Monday 31 May 2021

Back to Laurent Cokelaere with Minigruel en Concert (1984)


The album starts with a solo by Cokelaere supposedly played on the bass--though it sounds to me like a guitar, I never knew a bass could be so soprano, then inauspiciously the band plays the ancient and thus rotting, decomposing standard Night in Tunisia, and by now everyone knows what I think of those godawful rejecta, inexplicably long-lasting despite being usually not even the best of melodies, played over and over like The Beatles' Yesterday on classic radio to the point of Guantanamo-generated insanity or rather CIA-sanctioned torture.

Inevitably this follow up successor to the previous Coke Tales masterpiece is not as good, being more commercial-oriented and fuzacky  and live, to boot.  Most appropriately for these times, a track called Beach Break (everything written by Cokelaere except the aforementioned Tunisia):

Friday 28 May 2021

Laurent Cokelaere in Coke Tales (1983) lossless limited time only


Bassist Laurent Cokelaere composed all the music for this record, except for the Weather Report (Jaco Pastorius) track called Havona and a fantastic track that is too.  It's a wonder he didn't write more before. I guess he played in the Yoch'ko Seffer group which explains the huge amount of progressive ideas. I looked through the bands in his discography, though that might not be complete, and there's not much else of interest other than the follow up live Minigruel en Concert album from 1985 (which will be here shortly). 

It's a beautiful album cover, you can see they collaged old engravings from 19th c. French artist Gustave Dore on an outer space background to wonderful effect. Very original too.  The title of the album must have been such a hilarious punnish joke to all those present, given the times, today, it just seems silly.

I think you can consider the music a cross between the funky guitar fusion of Alain Renaud recently compiled here and the Jeanneau big band jazzier style of fusion posted multiple times here in the past.  What's beautiful is the way he keeps the funk in the mix, front and centre, whilst using such a great band full of brassy arrangements in the background-- Cokelaere did the orchestrations and arrangements too.  It's a remarkable sound and hugely, highly enjoyable for myself, with the warmth from commercial-pop funk permeating through and through the more intellectual, jazzier elements. All instrumentals.  To my surprise the band, which is called Polygruel, has 21 members.

For ex. in the track called  Funky Pedulla, Groovy Orsini which was obviously built around a funky bass riff notice how the guitar brings in tritones after the opening, eventually developing with the synth a wonderful circular obligato kind of pattern:


An example of the progressive songwriting is part b of the delightful Don't Eat me Pacman! composition (I guess taking the video game from the point of view of the ghosts?) such a sign of the times too:

A bit surprising that it was never released to CD?

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Some neglected Jan Akkerman works


His discography is literally breathtaking as you can see here, after coming out of the early seventies and Focus with some hugely wonderful progressive fusion works like my favourite Eli with Kaz Lux (their follow up collaboration Transparental was terrible, oddly enough) or the 1977 ST Akkerman with the ridiculous bedmate guitar cover, or the collaboration with Ogerman called Aranjuez, or Sunshower with Joachim Kuhn, there is a string of neglected albums that were really beautiful including Akkerman 3 (1979), Oil in the Family (1981), Pleasure Point (1982), and It Could Happen to You (1982).  Thereafter dozens of similar albums came out all the way to the present day and astonishingly all in the same old classic style of progressive and educated, composed fusion, without much if any pandering to commercial, zeitgeist attitudes of the musical times.

As an example 1982's Come Closer, from the neglected LP It could happen to you, sounds just like a Focus track:

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Orchester Ulrich Sommerlatte

A friend sent me the latter album and it blew me away in some places, again demonstrating how much treasure you can still dig out of the library mines, dirty and suffocating as they are.

The track called Atlantis from the second:

I'm guessing there are more than just the 3 listed in the database here.

Friday 21 May 2021

Hasard - Embarque si ca t'tente, Canada 1982

Since we're on the subject of Canadian overlooked albums... 
This is a singer-songwriter album with some touches of prog and fusion, and this is their only release.  Very similar to the early 70s Vos Vousins, if you are familiar with that one (as you should be).

For the SSW, Un Enfant:

The closing track is really lovely and it's called Nuit d'amour:

The kind of piano playing one never hears anymore.

When you look at those photos of skinny dudes it's shocking how fat and chunky we've become as a species, isn't it?

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Syncope, 1980 Canada


Their only release which came out in the late year of 1980, they are related to the band Connivence I posted here earlier in the entirety of their oeuvre (including the wonderful offshoot Gilles Legault's Chansons).  The music is a wonderful mix of fusion and folky singer-songwriting, kinda like Connivence in fact.  Consider the track called Les amours d' enfance (the loves of childhood), which features such a wonderfully original chord change in it:

Check out the beautiful calligraphic handwritten lettering on the back too.  That kind of thing is never seen anymore now, is it, when children don't even learn how to write cursive by hand anymore in most public schools, only how to type on ever-diminishing keyboards in size, or better yet, use their index finger on a touchpad--isn't it wonderful and miraculous how human beings have progressed in the times we have been alive?  Same comments as what I made about porn, how when I grew up it was out of reach on the top shelves of convenience stores where the owners would yell at us if we dared to approach, compared to today, where it's accessible for free to any kid no matter how young, and hardcore of the vilest kind too. 

Well, allow me to feel nostalgic about more than just the music of 40 years ago.

Monday 17 May 2021

Focus I - XI, limited time only

Some of these are not 'counted' in the numbering, presumably the live albums, so in reality we have 13 here, plus there's the Thijs plus Akkerman album from 1985 oddly enough, or as a joke entitled, Focus and I already posted that one in conjunction with the former artist.  Of course Akkerman was the original guitarist of the group but he flew off to become a phenomenal solo artist who hit an absolute masterpiece ne plus ultra with the beyond brilliant concept album called Eli written of course with Kaz Lux, one of my all-time favourite progressive rock albums with its brilliant combination of skilled, intelligent songwriting, fusion elements, plus excellent guitar playing.  Thereafter he made a few great albums and a few disappointing albums in a career that continued from the seventies all the way down to the present day.  (I'm referring here to Akkerman, not Focus.)  Thanks to the box set a friend sent, I've listened to all his music and I can say there are great songs sprinkled throughout here and there, though I think he hit another high point with 1982's It Could Happen to You, curiously.  In this case there is no evidence whatsoever that musically we are in the territory of the 80s, thankfully.

Returning to mother Focus, I mentioned that I was shocked when I 'completed the discography' past the original brilliant 70s albums we all know and love, they continued to make really wonderful progressive music up until recently.  Consider for ex., the Amok in Kindergarten track from the X album (2012):

Or Mare Nostrum from the XI, from 2018:

Honestly, I think I spent the whole of last summer listening to all these 'new' CDs (new to me) and enjoying over and over again the intricate ideas they put into their so-original music.

I would also mention the Live at the BBC album and Ship of Memories, both of which I had overlooked in the decades ago when I first heard this band.  These are stuffed with obscurities and unreleased tracks, recorded in the 70s, that have some really interesting moments.

Also, the cover for the Mother Focus album with the surreal ship is one of my favourite album covers of all time.

Saturday 15 May 2021

A few from Thijs van Leer

You might recall I posted Thijs van Leer's Pedal Point which recycled some of the music from Oh My Love, one of my favourite progressive albums of all time. Later I mentioned him as the arranger of the stunningly beautiful Beauty of Bojoura record which I ripped.  Actually when I reviewed the whole of the Focus oeuvre, which continued on until the recent year of 2018 (!) I was surprised they continued to craft incredibly creative progressive music all the way until 3 years ago.  That last one, which is numerically Focus XI, absolutely blew me away, and I take it most of the composition was from Thijs as well.  It's an album that surely would sound completely appropriate springing from the heyday of the progressive rock of the seventies. If anyone wants I have the whole 1-11 set to upload.

Throughout most of the 70s though he made mostly flute-played classical LPs which I recognize was very popular back in the days when people still had an appreciation for this style of music.  Well, you could say they were brainwashed into enjoying it, because it's really difficult for us 'moderns' to understand what is the appeal of the simple Mozart or Bach tunes or the dreadful zombie music of Vivaldi's Seasons that is played over and over again, the same melodies along the lines of the jazz standards.  I guess that's what humans are like.

In 1978 he made the Nice to have met you album with the somewhat ridiculous cover and branched out very slightly into fusion though I must say it's quite generic in comparison to the music he made with Focus, which I guess was used as a channel for the inspired ideas.  The 1985 album he made with Akkerman is great, obviously the latter is another artist who also carried on making wonderful music all the way down to the present day after abandoning his bandmates.

Wednesday 12 May 2021

Amazingly back to the NTSU with Lab '81

I never would have thought I'd return to this series, but here we are.  Good thing I did return, because this one is good.  Showing I should have pursued it farther and not given up.  A couple of 'throwaway' standard charts and the remainder very strong fusion-big band composition with some really intelligent ideas, all on 2-LP set.  Many, many thanks to the ripper!

Evening in Lucerne:

Lovely stuff.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Update on The Fried Chicken Band from 1979: The first time we ever met the Blues [limited]

I posted this some 4 and a half years ago and over the passing of time I've only become more convinced of the brilliance of some of the songs, although much of it is bluegrass-style folk or country that doesn't appeal to me, it might to others.  You can see the credits here on discogs.

I wish I had that time machine and I could go back in time to the late seventies and force every radio station in North America to listen to the song Haunted and play it to make it a number one hit all over the continent.  Perhaps it would have been had it been recorded in the US instead of in Germany.  It's one of about a handful of songs discovered in the period of this blog, now covering over 7 years since 2013, that I think was tragically underrated and should have become number one hit songs back in the day, songs like Mimmie, or Mach One's Fly Away, or the Banjo Man from The Exceptions come to mind though I know there are many others I've forgotten.

Again here's Haunted, and dig the incredible, gorgeous acoustic guitarwork, I get chills now every time I hear that opening:

And I will gladly say that this song has haunted me since I first heard it. I think what makes it twenty times more amazing is the fact that she wrote that song at such a young age, a song that you might recall I thought was an old folk song because its lyrics were so amazing (for ex., by Judy Collins).  (I transcribed the lyrics in the earlier post.)  It might as well have been the anthem of the whole Donald Trump era where, paradoxically, the neglected forgotten blue collar worker of middle America in his pickup truck full of ammo and guns votes for millionaire political elites who in addition to not caring anything of their situation only favour cutting taxes for enormous faceless corporations that will exploit them even further, as if they couldn't help shooting themselves in the foot in their depressed confused state in their old pickups filled with Sackler/Purdue's billionaire-making, widow-making oxycontin tablets.  It's a classic human tragedy, perhaps the classic political human tragedy (warned about by the Ancient Greeks 2500 years ago): the demagogue populist who takes advantage of the democratic system and poor people's disaffection to come to power in order to satisfy his own pathological narcissistic needs.  (Actually, it's even more common in the cult setting, e.g. scientology or more recently that weird nexvm or whatever cult.)  

Anyways back to the music.

There is another song also written by "Liz" Burns called Take Them With You (horribly misspelled on the back of the record with joke as the first word, but not on the inner label) that grew on me in the years since I first heard this album, due to the extreme depth and beauty of the lyrics combined with the harmony vocals between female and male singers who alternate stanzas (always a great touch, reminding me of for example the Jefferson Airplane I used to adore as a child).  In the case of this composition, she has made it so they are like lovers talking to each other about the breakup.  Anyone who has experienced this especially following a long relationship will understand that sentiment of taking the memories with you when you leave so you're not tortured by them alone.

Here's that track:

Every time I listen to it, I'm amazed at the depth of feeling that she & the band put into it.  And to think she was a teenager at the time!

you seem determined in your leaving, 
I can' t make you change your mind
it seems a shame I have to start out again 
without you or your love.
you could join the memories and just stay here
or hurt me by leaving them behind
just be fair and take them with you,
leave me with a little peace of mind

there's a guilt you always gave me
always had a hurt inside
think revenge is when you're walking away:
dramatic phrases, the last farewell;
well you could join the memories and just stay here
hurt me, by leaving them behind
just be fair and take them with you--
leave me with a little peace of mind

so I can't give back the things you gave me
and the times living something I never do
please don't leave with all that hate in your mind
I 'll never forget that, no matter how much I cry--

Now what prompted this is the fact the artist herself, god bless her, clarified some things in the comments section of the post I made 5 years ago, in particular:

Hi, Julian, thanks so much for this wonderful review! I was an exchange student livihg in a suburb outside of Essen when I met the other members of the band, 17 years old at the time, and we recorded it about 8 months later. Great musicians and people, and an experience I'll never forget. We're all still playing in one capacity or another, you can check out stuff I've done here:  So sweet to hear that this album made such a positive impression - it was definitely a labor of love.

Liz4 May 2021 at 10:09

And no, it's not a cover: I wrote the song when I was 15.

Prior to this, a helpful commenter had already explained:

The song is written by Elizabeth Burns. She was the singer of the band "Fried chicken band". It was a German group of the town Essen. I went with one of the members to school and own the LP. I like this LP very much, but I also think, that "Haunted" is one of the [best] songs. It's the only one LP of the band.

The other simply gorgeous track is the cover version of Jackson Browne's apocalyptic Before the Deluge.  I love his version but I think they dramatically improved on it, which is saying a lot:

I love that song.  And gotta love the electric slide guitar plus the fiddling.  Notice the adept harmony vocals too.

Think back to the times when that song was written, the 'back to nature' that led sadly to Charlie Manson, the hippie communes, etc.

Btw I think you can hear the whole album on youtube, where someone posted it a long time back.

I can't believe these artists who were unlucky enough to have bypassed fame despite their immense talent, with a song so perfect and gorgeously written it should be known, or should have been known, by every human being alive at that time, or should be played currently on satellite radio to be enjoyed by those who still listen to James Taylor or whatever similar SSW.  It would even be appropriate on the alternative folk type stations where Sarah McLachlan etc. are still played.  Then again that's the whole purpose of this blog, though it would obviously accomplish more on youtube or other such social media.

Again, note the artist site:

Friday 7 May 2021

Alain Renaud's three brilliant guitar fusion albums, 1975 to 1982

His three albums form a kind of trilogy, with the style not changing much at all despite the passing of seven years from beginning to end.  In addition to that some songs are recycled from one album to the next, or titles refer back to earlier titles, a track called Back and In becomes Back and In Again by the third album, several songs are referenced by opus number, Did You Try from the 2nd becomes Yes I Did Try by the third, etc.  It's great that the 1982 opus shows absolutely zero influence from the 80s with no digitalese, no drum machine, no jumpy staccato playing, etc.

The database discography is here.  Note that he made an album with friend Alain Bellaiche in 1974, which is chansonnier SSW unfortunately, no fusion or prog at all.  In keeping with his experience in Triangle and with Richard Pinhas' Heldon there is a little synthesizer noodling here and there, but really not to excess.  I love the use of different guitars, sometimes unison thirds playing the melodies which is always nice to hear (think Led Zep's Black Dog when the riff is played a third interval apart on two separate guitars).  There is quite a bit of bluesy songwriting too, which I find appealing in conjunction with the heavy electric guitarwork.

From the first album, Voyage without guide:

From the 2nd, Opening Opus 19:

And look at that great hair:

The cover of the first album is beautiful, and that calligraphic doodling adds to the charm in my opinion, presumably the drawings were by the artist?  Btw for those who are older, the Egyptian references from the second may remind people of the smash hit effects of the King Tut exhibit.

I'll throw in the 1976 album from Alain Bellaiche alone, without Renaud, which trends towards more electric fusion, because it kind of complements these others. At least, Bellaiche's guitar-playing is similar to Renaud's on the latter album, though it's relatively generic AOR with one nice exciting fusion track, the ST Sea Fluorescent.