Saturday 29 February 2020

David Crosby the Poet: Leap Year Post

I've known David Crosby all my life; one of the first sixties anthems I fell in love with as a child was Wooden Ships.  Later, in university days, a song called Bittersweet blew me away when I first heard it, for its immense beauty with the outstretched harmony vocals occupying literally octaves, and the mystery of the lyrics capped off by the line 'why does it always have to be so bittersweet?'  And whenever something positive happened to me in my life I found myself repeating that line, because just as every cloud has a silver lining, every vein of silver is clouded by impurity.

A few years ago I decided to revisit all of his music in case there was some I was missing and it absolutely blew my mind when I looked at the totality of his songwriting, spread throughout a bunch of different duos, trios, and the famed early quartet CSNY.  All of his best music (I mean his own songs) would probably fill up a double-LP, but so far as I know, there's no such compilation available.  And yes, there were a lot of songs I had never heard before.

Of the four artists he worked with, we have to set aside Neil Young who I think you might agree is in a class of his own (well I sure hope you agree), but thereafter David is the most amazing of the rest.  Of his life, the only thing I knew was that he had a liver transplant in the 90s, presumably either from alcohol abuse (leading to cirrhosis) or iv drug abuse (leading to chronic Hepatitis C) or most likely both.  When I used the fabulous resource we love so much wikipedia I was then shocked at the contrast between the philosophy of his lyrics and the reality of his life, which was somewhat sordid and horrible.   Should I have been shocked?  That's the question I am putting here on this page.  Of course, I shouldn't have been-- we all know artists who lived despicable lives but created beautiful art.  I'm going to throw in Michael Jackson into that category btw, knowing though that many out there still give him the benefit of a doubt.  The higher the genius it seems the crazier the living.  And it does make sense in a way, for two reasons, since the origin of creativity comes from emotion, and the stronger the better in that sphere, and because mental illness has always been closely matched by creativity, presumably one of the evolutionary reasons that the 'genes' for such disorders as schizophrenia are perpetuated in our species.  And for those of us who love art, I think we can agree maybe mental illness is OK as the price we have to pay for beautiful art-- as long as it's not ours to suffer.

Going back to the song Bittersweet I can't make out what he is saying, or what is the background story.  In that respect I think it can stand valid as a poem, due to its haunting mystery.  I'll use youtube links for these song samples, but of course frequently for DMCA reasons links get pulled there.  All the early songs are full of those mysterious lyrics, another genuine poem being Page 43 (presumably written after reading some kind of buddhist book):

Look around again
It's the same old circle
You see, it's got to be
It says right here on page 43
That you should grab a hold of it
Else you'll find it's passed you by

Rainbows all around
Can you find the silver and gold?
It'll make you old
The river can be hot or cold
And you should dive right into it
Else you'll find it's passed you by

Pass it 'round one more time
I think I'll have a swallow of wine
Life is fine
Even with the ups and downs
And you should have a sip of it
Else you'll find it's passed you by

On another song called Whole Cloth after a questioning and inquisitive, melancholy intro, suddenly he declares he's been lying

On what do you base your life, my friend?
Can you see around the bend?  
Can you see?
On what star do you take your sight
On a cold and blowy night; 
Alone, alone?
Old man can you make a mirror for me?
It's got to be clearer than air for me
'Cause you see I can't see me, no
And I always thought that I meant what I said
But you know that lately I've read
We were lying, All of us lying
Just making it up, yeah
Cutting it out of whole cloth

To what is he referring?  It could be many things, but I always thought it referred to the innocent naivete of the sixties, the kind he promulgated in the unforgettable song Wooden Ships:

When you smile at me, I will understand, 'cause that is something 
everyone everywhere does in the same old language...

Some of my favourite lines of lyrics in all of rock.

David Crosby loved to sail and spent hours, days, years on his ship called the Mayan, sailing all over the Atlantic apparently.  This experience was immortalized in the gorgeous and descriptive song called the Lee Shore returning to the Wooden Ships theme of sailing away to freedom and describes the romantic allure of sailing on an empty sea and exploring deserted islands:

From here to Venezuela, 
there's nothing more to see
than a hundred thousand islands
flung like jewels upon the sea, 
for you and me

Sunset smells of dinner, 
women are calling at me to end my tale
But perhaps I'll see you
The next quiet place I furl my sails

Later he seems to have acquired a measure of equanimity, with a gorgeous early 80s song called Delta describing achieving that peace of mind whereof the singers sing:

I love the child who steers this riverboat
But lately he's crazy for the deep
And the river seems dreamlike in the daytime
And someone keeps thinking in my sleep
Of fast running rivers of choice and chance
And time stops here on the delta
While they dance, while they dance

And of course I won't get into the beauty of the backup vocals, which, many have pointed out, are so transcendentally gorgeous, perhaps because of the addition of 7th or 9th intervals or other relatively non-generic triadic added notes.  Suffice it to say he had a gift for really interesting backup vocal intervals.  So get this.  In 1982 he spent nine months in jail on drugs and weapons charges in Texas.  I believe the story is he brought a shotgun and aggressively threatened someone in a drug-related incident.  The album from which Delta is taken was released that same year.  How do we coordinate or reconcile these two, the song full of gentle depth, and sitting in the pen?  In some ways, it's so unfathomable.

He had a liver transplant paid for by Phil Collins in 1994, I recall how odd that was at the time, I mean, you're not producing an album here, you're investing in a human organ.  And it was definitely a joke on late-night comedy for a long time.

From the 1979 CSN album (the one with the mega-hit about airports and flying, Just a Song Before I Go, written by Nash) still one of my all-time favourite songs, I didn't find out until last year it was Crosby again, has always been the gentle and amazing Anything At All.  I heard this album in university days and right away fell in love with this track.  Back then I thought it was a (very gentle) parody of some know it all that he met.  In reality I'm pretty sure he's referring to his own personality, this realization of course coming to me after reading extensively his bios and his own words.  The clincher is that after repeating:

Is there anything at all you'd like to know?
Just ask me, I'm the world's most opinionated man

At the end, the supremely evocative and philosophical last line is truncated to:

Is there anything at all?

To this day, that last stanza gives me the chills when I listen to it, not a little bit thanks to the ethereally breathless backup vocals:

Is there anything, you want to know?  
On any subject at all?
I've got time for one more question here, 

before I fall--
Is there anything at all?

I mean, those lines are pretty incredible aren't they?  Yet I remember reading that none of his collaborators want to work with him again due to his 'difficult' personality.  By this I assume they mean arrogant, self-absorbed, and aggressive.  He managed to alienate all of them, which is why a reunion of CSNY is not possible.  Although I suppose one could also blame this on Neil Young, the maverick canuck loner genius.  (Like Joni Mitchell his gifted female songwriting counterpart I think Neil is sui generis, in a category by himself.)

So despite the jail, the guns, the drugs, the hep c, the transplant, the fact no former band member wants to go back on stage with you, not even the kind brit Graham Nash: I love you, David Crosby.

Thursday 27 February 2020

Michel Gonet / Cecil Wary, 13 albums (non-Tele Music)

I love that picture of the girl on the bicycle because it takes me straight back to my childhood, and all those pretty blondes I had crushes on back then in summers we spent every day on our bikes in the neighbourhood.

For this series I omitted the stuff he made for Tele Music, of which there is a lot, to focus on the remainder either as Michel Gonet (discography here) or his alias Cecil Wary (discography here).  It might be you are already familiar with him, especially since he made two remarkable progressive masterpieces, under the Wary moniker: Pop Incidence in 1979 and as himself Gonet: Futura in 1980.  Actually none of the other albums come close to those 2, so maybe you will be disappointed, always an existential risk with these libraries that are so often purely generic (which is what they were meant to be in fact).  So I'm going to ignore the not-so-good albums, of which there's tons here.   I'm also going to skip over Pop Incidence and Futura on the assumption everyone has heard those already (though I included them below in the packages).  I think they were posted on the old mutant sounds blog, or maybe in pnf days.  If they weren't they should've been, and those old blogs sure screwed up bad.  May they rest in peace.

The Flower Song has the most meticulously entrancing chords I've heard in a long long time, with the echoey flute and violins pulling the electric keyboard in different directions with their interlocutions:

There are a few similarly beautiful songs in there.  Note that based on the MON 37 Cat # the year of this release is 1976.  A magical year for inventive composition.  Note too the album is a collaboration with Alan Feanch who also wrote tons of beautiful (library) music, usually more in the orchestral / easy listening genre.

Otherwise, perhaps the best music is what went into the Flash Resonance series, from which I've posted tons of stuff in the past (see here or here): Times Incidence, Flash Resonance Incidence, Flash Resonance Wild Flower (my favourite personally), Flash Resonance Flash Themes, the one with the pretty girl sitting on her bike that reminds me of my childhood spent exploring the neighbourhood girls with my friends...  From there, the track called Ginievre:

That sound is very typical of the Flash Resonance sound we all know so well and love so much.
Lots of music to slog through, but some really memorable tracks altogether when whittled down to the sharpest few.  Btw I subsequently noticed The Stress (1973) is the same as Contrasts (1985) with titles rewritten.  The same result obtains with Gruppo Sound Dossier with the same music as World Faces.  So to be honest there are only a dozen albums in the package below.  Go sue me.  I doubt you would even have noticed had I not told you.

If there's any interest I can post the tele music ones he made of which I think there are 7, but they were more disappointing to me.  Anyways, more to come, unbelievably, from Michel (so far digitally missing).

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Michael Danna and Tim Clement, Canada 1977 (no download)

Although this duo released a few albums, I believe this is the only bone fide progressive work, and it's really a beauty, recalling Genesis and all the other greats of symphonic progressive like the softer, gentler Italian albums (e.g. Paese dei Balocchi), or, at times, the gorgeous French artists Didier Bonin who so skilfully combined electric guitar plus electronics in a very moody atmospheric whole.  There is a little mellotron here and there, which is always, always a one-way ticket to heaven.  Sometimes a female vocalist sings on top of gentle acoustic guitar plus chamber instruments (faked on keyboard I think), reminding me of the beautiful German album Hoelderlin's Traum or you could even say parts of the Comus LP (I mean the first masterpiece one obviously).

People Left Behind:

You can also listen to all the song samples on apple, here which is what I did.

No download, out of respect for the artists.
Note that you can purchase it digitally from the apple store, or, like me, buy the physical CD from the production company, which is presumably the artists themselves:

Monday 24 February 2020

Mirth's First Borne, Canada 1977

Some really beautiful art there...........

This band from Canada made only one album, obviously.

A totally forgotten rarity.  Track 8 which is called Wanger (and appears to be a dog):

Friday 21 February 2020

Van Manakas' Croma


Guitarist Van Manakas studied with Pat Metheny at the Berklee College of Music, earning a B.A. in composition. He made his recording debut as a sideman with Jack Tottle on the album "Backroad Mandolin". At 21, he was hired by Gil Evans, with whom he toured the U.S. and Europe. His first solo album, "Physical", was released in 1980.

This album of all-instrumental guitar fusion seems lost and forgotten, sadly.  Synesthesia has some wonderful Terry Riley-like minimalist patterns played of course on guitar:

I guess he subsequently like so many other great virtuoso guitarists went into the new age direction, as evidenced by his discography.

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Swedish Text And Music 2 from 1976 and 1977

This Swedish group made 2 progressive albums back in the day, mixing the usual Scandinavian style of folk and Beatles-derived pop rock and music hall numbers with political rock, occasional jazz-rock, horn-rock, and indeed, as it might sound, they were all over the place.  Nonetheless both albums are full, well, half-full of half-empty depending on your optimism meter, of good songs.  And it might be that like me if you follow the news closely, that optimism meter is taking quite the beating by the global weather outside which has added another item to the problem list of our species with the novel coronavirus covid-19.  A similar album, which is also highly recommended, would be the Roda Lacket one-off from 1974.

For ex. a more electric fusionary number:

And a pop rock in the McCartney vein, the title track of Jaguaren:

Then oddly enough the second album proved inferior to their first, with more standard simplicity like ethnic numbers, a reggae song, and a cover version of the godawful "song" Feuilles-oh.  I could shoot whoever wrote that thing.

Monday 17 February 2020

Back with the rare & missing Francois Jeanneau Pandemonium (1988) but limited time only

The music here is all written by the great Jeanneau, the label at the bottom will take you, hopefully, to the other albums on this blog from him.  The keyboardist is Francois Couturier, who has also appeared before in connection with the Prao album posted long ago.  He collaborated a lot with bass player Jean-Paul Celea as you can see from their mostly joint discography.  On the other hand or rather on the other legs the violinist is Dominique Pifarely, who also appeared on Prao, and I posted two from his Levallet Marais Pifarely combo a long time ago (Instants Chavires and Eowyn).  And the occasional female vocals are provided by someone who should be familiar too, Timna Brauer.  Does everyone still remember her wonderful, long-extinct and abandoned album that I (and probably only I) posted here?  Anyways, a long enough artist introduction.  The point is we all know and love Jeanneau and his very intellectual progressive jazz compositions by now.

The music is big band for the most part with hints of fusion, very similar to the Orchestre Nationale stuff I posted, less similar to the earlier Pandemonium from the early eighties, not much like his masterpieces Curieuse Planete and Ephemere.

Note that the famous and brilliant 1940 Tango (it has its own wiki page, not surprisingly) by my favourite Stravinsky is given Timna's wordless vocals on top:

I just love how Strav used the tango rhythm with totally f***ed up harmonies as if to permanently mess with those latin heads and dancers: "what the heck kind of tango is this??"  As others have pointed out before, this is the musical analogy to Picasso's cubist deconstructions.

The last track uses a nifty fusion riff to open up the chart but devolves into a standard Ellington-like jazz scale in C (like Sir Duke, by Stevie), but then moves into post bop territory, the kind of birth of the cool stuff that Miles and Gil Evans did back in the late fifties.  Everything old is new again:

Note that the long track called 09-27 is really good too, it's side-long in length.  Look out for that one.
Overall, a surprisingly strong set of compositions for such a late year, 1988.  But we know the French continued to make great progressive music well into the 80s. Mais chouette, quelle baguette!!

Saturday 15 February 2020

Electric Chamber Orchestra (1988) and Ayers Rock from Australia

I was led to seek out this album, a one-off by this band with the perfect for this blog artist name. on the strength of the composition Angel in Disguise by reed player, composer and arranger Col Loughlan, which appeared on the masterpiece second Ayers Rock album (i.e. 1976's Beyond), hopefully, everyone reading this is totally familiar with them.

As is usual with these records, the heart-breaking back blurb advertises the wonderful new world of melded, progressive music combining the best of European classical, American jazz, and rock-- what a rude surprise the future sometimes turns out to be, especially for those dinosaurs like T. Rex when they were bonked on the head by an asteroid 66 millions years ago:

Nowadays the once-rigid boundaries between the musical styles of classical, jazz, and rock have become as fused as the music itself, the different disciplines now appeal well beyond their traditional territories, leaving the way open for the Electric C. O. to offer something new, appealing and different to music lovers of all tastes. Please enjoy this collection of morning impressions.

Unfortunately, the music is more fused together light fuzak and even lighter Vivaldi.  As unappealing as that sounds, there are some nice moments here and there.  The oddly titled track called Bul-bul actually proved to have some inventive chord changes but wound up too short:

Wednesday 12 February 2020

White Orange, from Sweden, 1980

This band from Sweden made only one all-instrumental album, with the typical fusion sound of the period, as exemplified by the first track, called Eat Your Heart Out:

You can see from the information that it's essentially an octet, with 4 brass players (sax, trombones, trumpet).  So it's a little bit more in the 'Noctett' direction of jazz versus the more guitar-oriented fusion of fellow Scandinavs Kornet.  Some good charts, some good compositions, and not well known at all: well worth hearing.

Monday 10 February 2020

Denmark's Drops, 1976

A one-off fusion group from Denmark this time, information here.  Centrality of the flute as for so much Euro-fusion.  First track, with the very Hopperian title (as in Hugh) Minitransport, gives you a taste of these presumably alcoholic drops:

This track written by keyboardist Henrik Langkilde, who was in the famous proto-prog group called Thors Hammer.  On the other hand the flautist, Jesper Nehammer, appeared on the first Heavy Joker LP, a well-known fusion album you all should have already, 'with Max Leth Junior'.  Their follow up Caesars Palace, equally magnificent.  Both of these bear quite a bit of resemblance to the earlier Drops work, which is perhaps a little bit more sedate, approachable, and dare I say muzacky.

Anyways, that's Drops, part of the endless line-up of great Euro-fusion of the seventies.

Saturday 8 February 2020

Fred Israel's Fashions of the Moon, 1977

Information here, seemingly a one-off from this artist.

Three long tracks of just blissfully bizarre progressive rock in the best tradition of dissonances, weird sounds and chords, oddball melodies, and of course Tolkien references.  Perhaps the most similar album is from Holland, the great Koen de Bruyne's Here Comes the Crazy Man, which was recently released on 2 CDs with some amazing bonus piano compositions.  Strong recommendation for that one too.

So we're dealing with crazy indeed, the craziness of young and super-creative musicians filled with ideas and new chords, new sounds, new dramas to fill our ears with, things we've for sure never heard before.  Consider the track called Gandalf's Return:

Three long tracks, all crazy prog.  Masterpiece. Again.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Csaba Deseo's Blue String (1984)

This guy made two pretty good fusion albums back in the day (by that of course I mean the seventies) that are well known and then this lesser known Orwellian album, which turned out to be not so bad, albeit marred by the inclusion of some of those ludicrous jazz standards.  Briefly, as per the ever-succinct discogs:

Hungarian jazz musician.  Born 15 February, 1939 in Budapest, Hungary.  Plays violin, viola, whistle & saxophone.  Founder of the band Deseő Csaba Jazz Quintet.

There they list the first two as the Four-String Tschaba from 1975 and then this album from 1984.  With the aforementioned Jazz Quintet he made Ultraviola in 1977, mostly interesting for the quarter hour Suite that finishes it up. The subsequent album with the title Nuages I have no desire to hear, having learned from bitter experience that any LP which includes an interpretation of that particular Reinhardt composition, not to mention is named after it, is inevitably terrible.  It was thought at one time, by the best jazz critics, that a cover version of this song could reliably indicate awfulness as a symptom much the way a pus-filled cluster of lymph nodes (called a bubo) was a hallmark, pathognomic in medical terms, of the bubonic plague.  In those early days of science, of course, the jazz critics could not ascertain for sure what was the reason for this odd finding--was it the simplicity of the song, its ancient origins, the fact it was French with gypsy influences, or its being associated with the second world war and all its horrific suffering, but anyways this association has been elevated today into a universal theorem much like the cell theory, or evolution, or facebook.  As a conjecture it does remain unproved, much like the Goldbach conjecture, but it is believed to be true by a large majority of experts.  Moving on now, first of all the remarkable track, For Children, from the 1975 opus:

We are reminded of so much of the best of Euro-fusion-- especially Didier Lockwood, or his enemy and Deseo's World War II ally Seifert, etc.

Then, Carole from the 1984:

What a difference a decade makes.  But it's not that bad, overall.

Monday 3 February 2020

Michel Madore's Le Komuso a Cordes from 1976

From discogs:

This is truly an obscure and lost gem of space fusion, of the Gong, Clearlight and Carpe Diem variety. While those other acts were French (well, Gong was partially French, but still), Michel Madore came from Quebec, so you can say this is the French-Canadian take on that brand of space rock. He only released two albums, Le Komuso à Cordes being his debut. None of his two albums have ever been reissued on any format, so that means you have to search out the original LPs. What you get here is lots of jazzy drumming, spacy synthesizers, sax, acoustic guitar, and even the occasional use of ocarina and cimbalom (Hungarian dulcimer, John Leach used one as heard on the Alan Parsons Project's Tales of Mystery & Imagination and I Robot). This would have been right at home on Musea Records. Unlike Gong, Madore don't take to quirky humor, so no Pot Head Pixies here, of course, so this music is on the more serious side like Clearlight and Carpe Diem. Plus it's all instrumental. I noticed there doesn't seem to be a lot in the way of this kind of space rock in Canada in general, so it's nice to see Michel Madore do such music. I really have a difficult time describing each song, they all have that similar approach, although I find it amusing that "L'Avant-Dernière" bears more than a passing resemblance to Dave Mason's "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave". Those acoustic guitar passages bear an uncanny resemblance. Big difference here is this is all instrumental and prog all the way (Dave Mason's song is folk rock that reminds me of The Band - probably the reason he left Traffic, a song like that would have been out of the question on a Traffic album, even though a live version of that song with him and Traffic did appear in 1971 on Welcome to the Canteen). I wouldn't doubt Michel Madore heard the Dave Mason song in particular, it has received some radio airplay back in the day. I am also partial to the atmospheric "Ballad", which emphasizes acoustic guitar and string synths, with ocarina giving it an almost ethnic feel to. Also "Stanley", especially some of those amazing spacy synths to die for. I really love that 1970s vibe this album gives off.

The back cover depicts Michel Madore with the most seriously wild hair ever, who puts Giorgio Tsoukalos (of the TV series Ancient Aliens and In Search of Aliens) completely to shame. I have no idea if that was an artist way over-exaggerating his hair or that was his hair, but the back cover of the Canadian version of his second album La Chambre Nuptiale shows a regular photo of him, and his hair is still quite wild (still puts Giorgio Tsoukalos to shame), but nothing like on the back cover of Le Komuso à Cordes.

After a second album in 1978 (which was released on Kebec-Disc in Canada and in 1979 on EGG in France), Madore apparently moved to Paris and involved himself in artwork and sculpturing. Probably just as well, given the 1980s were not so friendly to this kind of music.

I am utterly amazed at the amount of obscurities I run across, stuff still lurking in the dark, only available as hard to find LPs with no sign of a reissue in sight, and it just blew me away! If you like the brand of space rock mentioned, this album is a must. but approach the next album, La Chambre Nuptiale with caution, as it's a much less accessible progressive electronic album (with no outside help, all instruments played by Michel Madore here) with an ominous vibe going through it, and the music goes at a more Klaus Schulze-type of pace (lots of droning string synths). I still enjoy that one, but it's approach is definitely not for everyone.

I am always stunned by the opening track with its odd polytonal chords, its bizarre progression for chord to chord via electronic intensity and chamber instrumentation (fake oboe?), the synthesizers singing to each other in all kinds of different timbres, plus imaginative composition, the way it so beautifully builds up over the course of only 7 minutes to a tear-filled dramatic ending on, of course, a dissonance:

An absolutely unique masterpiece, just incredible.  As mentioned above, some reminiscences of Gong or perhaps the first Picchio Dal Pozzo (minus the silly vocalizing), but very tight from beginning to end with just great composition and fusion, as they say: all killer no filler, for real, dis da OG.

The second album, called the nuptial chamber, reverted to standard-issue German Tangerine Dream-like lazy sleepy electronica with the ten-minute long chords and is totally forgettable for that reason.

I would also draw your attention, so to speak, to the beautiful cover and back cover art up above (minus that awful photo).  Finally, the word Komuso refers to a sect of buddhist monks who had baskets on their heads.