Sunday 29 December 2013

The Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble Part 2: Space Train, from 1978

Now for the other album I have from this talented group of hard-blowing college students.  It's a very enjoyable big band set with some tasty concoctions, and this time, there is one African-American face in the crowd when you look at the back.  So it was clear that the tide was turning in the USA, that an artform entirely created by black people in the early 20th century, mastered by them, perfected and mostly played by them, could now be played in public by one solitary black individual in a white band numbering in the hundreds-- really, social progress is quite blindingly fast sometimes.

The apple-cheeked Dizzy Gillespie (he's always referred to in that way btw, it's mandatory, by law in the US) does a kind of cameo too writing the liner notes.  The sad-looking Marlena Dietrich-like female on the back is the singer Lisa Zakrajsek who doesn't seem to have done much afterwards not surprisingly and her voice leaves a little to be desired, as in the singing.  She was more the artsy type I suppose than the perky blonde with Farrah Fawcett hair whose picture graced the "Magic Carpet Ride" album (see here) and on whom everyone probably had a crush on.  Perhaps in those days in the late seventies they even had the opportunity to have intercourse with her, possibly even all at the same time, or so I understand was the case oftentimes in those days.  Sure hope the black dude got his chance too.

The title track is a very impressive composition and chart, presumably by one of the students, Tim Crawford.  Full information here.  Altogether a nice effort and worth listening to a few times.  Recall that in their next album they appeared Live in Montreux, which I might in a future moment of weakness (psychiatric that is) purchase, and subsequently recall came the pathetically titled "Jazz Lives" (though at the time it must have seemed appropriate enough).  As I said before the customary summer jazz festival in my town every year becomes more geriatrically oriented, despite the young and beautiful females they keep inviting to perform the same stupid old standards played millions of times before, with, in the last year, mandatory defibrillators placed at every tableside next to the antacids (during a lightning storm I understand one oldster actually recovered from a cardiac arrest when he was struck).  Like on transatlantic flights, each attendee was offered their own hearing aid which came in handy when the microphones failed on the first set -- though this didn't stop several white-haired grandpas and grandmas with clown-like red lipstick from dancing in the aisles whilst still in their electric scooters -- the kind with the old grocery bags hanging from the front baskets.  At that time I was almost run over by one handicapped 80-year old whom I cursed only to realize he was once one of the jazz greats whose name was on the marquee, and whose albums I had once collected when in university!  Not only did he autograph one record for me, he threw it in my face and cut my lip.  Life is plenty ironic, without having to get into the issue of reality TV stars....

Now here's the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble performing their Space Train:

Nikki Giovanni's "The Way I Feel," or Felt, back in 1975 USA

When I read prognotfrog's article about the amazing Radka Toneff I was reminded of how her unique talent was setting poetry to music in her own inimitable way. She seems to have been a fan of the American poet Nikki Giovanni because several of her poems became lovely songs in her hands. The originals from Nikki were sometimes given background music, as on this record, in which the (Turkish) American arranger Arif Mardin composed the music. I was hoping the level of quality of the background would be up to the standards of his brilliant orchestral fusion masterpiece "The Journey" from 1974, but unfortunately it was not to be. The music isn't even as good as the background for "The Prophet" which he wrote (in the same year I think) for Richard Harris' reciting of Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, which I do recommend people hear-- provided they have the patience to listen to Richard's quite annoying delivery (I'm always reminded of SCTV's comedy sketches in which they made fun of his tendency to alternate whispering and yelling in the same speech).

In comparing the tracks from this album with Radka's creations I have to admit the original suffers. Let's examine a few items in detail. In the poem "Butterflies" Nikki basically is describing how some sensual tactile experience leads her to compare the 'brown hands' of her lover to the given insect. To me there is very little of the craftsmanship one would expect of a great writer, being entirely built from one straightforward simile. On the other hand when Radka sings her version, she transforms it into a kind of celebration of the beauty of the natural world connected to the human social world and even beautifully captures the sensation of the Lepidopteral aimless drunken fluttering with her singing.

Nikki's Butterflies:

Radka's Butterfly:

Like Nick Drake, like Sylvia Plath, or Kurt Cobain, Radka's works can be described also as the 'longest suicide letter' ever written. She was one of those artists that took profound suffering and crafted the most beautiful art out of it, to appease her own inner demons. Out of suffering came great beauty like an alchemist taking clay and making gold, as Beethoven's life is often described.

In Nikki's "Winter Poem" a snowflake falls on her, becomes a web of snow, and then melts into spring rains to water herself as a flower.  Simply, a fantasy poem.  What did Radka do with it?  She reinterpreted the whole concept such that the snow becomes like a casing of ice and the spring rains that fall on her are watering a flower on her grave.  The sadness she imparts to the single word 'happy' suggests suicide and the combination and layering of her voice in a cappella chords evokes a choir singing in a church.  This is real artistry.

Nikki's poem:

Radka's version:

We love you, Radka Toneff, and I wish that the whole world would enjoy the beauty of your art as much as those like me who are your late fans.  In Canada a similar female artist called Fabienne Thibeault also made three albums in the last seventies that are utterly perfect in their gem-like beauty though in her case the music is based on folk rather than jazz.  Her intense feeling for emotional expression and beauty reminds me of Radka, but with less of the melancholy.  If you enjoy the Bulgarian Norwegian, you will probably also enjoy the work of Fabienne who may be less known.

I want to apologize if I offended any fans of Nikki Giovanni by using her in this comparative manner.  I was mainly impelled by curiosity to hear her original LPs.  Because these are widely available, presumably entirely on youtube too, the two albums linked below will only be available for a very short time.

Nikki is now a highly regarded literature professor at an American University
Radka committed suicide at the age of 30 on October 21st, 1982.

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

-- Nikki Giovanni

Saturday 28 December 2013

My apology...

My apology for being so quiet the last few days, but, like many of you, I was too busy with chopping down a healthy young fir tree and hauling it into my living room after being draped in gaudy plastic dollar-store volumes and shapes like conic sections and pentagons, plus other glittering birdsnest-like fritteries under which ritualistically assembled playthings for little humans are temporarily placed until they can satiate their boredom for another 2 days, and we are forced to purchase more boredom-satiating items for them as if time were something purely to be killed, as if childhood itself were but a curse: the affliction of boredom, and elsewhere I am strategically placing bright lights on my home frame to blind my closest neighbors into submission and provide more light pollution for orbiting spy satellites, the next day, for hours I am in the linear grouping of people ready for the benediction of charity from the store that kindly has offered me half price for a more powerful phone that I have no need for so that my neighbors may bow down before me in shock at my superior powers of telephonery and worship me as their demigod, whilst others patiently await the blessing of the store to bestow upon them larger refrigerators to store more food to make themselves heavier, larger, fatter, and far more likely to die sooner, still others are entranced, almost as by religious ecstasy, at the prospect of an additional shirt to place next to the hundreds of others in their closets that they can walk in for a good half's hour promenade delighted at the stored artefacts of untold and inestimable artistic value until returning home they plunge into a profound depression that will continue all winter when they consider they handed over thousands of units of their local currencies to nameless enormous corporations and will be essentially slave labour to their local banks to pay for their unwise and exorbitant intemperance...
So yes I was a bit busy the last few days. 
But coming soon, the blessings of more new records to hear!

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Florian Poser's Lifeline (1980) Complete, and Lifeline's Linie (1981)

A defective first album for this band was posted here.  It was missing the last track, for some odd reason, I'm not even sure how this might have come about, perhaps when I copied to backup I missed copying one track from the original folder.  Luckily I had the original backup DVD to rescue me, and it was complete.  So please discard the old Lifeline 1980 album you got here, and upgrade to this complete, and lossless, copy.
As a bonus I have thrown in the second album from them called Linie, in lossless form.  They did a third album called Fahrt ins Blau, which is even smoother and mellower.

Please look forward to the continuation of the show-- coming soon are part two of the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, more entries in the ReR Records Quarterly material -- ouch you will say, but not so fast -- there are still some beautiful gems in this material that are worth hearing, provided you are open-minded to the progressive sphere of music, as well as a masterpiece of American funky hard progressive that just made me fall out of my chair when I heard it this year, I was shocked that something so ingeniously and deliriously wonderful was so little known, although it was released to CD in a bootleg edition in the Far East, it seems to be still little-chronicled among those who have extensively covered the alpha to omega of our favourite genre...
and of course, as usual, there will be -- promised --  some bombshells I will drop on you to keep you awake and to blow your minds, to make you realize there are still tons and tons of undiscovered beautiful music out there from this period, as Tom has said so often before...

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 7: The Quarterly Vol. 4 No. 2

This is the very last disc in the ReR Quarterly series. Overall, this disc sits on the more experimental side of the series and includes avant music stalwarts such as Tom Dimuzio, Steven Tickmayer and Marie Goyette, You'll wonder what the traditional song "Shenandoah" is doing on the disc, but there are a fwe other more accessible tunes on the disc, too. There's even a track by Volapuk.

Track Listing:
  1. "Sacrifice to Isis" by Q.R. Ghazala – 2:26
  2. "Three Cold Floors" by Mike Hovancsek and Paul Guerguerian – 4:01
  3. "Inception" by Tom Dimuzio – 4:08
  4. "Short-Cuts: Brahms" by Marie Goyette – 4:25
  5. "Danseuse" by Ken Ando – 5:13
  6. "Congo" by Robert Iolini – 2:35
  7. "Zimbabwe" by Robert Iolini – 1:42
  8. "From 'Le Ombre di Otello'" by Giovanni Venosta – 3:47
  9. "Feu Brilliant" by Keith Rowe and Alain De Filippis – 5:54
  10. "Shenandoah" / "Innsbruck" by Brian Woodbury's Variety Orchestra featuring Dudley Saunders – 5:44
  11. "The Unthinkable" by Richard Barrett – 6:28
  12. "Heterophony" by Stevan Tickmayer – 7:19
  13. "Des Objets de la Plus Grande Importance" by Volapük – 3:26
  14. "Interludium: Two Drums" by Boris Kovač – 2:46
  15. "Virgo Ramayana" by Philip Perkins – 5:56
  16. "After Hours" / "The Colour of Blood" by Shelley Hirsch/Jon Rose/Chris Cutler – 5:00

Sunday 22 December 2013

Margo -- German fusion from 1981 -- by Request

Great cover photo!
A nice smooth and easy on the ears Euro-fusion album by a band hailing from Berlin that is oddly rare despite having some nice licks and strong female vocals.  Perhaps may be a bit too smooth for some fans of the stated genres on this blog.

My favourite track is A4, the Elegie.

Some further information in discogs.
Now I wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays in case I am too busy in the coming week to post much.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Northern Illinois Jazz Ensemble Part 1: Magic Carpet Ride (USA, 1977)

From the Northern Illinois University (located in DeKalb, Illinois) website:

With a roster that includes students from Miami to Milwaukee, the NIU Jazz Ensemble has long been considered one of the best college jazz bands in the world. The ensemble performed at the 54th annual Midwest Music Clinic in Chicago with saxophonist Jimmy Heath as the guest artist, and at the 28th annual International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) Conference in New York with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis as the guest artist. During the summer of 2001 the band performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, at the Jazz à  Vienne Festival in France, and at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The list of guest artists with whom the ensemble has performed includes Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Bellson, Clark Terry, Tito Puente and James Moody, just to name a few. In the summer of 1996 the NIU Jazz Ensemble performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland as Quincy Jones’s big band with guest artists Phil Collins, Patti Austin, David Sanborn, Gerald Albright, Chaka Kahn, Toots Theilman and James Morrison. 
Very impressive.   Moreover If you look at their discography they put out quite a few albums.  I have only two of them, this one and the next called Space Train which will be up next.  Please note the 1985 album sadly entitled "Jazz Lives" which, every year that passes, becomes more mordantly pathetic, especially when I make the mistake of attending our local yearly summer jazz festival and, surrounded by grey-haired overweight men in ridiculous goatees and Tilley hats with their hunchbacked wives attempting to dance around in circles whenever they play an old Benny Goodman song that has been played millions of times before without falling and breaking their hips, I realize this art-form is slowly dying due to a total lack of creativity.
Looking at the back I was surprised to see no African-American faces at all in this jazz band, despite their credit for creating this style of music.  Well I better leave that area alone.  Moving on to the music, there are a couple of interesting (read progressive) tracks, I'll sample my favourite which is the title track, Magic Carpet Ride.

 I will post the other album that I have from them, Space Train, this coming week.

Friday 20 December 2013

Intermission: Joseph Racaille: Les Flots Bleus (Pages eternelles de la musique moderne), Six Petites Chansons (EP) from 1983

I'm pretty sure one of these was posted on mutant sounds, perhaps in this post.  But both are exceptionally good, with some of the best modern classical songwriting I've ever heard.  I pray one day to discover Racaille's music was performed live in a small concert hall somewhere in Europe (like Tickmayer).

Joseph Racaille was the R in ZNR, famous in progressive circles for their 1980 album "Traité De Mécanique Populaire" which of course was completely out of the sphere of anything popular and without a doubt remains very much so.  Portella (the N in ZNR?) collaborated with him on the Flots Bleus album with side one composed by P and side two by R.  The former plays clarinet, sometimes constructing ingenious chords in layers, the latter wrote the lyrics and plays the piano.  The combined sound is oddly French with its accordion-like dimensions.  In the EP 6 Petites Chansons on the other hand, we have one Norbert Aboudarham playing the accordion (as well as the Bouzouki, which, for those who don't know like myself, is a Greek mandolin-like stringed instrument).

Between the EP and 1990's Triton, I don't see anything listed in any discography of him. I wonder what he did in those intervening years, does anyone know?

Both albums were produced by the label Recommended Records which despite the similarity was a separate entity to Re Records from which the Quarterly albums were derived.  However the musicians and artists obviously were the same or at least very similar for both Record Companies.

The Flots Bleus album picks up straight where ZNR left off without a doubt, often simple clarinet or sung melodies on top of piano phrases, three-note repeating patterns.  I will admit at times it degenerates into what sounds like silly, simplistic children's songs, a failing that is all-too-sadly common in RIO and that drives me batty as a fan of the genre, especially since it serves to alienate so many people.  Thus for example we have the ridiculous song Six:

Often a song will start simply but evolve in a very curious direction, as in Choral:

But the highlight here is the EP 6 Petites Chansons.  The most bizarre and strangely successful tune is "Solo un dia (in paradise)" which not only mashes together Spanish, English and French in the lyrics, but abruptly one minute from the end a fuzzed-out electric guitar starts soloing in the most unexpected manner, like a disheveled schizophrenic uncle disturbing a black-tie cocktail party.

Another perfectly progressive song is the last, "A Personne Particuliere" which sounds like a Julverne composition with lyrics:

As bonus I threw in a ST Joseph Racaille from the CD era which my friend sent to me.  Notice he recycles some of his older songs on here in a more commercialese musical lingo.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 6: The Quarterly Vol. 2 No. 1

This album features Joseph Racaille, the R in RIO band ZNR.  His contribution here called "Pegase" is simply awful and not representative of his compositional talents as evidenced on "6 Petites Chansons" which I think I'll upload next to give you all a break from this stuff.  Unlike other RIOoids I never liked the duo Iva Bittova and Pavel Fajt and in fact overall this edition was a disappointment for me and will thus probably be horrendous for you. 

The track "Imperialism of the Future" is for me the best, by a Swedish band called Ur (or Ur-Kaos).  Their 1987 ST album called Ur-Kaos I recall enjoying greatly, try to hear it.

I really love the first track, by the Blitzoids, called "Puptent", too.  It's simply crazy.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 5: The Quarterly Vol. 2 No. 2 from 1987 [Recommended!]

It's my opinion that the best issue is this one, Vol. 2 No. 2 --  as a result I'm going to discuss it at length, but I beg you to read on.  As well I think everyone should hear it and for this reason I will post a lossless copy for a limited time only (one week).

First of all we have a fantastic song by the 5UU's which I believe is one of those treasures left out of the sampler CDs, for which reason I thought it important to amass these records.  This is followed by the legendary Robert Wyatt with an item called Chairman Mao.  I've tried to listen to it a few times to see if it is pro-communist in order to get a few political comments going regarding the radical conservatism now sweeping the United States like a tsunami of triclosan, with deficit-reduction austerity serving as propagandal excuse to gerrymander society into a pre-depression quasi-fascist kleptocracy -- refashioning the future into not a welfare state, nor a police state, but a slave state, in which the one-tenth percenters and the corporations with which they are inseparable will be the masters -- but old as I am and thus unable to multitask I get too distracted by the beauty of his musical composition, the harmony vocals, and the bizarre clarinet-like background keyboards he uses here.  It's a testament to his genius that the song remains in the key of G minor but maintains interest throughout by building slowly in intensity and weaving such strange snatches of lyrics that to me suggest he put a pre-existing poem to music.  Simply amazing.  But we knew that about Robert Wyatt.

The highlights of this record are the two longer suites.  A4 is excerpts from Arturo Meza's Suite Koradi, which is recommended in its entirety because it is available and appeared as an album in 1985.   It's a shock that there's so much fantastic Mexican prog-- the land that is now infamous for cocaine smugglers, drug-packed homemade submarines (not the sandwiches, the u-boats), and bloodthirsty drug cartels once had a beautiful path down the alley of progressive rock and it was a wide and productive trail indeed.  Too bad at the end of it we now find decapitated bodies everywhere amidst AK-47 casings.  Anyways, it's a very tricky suite because each time you think the track is over, suddenly it starts up again, like a person you shot with a high powered rifle who you think has died -- only to rise up again.  So I had to rerecord it about half a dozen times each time expecting it to be finally over, cursing it, like a half-fried chimichanga.  You'll see what I mean.

Starting Side B is the other long piece called Suite (Resume 84-86) [presumably based on years of composition?], which is as beautiful as music can get, to me.  I realize I make these pronouncements far too often, but it's because the music I'm presenting is some of my favourite material.  (Almost by definition I won't post stuff I find terrible.)  It's by a band called "Intellectual Cabaret" and was written by one Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer.  From discogs:

"Composer, pianist and music essayist, Stevan Kovacs Tickmayer was born in 1963 ( Novi Sad , Vojvodina / ex-Yugoslavia) as a member of Hungarian national minority. Since 1991, he lives in France.  Studied piano & double bass, graduated in composition at the Academy Of Arts in Novi Sad under Rudolf Brucci, subsequently studied composition with Louis Andriessen & Diderick Wagenaar at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He had also a scholarship from the Polish Section of ISCM. With the members of his ensemble studied with Marta and György Kurtàg and by time established a long-term friendship with them.

In 1986 formed his ensemble Tickmayer Formatio in which classical trained musicians was employed as well as new jazz or improvised rock performers. Very soon, the group got an international profile: in different combinations over than thirty musicians collaborated with the group. For four years, Tickmayer was a member of the editorial of New Symposium, a magazine for social questions, art & culture in Novi Sad. In this period, he organized two international festivals for contemporary music & arts. In 1988, he gave lectures in summer course for improvised & composed music in Szombathely (Hungary) and one year later formed a piano duo with the father figure of Hungarian contemporary improvised music György Szabados. In the period of 1990-1997 he composed music and performed it with his Formatio for the Orleans based dance group Jel led by the choreographer Josef Nadj. ...

On the other hand, it's a mystery who were in the Intellectual Cabaret, unless it was a nonce band for the composer for this particular purpose.  Definitely an artist whose work I will have to search for more in the future.  This is clearly chamber music and it wouldn't at all be out of place in a concert hall so your enjoyment of it will entirely depend on your tolerance of modern European classical music.  Note the applause at the end, btw.  Later, Tickmayer reappeared on the 1997 CD Vol. 4 No. 2 which we shall get to eventually, assuming I don't give up on this tedious enterprise first.

B3 features an unreleased (I think) track from Danish nutbars Hunk Ai, one of my favourite out-there oddity RIO bands, whose two albums everyone should hear at least once, if only to determine whether they should ever be heard again in one's or one's procreants' lifetimes, or that of the species.

There are of course two throwaway tracks, A3 which is purely percussion, and B4 which is purely dog barking-- seriously.

Finally we have Jocelyn Robert, a Canadian avant-garde composer this time.  I'm not sure but I seem to recall his material is as avant-garde as it gets-- we're talking musique concrete, noise, recorded snippets, etc., not what most humans including myself (or excluding, more appropriately) will refer to as music.  However, his track, entitled Christi Crucifixi Ultima Verba is highly accessible as indeed it should be on this compilation.  The choral vocalizations, unaccompanied by musical instruments, are utterly enchanting, mysterious, and other-wordly, have a listen:

It ends very abruptly on the record, it's not my recording.  This track is the one that when I heard it many many years ago, on one of those ReR CD samplers sent to me by an older and wiser connoisseur of this music, caused me to listen to it again and again, along with some Jean Derome tracks that we'll get to later this week.  Then and there I swore that one day I'd try to collect all the original material, and then of course, I swore again once I'd obtained it all.

Note on this release:

Comes with 64 page magazine & screen-printed cover.
A1 has no track duration given on the release.
225 subscription copies came with an additional numbered and personally dedicated poster.
Some copies came with another addition still: a 12-page booklet by John Oswald, titled ''Plunderphonics''.
Magazine printed by Black Rose Press, London.
Record cover printed by Third Step Printworks, London.

It's a shame my copy lacks all the above except the amazing music.  In a future installment I'll discuss the magazine I do have.

Chairman Mao by the incomparable Robert Wyatt:

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 4: The Quarterly Vol. 1 No. 1

Modern art from the early twentieth century was the inspiration here, with Braque an influence on the back.  Opening with staccato string chords reminiscent of a Night on Bald Mountain growing psilocybin mushrooms on the ground for the plucking, from Steven Moore, and proceeding into complete Norman Bates' Psycho territory, this first installment is probably one of the best in the set.  The other record I will present next tomorrow, Volume 2 No. 2, is my favourite, foolishly I kept it for the 5th part of the series by which time guaranteed everyone will have had enough of this crazy music designed to clear the room of any normal human being.

Standout track here is unknown Swedish band's  "Mission Impossible" (not to be confused with the proto-alternative band of the same name which featured a young Dave Grohl) and their song Indefinite.  Notice the brilliant use of the tritonal B flat on a song in E.  I would love to know if they made any more recordings, if anyone has any info, please let me know.

The other fabulously jittery track is Lars Hollmer's, with its angular melody and bizarre chords with crazy dissonances, it's pretty much a definition or anthem of the RIO style.  I know it drives some people to distraction on hearing this, while others like myself find it utterly fascinating because of its off-the-wall mutational originality. 


Monday 16 December 2013

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 3: The Quarterly Vol. 1 No. 4 (from 1986)

In this installment the first side is given over to a suite by After Dinner, a marvelous Japanese chamber rock or RIO band that I strongly recommend provided that you actually enjoy that subgenre.  For me it's wonderful because it combines all the best music the human mind was able to create in its thousands of years history of musical instrumentation and experimentation.

It's too long to post as sample so instead I posted a representative track by Canadians Wondeur Brass, which I'm not as fond of, but this track called L'heure des louves, is pretty good.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 2: The Quarterly Vol. 1 No. 3

Look at those beautiful images! It's incredible.  As I've said so many times, the artwork is always worth resuscitating as well as the music.

I should have checked Wikipedia first for information on this series.  From there:

The RēR Quarterly (also known as Rē Records Quarterly and RēR Records Quarterly) was an English "quarterly" sound-magazine comprising an LP record and a magazine. It was published at irregular intervals between 1985 and 1997 by Recommended Records and November Books, and edited by English percussionist, lyricist and music theorist, Chris Cutler. It was sold internationally by Recommended Records via mail order and in specialist record shops.
A total of thirteen issues were published (four volumes of four, four, three and two issues respectively) plus two "collection" issues featuring music selections from volumes 1 and 2. From volume 4 the LP was replaced by a CD and the CD and the magazine (now entitled unFILEd: The RēR Sourcebook) were sold separately or together as a set.
The record in each issue contained previously unreleased music by artists from across the world, including commissioned pieces, projects and live recordings. The A4 magazine (varying from 42 to 112 pages per issue) included artwork and theoretical and practical articles on music, often by the composers and performers featured on the record. In keeping with the goals of Recommended Records and its prime mover, Rock in Opposition, a number of new musicians and groups appeared on the records, many having their music published internationally for the first time.
Cutler described the RēR Quarterly as:[1]
... firstly a sound magazine - not a sampler or a compilation, but a window on what was happening, essays in the possibilities of sound, introduction to new people. And secondly a printed magazine without the usual interviews and reviews, avoiding the language and outlook of the vapid music press ...
Paul Oldfield wrote in the English music newspaper, Melody Maker in 1985: "Theirs [RēR Quarterly] is the pursuit of unimaginable, packed in artwork of giddy luminescence."

I will try to scan and post some of the magazines but bear in mind the work involved is unimaginably tedious.  However it would be nice if someone made the effort to return all these to the world in CD format with a reproduction of the magazines, perhaps a box set of all 13 (rather than small CD samplers) would be the best vehicle to restore these to their former splendor.

An exemplary track, Nazca's Nadja:

This Mexican band is well worth collecting out for its wonderfully dark and chamber prog sound especially the first two albums on this discography, called Nazca and Estacion de Sombra.

Rē Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 1: The Quarterly Vol. 1 No. 2 from 1985

I hope in the coming weeks to present to you the entire discography of Rē Records Quarterly (not to be confused with the similarly named ReR records label!!) because it's one of the least known but most treasure-packed set of records in progressive history.  At least I'll try to do the first two volumes which are the best, each consists of four numbers.
Rē Records was founded by Chris Cutler in 1978, as a vehicle for Art Bears and then other projects of his own. At the same time he launched Recommended Records, a specialised mailorder service which established its own label for outside releases. A Recommended shop opened in the early '80s, and in mid-decade the shop and distribution functions separated from the labels, becoming a workers collective and changing its name to These Records. In the early '90s Cutler merged the labels under the name ReR Megacorp and set up a new distribution and mailorder service under the same name. These Records continued until 2006, when it finally closed.

Often telling which label a release is on can be confusing, even with the release in front of you. The way to tell them apart is by the catalog numbers:
Re or Rē numbers =
Rē Records [generally releases featuring Chris Cutler]
R.R. or RR numbers =
Recommended Records [releases by other artists]
ReR numbers =
ReR Megacorp [releases after 1988]
The quarterly albums they put out are compilations of the some of the best and most advanced progressive music the earth had ever heard.  In this installment you have a side-long suite that is incredibly well-composed by the Berlin Programme but the best tracks are from the famed Polish RIO group Reportaz.  Their music here is both advanced and accessible.
Note that many of these tracks were put out on CD samplers much later in the nineties, but on a quick scan of those track lists, I noticed they left out many of the most interesting and ingenious tracks, not surprisingly.  Why is that always the case?

The Fluent Reportaz:

These albums are very much in line with what the blog mutant sounds used to post. I was surprised they never posted any of these records in there, though I might be wrong.

Thursday 12 December 2013

More library: Tony Hymas and Stan Sulzmann in KPM 1367: Insight, from 1986

Both Hymas and Sulzmann were luminaries in the Brit jazz scene.  If you look at their discographies you'll see they performed together in a few albums, I'll try to go through the ones that I know of.  First of all, Tony Hymas I've presented before in the Wessex Tales album as a composer and you'll notice similar material to that one on side one.  "Face to Face" I believe was presented by dusty shelf, the great library blog.  Their big collaborative masterpiece is the oddly-named record "Krark" from 1979-- just a gorgeous progressive-fusion album full of intense ideas and often featuring the odd pairing of saxophones and synthesizers which we heard before in the "SOS" album once posted on prognotfrog.

Stan Sulzmann was not quite as prolific as Tony Hymas as you can see from his discography.  The pair collaborated on two library albums (as far as I know, which is not much admittedly) of which this is the more disappointing, the first one, called Have Sounds will Travel, is a fantastic little funky library masterpiece, at least the first side is, because the second side doesn't involve these two musicians, instead feat. a very disappointing Les Hurdle and Frank Ricotti who almost is slumbering on this effort.  In regards to this album a lot depends on whether you have a taste for the eighties style, the drum machine, the reverbed chord, etc.

Here's a {slightly} well-written track that gives you a bit of an idea:

Now think back to that time in the mid eighties when CDs were about to blow away all this vinyl into the stratosphere... and fast forward to today, when we resuscitate this lost material for a tiny few people who appreciate this lost art form...

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Another beautiful unknown gem: Spectra's No Secrets, American Genesis-style prog from 1979

In talking about Audio Visions I mentioned the enduring allure of Genesis.  And in fact you can't be a prog fan if you don't love them.  Like the Beatles with pop-rock, they just hit the perfect sweet spot in the human mind dedicated to the pleasure to be found in this form of music, and they hit it again and again, like the rats that are given intracranial electrode stimulation in the pleasure center of the limbic system and keep pressing the lever over and over again, thousands of times a minute...

Anyways, enjoy it.

Saturday 7 December 2013

When Peter Berkow and Friends performed their 'Faculty Recital' way back in 1975-1976 ... almost 38 years ago...

This gorgeous album (released in 1976, recorded earlier) is a concept about the post-nuclear holocaust world and without doubt it's Peter Berkow's masterpiece, an album that I think should stand as one of the best progressive works from the United States in the seventies (remember this is just my opinion.)

Berkow made a few albums in the early seventies.  I will state right off the bat I don't recommend the other ones, which I've heard all.   His singing is something that may be hard to get used to, being in the laryngeally thin Bob Dylan school. He is also one of those artists that recycled his compositions, reworking them from one record to the next. Thus the preceding album "Thesis" has most of the songs from this album and is very similar without being as pulled-together and conceptual.  The last album, perversely called "Bootleg Demo (79)" recycled them yet again in an acoustic format, lacking the fusion that makes this installment exciting.  On the other hand "Live at Cabo's (77)" is a fusion album beginning to end, but not a good one at all in my opinion being too meandering and lacking the brilliant prog moves and pleasant dead-head vibe.

Moving on to the album in question, if you look closely at the back you'll notice the whole thing is divided into three parts.  Side one has two parts, Spiritual Rebate for the Stoned Zen Pimp (which reappears on other albums both before and after), and was composed in transit to California (check what he says about it on the back), and Half-Life (referring to radioactive decomposition of course).  The lyrics for the Stoned Zen Pimp are as idiotic as you'd expect, but very much a part of those times, as I understand them-- not having experienced them  myself.  Side 2 recorded in a different time and place contains mostly vocal acoustic songs though they do revolve around the same theme of nuclear holocaust, sometimes tenuously so though, with occasional reprises of themes from side one. 

Of these little ditties the best to me is the song about how his father had different ideas for the son than he did, something I can relate to quite well, since it was my personal ambition to be a musician.  Unlike Peter Berkow, my dad had enough sway or bullying intimidation perhaps to push me into a professional direction.  Unfortunately as a result I will die having regretted almost everything about the direction my life took with the exception of my wife and children.  Positively, it gives me time to buy records and write about them.

"I remember my first big purchase-- I bought a sears robot telescope.
My pa he was proud that his son was a genius-- 'he'll be a physicist I bet--'
but all that I wanted, was to gaze into outer space.
To dream of all the places that astronauts go, when I emigrate;
when the planet explodes, and it's time to evacuate, and I run too--
I run too.

My pa he was a world war 2 immigrant, he ran from Hitler's fate.
But I pawned that old spyglass for my first guitar;
then the old man broke down in tears...
but all that I wanted, was to gaze into outer space...

Now a young man can feel so guilty when the old man dies:
He knew him but he never really bridged the gap,
separated in their lives.
All that I wanted, was to gaze into outer space... "

It's hard for me not to cry even now when I listen to this song, it's just a bit 'too close to home' for me:

It's obvious that Peter started as a university student (presumably bio based on his lyrics) but dropped out and managed to make music a full-time career.  I'd be curious to know what happened to him after the seventies, if he burned out as so many others did on too many drugs or if he went on to shine in an academic setting?  Anybody know?

One more thing I can't as usual resist mentioning.  Both paintings are by one Michael Fernandez.  Please -- I beg you -- take the time to look at front and back and admire the surreal (acid-hazed?)  images he came up with for this beautiful album.  Incidentally the preceding album Thesis from 1975 also features a gorgeous cover painting.

So is it possible still?
Well, on the positive side, humanity has become relatively peaceful of late, compared to its past, cf. Pinker's The better angels of our nature, who incidentally 'solved' the big mystery of why crime rates have dropped so dramatically in the last 20 years in all Western countries-- not because of better policing, Messrs. Giuliani and Bloomberg, but because it's the continuation of a long term trend that started way back in the middle ages!  in fact what needed explaining was why crime rates rose dramatically in the seventies to nineties, which burned out eventually and put us back on the long secular trend of declining crime.  The charts in the book make this quite plain for all countries, even in the twentieth century, there is a very slow down-slope throughout the whole hundred years except for the uptick in the aforementioned decades which ended around the early nineties.  A big thesis of that book is that this change in humans was much too quick to be genetic and is more likely mostly cultural.  However this is debatable because geneticists studying the molecular biology of humans have been shocked at how quickly humans have evolved at the dna level, for ex., the gene for lactose tolerance has become quasi-ubiquitous in the western world only in the last ten thousand years.  The genes for blonde hair, or blue eyes, similarly are shockingly recent.  A gene that confers some resistance to plague or measles as well is likely to be only a few hundred years old!  What if the more violent elements of the population were more likely to die through the last 10,000 years, surely this would lead to concrete genetic changes-- especially considering what humanity went through in the last hundred years?  I am sure this very issue is bitterly debated among psychologists and geneticists, perhaps leading to all-out war (lol).

On the neg. side, we are facing a host of big problems and those nuclear warheads are still with us-- how many of them?  they number in the tens of thousands apparently.  We still have enough to completely destroy ourselves many times over and all life on earth with us.  Some think a terrorist threat is the biggest problem, and it may well be.  But if ever they are used again I think it's likely to be the way they were used before-- at the end of a long, many years' war, in an attempt at finally ending it.  After all, I have never heard of a technology that was created and then was never used.  Everything humans create, is made to be used.

But enough Christmas cheer.  Please enjoy this wonderful little lost gem of American progressive music.

Friday 6 December 2013

The First Light from down under in 1978

My favourite fusion album from Australia, no question.  It really covers a lot of territory in one album, with Mahavishnu-style guitar arpeggios, softer jazz ballads, acoustic guitar solo, etc.  I'll let the music speak for itself.  First example, the stunning ballad (track A5 called Zenith), starting with a chromatic descending arpeggio on acoustic guitar, leading into a beautiful female chorus singing the lines, the chord changes, to a musician, are just astonishingly creative.  As usual flute provides a delicately bucolic and transcendental experience to the whole.  Again, there has never been another song with this sequence, guaranteed-- (in the stanza not intro) (major chords unless otherwise indicated) C, Dflat, Bflat, Eflat, Eflat minor, Dflat, Eflat7, Bflat, C7, Gminor7, Gmajor.  An incredible sequence that works because of the wavering melody which pulls all the disparate keys and modulations together.  Have a listen:

The ninth track (Solar Illusion) is your basic Mahavishnu guitar-fusion machine, but beautifully composed:

The well-reputed and usually on-the-money Tom of course was ahead of us and gave it a priority 3:

' First Light is a mighty fine instrumental jazz rock effort. Sunny in its approach, with some fine guitar leads, at times reaching a Santana like intensity, but falls just short (sadly). Some nice ensemble unison runs with sax, flute, electric piano, and the female voice on side 2 gives it a Northettes feel, that adds points. Back cover says: "Mellotron and special effects kindly supplied by Aleph". Solid effort. File next to Crossfire and Mackenzie Theory. A natural choice for Aztec I think.

According to a good friend of this site, we have it on authority (someone who knew the band) that 1978 is the correct release year.

Martin from Germany tells us: "FIRST LIGHT from australia is the band formed by ALEPH drummer Ron Carpenter. He also plays with AC DC in 1974 and COLD CHISEL in 1978. Release date must be 1979 i guess." '

[ -- P.S. is he talking about Martin Pruckner, the famous krautrock specialist? -- Editorial note]

There is more information to be found here in the comments, credit to the prognotfrog group.  Btw those links he gave go to a different rip than the one I am presenting here, which is fresher.  And of course this record deserves to be bought as vinyl to be truly enjoyable-- I think that goes without saying.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Now comes Edo Zanki / Don Anderson's Jetzt Komm' Ich from 1977

The curiosity overtook me and I was forced to buy this record on the basis of his prior installments as aka Don Anderson.  It's clearly the same singer with the beautiful warm voice born to sing rock unfortunately it is now singing pop and a couple of reggae songs in German.  What a shame that after such a superb opening in bluesy progressive rock in the early seventies he should move into complete commercial territory.  I apologize for the skips on the title track, A3, which few will notice I'm sure.  His songwriting still teeters a little too precariously close to the god-awful Elton John.  At any rate after this posting few will make the same mistake I made here.

The small songbird that most approaches the perfection of the eagle that once flew high is A4's Nie mehr, an excellent and beautiful song if you take it on its own radio-friendly terms:

Coming soon: more classic progressive gems, more fusion, more library, I bet you'll be surprised at how much great music is still out there from this period in time that you haven't yet heard, guaranteed.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Requested: Zoom-Thin' Else from Bruno Spoerri, 1979

I believe this album was shared on a website long, long ago, or at least I vaguely recall seeing it there some 2-3 years ago -- surely an eternity in today's digital world in which people change phones every year and purchase new hardware every few months to the detriment of coltan miners and the 'african world war' still raging in the Congo and other parts of sub-saharan Africa. 

At any rate it's a fantastic little euro-fusion album featuring some perfectly bionic melding of synthesizers with fusionoid noodling -- close up of Lindsay Wagner's ear tuning in to the grooves... [and smashing the transistor radio to pieces?]  Notice that Bruno Spoerri was the producer, he has a long list of credits to his name.  His 1978 Voice of Taurus album is recommended for the electro-disco-prog-pop fan.

Those who are fans of Charlie Mingus (like myself in a long-distant past) will note the song B4 (Dreamline) is very much derived from seventies Mingus albums like 'Mingus Moves' as you can hear here on the plain internet archive upload: