Monday 29 April 2019

Colgen Band (Hiromasa Suzuki) in A Lonely Falling Star from Japan 1981

Jazz Pianist Hiromasa Suzuki is probably best known for the oddly popular album Rock Joint Cither Silk Road, which personally left me cold.  He went on to make a slew of jazz or fusion albums, all relatively light or low energy (not to the level for example of the gorgeous Hairpin Circus Kikuchi) throughout the seventies.  Forgettable, or disposable.  Then, in 1981, rechristened the Colgen New Band, he produced a wonderful and excellent instrumental fusion epic.

Already by the first track, A Heavenly Maiden, you've hit the ball out of the park for me:

And knocked out a few spectators who weren't paying enough attention.  Hope they don't get post-concussion syndrome or these loud musical sounds will aggravate and annoy.

Then the interest and energy keep up all the way through at least until the closer, when our high-powered vehicle crashes into the pedestrian, a cover version of the tired old standard Stella by Starlight.  God I hate those jazz standards.

I'll throw in some more LPs from this artist, altogether more disappointing.  There are occasional good pieces, in the grand fusionary tradition, but most are bland and generic.

Friday 26 April 2019

Back to Kanzaki on the Road (aka Hisaaki Kanzaki): Open My Road and Little Road Gang

A very happy man indeed, from the looks of it, perhaps due to the great décolleté (or outright nudism).  Long long ago and far away I posted his third album which was called Long Romantic Road (the titles are suspiciously all similar aren't they).  It had a special place in my heart due to the references to Waikiki, where we migrate to every March like the humpback whales that swim each winter to Maui from as far away as Alaska.

It's obvious the discogs database for this luxuriously smooth saxophonist is incomplete.  Note the odd presence of American vibraphonist Mike Mainieri here, contributing a couple of songs on the records.  (Some of his solo albums were really good, if you remember.)  All the music starts to sound alike though, alternating between gentle fuzak instrumental to instrumental fuzak gentleness virtually imperceptibly.  My ears perked up at the lovely closer to Little Road Gang, called Still Like a Child, referencing (perhaps) the immortal Herbie's Speak Like a Child:

Sometimes uptempo sometimes more languid all the music really is the same as the above.
The earlier posted album, his last presumably, is his best.

Wednesday 24 April 2019

More Jun Fukamachi, unbelievably, with the OST Fire Bird from 1978

It's always hard to believe there's more 1970s Fukamachi to rip though by now I should stop expressing surprise.  This performance, unfortunately, is by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra with compositions by Jun, lacking his signature synthesizer brilliance and ambiance.  In that sense it resembles the modern music composed passages in the Woman with the Red Hat, that one of course was tempered by the fact it also had the classic 70s instrumental library/soundtrack European sound.

On the second track surprisingly a synthesizer shows up in the middle passage and is duly integrated:

However for most people the unrelenting classic orchestral sound with loud tympani instead of percussion and ever-squeaky string section unrelieved by the warm human touch of guitar and/or keyboards is a bit much.  Perhaps the descent from the ivory tower university classical stratosphere can be most appreciated in track A4:

But I'm so grateful to hear fresh examples of this brilliant, brilliant man.

Monday 22 April 2019

Albert Alan Owen's beautiful follow up to Keyboards: Following the Light from 1982

The album is slightly more electronic, minimalist, less tight, versus the masterpiece inaugural album which was so packed with interesting ideas.  From the database you can see there is really only 1 composition here, separated into 3 movements.  The violinist Katherine Sweeney reappears here but is less in prominence.  As sample track, I just put up the shortest one, the middle movement:

The thing is, had I been introduced to him just from this work alone I would have definitely been enchanted.  But nonetheless the first born son is the genius here.
And as we know from his discography, from now on-- so far as I know-- he sold his soul to the commercial library record devil.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Albert Alan Owen's Keyboards and Strings (1979) -- Masterpiece alert

This remarkable Welsh artist is probably mostly known for his 1980s library albums, of which there are quite a few, to me, mostly generic to the point of inexcusable.  I'll add a couple at the bottom.  On the other hand, as a young man (aged 29) full of promise and obviously full of university musical education, he created this light magical chamber music masterpiece, in 1979, mostly acoustic piano with melodies on violin very emotionally played by Katherine Sweeney, but with the addition of some electronic keyboards.  It's very similar to the advanced, classical modern compositions of Francis Monkman or the Krark composition by Tony Hymas.  It's almost as good as the earlier masterpiece by the latter I posted long ago called Aspects of Paragon.

Side a is called Mysteries and for once the blurb on the back is right on the money with the comment: "this work is a concept of startling originality."  Its first part:

Side b, called On Muted Strings, opening with a clear evocation of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, is in memory of his father who is described as "distinguished Latvian composer, Albert Jerums."  Note that on discogs his name is spelled slightly differently.

As usual it's important to read the blurb on the back with all the bio info.  Of note is the following passage:

Albert Alan Owen's music has now reached a point where, while still tonal, it is free from many of the formal limitations imposed by the tonic-dominant axis. He believes that tonality, thus freed, provides the means of writing music that is at once modern, with new forms, harmonic relationships and rhythmic structures, but is still expressive and spontaneous.  In this, and other respects, A A O's music presents an important and interesting approach to the problems facing the present day musical scene.  He is a new breed of composer whose language is not the exclusive product of a tired European tradition, but rather represents a successful amalgam of many cultural traditions.

It's such a good description of what we're looking for here on this blog.  Freed tonality is indeed one of the keys to progressive composition.  It would've been hard to believe back then that rather than pointing to a way forward for both European traditional classical and popular music, the glorious era of inventive and creative progressive music that began in the fifties in jazz and sixties in rock was soon to end completely with a disgusted, disgustingly dumb populace for whom 'prog' and 'fusion' would become dirty words, nostalgic for the pure simplicity of the most basic tonal music along the lines of I-IV-V, simpler even than Mozart, who always put key modulations into his pieces no matter how short.  And tell me how much more stupid has music become now 40 years later?

Those who listen carefully to the entirety of the first side, Mysteries, will notice how accurate that description is of changing tonalities. Notice there is a wikipedia page for him with surprisingly detailed information.

Thursday 18 April 2019

VA's Jazz&Rock from Sweden 1979 and the unknown Stetson Cody Group

Masterpiece too? Sure, at least for the space of a few songs.  One that came completely out of left field for me, and then, curiously enough, proceeded to hit one right out of the ballpark, perhaps by ricocheting off the umpire's noggin.  And then landing in the lap of a baby in the topmost stands.  Don't know if that's even possible, but I could say the same about some of the music on this LP.  Here's the database information.

The Stetson Cody Group's Kraftrock is the singular home run I'm referring to:

Like, wow. Note the tritonal riff opener, played relentlessly, hammered into our entirely willing heads, overtaken by a wonderful solo which leads into a chorus passage or bridge, who knows which it is, with even more dissonance underlying some odd chord changes.  The brilliant guitarist then quotes the standard electric guitar pentatonic blues scale cliches in the most bizarre overlay creating both a point of reference in our memory but drawing it into a bizarre world of its own, as if some mutant birds flew in a normal sky.

The Stetson Cody Group was led by either Swedish guitarist Kjell Lovbom or Swedish guitarist Kee Marcello, or on the single, Rzell Dafbam, all of whom seem to have reverted back to pop after the 1970s ended.  What a tragedy!  There was not to be a full-length studio album.

Note that here on youtube someone posted that same track in a high-energy live performance.  I'm amazed at how much it foreshadows the most creative and best punk / proto-alternative that was to come a decade later, as in the earliest Nirvana, Bleach and Insecticide.  Sometimes these musicians are so so far ahead of their time.

The second track, Kulturnyckel, is also fantastic, less so:

Subsequently I rooted around a little deeper to see what else there is to hear from these Swedish masters, and found a sole single from 1979 which I bought and ripped too.  It's more traditional hard rock and commercial-oriented though it does have some interesting moments too.  The side a will give you some sense:

Monday 15 April 2019

Xcranieum' s Moodgraft, USA 1991 -- cassette only

As I've said many times before, I don't think you can go wrong with a bizarre cover drawing like that one.  It reminds me a lot of the surrealists' random-drawing process of the early 20th century called cadavre exquis which is what it may be is.  Doesn't matter, the point here is that the musical contents, which is what drew us here like moths to a streetlight, or hungry dogs to a bone, or scavenging crows to a rotten carcass, are just as surprisingly interesting and inventive.

From the seller's online blurb:

Artist: Xcranieum (but see Other Info, below) • Album Title: Moodgraft • Format: Cassette • Label: Nub-Tones Music • Country and Year of Release: USA, 1991 • Inlay/Cassette Grade: M-/Plays Perfectly

Here’s an odd one but it’s pretty great, too.  The first side contains the Xcranieum Moodgraft album (about 24 minutes worth of music).  The information on the inlay card is for this group, and, as stated above, the music is prog rock with fusion touches.  This is supposed to be a one-sided cassette, so I was surprised to see that the label on the B-side is not blank but says Surfaces – This State…  I have no idea who the band Surfaces is (could be Xcranieum using another name for all I know) but I can tell you that they are mainly electronic with some prog rock touches—and they’re outstanding.  This side lasts maybe 27 or 28 minutes, I think.

It's not exactly the commonest album on the tawdry rateyourmusic, which to me is a good thing.  On the other hand, the work of including database information including artists' names has been done on discogs, to our happy surprise.  Thus, for what it's worth, the Xcranieum group seems to comprise Greg Gunthner (bass), Phil Williams (guitar), John Wells on keyboards plus drums, plus 2 others for percussion credits.  And artwork is by J.M. Levine.

The first and title track:

Notice that in typical prog rock fashion halfway through, the song completely changes direction and tonality, slowing down to a whisper and carrying on in a more discernable A minor compared to the quasi-atonal arpeggiated opening or first movement.

Altogether reminds me the most of the Radio Piece III group posted not long ago.

The second side must be the same band, toning it down and creating a Tangerine Dream-like side-long piece that drifts a bit but overall seems too soporific to compare to the stunning first side's work.

Thanks again to my wonderful friends who search out these rarities, like the most expensive and savory white truffles, dug deep from out of the ground.  Beautiful find.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Hobo - Child of the Earth, 1978 Australia

We again interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to fill you in on this much-requested rarity.
Not sure either who we is, since there's only one of me here.

From a discogs reviewer/seller:

Hobo’s 'Child of the Earth' is one of the most elusive and rare progressive releases from Australia’s 1970s scene, seemingly unknown to even the most knowledgeable Australian music historians. After appearing in one of Han Pokora’s books, the album has been placed on many wish lists created by record collectors around the world. The record is so phenomenally obscure that it has evidently never even appeared on ebay in the last decade or so. This obscurity may be attributed to the fact that the album supposedly sunk without a trace upon release in 1978, due to the small Sydney-based ‘Down Under’ label folding immediately after release. The only notable musician in Hobo is bassist Henry Correy who had been in the Australian Jazz-Rock band, Sun with Renee Geyer, releasing a rare album on RCA Victor in 1973.

Now you can buy the vinyl for 440 euros from Hungary (not on ebay though) or you could just listen to the free digital rendering that was just made available, god bless the wonderful guy who ripped and shared it so we can assess the quality of the music.  Partially, because he craftily recorded in mono to keep the stereo worth those hundreds of euros to the Hungarian economy.  Doesn't matter, the verdict is in for most of us, it's an overhyped ordinary rock album that would never have been worth anything without the stupid rants of those obscurities collectors the basement dwellers as my wife calls them.

The first track is just straight high school band rock with nothing, nothing original to redeem it:

Similarly, the songs are relatively benign and by the numbers.  So much so that it's hard to find a better song, ironically, than that one.  Certainly the genre designation prog rock seems wildly inappropriate here.  I mean, this is even less proggy than the Renee Geyer albums, and nothing like Sun.  Similar to my complaint about the Italian Piero Enzo Marco Luigi etc. record there is a complete lack of dissonance, chord changes, original instrumentation or arrangement, etc., you get the picture.

Here's another completely benign song which shockingly never leaves the two chords of A major 7 and D major 7:

I mean, come on guys.  It isn't that hard to stick another chord in there.  Even by mistake, it isn't hard.

So go ahead and buy that record now, I dare you to... as my kids always say nowadays.
I would have some trepidation about buying from Hungary too, a country which seems to have the same nostalgia for Stalin that Italy has for Mussolini.  I've never bought anything from there, so I have no idea if Hungary is Germany-like or Russia-like in economical practices, but I'm guessing it must be the latter.  Of course, as the Italian commenter said, everyone in a country is not all the same.  (Unfortunately for those Hungarians, who I'm sure would prefer all non-white people not to exist in their country.)

Friday 12 April 2019

East from Japan (1972)

Note the beautiful artwork from the promo LP (the third picture on down with Beatlesian foldouts).

I'm not sure if this one-off album is well known or not, but it's worth hearing again if you heard it before.

Early in the seventies you can accept a high influence of Beatles, as in the Ken Narita albums I posted earlier.  But there are definite progressive tendencies here and there, let's say, 30 percent of the time, we are not referring here to full-out dissonance and tempo changes obviously, rather, just very original and unique chord changes or structures.  The song called She exemplifies this process, it was written by one Ted Yoshikawa:

There is also a bit of traditional Japanese music which is both discardable for me and politically incorrect to say.

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Piero Ezio e Tino's Mi Chiamo Piero, from 1972

Long ago, back in January, I was reading the fascinating top records sold for the month list on the discogs blog when I saw this album, described in genre as prog and moreover released during the golden age of Italian prog in the early 70s, which I'd never heard of, selling for 1609 dollars.  Today, if you want to buy it for your collection you have your choice between getting it from a probably corrupt Russian troll for 1650 euros or a likely small-time Italian huckster for 2000 euros.  The choice is a tough one.  I've never bought a record from an Italian since many years back when a purchase arrived broken into a million pieces and it was blamed upon the Italian post rather than the seller's inadequate packaging in a used pizza delivery box that still smelled of tomatoes and mozzarella.  For me, I would go for the free digital mp3 version and forget about the actual analog copy made of real physical matter whose grading has probably been exaggerated from unlistenable good, more scratchy than a nut-allergic kid with generalized hives, magically to mint on discogs.  Doesn't much matter in the case where you short-sightedly buy from the Russian guy, Igor Ripoffov, because you'll never get the record anyways to hear how it sounds.

In any case this group of musicians whose first names are quite transparent made only one record which has all the trappings, the outward appearances with arrangements (added flute, hammond organ), conceptual lyrics, spoken word passages, the all-over feeling of a classic vocal prog album along the lines of for example well-known masterpieces Alusa Fallax, Cervello, my favourite but little-known Triade, etc.  So it's clear the ambition derives from those fertile and inventive times.  Unfortunately what is lacking here is the competence, or composition quality, so if I were to be scientific about it I would point out the lack of unique chord changes, the lack of never-before-heard solos or instrumentals, the lack of dissonance, the lack of odd melody, the relative lack of sudden tempo changes, etc.  Quite a few attempts at creative surprises fall flat.  Having said that, there are occasionally some bright ideas, most of which are collected together on the one honest-to-god prog track called Rugged Gelato (Rugiada Gelato):

Because it includes most of those elements that I mentioned earlier as relatively lacking in the entirety.

So what do you think, will you pay enough for a small vacation for one vinyl record from a dirty man who, like the taxi driver we hailed in Naples, charged us 20 euros (off the meter of course) for a 2-minute drive to a museum that turned out to be closed as it is every Monday, something he must have known 100 percent without bothering to tell us as he sped off down the hill with his precious precious money, his unbelievable hoard of 20 euros (twenty! can you imagine the fortune he made off us! wow!!) along pickpockets on vespas through the garbage-strewn slums filled with dirty children skipping school, with bathrobes and underwear hanging from laundry lines, where everyone begged us for the smallest coins and thanked us like kings every time we threw them a penny, and where the blessed train to depart from that infernal city which we were so desperately anxious to board having cut our trip short had to, of course, be two hours late, this being Italy, as we wasted those hours sitting in the station just as we wasted an hour standing by the closed museum we'll never see in our lives waiting for another ripoff cab to rip us off again... ah, bella Italia... really, you must go someday.
But I don't think I'll be going back to Naples ever again.

Btw note that Led Zep's 2006 box set was the most expensive record sold in that month (6250$).  Wild.  But check out that beautiful photo of young Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.  Reminds me of high school when my walls were covered with posters of Jimmy and his beautiful golden Les Paul...

Sunday 7 April 2019

Various ‎Artists - Live Im Sudhaus Stuttgart (3xLP Box Set, 1978) and Li Garattoni in Find out what I'm dreaming

This kind of big thick heavy box set of LPs reminds me a lot of early childhood when I would randomly pull out some of my father's opera or classical boxes and listen to the music, mostly unnecessarily mono, on his ancient phonograph, excited to find out what sounds were concealed on the big black discs, like that dog in the ancient RCA photo-ad.  And I think that over the following years I must have spent the majority of my time either listening to music or playing it, in fact, all the way to the present.

Back to today's piece.  There's a lot of content in here to digest, and not all good.  You might want to skip the digestion part of it even.  When I say not all good, I mean there is a tiny bit of worthwhile music, especially if you were to look at the artists, because these do include such luminaries as Fred Rabold, Peter Garattoni, and Syncrisis.

In the beginning there is dixieland jazz.  In other words, darkness on the edge of the deep.  Chaos on the face of nothingness.  And hell on snowball earth.  All mixed together in one infernal musical concoction.  Now I'm more than a little flummoxed that of all the things to copy from Stateside, these German artists would think dixieland jazz is a worthwhile endeavour.   It's kind of like copying a ghetto crack cocaine habit or, today, crystal methamphetamine for white trash lowlifes living in Trump country in their monster trucks with a six-packs o' buck-a-beers and shotguns on the passenger seat-- oops sorry to insult y'all-- semi-automatic assault rifles.  It's kind of like saying kool-aid is a great drink. And has a fantastic reputation, too.  Don't forget it was the favored music of Woody, who married his step-daughter, Soon-Ye get charged...  Just as surprising to me is the number of dixieland bands in Germany, one would of course only have expected one or 2, at the most, in the same way one would have expected only one or two record mass shootings or serial killers, or middle-aged men sustaining for years a dungeon full of female sex slaves in their basements chained to the ceilings, or men who invited a willing date to come over to be cannibalized.  In short, I really don't recommend you listen to the first LP.

Nor do I recommend you listen to the second one, which is more traditional American jazz circa 1940s to 1950s.  Apparently it took Germany a long time to catch up, given this was released in the late 1970s.  It's very much like the summertime jazz festival they have in my city which is mostly attended by great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers mobilized either via scooters or walkers who despite decubitus ulcers try to get up and dance to the Ellington swing music and, as I watch with a combination of sheer disgust and amused horror, start singing out of tune as I quickly look around for the defibrillators or EMS personnel standing by.  I'll never forget one time when one white-haired lady who probably had osteoporosis knocked over the beer I had in the usual small plastic cup with the horn on her scooter straight into my lap and as I yelled 'Hey, watch it!' and got up to try to restrain her, the old geriatric cases began to rough me up with their canes, whereupon a denture fell to the ground.  Then my old nemesis appears on side c, I refer to the jazz standard Body and Soul, my nemesis who has caused me untold grief and torture throughout this long dreary life of mine spent looking for beautiful new sounds instead of the old garbage dump of old stinking shit full of the usual circling seagulls, made all the worse here by being performed on solo piano, a bit of an affront to those legendary pianists like Teddy Wilson or Art Tatum (who is I think the one being imitated here, or rather ripped off).

By the time we get to side E1 with Mr. Garattoni it's safe to turn on the volume again.  Unfortunately Peter's track is mostly a percussion solo, not the most praiseworthy tribute to Li I can imagine, unless he was some sort of wifebeater.  Btw I've often mentioned her in these pages, if you've never heard her only album, please have a listen to it, it's one of my favourite records of all time.  How often I've wished she made another one.  I remember one reviewer saying something along the lines of 'this is everything Kate Bush's music should have been' and I think that really describes it well.  As good as Kate was at times, she still dwelt in the art rock / pop rock categorization.  Instead, Li worked more in the progressive rock style, combined with the most surprisingly poetic lyrics, and as a result the music is absolutely breathtaking.

We continue with the famous fusion band Syncrisis, which I always thought was inferior to other similar contemporaneous bands like Chameleon, Virgin's Dream, Train, in our pages we had Katamaran, the royal Nimbus etc., there's so much in that genre from Germany.  Too many, really.  Here the band pulls out the standard flamenco chord progression--another hated bugbear of mine (I think, Cminor, Dflat, Eflat this time)-- and does absolutely nothing with it.  So disappointment all around there.  Including disappointment with me on the part of the band, for being so critical.  Sorry guys.  Then we have Fred Rabold, who is generally pretty hit and miss.  On this outing he doesn't even try to hit, just misses badly, doesn't bother to pick up the bat, misses the ball, losing the game, abandoning the championship actually, screwing up the post-game interview by grabbing the female reporter's buttocks, and crashing his Porsche on the way home to his Swedish wife who was about to kick him out permanently.  Are you ready Freddy.

Not until the very last side, having crossed through 5/6 of the thing, do we get a good track with the one-off band Baobab's "no number:"

Seems appropriate then that there follows some more ho-hum music to close it out with a whimper.
As I said, it's a lot of music to indigest today.

I'll post the Li G. album here below, so you don't have to go looking for it.  Everyone should be familiar with this one.  Note that the music (so far as I understand) was written by Ulli Buhl, who also played in the Fred Rabold Crew (before his wife kicked him out, for having sex with Li presumably) and was in a band called Matter of Taste which made a great album in 1979, genre, light but well-written fusion mixed with pop, which I recommend too.

And now it's time to shut up before I get sued, once again.