NIGHT WALKER-THE JACK NITZSCHE STORY VOLUME 3.

NIGHT WALKER-THE JACK NITZSCHE STORY VOLUME 3.

The name Jack Nitzsche means different things to different people. To some people, Jack Nitzsche is a remembered as a critically acclaimed producer and arranger. Others remember Jack as a singer and songwriter. Film fans remember Jack for the film soundtracks he composed. Then there’s a generation who remember Jack as Phil Spector’s right hand man. For some music lovers, Jack Nitzsche is synonymous with his work with the legendary Wrecking Crew. This isn’t surprising, given how prolific Jack Nitzsche was.

That’s why Ace Records recently released Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3. It’s the third volume in Ace Records Producer Series dedicated to the man born Bernard Alfred Nitzsche Volume 3,on 22nd April 1937, in Chicago. Mostly, Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3 concentrates on the sixties and seventies. This was the most prolific period in the career of the man who became known as Jack.

Mention the name Jack, and immediately, people knew who your were talking about, Jack Nitzsche. His career began in 1957, when he moved to Los Angeles. He’d moved to L.A. dreaming of becoming a jazz saxophonist. Instead, he found himself copying musical stores. It was during this period, that Jack met Sonny Bono.

The first song that Jack and Sonny wrote was a stonewall pop classic, Needles and Pins. They wrote the song with Jackie DeShannon in mind. It gave Jackie a minor hit single in the US, reaching number eighty four in the US Billboard 100. Over in Canada, Needles and Pins reached number one. That was the start of the commercial success Jack Nitzsche would enjoy.

By 1963, Jack had enjoyed the first hit single of his solo career. This was Lonely Surfer, an instrumental track. His next hit single was a remake of Link Wray’s Rumble. It was given a big band, swing sound. Not for the last time, would Jack take a track in a direction most other producers would never have envisaged.

Especially, when he started working with another maverick producer, Phil Spector. Together, they pioneered the Phil Spector’s legendary Wall Of Sound. One of Jack’s finest moments with Phil Spector was arranging, conducting and orchestrating Ike and Tina Turner’s 1966 single, River Deep, Mountain High. Incredibly, River Deep, Mountain High failed to chart in the US, but reached number three in the UK. Phil Spector took River Deep, Mountain High failure to chart in the US as a personal affront. He withdrew from the music industry for two years, and many people believe that’s when his decline. Tragically, Jack’s career would undergo a similar decline in 1974, when two decades of constant hard work would take its toll. In the early sixties, where Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3 begins, Jack looked like being one of the most successful men in music.

Arranger, producer, singer and songwriter. Jack was all these things. That’s demonstrated on Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3, which features twenty-six tracks. Twenty-four are from the sixties and seventies. This includes contributions from Merry Clayton, Buffalo Springfield, The Crystals, Mink Deville, The Ronettes, The Everly Brothers, Jackie DeShannon, Michelle Phillips and Jack himself. There’s also two tracks from later in Jack’s career. The first is a track from C. C. Adcock.

Opening Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3 is C. C. Adcock’s Castin’ My Spell. This was a track that Jack recorded in 1999, a year before his death. Written by Alvin and Edwin Johnson, this was one of two tracks Louisiana rocker C.C. released. Castin’ My Spell featured on the 2001 compilation Young Guitar Slingers: Texas Blues Evolution. When C.C. recorded with Jack he was only twenty eight. He’d only released one album, C.C. Adcock in 1994, on Island Records. Five years later, C.C. was back fusing blues and rocky licks, while delivering a voice that sounds as if it’s been aged with bourbon and Marlboro. Why C.C. didn’t enjoy more commercial success seems strange, given his indisputable talent.

Poor White Hound Dog was a collaboration between Jack and Merry Clayton, who contributes a powerhouse of a vocal. The track was part of the soundtrack for the Performance soundtrack. It featured an all-star cast. James Fox, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg starred in Performance, which was directed Donald Cammell.  Jack arranged, penned and produced the track, which features some glorious slide guitar. Then there’s a vocal from one of soul’s best kept secrets, Merry Clayton. It’s dropped in when the slide guitar drops out and proves a worthy and captivating replacement. Glorious.

Darlene Love recorded the Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned A Long Way To Be Happy in 1965. Arranged by Jack and produced by his mentor Phil Spector, it epitomises the music coming out of Phil’s studio in the first half of the sixties. So much so, that it sounds as if it was recorded back then. Once the song was cut, it was left in the vaults until 1976, when it was released on the compilation Rare Masters Volume 2. It’s a poignant reminder of the Phil Spector and Jack Nitzsche in full flow.

Buffalo Springfield were one of the most important groups of the late sixties. That’s despite releasing just three albums. Their sophomore album was 1967s Buffalo Springfield Again. It’s an album that oozes quality. One of the highlights is Expecting To Fly, which was written by Neil Young who plays guitar on the track. Jack arranged and produced Expecting To Fly which is the perfect introduction to the ethereal and lysergic beauty of Buffalo Springfield.

Follwing the success Jack enjoyed as a producer and arranger, he secured a recording contract with Reprise. He released Night Walker as a single in 1965. As we’d expect from an innovator like Jack, he fuses the unlikeliest of instruments. This means a bursts of a surf guitar sits atop an orchestral arrangement. Quite simply, it’s delicious combination of contrasts.

Jack made his name working with Phil Spector in the early sixties. He arranged many of the tracks Phil produced. These track epitomise the Phil Spector sound. That’s the case with two tracks on Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story. The first is The Crystals’ 1964 single Little Boy. It was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Phil Spector. Featuring LaLa Brooks on lead vocal, the single stalled at just number ninety-two in the US Billboard 100. Sonny Bono foresaw this, saying their was too much echo on the single and  it wouldn’t get played on radio. Phil disagreed, saying “there was no such thing as too much echo.” Despite its commercial failure, thes track epitomises the Phil Spector sound

This is also the case with The Ronettes’ 1965 single Is This What I Get For Loving You. A haunting tale of heartbreak and hurt, it was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. On its release, it stalled at just number seventy-five in the US Billboard 100. Phil Spector’s sound had almost run its course. However, he remains one of the most innovative producers in musical history.

Three years after they formed in San Francisco in 1974, Mink Deville released Just Your Friends as a single in 1977. This isn’t a new track. Karen Verros and Crazy Horse had both recorded the song. Mink Deville transform Just Your Friends into a heartfelt blues rock track. It featured on their sophomore album Return To Magenta, which reached number 126 in the US Billboard 200 in 1978. Despite Jack arranging and producing Return To Magenta, Mink Deville never enjoyed the commercial success their talent deserved.

During the fifties and early sixties, The Everly Brothers enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums. The Marge Barton penned June Is As Cold As December, is a track from their 1966 album In Our Image. This country-tinged ballad failed to chart. This wasn’t new. For the last few years, commercial success had eluded Don and Phil Everly. Even Jack’s production skills couldn’t revive their flagging fortunes. He did produce a true hidden gem, June Is As Cold As December.

The first song Jack cowrote, was Needles In Pins. He cowrote the track with Jackie DeShannon in mind. That was in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, Jack arranged Try To Forget him, which was a track from her 1965 album You Won’t Forget Me. Written by Jackie and produced by Dick Glasser, it’s the perfect showcase for Jackie’s needy, hurt-filled vocal.

After the demise of the Mamas and Papas, Michelle Phillips embarked upon a solo career. In 1977, she released Victim Of Romance as a single. It was written by Moon Martin and arranged and produced by Jack. Victim Of Romance was the title-track to her debut album. It’s a delicious reminder of the early sixties girl group, that’s full of slick poppy hooks.

In 1964, The Righteous Brothers were about to cover Nino Tempo’s I Still Love You. Jack was called in to arrange and conduct the track. It would feature on their 1965 album This Is New! Sadly, I Still Love You wasn’t a commercial success. Their world would change later in 1964, when they recorded their classic You’ve Never Lost That Loving Feeling, which reached number one in the US and UK. Although I Still Love You wasn’t as successful as You’ve Never Lost That Loving Feeling, it has one thing in common, its quality.

Originally, The Rip Chords consisted of Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas. Later, producer Terry Melcher and co-producer Bruce Johnston joined the group, who became synonymous with the surf and hot rod genres. That’s apparent on Here I Am, which was produced by Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day. He needed an arranger and conductor, so got in touch with Jack, who at that time, was working with Phil Spector. Jack’s first Rip Chords’ single was Here I Stand. Featuring tight, heartfelt harmonies, surf guitars and rasping horns it’s a tantalising taste of The Rip Chords as they embarked upon their musical adventure.

My final choice from Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story is Preston Epps’ Bongo Bongo Bongo. It’s the earliest track that Jack worked on. The instrumental Bongo Bongo Bongo was recorded in 1959, and released in 1960. It was a huge hit, and gave Jack his first hit single. Infectiously catchy, it’s the perfect way to close Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3.

Although I’ve only mentioned fourteen of the twenty-six tracks on Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3, I could easily have chosen any track. That’s testament to the quality of music Jack Nitzsche arranged, composed, conducted, produced, sang and wrote. That’s no surprise, growing up, Jack dreamed of making a career as a jazz saxophonist. Although his dreams didn’t quite work out, Jack lived the dream.

His career lasted five decades. It began in 1959 and Jack was working until just before he died. One of the final artists he was working with, was C.C. Adcock. So, it’s fitting C.C. Adcock’s Castin’ My Spell opens Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story. After that, there’s contributions from Merry Clayton, Buffalo Springfield, The Crystals, Mink Deville, The Ronettes, The Everly Brothers, Jackie DeShannon and Michelle Phillips. They’re just a few of the many artists Jack worked with during the most prolific years of his career.

That’s the sixties and seventies. During that period, Jack was working nearly non-stop. That’s why he has over 900 credits to his name. Sadly, his heavy workload took its toll. Jack suffered from depression and struggled valiantly with drug abuse. Between 1974 and the late-seventies, Jack kept a low profile. When he made a comeback, Jack hadn’t lost his Midas touch. Proof of that is Michelle Phillips’ 1977 single Victim Of Romance. Full of slick poppy hooks and with a nod to his early career, it was as if Jack had never been away. After that, his career lasted another twenty years. 

Sadly, Jack passed away on 25th August 2000. He was only sixty-three years old. That’s no age at all. His legacy are 900 tracks he arranged, composed, conducted, produced, sang and wrote. So it’s no surprise that Ace Records have had to release three volumes of Jack Nitzsche’s music to do his musical legacy just. The latest instalment in Ace Records’ homage to Jack Nitzsche  is Night Walker-The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3, which was recently released by Ace Records.

NIGHT WALKER-THE JACK NITZSCHE STORY VOLUME 3.

CDCHD-1430

CDCHD-1430a

CDCHD-1430b

CDCHD-1430c

CDCHD-1430e

HOLGER CZUKAY-DER OSTEN IST ROT/ROME REMAINS ROME.

HOLGER CZUKAY-DER OSTEN IST ROT/ROME REMAINS ROME.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview one of the most innovative musicians of his generation, Holger Czukay. I spend forty minutes talking about Can and Holger’s solo career. It was a truly fascinating insight into a musical legend. Two of the albums we discussed were Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. There’s a reason for that. 

Berlin based Groenland Records today release a selection of ten tracks from Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. They’ll be released on two 10” albums and as a digital download. As an added bonus, previously unreleased remixes versions are included on the album. For Can fans, this is the latest course in what’s veritable feast. Each of these albums showcase the talents of one of the most innovative and progressive musicians of his generation, Holger Czukay whose solo career began in 1979.

That was the year Can split-up. It had been on the cards since 1978. That’s when Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah joined Can. They made their debut on Out Of Reach, which Can eventually disowned. 

Out Of Reach, Can’s tenth album, was released in July 1978. The title proved to be a prophetic. After all, commercial success always seemed to elude Can. Not only did Out Of Reach fail commercially, but the Out Of Reach proved to be Can’s most controversial album. 

So much so, that they disowned Out Of Reach. On Out Of Reach, Holger was “sidelined.” When I asked him what he meant by this, he said “During the recording of Out Of Reach, I felt an outsider in my own group. I was on the outside looking in. I was on the margins. All I was doing was adding sound-effects.”  For Holger, he felt his group had been hijacked by Gee and and Baah. Things got so bad, that Holger quit Can. 

The critics rounded on Out Of Reach. They found very little merit in Out Of Reach. Gee and Baah were rightly blamed for the album’s failure. Even Can disliked Out Of Reach. They later disowned Out Of Reach. For the followup, Can Holger’s role was minimal.

Following the failure of Out Of Reach, the members of Can began recording what became Can. Remarkably, Gee and Baah were still part of Can. Sadly, Holger was not longer a member of Can. He’d left during the making of Out Of Reach. His only involvement was editing Can. 

Even Holger’s renowned editing skills couldn’t save Can. Try as he may, he could only work with what he was given. Can, which is sometimes referred to as Inner Space, was released in July 1979. Again, critics weren’t impressed by Can. It received mixed reviews. They agreed one one thing, that Holger was sadly missed. However, little did anyone realise how bad things were within the Can camp.

Can split-up after the release of Can. That was their swan-song. However, even before that, Holger “felt marginalised, this had been the case since he Gee and Baah became part of Can. They’d hijacked Can.” Now, Holger would embark upon his solo career. 

Holger hadn’t really been making music since 1976. The last two Can albums saw Holger editing the music. So, Holger set about finding “his own sound again.” He’d “been through this with Can,” Now he’d have to do so again. It would be worth it though, when he released his first solo album since 1969s Canaxis 5, Movies.

Recording of Movies took place at Inner Space Studio, Cologne. This was where Can had recorded the best music of their career. It was like a Can reunion. Jaki Liebezeit played drums on Movies. Irmin Schmidt and Michael Karoli played on Oh Lord, Give Us More Money. Even Baah was drafted in to play organ on Cool In The Pool. Holger threw himself into the project. He recorded Movies and played guitars, bass, keyboards and synths. Then when the four songs that became Movies were completed, Holger mixed and produced the album. Movies saw Holger hailed the comeback King.

Released to critical acclaim, Movies was hailed as one of the best albums of 1979. Holger’s decision to embark upon a solo career had been vindicated. He was back doing what he did best, creating ambitious, groundbreaking and pioneering music. That would continue in 1981, when Holger released On The Way To The Peak Of Normal.

When I spoke to Holger, he said “one of the albums I’m most proud of, is 1981s On The Way To The Peak Of Normal. It was Holger’s first collaboration with Conny Plank. 

Working with Conny Plank Holger remembers, was a revelation. Holger felt Conny was a consummate professional. “Here was someone who understood what I was trying to achieve.” He ensured that I never made music people neither understood, nor wanted to buy. The sessions were organised and disciplined, very difference from the indiscipline of late Can albums.” 

Recording took place in the familiar surroundings of Inner Space Studios, Cologne. The only member of Can were present was Jaki Liebezeit. Other members of the band included Conny Plank and Jah Wobble, who Holger and would collaborate with on the 1982 E.P. Full Circle and the 1983 Snake Charmer E.P. They’re two of many collaborations Holger would be involved with. That was still to come.

Before that, Holger released On The Way To The Peak Of Normal in 1981. Just like the early days of Can, Holger was the critic’ darling. They were won over by one of the most inventive albums of 1981. Although Holger had been making music for three decades, he still had plenty to say musically. That would continue throughout the eighties, with his various collaborations and his 1984 album Der Osten ist Rot.

Sadly, neither Der Osten Ist Rot, nor Rome Remains Rome have been released before. There’s a good reason for this. Sadly, previously, the master-tapes were damaged and several songs lost for good. So, unless you’re fortunate enough to own a copy of the original albums, then Groenland Records’ rerelease will be a tantalising taste of a musical pioneer at the peak of his powers.

Der Osten Ist Rot.

When recording of Der Osten ist Rot began at  Inner Space Studios, Cologne, there was still a Can influence. Holger had written six songs and cowrote three with Jaki Liebezeit of Can. Jake also played drums, piano, trumpet and organ. Conny played synths and Michy took charge of vocal duties. Together, they played their part in another groundbreaking album from Holger Czukay.

Released in 1984, critics welcomed another ambitious and groundbreaking album. The combination of Holger, Conny Plank and Jaki Liebezeit had proved a powerful partnership. This is apparent when you listen to Der Osten Ist Rot, which remarkably, was released thirty years ago.

Only four tracks from Der Osten Ist Rot feature on Groenland Records’ rerelease. The first is Music In The Air. It’s best described as haunting and ethereal. Here, Holger fuses ambient, electronica and experimental. The result is minimalist music. It comes courtesy of hypnotic drums and an ethereal synth choir. Waves of music wash over you. You’re enchanted by its understated, ethereal beauty.

Rather than the original version of Sudetenland, a remix has been chosen. It’s another genre-melting, innovative track. Drums and a pulsating bass combine before a half-spoken vocal enters. By then, guitars chime and then a joyous choir enters. They’re accompanied by a rasping horns and bursts of vocal. The combination is joyous and melodic. Sometimes, there’s a sense of urgency as the frantic drums pound. Seamlessly, musical genres melt into one. Everything from ambient, classical, electronica, experimental, jazz, rock and world music are combined to create a track that’s variously beautiful, ethereal, joyous and urgent.

Der Osten Ist Rot is another remix. It takes on a much more avant garde sound. That’s due to rolls of thunderous drums, crashing cymbals, steel drums, chiming guitars  and washes of synths. A myriad of sounds assail you. Holger springs a series of surprises. Especially when a trumpet sounds and brass band plays. From there, the track veers between a traditional German brass band and a somewhat futuristic avant garde sound. Later, bursts of riffing rock guitars and a rasping horns interject. They add another layer of music. It’s compelling collection of sounds and influences. Not many people could make this musical dichotomy work, but innovator extraordinaire Holger Czukay can.

Traum Mal Wieder is the final track from Der Osten Ist Rot. Again, it’s a remix. It has an understated, ethereal sound. It gives way to a futuristic sound, before cymbals and drums sound. They’re played repeatedly, resulting in a hypnotic sound. Bursts of vocal escape from the arrangement. So do an organ. Just like the vocal, it adds to the sense of foreboding. Very different are the ethereal harmonies that sweep in, during this futuristic symphony.

Rome Remains Rome.

Rome Remains Rome saw Holger joined by some familiar faces. This included two of Holger’s old friends from Can, guitarist Michael Karoli and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Bassist Jah Wobble completed what was a fearsome rhythm section. They provided the heartbeat to Rome Remains Rome, which was released in 1987.

On its release in 1987, Rome Remains Rome saw the continued reinvention of Holger Czukay. He was a musical chameleon. No two albums were the same. Holger’s music continued to evolve. That’s what you’d expect from one of the most innovative musicians of his generation, Holger Czukay.

Blessed Easter is the first of six tracks from Rome Remains Rome. It sounds like a hymn. The band play slowly. Just the rhythm section, organ and piano provide a slow, mesmeric backdrop. That sets the scene for Holger’s heartfelt vocal. He’s accompanied by another vocalist, who delivers a spiritual vocal. A choir sweep in, adding to the beauty of the music. By then Holger and his band are in the groove. Things only change with a couple of minutes to go. It’s as if Holger’s decided to stretch his legs musically and improvise. Still, his band are in the tightest of grooves. His choir sweep in and Holger gives thanks, during this glorious fusion of blues, jazz, rock and classical musical.

Esperanto Socialisteis a fusion of avant garde, minimalist and classical music. It lasts just under two minutes . A crackly, understated backdrop sees harmonies sweep in and out while a church organ plays. There are religious overtones during a track where Holger and his band continue to push musical boundaries.

Words like minimalist, eerie and haunting spring to mind as Das Massenmedium unfolds. Straight away, the music sounds timeless. There’s a nod towards Kraftwerk. That’s down to the mesmeric vocals. They repeat the same phrase, while percussion, crunchy drums and crashing cymbals combine with a myriad of avant garde sounds. There’s even a hint of techno and a Can influence, as the remix takes on a mesmeric, hypnotic sound. Holger drawing inspiration from the music of the past and present, creates a timeless track.

A variety of sound effects and snippets of conversation open the experimental sounding Schaue Vertrauensvoll In Die Zukunft. There are no lyrics. Instead, Holger combines sound effects with parts of one half of a telephone conversation. It’s a compelling combination that results in cinematic sound. You’re left to let your imagination run riot and work out what’s happening during this captivating track.

Just a lone, jaunty piano plays during Rhoenrad. Bursts of a vocal threaten to burst through, but never quite do. Together, they create a lo-fi sound. It’s as if Holger is attempting to replicate an old 78 record. Either that, or the accompaniment to the old talkie pictures, where a pianist accompanied the pictures. That’s the pictures this track paints. 

Michi is the last selection from Rome Remains Rome. Again, it has an understated sound. Just pensive drums and a throbbing bass combine to accompany a heartfelt vocal. The minimalist arrangement means the vocal takes centre-stage and deservedly, plays a starring role in this track.

The ten tracks from Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome are a tantalising taste of two of Holger Czukay’s greatest solo albums. He released Der Osten Ist Rot in 1984 and Rome Remains Rome in 1987. Since then, sadly, neither album has been released. There’s a reason for this.

Previously, the master-tapes to Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome were badly damaged. So badly damaged that several songs have been lost for good. This means that never again, will the full albums be heard in all their glory. That’s unless you’re fortunate enough to own a copy of the original albums. If you’re not, you can still enjoy some of the music from Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome.

Today, Berlin based Groenland Records today release a selection of ten tracks from Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. They’ll be released on two 10” albums and as a digital download. As an added bonus, previously unreleased remixes versions are included on the album. For Can fans, this is the latest course in what’s veritable feast that’s seen both Holger Czukay’s solo albums and Can’s back-catalogue released. They’re a reminder of one of the most innovative and progressive musicians of his generation, Holger Czukay.

Although innovative is an overused word, that’s the perfect description of Holger Czukay. He truly is an innovative and pioneering musician. Whether it was with Can, or as a solo artist, Holger Czukay wasn’t afraid to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. That’s apparent on the selection of tracks from Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. 

No wonder. Holger is best descried as a musical maverick and adventurer. On Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome he seems determined to spring a series of surprises. He bowls a series of curveballs as tracks head off in the unlikeliest of directions. It’s truly compelling, as musical influences and genres melt into one. 

Everything from ambient, avant garde, blues, classical, choral, electronica, experimental, jazz and rock are fused by Holger Czukay and his band on Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. They’re a reminder of a maverick musicians at his creative best.

Throughout his long and successful career, Holger Czukay released some of the most ambitious, innovative, inspiring and influential music of the past fifty years. Much of that music is timeless and unique. That’s apparent on Holger Czukay on two of his finest solo albums, Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome.

HOLGER CZUKAY-DER OSTEN IST ROT/ROME REMAINS ROME.

Bildschirmfoto-2014-07-03-um-15.21.18-290x290

TRUE INGREDIENTS-THROUGH THE LENS.

TRUE INGREDIENTS-THROUGH THE LENS.

Over the last few years, the music industry has been forces to reinvent itself. There’s many reasons for this. This includes the way people consume and buy albums.

Gone are the days of the vinyl, when it was a case of immersing yourself in the music. You sat and studied the artwork and read the lyrics. Not any more. 

Many people don’t even buy albums. Instead, they buy and download individual tracks. They listen to them on iPods, laptops or docks. Stereos, nowadays, are a relic of a past. Even the way music is delivered has changed.

Nowadays, a generation of artists are releasing their own music. No longer, is it their ambition to be signed to a record label. As a result, more music than ever is being released. This presents a problem. Music has to stand out. True Ingredients realised this when they released debut album in 2008, Prepare and Assemble. 

When True Ingredients released Prepare and Assemble it became the world’s first album to be released in the form of a pair of sunglasses. Instead of releasing CD or vinyl album, True Ingredients created their own sunglasses. They featured their own logo, and had their website address printed on them In addition,  a unique download code allowed the owner to digitally download the album’s MP3s. This caught the imagination of music lovers, including some high profile names. Soon, Coolio, Sean Paul, Mischa Barton, Kaya Scodelario and sometime insurance salesman Snoop Dogg, took to wearing the True Ingredients’ sunglasses. What became known as a the Sunglasses Album was a masterstroke. 

True Ingredients were formed in 2003. Two years later, they released their debut single All Out, in 2005. 2008s Prepare and Assemble proved a game-changer. Suddenly, everyone was talking about True Ingredients. After that, True Ingredients headed out on a series of gruelling tours. As if that’s not impressive enough, True Ingredients have found time to record their sophomore album Through The Lens, which will be released by BBE Music on 21st July 2014. Just like Prepare and Assemble, Through The Lens is no ordinary album.

No way. True Ingredients have a musical philosophy. They believe that there’s more to a timeless album than its songs. It’s about a story that evolves from the moment you buy the album. Everything about Through The Lens is important. This starts with the artwork. It’s meant to inspire the listener and capture their imagination. As for the music, True Ingredient are determined to inspire, energise and captivate, through music that’s described as “socially responsible rebelliousness.” That’s not all.

Through the Lens is another world first from True Ingredients. It’s the world’s first Immersive album. This is possible through the advent of groundbreaking, innovative technology. Now, listeners are able to become part of the music. They can embark on a  journey into the music. All they need to do this, is any digital device or platform. This allows listeners to interact with 3D scenes and videos. They can even remix tracks and manipulate the imagery around each track. It’s a truly hands-on multimedia experience. For a new generation of technology savvy music lovers, the immersive experience of Through The Lens  is sure to captivate and compel. So will the music.

That’s no surprise. True Ingredients have been around since 2003. They’re a London-based hip hop collective. Their current lineup includes vocalists Mr. Milk, Mireilla Sings, Angela, keyboardist Fenna, guitarist Josh Wah, bassist Millzy and drummer Steve O’Gallagher. Two years later, they released their debut single.

True Ingredients debut single was All Out. It was released in 2005. This brought True Ingredients to the attention of music lovers. Soon, they were playing live all over the Britain. Their breakthrough came in 2008. 

This was when True Ingredients released their groundbreaking album Prepare and Assemble. It was released in form of a pair of sunglasses, with True Ingredients website address and a unique download code attached. Soon, many high profile names were wearing True Ingredients’ sunglasses. Suddenly, they were the must have musical and fashion accessory of 2008. This catapulted True Ingredients into the public eye.

Since 2009, True Ingredients have played well over 300 concerts. This includes some of the biggest festivals in Europe. In 2009, True Ingredients played at the Glastonbury Festival and London’s Week of Peace in Trafalgar Square 2009. Then in 2010, True Ingredients played at Bucharest’s Jam Festival and the Access All Areas Festival in Étampes, France. By 2011, the gruelling touring schedule continued, with appearances at  Manchester’s Parklife Festival and the Lovebox Festival. Since 2009, True Ingredients have been familiar faces at festivals throughout Europe. Whether it’s Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Romania or Switzerland, True Ingredients have won friends and influenced people. Still, though, True Ingredients have found the time to record their sophomore album Through The Lens, which I’ll tell you about.

The sunshine sound of Smile opens Through The Lens. It’s the perfect track to open the album. A Nu Soul female vocal combines with  stabs of piano and chiming guitar. Before long, it’s all change. A swaggering rap replaces the vocal. Meanwhile, a female vocal answers the call. Big, bold drums, percussion and stabs of rasping horns combine as the arrangement explodes into life. By then, the rap becomes a vocal and a joyous, anthemic track is unfolding. There’s even a Latin influence, as everything from funk, hip hop, Nu Soul, reggae and soul melts into one, to create a hook-laden dance track.

Crispy beats and a wistful piano combine with a thoughtful acoustic guitar on Through The Lens. They set the scene for the vocal. It has a spiritual and poetic quality. Before long, it changes hands and becomes dreamy and despairing. Then when a strutting female vocal enters, things get soulful, funky and urgent. It’s a game-changer, and the track swings. Then, the tempo drops. An impassioned rap takes charge, before a sweet, soulful sets the scene for another strutting vocal. After that, True Ingredients mix musical genres, social comment and hooks seamlessly.

Feels Right sees the tempo drop and an an acoustic vocal accompanying a powerhouse of vocal. It’s gloriously soulful, as it soars above the arrangement. Just like previous tracks, the vocal changes hands and becomes a rap. This coincides with the arrangement unfolding and taking on a rocky hue. Strummed guitars and crunchy beats provide the backdrop as True Ingredients combine their vocal talents to create an anthemic track. 

Just a lone acoustic guitar and bongos combine on Boom Time. Soon, a pulsating beat provides the backdrop for an impassion rap. The lyrics are full of social comment. They’re a plea not just for social responsibility during this “Boom Time” in Africa, but an end to poverty. As Mr. Milk takes charge of the vocal, he’s accompanied by harmonies and a pulsating, pounding Afro-beat arrangement. He becomes the hip hop’s social conscience pleading for an end to poverty, racism and inequality.

Atmospheric, dramatic and rocky describes the introduction to Flying High. This rocky arrangement soon returns. That’s after a vocal masterclass unfolds. It comes courtesy of a heartbroken, frustrated female vocal. It’s truly compelling. You want to hear her story. She’s accompanied by crystalline guitars, hypnotic drums and a buzzing bass. That’s until True Ingredients kick loose. They provide a thunderous rocky backdrop. It’s interspersed by a rap. However, it’s the vocal powerhouse that steals the show and results in Flying High being one of the highlights of Through The Lens.

The sound or a helicopter is accompanied Cease Fire a meandering piano and rocky guitar. Drums signal the introduction of another impassioned rap. It rails against the wanton destruction caused by war. Especially, the loss of an innocent bystander’s life. The rap is a fusion of anger, despair and frustration. Other members of True Ingredients holler “Cease Fire,” as another stabs of piano, blistering guitars and pounding rhythm section combine to create a dramatic, rocky arrangement.

From the get-go So Soul sees True Ingredients combine funk and soul. side. Bubbling synths, a funky rhythm section and chiming guitars provide the backdrop for a rap. It’s delivered at breakneck speed, and accompanied by cooing, soulful harmonies. At the heart of the track’s success are one of the best baselines and glistening, shimmering guitars. They provide a 21st Century disco backdrop that’s akin to a homage to Chic.

Straight away, Left The Hood reminds me of Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss. That’s down to the vocal, which sounds as if it’s been honed by a regular diet of cigarettes and whiskey. The arrangement, it’s a fusion of blues, hip hop and rock. A worldweary, lived-in rap is accompanied by guitar, bass, handclaps and harmonies. They veer between doo wop, sixties girls groups and soul. Later, there’s even a nod to Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s Come Up And See Me. A blistering, searing rocky guitar is unleashed and proves to be the finishing touch to this mini masterpiece.

Shimmering synths open Wrong War. It’s another song about war. A dubby, impassioned vocal hollers “ignorance, strength you’re the soldier in the wrong war, couldn’t remember what it was for.” This is just a taste of what are some of the most powerful lyrics on Through The Lens. Especially when accompanied by an arrangement that’s a fusion dub, reggae and hip hop. It’s the perfect backdrop for the thought-provoking lyrics.

A pulsating arrangement on Bottleneck provides the perfect accompaniment for another swaggering female vocal. It’s a mixture of power and passion. Accompanying it is another thunderous, rocky hooky, arrangement. Scorching guitars and a driving rhythm section accompany the vocal. Later, a rap replaces it and delivers lyrics full of scathing social comment. After that, True Ingredients combine their unique brand of social comment, hip hop, hooks and stomping rock.

Me I Am has a sense of foreboding. That’s until finger clicks and rap signal the arrival of a powerhouse of a soulful vocal. It’s accompanied by a pulsating bass. Then when it drops out, the rap returns. Accompanying it are a piano, finger clicks, guitar licks and pounding bass. Add to that searing guitars, a stomping beat and that gloriously soulful, vampish vocal. Combine this and the result is a joyous fusion of hip hop, rock and soul.

World’s Gone Mad closes Through The Lens. The arrangement builds slowly. Instruments are dropped in carefully. They provide the backdrop for the vocals and then another impassioned rap. It delivers lyrics full of social comment. Harmonies answer, “that ain’t right, the World’s Gone Mad.” This seems to spur Mr. Milk on, in his never ending quest for social justice. Eventually, the arrangement explodes. There’s a nod to drum ’n’ bass, U2 and even Deadau 5’s Brazil as True Ingredients combine passion, drama and musical genres in their pursuit for social justice.

Through The Lens, which is True Ingredients sophomore album, is no ordinary album. Far from it. It has been described as an immersive musical experience. That wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. Nowadays, it is. That’s thanks to the advent of groundbreaking, innovative technology. Now, listeners are able to become part of the music. They can embark on a journey into the music. All they need to do this, is any digital device or platform. This allows listeners to interact with 3D scenes and videos. They can even remix tracks and manipulate the imagery around each track. It’s a truly hands-on multimedia experience. For a new generation of technology savvy music lovers, the immersive experience of Through The Lens  is sure to captivate and compel. However, the most important thing about Through The Lens, is the music.

The music on Through The Lens is akin to True Ingredients’ musical manifesto. Their songs are full of social comment. They’re determined to make the world a better place. True Ingredients are frustrated by poverty, racism, war, famine and inequality. They want to highlight these issues. By doing so, maybe, just maybe they’ll make people think about the world’s problems. After all, this generation isn’t as political as previous generation. It’s a long way from the late-sixties and early-seventies. Sadly, nowadays, the world is a much more apathetic place. That’s why musicians like True Ingredients need to highlight these problems. 

Their way of doing this is by mixing musical genres. Ostensibly a hip hop album, Through The Lens veers off in the direction of doo woo, dub, funk, Nu Soul, pop, reggae and rock. The best way to describe Through The Lens, which will be released by BBE Music on 21st July 2014, is musical tapestry. It’s full despair, drama, emotion, frustration, passion and poppy hooks. True Ingredients also ensure that the music is funky, soulful and rocky. Through The Lens is also a swaggering slice of hip hop with a social conscience that marks the return of True Ingredients.

Through The Lens has been a long time coming. Six years to be precise. It’s been worth the wait though. Especially with True Ingredients combining their unique brand of soul, social comment, hip hop, hooks and stomping rock on their sophomore album Through The Lens.

TRUE INGREDIENTS-THROUGH THE LENS.

album_cover___shades_front

THE CONTOURS AND DENNIS EDWARDS-JUST A LITTLE MISUNDERSTANDING-RARE AND UNISSUED MOTOWN 1965-68.

THE CONTOURS AND DENNIS EDWARDS-JUST A LITTLE MISUNDERSTANDING-RARE AND UNISSUED MOTOWN 1965-68.

Three years after The Contours were founded in 1959, they were one of the biggest soul groups. Their 1962 single, Do You Love Me, reached number one and sold over one million copies. The Contours had come a long way in the two years since they signed to Motown. This was ironic, given Berry Gordy originally turned the group down.

That was in 1960, a year after Joe Billingslea and Billy Gordon founded The Blenders in Detroit. They then added Billy Hoggs and Billy Rollins, who responded to Joe’s newspaper advert. This wasn’t the end of the changes. No. Leroy Fair replaced Billy Rollins. The final piece in the musical jigsaw was  Hubert Johnson. This coincided with The Blenders changing their name to The Contours.

Now called The Contours, they auditioned for Berry Gordy’s Motown in the Autumn of 1960. Berry Gordy wasn’t impressed and turned The Contours down. The Contours didm’t give up though.

They visited Hubert Johnson’s cousin Jackie Wilson. He just happened to be a friend of Berry Gordy. Jackie Wilson got The Contours a second audition. At the audition, The Contours sang the same songs and in the same way. This time though Berry Gordy decided he liked The Contours. They were rewarded with a seven year contract. 

Their debut single was Whole Lotta Woman. Released in January 1961 Whole Lotta Woman failed to chart. This was an inauspicious start to their career. It would get worse before it got better. 

Not long after this, Leroy Fair left The Contours. His replacement was Benny Reeves, the brother of Martha Reeves. His time with The Contours was curtailed, when Benny headed of to join the US Navy. Benny’s replacement was Sylvester Potts. He made his debut on The Contours’ sophomore single The Stretch. Just like their debut single, it failed to chart. However, The Contours’ career was about to be transformed.

Early in 1962, The Contours released their third single Do You Love Me. It  reached number one in the US Billboard R&B charts and number three in the US Billboard 100 and sold over one million copies. This was the start of a run of three singles The Contours released between 1963 and early 1964. However, by June 1964 things weren’t going well for The Contours.

Two years later, in June 1964, The Contours weren’t happy. They weren’t happy with what Motown were paying them. Nor were they happy about their conditions. Discussions with Motown President Berry Gordy were going nowhere. After a lengthy discussion, the members of The Contours decided there was only one thing way to resolve the situation, by going on strike. 

This backfired on four members of The Contours. Lead singer Billy Gordon changed his mind about going on strike. Billy and guitarist Huey Davis were kept on by Berry Gordy. However, he sacked the other members of The Contours. In came Council Gay, Jerry Green and Alvin English. Three months later Alvin English left The Contours and Sylvester Potts rejoined the group. This new lineup of The Contours made their debut on Can You Jerk Like Me? It gave The Contours a hit single, reaching number forty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number fifteen in the US R&B charts. Things looked good for the new lineup of The Contours, who feature on Just A Little Misunderstanding-Rare and Unissued 1965-1968, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.

Just A Little Misunderstanding-Rare and Unissued 1965-1968 features twenty-six tracks. This includes a mixture of singles and fourteen unreleased tracks. This makes  Just A Little Misunderstanding-Rare and Unissued 1965-1968 the perfect companion to Kent Soul’s previous compilations of The Contours’ music. It also documents the next chapter in The Contours’ career.

Following the release of Can You Jerk Like Me, there was some debate about what The Contours’ next single would be. Eventually, First I Look At The Purse was released in June 1965. A mid-tempo stomper with a powerhouse of a vocal, it reached number fifty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number twelve in the US R&B charts. Things had started well for the new lineup of The Contours. The success continued.

Just a Little Misunderstanding, which was written by Stevie Wonder, was chosen as The Contours next single in 1966. It doesn’t feature Billy Gordon on lead vocal. Instead, Levi Stubbs’ brother Joe took charge of lead vocal on this horn driven stomper, which would later prove popular among within the Northern Soul scene. Although Just a Little Misunderstanding reached just number eighty-five in the US Billboard 100, it reached number eighteen in the US R&B charts. Over the Atlantic, in the UK, The Contours enjoyed their first hit single, when Just a Little Misunderstanding reached number thirty-one. Tucked away on the B-Side was Determination, which is something of a hidden gem. A dramatic, soulful ballad, it’s nearly as good enough as the single. These weren’t the only tracks where Joe sung the lead vocal.

There are seven other tracks on Just A Little Misunderstanding-Rare and Unissued 1965-1968 where Joe takes charge of the lead vocal. This includes Determination, which was released as a single in April 1966. It failed to chart. Other tracks include the previously unreleased A Weak Spot In My Heart, Need Your Lovin’ (Want You Back), I Grow Deeper In Love Every Day and Come See About Me. The stomping I Can’t Help Loving You Baby wasn’t released until 2007. It features one of Joe’s best lead vocals. He was after all, a talented vocalist. That’s why Joe was asked to join a new Motown group The Originals. As Joe’s career was in the ascendancy, Billy Gordon’s career was spiralling out of control.

One of the reason for this was the loss of Billy Gordon. He left The Contours for good around this time. Billy had left before in 1965, but returned. Now this was for good. This was a disaster for The Contours. It was even worse for Billy. His life seemed to spiral out of control. In 1968, he was arrested for attempted burglary. He was put on probation. After that, things got worse for Billy. Billy spent much of the seventies and eighties in prison. Worse was to come for Billy. 

in 1987, Dirty Dancing featured Do You Love Me. For The Contours this was a huge bonus. Especially Billy, who had sung the lead vocal. So, he decided to try and rejuvenate his career. Things didn’t work out. Nobody would hire Billy. For the next twelve years, his life spiralled further out control. So much so, that in 1997, Billy was reduced to living on the streets. He died later in 1999. Back then, nobody had any idea how bad things would get for Billy Gordon. For The Contours, their career began to stall.

When The Contours entered the studio to record Sometimes I Have To Cry and Our Last Rendezvous, Joe didn’t take charge of the lead vocal. Instead, the songs feature Jerry Green. Sometimes I Have To Cry failed to chart. It saw a return to the familiar Motown sound. On Our Last Rendezvous, it seems as if The Contours have been inspired by The Drifters. A delicious slice of soulful music, it features a new side of The Contours. Other tracks to feature Jerry was Baby Hit And Run and When A Man Loves A Woman, two of the unreleased tracks. It featured what was The Contours’ third lead vocalist. Not long after this, Dennis Edwards would become The Contours’ fourth vocalist.

After Joe Stubbs left The Contours, the hunt began for a new vocalist. Motown knew just the man, Detroit based Dennis Edwards, who just so happened to be signed to Motown. 

Dennis had been forging a career as a singer before he was drafted. When he returned home, he began his career all over again. Before long, he found himself signed to Motown. This seemed a good move. Then he was left in limbo for several month. He was just about to ask to be released from his contract when he was asked to become The Contours’ new lead vocalist.

His debut single with The Contours was It’s Just So Hard Being A Loser. Released in 1967, it stalled at number seventy-nine in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty-five in the US R&B charts. Ironically, it’s one of The Contours best singles. That’s because it marks a move away from the trademark Motown sound.  It marks a coming of age from The Contours. They’re at their soulful best. Accompanied by swirling strings, they deliver a vocal full of heartache and despair. The heartache and despair continues on You’re Love Grows More Precious Everyday. A soul-baring ballad, it’s a glimpse of what The Contours were capable of. After that, Dennis became The Contours full-time lead vocalist.

Unfortunately, It’s Just So Hard Being A Loser was The Contours’ last US single. It wasn’t the last recording Dennis made with The Contours. Far from it. There’s another twelve tracks featuring The Contours’ with Dennis at the helm.

Most of the twelve tracks haven’t been released before. Growing, a smooth and soulful ballad featured on The Contours’ 1974 album Baby Hit and Run. The unreleased tracks include Girl Come On In and the heartfelt I’m Here Now That You Need Me. 

New life and meaning are breathed into three cover versions. The first  What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted. Sunny then takes on a  laid-back, understated and soulful sound. Turn To Stone is the best of the covers. It’s a perfect showcase Dennis and The Contours. They feed off each other as they reinvent a familiar track. 

Two of Dennis’ finest moments are What’s So Good About Goodbye and  You’re Love Grows More Precious Everyday. These track are a taste of what would follow from Dennis. After this, the tempo rises.

Keep On Tryin’ (‘Til You Find Love) is a joyous hidden gem where The Contours, accompanied by dancing strings and handclaps kick loose. Ain’t That Peculiar is driven a rasping horns, cooing harmonies, swirling strings and a stomping beat. There’s no drop in the tempo on the needy I Like Everything About You and Can’t Do Without Your Love and then Which Way To My Baby, which features a heartbroken Dennis. Each of these tracks demonstrate how important a part Dennis Edwards played in The Contours’ story.

Despite Dennis Edwards’ contribution, The Contours never again replicated the commercial success they’d previously enjoyed. The highpoint of their career was their 1962 single, Do You Love Me. It reached number one and sold over one million copies. Never again, would The Contours enjoy the same commercial success. 

Instead, The Contours enjoyed eight further singles after Do You Love Me. These singles never replicated Do You Love Me. That’s despite the undoubted quality of The Contours’ singles. Maybe part of the problem was the changes in The Contours’ lineup.

Maybe part of the problem was they never settled on one vocalist. The loss of Billy Gordon was a big blow. Although three talented vocalists filled Billy’s shoes, this meant that The Contours never quite established their own sound. After all, the four vocalists were very different. Ironically, when The Contours found Dennis Edwards, the vocalist who could revive their fortunes, their career stalled.

When The Contours added Dennis Edwards to their lineup, their success dried up. They only released one further single. That was an opportunity lost. Dennis was a hugely talented vocalist. He could bring lyrics to life, and breath meaning and emotion into them. However, by then, The Contours had slipped down the Motown pecking order.

Sadly, he came to the party too late. By the time Dennis joined The Contours, and took charge of the lead vocal on It’s Just So Hard Being A Lose, other groups were getting priority from the Motown hierarchy. Five years after they’d released their number one single Do You Love Me, The Contours’ career was at a crossroads. Rumours that they were about to release their debut album came to nothing. A year later, The Contours were history.

During the rest of 1967, Dennis split his time between The Contours and his solo career. He recorded a number of vocals. It hadn’t been decided if they should be released by Dennis or The Contours. The Contours final recording was Which Way To My Baby. It wasn’t released until 1996. However, not long after the recording of Which Way To My Baby, The Contours were history.

The end came in 1968, when The Contours were playing a concert in Baltimore. After the concert, Dennis retired to his room, while the rest of The Contours enjoyed some R&R. Then during the night, Dennis was awakened by the police and arrested. 

After Dennis went to his bed, The Contours party got out of hand. Someone was stabbed in the bar. He and the rest of The Contours were arrested and spent a night in the cells. That was the end. When he returned home to Detroit, Dennis told the rest of The Contours he was leaving the group. He went on to join The Temptations. This marked the end of the road for The Contours. 

After nine years and four lead singers, The Contours were no more. They were a hugely talented and soulful group who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed much more commercial success than they did. A reminder of this is Just A Little Misunderstanding-Rare and Unissued 1965-1968, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. 

THE CONTOURS AND DENNIS EDWARDS-JUST A LITTLE MISUNDERSTANDING-RARE AND UNISSUED MOTOWN 1965-68.

CDTOP-419

CDTOP-419b

CDTOP-419d

CDTOP-419a

 CDTOP-419c

EMERSON. LAKE AND PALMER-BRAIN SALAD SURGERY.

EMERSON. LAKE AND PALMER-BRAIN SALAD SURGERY.

For their fourth album, Brain Salad Surgery,  Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate live. That hadn’t been the case with their their three previous albums. Something had to change, they realised.  So, Brain Salad Surgery, which was recently released by Sony as a three disc box set, marked the start of a new era for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, whose career career began  in 1970.

The Emerson, Lake and Palmer story begins in 1970. That was the year Emerson, Lake and Palmer was founded and they released their eponymous debut album.

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake first met at the Filimore West, in San Francisco. Both of them were at a musical crossroads. Keith was a member of The Nice, while Greg Lake was a member of King Crimson. Nether Keith nor Greg felt fulfilled musically. So, the decided to form a new band. 

This new band would feature Keith on keyboards, Greg on bass and a drummer. Their first choice for a drummer was Mitch Mitchell, who was without a band, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up. They agreed to jam together. Then the music press heard about this jam session. 

Rumours started doing the rounds that Jimi Hendrix was going to join this new supergroup. That put an end to the jam session. It never took place. Jimi Hendrix had never been asked to join the supergroup. Mitch Mitchell meanwhile, lost interest in the project. This presented a problem. Keith and Greg still didn’t have a drummer. Then Robert Stigwood, who was then the manager of Cream, suggested Carl Palmer’s name.

Carl Palmer was another experienced musician. He’d previously been a member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. At that time, he was a member of Atomic Rooster. So Carl was approached. He was, at first, reluctant to leave Atomic Rooster, which he’d cofounded. However, when he spoke to Keith and Greg he realised that he could be part of something special. 

Having left Atomic Rooster, he became the third member of the newly formed supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They made their debut at The Guildhall, Plymouth, on 23rd August 1970. Then on 26th August 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer stole the show at the Isle Of Wight Festival. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer being offered a recording contract by Atlantic Records.

Ahmet Ertegün the President of Atlantic Records realised the potential in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here was a band who wouldn’t just sell a huge amount of records, but could fill huge venues. So, not long after signing Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ahmet Ertegün sent them into Advision Studios, London.

At  Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded ten tracks. They became Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Although this was meant to be the birth of a supergroup, the ten tracks on Emerson, Lake and Palmer came across as a series of solo pieces. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a new band, who’d just recorded an eclectic and innovative album.

Although many people refer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer as prog rock band, they’re much more than that. Their music is eclectic. They draw inspiration from a variety of sources.  This includes classical, folk rock, jazz, psychedelia and rock. Some of the music is futuristic. That’s in part to Keith Emerson’s use of the Moog synth. The result was a pioneering, innovative album that would launch Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career.

When critics heard Emerson, Lake and Palmer, they hailed the album as innovative and influential. On its release  in the UK in October 1970, i Emerson, Lake and Palmer reached number four. Three months later, on New Year’s Day 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer was released in the US. It reached number eighteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Ahmet Ertegün, the President of Atlantic Records had been vindicated. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were on their way to becoming rock royalty.

It was a case of striking when the iron was hot for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They returned to  Advision Studios, in London to record what became their sophomore album Tarkus. It was much more of a “band” album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were now a tight, musical unit. This was very different from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was more like an album of solo pieces. Tarkus saw the birth of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as one of the giants of prog rock.

Tarkus was released in June 1971. That wasn’t originally the plan. Instead, Pictures At An Exhibition was meant to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sophomore album. This was a live album which was recorded in March 1971. It saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer interpret Modest Mussorgsky’s opus Pictures At An Exhibition. it was a groundbreaking album. There was a problem though. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s management didn’t agree. They weren’t sure that what essentially a interpretation of a classical suite was the direction Emerson, Lake and Palmer should be heading. So, Tarkus became the followup to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

On its release in June 1971, critics realised that Tarkus marked a much more united Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were well on the way to finding their trademark sound. Gone were ballads and jazz-tinged tracks. Instead, it was prog rock all the way. Record buyers loved Tarkus. It reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Following the commercial success of Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition was released later in 1971.

Pictures At An Exhibition was released as a budget priced album in November 1971. It reached number three in the UK. In America, Pictures At An Exhibition reached number ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third consecutive gold album. A year later, three became four.

Just like previous albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were determined to push musical boundaries on Trilogy, their third studio album. Just like their two previous albums, Trilogy was recorded at Advision Studios, London. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at their innovative best, recording  progressive rock, but with a twist. 

An example of this was the inclusion of Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. Rather than the usual 3/4 rhythm a Bolero would have, it was turned into a march by using a 4/4 rhythm. Emerson, Lake and Palmer also pioneered the beating heart sound on Trilogy. Pink Floyd would use it to such good effect on Dark Side Of The Moon. So would Jethro Tull on A Passion Play and Queen on Queen II. This sound was first heard on Endless Enigma Part One. It came courtesy of Carl Palmer’s Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal. Once again, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were demonstrating that they were one of the most innovative progressive rock bands. Their efforts were rewarded.

On its release in January 1972, Trilogy reached number two in the US. As usual, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed more success in the US. Trilogy reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another gold disc for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Things were about to get better for Emerson, Lake and Palmer though.

Of the three previous studio albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded, they complex, innovative, genre-melting affairs. Emerson, Lake and Palmer embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection. They also made use of overdubbing. This made their music difficult to replicate live. The band always felt they came up short live. So Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate accurately live. This was Brain Surgery Salad, which Sony recently released as a three disc box set.

Recording of Brian Surgery Salad took place between June and September 1973. Brain Salad Surgery was a fusion of prog rock and classical music. This is obvious straight away. 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer adapted  William Blake and Hubert Parry’s hymn Jerusalem and then Alberto Ginastera’s Toccata. Greg Lake wrote Still…You Turn Me On and then cowrote Benny The Bouncer and Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression with Keith Emerson and Peter Sinfield, one of the founding members of King Crimson. Keith Emerson penned Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression and cowrote Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 with Greg Lake also penned Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1. These tracks were brought to life by Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive best.

On Brain Salad Surgery, Keith Emerson played Hammond organ, piano, accordion and a myriad of synths. Greg Lake took charge of vocals, acoustic, electric, and twelve-string guitars. He also played bass guitar. Carl Palmer played drums, percussion, percussion synthesizers, gongs and timpani. Greg Lake produced Brian Surgery Salad, which was released in November 1973.

When Brain Salad Surgery, was released in November 1973, it became Emerson, Lake and Palmer most successful album. It reached number two in the UK and number eleven in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in two more gold discs to add to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s collection. They were well deserved though.

There’s no doubt that Brain Salad Surgery was the finest hour of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s four album career. Brian Surgery Salad featured Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. Here was a tight, visionary band fusing prog rock, jazz and classical music. It was an ambitious, powerhouse of an album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers.

This was obvious from the get-go. Brian Surgery Salad begins with the reinvention of Jerusalem and Toccata. Jerusalem becomes a dramatic marriage of electronics and rock, before heading back to its religious roots. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer can’t resist the theatre and the track becomes almost wonderfully overblown. This continues on Toccata, another dramatic fusion of rock and electronics. It’s grandiose, futuristic, dramatic and features prog rock royalty at their visionary best. How many groups would have had the vision and bravery to open an album with a take on a hymn and then a classical piece? After that, Emerson, Lake and Palmer change tack.

Still You Turn Me On is a beautiful, heartfelt, soul-baring ballad. It’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd and shows another side to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This was absent on Trilogy and makes a welcome return on Brain Salad Surgery

Very different is Benny The Bouncer. It shows that Emerson, Lake and Palmer have a sense of humour. A fusion of vaudeville, pomp rock and pub rock, it teaches you to expect the unexpected as far as Emerson, Lake and Palmer are concerned.

The centrepiece of Brain Salad Surgery is Karn Evil. It’s four separate pieces that make up an prog rock epic. Originally, Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 and 2 were meant to be one song. The time limits of vinyl put paid to that. So, the song became two parts. 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer kick loose from the get-go. They produce a virtuoso permanence, combining drama with flamboyance to create a prog rock powerhouse. Crucial to the song’s success are the bleak lyrics and Greg’s vocal. It’s that’s an outpouring of despair and disbelief. Then there’s a series of musical masterclasses. Keith pounds at his Hammond organ as if in frustration, while Greg Lake seems to have tapped into the spirit of Hendrix. His performance is otherworldly. So is the music. It’s sometimes futuristic, with a dramatic 21st Century sound. As for Carl Palmer, he won’t be outdone and adds a thunderous heartbeat. The result is a thirteen minute epic, that showcases Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive, innovative best.

There’s another change in style on Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression. It sees Emerson, Lake and Palmer turn their back on the progressive, sci-fi rocky sound. It’s replaced by a seven minute jazz instrumental. Emerson, Lake and Palmer manage to make this work. They’re versatile and talented musicians who are just as happy playing jazz as rock. Later, they take a detour via Latin and rock music, as they showcase their versatility and undeniable talent.

Gone is the jazz of the previous track on Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression, which loses Brain Salad Surgery. It sees a return to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s usual prog rock sound. It’s as if everything was building up to this track. Banks of synths and the distorted  bass play important parts. Their raison d’être us providing a backdrop for Greg’s powerhouse of a vocal. Again, the lyrics are bleak. He’s like a seer, whose seen the future and doesn’t like it. Dread and despair fills his vocal, at what the future holds. Effects are added to the vocal, as if someone is trying to silence Greg during a track that’s a potent mixture of drama, emotion, music and theatre. 

Having said that Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression marks an end to Brain Salad Surgery, that’s not quite correct. Not if you’re holding a copy of Brain Surgery Salad box set, which was recently released by Sony. 

Disc two is entitled The Alternate Brain Salad Surgery. It features twelve tracks. This includes alternate versions, B-Sides, first mixes and backing tracks. Some of the tracks have never been released before. They’re a window into the inventive and innovative world of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. During these twelve tracks, Emerson, Lake and Palmer take the tracks in a variety of directions. Sometimes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer bowl a series of curveballs. You never foresaw what follows. Mind you, that’s what you expect from one of the most groundbreaking groups of the seventies, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. That’s apparent on disc three.

On disc three, which is a DVD, there’s two versions of Brain Salad Surgery.. The first is original album remastered. There’s also a new 2014 stereo mix. Both these new version allow you to hear new subtleties and nuances. They shine through on the two versions of Brain Surgery Salad, which seems to breath new life and meaning into what was the most successful album of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career.

Although Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career continued after Brain Salad Surgery. they never released as successful an album. They released five further albums. 1977s Works Volume 1 were certified gold in the UK, Canada and US. Later in 1977, Works Volume 2, was certified gold in the US. Then 1978s Love Beach was certified gold in the US and silver in the UK. Neither 1992s Black Moon nor In The Hot Seat. However,  Brain Salad Surgery. remains Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoy biggest selling album. No wonder. 

Brain Salad Surgery demonstrates Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative and groundbreaking best. Here were Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. It was as if everything had been building up to Brain Salad Surgery. So when Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Brain Salad Surgery they were  a tight, visionary band. Their fusion of prog rock, jazz and classical music resulted in an ambitious, powerhouse of an album, Brain Salad Surgery which features Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers.

EMERSON. LAKE AND PALMER-BRAIN SALAD SURGERY.

81d0PCn5yRL._SL1500_

41fK1az72eL

81DvdtwF+kL._SL1500_

81FTVty-+DL._SL1500_

 

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH AND YOUNG-C.S.N.Y. 1974.

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH AND YOUNG-C.S.N.Y. 1974.

Forty years ago, in 1974, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young put their differences aside, and embarked upon what was the first ever outdoor stadium tour. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had been on hold for nearly three years. It had been four years since Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released their sophomore album Deja Vu in March 1970.

Deja Vu was the first album since the band became a quartet. It reached number one in the US and was certified platinum seven times over. This vindicated the decision to bring Neil Young onboard. 

When Crosby, Stills and Nash was released in May 1969, a year after the band was formed, it reached number six in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Crosby, Stills and Nash being certified platinum four times over. Good as Crosby, Stills and Nash was, with Neil Young onboard they were transformed. They became a supergroup, who the skies were the limit. That was until Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young embarked on their 1970 tour.

Following the success of Deja Vu ,and its two top twenty singles, Woodstock and Teach Your Children, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young headed out on tour. At first things went well. Then the problems started. Arguments, backbiting and disagreements were commonplace. Then bassist Greg Reeves began behaving erratically. So Stephen Stills fired him. He was replaced by Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels. Not long after that, the Kent State shootings happened. 

Disgusted at what he saw, Neil Young wrote Ohio is response to the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on 4th May 1970. The song was hurriedly recorded and released as a single. It gave Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young another hit single. Little did anyone realise Ohio  would prove to be Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young last recording for seven long years. 

Despite all the commercial success and critical acclaim Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were enjoying, the band weren’t getting on well. Relationships were strained at best. It was always going to come to a head. That happened after the tour ended in the summer of 1970. Literally, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young imploded. 

It looked like the end of the road for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. By the end of tour, relationships were at an all time low. Many people thought they’d never record again. Even the record company, Atlantic, must have thought this. They released 4 Way Street in April 1971. Just like Deja Vu, 4 Way Street reached number one on the US Billboard 200. Having sold over four million copies, 4 Way Street was certified four-times platinum. For Atlantic Records and everyone connected to the band, it must have been hugely frustrating. Here was a supergroup who could go on to become one of the most successful groups of the seventies. Despite this, there would be no turning back. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were no more. The four members of the band embarked upon solo projects.

These solo projects had proved hugely successful. Especially Neil Young’s 1972 critically acclaimed classic album Harvest. It reached number one in the UK and US Billboard 200. This resulted in in Harvest being certified triple platinum in the UK and four-times platinum in the US. A year later, Neil’s first live album, Time Fades Away was certified gold in the US. With this sort of commercial success and critical acclaim coming his way, there wasn’t much incentive to reform Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The same could be said of Stephen Stills. 

Back in July 1971, he’d released his sophomore album Stephen Stills 2. Although it wasn’t as well received as his eponymous debut album, Stephen Stills 2 reached number eight in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. So was David Crosby’s 1971 debut album. 

This was If I Could Only Remember My Name. Released in February 1971, If I Could Only Remember My Name reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. The last member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was also enjoying commercial success.

Graham Nash released Songs For Beginners in May 1971. It reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. His sophomore album Wild Tales was released in December 1973, but stalled at number thirty-four in the US Billboard 200. However, despite that Graham Nash hadn’t much incentive to reform Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. 

By 1974, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young hadn’t set foot in a studio since they recorded Ohio in 1970. They wouldn’t set foot in a recording studio again until 1977s C.S.N. By then the band would be reduced to a trio, with Neil Young concentrating on his solo career. It wasn’t until 1988s American Dream that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young would record another album. They did set aside their differences to tour in 1974, when promoter Bill Graham persuaded Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to embark upon what would become the first ever outdoor stadium tour. That legendary tour is documented on the recently released Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young live album C.S.N.Y. 1974, which was recently release by Rhino. 

Bill Graham had made his name as a promoter and musical impresario in the 1960s. He also owned Filmore Records between 1969 and 1976. By 1974, he’d promoted the great and good of music. Everyone from The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, The Allman Brothers, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Hot Tuna, Neil Young and Bob Dylan had been promoted by Bill Graham. The one group Bill Graham hadn’t promoted was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

That didn’t look like it was going to happen. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were on a hiatus. It had been nearly three years since they last played together. As a music fan, this saddened him. However, as a businessman, Bill saw a massive lost opportunity.

Here were a band that had released just two studio albums and one live album. However, their album sales in the US were over fourteen million. Then there was the rest of the world. Australia, Canada, Europe and the UK had all been won over by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. If only he could get them to put aside their differences, they could make a lot of money, thanks to a new type of tour, the outdoor stadium tour.

Bill Graham had used this when Bob Dylan and The Band played ten dates in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Oakland. Twenty-one tracks recorded on that tour became Before the Flood, Bob Dylan and The Band’s 1974 live album. Realising that this was only the tip of a musical iceberg, Bill Graham decided to take this idea further. To do this, he had to get Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young onboard.

Somehow, Bill managed to persuade Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young that here was the future of touring. They put aside their differences and grievances to to embark on a thirty-one date tour, where they’d play in twenty-four American cities. They even flew across the Atlantic to play in London’s Wembley Arena. Little did Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young know, but they were musical pioneers. This was the future of touring.

For their 1974 tour, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young brought onboard bassist Tim Drummond, drummer Russ Kunkel and percussionist Joe Lala. They would embark upon one of the most ambitious concert tours ever. 

Over two months, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young played thirty-one concerts in twenty-four American cities. This required a small army of road crew, truck drivers and tradesman. They ensured several tons of instruments, equipment and a fully equipped recording studio were ready go each night. Especially ten nights in particular. 

These ten nights were when 1974 was recorded. The first two dates took place at Nassau County Coliseum Hempstead, NewYork on the 14th and 15th August 1974. Four nights later, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young played three nights at the Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland between the 19th and 21st August 1974. From there they headed to the Windy City. At the Chicago Stadium, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young played three concerts between the 27th and 29th August 1974. After that, the band headed to the UK.

On September 14th 1974, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young played Wembley Stadium. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young came and conquered. It was obvious, that if they could set aside their respective egos, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young could become one of the biggest bands in musical history. That was a big if though.

By December 14th 1974, when Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young arrived at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, to play a benefit concert in aid of the Farmworkers Union and Project Jonah. That night, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young produced one of the best performances of the tour. That was fitting, given the 1974 was drawing to a close. It had been some tour.

Each night, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young walked onstage and proceeded to play for three-and-a-half hours. The songs were a mixture of old favourites and new songs. Many of the songs would never have been heard if Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were onstage for just a a couple of hours. Instead, the lengthy sets allowed them to stretch their legs musically. That’s apparent on the recently released 1974 album.

Just like many releases, C.S.N.Y. 1974 is available in various formats. There’s the four disc box set. It features three CDs and a DVD. The other version is the single disc edition which I’m reviewing. It features sixteen tracks. None of them have been released before.

The sixteen tracks on 1974 are a mixture of tracks from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young two studio albums and their solo albums. 

Four tracks are taken from Crosby, Stills and Nash 1969 eponymous debut album. Back then, they were just a trio. Now a quartet, new life and meaning is breathed into Wooden Ships, Long Time Gone the wistful Guinevere and the beautiful  poignant Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

Only three tracks from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s sophomore album Deja Vu feature on 1974. They’re Our House, the heartfelt Teach Your Children, and despairing Helpless. The other Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song to feature on 1974 is Ohio. Written by Neil Young’s it’s a timeless protest song from one of the most talented songwriters of his generation. That’s not the only example of this.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a track from Neil’s third studio album After The Gold Rush, which was released in August 1970. Released as a single, it gave Neil his first top forty single. An outpouring of grief and heartache, Neil is meant to have written the song after Graham Nash split-up with Joni Mitchell. Neil’s other contribution was Old Man, a track from his 1972 sophomore album Harvest. It’s a classic album and one of the finest albums ever recorded. On 1974, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young breath new life and beauty into a familiar song. They do the same with a song that’s become synonymous with Stephen Stills.

That’s Love The One You’re With. It’s a track from Stephen’s eponymous 1970 debut album. It gave Stephen number fourteen hit in the US Billboard 100 in 1970. With its rousing, anthemic sound, it’s the perfect way to open 1974. Change Partners is a track from Stephen Stills 2. It features a vocal tinged with hurt. It’s also rueful and full of regret. Just like Stephen’s other contribution, Johnny’s Garden, these tracks are reinvented by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. They take on new life when accompanied by the harmonic delights of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That’s the case with David Crosby’s contribution.

David was a talented songwriter. Of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs on 1974, David wrote two tracks cowrote another. He also contributed The Lee Shore. It hadn’t been recorded before and made its debut on the 1974 tour. Another song from the pen of David Crosby was Immigration Man. This was a collaboration between David and Stephen Stills. They released Immigration Man as a single in 1972. Just like David Crosby there was only one song from Graham Nash’s solo career on 1974.

That’s Chicago, a track from Graham’s 1971 solo album Songs for Beginners. It’s another track oozing social comment. It tells the story of the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Graham, just like Neil Young, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, is a talented and experienced songwriter. He has the ability to paint pictures with words. In the hands of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young they take on a new significance. Frustration, anger and drama shines through as the lyrics are almost spat out. Listening to Chicago, it’s as if the frustration and anger is getting the better of Graham. A powerful song from the pen of Graham Nash, It’s apt that’s it’s followed by Ohio, which closes C.S.N.Y. 1974

Ohio is another track that deals with political unrest and violence. Written by Nell Young, it’s another powerful, poignant song that proves the perfect way to close 1974. It’s a reminder of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s first outdoor stadium tour. 

Looking back it’s remarkable that the 1974 tour ever finished. Despite Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young telling the world everything was well, and they were getting along fine, that was far from the case.

Just like before, arguments, backbiting and excesses were omnipresent. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young weren’t getting on well. The arguments that caused the group to split in late 1970, were back. If the truth be known, they never went away. Then there was the rock ’n’ excesses and strange behaviour.

Excesses are nothing new on a rock ’n’ tour. Especially in 1974. It was almost expected. Fans would be disappointed if a band weren’t drunk, wasted or wrecking hotel rooms. Drink and drugs were commonplace on tours in the seventies. They kept the show on the road. For some members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young this was the case.

David Crosby seemed to be living the life. He was said to have a healthy appetite for excess. Drink and drugs were constant companions. He was also embracing the polyamorous’ lifestyle. This had been the case since the death of companion Christine Hinto in 1969. On the 1974 tour, he had two “companions” who constantly vied for his attention. Even just before a show. After that, he’d dawn his familiar garb of fatigues and American football tops and hit the stage. Not everyone embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

Neil Young was enjoying the most productive period of his career. On tour, he kept himself away from the rest of the band. He wanted no part of the excess. No wonder. The success he was enjoying surpassed what his three colleagues enjoyed. On the 1974 tour, the happily married Neil Young wrote a dozen new songs. He showcased them on the 1974 tour. They would go on to feature on albums like 1974s On The Beach, 1975s Zuma, 1977s American Stars and Bars, 1978s Comes A Time  and Bars and 1980s Hawkes and Doves. A taste of these albums were heard during the 1974 tour. 

During the 1974 tour, Neil Young was in fine voice. So were the three other band members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. That’s apparent when they each take charge of the lead vocal. The other three add their trademark harmonies. Bill Graham had been right. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were still a huge draw. 

They filled each of the twenty-four venues. As soon as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young walked onstage, they raised the roof. Each night, they played for three-and-a-half hours. The songs were a mixture of old favourites and new songs. Many of the songs would never have been heard if Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were onstage for just a a couple of hours. Instead, the lengthy sets allowed them to stretch their legs musically. That’s apparent on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s live album 1974, which was recently released by Rhino.

1974 is a reminder of a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at the peak of their powers. They were one of the biggest supergroups. However, they should’ve been a much bigger group than they were. They never really fulfilled their potential. 

Differences, grievances and excesses meant that between 1969 and 1999, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young only released eight albums. Neil Young, who featured on 1970s Deja Vu, didn’t return until 1988s American Dream. It was certified platinum. After that, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young only released three further albums. Sadly, they never matched the success of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s first five studio albums. 

Of the first five albums Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released, their first two albums were their finest. 1969s Crosby, Stills and Nash and 1970s Deja Vu feature Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at their very best. That was before the backbiting, differences, grievances and excesses got in the way of the music in 1970. Four years 

In 1974, these differences were put aside for a thirty-one date tour. It saw Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young roll back the years. They revisited old favourites and showcased new songs during Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1974 tour. It saw Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the original supergroup, put aside their differences, and showcase their considerable talents over the sixteen songs on C.S.N.Y. 1974.

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH AND YOUNG-C.S.N.Y. 1974.

A1VyZhMFq1L._SL1500_

41cmVXBz-6L

91ZPfodSSvL._SL1500_

GULP-SEASON SUN.

GULP-SEASON SUN.

It’s just over two years ago that Gulp released their debut single, Game Love. It was released to critical acclaim, and resulted in Gulp supporting  Django Django on a tour of the UK and Ireland. This wasn’t end of the link with Django Django.

No. Gulp were asked to contribute a track to Hi Djinx! Django Django Remixed. Gulp chose Hand Of Man. Not only was the remix well received, but introduced Gulp’s music to a much wider audience. 

So by the time Gulp released their sophomore single Play in July 2013, word was spreading about their music. Many people who heard Play, presumed that Gulp were just another new band. They were wrong.

Gulp were formed by Super Furry Animals’ Guto Pryce. He’s a veteran of the music industry. His career started in 1988, when he was just eighteen. For the next five years, he collaborated with a number of artists and was a member various bands. Then in 1993, Guto cofounded Super Furry Animals in 1993. 

After founding the Super Furry Animals in 1983, they spent three years honing their sound. Then in 1996, Alan McGhee heard the Super Furry Animals live. That night, he signed then to Creation Records. They released their debut album Fuzzy Logic in 1996. Released to widespread critical acclaim, Fuzzy Logic was certified silver. That was just the start of the commercial success and critical acclaim that came the Super Furry Animals’ way.

They released a total of nine albums between 1996s Fuzzy Logic and their final album Dark Days/Light Years. Four of the albums were certified silver and one gold. The Super Furry Animals’ fusion of psychedelic rock and electronica proved popular, not just in the UK, but further afield.Sadly, nothing lasts forever and the Super Furry Animals called time on their career in 2010. Apart from one concert in 2012, the Super Furry Animals haven’t played together since.

After that, Guto formed Gulp, who released their much anticipated debut album Season Sun on Sonic Cathedral on 14th July 2014. Gulp is a collaboration between Guto and his wife, vocalist Lindsey Leven. They were joined by some familiar faces.

When recording of Season Sun got underway, joining Guto and Lindsey are two former member of Super Furry Animals, keyboardist Cian Ciaran and drummer Dafydd Ieuan. They’re joined by Former ex-Race Horses drummer Gwion Llewelyn, percussionist Johnny Gumbo, guitarist Gid Goundrey, drummer and backing vocalist Gwion Llewelyn plus eGareth Bonello on acoustic guitar and cello. This was the band that recorded Season Sun, Gulps’ debut album, which I’ll tell you about.

Game Love which opens Season Sun, was released as Gulps’ debut single back in 2012. Waves of a buzzy bass and motorik beat combine with ethereal beauty of Lindsey Leven’s tender vocal. Shimmering, quivering guitars and a strummed acoustic are added. By now, folk, Krautrock perfect pop, psychedelia and rock have been combined beautifully by Gulp. The result is a sixties inspired track that sets the bar high for the rest of Season Sun.

A fuzzy bass plays its part in Let’s Grow’s futuristic introduction. That’s the first of many curveballs. Crystalline guitars and an urgent rhythm section provide the backdrop for Lyndsey’s vocal. It veers between tender, dreamy and briefly, urgent. That’s when a Hammond organ adds a sixties sound. It also helps drive the arrangement along. When it drops out, Lyndsey’s tender, cooing vocal returns. Later, keyboards add to the psychedelic sound, as musical influences are fused to create a genre-melting track.

Straight away, the combination of drum machines and synths that open Clean and Serene remind me of Kraftwerk. Then Lyndsey’s breathy, dreamy folk-pop vocal enters. It’s a contrast to the rest of the arrangement, which has a robotic, futuristic sound. They’re like yin and yang. Especially when bursts of drama are added. Complimenting Lyndsey’s vocal are lysergic harmonies. They’re the perfection addition as the track heads towards its hypnotic crescendo.

Vast Space is totally different to the previous track. It has a much more rocky sound. From the get-go, the arrangement explodes into life. A powerhouse of a rhythm section and searing guitars drive the arrangement along. Lyndsey’s vocal is tender and fragile. Despite that, it’s not swamped by the thunderous arrangement. It now includes a fuzzy bass, jangling guitar and Doors’ inspired keyboards. All this shows another side to Gulp’s music and musical influences.

Grey Area has a slow, shimmering cinematic sound. This comes courtesy of the guitar. Then a fuzzy, bass enters. It grabs your attention. The baton then passes back to the guitar, which introduces the ethereal beauty of Lyndsey’s vocal. It’s heartfelt and tender, and is complimented by the rest of the arrangement. This includes gently strummed guitars and an understated rhythm section. Sixties inspired psychedelic keyboards quiver and shiver, before Lyndsey’s vocal returns. Her vocal adds to the psychedelic influence. After that, the trippy arrangement meanders along, its dreamy delights drawing you in and proves captivating.

On Seasoned Sun, it’s apparent that Gulp are a band whose musical influences are rooted in the sixties and seventies. Everything from pop, psychedelia, Krautrock and rock have influenced them. Their music also has a cinematic sound. Especially given Lyndsey’s breathy, ethereal vocal and the jangling guitars. This brings to mind David Lynch and Win Wenders soundtracks. Then there’s bursts of a rocky, buzzing, bass, a motorik beat and psychedelic keyboards. The result is Gulp paying homage to the music that inspired them and Season Sun.

Play was Gulp’s sophomore single. It shows another side of Gulp. Rolls of thundering drums and Clash inspired guitars set the scene for Lyndsey’s urgent, punchy vocal. Gone is the breathy, ethereal sound. She’s much more forceful, defiant even. This means she’s in tune with the drama and urgency of the arrangement. Synths take the arrangement in the direction of psychedelia. There’s even a nod to Krautrock. Later, a buzzy bass and dreamy harmonies are added to this dreamy and lysergic musical merry-go-round, that you won’t want to climb off of.

Hot Water sees the tempo drop. A guitar meanders across the arrangement, setting the seen for Lyndsey’s dreamy, delicate vocal. She sounds as if she’s been inspired by Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. Floaty harmonies accompany her all the way. The rest of Gulp play second fiddle to Lyndsey. They take care never to overpower her vocal. Instead they compliment it and prove the perfect accompaniment. That’s why without doubt, Hot Water is the highlight of Seasoned Sun.

Everything features a duet between Lynsey and Guto. Their vocals work well together. That’s partly because Guto drops his vocal, so it doesn’t overpower Lyndsey’s tender, dreamy vocal. Meanwhile, the  rhythm section and crystalline guitars provide a bright, poppy backdrop. Later, it’s all change. They seem to draw inspiration from Kraftwerk as the track becomes a compelling fusion of folk pop and Krautrock.

I Want to Dance closes Season Sun. Here, Gulp seem to have been listening to sixties’ girl group’s like The Shangri-Las. That’s what’s influenced Lyndsey’s needy vocal and the harmonies. Accompanying her vocal is an understated motorik backdrop. It quickly builds. Handclaps, psychedelic synths, fuzzy bass and driving guitars combine.  Waves of synths replace Lyndsey’s vocal as the track takes on a mesmeric, hypnotic sound. Then towards the end, Gulp tease and toy with you, unleashing waves of slow synths. This is very different from what went before and isn’t how you expected what was a glorious slice of poppy music to end. However, by now, you should realise always to expect the unexpected from Gulp.

During a career that’s lasted twenty-six years, Guto Pryce has done just about everything. It’s no exaggeration to call Guto a veteran of the music industry. Music is what he’s dedicated his life to. Since 1988, he’s played in various bands. This includes the hugely successful Super Funny Animals. Guto has collaborated with a variety of artists. There’s also the small matter of four solo albums. Gulp is just Guto’s latest project.

Gulp is a collaboration between Guto and his wife, vocalist Lindsey Leven. They released their debut single Game Love in 2012. Then in 2013 Play became their sophomore single. Then on 14th July 2014, Sonic Cathedral released Season Sun, Gulp’s long awaited debut album. It features some familiar faces. 

This includes two former member of Super Furry Animals, keyboardist Cian Ciaran and drummer Dafydd Ieuan. They were joined by Former ex-Race Horses drummer Gwion Llewelyn on Season Sun. The result is a genre-melting album. 

Everything from dream pop, electronica, folk, Krautrock, pop, psychedelia and rock are combined on Season Sun’s ten tracks. The music is beautiful, breathy, dramatic, dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic, lysergic and mesmeric. It’s also captivating and compelling. Season Sun is all this and much more.  Another word to describe Season Sun is cinematic. 

With some of the track on Season Sun, the music takes on a cinematic sound. That’s no surprise. Guto has written music for television before. So it’s no surprise that when you listen to some of the music on Season Sun, paints pictures in your mind’s eye. A variety of scenarios unfold before you. You’re taken on a magical musical journey, courtesy of Gulp. Much of the success of Season Sun is Lindsey Leven’s vocal. 

Her breathy, ethereal vocals remind me of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and sometimes, Nico of the Velvet Underground. Lindsey’s vocals are at the heart of Gulp’s success. It wouldn’t be the same album without her. Lindsey is without doubt, a seriously talented vocalist. She plays her part in Season Sun’s sound and success. So do the rest of Gulp. 

They’re experienced and talented musicians, who have many years of experience behind them. It shines through on Season Sun. So do their musical influences. They shine through on Season Sun. Everything from Can, Cocteau Twins, Kraftwerk, Neu, Nico, Velvet Underground, The Byrds and The Shangri-Las. So do the soundtracks from the films of David Lynch and Wim Wenders. This eclectic fusion of musical influences and genres plays a part in Season Sun, the much anticipated and critically acclaimed debut album from Gulp. It’s been two years in the making. Hopefully, it won’t be another two years before Gulp release the followup to Season Sun.

GULP-SEASON SUN.

81xx10z3q5L._SL1242_

71bihMIk6SL._SL1246_

 

RARE PSYCH MOOGS AND BRASS 1969-1981-MUSIC FROM THE SONOTON LIBRARY.

RARE PSYCH MOOGS AND BRASS 1969-1981-MUSIC FROM THE SONOTON LIBRARY. 

Mention KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton to most people, and they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. However, mention it to several generations of sample-hungry hip hop producers and crate-digging DJs, and their eyes will light up. Their eyes will also have lit up at Buried Treasures’ recent release of Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library. It’s the latest compilation of library music to be released.

Ever since the birth of hip hop, library music has proved a source of inspiration for sample-hungry hip hop producers and crate-digging DJs alike. For producers and DJs alike, library music is musical gold. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Library music has proved to be, a veritable feast of musical riches.

Especially for sample hungry producers. After the birth of hip hop, many samples had been used extensively. Producers were always on the look out for something new. No longer was the Amen Break, Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band or James Brown seen as innovative. They’d been overused. Then there were a whole host of samples that were off-limits. Clearance was never going to be granted. If it was, it would be prohibitively expensive. So, producers had to look elsewhere. 

Often this was back street record shops, thrift stores, junk shops, dusty basements and warehouses. That’s where many producers discovered the delights of library music. They came across library music from KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton. Little did they realise that they’d just struck gold.

This was also the case for many crate digging DJs. They were determined not to play the same music as other DJs. Nor would they become one of these DJs whose sets hardly ever changed. So, they became passionate and persistent crate-diggers. 

Their raison d’être was unearthing hidden gems. Their quest in unearthing those elusive hidden gems, saw them head where other crate diggers fear to tread. Whether it’s dusty basements, thrift stores, warehouses or record shops, nowhere is off limits. As a result, and unlike many other DJs, they don’t focus on one genre of music. Instead, no genre of music, it seems, is overlooked. As a result, they built up a collection that was eclectic and appealed to those with the most discerning of musical tastes. During one of their many crate digging expeditions, the crate digging DJ is sure to have come across library music. 

Especially the music of the biggest music libraries, including KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton. Library music was meant to be used by film studios or television and radio stations. It was never meant to be commercially available. The music was recorded on spec by music libraries. 

To do this, they hired often young unknown composers, musicians and producers. Once recorded, record libraries sent out demonstration copies of their music to production companies. If the production companies liked what they heard, they’d license it from the music libraries. Many of these music libraries also released singles and albums. 

Given many of the releases were written, recorded and produced by young unknown composers, musicians and producers, it’s no surprise that they weren’t a commercial success. Especially since the music libraries didn’t have large promotional budgets. So, just like so much of the music dissevered by the crate digger, it’s lain unloved and discovered for years. That’s until the music became part of the DJs sets. As a result, library music was given a new lease of life. 

That’s thanks to sample hungry producer, crate diggers or music lovers with eclectic and discerning tastes. They all have one thing in common, their ongoing and never-ending search for new music. It’s a thirst that can’t be quenched. Each and every day of their lives the search continues for that elusive hidden gem. Always, there’s the hope that you’ve unearthed the record that transforms your life. Maybe that’ll be found within one of the Sonoton music library.

The Sonoton music library was founded in 1965, by Rotheide and Gerhard Narholz. Nearly fifty years later, it’s one of the biggest independent production companies in the world. Its back-catalogue is best described as eclectic. There’s a myriad of cult classics, hidden gems and rarities awaiting discovery. I say awaiting, because for some reason, many sample hungry producers and crate diggers have managed to overlook the Sonoton music library. Hopefully not any more. Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library will whet your appetite to the delights awaiting discovery within the vaults of the Sonoton music library.

Opening Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library is Walter Rauxel’s Vision Receiver. Walter Rauxel is just one of a number of aliases used by Sonoton cofounder Gerhard Narholz. The music is variously dramatic, moody, haunting and trippy. Later, it’s pulsating and funky. No wonder. Everything from funk, jazz, psychedelia and rock are combined by seamlessly by Walter.

Gerhard Narholz returns with UFO Invasion, whichIt featured on the 1974 album Wildlife-Themesets. It was released by the Conroy music library, and also featured tracks from Sam Sklair and Robert Sharples. Swathes of dramatic, futuristic music are unleashed. Partly, this comes courtesy of stabs of soaring brass. Then later, the music becomes understated and melancholy. The result is a  track full of contrasts and constant surprises. Towerstreet 17 is another track from Gerhard. It’s a slow, slinky, sultry and swinging slice of horn driven jazz.

Sammy Burdson is another of Gerhard’s aliases. Using that alias, he contributes a quartet of tracks. Action One is a track from his 1986 album Drum Punch Volume 2, which was released on Sonotron. It has a pulsating beat where rolls of tom toms assert themselves. The result is a track thats uber funky and psychedelic. O Mane features has a joyous Afro-beat influence. Upbeat, funky and cinematic describes New Design, a track from Dramatic Action-Dramatic Sound, a 1977 compilation released by the Conroy music library. Moog and Brass is Sammy’s last contribution. Futuristic, rocky-tinged and dramatic, it’s a genre melting track from a musical innovator.

Walt Rockman drops the tempo on the funky Newcomer. It’s a track from the compilation Brassbound Background, which was released on Conroy in 1976. A fusion of funky, futuristic and bursts of dramatic brass, Newcomer sounds like track to a 21st Century Blaxploitation film.

John Fiddy and Sammy Burdson also feature four times. Moving Along and Powerdrive feature on the 1980 compilation Industrial Themes and Underscores. The best of the two tracks is Moving Along. It’s best described as funky, moody and interspersed with drama. Add to that, a vintage, cinematic, jazz-tinged sound. Life In The Fast Lane has a real seventies sound. For people of a certain age, it’ll bring back memories. It sounds like the theme to many a seventies thriller. Spaces In Time is the last collaboration between John and Sammy. They’ve saved the best until last, given the track’s ethereal beauty.

Otto Sieben is another of Gerhard Narholz’s pseudonyms. He features twice. 70s Fun Pop (A) lasts just twelve seconds and 70s Fun Pop (B) seventeen seconds. They’re a tantalising taste of what might have been.

Helmut Brandenburg’s Big Brother Is Watching You might have an ominous introduction, but soon, things liven up. Stabs of horns, a Hammond organ, and an uber funky rhythm section spring into action. They combine rock, funk, jazz and sixties pop. Just under three minutes later, the track reaches its glorious, dramatic crescendo.

Sven Penner’s High Tension featured on the 1975 compilation Sounds Funky-Pop Brass Background. Released on Conroy, this guitar driven track has a sixties sound. Especially when the stabs of horns and keyboards join forces with the guitars. Despite that, it’s hard to resist its vintage poppy delights.

My final choice from Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library is Hermann Langschwer and Wolfgang Killian’s Crime and Glamour. It explodes into life. What follows is a driving fusion of rock and jazz funk. Screaming rocky guitars are sprayed above the driving, dramatic arrangement until the track reaches it dramatic ending.

Much of the music on Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library was written by mainly anonymous, young composers. It was then played and produced by musicians and producers who were yet to experience fame and fortune. Many of them were at the start of their careers. Others, well this was as good as it got for them. However, listening to the music on Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library, there’s some seriously talented composers, musicians and prodders involved in the eighteen tracks. This includes Sonoton’s cofounder Gerhard Narholz.

He’s responsible for eleven of the tracks. Gerhard Narholz either under his own name, or using a couple of aliases, contributes seven tracks. He then collaborates with John Fiddy on another four tracks. Whether it’s on his own, or with John Fiddy, the music Gerhard Narholz produced oozes quality. It’s variously dramatic, funky, psychedelic, rocky and ethereal. That’s the same as the other seven tracks on Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library, which was recently released by Buried Treasures.

As compilations go, Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library, is best known as all killer and no filler. For sample hungry producers, cutting edge DJs and music lovers with discerning taste, are Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library will be a veritable musical feast.

Its back-catalogue is best described as eclectic. There’s a myriad of cult classics, hidden gems and rarities awaiting discovery. I say awaiting, because for some reason, many sample hungry producers and crate diggers have managed to overlook the Sonoton music library. Hopefully not any more. Rare Psych Moogs and Brass 1969-1981-Music From The Sonoton Library will whet your appetite to the delights awaiting discovery within the vaults of the Sonoton music library.

RARE PSYCH MOOGS AND BRASS 1969-1981-MUSIC FROM THE SONOTON LIBRARY.

R-5853055-1404501626-4323

1970S ALGERIAN FOLK AND POP.

1970S ALGERIAN FOLK AND POP.

During the late-sixties and seventies, life in Algeria wasn’t easy. It hadn’t been since 1963, when Ahmed Ben Bella came to power following the Sand War. Two years later, he was overthrown by President Houari Boumediene. 

He continued the program of industrialisation. Since 1963, industries were state-controlled, within the authoritarian, socialist economy. Ahmed Ben Bella had been a hardliner. So was President Houari Boumediene. Under his leadership, the policies became were enforced even more rigidly. The army began to play a bigger part in his regime, while the only political party was marginalised. Anyone who spoke out against what was happening, was at risk.

Especially from the army, police, bureaucrats and censors. They were constantly on the look out for anyone opposed to the policies of the state. Political dissidents and radicals’ lives were at risk. Yet musicians, who could voice the fears of ordinary people, weren’t perceived as a risk to the state by Algeria’s military police.

This meant that during the seventies, the Algerian music industry was able to develop. Algeria’s military police perceived the country’s musicians as “hairies” and hippies, who were no risk to the state. They were wrong. Musicians always have the power to make a difference. Their music could voice the fears of ordinary people opposed to Algeria’s authoritarian regime. Yet the Algerian military police never realised this. They didn’t even attempt to censor Algerian music.

So, every week, new music was being released. One of the shops the new music made its way into, was Oasis Disques, on Khelifa Boukhalfa Street, in downtown Algiers. This included the music on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk, which was recently released by Sublime Frequencies.

The music on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk is part of an underground, musical counterculture. This music brought together a generation of Algerians. They all had one thing in common, their shared love of music. Lifelong friendships were born through music. 

Music was both a means a way to protest against the authoritarian regime, and a way to escape it. After all, music is escapism. It takes the listener to another place, where the trauma and drudgery of daily life is forgotten. That was the case back in the seventies, and is documented on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk.

1970s Algerian Pop and Folk features twelve tracks. There’s contributions from Rachid and Fethi, Les Djinns, Kri Kri, Idir, Ahmed Malek and Les Abranis. Some artists feature twice. That’s quite fitting, given how important a part they played in the development of Algerian music. You’ll realise this when I tell you about 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk.

Opening 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk Rachid and Fethi’s Habit En Ich. This is one of two tracks from Rachid and Fethi. They were formerly members of Les Vautours, during the sixties. As the seventies dawned, the two brothers became a duo, a pioneering one at that. This i because they plugged-in and went electric. This was very different to what had gone before. Success was sure to follow, including with Ana Ghrib their second single. Bursting into life, the music is funky with an Eastern twist. It then becomes poppy and soulful. Flip over to the B-Side and Habit En Ich is a glorious fusion of Eastern and Western music. It literally explodes into life, with elements of pop, funk, rock and psychedelia melting into one. Cooing harmonies provide the backdrop for the vocals during a track that’s a mixture of the traditional and trippy.

Les Djinns are the mystery band on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk. They feature twice, but very little is known about them. Their only single was Nadia, which was released on the La Voix Du Shara label. It’s a mid-tempo, guitar driven instrumental with a mesmeric Eastern sound. On the B-Side, Nesthel is a heartbreaking tale of betrayal.

Freedom (Houriya) are another group founded by two brothers. This time, it’s Saad and Hocime Kezim. Hocime had already enjoyed some success as a musician. He’d previously been a member of a successful band. He gave this up, to concentrate on Freedom. They recorded a quartet of tracks in Wigan, England. One of them was Sabrina, which gave the band a huge hit. Sadly, the record company never paid Freedom the royalties they were entitled to. This proved a devastating blow, one the brothers never recorded from. Tucked away on the B-Side to Sabriana was Abadane. It has a  sixties psychedelic pop sound. Emerging from the fuzzy sounding backdrop is a beautiful ballad, designed to tug at your heartstrings. 

Kri Kri was a vehicle for Abdelkrim Zouaoui, who was born in Constantine, in Northern Algeria. He was an influential artist. One of his singles is the beautiful, heartfelt ballad Wahdi. It’s a fusion of pop and fuzzy psychedelia. There’s even a nod to John Lennon on this glorious hidden gem, which was released as Kri Kri’s debut single on Oasis Disques.

Ahmed Malek is a prolific songwriter, arranger and composer. He’s written many soundtracks. That’s apparent on Hawajez (Barriers), which has a cinematic sound. It sounds like part on the soundtrack to a seventies art house film. Silence Des Cendres is best described as being blessed with an ethereal beauty that’s extremely beautiful.

Idir was an accidental singer. Originally, El Hamid Cheriet was meant to get a job with Algerian Petroleum. Then he was asked to stand in for the female singer Ingrid. This was the start of the rise and rise of Idir. His debut single A Vava Inou Va, which was a tender, impassioned ballad  was a huge hit. After that, Idir enjoyed a long and successful career.

Les Abranis were founded by three friends in the late sixties. They all shared similar musical tastes, including The Doors, Grateful Dead and The Who. By 1974, they released their debut single Athedjaladde. Then in the mid-seventies, two members left to form Syphax. This meant they minded out on Les Abranis’ biggest hit single Chenagh Le Blues. It’s a track from their 1977 album Les Abranis 1977. A moody, lysergic fusion of blues, rock and psychedelia and it’s one of the highlights of 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop.

Smail Chaoui’s N’sani N’sani is a real fusion of musical influences and genres. Everything from folk, pop, rock and soul-jazz are combined to create a heartfelt soul-baring ballad.

Djamel Allem is one of the veterans of the Algerian music scene. His career began in 1970, when he emigrated to France. He was taken under the wing of Brigitte Fontaine and Areski. Two years later, he returned to Algeria the conquering hero. He opened for Brigitte Fontaine and Areski. Since then, his career has taken a few twists and turns. A truly versatile artist, that’s apparent when you hear Ourestrou, which cioses 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop. Its understated, wistful arrangement, is perfect for a vocal that’s laden with emotion. It’s a beautiful way to close 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop.

It seems that with every week, a compilation of music from another far flung part of the world is released. That’s no bad thing. After all, the world is a much smaller place these days. Travel is cheaper, and it’s much easier, and cheaper to visit these far flung corners of the world. People are also much more interested in the culture and music of these places. The music of many of these countries is a veritable treasure trove. That’s the case with Algeria, and is obvious on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop, which was recently released by Sublime Frequency.

The music on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop was released during one of the most turbulent times in Algerian history. Life was tough under the leadership of President Houari Boumediene. His authoritarian rule saw much of Algerian industry fall under state control. Anyone who spoke out against what was happening, was at risk. 

Especially from the military police and censors. They were constantly on the look out for anyone opposed to the policies of the state. Political dissidents and radicals’ lives were at risk. Yet musicians, who could voice the fears of ordinary people weren’t perceived as a risk to the state by Algeria’s military police. 

Ironically, the Algerian music scene thrived during the seventies. Everything from folk, pop, psychedelia, rock and soul was released. It can be heard on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop. The music on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop is best described as beautiful, eclectic, ethereal lysergic and melancholy and an enchanting introduction to Algerian music’s past.

1970S ALGERIAN FOLK AND POP.

51ZBWEkTEeL

 

MR BIRD-LO-FI CLASSICS.

MR BIRD-LO-FI CLASSICS.

Do you remember that old mixtape that you never stopped playing? It was one your most cherished possessions. That mixtape was the soundtrack to your life. This includes the year you spent backpacking round the world, four years at university, your first serious relationship and then the breakup of your first relationship. The thing that got you through all the trauma, adventures, heartbreak, hurt and hope was that mixtape. Even now, all these years later, it’s one of your proudest possessions. Not that you listen to it much. 

No. It’s more like a security blanket, one you just can’t, let go of. That’s despite the fact you’ve only listened to it a handful of times in the last fifteen years. Letting go of it, would be like letting go of all the memories associated with it. That just isn’t going to happen. Not if you’ve got anything to do with it. Accidents happen though. 

On their day off, your partner decides to tidy up They come across this beaten, dusty cassette, decides to throw it away. That’s one possibility. Maybe one night, in a maudlin state, you you decide to play your trusty mixtape. In a fit of pique, just because you’ve never used it for years, your cassette player decides to eat your beloved mixtape. How would you cope? What would you do? Therapy is one option. Much cheaper, and much more enjoyable is a copy of Mr. Bird’s Lo-Fi Classics, which was released on 14th July 2014.

Low-Fi Classics is best described as a homage to your beloved mixtape. It’s guaranteed to bring memories flooding back. Especially if your mixtape was funky and oozed soulfulness. That’s the case with Mr. Bird’s Lo-Fi Classics, which features two funky cats doing what they do best, making soulful music. 

This isn’t just any music though. It’s sweet, soulful and full of poppy hooks. Even better, the music has an old school sound. It’s a reminder of the music on your beloved mixtape. There’s a reason for this. It has not been over compressed. This means you can hear Lo-Fi Classics full dynamic range. That’s a rarity in modern music. Usually, modern music has been over compressed, due to the ongoing loudness war. Thankfully, Lo-Fi Classics hasn’t been a victim of the loudness war.Even better, the music flows.

That’s thanks to Mr. Bird. Remembering how much care, time and attention it took to make a mixtape, Mr. Bird has lovingly sequence Lo-Fi Classics. This means Lo-Fi Classics is a reminder of the classic hip hop soul of the nineties. Having said that, the music is totally unique. No wonder. Look at the two men behind Lo-Fi Classics, Mr. Bird and Greg Blackman.

Mr. Bird isn’t just a producer, he’s a DJ and multi-instrumentalist. Born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Mr. Bird now lives in Lisbon, Portugal. He’s previously released a wide variety of music. This includes ambient, broken beat, funk, hip hop, house, slo-mo disco and soul. Many of these influences shine through on Lo-Fi Classics. Mr. Bird’s partner in soul is none other than Greg Blackman.

Just like Mr. Bird, multi-talented describes Greg Blackman. He’s an experienced singer and songwriter. Recently, Greg collaborated with DJ Vadim on his Dubcatcher album. On Lo-Fi Classics, Greg’s vocal versatility and sheer soulfulness allow him to breath life and meaning into twelve soulful jams. Many of the songs tell a story, including songs about love, love lost, heartbreak, hurt and hope. It’s can all be found on Lo-Fi Classics, which is a home made soul album that oozes quality. You’ll realise that, when I tell you about Lo-Fi Classics.

Over Again opens Lo-Fi Classics. Fittingly, it briefly has a lo-fi sound. Swathes of understated, lo-fi music sweep in. Then the arrangement  bursts, joyously into life. Greg Blackman delivers the first of his soulful powerhouses. It’s a needy and emotive. Waves of synths, pounding drums and hissing hi-hats provide the backdrop to Greg’s soul-baring vocal. Bubbling synths and a Fender Rhodes drift in. Later, filters are used effectively. They set the scene for Greg to take this track to its hip swaying crescendo.

Layers of scatted vocal are accompanied by a slinky piano on Save Me. Then Greg delivers a jazz-tinged vocal. This showcases his versatility, Mr. Bird ensures the arrangement is jazzy. He combines a piano, drums are sometimes, a stabs of Hammond organ. Harmonies accompany Greg, ensuring the song swings.

The Morning’s Coming is a driving slice of stomping soul. There’s a nod to Hall and Oates. Mr. Bird combines elements of soul, funk, pop and Northern soul. Stabs of braying horns and a pounding rhythm section accompany Greg’s urgent, despairing vocal. Bursts of harmonies and horns are added at just the right time. After that, Greg’s delivers a vocal masterclass, during this hook-laden soul stomper.

On Get On Through, It seems Greg has been inspired by Robert Palmer and Marvin Gaye. He drops the tempo on what seems like a laid-back, melodic slice of soulful music. His lived-in, needy, hopeful vocal is accompanied by a harmonies. Things change later, when a of myriad percussion, synths and space-age sound effects provide the backdrop. They sometimes, take the track in the direction you least expect. Then when Greg sings “bring it back,” the laid-back, melodic sound returns.

The tempo increases on Bounce To The Beat. It’s a fusion of funk, hip hop and soul. There’s even a nod to D’Angelo’s Voodoo album, albeit with a much quicker tempo. There’s a similar sound. Greg showcases his versatility again. His vocal is totally different to what’s gone before. It veers between funky and a rap to jazz-tinged and soulful. As for the arrangement, it’s a glorious melange of growling horns, funky rhythm section, percussion and keyboards. Full of hooks, joyful and uplifting, all you want to do is Bounce To The Beat.

Bad Advice Interlude explodes into life and sees Greg embark upon a forty-second vamp. He’s accompanied by synths, galloping drums and harmonies. Before long, it’s all over and you’re left wanting more.

Thunderous drums, crashing cymbals and snippets of dialogue open A Love Forever Fly. They’re joined by percussion and a bass, before Greg delivers a sultry, heartfelt vocal. Harmonies sweep in, answering his call. All the times the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. For his part, Greg ensure that this sweet, soulful vocal breathes life, meaning and emotion into this soulful paean, where the hooks haven’t been spared.

From the get-go, Since You’ve Been Gone has a vintage soul sound. There’s a Motown influence. It comes courtesy of the harmonies, rhythm section and percussion. Even Greg plays his part. His vocal is a soulful vamp. It’s as if a big weight has been lifted from his shoulders. That’s the case, when he sings “Since You’ve Been Gone, life has been heaven, leaving your scheming-ness behind.” After that, Greg and Mr. Bird combine to create an irresistible track with old school soulful sound.

As Where Did The Party Go? unfolds, Greg’s vocal reminds me briefly of D’Angelo. That’s before the tempo increases and crisp drums and a probing bass drive the arrangement along. Stabs of funky, growling horns are added. Meanwhile Greg’s vocal is rueful and wistful, tinged with sadness and confusion as he sings “Where Did The Party Go?” Greg sings the lyrics as if he’s lived them. That’s why this is one of the highlights of Lo-Fi Classics.

The tempo drops way down and we get into the groove, GB’s Groove. It comes courtesy of the rhythm section, handclaps and Fender Rhodes. They create a sultry backdrop with a feel-good, sunshine sound.

On The Dancefloor marks the return a Greg Blackman. He vamps his way through this, funky soulful track. The rhythm section combine with keyboards and percussion. Later, they’re joined by rocky guitars, a Hammond organ and harmonica.  They provide a funky backdrop as Greg delivers a sassy, soulful and funky vamp.

Right This Time closes Lo-Fi Classics. As the arrangement is driven along by the rhythm section and keyboards, Greg gives a holler. His multi-tracked vocal is tender and needy, as it soars above the arrangement. Strings sweep in as the arrangement builds. By now, Greg’s vocal is more of a vamp. It’s as if he’s saving his vocal for a big finish. That’s the case as he ensures the track ends on a high.

That’s the story behind Mr. Bird’s homage to the mixtape. Just like any self-respecting mixtape, Lo-Fi Classics took time to make. Three years to be precise. It was a long-distance collaboration. 

Mr. Bird is exiled in Portugal. Greg however, is a native of Essex. However, in this age of DAWs and broadband, musical collaborators can be half a world away. That was the case here. These two soulful cats were able to record their parts of the project in their own studios, and bounce a copy via the internet. This is much easier, and cheaper, than jumping on plane and flying halfway across Europe to record in a strange studio. Much better to record the album in the comfort of their own home studio. That’s worked well here. 

Lo-Fi Classics features twelve tracks and lasts forty-two minutes. The music is sweet, soulful, funky and full of poppy hooks. Even better, the music has an old school sound. There’s even a nod towards classic hip hop soul. It’s a reminder of the music on your beloved mixtape. Just like that old mixtape, Lo-Fi Classics has been carefully and lovingly sequenced. That’s why Lo-Fi Classics flows seamlessly, the music making perfect sense. It tells a story.

Many of the songs tell a story Lo-Fi Classic. There’s songs about love, love lost, heartbreak, hurt and hope. They’re delivered by Greg Blackman, who breathes life, meaning and emotion to the songs. He delivers the lyrics as if he’s lived them. It sounds as if Greg has felt the pain, heartbreak, hurt and sadness that he’s singing about. He’s also experienced the happiness, hope and joy he sings about on Lo-Fi Classics which will be released by BBE Music on 14th July 2014. 

Lo-Fi Classics is the perfect replacement to your beloved mixtape. Especially since the music on that mixtape was the soundtrack to your youth. You’ve lived a lot since then. Your youth is another country. A lot has happened since them. Maybe, you’ve even grownup. This means relationships and responsibilities. So, maybe, the songs on that mixtape are no longer relevant. If not, Lo-Fi Classics, with its funky, soulful, old school sound, is the perfect soundtrack to the next part of your life .

MR BIRD-LO-FI CLASSICS.

lfc_front_cover_1

 

COUNTRY FUNK 2 1967-1974.

COUNTRY FUNK 2 1967-1974.

Until two years ago, country funk was a genre with no name. That was until Light In The Attic Records released Country Funk 1969-1975, back in July 2012. At last, here was the perfect description of this irresistible music. It was a perfect description of the feel of the music. After years of struggling to come up with a description of this music, a musical genre was born.

Country funk is best described as a fusion of blues, country, funk, gospel and soul. It’s gritty, funky, sassy and soulful. Hip swaying, heartbreaking and hook-laden described country funk. It’s the type of music that brings to mind a honky tonk full of cowboy booted men sipping Jack Daniels and smoking Marlboro red. On the jukebox is the music of Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Jackie DeShannon, J.J. Cale, Bob Darin, Bill Wilson and Thomas Jefferson Kaye. They all feature on Country Funk 2 1967-1974.

Country Funk 2 1967-1974 will be released on the 14th July 2014, by Light In The Attic Records. It features seventeen tracks. They were released between 1967 and 1974. The seventeen tracks are a mixture of familiar faces and new names. 

Even people not particularly interested in country music will have heard of Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Jackie DeShannon and Townes Van Zandt. Other artists however, many people won’t have heard of.

This includes the late, great J.J. Cale, who remains music’s best kept secrets. A hugely talented singer, songwriter and guitarist, J.J. wrote Cocaine, which gave Eric Clapton a huge hit. Although this gave J.J’s career a huge boost, he preferred to keep a low profile. As a result, he never enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim his music deserved. He’s not alone. 

Bill Wilson released Ever Changing Minstrel in 1973. It was produced by Bob Johnson, Bob Dylan’s producer. Despite its undoubted quality, it failed commercially. So did Thomas Jefferson Kaye’s 1973 eponymous album. It featured Collection Boy. Thomas enjoyed more success as a producer, producing Gene Clark’s classic No Other. Thomas Jefferson Kaye, Bill Wilson and J.J. Cale are just a trio hidden gems on Country Funk 2 1967-1974. Indeed, there’s several more on Country Funk 2 1967-1974 which is a collection familiar faces, old favourites, hidden gems and rarities, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Country Funk 2 1967-1974 is Billy Swan’s 1974 cover of Don’t Be Cruel. It’s a track from his 1974 album I Can’t Help. It was released on the Monument label. A year later, Don’t Be Cruel. Billy slows the song way down, and combined gospel and country to create a covers that’s variously moody, sultry and beautiful. In doing so, he reinvents the track.

In 1969, Bobby Darin was now known as Bob. He’d just left Atlantic Records and decided to reinvent himself. Gone was the clean cut, preppy sound. Bob grew his hair and dawned denims and a cowboy hat. Country music it seemed, was the future for Bob Darin. Me and Mr. Hohner is a tantalising taste of his new sound. It’s a track from Commitment, his 1969 album, which was released on the Direction label. Seamlessly, Bob and his band combine blues and country. His vocal is a country drawl, while a slide guitar, Hammond organ and harmonica set the scene for him. The result is the rebirth of the man formerly known as Bobby Darin. 

Hunger Child Blues was a track from Townes Van Zandt’s 1971 album Delta Momma Blues, which was released on the Poppy label. It marked a change in direction for Townes. His three previous album were influenced by Appalachian folk and country music. Not Delta Momma Blues. Instead, it was a fusion blues and country music. This is apparent on the galloping, blues-tinged Hunger Child Blues, which features a soul-baring vocal from Townes.

Thomas Jefferson Kaye only ever released a trio of albums. His debut was his 1973 eponymous album. Released on ABC/Dunhill Records it failed commercially. One of the highlights was Collection Box Blues. It’s a  fusion of blues, country and rock. The music is dramatic and emotive with strings adding the finishing touch to the track. Sadly, Thomas’ career as a singer was short-lived. He returned to his career as a successful songwriter and producer.

Don’t Let Me Down is a familiar track that’s been covered by many people, Written by Lennon and McCartney, it featured on The Beatles final album Let It Be. Dillard and Clark transformed the track on their 1969 album Through The Morning Through The Night. Jangling guitars, lush tinged and tight harmonies play their part in Dillard and Clark’s beautiful country-tinged cover of a Beatles classic. At the heart of the song’s success are Dillard and Clark’s needy, hopeful vocals.

Pay Day Give Away featured on Bill Wilson’s 1973 album Ever Changing Minstrel in 1973. It was produced by Bob Johnson, Bob Dylan’s producer. Despite oozing quality, it failed commercially. On Pay Day Give Away, Bill fuses influences. There’s country, rocky guitars, psychedelia and gospel tinged harmonies. Combined by producer Bob Johnson, Pay Day Give Away is a tantalising taste of a lost classic.

Light In The Attic Records have hit pay-dirt by including Dolly Parton’s Getting Happy on Country Funk 2 1967-1974. She’s just finished touring Britain and starred at the Glastonbury Festival. The anthemic Getting Happy is a track from Dolly’s 1974 album Love Is Like A Butterfly. It features a vocal powerhouse from a country legend.

Jim Ford was once described by Sly Stone as “the baddest white man on the planet.” His contribution is Rising Sign, the B-Side of his 1973 single. Bluesy and lysergic, elements of country, gospel and rock combine to create a trippy track.

Forty years ago, in 1974, J.J. Cale released his Okie, his third album. It saw J.J’s music move in the direction of country and gospel. One of the many highlights of Okie, which stalled at number 128 in the US Billboard 200, is Cajun Moon. It’s the perfect showcases for J.J’s sultry vocal and a guitar masterclass. J.J. was never a showy guitarist. Far from it. That wasn’t in J.J’s nature. He was a  languid, laid-back musician, who eschewed the trickery of a Jimi Hendrix. Instead, his playing was understated, sparse, but potent and powerful. On Cajun Moon, J.J. delivers a sultry vocal and a guitar masterclass, showing why he’ll forever be remembered as a musician’s musician. That’s one of the highest accolades a musician can receive.

Many people won’t have heard of Donnie Fritts. If they’re a fan of Kris Kristofferson, they’ll have heard his keyboard skills. He’s been Kris’ keyboard player for more years than he can care to remember. Originally, he was a session player in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Briefly, he tried to forge a solo career. He only released two albums. His debut was 1974s Prone To Learn. It features Sumpin’ Funky Going On which epitomises what country funk sounds like. 

Great Speckled Bird were a Canadian band who only released one album. That was Great Speckled Bird, which was released in 1970 on Ampex Records. One of the album’s highlights was Long Long Time to Get Old. It’s a fusion of blues, country and funk. Full of slick hooks, it’s a real hidden gem.

Willis Alan Ramsey’s Northeast Texas Women closes Country Funk 2 1967-1974. It’s a track from his 1972 eponymous album. It was released on Shelter Records and sadly, was the only album he ever released. Here, Willis and his band aren’t as tight as some of the bands on Country Funk 2 1967-1974. They’re certainly not sloppy. Instead, they’re a good-time band. Their slightly raucous, singalong sound, sounds like that would be sung late at a night in a Nashville honky tonk.

It’s not often that the followup to a compilation surpasses the original compilation. That’s the case with Country Funk 2 1967-1974. It features seventeen tracks. Familiar faces and some of the biggest names in the history of country sit side-by-side with artists who never sadly, enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim their music deserved. 

This means that Bill Wilson, Thomas Jefferson Kaye and Willis Alan Ramsey sit side-by-side with Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Jackie DeShannon and Townes Van Zandt. Somewhere in the middle, sits the late, great J.J. Cale. One of the most talented singer songwriters of his generation, J.J. should’ve been a much bigger star than he was. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. That’s a familiar story though. At least, another generation of music lovers have the opportunity to enjoy their music on Country Funk 2 1967-1974.

Country Funk 2 1967-1974 is a compilation that includes familiar faces, old favourites, hidden gems and rarities. The music is a fusion of blues, country, funk, gospel and soul. It’s gritty, funky, sassy and soulful. Hip swaying, heartbreaking and hook-laden, this describes country funk perfectly. It previously, was the genre without a name. Not any more. That’s partly thanks to Light In The Attic Records who helped coin the phrase country funk, back in 2012. That’s when they released Country Funk 2 1969-1975. Two year later, Light In The Attic Records will release Country Funk 2 1967-1974 on 14th July 2014. A captivating and compelling compilation, Country Funk 2 1967-1974 is the perfect introduction to what was once, the genre with no name.

COUNTRY FUNK 2 1967-1974.

81ltRIiAdsL._SL1280_

 

LED ZEPPELIN-LED ZEPPELIN.

LED ZEPPELIN-LED ZEPPELIN.

Music critics don’t always get it right. Sometimes, they fawn over third-rate albums, just because of who recorded the album. That’s often the case with ageing artists. I could quote numerous examples where critics had their head turned by sentiment.  This is nothing new. 

Thirty-five years ago, on 12th January 1969, Led Zeppelin released their eponymous debut album, Led Zeppelin, which was recently rereleased by Atlantic Records. Critics were far from impressed. Their reviews were negative. Some of the highest profile critics rounded on Led Zeppelin. They felt Led Zeppelin offered nothing new. It had all been done before, and done better. Music lovers didn’t agree with this.

On its release, on 12th January 1969, Led Zeppelin reached number ten in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the UK. Led Zeppelin was certified platinum in the US eight times over. In the UK and Australia, Led Zeppelin was certified double platinum. Across the world, Led Zeppelin was a huge commercial success. It was certified diamond in Canada and platinum in Spain. Gold discs came Led Zeppelin’s way in Holland, Switzerland and France. Suddenly, Led Zeppelin was one of the most successful albums of the sixties. Not bad for an album that received poor reviews.

As usual, history was rewritten over the next thirty-five years. Suddenly, Led Zeppelin was a being hailed a classic album. Every critic was suddenly claiming to have realised that all along. Even Rolling Stone magazine, which wasn’t originally a fan of Led Zeppelin, put the album at number twenty-nine in their list of 500 greatest albums of all time. Not bad for an album that was recorded by Led Zeppelin in just thirty-six hours.

Back in October 1968, when Led Zeppelin began recording their eponymous debut album, they were a relatively new band. They were formed in August 1968, out of the ashes of The Yardbirds. Guitarist Jimmy Page was the last man standing. He owned the rights to The Yarbirds’ name. However, he was also under contract to play several concerts in Scandinavia. So Jimmy began putting together a new band.

For his new band, The New Yarbirds, Jimmy Page brought onboard the rhythm section of bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. Robert Plant became the vocalist. This was essentially a new band, that began touring Scandinavia. 

Touring Scandinavia, The New Yarbirds combined some of The Yarbirds’ old songs and a number of new songs. This included future Led Zeppelin classic Communication Breakdown. It would feature on Led Zeppelin. So did How Many More Times, the Anne Bredon penned Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and Willie Dixon and J.B. Lenoir’s You Shook Me. These songs were honed during The New Yarbirds’ tour of Scandinavia. They returned home a much tighter band, who were ready to record their debut album, Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin featured a total of nine tracks. They were a mixture of new material and cover versions. New songs included Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown and How Many More Times, which Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page penned Your Time Is Gonna Come. Jimmy Page wrote Dazed and Confused and Black Mountain Side. Covers included Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby, Willie Dixon and J.B. Lenoir’s You Shook Me and the Anne Bredon penned Babe I’m Gonna Leave You was arranged by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. These none tracks were recorded at Olympic Studios, London between September and October 1968.

When recording of Led Zeppelin began at Olympic Studios, London, Jimmy Page played acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitar and produced the album. The rhythm section included bassist and organist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham who also played percussion and timpani. Robert Plant delivered a series of vocal powerhouses and played harmonica on the album that became Led Zeppelin.

Released in January 1969, Led Zeppelin was the album that launched Led Zeppelin onto the world stage. It reached number ten in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the UK. That was a familiar story all over the world. This commercial success wasn’t replicated by the single Good Times Bad Times, which stalled at number eighty in the US Billboard 100. Mind you, Led Zeppelin, which I’ll tell you about, sold over ten million copies. Not bad for an album the critics panned.

Stabs of Jimmy Page’s searing, grizzled machine gun guitars open Good Times Bad Times. Hissing hi-hats and percussion sit way back in the mix, before the pounding rhythm section kick loose. They match each other ever step of the way. The track has a live sound. That’s down to the way the microphones were placed.Robert Plant’s vocal is a mixture of raw power, frustration and loneliness. Later, he’s joined by swirling harmonies. This add to the late-sixties, psychedelic sound. So, the swirling, searing, screeching guitar. It comes courtesy of Jimmy’s trusty Telecaster. Then when Led Zeppelin are in full flow, their fusion of blues, psychedelia and rock proves a potent and powerful partnership.

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You has a much more understated, mellow sound. Robert’s heartbroken vocal is accompanied by a lone, meandering, crystalline guitar. Soon, a subtle bass enters and that’s the signal for the track to unfold. Led Zeppelin don’t kick loose. They come pretty close though. Bursts of Spanish guitars and a thunderous rhythm section combine. There’s even a siren. It’s the signal for Robert to unleash another vocal powerhouse. Accompanied by stabs of dramatic music, Robert lays bare his soul, delivering a bluesy vamp that’s equal parts pain, power and passion.

You Shook Me was a song made famous by Earl Hooker. Here, Led Zeppelin unleash a bluesy shuffle. The rhythm section, organ and blistering, scorching guitars create a moody backdrop for Robert’s hurt filled vocal. He begs and pleads, “baby please come home.” Later, he blows some blues harmonica, before the rest of Led Zeppelin get in the groove and create a stunning slice of blues rock. 

Dazed And Confused is another Led Zeppelin classic. It has an understated, moody introduction. A prowling bass and crystalline guitar reverberates, setting the scene for Robert. He’s “Dazed And Confused,” doesn’t where he is or “where you’ve been.” Meanwhile, blistering rocky licks accompany the prowling, menacing and dramatic rhythm section. Robert’s vocal is a vamp, where all the pain, hurt and betrayal escapes. It’s cathartic, as if his demons are leaving him. When they do, Led Zeppelin kick loose. As a power trio, they display a maturity that belies their relative inexperience. They sound more like an experienced band, on this classic track, rather than a band who’ve just released their debut album.

Your Time Is Gonna Come has an atmospheric, sometimes gothic introduction. That’s down to the organ that sets the scene for the rest of Led Zeppelin. Drums pound, while chiming guitars are panned left and the organ panned right. In the middle sits Robert’s vocal. Fed up of the pain and hurt, Robert has revenge on his mind. He sings: “I’m gonna make you pay for that great big whole in my heart” before the rest of Led Zeppelin harmonise, singing “Your Time Is Gonna Come.” This gives the track a timeless anthemic sound. 

Black Mountain Side is very different to what’s gone before. Having cross faded from the previous track, an instrumental unfolds. It was inspired by a folk song Down By The Blackwaterside. Western and Eastern music meets head on. Jimmy Page tuned his guitar so that it would sound like a sitar. Nimbly, his fingers flit up and down the fretboard while percussion accompanies him. It’s easy to imagine Led Zeppelin sitting on the floor of the studio recording this fusion of Eastern and Western music.

For a debut album, Led Zeppelin wasn’t short of classics, including Communication Breakdown. With machine gun guitars sprayed across the arrangement, the rapid, pounding rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Robert Plant’s vocal is a fearsome swagger. He struts his way through the track. Just when you think things can’t get any better, a scorching guitar solo is unleashed. Later, urgent, defiant proto-punk harmonies are added as Led Zeppelin deliver a stonewall rock classic.

I Can’t Quit You Baby sees a a return to the bluesy side of Led Zeppelin. Robert’s despairing vocal is a pained, howl. It’s accompanied by another shuffling blues. The rhythm section keep things slow, moody and bluesy. Jimmy Page delivers bursts of blistering guitar solos. They prove a perfect foil for Robert’s vocal as Led Zeppelin reinvent the blues.

How Many More Times closes Led Zeppelin. It has a sixties psychedelic sound. Just a wandering rhythm section set the scene for lysergic, reverberating guitars. Before long, Robert delivers a despairing, frustrated vocal. The rhythm section kick loose, delivering a buzzing arrangement. Jimmy Page won’t be outdone. He unleashes a guitar masterclass. It’s a virtuoso performance. Later, a slow, moody bolero rhythm pushes the arrangement along. Later, Led Zeppelin’s rhythm section kick loose. Scorching, crystalline guitars are unleashed. They’re panned left and right, adding to the trippy sound. This proves a perfect way for Led Zeppelin to closes their eponymous debut album.

That’s not quite the end of the newly rereleased remastered version of  Led Zeppelin. Disc two features  Led Zeppelin playing live at The Olympia, in Paris. They storm their way through much of  Led Zeppelin. This includes Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, White Mountain Side/Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me and How Many More Times? The other tracks included Heartbreaker and Moby Dick. These nine tracks a tantalising taste of one of the greatest British rock bands at the start of their career. They’re a much more mature band than you expect. That’s not surprising, given how good their debut album Led Zeppelin was.

Success came quickly to Led Zeppelin. Formed out of the ashes of The Yarbirds, Led Zeppelin went from a new band to selling ten million albums in just six months. That wasn’t meant to happen though. Not if you believed the music critics. They didn’t believe that Led Zeppelin were destined for greatness. 

That’s not surprising. Music critics can be contrary. They’ve a herd mentality. They tend to speak as one. That’s been the case since the birth of rock ’n’ roll. It was the case during the late-sixties. However, it was at its worst during the punk years. 

Critics couldn’t see beyond punk. It didn’t matter what other music was being released. If it was released by one of the established names, it was pilloried as the music of the establishment. It was a them and us mentality. Music critics were the radical gunslingers. That however, wasn’t the case.

Many of the music journalists who made a name during the punk years, were blinkered individuals. The groups they know treated as the “enemy” was the music they’d championed a few years earlier. There was a certain irony that groups like Pink Floyd, Yes, Jethro Tull, Little Feat and Neil Young were seen as yesterday’s men. The effect this had, was perfectly good music went unnoticed. Many music journalists were guilty as charged.

Many music journalists are perfectly happy to do a hatchet job on certain groups. They always have been. Ironically, after Led Zeppelin sold ten million albums, music critics suddenly warmed to Led Zeppelin. Later, they collectively developed a case of amnesia. Many of the critics that panned Led Zeppelin wrote fawning articles praising the album. What they wrote was what ten million music fans already knew. Led Zeppelin, which was recently rereleased by Atlantic Records, is a classic album.

Just like many a classic album, Led Zeppelin is pretty near flawless. It’s a fusion of blues, psychedelia, rock and even folk. The power trio of guitarist Jimmy Page, basist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham were the perfect foil for Robert Plant’s vocal powerhouses. Especially when Led Zeppelin kick loose. Led Zeppelin in full flight is a joy to behold. A hard rocking, hard living band, Led Zeppelin were a proper rock ’n’ roll band.

From their eponymous debut album, Led Zeppelin were living the dream. They lived life to its fullest. Led Zeppelin were one of the hardest living bands in the history of rock. Wine, women, song and narcotics were constant companions. Life was one long party. They owed it to their fans to live the dream. Throughout that party, Led Zeppelin recorded some of the greatest rock music of the seventies and all time. 

Commercial success and critical acclaim came Led Zeppelin’s way. So did gold and platinum discs came Led Zeppelin’s way. Then there was riches beyond even their wildest dreams. Led Zeppelin must having been laughing all the ways at the critics who slated their eponymous debut. While these critics returned to their dreary rented flats, Led Zeppelin were living life to its fullest. The album that launched Led Zeppelin’s career was their 1969 debut album, Led Zeppelin, which is a stonewall classic, despite what the critics originally said.

LED ZEPPELIN-LED ZEPPELIN.

91Uflgs4+qL._SL1500_

 

JACKSON BROWNE-LATE FOR THE SKY.

JACKSON BROWNE-LATE FOR THE SKY.

Before Jackson Browne embarked upon a solo career he packed a lot into a short space of time. His career began in 1966. That’s when he moved to Greenwich Village and joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jackson wasn’t even eighteen. Soon, he was writing songs for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They’d later record These Days, Holding On and Shadow Dream Song. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band wasn’t the only band Jackson was  a member of.

Jackson was also a member of his friend Pamela Polland’s band, Gentle Soul. Away from Gentle Soul, Jackson was recruited by Elektra Records’ publishing company Nina Records as a staff writer. His job was to report on New York’s thriving music scene. Incredibly, Jackson wasn’t quite eighteen. After that, Jackson backed Tim Buckley and Nico of the Velvet Underground, during 1967 and 1968. 

The Nico connection didn’t end there. Jackson and Nico became a couple. Three of his songs featured on Nico’s 1967 debut album Chelsea Girl. The Fairest of the Seasons opened Chelsea Girl. These Days, a Jackson Browne classic, and Somewhere There’s a Feather were his two other contributions. This was just the start of Jackson’s songwriting career.

Soon he was writing songs for some of the biggest names in music. By then, Jackson had left New York. He settled in Los Angeles. The Byrds, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Joan Baez. That’s not forgetting the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom Rush, Steve Noonan and Greg Allman recorded Jackson Browne songs. However, Jackson wasn’t just a songwriter in L.A, he was the member of a folk group.

The folk group featured Ned Doherty, Jack Wilce and Jackson. The band was just the latest group to feature Jackson Browne. It didn’t make a commercial breakthrough. At least, Jackson met a man who’d play a big part in his future career, Glenn Frey, soon to be a member of The Eagles. Then in 1971, Jackson met another man who’d play a huge part in the rise and rise of Jackson Browne, David Geffen.

Despite the success Jackson had enjoyed as a songwriter, he still couldn’t make a breakthrough as a singer. He started sending out demos to people within the music industry. This included David Geffen. The demo featured Jamaica Say You Will. When David Geffen heard the demo, he realised Jackson Browne was a seriously talented singer and songwriter. So, he decided to try and get Jackson a record deal. Try as he may, he’d no luck finding Jackson a record deal. So, David Geffen decided to found his own record label Asylum Records in 1971. This was a shrewd piece of business by everyone involved.

Now signed to Geffen Records, Jackson began work on his debut album Jackson Browne. Recording took place at Crystal Sound Recorders. Accompanying Jackson, was an all-star cast, including David Crosby, Graham Nash, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Albert Lee. A total of ten tracks penned by Jackson were recorded. This included a Jackson Browne classic, Doctor My Eyes, which was released as the lead single in 1972.

Doctor My Eyes was released as a single in 1972, reaching number eight in the US Billboard 100. Jackson Browne was then released in January 1972, and reached number fifty-three in the US Billboard 200. It was certified gold in 1976 and platinum in 1997. The second single was Rock Me On The Water, which reached number forty-eight in US Billboard 100. Since then, it’s become one of the most covered Jackson Browne songs. Back in 1972, Jackson and David Geffen, they could hardly believe what had happened. Their lives had been transformed.

Having released his debut album in January 1972, over eighteen months passed before Jackson released his sophomore album, For Everyman. Jackson wrote nine tracks and cowrote the anthem Take It Easy with Glenn Frey. It had been released by The Eagles as their first single. So, it was a familiar way to open For Everyman. Just like before, the great and good of music headed to Studio One, Sunset Sound. David Crosby, David Lindley, Joni Mitchell, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt and Elton John, who recorded using the alias Rockaday Johnnie. This all-star cast recorded the ten tracks that became For Everyman.

For Everyman was released to critical acclaim in October 1973. It reached number fifty-three in the US Billboard 200, and was eventually certified platinum. Two singles were released from For Everyman. Take It Easy failed to chart and Redneck Friend stalled at number eighty-five in the US Billboard 100. Remarkably, These Days, a stunning ballad was overlooked as a single. These Days seemed an obvious choice for a single. However, Jackson Browne and Geffen didn’t always choose the obvious tracks for singles. That was the case on Late For The Sky, which was recently rereleased by Inside Recordings.

Late For The Sky would become Jackson Browne’s third album. It featured eight tracks, which were all penned by Jackson. The music dealt with a variety of themes. This included love, loss, identity and even apocalypse. There were similarities with Jackson’s eponymous debut album. However, Jackson decided to examine the subjects further. He did these subjects justice, with some of the best songs of his three album career. So, it was only fitting that he was accompanied by some top class musicians.

When recording of l Late For The Sky began at Elektra Sound Recorders and Hollywood Sound Recorders, Jackson’s band included longtime friend and collaborator David Lindley, who played electric guitar, slide guitar and fiddle. Doug Haywood played bass and sang harmonies, Larry Zack played percussion and drums and Jai Winding piano and organ. Jackson played piano, acoustic guitar and slide guitar. Harmonies came courtesy of Don Henley, Dan Fogelberg, Joyce Everson, Beth Fitchet, Perry Lindley and J. D. Souther. David Campbell arranged the strings and Jackson and Al Scmidt produced Late For The Sky, which was released in 1974.

When Late For The Sky was released, critics were won over by the album. They felt it was a much more mature, grownup album from Jackson. Some felt it was the best album of his career. So did music lovers. Late For The Sky reached number fourteen upon its release in September 1973. This was his highest chart placing and resulted in Jackson’s third consecutive gold disc. Sadly, neither of the singles charted. Walking Slow and Fountain Of Sorrow didn’t trouble the charts. Again, the most obvious choice of single was overlooked, the title-track Late For The Sky. It ensures Late For The Sky gets of to a storming start.

Opening Late For The Sky is the title-track.T he familiar and melancholy strains of a deliberate piano combining with a thoughtful, chiming guitar set the scene for Jackson’s vocal. His vocal is full of hurt and heartache. Rueful and tinged with regret, we wonders how his relationship has gone so wrong? The end is near and he knows it.” How long have I been sleeping, how long have I been drifting  along through the night” Despair fills his voice as washes of Hammond organ, crystalline guitars and tender harmonies provide the backdrop for Jackson’s soul-searching vocal. The loss he feels is almost tangible on what’s one of the most beautiful ballads Jackson ever recorded.

Stabs of piano inject a sense of urgency into Fountain Of Sorrow. Before long, things settle down and Jackson’s piano and acoustic guitar combine on this relationship song. Jackson becomes the narrator, after he discovers a pile of photos of a former lover. Soon, memories come flooding back. The song takes on a cinematic quality. Each of the scenarios is like a part in a play, with Jackson introducing each of the characters. Meanwhile, he and his band create a melodic, dramatic and hook-laden backdrop. All this epitomises Jackson Browne at his best as both a singer and songwriter.

A searing, wistful guitar soars above the lone piano on Farther On. This sets the scene for a heartbroken Jackson. Since the loss of his  partner, he’s immersed himself in music, books and films. In doing so, he’s been in denial. Now, he’s having to face his loss. Not just the loss of  a partner, but having lost his way in life. It’s only now that he realises that life will never be the same again. Against the backdrop of piano, searing guitars and subtle drums, Jackson realises now it’s a case of “moving farther on.” If he doesn’t, he knows “the sun’s setting fast.” The result is a poignant, moving and beautiful ballad.

Just a gentle strummed guitar and piano accompany Jackson on The Late Show. It’s a hopeful, country-tinged ballad. David Lindley unleashes subtle washes of slide guitar and West Coast harmonies accompany Jackson on another song about love lost and found. Having found the woman he’s been searching for, Jackson is tongue tied. He then sings call and response with his all-star choir. When his vocal drops out, David Lindley and the piano combine. David delivers a slide guitar masterclass that plays a huge part in the song’s success. So do the quivering, sweeping strings and harmonies that accompany Jackson as the track heads to its dramatic, but ultimately beautiful ending.

A pounding piano opens The Road And The Sky, and we hear another side to Jackson. It’s an uptempo rocker, with a nod to Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Allright For Fighting. Jackson and his band kick loose. This is an impressive sound. Especially, with the band in full flight. This means blistering guitars, a pounding, good time rhythm section and stabs of piano. The only thing that doesn’t sit well is the galloping percussion. It’s out of place. Even this doesn’t spoil the song. Not with Jackson and his tight, talented band kicking loose.

For A Dancer sees a return to Jackson Browne balladeer. At the start it’s just one man and his trusty piano. This is captivating. Especially, with lyrics that have a confessional quality. They’re about the loss of a loved one and rebirth. When Jackson wrote this, he was still relatively young, twenty-six. He was beginning to realise he wasn’t immortal. The “big questions” were troubling him. This includes death Jackson sings: “I don’t know what happens when people die, I must’ve thought you’d always be around.” It’s a poignant lyric. So is the lyric: “I’d rather we were dancing our sorrow away.” Without doubt the saddest and most poignant lyric is “there’s one dance you’ll do alone.” Here, Jackson’s accompanied by a slow, shuffling backdrop, complete with fiddle, piano and harmonies. Wistful, beautiful and poignant, this track is one of the highlight of Late For The Sky, as it showcases a much more mature side of Jackson Browne.

Walking Slow sees Jackson up the tempo. He kicks back and delivers a slice of rocky music with a feel-good sound. The rhythm section, complete with churning and scorching guitars and probing bass, join a boogie woogie piano and percussion. They’re the perfect backdrop for Jackson’s vocal. So is David Lindley’s slide guitar. He sprays it across the arrangement. Jackson’s vocal is joyous, given he’s in love. Adding to the feel-good sound are the handclaps that punctuate the arrangement. Despite his joy, Jackson is insecure. He’s worried his lover will leave him: “sometimes we forget we love each other, we fight for no reason.” Mostly though, it’s happiness and hooks aplenty, during this slice of perfect pop.

Closing Late For The Sky is Before The Deluge. It has a slow, melancholy sound. A fiddle combines with Jackson’s piano and the rhythm section. They set the scene for his vocal. Jackson sings about some people fearing an apocalypse. They’re angry and fearful. Their reason for this is the way the earth and nature has been mistreated. The future isn’t bright he fears. “Now let the music keep our spirits high…Before The Deluge,” which comes before the apocalypse. With fiddles, piano, slide guitar and the rhythm section Jackson Browne paints a bleak picture about the earth’s future. Just like the other tracks on Late For The Sky, Jackson is a master craftsman, when it comes to a singer songwriter. His lyrics are cerebral, sobering and would provoke his lifelong interest in environmental issues.

Late For The Sky was only Jackson Browne’s third album. He’d come a long way in the space of three years. Back in 1971, he was a struggling unsigned artist. Three years later, Jackson had three platinum discs to his name. No wonder. He was already one of the most talented singer songwriters of his generation. Jackson had also written a string of hit singles for the great and the good of music. Things were about to get even better in 1975.

When the nominations for the Grammy Awards were announced in 1975,  Late For The Sky was nominated. That’s not a surprise. Jackson’s lyrics were soul-baring, personal, insightful, cerebral, wistful and beautiful. Late For The Sky was like a window into Jackson Browne’s soul. Subjects like love, loss, identity and even apocalypse. There were similarities with Jackson’s eponymous debut album. However, Jackson decided to examine the subjects further. He did these subjects justice, with some of the best songs of his three album career. That’s why Late For The Sky was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1975. This wasn’t the end of the commercial success and critical acclaim Jackson enjoyed.

Jackson’s songwriting skills also ensured his success continued right through until 2008, when he released Time The Conqueror. His classic period ended with his 1976 studio album The Pretender, which was certified triple-platinum. The 1977 live album Running On Empty was certified platinum seven times over. After that, Jackson took a break until 1980, when he released Hold Out, which was certified double platinum. Ironically, despite not quite matching the quality of previous albums, Hold Out was Jackson’s only number one album. Jackson Browne’s classic period was over.

He had a good run. It started with his 1972 debut album Jackson Browne, and continued with 1973s For Everyman, 1974s Late For The Sky, 1976s The Pretender and the 1977 live album Running On Empty. Of this quintet of albums, Late For The Sky which was recently rereleased by Inside Recordings, showcases one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation at his very best.

JACKSON BROWNE-LATE FOR THE SKY.

51kLFA0TcDL

INTERVIEW WITH HOLGER CZUKAY OF CAN.

INTERVIEW WITH HOLGER CZUKAY OF CAN.

It’s not every day I get the opportunity to interview one of my musical heroes. Today I did. I was fortunate enough to spend forty minutes interviewing the legendary Holger Czukay, who cofounded Can in 1968. We spent forty minutes discussing all things Can, Holger’s solo career and even, the merits of vinyl versus digital. That’s particularly relevant given that over the next couple of months, one of the most extensive reissue programs of Can and Holger Czukay’s music will get underway. 

For fans of Can, the next couple of months are going to be expensive. Mute Records have just started rereleasing Can’s back-catalogue. Even better, it’s all on vinyl. So is the long-awaited and much anticipated rerelease of Holger Czukay’s legendary solo albums Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. 

On 18th July 2014, Groenland Records will release a selection of songs from two of Holger’s legendary solo albums Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. They’ll be released on two 10” albums and as a digital download. As an added bonus, previously unreleased remixes versions are included on the album. For Can fans, this is the latest course in what’s a veritable musical feast. Each of these albums showcase the talents of one of the most innovative and progressive musicians of his generation, Holger Czukay. His story begins in 1938.

The future Holger Czukay was born in March 1938, as Holger Schüring. Holger’s home was what was then called the Free City of Danzig. Nowadays, it’s known as Gdansk. In January 1945, Holger and his family were forced to flee their home.

“When I was a child I had to leave my hometown Danzig in Poland. My mother had already bought the tickets for the ship, the Wilhelm Gustlof, when my grandmother warned us that the “water hasn’t got any planks”. I never forgot this sentence, because it saved our lives. We didn’t go onboard the ship, but went to the main station on January 13th 1945. It was a freezing night We were extremely lucky that a train with wounded soldiers picked us up, and they gave us a little bit of room on their mattresses to sleep, and we headed to Berlin. When we arrived i looked out of the window and all I could see were stones and a free field and I asked myself if this can be a capital city?” Having arrived in Berlin, Holger and his family became refugees. 

Just like so many children, the war had an impact upon Holger’s education. Like so many displaced children, Holger’s education suffered. Despite this, Holger managed to get a job in a radio repair shop. Not only did he learn how to repair electrical equipment, but became fascinated by radio and the opportunities it offered. This would prove crucial to Holger Czukay’s later career. Before that, Holger served his musical apprenticeship.

For a three year period between 1963 and 1966, Holger Czukay was privileged to study music under the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen. “A true pioneer, Karlheinz was way ahead of time.” During his time studying with Karlheinz, Holger met Conny Plank and Irmin Schmidt.

Holger remembers “Conny sitting behind him, writing out a score by hand.” At first “Conny was quiet,” but they “soon became close friends,” during their time studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was a thorough musical education, where Karlheinz taught his pupils about aleatoric music, serial composition and musical spatialisation.

Karlheinz wasn’t just a “visionary” in terms of electronic music, but was fascinated by aleatoric music. Essentially, aleatory is controlled chance. With aleatoric music, some element of a piece are left to chance. Granted there will only be a certain number of outcomes, but the musician has to choose the outcome they believe is correct. Serialism was another subject Karlheinz was interested in. With serialism, a series of values are used to manipulate musical elements. This form of composition fascinated Karlheinz. So did musical  spatialisation, which would influence Can. Karlheinz was an evangelist, encouraging his pupils, including Holger Czukay, Irmin Schmidt and Conny Plank to investigate, examine and scrutinise each of these subjects between 1963 and 1966.

For Holger, he could have asked for a better musical education. He admits “Karlheinz taught me so much.” When I asked Holger the most important thing Karlheinz taught him, he didn’t hesitate. Karlheinz told him to “find your own sound.” Holger never forget those words of advice. They became his musical mantra, when eventually, he decided to make a career as a musician. However, when Holger finished studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1966,  he became a  musical teacher.

Having graduated, Holger was enjoying life as a music teacher. Holger was enjoying his newfound career as an educator. He wasn’t a fan of pop or rock music. That was about to change in 1967.

That’s when Holger heard The Beatles’ I Am A Walrus in 1967, he was captivated by this psychedelic rock single. Holger describes this “as a life-changing moment…the music of the past and present came together.” At last, “here was music that made the connection between what I’d studied and I was striving towards” With the innovative use of bursts of radio and the experimental sound and structure, “I went in search of similar music.” 

So I asked Holger about what type of music he started listening to? Specifically, I asked about Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground? Did they influence you, and ultimately Can? “Frank Zappa I didn’t really get.” “Velvet Underground they were different, they really influenced me and my music” “They influenced the music I made…I remember the first time I heard Velvet Underground and where I was when I heard it”

Much of the music that influenced Holger, he heard whilst spending time with friends. Holger is a huge fan of vinyl. He remembers “sitting in a friend’s flat “looking through piles of albums. We’d study the sleeve-notes and then spread the album covers all over the floor. We scrutinised them, then immersed ourselves in the music. It was a shared experience. We listened and discussed the music. I can remember these times well.” Listening to Holger speak, he’s a real music fan. His enthusiasm is infectious. So much so, that it’s as if your sitting in the flat with Holger and his friends, looking at the album covers, listening to the music and discussing it. This music would go on to influence Holger’s future career.

It was then that I mentioned the forthcoming vinyl reissues of both the Can back-catalogue and Holger Czukay’s legendary solo albums Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. He’s “pleased to hear they’re being rereleased, especially on vinyl. That’s the perfect medium, you hear the music as you’re meant to.” Listening to Holger he’s evangelic about the vinyl. Not compact discs though. “Compact discs reduce music to background music. No longer do you have to immerse yourself in the music. Instead, it becomes background noise.” In a way Holger is correct, music becomes an accidental soundtrack to daily life. That’s not right. Music is much more important than that. Especially for someone who founded one of the most influential and innovative groups in musical history, Can.

Inspired by what he’d heard, Holger decided to form his own band in 1968…Can. Can’s roots can be traced back to the previous year, when one of Can’s co-founders was studying in time. This was Irmin Schmidtm who’d studied under Karlheinz Stockhausen, at the same time as Holger. The two fellow pupils of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Irmin Schmidt and Holger would eventually form Can. Before that they went their separate ways, 

After graduating, Irmnin headed to New York, where he spent time with avant-garde musicians like Steve Reich, Terry Riley and La Monte Young. Soon, Irmin was aware of Andy Warhol and Velvet Underground. This inspired him to form his own band when he returned home to Cologne.

In Cologne, Irmin a pianist and organist formed Can with American avant garde flautist David C. Johnson and bassist Holger Czukay. Up until then, the trio had exclusively played avant-garde classical music. Now their ambitions lay beyond that. Their influences included garage, rock, psychedelia, soul and funk.  So they brought onboard three new members of the group, which started life as Inner Space, and then became The Can. Eventually, they settled on Can, an acronym of communism, anarchy, nihilism

The first two new additions were guitarist Michael Karoli and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Vocalist and New York-based sculptor Malcolm Mooney joined the band midway through 1968. By then, they were recording material for an album Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. Two tracks, Father Cannot Yell and “Outside My Door were already recorded. Unfortunately, record companies weren’t interested in Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. As a result, it wasn’t released until 1981, when it was released as Delay 1968. Undeterred, Can continued to record what became their debut album, Monster Movie.

Despite not being able to interest a record company in Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom, Can were confident in their own ability. So Can continued recording what would become their debut album Monster Movies. That’s despite being what Holger referred to as “a poor man’s band.” They didn’t have the equipment that other groups did. What they did have was “an ambition to create innovative music.” However, before long, there was a problem.

David C. Johnson left Can at the end of 1968. He was disappointed at the change in musical direction. Little did he realise that he’d lost the chance to be part of one of the most groundbreaking band’s in musical history, Can.

Monster Movie.

Monster Movie had been recorded in Schloss Nörvenich, a 14th-century castle in North Rhine-Westphalia. Can recorded Monster Movie  between 1968-69. It was the released in August 1969. This marked the debut of Can. Their career started as they meant to go on, creating a groundbreaking, genre-melting fusion of blues, free jazz, psychedelia, rock and world music. Monster Movies has a Velvet Underground influence. It’s as if Can have been inspired by Velvet Underground, but pushed musical boundaries to their limits.

Throughout Monster Movie, Can improvised, innovated and experimented. Multilayering and editing played an important part in Monster Movie’s avant garde sound. So did spontaneous composition, which Can pioneered. 

Spontaneous composition was hugely important in Can’s success. Holger remembers “that the members of Can were always ready to record. They didn’t take time to think. It was spontaneous. The music flowed through them and out of them.” Holger remembers that he was always “given the job of pressing the record button. This was a big responsibility as the fear was failing to record something we could never recreate.” In some ways, Can were an outlet for this outpouring of creativity, which gave birth to a new musical genre.

This new musical genre was dubbed Krautrock by the British music press. So not only was Monster Movie the album that launched Can’s career, but saw a new musical genre, Krautrock coined. The founding father’s of Krautrock were Can, lead by Holger Czukay.

51JLu1EVXkL

Canaxis 5.

1969 saw the release of Holger Czukay’s debut album. Credited to the Technial Space Composer’s Crew, Canaxis 5 was a collaboration between Holger and Ralf Dammers. Canaxis 5 is an often overlooked album, which features two lengthy tracks. It shows two innovative musicians pushing the musical envelop, as Can would continue to do.

51j7UnRWToL 

Soundtracks.

Released in 1970, Soundtracks, was Can’s sophomore album. Essentially, Soundtracks is a compilation of tracks Can wrote for the soundtracks to various films. It’s the album that marked the departure of vocalist Malcolm Mooney. Replacing him, was Japanese busker, Kenji Damo Suzuki. He features on five of the tracks, contributing percussion and vocals. The addition of Damo wasn’t the only change Can were making.

Soundtracks was a coming of age for Can. It marked a move away from the psychedelic jams of Monster Movie  and a move towards their classic sound. That saw the music becoming much more experimental and avant-garde. The music took an ambient, meditative, mesmeric and thoughtful sound. This marked the beginning of what became known as Can’s classic years, when albums like Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days were released. 

81y-b3DK47L._SL1500_

Tago Mago.

The first instalment in the golden quartet was Tago Mago. This was the first album where Kenji Damo Suzuki was a permanent member of Can. He and the rest of Can spent a year in the castle in Schloss Nörvenich. It was owned by an art collector named Mr. Vohwinkel. He allowed Can to stay at Schloss Nörvenich rent free. For what Holger described as “a poor man’s band,” this was perfect. 

Holger remembers Can during this year as “just jamming and seeing what took shape. Songs started as lengthy jams and improvised pieces.” This Holger remembers is “how Can always worked” After that, Holger worked his magic. He edited them and these mini masterpieces  featured on Tago Mago, which was four months in the making.

For four months between November 1970 and February 1971, Can recorded what would become one of their most innovative and influential albums, Tago Mago. 

A double album, Tago Mago featured seven groundbreaking tracks. Tago Mago was released in February 1971. Straight away, critics realised the importance of Tago Mago. Here was a game-changer of an album. It has an intensity that other albums released in 1971 lacked. Jazzier with an experimental sound, the music is mysterious, mesmeric and multilayered. It’s innovative, with genres and influences melting into one. Nuances, subtleties and surprises reveal themselves. No wonder. Can deliver an avant garde masterclass.

This comes courtesy of jazz-tinged drumming, improvised guitar playing and showboating keyboard solos. Then there was Kenji Damo Suzuki’s unique vocal style. All this, resulted in an album that was critically acclaimed, influential and innovative. 

Released to widespread critical acclaim in 1971, Tago Mago was the start of a golden period for Can. Their reputation as one of the most innovative groups of the seventies started to take shape. Can had released one of the most innovative albums, Tago Mago. Holger remembers the reaction to Tago Mago. “I knew Tago Mago was an innovative album, but I never realised just how innovative an album it would become?

On Tago Mago’s release, it was hailed as Can’s best album yet. However, not in Holger’s opinion. “Tago Mago is a classic album, but I much prefer Future Days.” Despite Holger’s preference, several generations of musicians have been inspired by Tago Mago, a true Magnus Opus, that belongs in every record collection. So does the followup Ege Bamyasi.

81lRUjOZbgL._SL1500_-2

Ege Bamyasi.

Can were on a roll. It seemed they could do no wrong. They released Spoon as a single in 1972. It reached number six in Germany, selling over 300,000 copies. That was helped no end, by the single being used as the theme to a German thriller Das Messer. It seemed nothing could go wrong for Can. The money the made from Spoon, allowed Can to hire disused cinema to record what became Ege Bamyasi.

Can advertised for a space to record their next album, Ege Bamyasi. Recording began in a disused cinema, which doubled as a recording studio and living space. The sessions at Inner Space Studio, in Weilerswist, near Cologne didn’t go well. Irmin Schmidt and Kenji Damo Suzuki took to playing marathon chess sessions. As a result, Can hadn’t enough material for an album. This resulted in Can having to work frantically to complete Ege Bamyasi. Despite this, Can were still short of material. So Spoon was added and Ege Bamyasi was completed.

Ege Bamyasi was a fusion of musical genres. Everything from jazz, ambient, world music, psychedelia, rock and electronica melted into one. When it was Ege Bamyasi released in November 1972, it was to the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Critics were won over by Can’s fourth album. It was perceived as a more accessible album than its predecessors. Just like Can’s previous albums, the quality of music was consistent.

Critics hailed Can as one of the few bands capable of creating consistent and pioneering albums. They were one of the most exciting bands of the early seventies. Can were continuing to innovate and influence musicians and music lovers alike. Just like its predecessor, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi is an essential part of any self respecting record collection. Having released two consecutive classic albums and their first single, it seemed nothing could go wrong for Can.

81mOeUV9FOL._SL1428_-2

Future Days.

Despite Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi being referred to as two of the most influential albums ever released, Holger Czukay prefers Future Days. This is the album he calls “my favourite Can album.” It was the third in Can’s golden quartet, and marked a change in direction from Can.

Future Days saw Can’s music head in the direction of ambient music. The music is atmospheric, dreamy, ethereal, melancholy, expansive and full of captivating, mesmeric rhythms. It’s also pioneering and progressive, with elements of avant garde, experimental, psychedelia and rock melting into one. Rather than songs, soundscapes describes the four tracks. Future Days and Bel Air showcase Can’s new sound. Bel Air was the Future Day’s epic. It lasted just over nineteen minutes, and sees can take you on an enthralling  musical journey. Just like the rest of Future Days, critics hailed the album a classic.

On its release in August 1973, Future Days was hailed a classic by music critics. The move towards ambient music may have surprised some Can fans. However, Brian Eno was just one artist pioneering ambient music. This move towards ambient music must have pleased Holger’s guru Karlheinz Stockhausen. He must have looked on proudly as Can released the third of a quartet of classic albums. The final album in this quartet, Soon Over Babaluma was released in 1974.

7158S-9PvlL._SL1500_

Soon Over Babaluma.

Soon Over Babaluma marked the end of Can’s golden period. It was the end of a period where they were releasing some of their most innovative and groundbreaking music. There was a change of direction on Soon Over Babaluma. Can were without a vocalist. Kenji Damo Suzuki left Can and married his German girlfriend. He then became a Jehovah’s Witness. Despite the lack of a vocalist, Can continued as a quartet. They released Soon Over Babaluma in November 1974.

When Can released Soon Over Babaluma in November 1974, it received praise from critics. With a myriad of beeps, squeaks and sci-fi sounds, Soon Over Babaluma is like  musical journey into another, 21st Century dimension. A musical tapestry where layers of music are intertwined during five tracks on Soon Over Babaluma. It followed in the ambient footsteps of Future Days and brought to a close the most fruitful period of Can’s career. Following the “golden quartet,” Can didn’t go into decline. Instead, Can continued to reinvent themselves and their music. 

71MqC-tWFpL._SL1188_

Landed.

Landed was released in September 1975. It had been recorded between February and April 1975 at Inner Space Studios. Just like previous albums, Can produced Landed. Holger and Tony Robinson mixed the first four tracks at Studio Dierks, Stommeln. The other two tracks were mixed by Holger at Inner Space Studios. These six tracks marked a change of direction from Can. 

As well as a change in direction musically, Landed was the first Can album to be released on Virgin Records. Gone is the ambient sound of Soon Over Babaluma. Only Unfinished on Landed has an ambient influence. Instead, Landed has a poppy, sometimes glam influence. With uptempo, shorter songs, Landed was a much more traditional album. How would the critics react?

Critics were divided about Landed. Some critics saw Landed as the next chapter in the Can story, while others praised the album as adventurous, eclectic and innovative. Others thought Can were conforming. Surely not?

81lXL+HrvNL._SL1500_

 Flow Motion.

Flow Motion was Can’s eight album. As usual, it was recorded at Inner Space Studios. Produced by Can, Flow Motion was an album that drew inspiration from everything from funk, reggae, rock and jazz. It was an eclectic, genre-melting album. It’s also one of Holger Czukay’s favourite Can albums. 

Holger remembers Flow Motion as an “Innovative and eclectic” album. He calls it “one of Can’s underrated albums.” Flow Motion also marked a another change in Can’s way of working.

Released in October 1976, Flow Motion featured lyrics written by Peter Gilmour. This was a first. Never before, had anyone outside the band had written for Can. It worked. Can enjoyed their first UK single I Want More. It would later be recorded Fini Tribe and then Italo disco group Galaxis. With what was just their second hit single in seven years, maybe Can were about to make a commercial breakthrough?

81kBemXBaqL._SL1417_

Saw Delight.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Saw Delight which was released in March 1977, wasn’t the commercial success many people forecast. That’s despite the new lineup of Can embracing world music. 

Joining Can were bassist Rosko Gee and percussionist and vocalist Rebop Kwaku Baah. They’d previously been members of British rock band Traffic. Rosko Gee replaced Holger on bass. Holger decided to add a percussive element, Holger added a myriad of sound-effects. This was Holger at his groundbreaking best. Experimental sounds including a wave receiver was used. The result was one of the most ambitious albums can had released.

Despite the all-star lineup and a bold, progressive and experimental album, Saw Delight wasn’t a commercial success. It was well received by critics. The problem was, Saw Delight was way ahead of its time. If it had been released in the eighties, like albums by Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel, it would’ve been a bigger commercial success. Sadly, by then Can would be no more. That was still to come. However, things weren’t well within the Can camp.

81fJz9Rf-tL._SL1500_

Out Of Reach.

Nine years after Can had released their debut album Monster Movie, they released their tenth album, Out Of Reach. It was released in July 1978. The title proved to be a prophetic. After all, commercial success always seemed to elude Can. Not only did Out Of Reach fail commercially, but the Out Of Reach proved to be Can’s most controversial album. 

So much so, that they disowned Out Of Reach. On Out Of Reach Holger was left to add  myriad of sound-effects. Bassist Rosko Gee and percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah of Traffic returned. They were part of the problem. Holger confirms this.

When I asked him what he meant by this, he said “During the recording of Out Of Reach, I felt an outsider in my own group. I was on the outside looking in. I was on the margins. All I was doing was add sound-effects.”  For Holger, he felt” his group had been hijacked by Rosko Gee and and Rebop Kwaku Baah.” Things got so bad, that Holger quit Can. 

Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah dominated Out Of Reach. Gone was the loose, free-flowing style of previous albums. Even Jaki Liebezeit’s play second fiddle to Baah’s overpowering percussive sounds. The only positive thing was a guitar masterclass from Michael Karoli. Apart from this, things weren’t looking good for Can. It was about to get worse though.

The critics rounded on Out Of Reach. They found very little merit in Out Of Reach. Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah were rightly blamed for the album’s failure. Even Can disliked Out Of Reach. They later disowned Out Of Reach. Despite this, Rosko Gee and and Rebop Kwaku Baah remained members of Can.

Unable to play with the necessary freedom Can were famed for, the two ex-members of Traffic stifled Can. Rebop’s percussion overpowers Jaki’s drums, which have always been part of Can’s trademark sound. At least Michael’s virtuoso guitar solos are a reminder of classic Can. A nod towards Carlos Santana, they showed Can were still capable of moments of genius. There wouldn’t be many more of these. Can would breakup after their next album.

7127rcjt0qL._SL1417_

Can.

Following the failure of Out Of Reach, the members of Can began recording what became Can. Remarkably, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah were still part of Can. Sadly, Holger was not longer a member of Can. He’d left during the making of Out Of Reach. His only involvement was editing Can.

Can, which is sometimes referred to as Inner Space, was released in July 1979. Again, critics weren’t impressed by Can. It received mixed reviews. No longer were Can the critic’s darlings. The music on Can was a fusion of avant garde, electronica, experimental, psychedelia and rock. Add to that, a myriad of effects including distortion and feedback, and here was an album that divided the opinion of critics. The critics agreed, it was better than Out Of Reach. They agreed that Holger was sadly missed. 

Even Holger’s renowned editing skills couldn’t save Can. Try as he may, he could only work with what he was given. He did his best with Can, which the eleventh album from the group he co-founded. By the time Can was released, Holger “had come to a realisation, that it was time to go his own way.” Holger describes this as “necessary.” 

Can decided to split-up after the release of Can. Sadly, Can was their swan-song. However, even before that, Holger “felt marginalised, this had been the case since he Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah became part of Can. They’d hijacked Can.” Now, Holger would embark upon his solo career. 

511H1J4kRhL-2

MOVIES.

Holger hadn’t really been making music since 1976. The last two Can albums saw Holger editing the music. So, Holger set about finding “his own sound again.” He’d “been through this with Can,” Now he’d have to do so again. It would be worth it though, when he released his first solo album since 1969s Canaxis 5, Movies.

Recording of Movies took place at Inner Space Studio, Cologne. This was where Can had recorded the best music of their career. It was like a Can reunion. Jaki Liebezeit played drums on Movies. Irmin Schmidt and Michael Karoli played on Oh Lord, Give Us More Money. Even Baah was drafted in to play organ on Cool In The Pool. Holger threw himself into the project. He recorded Movies and played guitars, bass, keyboards and synths. Then when the four songs that became Movies were completed, Holger mixed and produced the album. Movies saw Holger hailed the comeback King.

Released to critical acclaim, Movies was hailed as one of the best albums of 1979. It was an eclectic album. Described as variously psychedelic, cinematic, melodic, moody, understated and progressive, here was the next chapter in Holger’s musical career. The one track that everyone agreed was a minor masterpiece was Cool In The Pool. It was Movies’ Magnus Opus.  Holger’s decision to embark upon a solo career had been vindicated. He was back doing what he did best, creating ambitious, groundbreaking and pioneering music. That would continue in 1981, when Holger released On The Way To The Peak Of Normal.

51u6Q8vHd+L-2

On The Way To The Peak Of Normal.

When I spoke to Holger, he said “one of the albums I’m most proud of, is 1981s On The Way To The Peak Of Normal. It was Holger’s first collaboration with Conny Plank. 

Working with Conny Plank Holger remembers, was a revelation. Holger felt Conny was a consummate professional. “Here was someone who understood what I was trying to achieve.” He ensured that I never made music people neither understood, nor wanted to buy. The sessions were organised and disciplined, very difference from the indiscipline of late Can albums.” 

Recording took place in the familiar surroundings of Inner Space Studios, Cologne. The only member of Can were present was Jaki Liebezeit. Other members of the band included Conny Plank and Jah Wobble, who Holger and would collaborate with on the 1982 E.P. Full Circle and the 1983 Snake Charmer E.P. They’re two of many collaborations Holger would be involved with. That was still to come.

Before that, Holger released On The Way To The Peak Of Normal in 1981. Just like the early days of Can, Holger was the critic’s darling.

Critics were won over by On The Way To The Peak Of Normal. The albums was a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, funk, industrial, jazz, psychedelia and rock. Genre-melting describes an album of bold, challenging, innovative, inventive and influential music. It was a case of expect the unexpected on On The Way To The Peak Of Normal, which saw Holger continue to create groundbreaking music. Here, was one of the most inventive albums Holger had recorded.

Although Holger had been making music for three decades, he still had plenty to say musically. That would continue throughout the rest of the eighties, with his various collaborations and his 1984 album Der Osten ist Rot.

717XRGnlTwL._SL1200_-2

 Der Osten ist Rot.

There was a three year gap between On The Way To The Peak Of Normal and Der Osten ist Rot. During that period, Holger was busy collaborating with other artists. A new generation of artists discovering his music, and Holger was discovering their music. 

He remembers spending time with Conny Plank in Cologne. Devo and the Eurythmics had been working with Conny. Holger was able to spend time in their company. One night, Holger remembers “Devo jamming, and they asked me to join them. I was impressed by their discipline and stability. It was a pleasure to play with them. Compared to Can in the end, it was totally different and a great experience. Especially with the Eurythmics watching.” Conny Plank, Holger remembers, was a hugely important influence on him and his music.

When recording of Der Osten ist Rot began at  Inner Space Studios, Cologne, there was still a Can influence. Holger had written six songs and cowrote three with Jaki Liebezeit of Can. Jaki also played drums, piano, trumpet and organ. Conny played synths and Michy took charge of vocal duties. Together, they played their part in another groundbreaking album from Holger Czukay.

Released in 1984, critics welcomed another ambitious and groundbreaking album. The combination of Holger, Conny Plank and Jaki Liebezeit had proved a powerful partnership. This is apparent when you listen to Der Osten Ist Rot, which remarkably, was released thirty years ago. Ambitious, progressive and eclectic, Holger and his band weave musical genres. They become something other artists will never have envisaged. These artists however, aren’t a visionary like Holger Czukay. That’s obvious on Der Osten Ist Rot

To celebrate this anniversary, Groenland Records will released a selection of songs from Der Osten Ist Rot and its followup  Rome Remains Rome on 18th July 2014. This is a very welcome release.

R-81673-1128362808

Rome Remains Rome.

Neither Der Osten Ist Rot, nor Rome Remains Rome have been released before. There’s a good reason for this. Sadly, previously, the master-tapes were damaged and several songs lost for good. So, unless you’re fortunate enough to own a copy of the original albums, then Groenland Records’ rerelease will be a tantalising taste of a musical pioneer at the peak of his powers. That’s apparent on Rome Remains Rome.

Rome Remains Rome saw Holger joined by some familiar faces. This included two of Holger’s old friends from Can, guitaristMichael Karoli and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Bassist Jah Wobble completed what was a fearsome rhythm section. They provided the heartbeat to Rome Remains Rome, which was released in 1987.

On its release in 1987, Rome Remains Rome saw the continued reinvention of Holger Czukay.  Rome Remains Rome was a fusion of art rock, avant garde, electronica, experimental and rock. Determined not to stand still, Holger takes you on a mesmeric musical adventure. Veering between musical genres, the album is like a musical tapestry. Layers of music go into the making of  Rome Remains Rome. Again, it’s a case of expect the unexpected. No wonder.  Holger as always, was a musical chameleon. That’s why no two Holger Czukay albums are the same. Far from it. Holger’s music continued to evolve. That’s what you’d expect from one of the most innovative musicians of his generation, Holger Czukay. It seems that after leaving Can, Holger had been rejuvenated. He agreed with that. That wasn’t the end of my conversation with Holger Czukay. We’d much more to discuss.

R-66780-1298925146

Listening to Holger, he enthuses about his solo career. It’s obvious that Holger feels his solo albums are overlooked. As a longtime Can and Holger Czukay fan, I don’t need convinced. He’s preaching to the converted. The problem is, that having been a member of one of the biggest and most innovative bands in musical history, anything that Holger released would be compared to that.

Even today, I told Holger, that still, a generation of bands still reference Can as one of their main influences. When I asked Holger who that felt, he quietly and modestly said “nice.” “We never expected that. We were just a poor man’s band making music.” He did admit that “when we made albums like Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi,  we knew these albums were good, special even. However, we never knew the effect they would have. It’s incredible. I’m proud to have been a part of that.” As our interview drew to a close, I’d a few questions left for Holger.

I was interested to hear his thoughts on Neu and Kraftwerk, who I described as the Holy Trinity of German music during the seventies. Holger remembers “spending time with the members of Neu. Sadly, we never got the opportunity to play together. That’s a regret. We didn’t even share a bill.” There’s a sense of sadness in Holger’s voice at the thought of two giants of German music sharing the same stage. What about Kraftwerk I asked?

“Now back then, Kraftwerk were a very different band. They were just an ordinary band, not the art band they’ve become. Their music was very different, especially when you listen to their first two albums.” Holger isn’t envious of Kraftwerk’s success. He seems proud to have known them, and seen them play, before they changed direction. Looking back, the Holy Trinity of German music are all success stories. They’ve all played an important part in modern music. Can, Neu and Kraftwerk were all innovators, who influenced several generations of musicians and music lovers. They’ll continue to do so. However, what if Can were a new band nowadays I asked Holger?

“Would I like be to starting Can today?” Holger said “no. “I’m happy we founded our poor man’s band when we did. We achieved more than we ever expected.”  I mentioned the technology available to bands nowadays? He seems happy that Can had to “make do, mend and innovate.” Holger is also a huge fan of “analogue equipment and vinyl.” He recommends that “people should listen to Can on vinyl. That’s how the music was meant to be heard back then. We recorded our music with vinyl in mind, not eight-track, cassettes or compact discs.” Holger is disparaging about compact discs. He’s far from a fan of their sound. 

Instead, Holger is an advocate of vinyl’s superior sound. He chided me for having listened to all my Can albums on compact disc. “You must buy the albums on vinyl. The music comes alive.” Fortunately, I’ll have the opportunity to do that.

Mute Records are in the process of rereleasing Can’s back-catalogue on vinyl. Then on 18th July 2014, Groenland Records will release a selection of songs from two of Holger’s legendary solo albums Der Osten Ist Rot and Rome Remains Rome. They’ll be released on two 10” albums and as a digital download. As an added bonus, previously unreleased remixes versions are included on the album. As I mentioned earlier, it’s going to be an expensive time for fans of Can and Holger Czukay’s music. Even better, there’s more to come

Holger’s partner Elsa, a former DJ, who masterminded The Lost Tapes box set project, has been delving into Holger’s vaults. There’s a myriad of delights within these vaults. This includes music by Can and from Holger’s solo career. Gradually, Holger said, “some of these unreleased tracks will be released. It’s just a matter of when” With that, my time with Holger was almost over. I had one question left. 

So, with a new generation of musicians in mind, I asked Holger what would his advice be for a new band? Without hesitation, he said “find your own sound.” That’s what Karlheinz Stockhausen told Holger to do. “It’s  what Can did,  and I then had do so as a solo artist.” With those words of wisdom from the legendary, maverick musicians, we said our farewells. It had been a pleasure spending time with Holger Czukay, one of the greatest musicians in the history of modern music.

Although innovative is an overused word, that’s the perfect description of Holger Czukay. He truly is an innovative and pioneering musician. Whether it was with Can, or as a solo artist, Holger Czukay wasn’t afraid to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. That’s what you expect from a maverick musician like Holger Czukay. 

Throughout his long and successful career, he released some of the most ambitious, innovative, inspiring and influential music of the past fifty years. He’s also a musical visionary who was way ahead of his time. That’s why in the future, the music of Holger Czukay and Can, will continue to influence and inspire further generations of musicians.

Bildschirmfoto-2014-07-03-um-15.21.18-290x290

 

ROBBIE BASHO-ZARTHUS.

ROBBIE BASHO-ZARTHUS.

The last time I wrote about Robbie Basho, I described him as a trendsetter and innovator. That was the case throughout his career. However, some of the most innovative and groundbreaking music Robbie Basho released was at Vanguard Records. Robbie’s Vanguard Records debut was The Voice Of The Eagle, which was released to widespread critical acclaim. The Voice Of The Eagle found Robbie immersing himself in Native American culture. It was a truly ambitious album.

Robbie’s raison d’être on The Voice Of The Eagle seemed to be broaden the minds of music lovers. He wanted them to open their ears to musical possibilities. The same can be said of the followup to The Voice Of The Eagle, Zarthus, which was recently rereleased by Vanguard Masters, an imprint of Ace Records. Zarthus saw a change in direction from Robbie Basho.

Whereas The Voice Of The Eagle saw Robbie immerse himself in the culture of Native American culture, Zarthus saw Robbie change direction. He’d previously been through a Japanese and Indian period. The cultures of Japan and India had influenced Robbie’s music. Now, Robbie was about to enter his Persian period.

Zarthius was a tapestry of Persian, Arabic and Western music. The result was what Robbie Basho described as a “Fabric D’Amour to cover the bare manekin of modern times.” Released in 1973, Zarthus was ambitious, innovative and groundbreaking. Here was music very different to much or the music being released during 1973. No wonder. Robbie Basho was a trendsetter and had been throughout his career. This began in 1962, when Robbie first heard Ravi Shankar.

Before hearing Ravi Shankar, Robbie had already embraced Asian culture. This began back in 1959, when the then nineteen year old Daniel Robinson Jr, bought his first guitar. Soon, Robbie immersed himself in Asian culture. So much so, that he changed his name to Robbie Basho, in honour of the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. This was the beginning of the transformation of Daniel Robinson Jr, from student to Robbie Basho, groundbreaking musician who released a string of albums between 1965 and 1985. This included 1972s The Voice Of An Eagle, which was recently rereleased on Vanguard Masters, a subsidiary of Ace Records. It demonstrates why Robbie Basho is remembered as a groundbreaking musician. Robbie’s story began in Baltimore in 1940.

Tragically, Daniel Robinson Jr, was orphaned at an early age. He was then adopted by the Robinson family and attended school in Baltimore. At high school, he sang in the middle and high school choirs. Daniel also played the euphonium in his high school band. So, for some people, it wasn’t a surprise that Daniel Robinson Jr, would go on to enjoy a career as a musician. His career began at the University of Maryland.

Daniel headed of to the University of Maryland in 1958. It was there that he met John Fahey, Ed Denson and Max Ochs. They were all aspiring guitarists. Their interest rubbed off on Daniel. However, he didn’t have a guitar. Not until he met a sailor who’d just returned from Mexico.

Daniel was working his way through college by working in a club. One night, he met a sailor who’d just returned from Mexico. The sailer had an antique Mexican 12-string guitar. He offered to sell it to Daniel. The only problem was that he wanted  $200 for it. Robbie however, bought the guitar for $200. However, buying the guitar was just the start of a new chapter in Daniel’s life.

With his new guitar, Daniel set about pushing the guitar to his limits. Daniel also immersed himself in Asian culture. So much so, that he changed his name to Robbie Basho, in honour of the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. This was the just the first change in Robbie’s life and career.

Having started off playing country blues, with John Fahey, Ed Denson and Max Ochs, that didn’t seem to satisfy Robbie. So he dipped into bluegrass, classical, oriental and free jazz. Then came the moment that changed Daniel’s life. He heard Ravi Shankar.

Sitting in the dark, listening to Ravi Shankar, Daniel found music he could relate to. This was fortuitous. Many artists who played folk music found they weren’t able to express themselves. Having listening to Ravi, Daniel realised he could. There were a whole host of tunings he hadn’t yet discovered. Soon, Daniel was studying with Ali Akbar Khan, who was a renowned sarod virtuoso. Ali helped popularise Indian music within the West. So, did Robbie Basho.

Robbie pioneered and popularised a whole host of open and exotic tunings. He also developed his coded Doctrine of Mood and Colour For 6 and 12-String Guitar. This was all part of Robbie efforts to transform the steel-string acoustic guitar into a concert instrument. That took the best part of ten years. By then, Robbie’s recording career was well underway.

After a spell spent travelling, Robbie found himself in Berkeley. There was a thriving folk scene in Berkeley. This played its part in the revival of Takoma Records, who Robbie would release Robbie’s solo album.

This was 1965s The Seal Of The Blue Lotus. Robbie’s sophomore album was 1966s The Grail and The Lotus. These two albums were innovative and much more adventurous than much of the folk music being released back then. Robbie was determined to push musical boundaries. He succeeded, releasing The Falconer’s Arm I, The Falconer’s Arm II and Basho Sings in 1967. That year, Robbie contributed The Thousand Incarnations Of The Rose to the compilation Contemporary Guitar – Spring ’67. 1967, proved to be the most fruitful year of Robbie’s career.

It wasn’t until a new decade dawned that Robbie Basho released another album. This was 1970s Venus In Cancer, which was released on Blue Thumb Records. Robbie last album for  Takoma Records was released in 1971. That was Song Of The Stallion. After that, Robbie signed to another prestigious label, Vanguard Records, where he released two albums.

The first of the two albums Robbie released on Vanguard Records, was The Voice Of The Eagle. It featured eight tracks penned by Robbie. He played 6 and 12-string guitar and sang led vocals. Ramnad Raghavan was a guest artist. He played the mrdangam drums, which are an Indian log drum. Producing The Voice Of The Eagle, was Jack Mothrop. Robbie dedicated The Voice Of The Eagle to the Indian  American and Avatar Meher Baba an Indian spiritual master, who many people believed, was God in human form. The Voice Of The Eagle was released in 1972.

The Voice Of The Eagle found Robbie immersing himself in Native American culture. It was a truly ambitious album. Sadly, The Voice Of The Eagle was a commercial failure. It passed most people by. Looking back, maybe the problem was, people didn’t understand what was one of Robbie Basho’s most ambitious and innovative albums. However, Robbie wasn’t going to give up. Instead he returned with another album of pioneering music Zarthus.

For Zarthus, Robbie penned six tracks, Zarthus,Khoda E Gule Abe, Mehera, Khalil Gibran, Bride Divine and Rhapsody In Druz. Robbie played 6 and 12-string guitar and sang led vocals. Ramnad Raghavan was a guest artist.  He played the mrdangam drums, which are an Indian log drum. Producing Zarthus, was Jack Mothrop. Would Zarthus, which saw Robbie Basho change direction prove a commercial success?

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Just like The Voice Of The Eagle, Zarthus passed music lovers by. Critics appreciated Zarthus. It was well received upon its release. They recognised the quality of the music, and that Robbie was trying create music that was groundbreaking. The problem was, just like with The Voice Of The Eagle, Robbie Basho was way ahead of his time. He was a visionary, whose music was under-appreciated upon its release. It was only later, that Robbie Basho was recognised as a musical pioneer. By then, he was dead. Zarthus proved to one of the finest albums of Robbie’s career. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about Zarthus.

Zarthus opens with the title track. Just a deliberate thoughtful, crystalline guitar opens the track. Deliberately, Robbie strums, choosing notes with care. Then a tender, earnest half-spoken vocal enters. When it departs, frantically, Robbie strums his guitar. The drama grows and builds. Although it’s just one man and his guitar, the music has a cinematic quality. Its also dramatic and emotive as it heads towards its crescendo.

Khoda E Gule Abe (The Lord Of The Blue Rose) sees Robbie interpret a Persian raga. At the start, it’s just his guitar. His hands flit up and down the fretboard, as he strums and plucks. Before long, the raga is underpinned by tablas.  Music flows through Robbie. It’s as if he’s only an outlet for the music. The music is mesmeric, hypnotic and spiritual. Later, it becomes urgent and dramatic. It draws you in. You’re captivated by it. This is ordinary music. Instead, it ’s music designed to cleanse and sooth your weary soul. As the final notes play, you feel better for having allowed the music into your life and soul. 

Mehera (Persian For Mary) is another track with a spiritual quality. That’s apparent from the get-go. Robbie’s vocal is earnest and impassioned. He accompanies himself on the piano. The lone piano speaks a thousand words. It’s the perfect foil for Robbie’s vocal, becoming yin to his yang. Through Robbie the music flows. He’s a vessel for this cathartic soul cleansing vocal. When Robbie’s vocal departs, the piano takes centre-stage. Flamboyant flourishes of piano are unleashed. Their ethereal beauty seems a fitting replacement for Robbie, during this hymnal to his “beloved higher mind.”

Straight away, the understated and beautiful Khalil Gibran, takes on a spiritual quality. That’s not surprising, given the track seems to have been inspired by the Lord’s Prayer. Then there’s Robbie’s earnest, heartfelt vocal. It’s delivered with the utmost sincerity. Accompanying his is gently plucked and strummed guitar. Nothing else is needed. That would be overkill. Just Robbie and his trusty guitar breath life, beauty and spiritually into this devotional.

Robbie’s urgently strummed guitar opens Bride Divine. Then his quivering vocal enters. By delivering his vocal this way, his voice becomes akin to another instrument. It veers between a jazzy scat and even free jazz. It quivers, shivers and shimmers. This allows Robbie to inject drama, emotion, passion and sincerity into the lyrics. The effect this has, is to give the song joyous, celebratory sound that forty years later, is still as powerful and enchanting.

Closing Zarthus, is Rhapsody In Druz, where we embark on what Robbie described as ” a spiritual journey.” A series of short stories makeup Rhapsody In Druz. They’ve one commonality love. Originally, the song took up all of the second side of Zarthus. It’s a near twenty minute opus. Robbie’s shimmering, sometimes dramatic piano opens the track. The music cascades in waves. It’s truly captivating and beautiful. You lose yourself in the music. It washes over you, cleansing your soul. Suddenly, everything seems right. After three minutes, the tempo drops and Robbie’s vocal enters. He mixes drama, emotion and hope. When his vocal drops out, it’s just the piano. This becomes a familiar pattern. Robbie and his piano toy with your emotions, before the piano takes centre-stage. A series of melodic masterclass unfolds. You’re taken on a journey by Robbie and his piano during what’s one of the most ambitious, innovative and adventuresome pieces of music Robbie ever recorded. 

Rhapsody In Druz seems a fitting way not just to close Zarthus, but Robbie Basho’s time at Vanguard Records. They allowed Robbie to follow his heart and release music that was ambitious, groundbreaking and innovative. There seems to be no thought to how successful Zarthus would be. 

Vanguard Records didn’t seem to think like that. It was as if music mattered more than money. Music was art and you couldn’t put a price on art. Especially avant garde, experimental and innovative art. In some ways, Vanguard Records are to be applauded. They afforded their artists complete artistic freedom. There was never any pressure for the artist to try to release music that was commercial. So, Robbie Basho was able to release music he’d never had the opportunity to release on a major label. However, there was a downside.

The problem with signing to a small, independent label is they don’t have the budget to promote an album. Especially a niche album like Zarthus. It had to be promoted, and promoted well. It was all about marketing the music to right audience. There was, after all, a market for the music on Zarthus. People’s musical tastes had been much more eclectic since the late-sixties. However, there was a problem, reaching this market.

Just like The Voice Of An Eagle, Zarthus seemed to passed many people by. Either that,  or they didn’t understand the music. Then there was the fact that music had moved on. Folk and jazz were no longer as popular. Rock was King. Whether it was Krautrock, prog rock or classic rock, rock ruled the roost. Granted soul was making inroads, but only briefly. Commercially, Zarthus was the wrong album at the wrong time.  

Artistically, Zarthus is a lost classic. Sadly, Zarthus wasn’t appreciated on its release in 1974. Despite this, Zarthus has stood the test of time. A timeless album, full of captivating, enchanting, ethereal and mesmeric music, Zarthus also has a spiritual quality. It’s designed to cleanse and soothe the weary soul. This is music to immerse yourself in, and let it wash over you. Zarthus is also  ambitious, innovative and groundbreaking music. Here was music very different to much or the music being released during 1974. No wonder. Robbie Basho was a trendsetter and would continue to be the rest of his career.

Throughout the rest of his career, Robbie Basho continued to innovate and plough his own musical furrow. Sadly, commercial success eluded Robbie. That’s a great shame, because Robbie Basho was determined to create ambitious and groundbreaking music. Ironically, given his talent as a musician, singer and songwriter, Robbie could’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.

That would’ve meant compromising what he believed in. Robbie wasn’t willing to go down the road of James Taylor and Jackson Browne. No. He was determined to release music he believed in. You can’t help but admire Robbie for sticking to his principles. That was the case throughout his twenty-year recording career. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Robbie Basho. 

Despite commercial success and critical acclaim eluding Robbie Basho, he released a string of groundbreaking albums. Two of Robbie Basho’s best albums were The Voice Of An Eagle and Zarthus which was recently rereleased by Vanguard Masters, an imprint of Ace Records. Zarthus finds the founding father of the American raga at his innovative best, and is a spiritual journey everyone should embark upon once in their life.

ROBBIE BASHO-ZARTHUS.

VCD-79329

VCD-79339b

VCD-79339c

VCD-79339a

FIRE! ORCHESTRA-ENTER.

FIRE! ORCHESTRA-ENTER.

The origins of Fire! Orchestra can be traced to Fire! It’s a trio consisting of bassist Johan Berthling, drummer Andreas Werliin and saxophonist Mats Gusfasson. They’re three of Sweden’s finest jazz musicians. Their speciality is free jazz. However, there’s much more to the members of Fire! than that.

They’re far from purists when it comes to jazz. Instead, they’ve an eclectic taste in music. That’s apparent by their music pasts. Each of the members of Fire! have played with a variety of bands. Currently, Johan Berthling is a member of experimental folk-electronica combo Tape. Andreas Werliin is a member of alternative pop duo Wildbirds And Peacedrums and Mats Gusfasson a member of jazz trio The Thing. Despite their very different musical backgrounds, Johan, Andreas and Matt have been making music as Fire! for a number of years. Then in 2011, Fire decided to change direction.

It was in 2011, that the members of Fire decided to expand beyond the core trio. They hit on the idea to expand the group. The way Fire! did this, was to bring onboard the great and the good of Scandinavian jazz, improvisation and avant rock players and vocalists. They called this new musical venture Fire! Orchestra. It was a musical first in Sweden.

The newly named Fire! Orchestra were building on the music of some of the legendary free jazz big bands. This includes the big bands of Sun Ra, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Mike Westbrook and Mike McGregor. There was more to the Fire! Orchestra that free jazz. They incorporated funk, blues, rock and jazz. This became apparent when the Fire! Orchestra made their tentative first steps.

In the beginning, the Fire! Orchestra played just a handful of shows. They were finding their feet musically. Gradually, they were finding their sound. It’s best described as genre-melting and was showcased on their live debut album, Exit.

It was in 2013, when Fire! released their live debut album Exit. Released to widespread critical acclaim, Exit was a genre-melting sound that people wanted to hear more of.

So after playing a couple of concerts early in January 2014, the Fire! Orchestra entered the Svenska Grammofonstudion, in Gothenberg on 10th January 2014. This wasn’t going to be a long session. Instead, the twenty-nine members of the Fire! Orchestra took just one day to record Enter, which will be released by Rune Grammofon on 14th July 2014. The lineup of the Fire! Orchestra included some of the best musicians in Scandinavia.

With twenty-nine members, the Fire Orchestra must have been one of the biggest groups to recently record at Svenska Grammofonstudion, in Gothenberg. Vocalists included Mariam Wallentin, Ethiopian-born Sofie Jernberg and Silverbullit´s Simon Ohlsso. The horn section included trumpeters Niklas Barnö, Magnus Broo and Emil Strandberg, trombonists Mats Äleklint and Per Åke Holmlander. Goran Kajfes played coronet, Anna Högberg  alto saxophone, Mats Gustafsson and Elin Larsson tenor sax, Fredrik Ljungkvist and Martin Küchen baritone saxophone and Jonas Kullhammar bass saxophone. Keyboardists included  pianist Sten Sandell and Martin Hederos on Fender Fhodes and organ. Fire! Orchestra’s rhythm section included drummers Raymond Strid, Johan Holmegard and Andreas Werliin, bassists Joel Grip, Dan Berglun and Johan Berthling on electric bass. Guitarists included Sören Runolf, David Stackenäs and David Stackenäs who also played lap steel. They were joined by Christer Bothén on bass clarinet and guimbri, while Joachim Nordwall took charge of electronics. This was the lineup of Fire! Orchestra which recorded Enter, which I’ll tell you about

Enter opens with Enter Part One, a near fourteen minute epic. A wistful, mesomorphic rock guitar combines with a buzzing bass to set the scene for an ethereal vocal from Mariam Wallentin. Her vocal is yin to the arrangement’s yang. Both are sparse and compelling. Before long, braying horns and Simon’s tender vocal add to the melancholy sound. Gradually, the arrangement unfolds. A vocal soars above the arrangement. The soul-baring vocals play a crucial part in the track’s sound and success. Soon, searing, scorching rocky guitars enter. Along with the rest of the Fire! Orchestra they combine classic rock with jazz, blues, soul and free jazz. Later, when the vocals drop out, blistering guitars feedback. It’s as if the ghost of Jimi Hendrix has made a welcome return. There’s even a nod to Neil Young’s experimental opus Arc. After that, this genre-melting track takes a number of twists and turns. It becomes theatrical, dramatic, innovative, experimental and impassioned. Still the vocal is at the heart of the track. It’s a cathartic outpouring of emotion, drama and frustration. There’s even a nod to Kate Bush in her prime. Along with wailing horns and a pounding rhythm section, it leads this dramatic, free jazz jam to its dramatic crescendo.

Eerie and sinister describes the whispery vocal that’s panned left as Enter Part Two unfolds. Meanwhile, the driving rhythm section combine elements of classic rock, Krautrock and jazz. Blistering, scorching horns and a Doors’ inspired organ prove the perfect backdrop for Simon’s vocal. It veers between emotive to vampish and becomes a stream of consciousness. At one point, it’s the equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. It’s as if the rest of the Fire! Orchestra are helping him to exercise his demons. In doing so, they combine post punk, Krautrock, free jazz, funk, classic rock and free jazz. This glorious melange is hypnotic and mesmeric. Then it’s all change, as the track becomes a frenetic fusion of avant garde, experimental and industrial. After that, Fire! Orchestra return to their jazz roots. From a traditional, sultry sound, the track slowly heads in the direction of dramatic,  moody free jazz, with the Fire! Orchestra at their innovative best.

As Enter Part Three unfolds, Fire! Orchestra take you in a new direction. It’s not so much a vocal that opens the track. Instead, it’s a series of scatted, avant garde sounds. They’re dramatic, impassioned and soul-baring, they’re accompanied by a myriad of percussion. Again, it’s as if demons are being exorcised. Then after five minutes, the track begins to unfold. A Fender Rhodes joins the rhythm section and percussion. The vocal takes on a much more orthodox sound. Free jazz horns sweep in, quivering and shivering, blazing and braying. Their raison d’être is to ensure the arrangement swings along. It does. Meanwhile, the vocal becomes powerful, veering between bluesy, jazz-tinged and soulful. Later, it becomes a cathartic confessional. At that point, the arrangement is stripped bare. A myriad of grizzled, rasping horns carry along the vocal, until like the arrangement, it reaches a dramatic crescendo. By then, the vocal is spent and exhausted by the effort and emotion, expelled during this cathartic confessional.

Closing Enter is Enter Part Four, the shortest track on the album. It comes in at just under nine minutes. Straight away, the Fire! Orchestra combine blues and classic rock. The rhythm section join keyboards in providing the backdrop for the trio vocalists. They’re accompanied by jazz-tinged horns. Along with the rhythm section and keyboards, they provide a hypnotic, groove-laden track. This is another side to the Fire! Orchestra. Their fusion of jazz, blues and classic rock is peerless. Especially when combined with the dreamy, soulful delights of the three vocalists. Add to that scorching, blistering rocky guitar. The longer the track goes on, the better the Fire! Orchestra become. It’s as if they’re determined to leave you wanting more. That’s what they do. They build the drama, combining musical genres, before stripping the arrangement bare, leaving you with the melancholy sound of the Fender Rhodes. What a way for Fire Orchestra to close their debut studio album Enter.

As debut albums go, Enter is one of the best I’ve heard during the last few years. Through the four tracks on Enter, Fire! Orchestra spring a series of surprises. They take you places you never expect to go. Not only that, but Enter is a mood altering album. One minute it’s wistful and melancholy, the next it’s dramatic, dreamy and ethereal. Sometimes, the music on Enter is joyous and uplifting, the next it’s heartbreaking and guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings. Much of that is down to the vocals.

Fire! Orchestra’s vocalists include Mariam Wallentin, Ethiopian-born Sofie Jernberg and Silverbullit´s Simon Ohlsso. Each of them, play a huge part in the albums sound and success. Their vocals are impassioned, heartfelt, ethereal, soul-baring and sometimes, the equivalent to a cathartic confessional. Confession they say, is good for the soul. That’s definitely the case here, as the vocals veer between bluesy, jazz-tinged and soulful. Sometimes, they draw inspiration from Afro-beat, avant garde and experimental music. Along with the rest of Fire! Orchestra, the three vocalists play their part in a truly groundbreaking album, Enter.

The best way to describe Fire! Orchestra’s debut album Enter is innovative and progressive. It’s also an album that will influence a new generation of musicians. Enter showcases the sound of the twenty-nine members of the Fire! Orchestra in full flight. This was an impressive sound. Especially given their fusion of mesomorphic rock rhythms, funk, free jazz and the bluesy, soul-baring vocals of the Fire! Orchestra’s three vocalists. Add to this the scorching free jazz saxophone of Joe McPhee and Enter, which will be released by Rune Grammofon on 14th July 2014 has a potent, powerful and captivating sound. 

Enter is definitely an album that makes a big impression. It was written and produced by the three members of Fire! They’re just the latest in a long line of hugely talented Swedish musicians I’ve written about. However, it’s not just Swedish musicians that feature in the Fire! Orchestra! No. Fire! Orchestra features some of the top Scandinavian musicians. They joined forces in the Fire! Orchestra to record Enter, a groundbreaking, genre-melting album featuring ambitious, innovative and progressive music.

FIRE! ORCHESTRA-ENTER.

81ERB5lps+L._SL1500_

PEE WEE CRAYTON-TEXAS BLUES JUMPIN’ IN LOS ANGELES.

PEE WEE CRAYTON-TEXAS BLUES JUMPIN’ IN LOS ANGELES.

Musically, Pee Wee Crayton was a late developer. He only started playing the guitar seriously in 1935, when he was twenty-one. That just so happened to coincide with Pee Wee Crayton moving to Los Angeles. 

He’d moved to Los Angeles from Rockdale, Texas. That had been home to Pee Wee Crayton. It was where he was born on December 18th 1914. Growing up, Pee Wee Crayton was influenced by T-Bone Walker. 

That wasn’t unusual. Many aspiring musicians were influenced by T-Bone Walker. He was an influential and innovative guitarist, and is remembered as one of the legendary blues players. So is Pee Wee Crayton.

Over time, Pee Wee Crayton developed his own unique sound and style. His style of playing is best described as aggressive and confident. Coupled with a voice that’s smooth as silk, this was a winning combination. Pee Wee Crayton would go on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim, when he signed to Modern Records in 1948.

Pee Wee Crayton didn’t sign his first recording contract until he was thirty-three. He might have been a late developer, but success came quickly for Pee Wee Crayton. One of the first singles Pee Wee Crayton released, Blues After Hours, headed all the way to number one in the US R&B charts. It seemed Pee Wee Crayton was making up for lost time. 

This was just the start of the most productive period of Pee Wee Crayton’s career. The music Pee Wee Crayton recorded at Modern Records included, without doubt, some of the best music of his career. A reminder of this is Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles, Ace Records’ recently rereleased compilation of music Pee Wee Crayton recorded for Modern Records between 1948 and 1951.

Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles features twenty-eight tracks. The majority of these tracks will be new to most people. Twenty-six of these tracks have never been released before. There’s alternate version of singles and album tracks. Then there’s tracks that never made the cut. They’ve lain unloved in Modern Records’ vaults. Only two tracks from Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles have been released before.

The two tracks from Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles to have been released before include a B-Side and a single. I’m Still In Love With You is the B-Side to Pee Wee Crayton’s 1948 number one US R&B single Blues After Hours. Some Rainy Day was released as a single in 1950. These two tracks are just the tip of a musical iceberg.

Pee Wee Crayton’s first session for Modern Records was in September 1948. It resulted in the number one single Blues After Hours. Fittingly, an alternate take of  Blues After Hours opens Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles. It’s followed by the B-Side to Blues After Hours, I’m Still In Love With You. This version includes the false start. The same session yielded the ballad When Darkness Falls. Given how fruitful this session was, Modern Records didn’t wait long until they got Pee Wee back into the studio.

November 1948 saw Pee Wee and his band return to the studio. One of the highlights was an alternate version of Texas Hop. It’s a blistering boogie, featuring a guitar masterclass from Pee Wee. Among the other tracks from this session was a wistful alternate take of Central Avenue Blues. Later, Pee Wee springs a surprise unleashing a blistering guitar solo. The tempo is still slow on I Love You So aka I Still Love You. It features a melancholy, thoughtful vocal from Pee Wee. Playing an important part in the success of Central Avenue Blues and I Love You So aka I Still Love You, is the piano. Without doubt, it’s the perfect foil for Pee Wee as we hear another side to him and his music. A month later, Pee Wee showed another side to his music.

There was no rest for Pee Wee. Modern Records brought him back into the studio in December 1948. He and his band kick loose, delivering a scorching version of Austin Boogie. His trademark guitar is joined by a pounding piano and growling horns. What a way to end 1948, the year that transformed Pee Wee Crayton’s career. Would 1949 be as successful?

After a couple of sessions early in 1949 proved less than fruitful, it wasn’t until 30th July 1949 that Pee Wee Crayton found himself back in the studio. Accompanying him were his usual band a trio of horn players. Among the tracks from this session to feature on Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles are two versions of Brand New Woman. The first version has a false start. That’s a shame, given the blistering solo from Pee Wee. With the help of the horns, the other version swings. It’s just a pity they fluffed the first version. A dramatic, moody version of Long After Hours was another of the session’s highlights. So is Rockin’ The Blues, Long After Hours and Tired Of Travelin, which features a despairing vocal from Pee Wee. This was one of Pee Wee’s most fruitful sessions of 1949. The same can be said of a session in September 1949.

 It was at a session in September 1949 that Pee Wee recorded the alternate take of Blues For My Baby, which features on Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles. It’s another instrumental. After a false start, Pee Wee and his band get into the groove. The music is moody and bluesy. Sometimes, he thrashes his guitar, other times he caresses it. Another of the tracks from this session was When A Man Has The Blues. Here, Pee Wee pays homage to his hero T-Bone Walker’s They Call It Stormy Monday. My Everything  and Old Fashioned Baby have a slow, moody, late night sound. It’s Pee Wee at his best, making music for the lonely, brokenhearted and disenfranchised. The September 1949 session had proved fruitful. Pee Wee was on a roll.

Later in 1949, Pee Wee recorded two versions of T For Texas. The exact date isn’t known. One of the versions of T For Texas features on Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles. So does Rockin’ The Blues. It was recorded in December 1949. Pee Wee was accompanied by Harry Edison’s Orchestra. Bursts of muted trumpet play an important part in the track’s sound and success. After the recording sessions, Pee Wee took a three month break from recording.

Pee returned refreshed in February 1950. He went on to lay down some of the best music of his career. This included Huckle Boogie, where Pee Wee records a guitar double. It was overdubbed and resulted in a glorious boogie. The quality continued on Change Your Way Of Lovin’ and Some Rainy Day. It seemed Pee Wee was on his way to becoming one of the biggest names in blues music. Then fate decided to intervene.

During 1950, Pee Wee married his wife Esther, who he met in 1949. A year later, they were married. They remained married until Pee Wee passed away in 1985. However, the newly marred Pee Wee was involved in an automobile accident. This curtailed his recording schedule.

His first, and only, recording session of 1950 took place on 25th May 1950. Pee Wee recorded Answer To Blues After Hours. The song seems to follow Pee Wee’s tried and tested formula. This means that after a hesitant start, Pee Wee’s evocative guitar and flourishes of piano combine. Right through to the diminished chord that closes the track, this format had proved successful for Pee Wee. Why change a winning formula? Just like many artists, Pee Wee had found a successful formula. So would The Beatles, Motown and Gamble and Huff. Apart from Answer To Blues After Hours, Pee Wee laid down Crayton Special, Good Little Woman and an alternate take of California Women, which would feature on Pee Wee’s Crown 1960 eponymous album. Despite only entering  a recording studio once during 1950, Pee Wee hadn’t lost his mojo.

It would be another ten months before Pee Wee entered the recording studio again. On 14th March 1951, Pee Wee recorded the ballad Thinkin’ Of You and Poppa Stoppa, a horn driven ballad. It features Pee Wee unleashing a spellbinding solo. Accompanied by the piano, it’s a mesmeric performance, one of his best. Another version of Tired Of Travelin’ closes Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles. A weary, lonesome Pee Wee lays bare his soul, as he delivers a needy vocal. This proves the perfect way to close Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles.

Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles is the third instalment in Ace Records Pee Wee Crayton retrospective. Compiled by Dick Shurman, a renowned expert on the music of Pee Wee Cratyon, Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles is a captivating collection of alternate tracks. 

There’s alternate version of singles and album tracks. Then there’s unissued tracks that for whatever reason, never made the cut. They’ve lain unloved in Modern Records’ vaults for over sixty years. That’s way too long. Music deserves to heard and enjoyed. Thanks to Ace Records and Dick Shurman that’s now possible, with the recent released of Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles

Only two tracks from Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles have been released before. This includes a B-Side and a single. I’m Still In Love With You is the B-Side to Pee Wee Crayton’s 1948 number one US R&B single Blues After Hours. Some Rainy Day was released as a single in 1950. These two tracks are just the tip of a musical iceberg, that’s Pee Wee Crayton’s career at Modern Records.

It was at Modern Records that Pee Wee released some of the best music of his career. This music launched a career that lasted twenty-seven years, until Pee Wee passed away on June 25th 1985. Pee Wee was only seventy-one years old. A late developer as a musician, Pee Wee Crayton made up for lost time. 

Not long after he signed to Modern Records, Pee Wee Crayton enjoyed a number one single with Blues After Hours. Although Pee Wee never replicated that success, he enjoyed a successful career. Pee Wee Crayton is remembered as one of the finest blues guitarists of his generations. Then there’s that voice. It’s smooth as silk. When combined with his guitar playing, it’s a potent partnership that’s showcased on Ace Records’ Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles. For the newcomer to Pee Wee Crayton’s career, then Texas Blues Jumpin’ In Los Angeles is the perfect place to start.

PEE WEE CRAYTON-TEXAS BLUES JUMPIN’ IN LOS ANGELES.

CDCHD-1400

CDCHD-1400a

CDCHD-1400d

CDCHD-1400c

CDCHD-1400c_1

 

KEB DARGE AND LITTLE EDITH’S LEGENDARY WILD ROCKERS 4.

KEB DARGE AND LITTLE EDITH’S LEGENDARY WILD ROCKERS 4.

A lot has happened to Keb Darge and Little Edith since the release of Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 3, in June 2013. The village in the Philippines, where Keb Darge and Little Edith live, was destroyed by a typhoon. Nothing was heard of  Keb Darge and Little Edith for several days. Some people feared the worst. Then came the news,  Keb Darge and Little Edith were safe. They’d survived one of the most devastating typhoons to hit the Philippines. It had been a harrowing period for Keb Darge and Little Edith. Despite this, they were determined to compile Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4 which will be released by BBE Music on 7th July 2014.

Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4 features twenty slices of rare rockabilly and surf. These tracks were released between 1956 and 1964. They’re a mixture of rarities, cult classics and hidden gems. That’s what we’ve come to expect from the Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers compilation series.

The first instalment in Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers  compilation series began in June 201. It was so successful, that it’s since become an annual occurrence. 

Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 2 followed in July 2012, with Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 3 following in June 2013. Now just over a year later, Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4 is about to be released. This makes the Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers compilation series one of BBE Music’s most successful compilations. Not bad for what Keb once called “junk records.”

This was back in 2010, when Keb decided to move away from his favoured deep funk, which he was the founding father of. Deep funk was just one of many chapters in the life times of  Keb Darge DJ, record collector extraordinaire, compiler and founding father of “deep funk.” 

Keb Darge was born in Elgin, Scotland, and from an early age, was absorbed in music. His first exposure to music was as a record collector. Having accumulated an impressive record collector, DJ-ing was the next step for Keb. He travelled around Scotland and eventually, to Wigan. The road to Wigan was a well travelled road for Scottish soul fans. Most headed to the Wigan Casino, whereas Keb landed a DJ residency near the casino. He continued to DJ until he was twenty-two, then decided to move to London. 

After moved to London, Keb quit DJ-ing. Promoters persisted in asking him to DJ. Eventually, he relented, allowing London’s club-goers to experience the Northern Soul sound. Then disaster struck for Keb in 1987. His divorce saw him forced to sell his beloved record collection. Obviously, without records, a DJ-ing career wasn’t feasible. Heading out into civvy street, Keb tried various jobs to make ends meet. Then, when he rediscovered some records in his loft, this would change his career, and life. 

The pile of records that Keb discovered in his loft were what Keb called “junk records.” They included what was the beginning of what would become “deep funk.” Keb took this junk records to the Wag Club in 1989. Although this was the height of the Acid House’s popularity, the Wag Club was best known for Acid Jazz.  After the night ended at The Wag Club, Keb met fellow DJ and record collector Snowboy. This was the start of a long and successful partnership.

Snowboy and Keb transferred their deep funk night to another venue. Due to the popularity of house music, the night never gathered momentum. From there, they headed to Soho. This was the perfect venue. Their Legendary Deep Funk night became hugely successful. It was so successful that the new venue quickly establishing itself as a club. Keb continued to DJ at the Legendary Deep Funk night lasted until 2010, when he decided to quit playing Deep Funk. This resulted in a change of direction from Keb Darge.

After moving away from Deep Funk, Keb continued to DJ. He changed direction musically, spinning an eclectic selection Northern Soul, rockabilly, early R&B and jump-blues. However, by 2010, Keb’s career was heading in different directions. Not only was he busy compiling compilations for various labels, but was running Kay Dee, a label he founded with Kenny Dope.

By 2010, Keb Darge had compiled various compilations, including several volumes of his Legendary Deep Funk, plus Soul Spectrum, Funk Spectrum and Lost and Found with Paul Weller. 2010 saw the release of the first of Keb Darge and Little Edith’s collaborations. In 2010, Keb Darge and Little Edith released Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Rockin’ R&B. Then in 2011, came the first installment in Keb and Little Edith’s new compilation series. 

Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers was released in July 2011, with Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 2 following in July 2012. Now just eleven months later, Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 3. Given how critically acclaimed Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 2 was, Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 3 has a lot to live up to.

No worries. Keb and Little Edith dug deep into his record collection. He came out with twenty of his secret weapons. The result was Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 3, which managed to surpass the quality of the two previous volumes. However, after without doubt the most turbulent year of their lives, Keb and Little Edith return with Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

The most important track on any compilation is the opening track. Keb and Little Edith realise this. They open Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4 with The Black Albinos’ Shish Kebab. It was released on a single on the Belgian label, Newtown Records. For those unfamiliar with The Black Albinos, they’re a Dutch group. They released their first single in 1962 and the split-up in 1965. Nearly thirty years later, The Black Albinos made a comeback in 1994. One of their finest moments was Shish Kebab, a dramatic slice of surf garage.

From the get-go, the Floyd Dakil Combo don’t spare the hooks on Dance, Franny, Dance. It’s a rockabilly track. Released in 1964, on Jetstar Records, Floyd Dakil Combo gave the Dallas based group a nationwide hit. Hook-laden and joyous, this was as good as it got for the Floyd Dakil Combo. They never again replicated the success of Dance, Franny, Dance.

Ric Cartey With The Jiva-Tones released Young Love as a single in 1956. It was released on the Stars Inc. label. Tucked away on the B-Side is Oooh-Eeee. Written by Jerry Reed, this is a swinging slice of rockabilly that’s guaranteed to fill a dance-floor.

Mike Waggoner and The Bops were a rockabilly from from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Despite recording a number of songs, the majority went unreleased. This includes a cover of Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny. The only single Mike Waggoner and The Bops released was Baby Baby. It’s a cover of a Dale Hawkins’ song, which was released in April 1961, on the Vee label. It sees  Mike seems to pay homage to Eddie Cochran during a barnstorming version of Baby Baby. So it’s no surprise that three years later, Mike Waggoner and The Bops opened for The Rolling Stones in Minneapolis.

Irresistible. That describes The Dazzlers’  Gee Whiz. It was released in 1958, on Lee Records. Gee Whizz bursts into life and The Dazzlers create a blistering slice of rockabilly. Sometimes, it reminds me of Chuck Berry’s 1956 hit Too Much Monkey Business. Just like Chuck Berry on Too Much Monkey Business, The Dazzlers storm their through Gee Whizz.

In 1960, the Col-Lee-Jets released Phoney Baby as a single, on the Northwestern label. Tucked away on the B-Side was Jam and Jelly. It’s a driving, stomping slice of rockabilly. Stab of searing guitars and blazing horns play their part in this glorious hidden gem.

Benny Joy’s Little Red Book bursts into life. Straight away, it’s obvious Benny Joy is  a seriously talented singer. There’s a nod to Elvis. Maybe that’s why Sam Phillips offered Benny a contract with Sun Records? Incredibly, Benny turned down what for most singers, would’ve been the opportunity of a lifetime. He did go on to enjoy regional success. One of Benny’s biggest hits was Little Red Book, which he swaggers his way through. Another was Steady With Betty. It features an Elvis-esque performance from Benny Joy, where he’s accompanied by some searing guitar licks. Just like Little Red Book, Steady With Betty is a glimpse of what the man they called the Dark Prince of Southern Rockabilly was capable of.

The Emanons released Stomper as a single in 1959. It’s one of the rarest tracks on Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4. Over the last couple of years, copies have been changing hands for well over $100. No wonder. It oozes quality. Stomper by name, it’s a stomper by nature. Even better are the scorching saxophone solos. They’re the finishing touch to this Stomper.

It was back in 1959 that George Fleming released I’m Gonna Tell as a single. I’m Gonna Tell was released on the Fleming label. Then twenty years later, in 1979, the single was rereleased on Rollercoaster Records. On both occasions, Shake was the B-Side. Just like I’m Gonna Tell, Shake epitomises everything that’s good about rockabilly. Although the music is fifty-five years old, it’s timeless and will leave you wanting to hear much more rockabilly.

Big John Taylor was Benny Joy’s guitarist. He also released Money Money as a single in 1959. From the opening bars, he unleashes his surf guitar. It plays its part in the track’s moody, menacing sound. Especially when combined with a grizzled saxophone. The result is one of the best instrumentals on Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4.

Closing Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4 is Service With A Smile. This is the second single from Kuf-Linx. They’re joined by John Jennings. It was a double-A side. Eyeballin’ was the flip-side. Released in 1958, Service With A Smile is a fusion of doo wop and R&B. This marked a stylistic departure from their debut single So Tough. Of the two tracks, I much prefer Service With A Smile, with its fusion of smooth soul and doo wop.

Keb Darge and Little Edith have surpassed themselves with Legendary Wild Rockers 4. It’s without doubt, the best instalment in their Legendary Wild Rockers’ compilation series. That’s incredible, given how traumatic a year it has been for Keb and Little Edith. 

They survived a typhoon that devastated the town they live in, in the Philippines. At one point, they were missing. As time went by, people began to think the worst. Then, just as a few people were beginning to abandon all hope, the word came through, Keb and Little Edith were safe. This was a big relief for everyone. After all, Keb is one of legends of London’s club scene.

The founding father of Deep Funk, Keb changed direction in 2010. He began spinning a much more eclectic selection of music, including Northern Soul, rockabilly, early R&B and jump-blues. Then a year later, came the first instalment in the Legendary Wild Rockers’ compilation series. Since then, another three volumes have been released by BBE Music. Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4 is the latest instalment in the series. It’ll be released on 7th July 2014, on BBE Music.

Every year, Keb and Little Edith somehow, manage to surpass the quality of the previous instalment in the Legendary Wild Rockers’ compilation series. This year, they’ve dug deeper than they dug before to find the rare rockabilly and surf that features on Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4. They’ve surpassed themselves. Keb Darge and Little Edith have combined cult classics, hidden gems, B-Sides and rarities on Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 4, which without doubt, is the finest instalments in the Legendary Wild Rockers’ series.

KEB DARGE AND LITTLE EDITH’S LEGENDARY WILD ROCKERS 4.

61XBfMu0LKL

LITTLE MILTON SINGS BIG SOUL.

LITTLE MILTON SINGS BIG SOUL.

Although Little Milton eventually became one of the biggest soul singers of sixties, his background was in the blues music. Growing up, Little Milton modelled himself on legendary blues player T-Bone Walker. By the age of twelve, Little Milton was playing the blues in the streets of Greensville.

That’s where Little Milton lived, after moving from Inverness, Mississippi, where he was born on 7th September 1934. Little Milton was brought up in Greensville by a local farmer and blues musician. Just like the music of T-Bone Walker, he would influence the young James Milton Campbell Jr, growing up. This paid off. By the age of eighteen, he’d come to the attention of Ike Turner, who was then a talent scout for Sam Phillips Sun Records.

Now signed to Sun Records, Little Milton released a series of singles. They all failed to chart and Little Milton left Sun Records in 1955. After that, Little Milton released singles on various labels, including on Trumpet Records. Still success eluded Little Milton. So, he setup his own record label, Bobbin Records.

Little Milton founded Bobbin Records in St Louis. His nascent label struck a deal with Leonard Chess’ Chess Records. Before long, he signed Albert King and Fontella Bass to Bobbin Records. Soon, they were enjoying commercial success. So was Little Milton.

This was the start of Little Milton’s long and successful career. He’d go on to sign to some of the biggest American labels. This included Checker, Stax and Malaco, where Little Milton released some of the best music of his career. It features on Kent Soul’s recently released compilation Little Milton Sings Big Soul. Little Milton’s time at Malaco was still a long way away. Before that, Little Milton would enjoy his first hit single at Bobbin Records.

Although Little Milton had enjoyed a few regional hits, he’d yet to see one of his singles reach the US R&B charts. Eventually, So Mean to Me, which was released on Little Milton’s Bobbin Records, reached number fourteen in the US R&B charts. This was just the start of the commercial success that was about to come Little Milton’s way.

Three years later, Little Milton was signed to Checker, a subsidiary of Chess Records. Jis music changed direction. Whereas he’d previously been influenced by T-Bone Walker, Little Milton was now influenced by B.B. King. So, his music had a slicker sound. This resulted in a trio of hit singles. Blind Man stalled at number eighty-six in the US R&B charts, before We’re Gonna Make It reached number one. The followup, Who’s Cheating Who, then reached number two. These three singles featured on We’re Gonna Make It, Little Milton’s debut album. 

We’re Gonna Make It, was released in 1969 and showcases Little Milton’s fusion of blues and soul. It reached number 101 in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B charts.This looked like transforming him into one of the biggest names in music.

Things didn’t quite work out like that. After releasing his sophomore album Sings Big Blues, Little Milton didn’t release another album for three years. He did enjoy a few minor hits. Then his luck changed in 1969.

That was when Little Milton released the single Grits Ain’t Groceries. It reached number seventy-three in the US Billboard 100 and thirteen in the US R&B charts. Just A Little Bit then reached number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 100 and thirteen in the US R&B charts later in 1969. Both singles featured on the 1969 album Grits Ain’t Groceries Featuring ”Just A Little Bit.” A year later, in 1970, Little Milton released If Walls Could Talk.

If Walls Could Talk was released in 1970. It reached number 197 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-three in the US R&B charts. Although If Walls Could Talk didn’t match the success of Grits Ain’t Groceries Featuring ”Just A Little Bit.” This was Little Milton’s final album for Checker. He wouldn’t release another solo album until 1973.

That was on Stax. Little Milton’s Stax debut was 1973s Waiting for Little Milton. It stalled at just number thirty-nine in the US R&B charts. Little Milton also featured on Stax’s live album Montreux Festival, which featured Albery King and Chico Hamilton. Then in 1974, Little Milton released Blues ‘N’ Soul, which reached just number forty-five in the US R&B charts. This would be Little Milton’s highest chart placing until 1990.

After the demise of Stax in 1975, Little Milton signed to the Glades label, an imprint of T.K. Records. Glades was home to Timmy Thomas, George McCrae, Latimore, Seven Seas and Otis Clay. Little Milton’s Glades debut was Friend of Mine, which reached number fifty in the US R&B charts in 1976. This was as good as it got for Little Milton at Glades. 1977s Me For You, You For Me failed to chart. Following the commercial failure of Me For You, You For Me, Little Milton left Glades. 

The next few years saw Little Milton weren’t kind to Little Milton. His next three albums failed to chart. He released I Need Your Love So Bad on Golden Ear in 1980. Walkin’ The Back Streets  was released in 1981, on the second coming of Stax. Then The Blues Is Alright was released on Evidence. Not one of these albums troubled the charts. Things changed in 1983.

That’s when Little Milton released Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number. Released in 1983, on Mobile Fidelity, it reached number fifty-three in the US R&B charts. Then a year later, Little Milton signed to a label that he’d call home for two decades, Malaco Records.

During his time at Malaco Records, Little Milton released some of the best music of his career. Little Milton Sings Big Soul is a taste of the twenty years Little Milton spent at Malaco Records. There’s a total of eighteen tracks on Little Milton Sings Big Soul. These tracks featured on ten albums released between 1984 and 2002. The story begins with  two tracks from Little Milton’s 1984 album Playing for Keeps.

Opening Little Milton Sings Big Soul is Misty Blue. Accompanied by lush sweeping strings, Little Milton delivers a needy, soul-baring vocal. It’s taken from the 1984 album Playing for Keeps. It reached number fifty-five in the US R&B charts. You’re Gonna Have A Murder On Your Hands is another track from Playing For Keeps. It’s a fusion of soul, blues and gospel harmonies, from a reinvigorated Little Milton.

1985 saw Little Milton release his second album for Malaco, I Will Survive. Despite failing it to chart, there was nothing wrong with the music. That’s obvious listening to I Had A Talk With My Baby Last Night. It’s a dramatic, emotive and soulful confessional from Little Milton. We’re Gonna Make It has a hopeful, bluesy sound. Blazing horns help drive the arrangement along, as Little Milton delivers a vocal powerhouse, accompanied by cooing harmonies. Of all the albums Little Milton released for Malaco, I Will Survive is one of the most underrated albums from a musical survivor.

Following I Will Survive’s failure to chart, the same fate befell 1986s Annie Mae’s Cafe and 1987s Movin’ to the Country. 1988 saw a return to commercial success on Back To Back, which reached number seventy-three in the US R&B charts. Three tracks from Back to Back feature on Little Milton Sings Big Soul. This includes the slow, moody and bluesy Can’t Trust Your Neighbour. The tempo drops on Caught In The Act (Of Gettin’ It On), a smooth slice of soulful music about a cheating couple. Little Milton’s lived-in, weary vocal brings the lyrics to life. On The End Of The Rainbow, Little Milton mixes blues and soul, with emotion, melancholia and sadness, to create a beautiful, wistful track.

In 1990, Little Milton released his most successful album in twenty years, Too Much Pain. It reached number forty in the US R&B charts. The followup was 1991s Reality.

On Reality’s release, in 1991, it reached number seventy-three in the US R&B charts. That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha is one of the highlights of Reality. It’s a cover a song made famous by Bobby Womack. Although Bobby’s version is the definitive version, Little Milton reworks a soul classic. His version is an outpouring of emotion and power, where a needy Little Milton delivers a vocal masterclass. The other track from Reality is the soul soap opera You Left A Goldmine For A Golddigger. 

Strugglin’ Lady was released in 1992. This was Little Milton’s eighth album for Malaco. It featured A Nickel And A Nail. Little Milton’s is akin to a confessional, as his band fuse blues and soul. Strugglin’ Lady sees a return to the soulful side from Little Milton. It features some of the best, and most moving lyrics. They were written George Jackson and Anthony McKinney. In Little Milton’s hands their transformed into a beautify, but moving song.

I’m A Gambler was the start of a run where commercial success eluded Little Milton. It failed to chart on its release in 1994. One of I’m A Gambler’s highlights was A Man Needs A Woman. Written by Quinton Claunch and Osbie Burnett Clinton, it’s an oft covered song. Among those who covered the track, are James Carr and Z.Z. Hill. So, Little Milton was in illustrious company. This seems to inspire him. Little Milton delivers a captivating cover of A Man Needs A Woman. He combines soul and gospel, with power and emotion.

This Time They Told The Truth is a track from Little Milton’s 1995 album Cheatin’ Habit. Although it failed to chart in the US R&B charts, it reached numb fourteen in the US Blues charts. Approaching his sixtieth birthday, Little Milton was a musical veteran. His gravelly, lived-in vocal is perfectly suited to this track.

There was a three year gap between Cheatin’ Habit and 1998s For Real. Just like his two previous albums, For Real failed to chart. It did reach number thirteen in the US Blues charts. That’s no surprise, when you hear the quality of music on For Real. Especially Little Milton’s covers of A Rainy Night In Georgia and I’d Rather Go Blind. They’re both oft-covered classics, but Little Milton’s slow, soulful covers breath new life and meaning into the songs. Especially on I’d Rather Go Blind, where Little Milton seems to draw inspiration from James Carr. What Our Love Needs is another slow soulful, ballad, where Little Milton and his band seamlessly combine soul and blues beautifully.

Welcome To Little Milton followed a familiar pattern. It failed to chart in the US R&B charts, but reached number ten in the US Blues charts. Little Milton was now sixty-five, and had spent his whole adult life as a working musician. His experience shines through on Osbie Burnett Clinton’s Lovable Girl. It’s a fusion of Southern Soul and blues, with Little Milton delivering a vocal full of hurt and longing.

Mr. and Mrs Untrue is a track from Little Milton’s 2002 album Guitar Man. It reached number eight in the US Blues charts. On Mr. and Mrs Untrue, Little Milton is joined by Karen Brown. Together, they cover a track made famous by the First Lady of Fame, Candi Staton. Without doubt, Candi’s version is the definitive version. Little Milton and Karen Brown try to reinvent the track, as they combine emotion, passion and soulfulness.

That’s the story of Little Milton Sings Big Soul, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. It features eighteen tracks, taken from ten of the albums Little Milton released on Malaco Records. During this period, Little Milton was releasing some of the best music of his career.

Malaco Records was the label Little Milton had spent his life looking for. During the twenty years Little Milton spent at Malaco Records, his music oozed quality. His fusion of soul and blues should’ve been much more successful. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The reason for that is simple, musical tastes had changed.

Between Little Milton’s Malaco Records’ debut, Playing for Keeps and 2002s Guitar Man, neither blues nor soul was as popular as it had been. This resulted in many albums being overlooked. Some struggled to even break into the US R&B charts. Many albums didn’t even trouble the charts. For many people, they think because an album didn’t chart that there’s something wrong with the music. As regular readers of this blog know, that’s far from the case. There’s many a hidden gem or lost classic that failed to chart. That includes several of the albums Little Milton released for Malaco Records. The music on Little Milton Sings Big Soul is proof of this.

Little Milton Sings Big Soul showcases the voice and guitar playing of the man they call Little Milton. A hugely talented singer and guitarist, he deserved to scale the heights that B.B. King did. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Instead, for much of his career, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Little Milton. That shouldn’t have been the case. Not with the talent Little Milton had. Hopefully, Little Milton Sings Big Soul will inspire a new generation to discover the soulful side of Little Milton.

LITTLE MILTON SINGS BIG SOUL

CDKEND-413

CDKEND-413a

CDKEND-413b

CDKEND-413c

MORE LOST SOUL GEMS FROM SOUNDS OF MEMPHIS.

MORE LOST SOUL GEMS FROM SOUNDS OF MEMPHIS.

During the sixties and seventies, Gene Lucchesi’s Sounds Of Memphis label was one of the most important Southern Soul labels. It was one of two labels Gene founded. The other was XL Records, which he founded in 1964. A year later, in 1965, his nascent label released one of the biggest selling Southern Soul singles, Wooly Bully, by Sam The Sham. It sold over ten million copies. This was the start of a musical journey that saw Gene Lucchesi’s labels become two of the biggest players in Southern Soul.

Sounds Of Memphis and XL Records signed some of the most talented artists in Southern Soul history. This included Dan Greer, Spencer Wiggins, George Jackson, Minit, The Ovations and Barbara and The Browns. Many of these artists feature on More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.

More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis is the latest look back at Gene Lucchesi’s label. It’s a fitting accompaniment to previous retrospectives of Sounds Of Memphis and XL Records. There’s been seven in total.

The first instalment was Can’t Be Satisfied: The XL and Sounds of Memphis Story. It was released in October 2007, and featured some of the best singles XL and Sounds of Memphis released. Less than a  year later, in August 2008, Play The Game: The XL and Sounds of Memphis Story Volume 2 was released. After that, it wasn’t until May 2010, that Steppin’ Stone-The XL and Sounds Of Memphis Story Volume 3 was released. Then in 2012, Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis was released. Apart from these four compilations, Kent Soul have also released compilations of music recorded by Dan Greer, Barbara and The Browns and The Ovations. However, there’s much more to XL and the Sounds of Memphis than the music on these seven compilations. 

That’s why Kent Soul have decided to release More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis. It features twenty-two tracks. Only four of them have been released before. The other eighteen tracks have never previously been released. These unreleased tracks have been hidden away in the Sounds Of Memphis since they were recorded. Not any more. More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis was released on 30th June 2014. That’s fitting, given it’s fifty years since Gene Lucchesi founded XL Records. Since then, both XL Records and Sounds Of Memphis have had a special place in the hearts of Southern Soul fans. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about the highlights of More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis.

Marjorie Ingram’s Tempted opens  More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis. It’s one of the eighteen unreleased tracks. Tempted features a sassy, sultry, vampish vocal, complete with a trademark Southern Soul arrangement. Waves of Hammond organ, stabs of blazing horns and soaring harmonies result in a gloriously soulful track, that’s a real hidden gem. What a way to open More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis.

In the history of Southern Soul, George Jackson’s name looms large. A hugely talented singer and songwriter, George recorded for Sounds Of Memphis and Fame Records. Hold On, Hold Out is a beautiful, slow ballad. It’s the perfect showcase for George’s vocal. His vocal is a fusion of emotion, fear and hope. The fear is that his partner will be unfaithful when he’s away. He realises she’ll be tempted, but hopes that his partner “can hold out till I come home. A beautiful, heartfelt ballad, it’s the perfect introduction to George Jackson.

The same can be said Since My Baby Left Me, which features a heartbroken vocal from Dan Greer. Sadly, Dan didn’t enjoy the success his talent warranted. That was the case when Dan was at Fame Records. Next stop was Gene Lucchesi’s Sound Of Memphis. The multitalented Dan Greer became A&R man, producer, songwriter and singer. Despite his undoubted talent, Dan enjoyed more success as a songwriter, producer and A&R man. Since My Baby Left Me is however, a taste of what Dan’s capable of.

Some artists feature more than once on More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis. That includes Rudolph Taylor. He contributes two unreleased tracks. One Man’s Poison is stomping vamp, featuring a vocal powerhouse from Rudolph. His gravelly vocal is accompanied by a pounding rhythm section and stabs of braying horns. Misery is very different. It’s a soul-searching ballad, where cooing harmonies accompany a heartbroken Rudolph. You’re Using Me sees the tempo rise, and the frustration Rudolph’s feeling boils over. Accusingly, he sings “You’re Using Me.”

Mention Barbara Brown and most people will remember her seminal Southern Soul classic Pity A Fool. However, Barbara also enjoyed commercial success with Barbara and The Browns.  Before they signed to Sounds Of Memphis, they’d been signed to Stax and Chess Records’ subsidiary Cadet Records. After that, Barbara and The Browns signed to Sounds Of Memphis, where they recorded the Stacy Davison penned Human Emotions. A slow ballad, where Barbara combines drama and emotion. The result is a spellbinding track that tugs at your heartstrings.

Carroll Lloyd contributes two tracks to More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis. Her first contribution is A Great Big Thing. It showcases a vocal that’s soulfulness personified. Poor Side Of Town is the best of the two tracks. No wonder. It came from the pen of Lou Adler and Johnny Rivers. It’s quality all the way.From the get-go, Carroll’s is an outpouring of hurt. She’s been betrayed, and is hurting. The grizzled horns and harmonies reflect her despair, as Carroll lays bare her weary soul.

Fran Farley’s features twice on More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis. They’re very different. I Care For You has a subtle, understated sound. The arrangement meanders along, before Fran’s needy, heartfelt vocal enters. It’s also tender and hopeful. Very different is Memphis Funk. It’s hard to believe it’s the same artist. Funky, but still soulful, gone is the understated sound. There’s more of a swagger in the vocal, which is fuller and funkier.

Straight away, Billy Cee and The Freedom Express’ Don’t Matter If It’s In The Past reminds me of the type of music Hi Records were producing in the early seventies. Sometimes, Billy Cee’s vocal even sounds like Al Green. Especially as it begins to soar and Billy unleashes a vamp . As for the rest of the arrangement, it epitomises everything that’s good about Southern Soul. That’s why this track is the highlight of More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis.

From the opening bars, Art Jerry Miller’s You Can Always Depend On Me oozes quality. Why this track wasn’t released seems strange? After all, it’s a glorious slice of Southern Soul with a funky twist. Art delivers a vampish, heartfelt vocal while stabs of keyboards and washes of Hammond organ accompany him. The result is a track with a glorious feel-good sound. 

A Hammond organ joins forces to drive the arrangement to drive Tommy Raye’s You Don’t Love Me along. The arrangement is reminiscent of what Booker T. and The MGs were producing during the sixties. You Don’t Love Me will be familiar with most people. It was penned by the blues singer Willie Cobbs. An oft-covered classic, it’s given a Memphis makeover by Tommy Raye.

My final choice from More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis is Ann Hodge’s Your Own Free Will. It was written by Larry Chambers and Raymond Moore, but was never released. A dramatic horn drenched introduction sets the scene for Ann’s vocal. It’s emotive, tinged with sadness and is rueful. No wonder. The man that left her is now being given the runaround by “the other woman.” She can’t seem to muster up the sympathy, given the pain he caused her. This mini-musical soap opera is one of the highlights of More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis.

For anyone who enjoys Southern Soul, then More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis is a compilation that belongs in their collection. After all, Sounds Of Memphis, like XL Records, Gene Lucchesi’s other label, was one of the most important labels in the history of Southern Soul. No wonder. Look at its roster. 

Dan Greer, George Jackson, Rudolph Taylor, Barbara and The Browns, Carroll Lloyd, Fran Farley, Billy Cee and The Freedom Express and Art Jerry Miller were all signed to Sounds Of Memphis. All these artists feature on Kent Soul’s recently released compilation More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis. This is the eighth compilation released by Kent Soul that looks back at Sounds Of Memphis. That’s no surprise, Sounds Of Memphis was one of the most important labels in the history of Southern Soul. That’s obvious when you listen to More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis.

Of the twenty-two tracks on More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis, eighteen have never been released before. That’s not because of the quality. Far from it. Many of the tracks could’ve been released as a single. They’re certainly good enough. In fact, some of the unreleased tracks are better than the singles other labels were releasing, at that time. 

That’s testimony to the quality of music Sounds Of Memphis were releasing, that these tracks have never been released before. Thankfully, albeit somewhat belatedly, the twenty-two tracks on More Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis are now available for everyone to hear. It’s mixture of singles, hidden gems and rarities from the Sounds Of Memphis vaults. That’s why Lost Soul Gems From Sounds Of Memphis is a fitting companion to the eight previous compilations of music from Gene Lucchesi’s Sounds Of Memphis label.

MORE LOST SOUL GEMS FROM SOUNDS OF MEMPHIS.

CDKEND-421

CDKEND-421a

CDKEND-421b

CDKEND-421c

CDKEND-421d

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 157 other followers