Wednesday 31 July 2019

Screaming Gypsy Bandits Back to Doghead

I've known of this band for many years thanks to the slightly proggy album they released in 1973 called In the Eye, their only official release (reissued in the 1990s), and note, it was dedicated to the once ultra famous Charles Bukowski now utterly forgotten.  To my complete shock I found out recently that a collection of unreleased material from Screaming Gypsy Bandits came out called Back to Doghead, which was full-out progressive rock, and chronologically preceding the official release.
We're talking unusual harmonies, chord changes, abrupt tempo switches, gratuitous weirdness, etc.  So for their personal history clearly they toned down the insanity of their roots for the record company.

Rot Nozzle has a distinctly Zappaesque influence, obviously:

I love how the track called Shells meanders its way through such a spacey atmosphere:

And the pentatonic electric guitar riff which starts out sounding so humdrum proceeds into uncharted territory quite soon enough on Medicine, evolving again throughout like the previous example into a much more grandiose thing:

There is quite a bit trash in here too, but that's to be expected.

Sunday 28 July 2019

Back to Cozzetti & Gemmill with Soft Flower In Spring from 1984

At this time (the great year of 1984) Steve Bartlett took over on drums from Fred Taylor.  On the previous album of course the presence of Fred didn't make a whole lot of difference anyways, but curiously his loss seems to have invigorated and improved the band.  It's as if removing the threat of brilliant composition allowed the others to get into a better groove. There's no understanding music sometimes.  Mostly this can be defined as normal 'modal' jazz or contemporary jazz in the quartet format, but occasionally there are interesting passages with different fusionary approaches.  I can't for the life of me understand why the track about the Blue Jay features a synthesizer expressing the bird's gestalt, but I've come to really enjoy this particular composition:

Friday 26 July 2019

The Armenian TVR Variety Orchestra in 1976

These guys, like so many others from this part of the world, are hiding out in discogs under the notorious cyrillic alphabet I find so annoying.  You can see that the English translation is not connected at all.  I suppose the communist habit of hiding from the authorities extended to their musicians in databases too.
Like others in these Eastern countries, they combined folk music with their fusion, sometimes or often not successfully.  In any case the main purpose here seems to have been to provide some light easy listening entertainment, so nothing too intellectually demanding could have been brought to bear.  Sadly.

Track one:

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Vram Grigorian's Aracelia: Fragments From A Jazz-Rock Opera from 1990

I hate to pursue two disappointments in a row, but in my past romantic life I have been in this situation many times before so at least I'm accustomed to it.  Perhaps you aren't, in which case I suggest you skip to the next post on July 29th and just enjoy the summer.

This composer is called Vram Grigorian and came to my attention in relation to the Armenian orchestra from just before.  Clearly what drew me in was the description of jazz-rock opera suggesting a more advanced thematic compositional direction.  But that's entirely misleading, what this is instead is a collection of latin pop songs (sung in Spanish, with typical tropical feel) and a slight Brazilian bossa nova edge (think e.g. Milton Nascimento, but not at all at the same level of songwriting quality).

First track, as sample:

Monday 22 July 2019

More Jazz Orchestra RTB from 1981 (Tiho Noci)

I posted their earlier two albums before this one, from 1978 and 1980.  Didn't know what to expect with the 1981 installment but was not too too surprised that it was disappointing and more definitively in the easy listening/schlager/trad. folk format.
As sample, the first song, which coincidentally also happens to be the title track:

Clearly there's not much incentive to pursue this orchestra any further, and a definite reward to avoiding any more contact in the future-- like that kind of ex-girlfriend you all know about...

Friday 19 July 2019

More from Juan Carlos Calderon with hisTaller de Musica Vols. 1-3 (1974-1976)

Obviously, I went looking for more from him after the knockout blow of last post's Solea album from 1978.  This series or trilogy which came out just before looked promising, albeit mutilated somewhat by the presence of a handful of cover songs e.g. Eleanor Rigby.

It turned out unfortunately to comprise easy listening instrumentals which occasionally rise above the playing-by-numbers quality.  On the first Taller, a track called Oh My Guitar is highly representative:

On the second I was surprised the track called California was as good as it was:

I mean, I love the golden state to death, I just don't expect much from easy listening songs that refer to it so directly.  And I guess thanks for not throwing in that mariachi sound in the end.

I think I'll stay away from the follow-up to Solea from 1979, called Disco.  There's even a track on it called "Latin Lover."  Were Antonio Banderas and Julio Iglesias around at that time?  I sure hope those horrible infectious diseases, today eradicated, came later.

We'll assume that Solea was a one-off masterpiece or perhaps, momentary lapse in judgement.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Juan Carlos Calderon in Solea (1978)

Born 1938 the artist began as a jazz pianist, at least I think he did, became the leader of an easy listening orchestra in the earlier half of the seventies then, similar to the case of Herb Pilhofer, and knocked a masterpiece called Solea out of the ballpark at the end of that decade-- at the ancient (musically) age of 50.

The album incorporates just about everything the human mind has musically imagined, with folk, classical orchestral, fusion, jazz, and sung (female) passages.  As I've said before, it's as if everything were merged into one gorgeous whole, all artistic genres happily cohabiting-- imagine having abstract expressionism, impressionism, and renaissance masters all in one painting.  That this can be done with music (not art) is just mindblowing.  Because of the power of its imaginative base it's similar to other fusion compositions like Arif's The Journey, Mahavishnu's Apocalypse record, etc., and definitely just as compelling with its vision.  The only drawback is the short length of the whole-- you can see that it's under 32 minutes.  And it seems like no Spanish album is complete without the requisite flamenco chord changes (e,g, E minor, F, G) but here the folky tropes are thankfully kept to a minimum.  So it seems there are two distinct drawbacks.  Maybe more, depending on your tastes.

The third track called Oration incorporates the strands of library music/OST (wordless female vocals), the easy listening arrangements he was clearly adept at (the horn sections), the excitement of fusion instrumentation in a very warm and tender melody that builds in intensity as it crescendos:

It seems a bit shocking to me that this hasn't yet been officially released to CD, perhaps Tom Hayes should look into that.  And the music is very accessible, I can even imagine my wife enjoying it, or at least pretending to, before continuing to delight me with all the intricate details of every single minute of her long work day I can't wait to hear about that invariably involve the manager who she detests and everyone else also hates..

Monday 15 July 2019

Craft Innspillinger fra 73-89

I know nothing about this beyond the images above, and there is clearly a paucity of information online partly due to the commonness of the band name.  It's unfortunate that it's such a short CD because all 5 of the tracks, which vary a lot in style covering as they do a period of 16 years, are phenomenal progressive rock of the classic variety, for example, Kaipa or my old and eternal favourite Atlas Bla Vardag with the hammond organ / electric guitar construction of the instrumentals.

Last track called Libre, clearly recorded in the eighties with its digital keys:

Friday 12 July 2019

Infra Steff's Red Devil Band 1979 and 1982

This is a Zappaesque band from Switzerland that came out with a manic album called (I ain't gonna work no more at the) Gas Station (cf. Zappa's Joe's Garage Act I, 1979), with absolutely wonderful artwork I might add, but very uneven music.  Think Dr. Dopo Jam, The Locals, etc., but with a great deal of that annoying simple fifties music that for some reason Frank loved and threw in or threw up in every album, plus the dumb fake voices that sound like the stupidest screwball sixties comedy 'screenwriting' outta Hollywood's La Brea Tarpits.  Oddly enough it was the follow up called Red Devil Band with the ridiculous boy on the cover which I just hate to look at (perhaps that's the idea), that was the superior work since the silliness was minimalized.  It's obvious there's someone in there who is able to compose great music because here and there, like on Dopojam, or later Zappa, there are symphonic or chamber passages that are quite intricately beautiful.

From the Gas Station album, Two Miles on a Brown plus reprise of the Gas Station Theme:

Note the use of vibraphone copied from Zappa's composed instrumentals.  But don't get excited, the above sample is totally not representative of the remainder, the majority of which is garbage.

From the second album, the Valley Moon TV Theme:

I have to wonder if that reference to valley moon is in homage to Frank's daughter (Moon Unit Zappa)'s megahit Valley Girls ("gag me with a spoon," "grody to the max") which came out around the same time.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Sami Hurmerinta's 1978 masterpiece

He was mentioned here before (among the Pop-Liisas).  Overall, you've got a mix of Jukka Tolonen, Tasavallan, all the slightly proggy electric guitar-based artists of 70s Finland.  Most of the songs have vocals, and the end result is usually soulful rock.  The information in database is here.

The instrumental Summer '72 recalls the gorgeous rock music previously posted by Frank Robson:

That delicate piano plus acoustic guitar opening interplay just gives me chills each time: the way the artists speak to each other so directly, so openly, and with so much feeling-- it's something you don't really hear anymore in music today, for obvious reasons.  And notice the dissonance (on piano) which is so casually thrown in at the end of the intro.  What a great composition.

As usual, I really love the atonal dissonance and modern classical imagination that went into the instrumental track Over the Horizon:

Monday 8 July 2019

Masanori Sasaji in Hot Taste Jam (1980) and Hell-tor Skeltor (1981)

This is a wonderful and unknown composer, listed here, who started off with two brilliant fusion albums incorporating classical composition and then went on to make soundtrack music which was more banal.  I'll hit you right off the bat with my favourite track, called Love Survival, from the first LP,  Hot Taste Jam:

With the classical soprano singer, this is like the composed prog/fusion of Francois Breant or of course certain albums by Fukumachi, or Yanagida, etc.  From the first strange chord on, I just love the sheer oddness of the melody and the way the chords change unexpectedly underneath it like huge surprise waves.  It's obvious he mastered fully the progressive style and was trained in composition presumably through university.  If you look at the remainder of the song titles (Spankin' Stuff, the title track itself), however, it's also obvious we have to endure a lot of lighter, commercial-aiming fusion too.  Same on the second record, a lot of simplistic stuff.  I thought there's no way that a cover version of Helter Skelter could be in here, but I was dead wrong.  I'm sorry, but it's gotta be one of the worst Beatles interpretations I've ever heard.

On the other hand Sasaji the composer went all-out on the second side of the second record, with a progressive opus that just knocks me right out of there.  In some ways it reminds me of a very mature, creative Patrick Moraz with the keyboards dominance, like a fusion piano concerto.  It ends with a track called Abandoned that nicely complements the Love Survival from the first LP:

In some places it's also like Chick Corea's magnum opus (to me) about the Leprechaun.  But in a way, it's packed with more ideas in it.  And the lovely sung passage really takes it over the top in masterpiece status.

Friday 5 July 2019

Dado - Atras da Luz (Brazil 1984)

Oh boy, look at that cover drawing.  Just look at it.  I've said it before, dreams of space, the romance of interstellar travel. the 'magnificent desolation' (Buzz Aldrin), the fantasy of visiting other stars and galaxies, those big beautiful starships, the promises of my childhood...  Next week it's the 50th anniversary of the moon landing-- can you imagine?  Meaning everywhere in the news you will hear the same comment, what happened to the promise of space travel we grew up on?  Today, older and wiser, I think we have to repeat, and repeat it until everyone understands: let's clean up the earth first before we destroy other planets (or moons).

Anyways, back to the cover-- this one has gotta be promising, right?
Like I've said so many times before too.

A totally unknown album (I hope, for the readers of the blog) that was made in the early 80s but is totally derivative of the classic rock sound of the 70s, with the usual bass plus drums underlying electric keyboards and beautiful-sounding electric guitars: rhythm and lead.  No digital drum machine, nothing else to distract.  Nothing to indicate we find ourselves in such a late year either.  Heavenly, and also with an edge of melancholia, like Pete and Royce.  (I've posted two albums that have been compared to those Greek masters before: Schenderling and Brustna, this is the third.) 

The basic info is here.  Definitely this must have been a one-off, there's no way that in the Duranduranozoic age such a band could have been given a second shot.   But thank you so much for the first shot-- and thank you, collectors of vinyl everywhere, who hunt these treasures out from the nowhere bins, the flea markets, the garage sales, the collections of dead relatives, wherever they may be found, and bring them to greater attention.

On track 8, called Romance, check out that deep 'n' reverbing bass A intro that leads to the aforementioned classic rock sound:

Despite the simplicity of the chord changes-- I think it's A minor, E minor, D minor, F, then F minor, repeat, which later resolves in the chorus to a C-section (haha), the song's emotion and passionately sung, dramatic melody really make this unforgettable.  Truly a live and healthy birth.

The remainder of the music is comparable, both emotionally and stylistically.  A joy entirely.
And a time capsule from a lost age.  The same lost age that included space travel in it, forever fated now to remain in our past...

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Zerosen's Asphalt (1976) and Sunrise (1977)

This band, highly adept at library-style light fusion, similar perhaps to Golden Section (though not as good) or Tranzam, made three albums apparently in this period: it's hard to know if the database is complete.  There are some tracks with female vocals (this person), in fact on Asphalt the singer sounds a lot like the Fukamachi-related Martha Miyake in hoarseness especially.  Distantly, maybe to the wonderful and powerful yet nameless Crystal Ship singer.

Anyways, the last track of Asphalt, with its opening resembling the phenomenal Encounter with UFO:

Moving forward from the opening one must admit there is less to hang on to than one would have hoped, really.  One is also surprised to be archaically referred to as 'one'.  Note the professionalism though of the musicians, and the overall library album sound.

I haven't heard the second album, apparently quite rare anyways, but their third Sunrise is definitely superior to the first.  The track called Work Out must be an early indication of exactly when the leggings and headbands 'aerobics craze' fell upon the Western world like a stinking sweaty towel:

Ah, the memory of watching young women in tight leotards and 'big hair' doing aerobics on tv...
Note the intro which my wife so astutely pointed out seems copied from George Benson with his trademark guitar frills in third intervals.  For once I had to admit she was right.  Unlike the Asphalt track, there is a little more to be excited about here overall when the song finally takes its clothes off with the disco rhythm.

In terms of the vocal tracks, the jazzy tune Why he never knows is the one that reminded me of Fukamachi cum (that's a latin word) Miyake: