Wednesday 30 May 2018

More Jun and possibly the last to post here: Paris Story, with Takashi Sato in 1985

Old as I am, I miss so much the kind of true art featured on this cover that was such a wonderful added feature of records from back in the day.  Many times I've mentioned how due to the constraints of the small size of CD covers and the plastic jewel cases, so much less amenable to creativity today's album covers are-- they have to be. (Then again, you could also make the case that the sixties and seventies were a golden age of creativity like the renaissance.)  I love the kind of scratchy impressionism the artist used to depict the cafe scene, like a Matisse interpreted by a somewhat depressed graffiti artist (e.g. Basquiat).  (So I went searching through the paperwork and found the artist's name: Yuzo Saeki, an early 20th century fauvist artist.  Beautiful stuff.)

This album features an instrumental (duh-?) program of compositions by Takashi Sato, a singer songwriter, played with orchestral accompaniment by Jun.  To be honest, some wordless vocals by both human males and females here.  The second track is exemplary:

Btw note the presence of Roland Romanelli, shockingly I might add, as arranger in the credits. He is responsible for some really great French library material, mostly in the electronic keyboards dept., you might recall him on these pages from some April Orchestras, numbers 38 (brilliant, with Jannick Top), and 43 (a more generic and forgettable one, if I recall).  I believe he has added a French soundtrack-like dimension to this record, reflecting the title of the album, which really pushes it over the edge for me.  You'll notice that for example on a track called Mr Blues which sounds like it came from one of those French movies in which, you know, all the actresses take all their clothes off at least once before the end credits.  Sometimes several times, each time going further, until not even a beret is left on.

Enjoy it!  And let's give thanks for the genius of Jun, whose albums have been just a never-ending series of riches and delights.

Monday 28 May 2018

Heads up for a(nother) masterpiece; In Flight : Imagine a Music, USA 1987

Another surprise out of left field (how many curve balls could still be out there in the hinterlands waiting to be caught?)  Though you might from the title be expecting some fusion, this is a gorgeous mix of earliest Shadowfax-style acoustic guitar and keyboards chamber-jazz intellectual inventiveness, mostly instrumental, and it's as rare as it comes, with no mention in discogs or rateyourmusic (so far as I can tell).  I hear influences of Chick Corea in his acoustic moments, or perhaps the law-abiding classical thought patterns of someone like Matthias Frey.

Reading off the back, we learn it's a West Coast band and we have Robi Johns on guitars, and the brothers Lee Kohler and Rob Kohler on pianos and drums.  No mention of anything else from these artists on discogs, again, so far as I can tell.  All three perform for the vocal number which I included below.

Does it sound influenced by Yes, particularly in the lyrics dept.?  Definitely, if Yes decided to do unplugged.

Be sure to take a closer look at the photos of the members on the back too, showing how far into the 80s, anachronistically for the style of music, we are here.

Really can't believe that after all this time and effort in finding the hidden music from the past, all over the world I might add, that we can still mine these gems out of the ground of the past and add to the treasure trove, wherever you might be digitally keeping it safe....

Friday 25 May 2018

Back to the Beauty of Bojoura in 1970 with Thijs Van Leer, lossless now

I hope some remember this album posted in inadequate rip in prognotfrog days.
She was assisted here by ex-Focus Thijs van Leer (whom we featured in the masterpiece Pedal Point project earlier on these pages) and in my opinion said able assistance led to this being pushed over Mount Olympus to masterpiece level LP creation, despite the presence of some ho-hum cover songs along the lines of the stupid "Wintertime Love" (surely one of the worst Doors songs to select out of their great songbook).

From discogs;

Real Name: Rajna Gerardina Bojoura Cleuver - van Melzen
Profile: Bojoura was born at The Hague, Holland, on April 15, 1947. She is the daughter of Dany Zonewa, a well-known opera-singer and music-teacher of Bulgarian origin. Bojoura (the Bulgarian name for peony) was discovered by George Kooymans of Golden Earring in 1967. One of his songs (‘Everybody’s Day’) landed her on the local hit parade and made her an instant success: she has won the popularity polls ever since. During the 1967-68 season she became the hostess of the AVRO-TV programme “Vjoew” in which she interviewed The Supremes as well as Truman Capote. In the summer of 1968 an invitation followed to represent the Netherlands at the “Festival Orphée d’Or” in Burgas, Bulgaria. In 1969, her version of “Frank Mills” from the musical Hair hit the top of the local bestsellers lists. As a result of this success she has been making personal appearances with the Thijs van Leer trio and scored a hit with ‘The Letter’. 
After her musical career, Bojoura married with Hans Cleuver, drummer of Focus who later became their manager. They got two daughters Laurie and Emilie and a son Jurriaan. Daughter Emilie is active at the drumming-school (like her father) at Scheveningen (The Hague). Bojoura studied several languages at master-level and ‘till today she is a teacher in foreign languages like English and Russian.

A great story I would say for an almost unbelievably beautiful woman.  Surprising she only put out 2 LPs, one fewer than the number of kids, but a bunch of singles after the last LP (this one).  Her earlier work called Night Flight was clearly inferior (mp3 included down below) with some really really ordinary pop renditions.  I also tried to collect some of the singles in one really annoying batch for your curious perusal.

Here's the track list for this album:

A1 Black Sheep Child (Tim Hardin)
A2 Last Thing On My Mind (T. Paxton)
A3 The Wizard And The Girl (B. Cleuver, T. van Leer)
A4 Flora (Mezzetti, Travers, Stookey)
A5 The Swallow And The Calf (Trad., B. Cleuver, T. van Leer)

B1 Comes A Time (B. Cleuver, T. van Leer)
B2 Time It Goes By (B. Cleuver, E. Nober, T. van Leer)
B3 The Days Of Love (B. Cleuver, T. van Leer)
B4 Wintertime Love (The Doors)
B5 Back Street Girl (M. Jagger - K. Richards)
B6 Why Do They Go Back Home (B. Cleuver, J. Akkerman, T. van Leer)

It's important to note that the credit to Cleuver is Bojoura of course, who contributed the lyrics to 6 songs, with van Leer composing. (I'd go so far as to say the cover tunes are rather forgettable, esp. that atrocious Doors song.)  Thijs wrote the liner notes on the back and mentions that he set poems of hers to music.  Well, a sample line is "Time it moves fast, like a river to the sea," so that gives you an idea of her writing-- not quite also Made in Bulgaria's Radka Toneff and Sylvia Plath's Ariel poem or Giovanni.  Btw her name is the Bulgarian word for Peony, you will learn.  Interesting stuff.

For me the most heart-breaking arrangement (complete with bassoon and oboe) and composition, apparently from a traditional song, is the Swallow and the Calf:

For those who don't know this record, but, surprisingly are quite familiar with the stuff I posted on this blog, the closest similar album is the first from Carita Holmstrom.  Her voice though sounds a lot like Mary Hopkin, the well-known discovery of Apple records who was, perhaps, ruined by the huge success of her song "Those were the days, my friend..."  And she made a wonderfully unknown folk masterpiece called Earth Song subsequently.
--those were indeed the days, ladies!

What a shame their association ended after this record, though Thijs would go on to produce his masterpiece only few years later, Oh My Love, one of my all-time favourite records.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Houzan Yamamoto and Yu Imai in 1978's The Devil Comes and Plays the Flute

Keeping with the Japanese theme here we have a really precious gem out of left field, information in Japanese here.  It turns out this is a collaboration between a very prolific, usually quite humdrum artist called Houzen Yamamoto:  Japanese shakuhachi (bamboo flute) performer and composer. Born October 6, 1937 in Otsu, Shiga. Died February 10, 2014. He was recognized as a "living national treasure" by the Japanese government in 2002 --and another artist with a smaller discography, Yu Imai.

The first track clearly states the OST theme which reappears gracefully throughout and the well studied classical small string ensemble with its touches of mystery and danger:

Houzan Yamamoto ...A-1.3 B-
Yu Imai ...A-2.4.5 B-2.3

The mixture of classical, funky fusion, and the expressive flute are what make this pure magic.  We are very lucky to hear this here, a rare and expensive record, highly in demand as you can see on its page, with 352 wants--!

Monday 21 May 2018

More Jun with jazz vocalist Martha Miyake in 1977

Here, unfortunately, Jun is in the background and Miyake, who sounds quite similar to my old favourite Sugano from these pages takes the stage with a bunch of cover versions.  The best rendition is the old classic (made famous perhaps by Nancy Wilson), "Guess who I saw today":

A classic song with a great story...  today on the radio it has been replaced by "I'm in love with your body-- Come on, be my baby, come on-- Come on, be my baby, come on."

Friday 18 May 2018

More Jun with Queen Emeralda's Fantasy, from 1983

Another composer appears on two tracks, one Seiji Yokoyama.  On discogs, the following explanatory note:

Image album with new synthesizer music and rearrangements inspired by Queen Emeraldas.
released with obi and insert.

Then, pursuing the Emeraldas link, the following on wiki:

Queen Emeraldas (Japanese: クィーン・エメラルダス Hepburn: Kuīn Emerarudasu) is a manga written and illustrated by Leiji Matsumoto, which was later adapted into a four-episode anime OVA of the same name. Queen Emeraldas is the story of the pirate spaceship, Queen Emeraldas, which is captained by the mysterious and beautiful Emeraldas, a strong and powerful privateer. Sometimes, character Emereldas is referred to as Pirate Queen Emeraldas.

So it's a shame this queen wasn't able to inspire Jun more in the progressive direction, at least for us, as the Tale of the Heiki was in 1978.

The most heartbreakingly gorgeous track is probably the closer by Jun:

Note, however, the similarity in sound to the Daisy Chain masterpiece from earlier...

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Back to Jun Fukamachi with his first two SSW albums (1971-1972)

The two first albums from this fusioneer star traveller were in fact within the singer-songwriter genre along the lines of solo McCartney (minus guitar) or Elton John (minus the country and blues), or, most similarly, the earlier Ken Narita masterpiece I posted not that long ago.  Though I shall then be brutally honest and declare that Fukamachi as rock/pop singer was simply not as strong altogether, surprisingly, perhaps explaining why he changed lanes into high speed fusion in the mid-70s.

So you can quickly get an impression on your own here's the second track from the 1971 album, notice the acoustic piano plus vocals style, enhanced by some nice fuzzy guitar colors:

Listening to this again it just amazes me what a profound influence Paul McCartney had on pop music.  Note the echoey vocals (a la Wyatt on Soft Machine) in the middle too. The whole album follows along the same lines really, with occasional discrepancies of more bluesy or symphonic (added strings) compositions, some slight jazz touches here and there, definitely no fusion to be found.  Nothing too stand-out-ish though.

The second album sadly continues in the same medi-mediocre vein. On track a2, the standard, very disappointing downgoing A minor chord progression (the Stairway to Heaven / While my Guitar Gently Weeps progression) aided by a nicely arranged string section, is mitigated by a very emotional chorus sung quite beautifully in the centre of this short piece:

Again, move along folks, there's no fusion to be seen here. Not that I mind well-written pop rock, there's been tons of excellent Japanese songwriting in this blog before (Tranzam, the School Band) as I'm sure you'll all agree.

Notice that it wasn't until 1975 that the fusion Saturn V exploded off the launch pad, leading to an almost unbroken decade of masterpieces from "Introducing Jun Fukamachi" to 1985's "Alien" progressive masterpiece.

Someone asked to have those big packages of semi-compleat material shot up into the cybersphere again and I'll do that so you can get everything I have in three, except these 2 albums, and except some more of the missing Fukamachi albums from that glory period which will be coming here very shortly...

Sunday 13 May 2018

Czech band SHQ (Motus 1972, Jazz Nebyeki 1973, Parnas 1982 and Karel Velebny's Nonet from 1968)

Thanks to Destroyer and his research for pointing out to me the Mini Jazz Klub series and those who helped out in the second last post, particularly the well known Simon in the following comment.  To be specific, he shared the numbers 4, 8, and 18.  If you listened to those you got a good idea of the whole series, since they range between excellent fusion (SHQ) and relatively innocuous big band by the numbers, e.g. Pratzky BB with Milan Svoboda (a familiar name, from the April Orchestra 32 masterpiece!!  In case you don't know, I posted that one here.)  And it gets worse: some of them are listed on discogs as dixieland jazz, words that to me are almost as atrocious as kazoo symphonies.

We'll likely be hearing more from this series, despite the fact you are paying the price of an LP for a few minutes of music here, at least the Czech record dealers are reliable and inexpensive, but what is most appealing is that it seems the releases contain non-LP material, new compositions.

I noticed No. 18 involved this band called SHQ which made a couple of albums in the early 70s that looked interesting.  Surprisingly there is more info than usual on discogs here:

Czech jazz combo, founded by Karel Velebný and Jan Konopásek in 1961 after both musicians quit the Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra. The group name is an abbreviation of “Spejbl + Hurvínek Quartet/Quintet”; the Spejbl & Hurvínek Theatre in Prague was the group’s original employer. 
Note: Many group name variations have been used on releases or quoted in publications, but with the exceptions of a brief mid-1960s period without Karel Velebný (a combo also known as the Reduta Kvintet), all releases should be filed under this artist. That includes name variations like: S+HQ, SH kvartet, SH kvintet, SH/Jazz Quintet, Sága rodu SHQ, Happy Music SHQ, and others.

I included the nonet album from the late 60s with the above three, and found most to be a bit disappointing, for example in comparison to similar competitors Impuls, Energit, etc., and the Jazz Fables which looked so promising for a concept album, really was a downer.  The best track for me was the Anemones and Crabs:

Though each track has the unfortunate tendency to stay stuck in its tonic, this one in particular combines that with seemingly unnecessary wild digressions, like a Parkinsonian with occasional choreiform tendencies.  The Parnas album from the early 80s reverted back to acoustic general jazz and is probably for that reason unnecessary.  In the end, perhaps their best output was Simon's Mini Jazz Klub 18 from 1978, a clear tribute to the strength of this series.

I threw 'em all together in one file again.  Sorry about that, chief.