Monday 31 October 2016

Strings, by Juhani Aaltonen and Otto Donner, by request [review only]

I posted this once long ago, actually 6 and a half years ago, truly a lifetime in the days of parenting youngsters.  At that time I mentioned it was one of my favourite fusion albums due to a long-standing predilection for the amalgamation of classical or chamber music with jazz.  Well, briefly let's go over it again and start with the ingredients that make up the recipe for this haute cuisine.

From discogs:

Juhani Aaltonen (born December 12, 1935 in Kouvola, Finland) is a Finnish jazz musician (tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, flute), strongly influenced by the later Coltrane.   Aaltonen has been active since the 1950's and has worked with Heikki Rosendahl, Eero Koivistoinen, Edward Vesala, UMO, Arild Andersen and Heikki Sarmanto among others.

A quick search on my blogger console shows he was involved or mentioned in connection with the following outstanding albums posted in these pages in the past: Kalevala Orchestra, Heikki Sarmanto, and my old favourite Pettersson.  As a solo artist however I have heard all of his work until and including the 1989 work but I cannot say I really enjoyed any of it with the exception of the ECMish and occasionally atonal Etiquette, from 1974.  Next:

Otto Donner:

Finnish musician, composer and arranger.  Born on November 16, 1939 in Tampere, Finland, died on June 27, 2013 in Pietarsaari, Finland.  In 1966 he founded Love Records with Christian Schwindt and Atte Blom.  He had also worked as a chairman of the Finnish composers' copyright society Teosto.

OK-- founder of Love Records, clearly a musical genius here.  Notice he was also involved with Pettersson and moreover, played on the amazing Linkola work Proto-Funk.  In his group the Otto Donner Treatment, he made two stunning fusion/modern classical music masterpieces everyone should know.

So let's combine these two geniuses and add in some Finnish supporting musicians of the highest calibre and training and we pretty much know we can't go wrong on this release-- nor do we, ever. You will see that Donner is responsible for the compositions.  Also note that this has been reissued a few times, including to CD, though what I will present below is a vinyl rip.  Some of the compositions are decidedly atonal indeed, such as the A2 Saxballad obviously an extempore by Aaltonen (and highly typical of his solo records), but two-thirds of the way through, a gorgeously cloud-like string section flies in and takes the song out to the cumulo-sphere (as it were) with some very tasty and enjoyable harmonies, as if in an Elon Musk Space rocket that for once fails to blow up, or a sweet saccharine diatonic taste to make palatable the quinine-tonic alkaloidal atonal.  And then, for some very brief but heavenly moments-- we're weightless in the outer space of music...

Throughout the record the string section is very much in prominence as guaranteed by the title, the template being perhaps some of the classic (in the sense of well-known and prestigious) arranged jazz albums of which of course there were so many back in the sixties and going all the way back to the seminal Charlie Parker with Strings.  (Incidentally, that Stan Getz album he mentions on that page, called Focus, and recorded way back in 1961, is a big favourite of mine too, and clearly, also a template for what was planned here.  Although my biggest favourite has always been Chas. Mingus' Let my Children Hear Music,which I've mentioned many times before...)

Obviously, though, as I've stated so often before, bringing in the European classical music education into the recipe, like a michelin chef using the freshest produce, is what really took it far, far beyond any of the previous American attempts at fusing all the human 'musics' together into one cohesive whole.  The track I mentioned earlier as my favourite, the very poetically entitled My Next and Only Love (a tribute to the old standard My One and Only Love):

Wow, right?

We have never, I repeat never, scaled the auditory art heights these artists did back then, back in 1976, in my opinion.

It's like the question often asked of physicists by children today, is there an Einstein alive today, active in the science community?  And the answer of course is No-- at least not yet, followed by, you may turn out to be that next Einstein.  Of course, not to discourage those poor kids, there probably won't be anyone to rival Newton and Einstein for another hundred years or so probably...

Finally, to summarize the other recommended albums that are related or similar:

Stan Getz - Focus (1961)

Otto Donner Treatment's 1970 album
and 1980, with Jukka Linkola:

Juhani Aaltonen's Etiquette (1974)

Kalevala Orchestra (1978)

Jukka Linkola's Proto-Funk (1979)

Petri Pettersson's XXX (1979)

Heikki Sarmanto 1989

Saturday 29 October 2016

Psychotronic Metamorphosis from 1981 Japan

I believe this was first posted in the mutant sounds blog, which I sorely miss.  The amount of unusual but wonderful music those guys shared still astounds me.

Information is to be found here.

Track b2, No More Rainy Day, pretty much a lesson in progressive rock by our old familiar favourites Negasphere (and here) with its gently spun atonal piano intro leading into hard guitar backed by strings:

Subsequently a wonderful Holst-Planets-like drum beat leads to more chunky chords.  Am I psychotronic myself or is it a progressive masterpiece?

Thursday 27 October 2016

Chuck Mangione in 1971's Together with the Rochester Phil. Orch.

It saddens me that such a great composer, well-acclaimed in that era, is now largely forgotten.

In truth, he made the mistake of having a huge pop megahit called "Feels so Good" in the late seventies and subsequently was totally identified with that song, with his silly bowler hat and beatific smile, tight T-shirt (with a big rainbow on it of course) and long ponytail and beard.  Yet before that he was a highly inventive and skilled composer who worked with an orchestra in Rochester, NY, from whence he hailed, and a gorgeously talented vocalist called Esther Satterfield, and made some very beautiful, painfully heartfelt and incredibly naive songs-- normal for the times, of course.  Every few years I pull out my collection of his work and am newly amazed at some of the compositions.   Back when my children were babies I used to sing to them his out-of-this-world, supernaturally beautiful Lullaby for Nancy Carroll.

For me this 1971 album has always been the most dynamic and fascinating on account of the variety of styles on display as well as the quality of the songs, which would later often reappear on albums in the future.

Lullaby for NC was an instrumental back here, but the subsequent vocal version when he hooked up with Esther Satterfield, was much better, from the later album Land of Make Believe:

Another song called  Look to the Children has always been a big favourite:

I find the chord changes so so entrancing in their unexpectedness, the 3/4 time so perfectly suited to the playful theme, and the slow buildup in intensity so effective emotionally.  Tragically, for myself, after experiencing the agony of (shared, thankfully, with my wife) child care for so many long boring years, the romanticism of childhood is totally lost on me, instead replaced by memories of poop spilling out of diapers onto carseats, babies vomiting in the middle of malls, boys fighting every day, screaming about inequality in splitting a pie slice, and, to bring up something that happened this very morning, bizarre sulks over supposed 'insults' such as one calling the other a parrot.  Perhaps after they are grown and gone one can have the luxury of being nostalgic for childhood, but it's a rare emotion now when you get home late every evening following soccer practice and face screaming over having to do 5 minutes of homework.  So look to the children, indeed, because one is about to boom the other guy on the lip if you leave them alone for more than 45 seconds.

Really, yet another composer who should get more respect today.

What the heck, I'll add a couple of the best albums as bonuses:

Tuesday 25 October 2016

The first Japanese VSOP album

From, again, Tom (catching up will take a while!):

VSOP are a fairly typical early 70s blend of blues rock and various other styles. Side 1 is a pedestrian "trail mix" of genres, whereas Side 2 has a nice raw, grungy underground feel about it (and it's a live concert recording). This latter element recalls the Argentinian blues psych scene such as Pappo's Blues or Cuero.  Fortunately for us, The AC has provided a much more insightful review:

Hard rock/heavy psych rarity by this largely unknown unit. Led by guitarist/vocalist Kazumi Mukai, they manage to kick up a pretty good racket here. The first side is a regular studio recording and runs the gamut from blazing guitar-led heavy rock to psych ballads, standard blues rock, etc, and features some fine songwriting throughout. The action really picks up on side two, a live concert recording from early '73. Long, jamming tracks filled with blistering heavy fuzz guitar soloing that will peel the paint off your walls if played at the proper volume. A very good album in this style, and should be a lot more well-known. Cool cover art, too. They also released an even more obscure second LP in 1975 called "Epilogue", which I haven't heard but apparently saw them heading in a less interesting pop-rock direction, as well as a few singles.  And like The AC, I love albums that peel the paint off the wall! Would be interesting to know if they had some archival material from this era.  Priority: none

Indeed, the second side is the more worthy one, to me it recalls the really raw hard material the Beatles did on the unenhanced cosmetically Let It Be or the Plastic Ono Band in its early days.  As an example consider track 7 (Yuuwaku sarete):

Incidentally the following album called Epilogue is pure soul-pop without any of the inventiveness of this one and has little to no interest except to the completist.  It's not worth hearing even once and sad to say, deserves to be rare.

Sunday 23 October 2016

The remainder of James Vincent's discography: Culmination (1974), Space Traveller (1976), and Enter In (1980)

The shockingly absolutely stunning track Freedom Divinity Struggle from Culmination:

The Christian element is very much in evidence here in all albums but particularly by the last.  It also goes without saying the LPs become more commercialized as we get closer to the migrainous year of 1980.  Culmination is chock-full of great sounds, clearly influenced by the infamous Return to Forever, but in some ways a bit more advanced in composition than what Corea attempted, or perhaps I'm just too danged sick of hearing the same old RtF tracks.

By the next album, Space Traveller, we are getting a bit more into the funkospheric environment, and as I've mentioned before with regards to many others, the influence of George Benson starts to be heard especially in the wonderful title track that really takes me back home to the space fantasies of the seventies, when, again as I've repeated before, we were promised that by the millenium (16 years ago!) we'd be colonizing not just our solar system but the closest stars as well (alpha, proxima centauri) in our ion warp drives, etc., etc.  How interesting then to hear that the Chinese expect to return a man to the moon (this time a communist one) by the year 2035-- for what, a grade school reunion party?

The short little track Stepping Up from the second album reminds me a great deal of Lenny White with his masterpiece the Venusian Suite:

But it's a real beauty isn't it?  So by the year of Enter In, 1980, we just know we aren't going to expect much, and we will thereby not be disappointed, just like in internet dating.  Actually it turns out the songwriting is quite a bit above par as you can tell from the song to Israel:

So there you go, another lost artist...

Friday 21 October 2016

James Vincent's wonderful Waiting for the Rain in 1978

It always amazes me when albums that are so cheap and plentiful turn out to be so good.  Why a certain subset of vinyl collectors pays thousands for rarities that inevitably turn out terrible mystifies me.  James Vincent is an American guitarist, and the vocalist on this record.  His song Resistance:

Most of the tracks were written by him as you can see on the database page.

The 20th Etude reminds me of an old favourite, Don Mock:

BIO from progarchives:

James VINCENT is just one of many excellent musicians from Chicago area. As a guitarist he changed through a lot of styles, and through his career was not just a solo artist but a studio musician, writer and composer. 

One of his first more known bands in blues ridden Chicago were THE EXCEPTIONS in which he worked with Pete CETERA who would become lead singer of CHICAGO. After working as a studio musician for many Chess Records recording artists, VINCENT became a guitarist for the proto-prog band H.P.LOVECRAFT. Then he met Howard WALES & Jerry GARCIA with whom he toured for a brief time. While touring and playing the blues/funk influenced fusion at the time, VINCENT became inspired with their opening band and their guitarist, which was John MCLAUGHLIN and MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. 

Afterwards he began recording and released four albums up to 1980 before taking a longer break with his solo career. His earlier records can be reminiscent of for example SANTANA with whom he used to work with and his RnB roots show in a lot of his work but amongst those there is fine energetic instrumental jazz fusion.

More to come later.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Anli Sugano's wonderful pop-star 2nd called Shining Wave from 1979

Anli (or Anri) was a Japanese pop-vocal jazz singer active in the late seventies through the eighties.
In that period she put out quite a few albums, and this her second is particularly interesting, well-crafted and enjoyable in the standard pop tradition of that era-- think Stephen Bishop, Roberta Flack, Phoebe Snow, etc., with perhaps a couple of trivial nudges towards progressive composition, such as was common for pop artists of the time (e.g. Joni Mitchell's 1977 Paprika Plains opus).

For those like me who detest cover songs, it's a bit of a slog at times, but I thought some tracks were very artistically done with some of the sensitivity of my old favourite Radka Toneff (though obviously not as suicidally depressing).

Eric Carmen's old pop song Change of Heart, magnificently done here:

Enjoy a little change of pace...

Sunday 16 October 2016

D. Humair, J.-L. Ponty, Phil Woods, Eddy Louiss in 1977's La Sorcellerie A Travers Les Ages [by request]

La Sorcellerie A Travers Les Ages was composed as a Soundtrack to the Movie "Haxan" by Danish filmaker Benjamin Christensen.

First track called Générique (Theme):

The last track, which was missing heretofore, turned out to be quite entertaining and although digressive, interesting enough in its originality to sustain some attention.

Clarinet – Michel Portal
Drums, Composed By – Daniel Humair
Organ – Eddy Louiss (tracks: B)
Saxophone – Phil Woods
Vibraphone – Eddy Louiss (tracks: B)
Violin – Jean Luc Ponty (tracks: A)

Friday 14 October 2016

German Tau's masterpiece album

Well, back to the stunning masterpieces.  From Tom:

Tau - s/t. 1981 private. 

Simply put, Tau play a symphonic rock style, with bits of humor spread throughout. The progressions are very much out of the early Genesis school, and Tau could be considered contemporaries of Ivory or even Neuschwanstein. But there's also a strain of late 70s Grobschnitt found throughout, both in the zaniness and even in the AOR moments. Sung in German, which is unusual for this type of prog rock. Lots of mellotron for an 80s album. Not a monster or anything, but fans of neo progressive rock are likely to really enjoy this one.

I beg to differ, to me this is a masterpiece of progressive music.  Certain tracks really stuck with me throughout my progressive listening career such as the utterly bizarre Lucy in the Sky with the siren-like riff in the background, the drinking song / death song (todesfuge), and particularly the variety of the inventiveness on display here with widely divergent styles exhibited on an admittedly Genesis-derived background including Brecht-like political chants, folk or acoustic, and acidy 'psych'.  Then there's the quality of the modern-music-like composition.  As was so often the case a poor rip has been circulating for some time and this brand new vinyl rip will really delight everyone with its clarity and beauty.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Karl Ratzer is back with the Zipflo Weinrich Quartett in 1986's For You

This artist was introduced before, here is another from the mid eighties in which he teams up with the  guitarist Joschi Weinrich and violinist Zipflo Weinrich.  It's unfortunately very much in the 'gypsy jazz' tradition, that is, bluesy dixieland with an acoustic emphasis and a very clean barely amped electric guitar sound.

First and title track as sample:

Monday 10 October 2016

Virgilio Araque Reyes's Jamin In Venez (1980)

Many thanks to my generous friend again for this beautiful slice of high-energy fusion.  Nothing cliche'd or hackneyed in this music.

Colors of the Sun presents the arguments of the band, in a masterfully played rocket propellant of rhythm section fuel the guitarist, the inimitable Rhodes piano and other soloists bang on to your ears with the insistency of

Saturday 8 October 2016

String Summit's One World in Eight, 1981

When you look at the involvement here of famous jazz or fusion musicians you get the feeling it's like a high school reunion.  From discogs:

Bass – Barre Phillips, Bo Stief
Cello – Abdul Wadud
Drums, Percussion – Fredy Studer, Pierre Favre
Engineer – Franz Wagner, Norbert Kloevekorn*
Flugelhorn – Ack van Rooyen
Guitar – Christian Escoudé, Harry Pepl [note that these two have appeared here before, separately, both more than once]
Piano, Synthesizer – Wolfgang Dauner
Trumpet – Ack van Rooyen
Violin – Didier Lockwood, John Blake, Krzesimir Debski

Bringing in so many luminaries does not though lead to a nonlinear multiplication in quality, as is so often the case, with the opposite effect perhaps in evidence.  Dauner once again as he did with the Family of Percussion pulls out his old Trans Tanz composition.

First crazy track called One World in Three (written by the violinists D. Lockwood, Blake and Debski):

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Think Tank (Netherlands 1972)

This album is a mixed bag but has some really delightful moments.  It's very much in the well-known Brainbox tradition of Dutch masters of early seventies rock and even borrows for some cover material.  I found this particular track, What's Life, to be really as adhesive as industrial strength velcro to both ears and brain:

Pictures of Youth is of course a Kaz Lux song, probably his best actually, which I "reviewed" way back when with regards to his C.S.  (Which album can be reupped on request.)

I can never get over the wonderful blues notes of the verse, how well those seventh notes work on those chords.  Just brilliance.

Despite the beauty of those two tracks, there is quite a lot of filler to wade through.  Some Killa, Lotsa Filla, as they say...  about crabcakes in New England...

Monday 3 October 2016

Harris Simon Group's 1980 Swish and New York Connection

Harris Simon was a keyboardist, arranger, and composer who made two stunning records in that year of 1980.  His other output is sparse, sadly.  For me this is jazz at its finest with a great deal of invention, uncompromising u-turns into fusion and classical music, but held together into one comprehensive package of earthly delights.  As well the presence of luminaries such as Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker, and Joe Farrell, couldn't really hurt, right.

From NYC, the magical track Loufiana:

The tenderness of the flute here (Farrell) reminds me so much of the Euro-fusion masters from Poland, France, the Scandinavian countries (Finnforest, the early Björn J:son Lindh, not to mention the Pethman just posted this summer).  Even more impressive is the development of the song compositionally, which is utterly unique.

Equally so is the track called Midday Dreams, from Swish:

Perhaps a bit too easy listening for y'all?  So many years after having forgotten that maligned style, can we not resuscitate it a bit?  I loved it then and I still love it now...

Many thanks to my friend for introducing me to this magnificent artist.

Saturday 1 October 2016

More Klaus Lenz with 1978's Fusion, Here called the Jazz and Rock Machine

We heard Fusion before in another post, though this seems to be different.
Here, the track called Equinox is remarkable:

Information here.  All in all this is not as strong as the chronologically just preceding albums which I first posted long ago, with a slight deterioration in progressive composition.  I refer of course to these two.  Nonetheless, curiosity had us collapse Schrodinger's Cat in this case, could it be a good or a bad album?  Well, turns out to be a superposition of both.  The edgy creative energy seems to be missing from the engine of this machine.  Sigh-- the masterpieces cannot be too many...