Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Uriah Heep - 1972 "The Magicians Birthday"

The Magician's Birthday is the fifth album by British rock band Uriah Heep, released in November 1972 by Bronze Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. The concept was "based loosely on a short story" written by keyboardist Ken Hensley in June and July 1972.

The original vinyl release was a gatefold sleeve, the front designed again by Roger Dean. The inner fold had pictures of the band, with the album itself housed in a liner on which were printed the lyrics.

Two songs charted in the United States, "Blind Eye" (No. 97) and "Sweet Lorraine" (No. 91). "Spider Woman" reached No. 13 in Germany.

In a retrospective review, Sputnikmusic praised The Magician's Birthday, saying, "Though probably not as cohesive as it could be, it still offers plenty of highlights, earning its place among Heep's finest albums". Reviewer Daniel Dias singled out "Sunrise", noting that it was "a highlight in Heep's catalog and one of the band's finest progressive rock ballads". AllMusic noted the album's prog elements as well, and said, "The Magician's Birthday never quite hits the consistent heights of Look at Yourself or Demons and Wizards but remains a solid listen for Uriah Heep fans".

The Magician's Birthday was certified gold by the RIAA on 22 January 1973.

The album was remastered and reissued by Castle Communications in 1996 with two bonus tracks, and again in 2003 in an expanded deluxe edition. In 2017, Sanctuary Records released a two-disc version.

Track listing:

Sunrise 4:04
Spider Woman 2:25
Blind Eye 3:33
Echoes In The Dark 4:48
Rain 3:59
Sweet Lorraine 4:13
Tales 4:09
The Magician's Birthday 10:23


David Byron – lead vocals
Mick Box – guitars
Ken Hensley – keyboards, guitars, Moog synthesizer
Gary Thain – bass
Lee Kerslake – drums, percussion
Additional personnel
Brian Cole – Pedal steel guitar on "Tales"

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Steve Howe - 1994 "Not Necessarily Acoustic"

Not Necessarily Acoustic is a live album recorded on Steve Howe's first solo tour and released in 1994.

Recorded in intimate club performances in late 1993, this live and nearly unplugged collection ably spans three decades of Howe's releases. Lead vocals are always a weak spot for him, and so he wisely constrains most of this album to solo instrumentals. The result is a headphone treat, as if you're sitting right in front of his amp and his famed collection of guitars. Of special interest is his one vocal and guitar piece, a seamless medley of each movement from Tales from Topographic Oceans; it's as close to a Tales demo session as fans will ever get. Because Howe's albums are a pastiche of already ripened styles -- a "Meadow Rag" here, a steel guitar twang in "Cactus Boogie" there, and a flamenco-tinged "Mood for a Day" to top it off -- the material on Not Necessarily Acoustic has hardly dated, and it sounds less like a retrospective than a unified new album. The one unfortunate omission is that while the concerts had a nod to his psychedelic days with Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle," there's nothing from that era on this disc.

Steve Howe is my hero.His fellow Yes bandmembers are as well,but Steve has become my ...Hero!...I've always enjoyed the Man's guitar playing,but have only become aware more recently how deeply his creative genius has affected me.This recording almost definitively describes these qualities.A live offering,the show is almost unbelievable in how warm a performance it is.Personally speaking,I even love when he sings!The show has a flow and rhythm,an intimacy to it that is so often absent from proceedings such as these.Mr.Howe's enthusiasm for his craft shines through brightly and easily.At one point,early in the performance,he remarks,mildly "I'm sorry,but my guitar is tired!"-Whereupon he immediately disproves what he's said,and makes one wonder just what that instrument would sound like had it gotten a good night's rest.Joyous,playful,poignant and astounding...everyone I've ever played this for has enjoyed it immensely.One of the finest guitar performances I've ever heard-as highly recommended as is possible-once you've heard this,you, too will love Steve Howe..

After being dismissed from Yes following the "Union" tour, Steve recorded "The Grand Scheme Of Things" and decided to undertake his 1st ever solo tour.

On December 13, 1993, Steve arrived in Philadelphia - one of his favorite cities - and decided to record a live CD.
Steve's set was divided into four segments:
(1) Scharpach 6-string acoustic; (2) Kohno nylon string acoustic; (3) Martin 12-string acoustic; & (4) Steinberger 6-string electric.

Steve played completely solo - no pre-recorded backing tracks.

The Tracks:

(The nylon string set) "Heritage" , a previously unreleased piece, is a soothing Spanish/Classical piece which sets a peaceful mood.

"Arada" is a traditional piece which features some sliding bass notes in it's sub-minute appearance.
The "Topographic Oceans" medley features a section from each of the four movements,and vocals from Steve.
His solo from 'The Ancient' highlights the medley.
"Corkscrew" from 'Grand Scheme' follows an unusual pattern and is an acquired taste.
"Concerto in 'D'- 2nd movement" actually benefits from this solo arrangement as opposed to the electric/orchestral arrangement from 1979.
"Surface Tension" copies the 1979 version to the letter.
The last of the nylon pieces is the 1971 classic "Mood for a Day". The clarity is so much better on this digital recording.
(The 12-string acoustic set) Only two songs from the 12-string set made the album.
"Sketches in the Sun", originally done as an electric 12-string piece on 'GTR', features a "drop-D" tuning, which has Steve flat-picking the lower strings, while finger-picking the upper strings. The effect is much like a harpsichord, and very melodic.
"Masquerade" was recorded for "Union" and was Grammy-nominated. It combines ekements of folk and classical.

(Steinberger 6-string electric set) The first electric piece is my favorite piece on the album, "Bareback".
This tune takes pages from Chet Atkins, Merle Travis & James Burton , with it's "chicken pickin'", as well as the high-low note exchanges. Steve's tone is crystal clear, and he's playing his a** off.

"Dorothy" is a somber echo-y tribute to Steve's late aunt, that was originally demoed as a jazzy saxophone and arch top piece. The solo electric treatment conveys the sentiment far better.

"Meadow Rag" gets the electric treatment next, which makes it even more slippery and twangy than the original from 1979.
The last electric tune is a medley of "Swedish Rhapsody / Whispering", the first based on Chet Atkins' version, while the second is taken from Les Paul's version.

(The 6-string acoustic set) The acoustic 6-string set, which has a decidedly country feel, with tracks like "The Valley of Rocks", "Country Mix", "Cactus Boogie", "Second Initial" , "The Glory of Love", "Ram" ,and Steve's signature piece, "Clap".
Steve is on the top of his game in this performance. 5 Stars.

Roger Dean – graphic design, design, paintings, logo, logo design

Tracks Listing:

1. The Valley of Rocks (3:03)
2. Heritage (2:32)
3. Arada (1:08)
4. Country Mix: White Silver Sands/Green Bay... (2:57)
5. Excerpts from Tales from Topographic... (9:18)
6. Bareback (2:42)
7. Sketches in the Sun (2:58)
8. Cactus Boogie (2:09)
9. Second Initial (2:47)
10. Corkscrew (3:45)
11. The Glory of Love (1:14)
12. Dorothy (2:10)
13. Meadow Rag (2:26)
14. Concerto in D, 2nd Movement (2:34)
15. Surface Tension (3:22)
16. Masquerade (2:03)
17. Mood for a Day (2:59)
18. Swedish Rhapsody (0:53)
19. Whispering (1:00)
20. Roundabout (2:33)
21. Ram (1:51)
22. Clap (3:43)

Total Time: 60:07


- Steve Howe / guitars

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Paradox - 1998 [2005] "The First Second"

Drummer Billy Cobham, guitarist Bill Bickford, and bassist Wolfgang Schmid form a creative fusion trio on Paradox. The result is a powerhouse addition to Cobham's discography. Cobham's pummeling whirlwind got the attention of jazz and rock fans alike, achieving almost "hit single" status in both camps. For their version almost a quarter-century later, Cobham and company notch the pace back a bit, getting more heft and torque without losing any of the original's guitar god flash (Schmid almost steals the show with his own axe-slinging).

While Paradox is a tripartite accomplishment, it is also a personal return to form for Cobham, who, after the promise of his early solo career, became involved in many forgettable projects (does anybody remember Bobby & the Midnites?). Paradox doesn't match the howling, apocalyptic thunder of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but it is the equal of Cobham's own triumphant first release.

Paradox was one fine power fusion trio. Bassist Schmid is a known quantity in Germany. His first marks were made in Klaus Doldinger's group Passport. He has won many German music awards. New York guitarist Bill Bickford spent a decade in the band DeFunkt. Billy Cobham is Billy Cobham. Before fusion engaged in a seemingly unbreakable love affair with elevators, it amplified stadiums globally with joyous eruptions of lacerating electric guitars and orchestral keyboards intertwined with blaring horn sections. Underneath those plugged-in sound collages were molten hotbeds of relentless rock and hand percussion that propelled all the pyro-madness with funk-informed grooves. Recalling the glory slickophonic years of fusion-rock, Paradox thumps mightily with the same frenetic electricity, extroverted pyrotechnics and herculean strength that elevated the careers of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Weather Report to rock star status. Comprised of fusion veterans, drummer Billy Cobham, bassist Wolfgang Schmid, and guitarist Bill Bickford, this all-star trio stomps like a thumperasaurus monster abruptly awakening from a deep sleep.

Track Listing:

1. Parablue (5:34)
2. Mozaik (8:36)
3. Twistedology (8:16)
4. Pandora's Box (7:58)
5. Subwayer (9:30)
6. Serengeti Plains (10:54)
7. Onece In A Blue Mood (10:37)
8. Nu Mess (0:56)

Total Time 62:27


- Billy Cobham / drums
- Wolfgang Schmid / bass
- Bill Bickford / guitars

Monday, July 23, 2018

Lenny Breau - 1979 "Lenny Breau Trio"

Lenny Breau Trio is an album by Maine-born guitarist Lenny Breau, released in 1979. Originally released on Direct-Disk Labs, it was reissued in 1995 on the Adelphi label and as Lenny Breau Trio on CD on the Genes label in 1999. Breau's friend and mentor Chet Atkins guests on "You Needed Me".

Guitarist Lenny Breau, who did not gain the recognition he deserved during his relatively brief lifetime, is heard in fine form on this obscure Adelphi LP. Breau performs five numbers (two originals, songs by Bob Dylan and John Coltrane, and "You Needed Me") in a trio with a pair of talented Canadians: bassist-pianist Don Thompson and drummer Claude Ranger. Breau mixed together elements from country music and jazz to develop an original sound and style. This album gives listeners a strong example of his legendary artistry.

Recorded direct-to-disc in the spring of 1979, this recording documents the genius of guitarist Lenny Breau, a startlingly original player who combined elements of country, jazz and flamenco into an organic voice.

A champion of both fingerstyle and seven-string guitar (with a high A-string), Breau was also known for his bell-like harmonic passages, a technical innovation that was emulated by a whole lineage of great guitar stylists from Larry Coryell to Steve Masakowski, Phil deGruy, Bireli Lagrene and Charlie Hunter.

Accompanied by the Canadian rhythm section of Don Thompson on bass and Claude Ranger on drums, Breau demonstrates mind-boggling facility and fluidity on a jazzy interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” and on a blistering, pent-up rendition of John Coltrane’s “Mister Night.” They turn in a burning rendition of “On Green Dolphin Street” (moronically mistitled here as “Neptune”) and cool out on a gorgeous “The Shadow of Your Smile” (here mistitled as “Claude”), in which Breau demonstrates his uncanny affinity for pianist Bill Evans’ impressionistic approach on guitar. Breau’s mentor, guitar great and Nashville executive Chet Atkins, guests on a lovely rendition of Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me.”

Jazz guitarists everywhere need to check out this remarkable (and remarkably overlooked) player.

Legendary guitarist is presented here with his original Jazz Trio, featuring Don Thompson & Claude Ranger, as well as in a duet with Chet Atkins. This Nashville session was originally released in 1980.

The late Lenny Breau was an uncrowned king of jazz fingerstyle guitar. a relatively unknown voice on the instrument, he startled newcomers to his music by his ability to comp chords behind himself sounding like two guitarists, ring out lengthy bell-like harmonic passages, tastefully blend his influences of country, jazz and flamenco and fluidly improvise in this style.

The greatest guitar player in the world today is the way Chet Atkins described Lenny Breau during his brief but mesmerizing career, his extraordinary ability on the guitar has not been matched, making his slim catalog of recordings a must have for fans and serious players alike. This album, Lenny Breau Trio, features the Canadian rhythm section of bassist Don Tompson and drummer Claude Ranger, plus a stunning duet with friend/mentor Chet Atkins on the first track. Recorded in the direct-to-disk method, which requires cutting an entire side at one sitting, these performances capture the excitement and brilliance of live performance, while retaining the purity of studio sound.

Track listing:

"You Needed Me" (Randy Goodrum) – 4:31
"Don't Think Twice (It's All Right)" (Bob Dylan) – 6:35
"Mister Night" (John Coltrane) – 4:45
"Neptune" (Lenny Breau) – 8:32
"Claude (Free Song)" (Breau) – 6:27


Lenny Breau – guitar
Chet Atkins – guitar ("You Needed Me")
Don Thompson – bass
Claude Ranger – drums

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Rick Wakeman - 1973 [1999] "The Six Wives of Henry VIII"

The Six Wives of Henry VIII is the first studio album by the English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released in January 1973 on A&M Records. It is an instrumental progressive rock album with its concept based on his interpretations of the musical characteristics of the six wives of Henry VIII. After signing with A&M as a solo artist, Wakeman decided on the album's concept during a tour of the United States as a member of the rock band Yes. As he read a book about the subject on his travels, melodies he had written the previous year came to him and were noted down. Musicians from Yes and from Strawbs, the group Wakeman was in prior to Yes, also play on the album.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII received mostly positive reviews from critics. It reached number 7 on the UK Albums Chart and number 30 on the Billboard 200 in the United States. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1975 for over 500,000 copies sold in the United States. In 2009, Wakeman performed the album in its entirety for the first time live at Hampton Court Palace as part of the 500th anniversary celebration of Henry's accession to the throne. The tracks were rearranged with sections, including a track dedicated to Henry himself, that were left off the original album due to the limited time available on a single record. The album was reissued in 2015 with a quadraphonic sound mix and bonus tracks.

In August 1971, Rick Wakeman joined the progressive rock band Yes as a replacement to their original keyboardist Tony Kaye. Towards the end of the year, he signed a five-album deal as a solo artist with A&M Records. While touring the United States with Yes on their Fragile Tour promote Fragile (1971), Wakeman was informed by his manager Brian Lane that A&M co-founder and executive Jerry Moss wished to meet him at A&M Studios in Los Angeles. Moss wished for Wakeman to record a solo album and offered an advance of $12,500, around £4,000, to produce it which Wakeman accepted. As part of his signing on fee, Wakeman received a 1957 Cadillac limousine from A&M which he claimed was once owned by Clark Gable and had it shipped to England. Wakeman chose it after the label asked him what he would want as a present and remembered he had seen the car in the building's parking lot.

During the Fragile Tour, Wakeman bought four books at an airport bookstall in Richmond, Virginia, including one about Henry VIII and his six wives titled The Private Life of Henry VIII (1964) by Scottish writer Nancy Brysson Morrison. As he read about Anne Boleyn on the subsequent flight to Chicago, a theme he recorded in November 1971 ran through his mind which he wrote on some hand drawn ledger lines and played during the sound check and the subsequent concert. Said Wakeman, "I had been searching for a style to write in and suddenly I found it in writing music about these six ladies...I would concentrate on one of the wives and then music just came into my head and I would write it down. Sometimes I was flying, other times I was on stage, or just in front of the piano at home ... The six wives theme gave me the thread, the link, I needed to give me a reason for putting these pieces of music together." He explains the album's concept further in its liner notes: "The album is based around my interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, it is my personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments." Wakeman elaborated and wrote the music as if he was doing a surreal painting, "sketches of how I felt about them at the time".

Not only did this album help pave the way for progressive rock, but it also introduced the unbridled energy and overall effectiveness of the synthesizer as a bona fide instrument. Six Wives gave Wakeman his chance to break away from the other instrumental complexities that made up Yes and allowed him to prove what a driving force the keyboard could truly be, especially in full album form. More than just synthesized wandering, Wakeman astoundingly conjures up a separate musical persona by way of an instrumental ode to each of Henry VIII's wives through his dazzling use of the Mellotron, Moog, and Hammond C-3 organ. For example, Wakeman's fiery runs and fortissimo thwarting of the synthesizer throughout "Anne Boleyn" is a tribute to her feisty temper and valiant courage that she maintained while standing up to her husband. With "Jane Seymour," on the other hand, Wakeman's playing is somewhat subdued and gentle, which coincides with her legendary meekness and frailty, as well as her willingness to cater to Henry VIII. Wakeman's masterful use of his synthesizers is instrumentally stunning, as is his talent of magically shaping the notes to represent behavioral idiosyncrasies of his characters. Yes bassist Chris Squire lends a hand on "Catherine of Aragon," while guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Bill Bruford appear on a few tracks as well, as does former Strawbs member Dave Cousins, playing the electric banjo. The Six Wives of Henry VIII unleashes the unyielding power of the keyboard as a dominant instrument, but also displays Wakeman at the beginning of an extremely resplendent career as a solo musician.

It says in the fine print of Rick Wakeman's first solo album that the music is "based around [my] interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII." The idea for the album came from the book of the same name, which Yes' Wakeman purchased at a London airport. He writes that the music for each of Henry's wives came flowing inside his head as he read about them. A bit apocryphal perhaps, but apparently Wakeman found what he was looking for -- a theme through which he could expose his keyboard virtuosity. He overdubbed eight of them: Mini-Moog synthesizer, mellotron with brass and string effects, a Steinway Grand piano, another mellotron with voice effects, C-3 Hammond organ, RMI electric piano, Arp synthesizer and a Thomas Goff harpsichord.

Placing himself in the middle of these various keyboards, Wakeman created a synthesized orchestra. Along with a rhythm section often composed of Yes' Chris Squire on bass, Steve Howe on guitar and the group's recently acquired drummer Alan White, he used the electric piano to take the place of strings, the electric harpsichord to replace the sound of reeds, and the Arp to replace a contra bassoon.

With this album, Wakeman has made his bid for Keith Emerson's place as the master of keyboard electronics. Though falling a little short in technique, he has a brilliant feel for tasteful impressionistic composition. For example, "Catherine Of Aragon," at first sounds like ELP's "Tarkus," but evolves into a more melodic cut featuring some human choral work by Liza Strike, Barry St. John and Judy Powell.

The brightest spot on the album is "Catherine Howard," which contains at least four time changes and some amazing interplay between mellotron, harpsichord, Moog and acoustic piano.

Henry VIII is an exceptionally interesting instrumental album. The production is superb, the mixing tasteful with hardly an uncomfortable studio effect. In fact, most of what we would normally think of as effects are the product of Wakeman's own playing which is just fine.

Track Listing:

1. Catherine of Aragon (3:45)
2. Anne of Cleves (7:50)
3. Catherine Howard (6:36)
4. Jane Seymour (4:44)
5. Anne Boleyn (Incl. 'The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended') (6:31)
6. Catherine Parr (7:00)

Total Time: 36:36


- Rick Wakeman / Steinway grand piano, RMI electric piano, Hammond C3 organ, acoustic & electric harpsichord, Mini-Moog, ARP synthesizer, Mellotron 400D, Cripplegate St. Giles church organ (4), arrangements & production

- Mike Egan / guitar (1,2,5,6)
- Steve Howe / guitar (1)
- Dave Lambert / guitar (3)
- David Cousins / electric banjo (3)
- Chris Squire / bass (1)
- Dave Winter / bass (2,6)
- Chas Cronk / bass (3)
- Les Hurdle / bass (1,5)
- Bill Bruford / drums (1,5)
- Alan White / drums (2,4,6)
- Barry de Souza / drums (3)
- Ray Cooper / percussion (1,5)
- Frank Ricotti / percussion (2,3,6)
- Judy Powell / chorus (1)
- Barry St.John / chorus (1)
- Liza Strike / chorus (1,5)
- Laura Lee / chorus (5)
- Sylvia McNeill / chorus (5)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Robert Fripp - 1994 "1999" Soundscapes-Live In Argentina

The five selections that make up Robert Fripp's 1999 album were selected from 12 different live, improvised performances recorded in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994. And although some King Crimson fans will be confused by Fripp's musical departure, he's said that his soundscape material is his most immediate and personal work, since the improvised performances can change from night to night, depending on the circumstances. Also, it is pretty fascinating just how many different tones, colors, and textures Fripp creates with just a guitar, guitar synthesizer, and effects pedals (it sounds almost like a full electronic orchestra at times). Fripp also chose not to edit or cut any of the songs on 1999 (except for one), so the songs sound exactly the way they did when Fripp first improvised them in front of an Argentinean audience back in '94. If you want to check out Fripp's Frippertronics technique, which he talks about often in interviews (Fripp describes the technique as being based on "delay, repetition, and hazard"), 1999 is an adequate introduction.

"1999" is, if I'm not mistaken, the first album by Robert Fripp featuring solely his soundscapes performances (differentiated from Frippertronics as being a wholly digital experience whereas Frippertronics relied on tape loops). Essentially, it is Fripp, his guitar, a series of effects and looping equipment. It is not music that is for everyone-- for those familiar with Fripp's guitar work with King Crimson, this is not the sort of jaw dropping stuff he played with that band, instead it is similar to his work with Brian Eno-- in fact ambient music. In addition, it is wholly improvised, so all structure, implied or not, is spontanteous. And without such things as concrete melody, this music can often be extremely difficult to deal with.

Having stated that, "1999"-- five unedited live recordings from 1994 is a decent example of the form (though not the best-- I've reserve that for "A Blessing of Tears"). The music moves between dark and haunting ("1999"), horrific ("2000"), achingly beautiful ("2001"), meandering (the appropriately titled and fortunately only edited track on the record, "Interlude"), and gentle ("2002"). Remarkably, the only track I really dislike is the "Interlude", which comes closest to sounding like a guitar, the rest has an orchestral feel to it, the pure amount of noise generated at a minimum is pretty impressive.

If you're new to soundscapes, start with the easier to find "A Blessing of Tears", but if you're familiar with this work, track this one down, it is an interesting and rewarding release.

Robert Fripp's "1999" CD from 1994 was released during a time when the legendary guitarist was making a major comeback. King Crimson had returned after a decade-long absence and Fripp re-emerged with his first solo performances in almost as long. 1994 also marked the birth of Fripp's 'soundscaping' technique which was and still is an extension of his 'Frippertronic' experiments of the 1970's and '80's.

Instead of using two tape machines as had been the norm with 'Frippertronics', Soundscapes utilized digital technology and guitar-synthesizers to create and loop the endless mass of sound created by Fripp from his guitar. The idea was not a new one but the sound definitely was.

Unlike the later Soundscape albums which consist mostly of layered calm atmospheric sounds, "1999" mostly consists of giant crescendo-like pieces that begin from pure silence and slowly develop into harsh and sometimes abrasive frightening walls of sound. The opening two pieces (1999 and 2000) follow this manner and are quite unsettling and chilling. "2001" is a more calmer piece but still has the same principle as the first two tracks. "Interlude" is an edited piece from a longer performance and is quite experimental with its sounds which ping-pong between the speakers. Finally, to close the album, "2002" points the direction in which Fripp would eventually take his Soundscapes as it consists of beautiful ambient layered sounds.

"1999" has become somewhat difficult to find in recent years but if your a fan of King Crimson, Robert Fripp and Soundscapes, this CD is definitely a must. This was the beginning of a new Fripp trademark which continues to this day and displays him at his most experimental and most unpredictable. Recommended!!!

Track Listing:

1. 1999 Pt. 1 (16:08)
2. 2000 (16:02)
3. 2001 (12:52)
4. Interlude (3:59)
5. 2002 (8:29)

Total Time: 57:30


- Robert Fripp / guitar

Monday, July 16, 2018

Miles Davis - 1970 [1997] "Live at the Fillmore East"

Miles Davis at Fillmore is a 1970 live album by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and band, recorded at the Fillmore East, New York City on four consecutive days, June 17 through June 20, 1970, originally released as a double vinyl LP. The performances featured the double keyboard set-up Davis toured with for a few months, with Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea playing electronic organ and Fender Rhodes, respectively. The group opened for Laura Nyro at these performances.

Compositions include, besides the standard "I Fall in Love Too Easily", tracks from his fusion studio albums Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way. The live performances were heavily edited by producer Teo Macero, and the results were named for the day of the week the band performed; only on the 1997 Columbia CD reissue were the compositions and composers identified and indexed. Promotional LP copies divided the sides into short individually titled pieces, but still did not identify the original compositions and composers.

Miles Davis at Fillmore was released on vinyl as a double album, with liner notes written by Morgan Ames of High Fidelity, and Mort Goode. It was released on CD in Japan in 1987, but not made available on CD in the States until 1997, when Columbia released it as one of five live albums from the same period (the others being Live-Evil, In Concert: Live at Philharmonic Hall, Dark Magus, and Black Beauty: Live at the Fillmore West). This reissue featured additional liner notes by drummer Jack DeJohnette. Columbia aimed the release for the jazz market but also for college and alternative radio stations.

Fresh off the symbolic groundbreaking success of his award-winning jazz-rock extravaganza Bitches Brew in 1970, Miles Davis gave his showstopping SRO live performance at the Fillmore East in New York City the same year when Miles and his band gave the rock audience a superlative and ambitious live experience that the trumpet master one of several jazz musicians to become a bonafide attraction at the Fillmore.

Miles Davis At Fillmore gradually showcases a rousing first class performance heralded by fast-paced interplay, sheer aggression, a supercharged trumpet- band camaraderie, fantastic instrumental settings, and multi-dimensional rhythms which give this live date it’s exhilarating edge played with style and grand excellence which had made it this a magnificent live hit. Starting off with a “1-2-3” track warm-up, the track set gets off to a roaring start with stark round of composi-
tions like It’s About That Time, a slick two-minute version of the classic standard I Fall In Love Too Easily, Sanctuary and the final track Willie Nelson (a special ode to the country and western master).

With a dynamic band line-up that consists of Steve Grossman or tenor or soprano saxophone, Chick Corea on Fender Rhodes electric piano, Keith Jarrett on electric organ, Dave Holland on bass--both electric and acoustic alike, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Airto Moreira on percussion or cuica, you will find Miles Davis At Fillmore to be an absolute high octane listening experience as Miles and the band brings the music to direct heights that is played an incessant fever pitch as these elements help emphasized the album’s success on the jazz and R&B charts. When it comes to Miles’ bold controversial entry into The Jazz-Rock Era, he had truly made a tremendous difference when he alienate both the jazz community and jazz purists while attracting a younger rock and R&B audience with his radical electric fusion artistry, but Miles would remain true to his own groundbreaking originality in such an electronic setting no matter what it took.

Also described as his Miles’ first electric live session, here’s another highly lauded chapter that will remain as upbeat and daringly up to date as ever.

Teo Macero meticulously edited the four concerts at the Fillmore East in June 1970 so that they would fit onto a double-LP album. The group now included two keyboards: Chick Corea took over the electric piano and the newcomer Keith Jarrett, in spite of his aversion to electric keyboards, contented himself with a small electric organ, a Fender Contempo. Jarrett, who venerated Miles, went along, very playfully, spicing up the free deliriums of the Corea-Holland-DeJohnette trio, without, however, being able to really participate: the two keyboards were located on opposite sides of the stage and the still rudimentary sound system of the powerfully amplified music prevented them from hearing one another.

Each musician used the bass ostinatos—the only identifiable elements in the pieces—to get their bearings (along with, on Wednesday night, a variation on the riff from “Bitches Brew,” a significant revelation of Jarrett’s approach).

Marguerite Eskridge, Davis' girlfriend at the time, appeared in the album cover's photo collage.

On March 25, 2014, the full recordings of the performances were issued as Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3.


Track listing:

Disc one

 Wednesday Miles (June 17, 1970)
1. "Directions" Joe Zawinul 2:29
2. "Bitches Brew" Miles Davis 0:53
3. "The Mask" Miles Davis 1:35
4. "It's About That Time" Miles Davis 8:12
5. "Bitches Brew/The Theme" Miles Davis 10:55
 Thursday Miles (June 18, 1970)
6. "Directions" Joe Zawinul 5:35
7. "The Mask" Miles Davis 9:50
8. "It's About That Time" Miles Davis 11:22

Total length: 50:51

Disc two

 Friday Miles (June 19, 1970)
1. "It's About That Time" Miles Davis 9:01
2. "I Fall in Love Too Easily" Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn 2:00
3. "Sanctuary" Wayne Shorter 3:44
4. "Bitches Brew/The Theme" Miles Davis 13:09
 Saturday Miles (June 20, 1970)
5. "It's About That Time" Miles Davis 3:43
6. "I Fall in Love Too Easily" Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn 0:54
7. "Sanctuary" Wayne Shorter 2:49
8. "Bitches Brew" Miles Davis 6:57
9. "Willie Nelson/The Theme" Miles Davis 7:57

Total length: 50:14


Miles Davis – trumpet
Steve Grossman – tenor and soprano sax, flute
Chick Corea – Fender Rhodes electric piano
Keith Jarrett – Fender Contempo Organ
Dave Holland – acoustic and electric bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums
Airto Moreira – percussion, cuica

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dave Liebman, Anthony Jackson, Mike Stern - 2007 "Back on the Corner"

It's only been in the past decade that the electric music of the late Miles Davis has been re-explored, attaining more widespread credibility and acceptance. It's turning out to be a matter of catching up with an icon that, through the many phases of his career, was often ahead of his time. Like so many others, saxophonist Dave Liebman only played with the trumpet legend for a brief period, but he acknowledges its significant effect. Back on the Corner explores that impact in the most personal of ways.
Liebman played on Davis' On the Corner (Legacy, 1972)—a dense album that, with its repetitive grooves and flat-out sonic assaults, was one of the trumpeter's most audacious and controversial recordings. Augmenting his current quartet with two guests—guitarist (and Davis alumnus) Mike Stern and electric contrabassist Anthony Jackson—Liebman has expanded his sonic capabilities, but the overall approach is filled with a space and, at times, calm rarely heard in Miles' mid-'70s music.

Unlike other tributes, there's no trumpet here, and the emphasis is on original material. The studio versions of the two Davis tracks Liebman has selected are ones that he didn't perform on record, though he did play them in performance. "Black Satin" rocks as hard as Miles ever did, but breathes more in the process; "IFE" is a slower, greasier take where Vic Juris once again demonstrates his remarkable versatility and incomprehensible position as one of jazz's most undervalued guitarists.

Liebman may be known for his fiery intensity—and he delivers plenty of it on tracks like the swinging "5th Street" and Latin-esque "New Mambo," where, following an equally powerful solo from Stern, he goes it alone with drummer Marko Marcinko before the rest of the group gradually re-enters. Both tracks also point to Liebman as a writer of greater detail. There's ample solo space throughout the album and a strong emphasis on groove. But Liebman writes more clearly delineated heads, which provide a greater focal point for the rest of the group.

Perhaps the biggest revelation is "Bela," a tranquil, classically informed tone poem that features a lyrical bass solo from Tony Marino and some elegant tradeoffs between Stern and Juris. The reference to Miles may appear subtle given the time period when Liebman worked with him, but Miles always respected spare economy and classicism. "Bela" is one of the most vulnerable and fragile pieces Liebman has every written, though the tenuous groove of "Mesa D'Espana" is a close second.

What makes Back on the Corner special is its avoidance of literal homage. Instead, Liebman demonstrates the very particular effect that Miles had on him in ways that may require a little searching. Liebman has always spoken with his own voice, but dig deep into Miles, and Liebman's respect on Back on the Corner becomes crystal clear.

While listening to saxophonist Dave Liebman's 2007 release, Back on the Corner, it's pretty darn hard not to think of Miles Davis' groundbreaking early-'70s fusion period. And there are obvious reasons for this: firstly, Liebman actually played with Davis at one point (appearing on Davis' 1973 release, On the Corner), another Davis sideman plays throughout the album (guitarist Mike Stern), and lastly, two of the compositions were penned by Davis himself. Joining Liebman and Stern is renowned sessionman Anthony Jackson on contrabass, plus Liebman's own band of the last 15 years (bassist Tony Marino, guitarist Vic Juris, and drummer Marko Marcinko). And the group admirably replicates the sound and feel of all those classic fusion releases of the early '70s (no Spyro Gyra-esque blahness here), especially on the aforementioned Davis-penned tracks, "Ife" and the downright funky "Black Satin," as well as the laid-back album opener, "5th Street," and another funk workout, the properly titled "J.B. Meets Sly." If you think that vintage-sounding fusion is dead and gone circa the early 21st century, Dave Liebman's Back on the Corner should change your mind.

Saxophonist Dave Liebman started his 18-month tenure with Miles Davis in 1972 by recording tracks for On the Corner, the trumpeter’s nod to funk artists James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone. On Back on the Corner, Liebman revisits the spirit of that oft-debated recording without rehashing it track by track, and gets ample support from guitarist (and fellow Miles alum) Mike Stern and bassist Anthony Jackson.

The guest stars’ contributions are matched by Liebman’s 15-year-old working band of guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko. They propel Stern’s epic solo on an energized “Black Satin,” the lone track from On the Corner. The other Davis composition, the strutting “Ife,” features Liebman’s soprano darting around Juris’ chiming chords and Marino’s Chapman stick.

All other compositions are by Liebman, and they cover several different musical corners. “5th Street” opens the CD with surprising tranquility, a stark contrast to the 20-minute “On the Corner” medley that led off the album that inspired this one. Marcinko’s drum solo segues into “New Mambo,” an odd-timed showcase for the interplay between Stern’s guitar and Liebman’s tenor. Juris’ acoustic guitar interlude leads into the moody “Mesa D’Espana,” which features Liebman on soprano and wooden flute. Only the closing “J.B. Meets Sly/5th Street Reprise” recalls the hyperactive funk of On the Corner. Lesser artists might have tried to predictably recreate that disc verbatim, but Liebman proves that he learned a valuable lesson during those 18 months: Doing the expected was never Miles’ style, either.

Track Listing:

1. 5th Street
2. Ife
3. Bass Interlude
4. Black Satin
5. Bela
6. Drum Interlude
7. New Mambo
8. Acoustic Guitar Interlude
9. Mesa D’Espana
10. Electric Guitar Interlude
11. J.B. Meets Sly/5th Street Reprise


Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones, piano, synthesizer, wooden flute;
Mike Stern: electric guitar;
Anthony Jackson: contrabass guitar;
Vic Juris: electric and acoustic guitar;
Tony Marino: acoustic, electric and stick bass;
Marko Marcinko: drums, percussion.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Eric Johnson - 1996 "Venus Isle"

Venus Isle is the fourth studio album by guitarist Eric Johnson, released on September 3, 1996 through Capitol Records. The album reached No. 51 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and remained on that chart for six weeks. "Pavilion" was released as a single and reached No. 33 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, while its B-side "S.R.V." is a tribute to guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan and features his elder brother Jimmie Vaughan as a guest soloist. "Camel's Night Out" is featured as downloadable content for the video game Guitar Hero World Tour (2008) and can also be exported to Guitar Hero 5 (2009).

The album's original title was to be Travel One Hope, but this was changed at the last minute by Capitol for "being too oblique." Advance promotional CDs of Travel One Hope have since become a collector's item.

The brilliant musician, composer, and guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson comes shining through with a record breathing with aura of romance, sweeping melodicisms, and breathtaking mystical quality. Venus Isle, released by Capitol records gave a genuine and much deserved positive boost to the popularity and image of Johnson. This is certainly is most enduring and captivating work since his grammy nominated gem, Cliffs of Dover. The songs are stringed together perfectly and spontaneously glide in and out of other, and the album as a whole sizzles with musical quality throughout. Venus Isle is a bold, haunting opening track that gracefully flows into the following song, Battle We Have Won. All About You, perhaps the song that most fits the mold as a radio-friendly single, is a romantic song filled with shimmering scale passages and Johnson's signature guitar tone. This song closely reflects through style and grace a reminiscence of Cliffs of Dover. Track four is a captivating arrangement with a tapestry of engaging rhythms and a guitar tone in dedication to the great blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughn, in which S.R.V. is appropriately named after. A brilliant composition, it spills out all of Johnson's appreciation and respect for a true musical friend he hopes to keep alive always through song. Stevie's brother, Jimmy Vaughn steps in cordially with a guitar improvisation in love for his brother. The secret of her love is locked away and her smile-Mona Lisa style is the message eloquently put to music in Lonely in the Night, credited to songwriter Vince Mariani. Manhattan really is the most ethereal and dreamy piece of the record. It's atmosphere is so visionary that the listener can genuinely feel the vista of the great island city of New York and it's abundant nightlife. Camel's Night Out sincerely reflects a Mediterranean appearance in percussive rhythm and through it's tonal melodic shifts. Song for Lynette is the most striking and romantic song of it's form, filled with heartwarming piano and a message of hope, a place and a time for everything and everyone, and the excitement of anticipation or accomplishment. It also seems to bring about moods of "even if all is going wrong, and the sky is a rainy gray everyday, just being alive and full of spirit is fulfilling enough." When the Sun Meets the Sky breathes life into the soul with it's chilling, haunting string opening, and then suddenly rolling into a optimistic chorus-filled guitar statement. "It's dark here, if I don't have you around, so I hoped today would lead me kind of your way, and the sun would be shining on my face," charms the listener with the thrilling hopes of a fresh new love. Rounding off this eleven song experience is Pavilion and the Venus Reprise, which puts Johnson's work his future musical ambitions in perspective, perhaps to help his next release build and flow from the gifted work, Venus Isle. Full of dashing guitar virtuosity, orchestral prowess and poems of the romantic, this record is a gratifying listen from beginning to end, even for the not so devoted Eric Johnson fans.

Track listing:

1. "Venus Isle" 5:29
2. "Battle We Have Won" 5:59
3. "All About You" 8:20
4. "S.R.V." 3:02
5. "Lonely in the Night" (Vince Mariani) 6:05
6. "Manhattan" 4:52
7. "Camel's Night Out" (Kyle Brock, Mark Younger-Smith) 5:16
8. "Song for Lynette" 4:54
9. "When the Sun Meets the Sky" (Johnson, Steve Barber) 7:54
10. "Pavilion" 5:02
11. "Venus Reprise" 1:30

Total length: 58:23


Eric Johnson – lead vocals (tracks 1–3, 5, 9), guitar (all tracks), guitar synthesizer, synthesizer (track 2), piano, electric sitar, arrangement, engineering, production
Amit Chatterjee – vocals (tracks 1, 3)
Christopher Cross – vocals (tracks 3, 5)
Jimmie Vaughan – additional guitar solos (track 4)
Steve Barber – synthesizer (tracks 1–5, 8–10), Hammond B3, arrangement
Tommy Taylor – drums (tracks 1–7, 9–11), percussion (tracks 3, 11), arrangement
Bill Maddox – drums (track 8), engineering
James Fenner – percussion (tracks 2, 5, 6)
Chris Searles – percussion (tracks 3, 5)
Kyle Brock – bass (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5–7, 10), arrangement
Roscoe Beck – bass (tracks 3, 9, 10, 11), engineering
Chris Maresh – bass (track 8)
Richard Kilmer – strings (track 5)
Bruce Williams – strings (track 5)
Jennifer Bourianoff – strings (track 5)
Anthony Stogner – strings (track 5)
Scott McIntosh – trumpet

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Return To Forever - 1973 [1998] "Light As A Feather" (Deluxe Edition) [2 CD]

The 1998 re-release of Return to Forever's Light As a Feather -- the second, final, and most popular album of the band's first edition -- as a two-CD set had the effect of nearly doubling the band's released output. The first disc contains the original album as sequenced, while the second contains over an hour of outtakes, including some new titles and tracks that were reconstructed from a number of takes. The actual album as originally released was a splendidly light, fluid, fleeting exercise in electric jazz with a strong whiff of Brazil, featuring Corea's lyrical, probing work on Rhodes electric piano and containing a number of Corea tunes -- especially the Rodrigo-based "Spain" -- that became standards. Airto Moreira was a whirlwind on trap drums and overdubbed percussion, Flora Purim's vocals gave the band some commercial appeal; Stanley Clarke made his first astounding impact on electric and stand-up basses; Joe Farrell contributed superb wind solos. The outtakes are of uniformly high quality, all but one unmarked by post-production, with excellent solos all around. The major surprise is four takes of a tune previously released on Corea's 1972 ECM album Return to Forever. "What Games Shall We Play Today?" is a great little Chick Corea boogaloo with a delicate wah-wah pedal applied to the Rhodes. It was heartening to see the jazz industry finally starting to document its electric music heritage with the same thoroughness once reserved only for acoustic jazz landmarks.

The expanded version of this recording includes many alternate takes of four of these selections, but also includes "Matrix," which was not on any RTF albums, and there are four versions of "What Game Shall We Play Today?," which was only available on the ECM release. From a historical perspective, this is the most important effort of Corea's career, quite different than his prior previous progressive or improvising efforts, and the pivotal beginning of his career as the most popular contemporary jazz keyboardist in history.

Light as a Feather won the 1972 Playboy Jazz Album of the year and has been selected by many magazines and polls as one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded. For many years this album has been listed on The Absolute Sound super disc list and the Stereophile list of "Records to Die For." It is also featured in Tom Moon's 1,000 Albums to Hear Before You Die.



Track listing:
All tracks written by Chick Corea except where noted.

CD 1
1. "You're Everything" (Corea/Neville Potter) 5:11
2. "Light as a Feather" (Clarke/Purim) 10:57
3. "Captain Marvel" 4:53
4. "500 Miles High" (Corea/Potter) 9:07
5. "Children's Song" 2:47
6. "Spain" (Corea/Joaquín Rodrigo) 9:51

CD 2
01 Matrix (Corea) 7:57
02 Light As A Feather (Alternative Take) 10:42
03 500 Miles High (Alternative Take) 9:05
04 Children's Song (Alternative Take) 2:43
05 Spain (Composite Alternative Take) 5:28
06 Spain (Alternative Take) 8:57
07 What Games Shall We Play Today? (Corea/Neville Potter) 3:22
08 What Games Shall We Play Today? (Alternative Take) 4:00
09 What Games Shall We Play Today? (Alternative Take) 3:34
10 What Games Shall We Play Today? (Alternative Take) 3:47


Chick Corea – electric piano
Stanley Clarke – double bass
Joe Farrell – tenor saxophone, flute
Airto Moreira – drums
Flora Purim – vocals, percussion

Santana - 1971 [1998] "Santana III" [30th Anniversary]

Santana is the third studio album by Santana. The band's second self-titled album, it is often referred to as III or Santana III to distinguish it from the band's 1969 debut album. The album was also known as Man with an Outstretched Hand, after its album cover image. It was the third (and until the group's 2016 reunion, the last) album by the Woodstock-era lineup, and it was also considered by many to be the band's peak commercially and musically, as subsequent releases aimed towards more experimental jazz fusion and Latin music.

The album featured two singles that charted in the United States. "Everybody's Everything" peaked at No. 12 in October 1971, while "No One to Depend On", an uncredited adaptation of Willie Bobo's boogaloo standard "Spanish Grease", received significant airplay on FM radio and peaked at No. 36 in March 1972. The album also marked the addition of 17-year-old guitarist Neal Schon (who performed notable solos on both singles) to the group.

The original album was recorded at Columbia Studios, San Francisco, and released in both stereo and quadraphonic.

Santana III was also the last Santana album to hit #1 on the charts until Supernatural in 1999. According to the 2005 edition of Guinness World Records, this is the longest delay between #1 albums ever occurring. The original album was re-released in 1998 with live versions of "Batuka", "Jungle Strut" and a previously unreleased song, "Gumbo", recorded at Fillmore West in 1971 which features lead guitar solos by both Santana and Schon.

The year was 1971, and young Neil Schon had a big decision to make. The 17-year-old guitar prodigy was invited by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominoes at the same time that he was invited by Carlos Santana to join his group. Schon chose Santana just in time to go into the studio to join in the recording of the band’s third album.

By the time Santana III was recorded, the band was still riding the huge wave they created with their historic appearance at Woodstock two years earlier. Their self-titled first album had reached #4 on the Billboard Album Chart, and their second, Abraxas, sold more than four-million and reached #1 in 1970. Everything seemed to be going their way.

What most of their fans didn’t know was that the pressure of success was taking its toll on the group, and by 1971 they were on the verge of disintegrating. Santana wanted the band to put emphasis on its Mexican musical roots. Greg Rollie, an original member of the band when it was formed in 1966 as the Santana Blues Band, wanted to go with a more progressive sound and themed concept albums, which suited young Schon just fine, given his classical training.

The tensions became more than the group could handle, and soon after the release of Santana III, the band’s members went their separate ways. Rollie later formed Journey, which would also become Schon’s home.

Santana goes back deep into the roots of today’s music, not only just to the time when the Family Dog was at the Avalon, but back further into the heavy dosages of Latin and African rhythms that have been part of American music for a long time.

For it’s surely true that for all their Fender basses and fuzz tones, Santana is more deeply committed to the music defined and still played by Tito Puente, Machito, Mongo Santamaria, and all the glorious combinations of brass and rhythm that made the old Sunday afternoon dances such a delight, than to the Rolling Stones. Santana’s music is contemporary, but it comes from a tradition and part of what has provoked a curious reluctance on the part of some hard rock fans to accept Santana is that tradition.

This is music to dance to, but it is music that shrieks for more advanced, dexterous and imaginative dancing than some of the freeform body motion that rock dancing has accepted. It is also music that asks for a certain kind of emotional abandon for maximum enjoyment. You don’t just listen to Santana; you get inside the rhythm, play it in your head or your body and participate.

Basically, they demonstrate to what incredible transports of ecstasy one can be taken by complex, insinuating rhythms, especially when they are played against one another not only in their patterns but also in the timbres of the sounds and the ranges wherein they are played. A full Santana rhythmic onslaught, as in “Tous-saint L’Overture” (who, contrary to one DJ I heard is no relation to the singer/producer, but rather was a military genius who has remained a hero to blacks and to many others because of the Haitian independence struggle more than 100 years ago) is one of the most complex assemblies of rhythmic patterns you can hear.

The delight of the tensions brought into play when one rhythm is set against another with all the artful shifts in the beat and utilization of alternate timbres of sound is amazing. Against these rhythmic turbulances, the singing, wailing guitar of Carlos Santana is usually set and it provides a contrast that can sweep you up in its momentum immediately and carry you along. And above all, the band swings.

Lyrics are almost secondary to instrumental virtuosity with Santana and so are vocals. Frequently the lyrics are utilized as single lines for a unison shout or chant that in itself evolves into a rhythmic pattern played against the sounds the band is producing. Thus the band actually becomes an extended essay in rhythm.

Sometime I would like to see an analysis of the rhythms and patterns used by Santana done by some ethno-musicologist who could relate them to traditional Cuban, African and Haitian music and styles. I suspect it would be quite revealing.

I am convinced that this band, which is really a city band bringing us the hot pavement and the cool nights as well as the rumble and the roar of the city, is solidly linked back to the hill country, the savannahs and the inland plains music of Africa and Cuba and the other sources of that magic rhythmic power of which they are such compelling examples.


Track listing:

01 Batuka 3:35
02 No One To Depend On 5:31
03 Taboo 5:34
04 Toussaint L'Overture 5:56
05 Everybody's Everything 3:31
06 Guajira 5:43
07 Jungle Strut 5:20
08 Everything's Coming Our Way 3:15
09 Para Los Rumberos 2:47
Bonus Tracks: All Recorded Live At The Fillmore West July 4, 1971
10 Batuka (Live) 3:41
11 Jungle Strut (Live) 5:59
12 Gumbo (Live) 5:26


Gregg Rolie – lead vocals, keyboards, piano, producer
Carlos Santana – guitar, vocals, producer
Neal Schon – guitar, producer
David Brown – bass, producer, engineer
Michael Shrieve – drums, percussion, producer
José "Chepito" Areas – percussion, conga, timbales, drums, producer
Mike Carabello – percussion, conga, tambourine, vocals, producer

Additional personnel:

Rico Reyes – percussion, vocals, lead vocals on "Guajira"
Thomas "Coke" Escovedo – percussion, vocals
Luis Gasca – trumpet on "Para los Rumberos"
Mario Ochoa – piano solo on "Guajira"
Tower of Power – horn section on "Everybody's Everything"
Linda Tillery – background vocals
Greg Errico – tambourine

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Return To Forever - 1973 [2016] "Light As A Feather"

Light as a Feather is the second studio album by jazz fusion band Return to Forever led by pianist Chick Corea.

Always tied to a confusing time line, the first released recording from the original configuration of Return to Forever was actually their second session. An initial studio date from the ECM label done in February of 1972 wasn't issued until after the band had changed in 1975.

The Polydor/Verve recording from October of 1972 is indeed this 1973 release, featuring the same band with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, Joe Farrell, and Flora Purim. There's no need splitting hairs, as both are five-star albums, showcasing many of the keyboardist's long enduring, immediately recognizable, and highly melodic compositions. Farrell's happy flute, Purim's in-the-clouds wordless vocals, the electrifying percussion of Airto, and Clarke's deft and loping electric bass guitar lines are all wrapped in a stew of Brazilian samba and Corea's Fender Rhodes electric piano, certainly setting a tone and the highest bar for the music of peer groups to follow.

"Captain Marvel" -- the seed for the band sans Farrell and Purim that was expanded into a full concept album with Stan Getz -- is here as a steamy fusion samba with Corea dancing on the keys. By now the beautiful "500 Miles High" has become Purim's signature song with Neville Potter's lyrics and Corea's stabbing chords, and unfortunately became a hippie drug anthem. Perhaps Corea's definitive song of all time, and covered ad infinitum by professional and school bands, "Spain" retains the quirky melody, handclapped interlude, up-and-down dynamics, exciting jam section, and variation in time, tempo, and colorations that always command interest despite a running time of near ten minutes. "You're Everything" is a romantic classic that surely has been heard at many weddings, with another lyric by Potter sung in heaven by Purim, while the title track is Purim's lyric in a looser musical framework with Clarke's chart coalescing with Corea and Farrell's pungent flute work. As much as the others have become icons, the extraordinary sound of Farrell on this date should never be trivialized or underestimated. The final track, "Children's Song," was a springboard for several of Corea's full-length album projects, and is heard here for the first time via a trio setting in a slow, birthlike motif.

The expanded version of this recording includes many alternate takes of four of these selections, but also includes "Matrix," which was not on any RTF albums, and there are four versions of "What Game Shall We Play Today?," which was only available on the ECM release. From a historical perspective, this is the most important effort of Corea's career, quite different than his prior previous progressive or improvising efforts, and the pivotal beginning of his career as the most popular contemporary jazz keyboardist in history.

The style of the music remains mostly the same as the first album, though vocals were given a larger role. Corea produced the album for Polydor Records. Stanley Clarke played double bass, though for most of his career he has played bass guitar.

The first song, "You're Everything", was written by Corea. He has said that it's among his favorite of the vocals songs he has written. The song begins with Flora Purim singing slowly. The solo is by Joe Farrell on flute. The second track is Stanley Clarke's first major composition and the only track on the album not written by Corea.

"Captain Marvel" is a fast Latin piece that provided the name for Stan Getz's album released in the same year. Airto Moreira plays percussion and Purim sings without words during the song's main riff.

The B-side begins with a song called "500 Miles High". Corea has stated that the title of the song does not refer to drug experience but to a "spirit flying high". The track is followed by "Children's Song", one of many "Children's Songs" Corea has written. They are all short pieces with minimalistic melody. The percussion plays a tick-tock that resembles a clock.

The album ends with "Spain", which was inspired by, and whose introduction was taken from, Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez.

Light as a Feather was Return to Forever’s second album. Because the first record, Return to Forever, wasn’t released in the United States until 1975, many have mistakenly believed Light as a Feather was the band’s debut effort. The first incarnation of the group was a Latin-leaning, mostly acoustic jazz ensemble. The Return to Forever of 1972 was a great band. “Light as a Feather” is purported to be Stanley Clarke’s first major composing effort. The guy didn’t think small. Though much of the tune is an impressive exposition of Corea, Clarke, and Joe Farrell soloing over changes, the melody is gorgeous. It didn’t hurt that one of the most distinctive jazz singers of her day, Flora Purim, was singing or that she wrote the edifying lyrics heard at the beginning and the end. Purim possesses one of the purest voices in jazz. Her lyrics are sung, almost spoken, in time with each syllable of music. It is a wonderful display of artistry. Percussionist Airto, Purim’s husband, was also a large part of the track’s success. “Light as a Feather” knocks you over with a feather from introduction to coda.

It is probably safe to say that when most jazz fusion fans think of Return to Forever they concentrate on the most commercially successful of the group’s line-ups which featured founders Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke and guitarist Al Di Meola along with drummer Lenny White. But there was a whole RTF history before that version of the group was put together. All music is built upon music that came before it. Though Corea played electric piano, the first Return to Forever band performed mostly acoustic Latin jazz. This group also consisted of the wonderful vocalist Flora Purim, tenor saxophone player and flute player Joe Farrell and the amazing percussionist Airto Moreira. Light as a Feather trended more to jazz than rock but the seeds for a burgeoning fusion movement were generously spread. The tunes on the album were more lighthearted and melodious than would be the case after Return to Forever decided to rock out on subsequent albums. Songs like the crowd-pleasing “500 Miles High,” with its sweetly ethereal Purim vocals, and the now standard “Spain” are part of the bedrock of Return to Forever’s jazz fusion foundation. The band would not fully crossover into the rock-based world until they added electric guitarist Bill Connors and then even more so later when Di Meola replaced Connors. But you can hear the roots of transformation in the wonderful melodies and top-notch musicianship found on Light as a Feather.

Light as a Feather won the 1972 Playboy Jazz Album of the year and has been selected by many magazines and polls as one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded. For many years this album has been listed on The Absolute Sound super disc list and the Stereophile list of "Records to Die For." It is also featured in Tom Moon's 1,000 Albums to Hear Before You Die.



Track listing:
All tracks written by Chick Corea except where noted.

1. "You're Everything" (Corea/Neville Potter) 5:11
2. "Light as a Feather" (Clarke/Purim) 10:57
3. "Captain Marvel" 4:53
4. "500 Miles High" (Corea/Potter) 9:07
5. "Children's Song" 2:47
6. "Spain" (Corea/Joaquín Rodrigo) 9:51


Chick Corea – electric piano
Stanley Clarke – double bass
Joe Farrell – tenor saxophone, flute
Airto Moreira – drums
Flora Purim – vocals, percussion

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Mike Stern - 1996 "Between The Lines"

Mike Stern does what he does very, very well. He has carved out a unique niche for himself among modern fusion guitarists, a vision that combines funk and R&B bass/drum grooves with skittish melodies often involving extended chord fragments. Stern's lead voice is one of the most distinctive in the genre as well, as his chorused and sometimes distorted tone is always prominently displayed. Stern is joined on this 1996 offering by frequent collaborator Bob Malach, a tenor player with a particular talent for laying screaming lines on top of smoking drum grooves as well as ably doubling and bringing to life Stern's often bookish and theoretical melodies. Completing the band are twin rhythm sections, consisting either of Dave Weckl and Jeff Andrews or Lincoln Goines and Dennis Chambers. Like many of Stern's recordings, the problems lie generally in the sameness of the arrangements and the relatively forgettable nature of some of these songs. Although they are all thoughtfully composed, they sometimes tend to run together a bit in the mind of the listener. Jim Beard's keyboard textures also could be done without, as they add a distracting sheen to the compositions. But there has always been this sort of tension in Stern's work between the obvious and the unexpected. Take, for example, "Lose the Suit," which features an extremely funky intro and a great Stern solo, as well as an extremely predictable bridge that almost sounds as if it could be the theme song to a long-running soap opera. Any lingering sense of treacle is dispelled once Stern kicks in the fuzz, however, and lays into the track, sure to please fans.

Let's establish one thing from the start: Mike Stern is one of the greatest jazz guitarists of our time. He is unique stylistically, musically, and technically. By the time this CD was released, Stern had enjoyed ten years of both critical and commercial recording success. What sets this one apart for me is the basic band used for the sessions: Dave Weckl on drums, Jeff Andrews on bass, Jim Beard on keyboards (who also serves as producer on this and many other Mike Stern projects), and Bob Malach on tenor saxophone. As usual, all songs are written by Mike Stern with a reasonable balance of up- and down-tempo grooves.

This CD features outstanding recording quality throughout. Nearly every solo, whether it be guitar or sax, is a tour de force. There's only one track I really don't like, and that's the last one (Bait Tone Blues). The set begins with the driving latin/rock groove of Sunnyside. Checkout Dave Weckl's slick stick work on The Vine. Wing And A Prayer is a nice ballad with a beautiful melody (doubled on sax and guitar). You Never Know alternates between a hard-driving rock and laid-back blues groove. The next two cuts (numbers 6 & 7) are the only two featuring an alternate (but equally impressive) rhythm section: the great Dennis Chambers on drums and Lincoln Goines on bass. Both are long-time Mike Stern sidemen. Tell Me may be one of my all-time favorite Mike Stern ballads, and With A Twist features an interesting drum groove along with some nice organ work. Back to the original band, Pages is on my all-time favorite Mike Stern playlist, and I can never get enough of the out-chorus sax solo. Also, the interplay between electric guitar and acoustic piano is special. As you can guess, this is an outstanding set of music, top to (almost) bottom!

While I like virtually all of Mike Stern's work, I think this is (narrowly) his best CD from the 1990's. The band, writing, and production quality are all first-rate, and there's over 70 minutes of music on the CD! You can't go wrong with this one, so put it on, sit back, and enjoy some great fusion jazz.

On "Between The Lines", Mike Stern's follow-up to his Grammy-nominated "Is What It Is", Stern delivers more of his trademark bop 'n' roll on ten new original compositions. The band includes saxophonist Bob Malach (Steve Miller, Ben Sidran, Horace Silver), longtime bass associate Jeff Andrews (Steps Ahead, Vital Information) and world renowned drummer Dave Weckl (Chick Corea Elektric/Akoustic Band, Brecker Brothers). Stern's former rhythm section mates in the Mike Stern-Bob Berg Band, drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Lincoln Goines, also appear on two tracks. From the energetic opener "Sunnyside" to the slamming funk of "Lose the Suit" to the ferocious "With a Twist", Stern and company state their case with power and conviction. "The idea behind this record was to use guys that I had been touring with a lot", Stern explained. "I wanted a live band sound and I feel like that came across. I felt good about the whole vibe of the record. It's loose but tight at the same time. And there's stuff going on with these cats that can only happen if you've been playing together a bunch." "Between The Lines" is excellent jazz/fusion, and is highly recommended.


Track listing:

1 Sunnyside 7:27
2 The Vine 6:27
3 Wing And A Prayer 6:37
4 Lose The Suit 8:43
5 You Never Know 7:13
6 Tell Me 6:01
7 With A Twist 6:37
8 True Enough 6:43
9 Pages 6:43
10 Bait Tone Blues 7:37


Guitar – Mike Stern
Bass – Jeff Andrews (tracks: 1 to 5, 8 to 10), Lincoln Goines (tracks: 6, 7)
Drums – Dave Weckl (tracks: 1 to 5, 8 to 10), Dennis Chambers (tracks: 6, 7)
Keyboards, Producer, Engineer [Additional] – Jim Beard
Tenor Saxophone – Bob Malach