Friday 29 April 2022

Kazumi Watanabe, Part 4 the Bands (1976 Milky Shade, 1980 Sunburst, 1981 Talk You All Tight, 1982 Ganaesia, 1983 Tibetan Blue...)

Some of the best music he made or recorded with are on Talk You and Ganaesia.
No surprise here because these recordings are under the artist name Kazumi Band, which featured as keyboardist our beloved Masanori Sasaji featured on this blog before here with his two brilliant fusion works from around the same period in time.

As well, he was in the one-off fusion outfit from 1980 called Sunburst, with the lovely photo of the old New York City with the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, and the Mainieri and Brecker band Steps posted on this blog to completion here.

From 1981's Talk you all tight, the astonishingly brilliant song title The Great Revenge of the Hong Kong Woman:

I love how he developed that octaved electric guitar riff almost instantly into synthesizer patterns a la Wakeman or Emerson, moving into various electric passages throughout a song that seems to keep changing every minute or two, never mind the wonderful duet solos between synth and electric guitar.

From 1982's Ganaesia, a track called Moenega with all the right fusionary moves: the unusual chords, the dramatic buildups, the crazy fast energy alternating with quieter passages, etc. and it all ends with some really stunning dissonant riffs:

These compositions are almost as good as the Sasaji stuff, I think you'll agree.

From Sunburst, Mysterious vibes is also quite delightful:

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Kazumi Watanabe, Part 3 (1979 Kylyn, 1979 Kylyn Live, 1980 To Chi Ka, 1981 Dogatana, 1984 Mobo and 1985 Mobo Splash)


So far the best of the packages remains, in these albums he moved forward from the sweet fusion to slightly more European, composed, Frippian progressive style composition in many parts though the simple fusion remains here and there.  Notably, (1981) Dogatana's acoustic pieces are very much like a lot of gentler fusion we have heard here from the likes of Toto Blanke or low-key acoustic guitar/synth pieces from Jun Fukamachi.

Consider the track called Island:

On Kylyn Live, I was absolutely floored to hear a ballad vocals version of The River Must Flow, a song by Canadian Gino Vanelli who of course was exhaustively featured here before.  When Gino did the song he made it uptempo and funky, but here it's transformed into a somewhat latin or brazilian ballad and note that on top of that, it's sung by the much beloved Akiko Yano--no mistaking her style of singing.

The Frippian element evident on a track called Synapse, from 1985's Mobo Splash:

Monday 25 April 2022

Kazumi Watanabe, Part 2 (1977 Guitar Workshop, 1977 Olive's Step, 1977 Village in Bubbles, 1978 Lonesome Cat, 1978 Mermaid Boulevard)


In the latter part of the 70s he hit homerun after homerun like my wife said so immortally: the ball never even stayed in the ballpark.  Having enjoyed all this music for the last several months I think I can easily say he has jumped to the top of the fusionary guitarists, top 10 for sure, although it wasn't until late that he got quite progressive (later in the 70s to early 80s as we will see).

The ST opener Olive's Step is brilliant from beginning to end, without a doubt:

I really love the composition Mermaid Boulevard from the album of the same name:

Saturday 23 April 2022

Kazumi Watanabe, Part 1 (1971 Infinite, 1975 Endless Way, 1977 Maduri, 1978 Concierto de Aranjuez, 1978 Kaleidoscope)


I haven't found an artist so unknown and prolific since James Vincent so long long ago.  He isn't quite as fantastically creative and original but he's a helluva composer in the trad. 70s fusion style we know and love so well and incredibly prolific, so much so that I had to divide his oeuvre into 4 parts each with 5-6 albums, I think 22 in total. Discography is here.

He did start slow in the 70s with the somewhat disappointing Infinite and Endless Way, too overloaded with extraneous improvisations in my opinion, as well as the way overplayed Concierto de Aranjuez which in comparison to other jazz performances/interpretations really leaves a lot to be desired.

But he fell into his own with Olive's Step which is in the next package (for some reason) and the brilliant, really outstanding from beginning to end Kaleidoscope LP.  

Maiden Voyage, from that one:

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Syrius bootleg Demo 1973

This band is very well known in prog circles due to the 1971 release called Devil's Masquerade (the second 70s album is really disappointingly generic), discogs bio here:

Hungarian rock band, operating in the 60's and 70's. Syrius was founded in 1962 by Zsolt Baronits. The group performed dance music and pop-rock. After the breakup and reorganization began to play typical jazz rock and prog rock.

Of course, recently mentioned in relation to the Beramiada from Jackie Orszakzky, which was so wonderful.

I didn't realize they also put out a demo with unreleased material, of great interest. Here's a review from rym:

The good news is the versions of Crooked Man and In the Bosom of a Shout that close out this demo, at just under seven minutes and just under nine minutes respectively, blow the versions on Syrius out of the water. And they're immaculately recorded.

The bad news is the other four tracks aren't just nowhere near as good, they're terribly recorded as well. Not as terribly recorded as the last four tracks on Utolsó kiadás, but it's pretty bad. And the worst part: those four tracks are forty nine minutes of music. One of them's over twenty seven minutes long and doesn't go to nearly enough places to justify its length.

Still, those last two are probably worth tracking down.

That being said however, the track called Nyitany es indulo reminds me a lot of famed unreleased Romanian progressive outfit, Experimental Q, or Exp. Q2, which is just a wonderful thing:

I think that track actually makes the whole demo worth its price, which was nothing in my case.

This was well worth hearing and it possibly is better or more progressive than the original debut album.

Monday 18 April 2022

Electric Tigers' 2 albums, by request

As noted by the commenter, this group led by guitarist Paul Anderson (who wrote all the music) has, or had, as keyboardist, T. Lavitz.  The style is that oh so typical smooth lighter US fusion style with all instrumentals, heavily electric guitar based (I think there are no acoustic tracks but I don't recall well enough to say for sure), some creative progressive elements but definitely on the smooth side as you tell from the track called Waiting for the Grass to Grow:

Friday 15 April 2022

Back with Akira Ishikawa and 1971's Power Rock With Drums

Here's something that ought to be very popular for the readers, many of whom love the Japanese material.

I covered him extensively here, before, with 7 albums. There you can read the transplanted bio from discogs.   It is a complex discography for any would-be fan given that he recorded with so many bands with similar names or slight alterations, so the total number of releases you'd have to listen to is enormous.  Here for example in this record from 1971 he is with Freedom Unity and note that also present in this group is the absolutely wonderful and well-loved Hiromasa Suzuki.  The style is typically the same funk-fusion with a lot of manic drumming of course.

A more progressive or original track in this case augmented with orchestration appears here and there, as in the track A2:

Wednesday 13 April 2022

John Sangster and Landscapes of Middle Earth from 1978


Most of his music is too jazz directed and of not the highest calibre to boot, but this record from 1978 has some quite nice moments.  Discography here.

The Lonely Mountain:

Included in the package are 4 albums, 1971 Australia and all that jazz, 1973 Paradise Vol. 1, 1973 Hobbit Suite, 1978 Landscapes

Sunday 10 April 2022

Aksak Maboul and the recent Figures, plus remainder [limited time only]

For me, one of the big 'touchstones' of progressive rock obviously in the RIO style, one of those artists I return to year after year to enjoy all over again with the immense amount of awesome and incredible creativity that was put into their first two records.

But I was curious to hear some of the post-1980 music to see if it compared favourably with the first two magnificent masterpieces of RIO from Marc Hollander:

The band formed in 1977 by Crammed Discs founder Marc Hollander and his musical partner Vincent Kenis. The aesthetics of Aksak Maboul (deconstructing and fusing many different genres, from rock, jazz, and electronics to fake African, Balkan & minimal music) can retrospectively be viewed as a blueprint for most of the music which was released by Crammed during the next two decades. In the 21st century the band re-assembled around Marc Hollander and Véronique Vincent who is now a prominent member anno 2020, alongside Marc & Véronique's daughter Faustine, Lucien Fraipont and Erik Heestermans. One could argue that the current band is a blend of Aksak Maboul Mk.I and The Honeymoon Killers ...

Coming from the 1980s (but not released in that horrible decade) there was an unreleased (Ex-Futur) album, the 'Made to Measure' contribution, and also a set of unreleased demo-type tracks, which were a bit simplistic in comparison, all released after 2010 in the 'generation z' period, I think, or perhaps we are now in the generation z + 1 stage, let's move on to greek letters perhaps as they did with covid variants so we can really insult these poor generations. (Speaking of which I noticed that called someone a millenial has now become an insult, and I admit to contributing to that greatly.)

However-- in 2020 Mark Hollander made a true follow up in the Aksak style, as you can see from the reviews on discogs:

Exquisite album, very Crammed / Hollander ... and very accessible. And at times also very Stereolab actually. Especially on a handful of songs, e.g. "Splenétique" or "Un caïd". But "Dramuscule" is more like Les Tueurs De La Lune De Miel ... The only remark to be made on this 2cd is that at 39'19" + 36'25" they could have released it on a single disc, using less resources.

This is a fantastic record. Funky, cool weird, hummable, complex. Pressing is excellent. Highly recommended.

The track called Taciturne indeed recalls the music composed more than 40 years prior, quite positively:

The other outstanding song, Sophie la Bevue, reminds me so much of Chanter est Sain from the first Aksak Maboul, could just as well be the same composition, along the lines of my wife's comment "are you sure it's not the same album you keep buying over and over again?" also of those old Joseph Racaille songs from so so long ago on this blog, in fact Racaille was featured close to the debut of this blog:

The one detraction I find is that he could have canned or retired that dumb supermarket organ with the lack of tone sensitivity, it just sounds so dated and even sounded dated in 1978. It really is a distraction for me.

Friday 8 April 2022

Brian Brown's Wildflowers from 1984

To my utter shock this turned out to be the best album I'd heard from him with well composed, shorter, less improvised pieces, with the softer, mellower jazz or chamber music this time alternating with lovely orchestral passages.  Given this I'll buy his Planets records which came next and be back with that one soon.

The Old Stockrider:

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Brian Brown's Bells Make me Sing, 1979

This time he appears in a quintet, for which discogs lists 4 releases, the first three of which were not interesting at all to me.  The track called Wild Flowers which sounds very European indeed:

Monday 4 April 2022

Brian Brown's Upward, 1977 [lossless limited time]

From discogs:

Australian jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist, flutist, composer and bandleader, born December 29, 1933 in Melbourne, Australia.

He formed his first group in 1956, which quickly became prominent in Australian experimental jazz.

It's a very meditative, intelligent composed type of contemporary fusion or jazz. 

As the quartet, there is only this release, unfortunately.

For ex., Tall Grass: