Monday, 19 March 2018

Guatemalan Alux Nahual in 1981, 1982, and 1984

From discogs;

Alux Nahual is a rock group, formed in Guatemala. Its importance in the Central American region has allowed it to be known as a musical proposal, a cultural reference throughout the isthmus. The band was formed in 1979. It was founded by Álvaro Aguilar (acoustic guitar), who accompanied by his brother Plubio (bass) and his cousin Ranferí (electric guitar and acoustic) begin to perform at a small cafe bar in the city from Guatemala. They were integrated to the band Javier Flores (drums), Paulo Alvarado (cello) and Jack Schuster (violin). In their beginnings they played compositions of other bands of the time, like Kansas, Led Zeppelin and Toto, in addition to original proposals with a base of symphonic and progressive rock, with influence of the group of Dutch progressive rock Focus in the melody Bar Rocko Intro Passacaglia Maestosa. 

After a couple of years Flores retires and they contact the drummer Pablo Mayorga while the brother of Ranferí, Orlando, who also plays drums, joins Alux. For some years they played with two drummers, something unusual in a rock band. The prestige of the band rose quickly, and in 1981 they manage to record their first record production under the DIDECA record label. This first production was the one that opened the doors to the national rock in the radios. At that time there was no knowledge about the movement of rock in Spanish that occurred in Argentina and other places in America, so Alux Nahual became the first commercially recognized band, rock in Spanish in Central America.

Sample from the second album:

El Mensaje del Mago.

Influences are exactly as mentioned, though I would add this is very typical South-Central American folk sympho-prog, with mixed acoustic and electric passages and very very light progressiveness, far less than a comparable band (in sound) we all know with initials MIA.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Pomp rockers Baby Grand in 1977 and 1978

Database info here.

Note the wonderful cover painting of the first album that recalls a famous cartoon-like European artist (someone can remind me?) and the reference to the fruit-faces of Arcimbolo in the second.

For all those who love rock, let's salute these (3 to 5?) guys. Hugely enjoyable, well-written and well-played AOR pomp rock with not too much excess testosterone nor over-the-top vocal showmanship from this band from Philly.   They remind me a great deal of Ambrosia, but much more diluted in the progressive element.  Still, the songs are really strong.  Worth a few hours total of listening pleasure for anyone with two ears and a rock 'n' roll soul I would think:

Note how the F minor chord very cleverly segues down to an F major 7 in the piano intro.

From the first album, listen to the blissfully crafted 70s pop-rock with the hammered out piano chords, the syncopated bass pumping them along, the arabesque-like electric guitar licks weaving in and out and for a guitar solo in the middle, the tape played backwards Beatles-style, just so perfectly professionally done altogether:

"Yes, now you're in the spotlight, Caroline,
and is it all that you thought it would be?"

Too bad they only made two!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Marie Rottrová in 1981, Muž Č.1

Curlier hair, and disappearing eyebrow lines, as we get into the 80s.

On this page, which features full credits for this record, you can see we have a mixture of apparently fresh Czechy slav stuff and rock covers, including an old favourite of mine from my soulful days, Aretha's composition Call Me.  There is a great deal of variety with soul, ballads, a hilarious disco opus called Playboy-- all of which serves to emphasize there is something, or rather many somethings, for everyone to enjoy in here.  Listen to the gorgeously powerful and intense musical yelling, track b4, composed by Jiri Urbanek, a bassist who clearly was closely associated with this singer:

Would love to know what that song is all about.
A good album, slightly diminished from the 1977 ones from earlier, but still worthy.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Marie Rottrová with Pěšky Po Dálnici in 1977

Very, very beautiful woman.
This album, coming in the same year as the preceding installment, sounds of course very similar, with its mix of all-American soul, pop-rock, chanson-style (e.g. Piaf) singing, and perhaps occasional slight fusion material.  The closer, with its heavenly 70s chord changes, just makes me want to cry:

Nothing like that is ever made anymore.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Marie Rottrová 75 with Plameňáci/Flamingo

Another very beautiful woman, as you can see from The Great Google, however, not much info on discogs:

Czech vocalist, songwriter, TV presenter. 
Born November 11, 1941 in Ostrava (former Czechoslovakia). In the late 1960s nicknamed “Lady Soul” in Czechoslovakia. Mother of Martin Kučaj (1963) and Vít Rotter (1965). Her first husband was Vlastimil Kučaj.

Presumably well known in her home country, her music is fully unknown on the outside, to our great loss, and hers.  At least until now.

This particular record, one of many she put out in the period, reminded me a little of my old favourite and great discovery, Uschi Bruning with the great Gunther Fischer Band, though it's not as incomparable.  One track that is comparable though is this one called Čas Motýlů:

Wild, huh?  But not all songs are as good.

We have here a mix of soul, pop-rock, and fusion-like tracks, mostly sung, some instrumentals from the backing band, with its double name.  Regarding the latter,

Czech soul/funk/pop group. Formed in 1966 in Ostrava, led by Richard Kovalčík until his death in 1975. During this first period the group’s lineup was essentially identical to the nucleus of the Ostravský Rozhlasový Orchestr, and many recordings performed by the latter could have been actually credited to Flamingo. 1975–1977 led by bass player Jiří Urbánek. Disbanded in 1989 after keyboardist and 3rd leader Vladimír Figar’s death. Between 1973–1987, due to communist censorship issues, they were mostly credited as “Plameňáci” (Czech for “flamingos”), while serving mainly as backing band for vocalists Marie Rottrová and Petr Němec.

I've included the much more primitive 1971 album infected with cover tunes from more famous soul singers which they made together.  More to come from Marie later.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Jacques Thollot 1971-1996 [limited time]

This was requested and because the artist is one of my all-time favourite composers in the progressive sphere I got onto it right away.

From discogs, briefly:
French jazz drummer born October 9, 1946 at Vaucresson, France. He died on October 2, 2014 at Mainneville, France.

Despite being a drummer, he composed most of his albums and played keyboards on Cinq Hops, clearly his masterpiece-- which was reissued to CD btw.  The early albums feature a great deal of the experimental noise and free improvisation that was so popular in those days, not too much drum solos or rather purely percussion tracks, but later when the music is more composed, it's absolutely sublime, well worthy of replacing the old tired works of Bartok, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg (which are so similar, minus the jazz/rock element) that are over-played in concert halls at the expense of brilliant new material from artists such as Thollot.  For those who follow the blog, the brilliant Jean-Luc Chevalier I featured numerous times before is very similar, but Thollot stays closer to his classical education roots.

This is my favourite song by him, which so perfectly mixes the classical chamber tradition with the aforementioned jazz/rock (magma style):

(On the Mountain, for Michele, from Cinq Hops.)  I'm always stunned at how these brilliant composers can take something as simple as the three first notes of the A major scale as in this song and transform them into something so brilliantly original by not just playing them, but playing with them.  Of course later in the song he shows his skills in adept chord changes.

And note that he played with Tony Hymas, whom we've seen before of course a few times here, in the 1990s.  From this period we have A Winter's Tale from his quartet, and Tenga Nina.

In the later albums the ambitious composition featuring mixed half-tones and whole tones or tritones is still present, but dare I say it, watered down a little by the generic jazz genre it's being promulgated with, and lacking that intense insanity that is typical of a young musician's creativity (like they say of mathematicians, whose best work is always before 30...)  Nonetheless, the old spark of crazy is still present in the closer of 1996's Tenga Nina, called L'au Dela (i.e. the afterlife):

I should also mention this stunning library album sure to make everyone salivate who haven't heard of it, and even those who have, called Hypnose, from 1974, featuring one track by Thollot (sheerly brilliant again), plus Jannick Top, Teddy Lasry, and others.  Obviously highly recommended to everyone.