ERIK HONORE-HELIOGRAPHS.

ERIK HONORE-HELIOGRAPHS.

Erik Honoré is no stranger to a recording studio. He’s played on, or produced, over fifty albums. These albums are all very different. They’re best described as eclectic. No wonder. This eclectic selection of albums features everyone from David Sylvian to Arve Henrikse, through Eivind Aarset, Jon Hassell and Laurie Anderson, to Brian Eno and Peter Schwalm. However, despite working with so many high profile artists, there’s one thing forty-eight year old Erik Honoré still has to do. That’s release a solo album. Soon, the wait will be over. Heliographs, Erik Honoré’s debut album will be released by Hubro Music on 17th November 2014.

In some ways, it’s no surprise that it’s taken Erik Honoré such a long time to record his debut album. There’s more to Erik’s career than his solo career. He’s also a successful musician, producer and author.

Erik was born on 11th December 1966, in Kristiansand, Norway. Growing up, music was Erik’s passion. So it’s no surprise that, having left high school, Erik headed to college in Oslo.

His destination was the Norwegian Institute for Stage and Studio. That was where Erik spent the next few years. When Erik graduated, he was a fully qualified sound engineer and producer. Now, his career got underway.

One of the first projects after he left college was Woodlands’ 1988 eponymous album. Erik a member of Woodlands, played electronic percussion and keyboards. He also mixed and produced Woodlands, which featured Jan Bang, who Erik would later collaborate with.

Jan Bang and Erik Honoré have released six albums togther. Their first collaboration was 2000s Birth Wish. It featured Arve Henriksen and Christian Wallumrød. A year later, Erik and Jan released their sophomore album on Going Nine Ways From Wednesday. Released in 2001, it featured Nils Christian Moe-Repstad and Anne Marie Almedal. After the release of Going Nine Ways From Wednesday, it would be another eleven years before Jan Bang and Erik Honoré released another album. One reason for this, was Erik’s career change.

In 2002, Erik released his first novel Orakelveggen. This was the first of a trio of successful novels Erik wrote. Ubåten på Nørholm followed in 2003. However, Erik hadn’t turned his back on music.

Eivind Aarset, a Norwegian guitarist, asked Erik to collaborate with him in 2004. The result was Connected, Eivind Aarset’s third album. Connected was critically acclaimed. It was hailed as an album of groundbreaking music. Erik had played his part in Connected’s success. Despite the success of Connected, Erik continued to juggle his parallel careers as a musician and author.

2005 saw Erik release this third novel Kaprersanger. This was Erik’s literary swan-song. He hasn’t written another book. That’s a great shame, as the novels were well received. A great future was forecast for Erik as a writer. However, literature’s loss was music’s gain.

Although his three novels showed another side to Erik Honoré, he had decided to concentrate on music. He was content to work as a songwriter, session musician and producer. That was, until Erik cofounded a music festival.

This was the Punkt Festival in Kristiansand.  Jan Bang and Erik founded the Punkt Festival in 2005. Jan and Erik had known each other since they were teenagers. They’d similar tastes in music and were determined to create a festival that was truly unique.

The Punkt Festival was very different to any other Norwegian festival. The idea was that, as a concert was taking place, it would be remixed live in another room. Remixers improvised and added samples to the live sound, essentially creating new and original music on the fly. For everyone involved, the audience, musicians, producers and remixers, this offered endless opportunities. So, it’s no surprise that the Punkt Festival grew legs.

Since 2005, when the first Punkt Festival  took place, what are essentially spin-offs of the original festival have taken place across Europe. Paris, London, Tallinn, Wroclaw and various German cities have played host to Punkt Festival spin-offs. Since then, Erik has been busier than ever.

It seems the Punkt Festival opened doors for Erik Honoré. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Peter Schwalm and David Sylvian.

The first time Erik worked with David Sylvian, was in 2011. They collaborated on the 2011 album Died In The Wool. This was the start of a successful musical partnership. David Sylvian then featured on the third collaboration between Jan Bang and Erik Honoré. However, there was more to 2012 than one album from Erik Honoré.

2012 was a busy year for Erik. He’d collaborated with Greta Aagre on Yyear Of The Bullet. That wasn’t all. Then there was the collaboration between Jan Bang and Erik Honoré.

After eleven long years, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré were back with their third album, Uncommon Deities. Featuring David Sylvian, Uncommon Deities was a hailed a return to form from Jan and Erik. So they released two albums in 2013.

For Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, 2013 was their most productive year. They released two albums, Narrative From The Subtropics and Victoria. After not releasing an album for eleven years, Jan and Erik had released three albums in two years. The drought was well and truly over, in more than one way.

Narrative From The Subtropics and Victoria weren’t the only albums that Erik Honoré had been working on during 2013. He’d began work on his debut solo album Heliographs, an album whose title was inspired by his debut novel.

The titles and narrative on Heliographs originate from parts of Erik’s debut novel, Orakelveggen. It was released back in 2002. However, it provided the inspiration for the concept for Erik’s belated debut album Heliographs. 

Much of the recording of Heliographs, took place in Erik’s Oslo home studio. His approach to recording is fascinating. He used samples, but not just any samples. Instead, the basis for much of Heliographs were samples taken from concerts and live remixes. These were then reworked into new tracks. The first track was recorded in August 2013. Gradually, Heliographs began to take shape.

It wasn’t until a few months passed, before it dawned on Erik that potentially, he was working on his long awaited debut album. When he realised this, Erik called upon some of the musicians he regularly collaborated with.

The musicians who played on Heliographs, which features nine tracks, reads like a who’s who of Norwegian improvisational music. The nine tracks are all collaborations. Some of Erik’s collaborators cowrote the tracks. They’re also responsible for Heliographs’ groundbreaking sound.

This is no surprise. Just look at the the lineup of musicians that feature on Heliographs. There’s guitarist Eivind Aarset, trumpeter Arve Henriksen and percussionist Ingar Zach of Huntsville and Dans Les Arbres. They’re joined by Dutch violinist Jeffrey Bruinsma from Zapp 4. That’s not all. 

Jo Wang, Nils Petter Molvær, Okavango and Jan Bang provide the myriad of samples that feature on Heliographs. So does Erik. He also plays synths and takes charge of programming. The other person who plays an important role in the success of Heliographs, is vocalist and improviser Sidsel Endresen. She’s part of what’s a array of talented and innovative Norwegian musicians. They accompany Erik Honoré on his long awaited debut album Heliographs, which I’ll tell you about.

Navigators opens Heliographs. It literally meanders into being. Elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental and jazz melt seamlessly into this experimental soundscape. Shimmering, quivering and fluttering, the arrangement is variously melancholy, ethereal, dark and eerie. You’re drawn in, it cocoons you. A shimmering, shivers, quivering, cooing sound floats above the arrangement. Deep down, dark strings add a gothic tone. Later, the track takes on an experiment and eerie sound. That doesn’t matter, as you can’t help but succumb to its charms and delights.

Halfway House is a short, spacious and minimalist track. The arrangement crawls along, as if hesitant to reveal its secrets. Ambient and classical music provide inspiration for Erik, on this cinematic track.

Percussion and a pulsating bass provide a backdrop for the wistful, ethereal beauty of Sidsel Endresen’s vocal on Sanctuary. She delivers a tender, thoughtful and truly heartfelt vocal. It’s the focus of your attention. No wonder. Literally, her vocal oozes emotion and ethereal beauty.

Pioneer Trail has a captivating introduction.  A myriad of disparate layers of sounds assail you. A grinding, churning arrangement meanders along. All the time, a radio plays and a pounding drum pulsates. The grinding, churning sound is reminiscent of a journey along the Pioneer Trail. Meanwhile, the other two stratas of sound are reminiscent of late night, city living, far from the Pioneer Trail. Just like Halfway House, Erik Honorè uses music to paint pictures and tell stories.

Just a lone bass plays as the arrangement to Red Café shows its secrets. Meanwhile, a subtle wash of sound sits down in the mix. Before long, a violin plays. Its minimalist, melancholy sound adds a heartachingly beautiful, wistful sound.

Washes of synths open Last Chance Gas and Water. They’re joined by a broody bass and sci-fi sounds. Together they combine darkness and a futuristic, otherworldly sound. Gradually, layers of music unfolds. A buzzing synth bass adds a cinematic sweep. That’s fitting. Sometimes, the arrangement is reminiscent of the soundtrack to a Cold War thriller. Other times, moody and broody describes the music. So does futuristic and 21st century. All this is down the imagination of Erik Honorè, a true musical innovator and explorer. 

Strife might be a relatively short track, but it leaves an impression. It’s futuristic, and packed full of sci-fi sounds. Elements of avant-garde, experimental free jazz and rock melt into one. They play their part in a captivating and futuristic sounding track that packs a punch.

Sanctuary Revisited picks up where Sanctuary left off. It welcomes back Sidsel Endresen’s vocal. Her vocal is tender, and melancholy. There’s a fragility to her voice and a sense of sadness. Despite that, the ethereal beauty is omnipresent. She’s accompanied by an arrangement that’s slow, minimalist and has a classical influence. Strings are at the heart of the arrangement. They swell, and sweep the arrangement along. Later, so are pizzicato strings and Sidsel’s tender, thoughtful, scatted vocal. They’re at the heart of track that’s the highlight of Heliographs.

Departed closes Heliographs Erik Honoré’s long awaited debut solo album. Elements of ambient and classical music melt into one. Slowly, the arrangement unfolds. It’s reticent about doing so. However, eventually, Departed reveals its secrets and beauty to all, proving the perfect way to close Heliographs.

Erik Honoré is now forty-eight. He’s been involved in music all his life. However, there’s one thing he’s never done, release a solo album. That’s about to change. Heliographs, will be released by Hubro Music on 17th November 2014. Belatedly, one of Norwegian music’s most creative and innovative musicians releases his solo debut album Heliographs. However, Erik is no newcomer to music.

He’s worked with the great and good of music. This includes David Sylvian and Arve Henrikse, through Eivind Aarset, Jon Hassell and Laurie Anderson, to Brian Eno and Peter Schwalm. Each of these artists have one thing in common. They release music that’s groundbreaking. That’s what Erik Honoré does on Heliographs.

That’s no surprise. Erik has collaborated with many artists. They’ve never played it safe. So why should Erik start playing it safe now? He doesn’t. There’s no chance of that. Heliographs is a groundbreaking, genre-melting album. Everything from ambient, avant-garde, classical, experimental, free jazz and a hint of psychedeliaan and rock melt into one. It’s an eclectic and disparate fusion of musical influences and genres. That’s not surprising. Erik Honorè is a true musical innovator and explorer. On Heliographs, Erik Honorè dares to go, where other musicians fear to tread.

ERIK HONORE-HELIOGRAPHS.

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DAVID SANCIOUS AND TONE-TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE).

DAVID SANCIOUS AND TONE-TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE).

Although David Sancious was a self-taught guitarist, the New Jersey born multi-instrumentalist was a classically trained pianist. David, who was born on November 30th 1953, first started playing piano aged seven. That was the start of David Sancious’ long and illustrious career.

David went on to play with rock royalty, including Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen. Indeed, David was an early member of the E-Street Band, and played on Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums. He made his debut on Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. However, by then, David Sancious had served his musical apprenticeship.

Four years after he took his first classical piano lesson, the eleven year old David Sancious first picked up a guitar. He managed to teach himself the rudiments of guitar. A few years passed, and David had immersed himself in Asbury Park’s music scene. 

This was the late sixties and early seventies. The Asbury Park music scene was vibrant. At the heart of it, was a teenage David Sancious, Bill Chinnock, Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen and future members of the E-Street Band. Along with David, they played in various bands, including Glory Road, Dr.Zoom and The Sonic Boom, The Bruce Springsteen Band and The Sundance Blues Band. Right through until 1972, this was the first part of David Sancious’ apprenticeship. The final part came, when David moved to Richmond, Virginia.

As 1972 dawned, David Sancious moved to Richmond, Virginia. His destination was Alpha Studios. David’s new job was a studio musician, who played on jingles and sessions. That was how he met Ernest “Boom” Carter, the E-Street Band’s drummer. This was how David spent two years in Bruce Springsteen’s employ.

Between 1972 and 1974, David was a member of the E-Street Band. He played keyboards on Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. 

Recording of Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. took place between July and September 1972. Four months later, on 

January 5th 1973, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was released. It was well received by critics, and nowadays, features in Rolling Stone magazines list of 500 best albums of all time. Despite this, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. wasn’t a huge commercial success.

On its release, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. reached just number sixty in the US Billboard 200 charts.  Little did anyone know that this was the start of the career of one of the most successful American musicians ever. 

Even David didn’t appear to realise this. After Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. was recorded, he didn’t head out on tour with Bruce Springsteen. Instead, he returned to Alpha Studios.

At Alpha Studios, David recorded some demos with drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter and bassist Garry Tallent. There was a problem though. The rights to the demos that the three members of the E-Street Band recorded, were owned by producer and songwriter Will Farrell. These would become a bone of contention,  when they were later released without David’s permission. That was still to come. Before that, David would play on The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle. 

Recording of Bruce Springsteen’s sophomore album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle took place between May and September 1973 at was re914 Recording Sound Studios. It was the perfect showcase for David’s skills. 

On The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle, David talents as a multi-instrumentalist shines through. He played piano on New York City Serenade, organ on Kitty’s back and a soprano  saxophone solo on The E Street Shuffle. That’s not all. During instrumental breakdowns, David enjoys the chance to showcase his versatility. Drawing inspiration from his eclectic musical taste, he takes The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle on unexpected directions. In doing so, David played his part in Bruce Springsteen’s first great album.

When The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle was released in September 1973, it was too widespread critical acclaim. So much so, that The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle features in the Rolling Stone magazines list of 500 best albums of all time. Sadly, this didn’t translate into sales.

The Wild, The Innocent and The E-Street Shuffle stalled at just number fifty-nine in the US Billboard 200 charts. Although slightly better than Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., it was a disappointing chart placing. Maybe this is why David’s time with The E-Street Band was soon at an end.

David toured with The E-Street Band from June 1973 right through to August 1974. He also played on the title-track to Bruce Springsteen’s third album Born To Run. However, David was about to leave the E-Street Band, albeit not for ever.

Having left The E-Street Band, David and drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter formed their own group Tone. The third member of Tone was bassist Gerald Carboy. Other members would come and go. This would include vocalists Gail Boggs, Patti Scialfa, Brenda Maddison and Gayle Moran, of Return To Forever and The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Another future member of Tone was  Alex Ligertwood, who’d become Santana’s vocalist. These vocalists were part of Tone’s fluid lineup. Their debut album was Forest Of Feeling.

Forest of Feeling.

For David Sancious and Tone’s debut album, 1975s Forest Of Feeling, they decided to change direction from the music they’d been making with Bruce Springsteen. To do this, they brought onboard a producer capable of making this happen.

Billy Cobham of The Mahavishnu Orchestra was brought onboard to produce Forest Of Feeling. Their debut album saw David Sancious and Tone’s music move in an innovative direction. Progressive rock and jazz fusion melted into one on Forest Of Feeling. There was more than a nod to The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes and Genesis. A captivating fusion of musical genes and influences, Tone’s debut Forest Of Feeling, was released in 1975.

On its release in 1975, Forest Of Feeling was well received by critics. They realised that Forest Of Feeling was an album of groundbreaking music. It was very much a mixture of music’s present and future. Despite this, Forest Of Feeling failed to chart. For David Sancious and Tone this a huge disappointment. So they started work on their sophomore album, Transformation (The Speed Of Love), which was reissued by Esoteric Recordings.

Transformation (The Speed Of Love).

For Transformation (The Speed Of Love), David Sancious and Tone’s sophomore album, David penned four tracks. They were Piktor’s Metamorphosis, Sky Church Hymn #9, The Play And Display Of The Heart and Transformation (The Speed Of Love). These four lengthy pieces were the perfect showcase for David Sancious and Tone.

Recording of Transformation (The Speed Of Love) took place at Caribou Ranch studios with Bruce Botnik producing. David played acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, piano plus Hammond and electric organ. That’s not all. A true multi-instrumentalist, David also played Moog synth, clavinet, electric  and acoustic guitars. Ernest “Boom” Carter played drums, percussion and added the vocal on Piktor’s Metamorphosis. Gerald Carboy played bass and wind chimes. Gayle Moran sang the vocal chorus on Transformation (The Speed Of Love), an eighteen minute epic that closes the album. Once these four songs were recorded, Transformation (The Speed Of Love) was released in 1976.

On Transformation (The Speed Of Love)’s release, it was released to widespread critical acclaim. A genre-melting album, everything from blues, boogie, classic rock, psychedelia, funk, fusion, jazz, progressive rock and rock feature on Transformation (The Speed Of Love). It’s three hugely talented musicians showcasing their considerable talents. Despite this, commercial success eluded Transformation (The Speed Of Love).

Transformation (The Speed Of Love) failed to chart. It passed record buyers by, upon its release in 1976. Since then, Transformation (The Speed Of Love) has found an audience within the rock and jazz community. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about Transformation (The Speed Of Love).

Opening Transformation (The Speed Of Love) is Piktor’s Metamorphosis. A melancholy Fender Rhodes plays slowly and thoughtfully. Tenderly, wind chimes make their presence felt. Soon, the track heads in the direction of fusion. Starting slowly, it’s a laid back track. Just scatted harmonies accompany Tone. Then Tone kick loose. The rhythm section and scorching guitars drive the arrangement along. David’s guitar are at the heart of the arrangement. His fingers fly up and down the fretboard, as he draws inspiration from fusion and rock. However, Tone aren’t a one man band. Ernest “Boom” Carter’s drums and Gerald Carboy bass play important roles. Especially the pounding, probing bass. Along with David’s blistering, searing, guitars, it plays a starring role during this musical roller coaster that veers between laid back and melancholy to raucous and rocky.

Sky Church Hymn #9 sees Tone head in the direction of the blues, as they pay homage to the late, great Jimi Hendrix. Early on, there’s even a country and rock influence. Mostly, though, the blues are the starting point as Tone get into the deepest of grooves. After a couple of minutes, it’s time for Tone to stretch their legs musically. This is the signal for David to unleash some scorching, rocky guitar licks. He goes toe-to-toe with Tone’s rhythm section. They match him every step of the way. Soon, the track becomes a funky slice of boogie, with more than the merest hints of psychedelia. Later, fusion is the next genre Tone make a fleeting visit to, on a truly genre-melting homage to a musical legend, Jimi Hendrix.

The Play And Display Of The Heart sees another change in direction. A wistful piano plays. David unleashes some flamboyant flourishes, before the track returns to what’s almost a fusion modern classical and jazz. He duets with himself on acoustic guitar. This is a compelling combination, where David becomes a one man band. After three minutes, David injects drama and flamboyance. Elements of classical, jazz and rock shine through on what’s a truly beautiful track.

Closing Transformation (The Speed Of Love), is the title-track, an eighteen minute epic. It took up the entire second side of the original album. As the arrangement unfolds, it’s almost discordant. You wonder what’s about to unfold. It’s best described as heading in the direction of ambient, avant-garde, experimental  and free jazz. This is a brief detour. Then Tone become one and get down to business. The track heads in the direction of fusion and progressive rock. In full flight, the rhythm section, propelled along by the bass provide the backdrop for a vampish Hammond organ. Then sci-fi synths signal a breakdown. A lone Fender Rhodes meanders across the arrangement. Boom Boom marks time, as if desperate to kick loose. When he does, he and the rest of Tone become a tight, progressive band. As the tempo increases, they showboat their way through what’s the album’s highlights. It’s another musical journey, one where drama and melancholy are ever-present. Adding to that is Gayle Moran’s ethereal vocal, during the chorus. It plays a part in David Sancious and Tone’s musical Magnus Opus where beauty, drama, darkness, joy and melancholy make their presence felt.

Transformation (The Speed Of Love), David Sancious and Tone’s sophomore album was their finest moment. Sadly, they were neither  a prolific nor successful group.  

Indeed, they only released two further albums, 1977s Dance Of The Enlightenment and True Stories. Just four albums are the sum total of David Sancious and Tone’s discography. For the newcomer to David Sancious and Tone’s music, then Transformation (The Speed Of Love) is the place to start.

Quite simply, Transformation (The Speed Of Love), is an innovative, genre-melting album. During the four tracks, elements of ambient, avant-garde, blues, classical, experimental, funk, fusion, jazz, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock are combined by three hugely talented musicians. Seamlessly, the change direction. They’re able to do this, because they’re versatile musicians. However, David Sancious and Tone were hardly musical veterans.

David was just twenty-three when Transformation (The Speed Of Love) was released. However, he’d spent a lifetime making music. That’s apparent on Transformation (The Speed Of Love). Whether he’s playing guitar, piano or organ, David Sancious is a truly gifted musician. Accompanying him are two talented musicians, drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter and bassist Gerald Carboy. Their contribution to Transformation (The Speed Of Love), which is something of a hidden gem, is equally important. 

Recently, Transformation (The Speed Of Love) has been reissued by Esoteric Recordings. This will allow a new generation of music lovers to discover David Sancious and Tone’s captivating and genre-melting album Transformation (The Speed Of Love). 

DAVID SANCIOUS AND TONE-TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE).

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WILLIAM ONYEAEBOR 2.

WILLIAM ONYEAEBOR 2.

Enigmatic. That’s the perfect word to describe synth funk pioneer, William Onyeabor. He is, without doubt, one of the most mysterious and elusive musicians. There’s a good reason for this, Much of William Onyeabor’s life is shrouded in mystery. After releasing eight albums between 1978 and 1985, which will feature in Luaka Bop’s forthcoming nine CD box set William Onyeabor 2, William Onyeabor became a born-again Christian. He turned his back on music and refused to talk about his life or music. In some ways, this has helped perpetuate the myths surrounding William Onyeabor.

With William Onyeabor refusing to discuss his past, numerous rumours surrounded his life after music. Rumours were rife about what happened next. Some believe William studied cinematography in the Soviet Union, then returned to Nigeria, where he founded his own film company, Wilfilms. Then there’s the rumour that William studied law in England, then became a lawyer in his native Nigeria. Others believe William became a businessman in Nigeria. According to other people, William worked for the Nigerian government. No-one can say with any degree of certainty. The only person who knows what happened next, is William Onyeabor. 

William Onyeabor however, isn’t for telling. Thirty-nine after William Onyeabor found religion, and turned his back on music, he’s still refusing to discuss his past. This means still, little is known about Nigerian music’s most enigmatic musicians, William Onyeabor. The effect this has, is to perpetuate the myth of William Onyeabor. He’s a a musical riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Sadly, one that looks like never being solved. There’s no clues in William Onyeabor’s biography.

Trying to write an accurate biography of William Onyeabor is almost impossible. Especially when William Onyeabor refuses to talk about his past. There are some things we can say with a degree of certainty. The first is that growing up, William Onyeabor was a talented musician. 

William Onyeabor was born either in 1945 or 1946. Nobody knows. Only William Onyeabor and he won’t say. He was born and brought up Enugu, in the Nigerian provinces. Growing up, William Onyeabor showed an interest in music. 

Soon, William was hooked. Music began to play a bigger part in his life. Before long, he realised listening to music was one thing. He wanted to make music. So he decided it was tine to learn how to play an instrument. It’s thought that the first instrument William learnt to play were keyboards. That was his musical weapon of choice. Before long, it became apparent that William Onyeabor was a talented musicians. Some people thought that when William Onyeabor left school, he would make a living out of music. They were in for a surprise.

When William was a teenager and ready to leave high school, it’s thought he was awarded a scholarship to study cinematography in the old Soviet Union. That may, however, be one of the myths surrounding William Onyeabor. 

Anyone who has a copy of William Onyeabor’s 1977 debut album, Crashes in Love, will see he is described as an American and French trained filmmaker on the back cover. Crashes in Love is allegedly the soundtrack to the film of the same name. It’s meant to have been made by William’s own film company Winfilms. That however, is another of the controversies surrounding William Onyeabor.

On his return to his native Nigeria, William Onyeabor founded his own film company, Winfilms. Between 1977 and 1985, when William’s career was at its height, people speculated whether Winfilms released any films? It was known if Winfilms had even released a film? Since then, efforts have been made to trace whether Winfilms released any films. There has been no trace of Winfilms releasing any films. That includes Crashes in Love. It’s billed as “a tragedy of how an African princess rejects the love that money buys.” However, another company William Onyeabor founded was more active and successful.

Winfilms wasn’t the only company William Onyeabor founded. No.  A subsidiary of Winfilms, Wilfims Records released William Onyeabor’s eight albums. They were recorded at Winfilms Recording Studio in Enugu, Nigeria. William Onyeabor’s debut album was 1978s Crashes In Love. 

Crashes In Love.

Crashes In Love was released in 1978 on Wilfims Records. This was supposedly a soundtrack album. However, no trace of the film Crashes In Love has ever been traced. That’s not the only mystery surrounding William Onyeabor’s debut album Crashes In Love.

Seemingly, there are two versions of Crashes In Love in existence. Both versions feature in Luaka Bop’s forthcoming CD box set 2. There’s what’s known as the electronic version. It’s essentially a remix album. The four songs have added drumbeats. Then there’s the original version.

The original version of Crashes In Love has just five tracks. It opens with the ten minute spic Something You’ll Never Forget. After that, the music continues to be funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. Especially Ride On Baby and Crashes In Love would showcase William Onyeabor’s trademark sound. However, with two version of Crashes In Love being released, it seems even mystery surrounds William Onyeabor’s debut album.

Atomic Bomb.

Following his debut album, William Onyeabor released his sophomore album Atomic Bomb in 1978. Featuring the Winfilms Resident Band, Atomic Bomb was groundbreaking, genre-sprawling album. Released on his own label, Wilfilms Records, William Onyeabor Atomic Bomb was a career defining album further established William’s reputation as a pioneering musician.

Atomic Bomb is one of those albums where there’s no weak tracks. It just oozes quality. From Beautiful Baby to the defiant, social comment of Better Change Your Mind and Atomic Bomb, William Onyeabor unleashes a series of musical tour de forces. They’re just three reasons why William Onyeabor would be hailed as one of the most innovative musicians with Nigeria in the late seventies. So is the understated, spacey lo-fi funk of Shame and I Need You All Life.

Tomorrow.

For the recording of his third album Tomorrow, William Onyeabor headed to the familiar surroundings of Wilfilms Studios Limited, Awakunanaw, Enugu. William had written another five tracks. They would feature what was his trademark sound. 

Essentially, this was funk and soul fused with a pulsating Afro-beat beat. Sometimes, the female backing vocal took the music in the direction of gospel music. Especially when they sung call and response with William. The music was joyous and irresistible. What made William Onyeabor’s music stand out, were the banks of synthesisers. This was very different from most of the music coming out of Nigeria. 

William it seemed, was determined to stand out musically. Tomorrow and Fantastic Man are proof of this. This is Why Go To War, one of many ant-war songs William recorded. His music had a social conscience. It was also evolving with each album. There was no chance of William Onyeabor standing still. That wasn’t his style. He was determined his music would continue to evolve. That would be the case as a new decade dawned.

Body and Soul.

For the cover of Body and Soul, William Onyeabor dawns a while suit and bow tie. This makes him resemble Lou Rawls. So when you drop the needle on The Way To Win Your Love, you’re expecting a slice of the smoothest soul. You’re in for a shock. It’s all beeps, squeaks from the music and sound-effects department of Wilfilms Ltd. Add to this stabs of horns and hissing hi-hats. After that, soul, funk and Afro-beat melt into one. This is the case right Poor Boy, Body and Soul and Believe In God, which provides a clue to William Onyeabor’s future.

Five years after the release of Body and Soul, William Onyeabor would become a born-again Christian. Was the release of Believe In God a hint of the direction William Onyeabor’s life was leading? He was certainly known for his anti-war songs and social conscience, but religion was apparently a new thing. Believe In God was just a hint that William Onyeabor was changing.

Great Lover.

Just like Body and Soul, the cover of Great Lover is akin to a homage to the album covers of giants of American soul. William Onyeabor dawns a tuxedo and top hat on Great Lover. Wearing a watch that’s the size of a dinner plate, William Onyeabor looks urban and debonair. This is very different to the younger version of William Onyeabor that headed to the former Soviet Union to study cinematography. The image William Onyeabor is also very different to the reality of his life.

By 1981, when he released Great Lover, William Onyeabor wasn’t exactly a giant of Nigerian music. He was enjoying a modicum of success. However, he wasn’t one of Nigerian’s most successful musical exports. So it’s no wonder rumours continued to surround this mystery man. However, one thing wasn’t in doubt, William Onyeabor’s talent.

That’s apparent on the genre-hopping Great Lover. Elements of Afro-beat, Afro-Cuban, funk and soul melt into one during this concept album. Just like his previous albums, William Onyeabor is determined to innovate. He manages to do that on an album that’s soulful, funky and tinged with the influences of three continents.

Hypertension.

In 1982, William Onyeabor was ready to release his sixth album, Hypertension. It marked a change of direction from the man they called a musical chameleon, William Onyeabor. He fused Afro-beat, funk, psychedelia, rock and even a hint of soul. This musical melange also so songs of praise and protest songs sit side-by-side. Hypertension was William Onyeabor his eclectic best.

From the opening bars of The Moon And The Sun, what was probably William Onyeabor’s most eclectic and ambitious album proved a musical mystery tour. After The Moon And The Sun gave way to Papa Na Mama and Hypertension, William’s social conscience shines through on Politicians. They’re far from William Onyeabor’s people. They’re to blame for Nigeria and the wider world’s problems. This impassioned track closes William Onyeabor’s most eclectic and innovative album Hypertension.

Good Name.

Little did anyone realise it, but 1983s Good Name would be the penultimate album William Onyeabor released. Good Name is a truly compelling album. Although it only features two tracks, where elements of Afro-beat, electronica and funk are fuses, these two tracks speak volumes.

On side one, William almost dawns the role of a preacher. The message he preaches is about Love. That he believes leads to peace, harmony and happiness. Then on side two, Williams sings about the importance of good name. It he believes is better than silver and gold. William reinforces this message by singing: “no money, no money, no money, Nn money can buy good Name.” Looking back, this could be seen as the beginning of a change in William Onyeabor. Maybe this was the start of William Onyeabor turning his back on music?

Anything You Sow.

If Good Name gave a hint of what was about to happen, Anything You Sow spelt it out in large letters. Given the title, Anything You Sow, it looks as if William was changing. Maybe he was on the verge of a spiritual awakening and was questioning the world around him? This would explain songs like When The Going Is Smooth and Good, This Kind Of World, Anything You Sow and Everyday? 

A fusion of Afro-beat, funk and soul, the changes in William’s life didn’t affect the quality of music on Anything You Sow. William was continuing to push musical boundaries. He was determined, maybe even fearful of releasing music that didn’t evolve. There was no chance of that. Similarly, there was no hint of what was about to happen next.

Looking at the back cover to Anything You Sow, William Onyeabor continued to give an impression that Wilfilms Limited was an important, thriving company. It wasn’t a case of what Wilfilms Limited did, it was case of what they didn’t do. Their services were listed as “recording and  record manufacturing industry. Music, video and film producers.”  They also had within their portfolio of business interests an office, factory and recording studios within the Wilfilms Complex. To the onlooker, it looked like William Onyeabor was on his way to building a business empire on the back of his recording career. Surely, the last thing he was about to do was walk away from music?

1985s Anything You Sow was William Onyeabor’s final album. After that, William Onyeabor turned his back on music. He became a born-again Christian. Since then, he has refused to discuss his music or his past. Both his musical career and his past are another country.  Since then, rumours, myths and speculation have surrounded William Onyeabor. 

One of the most controversial parts of his life was where he studied. Which side of the Iron Curtain did William Onyeabor study? Originally, he claimed to have won a scholarship to study cinematography in the former Soviet Union. Then on his 1977 debut album Chains Of Love, which was the alleged soundtrack album, William Onyeabor claims to have studied cinematography in France and America. Just like the rest of his life, William Onyeabor refused to speak about this period of his life. So tight lipped is William Onyeabor, that ge wouldn’t even confirm if he had ever made a film. As a result, allegations of the Russian connection in William Onyeabor’s life refuse to go away. 

This is all part of rumours, mystery and speculation the Nigerian  synth funk pioneer, William Onyeabor. As a result, for far too long William Onyeabor has been one of music’s best kept secrets. Not any more.

Over a seven-year period, William Onyeabor released eight innovative and inventive, groundbreaking, genre-melting albums. On each of these albums, was music that was way ahead of the musical curve. Everything from Afro-beat, cosmic funk, gospel, jazz, post-disco, proto-house, psychedelia, reggae, rock and soul was thrown into the melting pot by William Onyeabor. This is apparent on Luaka Bop’s forthcoming nine CD box set William Onyeabor 2. It’ll be released on 24th November 2014, and features all you need to know about William Onyeabor, but were afraid to ask. 

The music on William Onyeabor 2 is the work of  a musical visionary. That’s no exaggeration. After all, how many people could successfully mix sci-fi synths with soul and jazz? William Onyeabor could, and does on Let’s Fall In Love. Then on Fantastic Man, William like a mystic, foresaw the changing of the musical guard. The ghost of disco passes the musical baton to Chicago house. This fusion of post-disco and proto-house demonstrates the versatility of William Onyeabor.  

Indeed, William Onyeabor’s music evolves throughout the period between William released his 1978 debut album Crash In Love and 1983s Good Name. Whilst other artists were churning out albums of similar music, William was pushing musical boundaries. He wasn’t content to stand still. One listen to the nine discs within William Onyeabor 2 and you’ll realise this. 

From 1980 onwards, his music evolved. It became much more reliant on synths, keyboards and drum machines. Sometimes, it’s best described as futuristic, with a sci-fi sound. An example of this is Let’s Fall In Love, from his 1983 album Good Name. Buzzing, sci-fi synths are key to the track’s futuristic sound. To this inventive track, somehow, William welds soul and jazz. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work, but does. In a way, it’s just one example of the genius of William Onyeabor, which was lost to music after his 1985 album Anything You Sow.

That William Onyeabor turned his back on music, is music’s loss. Who knows what heights of innovation and inventiveness William Onyeabor might have reached? As a result, William Onyeabor 2 is a reminder of an elusive and enigmatic musical visionary.

WILLIAM ONYEAEBOR 2.

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BLACK FIRE! NEW SPIRITS! RADICAL AND REVOLUTIONARY JAZZ IN THE USA 1957-1982.

BLACK FIRE! NEW SPIRITS! RADICAL AND REVOLUTIONARY JAZZ IN THE USA 1957-1982.

Throughout the last hundred years, jazz music has been in a constant state of evolution. Jazz refused to stand still. New genres grew out of old ones. From swing, bebop was born. After bebop, there was the cool school. Suddenly, the cool school was out. Hard bop was now flavour of the month amongst the jazz cognoscenti. Having enjoyed its moment in the sun, hard bop’s popularity was replaced by modal jazz. Then the evolution of jazz became revolution. 

From the late fifties, through to the the sixties and seventies, jazz embarked upon one of its most revolutionary journeys. A group of innovative musicians, including Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Saunders and Cecil Taylor transformed jazz. This transformation was free jazz, one of the most ambitious and radical sub-genres of jazz. It was a sub-genre that divided opinion. 

Especially between jazz purists, and the more progressive amongst the jazz community. This  however, was the start of a jazz revolution, that would last over twenty-five years. 

This jazz revolution is documented in Soul Jazz Records’ latest release  Black Fire! New Spirits! It’s a deluxe double CD, which explores some of the deep, radical and spiritual jazz released in America between 1957-1982. For much of the period, jazz music reflected and reacted to, American society’s troubles and ills.

During the sixties, racism, poverty and inequality were rife in America. It may have said 1960 on the calendar, but in parts of America, it might well have said 1860. America was a divided country. One subject especially, divided America, race. 

For too long, African-Americans had been persecuted. They were treated like second class citizens, rather than equals. Gradually, a small, courageous group of African-Americans decided to make a stand, and the civil rights movement was born. It lasted right through until the seventies. The civil rights movement brought African-Americans together, and gave them a common cause. One group of African-Americans at the forefront of the fight for equality and justice, were American jazz musicians.

Given the state of America, American jazz was in a constant state of revolution. Many African-American jazz musicians had become politicalised during the rise and rise of the civil rights movement. Their music reflected this political awakening. It seemed, the Black Power movement, had been part of a new spiritual awakening.

This was reflected in the release of many of deep and spiritual jazz albums released during the sixties, seventies and even early eighties. Many were on small, independent labels. Others were on some of the biggest jazz labels. Some of these albums were hailed as instant classics, others sunk without trace. These albums were released by some of the most groundbreaking musicians of their generation.

It’s no exaggeration to describe many of these albums, as the work of groundbreaking and visionary musicians. This includes Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, The Last Poets and Yusef Lateef, who feature on Black Fire! New Spirits! That’s not all, there’s contributions from some lesser know names on Black Fire! New Spirits! There’s contributions from the Creative Artists Ensemble, Granchan Moncur, Lloyd McNeill and Tyrone Washington. Quite simply, Black Fire! New Spirits! is a tantalising reminder of one of a golden musical age, where music reacted to society’s inequality and injustice? 

However, that’s not surprising. Some of the artists on Black Fire! New Spirits! are more than musicians. They were poets, philosophers and politicians. They’d experienced  society’s inequality and injustice. Having a walked a mile in these shoes, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, The Last Poets and Yusef Lateef set about making a difference using their music. You’ll realise that, when I pick the highlights of Black Fire! New Spirits!

Disc One.

Yusef Lateef’s Chang, Chang, Chang opens Black Fire! New Spirits! It’s one of the earliest tracks on Black Fire! New Spirits! It featured on Yusef’s 1957 album Before Dawn: The Music Of Yusef Lateef. Released on Verve Records, this was one of the earliest albums of a jazz pioneer’s career. Chang, Chang, Chang is a an innovative fusion of post-bop and modal with African and Eastern influences. That’s not all. Another word to describe Chang, Chang, Chang is melodic, as it breezes hopefully along.

The Last Poets were a hugely influential group, during the sixties and seventies. Amongst the many artists they influenced, was Gil Scott-Heron. Just like Gil, The Last Poets made music with a social conscience. This is the case on It’s A Trip, a track from their 1977 collaboration with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Delights Of The Garden. Released on the Douglas label, Delights Of The Garden is a genre-melting album, where jazz and poetry become one. In doing so, The Last Poets, like Gil Scott-Heron, helped give birth to rap.

Don Cherry’s name is synonymous with groundbreaking jazz. He was at the forefront of the free jazz and avant-garde movement. By 1973, it was eleven years since Don released his debut album Evidence. Since then, Don had been creating ambitious, challenging music. That’s the case with Utopia and Visions, a track from Don’s 1973 album Organic Music Society. It’s a fusion of free jazz, Afro-beat, folk and world music. There’s even a soulful twist to this beautiful, spiritual track.

Archie Shepp and Jeannie Lee have your attention from the opening bars of Blasé. It’s the title-track to Archie’s 1969 free jazz album. Released on the Paris based BYG Records, Blasé is a hidden gem within Archie’s back-catalogue. No wonder. Blasé has a captivating  sound that draws you in. Soon, you’re transfixed, spellbound by the music’s haunting, ethereal and mesmeric beauty during this ten minute epic.

Graham Moncur III and The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra collaborated on the 1975 album Echoes Of Prayer. It was released on JCOA Records, a non-profit record label of the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Association, founded in the late 60’s by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler. This seems fitting, given such an ambitious and innovative project. Echoes Of Prayer was an album featuring four lengthy movements. Each featured a different lineup of The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, who were essentially, a jazz supergroup. Some of the top jazz musicians made guest appearances. The only constant was trombonist Graham Moncur III. He played a crucial role on the genre-melting, timeless track, Angela’s Angel.

Disc Two.

Opening disc two of Black Fire! New Spirits!, is one of jazz’s best kept secrets, Harold McKinney and The Creative Arts Ensemble’s debut album Voices And Rhythms Of The Creative Profile. Released in 1974, on the Tribe label, one of the album’s highlights, is In The Moog. Glen Miller, this ain’t. Instead, this is Harold McKinney and The Creative Arts Ensemble reaction to the social, political and socioeconomic problems blighting America. It’s best described as an emotive and cathartic outpouring of anger and frustration.

David Lee Jr, was born in the musical melting pot, that’s New Orleans. Growing up, he learnt to play the drums. He went on to play with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Zawinul, Sonny Rollins, Roy Ayers and Lonnie Liston Smith. However, David’s solo career numbers just one album Evolution, released on the Supernal label in 1974. Second Line March, is one of the many highlights of Evolution. It’s essentially, a fusion of free jazz, avant-garde, jazz and drama. Urgent and full of subtleties and nuances, it’s two minutes of compelling music.

Forty years ago, in 1974, Tyrone Washington released his third album Do Right, on the Blue Labour label. He saves the best until last on Evolution. Universal Spiritual Revolt closes Evolution. It’s a blazing, dramatic call to arms. Funky, soulful and frantic, genres and influences melt into one. It’s akin to a futuristically funky, free jazz protest song.

Back in 1969, Joe Henderson released Power To The People on Milestone Records. This was no ordinary album. Far from it. On Power To The People, a fascinating fusion of hard bop and post bop, collides head on. One of Power To The People’s centrepieces is Black Narcissus. So much so, that in 1976, Joe would build a new album around Black Narcissus. However, the version of Black Narcissus on Power To The People, features Joe Henderson at his best. Wistful, thoughtful and sultry, there’s brief dramatic stirrings as Joe and his all-star band stretch their legs. Herbie Hancock’s influence can be heard throughout the track. Washes of crystalline keyboards twinkle and shimmer. They’re the perfect foil for Joe’s sultry, braying saxophone.

My final choice from, Black Fire! New Spirits! is Doug Hammond’s Spaces and Places. It’s a track from Doug’s 1982 album Space, which was released on the Idibib label. It’s pioneering and innovative free jazz track. Other times, the music has a much more orthodox sound. To However, for much of the time, musical boundaries are pushed to their limits, as Doug Hammond takes you to Spaces and Places you’ve never been before.

That’s the story of Black Fire! New Spirits!, Soul Jazz Records’ most recent release. Quite simply, it’s a compilation of groundbreaking and innovative music. Described as deep, radical and spiritual jazz, there’s detours into modal, hard bop and post bop. That’s not all. There’s plenty free jazz. This is a potent and heady brew, for those with eclectic and adventurous tastes. Even if this doesn’t describe you, Black Fire! New Spirits! is a captivating and compelling compilation that’s guaranteed to expand your musical horizons. 

After all, Black Fire! New Spirits! isn’t just a compilation of familiar face. Granted, there’s contributions from some well known and groundbreaking musicians. This includes Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, The Last Poets and Yusef Lateef, who feature on Black Fire! New Spirits! That’s not all. There’s also contributions from some lesser know names on Black Fire! New Spirits! There’s contributions from the Creative Artists Ensemble, Granchan Moncur, Lloyd McNeill and Tyrone Washington. Some of these lesser known names are responsible for some truly ambitious and innovative music. Sadly, most people haven’t heard music from these artists. Until now.

Black Fire! New Spirits! is the perfect way to discover some of the most groundbreaking jazz released between 1957 and 1982. That’s no exaggeration. Much of the music on Black Fire! New Spirits! was way ahead of its time. No wonder. It was the work of some of groundbreaking and visionary musicians of their generation. Sadly, apart from a few members of the jazz cognoscenti, many of these musicians are hardly remembered. That’s a great shame. Thankfully, Black Fire! New Spirits! rights that wrong, and remembers fourteen pioneering musicians whose musical legacy was a potent mix of passion, political comment and hope, hope for a better future.

BLACK FIRE! NEW SPIRITS! RADICAL AND REVOLUTIONARY JAZZ IN THE USA 1957-1982.

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GEORGE HARRISON-ELECTRONIC SOUND

GEORGE HARRISON-ELECTRONIC SOUND.

Whenever people discuss the disparate personalities of The Beatles, George Harrison is billed as the “quiet one.” That’s doing a George Harrison a huge disservice. He was spiritual, cerebral, and a humanitarian. Away from the constraints of The Beatles, George Harrison was also a truly innovative musician. 

Anyone familiar with George Harrison’s eclectic discography will realise that. Having written While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Hear Comes The Sun and Something, for The Beatles, it was apparent that George Harrison was a talented songwriter. As lead guitarist of The Beatles, there was no doubt that George was a talented guitarist. However, George was very much in the shadow of Lennon and McCartney.

George, it seemed, was a junior partner in The Beatles. Lennon and McCartney enjoyed star billing. They wrote most of the songs and were the focus of all the attention and speculation. For George, this must have been frustrating. He was, undoubtably, a talented songwriter. This would become apparent when his solo career blossomed.

George Harrison’s solo career began in 1968. That was nearly two before the breakup of The Beatles. By the time Paul MacCarney announced his departure from The Beatles, George had already released two of the most innovative solo albums released by a Beatle. 

Wonderwall Music was George’s debut solo album. It was released in November 1968. The following year, 1969, George returned with the ambitious and groundbreaking album, Electronic Sound, which was recently released by Universal Music Group. However, before I tell you about Electronic Sound, I’ll tell you about George Harrison’s career up until then.

Wonderwall Music.

Wonderwall Musicwas the soundtrack to Joe Massot’s film. The soundtrack was a fusion of two musical cultures. Indian classical music and rock sat side-by-side on Wonderwall. This isn’t surprising. George Harrison had been interested in Indian music since 1966. Now George had the opportunity experiment with his new musical love.

Recording of Wonderwall Music took place between November 1967 and February 1968. On Wonderwall Music, George Harrison collaborated with renowned classical pianist and orchestral arranger John Barham. He played an important part in Wonderwall Music. So did a number of Indian musicians, including of the other Mahapurush Misra, Shivkumar Sharma and Aashish Khan. However, it wasn’t just classical musicians that featured on Wonderwall Music.

Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Peter Tork featured on Wonderwall Music. So did Tony Ashton and his band The Remo Four. Once recording of Wonderwall Music was complete, it was released on The Beatles’ new  record label Apple.

Before Wonderwall Music was released, it failed to catch the attention of critics. Many didn’t even bother to review Wonderwall Music. They perceived it as “just a soundtrack.” However, since then, critics have reevaluated Wonderwall Music.  It’s now perceived as a compelling and innovative album. Indeed, Wonderwall Music is now one of the most underrated solo albums by a former Beatle. Not many people would’ve realised this in 1968.

Wonderwall Music was released in Britain on 1st November 1968, it failed to chart. A day later, Wonderwall Music was released on 2nd November 1968. It peaked at number forty-nine in the US Billboard 200. This vindicated George Harrison’s decision to release such a groundbreaking album. The followup to Wonderwall Music saw George’s music head in a much more avant garde direction.

Electronic Sound.

Just over a year later, George Harrison released his sophomore album, Electronic Sound. It was an album of avant garde music. Electronic Sound was released on The Beatles’ short lived Zapple label in May 1969.

Zapple was an imprint of Apple. Its raison d’être was to release of avant garde music. However, Zapple didn’t last long. When Allen Klein started managing The Beatles, he closed Zapple down. This was one of his cost cutting measures. One of the few albums it released was Electronic Sound.

Electronic Sound was recorded during November 1968 and February 1969. The album featured just two lengthy pieces played on the Moog snyth. Under the Mersey Wall lasted nearly nineteen minutes and No Time or Space was a twenty-five minute epic. Both these songs were written by George. However, Bernie Krause, an electronic pioneer, later claimed otherwise.

After the release of Electronic Sound, Bernie Krause took legal action against George Harrison. Bernie Krause, the claimant, alleged that No Time Or Space, was, to all intents and purposes, a  recording of him demonstrating a Moog III. He further alleged that, the recording of Bernie Krause’s demonstration was recorded without neither his knowledge nor consent. However, Bernie Krause’s name was originally credited on the front cover under George Harrison’s cover credit. It was, however, painted, at George Harrison’s insistence. If you look closely enough at an original copy, the words “assisted by Bernie Krause” can be read. However, back in November 1969, George was all set to release his sophomore album  Electronic Sound.

Just like Wonderwall, critics weren’t interested in Electronic Sound. Reviews were few and far between. That’s not surprising. Here was an album that ahead of its time. Very few people understood what George was trying to achieve. Later, when critics revisited Electronic Sound, it was deemed as an album for completists only or those interested in pioneering electronic albums. Electronic Sound hadn’t stood the test of time. Neither was it a commercial success.

Electronic Sound was released in Britain on 9th May 1969, and failed to chart. Just over two weeks later, Electronic Sound was released in America on 25th May 1969. History repeated itself and Electronic Sound failed to chart. However, in the intervening forty-five years, critics have reappraised Electronic Sound, which I’ll tell you about.

Under the Mersey Wall opens Electronic Sound. It fills side one of Electronic Sound. Recorded in February 1969, it’s mostly George, playing two Moogs. What sounds like bullets being fired opens the track. Then a myriad of space-age, sic-fi sounds are unleashed. They’re very much reminiscent of the Space Age. Later, the sounds replicate a howling gale. Other times, it’s like an old transistor radio changing channels. George it seems, is happy to let his imagination and the new technology run wild. Surprises are around every corner. You never quite know which direction the track will head in. At one point, it’s like being stuck inside a computer game. The only problem is, computer games weren’t even a figment of the most fertile minds. This includes George Harrison, soundscape pioneer. He pioneered what’s now called sound design. Somehow, he managed to do this, with quite basic equipment. Despite this, George creates a futuristic, innovative and cinematic soundscape where subtleties and surprises are omnipresent.

No Time or Space is a twenty-five minute epic, that fills side two of Electronic Sound.    Slow, dark and trippy describes the myriad of buzzes, crackles, shrieks, interference and feedback. Gradually, George tames his Moogs. It veers between melodic to challenging, futuristic and compelling. Quickly, your realise never to try and second guess George. Where the track is heading, is anyone’s guess? Later, it sounds like something Brian Eno would produce circa Music For Airports. There’s even a chance No Time or Space influenced Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. George sounds as if he’s embarking upon a train journey. Other times, it’s as if he’s jumped onboard the latest Apollo Mission, and is part of the space race. Futuristic, and full of eerie, otherworldly beeps, squeaks and crackles, it’s a truly compelling and groundbreaking track. So much so, that’s hard to believe that No Time or Space was recorded in 1969. Instead, it sounds like a track that was recorded much later. However, George Harrison was a musical visionary, who was capable of creating music that was truly innovative.

Sadly, when Electronic Sound was released, critics failed to even review this groundbreaking album. It was as if they couldn’t be bothered with the quiet one’s latest project. However, if it had been John announcing his latest protest, critics and cultural commentators would’ve been hanging on his every word. It’s still the same today.

Paul McCartney, is still the beneficiary of a fawning media. They hang on his every word, failing to see the irony of album titles like Kisses On The Bottom. That irony is directed at the fawning critics and cultural commentators. Sadly, George didn’t receive such a fair hearing.

Although Electronic Sound wasn’t the greatest album George Harrison ever released, it’s an interesting and innovative project. Two captivating and cinematic soundscapes take you on a musical journey.  

The music is eerie and futuristic, full of beeps, buzzes, squeaks, shrieks and sci-fi sounds. This is music that could only be a figment of the most fertile imagination. It would take someone who was a groundbreaking musician to create music like that on Electronic Sound. One such musician was George Harrison.

In 1969, George Harrison looked like embarking upon a career as a soundscape pioneer. He was pioneer or what’s now called sound design. Somehow, he managed to do this, with quite basic equipment. The result was variously lo-fi, groundbreaking, innovative and cinematic. That’s why forty-five years after the release of Electronic Sound, George Harrison’s sophomore album, a new generation of critics and music lovers are reappraising this captivating and pioneering album.

GEORGE HARRISON-ELECTRONIC SOUND.

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THE VENTURES-IN THE VAULTS VOLUME 5.

THE VENTURES-IN THE VAULTS VOLUME 5.

When Don Wilson and Bob Bogle founded The Ventures in Seattle in 1958, little did they know that fifty years later, in 2008, they would be inducted into the Rock ’N’ Roll Hall of Fame. In the intervening fifty years, The Ventures sold over 100 million records. This makes The Ventures one of the most successful instrumental bands in musical history. Fifty years previously, The Ventures story began when Bob Bogle went looking for a used car.

It was at The Bargain Spot, that Don Wilson and Bob Bogle first met in 1958. Bob Bogle was looking to buy a used car. So he headed into the used car dealership owned by Woodrow Wilson, Don Wilson’s father. 

At The Bargain Spot, Bob saw a used Hudson, which he bought. It was whilst buying the Hudson, that Bob met Don Wilson. They soon became friends. The reason for this, was Bob and Don were both keen guitarists. Soon, Bob’s trips to The Bargain Spot became more frequent, with the pair enjoying their discussions about music. Not long after this, a a vacancy at Bob’s workplace came up. He told Don, and Don got the job. After this, Bob and Don were spending all their time together. 

This wasn’t just at work. Both Bob and Don owned guitars. Woodrow Wilson had taught his son a few basic chords on the tiple, which was not unlike a ukelele. Now, Don had graduated to the electric guitar. 

Bob and Don both owned Harmony and Kay guitars, which they had bought at a local pawn shop. They played it through a shared amp. This rudimentary setup was okay for practising with, but not for playing professionally, which Bob and Don decided to do.

By late 1958, Bob and Don wanted to form a band and make their professional debut. So Bob bought a Stratocaster, and Don a Musicmaster. They plugged their new guitars into a Fender Twin amplifier, which like the guitars, they bought at Joos Music Shop in Seattle. As an added bonus, the new equipment came with free guitar lessons from shop owner Art Joos. 

He taught Bob and Don new chords. They were enthusiastic students, who were both keen to learn. So much so, that they were progressing faster than Art could teach them. Soon, they were ready to make their professional debut.

This came at the Elks Club, in Moscow, Idaho. Bob and Don were billed as The Bob Bogle Band. They’d spent time honing their sound, and learning songs that suited their audience. Don’s natural gift for comedy, meant they were well received by the audience. Having made their debut, Bob and Don were even more determined to further hone their skills. This, they realised, was just the beginning.

Bob and Don continued to practice, until they became good enough to record a demo. They recorded a demo tape of their most popular songs, including Walk, Don’t Run. Don’s mother, Josie, heard the demo and contacted C&C Distributing.

They were responsible for distributing most of the labels in the Northwest. Bob and Don got a break. C&C Distributing recommended that Bob and Don get in touch with Bob Reisdorff, a former employee of C&C Distributing. He was running his own label, Dolton. Josie arranged an interview, but  Bob Reisdorff turned the duo down. Little did Bob realise, he’d kissed goodbye to one of the biggest American groups of the fifties and sixties. 

For Bob and Don, that they’d failed the audition only made them doubly determined. They auditioned for Bill and Grover’s Variety Show, which was hosted by Bill Wiley and Grover Jackson. The winner of the audition won a spot on a local television show. Bob and Don, billed as The Versatones won the talent show, and won the right to play on television. However, that night, they also met Nokie Edwards.

Nokie Edwards was, in Don’s mind, the best guitarist, he’d heard. It was then that Bob and Don had an idea. Although they’d won the audition as a duo, they might be received received as a quartet. So, Bob and Don invite Nokie to join The Versatones.

With two becoming three, there was a problem. The Versatones needed a drummer. Nokie, however, knew Skip Moore. He agreed to join an expanded lineup The Versatones, as they made their television debut on 20th March 1959. It was on  the television show The Versatones met Nancy Claire.

She was a country singer, who played guitar. However, Nancy Claire also had a show on local radio station KAYE. Nancy needed backup. This was where Bob and Don came in. The act would be billed as Nancy Claire and The Versatones. This was good publicity for The Versatones. However, Bob and Don weren’t getting paid. That was the downside. Despite this, they accompanied Nancy, to get the publicity.

This worked. Soon The Versatones were one of the busiest bands in the local area. They were playing six days a week, ten hours a day. It was a gruelling schedule. So, Bob and Don decided to become a quartet again.

The first choice drummer was George Babbit. Don’s sister Jacqueline knew Bob. He was invited to audition and it was apparent, that he was a talented drummer. However, his age meant he wouldn’t be able to play in the bars The Versatones played in. So the search continued for two more Versatones.

Eventually, Nancy Claire introduced Bob and Don drummer Buddy Dumas and bassist Earl Herbert. This was the latest of many, different lineups, of The Versatones. The only constant was Bob and Don. However, this latest lineup recorded a demo tape. Soon, The Versatones would be ready to enter recording studio. There was a problem though.

A doo wop group called The Versatones released a single. This was a huge problem. It necessitated a change of name for Bob and Don’s Versatones. 

Names were proposed and rejected. Eventually, someone suggested The Adventures. Don suggested shortening the name, and calling themselves The Ventures. This was the first chapter in The Ventures’ story. 

Further chapters of The Ventures’ story can be found on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5, which was recently released by Ace Records. The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 features twenty-six tracks. Only two of these tracks have been released before. The remainder of the tracks have been for too long, hidden away, in The Ventures vaults. Not any more. They make their debut on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5. The story behind these songs begins back in 1959. 

The Ventures recorded their debut on 20th September 1959. Cookies and Coke featured Bob, Don and George Babbit. Don’s mother Josie had the single mixed and 500 copies printed. However, despite her best efforts, the single failed to sell. Neither did it make radio playlists. For The Ventures, this was a huge disappointment.

Bob and Don returned to Tacoma, and working on building sites. They still played music, and got a spot playing in a nightclub the Blue Moon. Soon, The Ventures built-up a loyal audience. The Ventures were one of Tacoma’s most popular groups. This meant The Ventures would be able to record more recordings. However, they needed a bassist. Then Nokie Edwards entered their lives again.

When Nokie reentered The Ventures’ lives, he was clutching a Fender Precision bass. He’d bought it from a pawn shop. Nokie asked if he could sit in with The Ventures. They agreed and Nokie made a guest appearance. It was an arrangement that worked well, and one that they’d revisit.

Over the next few months, Nokie occasionally sat in with The Ventures. Then when Buck Owens, who Nokie was working with decided to head to California, Nokie was without a gig. It was agreed he’d become a member of The Ventures. This was the latest incarnation of The Ventures.

Over the next few months, drummers Stan Smith and Bob Babbit briefly become members of The Ventures. So did bassist Earl Herbert. Saxophonist Keith Schumaker even briefly, became a Venture. However, as the 1959 became 1969, Bob and Don became even more determined to make The Ventures a success.

The Ventures first single of the sixties was a cover of Walk, Don’t Run. Recorded on 22nd March 1960, Walk, Don’t Run reached number two in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in the release of The Ventures’ debut album Walk, Don’t Run. It was released in December 1960 reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200 charts. That wasn’t the only hit single The Ventures had in 1960.

Perfida gave The Ventures their second hit single, when it reached number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 100. For The Ventures, this was the start of a run where they’d go on to sell over 100 million copies. 

Between 1960 and 1970, The Ventures released over fifty singles and a remarkable, thirty albums. They were easily, one of the most prolific instrumental bands. With a lineup that’s best described as fluid, the commercial success continued to come The Ventures ways. Sadly, after 1971, success began to elude The Ventures. They were and still are, a musical phenomena.

It hadn’t been easy for The Ventures. They’d spent two years struggling to make a breakthrough. What’s more, they struggled to find a settled lineup. Bob and Don were ever-present. However, other members came and went. Some stayed longer than others. In Bob and Don’s case, they’ve been at the heart of The Ventures’ success story.

This means over 200 albums and over sixty singles. Collectively, The Ventures have sold over 100 million records. The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 is another addition to The Ventures’ discography.

Mostly, The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 features previously unissued tracks. They were recorded between 1959 and 1963. For fans of The Ventures, this means musical gold. After all, these tracks feature The Ventures as they’re evolving as a band. These tracks can be broadly separated into unreleased tracks, alternate takes and live studio recordings.

The unreleased versions on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 include Getaway, Mr. Blue, Let The Four Winds Blow and Hank Marvin of The Shadows’ I Want You To Want Me.  There’s also a live studio recording  of The Shadows’ classic Apace. This seems fitting, one of America’s premier instrumental bands covering a track penned by the leader of Britain’s biggest instrumental bands. There’s much more on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5.

Other unreleased tracks include a cover of Duane Eddy and Lee Hazelwood’s The Lonely One. Then there’s a compelling cover of Leiber and Stoller’s Kansas City. However, The Ventures’ weren’t just a cover’s band though.

The Ventures were talented songwriters. Don Wilson penned Death Of A Matador, and with Bob Bogle and Mel Taylor cowrote numerous other tracks for The Ventures. This includes Bogie’s Tune, Scarlet Sunset, Country Gravy Aka Turkey ‘n’ Taters, Bossa Nova Beach Girl, Shake It Easy and Fuzz Factor. They all feature on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5. So do a number of alternate takes.

Alternate takes on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 include Ventures Stomp, Ups ‘n’ Downs, Sealed With A Kiss, Lady Of Spain and Acher Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore. These tracks reinforce how versatile The Ventures were.

So do the live studio recordings on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5. Slaughter On The Tenth Avenue is a reminder of surf’s glory days. There’s also a nod to The Shadows. That’s fitting. The Ventures cover Apache, The Shadows’ classic. It’s as of they’re paying homage to Hank Marvin and co. Wipe Out, the final live studio recording is a blistering end to The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5. This new take on an instrumental classic is worth the admission price alone. However, that’s not the end of The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5.

The other two tracks on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5, aren’t by The Ventures. They’re Don Dixon’s 1961 single For Your Love and Bobby Leonard and The Explorers 1962 single Rockin’ Ship. Penned by Bob Bogle, he dawns his alter ego on this track. It’s a welcome inclusion on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5.

Despite four previous visits to The Ventures’ vaults, there was still much more for Ace Records to release. So, recently, the released The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5. It features twenty-six tracks, recorded between 1959 and 1963. Only two, which weren’t even by The Ventures, have ever been released before. So, for fans of The Ventures, The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 is musical gold.

Despite being founded in 1958, The Ventures still have legions of loyal fans. They hungrily await each instalment of the The Ventures-In The Vaults series. The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 is a compelling collection of tracks. 

Cover versions and originals sit side-by-side. The unlikeliest of cover versions, including Stranger On The Shore and Sealed With A Kiss are given a makeover by The Ventures. They combine this with tracks they’ve written, including Bogie’s Tune, Scarlet Sunset, Country Gravy Aka Turkey ‘n’ Taters, Bossa Nova Beach Girl, Shake It Easy and Fuzz Factor. Some of the tracks were recorded live, others unused takes. These tracks give the listener an insight into how The Ventures worked. 

Some of the unreleased tracks and alternate takes could’ve been released. However, Don and Bob had high standards. Only the best was good enough for The Ventures. Even back in the late fifties and early sixties, they were perfectionists and protecting The Ventures’ brand. Only now, somewhat belatedly, do these tracks make their debut on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5. 

The twenty tracks on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 are a reminder of one of the most successful instrumental bands, The Ventures. They sold over 100 million albums. If you’ve never heard of The Ventures and are wondering why, then the music on The Ventures-In The Vaults Volume 5 explains why.

THE VENTURES-IN THE VAULTS VOLUME 5.

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I’M JUST LIKE YOU:SLY STONE’S FLOWER 1969-1970.

I’M JUST LIKE YOU:SLY STONE’S FLOWER 1969-1970.

Having just released their fourth album Stand, Sly and The Family Stone took Woodstock by storm. Their early morning set on 17th August 1969, was one of the highlights of Woodstock. This further cemented their huge popularity. After Woodstock, CBS, their record company were desperate for a new album. No wonder. Sly and The Family Stone’s profile was at an all time high. Deadlines were set, and deadlines missed. It seemed Sly Stone and The Family Stone were  in no rush to release their fifth album.

For CBS, this was frustrating. They were desperate for a new album. Realising a new album wasn’t going to be imminent, a Greatest Hits album was released in 1970. Featuring three new songs, Greatest Hits reached number two in the US Billboard and number one in the US R&B Charts. Certified gold, Greatest Hits surpassed the success of Stand. Despite the three new songs, there was still no sign of album number five from Sly Stone and The Family Stone. That wasn’t a surprise.

Behind the scenes, chaos and controversy had surrounded one of the most flamboyant bandleaders of the sixties and the seventies, Sly Stone. There were tales of large scale drug usage. The drug use had worsened when Sly Stone and The Family Stone had relocated to California. PCP and cocaine were now the drugs of choice for the band. This started to affect the recoding schedule and tours. Sly’s moods changed One minute he was upbeat and happy, then suddenly he was moody. His behaviour started to become erratic. Between concerts, it was reported that he spent much of his time taking drugs. His infamous violin full of drugs which accompanied Sly Stone everywhere. Then there was Sly Stone’s involvement with y Stone, was his newfound relationship with The Black Panthers. 

This was said to be affecting the band’s music. They wanted the band’s music to be more militant, both in style, lyrically and musically. The Black Panthers also felt that Sly and The Family Stone should reflect the movement’s beliefs. Even more controversial was that The Panthers wanted Sly to fire the two white instrumentalists Greg Errico and Jerry Martini. Their replacements, The Panthers said, should be black musicians. Their final request, was that manager David Kapralik be sacked. Replacing him, should be a black manager who would represent the group. Soon, politics were the least of Sly’s problems. Soon, Sly was involved with gangsters.

Adding to all these problems was Sly Stone’s decision to hire of gangsters to manage his affairs, protect him and source him drugs. Add to that band members leaving, and this was a tumultuous time for the band. So much so, that drummer Greg Errico decided to leave the band. That any music ever got made was a miracle. However, music Sly and The Family Stone recorded a career defining album.

Sly and The Family Stone’s fifth album, There’s A Riot Goin’ On was a stonewall classic. Released in November 1971, There’s A Riot Goin’ Onreaching number one in the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. Originally certified gold in November 1972, There’s A Riot Goin’ On was then released platinum. In the midst of all this chaos, Sly and The Family Stone. That wasn’t the only music Sly Stone recorded.

By late 1969, Sly Stone was becoming disenchanted by the constant schedule of recording an album, then touring the album.  He’d been on this merry go round too long. Sly wanted to get off and return to production. Clive Davis at Columbia, who was desperate for Sly and The Family Stone to record their fifth album by February 1970, agreed.

When Sly started recording, at Columbia’s  New York and Los Angeles’ studios, it wasn’t for the new Sly and The Family Stone album. Instead, he was recording artists for his new Stone Power label. Sly was producing acts like Little Sister, Joe Hicks and 6IX for Stone Power Productions. For Clive Davis, this was a blow. However, at least Sly was in the studio. Maybe, this would inspire Sly to record Sly and The Family Stone’s fifth album? 

This wasn’t the case. However, Sly Stone did record a number of tracks for Stone Power. This included Just Like a Baby and Africa, which would later, feature on Sly and The Family Stone’s 1971 Magnus Opus There’s A Riot Goin’ On. These two tracks, along with

Spirit and Scared, feature on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970, which was recently released by Light In The Attic Records.  These four tracks from Sly Stone, plus contributions from Little Sister, Joe Hicks and 6IX feature on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970, which I’ll tell you about.

The recording studio has always been perceived as Sly Stone’s natural habitat. It’s where Sly Stone spend long periods of time. This would be the case with There’s A Riot Goin’ On. During the lengthy recording sessions for There’s A Riot Goin’ On, Sly spent countless hours honing the album’s sound. This involved lengthy overdubbing sessions, which gave the album its multilayered sound. Sly it seems, was looking for perfection. Considering Sly’s seemingly chaotic life, this seems at odds with his image. However, this was the case with the recording sessions for Stone Power. 

A total of eighteen tracks from  Joe Hicks, 6IX and Sly Stone feature on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970. Little Sister feature five times, Joe Hicks contributes three tracks and 6IX feature six times. The other four tracks are from Sly Stone, whose just billed as Sly. These eighteen tracks were recorded just before, and while, Sly and The Family Stone were recording their classic album There’s A Riot Goin’ On. 

Little Sister contribute five tracks to I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970. They were an American all-female vocal harmony group, who were the background vocalists for Sly and The Family Stone. Originally, Little Sister were a gospel music group called The Heavenly Tones. Their lineup included Mary McCreary, Elva Mouton and Vet Stewart, Sly’s sister. The first contribution from Little Sister is You’re The One (Part I and 2).

There’s two versions You’re The One (Part I and 2). on t I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970. There’s the early version and the UK edit. Originally, You’re The One (Part I and 2) was released as a single in America, in April 1970. The version on  I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970, is the five minute edit released in the UK, in 1972. Soulful, sassy and funky, it’s Little Sister’s finest moment. However, this wasn’t the only single Little Sister released.

Somebody’s Watching You was Little Sister’s sophomore single. Again, there’s two versions of on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970. There’s the single version released in 1970. Little Sister’s gospel root shine through, on a track that’s soulful and subtly funky. The other version of Somebody’s Watching You is the Full Band Version. An added bonus is the B-Side Stanga is added. Its arrangement has Sly Stone’s name written all over it, as Little Sister add their soulful stirrings.

Although Sly Stone wrote and produced  Joe Hicks’ debut single Home Sweet Home – Part II, it was released on Scepter Records. It’s a driving fusion of funk and soul. There’s a nod to James Brown. Tucked away on the B-Side is I’m Goin’ Home, where Joe is transformed into the stomping soul man.  After the release of Home Sweet Home – Part II, Joe’s next single, was released on Stone Power.

Joe Hicks only ever released one single on Stone Power, Life & Death in G & A, Pt. 1 and 2. It was penned and produced by Sly Stone. Slow, bluesy, funky and moody describes Life & Death in G & A, Pt. 1 and 2. Joe Hicks  toys with the lyrics, vamping his way through them, while Sly adds an understated funky arrangement

6IX are remembered as a group of journeymen musicians, from northern California. They have worked as the Soul Rascals and recorded with  H.B. Barnum. They also opened for Sly and The Family Stone and backed Little Sister. That’s how Sly Stone encountered 6IX. He decided to transform their fortunes.

In 1969, 6IX recorded Trying to Make You Feel Good. Slow, sultry and dramatic, it features a vampish vocal and an arrangement that’s a fusion of funk, blues and rock. There’s another version of Trying to Make You Feel Good. It’s billed as the Full Band Version. Another contribution from 6IX is the You Can, We Can. It’s a real fusion of influences. There’s blues, rock and soul. Sometimes, there’s even a nod to Cream, on this hidden gem.

I’m Just Like You was 6IX’s debut single. Released in December 1970, it’s features a funky vocal, delivered against an arrangement that’s variously funky, lo-fi and bluesy. Dynamite, the B-Side is a fusion of soul, funk and blues reminiscent of Sly and The Family Stone. There’s a second version of Dynamite, the alternate version. Personally, I feel the versions on the B-Side of I’m Just Like You is the best of the two versions. 

The other four tracks on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970, are from Sly Stone. Just Like a Baby and Africa were recorded in 1970, are the merest of hint of what Sly and The Family’s next album There’s A Riot Goin’ On, was heading. Africa is an eight minute, epic jam.  Spirit another Sly’s contributions, has a lo-fi funky sound. Scared never rises above mediocre. It’s a jam between a Hammond organ and synthetic drums. As a result, it’s a pretty soulless track, that sounds either like work in progress or a demo.

When Sly Stone was writing and producing the music on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970, he was up against insurmountable odds. He overcame the influence of drugs, gangsters and The Black Panthers. Somehow, Sly dug deep and recorded not just the greatest album of Sly and The Family Stone’s career, There’s A Riot Goin’ On, but worked with Little Sister, Joe Hicks and 6IX.  He also recorded a quartet of tracks as a solo artist. This included Just Like a Baby and Africa. They were the merest of hint of the direction Sly and The Family Stone’s next album There’s A Riot Goin’ On, was heading. However, not all the tracks on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970 reach the same heights.

They’re a mixture of singles, alternate tracks, B-Sides and unreleased tracks. Some of the tracks are an interesting reminder of Sly Stone during one of the most productive periods of his career. After all, Sly and The Family Stone had just released Stand and were working on There’s A Riot Goin’ On. However, Sly at Stone Power, was limited with the artists and equipment he had to work with.

Much of the music on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970 almost has a lo-fi sound. There’s no lavish arrangements. Instead, this is music made on a budget. Sadly, the sound quality isn’t great. As for the music, Little Sister were and Joe Hicks were talented. 6IX had their limitations. They’re described as journeymen musicians. That’s unfair, as 6IX aren’t without talent. A group capable of creating genre-melting music, they were hindered by the low budget recordings. Who knows what they might have achieved with a bigger budget. Ironically, one of the poorest tracks on I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970 is Scared, which after one listen, you’ll be Scared to play again. It’s far from vintage Sly Stone.

Indeed, that’s a fair description of I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970. While I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970 has its moments, there’s not enough of them. There’s too many alternate takes, edits and tracks like Scared, that don’t rise above mediocre. As a result, I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Flower 1969-1970, Light In The Attic Records’ latest offering, is best described as for Sly and The Family Stone completists only. 

I’M JUST LIKE YOU:SLY STONE’S FLOWER 1969-1970.

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THE ESOTERIC CIRCLE-GEORGE RUSSELL PRESENTS THE ESOTERIC CIRCLE.

THE ESOTERIC CIRCLE-GEORGE RUSSELL PRESENTS THE ESOTERIC CIRCLE.

With Norwegian music going through something of a renaissance, it’s fitting that George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle has reissued by BGP Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records. George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was one of the most important albums in Norwegian musical history. Released in 1971, George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle featured four pioneering jazz musicians. Sadly, George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was The Esoteric Circle’s only album. 

The Esoteric Circle was founded in 1969 by bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Jon Christensen, guitarist Terje Rypdal and tenor and soprano saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The quartet met in Oslo, which in 1969, had a vibrant jazz scene. 

Arild, Jon and Jan had grownup playing jazz. They had been members of various quartets. Terje hoever, was a relative newcomer to jazz. He only started playing in 1968. Previously, he’d played in rock bands. Stylistically, this was a whole new ball game. However, after a year playing jazz, he was hooked and became a member of The Esoteric Circle.

Jan Garbarek was fourteen when started to play tenor sax. He was a natural. A year later, he won first prize in the soloist category, for Norwegian Amateur jazz musicians. It seemed, Jan was destined to make a career out of music.

By 1965, Jan had his own group. They played at jazz festivals across Europe. This included Prague, Stockholm, Warsaw, Molde, Kronisberg and the prestigious, Montreux Jazz Festival. Jan also accompanied Karin Krog live and on record. During this period, Jan got the opportunity to study under a jazz legend, George Russell.

George Russell had made Oslo his home. Like many American jazz musicians, he made Europe his adopted home. That’s where he taught the Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organisation. Jan spent five years studying a theory that Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy pioneered. As well as studying with George Russell, Jan played in his sextet and big band. The other thing George Russell was responsible for, was bringing together The Esoteric Circle.

Terje Rypdal, Jon Christensen and Arild Andersen and Jan all met through George Russell. Guitarist Terje Rypdal originally played in rock bands. He was a member of Norway’s most popular pop group, The Vanguards. He then joined progressive rock and blues group Dream. By 1969, he was also a student at the Conservatory of Music. 

A gifted student, Terje had just written, Eternal Circulation a symphony for an eighty-nine piece orchestra and and sixteen vocalists. He’d also played on George Russell’s Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature. This was just part of the Terje Rypdal story.

Having turned to jazz, Terje played at festivals across Europe. His background was similar to Jan. Terje played at Stockholm, Bologna, Molde and Kronisberg. Then at Badden Baden, Terje joined a group of pioneering jazz musicians, including John Surman, Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie. They dipped their toe into the waters of free jazz. This wouldn’t be the last time.

Before Jon Christensen joined The Esoteric Circle, he’d been a session musician. He was the most sought after session drummer in Norway. Before long, his talents were in demand all over Scandinavia. Especially, among visiting American jazz musicians. They wanted Jon providing the heartbeat. There was more to Jon than a session musician.

Jon had been part of George Russell’s sextet and big band. He also was a member of the Steve Kuhn Trio, and played many jazz festivals. This included Bologna, Stockholm, Warsaw, Molde, Kronisberg and Montreux. Somehow, Jon also found time to play on two albums by Karin Krog. A talented and sought after musician, it’s no surprise, that Jon won the Buddy Award for Norwegian musician of the year in 1967. Two years later, another future member of The Esoteric Circle would win the Buddy Award.

This was bassist Arild Andersen. He’d played alongside Jon many times, including when visiting American jazz musicians arrived in Norway. Jon and Arild were part of Karin Krog’s. They also played at the same festivals, including Bologna, Stockholm, Molde and Kronisberg. However, Arild would play alongside another future member of  The Esoteric Circle.

Arild played alongside Jan Garbarek. Their paths crossed in the mid-sixties. That’s not surprising. The Oslo jazz scene was relatively small. On other occasions, Arild accompanied George Russell and in 1968, The Don Cherry Big Band. A year later, Arild won the Buddy Award for Norwegian musician of the year in 1969. This was an important year for Arild. It was the year The Esoteric Circle was founded.

Having founded The Esoteric Circle in 1969, they entered the Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, recording studio in Oslo in October 1969. The rhythm section of bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Jon Christensen and guitarist Terje Rypdal were augmented by tenor and soprano saxophonist Jan Garbarek. George Russell produced George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle. It featured nine tracks. Seven were penned by Jan Garbarek. The other two, Nefertite and Breeze Ending were cover versions. These nine tracks, became  George Russell produced George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle. It wasn’t until 1971 that George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was released.

Two years passed before Bob Thiele released George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle on his Flying Dutchman Productions’ label. It was well received within jazz circles, and perceived as an important, ambitious, pioneering and genre-melting album. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. As a result, George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was The Esoteric Circle’s only album. However, what a musical legacy it is.

The sultriest of saxophone and wistful, dramatic guitar combine on Traneflight, which opens George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle. Percussion plays, as the rhythm section slowly join in. All the time, the music is tinged with sadness, melancholia and drama. Jazz’s past, present and future combines. Happily, the old and the innovative sit side-by-side on this beautiful, wistful track that’s designed to tug at your heartstrings.

Drums roll and pound on Rabalder. It’s as if drummer Jon Christensen is setting the scene for the rest of The Esoteric Circle. He showcases his considerable skills, making his way round the kit. His playing is flawless, as he showboats his way round his kit, showing why he was one of the best drummers in Scandinavia. Eventually, the rest of The Esoteric Circle enters. A braying, howling horn, chiming guitar and subtle bass combine. It’s the frenzied saxophone and drums that take centre-stage. The rest of The Esoteric Circle are almost playing supporting role. Again, the track heads in the direction of free jazz. Later, a searing guitar is unleashed, as if if The Esoteric Circle are drawing inspiration from John McLaughlin. Rock meets free jazz and jazz, on a truly groundbreaking track.

Just a bass and subtle cymbal open Esoteric Circle. When, The Esoteric Circle enter, they sound like a band from jazz’s golden age. They play within themselves, producing a late night, smoky sound. Partly, that’s down to the saxophone. Sometimes, it’s akin to a cathartic outpouring of hurt. All the time, the arrangement marches to the tune of Arild Andersen bass. He and drummer Jon Christensen anchor a track where jazz’s past and present combine seamlessly, producing a laid-back slice of jazz.

Thoughtfully, and pensively Vibs, unfolds. Just the bass plays. Soon, the drums join. Eventually, a scrabbling saxophone enters. It injects a sense of urgency. So does the driving, dramatic guitar. Again, there’s a nod to John McLaughlin, in the way jazz and rock are combined by guitarist Terje Rypdal. The rest of The Esoteric Circle combine avant-garde, jazz, experimental and free jazz. It’s a compelling fusion of influences, that was way ahead of its time. So much so, it’s hard to believe that such a groundbreaking track as Vibs, was recorded in 1969. 

Sas 644 is an eight minute epic. This allows The Esoteric Circle to explore the track’s nuances and subtleties. The rhythm section of bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen combine. Jon works his way round the kit, and with Arild Andersen’s bass, drive the arrangement along. Soon, Jan Garbarek’s saxophone and Terje Rypdal’s choppy guitar licks enter, adding urgency and drama. That’s not all. They signal The Esoteric Circle to cut loose. Terje uses a myriad of pedals and effects, mangling the sound. His guitar wah-wahs and wails, as The Esoteric Circle veer between fusion and free jazz. Jan seems to be inspired by Terje. He makes his saxophone howl and wail. Other times it brays and blazes. Later, the rhythm section accompany Jan’s allowing him to take centre-stage, but sometimes, showcasing their considerable talents.

Just a hauntingly beautiful saxophone solo and deliberately strummed guitar combine on Nefertite. Occasionally, the bass wails and a cymbal crashes. Mostly the music is hauntingly beautiful, and a tantalising taste of what The Esoteric Circle are capable of.

Gee is best described as an ambitious melange of avant-garde, experimental and free jazz. It veers between ambitious, challenging, discordant and innovative.

A thoughtful, mesmeric bass gets into a groove on Karin’s Mode. Gradually, distant drums, a subtle, braying saxophone and wailing guitar combine. Terje unleashes his array of pedals and effects. The result is futuristic and funky. Not to be outdone, saxophonist Jan Garbarek makes his saxophone bray, blaze and wail. It’s as if The Esoteric Circle are improvising. They encourage each other to experiment and push musical boundaries. The status quo isn’t an option, as they unleash a groundbreaking, futuristic, eight minute epic that forty-five years after it was recorded, is truly mesmeric.

Closing George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle is Breeze Ending . Just a lone  saxophone skips across the arrangement. It’s very much a showcase for saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The rest of The Esoteric Circle only make an appearance after two minutes. Drummer Jon Christensen and bassist Arild Andersen, combine. Then guitarist Terje Rypdal enters, and the track takes on a much more uplifting sound, and is a joyful, hopeful way to close George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle.

Two years the recording of George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle in Norway, in 1969, it was eventually released on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions in 1971. At last, The Esoteric Circle’s one and only album was heard by a wider audience. 

When George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was released, it was well received by critics. They hailed it one of the most important album in European jazz history. Sadly, this critical acclaim didn’t translated into sales. George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle wasn’t a commercial success. The problem was, here was an album that was way ahead of its time. 

Listening back to George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle, it could easily be an album that the latest generation of Norwegian jazz musicians could’ve released. Norwegian music, including jazz, is enjoying another golden age. So much good music is coming out of Norway. That was the case back in 1969, when George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle was recorded. By 1971, Norwegian music was still thriving. Fast forward forty-three years, and George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle is an album that has obviously influenced a new generation of Norwegian jazz musicians.

Without George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle, the latest generation of Norwegian jazz musicians may not have had the courage to innovate, and create bold, ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting music. Thankfully, they do. That in part, is down to five men, George Russell and The Esoteric Circle.

They played their part in an important, innovative and groundbreaking album George Russell Presents The Esoteric Circle, which was recently released by BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records.

THE ESOTERIC CIRCLE-GEORGE RUSSELL PRESENTS THE ESOTERIC CIRCLE.

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GIL SCOTT HERON-FREE WILL.

GIL SCOTT HERON-FREE WILL.

Throughout his career, poet, musician, and author. Gil Scott-Heron highlighted the social and political problems affecting American society. He was, to all intents and purposes,  America’s conscience.  Racism, poverty, corruption, inequality and drug addiction featured in Gil’s lyrics. His lyrics are cerebral, witty, scathing and most importantly, honest as Gil speaks up for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Fearlessly, Gil highlights the social and political problems that blighted America. That’s not all.

Gil tried to unite a divided America, encouraging Americans to join together, and change America for the better. The way Gil did this, was through his music.

Some of the best lyrics Gil wrote, were during his three album spell at Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions. This started with Gil’s debut album, 1970s Small Talk At 125 and Lenox. Gil followed this up with 1971s Pieces Of A Man. Gil Scott-Heron’s final album for Flying Dutchman Productions was Free Will, which he released in 1972. Unbelievably, he was only twenty-three.

April Fool’s Day in 1949 was an important day in Chicago’s musical history. That was the day Gil Scott-Heron was born. His mother Bobbie Scott-Heron was an opera singer. She sang with New York’s Oratorio Society. Gil’s father was Gil Heron was a Jamaican footballer, who at one time, played for Glasgow Celtic Football Club. Sadly, Bobbie and Gil’s marriage ended when Gil was young. 

After this, Gil was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, Lillie Scott, who lived in Jackson,Tennessee. Then when Gil was just twelve, Lillie Scott died. Gil returned to New York to live with his mother. She was now living in the Bronx. Originally, Gil enrolled at the DeWitt Clinton High School, but later, moved to the Fieldston High School.

This came after impressing the head of the English department. He’d read one of Gil’s essays and recommended that Gil received a full scholarship. This proved a poisoned chalice. The education he was receiving was better. However, he was only one of five black students. He felt alienated. Another problem was the socioeconomic gap. Other students came from a much more affluent background. Gil was the son of a single mother. It was at this period, that Gil became socially and politically aware. His eyes were opened to inequality, injustice and racism. This would shape his music in later years. Before that, Gil headed to university.

Lincoln University was where Gil headed after high school. Gil was recommend to head to Lincoln University by Langston Hughes. He was also at Lincoln University and was a member of Gil’s first band, the Black and Blues. After two years at Lincoln University, Gil decided to take time out to write a novel.

During this period, Gil Scott-Heron wrote two novels. His first novel was a thriller entitled The Vulture, was published in 1970. Whilst writing The Vulture, Gil saw The Last Poets in Lincoln in 1969. 

After watching The Last Poets, Gil approached the band and asked: “can I form a band like you guys?” The seed had been sown. Maybe, music rather than writing would be the direction Gil’s career headed?

Having been impressed with The Last Poets and now considering a career in music, Gil had a lot on his mind as he headed back to New York. He found a new home in Chelsea, Manhattan. Once he’d settled in, Gil decided to make his dream a reality. So he looked for a record company. Gil just so happened to approach a label tailor-made for his music, Flying Dutchman Productions.

After his departure from ABC/Impulse Bob Thiele decided to found his own label. Over the last few years, Bob had worked with some of the most innovative and creative musicians in the history of jazz. Bob realised that often, large record companies aren’t the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, meaning they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. So when Bob parted company with Impulse, who he’d transformed into one of jazz’s pioneering labels, he founded Flying Dutchman Productions. This was the label that Gil Scott-Heron approached. There was a problem though.

While Bob wanted to sign Gil, there was a problem, funding. The funding that Phillips, the Dutch record label had given Bob wasn’t going as far as he’d hoped. Despite this, when he met Gil he was impressed by the poet, musician, and author. So what Bob did, was fund an album that was a fusion of poetry accompanied by understated, percussive arrangements.

Small Talk At 125 and Lenox.

This was Small Talk At 125 and Lenox. It was recorded at a studio and released in 1970. Immediately, comparisons were drawn with the group who’d inspired Gi, The Last Poets. This was a fair comment. However, one listen to tracks like Whitey On The Moon, plus what was the original version of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, and people realised that Gil took what The Last Poets had been doing to the next level. With just a trio of percussionists accompanying Gil, Small Talk At 125 and Lenox was a potent and explosive mix of scathing political and social comment.

Sadly, when Small Talk At 125 and Lenox was released, it wasn’t a commercial success. However, a small crumb of comfort was, that The Revolution Will Not Be Televised found its way onto radio play lists. That was encouraging for Bob and Gil. They knew they were on the right track. So they decided that Gil should begin work on his sophomore album Pieces Of A Man.

Pieces Of A Man.

For Pieces Of A Man, Gil wrote The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Save The Children, Lady Day and John Coltrane and Home is Where The Hatred Is. He cowrote the other seven tracks with Brian Jackson. These eleven tracks were recorded on 19th and 20th April 1971. Joining Gil were a few well known names.

When Bob Thiele asked Gil who he’d like to accompany him, jokingly, Gil said flautist and saxophonist Hubert Laws and bassist Ron Carter. So Bob got them onboard for the recording of Pieces Of A Man. This was Bob Thiele’s way of making Gil feel at home. Bob knew this was the way to get the best performance possible from an artist. 

With a crack band in tow, Gil Scott Heron set about recording his sophomore album Pieces Of A Man. This crack band included a rhythm section of drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and guitarist Burt Jones. Brian Jackson played piano and Gil played guitar, piano and sang lead vocals. Producing Pieces Of A Man was Bob Thiele. After two days recording, Pieces Of A Man was completed. Now it was ready for release.

When Pieces Of A Man was released in 1971, only Rolling Stone magazine realised the cultural importance of the album. Pieces Of A Man passed the rest of the music press by. This is a sad indictment on music journalism at one of the most important period in musical, social and political history.  Just like Pieces Of A Man passed the majority of the music press by, the same can be said of the record buying public. Apart from spending six weeks in the US Jazz Charts, where it peaked at a lowly number twenty-five, commercial success passed Pieces Of A Man by. Ironically, later, critics reappraised Pieces Of A Man and hailed it a classic album that’s intense, politically charged, innovative and influential. 

Despite being innovative and influential album,  Small Talk At 125 and Lenox and Pieces Of A Man passed music lovers by. For Gil this was disappointing. He would only release one further album for release one further album for Flying Dutchman Productions, Free Will.

Free Will,

Free Will, which features twelve songs, is a mixture of music and poetry. Gil wrote eight of the twelve tracks. The other four tracks, Free Will, The Middle Of Your Day, The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues and Speed Kills were collaborations between Gil and Brian Jackson, who played a huge part in the Gil Scott-Heron story. 

For the Free will sessions, an all-star lineup accompanied Gil. Recording took place on the 2nd and 3rd March 1972. The rhythm section included  bassist Jerry Jemmott, drummer Pretty Purdie and guitarist Jerry Jemmott. Flautist and saxophonist Hubert Laws, who’d played on Pieces Of A Man returned.  Brian Jackson played electric piano, flute, bells and added vocals on the first five tracks. Gil took charge of lead vocals. Arranging and conducting the first five tracks on Pieces Of A Man, was Horace Ott.  Producing Pieces Of A Man was Bob Thiele. After two days recording, Pieces Of A Man was completed. It was released later in 1972.

On Free Will’s release later in 1972, it was well received by critics. Rolling Stone flew the flag for Free Will and Gil Scott-Heron. Despite this, Free Will failed to chart in the US Billboard 200 and US R&B charts However, Free Will sold between 20,000 t0 30,000 copies, and reached the US Jazz charts. Despite this, for Gil Scott-Heron, this was a huge disappointment. Free Will, which I’ll tell you, about was the last album Gil Scott-Heron released on Flying Dutchman Productions. 

Free Will opens with the title-track, Free Will. After the band tune up, Free Will gets underway. Gil snaps his fingers as if saying lets make this a take. Herbert Laws’ flute, Brian Jackson’s piano and a rhythm section, complete with chirping guitar cut loose. Above the driving arrangement sits Gil’s vocal. His lyrics are tinged with anger and disappointment. Gil criticises those who grasped the opportunities the civil rights movement fought for, but never did anything to improve society. Gil’s frustrated and angry, while the flute and piano provide the perfect accompaniment to Gil Scott-Heron at his scathing, articulate best.

The Middle Of Your Day has a wistful sound. A flute and piano play, as the drums mark time. The rest of the rhythm section play slowly. They set the scene for Gil, as he sings about people making something of their lives. His lyrics are poignant and tinged with sadness, at the thought of people trying to make their way in life, with nobody to guide them, and show them what’s write and wrong. However, throughout the song, Gil encourages people to make something of their lives.

The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues has a slow, bluesy, jazz-tinged backdrop. A piano plays and a crystalline guitar chirps. Then Gil rounds on those who are content to stay in the ghetto, cheating the system, hustling and taking drugs. Gil wants them to set their sights higher and make something of their lives. 

Speed Kills is just as relevant in 2014, as it was in 1972. Brian Jackson plays electric piano and a bass drives the arrangement along. They provide a dramatic backdrop for Gil’s heartfelt, worried vocal. He’s worried that people’s lives are so busy, they’re forgetting what’s important in life. Forty-two years later, and people are still making the same mistakes.

A dark, pensive piano is panned right Did You Hear What They Said? As Herbert Laws flute sails wistfully above the arrangement, a piano and subtle, chiming guitar combine with Gil’s vocal. It’s tinged with sadness, frustration and regret that “another brother is dead…did you hear what they said…they shot him dead, in the head, to save his country.” Gil’s saddened, angry and despondent that another young life is lost, fighting in a war. To Gil’s it’s another life wasted, as he delivers a devastating attack on the follies of war. This proved a poignant end to side one of Free Will.

Side two of Free Will is essentially Gil’s poetry set to music. On The King Alfred Plan and No Knock, it’s just drums and flute. Gil’s at his most political. He’s angry and unleashes his anger, frustration and vitriol at the Nixon regime. The King Alfred Plan worries him. He’s worried, scared and angry, about the way the black community are being treated. 

It’s the same on No Knock. It features an angry and fearful Gil Scott-Heron. No Knock tells the story of legislation that was mooted in 1972, where the police would be able to enter a person’s house without permission. Gil, America’s conscience, was determined that this would never happen.

Wiggy is  a short poem set to music. Again, it’s just drums and a wistful flute that accompany Gil, as he tells the story of a sad figure, who every night dawns her old and worn wig, before hitting the town. Here, equal parts irony, sadness and humour combine. You’re not laughing at the person, but at Gil’s delivery of the lyrics.

Ain’t No New Thing sees Gil comment on how white artists have constantly “ripped off black artists.” Accompanied by drums and a wistful, subtle, flute, Gil delivers the lyrics. Anger, sadness and frustration, Gil says “this Ain’t No New Thing.”

Billy Green Is Dead sees Gil comment on the shallowness and selfishness of people in 1972. They’re not interested in anything unless it affects them. They didn’t care that racism, poverty, corruption, inequality and drug addiction. As long as they were okay, then nothing else mattered. Sadly, this is still the case today.

Sex Education: Ghetto Style finds Gil at his angriest. He almost barks out the lyrics. Just like Billy Green Is Dead, Gil realises that nobody is interested in the young people who are sleeping around from an early age. As long as it doesn’t affect them, they don’t care what goes on in the ghetto. This is a sad reflection on society, which is just as true today, as back in 1972, when Gil wrote Sex Education: Ghetto Style.

Closing Free Will is…And Then He Wrote Meditations. It’s a song that Gil wrote in homage to John Coltrane, and what Gil refers to as his “finest piece A Love Supreme.” What follows is a three minute, impassioned tribute to a true musical legend’s finest work. Although Pieces Of A Man was only Gil’s sophomore album, it’s a hugely accomplished album. Of the eleven tracks on 

Listening back to Free Will, forty-two years after its release, one thing strikes me, that’s how mature an album Free Will is. Gil Scott-Heron was only twenty-three. Already, Gil had written three novels and released three albums. He was, to all intents and purposes,  America’s conscience. 

No subjects are off-limits on Free Will. Gil Scott-Heron tackles them head on. Racism, poverty, inequality, war and ghetto life are tackled head on. That’s not all. Gil wants the black community to strive for a better life. He wants them not to settle for ghetto life. Instead, he wants young black Americans to set their sights high. However, sometimes, Gil unleashes his ire.

Politicians, including the disgraced Nixon regime are in the firing line. Gil worries about civil liberties in No Knock and the way black people are being treated on The King Alfred Plan. It features a worried and angry Gil Scott-Heron. On the title-track Free Will, Gil criticises those who grasped the opportunities the civil rights movement fought for, but never did anything to improve society. Gil’s righteous anger shines through as he dawns the role of  America’s conscience. It’s a role that doesn’t weigh heavy on his shoulders. Instead, it helps him reach even greater heights.

He delivers each of the songs with variously power, passion, emotion, sadness, frustration, anger and confusion. In a way, his youthfulness helps Gil brings the lyrics to life. Gil was a young man and was aware of and possibly, had experienced the inequality and injustice he sings about. 

Fusing everything from jazz, blues, funk, proto-rap and soul, Gil Scott-Heron highlights the social and political problems of the early seventies. Fearlessly, Gil tackles these subjects head on during Free Will, delivering the lyrics with his proto-rap style. With keyboardist Brian Jackson at his side, Gil would become one of the most important artists of his generation. However,  Free will was his final album for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions. 

1972s Free Will, which was recently rereleased by BGP Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records only sold between twenty and thirty thousand albums. This wasn’t enough to trouble neither the US Billboard 200 nor US R&B charts. Free Will did enter the US Jazz charts. Gradually, Gil’s music was finding the audience it so richly deserved.

It may not have enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim it deserved, but was later, reappraised by critics.

Somewhat belatedly, critics reappraised  Free Will. It’s now perceived as a culturally important album. Future generations were inspired by Gil Scott-Heron. No wonder. Here  was a man who provided a voice for the disenfranchised. Fearlessly, Gil highlights the social and political problems that blighted America in 1972, and still do. Throughout his life, he encouraged Americans to join together and change America for the better. This pioneering poet and protest singer made a difference politically and socially. The way he did this, was through his poetry, books and music, including Free Will. They’re part of the rich legacy Gil Scott-Heron’s legacy left behind, when he died aged just sixty-two, in 2011. 

GIL SCOTT HERON-FREE WILL.

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SCOTT WALKER AND SUN O-SOUSED.

SCOTT WALKER AND SUN O-SOUSED.

If I was to describe Scott Walker in one word, “chameleon” is the word I’d use. Scott started life as lush pop ballads with The Walker Brothers. On leaving  The Walker Brothers, Scott’s style began to evolve.

As Scott’s solo career began, he stuck with the same formula that had served him so well with The Walker Brothers. Not for long. Soon, Scott wanted to create much more innovative music. 

Scott Walker didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a balladeer. Too many artists had made that mistake. 

So Scott decided to learn from their mistakes. After all, one day, maybe soon, people would tire of Scott Walker the balladeer. Deep down, Scott was tiring of dawning the role of Scott Walker the balladeer.

He wanted to move his music in different directions. Scott was a talented songwriter, musician, arranger and producer. The other word people used when describing Scott was successful.

Scott.

From his debut album Scott, which was released on September 16th 1967, his music had found a wide audience. That’s not surprising. The Walker Brothers had just released their third album. They were riding the crest of a wave of success. Although this pleased Scott, he wanted people to see him as a serious artist. So he decided to embark upon a parallel solo career.

When Scott was released, it was a mixture of covers and Scott’s own material, including tracks like Montague Terrace (In Blue), Such a Small Love and Always Coming Back to You. The covers were a mixture of songs by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, including Amsterdam. Along with movie songs and covers of contemporary songs, these tracks became Scott. This eclectic selection of material found favour with record buyers and critics.

Released in September 1967, Scott was critically acclaimed by critics. They saw a new side to Scott Walker and his music. Record buyers enjoyed Scott. It reached number three in the UK. For Scott this was the start of a three album run where he could do now wrong.

Scott 2.

Seven months later, Scott released his sophomore Scott 2, in in the UK. Scott 2 followed a similar formula as his debut Scott. This meant covers of Jacques Brel’s Next, The Girls and the Dogs and Jackie, plus Scott Walker originals like The Amorous Humphrey Plugg, The Girls from the Streets and Plastic Palace People. The rest of Scott 2, was made up of covers of contemporary songs.

On its release in the UK, in March 1968, critics noticed that Scott 2 was a much more grownup album. Its lyrics were deemed controversial, and even risque, featuring songs about sexuality and the decadence that was prevalent in swinging London. Scott 2 seemed to strike a nerve with record buyers.

Scott 2 climbed the charts, reaching number one in the UK. For Scott, this was critics forecast, was the start of a long and successful career for Scott Walker, balladeer. 

Scott 3.

Sadly, this success only lasted one further album. By the time Scott released Scott 3, record buyers were turning their back on his music.

The reason for this, was Scott was tiring of being a balladeer. He wanted to stretch his legs musically, and innovate. So for Scott 3, he penned ten tracks and covered three tracks that Jacques Brel cowrote. When recording began, Scott brought in arranger Wally Stott.

With Wally Stott in tow, Scott recorded an album that’s best described as Scot dawning the role of a Las Vegas crooner. Sometimes, he almost parodies the role. It’s as if he sticking two fingers up at the crooners who headed to Vegas for vast paydays. During Scott 3, the lush arrangements take a harsh twist. Again, it’s as if Scott is being contrary. Critics however “got” Scott 3.

Critics understood what Scott was trying to achieve on Scott 3. The album was well received. However, album sales weren’t as good as Scott’s two previous albums. Despite reaching number three in the UK, sales of Scott 3 were worrying.

Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his T.V. Series.

So it’s no surprise that four months later, in June 1969, Phillips released Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his T.V. Series. It songs that featured on his various television programs. They featured Scott Walker the balladeer and, Scott Walker delivering a series of easy listening songs. This was what his fans wanted.

Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his T.V. Series features a series of heavily orchestrated, M.O.R. songs. It wasn’t vintage Scott Walker. What it was, was Scott’s record company cashing in on an artist whose popularity was on the slide. On Scott 3’s release, in July 1969, it reached number seven in the UK. This was the end of a golden period in Scott Walker’s career.

Scott 4.

Stylistically, Scott 4 was very different from his previous album. Gone was Scott Walker balladeer, and purveyor of cover versions of movie songs and Jacque Brel track. Instead, Scott wanted to be seen as a series artist. His covers of Jacque Brel hinted at this. On Scott 4, the transformation is complete.

Scott 4 features ten songs written by, Noel Scott Engel, Scott’s real name They’re best described as baroque pop. These songs were produced by John Franz, who’d produced Scott’s previous albums. The pair produced the most ambitious and forward thinking album of Scott’s career.

Sadly, Scott 4 failed to chart upon its release in November 1969. Critics, however, loved Scott 4. So much so, it’s seen as one of Scott’s best albums. Released to critical acclaim, critics admired Scott’s willingness to risk everything on  Scott 4. He could just as easily have produced another album of M.O.R. balladry. That wasn’t for Scott Walker.

After Scott 4,  Scott Walker became a musical chameleon. He explored avant-garde musical. Sometimes, his albums moved in the direction of modernism and post modernism. Scott even drew inspiration from classical music. However, this was all at the expense of commercial success.

‘Til the Band Comes In, released in December 1970, was the start of a period where commercial success eluded Scott. An ambitious album, ‘Til the Band Comes In failed to win over Scott’s fans. Neither did The Moviegoer released in 1972. It was a compilation of movie themes, where Scott dawned the role of balladeer. The Moviegoer failed to chart. Neither did Any Day Now, released in May 1973, nor Stretch, released in November 1973. Then when the ironically titled We Had It All, failed to chart upon its release in August 1974, Scott had had enough. 

Ten years passed before Scott released another solo album. In the interim period, there was a Walker Brothers’ reunion. Mostly, Scott was a reclusive figure. That was until March 1984, when Scott released Climate of Hunter, which reached number fifty-one in the UK. After that, Scott’s released just three further albums, until now.

Another eleven years passed, and in May 1995, Scott released Tilt to critical acclaim. It reached just number sixty in the UK. Tilt was one of his finest solo albums, where a musical innovator reminded music what he was capable of. However, another eleven years passed before we heard from Scott again,

Drift, released in May 2006, exactly eleven years  after Tilt, was worth the wait. It was vintage Scott Walker. Like a fine wine, he was maturing with age. He was an ambitious and innovative artist, determined to push musical boundaries. This is what he did on Tilt, which only reached number fifty-one in the UK. For Scott, this must have been a huge disappointment. 

It was another six years, before Scott raised his head above the parapet, and released Bisch Bosch in December 2012. It was well received by critics, who hailed the mercurial and elusive Scott Walker the comeback King. Sadly, Bisch Bosch stalled at ninety-five in the UK. With Scott sixty-nine in 2012, some critics wondered if we’d ever hear from Scott Walker again?

During a solo career that began in 1967, Scott Walker has hardly been prolific. He released fourteen solo albums and two soundtracks, 1999s Pola X and 2007s And Who Shall Go to the Ball? And What Shall Go to the Ball? Many critics felt that wasn’t a lot to show for a forty-seven year solo career. However, it’s about quality, not quantity. Furthermore, Scott’s back with a new collaboration with experimental metal band Sun O. 

Soused.

Released on 4AD on 20th October 2014, Soused is a collaboration between Scott and Sun O. It features five tracks written by Scott Walker. On these tracks,  Scott and Sun O unleash a myriad of interments and effects.

Soused features Scott and Sun O, plus a few friends. The rhythm section features drummer Ian Thomas and guitarists Greg Anderson, Stephen O’Malley and Tos Nieuwenhuizen who also played synths. They’re joined by trumpeter Guy Barker, saxophonist Andy Findon and keyboardist Mark Warman, who also added shakers. Scott and Peter Walker took charge of drum programming. Peter also adds keyboards and FX. When Soused was finished, the result was an early Christmas present, for fans of the elusive and innovative, Scott Walker. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about Soused.

Crystalline synths and searing, rocky guitars open Brando, which opens Soused. Scott’s vocal is emotive and heartfelt. When it drops out, whips crack and the arrangement drones. It’s an unstoppable force. Then Scott’s vocal returns. It literally, oozes emotion and drama. Machine gun guitars fire off fierce licks. The crystalline synths return. They playing their part in a compelling, droning, moody collaboration. Much later, a free jazz trumpet punctuates this genre melting arrangement. Everything from avant-garde, experimental, drone rock, free jazz, baroque pop and rock melt into one. My only reservation are the whips. They’re unnecessary and overpower other parts of the arrangement. In doing so, they stop a good track, becoming a great one.

Bells chime as Herod 2014 unfolds. Synths bubble and the droning arrangement returns. It has a post apocalyptic sound. It’s as if it’s signalling that the bomb has dropped. A wailing, discordant free jazz saxophone sounds. Then as blistering, moody guitar licks are unleashed, Scott’s melodramatic vocal enters. Behind him, disparate musical genres unite during this eleven minute epic. Again, avant-garde, experimental, drone rock, free jazz, baroque pop and rock can be heard as Scott rolls back the years, and shows what we’ve been missing for too long. His partners in crime Sun O, prove the perfect foil for Scott, taking his music in a new and unexpected direction.

That’s the case on Bull. Just like the other tracks on Soused, it’s a lengthy track. Ominously, the arrangement drones, taking on a cinematic sound. What sounds like footsteps can be heard. Then Scott’s dramatic, powerful vocal enters. Searing, screaming guitars accompany him. So do sound effects. They punctuate the arrangement, before thunderous drums make their presence felt. Later, the arrangement becomes eerie and gothic. This is perfect for Scott’s earnest, theatrical vocal. He throws himself into the track. Just like an actor, he seems to be playing a role, drawing inspiration from baroque pop, modern classical and opera. Meanwhile, Sun O provide a a dramatic, cinematic backdrop for Scott’s vocal masterclass.

Guitars shriek and feedback on Fetish. A drums sounds in the distance. So do sound effects and cinematic synths. Scott’s vocal has the same, earnest, theatrical sound. He’s come a long way from singing Make It Easy On Yourself. His old fans wouldn’t recognise him, as he pushes new musical boundaries. That’s not surprising. Constantly, Scott has produced innovative and challenging music. It’s sometimes ethereal. That’s until the droning arrangement unfolds. This adds an element of drama. That’s the case with the drums. They add a mesmeric sound, before the music returns to its earlier ethereal sound, showcasing Scott Walker, forever the troubled troubadour.

Closing Soused is Lullaby. Shakers join a droning arrangement. It’s dramatic, gothic sound is the perfect contrast to Scott’s vocal. It almost has a classical influence. Again, it’s earnest and heartfelt. The rest of the arrangement is understated, playing a supporting role to Scott’s baroque vocal. Later, the arrangement becomes eerie, cinematic, broody and ominous. The drama builds, and the arrangement becomes almost discordant. As for Scott, his vocal is questioning and melancholy, as the arrangement fades into the distance. This proves poignant, as I’m left wondering when or whether we’ll ever hear from Scott Walker again?

As a longtime Scott Walker fan, the release of a new album, is a cause for celebration. That’s because, in a career lasting forty-seven years, Scott has released just fourteen solo albums and two soundtracks. Soused Scott’s collaboration with Sun O, is a welcome addition to his discography. It’s a reminder of Scott’s unique and inimitable voice. That’s not all. Soused is a reminder that Scott Walker is one of the most ambitious and innovative musicians of the past fifty years. Sadly, for most of Scott’s solo career, commercial success has eluded him.

His career started successfully, with four top ten UK albums. However, when Scott strayed from the tried and tested formula of balladry and cover versions, he lost his mass market appeal. However, from Scott 4, Scott Walker became the critic’s darling.

The more commercial success eluded Scott, it seemed the more the critics hung on his every word. This has been the case for thirty years, when he released Climate of Hunter. Since then, Scott Walker, has been the critic’s choice. That’s continued with Soused, which was released on 4AD on 20th October 2014.

Soused is a groundbreaking, genre-melting fusion from Scott Walker and Sun O. They combine everything from ambient, avant-garde, drone rock, experimental, industrial, psychedelia and rock. These genres become one on Soused, where Scott Walker and Sun O push musical boundaries to their limits, and even, way beyond.

SCOTT WALKER AND SUN O-SOUSED.

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BLACK MOON CIRCLE-ANDROMEDA.

BLACK MOON CIRCLE-ANDROMEDA.

Just now, Norway has one of the most vibrant music scenes in Europe. Some of the best new music I’ve heard during 2014, has come from Norwegian bands and artists. This includes Motorpsycho, Moster!, Supersilent, Moskus, 1982, Space Monkey, Bly De Blyant, Stein Urheim, Cakewalk and Krokofant. These artists are among the most talented groups and artists in the Nordic music scene. However, new names are emerging all the time. This includes Black Moon Circle. 

Black Moon Circle are a Norwegian space rock band. They were formed back in 2012, by brothers Øyvin Engan and Vemund Engan in 2012. Øyvin plays bass, guitar and takes charge of vocals. His brother Vemund is a guitarist. Both brothers used to play in the Trondheim-based punk rock band The Reilly Express. That was the past. Now, the Engan brothers are two thirds of Black Moon Circle. All they needed was a drummer.

Completing Black Moon Circle’s lineup was drummer, Per Andreas Gulbrandsen on drums. He was the final piece of the jigsaw. Now Black Moon Circle could set about honing their sound.

Gradually, Black Moon Circle’s sound began to evolve. It’s essentially a combination of lengthy jams, searing guitar riffs and a myriad of effects added to the bass and guitar. This Black Moon Circle describe as a space rock band. They’re not alone.

Black Moon Circle are just one of many Norwegian space rock bands. Earthless and Colour Haze are two other Norwegian bands, who are flying the flag for space rock. In Black Moon Circle’s case, they’ve been doing this since 2013.

That’s when Black Moon Circle recorded their eponymous, debut, mini-album, at Nautilus studios in 2013. Black Moon Circle was then released in February 2014 by Space Rock Productions, the label run by the Øresund Space Collective from Copenhagen, Denmark. However, Black Moon Circle aren’t the type of band to let the grass grow under their feet. 

No. Black Moon Circle returned to the studio in April 2014. That’s when Black Moon Circle recorded Andromeda. They worked quickly and efficiently. As a result, the five songs on Andromeda were recorded in one day. Now six months later, Andromeda will be released.

Black Moon Circle’s latest album, Andromeda, will be released by Crispin Clover Records, in cooperation with Stickman Records in October 2014. It’s available on vinyl and digital download. Andromeda, which I’ll tell you about, is the perfect introduction to Black Moon Circle.

Opening Andromeda, is The Machine On The Hill. Per Andreas Gulbrandsen’s drums set the scene for the Engan brothers. A guitar reverberates and a buzzing bass enters. Effects are unleashed. What sounds like a howling wind, accompanies Øyvin’s pensive vocal. Meanwhile, sci-fi sounds and feedback are unleashed. Then Black Moon Circle become one. Vemund and Per join Øyvin on vocals, as they showcase their unique version of space rock. It’s akin to a wall of sound. That’s not all. What follows is a glorious melange of classic rock, heavy metal, space rock, psychedelia and futuristic, sci-fi sounds. There’s even a nod to Hawkwind. For nine minutes, Black Moon Circle unleash blistering, searing guitar licks. Literally, they go toe-to-toe. They’re laden with effects, while the rest of the rhythm section become a two man powerhouse. It’s a glorious combination, and the perfect showcase for space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle, in full flight.

A pounding, thunderous rhythm section create a slow, dramatic introduction to Jack’s Cold Sweat. This is the perfect backdrop for Øyvin’s vocal. It starts off slow and moody, growing in power and presence. Per and Vemund add harmonies, as guitars soar above the arrangement, drums pound and the buzzing bass makes its presence felt. Black Moon Circle, are at their best when they kick loose. In full flight, Black Moon Circle are a tight, talented group. They kick out the jams and lock into a groove. Trading licks, the Engan brothers drive each other to greater heights. This is what music used to sound like, back in the days of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Music like this, will never die. Not with groups like Motorpsycho, Moster! and Black Moon Circle fly the flag for the golden age of rock. For that, I’m truly grateful. Music’s future is in safe hands.

Supernova has a moody, ominous sound. The arrangement unfolds in waves. Its dark sound buzzes. Drums and a crystalline guitar play. Along with Øyvin’s wistful vocal, they’re responsible for a sound that’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Effects are added to the arrangement. As a result, it frames Øyvin’s vocal. It’s the perfect foil for a vocal that’s full of sadness and melancholy. Tinged with regret and emotion, Øyvin delivers the vocal like he’s lived the lyrics. The rest of Black Moon Circle play their part in what’s without doubt  the highlight of Andromeda.

Just a lone guitar opens Dragon. Having set the scene, Øyvin’s husky, dramatic vocal enters. Soon, the rest of Black Moon Circle enter. The rhythm section provide the heartbeat, while a myriad of effects are added. A wind blows, the arrangement bubbles and futuristic, sci-fi sounds emerge from the arrangement. Mostly, though it’s Øyvin’s that grabs your attention. Everything else is playing a supporting role. Only when the vocal briefly drops out, do the rest of Black Moon Circle showcase their considerable talents. Then Black Moon Circle kick loose, and searing, howling, braying guitars join the driving, churning rhythm section on this nine minute Magnus Opus, where we hear two sides of the hugely talented Black Moon Circle.

The title-track Andromeda closes Black Moon Circle’s latest albums. It’s another epic track, lasting fifteen magnificent minutes. At the start, it’s just Øyvin’s thoughtful, powerful vocal. He’s joined by the rhythm section. Straight away, they make their presence felt. So do the searing, choppy, shimmering guitars. Always, though, they leave space for the heartfelt, dramatic vocal. When the vocal drops out, Black Moon Circle get the opportunity to stretch their legs. Slowly, and purposely, they play. Choppy guitars reverberate, a buzzy bass howls and pulsates. All the time, drums provide the heartbeat. Guitars steal the show. Howling, searing and blistering machine gun licks are unleashed, as Black Moon Circle lock into a groove. The result is a mesmeric, hypnotic and dramatic rock epic, where Black Moon Circle join the Norway’s musical elite.

Andromeda, the latest musical missive from  Norwegian space rock pioneers, Black Moon Circle is an old school album. It features five tracks lasting forty-five minutes. This is how albums used to be, back in the days of classic rock. Back then, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were kings. Albums were very different.

They weren’t sprawling, unfocused affairs featuring eighteen tracks. No. Instead, they featured between seven and ten tracks. These tracks featured on albums made of vinyl. That’s the way Black Moon Circle do things.

Black Moon Circle will release Andromeda, on Crispin Clover Records, in cooperation with Stickman Records in October 2014. It’s available on vinyl and digital download. Andromeda is the perfect introduction to Black Moon Circle, who have a huge future ahead of them.

Over five tracks, Black Moon Circle a power trio, combine elements of classic rock, psychedelia and space rock on Andromeda. Sometimes, there’s a nod to Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. That’s not all. Black Moon Circle remind me of their fellow countrymen, Motorpsycho and Moster!, two other pioneering Norwegian groups. The latest name to be added this list of Norwegian musical pioneers, are Black Moon Circle.

It’s no exaggeration to say, that Black Moon Circle, are one of the most exciting, talented and pioneering Norwegian groups. They’re flying the flag proudly for classic rock and space rock. This is the case on Black Moon Circle’s latest album Andromeda, which features a coming of age from the multitalented Norwegian power trio.

BLACK MOON CIRCLE-ANDROMEDA.

 

front-og-bakside

disco

SUPERSILENT-12.

SUPERSILENT-12.

Four long years have passed, since Supersilent released their eighth album 11 on Rune Grammofon. Since 2010, Supersilent’s fans have eagerly awaited the next chapter in the Supersilent story. At last, the wait is over. Supersilent recently released their ninth album 12, on Rune Grammofon. 12 marks a welcome return from the innovative Norwegian supergroup.

It’s no exaggeration to describe Supersilent as a supergroup. They’re made up of some of the best Norwegian musicians of their generation. 

Keyboardist Stale Storløkken is a member of Elephant9, Humcrush, BOL and Reflections In Cosmo. Stale’s also a member of Terje Rypdal’s trio Skywards. As if that’s not more than enough to be going on with, Stale works with a variety of other bands. The other members of Supersilent are just as busy.

Trumpeter Arve Henriksen has released eight solo albums. That’s not all. He’s collaborated with some of the biggest names in Nordic music. This includes Jon Balke, Trygve Seim and Christian Wallumrod. Arve Henriksen has also worked with David Sylvian. Just like his brother’s in arms, Helge Sten (a.k.a. Deathprod), is just as busy.

Previously, Helge Sten was a member of Motorpsycho. Not any more. He’s now a member of Susanna’s trio and has released three albums as Deathprod. That’s not all. Helge has worked alongside Jaga Jazzist, Nils Petter, The White Birch, Susanna and Jenny Hval. Given how busy the three members of Supersilent are, it’s incredible they’ve found time to record nine albums since 1977. 

1997 is when the Supersilent story begins. That’s when Supersilent were formed. Sound artist, musician and producer Helge Sten approacehed improvisational trio Veslefrekk. Helge wanted to form a new quartet. It, he proposed would comprise Helge and Veslefrekk. This new quartet became Supersilent. They made their debut at the prestigious Bergen Jazz Festival.

There wasn’t even time to rehearse. Instead, Supersilent took to the stage, and became one. This was the start of a musical journey that’s lasted seventeen years and nine albums.

Supersilent released their debut album 1-3 on Rune Grammofon, late in 1997. This was Rune Grammofon’s first release. Since then, the label has gone from strength to strength, and has released Supersilent’s next eight albums, including 12.

12 was recorded back in 2011, during three sessions. They took place at Deathprod’s Audio Virus LAB, Athletic Sound in Halden and the Emanuel Vigeland Museum. It’s famed for its twenty second natural reverb. The recording sessions were lengthy. Supersilent jammed, improvised, innovated and experimented. Musical boundaries were pushed to their limits, as musical genres became one. Hours and hours of music was recorded. It was then edited by Deathprod, who produced 12. It features the three members of Supersilent at their innovative best.

Supersilent don’t describe themselves as a group. They’re a collective, who do things their way. This includes never rehearsing. Neither do Supersilent discuss their music with each other. They only meet to play and record. This they explain, means every album or performance in unique. It can never be replicated. Equally unique is the music on be Supersilent’s ninth album, 12.

On 12, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, tape experimenter Helge Sten and keyboardist Stale Storløkken improvise. There’s no room for showboating. Everything is off the cuff. They feed off each other, driving each other to greater heights as they fuse avant garde free jazz, rock, electronica and modern composition. The result is a genre-melting album, 12, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening 12 is 1. A wave of moody, broody music moves towards you. It’s like an unstoppable force. For two minutes, the music veers between dramatic, melodic and haunting. There’s a nod to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, as Supersilent continue on their innovative way.

2 has a futuristic, sci-fi sound. Cinematic describes this fusion of washes of synths, sound effects and chimes. It veers between futuristic, cinematic, ethereal and discordant, as Supersilent combine avant-garde, electronic, experimental, free jazz and rock.

Cinematic and dramatic. These words describe 3. Waves of cinematic music become dramatic. Before long, the drama increases. This comes courtesy of urgent stabs of keyboards. Meanwhile, washes of sound effects assail you. Sometimes, its reminiscent of a howling gale, as Supersilent provide the soundtrack to an austere, futuristic landscape.

4 quivers, shivers and shimmers. The arrangement builds and grows, picking up where 3 left off. It’s akin to a soundtrack to a sci-fi film. Sounds assail you. They’re panned left and right, and flit in and out of your consciousness. Gradually, the music becomes moody and futuristic. It bubbles, squeaks and becomes eerie. By now, it sounds like the backdrop to the type of film Alfred Hitchcock would be making if he were alive today.

Understated, spacious, hesitant and experimental describes 5. It’s as if Supersilent are drawing inspiration from Brian Eno. Later wistful, ethereal trumpet plays softly. Haunting and beautiful, its melancholy sound is yin to the rest of the arrangement’s yang.

Searing, bristling guitars feedback on 6. The rest of the arrangement is like a merry-go-round. It’s one you don’t want to get off. Not when Supersilent lock horns. Arve unleashes his trumpet and Stale his banks of keyboards. Helge’s uses his tape recorders. He adjusts the tempo. Deliberately, the tempo fluctuates and quver. After that, this fusion of avant-garde, experimental, free-jazz and rock heads off in the most unexpected directions, reinforcing the fact that Supersilent are musical pioneers, who push musical boundaries to their breaking point.

A haunting, thoughtful trumpet solo opens 7. Bells chime in the background. This adds a poignancy. So does the wash of synths. Avant-garde, classical and experimental combine with jazz to create an ethereal, wistful and later, dramatic track.

As 8 unfolds, a myriad of musical ideas assail you. Drums pound, a trumpet sounds, soaring above the arrangement. Meanwhile, a myriad of experimental sounds make their presence felt. They all vie for your attention, as they play their part in something that’s bigger than any of the constituent parts.

9 has a post apocalyptic sound. Sparse and minimalist, sci-fi sounds descend. Gradually, the drama builds. Sounds flit in and out the arrangement. Some are understated, others dramatic and disturbing. Again, the track has a cinematic sound. Pictures unfold before your eyes. As the track ends, it sounds as if Supersilent have written the score to the next Win Wenders’ movie.

Drum play in the distance. Then lo-fi sounds sweep in as 10 reveals its secrets. Soon, elements of ambient, avant-garde, cinematic and experimental unite. Sometimes, there’s an element of darkness. It threatens to descend. The music becomes eerie experimental and chilling.  

11 picks up where 10 left off. The music veers between eerie experimental, to disturbing and chilling. It’s also innovative, cinematic and hypnotic.

The introduction to 12 is not unlike a siren going off. Short, sharp bursts assail you. In the background, a myriad of futuristic sounds play a supporting role. They’re part of what sounds like post apocalyptic soundscape.

Closing 12, is 13. Bells chime, as a futuristic, droning sounds sweep across the arrangement. Instruments are unleashed, and transformed by producer Deathprod. In his hands, they become something totally different. Here, he combines futuristic, sci-fi sounds and wistful, ethereal beauty. This reinforces that Supersilent are one of the most innovative, pioneering bands in Europe.

12 was Supersilent’s ninth album, since they formed in 1997. Since 1997, they’ve established a reputation as one of the most innovative, pioneering bands in Europe. They’ve come a long way from their debut at the Bergen Jazz Festival. 

Stale Storløkken, Arve Henriksen and Helge Sten are at the heart of Norway’s thriving music scene. They are, or have been, members of some of Norway’s most successful bands. 

This includes Motorpsycho, Elephant9, Humcrush, BOL, Reflections In Cosmo and Jaga Jazzist. That’s not all. The three members of Supersilent have worked with the great and good of Norwegian music. That’s no surprise.

The three members of Supersilent are hugely talented and versatile musicians. Supersilent are made up of three of the best Norwegian musicians of their generation. They’re capable of seamlessly, fusing musical genres, to make their unique soundscapes.

Everything from ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz, psychedelia, jazz and rock can be heard on the thirteen tracks on 12. As these disparate musical genres melt into one, it’s apparent that the music is ambitious, bold, innovative and pioneering. 12 you see, is no ordinary album.

12 is akin to an album of futuristic soundscapes. They veer between beautiful, broody, moody, chilling, cinematic, dramatic, eerie, ethereal, melancholy and wistful. Futuristic, sci-fi sounds are omnipresent on what’s like a long lost soundtrack album. All this makes 12 a truly compelling and captivating album from Norwegian musical pioneers, Supersilent, who are at the vanguard of Norway’s vibrant music scene.

SUPERSILENT-12.

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RODION G.A.-BEHIND THE CURTAIN-THE LOST ALBUM.

RODION G.A.-BEHIND THE CURTAIN-THE LOST ALBUM.

Earlier this year, I embarked upon a musical adventure. It all started just over a year ago, when I received an email. It was from Rodion Ladislau Rosca, who back in the seventies, formed Rodion G.A.  

Rodion had been surfing the net, and discovered my review of the Rodion G.A. compilation The Lost Tapes, which was released last year on Strut Records. This was the start of an exchange of emails. 

Mostly, we discussed music. Occasionally, Rodion sent me one the tracks Rodion G.A. had recorded back in the seventies. Then early this year Rodion sent another track. I replied that the tracks he had sent were good enough to release. That’s when Rodion mentioned there he had more tracks on a master tape. 

This was an exciting development. The Lost Tapes had been released to widespread critical acclaim. There was a resurgence in interest in interest in Rodion G.A’.s music. This was the perfect time for Rodion G.A. to release another album. So I replied to Rodion, saying that if there were enough tracks for an album, I knew plenty of people within the music industry who’d be willing to release them. When Rodion got back in touch, he had good news.

Rodion didn’t just have a few tracks, he had a master tape full of music. This was great news. Rodion G.A. were growing in popularity. If we could get Rodion G.A. another record deal, they would belatedly, received the recognition they so richly deserved. So, in late March, Rodion sent the master tapes to me.

The next couple of weeks, were nerve racking. I was waiting for the Rodion G.A. master tapes winding their way from Romania. They took their time. As time went by, Rodion and I were becoming nervous. Had the master tapes gone missing? Then one day, a battered envelop dropped through the letter box. Inside, were what I’d been waiting for, the Rodion G.A. master tapes. Now was time for me to listen to them.

For the next few hours, I put up the do not disturb sign. I was a man with a mission. That mission was listening to the master tapes. I was almost overwhelmed. The master tapes contained a musical feast of innovative, groundbreaking music. Listening to the music, it was hard to believe it was recorded between 1975 and 1983. Here was music that was way ahead of its time. If it had been released back then, Rodion G.A. would’ve been huge. They still could be.

Straight away, I started getting in touch with people I knew at record companies. I casually mentioned I had someone I wanted them to listen to. The first thing they said, was who? When I said Rodion G.A. that was a different matter. That was different. The opportunity to sign Rodion G.A. didn’t come along every day. They were hooked.

I sent across some of the music on the master tapes. It didn’t take long for an offer to come in. BBE Music were interested in signing Rodion G.A. A contract was drawn up, and the two parties signed the contract in May 2014. 

Now work began on what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which will be released by BBE Music on 20th October 2014, on CD, LP and digital download. This is the result of three months of hard work by a dedicated team of professionals. It hasn’t been easy though.

The story took a tragic twist in early July. Rodion was diagnosed with hepatitis B and C, and also hepatic cirhosis. His health was worsening. Rodion told me he hadn’t long to live. This was a huge body blow for Rodion. 

For too many years Rodion G.A.’s music had been one of music’s best kept secrets. Now when Rodion G.A.’s music was slowly being discovered by a wider audience, music was about to be robbed of one of its few remaining mavericks. I was determined that Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album would be released in Rodion’s lifetime.

So, I contacted BBE Music. Lee and Julia at BBE Music were fantastic. Just like me, they were determined to move heaven and earth to ensure Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album was released. We were going to try to do the impossible, release Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album on 20th October 2014. That might seem like plenty of time.

That’s not the case. Some record companies spent three or four months promoting an album. BBE Music had only three and a half months to release Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. There was a lot to do. This included an album cover, sleeve notes, mastering and promotion. So like a modern day A-Team, the BBE Music crew sprung into action.

One of the first things we needed was an album cover. I knew the very man. Jake Holloway, who had designed so many of BBE Music’s releases was who I wanted to do the cover. I asked for Jake and he agreed to come onboard. He knew time was tight, but assured me we could get the cover ready on time. We exchanged ideas about the design, and Jake came up with what’s a stunning album cover well within the time limit. The other thing we needed, was Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album mastered.

That took time, given the age and condition of the master tapes. Two of the best mastering engineers were brought onboard to master Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Harvey Summer mastered the fourteen tracks that make up the mainstay of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Painstakingly, he restored the songs to their former glories. It was a long and laborious job. That wasn’t the end of the mastering process.

For the vinyl copy of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, we decided to do a luxurious double album. I listened again to the master tapes, and picked eight tracks. Mostly, they’re demos, but demos that showcase a musical innovator at the peak of their powers. We needed these tracks mastered. Harvey wasn’t available. So,  Shawn Joseph mastered the eight bonus. Just like Harvey, he pulled out all the stops. While this was going on, it was all systems go.

With an album cover and Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album mastered, things were looking good. I’d also been busy. 

When Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album was submitted, I’d all the paperwork in place, including the sleeve-notes. I’d also compiled and sequenced the albums. It had been a labour of love. This was an album I really believed in. With all the pieces falling into place, the next couple of months were all about promotion. Little did we know an elephant was about to enter the room. Let’s just say this was a Christian I’d willingly throw to the lions. That’s another story, for another day. However, a story worth telling again, is the story of a musical maverick, Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

It was in Cluj, in North West Romania, on 4th April 1953 that Rodion Ladislau Rosca was born. He is half-Romanian and half-Hungarian. His mother was Hungarian, and brought Rodion up.  

Growing up, Rodion was an inquisitive and restless child. He remembers that at meal times, when he was eating, he would shake his legs and bang around with his hands. Spoons and plates becomes drumsticks and drums. For Rodion’s mother, this was a worrying time. So Rodion was sent to a psychologist. This resulted in Rodion discovering music.

The psychologist suggested that Rodion attended a musical school. This transformed Rodion’s behaviour. Before he started to play guitar Rodion was different from other children. Some people though he was unbalanced. This was far from the case. 

Instead, Rodion needed something to pour his energy into. This was music. It gave something to focus all his energy on.

By the time he was in the sixth grade, one of his classmates had a band. They met and played in a basement. Their instruments were pretty basic. All they had  were a toy drum, a guitar and a tape recorder. Rodion was fascinated by this rudimentary setup. He wanted something similar.

Back home, Rodion told his mother what about his friend’s setup. He wanted the same setup. So he embarked upon a charm offensive. Eventually, it worked. He managed to  convinced his mother to buy him a guitar. He borrowed his friend’s tape recorder and locked himself in his room with the instruments. Soon, Rodion started writing his own songs. He was only fifteen, but he knew what he wanted to do with his life. This was possible, because Rodion grew up in Romania during the open period between 1965 and 1972. 

Growing up, there was a sense of hope for a new generation of young Romanians. This came about when Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power, after the death of Gheorghiu-Dej, on 19th March 1965. 

In the beginning, Nicolae Ceaușescu was a popular leader. He challenged the authority of the U.S.S.R. and ensured that Romania had an independent foreign policy. Under his leadership, Romania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. The other thing Nicolae Ceaușescu did, was ensure there was a free press. For the young Rodion Ladislau Rosca, Romania between 1965 and 1972, was a good place to grow-up. Little did Rodion and many Romanians know, that this was one of the golden ages of Romania.

During this time, Rodion was exposed to an eclectic selection of musical influences. Each night, he listened to the music that filled the airwaves. Rodion was like a sponge, absorbing an eclectic selection of music. This included everything from rock, pop, psychedelia and jazz . While the music he heard on the radio was primarily English and American. Some of these artists headed to Romania during the open period.

This came about after Nicolae Ceaușescu was invited to the U.S.A. Although Nicolae Ceaușescu was seen as a maverick, he was seen as a friend of the U.S.A. With his easing of the censorship laws, now some of the biggest names in music headed to Romania. 

Among the luminaries of music to tour Romania were Blood, Sweat and Tears, plus jazz legends Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong. They were greeted by appreciative audiences, who until then, had only heard these artist on the radio. This included Rodion, who was about immerse himself into the city of Cluj’s music scene.

Cluj sits on the border with Hungary. Between 1965 and 1972, it had a healthy musical scene. Rodion remembers Cluj “as having a thriving and vibrant musical scene. Rodion was about to dive headlong into it.

Among Cluj’s lead bands were prog rock groups like Cromatic and the Experimental Quartet. Soon, Rodion had immersed himself in the local music scene and had established a reputation as a prolific and voracious collector of vinyl. His collecting habit was funded by is sound equipment hire business. He became the go-to-guy for anyone looking to hire PA systems for a concert or wedding. This allowed Rodion to indulge his passion for record collecting.

Soon, his reputation grew, and Rodion became known as “the King of Records.” He would go to any length to add to his beloved vinyl collection. Rodion made cross border trips to Hungary, where he stocked up on hard to find albums. Rodion also had a friend in Norway send him the latest releases. Before long, Rodion had a record collection that was unrivalled.

Rodion’s collection included the classic rock of  Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Rodion didn’t restrict himself to classic rock. He was also interested in the more progressive, electronic bands of the era, including groups from Eastern and Western Europe. This included Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. Other favourites included West Germany’s Kraftwerk, East Germany’s Karat, Romania’s Sfinx, Czechoslovakia’s Matador and Hungary’s Skorpio. These eclectic influences would influence Rodion Rosca’s musical career.

From the late sixties, it became apparent that Rodion was going to make a career out of music. To do this, he had to forge his own unique sound. Rock music dominated Romanian music during this period. However, the music Rodion would create between 1969 and 1972, was very different from rock music. 

Using reel-to-reel tape recorders and built around just vocals, guitars and drums. Starting in 1969, Rodion began recording music that was understated, sparse and simple. Sometimes, the music could be describes as improvisational, experimental and haunting. Three years later, Rodion had made tentative steps into the world of music. However, another three years would pass, before Rodion would form Rodion G.A. 

During the three years between Rodion finishing his first recordings, in 1972, and forming Rodion G.A.in 1975,  the political landscape in Romania changed drastically. For aspiring musicians, this wasn’t good news. Musicians became part of the government propaganda machine. This came about after Nicolae Ceaușescu visited China and North Korea. 

On his return from these visits, Nicolae Ceaușescu was ”inspired” to change direction politically. He came back from his visits an admirer the political and economic ideology of China and North Korea. Worryingly, he admired the cult-like figure of Kim Il Sung. Nicolae Ceaușescu wanted to implement the North Korean policy of Juche Idea. The effect this had on Romania was like turning the clock back to pre-1965.

Suddenly, the role of the Communist Party grew with Romania. This would continue. Censorship returned. Books were banned and burnt. A list of banned authors was circulated. All of a sudden, writers had a reason to be scared. So did musicians. Under the new regime, musicians would become part of the government propaganda machine. Not Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

In 1975, Rodion was working at the Heavy Machinery Manufacturing Plant. This was where he met Gicu Farcas and Adrian Caparu. They were work colleagues. At breaks and in evenings, they listened Rodion’s tapes and suggested forming a band. Originally, Rodion wanted to call the band Fort. It her felt, was a reflection of his “vision.” However, another band were called Fort. So Rodion, Gicu Farcas and Adrian Caparu became Rodion G.A. Gicu and Adrian provided the G.A. in Rodion G.A. For his part, Rodion contributed a myriad of studio equipment. 

By 1975, Rodion had amassed an eclectic selection of equipment and established a reputation as a D.I.Y. tech wizard. He created his own unique way of creating music on reel-to-reel tape recorders, using the various tape machines to multitrack. His nascent studio included several Tesia tape recorders, drum machines, phasers, flangers and fuzz pedals. Rodion’s arsenal of secret musical weapons included a toy Casio VL Tone, an East German Vermone drum machine and a Soviet made Faemi organ. Like the music Rodion G.A. were making, the equipment they were using was leftfield and eclectic. 

Although Rodion G.A. were producing music during music this period, they weren’t releasing music. After all, this was the communist era and the state dominated countries like Romania and there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Musicians weren’t going to get rich. Despite this, Rodion G.A. released two tracks. 

These two tracks were recorded during Rodion G.A’s first recording session. They can be found on the Formatti Rock Volume 5 compilation. Then at a second session, five other tracks were recorded. Sadly, they were never released. However, the recording engineer allowed Rodion to record the five tracks onto his own tape machine from the studio’s main mixing desk. This allowed Rodion G.A. to use these tracks to build new tracks. Some of these new tracks were played on Romanian radio stations and reached the top of the Romanian charts. That people thought, was the extent of music Rodion G.A. recorded.

Without further recordings and more publicity and exposure, they weren’t going to achieve a higher profile. Despite this, Rodion G.A. didn’t give up. Instead, they embarked upon a series of extensive tours during the eighties.

During Rodion G.A’s tours, the band played through a custom-made P.A. Amps and speaker cabinets proudly bore the Rodion G.A. logo. This resulted in Rodion G.A. having a totally unique sound, one that bore no similarities to other Romanian groups. Best described as dense, raw, complicated and complex, veering into the realms of classical and prog rock, Rodion G.A’s music was unique and inimitable. They became a firm favourite at festivals throughout Romania, which since 1972, had become a much harsher regime, where bands had to be on their guard. 

Rodion G.A. toured Romania, playing everywhere from festivals to restaurants. Bands had to be on their guard. They never knew when the state censors would arrive at concerts. Luckily, Rodion G.A. became expert at avoiding the state censors, who were known to chastise a group for singing: “yeah, yeah, yeah.” It seemed that for a Romanian band, like Rodion G.A, trying to make a commercial breakthrough during the communist era was almost impossible. After all, they couldn’t release albums, and touring was the only way to lift their profile. However, by the early eighties, other opportunities were coming Rodion’s way.

Away from touring, Rodion contributed the soundtrack to the movie Delta Space Mission during the mid-eighties. Unfortunately, the music Rodion had provided was turned down, and Adrian Enescu was given the job. Then Rodion contributed the soundtracks to plays, ballet and gymnastics exhibitions. Despite being well received, none of these projects provided a lasting legacy for Rodion G.A. By now, the end was almost nigh for one of Romanian music’s great innovators. 

What proved to be Rodion G.A’s final concert took place at Mangalia Festival in 1987. It was around this time that Rodion’s mother had died. This resulted in Rodion walking away from music for twenty-five years. 

During the next twenty-five years, Rodion Ladislau Rosca became a mythical figure. Rumours surrounded his whereabouts. He was an elusive figure. He was distraught after the death of his beloved mother.  Rodion felt “he had been robbed of his closest friend, and the one person he could always rely upon, and trust.” Even now, his mother’s death is a void that has not been filled. Grieving and with the band he founded having split-up, Rodion withdrew from public life.

The rumours surrounding Rodion’s whereabouts refused to go away. Little did anyone know, that Rodion was traveling back and forwards to London. In London, Rodion was making a living as a labourer. His colleagues never knew of Rodion’s past. He was just “Rodion, the guy who loved music.”

Throughout those traumatic times, Rodion still loved music. It was the one constant in his life. He listened to music constantly, and was fascinated in sound. So now living back home in Cluj, it made sense for Rodion to start up a small business, doing what he knew and loved. 

Soon, Rodion was making a living repairing musical equipment and repairing speakers. So much so, that in Cluj, Rodion is known as “the speaker man.” Defiantly, Rodion would say no speaker will defeat “the speaker man.” It was whilst repairing speakers and musical equipment, Rodion was tempted back into making music.

One day, Rodion saw a Casio keyboard for sale. Every day, for a while Rodion walked past the shop selling the Casio keyboard. Then one day, Rodion took the plunge. He walked into the shop and bought the keyboard. Before long, Rodion had written and recorded a few tracks. Rodion was back. Little did he know, many people had been looking for him,

Whist Rodiion had been away from music, many people become interested in the whereabouts of Rodion. Journalists, bloggers and filmmakers were all keen to track down Rodion. One of he first to do so was Luca Sorin.

A blogger and filmmaker, Luca Sorin became interested in the mythology that surrounds Rodion. After months of researching Luca discovered a handful of tracks by Rodion and footage of their 1980 New Year’s Eve concert. He posted this online. This came to the attention of Future Nuggets. They are a collective of musicians and producers who are determined to preserve Romania’s musical heritage. A year later, Rodion G.A. made their comeback.

It was in 2012, that Rodion G.A. made their long awaited and much anticipated comeback. After twenty-five years away from music, Rodion G.A. were back. Rodion was the only original member. They received a rapturous applause, and Rodion the comeback King, was back where he belonged, making music. A year later, the comeback was complete. 

Just a year after their comeback concert, Rodian G.A, who were formed nearly four decades ago,  released a compilation of their music The Lost Tapes, which was released on Strut Records.

The Lost Tapes was released to critical acclaim in May 2013. At last, the wider world were introduced to the enigmatic genius that is Rodion Rosca. Since then, Rodion G.A. have played at a series of concerts and workshops. Berlin, Bucharest and Moscow are just three of the cities to be won over by a musical innovator and maverick, Rodion G.A. Then in April this year, another Rodion G.A. release hit the shops. 

This was none other than Rodion G.A’s soundtrack Delta Space Mission. It was released to celebrate Record Store Day. Fans worldwide were determined to get a copy of this previously unreleased musical Magnus Opus. The lucky ones weren’t disappointed. Far from it. It was a tantalising taste of a mercurial musical genius. However, there’s more to come from Rodion G.A. 

Today sees the release of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which is available as a CD, double LP and digital download. Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, features fourteen tracks which were written, recorded and produced between 1975 and 1984, by Rodion G.A. Recording took place at his home studio. For Rodion G.A., recording what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album was risky way to make a living.

During this period, musicians and artists were persecuted. They were perceived wrongly, as radicals. As a result, Rodion Rosca had to make music underground. He wrote and recorded the twelve tracks on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album in his basement, safe from the prying eyes of the censors. Many of the instruments that feature on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, were built by Rodion himself. After all, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is more than a musician. 

No. On some of the other tapes, were a number of other tracks. They’re a tantalising taste of a pioneering band at the peak of their power. The eight bonus tracks on the vinyl version of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album are just a sneak preview of Rodion G.A. in full flight. It’s a joy to behold. That’s what I thought when I first heard what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

At last, over nine months after Rodion first mentioned these tracks, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album is on its way to finding the wider audience the music deserves. It’ll be released on BBE Music.

Belatedly, one of the most innovative Eastern European bands make their debut. They’re lead by a true musical maverick, Rodion Rosca. He’s more than a musician though. Much more. He’s an inventor, philosopher, poet and dreamer. He invented many of the instruments that feature on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Other instruments he rescued and modified. His genius extends to transforming everyday devices into musical instruments. Using these musical instruments, Rodion Rosca’s talents as a composer, philosopher, poet and writer shine through. The result was an album of innovative and groundbreaking music, Behind The Curtain. It was intended to be Rodion G.A’s debut album. Sadly, fate intervened and the album was never released.

During the Communist era, there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Releasing an album on the Electrecord label wasn’t exactly going to be a profitable enterprise. Rodion wasn’t going to become a rich man. Then fate robbed Rodion of the opportunity of releasing his debut album. 

The tapes of Rodion G.A’s debut album went missing. Nobody knew where they were. Rumours surrounded their whereabouts. Had they fallen into the hands of the state censor? Other rumours were that the music had been stolen by a jealous rival musician and that he’d burnt the tapes. There was even the rumour that Rodion G.A’s debut album had been smuggled out of Romania. Over the years, rumours grew surrounding the mystery over what many people referred to as The Lost Album. Then last year, the mystery was solved.

Rodion found himself living in a cottage in rural Romania. Apart from the occasional concert, Rodion was no longer involved in music. His musical career was another country. He still had the remnants of his makeshift studio. They were now akin to museum pieces. They were a connection to his past. So were the pile of boxes and packing cases. One day, Rodion decided to start sorting through their contents. This was no easy task. It took several weeks. Towards the end of this journey through Rodion’s past, Rodion found some old reel-to-reel tapes in amongst some old photos. 

He had no idea what was on them. Fortunately, Rodion still had his beloved reel-to-reel tape recorder. With some TLC, he had the reel-to-reel tape recorder up and running. He started spending time listening to the old tapes. Some were just ideas for tracks, other recordings of rehearsals. Then Rodion hit the jackpot. 

He found the long lost album. The album that had long been lost, was now found. It had never left Rodion’s possession. All the time, it had been amongst the photos that will feature in  the sleeve-notes to Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. However, that wasn’t the end of Rodion’s discoveries. He should be commended for his foresight in signing such an innovative and groundbreaking musician, and releasing this long lost, groundbreaking album, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

This should be a joyous time, and a cause for celebration. The music that was for so long lost, has been found and will be issued as Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album on BBE Music. Sadly, my joy is tempered, given that my good friend Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying. Tragically, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying from liver cancer and Hepatitis B and C. This means that music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, could be the last Rodion G.A. album released during Rodion’s lifetime. That will not be the end of Rodion G.A. 

Rodion G.A’s music will forever live on, in the memories of music lovers everywhere. They will continue to cherish the music of a mercurial and enigmatic musical genius, Rodion Ladislau Rosca who I have been fortunate to call my friend. His parting gift to music lovers everywhere is Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which features Rodion G.A. doing what they do best, creating innovative and groundbreaking music. That’s almost an understatement.

Describing the music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album as innovative is just the start. It’s so much more that. The music is ambitious, brave, inventive, dramatic, experimental, futuristic, melancholy, groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. That’s the case from the opening bars of the genre-melting musical journey that’s Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

Literally, musical genres melt into one. Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album isn’t an album of one type of music. Far from it. It’s a journey through musical genres and influences. Everything from rock, Krautrock, electronica, psychedelia, prog rock, avant-garde, experimental and indie rock shine through. So does post punk. Mind you, when Rodion G.A. recorded much of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, the genre hadn’t been thought of. No two tracks are the same on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

That’s apparent throughout Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. From the opening bars of Acvila Fragment, thunderous drums, lo-fi, quivering  synths and subtle hooks combine. After that, Rodion G.A. toys with you during the lost symphony that’s Charm 1 and Charm.

Contrast is aptly titled. Dark, futuristic, with a sci-fi sound, it takes on an urgent, post punk sound. Later, Contrast briefly becomes ethereal. Throughout, though, there’s a nod to Kraftwerk on this innovative musical fusion.

Cosmic Games sees washes and waves of guitar unleashed. They reverberate, quivering and shivering. After that, musical genres melt into one. Prog rock, electronica and psychedelia combine with classic rock on this dramatic opus.

Dans Macabru is an urgent synth lead track. After exploding into life, it takes on a cinematic sound. Bubbling, sci-fi synths, breaking glass and a myriad of sound effects are unleashed. Dramatic, compelling and full of secrets and surprises, it’s a like being locked inside a computer game.

Elastic has a dark, urgent sound. Ominously, the arrangement marches along. All the time, gothic synths set the scene. By the end of the track, it’s like a snapshot of life in Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Romania, where the censors were ready to pounce.

The music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album veers between broody, moody, melancholy, gothic and dramatic. Other times it veers between ethereal, austere and anthemic. Sometimes, the music is futuristic, with a sci-fi sound. Its a snapshot of a musical maverick at work.

Paradox features some spellbinding guitar playing. That’s a taste of what’s still to come. Rodion G.A. become. There’s a nod to Brian Wilson at the minute mark. Then Rodion delivers an angry, frustrated vocal. Accompanied by a thunderous rhythm section and driving, searing guitars, this is Rodion G.A. at their best, during an fist pumping anthem, where psychedelia and rock unite.

Piramide 1 and Piramide 2 is another musical movement in two parts. Synths and a drum machine combine Krautrock, electronica, psychedelia and rock. They create a compelling and dramatic musical movement.

Point Spec has a lo-fi cinematic sound. It sounds like part of the soundtrack to a sixties sci-fi sounds. As drums pound, synths similar to those on Acvila Fragment gallop along. They’ve a similar tempo and sound. Another similarity are the subtle hooks that make this an irresistible track.

Exploding into life, The Gym bristles with musical electricity. It’s as if Rodion G.A. are desperate to lay this track down. No wonder. It’s a glorious mixture of energy and futuristic, sci-fi sounds. Drums frantically drive the arrangement along. Sound effects and sirens are unleashed. You’re exhausted listening to the track. Even the breakdown doesn’t allow you to recover. Before you know it, The Gym explodes back into life, reaching a glorious crescendo.

The Train has similarities with The Gym. It too features the same futuristic, sci-fi sounds, sound effects and sirens. Add to the equation pounding drums that punish your speakers, as elements of electronica, Krautrock, prog rock and rock combine. As a result, Rodion G.A. create a track that is a reminder of Neu, Can and Kraftwerk.

Closing the CD version of  Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album is The Waterfall. Squelchy, grizzled synths churn before West meets East. There’s a West Coast sound to the guitar. It has a very familiar sound. Then banks of prog rock synths threaten to kick loose. They never quite do.  As they buzz, mesmerically, a myriad of sounds flit in and out of the arrangement. The guitar and synths play leading roles during this intriguing track.

That’s not the end of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album which was released on 20th October 2014. Not if you buy the vinyl version. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy eight bonus tracks. It’s hard to choose the highlights. However, The Doctor is a classic fist pumping anthem that you’ll never tire of. My Submarine and Opus are both well worth mentioning. So is the poignant Here I Am, a short minute long track, which closes the vinyl version of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Just like the fourteen tracks on the CD version of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album,you’ll be hard pushed to believe that the music was recorded between 1975 and 1984. 

Mind you, Rodion G.A. were a visionary group. Lead by the enigmatic maverick, Rodion Ladislau Rosca. If Rodion G.A. had been either a British or American band, they’d have enjoyed the critical acclaim and commercial success their talent deserved. Sadly, their most productive period was during communist rule in Romania. That meant that their music never found the wider audience it so richly deserved. That’s what makes the story of Rodion G.A. almost tragic. Through no fault of their own, they were unable to enjoy the success their talent so obviously deserved. 

Maybe now and somewhat belatedly, Rodion G.A.’s music will find the audience that it so richly deserves. Gradually, Rodion G.A.’s music is growing in popularity. This started with The Lost Tapes, and then Delta Space Mission. Hopefully, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album will transform the fortunes of Rodion G.A. They were a truly innovative group, who produced progressive, ambitious and eclectic music.

Although innovative is an overused word, Rodion G.A. were innovative group. They weren’t afraid to push musical boundaries. Rodion G.A. didn’t follow fashions or trends. Instead, they were innovators, who fused musical genres. The result was a unique, enthralling and captivating sound that was unlike anything else of its time. 

Indeed, Rodion G.A. were way ahead of their time. That’s apparent on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Only now, thirty years after Rodion G.A. entered a recording studio for the last time, is music gradually catching up on them. However, Rodion G.A. are content to know that they were trendsetters and innovators, whose music at last, is finding the audience it deserves. 

The release of a new album, should be a joyous time, and a cause for celebration. That should be the case with Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. However, joy is tempered with sadness. One of the founding members of Rodion G.A., Rodion Ladislau Rosca, that musical maverick is dying. 

Tragically, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying from liver cancer and Hepatitis B and C. This means that music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, could be the last Rodion G.A. album released during Rodion’s lifetime. That will not be the end of Rodion G.A. 

Rodion G.A’s music will forever live on, in the memories of music lovers everywhere. They will continue to cherish the music of a mercurial and enigmatic musical genius, Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

His parting gift to music lovers everywhere is Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which features Rodion G.A. doing what they do best, creating innovative and groundbreaking music.

RODION G.A.-BEHIND THE CURTAIN-THE LOST ALBUM.

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ESTHER PHILLIPS-BABY I’M FOR REAL!

ESTHER PHILLIPS-BABY I’M FOR REAL!

Despite releasing eighteen albums during a career that lasted thirty-five years, most people haven’t heard Esther Phillips. That’s a great shame, because they’re as yet, unaware of one of the most talented, versatile and underrated singers of her generation. She possessed a totally unique, voice. During her career,  Esther sang blues, country, jazz, pop and soul music. She was a truly versatile vocalist, whose career recording began at an early age.

Esther’s recording career started in 1950, when aged just fifteen. That’s when she released her debut single Double Crossing Blues. It reached number one in the US R&B Charts. After that, Esther released a number of successful singles, and over a career that spanned four decades, released eighteen albums. Sadly, the story of Esther Phillips doesn’t have a happy ending. In 1984, aged just forty-eight, Esther Phillips died from liver and kidney failure, caused by drug use. That was thirty years ago. Now, gradually, a new audience are discovering the music of Esther Phillips.

That’s partly, because  many of Esther Phillips have recently been reissued. This includes Baby I’m For Real!, which was recently released by Raven Records as a double album. It features four of Esther Phillips’ classic albums From A Whisper To A Scream, Alone Again Naturally, Black-Eyed Blues and Performance. This quartet of albums were recorded during Esther’s time at Kudu/CTI. They’re among the best albums Esther recorded. For anyone yet to discover  Esther Phillips’ music, this is the perfect starting point. 

From A Whisper To A Scream was Esther Phillips’ debut album for Kudu/CTI. It was released in 1972, when Esther was thirty-seven. However, by 1972, she was almost a musical veteran. Her career began back in 1949, when Little Esther Phillip was discovered by Johnny Otis.

Esther Phillips was born Esther Mae Jones, in Galveston, Texas in December 1935. When she was growing up, her parents divorced, and she had to divide her time between her parents. As she grew up, she sung in her local church, and quickly, gained a reputation as a talented singer. Aged fourteen, her sister made her encouraged her to enter a talent contest at Johnny Otis’ Barrelhouse Club. Reluctantly, Esther agreed. That night in 1949, Johnny Otis was so impressed, he signed her to Modern Records, and she became a member of his California Rhythm and Blue Caravan, where she became Little Esther Phillips.

Quickly, her career took off, and in 1950, her debut single Double Crossing Blues, reached number one in the US R&B Charts. The follow-up, Mistrusting Blues, gave her another number one single in the US R&B Charts. Between 1950 and 1952, Little Esther had eight top ten R&B hits. By the mid-fifties, Little Esther had become addicted to drugs and having to spend time in hospital recovering. This lead to her being short of money, and she moved back into her father’s house. To make ends meet, she sang in small nightclubs around the southern states of America. It was in 1962, in Houston, that country singer, Kenny Rogers, saw Esther singing. So impressed was Rogers, that he helped her get a contract with his brother Lelan’s Lenox Record label.

By 1962, Esther had overcome her problems, and her career was relaunched as Esther Phillips. Her comeback single Release Me, produced by Bob Gans, reached number one in the R&B Charts and reached number eight in the US Billboard 100. A number of other singles were released on Lenox, before Esther signed to Atlantic Records. 

Now that she’d signed to one of the most famous record labels, this was a huge opportunity for Esther. One of the songs she released was a cover of The Beatles song And I Love Him. It reached number eleven in the R&B Charts, and this resulted in The Beatles bringing Esther over to the UK, which were she gave her first overseas concerts. It looked like Esther Phillips was on the verge of commercial success and critical acclaim.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Between 1965 and 1970, Esther released three studio albums. Esther’s Atlantic debut album was And I Love Him. Released in 1965, it failed to chart. This, many people thought was just a blip. That wasn’t the case.

A year later, in 1966, Esther released two albums Esther and The Country Side of Esther Phillips on Atlantic Records. Neither album charted. For Esther, this was a huge disappointment. However, The Country Side of Esther Phillips was the finest album of Esther’s sixteen year recording career.

The Country Side of Esther Phillips.

The Country Side of Esther Phillips was very different to Esther’s previous album. It showcased another side of her music. She was better known for singing soul and R&B. Seamlessly, Esther switched to country music on The Country Side of Esther Phillips. It sounded as if Esther was born to sing country music.

Tracks like I Really Don’t Want To Know, Be Honest With Me,  I’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know and No Headstone On My Grave came to life in Esther’s hands. When critics heard The Country Side of Esther Phillips, it was hailed the finest of Esther’s career. However, on its release, The Country Side of Esther Phillips failed to chart. Things weren’t looking good for Esther.

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After 1966, Esther never released another studio album on Atlantic Records. As the 1960’s progressed, Esther’s earlier drug problem resurfaced, and she’d to enter rehab again. Whilst in rehab, she met Sam Fletcher which would later prove fortunate.

As she was recovering from her drug addiction, she released some singles for the Roulette label in 1969. After that, she re-signed to Atlantic, and released the live album Burnin’ which was a recording of a 1969 concert at Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper Club. 

Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) 

Three years after she’d left Atlantic Records, Esther Phillips resigned to Atlantic Records. This was just a short stay though. Esther never entered Atlantic Records’ studio. Instead, she released a live album, Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.).

On Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.), Esther works her way through eight tracks. They’re tailor made for Esther. They showcase her versatility, and her ability to make lyrics come to life. This is apparent from the opening track, a cover of Aretha Franklin and Ted White’s Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream. She follows this up with a heartfelt, soul-baring take on Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Him. Cry Me A River Blues is transformed, as Esther grabs the song and delivers a vocal powerhouse. There’s no stopping Esther now. Makin’ Whoopee takes on a sassy, jazz-tinged sound, as Esther swings and kicks loose. If It’s The Last Thing I Do features a wistful and pensive Esther. It’s a beautiful  version of this track. The same can be said of Esther’s take on Please Send Me Someone To Love. It sees Esther deliver a needy, hopeful vocal, as her band fuse blues and jazz. That’s the perfect way to close Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.), which was the perfect showcase for Esther Phillips. 

When Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) was released, it was to critical acclaim and commercial success. It reached number 115 in the US Billboard 200 charts and number seven in the US R&B charts. Ironically, Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) was Esther Phillips’ Atlantic Records’ swan-song. A new chapter in the Esther Phillips story was about to unfold.

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The following year 1970, the man who originally discovered Esther, Johnny Otis, reentered her life. Esther performed with The Johnny Otis Show at the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival. This allowed  Esther’s music to be heard by a much wider audience. Maybe her, luck was changing?

That proved to be the case. In 1971, Esther signed to Kudu/CTI began the most successful period of her career. This started with Esther’s  Kudu/CTI debut was From A Whisper To A Scream.

From A Whisper To A Scream.

By 1971, Esther had been through several labels. She still hadn’t found a label she could call home. That was until 1971, when she signed to Kudu/CTI. Esther was hot property. Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) showed what she was capable of. The only problem was her private life. If Esther could stay free of drugs, the sky was the limit for her.

People at Kudu/CTI realised this. They knew that Esther was capable of becoming one of the biggest names in soul, jazz and R&B. By 1971, Esther was in a good place. So, great things were expected of Esther Phillips at  Kudu/CTI. Esther began work on her Kudu/CTI debut album From A Whisper To A Scream.

Time was spent choosing songs that suited Esther, and played to her strengths, her inimitable voice. It was a voice that sounded like it lived a thousand lives. This made it perfect for songs like Gil Scott-Heron’s Home Is Where The Hatred Is, Allen Toussaint’s From A Whisper To A Scream and That’s All Right With Me. They were perfect for Esther, they sounded as if they’d been written especially for Esther. Along with six other tracks, they were recorded at  Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, by an all-star band.

Creed Taylor was brought in to produce From A Whisper To A Scream. Pee Wee Ellis arranged the tracks and conduct the band on  From A Whisper To A Scream. The band included  some of the top jazz and funk musicians of the day. This included a rhythm section of drummer Pretty Purdie, bassist Gordon Edwards and guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale. They were joined by organist and pianist Richard Tee and Dick Griffin, who was part of a horn and string section. Along with backing vocalists, they accompanied Esther on From A Whisper To A Scream. It was released in 1972.

On From A Whisper To A Scream’s release, it was critically acclaimed. Esther had picked up where she left off on  Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.). When From A Whisper To A Scream was released, it reached number 137 in the US Billboard 200 and number sixteen on the US R&B charts. Later, From A Whisper To A Scream was nominated for a Grammy Award, but Aretha Franklin won the award. Aretha too, thought Esther deserved to win and presented Esther with the award.  This was the start of one of the most successful periods of  Esther Phillips’ career.

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Alone Again, (Naturally). 

Later in 1972, buoyed by the success of From A Whisper To A Scream, Esther released Alone Again, (Naturally). This was her second album for  Kudu/CTI. Again,  Alone Again (Naturally) was produced by Creed Taylor. Again, everything was put in place for Esther. Songs that suited Esther, and a a band of top  musicians accompanied Esther.

Among the songs chosen for Alone Again, (Naturally), were Use Me, where Esther’s at her sassiest. Ballads Let Me In Your Life and I’ve Never Found A Man (To Love Me Like You Do) showcases Esther’s soulful side, allowing her to live lyrics. She sounds as if she’s experienced the loneliness and emotion she sings about. On Alone Again (Naturally), a despondent Esther unleashes a cathartic outpouring of sadness and pain. Then there’s Esther’s cover Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. She gives the song a new twist, before closing Alone Again, (Naturally) with her take on Alone Again, (Naturally). Accompanying her, are a crack band of musicians.

This includes many of the same musicians that featured on From A Whisper To A Scream. This included a drummer Pretty Purdie, bassist Gordon Edwards and guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale. Bassist Ron Carter, drummer Billy Cobham and guitarist George Benson were brought onboard. Organist and pianist Richard Tee also returned. He was joined by percussionist Ralph MacDonald and Maceo Parker, who was part of the horn section that featured on Alone Again, (Naturally). It was produced by Creed Taylor, and released later in 1972.

On its release in 1972, Alone Again, (Naturally) was well received by critics.  No wonder. The album featured some of the best musicians of the seventies. They provided the perfect backdrop for Esther. Elements of blues, funk,R&B and soul framed Esther’s vocals, on another critically acclaimed album. It was a commercial success, reaching number 177 in the US Billboard 200 charts and number fifteen in the US R&B charts. Esther Phillips’ career, it seemed, was entering a golden period.

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Black-Eyed Blues,

After releasing two albums in 1972, Esther returned in 1973, with Black-Eyed Blues. It was produced by Creed Taylor, with Pee Wee Ellis arranging and conducting Black-Eyed Blues. Just like Esther’s two previous albums, recording took place at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Black-Eyed Blues only featured six tracks. However, they were a compelling collection of tracks.

Just like her two previous albums, a lot of thought went into the tracks on Black-Eyed Blues. It featured just six tracks. This included Bill Withers’ Justified, Carolyn Plummer’s I’ve Only Known A Stranger, Carolyn Franklin’s and Leonard Feather’s You Could Have Had Me, Baby. The other two tracks were covers of Duke Ellington and Paul Webster’s I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good and Chris Stainton and Joe Cocker’s Black-Eyed Blues. These six tracks were recorded by a new band.

Unlike her two previous albums, Black-Eyed Blues featured a very different band. The rhythm section featured drummer Ian Wallace, guitarist Charlie Brown and bassists Boz and Ron Carter. Pianist Tim Hinkley and percussionist Arthur Jenkins were joined by backing vocalists plus a horn and string section. They accompanied on her third album for Kudu/CTI, Black-Eyed Blues.

When Esther released Black-Eyed Blues in 1973, it was well received by critics. They were won over by this compelling mixture of ballads and uptempo tracks. Esther was at her best laying bare her soul during wistful, heartfelt ballads. Then she kicked loose on the uptempo numbers. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, musical genres melted into one. Jazz, funk, R&B and soul combine throughout Black-Eyed Blues, which reached number seventeen in the US R&B charts. For Esther this was a disappointment.

Ever since the release of  Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.), every Esther Phillips’ album entered the US Billboard 200 charts. Not Black-Eyed Blues. Despite its undoubted quality, it seemed to pass many people by. As a result, it’s one of the hidden gems in Esther Phillips’ discography. However, back in 1973, Esther must have wondered if  Black-Eyed Blues failure to enter the US Billboard 200 charts, was merely a blip, or was her luck changing?

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Performance.

After  1974s Performance failed to enter the US Billboard 200 charts, everyone at Kudu/CTI worked towards getting Esther’s career back on track. Producer Creed Taylor, along with associate producers Eugene McDaniels and Pee Wee Ellis, put together an all-star band. They would record seven songs that were chosen carefully. They were tailor made for Esther Phillips.

The seven songs on Performance were a compelling collection of tracks. Esther drops the tempo and delivers a slow, sultry, take on I Feel The Same. The title track Performance, is another slow, melancholy track. It’s also a reminder that Esther was a talented songwriter. Sadly, that’s often overlooked Esther then gets funky and sassy on Doing Our ThingEugene McDaniels’ Disposable Society is another song full of social comment. Esther nails a vocal that slow, feisty and funky. She seems to be relishing the opportunity to reflect on the way society is heading. Living Alone (We’re Gonna Make It) is a beautiful ballad, where Esther is at her melancholy, thoughtful best. Then Esther romps her way through Dr. John’s Such A Night. Living Alone (We’re Gonna Make It) heads in  the direction of gospel. Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s Can’t Trust Your Neighbour With Your Baby oozes social comment, and is a reflection of American society circa 1974. During the seven tracks on Performance, Esther releases a series of vocal masterclasses. She’s helped by an all-star band of session musicians.

This includes a rhythm section of Prety Purdie and Steve Gadd, bassists Gordon Edwards and guitarists Eric Weissberg, Jon Sholle and  Charlie Brown. They’re joined by percussionist Pee Wee Ellis, flautist Hubert Laws and pianists Bob James, Richard Tee and Richard Wyands. Patti Austin and Deniece Williams were among the backing vocalists that joined the string and horn section on Performance. It was released in 1974.

Later in 1974, Performance was released to widespread critical acclaim. Performance featured Esther at her best, as she combined ballads and uptempo tracks. Accompanied by a crack band, Performance was one of Esther’s best albums. Sadly, it stalled at just number forty-six in the US R&B charts. For Esther and everyone at Kudu/CTI, this was hugely disappointing. Performance should’ve fared much better. However, this was a sigh of  the direction Esther Phillips’ career was heading.

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After 1974s Performance, Esther Phillips released three further solo albums on Kudu/CTI. These albums all reached the top forty in the US R&B charts. They didn’t enter the US Billboard 200 charts though.

The first of these three albums was What a Diff’rence a Day Makes. Released in 1975, it reached number thirteen in the US R&B charts. On What a Diff’rence a Day Makes, Esther, like many other soul singers, toyed with disco. She enjoyed a brief dalliance with disco, becoming a strutting disco diva. This resulted in What A Difference A Day Makes, giving Esther a number one single in the disco charts in 1975.  The following year, 1976, was Esther’s final year at Kudu/CTI.

During 1976, Esther released two albums. Capricorn Princess  reached number twenty-three in the US R&B charts. For All We Know was Esther’s Kudu/CTI farewell. It stalled at just number thirty-two in  the US R&B charts. After this, Esther left Kudu/CTI and signed to Mercury Records, where she released four albums.

The first was 1977’s You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. It was followed byAll About Esther Phillips in 1978. Her next album was Here’s Esther, Are You Ready in 1979. The final album released in Esther’s lifetime was A Good Black Is Hard To Crack in 1981. Just before Esther’s death in 1984, she’d just completed recording A Good Way To Say Goodbye which was released in 1986. 

Sadly, Esther Phillips died in August 1984 from liver and kidney failure, caused by drug use. Johnny Otis, the man who discovered Esther, conducted her funeral service, which was held in Los Angeles. Since Esther’s death, her albums has been reissued. This includes From A Whisper To A Scream, Alone Again, Naturally, Black-Eyed Blues and Performance. These four albums feature on Baby I’m For Real!, which was recently released by Raven Records. It’s the perfect introduction to one of the most underrated singers of her generation, Esther Phillips.

During a career that lasted thirty-five years, Esther Phillips’ passed most people by. Many music lovers were unaware of one of the most talented, versatile and underrated female vocalists. Esther possessed a totally unique, voice. It was able to breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. Whether it was blues, country, jazz, pop, soul or disco, Esther made music come alive. She was a truly versatile vocalist, whose career recording lasted thirty-five years. However, Esther’s career should’ve lasted longer. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

Esther struggled throughout her life with drug addiction. This interrupted Esther’s time at Atlantic Records. As a result,  she never had the opportunity to fulfil her potential. If things had been different, Esther Phillips could’ve and should’ve become one of the most successful singers of her generation. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Esther Phillips died thirty years ago, in 1984. She was just thirty-eight. However, Esther Phillips left behind a rich musical legacy, that includes the four albums that feature onBaby I’m For Real!

ESTHER PHILLIPS-BABY I’M FOR REAL!

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PRETTY PURDIE-SOUL IS…PRETTY PURDIE.

PRETTY PURDIE-SOUL IS…PRETTY PURDIE.

During a career that’s lasted over sixty years, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie has played alongside the great and good of music. This includes Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Cat Stevens, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Hall and Oates, James Brown, Isaac Hayes and Gil Scott Heron. These artists brought onboard one of the greatest drummers of his generation. No wonder.

Famed for his timing, and the “The Purdie Shuffle,” Pretty Purdie is remembered as one of the most innovative funk drummers. However, there’s much more to Pretty Purdie’s career than his time as a session musician. Pretty Purdie was also a bandleader and a solo artist. 

As a solo artist, Pretty Purdie released over twenty albums. His debut solo album was 1967s Soul Drums.For the next five years, Pretty Purdie juggled his work as a session musician with his career as a solo artist, Despite being in constant demand by some of the biggest names in music, Pretty Purdie wasn’t for putting his solo career on the back burner. Far from it. Instead, Pretty Purdie signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions, and in 1972, signed Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which was recently rereleased by BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Soul Is…Pretty Purdie was Pretty Purdie’s third album since his career began in 1958. He’d come a long way in fourteen years,when his career began.

The Pretty Purdie story begins back in Elkton, Maryland. Bernard Lee “Pretty” Purdie was born on June 11th 1939. Like many aspiring drummers,he began by hitting cans with sticks. Then  Pretty Purdie caught a break. He overheard drummer Leonard Heywood giving a pupil lessons. This allowed Pretty Purdie to learn the fundamentals of drumming. The remainder of Pretty Purdie’s musical education came through listening to the great drummers of that era. Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, Gene Krupa, Joe Marshall and Sticks Evans would all influence Pretty Purdue’s nascent career.

Pretty Purdie’s career began in earnest in 1961, when he moved from Elkton to New York. He claimed he twenty-two, old enough to qualify for a licence to perform, However, it later came to light, that Pretty Purdie was actually born in 1941. However, with his performance licence, Pretty Purdie went looking for work. His first gig was with Buddy Lucas, who christened Pretty Purdie “Mississippi Bigfoot,” More importantly, Buddy gave Pretty Purdie a break.

After this, Barney Richmond got in touch with Pretty Purdie. He was able to get Pretty Purdie work as a session musician. This included working with James Brown, for the first time in 1965. It was the start of a fruitful relationship between the two men. However, Pretty Purdie would play with many more artists.

In 1966, Pretty Purdie played on Jack McDuff’s A Change Is Gonna Come, Freddie McCoy’s Funk Drops and Gábor Szabó’s Jazz Raga. Word had spread that Pretty Purdie was one of the best session drummers of his generation. He’d never be short of work.

That was the case in 1967. He played on Benny Golson’s Tune In, Turn In, King Curtis’ Instant Soul and Phil Upchurch’s Feeling Blue. That wasn’t all. Pretty Purdie and James Brown hooked up on Cold Sweat. This wasn’t the last time they’d work together. Similarly, Cold Sweat wasn’t the last session Pretty Purdie worked on during 1967.

Word spread as far as Nina Simone, about Pretty Purdie. She brought him onboard for her 1967 album Nina Simone Sings the Blues. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. So was Pretty Purdie’s debut album, Soul Drums.

Soul Drums.

Nine years after he moved to New York, Pretty Purdie signed to Date Records. Later in 1967, Pretty Purdie set about recording his debut album Soul Drums. For Soul Drums, Pretty Purdie brought onboard the man who gave him his break,saxophonist Buddy Lucas. He was joined by guitarist Billy Butler,tenor saxophonist Sheldon Powell, pianist Richard Tee and basist Bob Bushell, Produced by David Kapralik and Ken Williams, Soul Drums was released late in 1967, on the Date label. 

Soul Drums was released to widespread critical acclaim.Pretty Purdie’s all-star band played with an unfettered freedom. Crucial to the success of Soul Drums was a masterclass from Pretty Purdie. It would set the bar high not just for his future albums, bit for future funk drummers.

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For the next four years, Pretty Purdie concentrated on session work. He worked with some of the biggest names in music. This included James Brown, Yusef Lateef, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King, Al Kooper and Robert Palmer. That wasn’t all. Artists like Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Eddie Palmieri, Boogaloo Joe Jones and Charles Kynard all knew Pretty Purdie’s number. When they were looking for a drummer, they dialled Pretty Purdie. So did Aretha Franklin. Pretty Purdie played on her 1971 live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West. That wasn’t the end of Pretty Purdie’s relationship with the Filmore West. He also played on King Curtis’ 1971 album Live at Fillmore West. This was just one of twenty-nine albums Pretty Purdie played on. That’s  not counting Pretty Purdie’s solo albums.

Purdie Good.

Four years after the release of Soul Drums, Pretty Purdie signed to Prestige. By 1971, it was one of jazz’s premier labels. Pretty Purdie’s Prestige debut was Purdie Good. It was produced by Bob Porter.

When recording of Purdie Good began, Pretty Purdie had picked a mixture of originals and cover versions. Two of the cover versions were James Brown’s Cold Sweat and Fred Neil’s classic Everybody’s Talkin.’ These songs were played by a band that included bassist Gordon Edwards, guitarist Billy Nichols, pianist Harold Wheeler, trumpeter Tippy Larkin and tenor saxophonists Charlie Brown and Warren Daniels. They recorded the six songs on January 11th 1971, at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Purdie Good was finished, it was released later in 1971.

On Purdie Goods released on Prestige in 1971, it was well received. Critics commented on Pretty Purdie’s versatility. They marvelled at his ability to seamlessly play a variety of styles. This isn’t surprising.

Given how different the artists Pretty Purdie played with, over the past thirteen years, Pretty Purdie was Mr. Versatile. Jazz, funk, soul, rock, soul-jazz, A.O.R. artists,  Pretty Purdie had played with them. However, by 1971, he was part of Aretha Frankin’s band. 

Although part of Aretha’s all-star band, this didn’t mean Pretty Purdie’s solo career was on hold. Far from it. He was busier than ever, working as a session player and recording Shaft, his third album.

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Shaft.

Shaft, Pretty Purdie’s third album, was made up entirely of cover versions. This included Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Buddy Miles’ Changes, Wilton Felder’s Way Back Home and Neal Creque’s Africa. Along with Harold Ousley’s Summer Melody and Willie Bridges’ Butterfingers, these six tracks became Shaft.

Recording of Shaft took place on 11th October 1971, at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Two of the musicians that played on Purdie Good reconvened. This included bassist Gordon Edwards, guitarist Billy Nichols and tenor saxophonist Charlie Brown. They were joined by some new faces, including electric pianist Neal Creque, Norman Pride on congas and trumpeters Danny Moore, Gerry Thomas. They played their part in a genre-melting album.

Having recorded Shaft on 11th October 1971, it wasn’t released until 1973. It was released to favourable reviews. Elements of funk, jazz, Afrobeat  and soul-jazz melted into one. The music was mellow, soulful, funky and jazz-tinged. Other times there was an intensity as Pretty Purdie and his band kicked loose. Shaft was a compelling showcase for Pretty Purdie. However, by the time Shaft was released, he was signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Prodcutions.

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Soul Is…Pretty Purdie.

After the recording of Shaft, Pretty Purdie’s time at Prestige was over. He still had his work as a session player. However, he wasn’t without a label for long. He was approached by Bob Thiele, who asked him to join his Flying Dutchman Productions. That’s what Pretty Purdie did.

Having signed for Flying Dutchman Productions, Pretty Purdie he began work on what would become Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. It featured seven songs. A medley of What’s Goin’ On penned by Reynaldo Benson, Al Cleveland and Marvin Gaye, melted into Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. Pretty Purdie cowrote four tracks. He penned Good Livin’ (Good Lovin’) with Horace Off. They cowrote Don’t Go with Richard Tee. Bob Thiele joined Pretty Purdie, Horace and Richard to write Song For Aretha. Horace also Heavy Soul Slinger.  Other tracks included Aretha Franklin’s Day Dreaming and Joe Sample’s Put It Where You Want It. These tracks became Soul Is…Pretty Purdie.

Recording of Soul Is…Pretty Purdie took place at two sessions. They took place in March and June 1972. At the two sessions, different lineups recorded the seven tracks. Some musicians played on every track. Others played a walk-on part. However, the band included a rhythm section of  bassist Paul Martinez, drummer Pretty Purdie and guitarists Billy Nichols, Cornell Dupree and Lloyd Davis. Organists Richard Tee and Paul Griffin, pianist Horace Ott and conga player Norman Pride joined tenor saxophonist Charlie Brown. He was part of a large horn and string section that featured on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. It was released later in 1972.

On the release of Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, it was released to critical acclaim. At last, Pretty Purdie had released an album that was up there with his debut album Soul Drums. You’ll realise that, when I tell you about Soul Is…Pretty Purdie.

A medley of What’s Goin’ On and Ain’t No Sunshine opens Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. A roll of drums is the signal for the rhythm section to enter. They’re joined by horns, before the keyboards take centre-stage stage. That’s where they stay until the sultriest of saxophone solo cuts loose on Ain’t No Sunshine. Then seamlessly, the band switch into What’s Goin’ On. Washes of reverb are briefly unleashed. Mostly, though, it’s just a tight, talented band jamming their way through two soul classics.

Wistful strings cascade on Don’t Go. They’re panned left and vibes are panned left. In the middle, Pretty Purdie’s drums mark time. Then his rasping, worldweary vocal enters. It’s needy and full of hurt and hope, as he pleads. All the time, strings sweep dramatically and harmonies coo. Horns rasp and bray, guitars chime and the rhythm provide the heartbeat. However, it’s Pretty Purdie’s desperate pleas that tug at your heartstrings, as he vamps his way through this tale of heartbreak.

Straight away, Pretty Purdie’s all-stars get funky on Good Livin’ (Good Lovin’). There’s a nod to Steely Dan. The rhythm section, wah-wah guitars and growling horns supply the funk. A probing bass, Pretty Purdie’s trademark beat and keyboards panned way left are part of this uber funky jam. Blistering riffing guitars make a brief appearance, as Pretty Purdie continues to showcase his considerable talents on this career defining album.

Washes of dramatic Hammond organ, stabs of keyboards and pounding drums grab your attention. After that, Day Dreaming literally floats along. Crucial to the arrangement is the tenor saxophone. It’s pulled forward in the mix. Flourishes of keyboards are panned left and guitars panned right. Not to be outdone, flamboyant flourishes of Hammond organ can be heard. It’s as if Pretty Purdie’s all-stars are determined to surpass everything that’s gone before. Melodic and joyous, you can’t help lose yourself in a band at the top of their game.

Song For Aretha sees the tempo drop and Pretty Purdie’s drums take centre-stage. His playing is slow, his timing impeccable. Everyone plays around him. Mellow keyboards, crystalline guitars and washes of Hammond organ join the rhythm section in providing the backdrop for Pretty Purdie’s homage to Aretha. His tender, emotive vocal grows in power. He’s accompanied all the way by cooing, gospel tinged backing vocalists. Scratchy strings add a contrast, as the goal drops out. This allows the rest of the band to stretch their legs, during this eight minute homage to the Queen Of Soul.

Mellow keyboards, a pounding rhythm section join a wah-wah guitar on Put It Where You Want It sees. It wah-wahs its way across the arrangement, before a braying horn joins the fun. They toy with each other, before dropping out. This becomes a recurring theme, during another uber funky jam. Pretty Purdie encourages his band to play with an unbridled freedom, that was missing in his two Prestige albums. Although they were good, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie sees Pretty Purdie reach new heights.

Heavy Soul Slinger closes Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. So it’s fitting Pretty Purdie enjoys a moment in the sun. That’s until gradually, the rest of the band join the fray. Crystalline guitars, keyboards and bass join Pretty Purdie’s drums and hissing hi-hats. Later, it’s just Pretty Purdie. He delivers a masterclass. Round his kit he goes, showcasing his skills. After that, it’s as if he’s thrown down a gauntlet. A blazing saxophone goes toe-to-toe with Pretty Purdie. Blowing as if his life depended upon it Charlie Brown, unleashes one of the best horn solos. It’s augmented by hypnotic keyboards, while constantly, Pretty Purdie vies for your attention, on his swan-song for Flying Dutchman Productions. What a way to bow out.

Although Pretty Purdie only released just one album on  Flying Dutchman Productions, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie was a hugely important album. It was the album that saw him reach the heights of his debut album Soul Drums. 

Purdie Good and Shaft were both good albums. They were nowhere near as good as Soul Drums. It was released to critical acclaim. However, the reviews of Purdie Good and Shaft weren’t as favourable. Both albums were well received. That was as good as it got. The problem, critics said, was the choice of material. The covers chosen for Purdie Good and Shaft weren’t adventurous enough. As a result, Pretty Purdie was treading water. Not any more.

Having signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions, Pretty Purdie cowrote four songs and covered three other tracks. The cover versions were ones that allowed Pretty Purdie to challenge himself. As for the new tracks, they allowed Pretty Purdie to flourish. He delivers a series of masterclasses on the drums. That’s not all. Pretty Purdie steps from behind the drum kit, and delivers two heartbreakingly, beautiful vocals on Don’t Go and Song For Aretha. By the end of Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, Pretty Purdie’s career is back on track.

For Pretty Purdie, his brief spell at Flying Dutchman Productions proved a turning point in his career. Bob Thiele, and an all-star band brought out the best in Pretty Purdie. They brought him out of his comfort zone on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which was recently rereleased by BGP Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records. It’s a welcome rerelease of one of the most important albums in Pretty Purdie’s back-catalogue.

Soul Is…Pretty Purdie sees Pretty Purdie showcase his considerable talent and versatility. Not only does he scale the heights of his debut album Soul Drums, he surpasses it on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. Without doubt, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which was released in 1972, was the highpoint of his fourteen years career. It’s an album that Pretty Purdie never surpassed.

Along with his 1967 debut album Soul Drums, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie is the perfect introduction to one of the greatest drummers of his generation. Pretty Purdie was famed for his timing, and the “The Purdie Shuffle.” That’s why he’s remembered s one of the most innovative funk drummers. That’s apparent when you listen to many of classic albums that Pretty Purdie played on. “The Purdie Shuffle” can also be heard on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which is Pretty Purdie’s finest hour.

PRETTY PURDIE-SOUL IS…PRETTY PURDIE.

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VERONIQUE VINCENT AND AKSAK MABOUL WITH THE HONEYMOON KILLERS-EX-FUTUR ALBUM.

VERONIQUE VINCENT AND AKSAK MABOUL WITH THE HONEYMOON KILLERS-EX-FUTUR ALBUM.

“It’s been a long time coming.” So said Sam Cooke. The same is also true of the recently released album from Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers. Their Ex-Futur Album was released on October 20th 2014 on Crammed Discs. However, originally, the Ex-Future Album was due to be released thirty-one years ago. 

Back in 1983, Marc Hollander had just founded a new record label, Crammed Discs. It seemed fitting that one of the first releases on Marc’s new label would be a collaboration by a band he founded. This was Aksak Maboul, which had been founded six years earlier.

It was back in 1977, that Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis founded Belgian avant-garde rock band Aksak Maboul. Marc played keyboards, reeds and percussion, while Vincent played guitar, bass guitar and keyboards. Later, keyboardist Marc Moulin joined Aksak Maboul. Later, so did percussionist and keyboardist  Chris Joris. This was the lineup that recorded Aksak Maboul’s debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.

Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.

Work on Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine began in May 1977.  Aksak Maboul worked quickly, and recording of Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, finished in May 1977. Mostly, this genre-defying album was the work of Marc Hollander. As a result, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine was credited to Marc Hollander and Aksak Maboul. It was released in 1977, on the Belgian label Kamikaze. 

Upon its release, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine was well received by critics. It was a truly adventurous and groundbreaking albums. Genres literally melted into one.  This included avant-garde, classical music, electronic free jazz, prog rock, rock and world music. There was more than a nod to Frank Zappa, minimalism and Captain Beefheart, on an album that would eventually, become a cult classic.

Since the release of Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine, critics have reappraised the album. Back in 1977, it didn’t find the audience it deserves. In the intervening thirty-seven years, it has. As a result, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine it’s been hailed a cult classic. Everyone from cultural commentators to prog rock fans have delved deep into Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, discovering its eclectic delights. Little did Aksak Maboul realise the effect their debut album would eventually have. Back in 1977, all Aksak Maboul were interested in doing was recording their sophomore album, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

Towards the end of 1977, Aksak Maboul decided to start playing live. This marked the start of a new chapter in the Aksak Maboul story. Not long after this, the line up changed.

Marc Moulin and Chris Joris left Aksak Maboul. Their replacement was percussionist and keyboardist Frank Wuyts. Not long after this, cellist Denis van Hecke joined Aksak Maboul. The next addition was Michel Berckmans, who played oboe and bassoon. He left Belgian progressive band Univers Zéro. This wasn’t the end of the changes in Aksak Maboul’s lineup.

At the start of 1979, Henry Cow had just split-up. So Chris Cutler and Fred Frith were asked to join Aksak Maboul. They agreed to do so, and Aksak Maboul started work on their sophomore album, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

This involved a trip to Switzerland. Recording of Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits took place at Sunrise Studio, Kirchberg, St. Gallen. It was here that Aksak Maboul pushed musical boundaries even further than they had before. 

The music Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits took on a new intensity and complexity. It veered towards avant-garde and experimental. Again, musical genres melted into one on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. Everything from ambient and chamber rock to punk, tangos and Turkish music.  It was a very different album from Aksak Maboul. That wasn’t the end of the differences.

Forever determined to innovate, Aksak Maboul used sampling for the first time on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. However, there was a problem. Samplers were relatively new. They were still prohibitively expensive, and way outside the budget of most groups. That wouldn’t stop Aksak Maboul making use of sampling. 

Far from it. Instead, Aksak Maboul had to improvise. This was all part of Aksak Maboul’s determination to forge their own way. They wanted to be trailblazers, rather than following in other group’s wakes. That proved to the case on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

When Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits was released in 1980, it was on a different label, Crammed Discs. It had been founded by Marc Hollander. One of its first releases was Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. It was released to favourable reviews. Again, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits was an underground album. This meant it didn’t capture the attention of a wider audience until much later. Those who did hear Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, marvelled at a complex, compelling, eclectic and innovative genre-melting album. 

With such a wide variety of musical genres, influences and ideas sitting side-by-side on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, it was an album that  could just as easily not have worked. However, it did. With every listen some new subtlety or nuance shawn through. It was a compelling and beguiling album. Critics, cultural commentators and music lovers awaited Aksak Maboul’s next step. They were in for a surprise.

The Honeymoon Killers-Les Tueurs De La Lune De Miel.

“Nothing lasts forever.”The words of Bryan Ferry proved prophetic. In early 1980, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the two original members of Aksak Maboul left the band. They decided to join forces with Yvon Vromman, J.F Jones Jacob, and Gérald Fenerberg of  Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel. They called their new band The Honeymoon Killers.  The only thing missing was a lead singer. This is where Véronique Vincent came in. She was the final piece in musical jigsaw that was The Honeymoon Killers.

They headed out on tour in 1980 and 1981. This was important. With two bands and a vocalist becoming one, they had to hone their sound. The Honeymoon Killers were one of the pioneers of pre-recorded drum machine loops. They played drum loops on cassette. This was the starting point.  Layers of , bass, drums, t guitar, bass, drums, percussion and tinny organ sounds were combined. Atop sat vocals. Given the experimental nature of The Honeymoon Killers, it’s no surprise that some of their songs lasted nearly twenty minutes. They were determined to do things their way.

This extended to The Honeymoon Killers’ setlist. They switched seamlessly between from free jazz and French chanson, to punk and rockabilly. Each musical genre was interpreted by he Honeymoon Killers in their own unique way. During these concerts, The Honeymoon Killers found their sound. Now the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers were ready to release some new music.

Later in 1981, the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers released cover of Charles Trenet Route Nationale 7 as a single. It was a hit in France and Belgium. So The Honeymoon Killers headed into the studio, to release what was their sophomore album, Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel.

Having recorded  Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel at various studios across Europe, the album was released on Crammed Records in 1982. Reviews ranged from positive to glowing and critically acclaimed. The Honeymoon Killers’ unique and quirky brand of genre hopping music, was winning friends and influencing people.

This proved to be the case. In Belgium, France, Germany and Britain,  Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel sold relatively well. It became something of a cult album. Considering this was the first album by the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers, it looked like they were going places. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

Never again, would The Honeymoon Killers release another album. Their only singles was 1982s Décollage. Three years later, The Honeymoon Killers. Their legacy was Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel, which is hailed as the best Belgian rock album ever. However, thirty-two years later, The Honeymoon Killers are back.

Ex-Futur Album.

Although Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the two original members of Aksak Maboul left the band, the Aksak Maboul story wasn’t over. No. Aksak Maboul had began working on their their third album in 1980. For the next three, years Aksak Mobil recorded ten tracks. This wasn’t just an Aksak Maboul album. No. It was a collaboration between the great and good of Belgian progressive music. Vocalist Veronique Vincent and The Honeymoon Killers joined Aksak Maboul. Right up until 1983, this all-star cast of Belgian musicians worked on what would eventually become the Ex-Future Album. Sadly, it was never completed, and in 1983, the project ground to a halt. 

Since then, Ex-Futur Album has lain in the Crammed Discs vaults. That’s where it was recently discovered. Ex-Futur Album features ten tracks. Nine of them were penned by Marc Hollander and Veronique Vincent. The exception is a cover My Kind Of Doll. It’s one of ten tracks on the long lost Ex-Futur Album.

The Ex-Futur Album features Veronique Vincent’s vocal. She’s joined by Marc Hollander on keyboards, woodwinds, percussion and programming. Marc arranges and co-produces the album with Vincent Kenis. He plays bass, guitar and takes charge of engineering. Aksak Maboul are also joined by the rest of  The Honeymoon Killers on the recently released Ex-Futur Album, which I’ll tell you about.

Chez Les Aborigines opens Ex-Futur Album. A myriad of synths, drum machines and percussive delights provide the backdrop to Veronique Vincent’s heartfelt vocal. The arrangement envelops Veronique’s vocal. Stabs of synths, urgent percussion and  plodding drums combine, as Veronique’s vocal becomes breathy and tender. Meanwhile, elements of chanson, electro, synth pop and perfect pop combine with futuristic, sci-fi sounds. There’s even an avant-garde sound, as Aksak Maboul continue to innovate and combine musical genres.

Joyously, Afflux De Luxe bursts into life. Bold, dramatic stabs of keyboards joint drums that skip across the arrangement. The result is melodic and compelling. It’s also perfect for Veronique’s vocal. Dramatic and earnest, she powerfully delivers a compelling vocal. Behind her, bells chime. adding to the joyous sound. There’s then a dramatic surge. Synths, keyboards and drums become one. Along with Veronique, they play their part in what looks like being a dreamy pop song. Then things change. Drama and darkness combine. The music becomes gothic, progressive and rocky, while the vocal becomes a futuristic broody Gregorian chant. There’s snatches of what’s gone before, before the track heads in the direction of avant-garde. Always, though, Afflux De Luxe is compelling and melodic.

From the get-go, Je Pleure Tout Le Temps has you hooked. Synths, keyboards and drum machines create the backdrop for Veronique. She dawns the role of chanteuse. Her sultry, seductive vocal is the perfect foil for the electronic backdrop. It meanders along, while Veronique’s whispery vocal is the centre of your attention. Its ethereal beauty is at the heart of this song’s success.

Veronika Winken allows to show different side of their music. A strummed guitar joins with synths and drum machines. The guitar brings to mind Mediterranean beaches and long hot summers. The drum machines and synths add a moderne sound. This is the backdrop for Veronique’s vocal. It veers between tender and melancholy to tough and feisty. Bursts of a male vocal add to the edgy arrangement. It’s an amalgam of elements of classical, electronica, post punk and rock. They melt into one as Aksak Maboul showcase their versatility, during this long lost album.

Crisp eighties drums make their presence felt as Reveillons-Nous unfolds. Cartoon synths join the fun. So does Veronique’s vocal. She delivers a high, crystalline vocal in short sharp bursts. Meanwhile, the arrangement is a fusion of electro, proto house and pop. There’s even an element of humour and avant-garde. This is Aksak Maboul at their innovative best, producing perfect pop that puts a smile on even the most sombre face

Aksak Maboul and friends raise the stakes on I’m Always Crying. Veronique dawns the role of tortured chanteuse. Her vocal is a cathartic outpouring of hurt and heartbreak. The arrangement is big, bold and dramatic. It’s essentially a mixture of electronica and mystery. There’s even a cinematic sound, courtesy of the synths, keyboards and rhythm section. However, Aksak Maboul’s secret weapon is Veronique, who lays bare her soul for all to see.

My Kind Of Doll is the only cover version on Ex-Futur Album. It’s an uptempo, anthemic track. Veronique’s vocal is edgy and sassy, veering in the directing of post punk. So do the rest of Aksak Maboul. They combine elements of electronica, post punk and synth pop with some glorious rocky riffs. Machine gun guitar riffs go toe-to-toe with synths. Both vie for your attention.  However, it’s the guitar that wins out, during this uptempo, fist pumping, eighties anthem.

Chiming, driving guitars, reminiscent of U2 and crisp galloping drums get Luxurious Dub underway. Washes of dark, gothic synths sweep back and worth. Gradually, Luxurious Dub reveals is secrets and delights. One of the delights is Veronique’s vocal. It’s akin to a homage to Liz Fraser, formerly of the Cocteau Twins. Sadly, it just plays a walk on role. So does the slap bass. That’s when things get a little funky. Joining in the fun are crystalline guitars. Then the arrangement takes on a sense of urgency, as the rhythm section and guitars cut loose. Funk, free jazz, electronica and indie rock come together during this Luxurious Dub.

Le Troisième Personnage picks up where Luxurious Dub left off. Thunderous drums, cartoon synths and Veronique’s vocal vie for your attention. So does the bass. It packs a punch. Before long, the track becomes urgent, melodic and hypnotic. It’s also irresistibly catchy. The hooks haven’t been rationed by Aksak Maboul, during a track whose musical D.N.A. reads early eighties.

The Aboriginal Variations closes Ex-Futur Album. Straight away, its melancholy sound has you hooked. Your assailed by a myriad of synths, crispy drums and woodwind. They envelop Veronique’s vocal. It’s slow and sultry. Later, the track grows wings. It heads in unexpected directions. Avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz and synth pop. It’s all here. Futuristic, sci-fi sounds emerge. Other times, the music is haunting and dramatic. Cartoon synths bubble and squeak. There’s also a Gallic sound, during this six minute musical tapestry, where Aksak Maboul showcase that they’re an ambitious and innovative group capable of producing eclectic music.

That’s not the end of the  Ex-Futur Album. No there’s three live tracks still to come. This includes versions of Reveillons-Nous, I’m Always Remixing and Mit Den Eingeborenen. They’re a reminder of just how good a live band Aksak Maboul. Suddenly, it’s 1977 all over again. The years role away. No longer are you middle aged. Instead, you’re trying to recapture your youth with the raw power that are Aksak Maboul. Then as the closing notes of Mit Den Eingeborenen play, it’s 2014 again. However, it’s not so bad. ksak Maboul have belatedly released their long forgotten third album.

Thirty-one years after Aksak Maboul  pulled the plug on the Ex-Futur Album, it makes its belated debut on Crammed Discs. Billed as Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers, their Ex-Futur Album is a reminder of what this group of innovative musicians and vocalists were capable of.

They were capable of creating ambitious, adventurous and innovative music. This is no ordinary music. Instead, it’s genre-melting music. Musical genres and influences melt into one. Everything from avant-garde, classical, chanson, dream pop, electro, electronica, experimental, free jazz, indie, post punk, prog rock and rock. Dig deeper, and other influences shine through, including synth pop and proto house. It’s as if Veronique Vincent, Aksak Maboul and The Honeymoon Killers’ musical pasts have influenced Ex-Futur Album. So it seems, has their respective record collections. Sadly, this ambitious and innovative album was neither finished nor released in 1983.

It was only on 20th October 2010, that the Ex-Futur Album was released by Crammed Discs. Somewhat belatedly, Ex-Futur Album, a  truly ambitious and innovative album will find the audience it so richly deserves. Even today, it’s obvious that if the Ex-Futur Album had been released in 1983, it would’ve been an album that was way ahead of its time. That’s no surprise. Aksak Maboul were innovators, who pushed musical boundaries to their limits.

With Veronique Vincent and The Honeymoon Killers collaborating with Aksak Maboul, this was a Belgian musical dream team. Here was a collaboration between the great and good of eighties Belgian progressive music.  A group of some of the most ambitious and pioneering musicians, were pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. Then for whatever reason, the Ex-Futur Album was shelved. This groundbreaking project was lost to the world for thirty-three years. Now that the Ex-Futur Album has been released, even in its unfinished form, it’s a reminder of what Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers are capable of, back in their  glory days.

VERONIQUE VINCENT AND AKSAK MABOUL WITH THE HONEYMOON KILLERS-EX-FUTUR ALBUM.

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JERRY LEE LEWIS-THE KNOX LEWIS SESSIONS-THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS.

JERRY LEE LEWIS-THE KNOX LEWIS SESSIONS-THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS.

Gil Scott Heron once sung that “home is where the heart is.” For Jerry Lee Lewis, home was Phillips Recording Studios, Memphis. Situated at 639 Madison Avenue, that was where the man they called “The Killer” recorded the best music of his career. Phillips Recording Studios was  Jerry Lee Lewis’ spiritual home. Part of the reason for this, was Jerry’s relationship with Sam Phillips.

Jerry Lee Lewis first met Sam Phillips in December 1956. He was just twenty-one, and a month earlier, had travelled all the way from Ferriday, Louisiana to Memphis, Tennessee. When Jerry arrived in Memphis, Sam Phillips was Florida. However, producer and engineer Jack Clement had Jerry record a version of Ray Price’s Crazy Arms and a Jerry Lee Lewis original, End of The Road. This was the start of Jerry Lee Lewis’ career at Sun Records.

A month later, Jerry made the return trip to Memphis, and started what was, the first of many, recording sessions. Jerry wasn’t just a solo artist, but a session player. He played on tracks by Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. However, a year later, in 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis made his breakthrough.

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On was recorded in February 1957, and released as a single in May 1957. It reached number three in the US Billboard 100 charts and number one in the US R&B charts. This transformed The Killer’s career. Suddenly, he was rock ’n’ roll royalty, and rubbing shoulders with Elvis. This success continued.

Then in November 1957, Jerry released Great Balls Of Fire, which featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It sold one million copies within the first five days of its release. Eventually, Great Balls Of Fire sold in excess of five million copies. However, still, Jerry Lee Lewis had his critics.

America’s moral guardians chastised Jerry Lee Lewis, for lyrics they deemed crude, suggestive and had sexual undertones. His performances some commentators suggested, were lewd. Ironically, Jerry Lee Lewis wasn’t entirely comfortable with the lyrics he was singing. 

Unknown to many people, Jerry Lee Lewis was a devout Christian. His faith was important to him. When he cut songs like A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Jerry Lee Lewis had a crisis of confidence. However, music was now his career. He had made his choice back in 1956. Since then, his life had changed beyond recognition. He was hero worshipped, by the first generation of teenagers. That was, until controversy entered his life.

May 1958 will forever be etched in Jerry Lee Lewis’ memory. So will the name Ray Berry. He enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame during Jerry’s 1958 British tour. Ray Berry made a disturbing discovery. Jerry’s third wife, Myra Gale Brown, it transpired, was only thirteen when they married. Myra was Jerry’s first cousin, once removed. Straight away, Jerry Lee Lewis’ management set about firefighting the situation, but only made the situation worse.

Jerry’s management claimed that Myra was fifteen when the marriage took place. So did Jerry and Myra. This didn’t placate a horrified public. After all, a world famous rock ’n’ roller had married a minor. It was essentially, career suicide.

Soon, Jerry Lee Lewis’ British tour was cancelled. He’d only played three dates. When he got back home, Jerry Lee Lewis incurred the wrath of the American music industry. He was blacklisted from American radio, and was no longer a familiar face on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Jerry’s fans turned their back on their former idol.

Right up until 1963, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded for Sun Records. He continued to released records. They failed to sell. So Sun tried releasing Jerry’s singles as The Hawk. Radio stations quickly realised who The Hawk was, and dropped the singles from their roster. For Jerry, his career had hit the buffers.

Once, Jerry could command $10,000 per night. Not any more. He was lucky to be picking up $250 per night, in some of the less salubrious nightspots. It seemed that the party was over for Jerry Lee Lewis.

That proved not be the case. Just like many other American musicians and singers, Europe allowed Jerry the opportunity to rebuild his tattered reputation. Gradually, Jerry’s popularity grew. He found favour with British and European audiences. This resulted in Jerry Lee Lewis heading to Hamburg in 1964. 

When Jerry arrived in Hamburg, his destination was The Star Club. This was the club where a few years earlier,The Beatles learnt their trade. On 5th April 1964, Jerry accompanied by The Nashville Teens made their Star Club debut. This concert was recorded and became a legendary live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

For Jerry Lee Lewis, he found redemption that night in Hamburg. The Killer was the comeback King. He made his way through thirteen tracks. It’s a truly flawless performance, where Jerry and The Nashville Teens power their way through Down The Line, You Win Again, High School Confidential, Your Cheatin’ Heart, and Great Balls of Fire. Jerry combines raw power, passion, aggression and six years of frustration. It’s a cathartic performance, where The Killer struts his way through the set, and in the process, lays down his marker, saying I’m back. 

Released in 1964 to widespread critical acclaim, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg ,marked the Jerry Lee Lewis’ comeback. Not long after this, Jerry signed to Mercury Records.

Six years after the music industry turned its back on Jerry, one of music’s original outlaws and rabble rousers was back. What’s more, he was about to embark upon one of the most fruitful periods of his career. 

Between 1964 and 1978, Jerry was signed to Mercury Records, and released albums on the main Mercury label and their Smash Records’ imprint. This included some of the best music of his career. Rock ’n’ roll, country and gospel, Jerry showcased his talent and versatility. However, while Mercury Records was home, Jerry still missed the familiar surroundings of Phillips Recording Studios, 39 Madison Avenue, Memphis.

The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings.

That was where Jerry Lee Lewis recorded the best music of his career. Jerry knew this. Sam Phillips made this happen. During the seventies, Jerry Lee Lewis continued to return Phillips Recording Studios. The only difference was that there was another Phillips in the producer’s chair

This time, it was Knox Phillips, Sam’s son. In the late seventies, Phillips Recording Studios was a home from home for Jerry Lee Lewis. So much so, that day or night when Jerry phoned Knox, Knox made his way to the Phillips Recording Studios. No wonder. Knox knew magic was about to take place.

For the last ten years or so, Jerry’s voice had taken centre-stage on his recordings for Mercury. The piano was remained in the background, playing a supporting role. After all, this was Jerry’s country period. During this period, Jerry was on a  roll. Commercial success and critical acclaim were familiar friends. However, nothing lasts forever. 

Nobody knew this better than better. Latterly, the music Jerry was making at Mercury was neither exciting nor innovative. That seemed to be the Mercury formula. It was inoffensive music. Jerry however, didn’t do inoffensive. 

Jerry wasn’t being challenged. He still had to get his kicks. Rather than head down Route 66, Jerry headed to Phillips Recording Studios and turned the clock back.

At Phillips Recording Studios, Jerry returned to the days of A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls Of Fire. His piano took centre-stage. Jerry pounded and punished the piano. So much so, that it assailed you. Then there’s Jerry worldweary, lived-in vocals. Accompanied by legendary session drummer Jim Keltner, magic happened during these nocturnal sessions, where Jerry did things his way.

It wasn’t a case of all work and no play for Jerry. Midway through a nocturnal session, Jerry would call the session. Jerry, Knox and the band would head to downtown Memphis, and hangout at the local strip club. Having flirted with the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, Jerry and his crew returned to Phillips Recording Studios.

Back at Phillips Recording Studios, Knox would run the tapes and Jerry and the band would play some more. When the session were finished, Knox Phillips would listen back to what he’d recorded.

Knox listened to the tapes. He also let a few people hear them. They all came to one conclusion, Jerry had to release these songs. After, all this Know kept saying, was classic Jerry Lee Lewis. However, Jerry didn’t want to release these recordings. 

Over thirty years have passed since these recordings were made at Phillips Recording Studios. Now, somewhat belatedly, The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings have been released by Ace Records. At last, music lovers can hear Jerry Lee Lewis play with the reckless abandon that made him a musical legend on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings.

Opening The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings is a cover of Jim Croce’s Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. It’s a song transformed. Here, Jerry gives the song a late-night, smoky sound. It brings to mind whiskey, cigarettes, wild nights and wilder women. Slowed down, weeping guitars and the rhythm section accompany The Killer. His vocal is carefree, languid and full of character. Soon, a fiddle plays and Jerry confidently pounds his piano. All the time, Jerry oozes confidence and charisma, as he ad-libs and vamps his way through the tracks. He throws in lyrics from his classic tracks. He’s revels in the role of bandleader, directing operations from his piano stool. Meanwhile, producer Knox Phillips enjoys the show, and what a show it is, with The Killer rolling back the years.

Ragged But Right. It could well be the seven times married Killer’s theme tune. A slow, pensive piano and bluesy harmonica accompany Jerry’s rasping vocal. It’s a voice that’s lived a thousand lives. Then there’s a piano masterclass from Jerry, who sounds as if he should playing in a downtown, Nashville dive bar. Mostly though, Ragged But Right features a man at peace with himself, and enjoying what he’s doing.

Room Full Of Roses was a song Jerry heard George Morgan sing growing up. He subsequently recorded it in 1973. Layers of lush strings were added. Not here though. Mostly, it’s just a heartbroken, melancholy Jerry and his trusty piano. Occasionally, guitars weep. Later, Jerry showcases his famed piano playing skills, before delivering a soul baring vocal. Adding the finishing touch, to this reinvention of Room Full Of Roses is a pedal steel.

A medley of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode and Carol explodes into life. Jerry rolls back the years. With the help of a crack band, Jerry returns to his glory days. On Johnny B. Goode elements of rock ’n’ roll and country melt into one. Blistering guitars, pounding piano and a bass that marches the arrangement along join forces. Jerry struts his way through the lyrics. This continues on Carol. By now, his band are a tight, explosive unit. A bluesy harp joins the fun, as The Killer ad-libs his way through this glorious homage to another musical legend, Chuck Berry.

Mack Vickery’s That Kind Of Fool is another track that Jerry is revisiting. This version has a late night, understated sound. It’s just one man and his piano. Mind you that man is Jerry Lee Lewis. As he delivers the lyrics, there’s a sadness and longing in his voice. He longs for the happiness in his domestic life that he’s singing about. Sadly, that’s never happened, with The Killer marrying seven times.

Harbour Lights is a song Jerry recorded in 1976. He decided to recut the song. Driving the arrangement along are the rhythm section and Jerry’s piano. His vocal is confident, full of whoops, hollers and happiness. later, a sultry saxophone is dropped in. This seems to spur Jerry on, as he and his band reach previously unscaled heights.

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior sees Jerry return to his spiritual side. Gone is the rabble rouser, oozing machismo and bravado. This is no surprise. Musically, Jerry has been able to seamlessly veer between blues, country, rock ’n’ roll and gospel. Here, he fuses country and gospel. For much of the track, it’s just Jerry delivering a heartfelt vocal that’s full of sincerity and hope. His piano playing is equally good. Jerry digs deep, playing with flamboyant flourishes. Meanwhile, a pedal steel and the rhythm section provide the backdrop for Jerry’s needy, pleas.

Jerry delivers another medley that consists of a joyous, piano lead take on Teresa Brewer’s 1950 hit Music! Music! Music! Jerry whoops his way through the lyrics, his throaty vocal making the lyrics come alive Seamlessly, Eddie Heywood’s 1956 hit single Canadian Sunset follows. These two tracks shouldn’t work back-to-back. However, they do. It allows Jerry to showboat. Throwing caution to the wind, flamboyant flourishes of piano are unleashed by Jerry, whose back to his best.

Lovin’ Cajun Style is always credited to producer Huey P. Meaux. However, he bought the song from songwriter Jimmy Donley. Tragically, not long after selling this swamp pop classic, Jimmy committed suicide. Jerry’s version is akin to a tribute to Jimmy. His song becomes an uptempo and joyous showcase for Jerry’s considerable talents. Backed by his crack band, Jerry swaggers his way through Lovin’ Cajun Style, paying tribute to Jimmy Donley, whose gone, but definitely not forgotten. 

Closing The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings is Jerry’s take on Beautiful Dreamer. Just like other cover versions, Jerry reinvents the song. A fiddle plays, as a worldweary Jerry plays piano and delivers a vocal that’s full of pathos and sadness. He ad-libs lyrics, as if spinning a yarn. Jerry comfortably dawns the role of storyteller, during this understated, wistful and beautiful country track.

The ten tracks on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings are a reminder of Jerry Lee Lewis’ nocturnal visits to Phillips Recording Studios, Memphis, at 639 Madison Avenue. Along with producer Knox Phillips, and a crack band of session players, magic took place. 

At Phillips Recording Studios, Jerry Lee Lewis rolled back the years, to when he vied with Elvis for the title of King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis could’ve run the King closer. However, that wasn’t to be.  

Ray Berry, a British journalist, following Jerry Lee Lewis’ tour, made a disturbing discovery. Jerry’s third wife, Myra Gale Brown, it transpired, was only thirteen when they married. This meant Jerry Lee Lewis had married a minor. The American public turned their back on Jerry Lee Lewis. So did the music industry. No longer did radio stations play his music. Jerry was blacklisted by American stations. Two years into Jerry’s career, it was all but over. Redemption would take six long years.

Between 1958 and 1964, Jerry Lee Lewis went from earning $10,000 a night to just $250. No longer was Jerry playing top venues. Now it was dive bars. Then Europe came calling.

Europe allowed Jerry the opportunity to rebuild his tattered reputation. Gradually, Jerry’s popularity grew. He found favour with British and European audiences. German audiences especially, appreciated Jerry Lee Lewis’ music. So, it was fitting the redemption of Jerry Lee Lewis took place in Hamburg.

5th April 1964, Jerry accompanied by The Nashville Teens made their Star Club debut. This concert was recorded and released later in 1964, as the legendary live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg. Jerry Lee Lewis, the comeback King was back.

By the late seventies, Jerry was enjoying the most successful period of his career. He was now a country singer, and had enjoyed a string of successful albums for Mercury Records, his new musical home. However, Jerry wasn’t happy. That’s why Jerry was making his nocturnal visits to the Phillips Recording Studios.

Night or day, Jerry knew he could phone Know Phillips. He’d make his way down to Phillips Recording Studios and Jerry and his band would play. 

These sessions were laid back affairs. Nothing was planned. Everything was off the cuff. That’s apparent on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings. Jerry ad-libs and vamps his way through ten songs. He also unleashes a series of piano masterclasses. During these ten tracks, Jerry leads from the front. He’s the bandleader, and encourages his band or crack session players to greater heights. When he jokes about making this a take, his voice is a mixture of menace and joviality. It works though. While Jerry is a hard taskmaster, he gets results. That’s apparent on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings.

Throughout The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings, The Killer and his band roll back the years. As you listen to the music, you wonder what heights Jerry Lee lewis might have reached, if things had been different? However, Jerry Lee Lewis was always a complex character. He was a walking, talking dichotomy.

He was the rabble rousing, seven times married, Christian. Jerry lived life in the fast lane. He drank, smoke and enjoyed the seedier, wilder side of life. However, on a Sunday, Jerry went to church. This is at odds with the Jerry Lee Lewis who sang A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls Of Fire

The two sides of Jerry Lee Lewis were polar opposites. This makes Jerry Lee Lewis a complex and charismatic character. That’s apparent on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings. We hear the different sides of The Killer. That means everything from fiery, fragile and fun-loving, to melancholy, menacing and spiritual. Each of these sides shine through, on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings, which was recently released by Ace Records.

It’s a reminder of a musical legend, Jerry Lee Lewis who for over fifty years, has lived life in the fast lane, drinking, smoking, carousing and making some  timeless music. However, there’s more to Jerry Lee Lewis than wine, women, song and carousing. Since 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis has released timeless music, like that on  The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings, where The Killer  rolls back the years, and revisits past glories.

JERRY LEE LEWIS-THE KNOX LEWIS SESSIONS-THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS.

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MOSTER!-INNER EARTH.

MOSTER!-INNER EARTH.

The best way to describe Moster, is a Norwegian supergroup. Moster were founded by Bushman’s Revenge saxophonist and bandleader Kjetil Møster in 2010. He brought onboard some of the most talented Norwegian musicians of their generation. This included Motorpsycho and Grand Central drummer Kenneth Kapstad. He was joined by two members of Elephant9, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen, whose also a member of Big Bang. They made their debut at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 2010. Three years later, Moster released their long awaited debut album.

Moster released their debut album Edvard Lygre Møster, on Hubro Music, in March 2013. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics called Edvard Lygre Møster one of the best jazz albums of 2013. At the end of 2013, Edvard Lygre Møster  was hailed as one of the top 5 debut albums of 2013. It also found its way into New York City Jazz Records’ top ten jazz albums. Then when Prog Magazine published its list of the best albums of 2013, Edvard Lygre Møster was at number six. This was just the start of the Moster story. 

Eagerly, critics and music lovers awaited Moster’s next move. The next hurdle they had to overcome was their sophomore album, or what’s often referred to as “the difficult second album.” That’s not the case for Moster. They go from strength to strength. 

Moster’s sophomore album is Inner Earth, which will be released by Hubro Music on 20th October 2014. It sees a slightly different lineup of Moster, pickup where they left off on Edvard Lygre Møster.

For the recording of Inner Earth, saxophonist Kjetil Møster is joined by a rhythm section of drummer Kenneth Kapstad and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen. A new face is Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan. This was the lineup of Moster that wrote and recorded Inner Earth.

Inner Earth has six tracks. The first four songs are part of a movement entitled Descending Into This Crater. Written by Moster and recordist Jørgen Træen, this is Inner Earth’s Magnus Opus. Moster wrote Tearatorn and Underworld Risk, the other two tracks. These tracks were recorded at two sessions.

The first recording session at Super Duper Studio between January 11th and 12th 2014. A month later, Moster reconvened at Super Duper Studio on February 24th and recorded right through to the 27th February 2014. That marked the end of the recording of Inner Earth. It was then mastered at Grotten on 30th May 2014, Jørgen Træen. Since then, Kjetil Møster has had a busy summer.

Summer for most musicians, means festival time. That’s the case with Kjetil Møster. He’s spent the long hot summer touring with artists such as Röyksopp/Robyn and Lars Vaular. Now the summer is all but a distant memory, and it’s time for Moster to release their sophomore album, Inner Earth, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Inner Earth is the first part of Descending Into This Crater, Poutanian Debate. Straight away, it takes on a dark ominous sound. Elements of free jazz and rock combine with avant garde and experimental. Moster have your attention. They’re playing is unfettered. Washes of music assail you. Scrabbling, buzzing, braying, pounding and howling describes this musical melange. So does futuristic, otherworldly and dramatic. It’s a glorious and innovative sound.

This continues on Central Sunrise. It’s another fusion of free jazz, rock, avant garde and experimental. Kjetil Møster’s grizzling, howling horn is at the heart of the arrangement. It’s aided and abetted by Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan’s guitar. His fingers flit up and down the fretboard, as he upon a voyage of exploration. He’s the perfect foil for Kjetil Møster’s saxophone. They drive each other to greater heights of innovation. Not to be outdone, drums rolls and fills are added. Later, the bass adds a contrast to the guitar. When all this is combined, the result is a cinematic, melodic and lysergic opus.

The sun hasn’t set yet though. Magma Movement continues where Central Sunrise left off. Washes and waves of music quiver and shiver. Ambient and atmospheric, it’s akin to a homage to Pink Floyd. Especially with crystalline guitars and pulsating, pounding drums. What follows is five minutes of musical perfection, where classic rock, psychedelia and prog rock unite with elements of smokey jazz. Stunning.

Mount Vesuvio closes the four part Descending Into This Crater movement. The tempo is slow, the music dramatic. That’s down to the slow, moody rhythm section, searing, riffing, scorching guitars and bursts of braying saxophone. Again, classic rock, psychedelia and prog rock unite. Add to that, elements of jazz, courtesy of the saxophone. Later, the arrangement heads in the direction of free jazz, as Moster take you on a magical mystery tour that closes their four part Magnus Opus Descending Into This Crater.

Moster aren’t a band to do things by halves. Tearatorn is a fourteen minute track. This suits their sound. It allows Moster to explore various musical genres. They toy with the listener, veering between avant garde, experimental and free jazz. Before long, jazzy licks are unleashed. The rhythm section are content to play along. Then Kjetil Møster’s saxophone signals that Moster are about to kick loose. Straight away, Moster become a tight unit. Their rhythm section unleash some glorious rock music. It’s a reminder of rock’s glory days. Hans’ wields his guitar like a magic wand, casting a spell on the listener. He’s allowed to take centre-stage, and casts up the spirit of Hendrix. Not to be outdone, Kjetil replies with a spellbinding saxophone solo. Drummer Kenneth confidently pounds the skins, as Kjetil enjoys a lengthy solo. After, that, Moster unite, and head as the track reaches a dramatic crescendo. In dong so, Moster demonstrate why they’re worthy of being referred to as a Norwegian supergroup.

Underworld Risk closes Inner Earth. A guitar scrabbles along, while mesmeric drums provide the backdrop. Brief bursts of rocky licks emerge. Then Hans’ guitar becomes coy. Not for long. It starts to show its delights. Kjetil adds bursts of blazing horns. Soon, Hans up the stakes. He showcases his virtuoso skills. Meanwhile, the rest of the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. As for Kjetil, he unleashes some machine gun riffs, courtesy of his trusty saxophone. After that, Moster unite. They’re determined to end Inner Earth on a high. They gallop along, combining free jazz, prog rock, psychedelia, and rock. There’s even a nod to Iron Maiden. However, Moster don’t run for the hills. Instead, they become a musical powerhouse, and drive Underworld Risk to its dramatic crescendo.

For some groups, sophomore albums present a problem. They’re often referred to as “the difficult second album.” That’s not the case with Inner Earth. It sees Moster surpass the efforts of Edvard Lygre Møster. This was the album that brought Moster to the attention to critics and music lovers. Inner Earth will reinforce Inner Earth’s reputation as an innovative and ambitious band, who have a big future ahead of them.

Stylistically, Inner Earth is very different from Edvard Lygre Møster. It was an album that was perceived as spontaneous, direct and fierce. Recorded live, Kjetil Møster remembers the band finding their sound on-stage. Fortunately, the show was being taped and was issued as Edvard Lygre Møster. Inner Earth which will be released by Hubro Music on 20th October 2014, is very different.

Earlier, I referred to Inner Earth as a musical journey. That’s the perfect description of Inner Earth. It’s a journey through avant garde, experimental, free jazz, jazz, prog rock, psychedelia and classic rock. Prog rock and psychedelia play prominent roles on Inner Earth. So does free jazz, on this compelling musical journey through Inner Earth.

This journey veers between slow, moody and broody, to dramatic and  ferocious. Other times, it’s dreamy,  futuristic, lysergic and otherworldly. Then sometimes, Inner Earth becomes cinematic and melodic, as slow washes of music shiver, shimmer and glimmer. Always though, Inner Earth is an ambitious and innovative, magical musical mystery tour through musical genres, with Norwegian supergroup Moster as your musical tour guides.

MOSTER!-INNER EARTH.

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MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

Earlier this year, Ace Records released Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair in June 2014. It featured fifty tracks from the Music City Vaults. Released to critical acclaim, Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair was a tantalising taste of the delights within the Music City discography. A followup, it seemed, was almost inevitable.

Ace Records haven’t wasted time. Just four months later, Ace Records recently returned to the vaults of Music City Records. This meant a trip state side. Compilers Roger Armstrong and Alec Palao headed to San Francisco and dug deep into Music City’s back-catalogue. This crate-digging expedition proved fruitful. 

Having dug deep, Roger and Alec returned with the thirty uptempo tracks that comprise Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. They’re a mixture of old favourites, classics, hidden gems and unreleased tracks, that played a part in the Music City Story.

 Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It  includes The Holidays, The Klixs, 4 Deuces, The Midnights, Gaylarks, The Holidays, 5 Rovers, The Spinners, The Marcels and The Emeralds. These groups  play their part in what’s described as “a second volume of rare doo woo delights.”  Before I pick the highlight of Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, I’ll tell you about Ray Dobard’s Music City label. 

Its origins can be traced back to 1950. That’s when Ray formed a record shop, Berkeley’s Music City in Adeline Street, San Francisco. Not long after that, Ray founded his first record label Delcro Records. This was Ray’s latest business.

Ray was born in New Orleans, on 31st August 1920. He Dobard was born into a working class family and was a born entrepreneur. This became apparent when he moved to Berkeley, California, with his wife Jeanne. His first business venture was a construction company. Soon, Ray was buying up properties. He soon had a vast property portfolio. However, like all good entrepreneurs, Ray realised the importance of having a diverse portfolio.

So in 1950, Ray decided to open a record shop, Berkeley’s Music City in Adeline Street, San Francisco. Not long after that, Ray founded his first record label Delcro Records. Three years later, with his latest business expanding his record store, now called Music City Record Store moved to new premises.

Music City Record Store’s new premises were at 1815 Alcatraz Avenue. Behind the shop, there was an empty space. Ray decided to build a small studio. This meant he could record artists, release their music on his own label and sell them in Music City Record Store. That was the plan. However, things didn’t get off to a good start.

In the early days, Ray recorded everything from jazz, jump blues and gospel in his studio. There was a problem though. The records he recorded and released weren’t selling. Then his luck changed when and R&B quartet called The Stars entered Music City Record Store to record a song midway through 1954.

The song The Stars wanted to record was Annie Pulled A Hum Bug. It  was the answer to The Midnighters’ Annie singles. Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug was a song The Stars wrote. They wrote all their own material.  Melvin Dennis was the lead singer and drummer. He was one of three soldiers from Camp Stoneman army base, thirty miles away in Pittsburgh. Artis Johnson was he other member of The Stars. He was just sixteen and in still in high school. Despite their different backgrounds, The Stars gelled musically. Immediately, Ray like The Stars and decided to take a chance on them. There was one thing he didn’t like, their name.

Ray decided that The Stars should change their name They became The Midnights. There was a problem though. The Midnights could be confused with The Midnighters. So, Ray signed an indemnity, stating that The Stars “were not to be confused with The Midnighters.” Having covered himself legally, he released Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug. 

On its release, Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug was a commercial success. Ray’s luck had changed. Following the success of Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug, Ray decided to release further vocal group singles. However, this wouldn’t include The Midnights. The Camp Stoneman army base closed. Its personnel were sent to other bases. As a result, The Midnights only released one more single, Cheating On Me. However, The Midnights played an important part in Ray’s nascent label. So did the groups on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It.

There’s a total of thirty tracks on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. Of these thirty tracks, twenty-seven have never been released before. They make their debut on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is The Holidays’ Wouldn’t Believe. Recorded on 30th July 1958, Wouldn’t Believe, which sees doo wop meet rock ’n’ roll, has never been released before. There’s also a driving cover of  John and Lonnie Foster’s Hoochi Coochi Man. It was recorded at a session on 12th April 1958. Again, it makes a welcome debut. So does an alternate take of Church Bells Will Ring. This is a later recording, which took place on 21st December 1959. Just like the two previous tracks, Church Bells Will Ring was never released on Music City. Somewhat belatedly, this trio of tracks make a welcome debut and are a reminder of another musical era.

Opening Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is The Holidays’ Wouldn’t Believe. Recorded on 30th July 1958, Wouldn’t Believe, which sees doo wop meet rock ’n’ roll, has never been released before. There’s also a driving cover of  John and Lonnie Foster’s Hoochi Coochi Man. It was recorded at a session on 12th April 1958. Again, it makes a welcome debut. So does an alternate take of Church Bells Will Ring. This is a later recording, which took place on 21st December 1959. Just like the two previous tracks, Church Bells Will Ring was never released on Music City. Somewhat belatedly, this trio of tracks make a welcome debut and are a reminder of the Music City label.

There’s a quartet of tracks from The Klixs on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. The first is It’s All Over, which The Klixs released on Music City in 1958. A soulful and catchy slice of doo wop, this whets your appetite. He-A-Woe is the first of three unreleased tracks from The Klixs. Recorded on 2nd July 1959, it’s a driving, dramatic track that surely influenced surf music. The other two unreleased tracks are Oobie Doobie Baby, an irresistible fusion of rock ’n’ roll and doo wop recorded in 1958. Two years later, The Klixs recorded Bye Bye Louie at a session on 9th August 1960. It’s a doo wop track where hurt and heartbreak shine through. These four tracks are the perfect introduction to The Klixs, one of Music City’s best kept secrets.

In late 1954, The Midnights released She Left Me as a single. This was right at the start of the Music City story. Having changed their name to The Midnights, they released Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug. It was their biggest single. However, the version on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is an alternate take. This allows us to hear a new take on a Music City classic. Sadly, when the army base The Midnights were stationed at closed, their nascent career was all but over. A reminder of what they were capable of this is Lindy, an unreleased track recorded on 3rd May 1955. Beautiful and melancholy, it’s a reminder of a much more innocent musical era.

The Four Deuces were one of Ray Dobard’s earliest signings to the Music City label. Theirs is a case of what might have been. Although they released a couple of minor hit singles, The Dour Deuces could’ve, and should’ve, reached greater heights. That’s apparent on the five tracks they contribute. They were recorded between April 1955 and 1956. The accusing What’Cha Gonna Do? showcases The Four Deuces’ vocal prowess, literally oozing emotion. Italian Swiss Colony Wine Spot/W-P-L-J, is essentially a jingle cut in May 1955. However, it does demonstrate the Deuces’ soulful side. The Nest Is Warm (But The Goose Is Gone) is a deliciously soulful slice of doo woo from 1956. So is Down It Went aka It Went Down Easy. It’s a fusion of soulful doo wop and R&B. However, Down It Went (aka It Went Down Easy) is The Four Deuces at their best. There’s even a nod to The Drifters, as The Four Deuces at their smooth and soulful best, remind us what they were capable of.

The Gaylarks were founded in Mision High School, San Francisco. Before long, they were one of the city’s most popular and prolific groups. Their first contribution is an a cappella of Teenage Mambo. Written by Ben Richards, it was recorded in 1957, but never released. Somewhere In This World is an uptempo, hopeful slice of doo wop. Recorded in 1957, it was released in 1958, and gave The Gaylarks a local hit single. That’s not the last we’ve heard from The Gaylarks. Look Into The Darkness and Ding Dong are both alternate takes. Neither track has been released before. That’s until now. Recorded back in 1957, these tracks showcase one of Ray Dobard’s  most talented and successful signings as they showcase their unique brand of doo wop. 

My final choice from Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, is If You Really Want To Know, a previously unreleased track recorded in 1958, The Spinners. However, this isn’t The Spinners that enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim under the guidance of Thom Bell. Having said that, The Spinners don’t lack in soulfulness. They combine doo wop and soul on If You Really Want To Know, two minutes of musical magic from Music City.

Featuring thirty tracks, Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It picks up where Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair left off. This means classics, old friends, favourites, hidden gems, singles and rarities. Some of the tracks are real rarities.

Some of the tracks are real hidden gems. They’ve never been released before. Indeed, the majority of the tracks have never been released before. Sixteen tracks make their debut on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, which was recently released by Ace Records. It’s best described as a tantalising taste of the treasure trove that’s Ray Dobard’s Music City label.

This includes The Holidays, The Klixs, 4 Deuces, The Midnights, Gaylarks, The Holidays, 5 Rovers, The Spinners, The Marcels and The Emeralds. These groups  play their part in what’s described as “a second volume of rare doo woo delights.” These tracks are Uptempo, joyous, emotive, slick, soulful and full of hooks. They’re also a reminder of another musical age.

As musical ages go, it’s a musical age that was much more innocent. Then came Elvis and The Beatles. Music was transformed. The age of innocence was gone. Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll replaced doo wop. No longer did a group of guys sing on the street corner for fun. No. They sung for money, and a taste of what music had to offer. This meant sex, drink, drugs, carnage and chaos. It was a long way from the days of 4 Deuces, The Midnights and The Gaylarks. These days it seemed, were gone forever.

Not any more. Now you can remember what was a much more innocent time, courtesy of Ace Records.  They recently released Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. It’s the latest chapter in the Music City story, and a reminder of a more innocent musical age.

MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

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AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

Having founded the Ric and Ron labels in 1958, Joe Ruffino spent the next four years, transforming them into two of New Orleans’ premier independent R&B labels. During this period, artists of the calibre of Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Eddie Bo and Eddie Laing released singles on the Ric and Ron labels. Many of these artists were brought to Joe by his A&R men.

This included Edgar Blanchard, Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack. They were Joe’s ears. He  trusted them to find him artists who would bring success to his labels. His three A&R men had a good track record, they’d discovered artists like Irma Thomas and Chris Kenner, before they found fame. 

They were brought to Joe Ruffino and he signed them to his Ric and Ron labels. For the first four years, many of the singles were written or produced by Joe Ruffino.  That presented a problem.

Tragedy struck for the Ruffino family in 1962. Joe died suddenly of a heart attack. He had been the driving force behind the Ric and Ron labels. His drive and determination transformed them from a successful New Orleans label, into a label that was on the verge of nationwide success.

Three singles had transformed the fortunes of Ric and Ron. Joe Jones’ You Talk Too Much started the ball rolling. It was a success across America. Then Johnny Adams’ A Losing Battle and Eddie Bo’s Check Mr. Popeye came close to making a breakthrough nationwide. Joe Ruffino’s four years of hard work had paid off. However, following his death, there was a problem.

Joe was the only member of the Ruffino family who played an active role in the running of Ric and Ron. Following his death, this presented a problem. After all who would succeed Joe? This problem wasn’t unique to the Ruffino family. Many family businesses have problems regarding succession. However, the problem of succession hit the Ric and Ron labels hard.

In 1963, Ric only released two singles. Ron didn’t release any singles. Worse was to come. Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack, Joe’s trusty lieutenants moved to Los Angeles. The men that had been Joe’s ears, headed to the West Coast. As if this wasn’t bad enough, two of Ric and Ron’s top artists left.

The first to go was Eddie Bo. He went on to record for a number of New Orleans’ labels, enjoying a successful career. Johnny Adams recorded two more singles for Ron. They were produced by Walter Quezergue, who would go on to become one of the biggest players in the New Orelans’ soul scene. After the release of Johnny Adams’ two singles, Ric and Ron shut their doors. 

After five years, Ric and Ron, the labels that Joe Ruffino gave birth to, were no more. Joe’s brother-in-law, Joe Assunto became the custodian of Ric and Ron’s master tapes. He repressed many of Ric and Ron’s most successful tracks. Then in the late seventies, Joe Assunto died. 

His daughter took over the running of Joe’s label for a while. Then she moved on to other business ventures. By the late eighties, Rounder Records reissued some of Ric and Ron’s music. That was over a quarter of a century ago. A widespread reissue program of the back-catalogue is well overdue. That’s where Ace Records comes in.

Earlier this year, Ace Records released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. This was a tantalising taste, of one of New Orleans’ most important, independent labels. However, there’s much more still to be heard. That includes the twenty-four tracks on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. It was recently released by Ace Records. 

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 features some of the biggest names in the Ric and Ron story. The majority of the music was released between 1960 and 1963. This includes contributions from Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Tommy Ridgely, Eddie Bo, Martha Carter, Joe Louis and Barbara Lynn, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Bobby Mitchell opens Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 Send Me Your Picture. This is one of two tracks from Bobby. It was released in 1960 on Ron. A dramatic, piano driven arrangement provides the backdrop for Bobby’s needy, hopeful vocal. Bobby’s other contribution is Mama Don’t Allow. This was the the B-Side to There’s Only One Of You. Arranged by Mac Rebenack, it’s an irresistible fusion of pop, R&B and soul.

Given that Johnny Adams played such an important part in the Ric and Ron story, it’s no surprise he features five times on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. His first contribution is Life Is Just A Struggle, the B-Side to his 1961, single on Ric, I Solemnly Promise. It features an emotive, vocal powerhouse from Johnny. There’s also an alternate take of Johnny’s 1961 single The Bells Are Ringing. It’s never been released before, and makes a welcome debut here. Another B-Side was A Losing Battle, which was the B-Side to Who’s Gonna Love You, Johhny’s 1962 single. Penned by John Dauenhauer and Mac Rebenack, despair and despondency are omnipresent in Johhny’s vocal. Showdown was also released in 1962. This was one of Johnny’s 1962 singles. Released on Ric, it features a wistful, hurt-filled vocal. The last contribution from Johnny is the previously unreleased How Come (And Why). Never before has this demo track been released. It’s best described as a hidden, soulful gem, with a nod to Sam Cooke.

There’s a trio of tracks from Tommy Ridgely on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. No wonder. He played an important part in the labels’ rise and rise. Should I Ever Love Again is the first contribution from Tommy. This was the B-Side to his 1961 single Double Eye Whammy. Released on Ric, Tommy lays bare his hurt and heartache for all to see. A year later, In The Same Old Way is the was released on Ric in 1962, and features a heartfelt vocal from one Joe Ruffino’s biggest success stories. Tommy’s final contribution is Honest I Do, the B-Side to I’ve Heard This Story Before. Written by Tommy, Honest I Do was his swan-song for Ric Records, and saw him leave on a soulful high.

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 doesn’t just feature soul men. No. It features soul sisters like Martha Carter.  She features three times. Her first contribution is I Don’t Talk Too Much, her 1960 single. It’s a tongue-in-cheek reply to a Joe Adams single. You Can If You Think You Can was the B-Side to One Man’s Woman. It’s an uptempo jewel written and arranged by Harold Battiste. For Then I’ll Believe, proved to be Martha’s final single. Penned by Eddie Bo, under his Dolores Johnson alias, Martha drops the tempo and releases a feisty, sassy vocal powerhouse. Sadly, not long after the release of Then I’ll Believe, Martha underwent a throat operation which went wrong. This left Martha unable to sing. That day, music lost a hugely talented vocalist.

Eddie Bo has to feature on any compilation of Ric Records and Ron Records. He played such an important part in the labels’ success. Ain’t It The Truth Now is his first contribution. This was the B-Side to his 1960 single Warm Daddy. Released on Ric, it’s soulful and long on hooks. Two years later, Check Mr Popeye gave Eddie a nationwide hit. This slice of R&B helped raise the profile of Joe Ruffino’s burgeoning empire. Baby I’m Wise was Eddie’s Ric Records swan-song. Just like Check Mr Popeye, it was penned by Eddie Bo, under his Dolores Johnson alias. It’s Eddie at his best. He vamps and hollers his way through this driving fusion of R&B and soul.

My final choices from Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 come courtesy of the prolific,  and sometimes, underrated Barbara Lynn. She recorded two demos for Joe Ruffino, Found My Good Thing and Question Of Love. Sadly, they were’t released until 2012. Found My Good Thing is a compelling track. Barbara gently strums a guitar, and delivers a vocal that’s equal parts hurt and hope. Question Of Love is delivered against an equally understated arrangement. That doesn’t matter, as Barbara’s accusing, angry vocal takes centre-stage. Despite these two tracks being demos, it’s apparent Barbara was destined for soul greatness.

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 picks up where You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1 left off. It goes some way to filling in the gaps in the story of Ric Records and Ron Records. There was no happy ending in this story. Just as Joe’s burgeoning empire was taking shape, he died of a heart attack.

Joe had been the driving force behind the Ric and Ron labels. His drive and determination transformed them from a successful New Orleans label, into a label that was on the verge of nationwide success. After Joe’s death, he left behind a huge void.

He was the only member of the Ruffino family who played an active role in the running of Ric and Ron. Following his death, this presented a problem. Who would succeed Joe? There was no answer to this question. None of the other members of the Ruffino family stepped up to the plate. That’s not surprising. They’d no experience of running a record label. Within a year of Joe’s death, the Ric and Ron labels were all but a  memory.

In 1963, Ric only released two singles. Ron didn’t release any singles. Worse was to come. His A&R men jumped ship. Then some of Ric and Ron’s top artists exited stage left. Joe Assunto became the custodian of Ric and Ron’s master tapes. He repressed many of Ric and Ron’s most successful tracks. Then in the late seventies, Joe Assunto died. This, to all intents and purposes was the end of the Ric and Ron story.

Despite this, people were still interested in Ric and Ron’s back-catalogue. It’s never been reissued for twenty-five years. This meant a generation of music lovers have never heard Ric and Ron’s discography. Someone had to rectify this. 

That’s where Ace Records come in. Earlier this year, Ace Records released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. This was a tantalising taste, of one of New Orleans’ most important, independent labels. However, there was so much more music still to be heard. That includes the twenty-four tracks on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. It was recently released by Ace Records. 

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 features some of the biggest names in the Ric and Ron story. The majority of the music was released between 1960 and 1963. This includes contributions from Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Tommy Ridgely, Eddie Bo and Martha Carter. They all played their part in transforming Ric and Ron from mom and pop labels, to labels on the verge of nationwide success. Then fate intervened.

Who knows what heights Ric and Ron might have reached? Especially with Joe Tuffino at the helm. He surrounded himself with people brought commercial success and critical acclaim to his labels. Edgar Blanchard, Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack were Joe’s ears. He trusted them to find him artists who would bring success to his labels. They had a good track record. Who knows who they might have gone on to discover if Joe had lived? 

Maybe now, Ric and Ron would’ve been one of the most important soul labels? Sadly, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Ric and Ron released a wealth of quality soul and R&B. Proof of this is Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2, which along with You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1, is the perfect introduction to the Ric and Ron labels.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

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