Saturday, September 16, 2017

Yes - 2015 "Progeny: Highlights From Seventy-Two"

Yes was firing on all cylinders in the fall of 1972. The prog-rock pioneers’ fifth studio album Close To The Edge was a smash success as audiences around the world packed arenas to see the legendary group perform. The band captured the magic of that tour on its first live album, Yessongs. Released in 1973, the triple-LP sold over a million copies and blew minds with Roger Dean’s iconic artwork.

The band recently discovered recordings of seven complete concerts from the weeks leading up to the shows heard on Yessongs. The latest audio technology was used to restore the reel-to-reel recordings and bring out incredible sonic detail, creating an open, immediate sound that drops listeners right into the front row.

Progeny: Highlights From Seventy Two consists of ninety minutes of live recordings exhumed from Yes' 1972 tour, some of which were released as Yessongs (Atlantic, 1973). Culled from seven previously unreleased recordings of complete concerts, and sequenced to approximate a setlist of the time, this two package comes adorned in vintage Roger Dean artwork that, vivid as it is, cannot compare to the vibrancy of the music inside.

Cognoscenti may or may not agree this material constitutes Yes' holy grail as the group became ever-so-slightly more structured with the departure of original drummer Bill Bruford (to join King Crimson)and the subsequent enlistment of Alan White to fulfill that role. But the somewhat rigidified presentations of these shows belies how the vocal and instrumental expertise is catalyzed by the extraordinary self-discipline evident on "I've Seen All Good People."

There's no denying the enthralling and uplifting sensation of the latter and that force is even greater later in the show during the greater complexity of "Roundabout;" the intricacy of Steve Howe's electric guitar as it interweaves with Rick Wakeman's keyboards and Chris Squire's bass mirror the shifting textures even more graphically, all the while maintaining, and even elevating the visceral impact of the musicianship. White's comparatively simpler approach to his kit actually keeps Yes from sound too busy for the own good. In contrast, while some of the lyrics of "Siberian Khatru, " for instance, sound esoteric to a fault, the pastoral images can lend to the rapture Yes aims to create.

Still, workouts like "Heart of the Sunrise" (and even more Howe's solo "Clap"/Mood for a Day" and Wakeman's spotlight "Excerpts from The Six Wives of Henry VIII") lend themselves to the criticism of technical braggadocio, unless they're taken as pure sonic expression, but the latter the acoustic-based number adds markedly to the dynamic flow of the concert , particularly as it sets up "And You and I" where the deceptively frail sound of Jon Anderson's voice comes to the for as a major asset of the Yes sound even more so as part of the billowing group harmonies when Howe and Squire join in.

Further such nuance below the surface of the most prominent components of the arrangements is worthy of selective scrutiny here, all the more remarkable given the age of the recordings (notwithstanding Yes long-standing devotion to audio quality). The unadorned mix reveals the exertion expended by the group as they play, the antithesis of antiseptic, especially played at high-volume (headphone listening doesn't offer the same insight). "Close to the Edge, " for instance, moves at a breathless pace.

A highly-distinctive 'greatest hits' set for the novice, Highlights From Seventy-Two is also available for nostalgists in the form of a of a three-LP set of vinyl, while for the completists, there's a fourteen-disc box titled Seven Shows From Seventy- Two comprising the fruits of this archiving project in their entirety. All these various configurations are but a further reflection of the multi-colored density of this music.

Progeny: Highlights, It's like Yessongs, but with each instrument in crisp, well-separated detail. Wakeman's keyboard wizardry (Mellotron!!), White's frantic drumming, Howe's speed-riffing, Anderson's free-associating, and of course Squire's Rickenbacker bass (the heartbeat of Yes, always and forever) - they're all here, and are all easy to pick out individually in the mix. Or, listen to it a few more times and just enjoy how they blend.

I didn't bother with the 7-CD set - seems overkill to me. But this one? Just right. And after almost 45 years, this material sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Best restoration job from original tapes that I've ever heard, period.

It's hard to be objective when I'm a hardcore die-hard almost-lifelong Yes freak, but I give this album six stars. At least.

Tracks Listing:

CD 1
1. Opening (Excerpt From Firebird Suite) - Siberian Khatru
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, November 20, 1972

2. I've Seen All Good People
    a. Your Move
    b. All Good People
20 Nov 1972: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, USA

3. Heart Of The Sunrise
15 Nov 1972: Knoxville Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

4. Clap/Mood For A Day
12 Nov 1972: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

5. And You And I
    i. Cord Of Life
    ii. Eclipse
    iii. The Preacher The Teacher
    iv. Apocalypse
11 Nov 1972: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

CD 2
1. Close To The Edge
    i. The Solid Time Of Change
    ii. Total Mass Retain
    iii. I Get Up I Get Down
    iv. Seasons Of Man
11 Nov 1972: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA

2. Excerpts From "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII"
12 Nov 1972: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

3. Roundabout
31 Oct 1972: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4. Yours Is No Disgrace
12 Nov 1972: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA


Bass, Vocals – Chris Squire
Drums – Alan White
Guitar, Vocals – Steve Howe
Keyboards – Rick Wakeman
Vocals, Percussion – Jon Anderson

Painting, Artwork By – Roger Dean

Tony Williams - 1964 [1999] "Life Time"

Life Time is the debut album by American drummer Tony Williams recorded in 1964 and released on the Blue Note label.

Tony Williams was just 18 years old when he recorded this, his 1964 debut as a leader, but he was already a prodigious drummer who could maintain a rapid-fire flow of subtle accents that prodded a soloist into fresh directions. His effect on a band was electric, and he had rapidly moved to the front ranks of jazz musicians, working with Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, and Miles Davis. More than a fine drummer, Williams was a musical visionary, and with Life Time he recorded one of the most forward-looking of the Blue Note albums of the '60s. It shows in the choice of radical sidemen like Sam Rivers, the explosive tenor saxophonist who had been Williams's early mentor in Boston, and bassist Gary Peacock, then a regular associate of Albert Ayler, as well as the more innovative members of the Blue Note stable, like Herbie Hancock and Bobby Hutcherson. It also shows in Williams's liberating approach to instrumentation, using two basses on some tracks and none on another, and even omitting his own drums from the flamenco-tinged "Barb's Song to the Wizard." The trio of Williams, Rivers, and Peacock create a masterpiece on "Tomorrow Afternoon," with its heady mix of calm and passion, but every track is well-crafted, challenging music.

Drummer Tony Williams' first recording as a leader (made when he was 18 and still billed as Anthony Williams) gave him an opportunity to utilize an advanced group of musicians: tenor saxophonist Sam Rivers, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Herbie Hancock, and both Richard Davis and Gary Peacock on bass. Williams wrote all four of the pieces and has a different combination of players on each song. The freely improvised "Memory" features Hutcherson, Hancock, and Williams in some colorful and at times spacy interplay; "Barb's Song to the Wizard" is a Hancock-Ron Carter duet; "Tomorrow Afternoon" has Rivers, Peacock and Williams in a trio; and all of the musicians (except Hutcherson) are on the sidelong "2 Pieces of One." The unpredictable music holds one's interest; a very strong debut for the masterful drummer.

By now, it's an irrefutable fact that drummer Tony Williams was the youngest preeminent figure within the avant-garde movement of the mid-'60s. Every jazz fan seems to know the events that led to his international fame: after intriguing trumpeter Miles Davis with his cutting-edge approach to drumming, he was hired and added to the groundbreaking "Second Great Quintet" at the ripe age of 17. During this significant stint, Williams altered the trajectory of Davis' music, solidified himself as a drum wunderkind, and broadened his skill set to successfully branch out from jazz into rock-oriented genres such as fusion.

The details above have already been fossilized in jazz history, but what about his lesser-known early years, before breaking tradition with Miles Davis?

After a partnership with Sam Rivers at age 13, Williams was hired by Jackie McLean at age 16 and eventually recorded on his 1963 album One Step Beyond (Blue Note, 1963)—an adventurous effort that firmly established Williams as a sought-after session drummer for Blue Note Records. As word of his virtuosity spread, Williams eventually landed sessions with some of the leading musicians in post-bop and the avant-garde whose albums have since reached legendary status. Williams left an indelible mark on Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch! (Blue Note, 1964), Andrew Hill's Point of Departure (Blue Note, 1964), and Sam Rivers' Fuchsia Swing Song (Blue Note, 1964) to name a few.

As Williams continued to reinvent what the drummer's role was in jazz, Blue Note founder Alfred Lion—a champion for documenting new and innovative music, even if it didn't sell—offered him his own recording dates, which were then collected for the release of his 1964 debut studio album, Life Time. To fully comprehend the grasp that Williams had over jazz at the time, he was only 18 and managed to conjure a lineup that included Sam Rivers (tenor saxophone), Herbie Hancock (piano), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes, marimba), and three bassists: Ron Carter, Richard Davis, and Gary Peacock. Along with leading a post-bop dream team, all of the compositions on the album were penned by Williams himself.

To state the truth, Williams' second effort for Blue Note, Spring (Blue Note, 1965), often overshadows Life Time in part due to its accessibility and firm roots in structured post-bop. That's not to say that Life Time lacks musical vision, in fact, the album itself is an overlooked classic that boasts a sense of adventure and space that's absent on Spring. The music on Life Time is always moving, surveying every facet of each composition, extracting colors, emotions, and vibrations; it's unfettered from the claws of tradition and, when played from start to end, galvanizes the listener's imagination.

The album begins with the side-long, two-part composition "Two Pieces of One." The first part, "Red," begins with a tenor saxophone and bowed bass intertwining to produce a somber melody on top of Williams' spastically brushed snare. Launching off of an extended bass solo, Rivers and Williams wallow in compelling interplay with no particular direction before letting Davis and Peacock duet for the rest of the song. "Green" picks back up with brisk, vibrant runs by Rivers over Williams' dynamic ride cymbal patterns. Increasing in energy, Rivers flirts with overblown notes before easing up to let Williams illustrate his expressive, unpredictable approach to the skins.

Williams, Rivers, and Peacock combine for "Tomorrow Afternoon" which echoes the imaginative improvisation found on the previous, but becomes looser and more uninhibited as it progresses. Perhaps the most notable detail of this song is the interaction between Peacock and Rivers. Peacock, who harbors a lyrical approach to the bass, bounces angular sets of notes off of Rivers who then repeats them, contributing to a constantly evolving cycle of fresh ideas.

"Memory" marks the album's first appearance of Hutcherson and Hancock. The most percussive track on the record, Williams plays his usual kit along with timpani, wood blocks, maracas, and triangle. Hancock plays in the shadow, setting an overarching moody tone with dark, sporadic chord sequences. Hutcherson, playing vibraphone and marimba, embellishes Williams' primitive instrumentation, performing with the utmost zeal and inventiveness.

Williams, being the mature musician he was, stepped out of the spotlight and allowed Hancock and Carter to perform a piano/bass duet for the last composition. A song as enchanting as its title, "Barb's Song to the Wizard" is saturated with whimsical interplay and musical subtleties. Apart from the stunning performance, this song is a fine testament to Williams' underrated compositional prowess.

In retrospect, it's easy to see why Williams' accomplishments in the field of fusion often conceal his earlier organic efforts; the boisterous music of the '70s is undeniably more popular than the experimental ideals of avant-garde jazz. Nonetheless, this music deserves to be recognized and enjoyed. Constantly brimming with spirit, Life Time is an enthralling debut from a young trailblazer.

Track listing:
All compositions by Tony Williams

1. "Two Pieces of One: Red" – 8:06
2. "Two Pieces of One: Green" – 10:40
3. "Tomorrow Afternoon" – 5:35
4. "Memory" – 8:06
5. "Barb's Song to the Wizard" – 5:58

Recorded on August 21 (#1–3) and August 24 (#4–5), 1964.


Tony Williams – drums, timpani, woodblocks, maracas, triangle
Sam Rivers – tenor saxophone (1–3)
Bobby Hutcherson – vibes, marimba (4–5)
Herbie Hancock – piano (4–5)
Ron Carter (5), Richard Davis (1–2), Gary Peacock (1–3)  – bass

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pat Martino - 1997 "All Sides Now"

All Sides Now is an album by guitarist Pat Martino which was recorded in 1996–97 and first released on the Blue Note label. The album pairs Martino with notable guitarists from across the musical spectrum.

Veteran Pat Martino is teamed up with a variety of different fellow guitarists on this interesting if not quite essential release. Martino matches wits with guitarist Charlie Hunter (who on Stevie Wonder's "Too High" often sounds like an organist), Tuck Andress, Kevin Eubanks, Les Paul ("I'm Confessin'"), Mike Stern and Michael Hedges. In addition, Cassandra Wilson sings Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" accompanied by Martino, and rock guitarist Joe Satriani tries to sit in on two numbers (with indifferent results). A decent effort, but not up to Pat Martino's most significant releases.

Pat Martino's 1997 album All Sides Now features performances by (among others) Les Paul, Mike Stern, Tuck Andress, Joe Satriani, Michael Hedges, Charlie Hunter, Kevin Eubanks and Cassandra Wilson.

After the Los Angeles studio dates, Martino traveled north to the seaside town of Mendocino where guitarist Michael Hedges has his home studio. This was a special rendezvous for Martino. Years earlier before his brain aneurysms had been diagnosed, he spent a period of time in locked psychiatric wards undergoing shock therapy to alleviate the memory loss and severe headaches he was suffering. "My friendship with Michael goes back to that crucial time in my life. He used to come into the ward where I was confined and play his guitar for me. I don't think Michael ever thought we'd play together let alone record together. Doing this session was a major breakthrough in our relationship. It was a dream come true to work with him."

The pair duet on Hedges' "Two Days Old," a pensive piece from his album Aerial Boundaries. [Correction…Breakfast in the Field.—Ed.] Martino plays one of Hedges' nylon-stringed guitars while Hedges plays steel-stringed acoustic. The number is a jewel of virtuoso guitar playing. While in Northern California, rock guitarist Joe Satriani traveled to Hedges' studio and recorded two songs with Martino. "Ellipsis" features gripping rock-edged and blues-tinged improvisations while the end track of the CD, "Never and After,"is a calming tune with ripples of guitar beauty. "I had no idea that Joe was interested in my music and my style of guitar playing," Martino says. "We hit it off and improvised with dignity, even though we're from two different polarities."

Track listing:
All compositions by Pat Martino except as indicated

"Too High" (Stevie Wonder) - 5:03
"Two of a Kind" - 5:54
"Progression" - 5:36
"I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" (Doc Daugherty, Al J. Neiburg, Ellis Reynolds) - 4:41
"Ellipsis" (Martino, Joe Satriani) - 3:09
"Both Sides, Now" (Joni Mitchell) - 3:53
"Ayako" - 7:46
"Two Days Old" (Michael Hedges) - 5:17
"Outrider" - 7:43
"Never and After" (Satriani) - 2:54


Pat Martino - guitar
Charlie Hunter - guitar (track 1)
Tuck Andress - guitar (track 2)
Kevin Eubanks - guitar (track 3)
Les Paul - guitar (track 4)
Joe Satriani - guitar (track 5 and 10)
Mike Stern - guitar (track 7 and 9)
Michael Hedges - guitar (track 8), percussion (track 5)
Scott Colley - bass (track 7 and 9)
Paul Nowinski - bass (track 4)
Scott Amendola - drums (track 1)
Ben Perowsky - drums (track 7 and 9)
Jeff Hirshfield - drums (track 10)
Cassandra Wilson - vocals (track 6)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Simon Phillips - 1995 "Symbiosis"

I started writing material for Symbiosis early '93. In fact Force Majeure hadn't been released yet, but I needed to get my ideas down and focus more on developing my writing style.
I was living in an apartment in Studio City and had set up a little writing studio in the living room - no drum kit. I had a DrumKat set up but that is not quite the real thing. However, for composition it was fine, and I believe the first piece that made it onto the CD was "Sea Of Sighs". Ray Russell came over to stay in my new home and we worked together on some new material. Most of it was accomplished with the help of FedEx. I would send a DAT of some ideas - he would send back the same, and then I would arrange all the parts making changes and so on. The little writing studio was pushed to the limit, with various complaints from tenants underneath and around me. Time to look for somewhere else!
Mike Porcaro had a small studio but it was in need of a little sort out. Using my experience and knowledge of running and maintaining a professional studio I proposed that I design and wire his equipment, add some of my equipment, in return for the use of the studio.
Thus Mickey Shoals was born. A modest ADAT studio with a rather fine patch bay - small drum kit, keyboards, Vision sequencing - even a coffee maker! I recorded Toto's Tambu demos there and even one basic track was used on the album - not telling which!
A fellow from a new German Label, Lipstick, had been calling me every time I landed in Germany. Quite how he knew where I was amazed me, but he was sure consistent. I was on tour with Los Lobotomies in '94 and I decided to meet with the fellow in question to see what he had to offer. I drove overnight from Hamburg to Köln in a nice little BMW rather rapidly - I think I made it in less than 3 hours - and met with him over breakfast at the Central Bar. His name was Joachim Becker, and our deal was agreed over Rührei mit Speck, no messing around. At last I was signed to a small, but enthusiastic company.
Recording for Symbiosis started on June 3rd, 1995 at A & M studios in Hollywood and was to date the most successful CD earning a German Jazz Award for 10,000 domestic sales.

Nice release. Very unique. Reminded me of the old Bill Bruford and Alan Holdsworth Jazz Fusion. Simon Phillips style of drumming is very unique. I really can't remember a CD I purchased that was anything like this in many years (Bill Bruford 1979 One of Kind). Dixie Dregs also comes close. I'll be looking & listening for some of Simon's other releases.

Stumbled upon this after picking up Simons new album. Really nice blend of Saxophone and Guitar. Harkens back to 70's fusion albums by (Di Meola era) Return to Forever or 70's Allan Holdsworth. Definitely worth a listen.

Wow!!! Awesome Fusion from 1995 at the right price. I was hoping to get something more recent from him, but the budget didn't allow it. Practically stole this album on Marketplace and must say: MIND. BLOWN. Reall great stuff; balance of emphasis on Saxes and Guitar up front; progressive writing, great hooks, just not only fun but GOOD, GOOD JAZZ if you ask me

This CD is a great find for all musicians listening to contemporary jazz. The level of musicianship is very high. Simon Phillips is, of course, just fantastic. On this, his third solo effort, he turns off the sequencers and does it all with real musicians. The ensemble contains the core from Force Majeure - Anthony Jackson, Ray Russle and adds Mitch Forman and various percussionists. Several of the compositions seem to have more body than Simon's earlier work without losing any of the Simon signature fireworks. Absolute must for any drummer. I would have given it 5 stars but I would reserve that rating for aclassics like 'A Love Supreme" or 'Kind of Blue' and so forth

Track listing:

1. Symbiosis
2. You Restless Angel
3. Midair Decision
4. Biplane to Bermuda
5. Isis
6. Out of the Blue
7. Starfish Spaghetti
8. Indian Summer
9. Sea of Sighs


Simon Phillips - Drums;
Ray Russell - Guitar;
Mitchell Forman - Keyboards;
John Pena, Mike Porcaro, Jimmy Johnson - Bass;
Wendell Brooks - Horns;
Chris Trujillo, Sheila E. - Percussion

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Emerson Lake & Palmer - 1971 "Tarkus"

Tarkus is the second studio album by the English progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in June 1971 on Island Records. Following their 1970 European tour, the group returned to Advision Studios in January 1971 to prepare material for a new album. The first side is the seven-part "Tarkus", with a collection of shorter tracks on side two.

Tarkus went to number one in the UK Albums Chart and peaked at number 9 in the US.

The cover artwork was commissioned from the painter and graphic designer William Neal.

"The armadillo was simply a doodle created from a fusion of ideas while working on the Rare Bird album As Your Mind Flies By. I had produced a gun belt made up of piano keys, which somehow led to WW1 armoury; nobody liked the idea, but the little armadillo remained on the layout pad. Later on we were asked to submit ideas to E.L.P. for their second album. David Herbet and I put tank tracks on the little fellow ... yet it was still basically a doodle. However, Keith Emerson spotted it and loved the idea, so we developed him further ... After hearing the substance of Tarkus on the acetate I developed the ideas along with Keith and Greg, and painted all the other creatures too."

Keith Emerson said, "To everyone, it represented what we were doing in that studio. The next day on my drive up from Sussex the imagery of the armadillo kept hitting me. It had to have a name. Something guttural. It had to begin with the letter 'T' and end with a flourish. "Tarka the Otter" may have come into it, but this armadillo needed a science fiction kind of name that represented Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in reverse. Some mutilation of the species caused by radiation ... 'Tarkus'!"

Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1970 eponymous LP was only a rehearsal. It hit hard because of the novelty of the act (allegedly the first supergroup in rock history), but felt more like a collection of individual efforts and ideas than a collective work. All doubts were dissipated by the release of Tarkus in 1971. Side one of the original LP is occupied by the 21-minute title epic track, beating both Genesis' "Supper's Ready" and Yes' "Close to the Edge" by a year. Unlike the latter group's cut-and-paste technique to obtain long suites, "Tarkus" is a thoroughly written, focused piece of music. It remains among the Top Ten classic tracks in progressive rock history. Because of the strength of side one, the material on the album's second half has been quickly forgotten -- with one good reason: it doesn't match the strength of its counterpart -- but "Bitches Crystal" and "A Time and a Place" make two good prog rock tracks, the latter being particularly rocking. "Jeremy Bender" is the first in a series of honky tonk-spiced, Far-West-related songs. This one and the rock & roll closer "Are You Ready Eddy?" are the only two tracks worth throwing away. Otherwise Tarkus makes a very solid album, especially to the ears of prog rock fans -- no Greg Lake acoustic ballads, no lengthy jazz interludes. More accomplished than the trio's first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.

For Emerson, Lake & Palmer the year 1971 represented an opportunity to establish that this union of three giant talents was more than a mere supergroup, but the chance for the band to become a firm fixture on the prog scene. Their self-titled debut album from the previous year had displayed some spectacular performances, even if the songs themselves had been a little uneven. Tarkus was their opportunity to address that.

What was to give this album its tone, timbre and colouring was the epic title track, which, with its seven movements, took up the whole of the first side of the original vinyl. This was a bold step for the band, and one that relied heavily on Keith Emerson’s compositional dexterity. In fact, it was the keyboard player who came up with the musically complex composition in the first place.

“After the release of ELP’s first album and during the live recording of Pictures At An Exhibition, it was coincidental that Carl Palmer and I were working individually on the same sort of complex rhythm ideas,” recalls Emerson. “He was doing this on his practice drum pads, while I was at home on an upright piano in London and a Steinway in Sussex. As my ideas seemed to complement what Carl was up to, I pursued this direction.

“We focused on a centrepiece first to establish a concept. Sometimes we didn’t know if it would become a conceptual piece of work at all. All of the compositions had to bond and work together, and if they didn’t they were used somewhere else.”

For this 20-minute exposition, Emerson drew heavily on the work of both Frank Zappa and the Argentinian classical composer Albero Ginastera.

“I was a huge admirer of Frank Zappa, and had met him on a few earlier occasions when he wanted my advice on how to cope with English orchestras. Frank was of the opinion that there really should not be time signatures. That’s how I felt. Why be governed and dictated to by a 4/4 or 3/4 rhythm by adding or subtracting notes just to make it fit?”

Ginastera’s inspiration is also readily acknowledged by Emerson. In fact, he was to adapt the Argentine’s first piano concerto under the title of Toccata for the 1973 album Brain Salad Surgery. Ginastera absolutely loved this adaptation, claiming that Emerson had captured the true essence of the piece.

Tarkus was the first ELP album I owned back in the early '70s. I've been a fan of ELP ever since. Pretentious, saber rattling, aggressive rock-n-roll. ELP was at the forefront of progressive rock, blending classical, jazz and rock in a frantic keyboard driven fusion. ELP's music is more complex than any other rock band I am aware of. ELP was not only complex in the scope of the music, but often used complex 5/4 and 7/4 time signatures, which only jazz great Dave Brubeck and classical composers would dare use. They are as dark as Pink Floyd could ever be and just a touch more complex and grand in scope than the best work by Yes. And they manage to make this amazing music, which at times has the scope and feel of a whole symphony, with only three musicians and without any overdubs.

 Tracks Listing:

1. Tarkus (20:43)
- a. Eruption (2:44)
- b. Stones Of Years (3:44)
- c. Iconoclast (1:16)
- d. Mass (3:12)
- e. Manticore (1:52)
- f. Battlefield (3:51)
- g. Aquatarkus (4:04)
2. Jeremy Bender (1:51)
3. Bitches Crystal (3:58)
4. The Only Way (Hymn)(3:49)
(Themes used in intro & bridge from Toccata in F and Prelude VI, composed by JS Bach)
5. Infinite Space (Conclusion)(3:20)
6. A Time And A Place (3:02)
7. Are You Ready Eddy? (2:10)

Total time: 38:56

Line-up / Musicians:

- Greg Lake / vocals, bass, electric & acoustic guitars
- Keith Emerson / Hammond organ, St. Marks church organ, piano, celeste, Moog synthesizer
- Carl Palmer / drums, percussion

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Simon Phillips - 2009 "Another Lifetime"

All world drummer Simon Phillips returns as a bandleader/solo artist following up his 1995 release “Symbiosis”. Phillips, one of the planet’s most versatile and explosive drummers shows his inventive and keen composing skills on “Another Lifetime” along with the estimable bassist Anthony Jackson and long time associate, guitarist Ray Russell.

Simon Phillips can do it all. Phillips has recorded on two Buddy Rich Big Band tributes, showcasing his ability to read complex charts and swing with passion or supporting the likes of “The Who”, Peter Gabriel, Gil Evans and many others too numerous to cite here. On “Another Lifetime”, Phillips expands his working unit with the additions of guitarist Andy Timmons, saxophonist Wendell Brooks, percussionist Peter Michael Escovedo and keyboardist Jeff Babko. The proceedings get off to a heated start with the Phillips/Russell composition “Jungleyes”. Here, the blistering crunch chords from the twin guitarists provide the ammunition for Phillips’ commanding presence yet the composition takes on a new light when the guitarists emulate a mini-brass section with soaring and melodic unison lines. Throughout, Phillips and co. tread waters that bound Prog-Rock, Fusion and Jazz which makes it fairly evident that Phillips is a well-schooled and diverse technician/composer. On Phillips’ “Freudian Slip” saxophonist Wendell Brooks along with the dynamic guitar work of Russell and Timmons craft enticing upper register thematic statements as Phillips’ sturdy and pronounced backbeat guides the tune on a whirlwind course. As in the past, Phillips reaps many rewards performing with the brilliant Anthony Jackson. Jackson is arguably one of the world’s finest bassists. Jackson plays yet constantly explores his instrument while providing one of the most distinctive “bottoms” in the business. Jackson’s approach is muscular, slick and extremely “musical” while rarely, if ever conveying an obtrusive presence. Percussionist Escovedo and keyboard ace Jeff Babko provide the complimentary accents yet also maintain a hearty presence while rounding out the colossal and fiery band sound. Phillips’ “Kumi Na Moja” is a straight-ahead burner featuring some appealing and crafty time signatures that should keep the listener on the edge of his or her seat. Engaging motifs, dynamic chord progressions, captivating solo work, supplemented by swift double bass drums and thunderous tom-tom maneuvers from the master. “Kumi Na Moja” is a tour-de-force. Things let up a bit on the Phillips/Russell composition “Mountain High”. This piece serves as a good vehicle for saxophonist Wendell Brooks. “Mountain High” is an innocent yet moody tune which hints at Adult Contemporary or New Age but features some charming and airy phrasing by Brooks’ clean soprano work. Phillips and Russell’s “Euphrates” features Phillips’ performing polyrhythmic patterns across his toms while Anthony Jackson thumps his bass in linear fashion as he constructs engaging patterns and difficult octaves which at times mimic the semblance of two bassist’s. The closer, Phillips and Russell’s “Another Lifetime” is a highly charged Jazz induced scorcher where everyone gets a chance to extend their wares. This track could also serve as an appropriate finale for the “live” show.

“Another Lifetime” may in fact be Simon Phillips’ finest solo release to date. Other than the extraordinary soloing and interplay among the band, Phillips and Ray Russell get high marks for strong compositional development which should meet or exceed the expectations of most Simon Phillips fans. “Another Lifetime” makes for compelling listening and should satisfy the appetites of those who have been anticipating this release. Highly Recommended!

If you took musicians who have worked on projects with artists as diverse as Olivia Newton-John, Vanilla Ice, Tim McGraw, Julio Iglesias, Tina Turner, the London Symphony Orchestra, Ashford & Simpson, the Bee Gees, George Benson, Jimmy Buffett, Chick Corea, the Doobie Brothers, the Four Tops, Stephane Grappelli, Lena Horne, Joe Jackson, Madonna, the O'Jays, John Sebastian, Doc Severinsen, Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan, Dionne Warwick, Sadao Watanabe, Jon Anderson, Big Country, Roger Daltrey, Mick Jagger, Judas Priest, Mike Oldfield, Trevor Rabin, Joe Satriani, and Whitesnake and put them together on a project, several questions might come to mind. Among those questions might be: Just how big of an army is this? Another would certainly be: What kind of music would these people make? Well, the answer to the first question is, just seven people (Simon Phillips, Andy Timmons, Wendell Brooks, Jeff Babko, Ray Russell, Anthony Jackson, and Pete Escovedo). The answer to the second question is not as simple to answer, but far more interesting. Overall the CD is a very enjoyable variety of jazz, but certainly progressive rock leanings and other sounds do emerge. Expect to hear funk alongside elements of both Pat Metheny and Al Dimeola. Don't be surprised if you pick up on hints of vintage Genesis. As one might expect with musicians boasting the above credentials, the album is exceptionally strong, both in terms of writing and performance. Also coming as no surprise, the drumming is top-notch and makes up a lot of the interest of the CD. However, the rest of the band definitely keep up their ends as well, serving up their unique blend of fusion. This is one that should serve to entertain both jazz aficionados and fans of progressive rock equally well. They just don't make them a lot better than this.

Simon Phillips has for years occupied a respected berth as one of the worlds best, most dynamic and in demand session drummers. My understanding
is that this is the first album he's done of original material fronting his own band.

In a nutshell this is high octane, high energy, beautifully performed jazz fusion of the highest order. Every cut is a gem and for fans of 5 star, kick out the jams instrumental music you're going to love this one.

Track Listing:

  1. Jungleyes  8:07
  2. P O V  5:55
  3. Freudian Slip  6:45
  4. Eyes Blue For You  5:40
  5. Kumi Na Moja 8:13
  6. Mountain High 5:40
  7. E S P  6:10
  8. Euphrates  6:36
  9. Another Lifetime  6:34

Total time - 59:40


Simon Phillips - Drums
Anthony Jackson - Bass
Andy Timmons - Guitar
Jeff Babko - Keyboards
Peter Michael Escovedo - Percussion
Ray Russell - Guitar
Wendell Brooks - Saxophone

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Billy Cobham - 1974 [2014] "Crosswinds"

Crosswinds is the second album of fusion drummer Billy Cobham. The album was released in 1974. It comprises four songs, all composed by Billy Cobham. It was used as the basis for the Souls of Mischief's hit song "93 'til Infinity". Wiki

Billy Cobham's second date as a leader was one of his better sessions. Four songs (all originals by the leader/drummer) comprise "Spanish Moss -- A Sound Portrait," and, in addition, Cobham contributed three other pieces. The selections team him with guitarist John Abercrombie, both of the Brecker Brothers, trombonist Garnett Brown, keyboardist George Duke, bassist John Williams, and Latin percussionist Lee Pastora. In general, the melodies and the vamps are reasonably memorable. Cobham also takes an unaccompanied drum solo on "Storm." Worth searching for by fusion collectors.  All Music

Billy Cobham made this album at a pivotal point. The original Mahavishnu Orchestra had disbanded, John McLaughlin was wallowing, and jazz purists were beginning to complain about the rock influence. Billy helped show a new direction. Crosswinds opening suite has lush and sophisticated horn arrangments, soothing a subtly intense rhythm. The effect is like night, tropical breezes, just as he wants to convey. You can almost hear the ocean, the music of the wild Caribbean (no steel drums of course, just cool). The rest of the album alternates between hot and cool, with some funky fusion and a beautiful extended piece, Heathers, near the end, featuring a trombone solo that sounds like the soundtrack to a loving and relaxing dream. The album is inspired, Billy at his creative best, showing the jazz world a new dimension that fusion had not shown before. At 35 minutes it is a little short, but we have quality here, not quantity. This album belongs in any jazz or fusion collection. By D. M. Paine

"Crosswinds" has been in my vinyl collection since 1974, when I first picked up a copy at King Karol Records on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Well, I recently became reacquainted with this recording after picking up a CD copy at a "oh so trendy" record store in Haight-Ashburry, San Francisco. As I did then, I played the new CD over and over again, completely enraptured by Cobham's "Ripley's Believe or Not" staccatto drumming and Lee Pastora's smoking Latin percussion. Joined by the Brecker Brothers, George Duke, John Abercrombie, Alex Blake, John Williams, Garnett Brown and other great luminaries of early jazz fusion, Cobham and his willing partners beat and shape a veritable masterpiece. Drive along Big Sur and take in the vast and dramatic California skies and scarred bluffs and you'll begin to undertand what hues of emotions this exquisite recording conjures. Crosswinds alternates between adrenaline musical rushes and absolute sublime chill, creating a perfectly balanced sinuous stream of sound. Simply exquisite!  By Hector Reyes-erazo.

I got this album as a gift in 1974 when I was 19 years old. My unsuspecting sister had heard the name Billy Cobham, but did not realize what a masterpiece she had placed in my hands. Although a virtuoso drummer with monstrous chops, Billy doesn't let his virtuosity run away with him. Although those looking for impressive drumming will not be disapointed. His use of time on the the Crosswinds suite, his climactic "Storm" solo the driving end movement will satisfy drummers, air-drummers and percussion fans. This album exhibits Billy Cobham, composer and arranger. With a dark hues on his palette and a wide brush, Billy paints us quite a seascape. The "Pleasant Pheasant",one of my favorites, is energetic, driving, exciting and just a little bit funky. This features an exceptional and rhythmic drum solo. "Heather", what can I say about "Heather", hypnotic, seductive, well paced. It starts as a whisper of a siren's song and builds to what to date might be one of Michael Breckers most beautiful and haunting solos. This one is for the headphones, folks. "Heather" is worth the price of this recording alone. A stellar cast of musicians on this album work in concert and in symbiosis to produce one of the underated recordings in the "fusion" era. No pyrothechnics for it's own sake here. Impressive solo's abound within the context of the pieces. John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Garnett Brown, Lee Pastora ...etc., a dream team of musicians. This album should never have been gone this long from the CD shelves/racks/bins of music outlets. Few of Billy's recording measure up to this one in my opinion. By ND.NY 

Tracks Listing:

Spanish Moss - "A Sound Portrait":
1. a. Spanish Moss (4:11)
2. b. Savannah the Serene (5:14)
3. c. Storm (2:52)
4. d. Flash Flood (5:08)
5. Pleasant Pheasant (5:21)
6. Heather (8:40)
7. Crosswind (3:42)

Total Running Time: (35:08)

Line-up / Musicians

-Billy Cobham/ drums, percussion.
- John Williams/ guitar (acoustic), bass (acoustic), bass (electric).
- Randy Brecker/ trumpet.
- Garnett Brown/ trombone.
- John Abercrombie/ guitars.
- George Duke/ keyboards, vocals.
- Lee Pastora / percussions 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Miles Davis - 1970 [2015] "Bitches Brew" 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Bitches Brew is a studio double album by jazz musician Miles Davis, released on March 30, 1970 on Columbia Records. The album continued his experimentation with electric instruments previously featured on his critically acclaimed In a Silent Way album. With the use of these instruments, such as the electric piano and guitar, Davis rejected traditional jazz rhythms in favor of a looser, rock-influenced improvisational style.
Bitches Brew was Davis's first gold record; it sold more than half a million copies. Upon release, it received a mixed response, due to the album's unconventional style and experimental sound. Later, Bitches Brew gained recognition as one of jazz's greatest albums and a progenitor of the jazz rock genre, as well as a major influence on rock and funk musicians. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in 1971. In 1998, Columbia Records released The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, a four-disc box set that included the original album as well as the studio sessions through February 1970.

Recording sessions took place at Columbia's 30th Street Studio over the course of three days in August 1969. Davis called the musicians to the recording studio on very short notice. A few pieces on Bitches Brew were rehearsed before the recording sessions, but at other times the musicians had little or no idea what they were to record. Once in the recording studio, the players were typically given only a few instructions: a tempo count, a few chords or a hint of melody, and suggestions as to mood or tone. Davis liked to work this way; he thought it forced musicians to pay close attention to one another, to their own performances, or to Davis's cues, which could change at any moment. On the quieter moments of "Bitches Brew", for example, Davis's voice is audible, giving instructions to the musicians: snapping his fingers to indicate tempo, or, in his distinctive whisper, saying, "Keep it tight" or telling individuals when to solo.
Davis composed most of the music on the album. The two important exceptions were the complex "Pharaoh's Dance" (composed by Joe Zawinul) and the ballad "Sanctuary" (composed by Wayne Shorter). The latter had been recorded as a fairly straightforward ballad early in 1968, but was given a radically different interpretation on Bitches Brew. It begins with Davis and Chick Corea improvising on the standard "I Fall in Love Too Easily" before Davis plays the "Sanctuary" theme. Then, not unlike Davis's recording of Shorter's "Nefertiti" two years earlier, the horns repeat the melody over and over while the rhythm section builds up the intensity. The issued "Sanctuary" is actually two consecutive takes of the piece.
Despite his reputation as a "cool", melodic improviser, much of Davis's playing on this album is aggressive and explosive, often playing fast runs and venturing into the upper register of the trumpet. His closing solo on "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" is particularly noteworthy in this regard. Davis did not perform on the short piece "John McLaughlin"

Thought by many to be among the most revolutionary albums in jazz history, Miles Davis' Bitches Brew solidified the genre known as jazz-rock fusion. The original double LP included only six cuts and featured up to 12 musicians at any given time, some of whom were already established while others would become high-profile players later, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Airto, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Don Alias, Bennie Maupin, Larry Young, and Lenny White among them. Originally thought to be a series of long jams locked into grooves around keyboard, bass, or guitar vamps, Bitches Brew is actually a recording that producer Teo Macero assembled from various jams and takes by razor blade, splice to splice, section to section. "Pharaoh's Dance" opens the set with its slippery trumpet lines, McLaughlin's snaky guitar figures skirting the edge of the rhythm section and Don Alias' conga slipping through the middle. Corea and Zawinul's keyboards create a haunted, riffing modal groove, echoed and accented by the basses of Harvey Brooks and Holland. The title cut was originally composed as a five-part suite, though only three were used. Here the keyboards punch through the mix and big chords ring up distorted harmonics for Davis to solo rhythmically over, outside the mode. McLaughlin's comping creates a vamp, and the bass and drums carry the rest. It's a small taste of the deep voodoo funk to appear on Davis' later records. Side three opens with McLaughlin and Davis trading fours and eights over a lockstep hypnotic vamp on "Spanish Key." Zawinul's lyric sensibility provides a near chorus for Corea to flit around in; the congas and drummers juxtapose themselves against the basslines. It nearly segues into the brief "John McLaughlin," featuring an organ playing modes below arpeggiated blues guitar runs. The end of Bitches Brew, signified by the stellar "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down," reflects the influence of Jimi Hendrix with its chunky, slipped chords and Davis playing a ghostly melody through the funkiness of the rhythm section. It seemingly dances, becoming increasingly more chaotic until it nearly disintegrates before shimmering into a loose foggy nadir. The disc closes with "Sanctuary," completely redone here as a moody electric ballad that was reworked for this band while keeping enough of its integrity to be recognizable. Bitches Brew is so forward-thinking that it retains its freshness and mystery in the 21st century. [Some reissues add "Feio," recorded in early 1970 with much of the same band.]

The revolution was recorded: in 1969 Bitches Brew sent a shiver through a country already quaking. It was a recording whose very sound, production methods, album-cover art, and two-LP length all signaled that jazz could never be the same. Over three days anger, confusion, and exhilaration had reigned in the studio, and the sonic themes, scraps, grooves, and sheer will and emotion that resulted were percolated and edited into an astonishingly organic work. This Miles Davis wasn't merely presenting a simple hybrid like jazz-rock, but a new way of thinking about improvisation and the studio. And with this two-CD reissue (actually, this set is a reissue of the original set plus one track, perfect for the fan who's not so overwhelmed as to need the four-CD Complete Bitches Brew box), the murk of the original recording is lifted. The instruments newly defined and brightened, the dark energy of the original comes through as if it were all fresh. Joe Zawinul and Bennie Maupin's roles in the mix have been especially clarified. With a bonus track of "Feio"--a Wayne Shorter composition recorded five months later that serves both as a warm-down for Bitches Brew and a promise of Weather Report to come--this is crucial listening.

The sound of this album is very hard to describe. The instruments include trumpet (of course), up to three electric pianos (one in the left channel, one in the right, and one in the center), two drummers (one in the left channel and one in the right), upright bass, up to two electric bass player, electric guitar, soprano saxophone, congas, shakers, and bass clarinet. The music is very experimental. The sound is very layered, so much so that there is never a dull movement in any of the songs, there is always a pulse, moving the song forward. The opening song "Pharaoh's Dance" to be experienced fully needs to be listened to with headphones so you can hear the different instruments in each channel. The two drummers and three electric pianos drive the rhythm of the song while Miles Davis' trumpet soars overhead with th other instruments providing a sonic collage. This layering continues in other songs on the album. To say that speaker placement is key in these songs would be an understatement. The production quality is very good for having been recorded 40 years ago. The thing is even though the album was recorded 40 years ago it still sounds ahead of it's time. If you listen to this without any distractions it will take you for a ride.

Often regarded as one of Miles Davis' best albums only surpassed by "Kind of Blue." To compare these two albums is hard considering the huge difference in sound between the two, where "Kind of Blue" has a very traditional classic jazz sound, "Bitches Brew" is an experimental jazz roller coaster propelled by layered instrumentation and studio manipulation. "Bitches Brew" marked a radical change for Davis ushering in elements of rock and avant-garde into his Jazz sound, appropriately this album is often credited with inventing the Jazz-Rock or Jazz Fusion genres, that would continue to be popularized in the early '70s by artists such as Chicago, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and Santana. To me the most impressive songs are first two tracks "Pharaoh's Dance" and "Bitches Brew." But I really like all of the songs on this album because they are distinct yet fit together as an album well. Personally I don't have any complaints about this album. The only complaint I could see anyone having with this album is the length of the tracks. With only one song below the 10 minute mark, "John McLaughlin," the tracks can drag on to non experienced of instrumental music or jazz. For rock music fans looking to get into Jazz, I highly recommend this album. Progressive rock fans will also appreciate this album. If it were stolen I would definitely have it replaced, not only for the music, but the beautiful album art which reminds me of a Dali painting.

Track Listing:

Disc: 1
  1. Pharaoh's Dance  20:06
  2. Bitches Brew  27:01
  3. Spanish Key  17:35
  4. John McLaughlin  4:23

Disc: 2
  1. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down  14:03
  2. Sanctuary  10:59
  3. Spanish Key (Alt. take)  10:23
  4. John McLaughlin (Alt. take)  6:40
  5. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down (Single edit)  2:51
  6. Spanish Key (Single edit)  2:51
  7. Great Expectations (Single edit)  2:43
  8. Little Blue Frog (Single edit)  2:36

Disc: 3
  1. Intro - Bill Graham  0:12
  2. Directions  9:31
  3. Bitches Brew  9:15
  4. The Mask  3:55
  5. It's About That Time  7:30
  6. Sanctuary  1:35
  7. Spanish Key / The Theme  6:32
  8. Miles Runs The Voodoo Down  4:39
  9. Outro - Bill Graham  0:22

Line-up / Musicians:

- Miles Davis / trumpet
- Wayne Shorter / soprano saxophone
- Bennie Maupin / bass clarinet
- John McLaughlin / guitar
- Chick Corea / electric piano
- Joe Zawinul / electric piano
- Larry Young / electric piano
- Dave Holland / acoustic bass, electric bass
- Harvey Brooks / electric bass
- Jack DeJohnette / drums
- Lenny White / drums
- Don Alias / drums, congas, percussion
- Billy Cobham / drums
- Airto Moreira / percussion
- Jumma Santos (Jim Riley) / congas, shaker

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Triumvirat - 1973 [2002] "Illusions On A Double Dimple"

Illusions on a Double Dimple is the second album by the German progrock group Triumvirat. It was a breakthrough for the band, which started to open shows in a U.S tour for Fleetwood Mac. Triumvirat played the album in its entirely, and the tour resulted in increased popularity for the band in a number of countries. Triumvirat's popularity increased with their next release, Spartacus.

This German trio is often branded as a clone of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which is an unfair, if understandable, dismissal. Propelled by Jürgen Fritz's keyboard arsenal of grand piano, Hammond organ and Moog synth, the band were clearly versed in the science of Brain Salad Surgery. But what they lacked in originality they made up for with mind-boggling chops. Triumvirat's second LP, 1974's Illusions on a Double Dimple, is a prog-rock masterwork, incorporating operatic choirs and bursts of pop levity into two seamless, side-spanning epics. They softened their approach later in the decade in a quest for commercial stability — and failed miserably. But thanks to Illusions, Triumvirat's legacy among the prog firmament was secure.

Triumvirat was 70's German Symphonic Prog trio centered around Jürgen Fritz, a very talented classically trained keybordist. On Illusion on a Double Dimple, the group's magnum opus, there are some classical (e.g. baroque) influences and, besides the dominant organ, there are plenty of delicate grand piano and haunting synths for all lovers of keyboard-driven rock symphonies to enjoy. There is a constant wall of sound in Triumvirat's music, and it's hard to believe only three musicians could create it. Comparisons to Emerson, Lake and Palmer are of course inevitable. Besides the trio formation and keyboard-driven similarites, as well as Jürgen Fritz being very influenced by Keith Emerson, Triumvirat just happened to be another keyboard driven band. While there's some very notable differences in each band, there are some strong similarities too. Both Fritz and Emerson are the master of several keyboard instruments, and both have extensive classical music training. This is clearly reflected in their respective groups’ music.

During it's early years, Triumvirat played at local venues, and kept on covering top 40 songs, and some ELP and The Nice as well, both featuring a then-young-and-promising keyboardist named Keith Emerson. If you like ELP, Yes or Renaissance, you will probably also like Triumvirat. It’s a fact that every band have to be influenced by some others before finding their own sound, and Triumvirat developed a very own atmosphere, creating sweeter, more melodic and creative form of ELP's music: Catchy and complex at the same time. Triumvirat rapidly proved they were up there with all the well-known sympho prog bands. Unlike ELP, Triumvirat performed no jams, and don't look for any guitar solos either. Instead, they flirted with hard rock, jazz, and even honky tonk tunes. On the other hand, they had a killer music assault, led by Fritz, who could be furious, sensible, melodic and colorful. The whole thing was penned and very well orchestrated by the maestro himself. These aspects alone already make Triumvirat a unique band, not deserving to be labelled as an ELP clone.

Helmut Kollin was a very competent bass player and the lead singer. He also adds some acoustic and electric guitars here and there, nicely enriching the sound in general. The vocals might remind you some Beatles with Peter Gabriel’s voice. We also got an effective 6-women chorale. Hans Bathelt is an impressive, sure-footed drummer, very comparable to John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) in term of hard rock feels and 'locomotive' impact. He is highly technical and powerful. His drumming is sometimes light and jazzy, but sometimes he is rockin' like hell. Bathelt has nothing to envy Carl Parlmer for, grooving so well in grand 70's tradition. It's just a lot of fun to listen to. Kollin plays bass more feriously than Lake, quite akin to Yes' Chris Squire, and shows tremendous chemistry with Fritz. As a result of this, the trio reached a high quality level in term of arrangement and structure. One might see the influence of ELP right from the beginning, but Triumvirat has put an effort that made their music consistent from A to Z, each and every song flowing into each other perfectly. Every single note is calculated, and they’re extremely tight and talentuous. They have nothing to envy to ELP, really.

Especially pleasing is Million Dollars, the final movement of Mister Ten Percent suite (apparently dedicated to a recently fired manager) in which all Triumvirat’s talents are released in one electronic deluge. An especially Tarkus-like opening dissolves into a huge orchestral and vocal rush as Triumvirat bids farewell to their agent: ‘’Who’s going to work for you for the rest of your life?’’

Triumvirat offers interesting song structures, and some of the most beautiful melodies ever. The musicians are creative, imaginative and innonative, most of the times sweeter and lighter than ELP, but equally challenging. Any proghead will soon notice their personal original soundscape, and their ambitious, inspired arrangements. Melodic, tight, powerful and emotional, this German band does prog a bit less complicated and much more melodic and creative than ELP. Emerson, despite his greatness, has always looking for sensational solos, while Fritz playing is never excessive, and always integrated in the context of songs. The style here, while very technical is not as ego-laden as Emerson's occasional flippant follies. Also the entire disc is purely epic both in structure and in scope with a certain
'cinematographic' feel that is hard to put into words. Jurgen Fritz has certain similarities (mostly on organ) but his piano and synthesizer work are way more romantic perhaps even sligthly feminine as opposed to Keith's rather technical and muscular delivery. The keyboardist performed some gorgeous extended Moog solos as well, which bears a very deep Wakeman-esque vibe at times.

Illusions on a Double Dimple is in itself an excellent manifestation of the best that Germany had to offer the symphonic prog rock scene worldwide. With both this album and their second best Spartacus, Triumvirat catch the attention of wider audiences over the world. Jürgen Fritz is the captain and he and his band are brillant throughout the album. When listening, try to get over ELP similarities and then be prepared for a sensory journey to the world of maestro Jürgen Fritz. Illusions on a Double Dimple is the best way to get into Triumvirat.

Track listing:

01 "Illusions on a Double Dimple" – 23:25
 a "Flashback" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 0:57
 b "Schooldays" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 3:22
 c "Triangle" (Fritz) – 6:53
 d "Illusions" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 1:42
 e "Dimplicity" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 5:37
 f "Last dance" (Fritz) – 4:53
02 "Mister Ten Percent" – 21:33
 a "Maze" (Fritz) – 3:03
 b "Dawning" (Fritz) – 1:02
 c "Bad Deal" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 1:40
 d "Roundabout" (Fritz) – 5:49
 e "Lucky Girl" (Köllen, Bathelt) – 5:14
 f  "Million Dollars" (Fritz, Bathelt) – 4:42

Bonus Tracks (released together as a single):

03 "Dancer's Delight" – 3:32
04 "Timothy" – 4:08
05 "Dimplicity (edit)" – 3:15
06 "Million Dollars (edit)" – 2:35


Jürgen Fritz – Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer, electric piano, Steinway grand piano, vocals, producer, arranger
Helmut Köllen – bass, acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
Hans Bathelt – drums, percussions, words & lyrics

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pat Metheny - "Phase Dancer...Live '77"

Having played with Gary Burton, Jaco Pastorius and other leading fusion musicians, the prodigious Pat Metheny made his solo recording debut in 1976. The following year he released Watercolors, marking the start of his long collaboration with pianist Lyle Mays. That summer they played various dates (together with bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb). The superb tracks featured here include material from Watercolors and the forthcoming Pat Metheny Group album, and were originally broadcast on KJAZ-FM. They’re presented here together with background notes and images.

This short (34+ minutes) well recorded set of tunes from two separate concerts--The Great American Music Hall in S.F., (tracks 1,2,4), and the Seattle Opera House (track 3) are all from 1977. The songs are "Phase Dance", "Watercolors", "San Lorenzo", and "Wrong Is Right". The band consists of Metheny-guitars, Lyle Mays-keyboards, Danny Gottlieb-drums, and Mark Egan-bass. As I said, this is a well recorded set of live performances--clean and fairly crisp and very open sounding. Audiophiles may find something sonically imperfect to point out but this is very close to what a label sanctioned release would sound like. The booklet has an essay from the Village Voice from 1977 (typical for Hi Hat releases) and talks about Metheny's first album, "Bright Size Life" and the (then) recently released "Watercolors" album. The five "stars" are for the performances and nice sound--not the short duration of the CD. But I do wonder where is the rest of the music from these concerts? Hmmm.

These performances are from the period after the "Watercolors" album had been released, and the upcoming "Pat Metheny Group" album would be released. All four tunes are fine examples of what this group (and my personal favorite for a few reasons) sounded like night after night on stage during this period. The first two tunes stick closely to the studio originals (not a bad thing!), while "San Lorenzo" has a few subtle flourishes that add more identity to the melody. "Wrong Is Right" is a fine live version of this song, again with nothing truly new added into the body of the song. And as I wrote when reviewing the recently released/quickly taken off the market live Metheny album "Live Chicago '87" (also on Hi Hat) these performances aren't the sound of a band just going through the motions. This is a typically fine set of performances from the entire band.

Hearing this set along with the (now sadly) deleted '87 set brings back good memories of my young son and I sitting about 10 rows back/center section hearing/watching Metheny and his band playing some incredible music and having fun doing it. As Metheny once said--they play the music they want to hear--and are grateful that others like to hear it also. If you've ever been lucky enough to hear this band live you know what I mean. And even of a sadly short duration, this is a good set of music that evokes that era of Metheny's musical exploration.

The Pat Metheny Group was just getting into full swing around 1977. I was at this performance at the Great American Music Hall. It was a great show and made me a lifelong PMG fan. Unfortunately this disc only contains 3 tracks from that show, which if I'm not mistaken, was broadcast in its entirety by the late great KJZ in SF. (I used to have this same material on vinyl- can't remember what label it was on or how I came by it- if anyone remembers this I would appreciate what that was.) One can only hope that Somewhere, someone has the entire show on tape. I wish I could hear that! This is a teaser, and well worth hearing, but it just whets my appetite for more.

Listening to the early band reminds me how much I loved the group with Danny Gottlieb and Mark Egan. They played very dynamically, sometimes coming down to a whisper, sometimes to a roar. This was early, probably just before the white album was recorded.

The band starts out with a spirited version of Phase Dance. Still new, it's an exciting performance. Metheny sounds not quite in the pocket at times, still raw and finding his way. Lyle Mays gives a more sure footed solo. The song is already fully formed though, front to back. The high point for me is Watercolors, which to my knowledge is the only recorded performance by this particular configuration. By 1978 they were no longer including it in their sets. It's a great performance of a great tune-this disc is worth the price just for this track. San Lorenzo, recorded at the Seattle opera house, is a glimpse into the early stages of development of a classic. It's all there, but It's loose compared with the album version, and not as majestic as it would become as evidenced on the Travels version, with its lovely rubato passages and dramatic tempo changes. The last track, Wrong is Right, which I believe is a Larry Coryell tune, is played as a fast samba and is the most straight ahead track here. And as such it's a smoker. Lyle's solo is off the charts, and Metheny is on fire here.

Quite honestly, if you own every single PMG CD already and love this period as much as I do, you should pick this up. It's an historical document. It's to my knowledge, the earliest PMG on record, although I'm sure there are plenty of bootlegs out there. (Check out the 1977 performance in a small club in Germany. which is up on YouTube.)

Pat Metheny is one of my all time favorites and to find this release, thank you Amazon for finding this one for me. This was a point in time when Pat and his group were just starting out, here we have that great group that did those Pat Metheny Group and American Garage but this is before either where recorded. What a great set list, personally still Phase Dancer and San Lorenzo are two of my favorites. Lyle and Pat shine and have always played so well together and do a wonderful job on this one. This is from a radio concert, it seems like a lot of these are coming out which I love. I always love live stuff and is this one ever alive. I miss hearing Lyle and Pat playing together. This is a great release.

Tracks 1, 2 & 4 recorded at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco on
August 31st 1977.
Track 3 recorded at Seattle Opera House on September 4th 1977.

Track listing:

1 Phase Dancer 8:52
2 Watercolors 7:56
3 San Lorenzo 11:08
4 Wrong Is Right  6:40


Pat Metheny - Guitar
Lyle Mays - Keyboards
Mark Egan - Bass
Danny Gottlieb - Drums

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Various Artists - 1990 Guitar Player Presents - "Legends of Guitar" Jazz - Vol. 1

Great players on this one.

Good starting point for anyone interested in the history of Jazz and Jazz Fusion guitar.

Track listing:

01 Frankie Trumbauer & His Orchestra* - I'm Coming, Virginia 3:13
Guitar – Eddie Lang

02 The Kansas City Six* - Countless Blues 3:02
Guitar – Freddie Green*

03 Jack Teagarden & His Orchestra* - Pickin' For Patsy 2:45
Guitar – Allan Reuss

04 George Barnes Quartet - I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles 2:58
Guitar – George Barnes

05 Charlie Christian - Up On Teddy's Hill 6:10
Guitar – Charlie Christian

06 The Cats & The Fiddle* - Stomp Stomp (Fox Trot) 2:58
Guitar – Tiny Grimes

07 Charlie Parker All Stars* - Relaxin' At Camarillo 3:10
Guitar – Barney Kessel

08 Lennie Tristano & His Sextet* - Intuition 2:30
Guitar – Billy Bauer

09 Laurindo Almeida - Blue Balao 3:21
Guitar – Laurindo Almeida

10 Tal Farlow - Gibson Boy 2:46
Guitar – Barry Galbraith

11 Howard Roberts - Serenata Burlesca 3:10
Guitar – Howard Roberts

12 Wes*, Buddy* & Monk Montgomery - Montgomery Funk 4:19
Guitar – Wes Montgomery

13 Lenny Breau - Mercy, Mercy, Mercy 5:27
Guitar – Lenny Breau

14 Larry Coryell - Spaces (Infinite) 9:21
Guitar – John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell

15 John Scofield - Shinola 2:39
Guitar – John Scofield

16 Derek Bailey - Scaling 2:30
Guitar – Derek Bailey

Various Artists - 1991 Guitar Player Presents - "Legends of Guitar" Jazz - Vol. 2

Great players on this one as well.

Good starting point for anyone interested in the history of Jazz and Jazz Fusion guitar.

Track listing:


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Frank Zappa - 1967-1968 [1986] "We're Only In It For The Money" + "Lumpy Gravy"

This twofer CD reissue contains two 1968 albums by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. We're Only In It For The Money, originally released in January 1968, is The Mothers' third album, containing some of the group's sharpest satires, including "Who Needs The Peace Corps?" and the anti-hippie "Flower Punk." When he was putting together The Old Masters, Box One in 1985, Zappa re-recorded the album's rhythm tracks and re-edited it in places in an attempt to improve its sound. Instead, the album now sounds like an odd mixture of old and new. Lumpy Gravy, originally released in March 1968, is a Zappa solo album recorded with an orchestra, but although it isn't song-oriented, its approach is not much different from that of We're Only In It For The Money, so the two make a good pairing.

We're Only in It for the Money is the third studio album by the Mothers of Invention. Released on March 4, 1968 on Verve Records, it was subsequently remixed and re-recorded by Frank Zappa and reissued by Rykodisc in 1986.

As with the band's previous two albums, We're Only in It for the Money is a concept album, and satirizes left and right-wing politics, particularly the hippie subculture, as well as the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was conceived as part of a project called No Commercial Potential, which produced three other albums: Lumpy Gravy, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat.

We're Only in It for the Money encompasses rock, experimental music and psychedelic rock, with orchestral segments deriving from the recording sessions for Lumpy Gravy, which was previously issued as a solo instrumental album by Capitol Records and was subsequently reedited by Zappa and released by Verve; the reedited Lumpy Gravy was produced simultaneously with We're Only in It for the Money and is the first part of a conceptual continuity, continued with the reedited Lumpy Gravy and concluded with Zappa's final album, Civilization Phaze III (1994).

Lumpy Gravy is the debut solo album by Frank Zappa, an album of orchestral, electric and concrete sound written by Zappa and performed by a group of session players he dubbed the Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. Zappa conducted the orchestra but did not perform on the album. It is his third album overall: his previous releases had been under the name of his group, the Mothers of Invention.

It was commissioned and briefly released, on August 7, 1967, by Capitol Records in the 4-track Stereo-Pak format only and then withdrawn due to a lawsuit from MGM Records. MGM claimed that the album violated Zappa's contract with their subsidiary, Verve Records. In 1968 it was reedited and reissued by MGM's Verve Records on May 13, 1968. It consisted of two musique concrète pieces that combined elements from the original orchestral performance with elements of surf music and the spoken word. It was praised for its music and editing.

Produced simultaneously with We're Only in It for the Money, Zappa saw Lumpy Gravy as the second part of a conceptual continuity that later included his final album, Civilization Phaze III.

Later it was re-edited by Zappa as part of a project called No Commercial Potential, which included three other albums: We're Only in It for the Money, Cruising with Ruben & the Jets and Uncle Meat.

In college, our "hippie" friend Lowell W... introduced our group to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Soon, I was adding Mothers LPs (They came on vinyl, you know) to my ecclectic record collection. So, what was this stuff anyhow? Political comment? Rock N Roll? It certainly was not Country & Western! What a puzzle! (However, it might have been political satire because Zappa seems to have written a song about my family friendly congressman before he was even elected. "Just have your fun, you old son of a gun, and drive off in your Lincoln..." So, Lowell up and writes Frank about what's it really mean anyhow and signs it Lo W... Now, Zappa was not one to waste a stamp on a fan. But, a few months later a full page ad appeared for the newest Mother's album in "The Rolling Stone." The headline read: "Dear Lo: We're only in it for the money!" and there was a large photo of the album cover and some other stuff. Well, we still did not know what it was all about, but I enjoyed the album. I cannot speak for the entire listings of the Mothers on Amazon, but "We're only in it for the money" is my favorite Zappa CD. I still do not know what the goofy thing is all about, but I think the title is telling the truth.

Track listing:

We're Only In It For The Money
1 Are You Hung Up? 1:29
2 Who Needs The Peace Corps? 2:35
3 Concentration Moon 2:17
4 Mom & Dad 2:19
5 Telephone Conversation
Voice [On Telephone] – Suzy Creamcheese
6 Bow Tie Daddy 0:33
7 Harry, You're A Beast 1:21
8 What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? 1:03
9 Absolutely Free 3:28
10 Flower Punk 3:04
11 Hot Poop 0:29
12 Nasal Retentive Calliope Music 2:02
13 Let's Make The Water Turn Black 1:45
14 The Idiot Bastard Son 2:43
15 Lonely Little Girl 1:44
16 Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance 1:35
17 What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? (Reprise) 0:57
18 Mother People 2:31
19 The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny 6:25
Lumpy Gravy
20      Lumpy Gravy I    15:48
21      Lumpy Gravy II    15:51


Frank Zappa (guitar, piano, lead vocals, "weirdness & editing")
Dick Barber ("snorks")
Jimmy Carl Black ("Indian of the group", drums, trumpet, vocals)
Roy Estrada (electric bass, vocals, "asthma")
Bunk Gardner (all woodwinds, "mumbled weirdness")
Billy Mundi (drums, vocal, "yak & black lace underwear")
Don Preston (keyboards)
Euclid James Motorhead Sherwood (soprano & baritone saxophones, "all purpose weirdness")
Ian Underwood (piano, woodwinds, "wholesome")
Pamela Zarubica as Suzy Creamcheese ("telephone")
Spider ("is the one who wants you to turn your radio around")
Eric Clapton ("has graciously consented to speak to you in several critical area")
Gary Kellgren ("creepy whispering")
Dick Kunc ("cheerful interruptions")
Sid Sharp (orchestral segments conductor)
Vicki ("telephone ")
Ronnie Williams (backwards voice)

Scott Mishoe - 1995 "Omnidirectional"

Scott Mishoe started guitar at the age of 5. His first live appearance was at the the age of 8. He got a gig at the age of 13 for a benefit show with Pat Travers. At 18 he got an endorsement with Fender. He was feature in Mike Varneys "Spotlight" column in the August 1990 issue and a number of other magazine features soon followed.

In 1992 his two-handed arpeggio techniques landed him a place on the Shrapnel "Ominous Guitarist from the Unknown" release. He was later featured on on Mark Varney's "Guitar On The Edge" series. This culminated in the release of a the CD "Omnidirectional" on Legato Records.

Scott's one of the most incredible guitarists to ever walk the face of this planet. Listen, if you like over-the-top technique that will make you laugh because it's so ridiculously amazing, this is your man. Take some of the best slap bassists you know, mix them with some blistering phrasing ala Greg Howe and Richie Kotzen, add in the ultra-clean technique of someone like Vinnie Moore. Shake it all with some Stanley Jordan clean tapping and BAM; That's Scott. He sounds nothing like a clone of any of those guys, either.

The guy is just phenominal and as someone who has combed the internet for all of Varney's greats from back in the day in addition to the hundreds of thousands of guitarists out there today, Scott is absolutely in a league of his own. Yes, the album cover is cheesy and yes, I know you're thinking, "Scott Mishoe... if he's THAT good, I should've heard of him by now." You're exactly right; you should have before now and it's an absolute atrocity that you haven't... but now that you have, you know what to do. If you're still unsure, go to YouTube and type in his name. That should pretty much do it for you. Basically.

Scott is the best crazy-amazing guitarist you've probably never heard of. I'm a fan of complex, melodic, techically incredible guitar playing--think Greg Howe, John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Vinnie Moore, Blues Saraceno, etc., and without a doubt Scott hangs with these guys. He's incredibly talented, both technically and compositionally.

I learned about Scott by taking guitar lessons from him in Scottsdale, AZ. Although I was a fairly advanced player, after hearing him play, I wanted to give him my guitar. Hearing his own material made me really respect his abilities as a composer and musician. If you like amazing guitar work and jazz/rock fusion, you'll love this disc.

Victor Wooten, inspired Scott to apply the infamous slap-technique to the guitar. Scott began creating a variety of licks around the slap-technique, developing an even more refreshing style. With the addition of this new technique, Scott developed what we think to be one of the most creative playing styles we’ve heard. Using a technique that can now be seen from players of late like Tosin Abasi, Scott can make a 5 second lick the most interesting 5 seconds of your life. But amidst all of the powerful slaps, Scott still manages to slip in some legato runs, chords, sweeps, with some fries on the side. But don’t get us wrong, Scott Mishoe ain’t no one-trick-pony. Scott’s impeccable tapping runs, alternate picking, and arpeggios give any modern day shredder a run for their money. Scott attests this seemingly flawless playing style to hours and hours of practicing during his free-time, claiming he also became “hooked” to the slap-technique, inspiring him to push even more boundaries with his expert-level guitar chops.

Unfortunately, the guitar community didn’t hear much from Scott Mishoe after his first album, leaving us guitar-nerds with very little to tide us over after 1995. Nonetheless, Scott hasn’t put down the guitar. As far as we can see and hear, the man has somehow managed to improve on his already amazing skills. Video surfacing on YouTube featuring Scott in recent years proved the super-tight and funky slap technique that Mr. Mishoe was known for is still alive and well. Recent interviews reveal that Scott is in the process of writing another album, and hopes to work with players like Ray Riendeau, Keith Horne, and Victor Wooten in the near future. We don’t know about you, but this is reason enough for us to keep an eye out.

Track Listing:

01. Mal-Funk-Shen [3:27]
02. Making My Way Home [3:13]
03. Sonic Chaos [4:19]
04. Incredible Grasp [4:28]
05. theresa Ann [3:42]
06. Sky High [3:36]
07. Out Of Control [4:11]
08. Dream Come True [3:42]
09. Miafoe [4:25]
10. Whiteland Leaf [3:42]
11. Without You [2:30]
12. Nacho Mama [4:28]


Scott Mishoe - Guitar
Ray Riendeau - Bass
Brett Frederickson - Drums

Keith Horne - Bass (2)
Paul Gilaspy - Drums (1)
Shawn D. - Keyboards (8)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Gypsy - 1971 [1990] "In The Garden"

In the Garden is the second album by the progressive rock band Gypsy, their second for Metromedia. It peaked at #173 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts in 1971.

 This was Gypsy's second album and their  the most collectable. The song "As Far As You Can See (As Much As You Can Feel)" is a 12 minute epic which is probably their best song from all of their albums. This song also received the most radio airplay from this album.

The band has matured greatly with this album. The basic music is structured much like their first LP, but the sound is more together and the organ, played by Jimmy Walsh, seems to be the focal point of the group's maturity. "As Far As You Can See" is an enchanting education; while the second side of the LP contains one view of paradise entitled "Here in the Garden,".

Gypsy began life as the hugely popular teen band The Underbeats, hailing from the fertile Minneapolis/St. Paul music scene. In 1969 The Underbeats decided to go for the big time and headed for California, where they eventually secured house band status at the Whiskey A Go-Go. Around this time the Underbeats name was sounding a bit dated so the band was rechristened Gypsy. The band started to attract attention from record labels and wound up with two solid offers, Atlantic and the upstart Metromedia. The band chose Metromedia and proceeded to record their self titled debut album, released in 1970. After the first album the band embarked on a successful national tour, playing large venues and festivals. In 1971, along with some personnel changes, the band returned to LA and began recording their second album In The Garden. Due to financial problems at Metromedia the album never got the attention it deserved.

1971 was a terrific year for Progressive Rock and Gypsy's second album provides more memorable music. This band is prodigiously talented in every way. Almost anyone can relate to the lovely "Time Will Make It Better". It should have been a hit, and the album is real progressive masterpiece,in fact, marks the transition from traditional to psychedelic progressive rock. with beautiful melodic structures, vocal harmonies and a very good competent guitarist In The Garden excites and thrills from start to finish with their beautiful songs and always welcome timbre of the good old organs Hammond B3. As Far As You Can See (As Much As You Can Feel) is a small epic of almost 12 minutes long with chilling harmonies and solos. In The Garden II is another firecracker album!!!

This gem was my one of my favorite LPs from the early 70s. It is instrumentally complex and lyrically powerful, just a joy to listen to. "Antithesis" is also good but "In the Garden" is probably Gypsy's best work. Gypsy was far and away the best Minneapolis-based group of their generation, doing truly original work.

I am old enough to remember the American progressive rock band named Gypsy in their prime. As many have written, this band is far better than the meager recognition they have ever gotten. As a student at the University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, IA) in 1976 I remember sitting in the student union, listening to a mid-day concert by this band and two things kept coming to mind. First, this band should have been playing much larger halls and getting way more airplay than they were getting, and second, this is the ONLY band I have ever seen in a live concert that sounded EXACTLY like their recorded albums did, although The Zombies and (early) Chicago were pretty close. Now, here it is thirty-nine years later, and I still think their music is just as powerful and wonderful. It may be the 'old codger' in me, but the 1963-1979 era of rock music can NOT be beat by anything since, and in my humble opinion Gypsy was a vibrant part of that legacy.

The only sad thing about Gypsy is that as far as I know they only made two albums. These guy's were just a great band period and so unappreciated. The band I was in at the time of this release actually covered two of their songs Around You and As far As I Can See. People would be like who does those songs. I could have told them I wrote them cause they were just not put out there and a appreciated. I play this disc all the time never leaves my car, wish they would get back together.

Track listing:

1 "Around You" – 5:27
2 "Reach Out Your Hand" – 2:33
3 "As Far As You Can See (As Much As You Can Feel)" (Rosenbaum with intro by Lordan/Walsh) – 12:09
4 "Here in the Garden I" – 6:43
5 "Here in the Garden II" – 3:07
6 "Blind Man" – 3:59
7 "Time Will Make It Better" (Walsh) – 2:53


Enrico Rosenbaum - guitar, vocals
James Walsh - keyboards, vocals
James Johnson - guitar, vocals
Bill Lordan - drums
Willie Weeks - bass
Joe Lala - percussion

Monday, August 14, 2017

Soft Machine - 1981 [2010] "Land Of Cockayne"

Digitally remastered edition of this 1981 release, the final album from the British Prog/Art Rock band. By the time the album was recorded, the band was comprised of keyboard player and saxophonist Karl Jenkins and drummer John Marshall. The duo were joined by musicians such as Jack Bruce, the returning Allan Holdsworth, Dick Morrissey and Ray Warleigh to produce a different, but polished album. Esoteric. 2010.

Land of Cockayne is the final album by the band Soft Machine, released in 1981. By this point, the band contained none of its original members. The title refers to the medieval land of plenty.
The album came about as the result of a project in which Karl Jenkins and John Marshall had been involved featuring top session musicians. The ad hoc band, Rollercoaster, had recently recorded the Stevie Wonder tribute album Wonderin' and decided to record another album together. Many of the musicians included on the Cockayne album would make up Soft Machine's final live line-up which played a six-night residency at Ronnie Scott's in 1984. This is the only Soft Machine album to feature a string section.

Excellent job remastering and adding an informative booklet to this wonderful cd. the title of this cd is based on a medieval vision, Land of Cockaigne, a poor man's paradise of effortless abundance. i've been a soft machine fan for decades and absolutely loved the progression in style this band developed. to my constant surprise are those critics to dislike the changes this band had made. change is the only thing permanent in life people. this cd is very melodic, and romantic, with added strings from the composition and musical direction of karl jenkins. jack bruce on bass, john marshall drums, john taylor, allan holdsworth, alan parker, dick morrissey and ray warleigh round out the band. most of the music is very beautifully composed and gentle. there are a couple of pieces that "rock" to round out the balance of style on this cd. sadly this is the last of the modern line up of soft machine cds. there has been a lot of older material being issued, which too is wonderful. but if you're a fan of progressive jazz, this is a delightful cd to own.

This, the final album recorded under the name Soft Machine, has been much maligned as being extraneous to the legacy of a band who forged a unique and truly progressive path through the late sixties and seventies. The truth of the matter is that it really is a Karl Jenkins project in all but name, but it should not be unfairly filed alongside the library music of the posthumously issued `Rubber Riff'.

One look at the players listed here should tell anyone that this not a bland collection of half-baked instrumentals, but quite a feast of surprisingly strong musical sketches. Jenkins leads (as keyboardist and conductor) such talents as the mighty Jack Bruce and Allan Holdsworth and twin sax maestros Ray Warleigh and Dick Morrissey. John Taylor contributes some first class Fender Rhodes, while Softs cohort John Marshall is as reliable and vibrant as ever on drums.

The album is a suite of varied instrumental pieces ranging from appealing, sunny pieces for sax and wordless vocals, melodic ambient excursions, string sections, and strong themes which allow ample time for quality soloing from the giants gathered here. Yes, it is easy on the ear, but it carries a gravitas which relates back to Jenkins' compositions for earlier incarnations of Soft Machine. The extended `Panoramania' and `Hot Biscuit Slim' both recall the joy of a beautifully scored head theme ushering in a collection of solos by musicians who by virtue of their pedigree make every note count. `Black Velvet Mountain' is a wonderful showcase for Allan Holdsworth's ability to get inside a melody, which like his work with the Bruford band of this era, exude the authority of a seasoned player. `Sly Monkey' offers further evidence that an Allan Holdsworth solo is a thing of great joy, especially when complemented by the equally majestic saxophone of Ray Warleigh.

Tracks Listing

1. Over 'n' above (7:24)
2. Lotus groves (4:57)
3. Isle of the blessed (1:56)
4. Panoramania (7:07)
5. Behind the crystal curtain (0:53)
6. Palace of glass (3:22)
7. Hot-biscuit Slim (7:27)
8. (Black) velvet mountain (5:10)
9. Sly monkey (5:00)
10. A lot of what you fancy... (0:35)

Total Time: 43:51


Karl Jenkins – keyboards, synths, orchestration
John Marshall – drums, percussion
Jack Bruce – bass
Allan Holdsworth – lead guitar
John Taylor – electric piano
Ray Warleigh – alto saxophone, bass flute
Dick Morrissey – tenor saxophone
Alan Parker – rhythm guitar
Stu Calver – vocals, backing vocals
John G. Perry – vocals, backing vocals
Tony Rivers – vocals, backing vocals