted trumpet (track 5)
- Gary Novak / bass, keyboards (track 7) 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Emerson Lake and Palmer - 1992 "The Atlantic Years"

As Emerson, Lake & Palmer were making a comeback on-stage and on record (with Black Moon) in the early '90s, their former record label, Atlantic, launched a series of digitally remastered reissues of their catalog and packaged this two-CD collection. ELP best-of records abound, but this one remains the best. Anyone interested in the group but unwilling to buy each and every album gets all essential tracks on two 75-minute discs. Two-thirds of the trio's debut LP are included (yes, even an unedited "Take a Pebble"). The complete studio version of "Tarkus" represents the album by the same title. The "Excerpts From 'Pictures at an Exhibition'" correspond to side two of the original LP (minus "The Nutrocker"). Trilogy has been slightly neglected, with only "The Endless Enigma" (all three parts of it) and "From the Beginning" making the cut. The producers decided to drop such crucial material as the title track and the very popular "Hoedown" in order to include all but one track from the seminal 1973 Brain Salad Surgery ("Toccata" is there, but comes from the live album Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends). The least of the worst was salvaged from the trio's late-'70s LPs, including the two group tracks from Works, Vol. 1 and "Canario," the most digestible piece from Love Beach. Considering Greg Lake's ballads and the honky tonk tunes have been largely set aside in favor of the longer, more compelling pieces, The Atlantic Years is a prog rock fan's dream collection.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer have too many compilations. However, by far the best one to own is "The Atlantic Years". This is because Joe Gastwirt did the remastering. You can bank that the sound is excellent if Joe did it. Joe uses customized (simplified) digital and analog electronics, and the sound is of the master tape: great dynamics, space and tonality.

This 1992 two disc offering is now difficult to obtain, but well worth the effort since the sound quality blows all the other compilations out of the water. All the popular songs are included in their entirety, with the exception of an edited "Fanfare For The Common Man". The 19 song list is laid down in chronological order starting with 1971's "Knife-Edge" and concluding with "Canario" from 1978. There is no previously unreleased material included. The CD booklet is a multi-page foldout with a band bio and many photos.

This is by far one of the best Emerson Lake and Palmer cds I have ever purchased. The full length "Tarkus", "The Endless Enigma", and "Karn Evil 9" are reason alone to by this cd set. Also, the fact that this collection has more of ELP's earlier stuff is one of the best parts about it. Basically, every song from Brain Salad Surgery is in here (exept for "Benny the Bouncer"). Also, a lot of their first album is in here, which shows a lot about ELP's start in the music industry. However, songs like "Trilogy" and "Hoedown" would have been great additions, but the cds ran out of time to put these on there. Emerson Lake and Palmer are by far the best band I ever heard in creativity, as well as talent. Buy it and you won't be disappointed.

If you're just thinking of diving into ELP, you may want to search this compliation out. It's better than many of the "best of" collections out there (which are usually only a single CD), but it's not as expansive as The Return of the Manticore box set. Still, this compliation is pretty damn good. It has songs that are not on the box set that should have been there. It has the classic tunes like Lucky Man and From the Beginning, and most importantly, it has the full length versions of several ELP epics. The full length version of Tarkus, Karn Evil 9, and Pirates are included here. It also has the vastly underrated epic Take a Pebble from their 1st album. The studio version of Take a Pebble is wonderful, vastly superior to the live version included on the box set. It also has the 2nd half of the original live recording of Pictures at an Exhibition. I wish they included the whole thing, but it's still pretty good that they included the entire 2nd half. Other gems are The Endless Enigma, the live version of Toccata (better than the studio version), the original single I Believe in Father Christmas (not on the box set), the studio version of Karn Evil 9, and the excellent instrumental Canario from Love Beach (which, also, is not on the box set). They did include an edited version of Fanfare for the Common Man, which is really unforgiveable. The original is a great jam, one of ELP's best. The original jam is included in its entirety on The Return of the Manticore.

If you're just starting out on ELP, you should pick this one up. It also has some great liner notes. The Atlantic Years and The Return of the Manticore are the best compliations out there, but this one is cheaper and includes many underrated gems. Search for it if you can.

I have to admit that for all of the remarkable works of progressive rock that ELP composed, they did have a few clunkers that, in some instances ruined a few of their albums for me. The more notable examples include Are you Ready Eddy?, along with Benny the Bouncer. Fortunately, none of these clunkers show up on this compilation from 1992, which may be the finest collection of ELP tracks I have ever listened to and covers the 1970-1978 timeframe.

This compilation includes the 20+ minute epic masterworks Tarkus and Karn Evil 9 in their entirety, along with the folky ballads From the Beginning and Still...You Turn Me On. I was a little disappointed that none of Keith Emerson's solo piano pieces were included but it does not detract from the overall quality of the compilation. Overall, you get a good selection that includes the best pieces from their peak (1970-1973), along with a few highlights from 1977-1978 (the mini-epic Pirates comes to mind). Mercifully, only the instrumental track Canario was taken from the atrocious Love Beach album (1978). The one track I did not like was the ragtime/honky tonk of Honky Tonk Train Blues, which showcases Keith's fondness for that particular style - although not quite a clunker, it is not as good as the other material.

The 2-CD package is pretty nice and includes loads of liner notes and photos of the group performing live along with a few posed photos. The photos were taken during the 1970s. The remastered sound quality is excellent and sounds a little better than the remastered Rhino albums that I have. It sounds warm and natural, no bumped loudness or compression is evident.

Tracks Listing

Disc 1 (74:19)
1. Knife-Edge (5:04)
2. Take A Pebble (12:32)
3. Lucky Man (4:37)
4. Tank (6:47)
5. Tarkus (20:39)
 a) Eruption {Emerson}
 b) Stones Of Years {Emerson / Lake}
 c) Iconoclast {Emerson}
 d) Mass {Emerson / Lake}
 e) Manticore {Emerson}
 f) Battlefield {Lake}
 g) Aquatarkus {Emerson}
6. Excerpts From "Pictures At An Exhibition" (14:03)
a) Promenade {Mussorgsky}
b) The Hut Of Baba Yaga {Mussorgsky}
c) The Curse Of Baba Yaga
d) The Hut Of Baba Yaga {Mussorgsky}
e) The Great Gates Of Kiev {Mussorgsky / Lake}
f) The End
7. The Endless Enigma (Part One) (6:41)
8. Fugue (1:54)
9. The Endless Enigma (Part Two) (2:00)

Disc 2 (77:02)
1. From The Beginning (4:14)
2. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1) (8:40)
3. Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 2) (4:42)
4. Karn Evil 9 (2nd Impression) (7:07)
5. Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression) (9:07)
6. Jerusalem {Parry / Blake, arranged by Emerson / Lake / Palmer} (2:44)
7. Still... You Turn Me On (2:54)
8. Toccata (An adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th Movement) {Ginastera, arranged by Emerson; percussion movement - Carl Palmer} (7:19)
9. Fanfare For The Common Man (special edit) {Aaron Copland, arranged by Emerson} (5:40)
10. Pirates (13:17)
11. I Believe In Father Christmas (original single version) (3:32)
12. Honky Tonk Train Blues {Meade (Lux) Lewis} (3:11)
13. Canario (Taken from Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre) {J. Rodrigo} (3:57)

Total Time: 151:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Keith Emerson / keyboards, vocals on "Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression - Part 1)"
- Greg Lake / vocals, bass, electric & acoustic guitar
- Carl Palmer / drums, percussion 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Robin Trower - 1975 [1995] BBC Radio 1 "Live In Concert"

BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert album for sale by Robin Trower was released Jul 26, 1994 on the Griffin label. Recorded live on January 29, 1975. BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert buy CD music Includes liner notes by Elouise Rafferty. BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert CD music contains a single disc with 10 songs. 

I never knew who Robin Trower was, until a friend of mine had an extra ticket to an Aerosmith concert sometime in the mid-70s. Some band / person I had never heard of called "Robin Trower" opened for them that Friday night in Houston, Texas. Well, to put it in simple terms... Trower blew Aerosmith off the stage! End of story. This awesome collection is the next best thing to being there again. Day Of The Eagle sets the stage with some power riffs by Robin. He then breaks into a soulful rendition of Bridge Of Sighs, as he literally pours his emotions into the his Strat. Other classics like the the out of this world Twice Removed From Yesterday and Daydream transport you back to the land of felt posters, incense, blacklights and lava lamps. This album has it all and is a must for any diehard Trower fan!

I've had this album since it was first released and consider myself lucky to have found it that soon. I have been a Trower fan since the early '70's when they guest starred on a local late night Philadelphia television program as an "unknown" artist.
Up until that time Bridge of Sighs was considered, by most, the definitive Trower album. Me? I've always been a fan of "live" albums and this one is among the best of the era. For Trower fans, I'd put it right up there with The Allman Bros. "Live At The Fillmore East."
Sonically, from a production standpoint the first track, Day of the Eagle, is not the best this album has to offer. Like many other British produced live albums it seems to take the sound/recording people some warm up time to get everything right. This collecton is no exception but at least it's honest about it. No studio tricks were used to fix the thin but clear sound on that first track.
And, this performance also let's us know why Robin Trower was not the lead vocalist in the band from the title track of the first album Twice Removed From Yesterday.
You won't find a lot of jamming in this performance as the band plays it pretty straight.
In spite of these minor glitches, this is still a fantastic example of a '70's band, and Trower, at it's very best. All the Trower standards are here with a few not as often heard.
While "Day" and "Bridge" are still terrific selections, I, as a Blues fan, found myself warming up to Gonna Be More Suspicious sliding into Fine Day. But this album, as in the bands music in general, is mostly blues based material.
The mysterious and haunting Alethea is another good bit of lesser-known Trower.
The album culminates in a Trower version of B. B. King's Rock Me Baby. I could live without this one, but oh well....
Listening to "Live At BBC" makes me wish they could do a reunion tour/album (Jimmy DeWar died several years ago, and as the band's voice is irreplacable) and relive the memories all over again. Maybe they would even create some new memories.
If you're a long time Trower fan, or just discovering how overlooked they were back then, and you don't have this in your collection, BUY IT, RENT IT, or STEAL IT, but LISTEN to it!!! You won't be sorry.

Here is just a killer piece of incredible guitar history from Robin Trower! "BBC Radio One Live," is a testament to Trower's prowess as a guitarist, who is to often maligned as being a Hendrix clone. Though Trower was greatly influenced by Hendrix, "BBC Radio One Live," documents that Trower was indeed his own animal, taking Hendrix ideas, expanding on them, & in many cases, even transcending them. This is also a document of the immense power of Trower's three piece. James Dewar thumping the bass like a blacksmith hammering hot iron! Dewar's soulful singing, one of the greatest & most underrated singers in all of rock! Dewar's vocals are the glue to cement these songs in you mind! Bill Lordan, smashing his drums like giant boulders falling off a cliff, shattering in a thousand pieces of raging rhythmic cascades, anchors the cement of Dewar's bass. All three musicians together, creating a spectacular fortified wall of heavy, heavy, blues rock, or more correctly, heavy metal! Yet all musicians turning it down effortlessly when they need to, in all the right places, in a show of masterful dynamics, that prove heavy metal, especially 70's heavy metal, to be a multi-dimensional genre. There is an energy here that is not tapped in Trower's studio recordings, though I love them every bit as much, "BBC Radio One Live," is a band performing at the height of their immense capabilities, performing where they play best, in front of a live audience! 

 Track Listings

  1. Day of the Eagle
  2. Bridge of Sighs
  3. Gonna Be More Suspicious
  4. Fine Day
  5. Lady Love
  6. Twice Removed from Yesterday
  7. Daydream
  8. Alethea
  9. A Little Bit of Sympathy
  10. Rock Me Baby


Robin Trower (guitar, vocals),
Jimmy Dewar (bass, vocals),
Bill Lordan (drums)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Genesis - 1972 [1988] "Foxtrot"

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

Friday, March 11, 2016

Traffic - 1967 [2000] "Mr. Fantasy"

Mr. Fantasy is the debut studio album by English rock band Traffic. It was released in 1967. The recording included group members Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason; however, Mason left the band before the album was released. The album reached the number 16 position in the UK albums chart, and number 88 in the American Billboard charts.

The sitar, widely associated with this era of Traffic due to its use on the singles "Paper Sun" and "Hole in My Shoe," is only used on one track on the UK version of the album, "Utterly Simple".
The first US version of the album on United Artists Records was titled Heaven Is in Your Mind and had a cover that featured all members of the group except Dave Mason. The title was quickly changed back to Mr. Fantasy, but the new cover remained until Island Records reissued the UK version in the late 1970s. Both the US and UK editions were released in substantially different stereo and mono mixes. One song in particular, "Giving to You", was released in 3 different versions, including similar mono and stereo versions from the UK album, plus a very different mono UK b-side mix, which also was later included on the US mono LP. The special UK b-side mix includes lyrics sung by Winwood during the introduction which are not heard on any other version. The soundtrack album for Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush also contains a recording of "Utterly Simple" which is a different take than the one used on this album.
For the original US edition, a short looping snippet of the group's single "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" was added between most of the songs. The LP also added three songs from the group's UK singles ("Paper Sun", "Hole in My Shoe", and "Smiling Phases") while deleting two Dave Mason songs "Hope I Never Find Me There" and "Utterly Simple." The final track on the US album, "We're A Fade, You Missed This", is actually the ending of the full length version of "Paper Sun."
The album was engineered by Phil Brown, who, when asked what was his favourite memory of engineering, responded: "Recording Dear Mr Fantasy, one o'clock in the morning, November 1967.

Rolling Stone gave the USA release an overwhelmingly positive review, calling it "an album which, although it needs one unity that time will provide, is one of the best from any contemporary group." They especially praised Steve Winwood's vocals ("probably the major blues voice of his generation") and Jim Capaldi's lyrics. They held that "the strongest points of this album are where the elements of Traffic's 'comprehensible far-out' and Winwood's great R&B style are combined", but deemed Mason's contributions to be good enough in their own right. The review is noted for containing several major errors, including claiming that Chris Wood was Traffic's bassist and that Dave Mason did the lead vocal on "Paper Sun".
Allmusic's retrospective review was positive, calling Traffic's music "eclectic, combining their background in British pop with a taste for the comic and dance hall styles of Sgt. Pepper, Indian music, and blues-rock jamming."

Since Traffic's debut album, Mr. Fantasy, has been issued in different configurations over the years, a history of those differences is in order. In 1967, the British record industry considered albums and singles separate entities; thus, Mr. Fantasy did not contain the group's three previous Top Ten U.K. hits. Just as the album was being released in the U.K., Traffic split from Dave Mason. The album was changed drastically for U.S. release, both because American custom was that singles ought to appear on albums, and because the group sought to diminish Mason's presence; on the first pressing only, the title was changed to Heaven Is in Your Mind. In 2000, Island reissued Mr. Fantasy in its mono mix with the U.K. song list and five mono singles sides as bonus tracks; it also released Heaven Is in Your Mind, the American lineup in stereo with four bonus tracks. Naturally, the mono sound is punchier and more compressed, but it isn't ideal for the album, because Traffic was fashioned as an unusual rock band. Steve Winwood's primary instrument was organ, though he also played guitar; Chris Wood was a reed player, spending most of his time on flute; Mason played guitar, but he was also known to pick up the sitar, among other instruments. As such a mixture suggests, the band's musical approach was eclectic, combining their background in British pop with a taste for the comic and dance hall styles of Sgt. Pepper, Indian music, and blues-rock jamming. Songs in the last category have proven the most distinctive and long-lasting, but Mason's more pop-oriented contributions remain winning, as do more light-hearted efforts. Interest in the mono mix is likely to be restricted to longtime fans; anyone wishing to hear Traffic's first album for the first time is directed to Heaven Is in Your Mind

Traffic are rightly remembered today as titans of jazz-rock and soul — but on their 1967 debut album, ‘Mr. Fantasy,’ released 46 years ago this month, Steve Winwood and company were busy riding the psychedelic coattails of ‘Sgt. Pepper.‘

It’s a fascinating outlier in the Traffic discography: They never made another collection like it, and “collection” is the most fitting descriptor for ‘Mr. Fantasy,’ since the songs have been re-assembled and re-bundled in so many configurations throughout the years that calling it a legitimate album almost feels inaccurate.

The original UK version was an album in the traditional ’60s sense, following the Beatles‘ blueprint of leaving off hit singles (like the groovy, sitar-driven ‘Paper Sun’ and Dave Mason’s irresistibly goofy psych-pop sing-along ‘Hole in My Show’). The US version rectified that problem, re-packing the album as ‘Heaven is in Your Mind’ with those classic tracks included (not to mention a drastically re-tooled track order).

Even without the hits, ‘Mr. Fantasy’ is a revealing collection, showcasing a band in transition. Some of the material feels a bit dated (Mason’s stiar-led ‘Utterly Simple,’ clearly influenced by George Harrison‘s recent experiments with the instrument, devolves into a corny Moody Blues-esque spoken word bit), and occasionally the material feels inextricably tied to its era (the stereo-panned vocals and explosions of reverb on ‘Heaven Is In Your Mind’), but every inch of these songs are expertly arranged, exploding with raw creativity and instrumental power: ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’ is a psych-folk gem, laced with Chris Wood’s haunting flute and Dave Mason’s exotic tambura lines but driven to ecstasy by Winwood’s soulful belting. ‘Coloured Rain’ blends Wood’s honky sax and Jim Capaldi’s driving percussion into an early blues-rock gem, bested only by the semi-title-track ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ an expansive masterpiece built on Winwood’s aching vocal (not to mention his mesmerizing skills on guitar and organ).

Traffic, of course, was never a traditional rock band. Capaldi was a singing-writing drummer; Wood’s reed instruments gave the band a unique flexibility; Mason, the band’s short-lived wild card, loved odd instrumentation and wrote firmly with tongue-in-cheek; and Winwood, a young, white Englishman, sang with the husky, hard-lived soul of an early Delta bluesman. It was an strange combination on paper, but the effect was unmistakably vibrant.

Mason didn’t stick around long. In fact, he left before ‘Mr. Fantasy’ was even officially released (He isn’t even featured on the ‘Heaven Is In Your Mind’ album cover); he would re-join the band for their self-titled album in 1968 (at which point they’d more or less ditched the psychedelic approach altogether in favor of tight, soulful rock) and an expansive 1971 tour that produced the live album, ‘Welcome to the Cantine.’ Ultimately, though, Mason’s style never fully gelled with the others': Winwood, Wood, and Capaldi would serve as Traffic’s core trio throughout their fruitful classic ’70s period.

But even if ‘Mr. Fantasy’ isn’t a representative Traffic album, or even their most consistent batch of songs, it still captures the restless creativity of a band destined for bigger and better things.

Tracks Listing

Original UK version
1. Heaven Is in Your Mind (4:16)
2. Berkshire Poppies (2:55)
3. House for Everyone (2:05)
4. No Face, No Name, No Number (3:35)
5. Dear Mr. Fantasy (5:44)
6. Dealer (3:34)
7. Utterly Simple (3:16)
8. Coloured Rain (2:43)
9. Hope I Never Find Me There (2:12)
10. Giving to You (4:20)
11. Paper Sun (4:15)
12. Giving To You (UK mono single version) (4:12)
13. Hole In My Shoe (2:54)
14. Smiling Faces (2:43)
15. Here We Go 'Round The Mulberry Bush (2:18)

Line-up / Musicians

- Steve Winwood / vocals, guitar, piano, harpsichord, organ, bass, percussion
- Dave Mason / vocals, guitar, sitar, tamboura, shakkai, Mellotron, bass
- Chris Wood / vocals, flute, saxophone, organ
- Jim Capaldi / vocals, drums, percussion

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Freddie Hubbard - 1970 [1987] "Red Clay"

Red Clay is a soul/funk-influenced hard bop album recorded in 1970 by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. It was his first album released on Creed Taylor's CTI label and marked a shift away from Hubbard's long time recording affair with Blue Note Records and another shift toward the soul-jazz fusion sounds that would dominate his recordings in the later part of the decade. It was the album that established Taylor's vision for the music that was to appear on his labels in the coming decade. This is also Freddie Hubbard's seventeenth overall album.

This may be Freddie Hubbard's finest moment as a leader, in that it embodies and utilizes all of his strengths as a composer, soloist, and frontman. On Red Clay, Hubbard combines hard bop's glorious blues-out past with the soulful innovations of mainstream jazz in the 1960s, and reads them through the chunky groove innovations of '70s jazz fusion. This session places the trumpeter in the company of giants such as tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lenny White. Hubbard's five compositions all come from deep inside blues territory; these shaded notions are grafted onto funky hard bop melodies worthy of Horace Silver's finest tunes, and are layered inside the smoothed-over cadences of shimmering, steaming soul. The 12-minute-plus title track features a 4/4 modal opening and a spare electric piano solo woven through the twin horns of Hubbard and Henderson. It is a fine example of snaky groove music. Henderson even takes his solo outside a bit without ever moving out of the rhythmatist's pocket. "Delphia" begins as a ballad with slow, clipped trumpet lines against a major-key background, and opens onto a midtempo groover, then winds back into the dark, steamy heart of bluesy melodicism. The hands-down favorite here, though, is "The Intrepid Fox," with its Miles-like opening of knotty changes and shifting modes, that are all rooted in bop's muscular architecture. It's White and Hancock who shift the track from underneath with large sevenths and triple-timed drums that land deeply inside the clamoring, ever-present riff. Where Hubbard and Henderson are playing against, as well as with one another, the rhythm section, lifted buoyantly by Carter's bridge-building bassline, carries the melody over until Hancock plays an uncharacteristically angular solo before splitting the groove in two and doubling back with a series of striking arpeggios. This is a classic, hands down. 

On Jan. 27, 1970, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, playing at the peak of his powers after a string of seven brilliant Blue Note albums and three for the Atlantic label, went into the studio to cut his first for Creed Taylor’s CTI label. With Taylor producing, a stellar cast was assembled at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for three consecutive days of recording. They emerged with Red Clay, an album that would not only define Hubbard’s direction over the next decade while setting the template for all future CTI recordings, but would also have a dramatic impact on a generation of trumpet players coming up in the ’70s.
It was a transitional period in the jazz; the tectonic shift beginning with Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way, recorded the previous year. Hubbard’s entry into this crossover territory on Red Clay was characterized by the slyly syncopated beats of drummer Lenny White on the funky 12-minute title track, an infectious groover that was soon covered by budding crossover groups all over America. Essentially an inventive line set to the chord changes of “Sunny,” Bobby Hebb’s hit song from 1966, “Red Clay” would become Hubbard’s signature tune throughout his career. As trumpeter, friend and benefactor David Weiss, who is credited with bringing Hubbard out of self-imposed retirement in the late ’90s, explains, “Later in life Freddie would always announce it as ‘the tune that’s been keeping me alive for the last 30 years.’ We played ‘Red Clay’ every night and he would quote ‘Sunny’ over it every night.”

Like Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard's best work was always in the service of others until he signed with Creed Taylor's CTI label. He then released a trio of albums that represents his crowning achievement as a leader. Red Clay finds him in the company of Herbie Hancock, who played a large part in defining jazz fusion, as well as heavyweights like Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, and Lenny White. The title track kicks off the record with a funky groove that is much more memorable than any such trick attempted on Blue Note releases from the previous decade; the remaining tracks are fairly adventurous explorations of a variety of interesting themes. Hancock, whose electric piano is one of the guilty pleasures of the area, carries the day with funky vamping and tasteful soloing. But Hubbard is no slouch either, contributing some of his most memorable solos over the jazzy grooves. Henderson has smoothed out his previous sound, eliminating the stuttering and wailing that defined his style in the sixties. Simply put, Red Clay is one of the relatively few jazz masterpieces from the seventies.

Track listing

01    "Red Clay" - 12:11
02    "Delphia" - 7:23
03    "Suite Sioux" - 8:38
04    "The Intrepid Fox" - 10:45
05    "Cold Turkey" (Lennon) - 10:27
06    "Red Clay" [live] - 18:44 Bonus track on the 2002 & 2010 CD release

    All compositions by Freddie Hubbard except as indicated

        Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, January 27, 28 & 29, 1970 except track 6 recorded live at the Southgate Palace on July 19, 1971


    Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
    Joe Henderson - tenor saxophone, flute
    Herbie Hancock - electric piano, organ
    Ron Carter - bass, electric bass
    Lenny White - drums

Track 6 Personnel

    Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
    Stanley Turrentine - tenor saxophone
    Johnny "Hammond" Smith - organ/electric piano
    George Benson - guitar
    Ron Carter - bass
    Billy Cobham - drums
    Airto Moreira - percussion