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.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Lux Orchester also Germany 1984

Too bad these guys only made one record.

It's from 1984 Germany, so for that nation, we can still expect some progressive sounds as we have shown time and again in these pages.  What this is though is a mix of fusion and big band, including some complex articulate and intellectual jazz passages, like the famous Herbert Joos from before, but with the big band arrangements, like Noctett.  Less of the fusion importation than Klaus Lenz.   Anyways you get the idea.  The smoothness of the biggy banding is apparent on the best track which is called Arie Semim:

Love how in the intro the cello, played bowed, introduces a counterpoint melody after the trumpet ditty as the band escalates an ascending chord progression to kick start the tune, as if it's being charged up to rev on out down the autobahn of musical dreams.  Brilliance.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

More (a lot more) from Andrei Eshpai

Information here.  This is 3 CDs of his oeuvre, with all the old songs we've heard innumerable times before, like the Prelude and Don't Remember.

It was a bit of a surprise I guess to find out that Russia under Putin would still use tapes in hotel rooms of prostitutes to compromise important men (although apparently Russian hookers are the 'best in the world').  (What about impt women, like Merkel? Presumably untemptable?)  It just seems like such a passe, cold war tactic, I mean, even in 1994 Marion Barry was reelected after a crack-hooker tape, and after spending time in jail (23 years ago already!).

[Btw for those curious (like me yesterday) about the golden showers appellation of that dossier-- I mean whether or not it really involves that well-known perversion--  I was reading that one of the hookers pees on Obama's bed, and possibly there is nothing more to it than that (involving Trump).  Or hopefully nothing more, I should say.  Good title though, since so weird/insulting.  Reminder to myself: watch From Russia with Love again.  My favourite when I was a kid.]

My question is, has Putin never heard of Toronto mayor Rob Ford?  He survived a far worse scandal-- I doubt the Trump tape could be as bad.

In any case the parallels between the two men and their careers are eerie, and educational, not necessarily just because of their similar personalities but because of the way in which they were popularized and unexpectedly elected by a minority of people, in reality the same minority: non-college-educated middle-aged white males, who mostly having grown up in a milieu in which snarky rebellion is cool, loved the uncouth and unintellectual middle finger attitude of a guy like them.  So my prediction is that Trump will follow along the same lines as Rob Ford.  We can learn from the latter to see how the former's career will play out.

Even early into Rob's mayoralty, after agreeing with most of his crazy political antics (partly due to his bullying) the city council decided he was too unhinged to follow and began to shut down his powers by siding against him.  We can very confidently predict the same will happen to Trump.  Towards the end of it, they actually took away all his powers to render him a figurehead to minimize the damage.  (Except for a couple of sycophant councillors-- and this is so predictable-- who stuck by him as if they were desperate every day to get their oral cavity on to his testicles.)

Half way through though that notorious crack tape surfaced, and his supporters refused to believe it existed, or if it did, that it really showed crack-smoking, or if it did show crack, that it didn't mean he was a bad man.  (Showing you the intellectual faculties of his supporters.)  But the important thing for us is that it didn't damage his reputation overall, among the majority.  So my guess is that there are tapes of Trump too, which might eventually surface, most likely because they are being used as blackmail by the Russians and will therefore have to be released because Trump refuses to (or is unable to) for ex., lift those financial sanctions and to demonstrate vigorously (presumably to others) that their threats are not idle.

But come on, maybe the Russians don't, but we in the West live in a completely different world now where such a thing might well be laughed at-- look at the earlier Bush tapes.  Maybe Donald is personally afraid of being humiliated, but he can rest easy there.  For sure Trump's supporters will defend him more vigorously than ever, like Ford's did by saying look what a regular guy he is...  yeah, like we all smoke crack with a bunch of black dealers and down a bottle of vodka every sunday afternoon...  sure...  My one and only political contribution ever I like to say was to donate 100 dollars to the gawker campaign to buy the Rob Ford crack tape back when news of it first surfaced...  Today you can watch it for yourself on youtube, it's interesting in a very very depressing way, mainly to compare with your mental image of what it might have looked like.  Those who questioned whether he was really smoking crack will certainly shut up: there's absolutely no doubt about it.  Watching it today I feel again that profound sadness that makes me stop halfway through, I can't see it through to the end, despite having once paid for the right to see it...

Hopefully everyone knows what happened to Rob in the end: before even his 4 years ended he was diagnosed with a highly dangerous and rare cancer called liposarcoma which was treated but eventually killed him within 2 years at the age of 47, but young death is a common end for drug addict-alcoholics.  Today his hardcore supporters are willing to back his brother for mayor of Toronto, having never forgotten the wonderful late hero they loved so profoundly.  But the rest have moved on, and in a sense, become immunized against a repeat of this particular virulent infection.  At least locally.

So what do we predict for Trump?
--There are tapes, they will be released eventually (it took 3 years for Rob Ford) but they won't damage his reputation.
--His supporters will back him through thick and thin as if this was a crazy cult, which it is, and he is their saviour.
--The rest of government will try frantically to limit his powers to restrain the damage he can cause (e.g. start a nuclear war).
--His agenda and plans and all his energy in fact will be constantly tied up in fighting with other politicians, mostly because he doesn't understand how to work with other human beings.
--Purely speculative: some medical condition will stop him in his tracks, or at least, give him a face-saving way to resign with pride and dignity and lead to the majority suddenly switching from attack to sympathy....
--His family will try to continue the dynasty (either Ivanka or Jared, obviously, though I could see a huge internal power struggle there between Donald Junior and Jared, perhaps settled in favour of the ridiculous cosmetic surgery-addicted barbie girl?)  Imagine for a second Ivanka as presidential candidate.  For example running against Hillary.  Is this a joke??? 
--The next president will be a middle of the road, highly generic, sensible and boring, pragmatic leader who will promise never to create any drama...  and the American people, like Toronto, will hopefully be immunized against this kind of nasty craziness...

If we look at the bigger picture I think that a great deal of compassion is due here, because the good-hearted and almost naive nature of Americans has made them ripe for a demagogue-- mostly due to the newness, unexpectedness of the situation, the innocence of the people, and the beauty of the promises... And it was easy to be taken advantage of by Putin for the same reasons, to be honest, who would have expected such cold war tactics the world had left behind 30 years ago?  an entire generation has grown up susceptible, like people never immunized against measles who can now catch it due to immune naivete.  But this, after a slight fever, will give them antibodies so it doesn't happen again, if not in the frontal cortices of people, at least, institutionally (e.g. protecting later elections against interference).  Personally, I have faith in the American people.  I love them, sorry, I mean, all y'all, and I love the great US of A.  God bless--....

Obviously, since CD, link will be taken down soon.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The early years of the Paul Winter Consort from 1968 to 1972's Icarus

Well how many times have I had to admit in the past few years to being shocked at discovering an artist I never even knew existed that seemed just custom made for me.  When I was researching a song I had heard called Wolf Eyes, which has the most stunningly perfect musical description of a wolf that could ever be achieved (track appears below), I found from the discography that a bunch of earlier albums seemed to be of high interest.  The (Ralph Towner) composition Icarus in particular I know was covered by quite a few other artists, so it was familiar to me.

Let's start with the official bio:

Paul Winter (born August 31, 1939 in Altoona, Pennsylvania) is an American saxophonist (alto and soprano saxophone), and is a seven-time Grammy Award winner. He is the son of violinist Paul Winter.   At Northwestern University in Chicago, Winter formed The Paul Winter Sextet. In 1961 the group won the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival and was signed by Columbia Records. The Sextet recorded a total of five albums in the early and mid 1960s and were among the first to blend Brazilian bossa nova and folk music with their jazz. In 1962 the band toured Latin America as cultural ambassadors for the United States State Department, playing 160 concerts in 23 countries. The Sextet was also the first jazz band to perform at the White House...

Winter formed a new group, The Winter Consort, in 1967. They were signed by A&M Records and released their first, self-titled album the following year. Since then Winter has released a long string of successful albums blending jazz, folk, world and new age music with the Consort, as a solo artist, or in collaboration with various members of the Consort. The Consort's 1972 release, "Icarus", was produced by George Martin and remains one of their best known and most recognized works. In 1980 Winter started his own Living Music label, which has released his works and the works of many musicians who have been associated with him. Around that time his group was renamed The Paul Winter Consort.

Note the involvement of George Martin in what is inarguably his masterpiece, 1972's Icarus.  If you look at the details of that one here, you can see quite a few compositions are from Ralph Towner.  Which explains a lot, doesn't it?  But let's start at the beginning and then move on to the middle, as Lewis Carroll used to say.

The first album starts off with a bang, with its mix of chamber music, classical composition (like Oregon as usual) mixed with acoustic ethnic elements, guitars, strings, and saxes.  Some stunning compositions appear early on, like the Choral Dorien (not clear who composer is).  Unfortunately the second release, Something in the Wind, from 1969, is marred by quite a few 'karaoke' cover versions of pop songs (e.g. the horrific Mr. Bojangles-- someone please stop his jangling) but here and there appear the shiniest pearls, like a Charles Ives composition called The Indians.  I don't think I could offhand name another rock/fusion/jazz record that has Ch. Ives on it, and usually that's a good thing.  But here, his appearance is a sublime thing, with the chamber instrumentation which I think includes a graceful flute plus varied reeds absolutely raining beautiful music from heaven on down.

But by 1970 we get to masterpiece level material, with The Road and the aforementioned Icarus.  Here I get the same feeling as back when we found the Evergreen State records just over two years ago (does everyone still remember those?)-- an embarrassment of beautiful riches.  Endless great arrangement, interesting tonalities and textures, unusual solos from oboes or clarinets, dramatic phrases, build-ups to spiritual joy, and, because the basis for most of the songs is acoustic guitar plus bass and drums, everything has that warm rooted in rock feeling to it.  And, setting aside George Martin, look at the group of musicians on Icarus: Colin Walcott, Ralph of course, Paul McCandless-- ridiculous, right?

So, shock number one.  There is a vocals track (the only one), called Silence of the Candle, shock number two, it was written (and is sung) by Towner.  On youtube.  Needless to say it's just gorgeous. (Edited: Usual comments, about how come this song isn't played on the radio, instead of the usual, bla bla bla.)

Today my sample is another Towner track, called Chehalis and Other Voices:

Because it's so perfectly written, with the shocking, very Towneresque, guitar intro, with the woodwind arrangement introducing the chords, with a harp fiddling about in the right channel, the strings appearing like Nazaruk's forest awakens, throughout, the textures are just endlessly interesting, and the guitar never escapes its atonal speech, which is incomprehensibly perfectly listenable.  Did I say interesting?  I meant ridiculous-- in terms of the complexity of its beauty, as if Van Gogh was Einstein, or vice-versa.  Just that song alone was worth the price of admission to this LP (which was free btw) but the entire thing is made up of similar stuff.  I for sure had respect for Towner in the past, but it's doubled now, thanks to these Paul Winter releases.

After Icarus though, the Consort just disappeared, with Paul himself not reappearing until 6 years later with much much less complex music, in keeping with our progression deeper into the 70s.  (Anyone know what happened in the intervening years?)

So I found out it was the album Common Ground (which overall is uncomfortably close to that nasty incense stink of new age) that had my favourite lupine song, 1978's Wolf Eyes:

This song is amazing on so many levels, if you've ever heard the howling of a wolf in real life.  The melancholy sound of it, the way the (?) English horn with mute plays it so realistically, later using the howl to create an actual melody, the assistance of the cellos and strings in evoking the feeling of a lonely wintery snow-covered landscape, it's so absolutely perfect.  How does music, as something so abstract, really, rooted in math, create such intense emotion?  To me that's the real magic of it, we can easily understand the emotion in poetry, in novels, drama, visual arts, but in music it's so utterly mysterious.  Note that composition is credited to Paul Winter, David Darling (wrote other songs on others of these records), and a wolf, Timber Wolf.  Thanks wolf.

But don't be disappointed with the new age, listen to the whole album, because there are still several tracks worth hearing, including this remarkable vocal song called Lay Down Your Burden (composed by the team of  Colleen Crangle, Marilyn Wetzler, & Susan Osborn) which, again approaches new-ageyness but never quite falls into its torturing and slow motion deadly quicksand:

Now let's try to swim very slowly to escape that awful quicksand-- oh no, we moved too fast, we're sinking, we're sinking, help, help!!  someone please throw us a rope just like on Get Smart... agent 99? where are you?

And that's it.  After this one, the remainder of the LPs, and there were incredibly many of them, don't have a whole lot of flotation devices for the progressive fan to cling on to.

But boy was that a wonderful decade for Paul Winter and his Consort-- music at its finest, in its finest hour.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Georg Haentzschel Film Music from 1980

The first track on side b appeared earlier in the 1981 MPS Variation album I put here.  And, because it was the best thing in the whole of the MPS series I've heard, I made the mistake of buying this LP which didn't turn out to have much more of interest, surprisingly, since these old soundtrack compositions can sometimes be quite listenable.

Full information is here.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Tranzam Pt 3: OST from 1976

So this is an OST and purely instrumental and illustrates, I suppose, my friend's words on the subject of the deterioration of this band from the huge funky heights of their first followed by the brilliant rock of the ST-- even though only 2 years had passed.

I didn't bother posting a sample, it's really simple seventies fusion in general, not as bad as some of the worst libraries I've posted here though.  Given this is a bit of a dud I'll post another album tomorrow.  It' ll be a dud too.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Tranzam Pt 2, August 9th: 1975

Sadly this album, although shortly temporally after, doesn't quite hit the heights of the previous installment, the ST album, but perhaps this track (Rose-Coloured Days) comes close:

Or perhaps not.  You can decide now.

Quick addendum from my friend:

 Tranzam started in 1974 with the ex-members of Flower Travelin Band  & The Happenings Four.
 This 1st album is very rare (never released as CD).   They formed this band to create original Japanese rock in Japanese language . But after releasing this 1st album, they faced a huge wall and some original members left this band (only Chito Kawachi remained as original member).
 But the band continued until 1981 and released a lot of hit pop singles.

Didn't know that connection, there's one for Tom Hayes... he should be pretty sad right about now he stopped collectin' them rarities... well I guess lucky for us there's one fewer person in the competition.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Transfusion Cat Call from Germany 1984

I was reminded of this one after listening to all that violin fusion.  The band, highly proficient, unfortunately never made another album.  The primary composer was Matz Claus, who also doesn't appear much further.  Matthias Buck is the brilliant violinist, again with relatively little to his credit.
Highly recommended though, and with not so much 80s influence as one would expect in the George Orwell year.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Gerardo Bátiz ‎En Concierto 1985, finally

I posted most of his material in the past, from Cristal, Isla, Arlequin, to Azul con Leche, and this one was missing.  Technically it's the album that came after what is certainly his masterpiece, Arlequin, which really should also stand as, in general, a masterpiece of the whole genre of chamber (classical) progressive fusion no matter where you are who you are or what species you may happen to belong to.  Needless to state we have a slight diminution in creative conflagration by this time, perhaps the track called Oasis most recalls the earlier brilliance of his undeniable genius:

But again the commercial devil in the left ear whispering money, success, power, seems to have overpowered the angel of uncompromising beauty in the right ear, with an onslaught of latin by-the-numbers tracks including steel drums on the Trinidadian entry...  a bit too bad.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Don Sebesky does classical music in 1979

I knew him from the 2-LP fusion masterpiece Giant Box and was surprised I never listened to this one before since it's right up my alley, more than that, it's the very alley I made my home in, for many years, under a cardboard shack.

On Giant Box, the song about flying with vocals by Don pretending he's Chet Baker, and doing a convincing job of it at that, is simply stunning:

In fact, the whole record for me is an exemplar of great progressive fusion.  Those were certainly the days...
Then, after a disappointing "Rape of El Morro," in 1979 Sebesky made this beautiful classical-jazz 'third stream' type record.

The Rite of Spring, a piece of music I could never get tired of hearing:

How wonderful to hear what the warmth of jazz piano can bring to the cold chemical sterility of classical composition!

The full information for these arrangement / compositions can be found here.  Notice they are amalgams of Bartok, Stravinsky (obviously) and Bach, written by Sebesky.  The long symphonic work based on Bartok has the impressive full title of "Bird And Belá In B Flat - A Musical Account Of An Imaginary Meeting Between Charlie "Bird" Parker And Belá Bartók In The Form Of A Concerto For Jazz Quintet And Orchestra In B Flat."  Wow.  Yes indeed those were the days.
For those who are interested, few as they are, the orchestra is the (London) Royal Philharmonic directed by one Harry Rabinowitz.

The album closes out with one of those incredibly beautiful 70s melodies, the kind of melody one can only hear from this period in fact, pensively melancholy and classically gentle, like Colombier's Emmanuel:

You can see that it's credited to co-composers Sebesky and Bach.  I don't remember which composition it is by Johann Sebastian but I remember playing it once long ago on the piano.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Stunning Japanese band Tranzam, Pt 1

You can see that these guys, currently unknown, were highly prolific in the 70s, starting from funky rock reinterpretations of classical music favourites a la Sound Creation (but superior in my opinion) in their debut called Funky Steps and a brilliant pop-rock-progressive self-titled record for number two, which are the 2 presented today.  Gotta dig the cover photo with the dark cloudy backdrop on the bottom album.

So, from the first record, a stunningly performed excerpt from tired old classic Peer Gynt:

Mellotron fans will jump out of their seats or perhaps wheelchairs when they listen to this one: these boys actually use the heaven-sent mello for their string section on top of the funkiest possible rendition of this classical trash.  It doesn't get any better than this folks.  Except when they returned the next year for a ST record.

So on this second album there is tons of good material that overall reminds me a lot of the School Band.  Obviously the Japanese were not just excellent at progressive fusion but could do original progressive pop seventies songwriting absolutely perfectly.  The fact that this enjoyable material was totally shut out of FM radio in that time period is tragic to say the least, the fact it's completely unknown today on for example satellite radio, is criminal.

Listen to Mr. Minomushi:

Let's see, what is it that makes this track an absolute top-40 stunner? There's the lovely guitar solo intro, the funkiness of the choppy electric piano sound, combined with slapped electric guitar, the refrain that goes 'oh-oh' (perhaps too similar to the Rolling Stones' Can't You Hear me Knocking?) the sheer grooviness of it all, the progression from seemingly talking to high-pitched chorus on the fourth chord above (i.e. key of A), the two breaks in the song-- to me, these are all ingredients of a successful pop song.  What can I say, other than that it breaks the heart to think the human population has missed this kind of genius for so many years.  And obviously will continue to do so.

I think personally this is the best track, but there's at least a handful more that are quite delectable.  Let's keep those Japanese lost rarities coming because boy do they ever beat the old tired garbage they play every day on the radio at my workplace... 'cuz she's buying a stairway to heaven...
And many thanks to my friends for helping to discover this one!!  I bow before you....

Interested note from my friend:

 Tranzam started in 1974 with the ex-members of Flower Travelin Band  & The Happenings Four.
 This 1st album is very rare (never released as CD)
 They formed this band to create original Japanese rock in Japanese language .
 But after releasing this 1st album, they faced the huge wall and some original members left this band,(only Chito Kawachi remained as the original member)
 But the band continued until 1981 and released a lot of hit pop singles.

Monday, 18 September 2017

More MPS variation in 1978

More from this variety act, with some more disappointing jazz numbers this time on side 2, the usual organ music on side one and a nice piece by Rachmaninoff, a sonata for piano and cello, which for me was the highlight.

The full-on contents

A1 Kurt Rapf: Großer Gott, Wir Loben Dich, Nr. 10 Aus "Kleine Choralvorspiele Nach Den Gebräuchlichsten Choralen, Op. 135a
Composed By – Max Reger
Organ – Kurt Rapf

A2 Kurt Rapf: Introduktion Und Fuge, 3. Satz Aus "2. Sonate D-moll, Op. 60"
Composed By – Max Reger
Organ – Kurt Rapf

A3 Ludwig Hoelscher, Kurt Rapf: Andante, 3. Satz Aus "Sonate Pour Piano Et Violoncelle, Op. 19"
Cello – Ludwig Hoelscher
Composed By – Sergej Rachmaninoff

Suite Für Flöte Und Orchester:

A4.1 –Symphonie-Orchester Kurt Graunke*, Franz Grothe 1. Satz
Composed By, Conductor – Franz Grothe
Orchestra – Symphonie-Orchester Kurt Graunke*
A4.2 –Symphonie-Orchester Kurt Graunke*, Franz Grothe 2. Satz
Composed By, Conductor – Franz Grothe
Orchestra – Symphonie-Orchester Kurt Graunke*
A4.3 –Das Große Orchester Willi Stech*, Willi Stech 3. Satz
Composed By – Franz Grothe
Conductor – Willi Stech
Orchestra – Das Große Orchester Willi Stech*

B1 Supersax: Oop Bop Sh'Bam
Written-By – Parker*, Gillespie*

B2 Milt Buckner: Locked Hands For Hans
Bass – J.A. Rettenbacher
Written-By, Drums – Kenny Clare
Written-By, Piano – Milt Buckner

B3 Alphonse Mouzon: Master Funk
Electric Bass – Welton Gite
Keyboards – Stu Goldberg
Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone – Gary Bartz
Written-By, Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Keyboards – Alphonse Mouzon

B4 The Singers Unlimited And The Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet: Honeysuckle Rose
Written-By – Razaf*, Waller*

B5 Art Van Damme Quintet: Misty
Written-By – Garner

B6 George Shearing: The Party Is Over
Bass – Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen
Guitar – Louis Stewart
Piano – George Shearing
Written-By – Green/Comden*, Styne

Too bad about Roger Kellaway's contribution here, he was a masterful genius, serene and deeply philosophical, on the two albums Cello Quartet (1971) and Come to the Meadow (1974).  Then when I bought and ripped the 1972 album Center of the Circle I was shocked at how irredeemably bad it was and gave up on him.  Of course, as we know, it's the pressure of commercial success that causes these artistic lapses, it's not in any way his fault, nor is he to blame at all previously for writing music especially in the first mentioned album of a delicacy and beauty that is impossible to appreciate for most of humanity...
This MPS comp did remind me though of (drummer) Alphonse Mouzon, of course another fusion star of the seventies worth exploring fully.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Review of another violinist: the great Didier Lockwood, with his relatively unknown album from 1978: Thank You Friends

We covered David Rose long ago, Zbiggy Seifert more recently, Zippy Reinhardt less recently, and here we are now with Lockwood.  There is also the slightly  lesser known French violinist Michel Ripoche who was covered extensively in the prognotfrog days of the paleozoic.

When I was desperate to hear Lockwood's New World again recently (to restore the masterpieces to my fixed ipod) I saw to my dismay there was an item in his oeuvre outstanding from 1978, namely this one he made in collaboration with the great Francois Cahen (who I just read passed away in 2011).  Everyone knows with whom he played, right?

Consider the dreamy atmospherics of Reves de Musique:

And then consider the fact that it's representative of the entirety of this wonderful LP filled with long and well-thought-out tracks and advanced composition.

For ages my favourite piece from Lockwood has been La manufacture du sucre englouti:

It's so beautiful it's like magic.  With (co-composer) Gordon Beck on piano, starting off by channeling Bill Evans obviously but moving on to create an amazing amalgam of classical Ravel and the tenderest jazz piano.  Those were the days, right?  (I'm not sure wherefrom the curious title derives, it means The manufacture of submerged sugar).

I didn't include the 1981 Fusion which is good but well-distributed online, but I did the next year's Fasten Seatbelts, which despite a couple of tracks is mostly disappointing.  Having said that, listen to his ingenious musical exploration of the largest blood vessel, the Aorta:

Btw reviewing Lockwood reminded me of the Catherine - Escoude - Lockwood trio album from here.  For those with better memories than myself, Didier also appeared (with Escoude) on the amazing String Summit record that featured Wolfgang Dauner.  And I should mention his brother the keyboardist Francis who also made some great fusion records back in the day, including Debbi.

So who's the best of the fusion violinists?  The overpopular Jean-Luc Ponty, David Rose, Reinhardt, Zbiggy Seifert, Michel Ripoche, or our current feature?  In all honesty the best single album is Seifert's Passion, but as a whole, Lockwood had the most amazing work, especially when you listen to Surya and the way it flows together so beautifully from start to finish.