Tuesday, June 20, 2017

King Crimson - 1973 [1989] "Larks' Tongues In Aspic"

Larks' Tongues in Aspic is the fifth studio album by the English progressive rock group King Crimson, released on 23 March 1973 through Island Records. This album is the debut of King Crimson's fifth incarnation, featuring original member and guitarist Robert Fripp and new members John Wetton (vocals, bass guitar), David Cross (violin, Mellotron), Jamie Muir (percussion), and Bill Bruford (drums). It is also a key album in the band's evolution, drawing on Eastern European classical music and European free improvisation as central influences.

At the end of the tour to promote King Crimson's previous album, Islands, Fripp had parted company with the three other members of the band (Mel Collins, Boz Burrell and Ian Wallace). The previous year had also seen the ousting of the band's lyricist and artistic co-director Peter Sinfield. In all cases, Fripp had cited a developing musical (and sometimes personal) incompatibility, and was now writing starker music drawing less on familiar American influences and more on influences such as Béla Bartók and free improvisation.

In order to pursue these new ideas, Fripp first recruited bass guitarist/singer John Wetton (a longstanding friend of the band who had lobbied to join at least once before but had become a member of Family in the meantime). The second recruit was Jamie Muir, an experimental free-improvising percussionist who had previously been performing in the Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, as well as in Sunship (with Alan Gowen and Allan Holdsworth) and Boris (with Don Weller and Jimmy Roche, both later of jazz-rock band Major Surgery).

On drums (and to be paired with Muir) Fripp recruited Yes drummer Bill Bruford. Another longstanding King Crimson admirer, Bruford felt that he had done all he could with Yes at that point, and was keen to leave the band before they embarked on their Close to the Edge tour, believing that the jazz- and experimentation-oriented King Crimson would be a more expansive outlet for his musical ideas. The final member of the new band was David Cross, a rock violinist and occasional keyboard player.

King Crimson reborn yet again -- the then-newly configured band makes its debut with a violin (courtesy of David Cross) sharing center stage with Robert Fripp's guitars and his Mellotron, which is pushed into the background. The music is the most experimental of Fripp's career up to this time -- though some of it actually dated (in embryonic form) back to the tail-end of the Boz Burrell-Ian Wallace-Mel Collins lineup. And John Wetton was the group's strongest singer/bassist since Greg Lake's departure three years earlier. What's more, this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor. "Outer Limits music" was how one reviewer referred to it, mixing Cross' demonic fiddling with shrieking electronics, Bill Bruford's astounding dexterity at the drum kit, Jamie Muir's melodic and usually understated percussion, Wetton's thundering yet melodic bass, and Fripp's guitar, which generated sounds ranging from traditional classical and soft pop-jazz licks to hair-curling electric flourishes.

With his third lineup in four years, King Crimson guitar maestro Robert Fripp finally tapped back into a musical energy as powerful and groundbreaking as that of his 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King. The group's fifth album was a masterful mélange of painstaking composition and wild experimentation, as if Fripp were depicting a madman struck with glimmers of melancholy clarity. In the end, it's difficult to tell which passages were happy accidents and which were carefully constructed; and it's even harder to determine which are more impactful, as clattering trays, chiming bells, twittering birds, understated voices and clown-toy laughter intertwine with tinny, static-filled guitar, epileptic beats and violin lines that range from gorgeous to harrowing.

King Crimson‘s fifth album, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, is a pinnacle of progressive rock, even though its music is nearly unclassifiable. More than 40 years after its release, it remains a genre unto itself — a mishmash of heavy and soothing, beautiful and unsettling, experimental and melodic.
Larks’ Tongues in Aspic is King Crimson’s second classic album. With 1969’s groundbreaking In the Court of the Crimson King, the band basically invented progressive rock entirely, utilizing bandleader Robert Fripp’s epic approach to song construction, which layered aggressive fretwork with propulsive rhythms, jazzy woodwinds and the most iconic Mellotron sound ever laid to tape.
But just as soon as King Crimson birthed an exciting new musical movement, they retreated to the shadows. The band’s following trio of albums (1970’s In the Wake of Poseidon, 1970’s Lizard and Islands in 1971) were scattered with brilliance, but mostly just . . . scattered, with Fripp unable to maintain a consistent lineup of players from one release to another (or even track to track).
That pattern ended in 1972, when Fripp started recruiting a brand new lineup — one designed for an edgier, more unpredictable style of playing. He brought in two new drummers, designed to represent polar opposite ends of the percussive spectrum: Jamie Muir — an explosive percussionist with an unconventional approach and wild stage presence — and Bill Bruford, who’d already established his jazzy, inventive approach to drumming as a member of Yes. On top of that double-percussion foundation, Fripp added violinist David Cross and bassist and singer John Wetton.
That quintet lineup quickly earned rave reviews for their highly improvised live shows. In the liner notes to the 2012 Larks’ Tongues in Aspic reissue, Wetton reflected on the intensity of those early performances. “A lot of the time,” he said, “the audience couldn’t really tell the difference between what was formal and what wasn’t because the improvising was of a fairly high standard. It was almost telepathic at times.”

Tracks Listing:

1. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part One (13:36)
2. Book Of Saturdays (2:49)
3. Exiles (7:40)
4. Easy Money (7:54)
5. The Talking Drum (7:26)
6. Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part Two (7:12)

Total Time: 46:37

Line-up / Musicians:

- Robert Fripp / guitar, Mellotron, electronic devices
- David Cross / violin, viola, Mellotron, electric piano, flute (3)
- John Wetton / bass, piano (3), vocals
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion
- Jamie Muir / percussion, drums

Monday, June 19, 2017

Leo Kottke - 1973 [1996] "My Feet Are Smiling"

My Feet Are Smiling is American guitarist Leo Kottke's sixth album, and his second album recorded live. It reached No. 108 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts.

The songs were recorded December 19 and 20, 1972 at the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the majority of the album's content being from the second night. "Blue Dot" was written three days before the concert.
The album was re-issued on CD in 1994 by BGO and in 1996 by One Way Records.

The prodigious technique, deadpan sense of humor, and infamous singing are all evident less than a minute into the opening tune. Performing solo and playing more slide guitar than usual, Kottke wows a supportive hometown audience in Minneapolis with some of the finest playing of his career. That's saying a lot. Sensational one moment and sentimental the next, he presents a varied, well-paced set that's worth adding to your collection if you can find it. The well-traveled "Louise" is only one highlight, although it's Leo's playing that will drop your jaw, not his singing.

Not since the death of THE greatest guitarist of all time, Chet Atkins, has there remained the only truly unique guitar virtuoso, and that's Leo Kottke. Too bad this came out WAYYYYY back in 1972, and it, along with his "Armadillo" CD [Six and Twelve String Guitars], are still my favorite's of his. I saw him live, in Dallas, back in the mid-'80's and he was EXTRAORDINARY, and he played several favorites from this CD. Listen, and see if you don't agree he's the best acoustic guitarist you've heard!

This was one of the first LP vinyl records I bought as a teenager and with the changing audio technologies and my numerous moves across the country over the past 30 years I lost the album. So, I wasn't sure if I would still like it. I was right. I didn't like it. I loved it! This is truly a classic album! There is no better 12 string guitarist than Leo. The songs are better than I remember and his deep voice draws you in to the classic ballads he sings.

I ran across Leo Kottke by accident. I bought a copy of his album Peligroso. It was great. I started buying his albums and they all were great. This one is one of the best and every song is terrific. Leo is one of the premier guitar players in America. He sings in some of his albums and others are instrumentals. He is great either way. I have 5 of his albums now and if any one of the five is better than the others it is this one. But, the worst one is great!

He has other album, all very good and some with no vocals. But, I gotta say Leo that I love your vocals on this one!

He does not disappoint! Truly an album for your collection!

Track Listings

  1. Intro
  2. Hear The Wind Howl
  3. Busted Bicycle
  4. Easter
  5. Louise
  6. Blue Dot
  7. Stealing
  8. Living In The Country
  9. June Bug
  10. Standing In My Shoes
  11. The Fisherman
  12. Bean Time
  13. Eggtooth
  14. Medley: Crow River Waltz/Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring/Jack Fig

Personnel:

Leo Kottke - Guitar, Vocal.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Various Artists - 2005 "Fusion For Miles" - A Guitar Tribute

Titled Fusion for Miles: A Guitar Tribute, this set is a bit unusual. A five-piece band that includes Dave Liebman on soprano sets up grooves and backgrounds that sound like Miles Davis' bands of 1969-1971. A different guitarist is featured on each of the ten selections, with the biggest names being Mike Stern, Bill Frisell, Bill Connors, and Pat Martino. Ironically, those four are each featured on pre-fusion Davis-associated songs ("So What," "Nefertiti," "Eighty-One," and "Serpent's Tooth") that are performed with funk rhythms and as if Davis had revived them in 1970. In addition to having a string of guitars in the foreground, it is unusual to hear this music without any trumpeters. But overall, the project is successful with plenty of fireworks and creative playing along the way, reviving music from 35 years earlier that still manages to sound fresh and slightly menacing.

Trumpeter Miles Davis shifted gears so many times during his forty-year career that doing a proper tribute which covers the entire time frame represents a distinct challenge. Perhaps that's why many artists have focused on specific periods in their Miles tributes. Producer Gary Guthrie put a new spin on Kind of Blue with A New Kind of Blue, while trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! project has released three sets inspired by Miles' '70s electric period. Even trumpeter Wallace Roney, while not recording a tribute album per se, has taken one of Miles' mid-'60s albums, Nefertiti, and used it, along with other sources, as the foundation for his own work.
In the past year, guitarist Jeff Richman has released tributes to saxophonist John Coltrane (A Guitar Supreme) and guitarist John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse). He's probably the first to try and put the departed trumpeter's greater career arc into perspective. The problem is that there's little to tie together Miles' various periods. One reason for this is that whenever he moved into a new musical space, he often alienated much of his existing fan base. Fans of Kind of Blue are not inherently going to be disposed towards Bitches Brew, and many who discovered Miles with the pop-funk of his last decade may find his more abstract mid-'60s quintet completely unfathomable.

Consequently Fusion for Miles starts with an immediate handicap. The bad news is that Richman's arrangements—featuring a core band of keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Alphonso Johnson, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—don't go very far in finding the elusive common link. In fact, Richman often takes tunes that were the barest of sketches—for example, Miles' funk vamp of "Jean-Pierre" and the equally harmonically static jungle funk of his early-'70s "Black Satin"—and writes new passages to give them greater interest. While these radically altered and stricter arrangements give the guest guitarists more to work with, by its very virtuosity Fusion for Miles loses sight of one of Miles' core musical goals: creating specific vibes and particular feelings.

The good news is that Fusion for Miles is one heck of a great fusion record when taken on its own merits. It features a varied bunch of guitarists who range from the post bop sensibility of Pat Martino and Bill Connors, to more clear fusion from Jimmy Herring and Mike Stern, and the rock-centric approach of Warren Haynes and Steve Kimmock. Covering material from the late '50s ("So What") through the mid-'80s ("Splatch"), every guitarist digs into the solid foundation laid by the rhythm section. Unlike Richman's Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute, none of the core band members actually played with Miles, but the inclusion of one early-'70s Miles veteran, saxophonist Dave Liebman, on some tracks provides linkage. And while the individual tunes come from a multitude of spaces, Richman's arrangements bring them together for an album that is sure to please fans of pedal-to-the-floor fusion to no end.

Musicians and fans that revere Miles Davis’ late period work will treasure Fusion For Miles, an anthology whose participants consider “Black Satin,” “Back Seat Betty” and “Spanish Key” just as important as “So What” or “Nefertiti” (which are also part of the menu here). Organist Larry Goldings brings some blues/soul grit to the main lineup that also includes a tremendous funk bassist (Alphonso Johnson), a saxophonist just as comfortable with groove-heavy fare as the avant-garde (Dave Liebman) and a guitar-and-drum drum combo that are regulars in this setting (Jeff Richman and Vinnie Colaiuta, respectively).

Although personal favorites include Bill Frisell’s typically unusual but effective playing on “Nefertiti,” Pat Martino’s easy, sleek solos on “Serpent’s Tooth” and Bireli Lagrene’s balance between flash and soul on “Spanish Key,” there’s also Mike Stern’s steady playing on “So What” and Jimmy Herring’s resourcefulness on “Black Satin.” Richman’s arrangements retain much of the intensity and appeal of the original tunes, though the larger Davis aggregations generated more punch on “Black Satin” or “Back Seat Betty.”

As someone who initially loved (and still loves) the electric Davis’ ensembles as much as the great acoustic groups, Fusion for Miles is a worthy celebration of both approaches.

Track Listing:

01 Black Satin
02 Splatch
03 Jean Pierre
04 So What
05 Nefertiti
06 Eighty One
07 Serpent's Tooth
08 It's About That Time
09 Back Seat Betty
10 Spanish Key

Personnel:

Vinnie Colaiuta: drums;
Alphonso Johnson: bass;
Larry Goldings: keyboards;
Jeff Richman: guitars
Dave Liebman: saxophone.

Featured guitarists:

Jimmy Herring (1)
Jeff Richman (2)
Eric Johnson (3)
Mike Stern (4)
Bill Frisell (5)
Bill Connors (6)
Pat Martino (7)
Warren Haynes (8)
Steve Kimmock (9)
Bireli Lagrene (10)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Roy Buchanan - 1975 [1988] "Live Stock"

Live Stock is a 1975 live album by Roy Buchanan released on Polydor. The album documents a show consisting of blues standards and a few originals played in New York City, with an additional song ("I'm Evil") added from a later show in Evanston, Illinois. The cover photo was taken and sent to Roy by Australian music commentator Glenn A Baker.

Live Stock is, reportedly, one of two Buchanan albums that greatly influenced Jeff Beck, who dedicated a song to Buchanan on his 1975 album Blow by Blow. Buchanan's last album with Polydor, it was partly made to fulfill his contractual obligations so he could move on and accept Ahmet Ertegun's offer to sign with Atlantic.

By the time this long-player hit the street, Roy Buchanan (guitar/vocals) had already departed from his oft-acrimonious relationship with Polydor Records. To their credit, the label issued Live Stock (1975), which captured the artist in performance at Town Hall in New York City on November 27, 1974. This disc features the recently corralled combo of Bill Price (vocals), John Harrison (bass), Malcolm Lukens (keyboards), and Byrd Foster (drums/vocals). Interestingly, the instrumentalists would reconvene behind Buchanan for his next two studio albums, A Street Called Straight (1976) and Loading Zone (1977), as well as the thoroughly superior, import-only Live in Japan (2003). With the exception of the seminal Snakestretchers, this aggregate would stay with the guitarist for longer than any of his numerous other support bands. Practically by default, having returned Buchanan to the stage, the music instantly becomes more conducive to inspiration. The set list highlights both a sampling from earlier efforts, as well as a few covers that are personalized by Buchanan's inimitable stringed artistry. Whether by design or serendipity, each track focuses on his animated solos. Ranging from the driving boogie of Roy Milton's "Reelin' and Rockin" [note: not to be confused with Chuck Berry's rock & roll anthem of virtually the same name] to the stinging fretwork that commences the Memphis soul of Al Green's slithery "I'm a Ram," Buchanan is undeniably at the peak of his abilities. The spirited reading of "Further on up the Road" is particularly worthwhile, as his leads alternately from a rapid-fire slide action to emphatic wails that punctuate the melody with equal measures of deadly accuracy and limber precision. Live Stock is a primary recommendation for all dimensions of blues guitar lovers and those interested in experiencing the craftsmanship of the man once hailed as "The Greatest Unknown Guitarist In The World." Hardcore collectors and the like should also be aware of the essential nine-plus minute rendering of Neil Young's "Down by the River," which was recorded at this show, yet remained unissued until its inclusion on Sweet Dreams: The Anthology (1992) double-disc set. Equally as impressive, and as highly recommended, is the posthumously released archival American Axe: Live in 1974 (2003), as well as the previously mentioned Live in Japan (2003) -- both of which have the same musicians and similarly exceptional results.

First heard 'Can I Change My Mind' on KSHE in St Louis, summer 1975, while painting an older neighbor's fence(!). At the time I was a 'rock & roll only' fool, (thus the KSHE) but the groove on that tune killed me: I put the brush down and just stood there listening. Never knew who it was, or even the name of the tune, though much later had hints that it might be some guy named Roy Buchanan, never could find out for sure and never heard it again. 39 years go by, now I play guitar, bass, sax, and if it's got no groove, I am not interested! Stumbled onto Roy Buchanan earlier this year as a blues man, heard that this album was very good, so bought it unheard. You can imagine my joy when the CD got to track 5, and out of the stereo comes 'Can I Change My Mind' - that same song from my teen years - once again I put down what I was doing just to listen, and listen again, and again. It was like meeting a childhood friend you've not seen in decades.

Recorded At – Town Hall, New York
Recorded By – Record Plant Mobile Studio

Track listing:

1 Reelin' And Rockin' 2:11
2 Hot Cha                4:00
3 Further On Up The Road 4:39
4 Roy's Bluz              8:53
5 Can I Change My Mind 6:17
6 I'm A Ram        4:14
7 I'm Evil                6:01

Personnel:

Guitar – Roy Buchanan
Bass – John Harrison
Drums – Byrd Foster*
Keyboards – Malcolm Lukens
Lead Vocals – Billy Price
Lead Vocals – Roy Buchanan (4,7)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Western Vacation - 1986 [2010] "Western Vacation"

In the early 1980s, Steve Vai had just moved to California and bought a house in rural Sylmar California. At the time, it was a place with more animals than people. Steve's little house out in the wilderness, was a place where wayward musicians can come and call home. One of those musicians living at the house, was Marty Schwartz, Steve's friend from his Berklee School Of Music Days. When Steve broke his whammy bar during a gig in the Berklee recital hall, he asked if anyone had a spare rubber band, thats when a faint voice came from audience "Iv'e got one for you Steve!", that was the first time Steve met Marty.

In Steve's backyard, filled with chickens, ducks, and other various farm animals, Steve's first hand built studio, called Stucco Blue, was the birth place of, ''Western Vacation''. This album was created by Marty, and features a handful of Frank Zappa alumni, including keyboardist Tommy Mars, Vocalist Bob Harris, and Steve Vai, who was listed as the ''Reckless Fable'' on the ''Western Vacation'' track. Other musicians that played on this album were, Chris Frazier on drums, and Jac Mihanovic on bass.

''Western Vacation'' takes you on a progressive musical journey with uplifting melodic textures and dynamic musicianship! Bob Harris's voice is as sweet as a red velvet cupcake and the melodies on this record are so delicious. This album has been beautifully re-mastered in the ''Audio Laundry Mastering Lab'' in Steve's Encino studio, from the original 8 track tapes! This deluxe reissue features a wonderful booklet featuring a essay from Steve Vai and legendary writer and publicist Laurel Fishman.
Listen to Western Vacation and see if you can be transported to the idyllic 1980's in Sylmar. ''This captures that time and place with those wonderful friends,'' -Steve Vai.

I actually worked at the record pressing factory where this was originally pressed (yes...that means vinyl) and fell in love with it on first hearing back in the late eighties. This is some great, great playing...an example of what can happen when the musical stars align. This is a great snapshot of young musicians playing for each other and for fun. As a drummer, I still find inspiration in this album...twenty-odd years later!

This band is made up of a bunch of Steve's friends and Zappa alumni and was recorded in Steve's garage in the early 80's. It sounds like the fun Zappa stuff from prior to this recording and is also reminiscent of Steve's solo work from that era on Flex-Able. Even though Steve apparently only played on the title track his influence on the compositions and guitar work is clear. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Either way, a neat glimpse back at a number of talented artists. Thanks for sharing.

Western Vacation is a great album! I mainly purchased it because Steve Vai is not only my mentor, but my guitar teacher as well. I wanted to hear his early, early, works and here it is! This album wreaks an awesome 80's vibe and brings back many memories on such an awesome time for rock! Steve's(Reckless Fable) guitar solo on the title track is astounding! The vocals are very bubble gum 80's style, but hard to stop listening to! You buy this album and it will really bring you back to early 80's time period. Overall the music is awesome, Bass is killer, and you won't be disappointed! A+++ in my book!

Track listing / Personnel:

1 Western Vacation 6:55
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums, Percussion – Chris Frazier
    Guitar, Voice [Cowboys], Soloist [1st] – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Tommy Mars
    Saxophone – Ric Cunningham
    Soloist [Long Guitar Solo] – Reckless Fable
    Vocals [Lead & Background] – Bob Harris
    Voice [Cowboys] – Mike O'Brien (2)

2 Nocturnal Emissions 2:05
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Bass – Stu Hamm*
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Other [Dedicated To] – Jim Moriarty

3 Fast Note People 4:01
    Backing Vocals – Jarrett Renshaw, Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Bob Harris
    Marimba – Brad Dutz

4 Send Us More Light 4:22
    Bass – Stu Hamm*
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Electric Piano [Rhodes] – Tommy Mars
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Vocals, Keyboards – Bob Harris

5 Patty 4:44
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar, Sitar [Choral] – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Bob Harris

6 The Velvet Line 5:31
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals – Martin Schwartz
    Backing Vocals – Joe Kearney, Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Keyboards – Tommy Mars
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Trumpet – Bob Harris
    Other [Dedicated To] – Joe & Mary Ellen Kearney
    Saxophone – Ric Cunningham


7 Delicious 3:12
    Keyboards [Improvisation], Vocals – Tommy Mars


8 Borrowed Time 4:30
    Backing Vocals – Suzannah Harris
    Bass – Jac Mihanovic
    Drums – Chris Frazier
    Guitar – Martin Schwartz
    Keyboards – Scott Collard
    Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Trumpet – Bob Harris

9 Burning Flame 3:07