Monday, 22 August 2016

Polish fusion at its finest with VA's Jazz Nad Odrą '77

Wow, the gems never will stop coming, will they?  Here's another come outta left field from my friend.  Evidently a compilation of various Polish artists, we can see some information here and here.
What a shock-- when all the Eastern fusion has been heard and reposted over and over again, to hear this novelty!

Lengthy as it is, here's the best track, B1, well worth hearing through in detail.  It's by another band that seems to have passed without any other trace, but perhaps maybe they have more we don't know of.  If so it would be worth knowing.

Notice how well the suspense builds up with the over-reverbed guitar, introducing us to an E major with some added elements such as the 9th and 7th, echoed by an equally over-reverbed fender rhodes: when the bass then kicks in with a low F sharp we say to ourselves, ah, an F sharp 7th in suspended mode (with the overlying E) but quite surprisingly, it is not meant to be, the buildup dumps us onto a D major, which then through a massively powerful heavy-isotoped and earthshaking riff brings us down to F sharp minor!  What a shocker and indeed this says everything about why I love fusion with these unexpected chord changes and totally original moves.  I mean, come on, after an F sharp 7 susp, the last thing you would expect is to resolve to F sharp minor, then bring the song back to the tonic of A major!  But the wonders never cease: after a few minutes a string quartet proceeds to converse with the rhythm section, as if in a 'quartet' concerto... wow...

Side one is a band of the following name, I notice they released a CD recently (two tracks from here appear on there, plus two others).  Their fusion is of the kind I could never get tired of.  You'll see what I mean shortly.

The final track is called Akalei and it's by Juliusz Mazur (on piano here), accompanied by an old friend-- Crash!  Welcome back, my dearest Polish fusionauts:

Friday, 19 August 2016

Brief review of the great unknown Austrian (fusionary) guitarist Karl Ratzer...

From our wonderful old friend wikipedia, the following almost useless information:

In 1972 he went to the USA , where he reached into the American music scene walk. Soon he was (later known as "in a project named" High Voltage " Rufus & Chaka Khan ") involved. For some time he lived in Atlanta . In 1977 he founded in New York a band with Jeremy Steig , Dan Wall , Eddie Gomez , Joe Chambers and Ray Mantilla . He made ​​recordings with musicians like Chet Baker , Bob Mintzer , Tom Harrell , Bob Berg , Joe Farrell and Steve Grossman .  In 1980 he returned to Vienna, but continued to work with international jazz musicians like Art Farmer , Clark Terry , Lee Konitz , Chaka Khan and Eddie Lockjaw Davis together. From 1999 to 2003 he was a visiting professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts active in Graz. In 2004 he joined the Vienna Music Institute (VMI), where he works as an instructor. Furthermore, he has performed with his own formations.

A quick overview of his huge and intimidating discography.
Don't worry-- like the April Orchestras, I've ploughed through it (like an overweight ox) and emerged with the best to present-- with one notable exception.

First, notice the 1972 album co-credited to Peter Wolf, I don't know anything about it but presume it to be the kind of hackneyed library jingles I don't have patience for.  (On the other hand, Peter made an outstanding progressive fusion library record, which everyone should hear, this one from 1975.  Both magic and a miracle.)

In 1978 Karl sets out on his own with the formidable In Search of a Ghost, distilling all the beauty of fusion we hold dear, the minor seconds so familiar from arpeggiated Mahavishnu songs, the dark atmosphere like Asia Minor, the force and energy and momentum knocking off all Newton's laws of motion in one unified field theory...  Consider the opener, Israela:

Immediately without any forewarning he moves up a minor second in his intro, without any hesitation, without any apology-- pure genius.  And you will notice he repeats that surprise in various ways throughout (sometimes up and sometimes down).  This album, you'll see, is full of goodies...

In the next album Street Talk the fusionary vision continues, with the title track presenting those now-characteristic fourth interval riffs (like McCoy Tyner did on piano) and really oddball chord changes:

On this record we note the first tendencies towards that fuzacky overlush easy listening George Benson type of style (think "Livin' Inside Your Love") that, albeit beautiful and I guess hugely influential when George did it, is a little out of place on these pages.  (I went through my first years of college and girlfriend with the two cassettes of The George Benson Collection so it does bring back fond memories...)

Subsequently in the 1980 Dancing on a String we have himself alone with himself a la Stevie Wonder.  Perhaps hamstrung by the six-string format we hear him revert to the blues and old jazz standards-- the former such a tired simplistic genre it usually makes me want to head to the nearest suspension bridge's most elevated point with or without a flatted note-- and the latter comprising songs that even when written in the age of Tin Pan Alley or rather Tin Ear Alley were never good, how much better could they be now after having been played billions of ways in every different key at every stupid annual jazz festival in every town of every inhabited planet?

One piece really stands out though, in the shockingly gorgeous song Sunrain notice how the self-effacing bass presents to us arpeggiated acoustic chords and a stunning, just stunning guitar-synthesizer playing chords up in the troposphere.  How I miss that sound in today's pathetic music scene.  Here the interest is not so much in any melody or riff but in the quite surprising chord changes, each time so unusual as to be totally unexpected and unpredictable.  This is why I love fusion....

And note too the solo by the fuzzy guitar later in the song.

Next year, 1981 offered Fool For Your Sake where, not surprisingly, the quality begins to seriously deteriorate.  Here both singing (by the artist) and easy listening tendencies come to the fore when they should have remained well locked perhaps in the big Rickenbacker guitarcase.  A sample:

1982's Electric Finger gives me the usually odd, but here predictable, difficulty of finding it awkward to present a sample. And I think that says it all.  So here's the first track:

Lastly in 1985, Gitarrenfeuer plumbs the abyss of eighties musical hell, with cover versions of such bubonic-plague-like tunes as I  just Called to Say I love You and that godawful piece of amplified cicada buzzing, Against All Odds-- (Phil, why??) and, if you can even get any worse, that medieval torture instrument rivaling The Rack or the Iron Maiden called "To all the Girls I've Loved Before"-- said to be the single worst song ever written, it was used once in psychiatric medical experiments, before the era of ethical review boards, to induce artificial temporary psychosis including suicidal ideations in young army volunteers in Tennessee.  I read just recently in The New Scientist that some who were permanently damaged by the experience are still at Walter Reed Hospital now having evolved the most outlandish mullets, with back hair more than 14 feet long!  The power of music...  No Sample here.

In the later albums (not presented or reviewed here) we see his style described as gypsy guitar, similar to the Frenchman Escoude we reviewed earlier.  This is a style that I entirely missed in those days, thankfully for my precarious sanity, I might add.  Of the remainder, 1982's Guitar album doesn't sound interesting as it's free or improvised (similar to Dancing on a...), Serenade is a bunch more cover versions, atrocious to me, and the only remaining of interest is 1986's For You.

Of note, finally, is the Karl Ratzer Group album called Fingerprints from the glorious year 1979, which I am not able to share.  But it's not expensive and I urge you to seek it out, the sound and compositions here are most similar to the late seventies output of the equally or more fecund Volker Kriegel.  All his hallmarks can be found there: the riffs made up of fourths and seconds, the original chords, the wonderful dynamic, that sense of excitement at the stunning newness of things...

So, to summarize, we have a few fabulous fusion excursions up to the non-arbitrary cutoff 1981, and indeed, this oeuvre does show us the tragedy of musical history as it passed from the creativity of the seventies to bland fuzak and simplicity thereafter, a stage out of which it has not yet escaped so far as I'm concerned.

Many thanks to the following blog for sharing these outstanding rips.  And a heartfelt thanks to Karl Ratzer for this superb music.  Another genius, tenured as resident professor of oblivion...

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Lars Klevstrand with Guttorm Guttormsen Kvartett back with 1976' s Riv Ned Gjerdene!

Here's the next and equally gorgeous installment from this amazing artist / group.  Really quite the entertaining mix of jazz elements and songwriting performed by a very talented team, perhaps a bit more uneven than the previous post, with a few more throwaway tracks (to me, not to a nordic gentleman) including tangos, marches, and pure Scandinavian folk.

First track:

Monday, 15 August 2016

Demon and Wizard, Evil Possessor from 1982, by request

This was also reviewed by Tom here.

Today's post is once again courtesy of the AC. A very interesting album. Many of my initial thoughts were the same as AC's, so let's get his take first this time: "Hailing from Reims, this duo's lone LP, a private press released in micro quantities, is seemingly all but forgotten by time, representing perhaps the deepest, darkest recesses of the old French underground scene. In the unlikely scenario that you were to happen upon this relic collecting dust in some tiny French record store, your first thought might be that it's an unknown Venom style proto-black metal record, what with its ultra-primitive hand drawn cover that looks like something straight out of an old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module, and track titles like "Medieval Holocaust", "Shaking the Gates of Hell" and "Black Witch". But what a shock you would be in for as the needle drops, revealing a shadowy aural landscape that would serve as the perfect soundtrack to some weird 70s horror film. Haunting, folky acoustic guitar passages blend into classic French electronic prog, with gurgling analog synths, bass, electric guitar, and occasional vocals, creating a strange, occult atmosphere that will stay with you long after the music has stopped. Admittedly, the execution is a bit amateurish at times (these guys were probably mere teenagers when this was recorded), but in a way that only adds to the charm. Definitely worth hunting down for fans of French deep underground sounds and experimental krautrock."

Haha - that was my first thought too: "Black Metal" by Venom. As an old metal head from back in the day (as in 1979-1983), I can only imagine my look of horror as I dropped the needle on this album, thinking I'd uncovered an underground metal masterpiece.

Demon & Wizard fall in line with many of the obscure acts of the French underground of the late 70s and early 80s. I would have expected this to be released on the D.I.Y. FLVM label, as it has that vibe. Or perhaps Disjuncta. The sparseness created by the acoustic guitars and synthesizers had me thinking at once of Images, Kennlisch, Lourival Silvestre, Flamen Dialis and even early Richard Pinhas circa "Rhizosphere".
Priority: 3

Again, I have to state my opinion (with apologies to Tom) which is the same as the previous, that the case was overstated a bit.  Yes, there is a dark and haunting quality to the music, which, if you're seeking this you will be satisfied, kind of, however if you are looking for original, complex, or new and progressive material, you are sure to be disappointed as I was.  In particular, comparing this to anything at all by Richard Pinhas / Heldon seems to me mildly ludicrous due to its inferiority.
Note the price on discogs.  I think the title, not mentioned above, is clearly from the classic Uriah Heep album by the same name.

Here is the first track for sample:

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Lyons and Howell from 197?, US

A poor rip of this wonderful unknown songwriter album was circulating for some time.  I bought the vinyl to record it better.  What was astonishing to me is that the gentleman on the cover, Rich Lyons, wrote almost all the music here-- some tracks have the gorgeous Phyllis Howell as cocreditor.  Unfortunately there is no year for the release, but I presume from the smoothness of the production that we are dealing with an era circa 1978.

The blurb on the back from the artists:

We have endeavored here to achieve a variety of music and lyrical styles. Our intention:  To depart from categorization and lean towards more versatility within a single album.  Utilizing different accompaniment in various songs and drawing on different stylistic backgrnds in their composition, we hope to have made each song separate from the others and a statement within itself...

How many times have we heard a similar thought expressed in these posts-- regarding being different and varied?

The first track called Moon Beams is absolute magic:

The arrangements, by Lyons as well, are simply stunning.  It seems to me almost a crime that music this well-written is ignored by everyone when it should have been a hit back then, and could still be today, as a replacement for the endless parade of stupid 70s songs played as background to our lives-- if Elton John it's always Candle in the Wind, if Eagles, always Hotel California, etc., songs we got sick of hearing already before puberty many years ago but which we can never escape in the popular sphere anywhere we travel to outside our homes...

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Echettio: Tavolozza Musicale, 197?, Library, Recommended

Echettio was Ugo Fuscio who made a few highly rare and collectible, presumably now expensive, library albums back in the day.  Thanks to my friend I was allowed to hear this little masterpiece of composition, mostly in the chamber music style.  Note that there is little information to be had here at all.  We shall let the music stand on its own, gorgeous and lofty as it is-- consider the first tracks, A and B parts to Melancholy:

It's ridiculous that music so good is lost to oblivion...  also ridiculous that I keep making the same statement in these pages...  I can't help it, each time someone shares with me an excellent album I'm shocked at how much better than popular music (whether rock, pop or standard classical) it is.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Images - Le Jeu de Robinson, from 1977... recommended

Now here's a huge huge one, a monster, as they say.

Not to be confused with the Henri Roger album Images which is also amazing, this is famous thanks to Tom and his list, so I'll quote from him first up as usual:

The first side is pleasant folk, with acoustic guitars and flute, and sparse vocals sung in a soft French tone. Side 2 rocks out with the addition of electric guitar, bass, keys and drums. Plenty of progressive meter changes, and comparisons to bands like Memoriance or Pentacle wouldn't be out of place. A splendid little album that very few know about, but is not to be missed! Comes in a plain white cover with an Images sticker as seen here. Also has a nice insert with baby pictures of all 5 band members.

Looks like someone has added a title here and called it 'Le Jeu de Robinson'. This is a mistake. The album doesn't have a title. It's not listed on the label or the cover. The title that was proposed is actually the name of the side long suite on Side 1, which contains the 8 songs presented here (A1-A8)

Again, I believe he gave it a priority 2.  As with the Tangle Edge, I would lower that by an integer or two.

Please notice the prices people are asking for here.  In a moment, you can be the judge(s) of whether or not these are appropriate.

As sample, the Robinson storm is part of what makes this is a progressive delight, with the classic, absolutely inimitable French style of digital keyboards (a la Ange), minor second dissonances (a la Shylock), overall dark and spectral tone (a la Pulsar), and the fuzzy sustained guitar reminds me meanwhile of Carpe Diem's style (which they often accompanied in unison with a soprano sax):

The instrumental La Femme en Rouge instead has a folky do-it-yourself proggy sound that reminds me of the other Tom discovery, Demon and Wizard (which I can post later if there's interest):

To me, the second side is much less progressive and interesting.  It really tends to drag on with little to hang your attention on.
No comparison to what I consider the masterpiece of mixed folk-prog:  Joxifications.