Friday 31 January 2014

The Locals Young Lovers

This album is quite unique in that it features a German band with distinct and definite Frank Zappa tendencies.  I would go so far as to say it's definitely one of a kind except my knowledge is certainly not comprehensive enough to express such confidence.  Nonetheless it's for that reason that I wanted to document this-- that, and the remarkable cover painting which in my opinion deserves to be in an art gallery, particularly with the humour of the misspelling of the graffiti on the wall, and the nude drawing tacked in the corner.  The biggest and most tragic loss, for me at least, in the change from LPs to CDs was the loss of great cover art.

Due to its size the record cover almost forced artists to be visually creative while due to its small area, the CD achieves the opposite effect, unfortunately.  Another way in which we can say that this period was the golden age of albums, though I feel relatively alone in mentioning the importance of this issue, I think.  But no one can disagree that the above is heart-achingly beautiful-- after all they are young lovers, as Prevert said in his poem which I will be featuring in an upcoming post "Les enfants qui s'aiment: "

"The young lovers kiss, standing up, against the door of the night.
And the passerbys who pass, point them out with their fingers--
but the young lovers are there for no one.
It's only their shadow that trembles in the night,
exciting the anger of passerbys,
their anger, their disdain, their laughter and their jealousy;
but the young who love each other are there for no one
they are elsewhere, much farther than the night,
much higher than the day, 
in the blinding clarity of their first love..."

Here is a very Zappa-esque track called Wet Napkin-- not only musically similar, but similar, obviously, in nomenclature:

And here is the title track itself:


Thursday 30 January 2014

Gallery is ECM 1206... recorded in NYC, 1981 [new rip-- lossless limited time only; requested]

From prognotfrog: [by permission]

"Gallery is ecm 1206. It has never been released to cd. Why is this? Does the world really need another box set of Ella's greatest hits? If there are indeed some of you out there who have yet to buy one, please do so quickly, so the music industry can get to the lost ecm treasures like this one, by far my most wished-for cd rerelease (altho by now I've listened to it so many times I would never actually play the cd if I bought it...)

The first song is the most apt musical description of a bird in flight I've ever heard. A vibraphone (Dave Samuels) repeats a broken chord of F minor and cello and oboe take over melody, with that classic ecm sound of slow musical patterns soaring over a 16th note beat, slow over fast (Michael DiPasqua, percussion, Ratzo Harris, bass). The use of cello (David Darling) creates a plaintive sound throughout the album. Frequent modulations are the 'key' to this song, every phrase is succeeded by a change into another unrelated minor key, exactly the kind of unexpectedness that makes good jazz or prog so intellectually recharging.  The second song "Prelude" sounds like a Chick Corea composition as in his children's pieces but quite classical influenced being played by cello with vibes accompaniment. "Painting" consists of maddeningly complex chords gradually transfiguring into one another, like a roomful of Rothkos maybe.  In "Pale Sun" a soprano sax dialogues with the cello evoking those old sci-fi paintings of white dwarfs sunrising over cold dead planets. "Egret" returns to the ornithological exposition, cello melody, flightlike song structure. 

When I hear these albums it saddens me to think someone spent so much time writing these elaborate compositions, probably months committing them to paper, after likely years of musical training, only to be lost to the fourth dimension. I would like to live to hear these musical works being performed at the local symphony hall by a chamber group. Well, obviously that's a crazy dream. There is not a single throwaway song. The cohesiveness of the composition and style are remarkable. 

One must mention the cover art as well, a very beautiful image, almost a cartoon in black and white on a greying page: a yellow clothed figure running away in the left upper quadrant appears to be watched by a quartet of shadows in the foreground and a streetlight, like a nineteen seventies Georgio di Chirico, enigma of the late dusk.  A mysterious quatrain is handwritten below the image."

BTW here is the mystery quatrain on the cover:

"First you notice the wind
you're walking aimlessly
there in the middle of events
you'll stop when you think you know"

[by Mikko Hietaharju]

The group consists of Ratzo B. Harris (bass), David Darling (cello), Michael DiPasqua (drums), Paul McCandless (saxes, oboes, horn), with David Samuels on vibes. More information here.  These performers appeared on multiple other ECM releases that sounded similar, but the way these guys came together on this particular record is really special and outstanding-- it was a one of a kind event for sure.  All the compositions here are very strong.  Truly beautiful music.  Just check out D. Samuels' "Soaring:"


Monday 27 January 2014

Carita Holmström - We Are What We Do (Finland, 1973)

From discogs:
"Finnish pianist, singer and composer of jazz, pop and classical music, born February 10th, 1954 in Helsinki, Finland. She took part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with the song 'Älä Mene Pois'. "

This was her first album, and there's a great little self-written blurb up there on the top left corner on the back.  So the title is about her life in music.  She recalls to me such Scandinavian artists as Maru and Mikael or the acoustic songs of Baltik.

Note that it's Carita who plays the acoustic piano so gorgeously all throughout this record.  She wrote the songs as well except for track A4, Yes' Time and a Word (by Jon Anderson and David Foster) -- how this song made it here flummoxes me, it seems to stand out. Her work at least so far as this record is concerned is very much a part of the seventies zeitgeist with its earnest insistence of all of us liking each other as brothers, saving trees, and singing to the earth. That super-idealism is what makes this to me and hopefully to others out there so poignant and heart-breakingly beautiful.  It's unfortunate that those principles were so fully disregarded.  What happened to that "new world a-comin' " in the words of Duke Ellington?  

In mood some of this reminds me of my beloved Radka Toneff, I've mentioned before how Scandinavian music often leans towards the melancholic, surely not surprising when considering its environment, as one can see from the predilection in Caribbean music for the festive.

Now consider the last track which is called "The Knight."  I will reprint in full the beautiful lyrics.  The remainder of the album is absent any Christian references, so this dream she has about the medieval knight who puts her sword on her and then vanishes, to me, seems more like a vividly actual dream than a religious vision.  But the ambiguity of it is there, it can be interpreted (to the detriment of the artistic quality in my opinion) as a faith conversion too.  Perhaps the beauty of it lies in this 'over-interpretation' as Freud would have called it.  The musical interplay between acoustic bass and piano recalls Bill Evans and Herbie Mann discussing Nirvana and is really utter perfection, the lilting of the waltz tempo adding to the dreaminess.  There is a great intermission section in which piano and bass travel down from the key of G to F major, to D minor 6, to B half-diminished, back to A minor, with sustained bass (i.e., played with a bow).  Notice too the quivering E note played by the acoustic bass at the end of stanzas, that perfectly simulates a knight holding his sword.  (Incidentally, the bass is played by Pekka Sarmanto, brother of famed composer Heikki Sarmanto.)  This is the sort of touch of artistry that made Radka's records such a delight.

"On a Sunday afternoon I heard the church bells distantly ringing out
On a Sunday afternoon on a day in spring, 
I heard the sound of streaming water, in a dream.
And the sounds from the motorway suddenly disappeared,
Faded out to a sound like trumpets playing
And he was there, the knight, in his silver armour, from ancient times.

He looked at me, I stared at him, and the white horse with golden wings stood beside him.
He took his sword, took a step towards me, and he lay it on my shoulder.
And then it returned-- the trumpet sound, and he was gone for a battle.
He was gone, the knight, in his silver armour, from ancient times.

On a foggy afternoon, on a day in spring
I heard the church bells distantly ringing out.
On a Sunday afternoon on a day in spring,
I heard the sound of streaming water in a dream."

Incredible, utterly lovely. So seventies.

Now let's rewind back to the beginning.  In prognotfrog's write-up on Kurt Memo's Capt. Thunder the issue of unintentionally humorously earnest seventies lyrics was discussed at length.  
Consider the second song:

"Standing here at the top of the hill, singing to the earth,
Standing here looking down to the valley, singing to the earth,
Nobody in the world is near me,
Nobody in the world can hear me,
Here I stand feeling oh so lonesome now..."

Anyone who grew up in the 1970s like me will be reminded of Coke's classic ad of "I'd like to teach the world to sing" or Sesame Street's comparable and equivalent: "Sing a song, make it simple, to last your whole life long..."  which my own small kids still love to hear me play.

On track A5 (We've got to change) meantime she discusses the political strife in the world circa 1973:

"This is a funny world we're living in.
No room for feelings, no room for love.
People turning their backs on you
'cause they've forgotten the way to live--
and in their eyes you can see weariness and boredom,
in their eyes you can see a locked-up soul,
in their eyes you can see, they want to feel.

We got to change, take the sword of hate out of each others' hearts
and look into each others' eyes and say, I like you."

Surely that would go over well at one of the meetings of the G20.  
So no, we didn't change.
But let me ask you this: did we miss the boat?  Aren't we today well aware we took the wrong path in that forked road, down the path of consumerism, vanity, and short-term gratifications, instead of the narrow road less travelled of postponement and care for each other, blithely chopping down that last truffula tree?  Don't we, seriously, all realize this to the same degree we are helpless to do anything about it?  Few people cannot be aware of the insanity of endless consumption, the effects of it on the world today, particularly in poor countries, and the future our children will live in, and especially the incessant boredom that is the partner to continuous self-gratification.  So what she is saying is as true as it ever was, but we have newer and more cynical or modern ways to ignore the message.  We have to couch the prescription in medical or scientific terms, encouraging walks in nature and reassuring bromides or Oprah'ídes that giving will make us happier people, rather than admitting the truth of it.  Don't you think so?  I suppose this is a case where our human nature was too powerful for us to suppress, and if you're a pessimist like me, you realize we are innocent, we couldn't help ourselves, we'll destroy this world and our species who like all others is entirely dependent on it.

But I hope for the sake of my young children that if doom does come, it comes later rather than sooner-- and all those parents out there better be agreement on this point... which is why it does matter what we do and say today.

I want to thank my friend for purchasing this album-- well, first of all for being aware of it, and then for introducing me and the rest of those with open minds to yet another beautiful and long-lost singer.  Although at first I wasn't sure this was even good, it grew on me after several listens and now, these last days, I can't stop playing it.

Pastoral Scenes and Underscores, plus REUPs Rena Rama, Sicher, Magic Spell, Skyeros...

From prognotfrog (reprinted by permission):

"Another beautiful library album. Orchestral pieces often with a melancholy edge evoke a plushly verdant landscape, the irresistible earnestness so typical of this era in music almost could make one believe the earth was a garden of Eden, though one now deforested by diesel-powered caterpillar trucks for mining, logging, and clear-cutting to grow either palm oil (for your nutella sandwiches) or soybean for the export industry to go into the insatiable maw of the western world's frenzied desire for animal feed for hamburgers, biofuels to drive SUVs, and wood for cheap Ikea furniture destined for you Europeans and N. Americans… At least when we hear these songs we can remember there was a time when the planet (and our stereo) was pure and fresh and full of wildlife like frogs not yet decimated by chytrid fungus and fish not yet sickened by PCBs, and the woodland winds Fiddy and Sieben composed were not full of mercury particles from coal plants or nitrous oxides or CFCs designed to turn unprotected UV photons on caucasians into skyrocketing skin cancer statistics, nor could they truly have foreseen the 'continental sunset' they scored for the sonoton orchestra was the cultural sunset of your own western civilization designing its own gradual but certain demise in a plenitude of technocratic lassitude punctuated repeatedly with perpetually bored but impatient 'twitter feeds' along with instinctual overindulgence of every gluttonic form…
Anyways, it's a beautiful album!"

From prognotfrog:

"I believe I am once again victim of a case of mistaken identity, this is now the third time this has happened with this new identity I have, for the record, I am Tristan Stefan, I live in east Westphalia and I have two boys, named Hans und Franz. I was an installation artist in Berlin Kunstcraftsgesammenwerkschaftung discussing through my work paradigms of being and becoming in a meaningless existential universe, one of my most famous pieces was pile of dog poop on head of a Botticelli nude. One artwork about holocaust, a skull of Hitler made out of reese's pieces, I sold for 3 million Euro to a rich collector. He was also a mental defective. In another famous work I did with my brother I covered the Reichstag in Berlin with a giant lederhosen in protest against capitalism and the high cost of knackwurst. Then I had a midlife crisis, decided to give up art and go into the corporate world, so I became quality assurance control officer in BMW, we looked for design flaws in middle managers. We also made sure all labcoats were correct shade of white. This led to job in Bayer pharmaceuticals, I worked on developing vaccines for the HIV virus, the H1N1 viral pandemic and for athlete's foot. Currently I work fulltime in ISO 9001 Europa office we are designing implementation manuals for guidelines in standard operating procedures universal protocols involving light machinery, mostly phillips screwdrivers. These will be implemented ahead of schedule in ALL of EU by 2025 (the manuals, not the screwdrivers). What about the music? Well, I inherited the record collection of a hugely wealthy benefactor who made a fortune devising the nozzles for pouring beer from barrels for Oktoberfest (now used throughout the world) he was known in westphalia as 'Baron Bier'. He willed the vinyls to me after his horrible accidental death when he drowned in a brewery beer vat. I remember the tragic day well, I said to the brewmaster, "I hope it was quick at least" and his answer to me, "bitte, nein, Herr Tristan, it was not so quick. He climbed out of the vat three times to go take a pee."

Beausoleil Broussard Compleat By Request

From prognotfrog: [reprinted by permission:]

"As promised here is the first Beausoleil Broussard album from Nova Scotia 1976. This album is more folkloric and simple, almost the whole of side 1 to me is fast-forward material, pockmarked by a load of choreiform folk jigs and assorted folks songs which some might appreciate but I am not too partial to (apologies to those who differ). At the end of the side however a nice folk-rock track called "Restons la terre est belle" (Let's stay the earth is beautiful) sung by the wonderful Isabelle Roy talks about the history of the namesake. In fact inside the gatefold a little blurb elucidates the meaning of the title: "Joseph Broussard, named Beausoleil, was one of the chiefs of a movement that conducted by sea first through the Antilles, then from there to the country of the Bayous, hundreds of prisoners either from the ancient fort of Beausejour or from the camps of Halifax. The boat that served for these adventures was torn from the hands of the English during a mutiny organised by him, at the moment of the deportation."
Right, and I think that clears it all up.
At any rate, it seems from the lyrics the album is a kind of document song cycle about the adventures of Beausoleil.

The second side is more varied and interesting. Track 2 starts promisingly with a gorgeous 1700 minuet on harpsichord and flute, unfortunately it segues into the shrieky babbling fiddle music again. The next song "La femme de l'ivrogne" (The wife of the drunk) is a conversation song between these two typecast protagonists, and in my opinion well worth listening to, beginning to end. There is nothing unconventional about the lyrics, with the usual platitudes about the wife's role and the man's role presumably from the point of view of the 18th century. A complete lack of irony makes this very typical of 70s music. Ignore the lyrics though, the melody and acoustic guitars are sublime. Here the balance between traditional song and pop is absolutely spot-on perfect.
Next track starts with organ (the acoustic or church kind) "Les vepres et le reel..." before tragically moving into the fiddles again. This album as well closes out with two amazing compositions, Mouvange, an instrumental with wordless singing, and La revanche des berceaux (Revenge of the cribs -- great title).

Again the masterpiece sits at the very end of the album, with some ingenious chord changes and such intense emotional singing on the part of Isabelle as to give me chills up my spine. As well note how artistically the two acoustic guitars play off each other, strumming different arpeggios and melodies behind her voice with the occasional cymbal crash providing really intense drama."

From prognotfrog: [reprinted by permission:]

"I won't talk more about the band or style but refer you to the real highlight on this album, 'L'annee noire' (the black year). This song is quite beautifully written (lyrics by Jacques Savoie with music from the singer, Isabelle Roy) and stands with the best songs from Connivence and french-speaking Canadian folk-rock.

"I read in an old book
the name of a child born much too young.
It happened in 1794...
She was born in the black winter
that was so hard,
no one thought they would survive...

She never knew that life
could have some good times,
The best that she ever knew...
was to go to sleep one time for good
to a lullaby that her mother
still had the heart to sing to her."

Wow, what fabulous lyrics, and I said earlier, completely lacking in irony as typical of this era. Note the beautiful sustained violin background notes adding that note of pathos to the piano. On these vinyl rips the sound of the grand piano is so full, warm and gorgeous, I defy anyone to bring me a CD that sounds the same.

I should also point out the first track of side 2, Mutinerie (referring again to the annoying story behind namesake Beausoleil Broussard) which is a three-part suite, starting with another beautiful lullaby-like piece by Isabelle Roy, moving into folk jig territory, before evoking the wave-like feeling of 3/4 on piano arpeggios in the end and some gorgeous three-part harmony vocals on Isabelle's part. The little instrumental song "Pif et caribou" again is highly reminiscent of Connivence or L'engoulevent, wordless singing on some very nice minor chord changes, musique by Claude Fournier.

Mention must be made unfortunately of the cover wherein we can again laugh at the hairstyles of the seventies-- sadly, the haircut beautiful Isabelle Roy got was all too fashionable at the time."

"Long long ago this very website introduced us to a remarkably unknown french-canadian folk band called Beausoleil Broussard, hailing from the east coast of Canada in the form of a compilation album. Now we are going to cover the original discography of this long-lost band, that stands comparison favourably to quebecois artists Connivence, L'engoulevent, or ontarians CANO. I'm sure I'm not the only one who prefers the warm full and harmonious sound of vinyl records over the remastered cd, especially in a case like this where some lost tracks, often very well composed, inevitably were left off the compilation. The band's name can be discovered from wikipedia.

"Joseph Gaurhept Broussard (1702–1765), also known as Beausoleil, was a leader of the Acadian people in Acadia; later Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Broussard organized a resistance movement against the forced Expulsion of the Acadians. In 1765, After the loss of Acadia to the British, he eventually led the first group of Acadians to southern Louisiana in present-day United States."

Of course this tells us this foursome hails from Acadia. The title of the disc means (in slang) "the middle of the century that's coming". I return to the same themes in each post, this music does not deserve to be forgotten, it could be played on 70s rock stations with the best of them, and always make sure to check out the album covers, in this case a gorgeous photograph of a girl looking through binoculars to the side, with a beach in the background. This is their last album and probably the most successfully and professionally composed. The first two will be coming shortly. Note the back of the album with its hilarious facial hair, and the female singer (Isabelle Roy, who has an amazing sparklingly clear and vibrato-strong voice) with the pippy longstocking hair. I can't help but laugh when I look at these old portraits.

Like the 2 aforementioned (Connivence and L'engoulevent) and Les Seguins, this album mixes jigs and trad. folk music with a lot of more progressive, sometimes classical elements, the last track in particular features a symphony orchestra backing. A very characteristic mix for the seventies as we all know.

A stand-out track on the first side is "Squall" (as in wind) which discusses loneliness in relationships.

"One is never as alone as when one is sleeping with one's lover.
One is never so vague as in the middle of the night."

The soprano sax at the intro and throughout clearly states its melancholy case with its swooping figures moving through E minor. The last track on side A, title track, is a masterpiece of progressive folk, an equal to the L'engoulevent album without a doubt with its chamber elements, its chanted folk refrain. I am not sure what the song is about, it discusses traveling to the ocean, to the rivers, nostalgia or foreboding, it's not clear.
Ignore the bizarre annoying dialectical (materialist?) talk on the fourth track's first minute to note the instrumental gigue which follows : it passes bizarrely from G major to B flat minor then E flat, an astonishing modulation for a folk record!

On side two we have three standout compositions, "Enfantaisie" which is a very gentle instrumental acoustic guitar lullaby-like piece again with some very interesting chord progressions, and the last two tracks. "La fuite en avant", meaning, fleeing towards, is a basically an evocative poem, mysteriously suggestive, sounds to me again like a relationship gone bad song.
"On the third day of the full moon
The night on purpose went full straight
Woke up late, woke up in remorse,
Stayed close to the walls to not be seen..."
How nice to see bona-fide poetry behind this music!
It's astonishing how singer Isabelle Roy hits those high E notes with a superlative vibrato, almost operatically pure and powerful.

The last track is the composed orchestral piece, "Tourterelles tristes" (sad turtledoves). Highly reminiscent of the instrumental Connivence pieces from their magnificent three albums, this song suggests again what potential the combination of classical music, rock, and folk can achieve in a synthesis that takes music farther than it ever went before or since, a perfect synergy where the whole is so much more than the parts. Sadly this track was left off the compilation cds.

Anyone with much info on the band will be welcome to add something in the comments, it's difficult to find online due to the (relative) commonness of the band's namesake. And stay tuned for more from the same act."

Friday 24 January 2014

Oswald D'Andrea's Musiques Originales des Films Imaginaires d'Oswald D'Andrea [Library]

That's got to be the best title for a library record I've ever heard.... though this is emphatically not the best library record I've heard-- it's very interesting and the compositions of D'Andrea are very varied.  The record is divided into five parts or movies which I've capitalized in the tracklist: City Sound, Themes Hollywoodiens, Aventure Mexicaine, Fiction, and Retro Sound.  I cringed when I saw the Mexican adventure but there was less of the mariachi-style silly upbeat folksy songs than I was expecting.  The final two sections are the best.

There is an alternate cover for this record which is just superb, I'll reproduce it here:

For me the best track is this one, Fiction's Magnitude:

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Hungarian Bright Sun's Fényes Nap from 1977, recorded in NYC

What an astonishing lost fusion album from behind the erstwhile iron curtain, now a ghost curtain of the past.  We know that these oppressed people mastered jazz and fusion and created some really outstanding works in both genres, but what makes this one unique is the importation of hungarian folk music-- like a fusionary Bartok.  The album is the brainchild of one Robert Cásel who recorded it in the summer of 1977 in New York City and released it as private pressing.  Of this man, whose photo is on the bottom of the back, there is little to no information further, though he must have poured his heart and soul into this release.  In overall tone, for comparison purposes, it reminds me a great deal of Thijs van Leer's masterpiece Oh My Love with its mix of gorgeous melodies, fusion, and highly progressive chord changes, and there's no doubt in my mind it should be as highly regarded.  (I use that record as a convenient point of reference because I love it so much.)  I hope that with this post some amount of that well-deserved fame might accrue to Robert and his creation: this album is simply brilliant.

Each song apparently is based on an old Hungarian folk song, and the lyrics for these are printed in English on one side and Hungarian on the other of the inner sleeve.  I'll go ahead and reprint some of these lyrics below as they really communicate the overall dark and melancholy tone of the record, aided by the gorgeously powerful voice of the singer who is Erzsebet Szalay.  These songs were always about suffering and death, we must remember how atrociously difficult times were in the old days when half the children died before the age of four (today even one child's death leads to a medical malpractice suit!) and people sold all they had for a meal during famines.  Folk songs were not just instructional narratives, but as one can imagine, the beauty of the music made the pain of life easier to bear.  I'm reminded of that gorgeous Beausoleil Broussard song about the mother singing a lullaby to her dying child, and the mother's song was the only happiness the child ever knew.
Also, note the persistent theme of daughters being married away by the parents.

A1. Little Bird

Little bird little bird do not stir the water
let me drink from it let me write a letter

To my father to my mother to my sweetheart betrothed
let them find out also who they wed me to

To a fancy soldier to a six-oxed farmer
to a six-oxed farmer to a mountain outlaw

I am sick and tired of getting up early morning
getting up early morning to the brook a-going

To the brook a-going bloody clothes a-washing
soaking it in tears bathing it with wails

So notice how, after starting very meditatively with the folk song with cymbals, as if in a sunrise, half way through Robert changes direction into a fusion riff on electric piano, with crazy drumming.  In each song the folk music is used as a springboard into lovely jazz or progressive meanderings, leading to constant variety throughout the record.  Notice also the arrangements, in this song for ex. you have a harp evoking the brook with arpeggios in the background towards the end.  As if that weren't enough for your ears to deal with in one track, the song closes out the last minute with a totally different melody (presumably another borrowed folk song) and tempo!  Simply astonishing.

A2.  The Bright Sun

Lo the bright sun has gone to rest
the earth remains in darkness
daylight's brightness changes to night
to the weary bringing rest

all creatures seek repose
slumber as decreed by God
but I oh lord go to my bed
though I would to my wrteched coffin

When I lay my body to bed
I may enclose my life between wooden slats
long sleep may touch my eyes
the cock's crow may bring my end

B2. In the Rakoci Inn

In the Rakoci Inn
wine is sold for 2 farthings
there arrives there arrives
a poor widow

Come in come in
poor widow
drink a pint of wine
or possibly two

Daughter my dear daughter
Katalina Bodor
I have sold you
at the Rakoci inn
to little lord of Rakoci

Mother my dear mother
who nursed me so kindly
why have you sold me to a murderer
to little lord of Rakoci
who sleeps throughout the day
and kills people at night

Mother my dear mother
who nursed me so kindly
what horde is that
black horde
coming from the east
going to the west

Daughter my dear daughter
Katalina Bodor
for you has come
that black horde

Good day good day

my precious betrothed
may god receive
the little lord of Rakoci

Then he picks her up
ties her to the horse's tail
from thicket to thicket
he carries her in the thorny bushes

Slow down slow down
my precious betrothed
for my golden wreath
is half flooded with blood

Then he jerks her up
presses her to his bosom
what would you eat 
what would you drink
my precious betrothed

I would neither eat nor drink
I only would lie in bed
I would neither eat nor drink
I only would lie in bed

Open mother open
your green door
make mother make
my gay deathbed

Devastasting.  Though it may appear almost silly to you to read this today, bear in mind that in pre-industrial times in Europe such occurrences were commonplace, and in fact, in the poorer developing countries today we still hear these stories of peasant parents who sell their children out of desperation, despite universal laws against the practice.  And moreover there are countries like possibly Afghanistan where the practice is semi institutionalized.

[A quick note about the spelling.  I transcribed the lyrics sheet as it was written:  i.e. Rakoci, vs. Rakoczi, but on the back of the record you will notice the alternate spelling.]

Clearly, Robert Casel was a musical genius, and it would be so wonderful to hear back from him, but even better, if this record were accorded the respect it so deserves.  Did he give up on progressive music after this record was ill received, I wonder?   If yes, this tragic fate of great artists has never seemed to me more unfair.

Monday 20 January 2014

Kickin' and Starbound Lady (USA, Nebraska, 1978)

The singer (Robin Floyd, who looks like Andy Gibb, bottom right) sounds abnormally like Axel Rose, with his vociferous nasal delivery and dramatic or operatic vibrato at all volumes.  However this is a hugely enjoyable album for me, and I'm sure it will be for many others.  Pre-hear I had low hopes due to its hard rock / AOR description, but it turned out to be far above average for the overall genre.  Be sure to play it loud in the car, especially with a wife or girlfriend sitting beside you.  They're sure to complain, even if, unlikely as this may be, they do have a taste for metal.

I really would love a printout of the lyrics for the first song and the time travel song, because I have a feeling they would be very amusing to read.  There is little information on the solar mission of the female astronaut that you can actually make out in the starter beyond:

"all those lonely eons
on your trip towards the sun...

you're flying, blinding,
your energy, synergy..." 

I am curious to know if, to continue with the theme from the last post about galactic travel in the seventies, it's a song about space travel or the mundane idea of a young starlet.  Definitely there is a comet in there as evidenced by the sound of the electric guitar pick shooting down.

And on the time travel song, I hear "I made it back to 1983."  What is the context? I would love to know.
I can also make out, "The ice age has begun..."  What an intriguing song and what a shame the singer doesn't enunciate!

The second song start with a Keith Emerson-like piano solo, almost as if the band had decided that their live performances, which inevitably featured long-winded classical-inspired piano noodling, should pop up a bit in the studio album because their keyboardist (Eddie Winquist, centre) was that talented.  Which he is, but nonetheless the logic of including this extended opening remains feeble.  At least the virtuosity on display is strong.  This is the song that when Axel oops I mean Robin starts singing, really foreshadows all of Guns 'n' Roses' oeuvre, it's eerie.  It's good to know they were a decade ahead of time on this, but the wrong people altogether, and not quite as successful unfortunately.  Hair was perfect though.

The last song features, after a silly swing cymbal syncopated start, a to and fro between guitar riffs and sung riffs, like on Black Dog, but the power of both is astonishing.  What makes the guitar part so interesting is the constant use of odd notes incl. the tritonal A flat (in a song I think is in D).  The guitarist is Wayne Fritz, whose brother is playing bass here (seated next to each other in the middle with matching mustaches and hairstyles).  Notice how about two-thirds into the song it changes into an instrumental after a modulation--  a device which Led Zep did often enough, and probably invented (e.g. "Down on the Tiles")-- but here, they also modulate quite suddenly in the middle of a phrase almost, and into an unrelated key (B flat, from A).  And Wayne, with his Eddie Van Halen style, is really extraordinary on soloing:

Quite extraordinary I think you'll agree.  This album, being so professionally played, really doesn't deserve such obscurity.  I would like Tom to clamour for priority on this one, though he most likely will not give it one of those sought-after low numbers.

Saturday 18 January 2014

And Now It's Here... the (completely unknown) Squash album from 1981 US

Not a well-known record but it ought to be.  Is anyone other than me surprised at the many albums from this period, from all over the world, that turn out to be hugely enjoyable?  Was there something supernatural or psychedelic going on in the creative acoustic areas of the brains of artists who lived in the era from the sixties to the eighties?

The last track features a wonderful little duet between an acoustic piano and vibes that really gives you a taste for the period when people cared about music being simply beautiful, not weighed down with labels like cool, danceable, million-dollar hit, etc.  It's called Jewels, divided into adagio and allegro:

And what about tribbles-- who remembers the trouble with tribbles?
When I was a child my brother and I grew up on Star Trek episodes, the old ones of course, with William Shatner.

"There's a place somewhere in space where the creatures known as tribbles grow
Furry funky creatures that are a friend to everyone I know
But there's only one thing you will notice you don't have to wait
Tribbles have a habit of reproducing at outstanding rates
Tribbles here tribble there i don't know how they grow..."

Wow, how it takes me back to childhood!

Of course when we were young we despised the slightly childish themes of Star Trek and preferred the more adult-oriented Space 1999 which had more mature themes woven in and for that reason was hated by critics and the average TV viewer.  These were more involved in the big ideas of death, of civilization, much more intelligent ideas than Star Trek, and once in a while a main character would even die in an episode-- absolutely unheard of back then on TV.  The idea of the moon travelling alone through space was so bizarrely lonely it was hard for the creators I guess not to highlight the terrible suffering of the humans left on space base alpha, disconnected from the earth.

But it was all a joke of course, the obsession with space travel in the seventies, there was no hope for humans to leave their planet, and I don't think there ever will be.  We will live and die with the planet we are currently wrecking.  No chance to ruin another.  Reality TV has made the mission to Mars a joke before it even begins.  What do you think is the chance a TV show will send people on a one-way suicide trip, televised?  Last time I checked, we don't yet have 'actual suicide' or deaths televised live, nor is it likely, since it's horribly against all human principles.  Well, the ancient Romans had no problems with it.  But they were less queasy than our current civilization obviously.
By 1999, we thought, there would be a base on the moon.  That's now 14 years ago!  instead, we have the news of China putting up the Chinese flag to stake a claim on the moon... wonderful

And just like the best music in my opinion is from this golden age, so it was that the golden age was the only time successful moon missions took place too.

Now hear Squash tell it:

More (scant) information here and here.

Thursday 16 January 2014

German Katamaran Compleat [By Request]

Some more eurofusion for you all, specifically, from Germany, late seventies.  I will go back to the straightforward rock in a bit, but the mine of European fusion really can never get exhausted it seems, we always find new treasures, gemstones, and precious metals.  It's amazing how much more sophisticated, sensitive, and imaginative the Europeans were when they tackled the project of putting out great fusion in the 1970s.  Of course the Japanese also took the genre and ran with it, &  their work is much more rare and little known even today, among collectors. 

Monday 13 January 2014

Ilian - Love me Crazy from 1977, USA

 This is the kind of album that just keeps me going.  When a friend played this for me earlier this year, I almost fell off my chair when I heard it from beginning to end.  It's so beautifully and wildly progressive but in a pop dimension, with an electric California nuttiness, sunny and crazy, that is utterly beyond compare.

When I thought about posting this copy, which is from an Asian bootleg CD, I looked at the back and realized with a shock the LP seems to have 10 tracks, not the 9 on the CD.  And in fact it seemed suspiciously short as an album, less than 30 minutes.  So the explanation has to be that a track was left off and can only now be found on the LP or anyone who actually copied it.  I wonder if Tom Hayes in particular knows anything about this.

Note that earlier this year, the LP sold for 390 USD.  Now I believe this album is just fantastic, but I don't think I would ever pay that much for one record.  Especially since someone I trade with might someday get a copy of a CDR for nothing.

Listen to the crazy chord that starts off the second song:

How did these kids write these songs with so much creativity and originality back then?  Btw the songwriter for all the music is Leon D. Nahat, presumably his nickname was Ilian....  And whatever happened to Leon Nahat, like Karlos P. Steinblast from prognotfrog?

"hey Denise, my lovely sister
all the boys want to be your babysitter
so lift yourself and continue to shine
and tell all the boys to wait in line!

I'll be there to help ya
and find the one who will make you happy
and don't go jumpin' for the kid named Sammy...."

Incredible.  No, of course, don't go for that kid named Sammy (?Snappy)

Btw for an update on this interesting item, see the note on tax scam labels on Sunshine Makes my Day.

Saturday 11 January 2014

The First Romantic Warrior from 1981, Germany (more to come)

Cd reissue wishlist reviewed this one long ago, with a priority none.  Personally I really like it, due to its inventive electric guitar-based fusion music.  Their next two albums went in a more new agey direction as you can tell from the titles: Planets, and Himalaya.  They are oddly rare altogether, though the music is quite enjoyable and listenable.

My favourite track is the ST one with its meditative minor chords, and the modulations are just ingenious. Note the use of the fuzzy vocoder (?) in the guitar solo later on:

Like Sir Gawain, the romantic warrior seems to have been a very tragic hero.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Changes, Home Again and Some More Changes (1979, 1980)

When I checked in on the old prognotfrog posts, I saw that only the first Changes record was posted, and the link was dead, so I figured I would post these-- presumably there must be a demand for them.  Recall they appeared in the VA - Berlin Fusion album (despite their not really being fusion, as he pointed out in the writeup, describing it as "German jazz") along with Arakontis, Margo, and Chameleon.  Of the 4 artists, the last one is the best or most progressive.  

But I figured I should post these since I mentioned them so recently.  They are a great example of smooth, ECM-style German jazz.  Information here.  Notice the writeup of the band: "An obscure German fusion outfit featuring Wolfgang Engstfeld and Uli Beckerhoff, both formerly of Jazztrack."

Once again, the same remarks as before: the more you hear the more you need to hear.  Jazztrack was a very similar band with smooth jazz and tediously long improvisations who did 4 albums total.  I cannot say I recommend them, unless you're a straight jazz fan.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

RēR Records Quarterly -- A Series, Part 12: The Quarterly Vol. 3 No. 1 Magazine Scans

An essay relating to this drawing describes the inspiration which arose from the sign: Spa - Motel.

German expressionism from the inter-war period?

I wonder what has become of the artist today?  (Jane Colling, from London.)  I am reminded of Marcel Duchamp's piece in the Philadelphia Museum hidden behind the curtains.

An article about hypnagogic thoughts, i.e., those that occur at the start or end of sleep, "Dispatches from Nod" by Peter Blegvad.  It makes for some interesting reading and is in fact very well-written, discussing its importance in the spheres of literature and visual art.

For those interested in the discussions about the programme of music on this record, the information begins on page 47.  I love what Overflow writes about their oeuvre "Bakerloo Bugaloo," as well as the crazy Russian band ZGA.  There is a beautiful prose poem by Bing Selfish and the Ideals, who did one of those 50s-like songs I mentioned that I hated.  He actually made quite a few albums both with his band and alone, subsequently.

Overflow with their homemade instruments.

In this picture I'm not sure which is better, the gigantic alpenhorn, or the fact he [John Loretan] is wearing a mullet and baggy white shorts beside his poor neighbour's fence:

At the end, note the following statement below the headline "ReR Megacorp: eleven years of unpopular music:" "ÿou pay in advance and when the LP is released you get a special numbered and dedicated ed. with free extra subscription-only items.  Then you keep them for 27 years and sell them at auction to buy your retirement chateau."

In 2016 it will be 27 years but I don't think ebay will allow us to make that much retirement money from any of this material.  But that's not fair, it was clearly tongue-in-cheek.  When I look at the cost of the magazine-- 7 LB, I note that the record itself plus the magazine costs only a litte more today, even less if you were to purchase it at a used store in London, which is sad.