Monday 30 January 2017

The last Simon and Bard in The Enormous Radio from 1984

For some reason I bought a VG media this time, and I must first apologize for that.  Not the usual practice here obviously.  Perhaps our old friend quimsy can repair the file for us, if he is still out there, listening.

Are we now too chronically far into the eighties fuzakitis to enjoy good music?  Well, the quality has depreciated a tad for sure, but this definitely has its delightful moments and kindnesses to offer us, and note Larry Coryell is back on guitar.  I think most here can enjoy some more tasteful fusion, all instrumental.  Incidentally, after listening all past week to the previous LP from them, I have to say I really enjoyed it greatly, more than most finds from recent memory.

A track called "A Boy and His Dog" reminds me of the old scifi film with Don Johnson, in which, briefly, in the setting of a post-apocalyptic future (like in the book/movie "The Road") everyone has to fight to survive-- unlike in the McCormack book wherein the hero is accompanied by his young son, here Don has a telepathic dog to help him seek out food and warn him of danger in a symbiotic relationship.  One day he discovers a subterranean city where humans have isolated themselves from the perils or radioactivity of the outside earth and a beautiful woman there falls in love with him and vice versa...  I won't bother to warn you of my shocking spoiler here, how when they finally escape from down there after multiple adventures, Don finds his loyal dog starving to death because he had abandoned him and after looking at the girl--  the last scene shows them happily walking off into the sunset together again.
Obviously the kind of movie that sadly cannot be made anymore today.

And consider the utterly bizarre title given to the Nuns Canyon Waltz in contradistinction to the beauty of the contents:

Sadly, no long track this time, though the record does end in a brilliantly dramatic & built up finale (Vampire cows on parade!).

And this was made in 1984... ah, how well we all remember those alt-truths...
In Miranda's words: "Oh Brave new world, that has such people in it!"

Friday 27 January 2017

Noonan, Levi and Houshmand in East River (USA,1971) by request

From the inclusion in this package:

 Patrick Noonan (acoustic guitar, pedal steel guitar),
 Jonathan Levi (violin),
 John Houshmand (12-string acoustic guitar)

 An original copy of the ultra-rare private press Stoner Folk LP East River by
 New England trio Noonan, Levi and Houshmand (Cavern Custom Recording - no number).
 Long out of print and never released on CD because the master tapes were lost.
 A long lost classic from the dawn of New Age and World Music.
 Much more interesting music than most of what is called New Age.
 The record is best left without any musical label attached to it.
 There's even a version of Gershwin's Summertime.East River - Houshmand

This album was briefly discussed here in connection with their other work and please back refer to that post.
It's really quite beautiful and has that blissfully innocent sincerity that is/was a hallmark of the music of the seventies.  (Sigh)-- we're a long way away from that now, aren't we?

Wednesday 25 January 2017

More Doug Lofstrom in 1981' s Spontaneous Combustion, but free jazz

Doug is the gentleman in the center, and plays bass, flute, percussion and 'vocals.'  Corpolongo is on saxes and Paul Wertico on drums.
I should have realized from the title that we were to expect free jazz and spontaneous improvs and been a bit more circumspect.  What I find most irritating about free jazz is the mix of pure noise with dissonant atonal (which I often don't mind) and ridiculous dixieland sounds that are completely incongruent, as if you had a patch of renaissance cherub and Madonna inside a Pollock.

Here's the last track, thankfully brief:


Monday 23 January 2017

Next Simon and Bard: Tear It Up with Ralph Towner from 1982

After Musaic I was quite eagerly anticipating the next installment but when I heard the first track my heart dropped.  Luckily, as in Doug Lofstrom's oddball Beatlesian choice of opener for his Music album, the remainder turned out to be totally of the same inimitable ilk as the first album.  It seems the opener merely shows some conciliatory gestures towards the elementary school fuzak that was such an unrelenting and incurable plague of the eighties, after which the musicians are given freedom to play sophisticated and elegantly intelligent music.  In fact, already by the second track the sweeter meditative side of the band is quite in evidence, on a little composition called Lazlo's Muse:

Notice the percussive ascending piano chord pattern from Fred Simon which was a big feature of the Musaic composition.  As on the previous album, a longer suite appears, this time at the start of the second side, this time called Octabloon.  Look forward to that very well composed sonata-structured piece with different tempo'd sections and again very Muffins-like, with a most dramatic finale.

My one perhaps critical comment, meek as it is, may be that ultravirtuoso Ralph is not put to the fore as we had hoped.  It's OK-- this is Simon and Bard's show.

Look forward again to more.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Doug Lofstrom's Music composition from 1984, USA

A generic title and cover concealing within its cardboard square some far from generic music, this is the masterwork of one Doug Lofstrom, conceived and recorded in the early years of the eighties.  It makes me so full of hope to think there are still such overlooked masterpieces of composition hidden away in the vaults of time waiting to be discovered and given new life for a more open-minded audience.

There is a beautiful blurb included inside about the artist, his aspirations, and descriptions of the pieces.  In particular Doug mentions an experimental fusion group called Fantasie prior to this LP.  No release can be found under that name that I can find.  A sad comment about the 'silence of the record labels' can be seen too...

Note the second side is a symphony or perhaps fantasia called The Plumed Serpent (about Montezuma, I gather) which has an accompanying poem whose first stanza is the following:


   predawn, a touch of orange on navy...
   a huddled child begins a dance of awakening,
   gradually becoming aware of environment.
   a gradual unfolding, unfurling;
   an exploration, a testing.

I think it gives great insight to read his notes, where you will see it was first conceived as a ballet but never performed in public as such.  There is sparse to no information in discogs.  Moving on to The Great Google though, the man's own website reveals he went on to a successful career in the concert halls of the US: as composer in residence for the Metropolis Symphony Orchestra and during the 80's, musical director of Chicago's Free Street Theatre.

To quote:

His works have been performed by the St. Louis, Atlanta and Oregon Symphony Orchestras, and the Present Music and CUBE chamber ensembles. His most recent endeavors include the score for Alakshaya, commissioned by the Natya Dance Theatre and a Concertino for Oboe and Orchestra, commissioned by the New Philharmonic Orchestra.  Mr. Lofstrom has composed several works for Midwest Ballet Theatre, and three works for the Evansville, IN "musictelling" group Tales and Scales, including The Arabian Nights, Just Beyond the Junkyard and Jabberwocky.  In 2001, Lofstrom formed The New Quartet, a versatile chamber ensemble which performs his original music and arrangements of modern classics, jazz and world music. He is currently on the music faculty of Columbia College in Chicago, IL.
(The New Quartet is available on amazon.)

Listen to the glorious composition, so professionally pure and youthfully creative, in the track called L'Egyptienne:

Perhaps reminiscent of the French composer Laurent Petitgirard, who reached the olympian peak of progressive pop-symphonic perfection on the sidelong composition Suite Epique.  And indeed the overall sound and atmosphere is quite similar.  But there is one thing you have to overlook: the first track, an instrumental cover of Paul McCartney's Blackbird done in easy listening style.  Nothing more to say about that.

Many thanks to my friend for this stunning and very surprising discovery...
May we have many more of them this year as in times past!!!

Thursday 19 January 2017

Simon & Bard Featuring Larry Coryell in 1980's Musaic [by request]

Simon and Bard made three records, supposedly, back in this period.  Fred Simon was the keyboardist and Michael Bard sax and flute player augmented on this first album from 1980 by a moderately large and useful band.  Of course what immediately attracts our attention is that the guitarist is none other than famed fusioneer Larry Coryell, who really should need no further description here.  (And notice that in the next 1982 album, they enlisted Ralph Towner! great taste in guitarists, right?)

The discogs blurb for Fred Simon, of whom I knew nothing until this request, is worth reprinting:

Frederick Victor Simon

Fred Simon has been making music for more than thirty years, composing for records, live performance, film, dance, and television, with instrumentation ranging from solo piano to symphonic orchestra. His recorded work includes seven albums of original music under his name, three albums (as principle composer) with the Simon and Bard Group, numerous appearances on compilations and samplers, and many appearances as side-musician. 

Fred has recorded and/or performed with Ralph Towner (founding member of Oregon), Paul McCandless (founding member of Oregon), Larry Coryell, Lyle Mays, Iain Matthews (founding member of Fairport Convention), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist), Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico (both with Pat Metheny Group), Bonnie Herman (Singers Unlimited), Kurt Elling, Fareed Haque, David Onderdonk, Ingrid Graudins, Ross Traut, The Stan Kenton Orchestra and many others.

Wow! will be your reaction.  Notice that he did make a few albums on his own, presumably in solo style piano.  All compositions on this record are by him except A4's disappointing entry Fancy Frogs by Coryell.

Overall, a mixed bag with some of that annoyingly light fusion mixed in with decent and well-conceived compositions.  The track ded. to Joni Mitchell is particularly cute, appropriately enough for Robert Plant's experience of Going to California:

The more I've listened to this wee fantasia the more I enjoy it, as it seems to really capture her mid to late seventies jazzier free spirit, though there is nothing of the earnest and folksy earlier sixties-era strummer in there.

In this regard I have to tell a personal story relating to Joni very quickly.  For many years from the album Blue I was familiar with the story behind the song Little Green which is about the baby she gave up for adoption as a teen (the father's last name was Green), and who she desperately wanted to be reacquainted with throughout her life.  Some two decades ago it so happens that, through a mutual friend, I met the daughter herself whose name turned out to be Kilauren Green and who was in the midst of the revelation brought about by the loosening of adoption records and rules that her mother was indeed the famous Joni (confirmed by DNA or the Word of God).  The happiness of Joni could only be equated by her disillusionment at finding out her daughter was on welfare with no job, a casual drug user and had no artistic talent, after so many years of doubtlessly imagining the beautiful artist she must have turned out to be.  At least the wealth of the mother took the daughter off the country's welfare system, since Joni perforce had to financially support her to a considerable level, essentially forever...   Years later their relationship hit rock bottom and below when Joni charged Kilauren with assault after a fistfight at her LA residence...  All of which serves to illustrate very well the principle in the English saying: "be careful what you wish for."

One last comment regarding Joni, few people out there I'm sure are aware that she took one really beautiful stab at progressive rock in the chamber orchestrated piece Paprika Plains.  Its mystery and dreaminess have made it a favorite of mine since simply forever.  If you haven't heard it, please go ahead and have a listen.  It's from the double LP Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, which unfortunately doesn't hold any further interest for us.

The last track with the awkward title Musaic is also very interesting.  Look forward to that one and its appropriate placement at the end.  And towards the end of this quasi-symphonic composition the whole band takes flight into the skies as if to paint with the colors of feathered wings... gorgeous.

What it also reminds me of is the flights of fancy of that master band from the US, The Muffins, in their earliest works.  And how we can escape through the most beautiful creations of art our sore reality full of disappointments like the unexpected turns in our children's lives...

As usual, thanks to the requester for drawing my attention to this overlooked slice of musical 1980.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Master Cylinder's Elsewhere in the United States 1981, an old masterpiece

Who doesn't love a car crash cover?

This was reviewed long ago by Tom Hayes in 2010:

Not much is known about this Ft. Worth based jazz rock group (even though they're from my neck of the woods, their album wasn't exactly a staple of local jazz or rock radio). On the usually soulless Inner City label, Master Cylinder was anything but that. Their album has a strong melodic sense, and it seems the group must have been informed by the Canterbury groups like early Soft Machine or National Health, as well as the DC based Happy the Man. While ostensibly a jazz album, it's these rock elements that bring Master Cylinder to the next level. A very good album that time has forgot.

Priority: 3

To me it also recalls those masters of melodious RIO the Muffins, particularly in the highly creative last track called Hobb and Geeb which I've listened to all week trying to tease out all the ideas (or 'unpack' for the 'stakeholders' to use our favourite cliches du jour) they stuffed into one five-minute long composition.  At all times they are thinking outside the box and jumping around the bashed in box they broke out of like hyperactive kids on breakfast cheerios with an ecstatic surfeit of creativity, so much so that every 20-30 seconds the song changes directions, tempos, keys, etc.  Even when a passage is repeated something unusual like a polytonal accompaniment is tacked on.  It's as if they poured their whole lives' stories into one 40-minute long circle of carbon polymer plastic:

Sparse information here.

I would love to know who the composer was and how much time he spent on this work.  Another one-off piece of brilliance, for me, another of the true and unforgettable American masterpieces of the genre like the afore-reviewed Feigenbaum and Scott, or Tom's Genre - Commercial Success.

Sunday 15 January 2017

More Peter Berkow with Thesis from 1975

The art is always great in his LPs.  Unlike the previously posted brilliant concept album Faculty Recital (which came out the next year), this is a collection of acoustic guitar tracks.  Back there I went into detail with his discography.  Note again the university-life lyrics.  Did Peter ever complete his degree, I wonder, presumably in cultural or african studies?  and then pass himself off as black like Rachel Dolezal?

The extraterrestrially-influenced track I loved so much about disappointing his poor immigrant father by becoming a musician instead of a scientist (the opposite path to the one I personally followed) reappears here (I run too), almost identical in sound.

All the tracks are by Peter save the last two which were cowritten.  That final meditative one is particularly poignant:

Surely a great lost artist.

Friday 13 January 2017

Lubb Dupp - Psychotronic Metamorphosis II, 1982

The title is quite familiar to anyone with a medical background being the auditory transliteration in the old bygone days of the (normal) sounds the heart valves make when they open and close, called S1 and S2 more scientifically.  Anyways, doctor knows best, great title-- archaically elegant, and the artwork is quite interesting as well, perhaps typical of the DIY / homemade crafts style of the early 80s LP covers we were made so familiar with in the frequenting record stores era.

Unlike the preceding instalment all the bands here are quite unknown-- luckily or suitably I should say, since most of the music here is quite experimental, approaching concrete-ness in its auditory impossibility.

The second track, by one Glass Philosophy is quite listenable however:

But as a whole this is nothing like the prior instalment.

Here's some useful information (haha):

A1 – 犬狼都市 - 天地核
A2 – Glass Philosophy - ギャンブル
A3 – 腐乱死体 - 腐乱死体
A4 – D:R:Y: Project - レクイエム・フォア…
B1 – サラマンドラ館 - たこの吸出し
B2 – サラマンドラ館 - 栄養クリーム
B3 – Location - T.V.L
B4 – フリーメイソンズ・ブラックブレイン - なぜならば…
B5 – Anima - Grey City

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Jigsaw - Puzzle from 1981 Germany

This rarity from Switzerland presents very light fusion from the early eighties, difficult to get a grip on with its sheer slipperiness...  perhaps like tofu served in an inadequate nonspicy sauce, or rather, a very dry wienerschnitzel without potato salad.

First track:

Sunday 8 January 2017

Toni Edelmann in Maisema / Landscape form 1982 Finland

It starts off unpromisingly with a tangled mesh of melodies, probably improvised, as well as aimless shamanlike chanting upon a cold and dark atmosphere befitting the land of origin before the piano of Edelmann takes up the famed half-diminished chord of Wagner's Tristan (here Eminor7 flat5) to a B minor 9, which slowly atonally builds up until tutti orchestra brings on the light in harps and gliassandos.  This leads nicely into the second track introduced with crystalline vibes playing the first electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum, called Aamu (Morning):

And later the song builds again with the entire string section and a luscious sax solo, very similar to excerpts from the recent Aaltonen / Donner Strings masterwork.

Information on this composition here.  Notice that he cedes the piano player's bench to others on most tracks, and that famous Finn Esa Helasvuo (Think-Tank-Funk-- a very similar album minus the funk, and Q) plays on the last one.

Toni's output overall is quite mixed if you look at his discography, presumably this was his magnum opus.

A difficult, but necessary piece of music, in my opinion.

Friday 6 January 2017

Kennlisch, 1976, another rarity

From Tom:

Kënnlisch - s/t. 1976 private.

Here's another major league rarity sent in from The Alaskan Connection. This is another one I'd never even heard of until now.   Terms like "haunting folk" and "folk psych" are two of the most overused in the music collecting business. There was a time in the early 90s that I was truly excited to hear the albums that these collectors described ("enchanting", "mystical", "from the mists of time","shrouded in mystery"). Until I did. Most of the albums in this field are purely folk, with maybe a few minutes of electric instrumentation. And much of it is drinking around the campfire music, hardly the dark / mystical imagery that they would have you believe. With that in mind...

Kënnlisch is haunting folk personified. 

The group is made up of two members, the Macherey brothers, and it's Philippe who makes this album very interesting. He plays electric guitar, harmonium and Moog. The latter element in particular makes this one far more interesting to me. And the harmonium recalls Windy Corner at their best. Though the location of the recordings is in Paris, I would suspect the band is Alsatian. I say that because there is a distinct German quality at play here. There are sparse vocals in French, but they're sung more forcefully. As well, the brief narration sounded Germanic to me (though still in French). The downside of the album is a few tracks are simply Jean-Francois strumming his acoustic guitar. I could see doing that for one song tops, but with about 30-35% of the album like this, it begins to drag a bit.   

If there's a hot commodity in the collector world right now, it's psychedelic folk. This one is actually close to living up to its name. 

Not a cheap record either, I might add.  I would definitely second his opinion though with regards to mislabelled haunting folk-- at this point I specifically steer away from anything described with the dreaded 'psychedelic' label.  Replace that with the word 'ordinary' and you get pretty much as close to the truth as you could hope.  On the other hand, as you have seen on this blog, there are plaintively haunting folk albums which are totally unknown and do deserve the positive assessment, like the recent Rosemarie Taylor.  But curiosity always has to get the better of us I guess.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Return of a fave: Feigenbaum and Scott's Things Are More Like They Are Now Than They Ever Were Before (1

From 6 and a half years ago:

Feigenbaum and Scott is a little more challenging but it's really worth the effort to understand.  Basically we get intelligent composition at its best, with various mixtures of acoustic guitar and chamber instruments, flutes, clarinets, some electric guitar, in a style that could be described as similar to canterbury-zappa except it's very different. A slow opening ("And night into day") leads to a surprising a cappella passage like gentle giant ("the earbenders") then an experimental piano piece with some gorgeous hopper-style sustained fuzz bass and guitarwork. It ends with a handful of flutes playing a superb chamber piece a la egg (why isn't this stuff played in the local symphony hall????), then comes some canterbury style singing ("cirrus mist") with electric piano. "Sunday drive" is a bizarre throwaway jazzy beat sax song. In "morning thrash" we get a crazy soprano sax soloing on top of acoustic guitar. Like the other progressive masterpieces, you can listen a hundred times and every time find something new you hadn't noticed before.

Title track is very zappaesque in instrumentation but I dare say more composed than average zappa, less jumpy. Continues on into the oddly titled "egress gnome odd" which is perfection in chamber rock, mixing bassoons, clarinets, flute, in a really interesting little cantata, then "guitar orchestra" with an acoustic guitar duet in the default key of E weaves some really unusual harmonies and dissonances together.

The stunner of the album is the closer, "One's day." Starts with a screeching sax, then henry cow-like blasts of electric guitar, moves on to flutes and reeds on quick strummed acoustic chords, then suddenly stops dead and a beautiful flock of woodwinds plays a gentle melody over an acoustic guitar's A minor chords to close out the work

The last track which seems to summarize the course of the day:

Information here.

Of course, Feigenbaum was the founder of Cuneiform Records.
And perhaps this title is an apt opener for the coming four years of Trumpism.  Be sure that his long day's passage into night will not be a peaceful one, but taking Rob Ford and Toronto as a template, will be marked by scandals, nastiness, and the turning against him of previous sympathizers in desperate attempts to neutralize his power and threats, until eventually something causes him to fall like Ozymandias to behold the monument in the dust, because in human history it's always been true, that the revolution will eat its own children...

Monday 2 January 2017

JOČR + others in Dialogy / Studie (1978) and the related Jazz Ze Studia "A" (1976)

What a beautiful album painting!  Many of these Eastern European artists had such an incredible visual sensibility...

Well here we go again with the iron curtain classicalized fusion.  I certainly never get tired of it and frankly it's shocking how much of it was made back in the day.

Note that the orchestra I've abbreviated as JOCR is described thusly:

Big band of the Czechoslovak Radio, originally established in 1960 in Prague as “Taneční orchestr Československého rozhlasu” (Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra, 1967–1968 also known as Orchestr Karla Krautgartnera and led by Karel Krautgartner until 1968. Having identical personnel as the latter two, this orchestra name was used for jazz recordings and releases from 1962 until the early 1990s, usually conducted by Kamil Hála.

What is of note for the prog historian is that they played in a famous collaboration album with Modry Efekt (THE masters of Czech prog without a doubt): Nova Synteza 2.  That was in 1974.  It might be that these artists especially the pianist / composer Kamil Hala will be a rich vein of new material to mine.  We shall see.

From the earlier 1976 album Jazz Ze Studia A, the track called Fire River gives you an idea of the kind of tasty counterpoint fugal fusion we are dealing with:

Compositions by a variety of artists.

Moving on to the 1978 album, here listed.  Exactly as I was expecting we have a unique blend of jazz with modern classical music played by orchestra.  This time, compositions by Pavel Blatny.

The first track called D-E-F-G-H-A (why the H?) is quite unpromising, being in a deplorable C major, though it does have some nice brass fusion in the mid-section, sounding a bit like a salad university days exercise in composition.  On the other hand, track B2's Dialogue is quite atonal in its mastery:

It's hard to escape the influence of Stravinsky, wherever you might be, in space or in time.  I guess my one minor complaint would be that taken as a whole this is lacking in cohesiveness and seems to diverge abruptly between baroque-style classical and atonal elements, especially in the last track.  Also more than half of the total musical time comprises improvised solos, which is a bit above the median for Eastern European fusion.

I should also mention this other album in conjunction with Michael Kocab (remember him?) and Eva Olmerova, as worth seeking out and hearing.  Note that it was released officially to CD and therefore can't appear here by state rules and the Great Putin's direct orders, on penalty of getting all party emails hacked.  And all hail the Tiger-Bear of Siberia, future ruler of Greater Europa!  May your conquests exceed those of Alexander, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, British Empire, and Kardashians all combined!  And go on to planet(s) of Proxima Centauri, nearest non-sun star!  Hahaha!!  Let us drink toast of vodka to this, from oil barrel!