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

Personnel:

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

Personnel

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Various Artists - 2015 "Jaco" (Original Soundtrack)


“JACO,” The surprisingly cohesive soundtrack to the 2015 Jaco Pastorius documentary Jaco features tracks the legendary jazz bassist recorded during his short career in the '70s and '80s. The first major documentary film about Pastorius, who was born in 1951 and died tragically in 1987 at age 35, Jaco was produced by bassist Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica) and Pastorius' oldest son, Johnny Pastorius. Jaco details Pastorius' rise from unknown Florida musician to internationally recognized and innovative jazz superstar. In concordance, we get cuts Pastorius recorded as a solo artist and as a member of the influential fusion outfit Weather Report. Fittingly, Trujillo and Pastorius cull tracks off the bassist's two major solo studio albums, 1976's Jaco Pastorius and 1981's Word of Mouth, including "Come on, Come Over," "Continuum," and "Crisis." Elsewhere, we get a handful of major Weather Report sides, including the synth-heavy "River People" and the funky Pastorius feature "Teen Town." Along the way, we also get several tracks Pastorius recorded for other artists, including a live version of "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines" with Joni Mitchell and "All American Alien Boy" off Ian Hunter's 1978 studio album. Bringing Pastorius' influence full circle, Trujillo also includes several brand-new recordings, including a cover of "Come on, Come Over" by his own band Mass Mental, as well as a cover of "Continuum" by Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. While there is certainly room for longer, more exhaustive Pastorius anthologies, Jaco succeeds in providing a listenable -- and one feels lovingly heartfelt -- overview of the bassist's career.

With so many compilations already out there, it might be easy to question why a soundtrack to JACO is even necessary. But one look at the track listing renders its raison d'être clear: JACO: Original Soundtrack is, in some ways, the most comprehensive document of the bassist's career, even if it doesn't contain as much music as previous double-disc sets. Yes, there is plenty of time given to his leader debut, Jaco Pastorius (Epic, 1976), with everything from the soul/funk of "Come On, Come Over" and the ethereal "Continuum" to the hauntingly beautiful "Portrait of Tracy" and the atmospheric, harmonic-driven feature for French horn and percussion, "Okonkole yTrompa."

But there's also space for a couple of tracks from his second album (and 1981 Warner Bros. debut), Word of Mouth, including the staggeringly chaotic album- opener, "Crisis," and more bouyant and accessible big band chart, "Liberty City"—which, in addition to jazz giant Herbie Hancock, also features Pastorius' longtime friends from his Florida days, steel pan player Othello Molineaux and percussionist Don Alias.

Pastorius' tenure in Weather Report, too, is briefly represented with every aspiring bassist's rite of passage, "Teen Town," from the group's 1977 mega hit, Heavy Weather (Columbia) and equally impressive "River People," from 1978's Mr. Gone (Columbia), which combines Pastorius' relentless sixteenth-note anchor and keyboardist Joe Zawinul's broad orchestrations with a disco-fied beat that boosters the bassist's comment, in the film, that "everything's hip." Also included is "Barbary Coast," one of two tracks (and the only one written by Pastorius) that the bassist contributed to the transitional Black Market (Columbia, 1976), a brief piece of greasy funk that was a harbinger of even better things to come as Pastorius took over the bass chair from Alphonso Johnson.

JACO: Original Soundtrack also includes a couple of his many guest appearances, including Joni Mitchell's setting of Charles Mingus' "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines" to words, first found on her collaborative album with the great double bassist, Mingus (Elektra/Asylum, 1979), but heard here as the incendiary live version from Shadows and Light the following year, where saxophonist Michael Brecker takes a lengthy closing solo that Pastorius and Alias (this time on drum kit) push into the stratosphere and beyond. Less often included on jazz-centric Pastorius compilations is his contribution to ex-Mott the Hoople singer Ian Hunter's second solo album, All American Alien Boy, with the title track included here, complete with a bass solo that demonstrates Pastorius' ability to fit into any context.

But what really makes the JACO: Original Soundtrack special are the five tracks that close the 74-minute set. Daughter Mary Pastorius' "Longing" is a dark, dreamy ballad where the singer is supported solely by bassist Chuck Doom and, from her father's Weather Report days, percussionist/drummer Robert Thomas, Jr. "1987" is performed by a group named with nothing but three symbols —with Chuck Doom on bass and keyboards, guitarist Shaun Lopez and vocalist Chino Moreno creating a similarly dreamy but increasingly dramatic response to the year of Pastorius' death. "Shine" takes the bass line from Jaco Pastorius' "Kuru," played by the bassist's nephew David Pastorius, but covers a lot of territory in its brief three minutes, with rap from TechN9ne (speaking in time with "Kuru"'s relentlessly fast bass line) and singing from keyboardist Soko, building into an urban-centric, song-based homage. Acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela performs a more rhythmically propulsive version of Jaco Pastorius floating "Continuum," also turning it into a fine solo vehicle for both guitarists.

Finally, the group dubbed Mass Mental—which features bassists including the film's co-producer from Metallica, Robert Trujillo, alongside one-time Zawinul Syndicate bassist Armand Sabal-Lecco and Red Hot Chilli Peppers' irrepressible Flea—closes the recording by bringing it full circle with a more contemporary rendition of JACO: Original Soundtrack's opening track: Jaco Pastorius' Sam & Dave feature, "Come On, Come Over." Here, however, Mass Mental blends sung vocals with rap, and horns and keys combined with a dense mix from all three bassist that demonstrates the continued breadth and depth of Jaco Pastorius' reach and influence.

As much a starting point for those unfamiliar with Jaco Pastorius' work as it is a heartfelt tribute by family, friends and those who may never have met the bassist but were touched by his work, JACO: Original Soundtrack is a rare soundtrack album that honors its subject by demonstrating not just the subject's own work but showing how the father of "Punk Jazz" affected so many others in such a wide variety of genres. As much as the film succeeded in telling a story, this soundtrack is pure evidence of an artist whose influence continues to be felt nearly three decades after his passing.

Compilation Produced by Robert Trujillo & Johnny Pastorius

Track List:

01 Come On, Come Over – Jaco Pastorius
02 Continuum – Jaco Pastorius
03 River People – Weather Report
04 Teen Town – Weather Report
05 Portrait of Tracy – Jaco Pastorius
06 The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines (Live Version) – Joni Mitchell
07 All American Alien Boy – Ian Hunter
08 Liberty City (with Herbie Hancock) – Jaco Pastorius
09 Okonkole Y Trompa – Jaco Pastorius
10 Barbary Coast – Weather Report
11 Crisis – Jaco Pastorius
12 Longing – Mary Pastorius
13 Nineteen Eighty Seven – †††
14 Shine – Tech N9ne
15 Continuum – Rodrigo y Gabriela
16 Come On Come Over – Mass Mental (featuring Robert Trujillo, Armand Sabal-Lecco, Flea, Whit       Crane, Benji Webbe, Stephen Perkins & C-Minus)

Personnel:

Jaco Pastorius: bass (1-11), drums (3-4), voice (3, 11),timpani (3), Prophet 5 Synthesizer (8), cymbals (8), keyboards (11), synthesizer (11); Randy Brecker: trumpet (1); Ron Tooley: trumpet (1); David Samborn: alto saxophone (1); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1, 8, 11); Howard Johnson: baritone saxophone (1, 8); Herbie Hancock: keyboards (1), Fender Rhodes (2), piano (8); Don Alias: congas (1, 9), bells (2), drums (6), percussion (8), Okonkolo y lya (9),Afu he (9); Narada Michael Walden: drums (1); Sam Moore: vocals (1); Dave Prater: vocals (1); Lenny White: drums (2) Wayne Shorter: soprano saxophone (3-4, 8, 10), tenor saxophone (10, 11), Lyricon (10); Manolo Badrena: congas (3-4); Joe Zawinul: keyboards (3, 10), ARP (3), Prophet (3) Fender Rhodes (4, 10), ARP 2600 (4, 10), melodica (4), Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer (4, 10), grand piano (10); Joni Mitchell: voice (6); Pat Metheny: guitar (6); Lyle Mays: keyboards (6); Ian Hunter: rhythm guitar (7), piano (7), vocals (7); Ann Sutton: background vocals (7); Gail Kantor: background vocals (7); Erin Dickens: background vocals (7); Cornell Dupree: guitar (7); Aynsley Dunbar: drums (7); Chris Stainton: organ (7), keyboards (7); Toots Thielemans: harmonica (8, 11); Othello Molineaux: steel pans (8); Paul Hornmueller: steel pans (8); Leroy Williams: steel pans (8); Jack DeJohnette: drums (8, 11); Robert Thomas, Jr.: percussion (8), hand drums (12), drum kit (12); Chuck Findley: trumpet (8); Bobby Findley: trumpet (8); Snooky Young: trumpet (8); Dave Bargeron: trombone (8); Jim Pugh: trombone (8); David Taylor: bass trombone (8); John Clark: French horn (8); Peter Gordon: French horn (8, 9); Hubert Lass: piccolo (8, 11), flute (8); George Young: alto saxophone (8); Alphonso Johnson: electric bass (10); Chester Thompson: drums (10), percussion (10); Alex Acuña: congas (10), percussion (10); Mary Pastorius: vox (12); Chuck Doom: bass (12,13), keyboards (13); God: rain (12), thunder (12); Chino Moreno: voice (13); Shaun Lopez: guitars (13); TechN9ne: vocals (14); Soko: vocals (14), keyboards (14); David Pastorius: bass (14); Rodrigo y Gabriela: acoustic guitars (15); C-Minus: keyboards (16), horns (16); Stephen Perkins: drums (16); Whit Crane: vocals (16); Benji Webbe: vocals (16); Robert Trujillo: Main Chango bass (16); Armand Sabal-Lecco: Tenor Juju bass (16); Flea: bass stabs (16), bass solo (16).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mingo Lewis - 1976 [2017] "Flight Never Ending"

James Mingo Lewis (born December 1940) is an American jazz percussionist who played with Carlos Santana's band, Return To Forever (Chick Corea) and as a sideman for Al Di Meola. Aside from his extensive work as a session musician—Paiste states Mingo "has recorded over 100 records"—, the percussionist also released a solo album, Flight Never Ending (Columbia, 1976).

Legendary Bay Area progressive jazz percussionist Mingo Lewis began performing with Santana in his teens. Lewis also worked with artists such as Al DiMeola, Chick Corea and Return to Forever, David Byrne, Jan Hammer and The Tubes. Many people got a first glance at Lewis’ extraordinary musicianship through Al DiMeola’s debut album from 1976 “Land of the Midnight Sun” where Lewis contributed one of the most memorable compositions, the opening track “The Wizard” (1st sample below), which has become a DiMeola classic. Lewis' debut album was also originally released in 1976 and it also contains a version of “The Wizard” (2nd sample below). DiMeola’s version of “The Wizard” is melodically stronger, which perhaps suggest that DiMeola might have heard Lewis’ version prior to him releasing his debut album. Nonetheless "Flight Never Ending" is classic 70's fusion much in the style of Return to Forever & Al DiMeola. The music combines the primitive Afro-Cuban rhythms with the newest dimension in progressive rock at the time. It only took 30 years for this recording to appear on CD as it was finally superbly digitally remastered in 2007. Musicians include: Mingo Lewis on percussion and keyboards, David Logeman on drums, Eric McCann on bass, Randy Sellgren on guitar, Michael Kapitan and Kincaid Miller on keyboards, and A. Louis Bramey on hand bells.

In my opinion this is a landmark recording. A somewhat obscure album that should have received more attention in the jazz/rock/fusion category. Featuring the guitar work of Randy Sellgren. Mingo Lewis and Al DiMeola were on pretty much on the same page at this point in time. Al DiMeola had featured Mingo on his "Land of the Midnight Sun" recording from the same year and did so again on his "Elegant Gypsy"(1977)/"Casino"(1978)/"Splendido Hotel"(1980)/"Scenario"(1982)/"Tour De Force"(1982"/"Electric Rendezvous"(1983) recordings. Al DiMeola did a rearrangement of Mingo's "Frankincense" on his "Casino"(Chasin' the Voodoo") lp with Mingo. Anyone who enjoyed DiMeola's work at this time should give Mingo Lewis' "Flight Never Ending" recording a listen. His influence is obvious. In my opinion, once again, all the above is great music from great musicians from a time that has rarely been equaled since.

Great lost fusion music from a great percussionist that has played with a variety of musicians and artists over the years. I have been looking for this album for years and finally someone came out with it on CD.

Delighted to see that Mingo Lewis "Flight Never Ending" is re-issued on cd. As many may know, he was the percussionist on several of Al DiMeola's early solo albums. When this album was released in the mid 70's, it was by far my favorite Fusion album. The track "Heart Song" still holds up. Searing guitar solos, propulsive drumming, synth solos and layered with Latin Percussion. A must have for anyone who enjoys re-visiting musicianship from the Fusion Era.

CD reissue. Mingo Lewis' career spans more than 45 years. He is a percussionist that has performed live and recorded with some of music's greatest names, including Al DiMeola, Santana, Miles Davis, Third World, Billy Joel, The Tubes and Chick Corea's Return To Forever. Flight Never Ending was originally released in 1976 on Columbia Records. This CD consists of searing guitar solos, propulsive drumming and synth solos layered with Latin percussion. A must-have for all who enjoy fusion! This album features two Mingo Lewis compositions recorded by Al DiMeola, 'The Wizard' (on his Land Of The Midnight Sun album) and 'Frankincense' AKA 'Chasin' The Voodoo' (on his Casino album.)

This version has more punch and bass than the 2007 release.

 1. Aba Cua
 2. Frankincense
 3. Heartsong
 4. The Wizard
 5. Visions of Another Time
 6. Trapezoid
 7. Maginary Monsters
 8. Flight Never Ending

Columbia Records, 1976

Mingo Lewis - percussion, synthesizers, congas, clavinet, and vocals
Louis Bramy - percussion, bells, vocals
Mike Kapitan - keyboards, piano, synthesizers, drums vocals
David Logeman - drums
Eric McCann - electric bass
Kincaid Miller - synthesizers, keyboards clavinet
Randy Sellgren - electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ray Barretto - 1994 "Taboo"

Ray Barretto's Taboo features a new, smaller version of his New World Spirit ensemble. Hector Martignon, who composes along with Barretto, is still here, as are Satoshi Takeishi, Ray Vega, and Jairo Moreno. Saxophonist Adam Kolker takes the sax chair vacated by Jay Rodriguez, and guitarist Alfredo Gonzales has not been replaced. The material is far jazzier on Taboo. Barretto explored the roots of Latin jazz as it transformed itself into the New York version of son and salsa on 2003's Hot Hands: Ancestral Messages, and Taboo serves as a guidebook to present and future tenses of Latin jazz. For starters, one can read between the lines that Ray Vega's charts have moved far a-field of the standard notions surrounding big band arrangements. Everything here feels fluid and relaxed; the playing leaves spontaneity in the air whether it is on a Barretto or a Martignon original, such as on "Bomba-Riquen," "99 MacDougal St," or something from the hard bop cannon by Nat Adderley and Oscar Brown, Jr., such as the classic "Work Song," or a modal tune like McCoy Tyner's "Effendi." What comes out is a steamy, emotionally moving, reworking of the soul-jazz ethic by Latin rhythmic and sophistication standards. One tune seamlessly moves into another and the trajectory of soloists against the rhythm section is linear; there is no attempt made by anyone here to play beyond the watermark the band sets, thereby keeping the entire process organic and unified. The counterpoint is engaging, the melodic intervention is groundbreaking, and the interplay of rhythm instruments -- hand percussion, drums, bass, and piano, is nothing less than brilliant and innovative. Taboo actually moves past Hot Hands: Ancestral Messages, and gives listeners a solid view of the shape of Latin jazz to come.

This CD exceeded my expectations.

Track Listing:

  1. Taboo
  2. Bomba-Riquen
  3. Work Song
  4. Cancion De'l Yungue (Song For The Rain Forest)
  5. Guaji-Rita
  6. 99 MacDougal St.
  7. Montuno Blue
  8. Brother Tom
  9. Lazy Afternoon
  10. Effendi

Personnel:

- Ray Barretto: Composer, Congas, Drums, Primary Artist, Quinto
- Alfredo González: Guitar
- Adam Kolker: Flute, Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor).
- Hector Martignon: Arranger, Composer, Piano
- Jairo Moreno: Bass, Bass (Electric), Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric).
- Satoshi Takeishi: Drums.
- Ray Vega: Arranger, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Percussion.

Gabor Szabo - 1966 [1998] "Spellbinder" [Japan Import]

Spellbinder is an album by Hungarian guitarist Gábor Szabó featuring performances recorded in 1966 for the Impulse! label.[1] The album contains "Gypsy Queen" which was covered together with Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman" by Santana on his 1970 Abraxas album. Wiki.

Released just six months after Gypsy '66, Gabor Szabo's second album as a leader (after leaving a sublime Chico Hamilton band that also included Charles Lloyd) remains one of his finest moments in the studio. Szabo utilized the tales of bassist Ron Carter and his old boss Hamilton on drums, as well as a pair of fine Latin percussionists -- Willie Bobo and Victor Pantoja. The groove quotient was very high on Spellbinder, maybe even higher than on later albums such as Jazz Raga or Sorcerer. This set is all Szabo, drifting, wafting, and soaring above all that rhythm; the track selection provides ample space for Szabo's highly individualized Eastern modal style to shine. The set opens with the title track, a snaky guitar masterpiece with plenty of droning strings and pinched chords that are followed by open string flourishes. Carter holds the entire band together as Hamilton plays in counterpoint to the percussionists. This is followed with two nuggets from the pop book of the day, the Coleman/Leigh classic "Witchcraft" and "It Was a Very Good Year." From the performances here, it's apparent that Szabo was deeply influenced by singers, and Frank Sinatra was at his pinnacle during this time. There's the emerging '60s psychedelic sound in Szabo's playing, but it is underlaid with bossa rhythms and swells. These tracks, while flavored with Latin and pop stylings, are gorgeous guitar jazz. Szabo gets back into his own mystic thang with "Gypsy Queen" (the opening droning moments of which the Doors lifted entirely for "The End"). Here the Latin rhythms and guitar go head to head, point to counterpoint. A pronounced yet elusive melody line propels a series of polyrhythms forward into an abyss of melody, mode, and frighteningly intense legato phrasing, leaving the listener breathless. He takes the edge off with Sonny Bono's "Bang Bang (She Shot Me Down)." Szabo sings here in his plaintive Hungarian-inflected English, and the tune becomes something other than a pop song, but a tome on despair and loss. The funky "Cheetah" follows with gorgeous arpeggios, pointedly turning into chords of distinction as Hamilton rides the crash cymbal into territories unknown and double-times the band until it notches up the intensity. This set follows with one more Szabo original ("Yearning") and a trio of standards, with a heartbreakingly beautiful read of "My Foolish Heart" and a medley of "Autumn Leaves" and "Speak to Me of Love." Szabo's read on jazz in the '60s was brilliant. He embodied all of its most popular aspirations with a genuine spirit of innovation and adventure. Spellbinder is a masterpiece. All Music.

I love Jazz Guitar and have many many albums by the best in the business ;Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Herb Ellis, Wes Montgomery, Bill Frissell, JIm Hall and many others....

Of all the Jazz GUitar albums i own, Spellbinder album by Gabor Szabo is one of my favourites....his tone is utterly unique and coming from Hungary (eurpoe), has definietly added to his flavour.

on Spellbinder the arrangement with a tonne of percussion and bass lays a huge spacious foundation for Gabor Szabo to paint over the top....there are no other treble instruments to get in his way....its all there for Gabor Szabo to rip on and he does!

A great album opened me up to his other works and i bought two other albums which are also good, but Spellbinder is my favourite.....it even has the vocal track 'Bang Bang- my baby shot me down ' on it, the famous track that was used, on the movie Kill Bill.

One of my favourite Jazz Guitar albums. By Grant Green.

This album, heard at a friend's house in the late 60s, left an indelible memory. I decided to seek it out to find out whether it was as good as I remembered. The answer is yes. It's not just Szabo's guitar, but the accompaniment and recording, as well: Ron Carter, bass; Rudy Van Gelder, engineer, Bob Thiele, producer. The latin percussion is likewise mesmerizing. Wonderful. By InTents.

Many rock listeners who graduated to jazz will have picked up the scent, so to speak, of Gabor Szabo; he was the composer of the "Gypsy Queen", played by Santana on the extraordinary first side of "Abraxas".

Such listeners would have been disconcerted, perhaps, when they heard this, as I was, many years ago. Szabo's recording was only remotely connected in mood to the Santana performance. But, with time, I picked up on the excellence of the performance. A common transition when rock listeners made the transition to jazz, the bigger vehicle, the mother music of America, and increasingly, Europe.

Hungary has the same mythic connection to music as African America. Perhaps this is rubbish, harmless or insidious of limiting stereotype, I don't know. But Szabo (of damnably short life, dying in his forties in '82) was Hungarian, fleeing the country when the drunkards of the USSR cracked down on the opening in Budapest in 1956. By this time, the compatriot of Bartok and, in a different way, the "Gypsies" had discovered American jazz music. Itself an affront to the Communists.

So America got Szabo. What there is of "Gypsy" here, I'm not sure. The exotic element is the Latin American percussion: there are two Latin percussionists here, the entirety driven by the machine beat of the great Chico Hamilton, who had previously featured Szabo on one of his unpredictable albums. At that time, Szabo and Hamilton were associated with Charles Lloyd, the tenor saxophonist. Lloyd is absent on "Spellbinder", a relief to this listener; I find his alternate copyings of Coltrane and Ornette Coleman cloying, and as domineering as Flip Phillip's excursions on "Jazz at the Philharmonic".

This is a minimalist, percussion-dominated record. The great bassist Ron Carter stays in the background here, and the leader himself, using a wooden guitar with pickup (I think), plays remarkably but subtly throughout, no guitargoddism here. Because the only soloist plays for the music, not the solo (rather like Miles Davis), a second soloist (reed, or perhaps a violin) isn't missed.

He's most at home playing his own compositions, but does reasonably well on standards, "My foolish heart", in this case. The Sonny Bono number succeeds, too, over the whole, but I'm sorry to say that I could have done without the singing. Szabo isn't a bad singer, but it seemed to me out of place.

My copy is a Japanese import. Very good sound, over the whole; it wouldn't have been hard to record this properly, and not hard to remaster, I wouldn't think. Good job, in any case, though I think it could be said that the bass (Ron Carter) isn't quite properly salient. By (((Marco Buendia))).

Track listing:

All compositions by Gábor Szabó except as indicated

1 "Spellbinder" - 5:30
2 "Witchcraft" (Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh) - 4:39
3 "It Was a Very Good Year" (Ervin Drake) - 2:47
4 "Gypsy Queen" - 5:13
5 "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" (Sonny Bono) - 2:28
6 "Cheetah" - 4:10
7 "My Foolish Heart" (Ned Washington, Victor Young) - 5:28
8 "Yearning" - 2:59
9 "Autumn Leaves/Speak to Me of Love" (Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert, Johnny Mercer/Jean Lenoir) - 3:35

Personnel:

Gábor Szabó - guitar, vocals
Ron Carter - bass
Chico Hamilton – drums
Willie Bobo, Victor Pantoja - percussion

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Camel - 1985 "A Compact Compilation"

A Compact Compilation is a compilation album of the British progressive rock band Camel released in 1985.

I have many of the Camel releases, and this is a great introduction to this band. Probably the complaints of the other reviewers have to do with the fact that the cd only pulls songs from 4 of their releases and they have alot of good stuff. This release is probably 90% instrumental. I would have to concur the sequencing isn't ideal. The first 2 cuts are from Mirage (a great album) but are much harder rocking than the rest of the stuff. Once you hit the Snow Goose era stuff it's a nice smooth ride. Camel are especially strong in terms of creating great melodies. But what is equally impressive is the interplay of the musicians. Just when the keyboards or guitar are presenting a really strong melody, each member of the rest of the band is playing an interesting part that just adds to, rather than detracting from, the main theme. The interplay of the band members is exceptional.

This can be a very therapeutic and uplifting listen. One which will take you through many moods. Seems it would be good for a long road trip. I also really love Rajaz off from the cd of the same name. Also, there are some incredible tunes on Dust and Dreams.

I can understand that some reviewers might say that this compilation doesn't really do justice to the band. The reason for that is that they painted from such a wide musical palette that it would be very hard to create a representative compilation.

If I had never heard of Camel and wanted to check them out, I would buy this in a heart beat.

I bought this CD because I wanted to familiarize myself with Camel's music and I really got my money's worth. Excellent CD from start to finish. "Lady Fantasy" and "Rhayander" really stand out. Most of the CD is instrumental, but when there are vocal parts they're done well. If you're looking to get into Camel this is a great place to start. I just wish the band had a better name! It's hard to take a band called Camel seriously, but they deserve more credit and attention than they've received.

Rhino's come a long way in terms of album packaging, that much is for certain.  Thankfully, the music on this one is killer, so the lack of liners or detailed information is excusable.  I'm certain there are better retrospectives on this unfortunately oft-overlooked band, but this is the only one I own, the first one I ran across, so this is not only my introduction to Camel, but all I've ever heard.  All opinions converge on the fact that the earliest Camel albums (the ones that these tracks are taken from) represent many of the high points of the band's catalog, so this one is literally the best of the best.  Epic early prog, somewhere between Genesis' musical theatre, Yes' symphonics, Floyd's space-rock (especially on the selections from Moonmadness), and the Canterbury boys' jazz-fusion leanings, Camel released some great music in their day, making them (along with Caravan and Gentle Giant) one of the golden age of prog-rock's longlost secrets...  Song highlights include the multi-part epic Lady Fantasy, which rides some Yes-esque instrumental sections through a Floydian refrain and then back into a pseudo-Fripp guitar freak-out...  Bear in mind, as well, that these comparisons are in no way to mean that Camel is derivative of their peers, more that they existed in their own place, somewhere between the places of many of their contemporaries.

A selection of songs from 4 of their most acclaimed albums:

Mirage - (Released 1974) tracks: 1 to 2
The Snow Goose - (Released 1975) tracks: 3 to 8
Moonmadness - (Released 1976) tracks: 9 to 10
Rain Dances - (Released 1977) tracks: 11 to 13.

 Tracks Listing:

1. Freefall (5:49)
2. Lady Fantasy (12:42)
3. The Great Marsh (1:45)
4. Rhayader (3:08)
5. Rhayader Goes To Town (5:21)
6. The Snow Goose (3:17)
7. Flight Of The Snow Goose (2:45)
8. Dunkirk (5:29)
9. Song Within A Song (7:10)
10. Lunar Sea (9:06)
11. First Light (5:05)
12. Metrognome (4:09)
13. Rain Dances (2:38)

Total Time: 68:24

Line-up / Musicians

Bass – Richard Sinclair (tracks: 11 to 13)
Bass, Vocals – Doug Ferguson (tracks: 1 to 10)
Compilation Producer – Bob Say
Drums, Percussion – Andy Ward (2)
Guitar, Vocals – Andrew Latimer
Keyboards, Vocals – Pete Bardens*