Monday, October 29, 2018

Pat Metheny - 1979 [1985] "American Garage"

American Garage is the second album by the Pat Metheny Group, released in 1979 on ECM Records.

The album represented the most collaborative writing session between Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays up to that point in the band's history. According to Metheny, this yielded mixed results. He has said that the album's second track, "Airstream," is a favorite from this period. But both he and Mays have expressed less praise for the fifth and final track, "The Epic", which Metheny has claimed, "is all over the map."

The back liner photo gives the impression of a grungy Midwestern garage band, but no, that doesn't describe this sophisticated jazz-rock quartet, which was simultaneously breaking into mass-market acceptance and away from the contemplative ECM stereotype. The arrangements are more structured, the playing often more intense and searching, with a more pronounced rock influence. On the title track, Metheny digs in and displays some authoritative rock-oriented licks and intensity, and the rhythms on "The Search" have a slight, at times asymmetrical Latin feeling. The nearly 13-minute "The Epic" finds the Metheny group developing some real combustion in the improvised sections as Metheny, keyboardist Lyle Mays, bassist Mark Egan and drummer Danny Gottlieb grow tighter as a unit. In hindsight, some of the music seems a bit too tightly conceived to allow adequate breathing room, but this is still high-quality jazz-rock for its time.

When I received a copy of this album to review, I was floored by the creative writing and playing. Now, Many years later I decided to replace my vinyl copy with the digital cousin. This collection still breathes the creative genius that the LP exuded years ago. Listen to the dynamics and the melodic stories that Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays wrote for American Garage and you will have a good idea of many of the works that came later on. The title song is a rockin’ tribute to the 60’s bands that cut their teeth playing “Purple Haze” and “Light My Fire.” The final word on this album is that it is a must to have for anybody who thinks that jazz can’t rock!

With American Garage, the Pat Metheny Group solidified its signature sound. This album, the group’s second, took the Number 1 spot on the 1980 Billboard Jazz chart and spawned a legion of followers. Its virtuosic blend of jazz and roots rock evokes the heartland like no other and has withstood its own commercial success relatively unscathed.

The album opens with a wide view of the open road, and we are in the passenger seat. Metheny’s glistening guitar licks take the wheel, relishing the roar of Lyle Mays’s lively keyboard support under the hood. With Dan Gottlieb’s proclamatory drums and Mark Egan’s sinuous bass in the back seat, we’re good to go. Together, this quartet of talented musicians creates the ultimate musical road trip. There is a beautiful interplay between guitar and bass in the first track, swelling into a verdant wash of backwater splendor. The tone here is almost painfully nostalgic (all the more so for the album’s historicity), as if yearning for something that is only as real as its remembrance. As the car speeds along its journey, we see our collective past just beyond the windshield, somehow within reach. But we also know that as soon as we pull over and step out of the car, there will be nothing to grasp, to hold close, to stow in the trunk or in the glove compartment of our desires. There is only the empty air, the cloudless sky, and the sun beating down upon our backs, as if to say: “You’ve still got miles to go.” But neither do we care, because there is an unbridled joy to the process of travel.

“Airstream” feels undoubtedly like summer, a time of year when obligations melt in the heat along with our inhibitions. The only thing that seems real is the lack of definitive answers, the endless possibility that such freedom entails and which brings us closer to self-realization. It is our most formative season; one in which we observe, live, and learn at our own pace. Metheny captures this free spirit so clearly in his playing. Chord progressions roll off his fingers like change into eager hands at a lemonade stand, and we are reminded of those little moments of independence and security in which, from the merest clinking of coins, we came to assert our agency in a growing awareness of economy. We think also of young love that, while unrequited, also gave us a brief taste of a life lived without obligation. As the track fades out, it leaves behind a trace of itself, a memento of years never forgotten.

“The Search” is the soundtrack for a movie of the mind, a flashback that looks only forward. Alluring piano work lifts the spirits, ruffling the edges of our attention like linen flapping on a clothesline. We bask in the humid air, even as squalls threaten to break upon the horizon. Lusciously harmonized guitar lines blossom in the morning sun with the promise of a new journey.

The title track sounds like a theme song for a show that can never materialize, for its images are supplied by memories. We begin to recognize the value of those times when the self had yet to be formed but during which the future seemed so bright. And no matter how jaded we have become in our lowest points of adulthood, Metheny is here to remind us that it is precisely in these artifacts of sound that we can preserve our tired hopes.

The last track of this all-too-short album is called “The Epic,” and like its title it has an extensive tale to tell. Metheny and Mays both deliver with the most inspired improvisations on the album, drifting across the plains like steel-stringed tumbleweeds. We are driven through an entire day and night of travel. We find ourselves in vast stretches of daylight, but also experience nocturnal visions, wrapped in a sleeping bag under a canopy of stars in the dying embers of a campfire exhaling hot orange into the darkness. Their crackling fills our ears with a cacophony of sound, easing us into the lull of dreams. And in those dreams we relive the entire journey that got us to where we are now. We are drifters, alone and free of earthly bonds, loving every second of life’s uncertainty.

American Garage marked Mays' first use of the Oberheim synthesizer, which became an integral part of the Group's sound.

Track listing:

1. (Cross The) Heartland 6:49
2. Airstream 6:14
3. The Search 4:45
4. American Garage 4:08
5. The Epic 12:55


Pat Metheny – 6-and 12-string electric and acoustic guitars
Lyle Mays – piano, Oberheim synthesizer, autoharp, electric organ
Mark Egan – electric bass
Dan Gottlieb – drums

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Wes Montgomery - 1963 [1990] "Guitar On The Go"

Guitar on the Go is the eleventh album by American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, released in 1963. It included tracks recorded in October and November 1963 as well as two from early 1959 sessions. It was Montgomery's last principal release for Riverside and he subsequently moved to the Verve label.

Guitar on the Go has been reissued on CD by Original Jazz Classics with an additional take of "The Way You Look Tonight" as well as a bonus track "Unidentified Solo Guitar". It was also released on the Fantasy label with the original track listing and the bonus track "Mi Cosa".

The final Riverside release of Wes Montgomery material (before the important label went completely bankrupt) was similar to his debut four years earlier: a trio with organist Melvin Rhyne and an obscure drummer (this time George Brown). In general, the music swings hard (particularly the two versions of "The Way You Look Tonight"), and is a worthy if not essential addition to Wes Montgomery's discography. He would have a few straight-ahead dates for Verve, but this release was really the end of an era.

The chronologically last Riverside album from Wes Montgomery picks up, mostly, where "Portrait of Wes" left off: a final few rounds with his beloved guitar-organ-drums trio format. Now, there are two ways to take this set, aside from the cool flame that seeps from every note sounded by the master and his longtime organist Mel Rhyne: 1) Take it on its own, and don't hold it against a collapsing company, changing ownership and lifestyle, that they repeat-released a pair of blues jewels from Montgomery's own pen, the early (as in, 1959) "Missile Blues" and the latter-day "Fried Pies"; or, 2) bypass those two numbers and put the rest onto a single disc with the "Portrait of Wes" material, if you really want to be prickly about it.

For me, I don't mind the repeat-released "Missile Blues" and (especially) "Fried Pies" (where Jimmy Cobb, the incandescent drummer with whom Montgomery would work again on the Half Note sessions with the Wynton Kelly Trio, joins Montgomery and Rhyne), if only because I had the habit of playing them repeatedly on their original album releases. Nor do I mind getting two takes of "The Way You Look Tonight," the shorter alternate take as lovely and lyrical as the nine-minute romantic monster that was issued originally. The "Unidentified Solo Guitar," not part of the original album, would be remade in due course (as "Mi Cosa," on "Bumpin'"), during Montgomery's Verve period, with a nicely arrayed string section, but taken here on its own it is just as embracing and would probably have been a perfect fit on the original release.

The more you hear of them, the more you come to wish Wes Montgomery had been able to bring at least Mel Rhyne along to his Verve years; Rhyne is attuned to Montgomery's gently fiery style in ways that even the great Jimmy Smith (cutting two magnificent Verve albums with Montgomery) couldn't quite lock in. Montgomery and Rhyne play as though completing each other's statements and knowing what the other man thinks and feels before it's expressed, so seamless are both the shifts from one to the other soloist and the knit of one or the other's accompaniment. Regular drummer George Brown was as painterly a drummer as Montgomery ever worked with.

You hear music like this and you're not in the least surprised that, whatever he did before or afterward, Wes Montgomery never felt as much at home as when working this trio format. And they make you feel right at home with them, even now. The Wes Montgomery Trio even in 2004 makes most of what has passed for jazz in their time and beyond sound somewhere between self-congratulatory and shiftless. It would be no disgrace if Fantasy, which controls the Riverside catalogue, should produce a box set composed strictly of the complete Wes Montgomery Trio recordings. This group, almost as much as its guitarist and leader, was a blessing upon jazz.

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City : November 27, 1963 - (Tracks 1 & 4), October 10, 1963 - (Tracks 2, 3, 6 & 8), April 22, 1963 - (Track 7), October 5, 1959 - (Track 5)

Track listing:

1. "The Way You Look Tonight" [Alternate take] (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields) – 5:48
2. "The Way You Look Tonight" (Kern, Fields) – 9:08
3. "Dreamsville" (Ray Evans, Jay Livingston, Henry Mancini) – 3:48
4. "Geno" (Wes Montgomery) – 2:53
5. "Missile Blues" (Montgomery) – 5:57
6. "For All We Know" (J. Fred Coots, Sam M. Lewis) – 4:29
7. "Fried Pies" (Montgomery) – 6:41
8. "Unidentified Solo Guitar" (Montgomery) – 3:37


Wes Montgomery – guitar
Melvin Rhyne – organ
George Brown – drums
Jimmy Cobb – drums
Paul Parker – drums

Friday, October 26, 2018

Yellowjackets - 1986 "Shades"

Shades (1986) is the fourth studio album from the jazz group Yellowjackets. The album's first track, "And You Know That" won the "Best R&B Instrumental" Grammy Award. The album debuted on the Billboard Top Jazz Album chart on July 5, 1986 and would spend 32 weeks on the chart, eventually peaking at #4. It was the last to feature drummer Ricky Lawson.

The Yellowjackets are a jazz band for the Windham Hill set: i.e., smooth and relaxing rather than edgy and stimulating. If Shades goes down like straight sugar (and not the lumpy kind), it's supposed to. Since some folks are naturally drawn to this type of music and others are not, an appreciation for jazz is not enough -- you'll need an appreciation for crossover jazz (aka "smooth jazz") to enjoy this album. If you do like your jazz on the lyrical side, and don't mind the late-night talk show arrangements, chances are you'll think Shades is pretty cool. Led by alto sax player Marc Russo, these eight songs glide along with nary a care in the world, promising to burst into song at any moment (which in fact happens on the gospel-inspired "Revelations"). Thanks in part to the electronic instruments and immaculate studio sound, Shades retains an uplifting and bouncy feel throughout. "New Shoes," "One Family," and "Regular Folks" are songs that listeners can warm up to in a hurry. Despite Russo's gratuitous solos, the Yellowjackets are not a flashy band -- Jimmy Haslip's agile bass is too low in the mix to be accused of showboating, and drummer Ricky Lawson and keyboardist Russell Ferrante don't seem interested in the spotlight. Without those individual excursions, the Yellowjackets sacrifice some identity, but generally the compositions stand up on the merits of their melodies. Because the melodies are so accessible, Shades occasionally sounds more like the work of contemporary pop artists with jazz aspirations (Donald Fagen, Bruce Hornsby) than contemporary jazz artists. That this music would sound at home in a supermarket should scare off jazz purists, but even they might find themselves humming along to it somewhere in a secluded aisle.

"Shades" by the Grammy award winning band the Yellowjackets. Recorded in 1986 this is the fourth studio album by the Yellowjackets and the first of four albums for the MCA label. Album includes the Grammy award winning R&B instrumental composition- "And You Know That" Other features of the album include: The original recording of "Revelation: featuring the vocal group, Perri The Donald Fagen penned title track - Shades Recording features: Russell Ferrante, Keyboards Jimmy Haslip, 5 string and piccolo bass Ricky Lawson, Remo drums, percussion and Simmons drums Marc Russo, Alto saxophone Guest Musicians Paulinhoda Costa Bruce Hornsby Rory Kaplan Bill Gable Perri Includes the tracks: And You Know That, written by Russell Ferrante and Ricky Lawson New Shoes, written by Marc Russo and Russell Ferrante One Family, written by Russell Ferrante Revelation, written by Russell Ferrante and Lorraine Perry. Oasism written by Russell Ferrante Regular Folks, written by Russell Ferrante Shades, written by Donald Fagen Sonia's Sanfonia, written by Jimmy Haslip and Bill Gable Wildcats and Cougars, written by Jimmy Haslip, Russell Ferrante and Robben Ford

The album features the original recording of the Yellowjackets' live staple "Revelation" (featuring vocal group Perri) as well as the Donald Fagen-penned title track.

Track listing:

01 "And You Know That" (Ricky Lawson, Russell Ferrante) - 5:35
02 "New Shoes" (Marc Russo, Ferrante) - 5:18
03 "One Family" (Jimmy Haslip, Eric Marienthal, Ferrante) - 5:38
04 "Revelation" (Ferrante, Lorraine Perry) - 5:13
05 "Oasis" (Ferrante) - 5:27
06 "Regular Folks" (Ferrante) - 5:03
07 "Black Tie" (Ferrante) - 5:46
08 "Sonja's Sanfona" (Haslip, Bill Gable) - 6:27
09 "Shades" - (Donald Fagen) - 5:15
10 "Wildcats & Cougars" (Robben Ford, Haslip, Ferrante) - 5:34

Tracks 9 and 10 are CD release only



Russell Ferrante - keyboards
Jimmy Haslip - five string and piccolo bass
Ricky Lawson - acoustic and electronic drums, percussion
Marc Russo - alto saxophone

Guest Musicians:

Paulinho da Costa - percussion
Rory Kaplan - Fairlight CMI programming
Bill Gable - PPG Wave 2.3 on "Sonja's Sanfona"
Bruce Hornsby - accordion on "Sonja's Sanfona"
Perri - vocals on "Revelation"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tribal Tech - 1992 "Illicit"

Illicit is an album by the fusion jazz band Tribal Tech released in 1992.

By the time Illicit was released in 1992, Scott Henderson & Tribal Tech (led by Henderson and bassists Gary Willis) had been established as one of the premier, if not the premier, experimental fusion outfits on the globe. That's "fusion" as in the fusion of jazz and rock, not the vanilla instrumental musings of artists like Kenny G, which are occasionally mislabled as such. Henderson's dramatic and powerful soloing and his incredibly refined chord work were the greatest causes for the early attention the group received, and Illicit only furthered the guitarist's reputation with its fire and musical vigor. Henderson's tone is sublime and Holdsworth-ian in its often horn-like quality, and Covington, bassist Gary Willis, and keyboardist Scott Kinsey somehow manage to match Henderson's dynamism and character. "Torque" is Illicit's clear highlight, with its prog rock bombast of power chords topped with angular, classically influenced harmony keyboard and guitar flurries. Experimental and intense, Illicit is as solid an offering as Tribal Tech delivered in the '90s.

"Illicit" was Tribal Tech's 1992 spit-in-the-face to corporate radio and record companies who would have the public believing "light jazz" is really fusion. The opening track, "The Big Wave," is a convincing spoof of a light jazz radio station found in any big city in the United States. The track begins with a cheerily cheesy tune, which sounds like something that might be played on one of the many 'wave' stations. Then the drums increase in tempo and volume until the original melody is obliterated, whereupon the band launches into some very loud, very edgy and highly syncopated playing--the hallmark of Tribal Tech. "Illicit" features two improvisational numbers, "Riot" (named for the L.A. riots happening nearby at that time) and "Aftermath" (also pointing out the riot's devistation). Bottom line--this album sounds like a live-in-the-studio record, with a raw, cutting sound and less slickness in the overall production. Highly recommended to all fusion fans.

This cd in nothing less than amazing. Tribal Tech especially in this line up, is an amazing band. This cd is the first with the line up that personally I find impossible to surpass ... Henderson, Willis, Covington, Kinsey. You can't beat these guys in this sort of music ... that I may call, ... fusion, a word among the most hated for different reasons (I think by the guys themselves). It is fantastic that Illicit begins with few seconds of what people generally tend to think about when the word fusion comes to mind. A sort of mellifluos, ultra sweet, elevator-kennyg type of thing, ... and after those few seconds the band starts an incredible funky fusion groove, "Big vawe" with solos to die for. What you will find in this album is an incredibly tight band, a fantastic unit, scaring musicians that play very forward music. This music isn't for every cat. This music is dense, intense, intelligent ... funny and entertaining. But ... it deserves your attention. Think Weather Report with a boost of ultramodernity, with a guitar instead of a sax and you have the picture. I own all the albums from the band (minus Dr Hee and Spears which are unavailable at this time, ... they appear sometimes on the used market at out of this world prices) and I think this one ranges among the best together with Reality check. I adore this one. It's fusion from outer space. Stellar music from the X men of fusion.

Looking for Kenny G or Bela Fleck? Click to another link - this is cream-of-the-crop Tribal Tech, and it's as liable to burn your ears off as anything else. What is most remarkable about all of Tribal Tech's output is the combination of virtuosity and restraint. They never sound like they're showing off, yet there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments on every disc. This one is no exception, and it's probably the "rawest" sounding of all their catalog. The compositions are complex and versatile, yet tend to easily stick in the mind. The improvisation is sheer brilliance. As usual, they don't take themselves too seriously, infusing plenty of humor in the music, yet the towering composition and even more towering performances command a seriousness of their own. This is a must-own for every guitar or bass player, any fusion fan, and anyone who wants to break out of the rut of contemporary fuzak-jazz. It's albums like these that make Kenny G sound positively wimpy, and the open-minded of the contemporary jazz set might find themselves irrevocably changed. Heaven knows I couldn't listen to that stuff after listening to this.

The album was recorded during the L.A. Riots in April 1992 at Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, California.

Track listing:

01 "The Big Wave" (Gary Willis) – 6:31
02 "Stoopid" (Gary Willis) – 5:47
03 "Black Cherry" (Scott Henderson) – 6:42
04 "Torque" (Scott Henderson) – 6:02
05 "Slidin'" Into Charlisa (Scott Henderson) – 7:32
06 "Root Food" (Scott Henderson) – 8:13
07 "Riot" (Tribal Tech) – 6:58
08 "Paha Sapa" (Gary Willis) – 3:24
09 "Babylon" (Gary Willis) – 5:26
10 "Aftermath" (Tribal Tech) – 7:03


Scott Henderson - guitar
Gary Willis - bass
Scott Kinsey - keyboards
Kirk Covington - drums

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Code - 2000 "Figli di Baia"

Superb jams, killer compositions, amazing chops, great sound and production.

Any jazz guitar fan, fusion fan, or just great jazz fan needs to have this in their
collection. We could easily wax eloquently for two to three pages, going on and on about
how much listening pleasure guitarist/composer John Pelosi's powerhouse group The Code have
given this reviewer's ears. We'll spare you all of that.
As a reviewer and guitar-driven jazz lover that knows what goes flying and
what sits rusting on the tarmac – this is a supersonic treat. It is polished fusion, plenty of
excellent musicianship and satisfying songwriting. Figli di Baia is intelligent
fusion, jazz with intrigue, and a pure delight start to finish.

This new release titled Figli Di Baia, signifies the Italian town and birthplace of lead guitarist John Pelosi’s parents, as “The Code” combines contemporary - lead guitar driven musings with solid backbeats, a few tricky time signatures, percussion, electro-acoustic keys and lyric-less vocals. Throughout, Pelosi steers the group through a hodgepodge of fragmented unison choruses, shifting tempos and well stated choruses, witnessed on pieces such as “Fake Paradise”, “As If” and others.

Percussionist Paul Christopher Caldeira also injects his wordless vocals into the affable composition, “Invisible Cities” and the piece titled “Maria’s Grace” which is somewhat reminiscent of guitarist Pat Metheny’s mid to late 80’s hugely popular Brazilian influenced sound. Very nice groove orientated affairs featuring Pelosi’s penetrating, emotive leads and keyboardist Richard Evans’ jazzy soloing and multihued implementation of synth backwashes as the rhythm section generally maintains the straightforward backbeats amid a few slick tempo changes.

The musicians do indeed possess solid chops. Essentially, the band performs with a noticeable degree of ebullience and the crystalline recording does enhance some of the nuances and intricacies; otherwise, this outfit does have a great deal of potential when viewed as a whole!

Track listing:

1 Intro 0:36
2 Fake Paradise 6:50
3 As If 8:30
4 Word From Ben (Le Parole Di Benito) 8:35
5 Explaining Naples (Per Tomasso) 5:23
6 Invisible Cities 9:23
7 Corner Pocket 8:39
8 Enable This 7:45
9 Maria's Grace (La Grazia Di Maria) 8:30
10 Cena 0:06


Guitar, Guitar Synthesizer – John Pelosi
Bass – Patrick Kilbride*
Drums – Paul DeLong
Keyboards – Richard Evans, Rick Fellini (tracks: 7)
Percussion – Armando Borg
Synth [Solo] – Marco Luciani (tracks: 5)
Vocals, Percussion – Paul Christopher Caldeira

Monday, October 15, 2018

Steve Khan - 1992 "Headline"

Recorded in '92, "HEADLINE" brought the trio with Ron Carter & Al Foster back together, but, once again Polydor K.K.(Japan) had their own ideas about the direction I should pursue. Go Steve!This time, in addition to the trio tracks, they wanted me to record with the Eyewitness instrumentation. As Anthony Jackson, Dennis Chambers and I had been touring Europe as a trio, it was easy to add Manolo Badrena to the mix, and this VERY special chemistry came back to us without missing a beat. The CD, which was released in the USA on Bluemoon Records, presents the contrast of these two formats and, for some fans of Eyewitness, it turned to be a great thing that they could hear us playing 'odd-ball' standards as opposed to our own unique original compositions. Like "LET'S CALL THIS" the music is drawn from the great jazz of the mid-'60s. "Autumn in Rome" was only the 2nd tune by my late father which I recorded. It's a pretty obscure piece, but, that's why I chose it. Along with so much of the other material, I try to select tunes which most guitarists don't play as a rule. Though there are many special moments from both configurations of personnel on this recording, I am especially pleased with the performance of "All of Nothing at All," which demonstrates the scope and depth of Dennis Chambers' drumming, and Eyewitness-like interplay from everyone. Joe Henderson's "Caribbean Fire Dance" shows that Anthony and Dennis have developed their own very special way of making music together, and the 'free' Intro to Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround" gives them further room to explore this chemistry.

Guitarist Steve Khan is heard in two different settings on this CD: in an acoustic trio with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster on six songs, and jamming with electric bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Dennis Chambers and percussionist Manolo Badrena on three tunes. Actually, there is a definite unity to the program, and Khan is featured on a variety of jazz tunes including numbers by Larry Young, Ornette Coleman ("The Blessing" and "Turnaround"), Clare Fischer, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk and Joe Henderson. He even plays a song ("Autumn In Rome") by his father, Sammy Cahn. The guitarist consistently stretches himself during these performances (which include a 10½-minute version of "All or Nothing at All") and is heard throughout at his most creative.

Track listing:

 [1] Tyrone(Larry Young)(5:54)
 [2] The Blessing(Ornette Coleman)(4:45)
 [3] Autumn in Rome(Sammy Cahn-Paul Weston)(6:31)
 [4] Turnaround(Ornette Coleman)(6:42)
 [5] Ontem a Noite(Clare Fischer)(5:52)
 [6] Water Babies(Wayne Shorter)(5:00)
 [7] All or Nothing at All(Jack Lawrence-Arthur Altman)(10:41)
 [8] Hackensack(Thelonious Monk)(5:23)
 [9] Caribbean Fire Dance(Joe Henderson)(8:06)


Guitar – Steve Khan
Bass – Anthony Jackson (tracks: 4,7,9), Ron Carter (tracks: 1,2,3,5,6,8)
Drums – Al Foster (tracks: 1,2,3,5,6,8), Dennis Chambers (tracks: 4,7,9)
Percussion – Manolo Badrena (tracks: 4,7,9)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Bill Bruford - 2017 "Seems Like A Lifetime Ago" [6 CD Box]

Bill Bruford - 2017 "Seems Like A Lifetime Ago"

Limited eight disc (six CDs + two NTSC/Region DVDs) box set from the prog rock icon. This set contains previously unreleased, remixed, or remastered material from the Bruford band of the late 1970s, presented in a 12" box complete with 16-page color booklet and a signed, numbered certificate of authentication. Four gatefold sleeves contain two discs each: Disc 1 (DVD): Feels Good To Me: 5.1 surround sound mix and original 1978 mix remastered; Disc 2 (CD): Feels Good To Me: 2017 Jakko Jakszyk remix from original master tapes; Disc 3 (DVD): One of a Kind: 5.1 surround sound mix and original 1979 mix remastered plus additional audio; Disc 4 (CD): One of a Kind: 2017 Jakko Jakszyk remix from original master tapes; Disc 5 (CD): Gradually Going Tornado: remastered; Disc 6 (CD): The Bruford Tapes: remastered with bonus track; Disc 7 (CD): Live at the Venue: previously unreleased: recorded London 1980; Disc 8 (CD): The fourth Album Rehearsal Sessions: previously unreleased: eighteen sketches of new material recorded 1980. Also includes:16-page 12" booklet with a Sid Smith essay, new interviews with producer, engineer, band members, eyewitnesses and others, previously unseen archive visual material, and the complete band date sheet with contemporary critical reaction. Also two black and white 10" x 8" band photos, one A3 size color poster accompanying Live at the Venue, and one signed, numbered certificate of authentication. The boxed set is produced by Bill Bruford.

Superb music, but this set is for completists and audio snobs. Do the discs sound appreciably better than earlier versions? That's going to be very subjective. To my ears, probably a bit better, but not in the way that some re-masters really open things up into a very different experience with music you already know pretty well. One of a Kind and Feels Good to Me get a 5.1 Surround Sound Mix and a new 2017 non surround mix. These sound good, but it won't be comparable to something like the 50th anniversary Sgt. Pepper revelations.
Gradually Going doesn't get a new mix or 5.1 treatment. It is basically unchanged from the most recent Winterfold version. The Bruford Tapes was a 2 Track recording of a radio broadcast that never sounded that great, and it does seem here that may be a bit more listenable than it was before.
That brings us to the completist side of things. You do get the ideas for the potential 4th Bruford album and a new (to me, at least) live recording of a John Clark era show (circa Gradually Going). The 4th album set is a bunch of idea fragments that don't for the most part give a real sense of how a song might've fleshed out eventually. Jeff Berlin is only on one of the 18 tracks, so it's basically moog bass from Dave Stewart and a "let's see where this might go" kind of flavor to things. The Live at the Venue show is on a sonic par with multiple Bruford boots that might've appeared on a Highland release or a torrent site. That is to say, it's not even on a level with the Bruford Tapes recording.
Why Rock Goes to College, featuring Allan Holdsworth isn't included in this set is a bit odd, as it's probably more historically interesting than either of the live shows that are here.
The booklet and individual cd booklets are nice and have good notes. There's a poster, band photos, and a certificate signed by Bill too. These are all kind of a poor man's version of what might be familiar to those who have seen some of the King Crimson boxes.
I'm glad I've gotten this, but paid about $40 less elsewhere than the current Amazon price. Is this set in any way essential? I'd have to say no, but it is great music from a bygone era all in one place and that does have some appeal.

Containing the collected works of Bruford on one extraordinary 6cd/2dvd-v box set, Seems Like A Lifetime Ago is a magnificent testament to one of the UK's most inventive and important Progressive Fusion bands.
Featuring 2017 remastered versions of the albums Feels Good To Me (1978), One Of A Kind (1979), The Bruford Tapes (1979), and Gradually Going Tornado (1980), the set additionally includes the previously unreleased Live At The Venue, 1980 and the highly sought after 4th Album Rehearsal Sessions (also from 1980).

Showcasing the prodigious talents of Bill Bruford, Dave Stewart, the late Allan Holdsworth (who the album is dedicated to), Jeff Berlin and The 'Unknown' John Clark, the set includes a 16 page colour booklet (with band interviews and an essay written by Sid Smith), a reproduction concert poster, two black and white photo prints of the band, and a signed and numbered certificate of authentication.

I personally wasn't happy with the remaster OR the $128.00 I paid for it. Crimhead420 :-(

Track listing:

Disc: 1
  1. Beelzebub (2017 Remix)
  2. Back to the Beginning (2017 Remix)
  3. Seems Like a Lifetime Ago: Part One (2017 Remix)
  4. Seems Like a Lifetime Ago: Part Two (2017 Remix)
  5. Sample and Hold (2017 Remix)
  6. Feels Good to Me (2017 Remix)
  7. Either End of August (2017 Remix)
  8. If You Can't Stand the Heat...(2017 Remix)
  9. Springtime in Siberia (2017 Remix)
  10. Adios a la Pasada (Goodbye to the Past) (2017 Remix)

Disc: 2
  1. Hell's Bells (2017 Remix)
  2. One of a Kind- Part One (2017 Remix)
  3. One of a Kind - Part Two (2017 Remix)
  4. Travels with Myself - and Someone Else (2017 Remix)
  5. Fainting in Coils (2017 Remix)
  6. Five G (2017 Remix)
  7. The Abingdon Chasp (2017 Remix)
  8. Forever Until Sunday (2017 Remix)
  9. The Sahara of Snow - Part One (2017 Remix)
  10. The Sahara of Snow - Part Two (2017 Remix)
  11. Five G Out-Take (Berlin / Stewart / Bruford) (2017 Remix)

Disc: 3
  1. Age of Information
  2. Gothic 17
  3. Joe Frazier
  4. Q.E.D
  5. The Sliding Floor
  6. Palewell Park
  7. Plans for J.D
  8. Land's End

Disc: 4
  1. Hell's Bells
  2. Sample and Hold
  3. Fainting in Coils
  4. Travels with Myself - and Someone Else
  5. Beelzebub
  6. The Sahara of Snow - Part One
  7. The Sahara of Snow - Part Two
  8. One of a Kind - Part Two
  9. Five G
  10. Manacles

Disc: 5
  1. Hell's Bells
  2. Sample and Hold
  3. Land's End
  4. Joe Frazier
  5. Gothic 17
  6. Plans for J.D
  7. Age of Information
  8. Five G

Disc: 6
  1. Hell's Midriff
  2. Sketch 1
  3. Restless Spirit
  4. Hope
  5. Consequential Circuits
  6. Matching Green
  7. Should've Been Something
  8. There Is No Reward
  9. Hooligan Juice 1
  10. Hooligan Juice 2
  11. Flat Bells, Claptrap and Trills
  12. Sketch 2
  13. Bedrock
  14. Plotting the Heavens
  15. Marrowbones and Cleavers
  16. Prophet Motive
  17. Sketch 1 [Reprise]
  18. Saturday, No School


Drums, Marimba, Percussion – Bill Bruford
Guitar – Allan Holdsworth (tracks: CD1 to DVD2), The Unknown John Clark* (tracks: CD3 to CD6)
Bass – Jeff Berlin (tracks: CD1 to CD5, CD6-9)
Bass [Additional] – Neil Murray (tracks: CD1, DVD1)
Bass [Minimoog Bass] – Dave Stewart (tracks: CD5, CD6)
Flugelhorn – Kenny Wheeler (tracks: CD1, DVD1)
Keyboards – Dave Stewart
Lead Vocals – Jeff Berlin (tracks: CD3)
Synthesizer [Prophet V], Electric Piano [Yamaha CP70] – Dave Stewart (tracks: CD5, CD6)
Vocals – Annette Peacock (tracks: CD1, DVD1), Jeff Berlin (tracks: CD5)
Voice [Electric Chat] – Bill Bruford (tracks: CD4)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Gary Husband - 2012 "Dirty & Beautiful" Vol. 2

If ever there was a musician whose efforts to redefine and reestablish himself are both worthy of attention and working, it's Gary Husband. Emerging as a powerhouse drummer with Allan Holdsworth in the guitarist's I.O.U. band of the early 1980s, Husband has striven to raise his profile as a keyboardist since the turn of the millennium, turning in two overlooked (and stunning) solo piano tributes to Holdsworth and John McLaughlin with The Things I See (Angel Air, 2001) and A Meeting of Spirits (Alternity, 2006), respectively. His career as a keyboardist took a major leap forward in 2007, however, when he began playing in McLaughlin's newly formed 4th Dimension (a collaboration that remains ongoing), and the last few years of touring and recording led to Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 (Abstract Logix, 2010), where Husband truly arrived as drummer, keyboardist, composer and bandleader, in an album featuring a large cast of musical friends old and new that was one of the best of the year.

If Volume 1 was a consolidation of a multitude of musical interests, Volume 2 represents a step forward on a number of fronts—and not just for Husband, though there's plenty of forward motion for him, in particular his command of tone and color. If Husband's roots were more evident in the past, with Volume 2 they've become completely subsumed in an increasingly personal approach to color, the keyboardist shaping some of his meatiest, most substantial synth tones to date. Volume 2 also builds on Husband's expanding circle of musical friends, in particular those made at the 2010 New Universe Music Festival: guitarists Jimmy Herring, on Husband's brief but visceral "England Green," first heard on Diary of a Plastic Box (1999, reissued Angel Air, 2008); Wayne Krantz,contributing his unmistakably idiosyncratic yet gritty approach to the aptly titled "East River Jam" (with Husband handling everything else); and Alex Machacek, whose "Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Brothers" may be the album's most overtly complex track, with dense harmonies, knotty melodies and, with Husband sticking to drums, a remarkable amount of episodic action in its relatively brief, six-minute duration.

As with Volume 1, Volume 2 is a celebration of electric guitar of all variants, with Robin Trower continuing his power trio exploration of trumpeter Miles Davis' "Yesternow" from Volume 1, channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix alongside drummer Husband and bassist Livingstone Brown. Ray Russell opens the album on a potent note with Husband's "If Animals Had Guns Too," demonstrating that his often-overlooked status is no reflection on his abilities, as he navigates Husband's irregularly metered chart with an aplomb matched and raised by the keyboardist, who sets an early high bar for himself with his dense sonic layering and incendiary synth solo. Mike Stern also makes his first appearance with Husband, his lengthy solo on "Rolling Sevens" a continuation of the heavy metal bebop he's been honing since his days with Miles Davis in the early 1980s, driven by bass up-and-comer Teymur Phell—and, of course, Husband's particularly fiery kit work.

Holdsworth shows up on a new version of his enduring Tony Williams New Lifetime track "Fred" (this time, "Fred 2011"), again with Husband sticking to kit, driving the groove in tandem with bassist Jimmy Johnson. After ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer's first synth solo reflects his signature ability to make emulate a guitar's expressive bending, a second solo—surely not Holdsworth, as it rocks out too hard, with harsher overdrive and filtering than is his habit—turns out to also come from Hammer, and so closely resembles a guitar that it'll likely fool even the most committed guitar geek.

Husband's keys and drums create the entire context for a look at a McLaughlin tune he's played in The 4th Dimension the past few years ("New Blues, Old Bruise"), but here featuring up-and-coming tenor saxophonist Sean Freeman on one of only two tracks that exceed the ten-minute mark, while McLaughlin gets a similar opportunity to stretch out on Husband's greasier "Sulley," bolstered by Level 42 cofounder/bassist Mark King's in-the-pocket funk on the other ten-plus minute track, making McLaughlin a more overall dominant force than on Volume 1.

But Volume 2 remains, unequivocally, Husband's date, and if the eclectic nature of the recording and the decision to forego the chemistry of a consistent lineup for the broader possibilities of working in a multiplicity of contexts might suggest a loss of consistency and focus in lesser hands, with Husband at the helm Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2's two common threads give it unequivocal unity: the friendships that drive every one of these eleven different collaboration; and, of course, Husband himself, whose kit work is as effortlessly inventive as ever—chops when needed, groove when demanded (usually simultaneously)—and whose keyboard work continues to evolve into a recognizable amalgam of timbral color and harmonic sophistication, with his sole solo piece, the ethereal, semi-symphonic and appropriately titled "Fugie" acting as a place of calm respite from the album's largely in-your-face stance.

If Volume 1 left many fans eagerly awaiting a second installment, the advances and newfound friends on Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2 should leave them satisfied, but equally hungry for Volume Three.

Multi-dimensional drummer, keyboardist, composer and arranger Gary Husband hits his stride with Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2, his latest release on Abstract Logix Records. Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2 features an explosive all-star line-up of guest musicians such as John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Jan Hammer, Robin Trower, Jimmy Herring, Wayne Krantz, Mark King, Alex Machacek and Mike Stern.

Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2 does not merely pick up where 2010’s Volume 1 left off. Volume 2 expands upon Gary’s musical vision of creating music that is passionate and sophisticated, yet infused with grit and rawness. The mix of Husband originals and cover tunes are driven by the combination of the dynamic powerhouse drumming, ferocious lead lines and distinctly evocative keyboard harmony that altogether define Gary Husband’s “multiple threat” of a musical voice.

Selected highlights of Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2 are FRED 2011: A reworking of the classic Allan Holdsworth song with Holdworth on guitar and synth-master Jan Hammer taking an extended fire breathing solo. SULLEY: a stompin’ rocker with the great John McLaughlin on guitar and bassist Mark King getting down and dirty. YESTERNOW EPILOGUE: guitarist Robin Trower continues his Strat-soaked blues rave-up that was teasingly hinted at on YESTERNOW PREVIEW from Volume 1. Alex Machacek deliciously smouldering on his self-penned LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BROTHERS. ENGLAND GREEN: an evocative Husband original with Jimmy Herring playing the lyrical theme on guitar. NEW BLUES, OLD BRUISE: a John McLaughlin composition given a jazzier edge featuring rising tenor sax star Sean Freeman. Not to mention other new GH originals featuring the angular intelligence of Wayne Krantz and the fiery, electric bop of Mike Stern.

With a roster of top-tier musicians and stellar performances, Gary Husband’s Dirty & Beautiful Volume 2 promises to be one of the most musically exciting and musically rewarding releases of 2012.

Track listing:

01 If The Animals Had Guns Too 5:28
02 Rolling Sevens 4:44
03 New Blues, Old Bruise 10:21
04 East River Jam 3:01
05 Fred 2011 4:48
06 Rain 2:48
07 Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Brothers 6:14
08 Fuguie 4:18
09 Sulley 10:08
10 England Green 2:52
11 Yesternow - Epilogue 4:52


Gary Husband: keyboards (1-4, 6, 8-11), drums (1-7, 9-11), percussion (2);
Ray Russell: guitar (1);
Jimmy Johnson: bass (1, 4);
Mike Stern: guitar (2);
Teymur Phell: bass (2);
Sean Freeman: tenor saxophone (3);
Wayne Krantz: guitar (4);
Allan Holdsworth: guitar (5);
Jan Hammer: keyboards (5);
Neil Taylor: guitar (6);
Alex Machacek: guitar (7), programming (7);
John McLaughlin: guitar (9);
Mark King: bass (9);
Jimmy Herring: guitar (10);
Laurence Cottle: bass (10);
Robin Trower: guitar (11);
Livingstone Brown: bass (11).

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The John Irvine Band - 2011 "Wait & See"

THE JOHN IRVINE BAND is a Progressive Jazz-Rock project lead by the composer and guitarist John Irvine.

"Intelligently written progressive fusion: 14.5/16" - Warren Barker (Progression Magazine)

“The John Irvine Band, a daring UK jazz fusion ensemble expertly doing its own thing. ” - Gregory Kemp, La Villa Strangiato (Ottawa/ CHUO 89.1 FM)

Being an enthusiastic devotee of guitar music I find my pleasure in searching for fairly unknown records containing music with a high quality level. However, this time the music found me. Our main editor sent me the album Wait & See by The John Irvine Band to review for Background Magazine. While reading the accompanying information, the words 'progressive' and 'jazz-rock' immediately attracted my attention. During my first listen, I tried to find some information about this all-instrumental trio hailing from the United Kingdom and consisting of guitarist and keyboardist John Irvine, who also occasionally plays the guitar synthesizer, bass player Doug Kemp, and drummer-percussionist Alan Emsle.

"Wait & See" is highly recommended to fans of the great guitarist Allan Holdsworth. On the short opening piece The Bat you can hear the Synthaxe guitar synthesizer inspired by Holdsworth, who once introduced this instrument on the album Atavrachon (1986). The next piece Hubbub also has similarities with this British guitar player, but the sound of the rhythm section slightly differs from the usual companions of Holdsworth. It's a combination of his musical style with John Irvine's own style. Frazzled goes in the direction of The David Becker Tribune, a band that might be unknown to the average reader. The heavier elements in this composition make it a very interesting song to listen to. CUL8R (Sweet Sorrow) is in line with one of my all-time favourite fusion bands, namely the no longer existing Triton. This is also the longest piece on the album lasting over eight minutes.

The interaction between the band members is just sublime. It's not just a showcase for the guitarist, but a successful band effort. During Zigzag the resemblance with the aforementioned David Becker returns, but only in the rhythm parts. Irvine's soloing is more in his own style. In April is a slower and more relaxed composition with smooth and fluent guitar sounds over a basic rhythm section; a nice song that will let your mind flow in different directions. When you get to the title track, you must have been impressed by the high standard of music that this new band produces. This piece is smoother with a catching melody line and after a while you'll be whistling the main melody along with the guitar. The final piece is called New Brunswick, a solo spot for John Irvine. Now you can enjoy the relaxed guitar sounds. Well, light a candle and have a good glass of wine...

This album by The John Irvine Band is a pleasant surprise. Wait & See has been musically influenced by Allan Holdsworth with hints of Pat Metheny. If you like the style of these musicians then this album is worthwhile buying. I'm glad that I got the opportunity to review this album and I'm sure this band has the quality to be signed to a major label that can provide worldwide promotion and support. Anyway, they have convinced me with their fusion the way it should be played. An impressive new band!

****+ Pedro Bekkers
(Very funny, while looking for reviews, I found one by my friend from many years...Pedro! lol.)

"Next Stop" is the 2nd release from the Scottish guitarist that heads his own project, The John Irvine Band and this record features 9 instrumental tracks in the Jazz-Fusion/Rock realm. The musicianship is all up to snuff and Mr. Irvine delivers some tasty and silky smooth melodic runs throughout his disc. A tune like "Pyramid Power" shows his Eric Johnson like side with fluid lines and an excellent harmonic interlude that further congers up the sonic imagery of EJ, while a song like "Slipstream" also demonstrates Irvine's mastery of the smooth and linear runs that seem to take the listener higher with every succeeding ascending run.

John Irvine does not play like a shredder and there aren't a lot of supersonic types of guitar flash on Next Stop and I for one are find this to be quite refreshing. Instead, Irvine opts for tasty runs that fit the songs and add flavor to each tune, while still peppering in some quality Fusion guitar playing. Irvine's chord phrasing is also a big part of his playing and also where I hear a lot of Eric Johnson and the amazing Allan Holdsworth in his playing.
Rounding out The John Irvine band are bass player, Doug Kemp and percussionist, Alan Emslie and this trio have a great disc here with Next Stop. This record would fit nicely in the Prog world just as well as in the Jazz-Fusion/Rock world. The musicianship is excellent and John Irvine's soloing style is ever expansive and expressive, which adds a quality often forgotten in the guitar playing world of our modern era

Track listing:

1. The Bat
2. Hubbub
3. Frazzled
4. CUL8R (Sweet Sorrow)
5. Zigzag
6. In April
7. Wait & See
8. New Brunswick


John Irvine - Guitars, Keyboards
Alan Emslie - Drums & Percussion
Doug Kemp - Bass

Friday, October 5, 2018

Steppenwolf - 1969 "At Your Birthday Party"

At Your Birthday Party is the third studio album by Steppenwolf, released in 1969 on the ABC Dunhill Records label. It was the first Steppenwolf album to feature bass player Nick St. Nicholas; and the last album to feature guitarist Michael Monarch, who left the band in August 1969. Although it was less critically acclaimed than their successful first two albums, Steppenwolf and The Second, it contains a few well-known hits, such as "It's Never Too Late" and "Jupiter's Child", as well as "Rock Me," which had been featured in the 1968 film Candy. Although the band would be very successful in the early 1970s, At Your Birthday Party would be their last top ten album and features their last top ten single. The album showcases Steppenwolf coming out of, but not yet completely abandoning, the psychedelia of The Second and stepping into the distinctive hard rock of their later releases.

The album's cover was designed by art director Gary Burden. The original LP was a gatefold with a punched-out front cover; the punchout revealed a photo of the band which comprised the inner sleeve's recto. This photo of the band was shot by Henry Diltz, and it shows the band sitting in the remnants of amplifiers and equipment in a charred house which had belonged to Canned Heat. (A 1969 fire ripped through Canned Heat's house and rehearsal studio on Lookout Mountain Ave in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, California.) Original lead guitarist Michael Monarch did not show up for the photo shoot. Steppenwolf producer Gabriel Mekler bore a physical resemblance to Monarch, and it was decided that Mekler would take Monarch's place in the photo. Mekler was able to hide himself all the more in the photo by sporting a pair of sunglasses. Initially, not too many noticed. Monarch was still in the band, however. (A dispelled myth is that Monarch was no longer in the band at the time of the photo shoot; he was in the band until the latter part of 1969, and the album came out in early 1969.) The LP was reissued on CD by MCA in late 1980's. MCA decided to not use the photo for their CD re-issue and opted only for the original unfinished war mouse painting, originally intended as the LP's cover. The resulting CD artwork indeed looks bare as a result. The surrounding black-and-white image of the LP's gate-fold sleeve was made by importing images of cartoon mouse heads onto the bodies of soldiers within an image of a U.S. Civil War trenched battlefield. The black-and-white portion of the album art was a collage made by Rick Griffin, who was supposed to paint a final version of what became the album art, but Dunhill Records declined to pay for the painting and so used Griffin's black-and-white prototype.

The recording sessions for "At Your Birthday Party" started to show the wear and tear of the road on all of us. In addition, some band members for the first time, tried their hand at songwriting and I had run out of tunes to contribute. This album nevertheless includes some of my favorite Steppenwolf tracks such as "Happy Birthday", "Jupiter's Child" and "Rock Me". Nick St. Nicholas (who had replaced our original bassist Rushton Moreve) had an idea for a song titled "It's Never Too Late", which triggered me to work out the rest of the song. That one is an all time favorite of mine. Gabriel Mekler (our Producer) had his hands full trying to be fair to all band members and stay neutral to allow us to work out the difficulties on our own. The fact that the song "Rock Me" (which had been written for the soundtrack of the motion picture "Candy") had already been a hit single before it was included in the "Birthday album" may have reduced the impact of the album because the initial sales of the LP were not what we had hoped for, although over the years, it became quite popular with many of our fans.

With two top ten albums and two top three singles in America in 1968, Los Angeles rockers Steppenwolf gave themselves some act to follow. But in the early months of the following year, they were at it again. On 7 March 1969, they released their third LP, At Your Birthday Party, and would soon see it residing in the top ten, along with its flagship single ‘Rock Me.’

The new album, more rock-leaning than the band’s previous work, was the first to feature Nick St. Nicholas on bass, replacing Rushton Moreve. The arrival of St. Nicholas divided opinion among Steppenwolf diehards, but the new band member had co-writes on two tracks, including a solo credit for ‘Sleeping Dreaming,’ even if that was little more than a minute-long jam. Frontman John Kay wrote ‘Rock Me,’ which had the further benefit of a placement in the 1968 feature film Candy, a period piece of permissiveness featuring Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and even Ringo Starr.

Steppenwolf Rock Me Single Sleeve web optimised 350The single made its Hot 100 debut the week before the album release, and although it only managed a ten-week chart stay, compared to 13 for ‘Born To Be Wild’ and 16 for ‘Magic Carpet Ride,’ it nevertheless reached No. 10. It was a similar story for At Your Birthday Party, which fell short of the gold certification already achieved by Steppenwolf and The Second, but still spent 29 weeks on the Billboard album chart.

Track listing:

01 Don't Cry 3:04
02 Chicken Wolf 2:51
03 Lovely Meter 3:12
04 Round And Down 3:15
05 It's Never Too Late 4:05
06 Sleeping Dreaming 1:11
07 Jupiter Child 3:24
08 She'll Be Better 5:15
09 Cat Killer 1:30
10 Rock Me 3:39
11 God Fearing Man 3:50
12 Mango Juice 3:14
13 Happy Birthday 1:20


John Kay – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
Michael Monarch – lead guitar
Goldy McJohn – organ, piano
Nick St. Nicholas – bass
Jerry Edmonton – drums, backing vocals

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Deodato - 1972 [1987] "Prelude"

Eumir Deodato has participated as pianist/keyboardist, producer, or arranger in over 450 albums, and has won 16 platinum records. The list of top artists with whom he has collaborated is too extensive to cite, but includes Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jobim, Wes Montgomery, João Donato, Kool & the Gang (group with which he played between 1979 and 1983), Earth, Wind & Fire, and Michael Franks. He has also worked on the soundtracks of major films, like The Onion Field, The Exorcist, and many others. Artists who have recorded his compositions include Sarah Vaughan, Milt Jackson, Joe Pass, George Benson, Lee Ritenour, Perez Prado, and the Emotions.

Prelude is the eighth studio album by Brazilian keyboardist Eumir Deodato, released in 1973. With the signature track "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)" (an arrangement of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey), Prelude would become the most successful recording for Deodato and CTI Records.

The album features guitarist John Tropea on three tracks, bassists Ron Carter and Stanley Clarke, and Billy Cobham on drums. The funk-influenced version of the "Introduction" from Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, entitled "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)", won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and went to number two in the pop charts in the US, number three in Canada, and number seven in the UK. In 1977, the album was re-released as briefly 2001.

Prior to Prelude, Eumir Deodato was primarily known, if at all, as a tasteful, lyrical, bossa nova-based sometime arranger for the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Frank Sinatra, Wes Montgomery, and others. Enter Creed Taylor, who gave Deodato a chance to step out on his own as a pianist/leader, doing a few tunes of his own plus a healthy quota of CTI-patented jazz interpretations of classical pieces by Richard Strauss ("Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)"), Debussy ("Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun"), and bowdlerized Borodin ("Baubles, Bangles and Beads"). Well, "2001" -- a clever, up-tempo Latin-groove takeoff on the opening measures of Strauss' tone poem suddenly exploded and became an improbable hit single. In its wake, Prelude soared to number three on the pop LP charts, and Deodato was propelled out of the arranger-for-hire business. Though overshadowed by "2001," the other tracks also hold up well today, being mostly medium-tempo, sometimes lushly orchestrated, conga-accented affairs that provide velvety showcases for Deodato's lyrical electric piano solos. The record also made a temporary star out of John Tropea, whose electric guitar has a lot of rock & rolling zip and fire, and Hubert Laws, Stanley Clarke, and Marvin Stamm each get a little solo room too. This would be the biggest hit Deodato and CTI ever had, and though short on playing time (32 minutes), it still makes enjoyable listening.

A legendary album from the 70s funk scene – and one of the crowning achievements of keyboard maestro Eumir Deodato! Deodato got his start during the bossa years of the 60s – where his sophisticated charts were already enough to make his career a landmark – but in the following decade he picked up the Fender Rhodes, and really took off in a great new direction with classic records like this! The set's a wonderful blend of larger charts and jazzy soloing – with sublime Rhodes lines from the leader, plus a mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation in the best CTI mode – underscored by percussion from both Ray Barretto and Airto. The features Deodato's remake of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" into the funky "2001" – soaring with Fender Rhodes lines that set a new standard for the instrument, with a funky undercurrent that few would have expected for the tune. Other tracks are nice too – and include a great bossa-y version of "Baubles Bangles & Beads", plus "Spirit Of Summer", "September 13".

Track listing:

1 Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001) 9:00
2 Spirit Of Summer 4:04
3 Carly & Carole 3:38
4 Baubles, Bangles And Beads 5:20
5 Prelude To Afternoon Of A Faun 5:13
6 September 13 5:24


Eumir Deodato - piano, electric piano
Ron Carter - electric bass (solo on "Baubles, Bangles and Beads"), bass
Stanley Clarke - electric bass (solo on "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)")
Billy Cobham - drums
John Tropea - electric guitar (solo on "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)", "Baubles, Bangles and Beads", "September 13")
Jay Berliner - guitar (solo on "Spirit of Summer")
Airto Moreira - percussion
Ray Barretto - congas
Hubert Laws - flute (solo on "Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun")
John Frosk - trumpet
Marky Markowitz - trumpet
Joe Shepley - trumpet
Marvin Stamm - trumpet (Solo on "Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun")
Wayne Andre - trombone
Garnett Brown - trombone
Paul Faulise - trombone
George Strakey - trombone
Bill Watrous - trombone
Jim Buffington - french horn
Peter Gordon - french horn
Phil Bodner - flute
George Marge - flute
Romeo Penque - flute
Max Ellen - violin
Paul Gershman - violin
Emanuel Green - violin
Harry Lookofsky - violin
David Nadien - violin
Gene Orloff - violin
Eliot Rosoff - violin
Emanuel Vardi - viola
Al Brown - viola
Harvey Shapiro - cello
Seymore Barab - cello
Charles McKracken - cello

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Allan Holdsworth - 1976 [2017] "Velvet Darkness"

Velvet Darkness is the first studio album by guitarist Allan Holdsworth, released in 1976 through producer Creed Taylor's CTI Records.

The tracks for the album were originally recorded by engineer Rudy Van Gelder at his Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey. According to Holdsworth, this was done during a rehearsal session, after which the tapes were released by CTI without his or the other band members' consent. None of the musicians involved ever received royalties for their work. Holdsworth therefore considered the album an unauthorised release and not part of his discography.

This debut solo release by Allan Holdsworth has an "in the raw," coarsely presented, jam-session quality complete with warts and all, as well as real gems of jazz fusion shining through. A first hearing of this release in its vinyl version might provoke laughter at how really bad it sounds compared to Holdsworth's other releases as well as his playing with other groups. As it turns out, Holdsworth himself abhors this release (considering it "a real terrible disaster"), and has taken legal action and had it removed from production for several reasons.

The original label used rehearsal tapes to compile it, deeming it unnecessary to finance real sessions. During the recording session, Holdsworth had to hurry through each song and apparently never obtained the masters to go over before release. In essence, the original release was nothing more than a taped rehearsal, packaged by CTI as an album without Holdsworth's permission.

This recording has been bootlegged by label after label, none of the musicians involved ever saw any royalties, and no legal paperwork exists. (The recording's known labels and release/re-release dates include CTI Records [1976], King Records [1976], Epic Associated Records [CD, 1990], King Records [Japanese-only CD, 1994], and CTI Records [Japanese-only CD, 1997]. Velvet Darkness was also released in 1997 on an unknown label in Japan as a bootleg CD; an original copy of the vinyl LP album had been transferred to the CD.)

The 1990 release with alternate takes (just more pieces dredged up from the jam-session practice tapes) is indeed an interesting snapshot of young stellar musicians doing their thing in a laid-back but energetic fusion-funk-rock groove. It is for all the above reasons that this is indeed a completist/collectors item nowadays. Included are the now very rare recordings of Holdsworth playing acoustic guitar and violin, which he does very well. The alternate take of "Gattox" is a special treat, featuring Holdsworth soloing with an intensity and emotive power that echoes all the best dynamics jazz fusion could offer in the '70s.

This 2017 reissue is from Talking Elephant and the remastering is awesome! You can hear clearly every instrument from the musicians, the scorching guitar and violin of Holdsworth, pounding bass of Alphonso Johnson and the monster drumming of Narada Michael Walden, Same as the 1990 CBS reissue it comes with 5 alternate takes of the original tracks. Original album only at 30 min. but with the alternate take the whole cd runs at 53 minutes. This is AH's first album though he disowns since it is a "practice session" and took legal action to stop the release back in the 1990s. Does it sound like a rehearsal session? Absolutely not, it is a great jazz rock fusion album. The only let down is that there is no booklet of reading just the CD sleeve album cover. Even if you have the CBS issue get this one since there is a big improvement in sound quality.

This album is very raw. High energy. Crisp sound. Keyboards are cheesy sounding, but when were they not from that era? The drums are GREAT. Allan plays violin on this one also. I met him once during the I.O.U tour (25 years ago???), and he told me he hated this album intensely. In fact I asked him to sign mine, and he refused. He actually tried to BUY it from me!! He was not kidding. He said he wanted it out of circulation. I cannot imagine why.

R.I.P. Allan Holdsworth.

Track listing:

01. Good Clean Filth (5:20)
02. Floppy Hat (2:46)
03. Wish (4:20)
04. Kinder (3:07)
05. Velvet Darkness (4:42)
06. Karzie Key (3:11)
07. Las May (1:38)
08. Gattox (4:51)

Bonus tracks:

09. Good Clean Filth (Alternate take) (5:38)
10. Kinder (Alternate take) (3:07)
11. Velvet Darkness (Alternate take) (4:44)
12. Karzie Key (Alternate take) (2:15)
13. Gattox (Alternate take) (6:47)

Total time 52:26


- Allan Holdsworth / acoustic (2,4,7) & electric guitars, violin (6)
- Alan Pasqua / electric piano
- Alphonso Johnson / bass
- Narada Michael Walden / drums