Procol Harum

By Procol Harum I have as stand-alones their 1st 1967; Shine on Brightly 1968; as mp3: A Salty Dog 1969: Home 1970; Broken Barricades 1971; With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra 1972; Grand Hotel 1973 (Christine Legrand). Hits compilations: Best of A&M 1972; Chrysalis Years 73-77 1989. And solo works: Robin Trower: Bridge of Sighs 1974: Gary Brooker: No More Fear of Flying 1979. I have had some of their later work but it didn’t resonate enough for me to keep it.

I remember the power of first hearing Whiter Shade of Pale. Keith Reid’s ornate lyrics (very T.S Eliot) were matched by the ornate organ work. It was, & still is, the epitome of prog-rock. I loved the Beardsley cover art which reflected perfectly the structured, decadent music within. Lush without strings, dense without feeling leadened. Classical without being apologetic. Gary Brooker sings as if he wrote these lyrics himself.

Over the albums guitar became more prominent & at times they were as riff heavy as Led Zeppelin. The organ/piano combination inspired many groups including The Band. I remained a fan & was disappointed when the group ‘retired’ after many changes in members. When they regrouped decades later I give them a listen but although the sound was still solid I found in uninspired.

Each album has tracks love. As whole I love Shines On Brightly with is mystic side 2 that takes that mysticism where even the Moody Blues never went. Simple Sister is another favourite, The Devil Came From Kansas, Michelle Legrand (of Swingle Singers) is amazing on Grand Hotel.

The engineering on the lps is amazing – so much so that the Live Edmonton recording suffers. The addition of the orchestra adds nothing to their sound & the spoken portions are nearly impossible to make out. MP3 doesn’t improve the sound quality either. My least favourite of the lps that I have. Procol was adult rock that accidentally was radio friendly.

I also have some of their solo projects. Robin Trower’s Hendrix heavy guitar work dominates his solo albums, to good effect. I love Bridge of Sighs though it does veer into Bad Company territory.  Brooker’s Flying lp is dense, interesting enough, but I can’t name a track on it off the top of my head – something for Harum completest.

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Viva Vivaldi

Did Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) compose anything other thank the Four Seasons? On my shelf I have a 40 cd boxset that isn’t 40 versions of the Four Seasons. In fact this boxset doesn’t contain his complete works either. He composed at a time when folks played music in their homes or heard it in churches. It was music for the masses & Masses, not for elitist concert halls & massive orchestras.

I do have multiple version of The Four Seasons though. As stand alone I have it by il Giordino Armonico which I heard on CBC. The sound quality amazed me – it is as if you are standing in the middle of the small chamber orchestra. I have Nigel Kennedy’s energetic romp through it. Also some fun jazz takes – Moe Kaufmann’s is  delightful & worth tracking down. Wendy Carlos’ Sonic Seasonings stretches it into the stratosphere. The Koto Ensemble version is also a delight.

The box set reveals the full extent of Vivaldi’s versatility as a composure with delightful sonatas for flute, recorder, violin, mandolin & more. All with complex continuo support, at times by organ, harpsichord or viola. There are some of his masses, motets, cantatas, concertos & songs. Even his transcription/adaptations of Bach. 

As I worked though the box set his influence on later romantic composers becomes clear. The final cd is La Senna Festeggiante which is one of his serenatas that is almost an opera. Like when listening to Mozart, you wonder

when did this man sleep. 

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Prine Prick At A Price

As a stand alone I have Lloyd Price’s Lawdy Miss Clawdy. It was one of The Essential Blue Archive series that were budget price compilations of early r’n’b artists. I knew the ‘hit’ from golden oldies but that was it. This is an excellent collection, the sound quality is excellent too. A fine voice & great New Orleans style blues, soul & worth having.

Another stand alone is Prick’s 1995 cd. I heard the song ‘Animal’ on a College Music Journal compilation CD & loved the guitar sound & the satisfying flesh ripping effect. The lp is aggressive without being pounding. Subversive songs & not a commercial success as the band didn’t care about radio or MTV appeal.

By John Prine I have lp to cd transfers of John Prine 1971 that includes ‘Hello In There’; Diamonds in the Rough 1972: includes “The Frying Pan” “Yes I Guess They Oughta Name a Drink After You”; Sweet Revenge 1973; as mp3 – Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings 1995. His sound is labelled country-folk, sort of a less rock version of John Cougar Mellencamp. I loved his acerbic humorous merciless & sometimes emotionally stunning lyrics. A critics darling but never a huge public success. Maybe thanks to lyrics like ‘there’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes.’

His songs are stories as opposed to let’s dance or I love you & ‘a note in the frying pan said she ran off with the fuller brush man’ His influence is seen in Mellencamp, Springsteen & Jackson Browne. Even Bette Midler has covered his songs! Diamonds in the Rough is a good starter if you are unfamiliar with this amazing songwriter.

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Prince and Philip

I remember the first time I heard Prince. It was at the dance at an AA roundup in Detroit March 1982 … & the song was Little Red Corvette & the song lifted me right off the floor. I couldn’t wait for the lp to be released: became my album of the decade 🙂

I have as stand-alone or mp3: 1999 (1982), Purple Rain, Sign O’The Times (1987), Batman (1989), Diamond & Pearls (1991), Come (1994), Musicology (2004), 3121 (2006), The Very Best, Originals (2019).

I wouldn’t call myself a fan though. There are great tracks ruining though all his lps & often tedious romantic ballads that aren’t for me. The lyrics are sometimes sexually frank, even funny. Part of his initial reputation was assured by such direct lyrics like ‘masturbating with a magazine.’ He is following in the footsteps of iconic risky blues – ‘I need a hotdog for my roll’ ‘Papa’s got a big ten inch (record)’

His guitar work, when it isn’t submerged, is stunning. His songs for Batman are great & I was sorry so few of them got used in the film. I heard a track off 3121 that had me looking for it. The Hits collection is a good started for anyone, if that person exists, who is not familiar with him. ‘Originals’ are his recordings of songs he wrote for others that became hits for them.

To round out the mp3 collections I added: Marvin Gaye: Trouble Man (soundtrack), M.P.G. Marvin is one of Prince’s prime influences, so worth hearing. I love the Trouble Man soundtrack. Prince influenced many including – Pitbull. Here are his The Boatlift, Planet Pit – rollicking sexy raps with Latino underpinnings & music you can dance to. 

I also added a wild variety of other musical genres: Kruder & Dorfmeister: G-Stoned EP 1995: excellent trip-hop soul out of Austria; Boil The Kettle Mother: (Psychedelic Patchwork Volume 1) a fun collection of 70s psychedelic pop; Aphex Twin: Collapse EP: the master of electronica; Mount Kimbie: What Love Survives 2017: emotive trippy electronica; Electric Psychedelic Sitar Heads: one of series of cheesy sitar infused pop; Sevdaliza: Ison 2017; deeply emotional slow soul electronic; For A Few Fuzz Guitars More: guess what! A great compilation of vintage garage rock; finally, as a complete departure – Philip Glass: Solo Piano – not at all monotone & emotionless, in fact nearly romantic & very enjoyable but not music to masturbate to. 

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McBridal Shower

I love upright bass, so by bass player Christian McBride I have as stand-alone Gettin’ To It (1994) , Parker’s Mood (1995), Number Two Express(1995), (as mp3) fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Handcock (1997), Sci-Fi (2000). I first heard Christian as a sideman with sax player Joshua Redman – he was a strong support player but when I found Gettin’ To It his first release as leader I was eager to hear him get to it.

Bouncy, contemplative, fresh with a great version of The Stars Fell On Alabama – on this Joshua Redman is a sideman, along with Roy Hargrove on trumpet. Excellent, accessible jazz. On Parker’s Mood he is part of trio with Roy Hargrove & Steven Scott. As the title indicates, this a tribute set of Charlie Parker tunes given not-overly-respectful reinterpretations.  On Express he is joined by old school masters Chick Corea & Jack DeJohnette for another great set. The fact that he attracted these jazz icons speaks to his chops & reputation.

The Hancock tribute is excellent even though there is no piano in the bass, trumpet, drums trio. Adventurous rethinkings of Hancock that actually explores rather than treats the material with such respect it might as well be on a museum shelf. 

Sci-Fi, is, as the title suggests, a bow to the jazz-rock  sounds of Miles Davis &, yes, Herbie Hancock. In fact Hancock joins in on keyboards & even David Gilmore of Pink Floyd makes an appearance. No one really thinks of Pink Floyd as jazz-rock but Atom Heart Mother ranks up there with Inner Mounting Flame. Another homage that explores rather than replicates that time era.

You cannot go wrong with with any jazz lp that includes Christian McBride as leader or as a sideman.

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Scared To Be With Dory

Scared To Be With Dory

By Dory Previn I have in an mp3 collection: On My Way To Where 1970 (With My Daddy in the Attic, Beware of Young Girls), Mythical Kings & Iguanas 1971, Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign 1972. I had them all as vinyl at one time & replaced them eventually for better sound quality. Now, who is Dory Previn you might ask?

As as songwriter she was well established thanks to several Oscar nominations before she recorded her first solo lp. Ex-wife of Andre Previn, she came into her own when he dumped her for the ultimate groupie Mia Farrow (Mia went on from Previn to Sinatra & then, famously Woody Allen). Dory’s song Beware of Young Girls mercilessly chronicles that event. 

The first lp is one of the rawest emotional recordings & puts the lyrics of many more popular ‘confessionals’ i.e. Joni Mitchell (who I like), or Don McLean, to shame. Her music & vocal style is jazz, if anything. Her voice is an acquired taste – I find it thin unlike say, Nancy Wilson. Buddy Collette’s clarinet work on Daddy in the Attic is a marvel. The other lp’s I have are good & pull no punches – ‘who do I have to fuck to get out of this picture’

Another equally raw confessional singer/songwriter is the amazing Janis Ian, so on this mp3 collection I have her Stars (Jessie), Between The Lines (At Seventeen), Aftertones, Night Rains. Check out my earlier post about her for more –

It seemed fitting to also add the more contemporary & equally raw emotional Adele with her 19 (Deluxe Edition) & 21. Her voice is powerful, her music is appealing & her lyrics speak to broken-hearts around the world. As much as I enjoy her sound I feel she hasn’t really progressed musically – too many songs force themselves to an emotional pitch.

Finally I rounded out this collection with Duffy’s Endlessly – after such an emotional load I needed a much lighter music approach with a throw back to her girl-group sounds of the sixties. Radio friendly & sweet in a way that is refreshing after Dory Previn 🙂

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The Pretenders

First there was Leslie Gore, then along came Grace & Janis, eventually Suzi Quatro – female vocalists of differing power but all who rocked – paving the way for Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. In may collection I have Debut 1979, II 1981, Get Close 1986, The Singles 1987, Packed! 1990, Last of the Independents 1994, Viva el Amor 1999, Break Up the Concrete 2008. Some started as lps, progressed to cassette & now are here as either standalone or mp3.

I remember hearing that first lp & being struck by the all-out power of her vocals, her lyrics & that tough girl image. Emotionally raw & challenging romantic fantasy while being sexually frank about her own desires this lp is a rock classic. The band is tight, propelling & match her emotions note for note. Without playing it, I can hear Brass in the Pocket.

Their sound didn’t change much over the course of the lps I have but the emotional charge did dissipate – success often tempers anger 🙂 The lyrics become a little more world-view & verge on political. Chrissie reveals some vulnerability as well. In her later solo career she explores jazz .

There were changes in members, in labels, producers yet the band remained consistently focused – there was never, say, a disco phase, or a punk moments or any attempts at hip-hop. No attempts were made to force a hit-parade sound just solid musicianship & powerhouse vocals. If you’re looking for a rock band, look no further – they may be The Pretenders but they’re the real deal.

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Henri et Heitor

Henri Vieuxtemps (Belgian 1820-81): Violin Concertos. I bought this way back in 2004 at HMV where they had a table or reduced-price classical cds. I like violin concertos so I picked it up knowing nothing about the composer. I’ve played it several times since then but to be honest I have no recollection of what I heard 🙂 The music is pleasant enough that I’ve kept it in my collection. It’s the sort of thing you might hear on CBC radio & think ‘that’s nice.’ At Vieuxtemps’ funeral his violin was carried upon a pillow behind the hearse carrying his body.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959) Brazilian, wrote over 2000 works by his death in 1959. If you’ve never heard of him, chances are you have heard him but not realized it was his music you were listening to in the background of some movie or TV show.

I have as stand-alones his Complete Solo Guitar which includes Bachianas Brasileiras, Piano Music Vol 4, Piano Music Vol 5, String Quartets Vol 6. Although I tend to be a completest I was content with this selection of his works. I think I first heard his music as played by Andre Segovia; then some of it ‘smuggled’ by various progrock groups; as well as jazz takes by Chick Corea & others. 

Like many composers he makes extensive use of folk melodies but unlike, say, Smetana, doesn’t turn them into epic patriotic melodrama. Playful, thoughtful & romantic his melodies are ideal for musical exploration & easily adapt to tango, rumba or bossanova. 

For many years I was unaware that he wrote for anything other than guitar, & was surprised to find that the piece of his I liked was adapted from his piano music. So I added some of that to my collection & decided to try some of his string quartets – which are excellent, if you like string quartets. 

If you find his latino influence a little too controlled by classical structure you should try Piazzolla or even Sivuca for a ‘juicier’ classical experience. 

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Postal Affair

I picked up the CD of The Postal Service on sale at HMV decades ago after reading rave reviews & I enjoyed it – sort of low-key electronics with sweet slightly laconic vocals & wry songs of romance. A bit like Cake, Hot Chip, The replaced it with in this mp3 collection with the 10th Anniversary Edition, full of bonus live & remixed bonus tracks. Give Up is their only release but it made their reputation legendary. 

I rounded out the mp3 cd with Hercules & Love Affair: self-titled, Blue Songs (with bonus live & remixed tracks). Affair is a house music dance tangent of Antony & The Johnsons. This is the fun side of the Johnsons who are noted for their slow paced & classical chamber pop.

Affair is not chamber pop unless the chamber is a neon lit bar somewhere in Soho (or where the hip people go to dance). House music is a slightly mellow version of disco – not as many bpm & warmer electronic sound. The songs are all uplifting – gender fluid & queer positive lyrics. Music that invites you to dance. Reminiscent of Book of Love, Charlatans UK.

The last addition to this is DJ Kicks: compilation featuring Hercules & Love Affair, Klubb Kidz & more. More house music & a great sampler, introduction to that sound & groups that are committed to it. The music on this cd collection doesn’t rely on power-house vocal to sell the the emotional content of the songs – you can actually hear lyrics without a forced emotional lock.

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Talking About My Girls

Night & Day is a stand-alone compilation of Cole Porter songs performed by an array of jazz icons such as Shirley Horn, Billie Holiday & Fred Astaire. Each song is a classic & this a good introduction to the stylists & to Cole Porter.

Next on the shelf is a fun, wonderful, sometimes heart breaking, mp3 collection by various female pop singers who reflect, in sometimes dismaying ways, the roles that women were expected to play both in reality & in the music industry. Filed under Sandy Posey – with a hits collection including her songs Born A Woman &  Single Girl (both by Martha Sharp). Both delivered with a combination of harrowing fragility & fuck you self-realizations. Not quite angry enough to become feminist anthems.

Skeeter Davis: Here’s The Answer: cover versions of hit singles by country artists and answer songs to the hits. ie Last Date & her response: My Last Date (With You). More country than Sandy & perhaps even more compliant with the gal’s cultural role.

Of course women suffered at different levels & some like, Leslie Gore made it clear she wasn’t going to take it with doing like You Don’t Own Me. I have her Golden Hits, knowing she eventually came out casts an interesting light on her teen angst & willingness to make Judy cry. ‘why is she wearing his ring when she could be wearing mine’

Another 60s icon is Connie Francis. I have her My Happiness collection & it’s clear her happiness is a man who treats her well. Her voice is emotionally laden with neediness & the arrangements are perfectly overwrought. 

Somewhat different is Petula Clark. On her Greatest Hits she has a more sophisticated lightness about life, men & taking the subway. She knows a place were there’s more than men to fulfill her sense of self.

Remember Mary Wells? She cut tracks with Marvin Gaye that appear on the Motown collection Early Classics. Her My Guy is another of those songs pledging her heart to the perfect man who makes her life complete. She set the musical template for the Supremes – in fact she left Motown because profits from her recordings were being used to promote The Supremes & not her. Her life would make an excellent bio movie.

When Dionne Warwick sings Only Love Can Break A Heart, on her album of the same title, you know she knows the role of a woman – to be disappointed in the search for true love. Great melodramatic songs about that search on her way to San Jose.

Can’t get enough of girl groups? Then try the compilation Ultimate Girl Groups: 26 tracks including: Passionettes, The Gems; with endless, sometimes funky, songs about unfaithful men by an array of excellent almost-made-it girl groups modelled after The Supremes. 

Also in this mp3 collection is the expanded Hairspray (original film) soundtrack. Classic early 60’s dance music with tracks by Chubby Checker & too many others to list. An excellent movie worth seeing for the music & for Divine Vs Debby Harry. Finally, to round out the collection, Joan Morris: Vaudeville: Songs of the Great Ladies of the Musical Stage. This puts the suffering ladies of the 60’s, 70’s, into a historical context starting with a delightful ‘I Don’t Care’ but really know she does.

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