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.

Friday, 3 November 2017

More and even rarer from Renato Anselmi: 1988 Flower Library Album Antiche Civilta (i.e. civilizations)

A truly lost and shockingly progressive album from the famous unknown artist we presented second last post, Renato Anselmi (from Swiss Emphasis).  In places this reminds me most of Third Ear Band's masterpiece MacBeth, which I hope everyone is well familiar with (as well as the bloody 1972 movie by rapist Roman Polanski of which it's the OST), though the acoustic ethnic component is less in evidence here.  Despite this the blurb on the back actually says "A selection of music as played in the Roman [side a] and Greek Empires [side b]" which is a bit misleading since the advanced composition in parts could only have been accomplished by a very drunk and circused-up Roman, to my mind, exampli gratia, listen to the Hitchcockian Psycho opening to the Ides of March:

Another sample, videlicet the first track, gives you a sense of why the doom-laden dark music reminds me so much of the sonotractus to MacBeth:

Altogether a great and worthy addition to our library music libraries, and you can thank me for pulling this one off and allowing everyone a chance to hear more wonderful music from this maligned and neglected genre, at a cost that is not prohibitive, thankfully.

Sadly all compositions are quite brief, on the order of 2 minutes, so that with 14 we are left with barely a half an hour of music... too bad!

There's absolutely no doubt we can look forward to more music from this ne plus ultra musician in the future, & thanks Renato-- bitte Mr. Anselmi...

As well some more great library to come very shortly! Ergo everyone get excited...

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

German (Not Czech) Naima in Morning Part One (1980) and Family Walk (1981)

Naima or Naima New Jazz Quartet, from discogs:

German fusion combo that sound like a Latin-flavoured Toto Blanke cum Contact Trio mix.

I'm not so sure that comparison is quite apt since these guys are not as progressive / free jazz as either of those two outfits, being more like their Czech counterpart posted earlier, perhaps more acoustically inclined.

From the get-go, you get a sweet breezy feeling brought about by the addition of vibes to keys and electric guitars in all-instrumental compositions.  Throughout, the rhythm section keeps things nicely pumping to provide a level of energy you only got back in this period in time, before jazz reverted to acoustic instruments in the 80s.  A nice exemplar would be the title track Morning Part One:

And that's not even the best track here.  Vibraphonist (and principal composer) is Jochen Schmidt.  (Later on he performed on a highly recommended album called Axel Petry Quartett - Discover, this one.  Strong recommendation.  And not expensive.)  The variety is the other aspect, so typical of European jazz, which I love.  As usual we get delicate and tender slow pieces with in this case a flute melodying, on the Wind Song; improvisations are not too long, compositions show a great deal of originality, a slight classical influence pervades, i.e. we get all the best of Euro-jazz.

For their next album, in which they shortened their name considerably, the composers were totally different, and perhaps accordingly it was not quite as impressive.  Songwriting duties were mostly handled by a certain Ernst Schmidt-Breitbach who you can see doesn't appear elsewhere; even though Jochen is still present on vibes, he seems to have run out of ideas, sadly.

Perhaps the best track is the final one called Life Like, though there could be here substance for debate:

Sounding very much like any generic vibes plus electric guitar jazz track of which we've heard so many in these years: 5 years really, 3 posts per week, already 700+ albums...
or to use my wife's favourite comment: this sounds like everything else you've ever played before...
Well, I married her partly for her sense of humour so I can't complain, can I...

Monday, 30 October 2017

A fabulous Swiss easy fusion rarity in Renato Anselmi's Know What I Mean? from 1981

From a Japanese record store, briefly:

European Rare Groove Recording Solo album by Renato Anselni, a Swiss Jazz pianist famous for his participation in Emphasis. Although this work can be heard with a clear sound of smooth jazz type overall, Hello Mr. Acuvis which feels good funky rhythm section to scat melody is also recorded! feat. Curt Treier, Peter Jacques, etc.

Notice the artist's name was misspelled by google translate... so when were you saying those robots will be replacing all of our jobs?  Emphasis, in turn, is over-enthusiastically described in discogs thusly:

"Emphasis" was a Swiss fusion project featuring Pierre Cavalli (guitar, bass), Renato Anselmi (piano, synthesizer), Fernando Vicencio (flute, sax), drummer Nick Liebman and Curt Treier on percussion. Their only selftitled album from 1974 saw two original releases on the Swiss Pick label and in the UK on Jaycee and is darn tough to find: 12 tracks in all offer masterfully played European Jazz Rock, a combination of electronic Fusion and latinesque conga percussion.

Actually, I thought it was hugely disappointing, save one or 2 tracks, like Gargantua, but anyways...

Moving on to Mr. Renato, this his second release after the hard to find To His Friends (from 1976) reminds me a lot, with the piano plus orchestral sounds, of the wonderful library composer Oscar Rocchi's Ladies I ripped and posted and have hugely enjoyed in the years since I bought it, which I guess makes sense, given the beauty and the sexuality of those wonderful females.
Or you could stick more to facts and say this album is similar to the earlier Emphasis work, but lighter and more libraryish.  A big difference from Rocchi is the lack of that typically Italian melancholy delicatesse.

Consider waking up Saturday Morning, in particular:

But it's clear the most amazing track has the Chris Hinze Bamboo-like magical female vocal opener, which is the aforementioned closer, B5's Hello, Mr. Acuvis:

Wow, right?  Nice stuff... should've been a hit in its time...
You can be sure we will be hearing more from this artist in the near future.

As well, it's so pleasant to have the privilege of a near mint record to listen to-- and to celebrate I'll give you guys a freshly ripped brand new lossless to enjoy.

Still looking for his first album To His Friends, from 1976, anyone have it please contact me so we can make a deal...  whether mp3 or lossless or vinyl, doesn't matter.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Tranzam's Second Funky Steps from 1976

Continuing on with Japanese music, for the moment, we return to Tranzam.

So on this record, the second in the Funky Steps franchise from this Japanese popular band we don't lose any of the funking around, the funkmeter stays turned up to max, but this time instead of tired old generic classical pieces we have tired old generic popular songs including Weill's September Song and the horrific Unchain my Heart melody (from 1961 originally).  And had I not heard the original songs, as was the case with Sound Creation, I would've enjoyed these instrumentals far far more.  (Unfortunately to have not heard the original songs, you would've had to be deaf in both ears since birth and in utero too.)  Incidentally with regards to the much better known Sound Creation, I hope all y'all realize that eventually a full copy of the album "Rock Fantasia" was made available for your consumption, partly due to popular demand...  These guys are just as good though in the virtuosity department.

It's a shame since Tranzam could have made original compositions that would've been so strong, given the originality of their arrangements, and compelling, instead of building on a bunch of old cliches in the manner of the easy listening muzak that was such a black death type plague throughout the seventies, resulting in the horrible deaths, full of pustular suffering, of possibly one third of the population of that era.  And it only ended when 'elevator music,' presumably in a decision by God, was replaced by a continuous repetition of old Beatles and other pop hits, as I've said before, which is today's huge and underestimated scourge.

As an example listen to what they do to the aforementioned chainless cardiac track:

You get a sense of how good the band is, and how unfortunate their choices are, like a really beautiful and smart girl who dates drug addict losers and breaks her poor daddy's heart...  now how about giving me her cell number, dad, and I'll see if I can straighten her out a little? Or can I take her shopping to Nordstroms for some new shoes, maybe?

After this record I've definitely had enough of these guys though, since nothing really compared or even came close in quality to the funk classics and totally original rock of the 1st and 2nd albums.
So I'll have to close the book on their discography.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Some more worthy tracks from Godiego / Mickie Yoshiko from 1976-1978

In 1976, on the debut album (excluding the prior already posted Suicide Play with Genshu) this wonderful group helmed by Mickie made a wonderful pop song called "If you are passing by," as usual, should've been a hit back in that year, and may be it was, in Japan:

A nostalgia song which is remarkable in that it doesn't reference any children or people he is going back to visit, he just wants to ensure that his childhood creek is ecologically undamaged, in the state he left it in.  Needless to say this song touches me deeply as it reminds me of the local pond I've mentioned before where I used to play every day as a child, catching huge bullfrogs, turtles and fish and insects.  When I visited last year, it had a concrete barrier put up rendering it totally off limits and a huge warning: "Keep Out! Biologically protected zone!" to make sure no child could ever enjoy it again like I did...  Yeah I'm sorry Mickie, today, if you're passing by, those pussy willows are all quite gone from songs...

Altogether a beautifully composed ditty, and as I've said before, only in the mid-70s golden age of pop could you hear something so naively beautiful.  So the first album is basic pop, with even a Beatlesian sound, altogether too generic to be of much interest.  Side b is taken over by Suite Genesis, a stitched-together suite of actually separately composed songs, which, unfortunately, is also mostly generic, except the very first passage (have a listen to that, but don't get excited as the rest of the suite is a downward spiral).

Eat from the House OST presents to us some of that classic Ceccarelli-like funk-prog sound we heard from Mickie's 1975 instalment:

I could listen to tracks like that all day, and according to my wife, I do.

Then, in 1978, no one could not enjoy the opening to the mega-hit (in Japan) Monkey Magic:

Watching the opener on youtube is beyond entertaining, have a look for laughs, as you listen to the above (same) theme song.  Those who recall from their childhood the Kung Fu style ridiculously dubbed Japanese shows in particular will love this.  I didn't then and I still don't understand today why they had to make those comical faces during the fight scenes.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Genshu Hanayagi and Mickie Yoshino / Godiego in 1975: Zan Sonezaki Shinju

I thought I would bring this one out after the Lucifer album that was so interesting, as another example of the lost music of Japan but so unexpectedly excellent.  The rarity of this release is quite astonishing (as seen on rym).  And you'll see the situation here is analogous to Yuji Ohno, who made such remarkably beautiful records early on but descended into generic soundtrack and schmaltz later.

Some basic information first derived, as usual, from The Great Google:

From an ebay vinyl description (note price of 180 usd):

GENSHU HANAYAGI is a Japanese female avant-garde dancer/actress/performer/author/feminist.
She has spent her life defying her conservative culture’s contempt for independence and unconventionality.
She denounced Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal, and dismissed death threats made against her by right-wing groups.
MUSIC by MICKY YOSHINO GROUP (almost same members as GODIEGO).

With regards to the title of the album, it's clear that it's from a Japanese play (from 1703!) called "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki."  A great title too I'm sure you'll agree, though for a somewhat confused and more than somewhat creepy story.

So because we are concerned here with the music, let's take a closer look at composer Mickie Yoshino.

Japanese popular songwriter, arranger and keyboards player. Born December 13, 1951 in Yokohama. Started playing at US bases in Japan in 1966 with a band called Midnight Express Blues Band. Joined The Golden Cups in 1968 and was a member until 1970 (and also participated in their 2004 reunion).  Studied at Berklee College of Music, graduating in 1974. Following his return to Japan that same year, he formed the Mickie Yoshino Group, which changed its name to Godiego in 1975.  He has also composed music for film, animation, and the stage.

We always recognize Berklee (in Boston) as a fantastic source of good music for those who have studied there.  What a privilege it must be to attend that famous college!  If you follow all the above links you'll see there is tons of material on the part of Mickie and his band Godiego but only one single listed on discogs for singer / talker Genshu Hanayagi.

Now let's turn our attention to the contents of this album.  It's mostly typical soundtrack material (although this is not an OST but rather a spoken play plus music work).  But here and there are stunning flashes of brilliance showing quite clearly how much Mickie learned in his salad days just off Boylston Street.  Considering this is his first LP I would go so far as to say, what I usually do say, which is that some of the compositions sound like they were writing exercises for college, because they are so intricately well thought out.

Today we will consider the tracks 4, 6, & 12, go ahead and fast forward through the Japanese talk (if possible jump to the 3:24 mark):

Clearly this recalls the soundtrack stuff from Ohno but in some ways it's better: being more 70s fusiony and smoothly sexy, which is saying a lot, because Yuji was a formidable and prolific composer as you guys may recall.  Just listen to those synths over electric guitar and rhodes piano creating an indubitably orchestral texture, I mean I just want to die when I hear it on the headphones up loud-- especially, when he changes up the synth settings midway through the track: from super-space-traveller, to intergalactic-heaven...  I just want to die......

I could listen to that track all day, and I have, to the great annoyance of my wife and kids...
And when the headphones are on and the music is turned up, you guys all know there is no wife alive who could penetrate that acoustic wall that shuts out her talking about the million terrible things that happened to her in her day...  Oops shouldn't say those things...  what was that you were saying, hon?

Luckily you don't have to fiddle too much with the fast forward button for track 6:

Again, quite a remarkable electric guitar riff augmented with scales on the synths side by side, pushing the music higher and higher as if in a jagged and rough staircase to upper hell, threatening always to tumble you down, the chromatic dissonances making you feel slightly vertiginous and off--

Track 12 reminds me a bit of our wonderful Masabumi Kikuchi (remember him?) in his beyond brilliant Hairpin Circus, but shockingly, at the 2-minute mark, the song completely changes to a formidably offputting ostinato playing ensemble, which builds in intensity to continue into a mega-crash at the end:

Really really amazing composing.
And it's also amazing how much great music we've found, and it still keeps on coming.
God bless those musical miracle workers...

Friday, 20 October 2017

Unknown Swiss progressive outfit Sisyphos in one of their many albums, Mujokan

Overall, very similar to German Iskander with the advanced, nicely rocking (up the hill and back down again ad infinitum) progressive symphonic, almost always featuring electric instruments, usually two well-tuned and loud el. guitars.  (An update on Iskander, for those who actually read my postings / rantings.  Someone mentioned in comments there exists a CD release of their masterpiece Boheme 2000, and indeed there is.  You can see that here.  This CD has bonus tracks, making up more than half an hour of extra unreleased music that is off the charts excellent progrock, and for this reason I strongly urge you guys to locate a copy and compare with the vinyl rip I (once) put there.  Really, thanks for these suggestions, sometimes, like in this case, they are right on the money!)

It's quite shocking both how prolific and therefore how underheard these guy are, to this day.
First of all look at their discography, beginning 1981, shortly thereafter crossing through into the CD world, 30 years later transitioning into the digital world and ending only a few years back with 2009's Retromania.  In total, 8 albums listed.  There's a couple of caveats here the most important being that they had an unfortunate tendency to recycle certain tracks, admittedly often good ones, and sometime changing their names, which therefore trespasses further onto the territory of annoying, like a friend you like who eats all the leftover meat-lover pizza you wanted for breakfast.  But you couldn't say no when he asked because it's not polite so instead you just complain to your wife who rolls her eyes and walks away.

There is tons of information relating to these guys online, starting with discogs:

The band Sisyphos has been playing in the same formation for more than 30 years. Their music is somehow a reminder of the progressive rock sound of the seventies as well as of classical music – spherical music but with a hard rock touch, which is transformed as rough as it is produced. 
Members: René Senn (Guitar), Boris Bühler (Drums, Vocals), Herman Peter (Bass), Peter Scheidegger (Keyboards, Vocals)

Sweet but accurate blurb, gets to the heart of the matter for sure.

On this LP the old almost 19th century style vocal composition The Language Of Acceptance (Martins Garden) is superb:

The first chord, which is added minor 6th on top of the G7 (resolving to the key of Stevie C) with its harmony vocals, just gives me chills, referencing as it does the old pop tunes I heard as a kid blasting out of the cabinet-sized radio/amp/turntables we once had, but this song is so much more than a nostalgia homage ode, as it changes through various keys and sounds, never straying from the darkness and sudden turns down strange alleys.  Keeping it together is a melody that climbs up and down like Sisyphos's rolling rock over a couple of octaves even as the song ostensibly in the genre of pop promiscuously accepts all classical influences in its chords and structures.  To me this is really a masterpiece composition, automatically making it to my top ten list of best progressive songs heard in the last year.  Hopefully you will enjoy it too.  And thank you for that, Sisyphos guys...

Now back to the discography.

I've listened to all their albums by now and can tell you that in the beginning they were almost plain hard rock with some, but few, inventive changes, always eschewing the standard rock progressions of I IV V or its inverted form of V IV I which was clicheified so badly by the Rolling Stones, but nonetheless not much prog.  As far as I remember, most of their songs were even in E or A back then, sometimes G.

But after the 80s period they had a change of heart almost and went the wrong way completely-- the right way for us-- in the direction of more prog, and in 1996, the year alternative ruled the world, they came out with an album called Moments that to me is their masterpiece for all time.   And it's really shockingly good, made more so by the fact I had never heard it, or heard of it, until quite recently.  And I thought I knew all about prog!  What about you Tom? You knew?

Virtually the same album was made into a live release shortly thereafter, and today's LP called Mujokan came next after, in 2002.  Of course it must be that these true heroes suffered from their dedication to the old school vinyl format, since I see from the info there was no CD release of this particular work.  But that doesn't matter to you guys: here it is, digital and easily consumed like baby food but with all the flavours of adult mature mastery...

Mention should also be made about the album called Exit, by 7Pines which is Sisyphos keyboardist Peter Scheidegger in a trio with even more classic progressive rock nitrogycerine blasting out all the hallmarks of the genre: odd time signatures, original chord progressions often in minor seconds, crazy unison arpeggios in fourths, fast runs of atonal 'melodies', prolifically tossed minor seconds and tritones in every song-- etc., etc.

We all need the language of acceptance, the language of our hearts...

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lucifer's Marginia, recorded 1989-1993: Another Lost Progressive Classic from Japan

Will the proggy wonders never cease?

Not if I maintain my wonderful contacts and the friends who discover these past masterpieces...  (oh how I revere and respect you...  don't ever stop the flow of musical honey... )  And I thought we had plumbed the depths of Japanese music from this era!  It seems no...  Still no end in sight to the discoveries.  We are only half way around the circumference of the world here and this ship is still rocking the waves...  and I hope I die on this exploratory voyage with no harbour ever in view...

Obviously this is similar to Mr. Sirius, Providence, and all the other symphonic-styled Japanese bands, with a bit more Renaissance-style folk thrown in.  But just listen to the endlessly gorgeous digital sound achieved in the brightly coloured Endless Green:

If there is a sight for sore eyes, then this is a hear for sore ears-- at least this fan's ears.  Unfortunately I can't say the rest of the album holds up to the standards of this song, clearly the most progressive one on the CD.

Turning our attention now to a search for more information I saw from The Great Google that oddly enough the band is not on discogs yet, and rare even on rateyourmusic (something I am always quite proud to see), but from proggnosis comes this write-up:

Lucifer is most likely unknown outside Japan however they were mostly unknown inside Japan as well. [haha! --editor] The band played between 1983 to 1994 releasing 6 albums - the first 5 as Cassettes and the last one as a CD.
All the six albums were only distributed in friends though the 6th one, Marginia was released by Marquee in 1997.

From the band's web site:

LUCIFER started as an project to create original music in August 1983. Recording was the main activity instead of forming a band to play live. Over 36 persons joined the project for 10 years from various music backgrounds such as progressive rock, classic, choral music, folk and pops. Each song as an project include several members finally created 4 cassette albums and 2 CD albums, totally 6 album with 62 songs. In the latter years, the project tend to a permanent band and the 2 CDs are with the band. Also 4 live concerts and 6 small stages such as weddings were done in that years, too.
The main concept of the band was to "Be away from stereotype thinking and genre". In that sense, a song is not a song, vocal part is not a main melody even if they were sang with lyrics. In some songs, lyrics have less meanings just to put a good sound in an vocal part as instrument combinating consonant sounds and vowel sounds to create a coined word. Latter years the songs came more un-experimental but still the lyrics remain as series of keywords to enhance the image of the sound. Thus the violin usually is the main meledy singing the songs instead of the vocals. In this reason, some songs are basically instrumental with a few vocal solo part appearing like a guitar solo.

The band aimed to express the possibility and interest of music and also to tell that technique is not indispensable if you love music and want to create something. Since the project started, some members were very good with their instruments but some were not. But still they joined and create the music together. The latter years the band had the permanent members with high technique and good sense. After 10 years, LUCIFER disbanded in 19 February, 1994 to find out another way of music. The main members of the band are now creating music as a band called KHAREZ.

More information:

Reviewed by Hideki on 09 Feb 2005

Lucifer left 6 albums however almost of them are hardly to find. Their last album, Marginia, which is considered their best work is the only work easily to obtain for reasons of circulation.
In celebrattion of the wedding between band members Yamashita Chiako and Shinyashiki Noboru, Marginia was released in 1993. The band at that time consisting of 12 performers, 7 males (Kataoka Hideo,Tachibana,Ishikawa Shinichiro,Shinyashiki,Kooriyama,Nanjo,Furukawa) and 5 women (Furudate ,Ishikawa Yumi,Kataoka Itsuko,Imai ,Yamashita) but there is no single song played by all 12 persons on a track.

If you can imagine Renaissance, Mike Oldfield and Malicorne, you are choosing music that is close in many ways to Lucifer who had a musical style thaty is hardly to be found in Japan. Lucifer play progressive folk rock which is sometimes produced in Western Europe and they add a little of Japanese flavor.

I cannot say that any other bands fit with this one like two peas in a pod. You can feel some flavor of referencial groups (such as Renaissance) in Marginia, but please don't expect an intense resemblance between them. Being formed by hobby rather than as a job, Lucifer are fertile in originality. Though they elaborately produced Marginia, I sense amateurishness in some parts for example when compared to major label albums, you can detect a weakness for arrangement. This quality is in fact a strength - not a weakness and I don't mind it, I love it. If Marginia were released from major label, I don't think it would not maintain this freshness or naivety. Whereas they may gain stability on the surface and in the details - with a major label treatment they would probably lose heartwarming handmade creativity that make this album stand out.  Tracks 5, 6, 12, 13 and 14 are sung in Japanese. The remaining songs are sung in English. Although tracks 12, 13, and 14 are bonus,they are one of noticeable points in this CD.

A band worth pursuing further, given the above.
Did I say we plumbed the depths of Japanese music?  Not when there are 6 more releases from these guys to be archaeologically unearthed and brought back into the light...

Monday, 16 October 2017

Heinz Sauer Quartet's Isolation Row from 1978

Another wishlist rarity bites the dust...  although not all that expensive, unlike for example German Nimbus.

Those were the days when they cared about cover art, what is usually treated as a joke or afterthought today.  The photo is not so much to speak of but really drags my eyes back over and again due to its unusual but pleasantly mysterious composition. Information on this album which is your basic avant-garde acoustic/slightly electrified jazz-fusion quartet jazz along the lines of Herbert Joos (but not as good, mind you) or his band Part of Art that I loved so much, is in the database here.

The quartet comprises:

Bob Degen: piano
Joe Nay: drums
Adelhard Roidinger: bass
Heinz Sauer: tenor sax

Remember Roidinger? He was in Austria Drei here before and the ECM Schattseite, but clearly his most successful achievement is the computer jazz project (posted in the former's comments section).

Here's a track with the highly ECMish title called "Phrenie's Window Dance:"

I suppose the next album, Metal Blossoms, by Sauer from 1984 looks interesting, anyone know anything?

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Here it is: Peabody College Part Two, 1970-- the "Waxidermy Record"

Peabody College and Vanderbilt University – The Contemporary College Wind Ensemble
Added November 2, 2008 by cracker.

This was one of the first school band records I ever bought. I’d heard *of* Vanderbilt University, but never realized it was in Nashville. Hmm, Nashville… strange then to find this tantalizing blurb on the back:

“This album is a new departure in wind ensemble programming. Leading Nashville composers and arrangers have bridged many musical styles and periods to produce a kaleidoscopic survey of the possibilities of wind instrumentation. From Carmina Burana to MacArthur Park, from conventional sounds to the complex multi-ensemble (with moog synthesizer) of Irving Kane’s Fourth Stream, this performance demonstrates the expressive possibilities inherent in the wind ensemble. The instrumentation of the group featured on this recording is that of the traditional wind, jazz and rock ensembles together with harpsichord and electronic tape.”

Tucked inside the sleeve there was a program for “CENTURIES of SOUND from BACH to ROCK” dated Tuesday, April 28, 1970, and this record contains excerpts from the night’s performances. I was kinda bummed that some of the titles listed on the program didn’t make it onto the record… namely an electronic work from Gilbert Trythall, and a BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS cover!

Fortunately the other interesting sounding piece made it onto the record, FOURTH STREAM by Irving Kane. As it turns out, Irving Kane was a local Nashville studio musician and composer. He describes the piece in the program, “Pop music, “serious music, (quotes indicate dissatisfaction with terminology)– the dichotomy preoccupies me; how to love and do both. This piece seems to be an attempt to explicate a dilemma.”

Fourth Stream takes up most of one side of the LP, so I’ve included two 5 minute excerpts of the entire 15 minute performance. Enjoy!

Enjoy Indeed!  For today you can listen to the entire record...

I won't bother to analyze the famous Fourth Stream track, suffice it to say it's really a remarkably adept composition mixing classical and jazz, absolutely stuffed full with great ideas in both genres.

A1 Carmina Burana by Carl Orff but arranged by--?
O Fortune, Variable as the World
Fortune, Empress of the World
A2 Fourth Stream by Irving Kane
B1 Jim Webb Songs for Instruments by Jay Dawson
B2 This is All I Ask by Gordon Jenkins, arranged by Ned Battista.

Incidentally George Benson did an inimitable, unforgettably amazing version of that last song (as he did with so many others), and you can hear it here (youtube).  Pay attention to the lyrics-- the old man is leering at a young female, after playing in a park with a stranger's children, and today, of course, we get arrested if we foolishly attempt such things...
oh the innocence of bygone days! the wisdom of ours!

It ends:

But let the music play, for as long as there's a song to sing, 
I will stay younger than spring...

And that just about says it all for us here doesn't it?

Again form the back blurb:

“Pop music, 'serious music,' (quotes indicate dissatisfaction with terminology)– the dichotomy preoccupies me; how to love and do both. This piece seems to be an attempt to explicate a dilemma.”

How to love and do both...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

David Tate's lovely Love Will Have Its Way from 1981

Wow! look at those great pants on the back!!  Let's hope they never return to the fashion world... and hopefully neither does the gay pose...

Always unusual to find a record not even entered into discogs yet.  In fact, a google search only turns up the popsike entry for a shockingly low-priced LP of 27 USD.  There, the (promotional) note says the following:

Private press from 1981 on Lion Records out of Santa Barbara. Gorgeous, dreamy production with some subtle, Xian-themed lyrics. Certainly a candidate for the "Wall of Soft". The epic 14 minute "Lion" is well worth sitting through... etc.

For sure the leonine track is the best one here, with the remainder actually falling a little short of our very high standards in these pages.  It reminds me of such acoustic ssw stuff with value-added strings as Roberto Picchi, Robert Genco, the recent Ullu my friend discovered to my delight and hopefully others, Olivier Bloch-Laine, the wonderful first LP of Colin Blunstone, etc., etc.

And note the 1980s smoothness to it all.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Rhythmus Arp Ensemble, from 1983 (composed in 1975-6)

The first track gives you a nice taste of this undeservedly unknown gem:

Check out the terrifyingly chromatic dissonant atmosphere we get here, so much more adventurous than typical minimal music which is sometimes an ejecta of notes in the key of C (hey composer don't bother using up too much music notation paper here, you're just re-using the same 5 stupid notes bro), the most ludicrous key to compose in, equally accessible in fact to my 8 year old son in his pianistic explorations.  Note how later in the piece the percussive pounding leads to sustained operatically sung notes without leaving the minor seconds behind, and therefore interest, thankfully.  In fact the inappropriateness of the notes she is singing on top of what sounds to me like an E minor chord is remarkable. But it works, as usual when we are dealing with genius-level composition.  Even as classical music this achieves a very high satisfaction level for me because of the addition of the electric keyboard which provides that fireside-like warmth always lacking in the genre.

Because of the name one might conclude that there are Arps as artists here.  You can see on discogs the information relating to this.  In fact there are two: Professor Jochen Arp plays saxes, flute and clarinet normally, on this record only credited with the latter 2 of 3.  On the other hand, compositions and keyboards both are handled by presumed younger brother (born 1950) Klaus Arp, who was also conductor and professor.  What a shame they didn't make more records as their dynamic here is just exceptional.  It's obvious from the first listen (and to the last one too) that we are dealing with a Terry Riley influence hybridized with more electric keyboard fusion like recent Dane Finn Savery.  Or, taking away the guitar and more fusionary outpourings, you could say this sounds like Soft Machine 3's Out-Bloody-Rageous by Ratledge, of course, while strolling down Terry Riley Avenue.  With the addition of chamber instrumentation.  And let's not forget the wiener schniztel.  And potato salad, luckily this time with mayo.

Notice that the compositions are from the period 1975-1976, which explains a lot.  How I wish they had made more, these 2 Arps...  Anyways, it's fantastic music, and there's not much more to add to that.