Wednesday 29 September 2021

Back to Yoshio Suzuki with the next LP, Fairy Tale


In the end I really grew to love the previous Yoshio Suzuki posts, in the 3 LPs Wings, Morning Picture, Touch of Rain he sometimes really hits that sweet spot for me of progressive fusion with a strong keyboard basis and inventive compositions.  The next album which came out in 1987 is called Fairy Tale and when I saw it wasn't online yet or apparently ripped I bought it to check out if the winning streak held up, but it doesn't quite.  It's quite a bit more in the generic fuzak style that was prevalent at that time and mysteriously popular.

I think the best track is this one called Metro X: 

Sunday 26 September 2021

Rena Rama in 7 albums

I know a lot of people have requested these records here in the past, and I've posted quite a few in these years, I ripped New Album which I remember chiefly for the beautiful impressionistic piano solo called Gestalt.  That was written by this guy, who made other records in the 70s, wonder if they are worth hearing.  

Some I never even knew about like the live album from the early 80s and this highly interestingly titled Lost Tapes from 1987

Here's the discogs intro:

Swedish jazz group formed in 1971 by Bengt Berger, Palle Danielsson and Bobo Stenson, but after a short time Lennart Åberg also joined. The band developed a new form of jazz with influences from traditional African folk music, songs from Pakistan and the Balkans, something that was unusual among American jazz musicians. The group was awarded the Jazz Award in Sweden in 1973 and then released their first album. In 1975, Berger left the group and was replaced by Leroy Lowe. In the mid-1980s, Danielsson was replaced by Anders Jormin and Lowe by Anders Kjellberg. In 1989, an album was recorded with Marilyn Mazur. Rena Rama was disbanded around 1993, but an album with recordings from 1987 was released in 1998.

So focusing on the lost tapes, the Gentle Piece, which starts so unpromisingly with a bass solo, really is quite gentle, perhaps enough to cure most treatment-failed, terminal insomniacs out there like myself:

Friday 24 September 2021

Unison, USA 1984, lossless

From discogs;

Mid-80's U.S. print of fine West-Coast-roadhouse-vybed Prog-Rock album by U.S. east-coast aggregation; 70's Prog-Rock idioms bein' transponed onto 80's shelves as for sound-scape & vision (reminiscent of some late 70's SPIRIT excursions!) ...acoustic/electric guitars (12-string incl.) bass, harmonica 'n percussion-gear (no keyboards!) transpiring thru' spacey/phlanged filters haloed w/doomy athmo-glare, a bluesy touch-down on some songs and "so many miles" (7:34) is top-shelf jamm-out w/blistering lead-guitar-work; back-cover has the lyrics printed.

Despite the above overelaborate description, this is 'just' hard rock, similar to the slight prog touches of the Magik Dayze I loved so much, and posted not too long ago.  However, it's really good if you take it on its own terms.


I love the DSM-V reference of the song called Borderline (personality disorder):

Wednesday 22 September 2021

The Flute of Gino Marinacci, Library, requested

Generic library record, by request.  A few hundred dollars to purchase!

Note how the opening to Oasi seems stolen from the Theme from MASH:



Tuesday 21 September 2021

Janusz Muniak Group in Placebo, 1983 (plus 3 other LPs)

Basic smooth Polish jazz with the long tracks, like Namyslowski posted earlier.  From the album called Placebo (1983) the first track:

Sunday 19 September 2021

Jorge Campos (bassist of Fulano) in 4 albums (La Magia, Ausencia, Machi, Nu-Bass)

Towards the end, the music is both more experimental and less accessible than the preceding group he led, Fulano. His discography here.  I thought I'd put them here for completion sake and since they were mentioned last time by the commenter Sven. I am not sure if his earlier bands, Congreso, or Santiago del Nuevo are also worth a listen.  Others will know better than I.  Anyways the first album (1995) is surprisingly accessible and folk-based, with very little in the way of the progressive of Fulano though here and there this does make an appearance.

From Nu-Bass (2014), the track called Los Libros:

And the lushly symphonic title track from La Ausencia De Lo Sagrado (2004):

This album being the best of the 4 I think.

Friday 17 September 2021

Chilean fusion band Fulano in 5 (1987 to 2015)

From discogs:

Chilean jazz-fusion band from Santiago, active from 1984 to 2003 and from 2009 to 2015.

Current line-up:

- Jorge Campos: bass, guitar and composition (1984–2003, 2009–2015)
- Cristián Crisosto: soprano, alto and tenor sax, flute and composition (1984–2003, 2009–2015)
- Rafael Chaparro: tenor and soprano sax (1999–2003, 2013, 2015)
- Felipe Muñoz: keyboards (2009–2015)
- Francisca Rivera: vocals and piano (2013–2015)
- Cristóbal Dahm: baritone and tenor sax, and clarinet (2013–2015)
- Alvaro Poblete: (2013-2015)

I think everyone always gets excited by these current bands that turn out to be incredible, cd. Level F and Zopp.  This band discographed here, is mostly in the loud hot and furiously progressive fusion category, that is, like latin Iceberg or Fusioon which came before, bands which I guess everyone is well familiar with.

However their progressiveness is so special, and thankfully non-latinized with all that entails (no flamenco chord progressions for the most part and no bossa nova/samba) combining high energy electric instruments with some chamber composition a la Julverne full of tritones and dissonances and strong features resembling the infamous Italian band Picchio dal Pozzo (one of my all-time favourites) so pretty unique.  Notice that the first one came out only as cassette in the inauspicious year of 1987, though recall Nuevo Aires also made incredible music in that period in time.

From the first album the Julverne tendencies appear obvious on the track called Maquinerias:

They reached their peak in progressive chamber-RIO-style fusion on the 1997 album, ten years after the first, called Trabajos Inutiles. For me such a joy to discover something so good in such an unusually unpromising year.

From Animal, Viejo al Silencio really reminds a lot of the Picchio nutbars, notice the very abrupt changes in tempo:

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Spanish bassist / composer Carles Benavent

From discogs:

Spanish bass player, born March 1, 1954 in Barcelona.

Benavent's greatest contribution to music is to have given a major role to bass guitar in flamenco music with the Paco De Lucia Sextet in the 1980's. He's played too with Miles Davis, Chick Corea and El Camarón De La Isla. At 13 he founded the blues trio Crac (2) with Salvador Font (drums) and Emili Baleriola (guitar). In 1969 the three of them joined Enric Herrera to refound Máquina. In 1975 he founded Música Urbana with Joan Albert Amargos (piano, clarinet), Salvador Font and Lluis Cabanach (guitar).He has also played with a lot of Spanish jazz-rock musicians, including Kitflus, Tito Duarte, and Jorge Pardo.

Based on these solo albums it's obvious he contributed quite a bit to the Musica Urbana group, which is btw my favourite progressive fusion group out of Spain.  The hallmark of his style is the shocking chord changes under elaborately florid flamenco-like melodies.  From the first ST album, the track called Full of Clarinets and Mandolins sounds the most like a MU composition:

From the Dos album, Romantica:

Notice that in the 1991 album he plays with keyboardist Amargos and violinist Didier Lockwood, who was featured here before I think to completion or almost.

If there's anyone who hasn't heard the 3 Musica Urbana albums, I strongly urge them to seek them out asap, and kick them in the butt too (to boot) for not having done so earlier.

Included are albums Carles Benavent, Dos Copas, Peaches with Salt, and the collaboration with Lockwood called Colors.

Sunday 12 September 2021

Canadian Gino Vanelli in 7 from the beginning 1973 to 1981

A note on the page for his first, brief album Crazy Life (1973) (less than half an hour of music):

After a stint in New York City, Vannelli and his brother Joe went to Los Angeles in a financially distraught and desperate state to wait outside trumpeter Herb Alpert's locked gate for an audition. Alpert was Vannelli's last hope prior to heading back to Montreal the next day. Alpert liked what he heard and two days later signed Vannelli with A&M Records, releasing his first album in 1973. Vannelli's brother, Joe, served as arranger and keyboardist for most of his recording career. At a time when polyphonic synthesizers were non-existent, Joe overdubbed multiple parts to create a texture of sound that was progressive for the early 1970s. It is not widely known, but Vannelli played drums on the entire Crazy Life album. In fact, Gino and Joe performed all of the instruments except for flute and marimba.

You can see from the album covers that right from the beginning he instituted the decollete album cover which carried through all the way into the late seventies and "Saturday Night Fever" days when it was adopted by the mainstream for a brief unlucky period.  This nor his ridiculously good looking face should not detract from the fact that the music is incredibly interesting with influences from the great Stevie W. and also George Duke in the keyboard arrangements and progressive fusionary noodling with tons of thick (thicc as the kids say?) synthesizer patterns.  He did become super-famous by the end too with some AM radio hits, which also shouldn't be a distraction (like his hairy chest and powerfully Samson-like hair.)  His collaboration with brother Joe continued right through to the end of the LP days, and I wonder if today they are ready to kill each other, since such a thing is sure to be destroyed by the music industry. 

Actually he went on to make albums all the way through the eighties, the nineties, the 'aughts' or the millenial years (referencing those people we love to make fun of) all the way until a CD that came out 2 years ago.  I'm not going to even bother checking those out, because I'm only concerned with the progressive material that came out especially in the mid-70s albums like Sunup (1975), and Gemini (1976).

The two Vanellis together are very accomplished musicians and I'll confess even Gino's singing, although so poppy by the end, is extraordinary, with the range an impressive few octaves and the skill at soul singing blues notes and pentatonic scales undeniable, kind of like a Canuck Mariah Carey.  They took a bit to get started, the first album in addition to being too brief is too juvenilia-like to be of interest, echoing the old restaurant joke that not only was the food terrible, the portions of it were too small.  In these early albums you can detect a lot of Stevie Wonder influence especially with the electric organ wah-wah sound accentuated with synthesizers and the DIY qualities of the brothers playing a lot of extra instruments not necessarily as successfully/independently as one would like (e.g. the drumming).  I guess the first great song for us, from our progressive perspective, is the title track of the second album called Powerful People:

It's the kind of song that has to grow on you a little, plus, you have to look past the lyrics, unfortunately, which are a little bit trite, to get the passion of the songwriting (the arrangements I mean).   The middle passage features two instrumentals, one classical, the second a walking bass line with jazz improvisations on top.  So not at all the usual kind of pop song.  You could also argue it's a little bit mixed up, though that can be a good thing, being an adjectival description of some Genesis too.

Then you have the title track of Storm at Sunup, which really hits it out of the ballpark, nailing the soul (George Duke)-fusion-progressive synths bit perfectly in addition to showing off his immense vocal range:

Then on Gist of the Gemini (1975) the song called Omens of Love which was stolen by famed Argentinian Luis Alberto Spinetta (Jade) for his record called Only Love Can Sustain (1980) kills me, not only due to its lush romanticism which is like the heaviest emotional resonance I can imagine musically, but it just mystifies me that any human being can be so gifted as to write music that is so full of beauty and depth of feeling:

Here it's the chord changes that amplify his emotion with the always unusual resolutions from what are ordinary enough at 1st sight (the usual Stairway to Heaven descending chromatic minor key pattern, and in 'the usual' A minor to boot). I would go so far as to say this approaches the depth of progressive of the great C. Nieman, the Polish genius we all know so well.  As I understand it the A minor (lacking the third or 'c' note at first) pattern resolves into B major, truly a shocking transition, moving via B7 to E minor for the space of a chorus, which somehow goes back to the original A.  It's the mix of the melody with the chords that makes it successful, the two together perfectly complementing each other along with above-average lyrics (especially for these guys).

I'm going to sidetrack here to mention that Spinetta's Love album is for me his greatest masterpiece, really unheralded and underappreciated especially since it's like a concept album.  

Still more surprising is the instrumental suite "Prelude to War" which follows shortly after and to me reminds of the Warship Suite from Swiss artist Busser posted here long ago.  Incredible to come upon this in the middle of all the progressive soul/fusion vocalizing.  Not clear to me which war they're referring to here, in 1976.

But it gets even more surprising, by the next album (Pauper in Paradise, 1977) the title track features a full-blown progressive classical composition like Chicago in their early days, for example in Chicago (1970)'s Mourning Suite, or Harmonium's fifth season epic instrumental followed by some nice electric keyboard noodling around, again, cross between ELP and George Duke:

Sadly the remainder of this one turned out to be quite ordinary pop.  

But these albums as a whole are full of surprises for sure.  It goes without saying that by Brother to Brother (1978) we have almost completely lost the progressive element, though bits of it still remain for example in original chord changes.  So we are left with some really gorgeous fusion and progressive soul-fusion and even some out-right prog in some tracks from the mid-seventies albums, Sunup, Gemini, Pauper.

Friday 10 September 2021

Aussie fusionary band Crossfire, 1975 to 1991

Crossfire number 9 in discogs.  Obviously a very popular band but some of their material is less accessible and I collected all their albums here in one spot, 7 in total spanning from 1975's ST to 1983's Live Montreaux (where else?) in the early days and the outlier the 1991 Tension Release.  There are a couple I admit I had never heard before including obviously that last one.

From humble beginnings, sounding very much like old and somewhat funky Nucleus, they got very commercialistic & smoothly professional in their later days. From the first and ST album, the Perverted Pavane with its just wonderful chordal intro:

The awkwardly named albatrocity from the second album is nonetheless beautiful, certainly musically better than its title:

That pun of hysterical rochords has got to be one of the worst in that joke category I've ever been witness to. Never mind that this is not rock and neither hysterical nor chordal. It's like what they say about AI: it's neither artificial, nor intelligent (in the human sense).  I think that references that famous statement by Churchill: I am neither Winston, nor am I Churchillian.  Or something like that.  Anyways we can apply the LPDP (Law of postseventies declining progressiveness) for sure to this band, and even, start it a little earlier in the late 70s to boot, lucky for us.  Moreover, the vocal album with Michael Franks is terrible, being smooth vocal jazz.