Emergency Birds

On a couple of mp3 cd collections, as well as some stand-alones I have a fair bit of John McLaughlin.

Before John McLaughlin arrived on the US jazz scene he had released Extrapolations (1969) & was featured with Tony Williams’ Lifetime on the riotous Emergency (1969) two aggressive but straight ahead recordings that attracted the attention of Miles Davis who featured him on the monumental Bitches Brew (1970), Live Evil (1971) & several other Davis lps.

Davis inspired McLaughlin to create the Mahvishnu Orchestra that defined jazz-rock with an amazing series of lps: Inner Mounting Flame (1971), Birds of Fire (1973), The Lost Trident Sessions (1973 -1999), Between Nothingness & Eternity (1973 live), Apocalypse (1974) London Symphony, Visions of the Emerald Beyond (1975), Inner Worlds (1976). In midst of which he recorded Love Devotion Surrender (1973) with Carlos Santana.

I love all of these jazz-rock lps. Most of which have been re-released with bonus tracks. As his Mahavishnu moniker indicates there is a more of eastern mystical influence but it doesn’t turn into proto-new age mush. My favourite is Birds of Fire. All are excellent. The Tony Williams is an energy rush that is also another highly influential lp & Williams drumming is epic.

He unplugged with Shakti (1976), A Handful of Beauty (1976), Natural Elements (1977) – turning his focus on an East Indian world music fusion. He remained unplugged with Passion Grace Fire (1983) in acoustic trio. Que Alegrias (1992) saw him return to his trio roots. After The Rain (1995) is fine tribute to John Coltrane.

Rounding of the cds is some by jazz violinist Jean Luc-Ponty: More Than Meets The Ear (1968)/ Aurora (1976)/Imaginary Voyage (1976), Jean was featured with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever & also worked with Frank Zappa! More Than is traditional while the later two are immersed in jazz-fusion. Sweet but perhaps a little too mystical.

Finally some Larry Coryell: Spaces (1970) that features him with McLaughlin, Spaces Revisited (1997); Monk ‘Trane Miles & Me (1999). Coryell us another of the jazz-fusion explorers & produced lots of great stuff before moving on, or perhaps that’s back, to a more conservative sound. Spaces is great, the Monk set offers good, solid explorations of jazz greats.

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Around World Music

By Rip Slyme, a Japanese hip hop group I have Good Times (2010) a hits compilation. Think Beastie Boys in Japanese. Densely layered, sampled, bouncy & fun. Lyric content? Who know? The vocals are strong, emotional & hit that hip-hop rhythm. Having to identify with the lyrics is a blessing as it allows the vocals to be yet another layer to the sound not a layer of meaning that distracts from the sound. I ‘discovered’ them while researching Japanese pop for one of the characters in my novel Picture Perfect. This is hip-hop & not J-Pop.

I saw a Señor Coconut video & loved the playful surrealist images. Turns out this is actually one of several names for German electronica composer Uwe H. Schmidt, now living in Chile. Around the World (2008) is a sweet set of Latino. techno pop jazzy Latino music – elevated lounge music for today’s hipsters. I love it even though I’m no hipster. 

By Chieko Kinbara, the Japanese violinist, I have ‘A Espera’ (2002) a soothing Enya-esque set of song, relaxing without being Celtic or boring. Thanks to some electrobeat & ethereal vocals in what I presume is Japanese. Another I discovered in research for Picture Perfect. Too serene for the character in the novel though.

Alyans is Russian synth pop/rock band. I have Скачать и слушать На Заре (1987) 2000, «Сделано в белом» (1992). Another YouTube discovery after seeing a video of theirs & deciding I needed some Soviet pop in my collection. Think Bauhaus, Erasure but more somber with excellent synth work & broody vocals, & eyeliner. Who knew the Soviets even allowed such dangerous music. Three guys on keyboards & best of all you don’t need to understand Russian to enjoy the vibe. 

 Jeremy Dutcher: Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (2018) Canadian Indigenous tenor, composer, musicologist, performer and activist. Add two-spirited as well. This is an amazing, dense, modern album that defies categorization. It won awards for best native aboriginal music but this is bigger than that as it straddles pop & classical & demonstrates that there is an accessible Canadian avant guard. 

 Finally by Sasanomaly, a Chinese water/performer I have Obake to Omocha Bako (2015) Similar to Chieko Kinbara this is gentle electrobeat that is not as ethereal but even not knowing the language it has a pleasant emotional pull. Goes against the grain of most JPop hyper bounciness. Similar to Troye Sivan.

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Brothers Glen and Buddy

Between 1962-66 Righteous Brothers had a string of hits thanks to the production work of Phil Spector. They did record other songs but even those have often been given the Spector treatment. I have ‘Gold’ a great collection of their best & their not so best. Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley had great voices but they were, as you might guess, not brothers. I have strong memories of hearing the hits on the radio but, at that time, wasn’t that taken by them – too adult & also it was considered romantic music for girls – not rock enough for boys. I’ve never heard a bad version of Unchained Melody – a song with a depth of longing that is hard to resist. The song was originally the theme song for the movie ‘Unchained’ about – of all things – a prison break.

Another hit-generator that just preceded my radio years is Buddy Holly (1936-59). On this mp3 compilation I have a hits collection ‘Gold’ & Rave On from June 2011, a tribute compilation with covers by the likes of Modest Mouse, Lou Reed etc. His tragic death turned him into an instant icon. His songs, for the most part are bouncy radio fodder. My favourite is Everyday. His clean-cut image is the opposite of  Elvis – Buddy was a safe idol for innocent teenage girls.

Yet another inescapable hit generator was Glen Campbell (1936-2017). Here I have The Best of, which includes Wichita Linesman. This was another singer I had little or no patience for in my teen years. Too laidback, too country, too romantic & banal. When he died in 2012 I gave a listen to some of those songs & the emotional pitch of his voice in Wichita Linesman is amazing. Subtle & sincere I suddenly wanted to have an affair with a linesman. lol.

I also downloaded his final studio lp Ghost on the Canvas  (2011) – recorded while he battling the Alzheimer’s which killed him. It’s a compelling, emotionally resonant & raw piece of work & stands well with similar ‘death bed’ works by David Bowie or Warren Zevon.  

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P.D.Q. Williamson vs Godzilla

I discovered Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003) the Australian composer thanks to the music in the horror/suspense movie Crescendo. One plot thread was an unfinished concerto the music for which was provided by Williamson. This is how I sometimes discover music. On this mp3 cd compilation I have his Overtures & Complete Piano Concertos. Mid-century romantic with, at times, over-the-top emotionalism. Great stuff.

Peter Schickele (1935) goes back to my life on the east coast. He is a satirist & parody genius. Some of his parodies do require a but of classical knowledge but the absurdity or his quintet that includes bagpipes & lute is easy to grasp. Another piece is the copying of a dozen symphonies strung together – the origins of sampling? here I have Peter Schickele Presents an Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807–1742)? (1965); An Hysteric Return: P.D.Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall (1966). As stand-alone I have On Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach On the Air which features the hysterical play-by-play commentary on a performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as if it were a baseball game. 

Camerata Hungarica: Music to Entertain the Kings of Hungary 1490-1526 – this is divine renaissance songs & dance music for small ensembles. Mostly shorter works – sometimes energetic, sometimes soothing but all times delightful. If you want an accessible cd of this period this is the one for you.

Finally another movie discovery: Akira Ifukube (1914-2006) a Japanese composer best known for his works on the Godzilla franchise: Works for Guitar & Lute. His classical music is modern, melodic & not at all Godzilla like 🙂 it is, if anything, a contemporary equivalent of Music to Entertain Kings (without scaring them). 

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Rhinoceros Knickerbockers

I remember the hype for Rhinoceros (1967). Full page ads in Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy by their second label Elektra. Elektra was a major player in the west coast scene with  bands like Paul Butterfield, The Doors, The Stooges – so expectations were high. Turns out the band created through auditions – just the Monkees. when their first self-named was released1968 it sold like hotcakes & then – well, the band sort of fizzled. The music was solid enough but didn’t live up to the hype.

I did buy the lp & was unimpressed & didn’t bother with the others until I decided some 40 years later to see whatever became of them. They did realize a couple of more Satin Chickens 1969; Better Times 1970 – which are solid but uninspired & not that focused. Footnotes not chapters to the west coast music scene.

The Castaways had one big hit in 1965 Liar Liar – which I loved. Garage rock built on driving Farfisa & guitar riffs. I have a ‘hits’ compilation that repeats that formula on standards like Hit The Road Jack & originals like Bad Hair Day. Disposable groovy unpretentious radio fodder that I dig. 

Another of those mid-60’s disposable groovy unpretentious radio fodder that I dug was The Knickerbockers whose one big hit was Lies. Garage rock built on driving guitar riffs. I have a ‘hits’ compilation that repeats that formula on a fun set of mostly original work. 

Speaking of garage rock built on driving guitar riffs. I have on this compilation The Kingsmen In Person (1963) that features the gold-standard of garage Louie, Louie. Some sources say this is actually a studio recording with the crowd dubbed onto it; others claim it is a live show. Who cares, it’s great fun.

Next is some great r’n’b soul by James and Bobby Purify (1966) who are cousins, not brothers. Their one major hit was I’m You Puppet. I have a hits compilation Shake a Tail Feather! which is bouncy, danceable fun. A bit more soulful is Britain’s Soul Sisters: I Can’t Stand It (1964). Not much info online about them so I don’t even know if they were actually sisters. There were enough US girl groups, i.e. The Supremes, The Crystals,  that the Soul Sisters never made an impact here. Worth searching out. 

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Renwick Hermann Hair

I’ve shared the stage many times with Arthur Renwick at shows like the long-gone Cryptic Chatter. He is an amazing guitarist, singer-songwriter with a fine blues sensibility. This is a great cd of a live 2006 performance at the Renaissance Cafe. Infectious energy & a fine souvenir of days gone by. He can be found on SoundCloud.

On an mp3 cd compilation filed under ‘R’ for  Resistance Radio are soundtracks & show tunes. It starts with the Fantasy Film World of Bernard Hermann. This a great Hermann conducted set of suites from his soundtracks for movies such as Journey To The Centre of the Earth, The Day The Earth Stood Still.

I had the lp of the original Hair Off Broadway (1967) & loved it but my friends resisted its charm thanks to hits made of some of the songs by The Cowsills, The 5th Dimension & Harper Bazaar – they deemed it a bubblegum sell out. I had an lps to cd of it & when I found it re-released combined with the On Broadway (1969) cast lp I had to have it. Some songs are repeat but some in the off-Broadway were dropped & others put in. Elsewhere I do have the okay1978 film soundtrack & the more recent (2005) excellent Actors Fund of America Benefit Recording

Until The End Of The World a 1991 Wim Wenders film, tracks by the likes of Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Lou Reed. I have very vague memories of seeing this film & thinking it was going on too long but the music was brilliant & some of these songs were, at that time, only available on the soundtrack.

Resistance Radio: The Man in the High Castle – TV series alt-history in which German wins the war so the radio plays hits of those times but as all cover versions such as Can’t Help Falling in Love by Beck. I haven’t see this series not have I red the novel but the concept of an alternative history that includes songs we know done by different people is great. I bought this for these excellent cover versions.

If you are Pink Floyd fan the group Blue Moon is for you. I have Matrix Spheres that is extended instrumentals that could be seamlessly dropped into any Floyd album.

I’ve seen Finnish actor Matti Pellonpää in several movies. An intense actor with great comic timing. TCM ran Boheemi elää/Bohemian Eyes: a 2011 documentary about his life Boheemi elää/Bohemian Eyes directed by Janne Kuusi. The soundtrack was evocative with some sublime musical saw & some tracks by his band. As a lover of obscurity I checked to see if this soundtrack was available & it was & it is wonderful.

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Ray McKenzie And His Orchestra: Count Basie’s And Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits (1974) This is an lp to cd transfer of a double lp by this orchestra. In jazz this is a big band with several saxes, horns, piano etc & is not to be consumed with a symphony orchestra. These are decent interpretations of the hits. Nothing radical 🙂 

On a genre hopping mp3 cd that runs too nearly 8 hours of music I have Gary McFarland (vibraphonist) Essential Jazz Moods 50 tracks some with Anita O’Day, Gabor Szabo, Steve Kuhn. This is a massive compilation of McFarland’s recordings in the late 50’s to Mid 60’s. His work with Gabor Szabo is amazing, as is Szabo anyway. I think I paid $5.99 for this via iTunes & was not disappointed – a fine purchase for anyone who wants an instant good jazz collection. 

I watched a documentary about the Birth of Disco – Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa was one of the first major hits of the genre. Disco was diverse before diversity became a must. I have The Very Best Of (1997): which includes Soul Makossa & Manu Safari (1998). He is an excellent sax player & if you want powerful African jazz this is for you. 

Here too is Franz Waxman’s Peyton Place (soundtrack 1957). Waxman was the John Williams of his day, responsible for dozens of fine film soundtracks. The title song was impressed on my brain by the TV series. I’m a Peyton Place fan & once had a pirated copy off the entire series (picture quality got worse & worse). The 1957 movie is sordid fun & the music is sublime.

Finally to round out the mp3 cd is some Billy Preston – Wildest Organ in Town/Club Meeting (1966/67). When I discovered that Preston was gay I added these jazz lps (his pop is fine too). This is funky stuff in the Jimmy Smith mode & love it when it comes up in my play rotation. The story of his life is heartbreaking – internalized homophobia has killed too many.  

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By R.E.M. I have as mp3 – Reckoning (1984)/ Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)/ Document (1987) as stand alone Green (1988), Out of Time (1991), Automatic for the People (1992), Monster (1994), New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1998), Up (1998), Accelerate (2008). Before they hit big a friend have me a cassette (remember those?) of Reckoning which didn’t impress me. It had a sort of Byrds like sound I liked but I was no fan as a result.

I picked up a 2nd hand Document cassette & I guess the sound quality was better & I did enjoy it but when they hit their stride with Green I followed their releases for awhile. Their engineering & production improved. I liked the way their music changed from release to release. Lots of keyboards, then almost acoustic, then more guitar, then a touch of mandolin. It must be odd when an alternative band becomes so mainstream. They turned out to be neo-hippies with their strong ecological, political stance.

To round out the mp3 collection I added: Stories: About Us (1973) – an excellent album by a great US band that didn’t survive their fame. Simply Red: Men & Women (1987); A New Flame (1989): two fine adult pop romantic lps by a band that sort of faded away. Huey Lewis & The News: Sports (1983); Fore! (1986) – read hit parade rock pop by a band that was inescapable from in the mid 80’s.

Joe Simon: Get Down – great soulful sexy r’n’b dance music worth searching out. David Bowie: Let’s Dance: obscure lp by an obscure British musician (just joking). Bowie does disco with intelligence & a bit of grit. Finally The Dream Academy – one of the bands that propelled emo into chamber rock – dreamy & sonically rich.

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Not So Flimsy Reed

I have a fair bit of Lou Reed in my collections either as mp3 or as stand-alone beginning with his Velvet Underground years. On the shelves are: Velvet Underground: Underground+Nico (1967); White Light/White Heat (1968) (super deluxe: 2013); Live MCMXCIII (1993). His solo work: Lou Reed (June 1972); Transformer (Nov 1972); Berlin (1973); R’n’R Animal ( Feb.1974); Sally Can’t Dance (1974); Metal Machine Music (July 1975); Coney Island Baby (Dec. 1975); Rock & Roll Heart (1976); The Wild Side (1977: best of); Take No Prisoners (1978); The Bells (1979); Growing Up In Public (1980); The Blue Mask (1982); Legendary Hearts (1983); New York (1989); Magic and Loss (1992).

I remember first hearing that first lp with its mix of Nico Eurosex, John Cage’s avant guard sensibility, Reed’s druggy punky insolence filtered through Andy Warhol’s Factory lens & thinking wow! Music clearly not intended for the Top Ten. Adult stuff. Who knew then that it would be fine of the most influential lps of the 60’s – thanks to songs like All Tomorrow’s Parties we have the seeds of the entire Goth, emo genre.

As I go through this list I have to resist the temptation of talking about each lp. My favourites should come as no surprise Berlin; Sally Can’t Dance; Coney Island Baby – each full of songs that spoke to me with memories of growing up different, of trying to please parents etc. The engineering & production of these is also stunning. Metal Machine Music is not a fav but it is an astonishing fuck you to the industry & created the grind core genre. the live Take No Prisoners is a ride on the wild side highlighted by Reed’s enraged rant against a certain reviewer.

He was a artist who knew the power of persona & could back it up with great music. He went from that punky heroin junky rebel to survivor of childhood to lover to Factory artifact to mourner for HIV holocaust to revered rock icon. 

Then to round out some of the mp3 cds I added: to one of them Lulu: Best of; Jimmy Reed: I Ain’t From Chicago (blues); AC Reed: Junk Food (blues); Superelvis: Happiness Is Stupid (fun Spanish art rocker); Donovan: Beat Cafe (like Reed another 60’s druggie survivor). On another is Fleetwood Mac: self-titled, English Rose (early bluesy work by the band); Ultravox: Systems of Romance (remember what I said about seeding the emo genre); Jefferson Airplane: 2400 Fulton St. (west coast survivors of the druggy 60’s); Brian Ferry: Dylanesque (did I mention Reed’s Dylan tendencies); (a couple of modern Goth blues techno bands) Mount Kimbie: Cold Spring Faultless Youth; King Krule: EP; 6 feet Beneath The Moon. Wymond Miles: Earth Has Doors (dense art rock verging on grind core jazz)

Finally Jimi Hendrix: Live At Woodstock – because of all the live Reed lps & the endless takes on Sister Ray on the Super Deluxe White Light. Not familiar with Reed – try any of the many hits compilations, do NOT start with Metal Machine Music or Take No Prisoners.

Nico’s Nirvana News

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Weill Not So Vile

By Kurt Weill (1900 –1950) I have: stand-alones of Symphonies 1 & 2; Mahogonny/Seven Deadly Sins; Three Penny Opera (Konig Ensemble); Three Penny Opera (Lotte Lenya). As mp3: Ute Lemper: Sings Weill; Lotte Lenya: Sings Weill. As lp to CD transfer: Berlin to Broadway/Martha Schlamme sings Weill; Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill.

My first exposure to Weill was, like many, Bobby Darin’s Mac The Knife & that first line about the shark’s teeth gave the smooth sing a real bite. It is a decent translation of Bertold Brecht’s original German lyrics by Marc Blitzstein. Of course it was years before I knew it was a Weill/Brecht composition.

Over the years I have seen various productions of nearly all of the theatre pieces they created together. Also some that were reconstructions using songs from various plays. All haver a strong political message  & there is at least one standout song in each. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Weill wrote music not for the stage! Symphonies, lieder etc. But it will be his theatre music he’ll be remembered for.

My first real purchase was the double lp Berlin to Broadway (since transferred to CD) that found remaindered when I lived in Cape Breton. This is a small ensemble show complex from Weill’s various other shows, told as a musical biography & sense is a sort of a biggest hits & it well worth tracking down. (not to be confused with some brass quartet release of the same title.)

One of the versions of The Three Penny features Weill’s muse Lotte Lenya. A great archival recording, the other is a more recent & is fine. Lotte’s set of his songs is excellent as well – her voice can be an acquired taste. Lemper’s set is fun cabaret & all the hits are there. Schlamme’s are more classical rather than cabaret.

The Symphonies are pleasant 20th century classical. No sense of his showtune work in them & if it weren’t for his theatre work they would be even less of a footnote than they are now. Did you know that Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan also wrote 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets & more? 

If you are unfamiliar Weill start with any compilation of his theatre work. 

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