Friday, February 28, 2014

The great Victoria Spivey

The first of four Document CDs that contain all of singer Victoria Spivey's pre-war recordings has her first 23 sides.Spivey made her initial reputation with her series of dark blues that were full of symbolism, such as her trademark "Black Snake Blues" -- snakes and tuberculosis were common topics in her lyrics. Her first four selections were recorded in St. Louis from May 11-13, 1926 (she was 19 at the time); she then relocated to New York. Spivey is heard backed by several ensembles led by pianist John Erby in August 1926 (including her first meetings with guitarist Lonnie Johnson) and on five pieces in October 1927 with Johnson and pianist Porter Grainger. By the time the latter sides were recorded, her style was becoming a little more lighthearted and softer but no less powerful. Among the highlights of this superior set are "Black Snake Blues," "Hoodoo Man Blues," "Spider Web Blues," "Got the Blues So Bad," "The Alligator Pond Went Dry," "T.B. Blues," and "Garter Snake Blues." This is highly recommended, as are the other three CDs in this important series.

Victoria Spivey, who made her initial reputation with dark and somewhat scary blues lyrics, altered her style during the period covered by this second of four "complete" Document CDs. She is heard in a series of double entendre songs (usually issued in two parts) with singer/guitarist Lonnie Johnson, including "New Black Snake Blues," "Toothache Blues," "Furniture Man Blues," and "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now." Also, Spivey is heard with an all-star group led by pianist Clarence Williams (including cornetist King Oliver and guitarist Eddie Lang) that unfortunately does not get much space to stretch out; on two classic performances ("Funny Feathers" and "How Do You Do It that Way") on which she is joined by Louis Armstrong's Savoy Ballroom Five (with pianist Gene Anderson in Earl Hines' place); and guesting on two versions apiece of those same two songs with Henry "Red" Allen's Octet (which was really Luis Russell's Orchestra). Spivey, who was a strong singer from the start, is featured throughout in peak form, showing that she could not only sing blues but good-time jazz of the era

 Victoria Spivey's ability to evolve with the times and often reinvent her style can be heard throughout the third of four CDs in Document's reissuance of her prewar recordings. She is heard singing classic blues on four numbers with an all-star group drawn from Luis Russell's Orchestra (including trumpeter Red Allen and trombonist J.C. Higginbotham) and on four other songs in which she is just backed by pianist Russell and guitarist Will Johnson. She investigates double entendre blues with the assistance of pianist/vocalist Porter Grainger and (for the two-part "Mama's Quittin' and Leavin'") with guitarist/singer Funny Paper Smith. For a 1931 date, Spivey does her take on hokum (particularly on "He Wants Too Much") with the help of pianist Georgia Tom Dorsey and guitarist Tampa Red. And on "Dreaming 'Bout My Man" she is backed by the pre-swing big band Hunter's Serenaders. This volume concludes by jumping ahead five years and featuring Spivey singing quite confidently with a first-rate Chicago-based swing band (including "Black Snake Swing"). Although not quite as essential as the first two volumes in this series, this set (and Vol. 4) is also easily recommended.

 Victoria Spivey is best remembered today for her recordings in the 1920s and for her work with her Spivey label in the '60s, but she also made a fairly extensive series of records from 1936-1937. The final of her four Document CDs has all of the latter except for a few titles included on Vol. 3. The 22 cuts include ten previously unreleased performances. Spivey is joined by a variety of Chicago-based musicians on four of the five sessions: either Lee Collins (who gets carried away in spots) or Sheiks on trumpet; sometimes the erratic clarinetist Arnett Nelson; and a rhythm section with either Dorothy Scott, Black Bob, J.H. Shayne, Aletha Robinson or Addie "Sweet Pease" Spivey on piano. (Big Bill Broonzy plays guitar on one session.) In addition, Spivey is heard on a New York date with five musicians who were with the Luis Russell Orchestra (which had become Louis Armstrong's backup group): pianist Russell, trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen, clarinetist Albert Nicholas, altoist Charlie Holmes, and bassist Pops Foster. Throughout, Spivey's voice is in fine form with the music ranging from good-time to Chicago-style blues. Highlights include "Mr. Freddie Blues," "Trouble in Mind," "Detroit Moan," "I Ain't Gonna Let You See My Santa Claus," "One Hour Mama," and "Good Cabbage." Although not as essential as her earlier work, this CD is worth picking up. It seems strange that Spivey (who up to the late '30s managed to stay fairly up to date) did not hook up with a swinging big band; instead, she would not record again until 1961



Thursday, February 27, 2014

add 0774 Dixon - Slim

According to the original liner notes, this 1959 Willie Dixon session was cut during a two hour span in between flights. This certainly explains the relaxed, jam session feel of the recordings. Unfortunately, the songs come out sounding sluggish and stilted at times; this is partly due, no doubt, to the makeshift nature of the date, but also, more surprisingly, because of drummer Gus Johnson's overly slick and formalized playing. On top of this, one has to contend with Dixon's less-then-inspired vocals -- it's Dixon's writing talents and A&R savvy in the blues world that warrant him a place in the pantheon, not his skills at the microphone. That all said, this still is an enjoyable disc to listen to, not least of all because of the quality of Dixon's many originals and the freshness of pianist Memphis Slim's playing. And while the vaudevillian comedy of a song like "Built for Comfort" can be traced to Dixon's earlier pop R&B work with the Big Three Trio, rougher blues standouts like "Go Easy" and "Move Me" lead back to the Chicago blues world Dixon shared with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Not a first disc for curious listeners, but certainly a pleasant enough addition to the blues lover's collection.


add 0773 the almost

Best known as the drummer/vocalist for Underoath, Aaron Gillespie just can't stop the music from coming out of him, as he launched a one-man band, the Almost, during the early 21st century. the Almost's debut full-length, Southern Weather, followed in 2007, and proves that Gillespie must be quite a creative deciding factor in his full-time band, as the material is -- for the most part -- quite Underoath-esque. There are a few pleasant surprises however, such as a collaboration with Jeremy Enigk of the Fire Theft and Sunny Day Real Estate fame (the latter band is often considered the original emo band -- a style that Underoath specializes in), on the country-tinged ballad "Dirty and Left Out." But mostly, it's emo-rock that rules the day, especially such selections as the album-opening "Say This Sooner" and "I Mostly Copy Other People." Underoath fans will surely be proud of Gillespie and his one-man band.


add 0772 Rory Gallagher

The compilation Big Guns: The Very Best of Rory Gallagher is one of the ways assembling a retrospective should be done. This set offers a portrait of a true guitar hero and songwriter, one whose flash never outweighed his substance, one whose work is so utterly and dazzlingly fresh it not only stands the test of time, but transcends it. Being an Irish bluesman was tough for Gallagher, especially when he began his career in the 1960s. When he passed away in 1995 at the age of 47, he left behind 17 albums and a legacy of hard traditional blues and big, knotty blues-rock. These two discs are the first retrospective to span the entire length of his career, from his time with the power trio Taste to his signature albums like Calling Card and Deuce, through to his final acoustic album, Wheels Within Wheels (released posthumously). There are many gems here beginning with "Born on the Wrong Side of Time" by Taste, and unreleased live versions of the traditional "Bullfrog Blues" and Junior Wells' "Messin with the Kid." The stone killers are cuts that Gallagher's fans recognize him for, such as "Tatoo'd Lady," the title number from Calling Card, or "I'm Not Awake Yet" from Deuce. There are also fine moments from later in his career as well, such as "Kickback City" from Defender and "Bad Penny" from Top Priority (though it would have been better if the compilers had picked "Philby" or "Follow Me.") "Sinner Boy" is here from Taste's Live at the Isle of Wight, along with "What's Goin' On" (not the Marvin Gaye tune). While fans may quibble about individual selections, the only glaring omission is the absence of the stellar "Walk on Hot Coals." The package is fine enough with numerous autobiographical quotes from Gallagher, a slew of good photos, and a good liner essay by David Sinclair. While it may be the tried and true devotees that seek this out ultimately, the music listener who would most benefit is the one interested in the evolution of blues or in fine guitar players. For the latter, Big Guns would be nothing short of a revelation.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

add 0771 baobab

Forget about pristine sound quality when you listen to N'Wolof. Recorded in 1970-1971 at the Baobab Club in Dakar that gave the group its name, this is Senegalese music being recorded live and au naturel in its infant stage. It's the only Orchestra Baobab album featuring original lead singer Laye M'Boup, who died in a car accident in 1974, but the rest of the lineup features virtually the entire band that was a major force in Senegalese music for the next 15 years. Overall, the recording balance is pretty good, despite the predictable rough edges, some merely OK material, and occasional tentativeness in the playing. The great guitarist Barthelemy Attisso's crystalline melodic leads grab your attention, and the sax fills by Issa Cissokho support M'Boup's leads on several songs, like "Chéri Takama," show the rhumba roots of Senegalese music. But "N'Diaye" is the key track, the first time you can hear Orchestra Baobab's distinctive future group-sound taking shape. There are hints of the rhythm guitar gallop moving beyond rhumba variants to what would become mbalax and the group's trademark ragged but so human interplay between lead and backing vocals. And then there's Attisso's solo, which literally sounds like he's playing around with a wah-wah pedal and the reverb switch on his amp for the first time. It's kinda one-man dub sound science before your very ears -- just a man, his guitar, and his amp experimenting with sounds -- yet the solo rips and is totally musical. The mournful ballad "Aduna Jarul Naawo" has some serious high harmonies from Thione Seck, a braying tenor sax solo, and kinda points to the future, too. "Yaraf" is an up-tempo rhumba-based tune that rocks out pretty strongly, and the jaunty, buoyant finale sports what's pretty much a ska rhythm guitar skank and another Cissokho sax solo. Is N'Wolof the best introduction to Orchestra Baobab? Not really -- it's a record to get for historical importance, but if you've made the decision to go deeply into early Senegalese pop music, you won't be disappointed by the quality of the music here.


add 0770 Bootleg

Miles Davis - 1971-11-08 - Copenhagen, DK (FM/)

Miles Davis - 1971-11-08 - Copenhagen, DK
(FM broadcast )

Tivoli Konsertsal, Copenhagen (Denmark)
Danish Radio broadcast
Miles Davis Septet

November 8, 1971
Tivoli Konsertsal, Copenhagen (Denmark)
Danish Radio broadcast
Miles Davis Septet

Miles Davis (tpt);
Gary Bartz (ss, as);
Keith Jarrett (el-p, org);
Michael Henderson (el-b);
Ndugu Leon Chancler (d);
Charles Don Alias (cga, perc);
James Mtume Forman (cga, perc)

01 Directions
02 Honky Tonk
03 What I Say
04 Sanctuary
05 It's About That Time
06 Yesternow
07 Funky Tonk


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

add 0769 God Is An Astronaut

God Is an Astronaut made a strong claim to being the best Irish indie export of the 2000s, thanks to their mix of epic melodies of post-rock, the precision of electronic-fuelled Krautrock à la Tangerine Dream and elements of space rock. The band's status was further boosted by their active anti-war stance and their fierce live performances, which place a lot of emphasis on the visuals: the shows, especially in the band's earlier days, included self-compiled videos for each song and a lot of lighting work. Brothers Torsten and Niels Kinsella (guitar/keyboards and bass/guitars respectively), the group's driving force, come from Glen of the Downs in Wicklow, and played in a number of local bands before teaming up with the drummer Lloyd Hanney, the disciple of the famous jazzman Johnny Wadham, to form God Is an Astronaut, which debuted with the electro-tinged album The End of the Beginning (2002), out on their own label Revive Records. The two singles off the CD, The End of the Beginning and From Dust to the Beyond (both 2003), got airplay on several European MTV channels, same as Fragile (2004), which promoted their second album All Is Violent, All Is Bright (2005). Avoiding the sophomore slump -- the record gathered a lot of rave reviews -- God Is an Astronaut settled on a steady record schedule, releasing the EP A Moment of Stillness in 2006 and the third album, Far from Refuge, in 2007 (it was also available as a download). Far from Refuge was promoted by a sold-out European tour that reached as far as Moscow and Istanbul, where they played a festival crowd of 25,000. The debut U.S. tour in early 2008, however, was more of a bummer, as the band had all of their equipment stolen in New Jersey. Returning to their home turf, God Is An Astronaut hit the studio again, releasing their fourth album God Is an Astronaut in 2008. Another full-length is scheduled for the second part of 2009


Add 768 Jethro Tull

To some, Jethro Tull will always be associated with Ian Anderson's flute playing and more rocking, arena-worthy moments. Like Led Zeppelin, Tull was all about balancing their sonic mood swings, as they could effortlessly transform between being loud & proud rock & rollers to more tranquil folksmen in the blink of an eye. The 2007 compilation, The Best of Acoustic Jethro Tull is quite self-explanatory, as the 24-track set focuses solely on the "unplugged" side of Tull. But some of Tull's finest moments were acoustic guitar-based, including such early classics as "Mother Goose," "Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day)," and "Fat Man" (here's a fun game to play: the next time you watch the movie Boogie Nights, try to spot the scene that uses the latter song). And while the never-ending title track from Thick as a Brick is primarily a rocking prog number, its intro is certainly one of Tull's finest acoustic moments, and is included here. However, The Best of Acoustic Jethro Tull isn't just about the early-'70s era, as it includes selections from all eras, including such forgotten or oft-overlooked tracks as "Jack in the Green," "Weathercock," and "One Brown Mouse." As an overview of Tull's acoustic side, The Best of Acoustic Jethro Tull thoroughly covers all the bases.


Monday, February 24, 2014

wilco 2

Jeff Tweedy once blazed the trail for the American rock underground's embrace of its country and folk roots, but as the decade drew to a close he also began spearheading the return of classic pop; simply put, what once were fiddles on Wilco records became violins -- the same instrument, to be sure, but viewed with a radical shift in perception and meaning. While lacking the sheer breadth and ambition of the previous Being There, Summer Teeth is the most focused Wilco effort yet, honing the lessons of the last record to forge a majestic pop sound almost completely devoid of alt-country elements. The lush string arrangements and gorgeous harmonies of tracks like "She's a Jar" and "Pieholden Suite" suggest nothing less than a landlocked Brian Wilson, while more straightforward rockers like the opening "I Can't Stand It" bear the influence of everything from R&B to psychedelia. Still, for all of the superficial warmth and beauty of the record's arrangements, Tweedy's songs are perhaps his darkest and most haunting to date, bleak domestic dramas informed by recurring themes of alienation, adultery, and abuse -- even the sunniest melodies mask moments of devastating power. If Summer Teeth has a precedent, it's peak-era Band; the album not only possesses a similar pastoral sensibility, but like Robbie Robertson and company before them, Wilco seems directly connected to a kind of American musical consciousness, not only rejuvenating our collective creative mythology, but adding new chapters to the legend with each successive record.



While Wilco's debut, A.M., spread its wings in an expectedly country-rock fashion, their sophomore effort, Being There, is the group's great leap forward, a masterful, wildly eclectic collection shot through with ambitions and ideas. Although a few songs remain rooted in their signature sound, here Jeff Tweedy and band are as fascinated by their music's possibilities as its origins, and they push the songs which make up this sprawling two-disc set down consistently surprising paths and byways. For starters, the opening "Misunderstood" is majestic psychedelia, built on studio trickery and string flourishes, while "I Got You (At the End of the Century)" is virtual power pop, right down to the handclaps. The lovely "Someone Else's Song" borrows heavily from the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," while the R&B-influenced boogie of "Monday" wouldn't sound at all out of place on Exile on Main Street; and on and on. The remarkable thing is how fresh all of these seeming clichés sound when reimagined with so much love and conviction; even the most traditional songs take unexpected twists and turns, never once sinking into mere imitation. "Music is my savior/I was named by rock & roll/I was maimed by rock & roll/I was tamed by rock & roll/I got my name from rock & roll," Tweedy sings on "Sunken Treasure," the opener of the second disc, and throughout the course of these 19 songs he explores rock as though he were tracing his family genealogy, fervently seeking to discover not only where he came from but also where he's going. With Being There, he finds what he's been looking for.


wilco 4

With 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco finally shed the "that guy from Uncle Tupelo" baggage that had kept them from gaining the respect they clearly deserved, and Jeff Tweedy gained the confidence to follow his muse in previously unfamiliar directions with increasingly rewarding results. But with so much space now open to Tweedy and his collaborators, Wilco's post-YHF studio work, while often brilliant, didn't seem quite as cohesive as Being There or Summerteeth, albums that were eclectic but revealed a unified core the newer albums somehow lacked. Part of this can be chalked up to frequent lineup changes, and the group seemed to be shaking this dilemma on Wilco (The Album), the second studio set from the band's strongest lineup to date, and with The Whole Love, they've finally made another album that pays off with the strength, consistency, and coherence of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Like YHF, The Whole Love is the work of a band that's stylistically up for anything, from the edgy dissonance of "The Art of Almost" and the moody contemplation of "Black Moon," to the ragged but spirited pop of "I Might" and the cocky rock & roll strut of "Standing O," but more so than anything the band has done since Being There, The Whole Love sounds like Wilco are having fun with their musical shape shifting. Even somber numbers like "Rising Red Lung" have a heart and soul that's warm and compelling, and these musicians consistently hit their targets both as individuals and as an ensemble; Mikael Jorgensen's keyboards bring a playful whimsy to songs that could sometimes use it, the guitar interplay between Tweedy, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone never stops bubbling with great ideas, and bassist John Stirratt and drummer Glenn Kotche hold down the rhythm with equal parts of imagination and precision. With The Whole Love, Wilco have made an album where the whole is as strong as the individual parts: the musicians play off one another with the intuition and understanding that separates a real band rather than folks who simply work together, and the songs cohere into a whole that's rich, intelligent, and often genuinely moving. Quite simply, this is the work of a great band at the peak of their powers, and The Whole Love is a joy to hear, revealing more with each listen and confirming once again that Wilco is as good a band as America can claim in the 21st century.


wilco 3

While Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born established Wilco's reputation as one of America's most interesting and imaginative rock bands, both albums were the product of a band in flux, and this was particularly evident to those who saw the group on-stage after the release of YHF. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may have blazed new sonic trails for Wilco, but the departure of Jay Bennett in the latter stages of its production left the band with an audible hole when they played the new material on-stage, and while multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach may have been a technically skilled player, he looked and sounded like a cold fish in concert, unwittingly emphasizing the cooler surfaces of Wilco's new music and negating much of the passion of Jeff Tweedy's songs. However, by the time Wilco hit the road following the release of A Ghost Is Born, the group's latest round of personnel shakeups had the unexpected but welcome effect of spawning one of the group's best lineups to date; after Bach amicably left Wilco, the addition of keyboard and guitar man Pat Sansone and especially visionary guitarist Nels Cline gave the band players whose energy and passion matched their technical skill, and suddenly the band was playing its challenging new material with the same sweaty force Tweedy and company conjured up in the band's earlier days. Thankfully, Tweedy had the good sense to document the prowess of Wilco's latest incarnation on-stage, and Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, recorded during four shows at the Windy City's Vic Theater, offers a welcome second perspective on the band's more recent work. With the exception of two numbers from Wilco's collaborative albums with Billy Bragg (in which they set Woody Guthrie's poems to music), Kicking Television focuses exclusively on their "post-alt-country" work, but while many of the songs featured here sounded cool and mannered in the studio, here they gain new muscle and force, not to mention a great deal of enthusiasm, and while tunes like "Ashes of American Flags" and "Handshake Drugs" are never going to be crowd-pleasers in the manner of "Casino Queen," the élan of this band in full flight shows that the fun has been put back in Wilco, albeit in a different and more angular form. Nels Cline's guitar is especially bracing in this context, and his marriage of melodic weight and joyous dissonance fits these songs while expanding on their strengths at the same time. And the title cut thankfully proves that Wilco still can (and still does) rock on out. Kicking Television is the best sort of live album -- a recording that doesn't merely retread a band's back catalog, but puts their songs in a new perspective, and in this case these performances reveal that one great band has actually been getting better.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

add 0785 Fila Brazilia

The eclecticism and the organic warmth of Fila Brazillia's electronica continue to amaze on Power Clown, one of their finest efforts to date. Laid-back jazz-funk grooves straight out of the '70s are the foundation of the record, but hints of Stevie Wonder-esque soul, hip-hop, bossa nova, ambient, spacey techno, house, minimalist electro, big-beat, and trip-hop all pop up here and there, as do touches of ethnic percussion, acoustic guitar, saxophone solos, new age-y synth flourishes, and the occasional odd vocal sample or sound effect. What really pushes Power Clown over the top, though, is that the group maintains their focus throughout, never meandering and changing things up often enough to keep the grooves from becoming repetitive. One of the finest and most overlooked electronic-dance releases of 1998.


add 0784 Gotye



add 0783 Delta moon


Thursday, February 20, 2014

add 0782 Robert Fripp

Conceived as the third part of an MOR trilogy that included Peter Gabriel's second album and Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs, Exposure is concerned with a marketplace that Fripp saw as hostile to experimentation and hungry for product. Strangely, then, Exposure is one of his most varied and successful rock albums, offering a broad selection of styles. "Water Music I and II" is pure Frippertronics; "Disengage" and "I May Not Have Had Enough of Me But I've Had Enough of You" are angular, jagged rock like he would make with the reformed King Crimson; "North Star" is a soulful ballad led by Daryl Hall on vocals, and a less bombastic version of "Here Comes the Flood" with Peter Gabriel singing makes a melancholic ending. Peter Hammill, Terre Roche, and Narada Michael Walden also add vocals to a pleasant experiment in pop, Fripp style.


add 0781 Panda Bear

Starting an album with a clattering of industrial rhythms sliding into a huge clap-and-stompalong with angelic vocals and what sounds like the Brotherhood of Man on a vocal loop tip not far removed from Suicide or Laurie Anderson is one way to make a mark. The fact that Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox himself, sings like Brian Wilson and produces his voice to sound like it is another, though it has to be said that it just makes his Animal Collective membership all the more clear at this point. Person Pitch is very much an end product of a variety of musical trends in whatever can be called indie rock in the early 21st century -- big-sounding, absolutely dedicated to texture and sonic playfulness, and somehow aiming to make a lot of interesting ideas seem kinda flat. There's no question there's both an audience for Panda Bear's work and the sounds he's playing around with, and to his considerable credit he creates a series of moody and memorable loops throughout. Songs like "Take Pills" and "Good Girl" are miles away from the rhythm-by-numbers of many of Panda Bear's contemporaries; importantly, after so many bands that just want to sound like late-'60s Beach Boys lock, stock, and barrel, the fact that there's a recognition that production and beat technology didn't stay frozen in time stands out. At its best, with the song "Bros," there's a beautiful transcendence that lives up to all the promise that has surrounded Panda Bear's work, the song slowly but surely evolving into a fantastic epic that could easily stand on its own as an EP. Still, the sweetness is almost too gooey, and what should be providing a healthy contrast ends up dragging the best instrumental moments down more than once, almost literally getting in the way of the striking sonic collages. It may be heresy to some, but conceivably Person Pitch would be at its best if it were strictly instrumental.


add 0780 mice parade

The one-man-band project of Adam Pierce, Mice Parade's The True Meaning of Boodleybaye is a winsome piece of jagged D.I.Y. indie pop. Though the heavy drum kit and overall recording approaches the lowest of the lo-fi, Pierce floats a series of precious melodies over the top on tracks like "A Dance by Any Other Name" and "My Workday in May." The impression is oddly similar to what an emo band might sound like if they tried to do their own version of electronica: halfway between Add N to X and Sunny Day Real Estate.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

add 0779 Bootsy Collins

While certainly not among his greatest efforts, Bootsy Collins' Ultra Wave (1980) is still infinitely better than most of the disco dregs being squeezed from the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire or Kool & the Gang. Although Collins (bass/vocals) had not formally split up the Rubber Band -- as the lineup was a continual fluctuation of talent from the seemingly bottomless reservoir of P-Funk alumni -- he takes sole (and quite possibly soul) credit on his fifth long-player in under four years. The title is an homage to the Detroit-based studios where Bootsy collaborated with core Rubber Band contributors Phelps "Catfish" Collins (guitar), Robert "P-Nut" Johnson (vocals), and the superbad dynamic horny horns of Fred Wesley (trombone) and Maceo Parker (sax). Not missing from these -- or any other Bootsy affairs for that matter -- is the unapologetic party atmosphere Collins' infuses within every pulsation of his full-bodied and self-proclaimed "Space Bass". The catchy and sexually tweaked opener "Mug Push" quickly became a dancefloor favorite and garnered a short but significant run on the R&B charts. The overuse of synthesizers becomes increasingly evident, particularly when they practically bury "F-Encounter"'s otherwise stylish groove. The end result sounds like a cross between the Parliament hit "Flashlight" and George Clinton's "Atomic Dog." The shuffling "Is That My Song?" is an arguably lightweight entry. But to its credit, Collins, influenced by Sly & the Family Stone and especially funk-bass originator Larry Graham, gives it a respectable degree of listenability. "It's a Musical" drives hard with brassy and sassy horn arrangements that have the feel of something Quincy Jones might have charted for Michael Jackson circa Off the Wall (1979). The slinky and rubbery backbeat on "Fat Cat" hearkens to the loose booty of former Bootsy's Rubber Band tracks with Johnson's falsetto likened to the shrill warbling often utilized on Prince's seminal sides. The obligatory ballad "Sacred Flowers" also bears trademarks of the Bootsy of old. While that in and of itself is great, it is likewise symptomatic of Ultra Wave's inherent deficiencies. The pseudo-novelty closer "Sound Crack" would probably have more going for it had Collins ditched the dated opening dialogue. Once it gets up to full steam, it roars with an intensity fuelled by the same bounce behind such P-Funk staples as "Up for the Downstroke." The 2007 CD reissue by Collectors' Choice Music has significantly improved sound compared to expensive import editions that can run upwards of a dollar per minute.


add 0778 Squirrel nut zippers

Squirrel Nut Zippers' second album, Hot, was one of the most surprising success stories of 1997. Like the group's debut, The Inevitable, Hot is comprised entirely of good-natured, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, postmodern big-band music. The band has nailed the sound of jump blues and swinging jazz, and if the Zippers don't have the chops of real big bands, they do have enthusiasm and a sense of humor. Of course, for purists of the genre, that collegiate sense of humor might make Hot a little unbearable, especially those instances when Katharine Whalen sounds uncannily like Billie Holiday, only without the substance. For those willing to overlook such things, they'll find Hot to be a good time, filled with songs nearly as infectious as the group's breakthrough hit, "Hell."


add 0777 couleurs manuches


Monday, February 17, 2014

add 0776 Arld Andersen

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the Triangle, Arild Andersen's 15th date as a leader, and his second with pianist Vassilis Tsabropoulos and drummer John Marshall is their re-visioning of the trio. Though Tsabropoulos composed five of the nine pieces here, he does not compose for himself as the centerpiece of the trio's expression. The bass is the true centerpiece of this group's language. And it is not simply because Andersen is the group's "leader." Tsabropoulos was a classical player who came to improvisation late, and jazz later. His phrasing is unique and rhythmic, and his writing lends itself to notions of pulse and color rather than single-line flights of inquiry. Andersen's long-handed style offers unique articulation of the rhythmic pulse allowing for his part to balance Marshall's dancing style of drumming with the knottier eloquence of the Tsabropoulos five- or six- note motifs. The beautiful "Choral," is one example where Andersen's undersided melodic notions are colored by the beautiful chromatic voicings of the pianist. Marshall skitters and shimmers with his brushes, playing through them the rhythm. "Andersen's Saturday," is signatory in that it offers a wonderfully direct flow of even-handed grooves and layers of melody that present themselves in the foreground and reveal their full meaning in the rhythmic push and pull. "Pavane" offers another side of the Triangle with its crystalline lyric and parsed out rhythm coming from shards of chordal investigation. The closer, "Cinderella Song" by Tsabropoulos, strolls unhurriedly though shapes and rounds with Andersen's phrasing being the piece's "singing voice." the Triangle is a refreshing and sophisticated new way to hear the trio.


add 0775 mingus

After several sessions with Columbia and Candid, Charles Mingus briefly returned to Atlantic and cut the freewheeling Oh Yeah, which has to rank as the wildest of all his classic albums. Mingus plays no bass whatsoever, hiring Doug Watkins to fill in while he accompanies the group on piano and contributes bluesy vocals to several tracks (while shouting encouragement on nearly all of them). Mingus had always had a bizarre sense of humor, as expressed in some of his song titles and arranging devices, but Oh Yeah often gets downright warped. That's partly because Mingus is freed up to vocalize more often, but it's also due to the presence of mad genius Roland Kirk. His chemistry with Mingus is fantastically explosive, which makes sense -- both were encyclopedias of jazz tradition, but given over to oddball modernist experimentation. It's a shame Kirk only spent three months with the band, because his solo interpretations are such symbiotic reflections of Mingus' intent as a composer. Look no further than "Hog Callin' Blues," a stomping "Haitian Fight Song" descendant where Kirk honks and roars the blues like a man possessed. Mingus' vocal selections radiate the same dementia, whether it's the stream-of-consciousness blues couplets on "Devil Woman," the dark-humored modern-day spiritual "Oh Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me," or the dadaist stride piano bounce of "Eat That Chicken," a nod to Fats Waller's comic novelties. Elsewhere, "Passions of a Man" sounds almost like musique concrète, while "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" nicks some Monk angularity and "Ecclusiastics" adds some testifying shouts and a chorale-like theme to Mingus' gospel-jazz hybrid. Oh Yeah is probably the most offbeat Mingus album ever, and that's what makes it so vital. [Some reissues add three bonus tracks from the session, first released on Tonight at Noon.]


Sunday, February 16, 2014

add 0774 paris combo

It wouldn't be exactly accurate to call Paris Combo a throwback to the 1930s, despite singer Belle du Berry's jazzy, period-perfect crooning style and the fact that guitarist Potzi coifs himself in explicit homage to Django Reinhardt. But it wouldn't be exactly inaccurate, either, and there's nothing wrong with that. David Lews' trumpet snakes and sizzles, almost always with a mute, through the songs' decorously swinging melodies while du Berry drops her lyrics in an expressive but rather dry voice and drummer François Jeannin and bassist Mano Razanajato keep the grooves powerful but light. The irony is that, although Potzi is the one who most dresses the part of a retro jazz cat, he's actually the band's utility man, laying down Django-style chord solos one minute and swinging out in a more modern style the next, while pulling various tones and attacks out of his bag of tricks from time to time. But the band is smart enough to always keep the sonic focus on the sweet, dry voice of du Berry, whose clever lyrics and flawless accuracy make every song a low-key delight. Recommended.


add 0773 paris combo

The debut recording by this international French-based group draws their musical influences from many sources. Cabaret and the swing and sweet bands of the '30s and '40s become immediately apparent, and upon further inquiry Cuban and Brazilian rhythms, Spanish guitar, and gypsy music are all evident. An accomplished instrumental lineup including accordion, trumpet, and acoustic jazz guitar helps to facilitate abrupt and frequent stylistic changes. "Moi, Mon Âme et Ma Conscience" is a Cotton Club-styled sizzler performed in the Cab Calloway tradition while "Istanbul" evokes images from its namesake. Guitarist Potzi is a superb Madagascan musician whose expertise lies in the acoustic guitar and who presumably cites Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, and Joe Pass as influences. David Lewis' muted trumpet along with Potzi's gypsy jazz guitar and Belle du Berry's colorful and expressive voice is a wonderful combination and is fully capable of interpreting the music of the world in new and unique ways.


Friday, February 14, 2014

add 0772 monk

Thelonious Monk
All of this music (as with all of Thelonious Monk's Milestone reissues) has been repackaged definitively on his 15-CD Complete Riverside Recordings, but those listeners unable to afford or acquire that massive box are well advised to get this two-LP set. The great pianist/composer is heard on his famous "Brilliant Corners" session with tenor-saxophonist Sonny Rollins and drummer Max Roach, and also on a full album with a 1959 quintet co-starring tenor-saxophonist Charlie Rouse and cornetist Thad Jones. In addition to the difficult-to-play "Brilliant Corners," other highlights include "Pannonica," "Bemsha Swing," "Straight No Chaser" and "Ask Me Now."


add 0773 Grappelli

This CD finds veteran violinist Stephane Grappelli joined by bassist Niels Pedersen and guitarists Philip Catherine and Larry Coryell for a memorable tribute to Django Reinhardt. Grappelli has recorded many Reinhardt memorial albums through the years but this one is particularly special for both Coryell and Catherine go out of their way to display the unexpected influence that Reinhardt has had on their styles. The guitarists contribute a song apiece and also enjoy playing seven compositions co-written by Django and Grappelli.


add 0770 paatos

When you're a fledgling rock band and you get invited to contribute the live accompaniment to a screening of the classic silent horror film Nosferatu, what exactly should you infer from that? In this case, it probably wasn't meant as a reflection of the band's instrumental sound (somewhat dark and sometimes eerie, but hardly evil) or its vocal style (Petronella Nettermalm sounds enough like Björk to drive thoughts of vampirism far from all but the most twisted minds), but maybe as an acknowledgment of its ability to create lush soundscapes that can be put to a variety of uses. On what appears to be their debut album, Paatos explores a strange musical territory somewhere in the borderlands between prog rock, Scandinavian folk-rock, and sort of post-metal experimentalism. Keyboardist Johan Wallen provides lots of vintage Fender Rhodes and Mellotron sounds for the old-schoolers in the audience, but the production by Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) keeps the overall sound fresh and modern, both spacious and dark. Highlight tracks include the complex and beautiful "Look at Us" and the vaguely trip-hoppy "Absinthe Minded" (har har). Recommended


add 0771 Objekt/Urian

Objekt/Urian – Tonfragmente II CD
Zone de Confusion
Objekt/Urian is a project that has apparently completely evaded my radar since the year 2000! Always amazing that one can find new things after this many years in the noise scene. Zone de Confusion is a sub-label of Nuit et Brouillard, the long running industrial label.
Presented in Tonfragmente II is a very clean sound of industrial/power electronics much reminding me of a mix between the groups Irikarah and Haus Arafna. Sure, they are great starting points but I’m not sure that Objekt/Urian ever truly reaches the same heights as those acts, but the sounds also differ in some unique ways which make this worth a listen for fans of either of those acts.
There’s a good variety of tracks here some which fall on the heavier side of rhythmic PE and some which play out as more experimental affairs. Among the standouts here are Useless Informations with it’s unique and light percussion somehow representing a more underlying sinister intention. Fight ends up being a rather anthemic power electronics outing almost reminding me of the sloganeering of Non’s Total War or a lesser version of a Genocide Organ track.
One thing that holds the album afloat is that most of these tracks are really enjoyable even if they’re not the standout tracks. In addition, they are all differing and have separate ideas going on. One great example of this is the closer An Appeal which is still bringing new elements to the album and ending it on a strong note with some weird combination of synth-pop and militaristic industrial.
This is a great album, very fun yet still consistent in aesthetic. The experimental aspects of the sounds really add to the release which is rare for an already experimental genre. Honestly I’m even still perplexed by Tonfragment II yet I can see this material growing on me in the future even though I already like it a lot.
Composition: ★★★★☆
Sounds: ★★★½☆
Production Quality: ★★★☆☆
Concept: ★★★☆☆
Packaging: ★★★☆☆
Overall Rating: ★★★½☆