Thursday 31 October 2013

Progressive Hallowe'en music at its most phantastic: Dieter Salbert's Musica Phantastica... (1976)

Mr. Dieter Salbert was a serious composer but this album definitely can be classified as progressive rock in its most advanced form.  On this album he plays synthesizers and the beautiful and sometimes eerie operatic voice of Alrun Zahoransky complements some tracks.  A sound similar to a theremin plays many of the melodies giving the music an outer space or spooky horror movie feeling.  Please note that 2 of the odes are poems written by the wonderful Pablo Neruda, although translated into German.   We will hear more from Neruda shortly in another highly creative album, this time from Scandinavia, keep checking back for that one.

Salbert's album Klangszenen from 1984 is excellent (provided you enjoyed this one), in a similar vein, and well worth seeking out as well.

I sampled the shortest track, Ode An Den Duft Des Holzes:

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Jean-Jacques Ruhlmann - Impression L'enigme Infinie....

"No one shall expel us from the Paradise that Cantor has created"   David Hilbert the famous mathematician once said regarding infinity, and although in his discipline it's essential (a constructible mathematics is possible without it but with difficulty and apparently incomplete), it's still debatable whether or not infinity has real existence, out there in reality.  In quantum physics the infinity can't exist in space and time because of Heisenberg uncertainty-- there is a smallest unit of both -- and yet, for the equations to be solved, infinity must exist in the renormalization process.  What about the universe?  Although many if not most physicists believe there is a 'multiverse' out there of multiple universes of which ours is merely one, on the basis of the theory of inflation, both commonsense and logic argue against the concept of an infinity of universes...

Is it better to have a finite universe and be nagged by the issue of what is outside it and what came before it, or an infinite universe?  If the latter, unfortunately we are faced with such conundrums as the provable assertion that there is not just another me out there typing this, but in fact an infinity of me's out there typing this.  So which one is the real me?  In the next few years the new Planck satellite is likely to settle the issue of whether or not inflation is true or not, and it might turn out that it's not and the likelihood this universe is unique will increase.

But there is one thing I am sure about now after a lifetime of thinking on the topic, it's that humanity will never definitely answer those questions I first asked my father as a boy, where did the universe come from, what is outside it, how will it end?  Although I understand the optimism of physicists I'm reminded of an interview with Noam Chomsky the famous linguist (and revolutionary) in which he said something along the lines of this, 'If a chimpanzee were presented with calculus, or quantum mechanics, he would never no matter the effort come to understand it.  In the same way, isn't it likely that the human mind also will never understand some things, because of its very structure, and that we will never know what those are?  Because evolution is not capable of creating perfection.'

A beautiful cover foretells a beautiful album of chamber jazz such as the French were able to accomplish absolutely perfectly in those days... and since the subject is the infinite enigma, expect some very intellectual and dreamy music...

Ruhlmann is the composer and plays flutes, soprano sax, and clarinet.  In this opus from 1981, he is rounded out by Philippe Maté on saxes, Francois Couturier on piano, Merzak Mouthana on percussion, and Francois Mechali on double bass.  On the given discography he only has one other record listed, from 1978, unfortunately.  In the French online store cdandlp only this one.

The first track is quite representative:

 My other favourite is the Merzak Express, which features a beautifully done chamber score intro with bowed double bass, clarinet, and sax, showing the modern classical education Ruhlmann possessed, this passes into a zeuhlish piano ostinato figure with a wonderfully exciting crescendo build... progressive music at its finest.

Monday 28 October 2013

Happy Hallowe'en (Week) -- and RIP Lou Reed October 27th, 2013

"When I was young and in high school, I wanted to play football for the coach...
The older guys said he's mean and he's cruel, but I wanted to play football for the coach...
Cuz' some day man you gotta stand up straight or you gonna fall and then you're going to die, going to die... "
-Lou Reed

One of the greatest and most uncompromising rock artists of the seventies period, and one of my old personal favourites, a true poet of rock, may you rest in peace Lou ...

"I'd like to send this one out for Lou and Rachel
and all the kids and P.S. 192, Coney Island baby,
Man, I'd swear, I'd give the whole thing up for you"

Coney Island Baby

Florian Poser's Lifeline is charting very positively on his first album from 1980 [by private request]

I felt bad about the unexpectedly untimely and precipitate removal of the first Florian Poser post so I'll give you this one instead, the first of three albums with the Lifeline moniker.  I think I mentioned  previously that "Winds" was in my opinion his best album, but you can judge for yourselves.  Or maybe you can't judge since you never got the latter. 
You can always email me.

The style is German fusion, smooth as a hot pumpkin latte.

The band is the following:       

Here is a track from Jestel, Mouthpiece:

And here are some more precipitational feelings from Florian to aptly complement the Rain from Winds and the current mini-monsoonal season in (some parts of) the Northern Hemisphere:

Sunday 27 October 2013

Audio Visions Images of 1984


Can you believe how beautiful the cover drawing is?  Please take the time to examine it more closely once or if you receive it.

This album is one of those Genesis clones that are so common in the field of progressive rock.  How can we identify the taxonomy of the 'Genesis style'?  In my view there are 5 elements: the nasally voice and individual singing style of Peter Gabriel, the often-outlandish lyrics and subjects of songs, the classical influence (e.g. Firth of Frith), the folky or medieval guitar often using 12-string, and importantly, the use of all previous four elements within the structure of an accessible rock or pop song that has significant and huge variability from one section to another (sudden tempo changes, dramatic crescendos, abrupt fusion passages, etc.).  OK, make that 6 elements in total. If one or other element is missing, it doesn't quite capture the unique style.  (In neo-prog often everything is jettisoned except the most superficial imitation of Gabriel's singing style and lyrics and the synthesizer accompaniment.)  What was great about that seminal group was both the combination of elements and the sheer genius of the compositional and songwriting capabilities of the crew.  I guess the combination of Collins, Hackett, Rutherford, and Banks was golden.  Note that the Gabrielesque element was replaceable after he left the band, the rest carried on perfectly well in his absence.

As an aside, the amazing Canadian band "The Musical Box" has toured the world with a re-enactment of classic Genesis albums copying even the stories Peter told before each song.  I've seen them multiple times and can never get tired of seeing them again whenever they stop by in my town, it's so absolutely interesting, but so flummoxing to those like my wife who are laughing and shaking their heads on hearing the performance, asking, what the hell is this? The Musical Box is actually still touring, check it out.  I believe they recorded a CD too, perhaps more, or maybe I'm confusing it with a bootleg Genesis Live.  Someone can correct me here.

How often is it that a band coming out of nowhere creates a style that had no precedent, and then proceeds to influence an entire movement or style?  because everywhere in prog we hear some Genesis influence, whether in seventies Italian prog, later British prog, and the aforementioned neo-prog movement.  In fact in Germany in particular the Genesis imitators were legion in the late seventies carrying on into the eighties, as documented for example in other blogs' posts (e.g. Odyssee White Swan, Sirius, Lacrima, Audite, etc.).  Even when Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam made alternative popular, they were working on an existing style that had evolved in Seattle in the late eighties & already developed its quirks such as the soft-loud-soft-loud that Nirvana took presumably from The Pixies.  But Genesis, uniquely, created their own sound, I believe without precedent and that sound went on to influence innumerable talented musicians.  (I would love comments on the subject if there are some who feel this is not correct.)  Among those so influenced are this group of artists who recorded this album in Memphis, Tennessee, something like 10 years later than the classic Genesis style they were imitating, but the eighties jumpy pop influence is palpable too in some areas.  It's not altogether consistently great but more interesting and enjoyable for its mimicry. 

The song called "Blues" turns out not to be the obligatory fast-forward-throwaway but, about 2 minutes after a lolling Gershwinian bluesy melody, very surprisingly changes to a bona fide electric progressive instrumental --  have a listen to the sample:

Or consider this example which almost made me laugh when I first heard it, "Rise Above," about sitting in a traffic jam.  The spot-on Peter Gabriel impression is simply too perfectly done.  Really reminds me of those Canadian Musical Box guys, with Denis Gagne as Peter Gabriel dressed in a silly costume popping balloons with his index finger... Be sure to see them!

When we find an album (from 29 years ago this time) so rare and unexpectedly good, I always ask myself, how is it possible we can still find these treasures from the past?  Was the period so fertile there is unlimited gold in the ground still?  Consider how Tom Hayes from cd reissue discovered his recent Metaphysical Animation.  How many more such treasures are still out there?  When will the hunt end?
To which my wife says: "Tomorrow, hopefully."

Saturday 26 October 2013

The history of Solar Plexus from 1972 to 1975

Thanks to the energy of new reader Mr Morgan we are treated today to the first 4 Solar Plexus albums!  Recall in my past post of Tommy Korberg I briefly mentioned he was the singer for this fabulous progressive fusion band.
This upload is available for only a limited time.
Many thanks again.

Friday 25 October 2013

Nels Cline and Eric von Essen commiserating on Elegies (1981) -- by request

This was requested by the prognotfrog group, who have posted the first three Quartet Music albums, which featured Cline and von Essen.  I'm happy to help them out with this first request taken "from the vaults", my personal album collection.  Very laid-back and meditative acoustic guitar duetting with bass,  I'd go so far as to say it's as good as a sleeping pill if it's past your bedtime.  It starts relatively inauspiciously with some strumming and loitering around and in the second track, with Nels playing a bass recorder, you feel like you're stuck in an ashram with some smelly aging hippies watching carnivorous turtles eating dead bodies in the ever-so-polluted Ganges. But as you delve deeper into the two sides you'll find much more wonder and beauty when you enter into this little world these two master virtuosos have created here.

First, check out the blurb on the back of the sleeve from Mark Weber, CODA Magazine:
    "The 70s were an exciting time to be coming of age and to be developing an aesthetic in the art of jazz.  The new musics of the avant garde were refining and solidifying what was roughly charted in the 60s.  Those of us with a desire for new sounds found all manner of expression taking place.  We indulged out minds and sensibilities in the arts of the world and through that a natural and healthy eclecticism is manifesting.  This music addresses itself to that eventuality; of a world together in life and love.
An elegy is a poetic lament, either in sorrow or in praise or both.  With Nels and Eric it is transcendent, radiant and compassionate."
So you get an idea of how serious these guys were with this.  Of course back then it was commonplace to be really really serious about music-- especially jazz, but also rock.

From discogs:

Recorded September 13 & 14, 1980, at Intermix, Inc., Los Angeles, CA.
Mastering: The Cutting System, Inc.

Sample track, Cline's "Love Song" which is the second part of the first track on side two. You will notice that Neil indulges in some Robert Wyatt-like wordless singing over the melody giving it a really ethereally transcendent, plaintive sound to borrow phraseology Mark Weber might have employed, especially when coupled in unison with the acoustic bass played with a bow which is always so heartrending.

In honour of the prognotfrog group (thanks for the plug) I'll post both lossless (for a limited time only) and mp3 this time.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Robert Wood's Tombac Vibe from 1976 and Robert would vibrarock, too

From a post on continuo's blog:

In 1971-72, English vibraphonist Robert Wood was a member of French band Lard Free, the band Gilbert Artman led before Urban Sax. Wood later asked Artman to play drums on his own second LP, ‘Sonanbular’, while Artman included vibraphone on the first Lard Free official LP (1973), as well as the Clear Light Symphony LP (1975) and Urban Sax. The ‘Sonanbular’ front cover (the industrial devices pictured above) was used for Dominique Grimaud’s epochial book on French 1970s avant-rock ‘Un Certain Rock Français’ volume 1 (1977). Half of the tracks on ‘Sonabular’ are vibes+drums duos where the drums are recorded from a distance, as if from next room (tr.# 1, 4 & 5). But their dialogue is perfectly matched as the drummer adjusts to the vibe player’s bravado. On #4 especially, Wood sounds like a Cecil Taylor on vibraphones. Other tracks, especially the longest ones, arise from mutli-tracked vibraphones (tr.# 3) allowing Wood to build nuanced soundscapes from mostly soft, tiny sounds from 3 different instruments. His techniques includes stereo panning, perspective soundboard mixing and extended vibraphone technique. Woods is not afraid of ugly sounds, sometimes hitting the wooden frame or creating nasty metallic sounds with his mallets. In trying to extend the vibraphone sonic possibilities he sometimes favors the non-resonant sounds of the instrument. Unlike any other vibes player I’ve heard, Wood’s vibraphone playing is unique and owes nothing to Lionel Hampton or the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Here is Robert Wood's discography.  I have all his records, and this is the only one which is truly progressive rock.  I actually don't recommend you attempt to hear the others, only this one, in fact, he recycled some earlier tracks for this record, improving them by tightening them up or adding vocals.  The first albums were more in the instrumental 'free jazz wankery with vibes' style.  (I'm sorry if there are some out there to whom this style is more appealing than to me.)  This little record though is a real find, featuring all the hallmarks of the brit prog rock style, with unusual chord changes, dissonances, etc.  It was a real treat to hear that classic style again ...

For example in the chosen track below, Shades of Mu, the melody is constructed out of a diminished chord in C, that is (C - Eflat - Fsharp - A).  The melody goes up to the minor third, then drops down to the tritonal F sharp and later in the song travels downwards: C, A, Fsharp.  The wonderful "doom and gloom" sound of the diminished chord is used extensively in death metal (as a chord progression that is, tonic, minor third, flat fifth), there's something about that use of minor or diminished intervals that causes humans to think negatively, the prototype for this being the step from tonic to minor third.  Is it because the whole-number ratio of the major third unexpectedly flatted by a semitone leads to momentary confusion in neurological processing and down the line to a surprised and negative response?  But how does the feeling come in?  Impressionism in visual arts is esthetically pleasing for example but (to me at least) lacking emotional content.  In the case of music the response is so immediate, there must be a direct connection between auditory processing and emotions.  But is it more cultural or innate?  Of course this is a mystery in both art and science.  I bought Oliver Sacks' book "Musicophilia" in a thirst for enlightenment because his previous books provide wonderful insight into the odd way the brain is organized through case histories of people with unusual strokes that 'knock out' a certain processing ability of the brain but leave the rest intact (e.g. the man who mistook his wife for a hat).  Unfortunately, he was as puzzled at the end as at the beginning and so was I...

Please keep us bookmarked here, I will feature lots more rarities from the vaults in the next couple of weeks.  Next up will be an incredibly rare find in the mid seventies Genesis vein.  And who doesn't love Genesis?

Remember, occasionally I will only review a big wishlist item, with a view to holding back in order to sell the record, and I apologize in advance for this. (Like what's done on the cd reissue wishlist.)

On the other hand, I welcome any requests relating to the chosen topic of progressive, fusion, and jazz from this era (that is, not already easily available obviously).  Either email me or put in a comment below.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Tommy Körberg & Stefan Nilsson - Blixtlås (1979)

Tommy Körberg was in the prog band Made in Sweden from 1975 to 1977, and in the prog / fusion band Solar Plexus in the early seventies.  Nilsson, on the other hand, was the keyboardist in Kornet and De Gladas Kapell and collaborated in some beautiful classics of Swedish prog like Vanspel (from the same year) with Coste Apetrea and Jukka Tolonen.   His playing is extremely precise, betraying a classical training, but progressively very inventive, and he is utterly at ease in all styles including pop and jazz.  So how could you go wrong with this 1979 collaboration between 2 luminaries of Swedish progressive music?  Well the only complaint I might have is when Tommy starts reciting poetry it reminds me a little too much of those neurotic Ingmar Bergman movies I saw too much of in the seventies with a half face superimposed on another half face (like this cover) as a woman is slowly dying of cancer and telling her mother how much she has hated her all her life and her husband is having an affair in the next room in the closet.  With her half-sister.

The music is similar to Nilsson's Music for music lovers but with the addition of vocals.  There are acoustic piano pieces, synthesizer songs, and there's even a bit of wonderful fusion thrown in at the end.  What is most amazing to me is the depth of imagination put into the songwriting efforts... these are absolutely not radio-friendly pop songs...  It's as if they had decided to write Schubertian songs for a concert hall in which the audience had an equal appreciation for classical music, jazz, and rock.
Have a listen to my sample tracks, A2 and B4. 

Not everyone will love this, but I hope some do, and spread the word.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Denis Barbier, Jacques Ferchit, et Christian Remy - Musique Descriptive (1979)

Again an album easily bought here, for example.  On that database you can see the compositional credits.  Typical French library music with some nice moments. 
It's quite a mixed bag, with faux-classical (Rossinia), some Brazilian acoustic guitar (Brasilio), the usual countryish twanging, some quite ridiculous jingles, but a couple of enjoyable compositions.  Is it worth buying a vinyl like this for a few good songs?  Well, it depends how strong is your thirst for novelty.

Would have fit nicely in pornotrond's dusty shelf  library blog, or for example, boxes of toys.  My favourite track, le siffleur (the whistler), which, setting aside the annoyingness of the whistling, has a really cool arrangement backing interesting melodies:

Saturday 19 October 2013

Wisse Scheper - Topaz (Net, 1972)

This is a very beautiful album of composed songs with the additon of chamber instruments.  I'm surprised it hasn't been released to CD considering its great beauty.  It recalls a bit the 1975 "Oh My Love" album of Thijs Van Leer.  You can see it's relatively easy and cheap to obtain here.

Here is a straightforward review from rateyourmusic credited to horus in monoxyde:
Cool and obscure dutch early 70's pop/singer-songwriter album produced by jazz flautist Chris Hinze. Wisse Scheper is the main composer, lead singer and he plays a plethora of instruments too, and Topaz is actually the backing band's name. It *could* have been dreadful really, the kind of bland and melodramatic SSW stuff that was so common in the early 70's, but Hinze's background in jazz fusion ensures that unusual sounds, nice instrumental breaks and all sorts of cool little touches abound. Unfortunately, there are also some irritating vocal mannerisms too (ie : Our love will be strong..). Songwise, this falls between a poppier Peter Hammill and Bowie circa Hunky Dory maybe. Not bad at all on the whole - better than you would expect anyway. Wonderful cover art too, simple yet brilliant. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is actually some lost psychedelic masterpiece, or weird German jazz fusion upon seeing that cover for the first time. This is anything but - yet it's quite nice for what it is. (PS : I forgot to mention this, but Scheper does sing in english by the way)

Tuesday 15 October 2013

A new blog... with Florian Poser's Winds

It may seem futile in such a crowded field to start a new blog... but I would like to share some material from my record collection that so far has been hard to hear online.

I will not always post downloadable links although a digital copy will always be available for those who are eager enough to hear the material and willing to email.  This is because often some amount of money was invested in the vinyl and making it easily available would be counterproductive for the purpose of selling.  On a positive note, once a record is sold, there is less reason to hold it back.  More importantly I will not post anything released either to CD or for digital download e.g. iTunes but only out of print records, usually from at least 30 years in the past.

On this wonderful and relaxing outing from 1986 Germany, Florian Poser, the celebrated jazz vibraphonist (who earlier produced three albums with the fusion band name Lifeline), plays all the instruments, and composed and arranged all the pieces.  A list of instruments:
Vibraphone, Marimba [Marimbaphone], Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Grand Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Yamaha Px7], Electric Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Cymbal, Percussion, Computer [Digital Rhythm Computer].
In comparison to the Lifeline albums I think these songs are more accessible and well-written with a minimum of unnecessary improvisations.  Despite the bleak and frigid cover, there is an entertaining warmth to the compositions that I find quite appealing.

Here is my favourite track, Rainy Day, which is perfect where I'm sitting at here this chilly fall day:

Sunday 13 October 2013

Reviews of progressive rock, fusion, jazz, and library albums from my collection, all from more than 30 years in the past, there are no downloads of copyrighted materials here and any artist can request a link removal.  Occasionally I will only review a rarity and hold back on samples, my aim is to expand the knowledge base of this still little known style of music that had its heyday in the seventies.  But go ahead and email or comment if you think a trade is possible.

And I welcome any requests for material from the chosen field either not yet available or once available and now no longer...  enter a comment.