Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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Richard and Maria

In my classical collection I have a few stand-alone cds of Richard Wagner (1813-83). I am by no means a fan of German opera. I have seen pieces of his operas on DVD but well my only real knowledge is from Bugs Bunny. One of the cds is a sort of orchestral hits: overtures & preludes from the operas. 

The other is an lp to cd transfer of Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions of things like Love-Death, The Siegfried Idyll. This is luscious romantic & well worth adding to your classical collection, if you don’t have it already. My partner has all the operas on DVD & CD so I’m saving them to appreciate in my old age.

Next to Wagner is another German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) who is also noted for his operas, none of which I have in my collection or have knowingly heard. Wiki tells me he was a major influence on Wagner. In my collection I have three stand alone cds. Two are lp to cd transfers one of the opera overtures; the other are of individual concertos for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn. Third is of Symphonies 1 & 2 with suites for him operas. Unlike Wagner, Weber actually wrote more than opera.

The music is romantic without being overwrought – no one would confuse Weber with Beethoven 🙂 I certainly enjoy them when they come in rotation to be played but I don’t feel the urge to play them otherwise, unlike Beethoven whose works I go back to frequently. 



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Sweet Suzi Pia Mamie Ginger

I loved glam-rock’s Suzi Quatro when I first heard 49 Crash on the radio. I dug her tough girl look & her edgy sexual energy. I have by Suzi: Suzi Quatro (1973) Who is she singing ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ to? Her girlfriend? Quatro: 1974) her self-penned Klondyke Kate might answer that question.; Mama Won’t Like Me (1975); Aggro Phobia (1976) that includes an excellent Heartbreak Hotel; Suzi … and Other Four Letter Words (1979).

Her sound moved gradually from glam-rock to hard rock. The lps are a mix of original songs written with Len Tucky, covers & pure pop bliss by songwriters & producers Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn i.e. 48 Crash. I had all these at vinyl at one time. The later work is ‘softer’ & more diverse in sound. Although she has a rocker persona she was never a tough or as direct as Chrissie Hynde.

Another band that profited from Chapman & Chinn is The Sweet: Desolation Boulevard (1974) with hit song “Ballroom Blitz.” A dynamic collection of radio friendly pop perfect for the times. Chapman & Chinn are that era’s George Martin producing hits for many British groups. Like the later hit producer Trevor Horn you knew when you were hearing a Chapman & Chinn production.

Mamie Van Doren was a low-rent Jayne Mansfield (who in turn was a low rent Marilyn Monroe). She starred in many drive-in exploitation films. Here I  The Girl Who Invented Rock & Roll (1997): a great compilation of famous fun including the juicy ‘The Beat Generation.’ I also have the Dean Elliot soundtrack for College Confidential (1959) – one of Mamie’s movies that is a searing look at college life with songs 🙂

It only seemed right to include Pia Zadora’s I Am What I Am (1986). This lp was much better than I expected. Pia can actually sing & could have been a Lady Gaga with the right dance music producer & could also do a great duet lp with Tony Bennett. I suspect she was too comfortable to stretch beyond a tasteful choice of material Finally something on the ‘what the fuck’ side of pop, Ginger Baker’s Airforce 2 (1970) includes his take on  Cream’s Sweet Wine. I put it here because of the sweetly off-kilter female vocalist on all the cuts. Baker is a powerhouse drummer & used his fame from Cream to produce some intriguing lps of world music. Intriguing but the critics found them puzzling & not nearly as rock as Cream & thus were disappointed. But you know I rather enjoy the Airforce’s rather shambling production & horns. 

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Hola Flora e amigos

I have two mp3 cd collections of Latino music anchored by Flora Purim – a diverse mix of Spanish & Portuguese musicians, of vintage & modern artists.

By Flora Purim (Brazil) I have Butterfly Dreams (1973), Stories To Tell (1974), Open Your Eyes You Can Fly (1976),Everyday Everynight (1978), Sings Milton Nascimento (2000). (elsewhere I have her work with Chick Corea, & Airto Moreira)

I first heard her with Chick Corea. Chick is one of the lollards of jazz-rock & also a jazz piano god. As a result her first few lps have a strong feel for jazz-rock but in a much more Latino direction. She a clear soaring voice that is comfortable with adult pop, avant guard experimental, folk & jazz. Check out Dr. Jive on YouTube – it is an amazing rush of energy & merges her sensibilities in an almost psychedelic explosion. I love all these lps.   

Flora didn’t appear in a void though, she was preceded in the 50’s by Yma Sumac, a Peruvian-American coloratura soprano with a range of over four and a half octaves. I have her Mambo! (1954) , Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Voices of the Xtabay (1950). The queen of exotica she picked up where Carmen Miranda left off with a series of amazing, authentic recordings that haven’t been bettered. The original cover art alone on these is amazing. Grab a hits collection.

Sergio Mendes Brazil’66 brought an interesting spin on Latino music by interpreting current pop songs as sambas etc. I have Fool on The Hill (1968), Four Sider (1972). They mix Brazilian standards as well thus exposing us try their native sounds as well. A bit middle-of-the-road – an easier to take version of Flora Purim lol.

If you want to step even deeper try Sivuca (Brazil): Sivuca (1978), Quinteto Ulrapuru (2010) – I had his 78 lp on vinyl on the east coast & loved it – playful, romantic street/folk music. the 2010 lp is mature & verges of modern classical. Hermeto Pascol’s (Brazil): Eu e Eles (1999) Is a fun, quirky work – he plays in the studio with sound effects & almost silly vocal styles: words gargled with water. 

Violeta Parra (Chile) (1917-1967): Las ultimas composiciones, is best known for ‘Gracias a la Vida’ which is given an amazing recording by Mercedes Sosa. Parra is a folkie solo singer – a sweet voice, an acoustic guitar with songs of political protest, love & hope. Obscure, mind you. She reminds me of the 60’s coffee house scene.

Mane Silvera & Swami Jr.- Ima: with Silvera on sax, Jr. on acoustic guitar. I borrow this cd from the library, made a cassette copy & then downloaded the mp3 – I love love love this jazz duo – playful, lyrical & one of my favourites. Who could resist a musician named Swami Jr? I love the playing of both these  musicians & have more by each elsewhere in my collection. This is a must have.  

Jon Hendricks’s Salud! Joao Gilberto (1963) is a pleasant exploration of Gilberto that was ahead of its time. Easy listening takes on classic songs by one of America’s foremost male jazz singers.

In this collection are couple of Spanish lps as well. Antologia Del Tango Argentino – a collection of archival tangos – yes there was a major recording industry outside of the USA. Finally a dip into more recent sounds with Orishas (Cuban hip hop): Emigrante (2002), El Kilo (2005). Energetic, passionate & full of samples of Cuban big band & jazz. Remarkable modern music.

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Psychic Dance

Psychic TV, an English experimental video art and music group, was influential in pioneering the acid house genre. They have released over one hundred full-length albums to date. Never heard of them? Well, neither had I until someone posted a one of their videos. The images were chaotic but the music had a good beat & you could dance to it 🙂

I have their Hacienda (1984), Peak Hour (1993). The music is interesting & arty & at times danceable. Musique concrète is the basis of their sonic experimentalism & it often works, some track are aimless repetitions, some shouted, some live & although there is a decade between these releases to flow seamlessly into each other. Fun stuff to stretch musical horizons.

On this mp3 compilation I added Evo Mix (2013) – dance tracks by Dschinghis Khan, C.C Catch & Mafikizolo – world music with a definite Slavic flavour. I saw a video by Dschinghis Khan & loved it & wasn’t disappointed by this too-short collection.

Keeping with that house music feel I found We Love Berlin 8.1 (2013) an 3.5 hour compilation by various artists, or is it remixers & DJ’s? This is ideal typing music that can keep the fingers moving to beat. Consistently uptempo this is great & cheerful electrodance. One of the groups I really liked on it was Jeans Team so I picked up their  Das ist Alkomerz (2013) – Berlin-based electronic music group with a sweet sound.

Finally a standalone a May 2001 compilation by the British magazine Q: Essential Dance – featuring The Stereo MCs, Moby, Fat Boy Slim & more. These were cds exclusive to Q & made great samplers of underground sound though nearly every band on this cd became above ground big hitters. Some are still around today. Odd how music from 2000 is now considered retro. 



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Cheesy Music A Part of Me

This wildly eclectic, nearly 7 hour, mp3 compilation includes: David McCallum: Music A Part of Me; Louie Shelton: Touch Me; Neil Hefti: Batman, Lord Love A Duck; T-tauri: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; Armando Trovajoli: Seven Golden Men, Gente Di Roma; Rostal & Schaefer: The Beatles Concerto; Count Basie: Basie Meets Bond, Basie On The Beatles. The connecting thread being cheesy instrumental fun.

David McCallum co-starred in the TV show Man From U.N.C.L.E & thanks to his TV fame released a couple of instrumental lps one of which was Music A Part of Me (1966). He conducted the audio orchestra on covers such as We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, Taste of Honey, as well some original pieces. Easy listening lounge music. Clearly the precursor to Symphonic Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd et al.

Louie Shelton was an in demand studio guitarist who released one lp (which I had on vinyl) Touch Me (1968) A mix of covers like Whiter Shade of Pale & some original pieces, one of which Theme For A Rainy Day is sublime perfection. Sweet chorus pops up one a couple of tracks. His playing is relaxing & never lapses into jazz.

Neil Hefti has the highest music profile here thanks to his music for TV’s Batman. He wrote a load of stuff, commercial jingles & even some movie soundtracks, including the classic Lord Love A Duck. Poppy organ go-go music with some quacking. I love the sweater buying music. It makes me want to put on a pair of white go-go boots & do The Pony. 

There was an industry around remaking The Beatles, resulting in endless adaptations. I have Bach Beatles covers, Russian covers. On this cd is Rostal & Schaefer: The Beatles Concerto – another prelude to symphonic Who. One side is the ‘concerto’ the other a set of ‘impressions’ – all very tasteful but too respectful. Ferrante & Teicher for a ‘hipper’ crowd 🙂

Also looking for a hipper crowd is Count Basie with a couple of cover sets: Basie Meets Bond, Basie On The Beatles. This was/is a jazz industry – cover albums of current pop, soundtracks. Think Vitamin String Quartet. There is good playing & it is better than elevator music. 

Let’s take a quick trip to Italy with a couple of real soundtracks by Armando Trovajoli. Seven Golden Men (1965), Gente Di Roma (2003). I bought the lp of Golden Men in a remainder bin at Zellar’s or maybe it was K-Mart way back in the early 80’s & I loved it then & still dote on it now. This is a prime example of those European soundtracks brimming with wordless, female scat singers. I’ve never seen this crime-caper movie & keep wishing TCM would dig it up. Gente I downloaded just to have something else by Armando but it is merely tasteful not cheesy. He has over 300 credits as composer and/or conductor almost all soundtracks.

Finally T-Tauri’s Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1998) – Out of the Netherlands comes this six-piece Symphonic Orchestra with a Rock’N’Roll attitude the violin, guitar, kettle drums & carillon. For many Pictures is classical cheese in any form. I have too many versions to count & this is as good as any of them. 

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The Professor and The Psychedelic Furs

I have Professor Longhair (1918-1980): Mardi Gras in New Orleans, another of the Essential Blue Archive compilation releases. His piano style is described as a mambo-rhumba boogie thing. A legendary performer I felt I should have in my collection. Fun stuff & sound quality is good.

Next on the shelf is this mp3 cd collection of 80’s Brit pop groups that made some headway into the mainstream & others that remained fringe alternative. Starting with The Psychedelic Furs: Forever Now (1980), Mirror Moves (1984), Midnight to Midnight (1987), Made of Rain (2020). Thanks to a couple of movie soundtracks the Furs went from almost-known to sensations.  Slightly Goth-emo songs that progress into major pop hits. Similar to The Cure but not as shoe-gazer our as quirky. Songs of loneliness, love, & even some with political intent. I enjoy the production work. I am enough of a fan to have picked up their ‘reunion’ lp Made of Rain – their first recording in a couple of decades which pretty much picks up where they left off.

More 80’s with the Buggles: Age of Plastic (1980) , Adventures In Modern Recording (1981) – one of the first of many products by Trevor Horn – with excellent hooky pop songs, brilliant engineering & of course the unforgettable Video Killed. Both this lps I had at one time as cassettes. The list of acts Horn produced is endless & includes Art of Noise, Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Another 80’s combo is Cabaret Voltaire: Red Mecca (1981) – they defined moody Goth with their dense keyboards & mystic lyrics. Electronica & easy to absorb – if you like slightly experimental emo this is a band for you.

One of my favorite 80’s bands was Talk Talk. In this mp3 collection I have The Colour of Spring (1986), Spirit of Eden (1988) – the band started electronic pop but moved away from that with a dense eclectic that moved into what I call chamber rock. Music that wasn’t based on beat-per-minute or radio sensibility. Spirit of Eden is beautiful.

Lastly a real rock group who survived the 80’s The Pretenders’ Packed! (1991) with the expected tough sound. Perhaps not a best-seller but proof that solid, non-emo groups were still alive & well. Hynde’s vocal as compelling, the songs are good if not inspired & there is a great cover of Hendrix’s “May This Be Love” that is worth tracking down. 

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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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