Saturday 30 May 2020

By Request, Sahara feat. Martin Winch from New Zealand, 1984

Again all my apologies for the delay in new posts due to being busy.  I count myself lucky for not having suffered too much financially during the lockdown period, though there are some who did much better than me, e.g., funeral directors.

This was requested long ago and in fact bought long ago as well, I just didn't have the time to sit and record it, as compensation I'll post the traditional lossless 'limited time only' (specifically 1 week).
Note that this very talented jazz guitarist called Martin Winch has appeared in the very well-known (?) New Zealand progressive fusion one-off masterpiece / group Dr. Tree which I thought I posted before but didn't, perhaps in pnf days, at any rate I'll add it at the bottom along with more from Martin.  For the most part you can see in the discography that he played straight up jazz.  From his playing and composition here on this record it's clear he had a very deep classical education which presumably served him well in both Dr. Tree and Sahara, less so in the 1860 Band (1978).  For example the track called Scorpion features a renaissance-era fugue pattern created an oddly comical effect.  For that title I would've thought an insane amalgam of atonal and high-energy guitar along the lines of Alpha Omega would've suited the zoological subject better.

Anyways, on this LP from 1984 he composes, arranges, plays, etc.  It's a bit late in the fusion game but still plays really nicely all the way to the end.  Although there is quite a bit of the inevitable compromise with musical tastes of the day, witness the Boogie Blues and the very light fuzak styles that appear here and there throughout on some tracks.  On the other hand on the amazing Boatsheds, note how the minor second dissonance in the guitar riff (I often refer to it as the "Asia Minor" arpeggiated riff, though I think Mahavishnu John McLaughlin first used it in fusion) is given a more spooky atmosphere with the use of augmented fifths in the chord background:

I think some might not like the addition of full instrumentation (orchestra, strings, horn section) but I like it a lot as it adds colour to the instrumentals notably evoking the effect of an electric guitar concerto in places.  Some could call it muzak, on the other hand. 
Poking around for more to find in his discography, note that he seems to have relapsed into straight jazz following this excursion.

I added a lossless for the great Dr. Tree record too.  The three albums from Martin on this post are Dr. Tree, 1860 Band, and Sahara.

Thanks again for the recommendation, whoever that was!
Today we'll all enjoy the suggestion.
Tomorrow another one (hopefully).

Tuesday 26 May 2020

By Request, Jasper Van't Hof + Eyeball in Jazzbühne Berlin '80

We all know and love these guys.  This was requested a long time ago and it finally turned up recently--well, not so recently if you take covid-19 into account.  Luckily the sound is very good and it barely sounds live at all, a plus for myself.  All info can be found here--notice Didier Lockwood is on violin, quite recognizably so I would say.  Bob Malach on saxes, plus Aldo Romano and Bo Stief.

The track called Sorabble, with its puzzling title but pleasing sound:

Sunday 24 May 2020

Back to Karen Jones with an album I promised to get: People I Promised to Mention

Apologies for the delay in new posts, but I surprisingly had to work a little harder the last few weeks. I count myself lucky in that respect when I hear of all the people out there suffering from unemployment and job losses and my heart goes out to them, especially those who have the added stress of having to support a full family.  I'm going to finally get to that backlog of requested new vinyl rips that I mentioned earlier were held up in the corona-post, and there are quite a few of them.

Here's an album I was really excited to see when it arrived, having enjoyed the other Karen Jones one so much, which was recommended to us by a commenter long ago.  It was sweet and maybe not the best folk offering / discovery on these pages (cf. Paula Moore, Karen Lafferty) but really sincere and professionally well played and sung.  This one is from 1971 and came before the other one, which was simply called Karen.

It's a little bit more basic in the folk direction, less produced, lacking any orchestral colour and arrangement, just as you'd expect from the early year, showing an influence from Canadian megastar Gordon Lightfoot (and she does a cover of his rather underwhelming Minstrel of the Dawn).  Everything is played and sung very professionally and perfectly.  There are a couple other cover songs including the excruciating for me Mr. Bojangles and the pricelessly stupid: "His dog up and died, his dog up and died".

A few cute notes on the back again:

Some thoughts about me from a special friend.... Sharon

We often walk together
Arm on shoulder-- the most
happy sort of strolling I have
ever experienced.  A closeness
not found in everyday chatter
and not desired from persons just met.

Karen's music is soft and warm.
Her songs are delicate and have
the simplicity of children's nursery rhymes.
Yet my friend is not a child.
Beneath the coverlet of simple phrases
lies a whispering maturity. 

Heartbreaking in its simple sixties-recalling naivete and sweetness.  It's almost like human beings were different back then, an altogether different species.  Imagine, there was no pressure on her to post millions of pictures of herself in a thong bikini in a full length mirror, in an exotic locale, with tons of makeup on and fake boobs.  Incredible.  It's interesting to think of the age-date of names, I recall having a crush on a girl called Sharon when I was a child, of course, today if you met anyone by that name you'd know she's middle-aged plus, like the Jennifers and Karens of the past.  In the same way today a young boy will remember with fondness his crushes called Madeline, Emma, Olivia, etc.

The album is much too short though.  Of course in the old days even the Beatles had short LPs.
The lovely song called Eyes Full of Sorrow reminds me a lot of early, the earliest Joni Mitchell, another Canadian megastar (who I dearly love actually, and have mentioned before on this blog numerous times) with the high vocals and the use of high capo on the guitar:

Thursday 21 May 2020

Giraffe, 2 albums by request

Giraffe's Band was led by Kevin Gilbert, who, as per discogs:

Kevin Gilbert was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. Born November 20, 1966 in Sacramento, California, USA. Died of asphyxiation on May 18, 1996 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

The music is pretty basic 80s pop with slight prog, maybe neoprog touches here and there.
A good example is the track called Progress, from the second:

Wednesday 20 May 2020

The Lonely Bears 3 from 1991 to 1994 [limited time only]

This band features Tony Hymas and was mentioned by a commenter as recommended, again despite the late year.  As per the discogs page, which provides quite a full description:

A very celebrated jazz-rock combo back in the early 90s, THE LONELY BEARS brought new airs of power and color to the genre. It was actually a super-group of renowned veterans - Terry BOZZIO on drums/percussion, Tony HYMAS on keyboards, Tony COE on saxes/clarinet and Hugh BURNS on guitars. The band's inception took place after the completion of JEFF BECK's "Guitar Shop" (recorded in 1989, eventually awarded with a 1990's Grammy for Best instrumental Rock Performance), where HYMAS and BOZZIO had served as support musicians. The two teamed up in early 1990 to create some music of their own. Soon after, they recruited their two fellow musicians, and so the ball got rolling. The result from this fruition of creative minds and accomplished performers turned into an eclectic approach to jazz-rock, combining fusion, ethnic, world beat and progressive undertones, with a high degree of improvisational expansions and a strong sense of originality.
The band released three albums, the namesake debut plus "Injustice" and "The Bears Are Running": the former is based on the first few sessions, while the latter two combine recordings from various sessions in different years. All three albums have been re-released between 1999 and 2000: there is also a "Best of", not too bad for a band that didn't become a real celebrity but was really celebrated.

I was disappointed with the Guitar Shop album, but others weren't I guess.  Personally I find that the music here although clearly demonstrating continuity with the just posted Fortress and long ago Paragonne which only came a couple of years prior, lacks the punch of Hymas' solo material.  Of course when all is said and done, it's a surprise that in the  years of alternative, Nirvana, and the dying days of hair metal and the beginnings of that godawful club style of music, this kind of intellectual chamber jazz would even exist in any shape or form.  Unfortunately after the first with a handful of enjoyable musical ideas, the good ideas seem to trail off in the other 2.  There is quite a bit of the ethnic component as well which we saw in for example Danish Bazaar, and which drives me a little nuts myself having seen enough of it in old Sean Connery James Bond movies in which some minor villain or another gets killed while everyone standing around remains completely oblivious due to the migrainous percussion or belly-dancing or whatever.

The track called Canterbury:

I was disappointed that the angular composition called Alarums wasn't developed more fully before  transitioning into the fully improvised and thus chaotic composition that follows.

Monday 18 May 2020

Back with more Tony Hymas in the remarkable Flying Fortress from 1988

Scanning his discography you can see we've posted his Insight, his Wessex Tales, and the remarkable and brilliant late 80s Aspects of Paragonne.  It was totally unexpected to think another late 80s album would be just as good, despite the quality of the last named, but I am always ready to be surprised.
It's like the case with Albert Allen Owen, where the 80s library albums were so weakly generic and as a commenter pointed out, perhaps the artist himself, "musicians have to pay the bills too" and it's for certain you're not going to get rich (or even stay away from starvation) with intellectual high-brow recondite brilliantly advanced composition, from which the average person recoils in disgust before turning on their youstupidtube for more Beyonce or whoever video to 'binge-watch' until their white matter turns into overcooked quinoa.  While I'm on the subject, it's always been a mystery to me why certain people, a small minority, love so deeply this style of advanced and unusual composition, many are probably musicians who find simple music irritating, but the others I wonder why.

Anyways, the album is called Flying Fortress, and here's a remarkable composition that will appeal to exactly that subset of quality music lovers, called The Great Wheel, I mean, it's tracks like this one that make me do all this endless searching that drives my wife so crazy (it's OK, it's a short drive):

If you look at the credits you'll see there are two parts to this oeuvre, and the second side, the spoken side, is markedly more disappointing.  Doesn't matter, even a few great tracks are enough to make me happy these days.  Even just one I should say.

As you can see I added a few more leftover albums from him, Age of Discovery (1979), the Piano album (1980), Face to Face (1984), and one of his collaborations with Jeff Beck from 1989.
On the piano album, note the stunningly inventive keyboard composition called Traffic:

Unfortunately, half the album is totally and completely generic.  So typical of these libraries.

Speaking of Jeff Beck, I was shocked some weeks back to discover the album called Blow by Blow from him (1975) which is as good a progressive guitar-based fusion masterpiece as any I've heard in my life.  Not sure if everyone out there is already familiar with that one, or like me, would never have expected something like that from the Beck-ola dude.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Have Sounds Will Travel, with Frank Ricotti, Tony Hymas, Sulzmann, and Les Hurdle

Just a wonderful library that I should have known of but didn't, with artists we have seen and reviewed here before including Ricotti, Hymas (Aspects of Paragonne), and Sulzmann.  Generic albeit sparse information is here on the database.

Under Pressure:

But the album ranges all over the map with the funk, fusion, wonderful beats, and inventive compositions we expect from the best library music, recalling almost the best of Hawkshaw.
Note however that the second side is markedly less impressive with far more generic compositions.

I threw in some more Tony Hymas (The Age of Discovery) and more Ricotti (Vibes, the album I loved so much, and No Title 1982) so four altogether.

Friday 15 May 2020

Motohiko Hamase, 3 albums (1986-1988)

Here's an artist I didn't know about at all, surprisingly, despite the perfect meld of classical chamber music, jazz, and progressive keyboard elements.  The music is often laid-back and meditative but at least in the first two albums rarely boring, with many surprising turns.  It's hard to really compare it to any other artist, maybe a little like the keyboard artistry of famed Kenneth Knudsen featured here prominently but lacking completely the jazz/fusion high energy elements.  I also thought that atmospherically it suited the lockdowns of this pandemic time perfectly.  A good example is the title track of Intaglio, with its perfectly well composed harp concerto feel, similar to most well-thought-out classical music there is no repetition whatsoever in themes or melodies and no elements improvised, just passage after passage of new musical ideas:

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Barry Finnerty 2 (New York City and Lights on Broadway)

The guitarist Barry Finnerty is described thusly on discogs:
American jazz multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, bass) & session musician, singer, songwriter, arranger and author. Born 03 December 1951 in San Francisco, California, USA.
was mentioned in connection with another fusion posting earlier.  The music is late in the game US style smooth fuzak and not as exciting as for example the recent John Serry or David Pritchard.

From Lights on Broadway, Just the Other Day:

I'll be back with new rips again shortly.

Monday 11 May 2020

#3: Ian Lynn's Celebration (1986), last of the trilogy [limited time only]

Note the difference in CD and LP album covers.  Shockingly and perhaps for the first time in my long life of listening to music, the CD cover (top) is almost as good an image as the original LP cover.  Obviously it has been long enough for me to go through 4 very annoying modulations from vinyl to cassette to CD to ethereal digital and, for the last, back to LP fittingly enough.  There are albums I've owned in every format, like Deep People In Rock.  It goes without saying the original, especially when I used to play it very loud on our big-ass speakers in the basement, was the most enjoyable, but also for the tactile feel of those big sleeves with their incomparable attempts at beautiful art.

Anyways, this album came out in the early days of CD and so was released in both formats, though the vinyl is listed as 2 years earlier at 1986.  Predictably, the LPDP (The law of postseventies declining progressiveness) holds here.  The negative effects or should I say vast malign influence of Vangelis' Chariots of Fire, an execrable composition few from that period could forget despite the nausea-inducing, almost chemotherapy-like effects of horror vacui it elicited in any intelligent music fan, can be discerned here and there in the album.  That theme combined with the slow-motion running of some black-haired white guy dressed in white shorts is almost like population-wide post-traumatic stress disorder for the everyday individual-- perhaps an early synthetic-keyboards-pandemic would be the most apposite way in which to describe it.  Today, for those who don't remember, perhaps only the novel coronavirus experience can compare in terms of sheer apocalyptic agony to the experience of listening to the Chariots of Fire theme music.

Anyways, this album is not at all like the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire except in the use of digital keyboards and synths.  I don't think a drum machine was used either.  The blurb on the back from Ian Lynn as usual describes the ideas behind the work.  The second side serves as a conclusion to the whole trilogy.  The title refers to a celebration of the other two albums (!).   The song called Time Was seems to be a kind of summing up of the whole endeavour, though it falls just a little bit flat in my honest opinion:

I would be hating it too if they had played it a million times a day on the radio like they did Chariots of Fire.
As usual there are numbered instrumental interludes separating tracks, some of which are quite lovely albeit too short perhaps.

So overall, thanks for recommending this trilogy, plus the Pete Brown album, a nice surprise.
More requests to come in the next little while, as I said earlier, the LPs from all over the world are pouring in now, meaning the pandemic troubles, always in alignment with the international post. are lifting.  Yay, we survived!
If only...

Sunday 10 May 2020

Didier Levallet Octet - Scoop

There were two Levallet, Marais, Pifarely albums posted here in the past (in 2015), hopefully you can access those with the search function at the top left (if need be).  Then he appeared presumably on the Pandemonium from Jeanneau so I was curious to hear this one which is in an octet formation from 1983.  The bass player's discography is here, btw.  The music on this LP is big band and more jazzy than I would have liked, I suppose it hinges well with the 1980s Jeanneau material.

Note the side-long suite called Azimuts on side two.  Oddly enough, there is no pianist, and the guitarist is his old friend Marais.  Obviously composition and arrangement duties are from Levallet.

The track called Sweet Lacy, as sample:

Friday 8 May 2020

Heretic, 1984-1988 CD Compilation (limited time only)

The earlier posted Osiris In the Mists of Time if you recall (which you should, since it was only 5 days back) was "Hiro Kawahara's pre-Heretic band. Many other recordings were also released on cassette between 1978-1982, under the names of Osiris, Astral Temple and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. These are all hopelessly obscure and impossible to find."  (From discogs.)

This material fits well with the earlier post and shows what he accomplished in 4 albums with the eighties band Heretic.  To me they are a bit more interesting, being quite varied and at times uptempo.  It resembles the lovely Interior Design material or, if I were in a generous mood, the Seigen Ono.  Or maybe it's like bad Bi Kyo Ran stuff.  The Excerpts from Interface Part 2 gives you an idea of what I mean by that:

In the meantime, I will soon be back with all those requested LP rips which were stuck in various pandemic-affected countries (mostly in Europa).  After the process of disinfection is complete (i.e. sitting on top of the record player for a week.) 

It's always a sign that things are getting better when vinyl LPs start to arrive at my doorstep.  Although, contrary to certain leaders, our problems will certainly not 'disappear in the spring, like a miracle.'  The miracles are much fewer and farther between these days.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Guitarist Ryo Kawasaki anthology 1976 to 1983, limited time only



Here's an artist probably everyone knew, but I hadn't really regarded closely until some weeks ago when I learned of the tragic news of his passing.  Then I attempted to collect all his albums from the fusion beginning on (i.e. roughly mid-70s) through to the mid-80s, when the law of declining progressiveness holds.  Here's his discography.  As a series I feel terrible to say it's not at the highly sustained level as James Vincent (how many are?) when you're seeking after really progressive and/or creative compositional ideas and that unique amalgam of modern composition, rock and jazz I'm always striving to seek out, so common too in Euro-fusion.  But there are touches here and there of that fire.

For me the best album was the 1980 Little Tree under the monikor R. Kawasaki and Golden Dragon.
A little blurb feels oddly out of place in the database but I'll quote it for the sake of the artists:

This 1980 classic has long been heralded as a fusion ground breaking release. With motivative use of the guitar synthesizer, Kawasaki created a mesmerizing bond between improvisational jazz and high energy rock that has never been duplicated. Refreshingly non-commercial, the eclectic performances of Golden Dragon throughout the early 80's has indeed influenced today's alternative artists. Golden Dragon features drummer Buddy Williams, bassist Lincoln Goines, percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, saxophonist Azar Lawrence, and the haunting vocals of Kawasaki's long-time collaborator Ilana Iguana.

First of all I'd present the remarkable composition by Ryo called You Are The Sunlight, which reminds me not a little of my favourite Japanese fusion composition, Hiro's Crystal Ship, which I raved about so much in the past.  It's not just the smoothness of the jazz and the very pure and crystalline vocals of Illana Iguana (what a name!) but the textures, and the chord changes.  On the opening notice the combination of synth strings like the sky, the acoustic guitar arpeggions like a walk in the forest, the electric guitar curlicues all around like birds flying about, the more central synth melody which draws you in like the sunlight in a clearing.  Really gorgeous.  The chords start on F and move down to Eflat, then completely surprisingly drop down to a B7 with added tritone (i.e. F) and then G7 plus tritone (D flat) before resolving to B flat.  Then the F in the melody (with the word "Starlight") is the perfect way to go from B flat to G flat, it actually sounds like a shining star thanks to the sunny disposition of the added major 7 note on the major chords. From there of course it's natural to go the one semitone back down to the F tonic key we started in, with an added tritone too for good measure.  It's clever to add so many tritones on the last few chords for both dissonance and for resemblance, for symmetry.  When Ryo plays the electric guitar improv, it's utterly amazing how well he transitions his solo from one odd chord to the next.  Just genius to bridge together chords so well.  Finally, the song which resolved into the tonic F of course, descends to an E minor just below for a darker outro as if to evoke the dark of a night sky although I don't appreciate the importation of standard hispanic/flamenco melodies in her little improvised solo there.  Listen to the purity of the vocalist's high notes, reminds me not a bit of Chick Corea's female vocalist for RtF whoever that was.

Ryo has a wonderful English wikipage that begins as follows:

Ryo Kawasaki (川崎 燎, Kawasaki Ryō, February 25, 1947 – April 13, 2020) was a Japanese jazz fusion guitarist, composer and band leader, best known as one of the first musicians to develop and popularise the fusion genre and for helping to develop the guitar synthesizer in collaboration with Roland Corporation and Korg. His album Ryo Kawasaki and the Golden Dragon Live was one of the first all-digital recordings and he created the Kawasaki Synthesizer for the Commodore 64. During the 1960s, he played with various Japanese jazz groups and also formed his own bands. In the early 1970s, he moved to New York City, where he settled and worked with Gil Evans, Elvin Jones, Chico Hamilton, Ted Curson, Joanne Brackeen amongst others. In the mid-1980s, Kawasaki drifted out of performing music in favour of writing music software for computers. He also produced several techno dance singles, formed his own record company called Satellites Records, and later returned to jazz-fusion in 1991.

This was written by a human.  I can assure you.  Really, I can tell.  On the other hand, the wonderful, fabulous google translate function works oh so well for the wikipedia page written in Japanese, and I can never resist quoting from these miraculous advances in artificial intelligence as applied to the easy work of translating human languages, note how innocuously the paragraph begins and how badly it ends:

Ryo Kawasaki (Ryo Kawasaki, 1947 February 25 - 2020 April 13 ), the Japan representative of the jazz - guitarist . He has been active around the world since the late 1960s.  In the mid-1980s, the United States was released in the PC of Ganso, Commodore 64 some of the music software that was written for (hereafter in Japan Fujitsu author of was released is converted at the same time to the model of the FM synth installed).

And yes, I think those wonderful computer programmers are getting really close to passing the famed "Turing Test."  (Computer fools people into thinking it's a person.)

The English wiki page ends:

In 2014, Kawasaki discovered a younger generation of Estonian musicians who inspired him to further develop a fusion, jazz-rock sound using his own compositions. His attention on these directions had somewhat faded away after recording in the early 1980s with his group Golden Dragon. In spring 2016, Kawasaki formed a new quartet called Level 8, exclusively with Estonian musicians: Raun Juurikas (keyboards), Kaarel Liiv (electric bass) and Eno Kollom (drums). Level 8 finished recording a self-titled album focusing on Kawasaki's compositions both from the past and present utilizing a funk/fusion/jazz-rock sound. The album Level 8 was released in March 2017.

In April 2016, UK independent label Nunorthernsoul released a vinyl EP titled Selected Works 1979 to 1983 by Ryo Kawasaki. A follow-up vinyl EP titled Selected Works Part 2 - 1976 to 1980 by Ryo Kawasaki was released in April 2017.

Kawasaki died in Tallinn, Estonia in April 2020 at the age of 73.