Friday, February 26, 2010

WATIV and NOLA's "Open Ears" Music Series

The weekly Open Ears series of (adventurous) improvised music events has been exposing New Orleans’s residents and visitors to the lively local creative scene (and important visiting musicians) for several years now. It happens every Tuesday night at NOLA’s The Blue Nile. Admission is a voluntary contribution and one or two groups hold forth in an evening’s worth of music. One of the founder-curators, the ever-musically profound trombonist and bandleader Jeff Albert can often be a part of what’s happening on any given night. Many of the evenings are digitally captured and can be enjoyed via a free Creative Commons download at the site

Since I have not been able to get down to NOLA (or anywhere else much lately) I have contented myself to following as best I can via these downloads.

One such offering features some local adepts in a night of electric improvisation, in a style that incorporates some free improvisation as well as more structured compositional elements, and they do it well.

The band is called WATIV. They were captured on the night of this past January 5th. WATIV consists of Will Thompson, keyboard, Chris Alford, electric guitar, James Singleton on the bass, and Simon Lott, drums. I believe they have at least one album out and based on this performance, I imagine it is good listening.

The music ranges from intricate, driving electric ensemble pieces, vibrant guitar and keyboard work, quieter meditative grooves and flat-out free-form collectivity. It comes squarely down in the “good music” camp and is quite worthy of your ears. Take a listen and by all means get over there to the Blue Nile on a Tuesday night if you are in the area.

A Flaming Lips EP

Originally posted on October 27, 2008

The Flaming Lips and their Yoshi were mentioned earlier in this blog. I still feel that the group's main thrust is the adolescent shtick. Pop-rock for the pre-teen and teen folks. On the other hand, a car commercial was running this summer with “Do You Realize” as the theme song. Now sometimes I search Madison Avenue for deep meanings when there aren’t supposed to be any. Why that song? Probably somebody said, “We need to license a hit that would be nostalgic for x year olds.” Or maybe they just needed familiar music. At any rate the car in question and the song did not seem to fit. We’re all gonna die and some nymphet has beautiful eyes. Fine. Buy that car and you’ll be happy like a 13 year old on a first date. Then you'll die. Is that it?

I now listen to the EP that followed YoshiEgo Tripping at the Gates of Hell (Warner Brothers). It has two remixes of “Ego Tripping” and a version of “Do You Realize” with some beats. There’s a heavy synthesizer component to these mixes, and I guess you could dance to most of it. There are also new tracks. “A Change at Christmas” has nice sentiments and could fit in with your holiday listening if you need some new things to add to your festivities mix. OK, Flaming Lips have some memorable melodic hooks and I can’t say that I dislike the stuff. Seems like music one outgrows though. . . or looks back to fondly as associated with youthful activities. Tomorrow we grow up. . . or we have already. No choice there. Signing off with a Dixon number two pencil.

Crosby, Sills, Nash and Young: It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Originally posted on October 24, 2008

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have returned. Their new CD “Déjà Vu Live” (Reprise) corresponds with a movie of the same title. I can’t speak for the latter, but the CD is in essence a logical follow through from Neil Young’s recent Living with War album. The CSNY features a few of the old hits but mostly Neil Young’s politically anti-war, sick-of-Bush anthems. It took a bit of courage to come out with Living with War when Young did. Now the sentiments seem more mainstream to America, judging from opinion polls.

A version here of the old Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” sounds as contemporary and as relevant as ever. The new songs will appeal to those inclined—not exactly music for McCain supporters. The harmonies can be a little rough around the edges (it’s live and they don’t have the advantage of a studio situation to get everything perfect), the guitar work what you’d expect from them, and that’s fine.

I’m not going to say anything against this record. It’s nice to have them playing together again and nice to hear people taking a stand for what they believe. We need that badly. The Constitution guarantees it. Get yourself a guitar or strap on your old one and write your own anthems, please. We will all be enriched.

Good Mainstream Jazz From Bassist Ruslan Khain

Originally posted on October 23, 2008

Another day in the world and this morning I am listening to a new Jazz CD by bassist Ruslan Khain called For Medicinal Purposes Only (Smalls). Now if you've never heard of this guy, not to worry. He is not a huge name in the jazz world. Judging from this music, though, he can play, group together a very good batch of players and write some very appropriate numbers in the hard bop style.

The tenor saxophone man is Chris Byers, and along with trumpeter Yoshi Okazaki and pianist Richard Clemens, there are some very good soloists. Drummer Phil Stewart keeps the flames high with a good grooving approach to jazz time. It’s another one of those solid releases from Smalls Records. Anyone who wants to know what mainstream jazz today is all about would get the idea with Ruslan Khain’s album. Good stuff, well played.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will Staind Leave Its Mark?

Originally posted on October 22, 2008

When a band sells millions of CDs, that implies a certain acceptance on the part of the music public. So what’s the point of a review here? I speak of Staind. I am just getting around to their Chapter 5 album (Atlantic) and I know there’s a new one. I received the deluxe edition of the 2005 release, which contains extra cuts and an entertaining DVD covering the making of the album and live footage. It’s no secret that CDs of this sort are compressed at the max and mastered at a level that is super hot, so that whatever machine or format you listen with cranks the music at a level comparable to late night TV ads for Ginzu Knives or other such items. The difference is that the movie it blaringly interrupts is the movie of your life and the product the CD is selling is ITSELF. Now I have no intention of getting cranky about this state of affairs, but it can be quite annoying if you have a multi-CD changer and one comes on that literally shakes the foundations of your soul, not to mention fillings and bridgework. Enough of that, though.

Staind is cool with me. There’s musicianship and definite tunesmanship. The instrumental work is competent and well wrought. My only quibble is with the vocal harmonies, which have a certain sameness in terms of intervals. Please, more than 3rds and triads would add a level of interest. Also, there’s an awful lot of music on this disk—more than 70 minutes worth. That’s good from a value standpoint but if you are like me and still conceive of albums as something to listen to as a unit, straight through (I know that may date me), it gets tiring with all the full-out cranking and emotions-on-your-sleeve vocalizing. But overall, groups like Staind are a good thing, a healthy component of the rock scene. Guitar lovers will appreciate their acoustic and electric string envelopment. This is no jamband though, so don’t expect much solo work. Power chord fans will be rewarded with splattering bursts of sound that have great power. But hey, if you know these guys, I don’t have to tell you, do I?

Blink 182: Enematic Enigma

Originally posted on October 21, 2008

The alt classic bands, what does that mean? Is alternative even a category that makes sense anymore? I don’t know. Maybe not as much with the fickle listening audience at large out there. If you are in college, you still need something musically that is NOT something else, something that distinguishes you as a person of your place and time. The college radio station is supposed to represent that and for years that was the primary vehicle to disseminate the more underground sorts of bands. Perhaps it’s still true, I suppose.

What does it all come down to, when you are out of college and out there in that world that was waiting for you, waiting to hire you or not, use you or drop you off at the bus stop? And if you are a musician, that’s something else entirely. You are most definitely NOT very important in today’s world for most people. You make the music that plays in the background of their digital games, soundtracks of movies, backdrop for the new car commercial. Well, not of course for everybody. Some people still go after the music that exists out there, what’s beyond the super-slick image of somebody pretending to play a shiny guitar in a cool way on a video.

And so there remain the alt bands of the last 20 years. Blink 182 is one of them. Their 1999 zillion-selling CD Enema of the State (MCA) has a youthful, in your face frustration that does not wear especially well when you are older. They certainly influenced what sort of theme music goes with sitcoms about young teens to be seen on Nick and the like. It’s easy to dismiss this music as a phase for some group of kids. Something they grow out of. It is. Yet the way the album is produced—the wall of sound guitars and the production that allows the cranky vocals to shine through the mix, that’s pretty impressive. And one cannot fault the instrumental presence of the band as processed in the studio. That is something not easy to pull off. It’s a technical tour de force. The music itself? Eh. But I’m sorry about the drummer and his injuries in the plane crash. Hope he gets well soon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Stooges: Much Better Than We Thought Back Then

Originally posted on October 20, 2008

Iggy Pop and the Stooges were a financial disaster when they emerged in 1969-73. A group that raw and, let’s face it, crude, wasn’t something people were looking for then. By the time their third LP Raw Power was in the can, they were on the train to oblivion. Then punk came along and they became significant ancestors of that music overnight. And in retrospect they were one of those awful/great groups that have come along in rock history that seem better now than they did then. They were a garage band that appeared when garage bands were not in vogue.

UK’s Pilot records released in 1996 a set of Stooges rehearsal-demos (Studio Sessions) made around the time of the Raw Power record. It embodies Stooge-crude at its peak. If you can find a copy, you might want to get it if you like such things. It is not going to convert anybody to Stoogemania, but it will not disappoint those who already are predisposed. The sound is pretty elemental, like it was made in a garage. That’s fitting. But it has no pretensions.

Karel Velebny and SHQ Better Than Mary Poppins

Originally posted on October 17, 2008

On my local NYC area television there’s an ad that gives you the following message: In these disturbing, troubled times, you need to go see the new Broadway production of Mary Poppins to return to a state of mental comfort. Well, I’m sorry. The last thing I need is to nauseate myself with such pap. I don’t need reassurance from the likes of Miss Poppins. The world of Mary Poppins never existed and what resemblance it has to historical reality is distorted and rather ridiculous, though there may be a few tunes in there that still can charm in their sloppy sentimental way. The revival of such paltry drivel is counter-productive to what American culture does best. Let Disney's company make their zillions, just leave me out of it, please. Advertise somewhere else and I wont have to deal with it, OK? So what do I need? I don’t know. The election to be over, for one thing. And. . .

Perhaps today’s review CD. There was a reed/vibes player from then-Czechoslovakia named Karel Velebny who recorded an album (SHQ) for ESP in 1968. It originally came out right around then and it was a further sign that Europe was developing distinctive jazz composer-musicians that could hold their own in the world arena. The CD has been reissued and to me it still sounds good. It’s a set of free-wheeling numbers that have a very tangy feel to them. All musicians in this five-man ensemble contribute to the distinctive sound of the recording and the results satisfy. It’s avant without being especially abrasive, and it swings too. There was at least one other record by the group that came out over there, but no others released in the US, as far as I know. The European Jazz scene was to become more and more of a factor in the music throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is here to stay. This record documents a very promising group that never really made the impact it was capable of. And it’s far more deserving of your attention in these times than is Mary Poppins. Duh.

Frank Senior and His Relaxed Vocalisms

Originally posted on October 16, 2008

The world of the jazz singer is in many ways declining. The mainstream of music, from which artists emerge, has changed radically. Hip hop, rap, and rock are not necessarily fertile grounds on which singers can develop. Each music has different goals that do not have a great deal in common with the jazz vocalist and his or her art.

Jazz singers look to a body of repertoire generally of previous generations—songs associated with the traditional jazz repertoire but mostly initially a part of Broadway and the hit parade of a long time ago. “The Great American Songbook” is what it is usually called. Now these songs can be absolutely great. But what do you do if you are singer number 200,000 tackling “Autumn Leaves?” What do you bring to it? Often singers are faced with insurmountable challenges in trying to make it fresh. Some develop mannerisms, ending up with the equivalent of musical ticks, to give that old song more jazz inflection. And sometimes these are musical clichés that were hackneyed 30 years ago and sound even more trite today. The results can be painful, and you have to feel sorry for some of these folks. What can they do? The situation can best be described by the phrase “many are called, few have the talent to answer.” Yes, and there are those that have managed to overcome the inertia built into the scene and go on to thrive in various ways.

Here’s one solution. With the CD under consideration today, Frank Senior [Listening in the Dark (Smalls)] takes a sample of the standard songs and simply treats them as old friends, singing straightforwardly without affectation. He has a casual, relaxed approach and his wide ranging baritone-and-above voice really is very appealing. Like Brook Benton in the r&b/popular field before him, he succeeds by not trying too hard and letting it fall where it lies.

He’s playing with a fine set of musicians tuned to the occasion, the under-heralded Bob Mover on winds, for example, and a tasteful guitarist named Saul Rubin. Plus the songs are a good mix, not just the expected chestnuts. “Route 66” works well, and he also finds inspiration in such songs as “Autumn Serenade” (a right song for the season, no?) and “Just You, Just Me.” He’s simply good. And he deserves to be heard by those with the inclination to hear this sort of thing. They will be rewarded with a very nice CD, very nice indeed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beppe Crovella's Fine Tribute to Mike Ratledge

The modern arsenal of keyboard instruments and colors available to the player today has become rather vast. A player with imagination and a sense of form can create virtually symphonic pieces if he or she goes about it in the well equipped studio. That’s just what Beppe Crovella has done for the music of Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine on What’s Rattlin’ On the Moon (MoonJune).

Ratledge in his prime years with the Softs created a body of compositions that certainly deserves reconsideration. Beppe takes some of the best and gives them a freely creative interpretation, calling upon the tones inherent in some classic instruments: the Mellotron, electric pianos by Wurlitzer, Fender, Hohner, plus the Hammond, Hohner Clavinet, Farfisa and a Rosler grand piano.

This is music of a spacy sort, which is appropriate for Ratledge’s style, and Beppe puts his own stamp on the proceedings. Half the CD directly addresses Ratledge’s music; the other half consists of improvisations and compositional ideas by Beppe himself.

This is a quite enjoyable suite of music that hearkens back in part to the heady days of psychedelia but then takes steps into the future as well. It will appeal to all Softs fans and capture the interest of those not all that familiar with the band in it’s peak years. Give it a listen!

Skip James IS the Blues

Originally posted on April 6, 2009

What can you say about Skip James? He is a special member of the country blues pantheon who made a seminal series of recordings in the early days of the record industry, disappeared like so many and was rediscovered in the mid-sixties. Skip passed on much too soon after re-establishing his artistry in a series of concerts and recordings. Document Records has two concert appearances from the second phase of his career (on Live Volume 1), that should still be around if you search.

The first from Boston in 1964 marked his re-emergence in fine fashion, the second, from Philadelphia in 1966, finds him apparently ailing but still going strong. There’s that wonderful high-ranged blues voice, and great accompaniment on guitar as well as piano. It shows that his powers were as strong as before and will be a real treat for anyone with a liking for the music. He had a sense of humor and a delivery that cannot be duplicated. By all means get this one.

Pandelis Karayorgis and his Trio

Originally posted on April 3, 2009

The music scene in Boston has been a singular one for many years. The great number of college situated there, the presence of Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory and the New England Conservatory of Music means that there is a large pool of teachers and students of high caliber gigging in town, and the general heightened cultural climate traditional in Boston creates favorable conditions for music making (at least for the listener, if not the musicians themselves).

One such musician on the scene is pianist Pandelis Karayorgis—and the trio of which he is a member, the mi3. This is a group formed out of a relatively long-standing tenure as the house band at a local club. Because that venue had/has no piano installed, Pandelis resorted to a Fender Rhodes electric as his instrument for the duration. Using that instrument with various effects and forming a solid musical bond with fellow bandmates Nate McBride on bass and Curt Newton on drums have generated a musical entity that extends the scope and depth of the trio date while forging a distinctive bond between sound and sense.

Their first album (I think), We Will Make A Home for You (Cleanfeed) consists of loose yet very together musical workouts on pieces by Monk as well as a few Karayorgis originals, an Eric Dolphy number and one by the pianist Hasaan, who recorded an album with Max Roach many years ago.

This is a very strong set with some of the electricity and punch of Rock but thoroughly enveloped in the post-Monkish trio approach that Pandelis and his colleagues pull off so effectively. It’s the kind of music that occurs when three very strong players gig regularly and have a chance to work out a sympathetic musical relationship of give and take. It is loose yet fully vetted by an intense inter-familiarity of what the musicians come to expect from each another. It is one of those disks that you might file away for a bit but find yourself coming back to regularly. The group recorded another session with Karayorgis on acoustic piano which is excellent as well. Search for mi3 on the net and you’ll get a complete picture of what’s out there. Check this one, though, if you want an intelligent take on how electronics and modern improvisation can form a potent blend that transcends category. It’s very good.

Patty Lovelace Does Country Classics

Originally posted on April 2, 2009

Misery. Sheer misery. Some classic country songs addressed the pain of romantic entanglements with unforgettable clarity—love unrequited, de-requited, out of bounds or just plain old dysfunctional. Country when it's very good has a power to pierce through everyday indifference the same way its sister music, the blues, can do. A great song of this sort can capture in very few words and a haunting melody a situation of desperate hopelessness. That some of these songs can do that and be huge commercial successes says something, and at this hour of the morning I am not sure WHAT. Art and popularity aren’t always separated by a huge chasm? I guess that.

There’s no better place to find these sorts of treasures than on Patty Loveless’s CD Sleepless Nights (Saguaro Road). Now I don’t know a lot about her because country music is something I only experience at the periphery in terms of today’s incarnations. But she’s taken 14 absolute classics of the kind we’re talking about and remade them in a way that echoes true. She has a marvelous set of pipes for this kind of music and the vocal harmonies and arrangements are perfect.

When I grew up, most of these songs were in the air. No matter who you were you heard them and knew them. They shaped in some inescapable fashion how you looked at the world. “Please Help Me I’m Falling,” “There Goes My Everything”. . . they just said it all. Most importantly though, Patty gives them a new life. Such a remaking project can and does often falter. The artist should have total respect for the styles invoked and put herself into it with all there is. She does that. There is a distinct something in the lead vocals and harmonies that goes right down to the essence of Country. She captures it where others today have too frequently failed. She is a hell of a singer. This CD is a knockout.

Joel Futterman and the Possibilities of Improvisation

Originally posted on April 1, 2009

For avant improvisational pianists following in the wake of Cecil Taylor, velocity is an important aspect of the musical panorama. They often thrive when they “get something GOING.” The movement of notes from A to B and the nature of that journey are parts of what succeeds or fails at any particular moment in the improvisation.

Joel Futterman is one of the handful of supercharged pianists out there right now whose velocity can drive the music down an avant autobahn of the most well-constructed sort. He shows this trait clearly and aesthetically on his Ayler download release Possibilities. It’s not like we are dealing with some musical machine. There’s a wholly organic process. To my mind he has been one of the very best practitioners of motoristic barrages and this solo date gives plenty of musical attention to how his playing style develops naturally out of an expression, a line or a mode of attack. There is nothing forced or pretentious in operation here.

The music is as soulful as Ray Charles but captures the spirit of a deep commitment to musical “signifying” in a very different way, going for it in a whirlwind, avalanche, tornado or volcano of sound. Now you pretty much either hate it or love it, I suspect. Your response will come from the same inner life-force that controls his playing. Possibilities is one of the best recordings Futterman has produced. Try it. Love it. Hate it. That’s your contribution to this music. is where to find the download.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Caribbean Music Speaks to Us in Nonesuch Explorer Volume

Posted on October 15, 2008

Music from so-called “exotic” regions, “ethnic” music, world “folk” music and music in similar categories often is captured with the thought that you get important results by equipping oneself with a portable recording machine, circumscribing a region to collect examples, then roaming around and tapping the local musical scenes you find, with an eye to authentic, traditional materials. This method has yielded some wonderful results. Of course, it is not necessarily a “true” picture of the full gamut of musics going on there. Lounge lizards, hotel music, commercial groups, more pop oriented music, club bands playing national styles, institutions you are not privy to, seldom performed music for cyclical occasions you happen to miss. . . these things are often left out of the survey and that’s not necessarily good nor bad. Take the example at hand: The Caribbean—Island Songs and Dances (Nonesuch Explorer).

Of course the Caribbean has produced much that is foundational yet highly distinctive from a musical standpoint. Lively bands with high musical professionalism, a well developed set of styles that have met with assimilation, acceptance and approval far from the borders of where the music was originally made. That is not represented here in any concrete way. The Nonesuch set concentrates on local traditional songs with simple accompaniments of percussion, elementary guitars, hand clapping, etc. It has its definite attractions but one gets the feeling the very best of the local music makers may not have been caught in the act. It’s like if someone brought a tape recorder into my NJ town and looked for people to make music. There might be some fortuitous discoveries, and certainly much of the music captured would be part of the roots of American music I suppose, but that level of music making is becoming ephemeral, if it hasn’t already. A century ago, the results might have been more interesting, at least to listen to today. Certainly the Caribbean has had less destruction of local music by the communications revolution, especially in 1972 when these sides were recorded. And perhaps the local traditions are more resilient. Nonetheless, this is interesting but in no way exceptionally good music. It is a document of what someone found, with some moments that stand out. If it is the music of YOUR traditions, that’s another matter. You might treasure them far above their intrinsic musical appeal because they represent the roots of your own musical consciousness, maybe. I’m not from there, so it means less to me. Regardless it is of course important that music such is this is collected and made available. It helps us understand what musical humanity can do, wherever it finds itself. This CD is part of that, but not a particularly revealing one from a musical perspective.

Say Yes to Nosound: Listening to "Lightdark"

Originally posted on October 14, 2008

The dreamscape qualities of some of the new progressive-alternative rock can be quite haunting, like a dream of your first love filtered by time and the mist of the passing blur. Nosound’s new album lightdark (Kscope) is like that. The band is the vision of Giancarlo Erra. One cut has No-Man’s vocalist Tim Bowness. The whole thing lays out long and leisurely, lingering over ambient textures that flow evenly and directively, slowly making their way like the water in a small brook.

Lyrics evoke memory-images in the mind, and there’s a hint of the psychedelic, mellotron laced music of an earlier era, a kind of sensitive, musically more savvy Pink Floyd, a King Crimson for today’s jaundiced world. There are some lyrical guitar solos and echo-rich vistas of sound. The mini-epic "From Silence to Sound” has moments that can only be described as beautiful, a word I do not often use. Lightdark is a real treat for the musical senses. It is a band that must be a trip to catch live. Grab the CD to get the studio magic that results when they layer sounds with musical care. It’s a good one.

Detroit's MC5 Live

Posted on October 13, 2008

There is a fine line between punk and thrash on one hand and out of control, inept performance, on the other. The MC5 came up in 1969 and they straddled the line between the two outcomes. They were ahead of their time in being brash and over the top with raw energy like some of the bands to come.

In the Priceless Collection, Extended Versions (Collectibles) release of a concert from around 1970 that borderline is crossed. The guitars tend to drown out the vocals in a crude way and the drums are present as a crashing noise somewhere just a little off the speakers. This is a historical document, of course, and for those who liked or like the band, it will be welcomed. For the rest it isn’t something to go out of the way to get. To cap it off the recording quality is sub-par. It’s not essential.

Classic Blind Lemon Jefferson Remastered

Originally posted on October 10, 2008

The early “folk” blues as represented on record is one of the treasures of American Culture. Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James, Blind Blake and a number of others created some masterpieces of the three minute art form in their day and their music lives on for those that seek it out and those who have admired artists who embody the spirit of their work.

One of the most important and prolific of these bluesmen was Texas master Blind Lemon Jefferson. There’s a box set around of his work from 1926-29 and it is a revelation (Blind Lemon Jefferson: The Complete Classic Sides Remastered on JSP Records). Although the recording quality varies from acceptable to pretty awful, once one adjusts to the technical defects and the minimal lineup of Blind Lemon’s vocals and his acoustic guitar, sometimes his piano, pretty much nothing else, his genius comes through. Interestingly there are a number of songs that technically are not blues in the sense of the chord sequence standardized over the years. And he revisits some of the same materials in the different sessions, deepening his commitment to their essence as time passes.

But it is the perfect combination of soulful voice call and solo guitar response that most fascinates. His is a two-way dialogue between both elements and he works out ingenious weavings of them in ways that can only bring astonishment on close listening. Four full CDs is a lot to digest, but in the end one comes away with a complete picture of his style and how important a pioneer he was. The set is going at a bargain price last I checked. It’s a tremendous addition to anybody’s collection, anybody with a feeling for the blues. In today’s world the blues still have the power to musically transform troubling experiences and make something beautiful out of it all. Blind Lemon comes through these scratchy recordings with a voice that speaks to us as powerfully today as it did in 1926.

Frank Lowe's ESP Disk Reissued

Originally posted on October 9, 2008

The late tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe recorded and released an album in the early ’70s [Black Beings (ESP)] that at the time I thought was the most extreme music I had ever heard. It’s Lowe and AACM/Art Ensemble tenor man Joseph Jarman with electric violin, bass (William Parker), and drums. It was the tenor playing that was the kicker. They both honked, squealed, screeched and caterwauled with frenzy and abandon throughout in a tour de force of extreme weirdness.

ESP has released an unedited version with extra minutes that originally had to be removed for the performance to fit on one LP. It still sounds pretty extreme, but maybe not nearly so to me as it did then. Of course, I’ve listen to a great deal of out music since 1973, and the sounds produced by the tenor duo are more mainstream now, to those that listen, than they used to be. That is not to say that this disk doesn’t have the power to send the uninitiated through the ceiling. It isn’t going to get on the airwaves next to Nelly in the coming months. It still has enormous power and that can intimidate someone who doesn’t yet hear the passionate music as a high point in human expressivity.

Like the birds, there are those that warble and chirp, those that honk and give out with piercing swoops of sound. On the human level we can choose what sounds we make. Not the birds. A crow cannot wake up one morning and ask himself which sorts of sounds he is in the mood to let loose. At least not as far as I know.

This Frank Lowe album greatly benefits from being reissued without the edits. It is more balanced, more whole and organic. Don’t expect John McCain to be playing it at his next fund raiser. The rest of us can and should experience this music as part of our cultural heritage. It is a classic of hyperventilation and aggressive music making. Good for that. Let’s make this more popular than Britney and her cutesy dithering. Why not? We aren’t birds. We get to call the tunes we want to make, the music we want to hear.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Deep Purple Caught Live and in Great Form

Originally posted on October 8, 2008

Spent the entire day yesterday on the phone (mostly on hold) fixing a software glitch. After thirty minutes of some canned guy haranguing me about all the things that have nothing to do with what answers I needed, coupled with some inane song fragment played over and over, my mood darkened. I didn’t get a chance to write my blog entry and began to consider the music I was going to talk about jinxed. I started to think that the particular CD I was going to mention didn’t need my help and that, anyway, there wasn’t much I could say about it that mattered. Never mind about yesterday’s entry then. I did get my software problem resolved, so it wasn’t a waste of time. I can’t help wondering how much time in our lives we all now spend on hold in this way, listening to an annoying lo-fi ditty over and over underneath an endlessly repeating ad pitch. Music becomes garbage in this situation, so much trash thrown at you to sooth your “savage beast” tendencies. Life becomes truly a thing "on hold." Well, if you call Gapplegate Music, you won’t get that. You’ll get a person or an answering machine. If the latter, we’ll call you back quickly and I promise we won’t make you listen to any musical pablum. So let’s press on.

The Collectible “Priceless Collection” of live “Extended Versions” has released many disks and I’ve grabbed up more than a few. Here’s one of the last on my pile. It’s Deep Purple sometime, I believe, in the ‘80s. They are in fine form. Listening reminds you how fundamental they were/are for the roots of progressive rock. On this disk you get nice renditions of many of their most familiar tunes. . . “Burn,” for example, and that tune that many guitarists start playing when they first pick up an electric, “Smoke on the Water.” My eclectic taste embraces many musics. Deep Purple's music still sounds good to me, even after many listening adventures far outside the confines of what they do. There is room in the musical universe for many styles and sounds. So there is room for “Smoke on the Water,” for sure. If not, we’ll scootch some things over slightly to the side of the arena to make sure it still has a place.

Pioneering Music From the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, 1964

Originally posted on October 6, 2008

Early free jazz can be quite interesting. Much of the music was made before any set routines or formulas were imposed by the players on themselves, at least potentially. Nowhere is this more apparent than on a previously unreleased recording by pianist Burton Greene, bassist Alan Silva, and some rather unknown but canny wind players and a sensitive drummer.

Known as the “Free Form Improvisation Ensemble,” they rehearsed and experimented at their home base in NYC and made these recordings in 1964 before any of them had produced a commercial release. The music is finally available on Cadence (www. and it is an unexpected treat for those with open ears. They never act predictably. Anything can and does happen. The musical events have a freshness that belies the age of these sides.

Richard Barbieri Spooks You Into A New Universe

Originally posted on October 3, 2008

There are CDs that come along that cannot be easily categorized. Porcupine Tree keyboardist Richard Barbieri’s new solo release Stranger Inside (Kscope) is one of those. It has sophisticated rhythmic things happening and it gives you a wide spectrum of fascinating musical sounds that hypnotize and take you to other worlds, some places very far away.

It is Barbieri's second solo effort and a substantial one at that. The key work is subtle and rich. There are some really nice lines played by bassist Danny Thompson. The sampled vocals of Tim Bowness (No-Man) and Suzanne Barbieri help the spacey qualities tie into a human voice. It isn't new age—it’s much too progressive and filled with good musical content. It might be dubbed progressive-rock-without-the-rock. Wherever you want to put it and whatever you call it Stranger Inside has that indefinable something that spooks you into a new musical universe, a friendly one but maybe a little lonely without your ears for company and now happy you have joined it.

B B King and Carlos Santana: Guitar Legends

Originally posted on October 2, 2008

When you see a two-CD set called Guitar Legends that’s going for peanuts and has no real information about it on the jewel case, it’s a crap shoot. And if you’re buying it on an overstock bargain website, you know even less. That was the scene for me last year with a set of BB King and Santana sides (St. Clair).

The Santana CD was a demo, apparently, before the band cut their first record for Columbia. It has a few moments and holds interest from a historic point of view, but musically they just did not have the groove yet. It isn’t quite worth the peanuts.

The BB King disk has various levels of sound quality and was obviously recorded at vastly different points in his career. I am hard pressed to think of any BB that isn’t at least solid, and these cuts are no exception. It’s not necessarily the first CD by BB for anybody to get. It is certainly worth the peanuts regardless. And there is enough good-to-great guitar work to justify the title of the set. He’s been THE MAN for many years.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Timucin Sahin, Rather Fabulous New Guitarist

There is a guitarist out there named Timucin Sahin and he has something going for him. He plays a conventional six-string electric and a seven-string fretless electric, and in either case he has a sound and attack that does not look back so much as look forward.

This can be heard to good advantage on his new album BAFA (Challenge), a quartet date. The music is advanced and the players at the top of their craft. In addition to Sahin there is John O’Gallagher on alto sax, a man with something to say on his horn and the technique and imagination to realize it. He puts together lines that startle and affirm that he knows where he wants to go at any moment. I’ve reviewed some of his own records in the recent past and I must say he impresses me. The rhythm team of Thomas Morgan on bass and Tyshawn Sorey, drums, is right there where they need to be. Sorey has made quite a reputation for himself in his own recordings and with others, and what he does here bears witness to his continued musical importance on the scene.

It is Timucin, though, that especially impresses. His compositions have a currency that is avant garde without being in a shock mode. And his playing is something to hear. Sometimes he seems to be tuning down, or using very lanky strings, so that he gets deep wiry bends that are phrased with seamless momentum, the accent on musical statement. This may also have something to do with the plasticity a fretless guitar affords. Other times he strings together more conventionally articulated phrases that don’t sound like they came from anyone else.

It is tabula rasa time! Sahin's sophisticated harmonic and melodic trajectory puts him among a handful of new guitarists out there who build on the free tradition without copping licks from their forebears.

This is a fine album from a guitarist that might just become a big influence in years to come. He is just marvelous right now, though, so don’t wait until later. Check him out on this album and get in on the ground floor.

Ian Yeager's Music for Guitar and Computer

Originally posted on September 30, 2008

I had never heard of Ian Yeager, but when I was browsing on the CD Baby site, I spotted his recording of Music for Guitar and Computer and on an impulse took a chance and ordered it. It is a full CD containing one long piece broken into small sections and it has become more and more attractive to me as I listen.

It is in the ambient mode, something a little like Brian Eno’s work. The electronics appear to be altered guitar sounds for the most part, and they doodle and drone as the guitar in a clean electric mode arpeggiates chords, plays melodic fragments that repeat and otherwise sets up a dream-like musical landscape.

It is not a piece of music with rapid fingerings or anything that would make you think, “wow, what a guitarist.” It does stick to your musical ribs though. Once you hear it a few times, a clear picture of the music stays in your head so that a year from now, say, you might pull it off the shelf and remember what it sounds like and want to hear it again. In our throw-away world that in itself is an achievement.

Rockabilly Lives On with the Road Kings

Originally posted on September 29, 2008

If you are a fan of rockabilly in the manner of Brian Setzer and Stray Cats look for the cutout Live at the Satellite Lounge by the Road Kings (Alter Ego).

It’s a guitar-bass-drums trio with everything that goes into the style at hand. The vocals are decent, the guitar dynamically driving, the rhythm infectiously slap-happy. With a set of ten originals, this CD gives you the goods. The band does it right. I hope they continue to make this music. Good luck to them.

Boris Salvodelli Matches Vocal Pyrotechnics with Fertile Musical Thinking

Originally posted on September 26, 2008

Italian vocalist Boris Salvodelli is something else. His CD Insanology (Mousemen) has minimal and sometimes no instrumental accompaniment. Boris multi-tracks, loops and arranges his vocals for an aural symphony that is as much in the lineage of Brian Wilson as it is of Bobby McFerrin.

Every track is its own universe, ranging from quasi-reggae to progressive rock to an anything-goes adventure. This is fine music and Boris is a fine vocalist. I usually balk at solo vocal performances. But this one is so musical and well conceived, it hit me from the moment I put it on my player. Nice!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Phish "Farmhouse" Not the Last After All

Originally posted on September 25, 2008

Buying a studio album by one of the premier jambands is like ordering chicken at a top flight seafood restaurant. It may be good, but it is not what they do best. So it is with the Phish album Farmhouse (Elektra), which consists of late ‘90s material. I suppose I should dig up a live album of theirs. What I’ve heard of their jamming sounds very good. I know I’m late to this. Some years I was totally preoccupied with other things.

This Farmhousealbum is OK. A number of their tunes don’t especially overwhelm here, but I suppose this isn’t considered their best record. There is a jam at the end anyway. Kudos for them for keeping the jamband thing going after the breakup of the Dead. The phenomenon is flourishing these days, and I’ll devote more attention to the active bands out there in the coming months.

Pianist Lowell Davidson Remembered in Reissue

Originally posted on September 24, 2008

In the realm of the piano, free jazz didn’t have very many players that were being documented in 1965. Part of that had to do with Ornette Coleman’s pianoless quartet, which influenced the jazz world highly beginning in 1959. Of course the grandfather of all free jazz pianists, Cecil Taylor, was going strong. Then there were people like Paul Bley, Burton Greene, Dave Burrell, and a handful of others, one of which was Lowell Davidson. He made a record for ESP with a trio in 1965, and then I don’t know what happened to him.

That record was promising. ESP has just re-released it. It has Gary Peacock on bass and Milford Grave on drums, both monsters at their craft. There are brittle improvisations throughout, with no compromising for popularity’s sake. Its not one of those blow-it-out-your-socks, frenetic rave-ups. It is abstract and of a high caliber. It is in the idiom squarely. And it deserves to be heard again.

Guitarists from those days playing free? Sonny Sharrock was one of the main ones. I’ll get to him soon enough. Tomorrow something very different.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Strawberry Alarm Clock: Psycho-Hokum or Classic?

Originally posted on September 23, 2008

We look back again today to the nether regions of the murky past. I’m not sure why from some legitimate view, but last year I grabbed a reissued copy of the Strawberry Alarm Clock album Incense and Peppermints (Collectibles), which I guess came out around 1967. They had the big hit with the title cut and represented one of those bands who embodied the keen teen psychedelic ethos.

The album is rather funny. There’s a tune from Hair, some hokey love-in music and some further attempts to cash in on their first hit with follow up numbers. Dated it is, and charming in its off-kilter bid at popularizing the emerging youth culture. They had especially designed for them a line of really bizarre looking guitars and basses. You can see photos around if you search. They looked like paisley toboggans. Well that’s enough of that kind of music for now.

Jefferson Starship in Later Years: Extended Versions Series

Originally posted September 22, 2008

The Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship managed to stay together nearly as long as the Grateful Dead. Yet they were not able to maintain the mystique of Garcia and company. The Starship appears to have reformed in recent years with a few of the original members. Like the Dead, they emerged from the San Francisco scene during the heady late ‘60s. And like the Dead they could sound great live or, if things weren’t quite right, not so great.

There is a live Jefferson Starship CD as part of Collectible’s Priceless Extended Versions series and it falls under the "not so great" rubric. It has the virtue of going for less than standard cost, but that may not be quite enough to make it worth your while. It was recorded at an unspecified time, after Grace Slick had been replaced and the new female singer sounds pretty good. Instrumentally the band is fine but not up to their original standards, and they roll through many of their old hits. By midway through the set, on a version of “Miracles,” the male vocals become something less than sterling and it mars the entire disk. Get their earlier Bless Their Pointed Little Heads if you want to hear them in their prime. The Priceless disk doesn’t quite make it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Iron Kim Style for Edgy Electric Jamming

Electric jambands who come directly out of improvisational music practice are something special if they are good. And they are very much alive today. There’s for example Wadada Leo Smith and his work with Yo Miles and his own groups; there is the Indian Miles tribute band. And lots of others too. There is a resurgence of music that does not fear reprisals for plugging in and letting loose with challenging lines and shimmering envelopes of ensemble collectivity.

One of the most interesting and promising of such lineups is a band called Iron Kim Style. Their self-titled new CD (MoonJune) features five or six musicians from the Seattle scene. Guitarist Dennis Rea and drummer Jay Jasket, both also in the Moraine group (see earlier postings at our for a discussion of their CD), are joined by trumpeter Bill Jones and a group of intelligent and fluid instrumentalist for a heady workout.

This is freely conceived music that has spontaneity yet a solid group sense of where they want to go conceptually. Dennis Rea and Bill Jones are the most prominent soloists and they show their own take on where the music should be now. There is much in the way of group cohesion with plenty of room for individual expression. Thaddaeus Brophy’s 12-string works well with Rea’s six; bass clarinetist Izaak Mills (appearing on several numbers) has good interactions with Bill Jones’ trumpet. The rhythm section of Jasket’s drums and Ryan Berg on bass does not resort to the obvious sorts of riff devices so often used in these situations, and Jasket’s pulse is fluid in a way that does not follow the models for imitation often invoked in such a setting.

The music can get pretty dense harmonically, and when you least expect it (on "Pachinko Malice"), breaks out into free swing and some terrific guitar work from Dennis Rea with Bill Jones and the rest of the band contributing to the atmospheric texture.

Iron Kim Style are not attempting to coddle to mass tastes. Their music here is distinctly uncompromising. What results is an excellently conceived and executed journey into the outer realms of electric music. They shine with a brilliance at times. There isn’t a flubbed moment on the whole disk either.

This is music to stir the senses. It is challenging but very rewarding on many different levels. There is originality and there is a convincing directness. Bask in its dazzling excess of light, huddle in the depths of its darkness. An excellent effort this is! Give it a listen.

Reconsidering The Smiths' Live Album

Originally posted on September 19, 2008

There was nothing quite like The Smiths for a combination of Paul Mars’ guitar musicality and vocalist Morrissey’s poetic lyrics. They counteracted the go-go eighties with a dose of despair and doubt, and melodically they were really very inventive. Morrissey and Mars had a chemistry that proved too volatile for a long-time association, and so no more Smiths since, what, 1986?

They released the live album Rank a little later and it is culled from 1986 concerts. I missed it on its first outing and only now have given it a long listen. I find it slightly disappointing, maybe because it doesn’t have “How Soon is Now” on it. This may seem petty of me, and it is, I suppose. Beyond what is missing, it is a solid, well recorded set of live versions of many of their most known tunes. The live versions may not be all that different than the studio ones, but there is energy there. I wouldn’t pick it up if it was a first Smiths acquisition, but it is nice to have if you are ga-ga about the group.

Von Garcia: Progressive Ambient Noise Rock?

Originally posted on September 18, 2008

The number of small labels out there seems to have increased exponentially in the last decade. Some consist merely of the musician-owner and that’s about it. Others have more players involved, producers, music distributors and that sort of thing. Sluggo's Goon Music (SGM) is somewhere in the middle of the more elaborately structured types, a cooperative based in NYC. It is owned and run by a small group of stylistically sympathetic musicians and they do it all themselves.

Von Garcia, one of the groups on the label, is dedicated to what they call ambient noise rock, which sounds to me like progressive rock with plenty of air in it. Their new release i think a think brings together core creative directors James von Buelow and Damon Trotta, guitarist and bassist, respectively, with a group of fellow travelers. There are plenty of fine segments on this disk—some great atmospheric envelopes and drivingly cosmic lead guitar spotlights.

It has a basic rock rhythmic foundation and builds additively on that—or subtractively for those primal soundscape events that contrast with the pure drive. It is a very good listen. Lots of musical thought has gone into the disk’s production and there is a continual transformation of creative sounds that will appeal to those of a progressive bent.

Gunter Hampel's First Reissued

Originally posted on September 17, 2008

The free jazz, new thing, and/or improv movement in jazz was well underway in the mid’60s. By that time there was a rising coterie of players in Europe who had begun to add their own twists and turns to the music. One of the first, and one of the best of the European recordings documenting the scene was released in the States some time around 1967. It was led by vibist, reedist and composer Gunter Hampel as Music from Europe (ESP) and it gave notice to the world that henceforth the music was to have multiple centers, that New York was only one of the creative hubs on the scene.

The album has been reissued and those with hungry ears will want to listen to it. Gunter is joined by reedman Willem Breuker in a quartet setting. Willem was to have an important influence on the music and that continues today. Mr. Hampel went on to make many interesting recordings and remains an important influence in his own right. The ESP recording is a mix of ever-shifting instrument combinations and composed frameworks introducing freely expressive work. I am glad I can listen to and enjoy the disk again after so many years have passed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Motorhead's "Inferno" Blazes Forth

Originally posted on September 16, 2008

Motorhead to me is one of the best extreme metal bands. Lemmy Kilmister plays a very full electric bass and his vocals have the perfect hoarse shout and punch for the music. The trio brings power to new heights. That blues quality and the very amplified, ordered chaos pack a terrific jolt. They still thrive. I’ve got their not quite newest CD in my listening cycle—Inferno (Sanctuary). It is more of the same but that’s good if you like it. They show no sign of slowing down, so you’ll have to speed up a little to catch them. Seriously, though, this is music my mother would have hated. A cut from this CD would have brought her to the stairs, to yell “turn that music down!” and embarrass me in front of my friends. I suppose that has something to recommend it to you? But of course I jest about my Mom. I never wanted to put her through unpleasant changes, regardless of my teen thrashings and grapplings to get a grip on the modern world back in the eons of the last century.

[Eds note: this posting was written on the morning of the "crash."] Glad I’m not a stockbroker this morning. Here’s to what is totally uncool and I hope isn’t coming back. Unmediated greed, ride'em cowboy investing styles. As Muddy Waters sang, “you can’t lose what you ain’t never had.” That applies to many of us. The old Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times" seems apt.

MIJ and the Musical Flowering of 1969

Originally posted on September 15, 2008

Freeze frame to January 1969. Folk-rock was going pretty strong, with much of the emphasis on originals, and not much in the way of the traditional songs folk was defined by earlier. ESP Records brought an obscure dude into the studio, one MIJ, aka Jim Holmberg. The album recorded that day hardly revolutionized the music scene. In fact it passed almost unnoticed, the audience and the record missing a rendezvous like ships in the night.

And yet there is something about that music, just reissued (The Yodeling Astrologer). It’s Mr. MIJ’s voice and 12-string acoustic, nothing else. You could call it folk-rock without the rock. It’s rather out in its lyrics, a set of quirky originals that could only have been made back then. Tim Buckley, early Donovan, early Al Stewart are certainly contemporaries that resonate with what he was doing. After a few hearings, at least for me, the music begins to grab you. Here we have a surprise that will appeal to anyone with a liking for the summer of love music of the period. And the 12-string adds a texture that blends nicely with his vocals.

Jugendstil Purveys A New Chamber Jazz Sound

Originally posted on September 12, 2008

Chamber Jazz, generally small groups playing intimate improvised music, is a somewhat rarified form. One of the real pioneers in the field, the late Jimmy Giuffre, made some great recordings in the genre, from the mid-‘50s through mid-‘60s especially. In that tradition we have a new release called Jugendstil (ESP) with Chris Speed and Chris Cheek on reeds and Stephane Furic Leibovici on acoustic bass.

It is a real charmer, a kind of masterwork of quiet, thoughtful ruminations that leaves you impressed and wanting more. It is in the tradition of some of Giuffre’s best. Snatch a copy if you want to expose yourself to something soothing yet substantive.

Looking Back: Wire's Pink Flag

Originally posted on September 11, 2008

Wire released their first album Pink Flag (Harvest) in late 1977. It didn’t exactly sell briskly. Nonetheless it brought listeners a music beyond punk. Elemental progressions, slightly off kilter, and less obviously abrasive vocals combined with a variety of rhythmic textures and tempos distinguished the overall sound.

They proved rather influential but generally remained beneath the surface of the consciousness of the majority of scenesters. Today, they don’t sound so bad at all. A new album is in the works today. Here’s to longevity.

Third Eye Blind Reconsidered

Originally posted on September 10, 2008

Back to some alt classics. Third Eye Blind’s first CD (Elektra) sold zillions and gave power pop a poster boy (poster boys?) for the state of that art. Listening now, I find it still inundates the listener with strong grungy power chord progressions and a solid string of sincerely crafted, substantial tunes.

They created a musical model followed by more than a few other bands, teen television shows, and things associated with the ever-lucrative youth market. But they did it all as good or better than anybody. Of course, the band sound is really the catcher. It is thick and dynamic. Other CDs followed and there’s supposed to be a new one, though I have not caught it. The first one set the tone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No-Man Haunts with "Schoolyard Ghosts"

Originally posted on September 9, 2008

Brooding, sitting in your bedroom wondering “What the…” about life and the universe, that’s the sort of mood captured well by post-progressive pop-rockers No-Man in their new, sixth release Schoolyard Ghosts (K-Scope). The band is Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson and a host of well chosen side-musicians.

This is another CD that does not project a “Gee, I’m so happy” vibe. It is memorable, though, poetic, haunting in its way. The package consists of a conventional stereo mix and a DVD with a 5:1 mix and some videos. It fits a mood. It has a definite sound that’s long and lingering on the mental palate, like the cerebral-emotional equivalent of a good red wine.

Pianist Martial Solal Remains Vital On New Recording

Originally posted on September 8, 2008

Martial Solal, jazz pianist of many years standing, came out of Europe in the ’50s and made his mark as a significant stylist with an approach that was wholly his own. He is still at it today and sounding better than ever. A new release, Longitude (CamJazz), finds him in his accustomed trio setting, playing with bitter-sweet poignancy and spinning long jagged lines of a true musicality.

His trio of upright bass and drums (Francois and Louis Moutin, respectively) seems well attuned to his approach and follows him intrepidly into his maze of rhythmically brittle edges and labyrinthine harmonies. His is a musicianship to be reckoned with and there may be CDs that match the current level of inspiration, but nowhere is he better represented on disk than in this offering. Guitarists and maybe even harmonica players could learn much from him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pineapple Thief's Latest

Originally posted on September 5, 2008

Somerset, England’s alt-prog rock band The Pineapple Thief quietly sneaks up on you and then knocks you out with terrific music. They have perfected a sound that has sophisticated musical values and great ideas—even some cool songs with a 7/4 meter. They have packed the lyrics with new century angst and despair. So who needs happy all the time?

Their latest album Tightly Unwound (K-Scope) has all those qualities mentioned above. It deserves any accolades it may get, and I hope it gets them. The lead guitarist has a very nice sound. The whole thing comes off as musically exceptional and emotionally powerful. More of this, please!!

Adam Lane's "Buffalo," A Superb Musical Experience

Originally posted on September 4, 2008

Adam Lane brings into today’s jazz picture a great approach to the acoustic bass, a real talent for writing and arranging appropriate vehicles for his band, and the ability to organize and lead a group and get the members to be themselves while functioning as a true unit.

Nowhere is this more present than in his quartet recording Buffalo (Cadence Jazz), recorded live in that city as the climax of a productive tour. It’s his regular trio of Golia on saxes and Anderson on drums with the worthy addition of trumpet ace Paul Smoker. There is fire and drive to this set, a dedication to playing coherently and convincingly with every passing moment. This is modern jazz with bite. There are few bands playing today that can equal what they achieve on Buffalo. Check out for more info or to order.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

John Lee Hooker On Vee Jay II: Travelin', 1960

Originally posted on September 3, 2008

One more for John Lee Hooker. What was true of yesterday’s disk—that it contained many of his more familiar tunes, is not especially true of Travelin’ (Vee Jay), a 1960 release that also clocks in at 30 minutes.

Many of the songs are a bit more obscure and have to do loosely with traveling—getting there, being there, wanting to go there. As with yesterday’s release, it consists of very solid electric Hooker without the frills. His guitar on “Solid Sender” gives you the paired-down-to-the-bone blues, a perfect response to his irreplaceable vocals. Another great one. Tomorrow we venture into less charted areas. Until then.

John Lee Hooker On Vee Jay: I'm John Lee Hooker, 1959

Originally posted on September 2, 2008

John Lee Hooker was a real presence on Vee Jay records during the ’50s-’60s. Some albums released cuts already on LP, some overdubbed female backup vocalists to try to capitalize on the popularity of soul. He was never less than himself, no matter what they did with his tracks.

The 1959 I’m John Lee Hooker had some of his best, unadulterated with overdubs. “Boogie Chillun,” “Crawlin’ King Snake. . . ,” these were timeless blues classics. Sometimes he made the blues chord changes; other times he stayed with the root and droned hypnotically. Despite the 32 minute time length, there is much great music on this release, available on Collectibles. Tomorrow, one more by John Lee and then we move on. Nothing like the blues to shake off the rust and move into a new season.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Emily Bezar: A Very Different Voice in Prog Rock

Originally posted on August 29, 2008

Emily Bezar most certainly is a vocalist of a different stripe. Imagine Bjork combined with Julie Andrews, Melissa Manchester and Maria Callas. No, not quite Maria Callas, but an operatic diva of some sort. And no, she is much more than the sum of these stylistic combinations, but a rough approximation is in order.

Combine that with a well-tempered progressive rock musicality and you have her fifth album, Exchange (DemiVox), which is just out. There is nothing ordinary about it. She clearly has talent. There is a quirkiness to her voice and her music that will engage you or not, depending on what you will open up to or what sort of music you embrace. If you let your preconceptions go about what should go with what, you’ll find much to appreciate.

Pierre Dorge and the New Jungle Orchestra

Originally posted on August 27, 2008

Pierre Dorge plays excellent guitar, writes, arranges and leads a Danish big band named The New Jungle Orchestra. Both his playing and that of the band combine modern jazz, African highlife and an original streak to create a music that stands out as different, very different.

There are lots of albums he’s made. One is Music from the Danish Jungle (DCCD) (1995) and it’s as good as any of them. Some of the ones from the late ‘80s are perhaps the best of all. He should be heard by those who want to be refreshed by the new.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thin Lizzy Live

Originally posted on August 26, 2008

Thin Lizzy wasn’t just a group that managed to land a couple of big hits. They were a superb hard rock unit. Their electric guitar stylings were worth remembering for the two-part leads, the muted passages that emphasized a percussive texture, and that wide vibrato they sometimes used.

If you find the Priceless Collection of their live set from Germany (Thin Lizzy: Extended Versions) (Collectables), you will get a solid look at how they went about it. Their first two albums also kicked.

Boredoms Super Roots 3: Absurdly Interesting

Originally posted on August 25, 2008

The impossibly diffuse Japanese avant-rock band Boredoms and their re-release compilation “Super Roots” (Vice) have been the subject several times on these pages. We turn today to volume three, Hard Trance Way (Karaoke of Cosmos). It’s one thirty-something-minute cut with a heavy drum pulse and guitars thrashing away on the same one or two chords without pause, the only changes being a modulation of key every couple of minutes.

This is extreme music, head-banging stuff, and it certainly took some amount of nerve to record and release it. It fascinates me because it is so empty of anything but one gesture. It captures the banality of some metal and sets it up as a pared-to-the-core model to be questioned, emulated, dismissed, or idolized. Your choice. I think it's one of their best but it may drive some people nuts. Signing off—It’s my vacation and I am dropping junk off at the dump!