Wednesday 29 April 2015

Sandra Haas - ... Und Dann Spiel'n Wir Der Dummheit Einen Streich (Germany 1973)

Another strikingly beautiful woman, I think we can all agree, perhaps one that should have been added to Oscar Rocchi's Ladies, or then again maybe she was, and this is her second record as it seems.  Sadly she has no wikipedia entry.  I was obviously hoping for another major songwriting find like this time last year's Uschi Bruning (and indeed it's quite similar), but this would have been too much happiness for me for god to accept.  And notice the compositions are handled by the famous songwriting team of Rigoni und Schoenherz (drums and keys, respectively).  Each song seems to recall another.  You will notice Track A2 recalls Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade (please not again!), A3 recalls Bridge on Troubled Waters (oh, god!) and then many other tracks recall other hits which I probably don't even know about...

An acceptably listenable track for us would be their A5 Meditation, with its orchestral softness and slight calorific qualities along the lines of the What a Night album from Schoenherz (which I can't recommend).

Well, upon listening to this again, I would go so far as to say I wish the songwriting team had spent as much effort on the remainder of the compositions as they did on this one, though this too still evokes a big indebtedness to songwriting genius Jimmy Webb's stylistic tricks.

The cover of the first album shows what a beauty she was, of course today she would be a 65-year old grandmother:

For more uptempo material with flutes you can hear B3's Der Reisende (Rigoni - Schönherz):

Monday 27 April 2015

Nino's No Identity

This is a great little guitar-driven album from Germany which obviously is utterly unknown.  The sides are divided into Red (presumably a) and Blue (b).  Most progressive compositions are on the latter, and there are some real beauties.  His style really reminds me of the best days of David Gilmour in Pink Floyd with his Les Paul sharp like an exacto knife in its pure and sustained sounds that are hallmarks of that maker (though I thought Gilmour played Fenders, I could be wrong).

Note the utterly abhorrent presence of a cover version of  the criminally awful song "Lady Madonna" on side 1.

I have, however, personally played the B2 track called Raining something like thirty-seven times since I first bought this record from the growing bin, and I still could listen to it some more:

The beauty of this song lies in its many modulations, clearly.

To give you an idea of what I mean by David Gilmour-like, listen to his absolutely soaring and mathematically pure solo slide guitar sound on B3 Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island):

Do peacocks love Pink Floyd too? I should hope so: Dark Side of the Moon is usually rated one of the greatest albums in all rock history, and for good reason.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Polish Crash Crashes back with Something Beautiful But Not Expensive, 1983

First of all, I hope everyone has already heard them wonderful 1976 first album with the absolutely magnificently gorgeous cover painting, a genius work of Eastern European vocal progressive fusion:

I saw this particular item (obviously) when referencing recently the Debreceni group and realized I didn't have it yet, just their first record.  Now given the late year we are always nervous about the leanings towards danceable fuzak with the slapped bass, fakish guitar sound, etc.  Now reach for the xanax because we have good reason to be nervous here.  Side one is the kind of eighties fusion that ruined the whole style for any kind of respectful listener or fan and probably is the main reason the word is anathema to the average music critic, even today.

Gotta love the title of "The Happy Sanitary Man" (B1) though:

However not to disappoint you completely, I will throw in a new rip of their first LP and guess what, there's more, here's a bonus cassette that I think everyone will really love, from the late seventies, and this is truly a classic:

Check out this poster!!  WOW!

Now check out a track from the 1977 cassette, a3. Nocna zabawa-- Notice how after building up momentum beautifully with sax quickies and bass thumping over a 16th note percussion in the stanza, the chorus smoothly transitions into an emotional unison melody with sax and bass, moving into minor second melancholy sounds, before returning to the 16 note pattern.  Now that's the kind of fusion I dig!!

And let me ask, in the few years between the above and the latest record at the top, how did art progress, and in what direction? Oh how far the mighty fell, especially in the 80s...

Friday 24 April 2015

Charles and Morgan - Homework (Germany, 1974)

Gift of a rip from a kind friend again, this is usually described as folky psych or acid rock, though to me it sounds simply like slightly bizarre straightforward folk rock, I know the term 'psych' is often applied to these sorts of albums without to me bearing any significant meaning if the whole word implied is "psychedelic".  Anyways, reviews are all over the map on this one, as you can see from rateyourmusic where the two luminaries disagree somewhat:

ashratom Aug 28 2010    2.00 stars  

The first part of the album is horrendous rural country blues and is unbearably bad. However, it switches gears into a freaky avant garde acoustic psych folk about 2/3's of the way through. Worth one listen, but stick with it. Very rare album, though it doesn't sound German at all. Honestly, it sounds like a couple of pot heads from Kentucky.

 levgan Jan 10 2009    3.50 stars  

Undoubtedly this could have been a highly touted item in the Acid Archives book, but alas, despite their americanized names and tunes, Charles & Morgan were a German duo and their sole album has been recorded somewhere in West Germany, rather than in Ohio or Michigan. As such, this is a nearly forgotten, but really cute little record, which is full of inoffensive rural singalong ditties and delightfully ends with an extended, almost acid-folk tour-de-force.

Between the two I think I agree with Tom's former, except the second side is a little less interesting than implied.  As you can see, member's names are Charles [Charly McLion] (guitar), Morgan [Dieter Kaspari] (vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica),  Here's an instrumental from that famous second side:

Given the description of side one as "horrendous"  I will be back tomorrow with a better record, promise...

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Christoph Kemmler & Friends from Germany 1984 - Another great Osurec discovery

Fusion in the Kjol style, not as good obviously, still recommended...

Sunday 19 April 2015

Oscar Rocchi Piano and Orchestra with Ladies from 1978 with lossless

It's rare to see a review this lengthy, not to mention any review at all, on discogs.  But here we go, here it is in all its misspelt gloury:
(don't bother reading it all, just scroll down to see how long it is)

"  August 13, 2014   edited 3 months ago 
In the midst of Summer i would'nt miss to check this Library Lp, with a big L as first letter as this record is supa, for production details and sessions musicians high skills, above all the bass wich is abvsolutely gorgeous and put up front in the mix.  But we have here not just the disco flavoured italian 80's style, but "Ladies" is full of some very intimate dramatic melancoholic melodies wich easily would fit a film or even a sensitive listening pleasure at resting.Some of the tracks really got me inside a very "spleen" state of that kind of meditative sadness wich is greatly enhanced by every single perfect note in the music. 
So what about the musicians here?
I'm sure to rightly guess the main line up is the one wich Edizioni Minstrel has builded up his professional rooster and filled many other libraies records, better signaled under the name "Modern Sound Quartet" and their tight and steady distinctive sound.
First among all,and it is hard to not to notice, overcoming too the wounderful mellow work here by the S.Cecilia Strings Orchestra, is "The Bass" and the Bass Player.
Infact Gigi Cappellottos' suggestive playing (particularly in this Lp) is ABSOLUTELY off the ground, delivering a strong circular and pointillistic singing bass sound , one of the best Sound+Player i have evr come across in my 20 yers of music listening.So what !
Maybe is the dramatic ingredient of the tracks but here the bass melodies are purely physical pleasure.
This "all wide all round direction" bass playing is totally remarkable because as his playing style do appear in other Ed.Minstrel lps's like "Floreama", "Erbe Selvatiche", but even more in the libraries related to Fabio Fabor and Arena.
But again in this library he adds so much to the tracks like being "a solo" bass voicing and the overrall music is totally absorbed by this sensual/sensitive touch and deep skill who incredibly is a totally "must hear", where amazingly these wisphering lows are widely resembling a jumping circular shape wich add meat to every parallel melody and total harmony, with that superb "circular sound" every bassist would achieve to obtain from his ampli, a mid way between contrabass and electronic bass, with a bit hand played touch softness wich retain a manuality fused with movement wich in its steadiness marks every best music steps.
The wonderful production sound obtained at Barigozzi's Cinemusic makes this Library a true gem for 3 things: music craftmanship, musical drama ambient and overrall highly suggestive mood.
The bass layers do play a preminent /eminent first role into this music, seeming to be an alone identity wandering through the tracks' sound space, a softly balance the honey & spleeny taste of the marvellous strings ensemble provided by the only and best ever S.Cecilia from Roma.
Together they totally cover the sound spectrum to the extremes leaving the mid to the same soothing fast piano arpeggios and acoustic guitar, wich merit a chapter aside for his incredible magic intrusion.
For example in one track it just comes in with that crispy sound and the magic fully goes up!
I really do not know where the musicians mind was..... but they achieved some really high quality standard for a simple library music, it would have been an amazing Italian "strappalacrime" drama OST.
I think Oscar Rocchi here was really high into his idea of being inspired...the piano and all electronic keyboards to add a superlative fast array of shining notes..... .
But let's see the rest.
For the percussive side, the Surdi drumming is the equal other ingredient wich near touch the perfection of keyboard and piano by Rocchi: this has the best overral result, topped with some "ahead -on" electronic effects wich raises up all the emotional degree of music.
The drums is thin where needs and steady fast where it has to adds up, it do let thing sgoing on and then it makes the best coming up with his multiple "rullato" passages.Jazzy and precise and heavy where needed.
The piano is touching, really.... with a top fast fingering work and the flowing arpeggios it follows the emotional degree at very increasing rate with the role of topping everyhthing with strong remarkable emotions .
So this music here, building up with the above mentioned session palyers craftmanship, do suggest a pleasant relaxant mood for quietness but its best influences can be obtained when there is raining weather outside in Autumn evening, when the tracklisting order for each side can oppose a totally heart warming and lovingly performance for Summer drunky bright nights.
The fastest tracks ,"Sharon" "Jane" "Giada" "Cindy", are purposely put in the tracklisting for a balanced listening pleasure step after step, meanwhile other tracks are deeply evolving a same kind of song formula, where a central melody is easily treated with enough creativity to let the musicians evolve their approach retaining the main idea of the primary instrument here, the keyboard and piano enriched by the bass and strings.
One parallel group of evolving sound layers, is the one wich comprises the synthesizer, one acoustic guitar, and the string orchestra, they put every emotional bit to their maximum stretching possibilty, adding a special effects just there where it need, and in this record there's no one single moment wich is not filled with alternate moviments wich raise up a omni-comprhensive unity purpose of harmony represented by the use of each instrument.
For example when listening to the fresh season happiness of "Geraldine" the acoustic guitar is absolutely here to fill the rhythm and the same point is appropriate in the thoughtful deepness of "Ambra" and the epocal sense of drama in "Lisbeth" and the loving atmosphere of "Sarah".
The electric guitar instead with his fuzzy licky effected wackiness is primary in the spacey percussive "Sharon" to sustain the abstract speeding of piano arpeggios and bass and drum tight beat.
The acoustic guitar makes his entry in absoult color manner and bright timbre.
In "Jane" the perfect disco style fastness shows the never boring distinctive part of the bass, wich is alterning on high and low frets meanwhile the piano is snoozing out some long percussive array of keys, all fused in one efficient emotive sonic ambient.
So where it has gone the best modern easy listening of the eighties wich wouldn't appear in the pop radios?
It is here, always relaxant and pleasant, luscious and attractive as fascinant as young ladies are.
Depicted in the cover with a sensual "bleue", these international female names do reports a bunch of seductive ideas and do suggest Italian female names equally for the attentive listener.  It is obvious these femalia are the uttermost of the spicy, the wet, the hairy best of all the women in the disco-univers! si si, ragazzi!  Hard to skip in the mind that last track last resonating bass note...epic and crazy...absurd and figurative....cinematic and emotive.... .For such an achievement i bet the players where in a SUCH BLU MOOD !

Neither I have found elsewhere in some other libraries sucha quality put into production studio sound plus at the same time combined with the sensitive "aural aspect" of music that is able to deliver so strong dramatic emotions, in a really imaginative way, totally suppressing the background purpose of music
So, believe me, this remains a "Unique, Totally Worth Library", with many future listening for little chosen emotional moments (mostly when it rains down, it works so fine!), when we want strongly enhance our mood in our memory for "historic" moments of our lives.

So when Libraries Lps sometimes do overcome the pure "back track" purpose, here it is a surprising "something" for your $oul, wich will enhance and soothe your spleen, and the film is YOUrs.

Ecco...grab a listen...the season is cold and soul have to be warm to express...  And I will send you twenty euros if you actually read through all of the above! "

Can you believe it????   I should probably not be too far off the mark in guessing the influence of some neurotransmitter-like chemical reaction had taken place in the moments just preceding.  What about reality, which, as is well known, must always interfere towards the finish line of these ecstatic pronouncements like the bottom of the wall which just refuses to budge upon the accidental embrace of your toe?  Well, this music is the much-maligned muzak style of orchestral easy listening with keyboards playing melodies which was such a hated part of the shopping experience back in the day.  The fact that this has been replaced by the same stupid Beatles and pop hits from the seventies like Dancing Queen by Abba or Fernando or Candle in the Wind (personal most hated song) is not a step in the right direction, in my opinion.  At any rate it really brings back memories for myself, particularly since rather than instrumental orchestral cover songs of well-known melodies like Yesterday by McCartney, you get well-composed music altogether.  Note the presence of compositional collaborators: Grande and Raspani, in addition to Rocchi.

And some of these ladies sound like they were pretty easy pickin' esp. back then in the seventies before HIV completely changed the genital landscape, track A4's Ingrid for ex. I can imagine lying back on a bearskin rug (anybody still have those?) with a long cigarette holder and a pubic area hairier than a baby hedgehog-- good luck finding her clitoris in there, whilst her powerful flowery perfume assails your coke-burned nose, and her pants that flare out to two-feet bell bottoms at one foot just lifts up from the wind of her thighs moving and the smoke from the incense stick but you know what, baby, she sure knows how to moan and yell when it's time to cash in those food stamps at the train station when the locomotive comes right on time-- over and over and over again-- it's German not Italian, so there's never a delay, baby.  So please, let me introduce you to Ingrid, and her two sexy sisters, and don't worry: she don't believe in monogamy, except if you're ugly, or non-caucasian:

B5's Giada is a real disco queen, as you'd expect from her name and the square footage of boob hanging out, B1's Sarah is the pensive, intellectual type, probably wears glasses, definitely uses an all-natural cumin-based deodorant unfortunately, B3's Sharon is a little bit slutty, a little bit secretarial, after a nice interesting progressive intro, you are struck with electricity at the thought of marrying her, but after the inevitable sex, suddenly you realize there is less depth to her than you thought plus her habitual halitosis-- just can't understand where that comes from-- really gets on your nerves and now she keeps calling you day after day thinking you're in love with her, she just won't go away, she's one of those girls you were really just hot for before you laid her, so why did she give in so quickly, didn't she realize she shouldn't have?  Oh well, gonna be real awkward now at the office when you see her-- I guess that's your punishment...

B1's Sarah sounds just like the 6th interval melody of Love Story, too bad the ending of the song is not quite as good as the movie with the chick dying, while A5's Giselle sounds like her favourite movie was Marlon Brando in "Last Tango in Paris" --especially the part where he used a stick of butter to lubricate her then fried a sunny-side up egg on her ass.  Meantime A3's Cindy sounds like she watched too many reruns of TV's  Love Boat with Capt. Stubing hitting on coked-out-social-director Julie McCoy, who was said to have slept with so many men on the course of the cruiseship's travels that if every grain of sand on every beach was named after one of them, there would still be men's names left unused; it was said, she was so vaginally well-known that all anatomy textbooks were based on her and the usual reaction of medical students looking into Grey's Anatomy book is to say, oh, wait, that's Julie!

And I think B6's Lisbeth is the kind of chick you could really fall for: delicate, smooth skinned, ethereally sophisticated and educated with a thin nose and hopefully as much into music as she is into sucking dick:

So I guess I agree with the Italian reviewer above-- these women are just sooo easy!  no, just kidding, I mean, this record is very good and very enjoyable and for me, it really brings back memories... uh, musically I mean.

Friday 17 April 2015

Zthurehz, gift of a friend's new rip, from 1981

I have seen this album highly in demand and so I thought it might be nice for all to hear it-- a friend just recently bought the record and made a new rip.

Musically this album is all over the place, with hard rock, punky stuff, folk, ballads, the mandatory (for this period in time) reggae number, etc.  There is not so much progressive composition as would make me pleased, and were it not for the sought-after rarity of this recording I don't think I would be posting it here.  I suppose its overall classification would be symphonic rock, given the many keyboard sounds.

Here 's a ballad from side a, Far Away:

Of course there is one thing I will definitely not complain about and that is the whimsical, slightly humorous and beautifully painted cover art.  And who doesn't love frogs?

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Le Chien des Dunes from 1981 (not 1973); upgraded from pnf with more info and fresh lossless rip

From those long ago days on pnf (more than four years ago!)

Dune is said to be the best selling science fiction novel of all time.  It was written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965.  Those of my age group will remember from childhood many kids carrying the heavy book under their arms in grade school or high school and referencing Paul Atreides or Duncan Idaho knowingly to the annoyance of the rest of us.  It had an enormous influence on progressive music in particular, the most obvious being french zeuhl band Dun.  A younger cohort will recall the disastrous David Lynch movie version with Kyle MacLachlan released in 1984, often seen in lists of worst movies ever.  I never saw it so I can't speak for it.  The book (I didn't bother to read that either) is about human struggles set far in the future of the order year 20,000 or thereabouts over control of a desert planet and a spice melange which extends life.  I can't resist saying it again, how high our hopes were back then in the sixties and seventies.  It seemed so natural to go from landing on the moon to exploring our milky way galaxy.  In fact landing on the moon was made possible by the fact that peak oil was only a couple of years away for the United States, it had to do with the cheapness of energy.  No human being will ever land on the moon again.  We are stuck on this planet now which we are steadily destroying.  Many studies have suggested that extended periods of weightlessness adversely affect bones (5% loss of bone per year) and the circulatory system, leading to constant fainting on returning to gravitational conditions.  Now an elegant recent study showed that zebrafish embryos raised in microgravity developed cranial defects-- obviously normal embryonic development requires the presence of gravity.  Earlier studies had indicated in other species the possibility space travel affects reproduction.  How likely is it the same would happen to pregnant women on an interstellar space flight lasting decades?  Very likely unfortunately, any cursory study of embryology shows that the complicated timing of development relies on many external signals of which gravity has to be an important though little-understood factor.  So appropriately enough, if we sent out a colonizing group of people out for a long space trip to a habitable planet (and how would those be chosen in the first place?  through Oprah?) it is likely only deformed mutants would arrive safely at the end of their voyage.  And I'm sure that has been written about in a science fiction short story somewhere before.

The group's name is probably from the famous book given its popularity back then (not sure), however the songs have nothing to do with it, they are ordinary-lyricked acoustic pop songs in the very smooth french style, like Chemin Blanc.  The quality of the songwriting is very high.  The second song, "La fille…" (girl I never held hands with) e.g. starts with a gorgeous 12-string B minor arpeggio progression then moves to a G major stanza, then G minor sust., F major, and quite beautifully the singer sings us down back to B minor, this modulation is worth paying attention to since it's an unusual sequence, F to B minor.  The lyrics are about a childhood crush, very poppy puppy-love ultra-saccharine melancholy typical seventies but it really takes me back to my own innocent childhood and the deep deep yearnings of the time -- example lyrics : "she was hiding her face I wonder if she was hiding a smile or tears".  Note also the beautiful mellotron strings that accompany the B minor descending progression.

The other standout songs are track 4, "Le fugitif" -- beautiful acoustic guitar intro leads to a chorus smothered in gorgeous mellotron sounds, for 'la chevauchee'  (action of a horse running) -- here the effect of the sustained mellotron chords as well as high-pitched electric piano chords is to enhance the feeling of a horse racing, quite amazingly well done.  I once again repeat myself about how these songs deserve to be played on the radio for people driving to work instead of the usual Simon and Garfunkel you hear every morning.  And track 9, "Le Tableau" which actually has quite poetic lyrics as well, simply the singer with a guitar and a handful of brilliant chord changes.  This is as great as songwriting gets, in my opinion.  Is it coincidence that it occurred in the early 70s?  No way.

Le fugitif:

In style I would say this album is in the french tradition with acoustic instruments mostly-- like Tangerine, but with highly competent compositions, quite a bit of mellotron and unusual modulations everywhere to keep our interest.  Lyrics of course are typical pop stuff.  A good example of the surprising modulations is seen in the bridge of the song "Chien des dunes"  where it sounds as if they go through twelve different keys.  This kind of thing is not often heard on current radio where the average song for sure has of the order 3.6 chords in the whole thing all in same key.

Le Chien des Dunes:

(On the site mentioned below he reveals this song was about a fellow musician.)

The singer and guitarist's name was Christian Jasinski, and he amazingly has his own site where he collected together other songs he has written.  Note that he has a new CD out for sale here.  The band lineup apparently changed quite a bit over the years, with the only constant seemingly being Jasinski.  At the time of this record, the others were Patrick Lattie and Jean-Paul Maeso.  A mysterious character called Serge Raffy contributes some songwriting here too.

For me this is still a gorgeous folk record which deserves to be better known, mixing America and chansonnier materials perfectly.  And look at the beautiful band photo (of an earlier version of the group) from 1977 (he is second from left):

He goes on to say that the dog is not "le chien des dunes" but there was such a dog and her name was Julie and she had the "color of the reflection of the moon".  Note the presence of tons of mellotrons and other progressive effects among the folk tunes.

Many thanks to the amazing songwriters here!!

Monday 13 April 2015

Teddy Lasry ‎– Interpol (Library, 1979)

Note that Lasry plays all the instruments here, including percussion, recorder, and obviously all the keyboards.  Repeated percussive notes are the hallmark here with themes obviously related to international intrigue.

Saturday 11 April 2015

A discovery of the mighty osurec again: British Iguazu from 1984

A fantastic latin-tinged advanced fusion record from the UK (and not Brazil as one would expect), this is the mastermind of a guitarist called Dominic Miller.  One can see from the photo that it's the same individual, and note the mention of 'his work with Sting' on discogs.

It is absolutely tragic that this gorgeous record is thus forgotten, not even known among the collectors.  Check out his playing on this track:

I think you'll agree, not just the inventive composition, but the delicatesse of the acoustically played intro and subsequently the general progression, the buildup and momentum he creates through a six minute long song (particularly with that almost-exclaimed repeat bass pattern of F-C-G) really testify to his artistic genius.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Next Masterwork: Melisma's magnificent Like Trolls, 1978 and the story of the composers...

When I saw this LP up for sale on ebay, I truly jumped out of my chair and yelled to my wife "I can't believe it!  One of the rarest and most sought after vinyl treasures for sale on ebay!" to which she replied, "didn't you just buy one of those last week?"

I was prepared to pay several hundred dollars for it much to the shock of my wife, who answered with "OK I guess I'm going to buy some new pants for the boys from j. crew."  But to her relief, as well as mine and the credit line's, it wasn't so much after all.  Which was a surprise for me, because this music is absolute progressive heaven, with classical, jazz, songwriting, folk elements, all mixed together into a very cohesively gorgeous whole.  Like I said with regards to Inada Bemi family, this record goes to the heart of what progressive truly is.

First of all, there are two composers here.  The first is one John Simon, from Philly:

John Simon was born in Philadelphia, PA, where he has studied piano since the age of 8. He received both a Bachelors (1976) and Masters Degree (1978) in Music Composition at the Ester Boyer College of Music at Temple University in Philadelphia. John studied classical piano performance with Sophia Melvin and composition with Clifford Taylor, Robert Morgan and Paul Epstein. He founded the Temple University Electronic Music Studio, where he taught graduate and undergraduate classes in Electronic Music. Using a large “C” Series Moog modular synthesizer, John’s many compositions explored the avant-garde of the electronic genre.  John wrote the score for the film Forever Furness, produced by Robert Steele, which won first prize for music in the film competition sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  In the 1970's, John played swing and bluegrass upright bass for seven years with The Skookil Express. The Skookil Express played throughout the Philadelphia area, and were featured at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

With fellow musicians drawn from the halls of the Ester Boyer College of Music John formed the group Melisma, which performed extensively throughout the Philadelphia area in the 70's, and cut an album, now a collector's item, Like Trolls. The group performed original songs, with a strong emphasis on vocal harmonies. Melisma was very eclectic, performing material ranging from Renaissance madrigals to be-bop, from Leonard Bernstein to Joni Mitchell.

In 1979, John moved to Mendocino County, Northern California, where he formed the jazz fusion group Synaps from 1982 through 1987. Synaps featured jazz vocalist Paula Samonte and performed original music composed by John. His passion for creativity has driven him to form and join many groups exploring original and experimental music. He produced several CDs and was a founding member of the group The Fourth Stream, a modern jazz ensemble featuring many of his compositions.

John was a member of the faculty at Sonoma State University for seven years, and continues to teach at the Santa Rosa Junior College for his fifth year, teaching jazz piano as well as jazz vocal repertoire and accompaniment techniques. He is in his eighth year as music director for Saint Francis Solano Catholic Church in Sonoma. 

Those other groups sound very interesting: Synaps, and Fourth Stream.

Now let's move on to the gentleman who wrote the majority of the music here.  His name was Robert Marcelonis.  And I say was, because check out the biography on wiki:

Robert ("Bob") Marcelonis (2 June 1953 to 30 March 1995) was an American musician and artist, based in Philadelphia.  Marcelonis was known in the Philadelphia arts community as a songwriter, playwright and founder of several improvisational comedy groups. Naturally gifted and raised in a religious family, Bob had composed Masses, Ave Maria's and commemorative pieces for the canonization of Saint John Neumann. He sang in the choir of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. As well as playing various instruments, composing and orchestrating, Bob had an incredible voice and a natural singing ability. He graduated from Temple University's School of Music in May 1975, as a music composition major.  He was interested in of all types of music and cultures, which would often influence his musical compositions. Though classically trained, he participated in the folk festival every year. And as well as masses, wrote inane lyrics and silly songs, always happy to make people laugh or to laugh himself.  As is often the case with artists, Marcelonis had to find work outside of the arts in order to make ends meet. He became an accomplished computer systems analyst in a matter of months through self-study and was able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle through this work.

During the late-1970s and early-1980s Marcelonis wrote scores of songs and played the local coffeehouse circuit both as a solo act and with his band, Melisma. He lived for several years during the late-1970s and early-1980s in Los Angeles where he worked with "The Groundlings" learning the craft of improvisational comedy.  His mother was diagnosed with cancer just as Bob was starting to break through in both his musical and comedic talents. He returned home to Germantown, in Philadelphia, to care for his mother until she died. He remained in the home where he grew up never returning to California.  Upon returning home to Philadelphia he soon started his own series of improv groups. Some of the descendants of these groups are still performing in Philadelphia and other areas, to this day. 

In the early-1990s, Bob's life would change drastically when he learned he was HIV positive. Bob fought hard for his life but came to accept his pending death as certain, as his illness would infiltrate his body and he would get AIDS, suffering greatly. At first he feared admitting his illness and losing his family and friends. But in the end, pure love overcame fear and as he told each of his family and friends, all embraced him and all were with him to the very end.

Bob Marcelonis, you were a true songwriting genius.  Let this beautiful music be your epitaph forever.

Miracles -- 
I never imagined the colors of the day
They find the magic hidden in a place where dreams can play a part
It really isn't foolish to believe if I reach into my heart
And give you everything you are to me--

Everybody's life goes on, like a melancholy song
The voice in the night, simple and bright, calling you
People see me differently, not the way that you see me
The things we allow to come between us the world will say, 
Miracles --

B3 (Tryin' to Reach You)

I love the ending on the major chord, from a song in minor key.  Great effect.

From discogs:

Band – Bob Beyer, Bob Marcelonis, John Simon, Larry MacOnaghy, Laurie Lipson, Leslie Hall

Bass – Bill Zinno
Engineer – Gene Leone
Guitar – Tom McAnulty
Lead Vocals – Melisma
Piano – Denny Matkosky
Producer – Larry Maconaghy
Saxophone – Murray Middleman

And one of the most stunningly inventively written song, Reunion:

When a great artist like Marcelonis is able to create such gorgeous work that gives us so much happiness and pleasure, so many years after he has passed, who is to say there is no such thing as an eternal soul?

Sunday 5 April 2015

Mushi & Lakansyel's absolutely genius Koté Ou? from 1983, Haiti: another masterpiece!

This is a masterpiece of progressive Brazilian-style soft jazz that I never knew even existed until it came up for sale.  To find such gorgeous music and songwriting after such a long time looking for rarities as usual just stuns me.  It stands comparison to the best work of Milton Nascimento, the great Brazilian composer songwriter, with the added edge of progressive dissonance that takes it right over the top as far as I'm concerned.  Of course, having been released in Haiti, 1983, what chance was there for any commercial success?  Today of course, it is still regarded as a failed state, particularly since it was destroyed by the horrible 2010 earthquake and previous hurricanes and as usual not as much aid has been forthcoming as would seem to be necessary on moral grounds-- more and more powerful hurricanes being obviously one of the forecasts for the coming era of climate change.  But why is it such a failed state, the pre-eminent one in the Western hemisphere?  Why, indeed...

Well, few people are aware of the true story of why.  It turns out Haiti and the other Caribbean Islands were some of the first fully colonized spaces after Europe 'discovered' the Americas.  And the reason is obvious, they were islands and easy to dominate.  So of course their first thought was to turn them into huge farms, which we call plantations now, and who would work on these?  Well, the natives, initially.  But they were such slavemasters that they quickly ran out of manpower.  So the solution, obviously, was to import slaves from Africa.  For hundreds of years in fact, Africans worked those European farms to make sugar for Europeans.  And to make their owners rich.  Well, one day the whole country of slaves rose in revolt and said, no more, we will now control our country ourselves, get out, what you have been doing is plainly wrong.  The Westerners were forced to leave.  Instead, an island full of ex-slaves became a country.  Unfortunately, for punishment the 'civilized world' decided they would never help Haiti again, particularly, the United States, so close by, refused any aid, and moreover took delight in tampering with the politics of the country for its own selfish purposes.  And this situation continued-- for centuries.  What about the natives, why are there no natives (i.e, what are called American Indians) such as one sees commonly in Mexico and S. America?  They killed them all off, or rather, they all died.  You will not see any native people on Haiti anymore. What is different about this country is that the subjugation lasted so long.  For so many generations, there were only slaves and masters, unlike for ex. in Africa where the colonial era (setting aside the slave trade previous) lasted only one or two centuries.  As well, the island was fully depredated, there was nothing left, not even trees, to fall back on, unlike the case in North American where rich natural resources could be re-exploited upon independence.  So let's say it again, 'why is Haiti such a failed state, what's wrong with those people?'...   Imagine a man wrongly accused of murder, thrown into jail, who spends decades or even most of his life in solitary confinement.  One day the error is discovered, perhaps exonerated through DNA testing, the miscarriage of justice is reversed, and he is freed (such as is quite common in the United States).  Will this man become a productive member of our society now?  Of course not, moreover, it's quite possible he never will, he has been too severely traumatized-- he will never be the same again.

There is a lot of info on this page.  Apparently it was released to CD but these are now out of print as well.  A few points, notice that the lyrics are by Ralph Boncy (who is also exec. producer).  The 'other' artist, Lakansyel, sounds to me like pidgin French for rainbow, perhaps it's the name of the group?  Notice also that Widmaier's brother Joel is singing here, he is the one with the fabulous voice on the vocal tracks (half the tracks are instrumentals).  He also plays percussions, with Mushi playing keys.

At the bottom:  "This album is dedicated to Philippe and Chantal (his children?)."  Bonjour Soleil, Bonjour Misère:

And the last (title) track is shockingly progressive, showing what a talented composer this Mr. Mushi Widmaier was... tragically so, since this appears to be his sole output.

Check out how much the harmony vocals recall Milton Nascimento's classic use of the below-third interval, as opposed to rock's use of the above third or fourth started by the Beatles long ago.  As well note the amazing falsetto vibrato of the stunning vocalist who sustains the notes with almost no effort (presumably Joel).

And spare a thought for those poor people of Haiti, who have seen no end of suffering for 400 years or so, and still do not, thanks to the recent earthquake.  It is so important for us in the West to understand they are poor because they made us rich.  You cannot be wealthy without someone else being poor-- currency is a purely relational thing.
And wouldn't it be easy to get rich by using unpaid slaves to work a farm the size of an island-- for 300 years?


The more I listen to this the more it sounds like an old friend from childhood, something so familiar I feel like I 've listened to it all my life, like those summers at the beach spent in days long ago passed, or in Paul Verlaine's words, like voices you loved now silenced, with its tropical warmth and the sun and sadness shining down, with side a introducing us to a sunrise and a morning full of light and sound, with side b passing to afternoon and the final track with its bird calls closing with sunset over the ocean and streaks of color in the distance among the clouds...  This man surely put all his heart and soul into this work and asks us all to please, accept the gift of his soul with grace...

Friday 3 April 2015

Nothing better than some Eastern European fusion (and sausage): Debreceni Jazz Együttes, Hungary,1979

Look at that fantastic cover art!!  doesn't it make you want to scream?
OK, maybe not.
Just take a deep breath here.

I will never forget my (Austrian) mother's sausage called the debreceni and so when I saw this title I jumped and laughed thinking I must buy this.  Of course the Great Google  not only informs us of the nature of this double entendre par excellence processed meat, it also tells us it's a soccer team a semi-nude woman, and a man with a WC Fields nose.

I was hoping this was going to be as good as Bright Sun which if you recall was such a masterpiece: synthesizing folk fusion and classical elements, and with such dark lyrics as well...  Well this is more in the straightforward jazz style, on the dial from Charlie Parker jazz to Soft machine fusion we're at one point five units in the jazz direction here, whatever the heck that means.  It's a bit jazzier than Polish Crash, and much less fusionoid than Christy Doran's Om.

A little surprisingly we don't see much Bartok influence such as was universal in Hungarian fusion and prog of this era.  I would go so far as to say it's a shame there isn't a little more dissonance to spice it up here.  Nonetheless a very enjoyable outing from behind the Iron Studio Curtain of 1979.

The last track is a formidable number especially with the gorgeously fluid electric piano sound we love oh so much. Starting with that abominable chord change that I mentioned before absolutely drives me bonkers due to its overuse in any kind of "spanish" music, I speak of the dreaded Eminor-F-G progression, sometimes modulated to other keys like Gm-Aflat-Bflat but in this case in the most facile and retarded E minor (I guess its ease on the acoustic guitar for flamenco is the reason behind this) anyhow, starting with this unpromising basis check out how the band moves into far more interesting and atmospheric territory:

And look at that amazing painting again.  These Eastern Europeans were such absolute masters at impressive cover art...

And note the involvement of Simeon Shterev, featured before.

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Gérard Pisani's 1975 solo work, Le Loup Des Steppes

Gérard Pisani (aka Gerry Zipanar) was in the famed French proto-prog rock band Martin Circus.  (He was the horn or sax player, and plays these instruments here.)  The record carries interest for us as it is his mid-seventies solo outing, and his only solo work as far as I know, it turns out that it is in chansonnier pop style with a great deal of balladic tenderness, or, as my college friend used to call it, it's 'makeout music' which is quite appropriate an appellation.  Nonetheless, no song is quite as remarkable as the Mimi opus by Xavier Gernet which I played over and over again back in the day, a year ago I guess.  But there are some nice ones.  For example, the closer, called "Pas Besoin De Prévenir":

His ex never finished the painting on his kitchen wall, so she can come over anytime, the door is open, no need for warning.

Here and there one hears echos of what he brought to the Martin Circus style, e.g. the track B2 Ce Jour Là wherein some rock chords pass into a minor second chord change that is rather interesting, at least for the brief flash of an aural moment.

I also really came to like the second song, about taking things as they come in life, good or bad, though the chord changes here are quite simplistically diatonic, major sevenths:

Nonetheless, this song really got under my skin, mostly on account of what the singer is saying, and I spent a whole evening playing it over and over again-- for my poor unfortunate family...
I hear:

"but, really it has no importance
you have to take existence
as if there were no difference...

when someone holds out their hand
be the friend you wish you had...

you could count on your fingers
all the people who really wish you well...
they are like dogs, they bark,
but they don't remain long anyways

I don't know anymore
where is the good, where is the bad?

really it has no importance
you have to take existence
as if there were no difference..."

In the last stanza it sounds as if he is speaking to a child-- is it a jaded adult talking about life or is it as I believe, the deeper idea that you can never have good without bad and bad without good in life? My suspicion, just because of the proximity of the Annapurna song, is that it's a French attempt at an Eastern, buddhist message.  But I like that there are many interpretations to the song.

Clearly this was his attempt at true commercial success.  Did it succeed?  One thing I do know, it won't succeed today, not with youtube and Kate Perry and Justin Bieber as competition...