Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Toto Blanke Compleat from 1975 to 1984











In a period of under a decade this astonishing guitarist annually made a series of masterpieces in the style of progressive fusion.  Some people out there might not have all of them, in particular, the last 1983 LP is worth hearing though it will inevitably disappoint in terms of its pandering to the latin and simplistic influences that affected all of fusion and jazz come the eighties.

In the beginning of course he was with the group Association P.C. (named for Dutch Pierre Courbois, the percussionist).  All those records are well worth hearing.  Following this he set out on his own with Spiders Dance which was quite reminiscent of the earlier band.  (Note the first track adorably called Lady's Bicycle Seat Sniffer.) The next album created the name Electric Circus and introduced the synthesizer for playing lyrical melodies to excellent effect.  Subsequently here the discography uses the EC term for another genius album, the one called Friends with Stu Goldberg (on keyboards).  The 1980 live album called Family was to me disappointing, with the sidelong jam Bolero being way too uninspired and what is worse, a crime for me in staying in the key of E throughout.  Note that 1978's Tales of Tomorrow was played almost entirely by Toto.  For me this is his masterpiece.  In the 1980s he switched back to acoustic guitar with a couple of guitar duet albums, the first with Rudolf Dasek, the second (Somewhere in Time) with himself.  That album I reviewed here:

When my wife saw it in the mail she actually said, "Is that another Toto Blanke?"
Alas-- when I looked at her, the grin on her face made it clear: a name she had heard me say many times before, had become a very dry kind of joke...  In 1969 legendary belgian percussionist and jazz bandleader Pierre Courbois founded the first European 'Rock-Jazz' group, Association P.C.. This famous ensemble, winner of the Down Beat Poll, existed until 1975 with Toto Blanke, Sigi Busch, different key-boarders, including Jasper van 't Hof, Joachim Kühn and Sigi Kessler.

Finally as mentioned above, the last 1983 album Belladonna inevitably disappointed.  Notwithstanding I prepared a new stereo rip as the previous one was in  mono.

So there you are, eight albums total.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Springbalance Litfass (or vice versa) 1977




This is a one-off private pressed album, sadly.  It's been a favourite of mine for some time now.  Just from the titles you can tell we are dealing with some very very creative types, especially when the first song right off the bat is called Salmonella.  Guitarist Dietrich Jeske seems to have been the mastermind of the band.  Consider the track Pull in Moll:





I love how the chords here throughout wander between e minor (the moll of the title) to b minor, d minor, G7, having normally nothing respectable to do with each other, without any warning.  Yet the cohesion is palpable, despite the fact these progressions break the rules of musical theory.

To me that's one of the hallmarks of great art: using a well-established or culturally traditional template, the great artist is able to break the rules with such finesse that we are compelled to agree: the rule book must be rewritten just for them, for this one incident, or their many incidents, of delinquent misbehaviour.  Thus they enlarge piece by piece what is possible for us humans.  (Think, for example, of when George Martin in 1962 or whatever decided to add a string quartet to the otherwise trite McCartney ballad Yesterday-- how many acoustic guitar songs were then subsequently fitted out with the same...)

Our final poem Frühlingsgefühle continues the very meditative and melancholy tone of the album with its tender violin intro.  An augmented major chord is then used, with descending chord patterns, to good effect to express the obstacles of sadness in our daily lives, with the downgoing melody describing the pain.
(Now imagine my shock when I found out the title is equivalent to the English "getting frisky!")



I guess some things in art are just inexplicable.  Like how people can accomplish so much with pure creativity and original ideas...


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Meeting with GDR's Modern Soul Band (1979)




OK, here we go with more large German soul-rock bands with one foot in the fusion scene, the other in a commercial cesspooled septic tank.

This is an offshoot of the Klaus Lenz project Modern Soul Big Band...  Klaus Lenz was presented here earlier as a master of GDR fusion with his two big mid-seventies masterpieces, and accompanying Uschi on a 1974 record that proved slightly disappointing.  I presented his bio in that earlier, earliest post and won't repeat it here.

On this record there is a Klaus, but it's a Nowodworski (specifically, on vocals), not a Lenz.  Note also that arranging credits are ascribed to one Gerhard Laartz and compositional credits to a number of musicians: Gerhard Laartz, Joachim Schmauch, and Wolfgang Nicklisch.  So Lenz no more.  However, they did have an ST release 3 years before which seems to have involved him.  I'm not so sure, since his presence usually brings more creativity, of which that ST is lacking.

But the stunning closing instrumental Meeting hits all the right notes both musically and fusionally:



To summarize or perhaps to clarify from the above random notes, there are two related albums, the ST Modern Soul Band from 1976 and the original from 1974, which was called Klaus Lenz' Modern Soul Big Band (the better album).  Both I have and can post on request.





Monday, 19 September 2016

Ocean Orchestra, from 1979 Germany [lossless available]






Sadly we present this too late for the glorious summer just passed to which it would have been a fitting tribute, coming from the one-off Beach Records...  thanks to my friend for ripping in such a professional manner and allowing us to share here.

Another huge German soul rock band here with the population of a small village in the Alps, their LP is a bit of a mixed bag with some ordinary rock, soul, but some very interesting instrumentals without which I wouldn't have bothered to post.

This large cruiseship seems to have been anchored down by H. Gronemeyer (who, oddly enough, acted in the most famous German movie of all time-- Das Boot-- and who later founded a record label) and Bernt Laukamp, a trombonist and composer.

Part Two of You Can't Win:





A stunningly exciting and dramatic composition by one J.P. Ostendorf who was clearly, for most of his life, a 'modern classical' composer.  His presence in this band should provoke a little bit of surprise, especially since some of his contributions here are quite poppish, though it seems analogous to Jobski's (who composed the famous prog LP Einstein in Eden) in the previous Messengers band.

Note also the appearance of M. Stockhausen (who is credited with the wonderful track B3, Song of the Waves), son of the famous composer Karlheinz generally considered one of the greats of 20th century music:





Trumpterer/composer Markus had a great discography with the albums Aqua Sansa (with master J. Van't hof) and Continuum (with Burninghaus) both highly, highly recommended, being thoughtful, gorgeous and well-written ECM-style jewels.

How unfortunate those two masterminds couldn't have stormed the bridge of this oceangoing vessel, manned the helm, and steered them towards some really progressive sounds-- would they then have made too many waves?



Saturday, 17 September 2016

Messengers' First Message



This was a large soul-rock band led by trumpeter Bernhard Jobski.  Their first album was a mixed bag with some very trite tunes and a bit of progressive composed material.  From four and a half years ago:

' "We're not trying to start a revolution
With words we may say,
We're not trying to practise prostitution
With music that we play--
We just enjoy what we do,
Hope you enjoy it too--"

This is the forward to the record written by the band. Great, huh?  Some time ago we shared the second album from this huge german band (Children of Tomorrow), the highlights of which were the Stravinsky homage, Sacrewinsky, and the Colony Suite. This is their debut effort, less adventurous and more soul-rock. Most songs are written by the amazing Bernhard Jobski, although the band has about a dozen members. Note that this is the same man who is responsible for the masterpiece one-off symphonic record Einstein in Eden from 1981.

A good point of comparison for this record would be Morse Code from Canada, in their earlier days, or Dr. Music. The simplicity of the songs is surprising considering the education of Jobski. Vocals are by Antonia Maas, who sounds sometimes like a german Mary Hopkin. To me, it's a bit annoying and distracting that a cover version of Stevie Wonder's All is fair in love appears as the first song on side 2. The next song Ballerina is my definition of a throwaway song with no redeeming qualities. If this was a person, it would be a dangerous offender on death row that lost all his appeals and is due to be electrocuted tomorrow and hopefully, the chair will malfunction and there will be hours of smoke. Subsequently "Actions" demonstrates a few progressive soul moves. Note the unfortunate title "Gang bang" (another Jobski composition, a bluesy rocker), and listen carefully to the lyrics, "Being the only girl in a rocknroll band... she never wants a f---ing gang bang." No kidding?
The last track is recorded live in Berlin at the "Treibhaus", very reminiscent of Chicago, standard american horn-rock.
Otherwise, the songs are pretty accessible and enjoyable.'

Here's the aforementioned instrumental and progressive track called Actions:





And I'll include their 1977 second album too, which is the progressive masterpiece.  From that record note the stunning fusion sounds of Call It What You Like:





It seems outrageous to me that so much time was spent composing such gorgeous music, only to be forgotten!


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Jimmy Hotz - Beyond the Crystal Sea and bonus EP The Gates of Time (USA 1980)




Gotta love that cover, really-- I mean: gotta dig that cover.
But as much as we can make fun of the green silk robe sartorial styles of the 70s, we can't do the same with the gorgeous sound inside as our jaws drop in amazement at the awesome music-- who doesn't love that bombastic American prog style full of theatre and pomp and philosophical treatise?

I was quite surprised I had never heard of this release before (though I should get used to that sense as it seems to happen to me on a weekly basis) and I have to thank again my wonderful contacts, without whom I would be still listening to Live Genesis bootlegs perhaps.

Information is here.  Out of respect for the artist a link won't be up long-- at all.  And if you think I'm overstating the case, just check out the opener:





I'm really really recommending people seek this little beauty out.
Just gorgeous-- and I ain't talkin' 'bout the manly chest hair...



Monday, 12 September 2016

Rosemarie Taylor's lost album, Taylormaid, from 1977



The LP price might be a bit of a shock here.  Luckily I was able to eschew such idle considerations-- thanks again to contacts.

This is just a gorgeous little slice of folk, now relatively rare and unknown, from those glorious days when it was full of sincerity and blind hope.  Just listen to the sweet-smelling naivete that wafts over to us as from a flower with infatuated bees on the song "Friends:"




The overall sound you will agree, as well as her warm voice, are similar to our old favourite, Carita.

And let's not forget those famous books of the time along the lines of Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" and the not quite as well-known but more scientific Club of Rome when we hear her lament of "Too Many People:"






To the above books I would draw your attention to W. Catton's "Overshoot," an incredibly well-written, prophetic, but not as known philosophical deliberation about the state of America-- in 1980.  (Or if you're in the mood for depression, even better is Clive Ponting's The Green History of the World which catalogs all of human destruction from the earth's perspective.)  In terms of the overall standard of living, I think Catton was correct that the decline had already begun, as we can see from estimations in the decline of our standards of living.  The fact is (as has been said so many times) just because Malthus wasn't correct up until now doesn't mean he won't be in the future-- in biology, in fact in all of science, there is no such thing as an exponential curve that only goes up, and sadly, we are still going that way in terms of world population.  I mentioned earlier how lately the UN has had to revise upwards the peak population forecasts as a result of the situation in Africa.  I think that I can bet all my money on the idea that in the future as a result of income disparity and increasing general poverty (brought on partly by resource depletions, such as water) and the effects of climate change and increasing populations, we in Western countries will be forced to set limits on immigration into our countries, probably even close the borders completely at some point.   Britain's new wall of Calais is just the beginning probably.  And if there are some, many, in fact, who disagree, they will be swamped out by the majority one day (presumably they already make up the majority).

"Too Many People," indeed, almost 40 years ago in 1977...