Thursday 29 April 2021

Canadian Solstice, in Mirage and Espresso

These Canadians from Quebec made two albums of really fine instrumental fusion in the late seventies, similar to fellow countrymen Maneige, who were much better known but perhaps not quite as good.

For example the very intricate song called Stress, from the first Mirage album:

Predictably enough the later album is a little less impressive and more fuzaky. A track called Pas de 12:

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Brit composer Richard Rodney Bennett in Equus (1977)

This is another album I've loved dearly since I first heard it a long time ago. It's basically classical music done by a chamber quartet but the quality of the compositions always just astounded me, with the usual comments here about how the level of beauty rivals anything one would hear in a modern classical European concert hall, or even bests those, if you bought a ticket for a really tired old classic like Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake or what have you in the hopes maybe of falling asleep really soundly.

The track called The Stables is so gentle and intelligent in terms of the advanced chord changes moving upwards and then weaving back and forth with those elegant lines:

Most of the remainder is as beautiful as that piece. Unfortunately there wasn't enough music to fill up 2/3 of an hour and as a result the soundtrack was stuffed with annoying monologues.  Btw, the play itself and the movie that followed starring Sir Richard Burton was famous back in the day, I recall watching the latter and being horrified at the mix of neurotic pretentiousness, sexual obsession typical of the times, and cliched treatment of the tortured philosopher-psychiatrist.  In those days, you might remember, or maybe you weren't born then, psychiatrists were very well respected, not quite the drug-pushing invisible men they are today's insurance-driven medical sphere.

Now, turning as usual to our favourite cinematic source, from imdb:

Martin Dysart (Richard Burton) is a psychiatrist in a psychiatric hospital. He begins with a monologue in which he outlines the case of 17-year-old Alan Strang. He also divulges his feeling that his occupation is not all that he wishes it to be and his feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment about his barren life. Dysart finds that there is a never-ending supply of troubled young people for him to "adjust" back into "normal" living; but he doubts the value of treating these youths, since they will simply return to a dull, normal life that lacks any commitment and "worship" (a recurring theme). He comments that Alan Strang's crime was extreme but adds that just such extremity is needed to break free from the chains of existence. A court magistrate, Hesther Saloman, visits Dysart, believing that he has the skills to help Alan come to terms with his violent acts involving six horses.

At the hospital, Dysart has a great deal of difficulty making any kind of headway with Alan (Peter Firth), who at first responds to questioning by singing TV advertising jingles. Slowly, however, Dysart makes contact with Alan by playing a game where each of them asks a question, which must be answered honestly. He learns that, from an early age, Alan has been receiving conflicting viewpoints on religion from his parents. Alan's mother, Dora Strang (Joan Plowright), is a devout Christian who has read to him daily from the Bible. This practice has antagonized Alan's atheist father, Frank Strang (Colin Blakely), who, concerned that Alan has taken far too much interest in the more violent aspects of the Bible, destroyed a violent picture of the Crucifixion that Alan had hung at the foot of his bed. Alan replaced the picture with one of a horse, with large, staring eyes.

During his youth, Alan had established his attraction to horses by way of his mother's biblical tales, a horse story that she had read to him, western movies, and his grandfather's interest in horses and riding. Dysart reveals a dream he has had, in a Grecian/Homeric setting, in which he is a public official presiding over a mass ritual sacrifice. Dysart slices open the viscera of hundreds of children, and pulls out their entrails. He becomes disgusted with what he is doing, but desiring to "look professional" to the other officials, does not stop.

Alan's sexual training began with his mother who told him he could find true love and contentment by way of religious devotion and marriage. During this time Alan also begins to show a sexual attraction to horses, desiring to pet their thick coats, feel their muscular bodies and smell their sweat. Alan reveals to Dysart that he had first encountered a horse at age six, on the beach. A rider (John Wyman) approached him, and took him up on the horse. Alan was visibly excited, but his parents found him and his father pulled him violently off the horse. The horse rider scoffed at the father and rode off.

In another key scene, Dysart hypnotizes Alan, and during the hypnosis, Dysart reveals elements of his terrifying dream of the ritual murder of children. Dysart begins to jog Alan's memory by filling in blanks, and asking questions. Alan reveals that he wants to help the horses by removing the bit, which enslaves them.

After turning 17, Alan took a job working in a shop selling electrical goods, where he met Jill Mason (Jenny Agutter), an outgoing and free-spirited young woman in her mid-20s. She visits the shop wanting to purchase blades for horse-clippers. Alan is instantly interested when he discovers that Jill has such close contact with horses after she tells him that she works for a local stable owner. Jill suggests that Alan work for the owner of the stables, Harry Dalton (Harry Andrews), and Alan agrees.

Dysart meets with Dalton who tells him that he first held Alan to be a model worker, since he kept the stables immaculately clean and groomed the horses, including one named "Nugget." Through Dysart's questioning, it becomes clear that Alan is erotically fixated on Nugget (or 'Equus') and secretly takes him for midnight rides, bareback and naked. Alan also envisions himself as a king, on the godhead Equus, both destroying their enemies.

In the climax, Dysart gives Alan a placebo "truth pill" and revealing a tryst with Jill, begins to re-enact the event. Jill, who had taken an interest in Alan, had asked him to take her to a porno theater after he confided in her that he never had sex before and Jill apparently decided to show him "how it's done". While there, they both ran into Frank. Alan was traumatized, particularly when he realized that his father was lying when he tried to justify his presence in the theater. However, this occurrence allows Alan to realize that sex is a natural thing for all men... even his father. Alan walks Jill home after they leave. She convinces Alan to come to the stables with her.

Once there, Jill seduces Alan and the two start having wild sex. However, Alan breaks this off when he hears the horses making noises in the stables beneath. Jill tries to ask Alan what the problem is, but he shouts at her to leave. After Jill puts back on her clothes and walks out of the stables, the stark nude Alan begs the horses for forgiveness for having pre-marital sex, as he sees the horses as God-like figures. "Mine!...You're mine!...I am yours and you are mine!" cries Equus through Dysart's voice, but then he becomes threatening: "The Lord thy God is a jealous God," Equus/Dysart seethes, "He sees you, he sees you forever and ever, Alan. He sees you!...He sees you!" Alan screams, "God sees!" and then he says "No more. No more, Equus!" Alan then blinds the six horses in the stable with a steel spike, whose eyes have "seen" his very soul. Dalton is the one who runs in and subdues Alan before calling the police. After finishing his story to the shaken Dysart, Alan is taken away in a straightjacket to a isolation cell of the hospital.

The final scene has another monologue by Dysart questioning the fundamentals of his practice and whether or not what he does will actually help Alan, as the effect of his treatment will remove Alan's humanity which includes his intense sexual and religious commitment, and his worship of the horses as well.

Pretty weird, huh, if you actually managed to make it this far?  Really, the play must have been from the sixties, no one today would tolerate such ridiculous and pretentious nonsense, with aspects of bestiality, autism, etc., not to mention the ludicrously portrayed psychiatrist.  And I think it wouldn't even make sense without the looming presence of that bizarre sexual obsessive, Sigmund Freud.

The OST came with another from 1967 called Whisperers by John Barry on a two for one, which I threw in too.  Unfortunately it's a little bit more generic than the Equus composition, which is tragically too short.  The first track, Main Titles, from the 1967:

Sunday 25 April 2021

Il Etait Une Fois, compilation


From discogs:

French group that existed from 1972 to 1979. Their biggest hit was ''J'ai encore rêvé d'elle'' in 1975.

I've posted a ton of this style of seventies French pop music, because in all frankness I have a soft spot for it.  Remember Olivier Bloch-Laine, Xavier Genet's Mimmie, Canelle, Gerard Pisani's Loup des Steppes, etc. etc.?  (Incidentally I want to again thank the commenter who in the post for the first mentioned, said he sounded like British ssw Colin Blunstone--his first lp called One Year is truly a masterpiece of the genre, and I never heard it before.)

A highlight is La Fille que j'aime, with its beautiful vocal harmonies and catchy hook, "she's eating orange jam, and her fingers are covered in it":

Kind of the beauty of a youthful crush feeling to this song.

Later they became very conventional in the usual 70s pop style, very professionally arranged and a bit too slick for my liking. The hooks are occasionally good and worth hearing.  I'm not sure it's worth seeking out their individual LPs on the basis of this comp.  

But I really love the cover of their first album with the female singer's beautiful girl face filling the doll house.  What a pretty face, and as I always say, as beautiful as music is to us, there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a pretty girl.

This band photo really takes you back:

Friday 23 April 2021

Jeff Kowalkowski Trio, limited time only


It's true, the brilliant composer of Houdini from Passed Normal Vol. 4 did put out a piano plus drums, bass album back in 2005.  Here it is, a bit more standard experimental jazz compared to the chamber composition of the former.

Wednesday 21 April 2021

The Passed Normal Series, Volumes 1, 4, 5

There is considerable resemblance to the long and tedious series of ReR releases I posted over a long period of time, a long time ago.  I think mutant sounds, RIP!! posted the vol. 4 probably more than a decade ago. At the time I was thrown off my chair by the brilliant one-off composer Jeff Kowalkowsk's Prelude To Houdini:

Despite searching I haven't found anything else by him.

Both Volumes 1 and 5 were a bit disappointing in comparison, although the first has a nice guitar solo track by Jeff Michel called Chimes which really recalls Heldon to me:

Sunday 18 April 2021

Back to the old Franklin Street Arterial in LP with a limited time only for the lossless lovers

Remember this one? Still magnificent, still stunning, now a few hundred dollars more to own...

Nevertheless I broke down and bought the record when it came up for sale at a not-astronomical price.
It never ceases to amaze me that people made this kind of beautiful, well-composed, professionally-played music but couldn't get it released by a record company and had to privately press it, never getting the recognition they were due.  And it never ceases to amaze there's so much such musical material from this very prolific and fecundly artistic time still remaining to be discovered.

The earlier post is back here, recall the artists posted the mp3s for download online.  It really, after all this time, for me serves as a point of reference for how perfectly enjoyable progressive fusion can be when it hits all the right notes.  In that respect it's a bit like my other points of comparison, Don Mock's first album, or James Vincent's stuff.  I love the smoothness and the variety of their musical compositions and the way they're not afraid to change directions, mid-track.  To put it another way, there is not a hint of any kind of musical cliche in here, the fuzak style for ex., or the silly conventional samba or latin rhythms, the hispanic chord progressions, none of those cliches appear.  I guess the other thing about this I love is that it's so consistently good from beginning to end.

From the database you can see that most of the songwriting is from keys player Michael McInnis and guitarist Carlos Cuellar with contributions from bassist Glendon and drummer David Bowler. Sax player Ed Agopian is the only one with no such credits.

The last track, Headlight Child (solely by McInnis) always takes me to paradise starting with that bell-ringing opening on:

I really love the guitar solo (two guitars actually), complete with perfectly played harmonics like my old favourite, virtuoso Canadian Lenny Breau, that Cuellar came up with called Stolen Moments (stealing the title from that well known jazz standard?):

I enjoy so much listening to his ideas carefully and clearly, moving from one chord to another, as if he had improvised this out from the first diatonic A major seven chord and then played it over and over, developing the gentleness and themes fully over time, savouring every idea.

Btw the full album was indeed posted online before, the 'missing track' called In Search of was attached to Seeker without breaking the two apart, as I suspected before.  On the other hand I didn't mind breaking them apart, as I usually do, or rather don't mind to do.

For those curious, recall the great band name refers to a street in Portland, Maine.

I think you'll all agree my (brand) new fresh rip really, really brings the sounds out in the most wonderful way.  For these great records, you truly need to hear with that crystal-clear sound. Surprising that this hasn't been released on CD yet too.

Friday 16 April 2021

Earl Klugh's amazing Heart String, 1979

In those dumb Sanbornian days of eighties fusion that I was subjected to when young, and that, for good reason, gave the whole genre a bad name for a long time to come by erasing all the productive dynamo-powered electric energy and creativity of the fusionary period from Bitches Brew through, I remember people talking about Klugh as an amazing guitarist, but I never bothered to listen to anything--much like the situation with the Brecker Bros. who turned out to have written quite a bit of interesting music, I recently discovered.  When I opened up the abominable spotify site, Klugh was a recommendation--the only reason I started to listen to him.  I was surprised by this album.  It's not quite as good as the aforementioned siblings, not by a long shot actually.  But the 1979 album Heart String is actually quite good, though I'll post a few others for completion sake.  There is obviously a George Benson influence, which is a good thing, especially the earlier Benson in his glory days of "Other Side of Abbey Road" for example.

First part of Heart String:

The Heart String Reprise really takes it away:

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Gene Hood's Acoustic prog-folk masterpiece Out of the Clouds from 1980

Here's a masterpiece I've treasured for a long long while, partly due to the fact it reminds me of so much alternative music from the mid-nineties, which as I've mentioned I grew up on, like Chris Cornell's acoustic compositions or any number of those brilliant inventive ssw artists of that period.  Yet this album came out in 1980 at the tail end of the whole US acoustic rock period, astonishingly.  Despite that year--which is hard to believe--there is not a single hint of any kind of eighties digitalese in here, no echoey chords, no synthesized repetitive drums, jumpy beat, slapped bass, dull and weak guitar sound.  Rather, it's shockingly ahead of its time in that it heralds so much of the earnestness, to my ears, of the later alternative scene at least 12 years away still.

Opening track Friends just gives me chills every single time:

In terms of the Chris Cornell similarity, listen once to his solo folk track from the Singles OST (I hope this youtube link lasts), the song called Seasons.  Obviously, Chris' song is much more professionally produced and arranged, we could never expect as much from Gene Hood's privately pressed work, never mind the extreme beauty of Chris's singing.  I went back to read wiki's page on him and felt so much sadness about how he died by suicide, about 4 years ago now, after suffering so much from lifelong depression. Like so many others we have read of here like Radka Toneff, he completed the act he sung about so often.  So much sadness and emotion is hidden in the beauty of art, isn't it. Then you think of someone like the comic Robin Williams, so brilliantly funny, so effective at hiding the massive depression that took him away eventually.

Anyways, the track called Time to Rise also to me 'recalls' (heralds?) that alternative emotional, earnest brilliance that was soon to come 15 years later:

Monday 12 April 2021

Ann Odell's A Little Taste, 1973

Only one album appears on the database, and we must admire her amazing 'fro in the above photo.  I looked up her name when I noticed the amazing female singing on the Chopyn album posted before in relation to Ray Russell 's work. She's also responsible for the keyboards and I guess those great synthesizer solos that appear here and there in that wonderful album.  Recall the male vocalist was Denny McCaffrey. Btw in terms of his output, there is a CD of collected music of his which came out in 2006 which has some interesting songs on it too.  I'll post it as well since this completes the works relating to the Chopyn one-off.  

The song called Black Cat really grew on me with its catchy hook and symmetry:

Saturday 10 April 2021

Jerry Goodman's Trilogy from 1985 to 1988 (On the future of aviation, Ariel, and Live)


He was mentioned some time ago in connection with the other fusion guitarists, those European ones I so adore.  I wasn't actually aware of his name at all, though musically, he is well-known as the violinist of Mahavishnu in their glory days.  Impressively he has his own wiki entry, it begins:

Jerry Goodman (born March 16, 1949) is an American violinist who played electric violin with The Flock and the jazz fusion ensemble Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Note that after Mahavishnu he made Like Children with Jan Hammer, an album obviously known to everyone whose cover is one of my favourites of all time (I used to keep it framed in my office at work before the kids), but then disappeared for a decade, as the verso blurb clearly indicates, should you read it.  That description begins thusly:

The sun shone straight through him. It shone straight through all of us. It shone straight through everything, and I suppose it still does.
-Clive James

That'll mean something to those who know. For the rest of you, the ones who have never heard Jerry Goodman (in his early days in the Flock, or during his founding membership in the M.O.--the band that defined, then and forever, all that was best in the fusion of rock and jazz) you won't understand why the rest of us are so eager. Yet. But you will, a few bars in. After ten years away, he's back. Two simple words, and an extraordinary promise.

Definitely agree with the assessment of M.O. there.  However, I'm not so sure I'd state the solo Goodman so emphatically unfortunately. His as usual possibly incomplete discography here.

The last track on the first one, Future of Aviation, called Sarah's Lullaby is quite traditionally light progressive fusion as we so love:

Thursday 8 April 2021

Major Surgery's The First Cut, 1970


Remember Tom Hayes raved about this one way back although the website seems to be disappeared now.  To me it's pretty straight up jazz-rock with not the most fusiony explorations. I'm surprised to see it was rereleased too.

The track called Jubileevit sounded like it should have been a slamdunk, but isn't really:

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Australian Guitarist Peter O'Mara in Five Forces (1989) Stairway (1993) Backseat Driver (1998)


Australian guitarist who made a bunch of albums starting in 1980.  I would like to hear that first ST, if someone out there has.
This is basic jazz, but with some interesting ideas here and there, not really fusion as sometimes described.  First track off the 1989 Five Forces album:

Sunday 4 April 2021

Contrepoint (1971)-- limited time only

It seems a Parisian record store put out a series of so far 17 mostly psychedelic unheard and unheard-of albums with the name Monster Melodies Records.  There are some well-known prog titles in there like Ame Son which came in as the first release, Fille qui Mousse, the brilliant Belgians Moving Gelatine Plates (a point of reference to which all prog should be compared to), vibraphonist Robert Wood (who appeared on this blog in the past), Dies Irae, a Vangelis work, the LP of Xalph which I believe I put on this blog too (that one was unbelievably good), Areski plus Brigitte Fontaine (hated those albums)-- in fact most of these artists are well known to us already.  This leaves a handful of interesting other releases including Eclosium, Calcium, and the remarkable PLVG which is by far the standout among these unknowns, I recommend you seek those out.  Satan is also highly worth hearing, being in the Ange-like Symphonic Prog style, and there's so little left to discover in that bin.

I guess that covers just about all their releases, I think.  This one I hadn't heard and was curious about, being styled as fusion / free jazz.

The (brief) band description:

French jazz band founded by Jean-Pierre Carolfi and Jean-Pierre Weiller in 1970. They never managed to record an album, their main recording legacy being some live tapes they did while on tour with Hugh Hopper and released on his 'Monster Band' album.

I should've read the reviews below the info however, since they do cover it quite honestly:

paradiso July 27, 2017

I agree. Not nearly as interesting as it was billed, and a horrendous recording and dismal pressing. Plus, Track 5 doesn't seem to be on the album.

swil_wilson July 26, 2017

Fairly unexceptional improv blend of jazz and rock. The recording quality is horrendous! To my ears, it's unlistenable. This wasn't released for a reason: it's a poor recording of music that isn't very compelling. I like avant-garde jazz, and I'm also a fan of experimental rock, but man, the music isn't good enough to justify the poor recording quality. If someone can explain what they like about this album, please leave me a response. I'm genuinely curious.

On the other hand the first one seems way off base to me:

Sounding somewhere between Soft Machine and Art Ensemble Of Chicago, this LP contains previously unreleased recordings of this French jazz band founded by Jean-Pierre Carolfi and Jean-Pierre Weiller in 1970. Never managing to release an album (til' now that is), their main recording legacy consists of live tapes that were taped while on tour with Hugh Hopper. Carolfi and Weiller also played on Hopper's 'Monster Band' album. Limited to 1.000 copies on clear vinyl.

The most annoying thing to me other than the bad live recording which I've always detested and the simple chord changes, with often just one chord plus a lot of psych or sax noodling sounding in principle like Soft Machine but without its ingenuity, is the fact the track lengths and songs as listed are completely wrong, totally. There is no way to attach a song name with any given track length, and as the reviewer stated, it seems like track A5 was completely left off the pressing!!! 

Despite this, looking at the verso it does state tracks and lengths exactly what was written up here on the database page--all of which is completely wrong.  Can you believe it?

Possibly, one of the tracks called Unfathomable of the Seventh Time (great title though) is this:

Friday 2 April 2021

Joe Nay's Message, 1987, by request


Joe Nay:

German jazz drummer

born 10 May 1934 in Berlin

died 22 December 1990 near Munich

Straight jazz or contemporary as they call it, with some interesting ideas here and there and a little too much improvisation for my liking.

The band has both keyboards and guitar (Peter O'Mara), plus saxes and trombones for the unison melodic effect.

Sample track, Essence: