Monday, 20 November 2017

Karen Lafferty's Bird in a Golden Sky from 1973

I introduced you to this Christian Singer Songwriter earlier with the great Sweet Communion record, this is the first solo album she made way back in 1973.  You get a good feel for the 70's-indebtedness of her songwriting style here, with all those beautiful 70s pop cliches we have heard so many times before.  But they are incredibly well done.  As might be expected this album is a bit more raw than Sweet Communion but still benefits from a remarkably adept production and arrangement.

The stunning song for Bobbi:

It's so nice how those strings carry the chords through, like big beautiful clouds following you down the countryside as you walk in a spirit full of joy.

Plenty of other goodies in here, in my opinion.
What a talented songwriter she was!  And such a beautiful voice.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Back to the great guitarist Christian Escoudé with Gipsys' [sic] Morning from 1981

Just to quickly review, Escoude played with the cellist Capon (4 Elements, Gousti) who I covered extensively in the past.  Originally I got into him due to his involvement in the highly intellectual French chamber prog band Confluence, still one of my favourites.  In addition, Escoude made other records with other artists, obviously, as can be seen in the database.  Again mention should be made of the 1983 trio combo with Lockwood and Catherine, which I recently posted.  This record came just before, and features a lot of Philippe Catherine-like invention on that gypsyish basis advertised in the title.  He's playing with Olivier Hutman, Nicolas Fiszman, and famed drummer Jean-My Truong (Ergo Sum, Perception, Tangerine, Yochk'o Seffer, etc., did they have a shortage of percussionists back then in France?).

So this one is not quite as good in my opinion as the 1983 work but it's still at a very high level of musical quality, thankfully.  Needless to say it's all instrumental.  What I enjoy most about Christian is when he gets into his very introspective phases, thinking deeply about a particular jazz phrase or unusual chord and expanding it into its possibilities, meditating almost, mulling over this or that pretty turn, I guess similar to Catherine but unlike the latter's exploding amp, more inward-looking.

For example in his witness to Place Victor Hugo (16e arrondissement in Paris, look out for the dog poop as you circle the Egyptian obelisk carefully, and don't do it for too long, or some crabby old lady carrying a baguette invariably will yell at you for spending too much time staring at their stolen monuments, usually from Napoleon, as if Paris isn't 100% economically propped up by money coming in from incessant tourists and other naive visitors, believe me, I promised my wife I would never go back there, how romantic that experience was almost getting run over by zooming cars spewing out diesel exhaust in our faces as we step on their precious pavement, but how romantic can you be in a city in which restaurants treat like you a family of rabid hyena made of rotting meat:

Ah oui, la France: it's a love-hate relationship, just like Italy, isn't it?  There is one thing I will say with no guilt or compunction whatsoever though, I've tried wines from all over the world, some of the best ever in days past, and I can honestly say French wine is crap for the price you have to pay.  And the vintage system!  I am not going to try to nail down in which year you have to buy a certain wine, it's too much work, too unreliable, too randomly arbitrary, and give the French way too much allowance for being hard to please.  Oui, bring me to the guillotine, guys!  And drop it as I smash a bottle of your Bordeaux on my chopped off head!  I understand those blind taste tests in which oenophiles pick Chilean, Aussie, or US wines over the 'famous' French Chateaux...  I totally understand.  You can't argue with that kind of scientific objectivity.   Et s'il vous plait n'ejacule pas dans mon vin, garcon!  Ou pas de pourboire pour toi!!! Merci!  What? Tip is already included here?  Yeah no wonder, with service like this!! You know what, we'd never put up with this back home!  Vous etes un fromage, vous-meme!

Sorry if I offended anyone.  Returning to the record, I'll show you another fromage oops I mean track called Bibillou--

I like this of course because it reminds me of those 1976 glory days: Elements, with the great Capon...  A little bit of that 70s magic beauty.

Both samples by Christian incidentally though not all the music is.  Lucky for us French music is far superior to the wines.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Fourmenonly (Herbert Joos), Michael Gibbs, Jim Hall, Volker Kriegel in the 1973 NDR Jazzworkshop

The number of luminaries here is quite astonishing as can be said by the tags next door to the right, but plus that, all of the following appear: Michael Naura, John Taylor, Peter Giger, Eberhard Weber, Stan Sulzmann, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, et al.  Think of how many of these artists, perhaps all of them, have appeared in some album or another featured on this blog!!

Herbert Joos and Fourmenonly have a track written by the former called Count Down. It's a free jazz piece and will appeal to those who have a taste for that inchoate genre.  Certainly the Daybreak album from his was a huge fan favourite here on this blog.

Michael Gibbs is one artist not previously mentioned whose work I've loved dearly due to its highly well written nature, particularly in Chrome Waterfall Orchestra and In the Public Interest.  Or let's not forget the formidable work Just Ahead from 1972's Mike Gibbs Band, an album I've listened to all my life and keep on discovering more beauty in.  (Unfortunately the other mid-70s album which was a homage to Shakespeare called Will's Power was quite disappointing for me).  (I can post all the Mike Gibbs albums if there's interest.)  He presents us here with three pieces, the first of which is the gorgeous Mother of the Dead Man by Carla Bley, which appeared earlier in the aforementioned live Just Ahead.  The other two are his own compositions called Just A Head [sic] and Fanfare, which first appeared in Tanglewood 63, not a bad album, though not comparable to the previously mentioned 70s masterpieces.

As usual, there is a throwaway jazz number which is the Jim Hall Group's Body and Soul interpretation, and equally as usual, I have to write the same comments about the sheer excruciating boringness of ordinary jazz standards, the nightmare of having to hear them millions of times in one's lifetime, like Paul McCartney's grotesque Yesterday, etc., etc.

Then this nice big thanksgiving dinner closes out with the beautiful Volker Kriegel group and a composition by Eberhard Weber called Electric Blue-- not quite as strong a dessert as one would have liked unfortunately, since it turns into a very mushy free-for-all improvisation after about the two minute mark-- making the proportion of written material to wanker material about 1 to 100.  And it's 18 minutes and 40 seconds long!!


A1 Fourmenonly - Count Down [Comp. by Herbert Joos]

Bass Clarinet, Flute – Wilfried Eichhorn
Drums, Flute – Rudi Theilmann
Engineer – Hans-Heinrich Breitkreuz
Piano, Flute – Helmut Zimmer

A2 Michael Gibbs Orchestra - Mother Of The Dead Man [by Carla Bley]

A3 Michael Gibbs Orchestra - Just A Head [by Mike Gibbs]

A4 Michael Gibbs Orchestra - Fanfare [by Mike Gibbs]

A2 to A4 Credits
Bass Guitar – Roy Babbington (tracks: A2 to A4)
Bass Trombone – Geoff Perkins (tracks: A2 to A4)
Concert Grand Piano – Dave MacRae (tracks: A2 to A4)
Conductor – Michael Gibbs (tracks: A2 to A4)
Drums – John Marshall (tracks: A2 to A4)
Engineer – Werner Münchmeyer (tracks: A2 to A4)
Piano, Organ – John Taylor (2) (tracks: A2 to A4)
Producer – Michael Naura
Production Manager – Karl-Heinz Schlüter
Saxophone, Flute – Brian Smith (tracks: A2 to A4), Ray Warleigh (tracks: A2 to A4), Stan Sulzmann (tracks: A2 to A4)
Trombone – Chris Pyne (tracks: A2 to A4)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther (tracks: A2 to A4), Kenny Wheeler (tracks: A2 to A4)
Vibraphone, Percussion – Frank Ricotti (tracks: A2 to A4)
Vocals – Norma Winstone (tracks: A2 to A4)

B1 Jim Hall Workshop Group - Body And Soul [comp. by who cares?]
Bass – Red Mitchell
Drums – Daniel Humair
Engineer – Günter Simon
Guitar – Jim Hall

B2 Volker Kriegel Workshop Group - Electric Blue [comp. by Eberhard Weber]
Cello – Peter Warren
Bass – Eberhard Weber
Drums – Joe Nay
Engineer – Hans-Heinrich Breitkreuz
Guitar – Volker Kriegel
Percussion – Peter Giger
Piano – John Taylor (2)
Saxophone, Piccolo Flute – Stan Sulzmann
Violin – Zbigniew Seifert

Monday, 13 November 2017

Palle Mikkelborg - Ashoka / Guadiana / Concert Dedicated To Torolf Mølgaard from 1970

Mr. Mikkelborg was for some time in my favourite fusion band from Denmark of course, Secret Oyster (on the album Sea Son mostly, but also my favourite Astarte) whose sax player Karsten we've been following closely this last while.

Obviously he is famous and well known in Denmark as a jazz artist and composer.  The bio from discogs:

Danish trumpet player, composer, conductor, band leader. Born in 1941. 
He plays trumpet and flugelhorn since 1956, claiming to be an autodidact. 
Professional musician since 1960. Also known for his usage of electric trumpet.

This early work from 1970 is interesting for its very advanced composition.  He wrote the music, conducted the big band, and played trumpet on track B1.

He also played on the following amazing records: the 3 Entrance LPs, the one-off Alpha Centauri from 1981 (recommended), the two libraryish light fusions of the Iron Office franchise, plus many other LPs in conjunction with other jazz artists, in this period and following.
I think the 70s Entrance albums were the best of that lot.

The Fourth Movement from the Ashoka suite, called Peace:

The whole reminds me a lot of the advanced jazz composition we've heard before from Teo Macero or Charlie Mingus in his more creative and inventive sixties period.

Tons of stuff to admire in here.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Back to Karsten Vogel with a rare album from 1980 (Hans Christian Andersen)

I've tried to complete his discography in these pages because he made so much beautiful music, first of course with Secret Oyster, later on with his own solo stuff under the "Birds of Beauty" designation.  In this album he plays music with his band whilst Hans Christian Andersen is read.  The notes from the LP state, specifically:  Frits Helmuth reading the fairy tale "Vinden fortæller om Valdemar Daae og hans Døttre (The Wind Tells about Valdemar Daae and His Daughters)" by Hans Christian Andersen accompanied by the music of Karsten Vogel.

Thomas Clausen we knew from before, and he's on keys.

As usual, the lush and gorgeous, slightly melancholy music that was a hallmark of his in Secret Oyster and the other albums I've posted from him in the past reappear on this 1980 LP.  You may find the talking a little distracting as I did, but the music is amazing.

Just check out the Prelude:

Equally beautiful is his gentle and tender epilogue, you shall see.

Whilst you might observe that the most Secret Oysterish tune here is the B2 no-talk track on Alchemy:

Alchemy indeed: auditory transmutations from gold, right?
The one disappointment is that the music isn't louder in the mix.  Anyone have a program to remove talk and leave only music?
I could really use that here at home-- no, I don't mean because I'm married......

Apologies for being a little careless with the song starts and stops here & there.  The problem is the tracks all run into each other throughout.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

... & the next highly anticipated Gianni Sposito is Strumentali: Eudosso from 1987

Look at that library cover!  does it make you want to salivate?  If not, don't read any further here...

Slowly but surely we're knocking down all the pins to finish up the Sposito discography-- note additional discography here (into new age territory again, apparently, hate that awful incense stink).  This one is from a series in the late 80s called Strumentali, it's the middle one according to this, admittedly possibly incomplete database.  I won't be surprised if the prices jack up for them as happened with the missing Gianni Marchetti albums: Iris, America, both never appearing for sale under 400 euros nowadays, after being featured in this blog.  And there is little to no doubt that Marchetti stuff would be a pure waste of moolah, even his masterpiece Solstitium wasn't worth 200 euros in my humble opinion.  On the other hand, my wife is willing to buy a pair of shoes for twice that price.  Funny world, huh?  Good thing there's no money left over for her after the records are all bought...

Remember it was a commenter who first mentioned the name of Sposito, god bless him.
(Incidentally I always wanted to thank the guy who mentioned singer-songwriter Colin Blunstone (in conjunction with French singer Olivier Bloch-Laine) because his first album was really remarkably fantastic, with the pure and gorgeous little gem called Her Song.  And I was completely unaware of both LP and artist.  Overall actually he is most similar to Nick Drake, both vocally, and melancholically.  A great suggestion.)

Returning to the subject at hand, Gianni Sposito, both Denebola, disappointing, and the magnificent Cosmo were shared, followed by the stunningly gorgeous 80s soundtrack to Riflessi di Luce.  (I've listened to the theme from that one literally hundreds of times and only got it 2 months ago.  Incredible.  Unfortunate that only 20 minutes from the original LP survive there.)

Track A2, called Zach, already hits it out of the ballpark for me:

Anyone can explain why the titles are apparently people's names (side a) and other unusual words (side b)?  We've seen this in other libraries, notably the Oscar Rocchi ones.  Btw the name of the record comes from an explorer as can be seen here.

But sadly, overall this record is not quite as strong as its predecessors here on the blog.  Doesn't matter, the search will continue with regards to this highly underrated composer.  Discography not yet complete or over...

Note we are lucky enough, again, to be privileged with the sound of a near mint to mint record, almost CD quality here...
There's nothing like that NM vinyl sound, so enjoy it!

Monday, 6 November 2017

The remarkable Xian singer Karen Lafferty, from N. Mexico: Sweet Communion from 1978

Once in a while we turn to Xian singers for some stunning songwriting.  That's the case here for sure.
Karen Lafferty (nice to see she's wikipedia) was a member of the Maranatha Singers who made a string of Christian albums in this decade starting in 1974.  I'll start by quoting the wiki entry:

Karen Lafferty (born February 29, 1948) is an American Contemporary Christian musician from Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Lafferty graduated from Eastern New Mexico University and unsuccessfully attempted to join a Campus Crusade for Christ musical ensemble shortly after. Intending to pursue a career in secular music, she moved to southern California, soon beginning to perform at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. She toured the Netherlands as an opener for Children of the Day in 1973 and released her debut album on Maranatha! Music two years later. Following the release of her second album, Sweet Communion, she toured Europe as a headlining act.

While on tour, Lafferty noted how popular American music was, even though, for most professional American musicians, touring Europe was not financially viable. In response she founded a nonprofit, Musicians for Missions, in 1981, which sought to train young Christian musicians for mission tours where they could perform live shows. She later moved to Amsterdam to direct the organization.

Lafferty is the author of the praise and worship song "Seek Ye First",  first released on a 1974 Maranatha compilation.

Of course I never heard the hymn in question before but now you can listen to everything obviously on youtube.  A beautiful song you'll agree, but very derivative of seventies pop cliches, especially with that descending diatonic chord construction which was so popular back then, e.g. in the famous karaoke song "Have you Never been Mellow," or, I think, Ennio Morricone's theme song to "Once upon a time in the West."

In fact, referring back to the former song, she reminds me a lot of a Xian-imbued or born-again Olivia Newton-John (wouldn't that be nice, to literally have her born again into her youthful prime?).  It also recalls to me the mid-seventies albums which Roberta Flack did e.g. Feel Like Making Love, with the studio diversions into progressive extensions.  Musicianship and arrangements (by Jim Stipech) are just superb, so beautifully professional and haunting, with instruments that are quite unexpected popping up here and there: an accordion, a harp, or flute and english horn combination.

On this album, Sweet Communion, all songs save one were written by Karen.  The music is very strong and inventive and altogether this one is an improvement over the first (Bird in a Golden Sky) in terms of the professionalism of the sound.  It's clear the title track is the most beautiful, and very delicately so in a manner that could only have been achieved in this period in time:

Isn't that just amazing?  Truly an underrated artist.

On the other hand I don't know anything about the former group Maranatha Singers, if anyone can provide a quick review please go ahead and comment.