Monday 25 December 2017

Renato Anselmi in For His Friends from 1976, and MERRY XMAS

I mentioned this record earlier when I discussed him and his role in the one-off Swiss Emphasis project.  (Not cheap at all, but I had to hear it, apologies to my wife for missing another chance at buying a new pair of shoes.)  Coming shortly after that one, the next year in fact, it's to be expected that it would be similar.  Very professionally played light fusion with easy listening components or arrangements, on a keyboards driven instrumental basis.  Songwriting is moderately strong.  For example, a very lovely track called Quiet Fire:

All compositions by Anselmi except for b2 by the well loved Bruno Spoerri, and b4.  And that one is really gorgeous too, if you have a taste for this style of easy listening / fusion:

Surely I do.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Gianni Sposito's Sirens, from 1989, finally

So long after first requested by someone, somewhere, based solely on the youtube track called "Wood," here it finally is, the record from which that superb composition was excerpted, and this hopefully will serve as Santa Claus present for you all out there.  Patience is rewarded, eventually everything turns up in digital format.

The best track clearly is Wood:

And it does amaze me in the mastery of the synthesizer sounds, which so organically, biologically almost, move in and out to complement the basic keyboard melodies and simplicity of the minor chords.

The closer, for another sample, has the odd title of The Pome:

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Back to Francis Monkman with The Long Good Friday OST 1983 [limited time]

After listening to all the Monkman albums from earlier I realized this one was uploaded in a mono rip and I felt it deserved better because of the incredible quality of the music.  Hopefully I wasn't the only one who noticed this.  There are a few different versions of this work as you can see, including an out of print CD release with bonus tracks, which to my utter shock after buying turned out to be mono as well, and with a bit of digging I found out the original LP was released as mono-- a criminal act for a musician as brilliant as Monkman.

As usual we can go to imdb for information on this movie, which I admit I have never seen:


A shady character, Colin (Paul Freeman -Raiders of the Lost Ark), carrying a suitcase of money pockets a couple handfuls of cash before making the delivery. In a country farmhouse the three men dividing the money in the case are attacked by gunmen. Outside a pub Colin's accomplices are abducted and killed. Colin is later murdered at a swimming pool.  The leading gangster in the London underworld (Harold Shand - Bob Hoskins in his breakout movie role) is forming an alliance with a group of rich, shady Americans to fund the very profitable London docklands development of the 1980s.

On Good Friday while Shand's mother attends church, her waiting driver is killed when her car explodes. The news of this is an outrage to Shand who is shocked at the declining code of conduct among the underworld. This decline parallels the decline of his empire throughout the film. He is given 24 hours to fix the situation or the Americans will walk away from the deal.  Shand is further unnerved at the news of his friend Colin's murder as well as the discovery of a bomb (which fails to detonate) at his casino. He covers up Colin's murder, the car bomb, and the later explosion of a restaurant where he is about to dine. He frantically rounds up and coerces informants and underworld bosses in an attempt to discover who is behind these events and what they want. He is brutal but he believes his behavior is within civilized boundaries.

Throughout he laments the decline of neighborhoods, respect for the church, respect for his power, England's economy, and honor among thieves. At the same time he professes to be appreciative of history, of what has been great about England, and is driven to build great things on the site of now idle dockyards.  Shand finds out that the bombings are caused by the IRA in revenge for Colin's having stolen the relatively small sum of 5,000. We also learn that the three men from the farmhouse at the beginning were also IRA. The IRA has connected Shand to Colin even though Colin was moonlighting as a courier without Shand's knowledge. Shand's top man tells him there is no fighting the IRA as they don't care about money ("they're fanatics") and that even if you kill them dozens more will always be ready to take their place. The IRA is taking over his empire and there is nothing he can do about it.

In a last attempt to end the fight Shand meets with the IRA under pretense of paying them off with 60,000 but he murders them instead. However, the Americans walk away from the deal anyway, dismissing Shand as a gangster. Shand lectures them on how they have no guts or vision and that he will deal with the Germans instead and not be stopped by them. But Shand is abducted by the IRA as he leaves the meeting and his downfall is complete.

Sounds really good, doesn't it?  I'll have to find it someday and have a look, the old British movies were always so well done.  And how perfectly Monkman complemented the plot with his doom-laden soundtrack.  For me the best tracks are the final few, including Ice House (5), Fury (9), and Realization (8).  If you listen to the first of these traveling out via the link note how perfectly assembled the soundtrack sound is here, with, following the intro (in F minor), the major D chord with added 9 shimmering and delicately stepping into minor D, evoking the transparency of the title, as the two alternate slowly, major and minor, perhaps like a delicate slow dance.  Then the melody moves up to the higher octaves and the string section takes us back down, like a staircase made of ice.  Such mastery of music.

The track called Fury pretty much says it all in terms of library composition, with its Stravinskyesque polytonal, polyrhythmic opener recalling the Rite of Spring moving on to the excitement of harshly pummelled electronic chords (a la Lasry!), with a string melody subsequently adding intensity on top in layers and layers of beauty.  You can hear it here.  Also available of course on youtube (sadly this version is mono too).  But notice how one third through, the composition takes a completely different tack on the windy ocean, as our yacht moves towards a melancholy cloudy atmosphere played out by a reedy soprano sax.

Just awesome soundtrack music, the kind that is never made anymore, never, not ever...
It's as if in one track you can read an entire novel, full of drama and passion and new ideas. new situations.  That one piece called Ice House-- I imagine myself living inside of it like a palace just exploring all the contours of its beauty, endlessly and for days, with no awareness of time passing, as if I was free to explore the Palace of Versailles with no one else there.

Really worth a much closer listen for sure.  Hope you agree.

So what about the mono situation?  Well, I eventually found out that a fantastic group put out a more recent CD with artificially created stereo (since they couldn't get the original stereo master tapes), and from other attempts at artificial stereo we know that it isn't by any means perfect.  But it's better than mono.  And for that reason I am going to post a very limited time link, encouraging you as well to check out the 2-CD release from silva screen...

Monday 18 December 2017

Christian Escoudé Group Feat. Toots Thielemans (1983)

Quite happy this one was pointed out to me as missing from his discography.  It's always worth listening to what guitarist Escoude has to say.  Interestingly Kadjan is producer of this record, note full information here.

A track called Faces is unique in how progressive it is with the featured star on harmonica:

Just listen to the delicacy of the ascending guitar chords in that very light and so French opening sequence.  This one by keyboardist Olivier Hutman.  Toots himself appears quite sporadically, popping up here and there in some tracks alongside the other soloists as an equal, and is certainly not front and centre, which is a harmonically good thing.

Love the fact the album is on the lengthier side.  Not a minute of boredom, except possibly the drum solo in the long track on the second side, and some of the gypsy material that, as is customary with this artist, Christian can never quite bring himself to eschew.

Friday 15 December 2017

Ross Traut's ST from 1981

Light fusion in the typical US style from this early 80s guitarist who achieved fame as a studio or session musician. Not a rare album by any means, but apparently not well known at all online.  The information is all here.

The type of mindfully meditative well thought out track I seem to like a lot:

It's called A Thousand Hearts and takes its place in the b2 position.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kiyoshi Sugimoto's L.A. Master from 1978, Japan

Kiyoshi Sugimoto is a Japanese jazz guitarist who made this wonderful fusion album in the heyday of the genre.  There is some lightness to the composition here (including some highly George Bensonish discoid funk styles with female harmony vocals), but also enough decent originality to keep us hooked on the 200-lb test line all the way until the very end as we are reeled onto the deck of the boat, and proceed to slowly suffocate like a bluefin tuna, and indeed the last track doesn't disappoint, being the best of the lot.  It's called Moving:

And it comes right after a pretty acoustic guitar solo track called I'm blind to all but you.

Incidentally his earlier record called Our Time, from 1975, is much more blues/funk oriented and was a bit disappointing in comparison, though it had its moments.  A good comparison would be the later, post-80s Karl Ratzer albums.

Monday 11 December 2017

Hugo Smooth (USA 1980) by request

Sparse information is to be found in the database.  Of course this was requested earlier due to the lone sample that can be found on youtube.  (Which appeared once on a compilation CD).  Overall, typical American light style vocal fusion along the lines of Feather's Chen Yu posted long ago, perhaps slightly better written in terms of composition, and more in the progressive direction of female vocalist-led Grits, of Rare Birds fame.  The verso scan has all the information missing from the discogs entry, as you can see.

The band is from Indianapolis, Indiana, apparently, the singer is Joan E. Hall (who contributed the great A2 track), percussion by Ron Brinson, songwriting duties jointly Wayne Hall (bassist, woodwinds, ocarina, and voice) and Brian E. Paulson (keyboardist).  Hall wrote the youtube track, Bumpum Cars, which you can hear above by following the link.

Of note, Brian Paulson appears to be the same musician who was in the great unreleased band Pre, information extensively recorded here.  (American progressive rock band active 1972-1973, who recorded an album's worth of material at the time but only saw its first release in 1992.)
And Pre had some fantastic classic progressive rock songs in their sole release, which is highly recommended.  He seems to have mellowed out on this record however, contributing the first 2 tracks on the second side which were somewhat disappointing.

Joan Hall's track is called Mysteries Eyes [sic]:

The chord changes and the oddness of the melody are what make this song so memorable, as well as the passion she brings to her vocal treatment. I love the production heavy on different keyboards too.

Inside you can also find printed the following silly story from the band that begins:

The legend of Hugo Smooth (or one theory)

In the 14th century Hungarian Village of Browbeat lived a simple man named Garbonzo Quick.  He lived alone on a vast hill overlooking a grove of juniper trees, at least a thousand years old, and inhabited by monks of a fourth dimension and only visible to Garbonzo.  The locals paid no attention to the stories about dancing monks chanting in the night and let Garbonzo sit harmlessly on the hill telling his tale and playing a small wooden flute that no one could hear...

From then on the story becomes both ridiculous and utterly bizarre in a way that only presumably drug-influenced stories really can be.  I'm reminded of my wife's usual comment: They were all on drugs back then...

Thanks to the commentator who suggested this one.

Saturday 9 December 2017

Teo Macero in Impressions of Virus and the Virus OST from 1980, plus more (Teo 1980, Impressions of Chas Mingus 1983, and Acoustical Suspension 1985)

I covered a lot of Teo in the prognotfrog days I think and have slowly collected most of his material including the later stuff which is available on amazon such as Impressions of Mingus, one of his most underrated albums, and probably some of the best composition I've heard in the 15 to 20 years I've been obsessed with this genre.  I'll upload a copy for a brief time, plus more.

Of his post-50s albums the best were 1985's Acoustical Suspension, the Virus OST from 1980, and this one, which was missing for some odd reason from the discography already available.  I think he's well known as a producer at Columbia Records for Miles in the seminal ultrafamous jazz albums Kind of Blue and Bitches' Brew.  Unfortunately his own compositions are scattered all over the place in these years, and it wasn't until the 80s that we hear collected together some more of his own writing, but this turns out to be brilliant.  The compilation record called Teo from 1980 has some incredibly gorgeous material from way back when he did Jazz Composers Workshop with Chas Mingus in the 50s going up to the more easy listening string-driven style he exploited in the 80s, but also some lovely C minor organ/elec guitar style rock in a track called Love/Match Point:

I would love to know from what movie or album that came from originally.

But on the Virus OST there's some absolutely stunning material, and those would be the choice words I would use to describe a track called mm 88, with its uniquely bizarre reverbed electric guitar, background brass and synths:

The album called Impressions of Virus doesn't disappoint either, and in some sense this year must have been the ne plus ultra summa cum laude for this particular composer, at the top of his game (at the age of 55!), all music written by him.  Really, I can't exaggerate enough about the invention and creativity he put into these two Viral LPs. First track:

Stunning music, superbly and expertly mixing classical and jazz with more modern electric sounds to perfection.

It would be nice to know how this particular album relates to the Virus OST but unfortunately all inner and liner notes are in Japanese.  Maybe someone could provide a brief translation?

Acoustical Suspension from 1985 continues with the advanced composition applied to a fusion big band formula, almost European in its elevated intellectual context of ideas.   The title track:

But my favourite later album is his homage to Charlie Mingus, partly because he really nails some of the personal cliches of Mingus music like the extended melodies that go on for more than 16 bars (e.g. Porkpie Hat), the uplifting crazy happy use of modal bop (Something like a Bird), and the depth of his pain and yearning (Allegro non troppo, Meditations) as heard on my favourite jazz album of all time, "Let my Children Hear Music" (I believe Teo got a credit as producer for that one).

From that record, his homage to Mingus' Chill of Death:

I believe this homage is also great due to the admiration, respect, & love which Teo held for the great bassist, who had passed away in 1979 from the horrific progressive illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (which slowly but torturously took away his ability to play music).

So I've included all the following for your enjoyment: the Virus OST, Impressions of Virus, Teo, Impressions of Chas, and Acoustical Suspension.  If anyone knows of any others worth hearing, please let me know.
The Fusion album is purely atonal btw and disappointed me.  It reminded me a lot of David Bedford's Star's End with Mike Oldfield.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Hideo Ichikawa and my friend present a 1981 masterpiece called 妖星伝 Yoseiden

Will the proggy wonders never cease??

From discogs:

Japanese jazz pianist and keyboardist. Born in Shizuoka in February 1945.

Very little to see here.  But, oh dear, is there ever a lot to hear here on this beauty discovered by my friend, out of the random blue of online record stores, completely out of left field, so far left it's outta this galaxy and probably even out of this corner of the universe.

The first track (Overture) pretty much presents to you the high achievements here, the perfect mix of classical, fusion, and progressive rock influences from the likes of early ELP:

It recalls to me the Lofstrom Music album I posted before, but with a bit less finesse and more rocky ELP qualities-- which is a good thing of course.  Or perhaps you could compare it with the Fumitaka Anzen album Juma Densetsu from 1981 so famed in prog circles.  But to be honest and give the artist his due credit, this is brilliantly original in a way only a genius artist can accomplish, with a melding so perfect one wonders how he could have pulled it off without a lifetime of prog practice, rather than, historically, being a simple jazz pianist interpreting those stupid standards to the ends of time.

To quote my friend:

Hideo Ichikawa is one of the most famous jazz pianists in Japan.  He tried to make a rock album for the first time in 1980.  This is it.
It was inspired by a Japanese SF novel "Yousei Den."  So to speak, it is an imaginary OST album.

He said in a interview "I listened to rock music albums for the first time since I was born to make this album."

Kohichi Hirai is a rock guitarist. The chemistry between the jazz pianist & the rock guitarist made this album a masterpiece.

Quite amazing.  A masterpiece for sure.  Hard to believe, in fact.
And as long as there's still music like this out there, undiscovered, uncharted, I promise to keep this up.  Wish Tom could hear it.

Monday 4 December 2017

The missing Hiro Yanagida album from 1972 as expected titled Hiro, by request

Fanastic artwork, as usual with this artist.

This album was mentioned in the earlier Hiro post as the rarest item in his discography after the UFO Encounter.  Perhaps not surprisingly it's subpar compared to all the others, except the "Folk and Rock Best Collection" which as the victim of low expectations fully bore out the lowness of said expectations. 

There's an odd mix here of completely generic songs, piano solo ramblings, and then the very occasional progressive sound or move here and there, but separated by long stretches of noncoding junk dna type music.  The opening track with acoustic piano, called Nothing, gives you an idea of what I mean:

I'm sure everyone out there has the remainder of his output at this point.

Saturday 2 December 2017

The Great Hiro Yanagida's The Encounter with UFO, 1978

Obviously an artist who needs no introduction in prog circles.  So I'll go ahead and introduce him and his bio.

Note that he made 5 albums in the glory period of 1970 to 1973: Milk Time (the Gorilla album), Hiro Yanagida, Hiro, Hirocosmos, with the rare Sons of Suns being the one most are not aware of, though it turned out to be quite disappointing.  Personally I found 1973's cosmos to be the most perfectly and professionally executed with a minimum of filler.  Then there's a five year break until this record which is a homage to the Close Encounters UFO fad that those alive in the late 70s will well remember.

The record is divided into Musical Side and Dramatic Side, despite this both are quite similar funky fusion instrumentals with some quite gorgeous female vocalizing that recalls the Japanese artist Anri Sugano.  (I pray I wasn't the only one who hugely loved that particular album from her.)

A5's Crystal Ship is really stunning:

On closer listen some time later I noticed the lyrics are quite good, overall the song sounding like a poem set to music, so I transcribed it as best I could (note that the verso scan does depict them):

Drift, all in the darkness, in my empty heart
Look, for my bright world, with my lonely heart,
Light is always fade, darkness surrounding me,
I only stay in the narrows, without light or sound
I hear echoes of your voice, from the sky, from the stars,
Your voice is an indicator, of my virgin sail--
My Crystal Ship.

Sail, get a strong jet stream, my ship, runs so high,
Star of the Polaris, leading me to you--
Crystal Ship reflects, twinkling stars misty light
I only stay in the narrows, without light or sound
I hear echoes of your voice, from the sky, from the stars,
Your voice is an indicator, of my virgin sail--
My Crystal Ship.

So nice how, rather than a silly sci-fi account of flying saucers, the ship in question is her empty heart in dark space, waiting for the sound of her love's voice.  Well done, and so much more sophisticated and artistic than the English world's plentiful scifi / UFO albums, of which there were legion in the 70s.  Notice also how perfectly professional the electric keys solo and following this the electric guitar solo full of bent notes, are in the middle, sounding like absolutely the best studio musicians from off a British or American pop LP.
Well done, guys.

And then the B1 UFO Landing instrumental taken from the dramatic side is simply breathtaking:

Those of us who remember the simple silly theme song from Close Encounters and its soundtrack, which I bought at the time, will be shocked when they think of how much superior this album is, musically, but also how neglected it was, in the rest of the world-- obviously....
Can we right these wrongs of the distant past? I sure hope so.