Hawes Atomic Wild Side

I added this collection of Hampton Hawes: Three Classic Albums plus, a year or so ago as the iTunes price was right & I love Hampton. When I was living in Sydney, Cape Breton he was my real introduction to jazz that wasn’t fusion. Traditional straight ahead inventive playing & well worth adding to any collection.

John Betsch Society: Earth Blossom (1974) – sweet postbop percussion & sax/flute pleasant. Christer Norden: Library Music (2021) – similar to Betsch – soothing, more piano oriented jazz verging on easy listening.

Babatunde Olatunji – (Nigerian drummer) Soul Makossa (1973) – This is timeless excellent African music – a jazzy mix of traditional with a great version of the title track, one of my favourite exotica instrumentals.

Count Basie: The Complete Atomic Basie (1994). I did a search for Neil Hefti – best known for his music of there 60’s Batman TV show – & read that he was a well-established jazz musician & arranger & this is an lp he produced & arranged for Count Basie. Excellent big band jazz. Could I tell Basie from Ellington? Probably not.

Limbo Party: Ivy Pete & His Limbomaniacs (1962) was an lp my folks had & I did a little iTune search & there it was full of great playful ‘limbo’ music. The limbo was a fad dance in the late 50’s early 60’s & introduced many to this world music sound. Then it was rarely listened for itself. It stands the test of time.

Next on this cd mp3 compilations are a couple of movie soundtrack. First Gerry Mulligan Orchestra: I Want To Live (1958). When I saw this film on TCM I was amazing at the soundtrack – some of the action takes place in various jazz clubs & the producers were smart enough to use real jazz musicians, so there are great scenes of Gerry Mulligan’s group playing. Good film with an excellent soundtrack.

Another, thanks to TCM, soundtrack find is Elmer Bernstein’s Walk On The Wild Side (1962). One of the most versatile soundtrack composers his use of jazz saves some films from obscurity. A strange film, check out the opening credits on YouTube, the music suits this over-heated melodrama set in a New Orleans brothel. The lp didn’t include (I guess for licensing issues) the Brook Benton songs which I also tracked down on iTunes as an ep – Walk On The Wild Side (1962). Well worth having.

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Savoy Brown Signs

I had a couple of Savoy Brown cassettes that I bought at Radio Shack way back in the early 70’s. They had a store in the first mall in Sydney. I bought my first stereo there. They had racks of deleted cassettes by bands I’d never heard of. One was Savoy Brown. I have in an mp3 collection Blue Matter (1969); Raw Sienna (1970); Looking In (1970); Street Corner Talking (1971). 

Similar, at that time, to Fleetwood Mac they were a good bar blues band that changed as they lost members. Raw, Looking & street where the first I had. Blue I added decades later when I upgraded cassettes to mp3. The guitar sound is wonderful. Raw is my favourite. Looking, Street see the first changes in members & changes in direction as they move in a more r’n’b direction & on Street they cover songs like Can’t Get Next To You & Wang Dang Doodle. Raw Sienna is an underrated masterpiece.

In the mp3 collection is also Canada’s Five Man Electrical Band: Good Byes & Butterflies (1970) they had a big hit with ‘Signs.’ The rest of the lp is solid, slightly political/ecological songs. Here too is another one-hit group: Status Quo: Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo (1968). Pictures of Matchstick Men was a huge psychedelic hit & the lp is full of similar period songs including a cover of Green Tamborine. Throughout their career, they never achieved the same level of success in the USA as they have in Britain.

Next is Jimmy Cliff: retitled for US: Wonderful World Wonderful People (1969). A great ska sound by this Jamaican superstar. Besides the title song this set included the often covered ‘Many Rivers To Cross.’ Uplifting songs & great ska music. Back to Canada with The Guess Who: Best Of (1971). It’s hard to believe that the band that did the ultra jazzy Undone also rocked out with American Woman. Musical diversity that made it hard to label this band. Finally Fat Mattress (1969). anchored by Noel Redding (of Hendrix fame). Fat Mattress probably would never had surfaced without his fame. The music is unexceptional folk rock in the Traffic vein. Something for completists like myself.

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Saturday Night Inferno

The Saturday Night Fever (1977) soundtrack is one of the best-selling albums in history, and remains the biggest-selling soundtrack of all time, selling over 45 million copies worldwide. It produced 4 #1 singles & became the catalyst for the ‘hate disco’ ‘disco sucks’ movement. The soundtrack & the movie both capture a time & place perfectly.

The Bee Gees were big stars & this propelled then briefly into superstardom. I don’t think anything they recorded after this was as ‘compelling’ or as catchy. I do have some of their early work before they went supernova but am not a fan. The songs here are well-crafted & engineered. For me the standout cut is Disco Inferno which really captures the power of disco but was too dangerous at the same time – the Bee Gees were safe & never dangerous.

It also features some Walter Murphy – his updated disco-fied classical  spawned a trend for this type of cover work that quickly became pure kitsch with disco maulings of big band, tangos, Gregorian chant – who remembers the slamming version of Carmina Burana? 

Another disco movie sound is Thank God It’s Friday (1978). Unlike Fever this has no real plot, no family dynamics just pretty people dancing at the disco. A more representative collection & more gritty than Fever plus Donna Summer – real disco star belting out Last Dance which went on to win her an  Academy award for best song. Both soundtracks are worth having & well make you want to dance dance dance.

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The Arbours and other Obscurities

The Arbours and other Obscurities

On the anniversary box set of the film Valley Of The Dolls is a bonus documentary about Jacqueline Suzanne & her personal promotion for the book & film. One of things she did was commission a title song for the film, which never got used, much to her disappointment. It was performed by The Arbors. I tracked it down on The Very Best of The Arbors. Think The Association lite. Easy listening harmonies is their sound. Pleasant & not as melodic as the Previn song used for the film – which to me also missed the mark for such a soapy, seedy, druggy movie. Valley wasn’t safe but the music was.

Often when I check YouTube for a video to post of a piece of music I have, I’ll come across groups I have never heard of before. One of these was After All (1969) The album is organ-dominated progressive rock with a psychedelic taint and a clear classical influence. Think Procol Harum. Enjoyable. 

This is also how I found The Bards (1967) – Beatles/ Byrds folk rock fun. Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers (1968) A Canadian soul band on Motown! solid r’n’b out of Vancouver.  Captain Marryat (1974) a Scottish bar band who recorded a studio set of songs to sell at their gigs. Solid fun. Praying Mantis: Time Tells No Lies (1981) Deep Purple/Uriah Heap-ish heavy metal with progrock overtones.

Julian’s Treatment: A Time Before This short-lived progressive rock band was fronted by sci-fi author & keyboards player Julian Jay Savarin. A strange concept album about astral visitors. A dense progrock sound with operatic influences. One needs the liner notes to virtually figure out the story line but it fits in well wth countless other concept albums of the time. Give a listen on YouTube. Sam Samudio is Sam the Sham. Hard & Heavy (1971) is a solo lps he released after the Pharos rode off on their camels. This is solid bluesy rock, the voice is unmistakable but he never really developed a major career.

Procol Harum may not be obscure but Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra! (1971) Let’s face it Edmonton itself is obscure lol. I remember I bought this when it was first released & I found the sound quality crappy. I hoped the cd reissue would be better but it isn’t. This lp probably started the whole Symphonic Rock trend though. The symphony merely adds strings to their songs rather than elevates them. 

Finally, also not totally obscure, is ABC: Lexicon of Love Live at Hammersmith Odeon, November 1982. The studio album is one of my all time favourites – stunning use of strings & amazing production. This live concert is excellent. By 1982 remote recording techniques had advanced considerably from 1971. The strings are integral to the sound not a novelty add on. Well worth having. 

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mingus Monk

Jazz runs the gamut from easy listening to complex challenging. There is the from the gut playing of John Coltrane to the intellectual work of Anthony Braxton. There are those who argue that ‘instrumental’ is pap – is Lawrence Welk big band or ‘instrumental’ pap? If it’s too popular does it lose creative credibility? 

Mingus and Monk are two jazz masters who have never attempted to be popular & no one questions their credibility. Both can be ‘difficult’ because they both challenge conventional jazz structures & tonalities. First is  Charlies Mingus (1922-1989) – I have Mingus Dynasty 1960, Me Myself and Eye 1970, Mingus: a two lp compilation 1972. My first exposure to Mingus was either Haitian Flight Song as performed by The Pentangle, or Good Bye Pork Pie Hat. Both are his most frequently covered compositions. I remember buying the double-lp on one of my record buying visits to Halifax (from Sydney, where there was no real jazz selection). Dynasty is a dense, big band workout – dissonant at points with fun, if disjointed, rhythms. Me Myself is similar – Larry Cornell shows up with a great, but out-of-place guitar solo. An excellent introduction to Mingus would be Money Jungle – the great set he did with Duke Ellington as a trio with Max Roach on drums.

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) Thelonious Himself (1957), Gerry Mulligan Meets Monk (1957) Monk’s Dream (1963), Big Band & Quartet in Concert (1963), Solo Monk (64-65). A good introduction would be the live sets from 1957 that he did with John Coltrane. I’d also recommend the Winston Marsalis album ‘Monk’ for a solid representation of his work.

Monk is a wild piano player – his style is often blocky as opposed to smooth – minor keys, seemingly erratic rhythms & an ability to dissemble a melody & put it back together again – altered yet recognizable. Like Mingus this music is more intellectual than gut level – not that they lack sensuality but not simply background music either.

Rounding out the Monk mp3 cd is Stanley Turrentine with Shirley Scott: Blue Flames (1964) – this is fine, sexy sax playing cushioned perfectly by Scott’s jazz organ. Oh yes, there are lots of women jazz musicians 🙂 Finally saxophonist Courtney Pine: The Vision’s Tale (1989) – a nice set of originals & unexpected covers – from I’m An Old Cowhand to a great take on Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

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Santana Latino Festival

I love Santana, both group & Carlos’ solo work. On the shelf I have as stand-alone or as part of mp3 collections.: 1st (1969), Abraxas (1970), III (1971)(35th Anniversary), Live ’71 in Los Angeles, Caravanserai (1972), Welcome (1973), Love Devotion Surrender (1973) with John McLaughlin, Borboletta (1974), Amigos (1976),  Festival (1977) (2006 remaster), Swing Of Delight (1980), Supernatural (1999), Divine Light (2001), IV (2016) – reunion of original members.

The original band was dynamic, inventive & psychedelic. Just compare their Black Magic Woman with the Fleetwood Mac original. They helped spark the interest in Latino music as something more than polite sambas & slinky tangos. My favourite is Abraxas – with its amazing cover art & astonishing engineering, plus his amazing guitar work. I really loved the energy of the next two: III & Caravanserai.

The band changed personnel & shifted slightly in direction as well. The latin roots remained but moved into that m.o.r mystic sound – the sort of shift that happened with Chicago (which went from rocky jazz to syrupy romantic). I enjoyed some it but if I wanted Air Earth Wind & Fire I would have bought them. Carlos also did some fine solo work that was in that Mahavishnu fusion jazz, in fact recorded a Coltrane tribute ‘Love Devotion Surrender’ with John McLaughlin. His solo work is not as percussion driven.

His ‘return’ with Supernatural was thanks to smart pairings & great song writers. A bit too slickly c commercial but it did help boost that incredible back-catalogue. Many of those early lps have been released on cd with lots of bonus live tracks, including the group’s Woodstock set. 

On the mp3 cd I added some amazing Latino performers. Jose Feliciano – he paved the way for Santana with his sweet folksy style – Feliciano! (1968) remains a favourite of mine thanks to his covers of songs like Light My Fire, as well as traditional songs like Nena. The Best Of (1985) is a good introduction to him & if you want his Spanish work there is A Spanish Portrait (1976). Along with Jose Feliciano, Santana brought world music into the ‘mainstream,’ opening the doors for groups like Osibisa, Malo & Mandrill.

Keeping with Latino I added Swami Jr.: Outra Praia (2007) He is an amazing Brazil guitarist who walks the line between jazz & folk, but closer to that jazz side. I would recommend anything he’s playing on.

I discovered Brazilian Otto’s video for Bob on YouTube – the song is on Samba Pra Burro (1998) – the song is amazing. This is rock/pop music with some touches of rap. He is hot to watch & I have another couple of his lps on other mp3 collections – because sometimes one is not enough.

O Samba (1989) is a nice collection of various Latino artists that makes a good interaction to the sound & if you like an artist here you can track down their albums. The whole latin sound permeates jazz from sax plays to vocalists including Rosemary Clooney, so I added her lp Brazil (2000) to this cd & she does good work on classic songs out of Brazil. Nothing daring but all swings sweetly.

Finally something totally different is there soundtrack from Faster Pussy Cat! Kill Kill (1965) released in 1999. Rock-a-billy stripper music with great dialogue excerpts from the film. The cast & even the director were intimidated by Tura Satana & hearing the moment when she breaks some sap’s arms is precious. A must have for any fan of this movie. This full soundtrack eventually was released due to fan demand. 

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Sam and Dave and Disco Crowd

Sam & Dave: The Best of – thanks to the danceability of their hits these guys topped the charts with stream of now classic tracks thanks to the propulsion of their studio band  – Booker T & The MGs. Great gospel inspired vocalist they traded off each other to give these hits a little something extra. Too many hits to list. 

Next on the shelf is an over 7 hours mp3 CD collected filed under S for Alex Sander: From Berlin to Tokyo that also includes Holybrune – JoyRide (2021); Made in USA (Made In Unity, Strength Ambition) – Melodies (1977); Jimmy Ross: First True Love Affair (1981); High Fashion – Feelin’ Lucky (1982), Make Up Your Mind (1983).

Sander is DJ, remixer & the music here is uptempo, synthy, dance music. Energetic & great for typing to, lol. Does get a little repetitious but overall fun. Holybrune is modern old school disco – yes musicians are still making that sweet sound & the songs are uplifting peans to the joy of music & dancing the night away under a mirrorball.

High Fashion, Made in USA & Jimmy Ross are genuine old school from the late 70’s early 80’s. More on the funk side of disco. Some of these are reissues that include bonus radio edits, remixes, extended plays & even instrumental versions. Some of these tracks I recalled from back in the day but never knew who the group was & often there was no way to find out & sometimes the tracks were exclusive to DJs & not for sale anyway.

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Dorothy and Friends

When I say ‘black female jazz performer’, who comes to mind? Vocalists galore, sure, maybe even a few piano players, right. So let me introduce you to Dorothy Ashby. Her niche gets even smaller when I tell you she plays harp, no not harmonica, but an actually harp. Jazz harp! When I say ‘jazz instruments’ you probably think of sax first, piano second. But harp!

I ‘discovered’ her while searching for, of all things, cover versions of the theme from Valley of The Dolls. Her’s is on the Afro-Harping lp. At the time I spotted the Classics set for $5.99. So on this mp3 cd I have the  Four Classic Albums Plus -The Jazz Harpist (1957), Hip Harp (1958), In A Minor Groove (1958), Soft Winds (1961), Dorothy Ashby (1962); and Afro-Harping (1968). This is not jazz for purists by any means – better than easy listening or mere instrumental. She plays jazz standards from Satin Doll to Moonlight in Vermont. Worth checking out.

Jon Hassell: Maarifa Street (2005) – another tumblr find – a very mediative, sonically dense, jazzy set by this trumpeter, that is clearly inspired by Miles Davis’ Bitch’s Brew period but is more mellow. Soothing & sweet. The same is true for  vibraphonist Lennie Hibbert’s Creation (1969) – late sixties mystic jazz. 

Even more meditative is a pair of Japanese releases – Kanyko Oganaku: Japanese Ambient Music; and Hiroshi Yoshimura: Music For Nine Postcards. There was a track by Yoshimura on the Ambient album. Soothing & experimental at the same time. Perfect for insomniacs – relaxing without being boring. Some electronic, some gentle piano, bamboo flute & sets nicely with the Dorothy Ashby. An mp3 CD perfect for randomized play.

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Shawn Sage and Kyu Sakamoto

Shawn Sage is one of the few musicians I’ve actually known. I first met him when he worked tables at the defunct Renaissance Cafe. I didn’t realize he was a musician until a week or so later when he did a set at one of many shows at the Cafe. So his cd ‘One Of The Good Guys’ is more than great music but also full of fine memories. His ‘She Don’t Want My Eyes on Her’ is one of the best country songs ever.

Next on the shelf is an mp3 collection of around-the-world international hits. Starting with: Kyu Sakamoto (Japanese): Best 9 + 2: Best remembered for “Ue o Muite Arukō” (1961) (“I look up when I walk”) under the Americanized title “Sukiyaki” (1963) which has no actual connection to the song. Sakamoto was killed at 43 in 1985 in a plane crash. This is one of my all-time favourite songs. I can’t describe the emotions it calls up in me. This was the start of my love of most things Japanese. He is a sort of Bobby Darrin type. His other songs are nice but none as resonant at his hit.

Domenico Modugno: The Very Best Of  Italian. He is best known for his 1958 international hit song “Volare – Nel blu dipinto di blu“, for which he received 1958 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year! I’ve heard dozens of versions of this song but never the original, so auditioned it on YouTube first then found this hits compilation. An Italian version of Dean Martin. 

Lucienne Boyer: French – Parlez-moi d’amour – wiki tells me she “reigned as queen of Paris nightlife during the 1930’s.” I’m not sure how she came to my attention but she fits in with US singers like Ruth Etting who were popular through there 30’s & then were forgotten. Sound quality is good & she’s clearly the forerunner of Edith Piaf – only with a less emotionally overwrought voice & style. 

Hermeto Pascoal from Brazil transcends genre. His experimentalist approach covers samba, folk, jazz, music concrete, string quartets & choral. I have some of all scatted through my collection. Here is his Slaves Mass (1977) that includes some of the best musicians of the time i.e. Ron Carter, Flora Purim & makes an excellent introduction to Hermeto if you are unfamiliar.

I ran across a YouTube video by Filho da Mae out of Portugal for his album Mergulho (2016).Visually stunning it lead me to download the lp. The music is a soothing mix of organic (acoustic guitar) and electronic. I’d love to name off a hit by popular Venezuelan musician Hugo Blanco but I suspect he’s too obscure outside of South America. Here is his 40 Anos 40 Excitos. Hits from the 50’s to 90’s. If you are a soccer fan you may hear on his songs which has become a popular chant at games. A Venezuelan Frank Sinatra.

Finally something quite different & almost modern from 2017: Finland’s Herra Varjojen Herra: Loputon Yö 2017 which includes their amazing reworking of Arthur Brown’s Fire. I was looking to see fig anyone had done a cover of the song & this was one of the ones that I found. Good fun. I am the God of hellfire & I bring you to Finland lol.

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Buffy Saint-Marie

I can’t say I’m a Buffy Saint-Marie fan but I do respect her as an artist & a revolutionary. I recently watched ‘Carry It On’ a PBS American Masters documentary about her career & was amazed by the ups & downs that she survived. I didn’t know that the US Government deliberately sabotaged her career – they weren’t pleased with both her antiwar & her Indian rights activities. To shut her up they ordered radio stations not play her recordings or songs she had written. Land of the free – yeah, sure.   

I have an mp3 cd compilation that includes I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again (1968): country, Illuminations (1969) psychedelic with synthesizer to create electronically treated vocals & textures, & Soldier Blue – Best of the Vanguard Years (2003). As a stand alone I have ‘Running For The Drum’ (2008). Her ‘political’ songs are strong & fearless. Her romantic songs are tender. I loved Illuminations perhaps one of the most before it’s time recordings of the 60’s. Creatively daring, a total departure from her well-regarded folk & country roots it is still an amazing piece of work. 

Also in this mp3 collection is Mercedes Sosa out of Argentina, she sings in Spanish. I read about her somewhere as being one of the best selling singers in the world! Yet, at the time, I had never heard of her. A sign of the insular world of pop music. I have a couple of her cds & here is Gracias A La Vida. She has a warm alto voice. I love the tile song &  Maria Maria. 

Remember Sam The Record Man? On the second floor there was tiny world music section & in a reminder bin I picked up a cassette ‘Aster’ by Aster Aweke (Ethiopian) singing in Amharic. I love the African horn sound, similar to Osibisa’s. Another warm alto the songs were emotional even though I didn’t understand them. On this cd I have Sugar (2001). 

Also here is Astrud Gilberto the Brazilian bossanova singer who sang in both Portuguese & English. The Silver Collection (1991) is a nice selection of her hits. A lighter voice than the others here with a strong jazz leaning. Lots of classic Latino hits. A good introduction to her & the samba genre.

Finally Miriam Makeba out of South African. She was best known though the 60 thanks to her work with Harry Belafonte. Similar to Buffy her music was part of her social mission. Here I have Sangoma (1988) – sung in a variety African languages. Yes another warm alto voice & a great introduction to Afro-Jazz & folk music.

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