Wednesday 31 August 2016

Dr. Dopo Jam's best, Cruisin' At Midnight from 1981 by request

I mentioned this album when discussing the related band Tequila and thereupon (or rather, some years upon) someone requested it, so here it is.  Listening to it again, I can repeat that it's the best DDJ album, but that's not saying too much in my books.  The other Euro-Zappa band I posted called The Locals in my opinion is better than the famed Dopo Jams, not to mention the more recent discovery, Mo's First Album, which, admittedly, belongs in a class to itself: sui generis.

Anyways back to the record.  Again here we have a bizarre mixture (let's not call it a successful amalgam because it isn't) of Zappa weirdo stuff, funk, ordinary blues, a strange love of mexican mariachi, plus the most elevated and compositionally advanced classical chamber music played by a small orchestra.  In particular the record is weaved together with three short passages called Concertos written by Kristian Pommer.  Yet the track Mists Sits is about as fiercely original a musical composition as I've ever heard:

Again, it goes to the heart of what we mean by progressive music.  There is the utter oddness of it, the successful beauty of its wild originality, its brilliant evocation of the title, the elevated quality of the composition: we can't ever find another 'rock' song that sounds like it.

What is strangest to me is the way the same composer wrote this as wrote the humble bumble "The Blue Blues" track on side a, which is neither original, funny, nor interesting as a blues song...  as my wife's favoured explanation goes, they were all on drugs back then...

On discogs there is the following description of Kristian:

Danish producer, keyboard player and primus motor in jazz-rock-mambo rock big-band Dr. Dopo Jam.   
Quotation: The meaning of life is, to please and inspire other people, and if you can make them please and inspire even others, then you are really good going.

Very sadly, this was his last effort as composer or pleaser-inspirer, according to the database.  But I really love this one and it was his best, I think.

Monday 29 August 2016

Rena Rama's New Album in 1986

More from this well known Swedish jazz combo whose records are relatively hard to dig up today.  Today's record has its feet wet well into the eighties, but as far as I can discern presents no or few compromises to the fuzak genre that was sweeping all the exciting and energetic fusion, intricate compositions and progressive, well-channeled European classical music away.  In fact I would go so far as to say my jaw dropped when I heard the track called Dess Gestalt on account of its clear and unmistakable, but quite impressively complicated homage to Ravel:

The word itself, though an ordinary one in German meaning 'shape', will be well familiar to every psychology student due to the unfortunate and almost asinine habit that particular discipline (it's hard to call it a science) has for repeating the erroneous 'theories' of the past as if they had anything to offer the modern world.  When we continue to see ridiculous headlines from 'experimental psychology' for example that when men see a woman crying their testosterone is lowered or my favourite, the oft-quoted study that found that women during ovulation prefer men who are more aggressive or virile, we can see that psychology has barely progressed from when Freud thought all boys wanted to kill their fathers and sleep with their mothers, except that pure fantasy in the 19th century has been replaced by dubious evolutionary surmises in the late 20th.  Any one of these studies has multiple problems in addition to the statistical analyses applied which barely show any effect and if there is, are often found to be non-reproducible, such as the biased sample (usually using young college students, in the aforementioned case, young coeds), the biased team working on the project (pre-assuming they will find the given result), the ridiculous experimental set up (men's T-shirts with unlaundered sweat are a proxy for what women want in a husband), the fact that subjects are not blank slates but intelligent students well aware they are participating in a study, but the worst thing about that example is that it completely overlooks the more impt. question, why are women the only females in the animal kingdom who are not aware of when they are ovulating to the point where they are forced to spend a hundred dollars a month to find out from chemical test kits which day it is if they want to maximize their chances to have children?   Unfortunately the answer to that question is not amenable to study, since it is almost certainly lost in the sands of evolutionary sedimental time and extinct species of hominids, and behaviour is not fossilizable. One can easily imagine an archaic species that was still aware of their ovulation day (like chimps) but with enough cognition to not want to get pregnant, thereby withholding and practicing efficient birth control.  Now imagine another species living next door that was ignorant of that day--  clearly, since they would be more fecund, they would overwhelm the former species by numbers alone.  Or consider, in a village of homo erectus, if everyone knew exactly on what day each female was fertile, how disruptive this would be socially-- a large number of men would roam about looking for women who would be in heat for a quick opportunity.

So when I hear the word Gestalt it does make me cringe-- like the words EST, or Behaviourism, or the names Skinner, Maslow and Piaget and all those other dunces of psych history including the father of them all, Freud...  but this song does bring it to a different level.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Blue Condition's Beyond the Sun from bicentennial 1976, USA

Like so many other mixed up American prog-AOR albums from this era, this one is a bit excellent, a bit annoying, a bit bombastic, but oh so American and fine...    The first track, Birds in Flight:

Perfect for a closing summer...

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Blue Box's Sweet Machine from Germany 1985

From discogs:

German experimental fusion trio, formed in 1985, with Peter Eisold and Aloys Kott from Contact Trio, along with Rainer Winterschladen. They had a lively modern ECM fusion type sound, fronted by trumpet.

All here should be familiar with the great Contact Trio which made three inimitable progressive jazz / fusion albums from 1975 to 1981: Double Face, New Marks, and Musik (the best & most perfected one, as far as I'm concerned).  Their long sought-after first released in 1972 and called simply Contact I sadly can guarantee is not worth hearing, being purely improvised free jazz, completely replaceable with any such album of the same tedious type.  Completely interchangeable and not worth a dollar, despite the high sums it commands on the 'free market'.  Don't ask your friends for a copy, unless you are in need of more enemies.

So, from this wonderful baseline and former group the rhythm section of bassist Kott and percussionist Eisold teamed with Winterschladen on trumpet for this new outfit.   The guitarist-- Brettchneider-- (who appeared earlier in Prosper, of Broken Door fame) went off to make many more albums with others.  Thus, Blue Box presents us with music without the customary chordal substrate of either guitar or keyboards.  You can be the judges of whether or not one or the other is missed.

They made four albums, of which I've heard the first two.  My favourite track is the substantially meditative Poem full of not so much loving kindness but perhaps the sufferings of the wheel of life:

You get the idea.

Friday 19 August 2016

Brief review of the great unknown Austrian (fusionary) guitarist Karl Ratzer...

From our wonderful old friend wikipedia, the following almost useless information:

In 1972 he went to the USA , where he reached into the American music scene walk. Soon he was (later known as "in a project named" High Voltage " Rufus & Chaka Khan ") involved. For some time he lived in Atlanta . In 1977 he founded in New York a band with Jeremy Steig , Dan Wall , Eddie Gomez , Joe Chambers and Ray Mantilla . He made ​​recordings with musicians like Chet Baker , Bob Mintzer , Tom Harrell , Bob Berg , Joe Farrell and Steve Grossman .  In 1980 he returned to Vienna, but continued to work with international jazz musicians like Art Farmer , Clark Terry , Lee Konitz , Chaka Khan and Eddie Lockjaw Davis together. From 1999 to 2003 he was a visiting professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts active in Graz. In 2004 he joined the Vienna Music Institute (VMI), where he works as an instructor. Furthermore, he has performed with his own formations.

A quick overview of his huge and intimidating discography.
Don't worry-- like the April Orchestras, I've ploughed through it (like an overweight ox) and emerged with the best to present-- with one notable exception.

First, notice the 1972 album co-credited to Peter Wolf, I don't know anything about it but presume it to be the kind of hackneyed library jingles I don't have patience for.  (On the other hand, Peter made an outstanding progressive fusion library record, which everyone should hear, this one from 1975.  Both magic and a miracle.)

In 1978 Karl sets out on his own with the formidable In Search of a Ghost, distilling all the beauty of fusion we hold dear, the minor seconds so familiar from arpeggiated Mahavishnu songs, the dark atmosphere like Asia Minor, the force and energy and momentum knocking off all Newton's laws of motion in one unified field theory...  Consider the opener, Israela:

Immediately without any forewarning he moves up a minor second in his intro, without any hesitation, without any apology-- pure genius.  And you will notice he repeats that surprise in various ways throughout (sometimes up and sometimes down).  This album, you'll see, is full of goodies...

In the next album Street Talk the fusionary vision continues, with the title track presenting those now-characteristic fourth interval riffs (like McCoy Tyner did on piano) and really oddball chord changes:

On this record we note the first tendencies towards that fuzacky overlush easy listening George Benson type of style (think "Livin' Inside Your Love") that, albeit beautiful and I guess hugely influential when George did it, is a little out of place on these pages.  (I went through my first years of college and girlfriend with the two cassettes of The George Benson Collection so it does bring back fond memories...)

Subsequently in the 1980 Dancing on a String we have himself alone with himself a la Stevie Wonder.  Perhaps hamstrung by the six-string format we hear him revert to the blues and old jazz standards-- the former such a tired simplistic genre it usually makes me want to head to the nearest suspension bridge's most elevated point with or without a flatted note-- and the latter comprising songs that even when written in the age of Tin Pan Alley or rather Tin Ear Alley were never good, how much better could they be now after having been played billions of ways in every different key at every stupid annual jazz festival in every town of every inhabited planet?

One piece really stands out though, in the shockingly gorgeous song Sunrain notice how the self-effacing bass presents to us arpeggiated acoustic chords and a stunning, just stunning guitar-synthesizer playing chords up in the troposphere.  How I miss that sound in today's pathetic music scene.  Here the interest is not so much in any melody or riff but in the quite surprising chord changes, each time so unusual as to be totally unexpected and unpredictable.  This is why I love fusion....

And note too the solo by the fuzzy guitar later in the song.

Next year, 1981 offered Fool For Your Sake where, not surprisingly, the quality begins to seriously deteriorate.  Here both singing (by the artist) and easy listening tendencies come to the fore when they should have remained well locked perhaps in the big Rickenbacker guitarcase.  A sample:

1982's Electric Finger gives me the usually odd, but here predictable, difficulty of finding it awkward to present a sample. And I think that says it all.  So here's the first track:

Lastly in 1985, Gitarrenfeuer plumbs the abyss of eighties musical hell, with cover versions of such bubonic-plague-like tunes as I  just Called to Say I love You and that godawful piece of amplified cicada buzzing, Against All Odds-- (Phil, why??) and, if you can even get any worse, that medieval torture instrument rivaling The Rack or the Iron Maiden called "To all the Girls I've Loved Before"-- said to be the single worst song ever written, it was used once in psychiatric medical experiments, before the era of ethical review boards, to induce artificial temporary psychosis including suicidal ideations in young army volunteers in Tennessee.  I read just recently in The New Scientist that some who were permanently damaged by the experience are still at Walter Reed Hospital now having evolved the most outlandish mullets, with back hair more than 14 feet long!  The power of music...  No Sample here.

In the later albums (not presented or reviewed here) we see his style described as gypsy guitar, similar to the Frenchman Escoude we reviewed earlier.  This is a style that I entirely missed in those days, thankfully for my precarious sanity, I might add.  Of the remainder, 1982's Guitar album doesn't sound interesting as it's free or improvised (similar to Dancing on a...), Serenade is a bunch more cover versions, atrocious to me, and the only remaining of interest is 1986's For You.

Of note, finally, is the Karl Ratzer Group album called Fingerprints from the glorious year 1979, which I am not able to share.  But it's not expensive and I urge you to seek it out, the sound and compositions here are most similar to the late seventies output of the equally or more fecund Volker Kriegel.  All his hallmarks can be found there: the riffs made up of fourths and seconds, the original chords, the wonderful dynamic, that sense of excitement at the stunning newness of things...

So, to summarize, we have a few fabulous fusion excursions up to the non-arbitrary cutoff 1981, and indeed, this oeuvre does show us the tragedy of musical history as it passed from the creativity of the seventies to bland fuzak and simplicity thereafter, a stage out of which it has not yet escaped so far as I'm concerned.

Many thanks to the following blog for sharing these outstanding rips.  And a heartfelt thanks to Karl Ratzer for this superb music.  Another genius, tenured as resident professor of oblivion...

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Lars Klevstrand with Guttorm Guttormsen Kvartett back with 1976' s Riv Ned Gjerdene!

Here's the next and equally gorgeous installment from this amazing artist / group.  Really quite the entertaining mix of jazz elements and songwriting performed by a very talented team, perhaps a bit more uneven than the previous post, with a few more throwaway tracks (to me, not to a nordic gentleman) including tangos, marches, and pure Scandinavian folk.

First track:

Monday 15 August 2016

Demon and Wizard, Evil Possessor from 1982, by request

This was also reviewed by Tom here.

Today's post is once again courtesy of the AC. A very interesting album. Many of my initial thoughts were the same as AC's, so let's get his take first this time: "Hailing from Reims, this duo's lone LP, a private press released in micro quantities, is seemingly all but forgotten by time, representing perhaps the deepest, darkest recesses of the old French underground scene. In the unlikely scenario that you were to happen upon this relic collecting dust in some tiny French record store, your first thought might be that it's an unknown Venom style proto-black metal record, what with its ultra-primitive hand drawn cover that looks like something straight out of an old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module, and track titles like "Medieval Holocaust", "Shaking the Gates of Hell" and "Black Witch". But what a shock you would be in for as the needle drops, revealing a shadowy aural landscape that would serve as the perfect soundtrack to some weird 70s horror film. Haunting, folky acoustic guitar passages blend into classic French electronic prog, with gurgling analog synths, bass, electric guitar, and occasional vocals, creating a strange, occult atmosphere that will stay with you long after the music has stopped. Admittedly, the execution is a bit amateurish at times (these guys were probably mere teenagers when this was recorded), but in a way that only adds to the charm. Definitely worth hunting down for fans of French deep underground sounds and experimental krautrock."

Haha - that was my first thought too: "Black Metal" by Venom. As an old metal head from back in the day (as in 1979-1983), I can only imagine my look of horror as I dropped the needle on this album, thinking I'd uncovered an underground metal masterpiece.

Demon & Wizard fall in line with many of the obscure acts of the French underground of the late 70s and early 80s. I would have expected this to be released on the D.I.Y. FLVM label, as it has that vibe. Or perhaps Disjuncta. The sparseness created by the acoustic guitars and synthesizers had me thinking at once of Images, Kennlisch, Lourival Silvestre, Flamen Dialis and even early Richard Pinhas circa "Rhizosphere".
Priority: 3

Again, I have to state my opinion (with apologies to Tom) which is the same as the previous, that the case was overstated a bit.  Yes, there is a dark and haunting quality to the music, which, if you're seeking this you will be satisfied, kind of, however if you are looking for original, complex, or new and progressive material, you are sure to be disappointed as I was.  In particular, comparing this to anything at all by Richard Pinhas / Heldon seems to me mildly ludicrous due to its inferiority.
Note the price on discogs.  I think the title, not mentioned above, is clearly from the classic Uriah Heep album by the same name.

Here is the first track for sample:

Saturday 13 August 2016

Lyons and Howell from 197?, US

A poor rip of this wonderful unknown songwriter album was circulating for some time.  I bought the vinyl to record it better.  What was astonishing to me is that the gentleman on the cover, Rich Lyons, wrote almost all the music here-- some tracks have the gorgeous Phyllis Howell as cocreditor.  Unfortunately there is no year for the release, but I presume from the smoothness of the production that we are dealing with an era circa 1978.

The blurb on the back from the artists:

We have endeavored here to achieve a variety of music and lyrical styles. Our intention:  To depart from categorization and lean towards more versatility within a single album.  Utilizing different accompaniment in various songs and drawing on different stylistic backgrnds in their composition, we hope to have made each song separate from the others and a statement within itself...

How many times have we heard a similar thought expressed in these posts-- regarding being different and varied?

The first track called Moon Beams is absolute magic:

The arrangements, by Lyons as well, are simply stunning.  It seems to me almost a crime that music this well-written is ignored by everyone when it should have been a hit back then, and could still be today, as a replacement for the endless parade of stupid 70s songs played as background to our lives-- if Elton John it's always Candle in the Wind, if Eagles, always Hotel California, etc., songs we got sick of hearing already before puberty many years ago but which we can never escape in the popular sphere anywhere we travel to outside our homes...

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Echettio: Tavolozza Musicale, 197?, Library, Recommended

Echettio was Ugo Fusco who made a few highly rare and collectible, presumably now expensive, library albums back in the day.  Thanks to my friend I was allowed to hear this little masterpiece of composition, mostly in the chamber music style.  Note that there is little information to be had here at all.  We shall let the music stand on its own, gorgeous and lofty as it is-- consider the first tracks, A and B parts to Melancholy:

It's ridiculous that music so good is lost to oblivion...  also ridiculous that I keep making the same statement in these pages...  I can't help it, each time someone shares with me an excellent album I'm shocked at how much better than popular music (whether rock, pop or standard classical) it is.

Monday 8 August 2016

Images - Le Jeu de Robinson, from 1977... recommended

Now here's a huge huge one, a monster, as they say.

Not to be confused with the Henri Roger album Images which is also amazing, this is famous thanks to Tom and his list, so I'll quote from him first up as usual:

The first side is pleasant folk, with acoustic guitars and flute, and sparse vocals sung in a soft French tone. Side 2 rocks out with the addition of electric guitar, bass, keys and drums. Plenty of progressive meter changes, and comparisons to bands like Memoriance or Pentacle wouldn't be out of place. A splendid little album that very few know about, but is not to be missed! Comes in a plain white cover with an Images sticker as seen here. Also has a nice insert with baby pictures of all 5 band members.

Looks like someone has added a title here and called it 'Le Jeu de Robinson'. This is a mistake. The album doesn't have a title. It's not listed on the label or the cover. The title that was proposed is actually the name of the side long suite on Side 1, which contains the 8 songs presented here (A1-A8)

Again, I believe he gave it a priority 2.  As with the Tangle Edge, I would lower that by an integer or two.

Please notice the prices people are asking for here.  In a moment, you can be the judge(s) of whether or not these are appropriate.

As sample, the Robinson storm is part of what makes this is a progressive delight, with the classic, absolutely inimitable French style of digital keyboards (a la Ange), minor second dissonances (a la Shylock), overall dark and spectral tone (a la Pulsar), and the fuzzy sustained guitar reminds me meanwhile of Carpe Diem's style (which they often accompanied in unison with a soprano sax):

The instrumental La Femme en Rouge instead has a folky do-it-yourself proggy sound that reminds me of the other Tom discovery, Demon and Wizard (which I can post later if there's interest):

To me, the second side is much less progressive and interesting.  It really tends to drag on with little to hang your attention on.
No comparison to what I consider the masterpiece of mixed folk-prog:  Joxifications.

Saturday 6 August 2016

Feather is back with the oft-requested Chen Yu Lips from 1982 [finally]

More of the same from this group, this one from 1982...
Very easy listening vibe of course.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Gerardo Bátiz's Azul Con Leche (1986)

Delving so deeply into the eighties we can never expect miracles, and we don't receive those dispensations here to any significant degree indeed.  As far as I can tell the best track was a very Gismonti-like keyboard composition called Azucena:

--with the remainder of the tracks being quite generic mid-eighties latin (here, appropriately) fuzak...  no wonder they were missing from the online discography.  And the last record from almost 1990 will probably remain forever unheard...  At any rate, it's always important to be complete, as we saw with the missing Orexis - Georg Lawall records.

Monday 1 August 2016

Tangle Edge: Radio Stroganoff, Cassette-Only from 1986 [no download]

Radio Stroganoff shows a remarkable progression from Improvised Drop Outs. This transformation would ultimately lead to the brilliant In Search of a New Dawn. In fact, many of these songs ended up on that album with different arrangements. There's a little less than 30 minutes of music here, considering that the last piece is a radio interview in Norwegian, which will obviously have limited appeal. But being the archivists Tangle Edge are, I'm sure they can find enough quality material to fill a full CD including this whole album. Just consider the void of released material from 1984-1988, save 1986. Or the time from 1998-2005.  Live in the Presence of Aphrodite is probably the most stripped down recording from the band... 
Priority: 2 (on the strength of Radio Stroganoff)

A very high number indeed, and upon closer listen, I tend to agree that the higher is the more appropriate here, though I would reduce it by an integer or two.  As always I find it absolutely shocking that musicians in this year-- recall we heard typical German fusion from GDR around the same period in the last few posts-- would craft something so uncommercial and uncompromising.

From the database we have their discography, as well as info on this release.  Probably most of you are already familiar with this so-called psych or space-rock band, I wasn't aware of them, mostly because I shy away from albums described in those terms, too often they turn out to be rambling messes of electric guitar wankery with nary an original thought to perk us out of a cannabinoid haze of useless notes, often introduced by a generic blues riff usually in E or A, battling a frenzy of masturbatory percussion.  So subsequently listening to their later works I did a get sense of exactly that, but not on this cassette, where the thoughts are quite clear, succinct, and well introduced and brought out.  The band's official site is to be found here.  Unfortunately the first track is all I can provide for you at this time with the delightful title of "Long Time Since I Saw An Egg: " 

I'm sorry that again the powers that be forbid us from freely disseminating such a great work but such is the game we pay to play here, the contacts who have rarities will often mandate exactly that and those people are to be nurtured in the private sphere.

At least, I think the remainder of their releases is easy to locate.  Please note this is not expensive, although it's quite likely it will be harder and harder to locate nowadays on ebay, and few people including myself have the set up to rip cassettes.   But it can be expected someone somewhere will deliver the goods eventually online...  especially with a higher demand brought on by positive reviews.