quinta-feira, 9 de novembro de 2017

Buffalo Springfield - Last Time Around 1968

The internal dissension that was already eating away at Buffalo Springfield's dynamic on their second album came home to roost on their third and final effort, Last Time Around. This was in some sense a Buffalo Springfield album in name but not in spirit, as the songwriters sometimes did not even play on cuts written by other members of the band. Neil Young's relatively slight contribution was a particularly tough blow. He wrote only two of the songs (though he did help Richie Furay write "It's So Hard to Wait"), both of which were outstanding: the plaintive "I Am a Child" and the bittersweet "On the Way Home" (sung by Furay, not Young, on the record). The rest of the ride was bumpier: Stephen Stills' material in particular was not as strong as it had been on the first two LPs, though the lovely Latin-flavored "Pretty Girl Why," with its gorgeous guitar work, is one of the group's best songs. Furay was developing into a quality songwriter with the orchestrated "The Hour of Not Quite Rain" and his best Springfield contribution, the beautiful ballad "Kind Woman," which became one of the first country-rock standards. But it was a case of not enough, too late, not only for Furay, but for the group as a whole. AMG.

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Sphere - Inside Ourselves 1970

Superb Soul jazz funk / contemporary jazz album by Sphere a band formed by Larry Nozero / John Dana / Jimmy Peluio / Keith Vreeland / Eddie Nuccilli. Released in 1977 on the cult Strata records. Enjoy!

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Pure Food & Drugs Act - Choice Cuts 1972

Although blues violinist and singer Don "Sugarcane" Harris and guitarist Harvey Mandel recorded together on more than one occasion, this is the only recording they made as the very short-lived group Pure Food & Drug Act. Aside from this 1972 release's strange cover, which might be considered borderline kiddie porn in the 21st century, they do a satisfactory (though hardly outstanding) set of their own brand of blues-rock. Mostly recorded live in Seattle at the Fresh Air Tavern, some of the music was overdubbed at later mixing sessions. Harris has sounded better on violin on his own dates from this era; his two collaborations with Shuggie Otis (who doesn't appear on this release), "A Little Soul Food" and "Do It Yourself" grown tiresome quickly. The take of "Where's My Sunshine" pales in comparison to his live version on the BASF LP Sugarcane's Got the Blues. Their interpretation of the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" is a hard rocking feature for Mandel's guitar. Oddly enough, one of the strongest cuts doesn't involve the Pure Food & Drug Act at all. A local folk musician, Jim Luff, improvised a quick introduction for the band's live set, which is used to open the record. Although it is hardly a memorable song, it has an energy that the main act never manages to achieve throughout the entire release. Fans of Don "Sugarcane" Harris can safely bypass this disc. AMG.

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Granny's Intentions - Honest Injun 1970

Granny's Intentions is a bluesy Irish country-rock band featuring Gary Moore and Joe O'Donnell among others. Caught between the cusp of two eras; homespun earthiness melding with Blues orientated rock that would flourish in the 70s, "Honest Injun" is closer to Sherwood Forest than the Mississippi Delta. Both a period piece and a collectors' item, the release of "Honest Injun" by Granny's Intention will no doubt be of immense interest to Gary Moore/Thin Lizzy fans. For such a well-chronicled musician, little information is available on Granny's Intentions, with whom Gary made his recording debut at the age of 17. Featuring the fantastic talent of Gary Moore on guitar, this classic album also boasts Neil Bridgeman of Skid Row on drums, and the legendary Johnny Duhan on vocals, who went on to become a major songwriter in his own right, penning the worldwide multi-million selling "The Voyage" which was released by Christy Moore. 

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George Duke - Feel 1974

A valued sideman, by the mid-'70s Duke would become a star and influential in his own right. For this 1974 MPS release, Frank Zappa had relinquished his studio time for Duke. The kind gesture immediately reverberated throughout jazz circles and beyond. By the time of this release, Duke's extensive resumé included two stints with Zappa's Mothers of Invention as well as some time with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. Although this would be the third album under his name, Feel's eclectic mix of fusion and rock is his debut in the genre of which he'd later become a leader. The ARP synth-adorned and buoyant "Love" features Duke's blissful, falsetto vocals and Zappa's intense and searing guitar solos. The beautiful and ethereal title track boasts one of Duke's most effective melodies. The song also shows up as "Statement," an instrumental one minute and 15 seconds in length. The funky instrumental "Old Slippers" has impeccable drumming by Leon "Ndugu" Chancler, with Zappaagain joining the fun with a gorgeous solo. A top-notch and insouciant Latin excursion, "Yana Aminah" features great double-tracked vocals from Flora Purim and well as Duke's deft synths, which replicate strings. Feel proves that, even at this relatively early stage, Duke's intelligent ear for melodies and his keyboard prowess set him apart from his contemporaries. AMG.

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The Deviants - Disposable 1968

Plenty of psychedelic groups of the late '60s embraced a sunny outlook of peace, flowers, and consciousness expansion, but some took a harder line on upending the straight society they sought to replace, and like their spiritual brethren the MC5the Deviants (under the first-among-equals leadership of writer Mick Farren) saw their music as a vehicle for a Total Assault On The Culture. The only trouble with this was the Deviants' ideas were often a lot more exciting than their music, and while they created a sonic approximation of the rage and defiance behind the Freak Culture on their debut album, Ptooff!, their second LP, Disposable, lacks focus or direction and sounds like the work of addled would-be revolutionaries who aren't sure jut what they're fighting against this morning. Farren has claimed that he and his bandmates were flying on speed during most of the recording of Disposable, but there isn't much energy (artificial or otherwise) in these performances, and many of the tunes collapse into meandering jams performed by musicians who lack the chops or focus to make them into anything more. There are a few exceptions -- a wacky mutation of "Surfing Bird" and "Wipe Out" called "Pappa-Oo-Mao-Mao," the defiant "Slum Lord," and "Somewhere to Go," the only extended jam on the LP that manages to actually find a groove and move. But "Normality Jam" feels at least twice as long as its 4:24 running time, "Let's Loot the Supermarket" appears to have been recorded by people who lack the ambition to put on their shoes, let alone liberate needed supplies, and short tracks like "Sparrows and Wires" and "Sidney B. Goode" play like comic sketches without punch lines. Disposable is fascinating as a document of the U.K.'s anarchist hippie scene and where it went both right and wrong, but as entertainment, you're a lot better off listening to Ptooff!. Or looting a supermarket. AMG.

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Don Cherry - Where Is Brooklyn 1966

Where Is Brooklyn was Don Cherry's final album for Blue Note, and it returned to the quartet format of Complete Communion, this time featuring Pharoah Sanders on tenor sax along with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Ed Blackwell. Here, Cherry abandons his concept of recording all the album's compositions as side-long medleys; rather, each is treated separately, with spaces in between the tracks. There wasn't a need to integrate the compositions by periodically returning to their themes, so perhaps that's why Cherry doesn't really focus as much on bringing out his compositions this time around. Where Is Brooklyn is much more about energy and thoughtful group interaction than memorable themes, and so there's just a little something missing in comparison to Cherry's prior albums, even though they did also emphasize the qualities on display here. Nonetheless, it's still a fine record for what it does concentrate on; Sanders is in typically passionate form, and the rest of the ensemble members have already honed their interplay to a pretty sharp edge. It's worth hearing, even if it isn't as essential as Complete Communion or Symphony for Improvisers. AMG.

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Bennie Maupin - Slow Traffic To The Right 1977

Bennie Maupin is best-known for his association with Herbie Hancock and his atmospheric bass clarinet playing on Miles Davis' classic Bitches Brew album. Maupin started playing tenor in high school and attended the Detroit Institute for Musical Arts, playing locally in Detroit. He moved to New York in 1963, freelancing with many groups, including ones led by Marion Brown and Pharoah SandersMaupin played regularly with Roy Haynes (1966-1968) and Horace Silver(1968-1969), recording with McCoy Tyner (1968), Lee Morgan (1970), and Woody Shaw. After recording with Miles, he joined the Herbie Hancock Sextet. When Hancock broke up his group to form the more commercial Headhunters in 1973, Maupin was the only holdover. He led dates for ECM (1974) and a commercial one for Mercury (1976-1977), but failed to catch on as a bandleader and has maintained a low profile during the past 15 years, emerging in 2006 with the critically acclaimed Penumbra on the Cryptogramophone label. Early Reflections followed two years later. AMG.

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Archie Whitewater - Archie Whitewater 1970

Archie Whitewater was not a person, but an eight-member band, none of whom were named Archie Whitewater. Their sole and self-titled album attracted little notice on its 1970 release, in part because it was recorded for the Cadet/Concept subsidiary of Chess, which was nearing the end of its time as an active label of consequence. Though it's sometimes categorized as jazz-rock or horn rock, and there's some validity to those tags, in fact it's more of a laid-back blend of soul, jazz, and a little rock and pop than most early jazz-rock albums. Refreshingly, it's not nearly as bombastic as some of the material by the most famous bands in the vocal jazz-rock genre, instead sounding relaxed and fluid without getting boring or too mellow. While the songs (all original, with keyboardist Bob Berkowitz doing the bulk of the writing) aren't too special and lack the hooks of Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears, they offer pleasing genre-crossing grooves. The high-pitched male singing on "Northstar" and the ballad "Life Is a River" in particular project a nice fluttering quality, and "Mist of the Early Morning" has a cool effervescent loping feel, especially when it goes into a vibes break. Though it fits only loosely into the jazz-rock designation, this is recommended to collectors of the style looking for something obscure and a little different, with some of the more low-key cuts in particular suited for reflective late-night listening with a muted warm glow. The 2011 reissue on RPM adds good historical liner notes. AMG.

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terça-feira, 31 de outubro de 2017

The Mothers of Invention - Burnt Weeny Sandwich 1970

Burnt Weeny Sandwich is the first of two albums by the Mothers of Invention that Frank Zappareleased in 1970, after he had disbanded the original lineup. While Weasels Ripped My Flesh focuses on complex material and improvised stage madness, this collection of studio and live recordings summarizes the leader's various interests and influences at the time. It opens and closes on '50s pop covers, "WPLJ" and "Valarie." "Aybe Sea" is a Zappafied sea shanty, while "Igor's Boogie" is named after composer Igor Stravinsky, the closest thing to a hero Zappa ever worshipped. But the best material is represented by "Holiday in Berlin," a theme that would become central to the music of 200 Motels, and "The Little House I Used to Live In," including a virtuoso piano solo by Ian Underwood. Presented as an extended set of theme and variations, the latter does not reach the same heights as "King Kong." In many places, and with the two aforementioned exceptions in mind, Burnt Weeny Sandwich sounds like a set of outtakes from Uncle Meat, which already summarized to an extent the adventures of the early Mothers. It lacks some direction, but those allergic to the group's grunts and free-form playing will prefer it to the wacky Weasels Ripped My Flesh. AMG.

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Bruce Palmer - The Cycle is Complete 1971

Bruce Palmer (acoustic/electric guitars/Fender bass) is best known for his association with the earliest incarnation of the Buffalo Springfield. It was he and Neil Young who trekked from their native Canada in the latter's hearse (named Mort) to Los Angeles in search of Stephen Stills with the hopes of forming a rocking teen combo. His tenure was cut short by deportation which stemmed from two separate marijuana-related convictions in 1967 and 1968, respectively. The Cycle Is Complete (1971) -- Palmer's only solo effort -- is an eclectic masterwork with stream of consciousness jams that combine folk, jazz, and rock onto a quartet of primarily instrumental sides. Joining him are a seemingly disparate group of musicians who include Ed Roth (organ), Danny Ray aka "Big Black" (conga), and from the West Coast psych-fusion group KaleidoscopeChester Crill (violin), Paul Lagos (drums), Jeff Kaplan (piano), and Richard Aplan (nee Aplanalp) (flute/oboe). Also playing a pivotal part in the musical exchange is one of Palmer's pre-Buffalo Springfield acquaintances from the Toronto-based band the Mynah Birds. Rick Matthews would become better known several years later under his super freaky persona as the funky Rick James. Throughout this release he can be heard on percussion and most notably on the improvised scat-like vocals that materialize from within the instrumentation. Each of the tracks is ultimately as unique as the proverbial fingerprint. They are indeed inclusively well-developed musical statements. "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse" is a frenetic and exploratory quarter-hour of jazzy intonations and features a bluesy vocal by James. Much in the same way that Skip Spence goes for it throughout his magnum opus Oar (1970), these musicians act and react on skill and intuition. The end result is something along the lines of latter-era Traffic and the psychedelic soul of the Rotary Connection. The brief "Interlude" sounds remarkably like "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" as Kaplan and Palmer solidify their respective association. "Oxo" swirls around a heavily Eastern-influenced progression that weaves in and out of some interesting sonic spaces and includes some non-lyrical vocalizations from James. The moody and brooding "Calm Before the Storm" is a languid and dark sojourn that is once again marked by some interesting ideas and, perhaps more importantly, equally engaging execution. AMG.

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Grateful Dead - Anthem Of The Sun 1968

As the second long-player by the Grateful DeadAnthem of the Sun (1968) pushed the limits of both the music as well as the medium. General dissatisfaction with their self-titled debut necessitated the search for a methodology to seamlessly juxtapose the more inspired segments of their live performances with the necessary conventions of a single LP. Since issuing their first album, the Dead welcomed lyricist Robert Hunter into the fold -- freeing the performing members to focus on the execution and taking the music to the next level. Another addition was second percussionist Mickey Hart, whose methodical timekeeping would become a staple in the Dead's ability to stop on the proverbial rhythmic dime. Likewise, Tom Constanten (keyboards) added an avant-garde twist to the proceedings with various sonic enhancements that were more akin to John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen than anything else coming from the burgeoning Bay Area music scene. Their extended family also began to incorporate folks like Dan Healy -- whose non-musical contributions and innovations ranged from concert PA amplification to meeting the technical challenges that the band presented off the road as well. On this record Healy's involvement cannot be overstated, as the band were essentially given carte blanche and simultaneous on-the-job training with regards to the ins and outs of the still unfamiliar recording process. The idea to create an aural pastiche from numerous sources -- often running simultaneously -- was a radical concept that allowed consumers worldwide to experience a simulated Dead performance firsthand. One significant pattern which began developing saw the band continuing to refine the same material that they were concurrently playing live night after night prior to entering the studio. The extended "That's It for the Other One" suite is nothing short of a psychedelic roller coaster. The wild ride weaves what begins as a typical song into several divergent performances -- taken from tapes of live shows -- ultimately returning to the home base upon occasion, presumably as a built-in reality check. Lyrically, Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) includes references to their 1967 pot bust ("...the heat came 'round and busted me for smiling on a cloudy day") as well as the band's spiritual figurehead Neal Cassidy ("...there was Cowboy Neal at the wheel on a bus to never ever land"). Although this version smokes from tip to smouldering tail, the piece truly developed a persona all its own and became a rip-roaring monster in concert. The tracks "New Potato Caboose" and Weir's admittedly autobiographically titled "Born Cross-Eyed" are fascinatingly intricate side trips that had developed organically during the extended work's on-stage performance life. "Alligator" is a no-nonsense Ron "Pigpen" McKernanworkout that motors the second extended sonic collage on Anthem of the Sun. His straight-ahead driving blues ethos careens headlong into the Dead's innate improvisational psychedelia. The results are uniformly brilliant as the band thrash and churn behind his rock-solid lead vocals. Musically, the Dead's instrumental excursions wind in and out of the primary theme, ultimately ending up in the equally frenetic "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)." Although the uninitiated might find the album unnervingly difficult to follow, it obliterated the pretension of the post-Sgt. Pepper's "concept album" while reinventing the musical parameters of the 12" LP medium. [The expanded and remastered edition included in the Golden Road (1965-1973) (2001) box set contains a live performance from August 23, 1968, at the Shrine in Los Angeles. This miniset features an incendiary medley of "Alligator" and "Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)" concluding with over four minutes of electronic feedback.] AMG.

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David Ackles - David Ackles 1968

Ackles' self-titled debut LP introduced a singer/songwriter quirky even by the standards of Elektra records, possibly the most adventurous independent label of the 1960s. Ackles was a pretty anomalous artist of his time, with a low, grumbling voice that was uncommercial but expressive, and similar to Randy Newman's. As a composer, Ackles bore some similarities to Newman, as well in his downbeat eccentricity and mixture of elements from pop, folk, and theatrical music. All the same, this impressive maiden outing stands on its own, though comparisons to Brecht/Weill (in the songwriting and occasional circus-like tunes) and Tim Buckley (in the arrangements and phrasing) hold to some degree too. This is certainly his most rock-oriented record, courtesy of the typically tasteful, imaginative Elektra arrangements, particularly with Michael Fonfara's celestial organ and the ethereal guitar riffs (which, again, recall those heard on Buckley's early albums). As a songwriter, Ackles was among the darkest princes of his time, though the lyrics were delivered with a subdued resignation that kept them from crossing the line to hysterical gloom. "The Road to Cairo," covered by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger, and the Trinity, is probably the most famous song here. But the others are quality efforts as well, whether the epics tell of religious trial, as in "His Name Is Andrew," or the mini-horror tale of revisiting an old home in "Sonny Come Home." AMG.

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Janis Joplin - Pearl 1971

Janis Joplin's second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out. Thanks also to a more consistent set of songs, the results are magnificent -- given room to breathe, Joplin's trademark rasp conveys an aching, desperate passion on funked-up, bluesy rockers, ballads both dramatic and tender, and her signature song, the posthumous number one hit "Me and Bobby McGee." The unfinished "Buried Alive in the Blues" features no Joplin vocals -- she was scheduled to record them on the day after she was found dead. Its incompleteness mirrors Joplin's career: Pearl's power leaves the listener to wonder what else Joplin could have accomplished, but few artists could ask for a better final statement. AMG.

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Tim Buckley - Goodbye and Hello 1967

Often cited as the ultimate Tim Buckley statement, Goodbye and Hello is indeed a fabulous album, but it's merely one side of Tim Buckley's enormous talent. Recorded in the middle of 1967 (in the afterglow of Sgt. Pepper), this album is clearly inspired by Pepper's exploratory spirit. More often than not, this helps to bring Buckley's awesome musical vision home, but occasionally falters. Not that the album is overrated (it's not), it's just that it is only one side of Buckley. The finest songs on the album were written by him alone, particularly "Once I Was" and "Pleasant Street." Buoyed by Jerry Yester's excellent production, these tracks are easily among the finest example of Buckley's psychedelic/folk vision. A few tracks, namely the title cut and "No Man Can Find the War," were co-written by poet Larry Beckett. While Beckett's lyrics are undoubtedly literate and evocative, they occasionally tend to be too heavy-handed for Buckley. However, this is a minor criticism of an excellent and revolutionary album that was a quantum leap for both Tim Buckley and the audience. AMG.

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