Monday, 25 March 2019

Back to Herb Pilhofer with 1977's abstract Earplay [lossless]

The liner notes on the back, which I recommend reading, tell us that this programmatic and instrumental music was meant as interstitial passages for several different dramas, despite the fact that much of the music on the first side sounds the same, reusing the same themes or moods.  Specifically the A series of passages which make up about 15 minutes of music is from one drama or production, while the B series is from another.  Together these make up the first side.  The C series which fills up side b is taken from different dramas we are told.

B11's stunningly odd broken chords recalls my old French favourite, Jacques Thollot:

On C05 note the shocking tritonal fugue done by the orchestra (be patient as the first minute and a half is just the bass performing the ostinato figure)

Unlike on the other library albums posted previously (setting aside Spaces) all his classical music education comes to the front here with interesting arrangements, dissonances, modern patterns and chords, polyrhythms, etc.  Similar to the interesting orchestral soundtrack music Teo Macero wrote, but more intellectual, less of the pop-jazz-funk-fusion.

Well worth hearing, for sure, 100 percent, though it demands patience of the listener.  When it came to the actual ripping of the record, you will see some of that patience proved lacking for this particular listener as I allowed tracks to be recorded together when they were short, on the order of 15 seconds for example.  And by the end I just amalgamated a whole bunch.

Friday, 22 March 2019

American Soundtrack / Library composer Herb Pilhofer

Quickly, the succinct discogs bio for this prolific pianist / composer:

Studio musician and jingle writer/composer, based out of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota). Co-founded Sound 80 Studios with partner Tom Jung in 1969. Also was a partner with some controlling interest in Universal Audio Corporation. Originally born in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, in 1931. In 2007, hip-hop artist Thes One put out an album of remixed Pilhofer jingles called Lifestyle Marketing.

Sadly, he has as yet no wikipedia page, like the Almanach de Gotha of old (which does have one), or the Anglo-Saxon "Who's Who" (surprisingly still extant and updated), the wiki is today's silly-named representation of status.  Nonetheless, apparently Herb was highly successful in the commercial music-writing department, a very transient line of work for an artist of course, but, perhaps in a yearning for respect and permanence, he left us with one magnificent album of composed instrumental music called Spaces in 1979, at the late age of 48.

First he played in quite a few straightforward jazz combos making rather generic jazz music presumably.  Then we have some more or less generic library records, similar to so much orchestral stuff posted here in the past, with occasional beautiful themes that jump out, e.g., from Instant Production Music Volume 3, the theme f:

As mentioned above the two Music that Works records were reissued recently in conjunction with the remixes called Lifestyle Marketing, unfortunately not the entirety of those two LPs, which are not so cheap to obtain.  They mostly comprise collages of his ad music, which is pretty banal, and the way they are assembled you get quite a mix in one track of vocals, funk, orchestral, upbeat silliness, etc.  But one more interesting composition is called Mobius and it's from the second Music that Works (year unknown, but I'd guess early- to mid-70s from the cover):

On the other hand the album called Olympus One, from 1976, functions a little better as a whole with mostly funk and fusion of the most accessible kind, like the Roelens albums from shortly before, within the bounds of this blog.  The vocal track You are Everything:

demonstrates his skills at songwriting, but I was blown away by the advanced compositional ambition of 101 in the Shade:

There are so many great thoughts in that one piece of 6 minutes.

Finally, as I said his masterpiece was the album called Spaces, from 1979.  What a shame there wasn't more to follow.  Here we have all the thoughts of a mature master composer, the well-earned practiced ideas of a wise old hand at music like a mage of artistic beauty full of hypnotic tricks, running through all the history of Western musical accomplishment from classical through to jazz and rock.  Perhaps the closest comparison would be to the totality of Doug Lofstrom's 1984 album, and I sure hope you remember that one.  Also similar would be the great early library records of Laurent Petitgirard.  Surprisingly, the blurb on the back serves mostly to promote the digital recording technique.

The breathtakingly gorgeous composition One Day at a Time:

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Will Truitt's ? from 1972

Will Truitt - ?

Now that's a great title for a record, isn't it.

This guy is absent from my wonderful and ever-expanding resource discogs, at least for now.  On the other hand he does appear on rym where the fans are always out to lunch and the progressive music reviews always harsh.  And I see from the Great Google that his namesake is trying to advance in politics-- good luck, if it's the same guy, who graduated into politics.  Or rather, failed into politics.  Our Will Truitt here today is the kind of nutty, creative, uncompromising artist like Karlos Steinblast or Me's Thomas Marolda, or MO's Whittemore, who also presumably spent the recording session fully stoned, unlike the Nordic Jazz Quintet and all other Danish jazz musicians.  Perhaps to their detriment.

This is crazy-ass blues-based Southern stuff with the artist singing really oddball but highly original compositions over acoustic piano, no guitar or drums, as if said musical instrument were located in the commons room of the local hospital's psychiatric ward.  I would go so far as to say that through the many years of listening to these private pressed or DIY albums I've never heard anything quite like this one, so it's really hard to provide appropriate points of comparison.  Especially unusual is the format of singer and piano alone.  Unlike the case with Orval and their guitar playing I find it charming that his blues scales are sometimes wrong-note-prone.  He clearly makes up in enthusiasm what is lacking in virtuosity. The song Fat Lovebirds seems, perhaps accidentally, indebted to Grace Slick's marvelous progressive mini-opus inspired by James Joyce called ReJoyce:

It would've been nice and probably more enjoyable had he brought on some friends for a little bit of guitar bass and drums going here and there, but I guess he was too much of a loner.  Sure hope he didn't wind up shooting anyone.  And then moving on into politics.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Ambush from USA 1981

Here's an outrageously rare rock album that I've enjoyed immensely over the last years.  In fact, I love it to death.  I had intended to buy a copy for reripping but it's gotten way out of reach for the average vinylophile.

It's very much in the Kiss, Foreigner, etc., AOR vein of hard rock, plus a couple of sweet piano-based ballads (like the inimitable hit Beth).  My wife's comment that the singer 'sounds like Cher' drove me into a frenzy until I started to think about why it's so disconcerting to certain rock-ignorant people for men to sing in such a high range over hard rock or heavy metal, starting with Robert Plant obviously.  The fact is it just feels right when they go up an octave, as if they were screaming frantically but with the acoustic control of musical notes, so much so that when someone sings in the appropriate register, I think especially of Eddie Vedder in early Pearl Jam, we yearn for him to let it out and go higher, at least I do, like Chris Cornell did so effectively in Soundgarden (Jesus Christ Pose).  You could also make the case that with bass, drums, and electric guitar adding so much in the bass registers, something is needed higher up to complement the whole sound, because rock is after all about filling up the entire listening areas of the ear until there is no space left for more.  And with Led Zep, like on this record, the backup vocals are even higher up than the melody--  I remember reading how people were amazed that Robert Plant was able to add a whole octave on top of the melody in their classics like Misty Mountain Hop.

Anyways, as an example from this album, here's the first track, All My Life:

On the discogs release page you can see the credits for these wonderful artists and the composers of the songs.  Their tight and professional guitar playing is on display in the track called Forever:

Such a wonderfully singable song, like so much of the old Baby Grand.

The megahit for me, should've been a top ten song back in the day, is the Wayne Givens-penned track called The Answers:

I could listen to that one all day, the sadness, the jaded rock'n'roll voice, the quasi-philosophical musings, the whole classic sound and nostalgia of listening to songs like this one late at night on AM radio as a kid, thinking of the alluring and cool magic of being a rock star...

Yes, I've got to find the answers in my life....

There are songs I thought I'd never sing
and melodies that haunt my soul
no one knows what the day will bring
can the dreamer, reach his goal?
If dreams come true, me and you,
will always be together for all time.
Time will heal, how I feel
I've got to find the answers in my life...

There are time when I can see you
and hear your voice in the night
And how I wish that I could be with you
and share with you the morning light
I see you there and you still care
and then I know it's only in my mind
I'll be strong, I'll get along,
I've got to find the answers in my life...

There are days that I could walk away
and lose myself within the crowds
But then I know that I could never stay
like a drop of rain among the clouds
If dreams come true, me and you,
will always be together for all time.
Time will heal, how I feel,
I've got to find the answers in my life...

I've got to find the answers in my life...
I've got to find the answers in my life...

Sunday, 17 March 2019

US country rock band Spruce from 1975

From Out to Lunch productions OTL 1001 indeed, we have this wonderful outfit from way out in deep time US of A 1970s.  For once, discogs has a review that is good and spot on:

Real high quality rural rock private press recorded in '75, with some very talented guitar playing. Many different influences across the LP, from Allmans, CS&N, Doobies and New Riders of Purple Sage to Batdorf and Rodney. Exceptional recording job for a private yields great sound. Most of the material is gentle, uptempo stuff that is easy on the ears. With a little more exposure at the time, this probably would have gone places.

The best Winter Song I've ever heard in my life is right here:

Starting with that adorably simple 4th - 5th interval acoustic riff, quickly revealed to be over a Csharp minor chord, the song moves through some really ingenious chord changes from major to minor, but the most attractive thing in a very pure and cohesive whole is the double harmony vocals of the singers which adds such a delicate dimension.  Reminds me a bit of my old and perennial favourite band Sand too in their first album.  Listen through to the end with the heartbreakingly pretty outro singing"it's snowin'."

Notice one unusual aspect of this LP is the complete lack of any percussion.
When you listen to the track called Memsha think of how it seemed those masterful bluesy country rock days seemed like they would last forever, but instead were fated to end very shortly come the next decade:

Thanks for those beautiful finds, my friends, and keep 'em comin'...

Btw I had never heard of the duo mentioned above called Batdorf and Rodney so I looked around to find their three albums, and it turned out all three are hugely enjoyable, starting with a more stripped down CSNY or America (the famous pop folk band) sound, continuing with more arranging and commercial sounding well-crafted songs and in the last album really hitting it out of the ballpark with great tunes.  And it's amazing that after a lifetime listening and actively seeking out this period of music there's still stuff at such a high caliber that I was never aware of.  So I'll include their stuff below for those who might not have heard of them either.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Luther Lane's Other Places in the US, 1978

Here's a similar album to Innersections by the oddly named band Luther Lane which I mentioned earlier, equally well composed and thought out.  I love how the track named after Jedediah starts with such a slow flute-led intro and then moves on into the more standard progressive fusion sound we are so familiar with, featuring electric guitar and saxes in unison:

And believe me when I tell you every track is as smoothly entrancing in its intellectual complexity as that one.  In some ways I suppose it's most like my old favourite Gallery with the vibes-led ECMishness.

Less information in the database though.
From the back: Recorded fall 1977 in LA.

To be honest, there are many more such chamber fusion albums I still haven't posted here, for various reasons, some of the most breathtaking & otherwordly beautiful being US Quantum's New World and Swiss Impetus' Opening Seed.  Please search those out if you like this style as much as I do.  Meantime savor this one slowly.  And enjoy it meaningfully, and lengthily.
Incidentally, Luther Lane is here.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Innersections' Tap Dancer in a Minefield (USA, 1980) [and a reup on Franklin Street Arterial]

Another beyond brilliant and masterful US chamber fusion record from the same period, cf. Franklin Street Arterial, Landress/Hart, Lothlorien, or Swiss Impetus, less folky ethnic than East River Consort...  And look at the cover of Charlie Chaplin being blown up in the minefield!

There is enough database information for us to see the names of the musicians and artists including composers, but they don't seem to appear anywhere else.

Cloud Clusters, a gorgeous composition by Richard Lasner (acoustic guitar, and also responsible for the brilliant cover design):

Here, the flute is backed up by a mildly electric guitar and an unassuming alto flute-- why does no one combine guitar and flute anymore in music???

The odd name of Episdectomy referring to surgical removal of, but prefixed with Epistemology [?] penned by keyboardist Stuart Sigmond (on piano):

The Transition Suite, cowritten by these 2, starts with some very carefully chosen piano chords and then evolves almost like an electric guitar sonata as it progresses:

I don't know how these guys came up with such beautiful sounds, I look at the piano and wonder how to extract something so original & beautiful and have always come up short.

Since there is no way for me to find out where I posted the Franklin Street Arterial album (it was in the comments to some other album) I'll include it here for easy reference, because I seem to mention it all the time.  From Tom:

And yet another great submission from the AC. If you all remember from the original teaser post for this series of rarities, I mentioned one of the albums is posted online by a band member. And here it is! This is quite a rare album, and it definitely has been rising in price amongst those in the know. So don't miss out on this generosity! As I write this, there are no ratings in RYM (though it's been cataloged) and not even listed in Gnosis. That's all about to change I suspect.

The Franklin Street Arterial were from Portland, Maine and are the type of band I've come to appreciate since I started this blog. Mainly due to the enthusiasm of both Midwest Mike and The AC - and reinforced by many others. It's that late 70s and early 80s light fusion sound (but not smooth jazz!). Definitely more on the jazz side rather than rock, but with well crafted melodies and solid professional playing from all. There is some absolutely sublime synthesizer work here, with fine guitar (including one nice ripper), and fantastic sax. This latter comment is not something you will usually hear from the CDRWL, but this is how I personally like to hear the instrument played. All these dudes who squonk like cats-in-heat drive me batty.

And as a bonus, The Franklin Street Arterial had a very nice professionally done video (in 1978!) that has been shared on the same website (and is also on YouTube). It's a superb video, so don't miss out (Oh, and that synth solo! Goosebump stuff right there).

Priority: 3