Monday 30 November 2015

Levallet Marais Pifarely return with Eowyn, from 1986

So later in the eighties they made a more commercially oriented album, if you can call complex chord changes, intricate violin patterns and quasi-atonal melodies played by a highly musically educated trio, commercial.

At any rate it's more accessible than the previous outing-- a welcome relief I would say.
It definitely recalls Confluence and the series of albums I posted related to their artists such as The Great Gousti.

A stunning track that recalls the great French violinists, like David Rose soloing in his best moments, A3's Siegfried, composed by Didier Levallet (bassist and 3/8th composer on this LP):

Pifarely contributed 1/8th and thus Marais is responsible for fully half.

Throughout this record I try to follow their minds as they play and I find it both exhilarating and exasperating trying to follow their complex calculus of sound-- like when I first learned about tensors (the higher order vectors), and their transformations...

Sunday 29 November 2015

Frank Robson's second album Stay Awhile from 1976 by request

This his second album continues in the same vein of bluesy James Taylor-like songwriting (the earliest records he made, and without the solo acoustic) with harder progressive elements here and there, horns-driven round the speedway track.  Taken straightforwardly as an album from the "golden age" it should be on every top hundred list of best rock albums, ever.  Sadly, we will never find its presence there or anywhere similar no matter how much we choose to enlighten those awful criterati...

In particular the title track is a pure masterpiece of melodious storytelling with its deep horns and emotive intensity:

In addition to that wonderful laidback of with sustained notes in the melody, the key here is the chord progression with a not-so-rare initial sequence: C, C7, F, Bflatm, Aflat, then the big surprise: the diminished chord in A, with its awful tension, steps us up to Bflat, after which the song is able to return to the 'stepping stones' of F, G7, and thus tonic C.

But the LP is chock-full of gorgeous musical ideas... have a listen to the casual sexiness of "You're Just My Love:"

Really? It couldn't have been a radio hit back then?

Apologies for the mono rip here, all I had.  I would've purchased the vinyl for a better but the price is a bit prohibitive with the dreaded Christmas approach.  If you take a look at his discography he made a third album in 1987 which eschewed the rock and horn sound for a simpler songwriterly approach in keeping with the times, and is of less interest particularly due to its inferior quality.

ADDEDNUM: quimsy provided a stereo rip, thanks!!

Friday 27 November 2015

Irvin Malonen's Inner Voice, by request, Germany, 1980

The music here is almost library-like in its lack of ambition or intellectuality nonetheless we get a nice basis of classic electric guitar-based instrumental fusion.  The minor second chord change of Coffee Cup had by this time been heard many times before, e.g. French Asia Minor who mastered the style in copying their predecessors like the great Mclaughlin's Mahavishnu, but still can be enjoyed agreeably:

Wednesday 25 November 2015

US Jester, 1978, more US magnificence

Yet another in the long line of beautifully warm progressive rock albums from the back of the seventies which should have charted as mega-hits as far as I can opine, but clearly weren't-- who has even heard about this one?

Listen to the penultimate track fusion masterpiece, very similar to Luna Sea's but clearly better:

The first song brings out that glorious synthed hard-AOR US sound we are already so familiar with:

Can anybody get tired of that sound?  I never will.

Monday 23 November 2015

Claude Barthélémy returns by request with Moderne (1983) and Forest One (1981) with Real-Politik from 1986 [unrequested]

His first album was Jaune et Encore, presented in glorious lossless before.  In 1981 he came back with Forest One and two years later, Moderne.  Both are similar to the first, and at the same time, not quite as strong compositionally.  But with its very slight nod towards commerciality, I really love the later opus, check out the highly Robert Wyatt-like track called Late:

I am presuming it was Claude himself doing the honour of singing here (as he wrote the lyrics).  And look at what our friend apps had to say about this record on rateyourmusic:

For third time in a row Barthélémy invites a completely new core to help with the recordings of his third allbum ''Moderne'' (1983, Owl Records), captured in December '82: Bassist Jean Luc Ponthieux (also the boss of Owl Records), drummer Jacques Mahieux, saxophonist Jean-Marc Padovania and Gérard Buquet on trombone and tuba with guest appearances by Philippe Deschepper on guitar and Manuel Denizet, drummer on ''Jaune et encore ''. The interest of Barthélémy has turned over the years to a smooth and gentle Jazz Rock with a few quirky Fusion instrumentals thrown in for good measure. Still he insists on composing tight and consistent material instead of spending his time on long, directionless improvisations and ''Moderne'' shows his good skills both as a composer and guitarist. There a couple of pieces with a Blues background and vocals, rather out of time and place, sounding too soft for an otherwise technical album. This one ends up to be the most guitar-centered work of Barthélémy, you have the feeling that accompanying musicians get out of sight quite often to offer Barthélémy complete space for his guitar ideas. So it left me complaining about a more solid teamwork, but again the style is fairly intricate for an 1983 album.

Really, I've posted so many similar guitar-driven eighties fusion albums from France before, such as Jean-Luc Chevalier of course, Traitement Special, Oz Quartet, Philippe Caillat, Eric Tocanne, etc., etc.  They seemed to have had quite a predilection for this style.

Bonus, the distinctly more disappointing later album called Real-Politik recorded here in sidelong mono mp3 rip.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Retour a Haiti: Gerald Merceron and Herby Widmaier are back with their magnificent and long-awaited Tet San Ko, 1980

We can never get enough from gorgeous, eloquent and mysterious Haiti-- that undiscovered country from whose beautiful bourn, of course, none wishes to return...   it's our fourth platterly trip back today (but never the last) with those wonderful Widmaiers and jazz keyboard genius Gerald Merceron and our collection still has holes.  I referred to this already in my treatise on music after hearing the shocking progressive composition of the title track.  Oddly enough it reappears purely as an instrumental in the b5 position here so the youtube upload has an elsewhere provenance.

This is a real mixed bag, not as consistent musically as the previous Energie Mysterieuse, with quite a variety of music, generic tropical uptempo pop-like songs (admittedly with odd chords) in the b1 position, chamber music with string quartets (a5 and b5), a vocal song purely accompanied by violin a la julverne, just like in the 1978 work, a few interesting electric piano ballads sung mostly by Lionel Benjamin this time, even an experimental, improvised instrumental like the middle part of King Crimson's Moonchild at b6, altogether, songwriting not quite as good even as son Mushy's Kote Ou masterpiece.

Here's one of the best songs, b3, with Gerald's trademark electric piano, the synth at the beginning reminding me a lot of Mo's first demo album:

Again the rainbow appears lyrically (lakansyel).

Some more notes of interest taken from the back:
The first track is advertised as a new Haitian dance, the "Shampa."
A new and fresh-faced Widmaier appears, Hansy, who plays bass on a few tracks.  I would love to know who is who on the back photo.  Our old favourite Mushi plays synths on the above sample b3.  Herby (or Herbie) only sings one song (a3).
Lyrics consist of poems set to music, by Frank Etienne, Antonio Rival, Pierre Richard Narcisse (what a great name!), Rudolph Muller, and Gerald himself (a2 and b1).  What a shame we can't understand the original writings as they must-- without a doubt--  be beautiful.
All compositions and arrangements of course are from the great Merceron.

The following quote appears at the bottom:

"prendre du passé rien que ce qui peut aider a pénétrer victorieusement dans l 'avenir. Tout le reste n'est que fatras"  --Leon Laleau.

"Take from the past nothing but what can aid to penetrate successfully the future.  All the rest is just noise (?)".

And of course, my plaintive and unrequited (usually) question which I asked for Karlos Steinblast and J.F. Murphy in the past-- where are they now?  today?

This was recorded in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Ariel's magnificent Perspectives

This was recently reviewed on the now-defunct cdrwl in the following terms, sadly one of the concluding posts there:

I've had a few people ask me about this title in the last couple of months, and honestly I had no idea what it was. There's an aural copy on Youtube, so I finally got around to hearing it, and I was immediately intrigued. I was about to report on the album here, when I found an original going for a reasonable price. I snapped it up, and heard the LP last night for the first time. This is a great one folks - I'm very impressed by it. Definitely an album from the 80s though, so if you're a dyed-in-the-wool 70s addict (which I can sometimes be myself), then this may not be your cup of tea. All the same, the fiery psych oriented guitar alone might sell you.  While awaiting for the LP to arrive, I found someone who knew the band, and it's been confirmed they are from the Chicago area. There's no info on the LP regarding their origin...

Release details: Very obscure album that is just now being discovered. Album is housed in a typical American single sleeve thick white cover that lends itself easily to ring wear. Comes with an insert that contains no data. Interesting to note that mine is on blue paper, and the photo above is orange. Not sure how many colors were utilized. This album would benefit greatly from a CD reissue, and I just added to the CDRWL today as well. The sound is good but can be improved upon.

Notes: From the far south Chicago suburbs, comes the super obscure Ariel, an album that is just now making its sound heard worldwide. Early 80s Rush is the most obvious first influence, but there's more here than meets the ear as it were. All instrumental guitar, keys, and drums are the core components, and the compositions are complex and tight - with a strong fusion influence. No escaping the King Crimson sound from the era either, but also (surprisingly) Doldinger's Passport, minus the sax (imagine the sequencer heavy Moog lines for example). If we were to really deep dive here, I would compare Ariel to fellow Chicagoan's Proteus, mixed with the UK group Red (on Jigsaw). While Side 1 is impressive enough, the final three tracks do nothing short of wow the listener. And they close with their peak composition, always a hallmark of a great album. Ariel does not belie its mid 80s sound (despite the somewhat psych influenced guitar tone), and yet compared with the normal dreck from the era, the band proves the middle 80s were not a total wasteland (heavy metal genre exempted of course). This one deserves the buzz its currently receiving in the underground.

Priority: 1

Clearly, he enjoyed it, as did we.  Have a listen.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Brainstorm - Firstlights from 1982, Switzerland [no download]

Not a cheap album, again.  But, this time, worth hearing in its entirety.  These guys only made this one-off LP.

Mini Masterpiece called Esatonal:

They can equally well do the slow numbers, as in Slowdown:

In particular this album reminds me a lot of the highly progressive fusional compositions from our great discovery, Clareon, from a year ago... will the wonders never cease?  not for the near future of my visible network...

Monday 16 November 2015

Teverano, Spain 1982 [no download]

Some more stunning progressive fusion, very accessible this time, from Spain.  And not a cheapo as you can deduce here.  The music is the brainchild of this gentleman: Josep Maria Bardagí, guitarist and composer from Barcelona.  His involvement seems to be all over the map if you look at the credits there.  I fear this may be his only worthy output for us, however-- but boy is it ever worthy.

Consider Per Tu:

I love the chamber start of piano with violin that builds up in intensity.

And the Pontyesque electric violin of Cel de Nit:

Sunday 15 November 2015

Madre Atomica, Argentina 1986 [no download]

This is superb progressive fusion such as we know so well, coming from 1986 Argentina, with a gorgeously evocative cover photo-collage.

Notable tracks include the melodious A Tierra Humeda:

and Julia in springtime:

Yes, it's a little Pat Metheny-ish, maybe a lot in fact, but I always had a soft spot for the meditative style of his keyboardist Lyle Mays.

Great band name too, right?  Information here.

Friday 13 November 2015

The Second One's Metropolis, USA 1980 [no download]

A little bit of the old Karlos Steinblast funky hard rock feel here in this unknown US release, the artist name is Second One, the album is Metropolis.  Obviously not a cheap record, it rarely comes up for sale and must exist in the wild in endangered, critically perhaps, numbers, and deserves our support as such a rare species under the constant threat of extinction...

The recording has been a little cheaply or badly done, reminiscent of the first Gold record, with its poverty in stereo sound.  But the competence of the guitarists is undeniable.  Robert Welsh's If You Need Time, reminding me a bit of the early Red Hot Chili Peppers:

The diatonic pop-like Destiny, by Scott Nelson:

City Green (lyrics Samuel Smith, music Scott Nelson):

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Rene George Schenderling's Messengers of Autumn from 1981 [no download!]

Very beautiful private pressed prog album reminiscent of Pete and Royce or other slightly laid back Dutch albums such as Mirror, Marakesh, Saga with a strong Genesis influence.  I will post a couple of exemplar songs to give you an idea of the record, notable are the tracks B3 Jump with its minimal synth a la ping pong and the last track, B5, Imagine Another World.

Strong recommendation to seek it out, despite its rareness, and despite the drum machine that as we know is anathema to Tom...

Monday 9 November 2015

The Interesting Story of Seals and Crofts... and Zou [no download]

My friend sent to me a wonderful little progressive rock album from France with the above gorgeous pencil sketch of a boat by the sea, from the wonder year of 1975.  The art is from the famous French expressionist Bernard Buffet.  Have a listen to this tour de force of prog-rock called Puzzle-Head, in five parts:

And do try to seek out this record, it's worth hearing.

Out of respect for his generosity of course there will be no availability today but notice another track in there called "Hummingbird."  Sure enough, this is the fantastic Seals & Crofts composition about God, which, hopefully, everyone here is familiar with.  If not, listen to its incredibly creative structure here on youtube.

Notice the tripartite structure, with three-quarters intro in E minor & its cascading chord progression that shockingly leads to A major, via D flat major (!), then moves up a semitone to the middle, main part of the song, which is in D minor.  Here the song pattern clearly evokes the flitting flight of the hummingbird with its minor 6th grace note or accaciatura (I'm probably using the wrong term for this).  But what's always most astonishing to me is that, in addition to a bridge part with chords revolving around D major, the song has a third section, the outroduction--  with its sustained melody repeatedly evoking either B flat or C, it takes the song out to the skies, up beyond the clouds, clearly as if flying off to heaven when it terminates at last in a gorgeous, plump and mandolin-decorated E major-- as if the rapture was upon us:  the beginning, remember, in E minor, thus resolving to its tonic major.  Is it a masterpiece of songwriting or am I crazy?

After listening to this track again I resolved to dig up the whole Seals & Crofts discography (don't ask me how), at least the first 8 albums until the late seventies when the quality seriously deteriorated.  As you can tell from the lyrics they were clearly religious; in fact they were of the Baha'i faith.  Those among us who are old enough will recall this popular faith in the seventies that attempted to unite all Gods: Islam, Christian, etc., an idea as seemingly obvious as it is impossible-- at least today.  Of course, the zeitgeist was totally different back then.

The story goes that soon after the success of 1973's Diamond Girl (which followed the monster Summer Breeze), Seals & Crofts decided to go all out with their religion with a track and album called Unborn Child.

Looking at it, we think automatically of thousands of other seventies records that look exactly the same: the monarch butterfly, the flowers, the rainbow, the cloudy blue sky (Canadian Harmonium for example).  Surprisingly to me, however, as well as everyone else at the time, it turned out the eponymous song was an anti-abortion paean.  Here it is on youtube again.  Listen closely to it.

This, remember, was shortly after the famed Roe vs. Wade case in the United States.  Inevitably perhaps, both song and record were boycotted and ostracized, derided by a very liberal artistic critical apparatus at the time: this was when women were seriously fighting for equal rights in the world, a battle which is essentially almost won today, at least in theory: in the courts, and in the developed world.  At that time it was a new effort however.  So lyrics like "Go back, Mama, think it over" and the ghastly (here I refer mostly to the bluntness of it): "you're still a-clingin' to the tree of life-- but soon you'll be cut off, before you get ripe."  Now, of course, I'm not going to get into the politics of this debate, which with the exception of the US, is mostly past history in the western world.  There's no reason for that, as you can see in a google search on the song.  The fact is that the lyrics are far too coarse, and the music not that listenable in quality-- some subtlety would definitely have gone down better with this medicine.  It's often the case, of course, that propagandistic songwriting falls flat artistically.  Was it career suicide at the time for these two?  Probably, although, objectively, from the point of view of today, it's quite clear they hit their peak 2 years back with Summer Breeze and Hummingbird.  Nothing thereafter can touch the sheer pop gorgeousness of those two hits and their blanketing album.

Now here's what really interests me about this subject, and I've mentioned this before.  When we look back on those years-- only forty years ago really-- it amazes us how culture has changed, without us realizing.  It is too gradual. Abortion is no longer a heated issue in most of the world, neither are women's rights, homosexual rights, or matters such as respect for the disabled (unthinkable back then) and bullying among children in schools (a persistent concern in my personal life today).  Going just fifty years back, even equal rights for black people was controversial.   And what about drunk driving?  Did anyone think twice about driving home after downing ten beers at happy hour?  Only twenty years ago I recall jumping into the car with a smashed friend racing down the streets innumerable times... What about adults molesting twelve year old babysitters?  Were there a lot of convictions 50 years ago?  No, at the time, it was something girls just had to endure.  (Particularly this idea that children have rights equal to adults and society must address them correctively, is probably unique to the last 100 years.  Clearly it was unthinkable in the past though it seems so 'natural' to us today.  I mean even my father found it impossible as I remember well.)  The world has changed very significantly (and in the process crime has dropped considerably on average), and it has changed only in one direction: it has become more liberal.  Stricter in rules yes, but only in the direction of personal rights that are assumed equal for everyone, including children and all other 'minorities'.  So when we see these old men like Trump, who are so formidably conservative in their opinions, we have to look at them as objects rearing out of the past, like submerged jetties: they themselves have become more liberal than their counterparts (or themselves, in his case) from 40 years ago, without realizing it.  A politician today who states women do not deserve equal rights, homosexuals are diseased, abortion should be outlawed, the handicapped should be kept apart, drunk driving is not a crime, it's OK to hit children and have them start work at 6, would be laughed at (unless of course his name is Putin).  Obviously there are always those on the far right who do state those things in code words, like Canada's Harper denouncing the niqab as a metaphor for muslims in general or his counterpart in Australia who denies climate change despite raging fires in his country...  But they're all on the wrong side of history-- at least for us now, from our perspective.  When we look to the deep past of human civilization, it's a different story altogether: every civilization has a golden age, and then a decline and end.  And we are obviously in a golden age right now.  Are there signs of a decline yet?  I should think so, if this growing worldwide income inequality means anything at all it must be such a discrete signal.  In this sense a politician could also declare, horrifyingly, they are the harbingers of a coming age of reduced rights for all minorities and a return to the 'nature tooth and claw' past where we all must fight for survival and the weakest, the hardest.  Luckily there has not been such a politician yet that I know of.  Good luck then if you are not a rich, middle-aged white heterosexual male (not elderly, as pensions will surely reduce for you, if not be removed altogether)...

I would go so far as to say I can guarantee (based on a wide-angle view of deep time) a Gibbonsian fall will happen to Western civilization too, though it may take hundreds or even thousands of years, just as it is biologically certain our species will one day be extinct, as every species must, though this might take millions of years.

After listening to those 8 records and all their songs, I found one tiny overlooked masterpiece of longing called "East of the Ginger Trees" (again from the Summer Breeze album):

I love how tastefully the arrangement was done with light touches of electric piano chords, a sitar, a very quiet string section that barely intrudes on the harmony vocals in thirds.

That longing for a better world, how it just breaks my heart to think of it...  In a sense, we do have a better world here today, but there's such a long way to go still...

Saturday 7 November 2015

Return to Haiti: Gerald Merceron and Lionel Benjamin in Souvenirs D' Enfance, 1979, and return to Hawai'i for us....

So it's that time of year again-- to say goodbye to the cold fall and hello to warm Hawai'i as every year in the past before for us four... I couldn't say more than when I did way back in the Jukka Linkola post...  of course, I won't be able to do any reuploads until I return in two weeks and as usual in these times I will post no downloadable albums, only reviewed items, with song samples so you can get an idea of whether you should seek these out actively.

But first another Haitian album: I wasn't sure what to expect, buying this ear unheard as it were, and it turned out to be mostly French Chansonnier material with a couple of folk songs thrown in.  Recall that he did appear in the monumental L'Energie Mysterieuse record from a year prior but there he sang a Gerald Merceron-penned composition, which, unfortunately, is repeated verbatim on this record in the B3 position.  Otherwise, here, all compositions are by Lionel.

The last track, a chansonnier bossa nova called Mon Enfant, is emblematic:

What a gorgeous voice though, full of tropical warmth and insistence...  There will be more Haitian jazz coming, that I can promise straightaway.

Now Aloha to the blue surf and Mahalo for your patience, as they say there in Hawai'i...

Thursday 5 November 2015

Passport's Jochen Schmidt's New York Evenings from 1986

This gentleman was in Passport and is not the same as the ST marimba player Jochen Schmidt in the German Naima (aka Naima New Jazz Quartet), as seen here.  (Note that this too is different from the (slightly superior to my mind) Czech Naima, supposed to be spelled with an umlaut, mistakenly left off by myself here.)  No, this highly regarded composer, who wrote all tracks here, became a film composer subsequently, after a career in Klaus Doldinger's Passport.

Real Name: Jochen Schmidt-Hambrock
Born 21. Februar 1955 in Wuppertal, Germany. Composer of jingles and film scores. Member and bass player of the jazz fusion band Passport (2) from 1989 to 1995. 
He was founding and from 1987 to 2010 board member of German professional composers association "Composers Club".  Since 2011 he is vice president of the German Film Composers Union DEFKOM (Deutsche Filmkomponistenunion). 

His contacts helped him on this release, with an astonishing number of luminary jazz musicians including Charlie Mariano, Rainer Bruninghaus (keyboardist for the magnificent prog band Eiliff), Mike Herting (whose Brazil album I featured before) and Manfred Schoof, all of whose albums I can recommend hearing.

As a taste of the very spacey, late-ecmish sound these guys get going with tons of orbiting clouds of synthesized proto-galactic dust consider the Bruninghaus-like track Spheres:

Or simply, relish the enviable and truly topmost skills he demonstrates as a film composer on the track called Raindrops:

In my opinion, a fantastic lost piece of music.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

The last of Jean-Luc Chevalier with Tibet

What can I say?  Similar, by this time, to all the others... a few new tracks...  mostly the old ones... but still great!