MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.

MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.

Throughout his career, Miles Davis was a musical innovator and chameleon. He constantly sought to reinvent himself and his music. This had been the case throughout his career. Miles wasn’t the type of musician who could stand still. No. So, in 1968, Miles changed direction musically and his electric period began. Miles’ electric period is celebrated on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, a four disc box set recently released by Sony Music.

Miles’ electric period began in 1968. He was influenced by psychedelia, rock, soul and funk. These musical genres were hugely popular and influential. Especially artists like Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown. Many of these artists Mile met through his latest girlfriend, Betty Mabry.

Betty Mabry was a twenty-three year old funk singer, songwriter and model. Having dated Miles Davis, Betty married Miles in September 1968 and became the second Mrs Davis. Their relationship didn’t last long. While Miles was forty-two, Betty was only twenty-three. They moved in different circles.

When Betty arrived in New York, from Pittsburgh, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology. In the early sixties, Betty became part of the Greenwich Village folk scene. As the sixties unfolded, Betty’s musical taste changed. She met soul singer Lou Courtney, who produced Betty’s debut single, The Cellar. Before long, Betty’s reputation as a singer and songwriter grew. She became friends with Jimi Hendrix, Lou Courtney and Sly Stone. It was Betty who introduced Miles to these artists. The would inspired Miles to plug-in and go electric.

The period between1968 and 1975 became known as Miles’ “electric period.” It saw Miles at his most creative and inventive. He managed to combine jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock. This wasn’t easy. 

Despite Miles Davis’ band featuring some of the top jazz musicians, the transition to electric instruments wasn’t straightforward. It took time and planning. This became apparent at the start of Miles’ “electric period.” By the time Miles recorded his first album of his Miles’ “electric period,” In A Silent Way, it was a case of problem solved.

In A Silent Way.

Recording of In A Silent Way took place at CBS 30th Street Studio, Studio B. Miles and his band only took one day to record In A Silent Way. That was 28th February 1969. That day, an all-star band would record six tracks Shhh, Peaceful, Shhh, In a Silent Way, “It’s About That Time and In a Silent Way.

Miles played trumpet and Wayne Shorter soprano saxophone. The rhythm section featured drummer Tony Williams, double bassist Dave Holland and John McLaughlin on electric guitar. Joe Zawinul played organ, while Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock played electric piano. Here was a meeting of music’s past, present on future on what would be hailed a groundbreaking album, In A Silent Way.

In A Silent Way was a truly landmark album. Not only was it the start of Miles’ “electric period,” but saw Miles fully embrace fusion. Another first was the way producer Teo Macero edited and arranged In A Silent Way. He incorporated elements of the classical sonata form into In A Silent Way. This is apparent in that the album consists of two extended tracks which feature three distinct parts. The other first was the appearance of John McLaughlin on electric guitar. His playing would play an important part in a groundbreaking and successful album.

It had been four years since a Miles Davis album charted. In A Silent Way reached number 134 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty in the US R&B charts. It also reached number three in the US Jazz charts. Despite the commercial success of In A Silent Way, it divided the opinion of critics.

On its release on 30th July 1969, In A Silent Way divided the opinion of critics. Its experimental nature seemed to be the problem. Critics didn’t seem to get the album. That’s not unusual. Often, a groundbreaking album is way ahead of its time. That was the case with In A Silent Way. It divided the opinion of critics. Not any more. 

Since its release in 1969, it’s perceived as a classic album. Without doubt, In A Silent Way is one of Miles Davis’ greatest albums. Both critics and music lovers have belatedly realised this marriage of jazz, fusion, psychedelia and rock was classic album. No wonder. The music is truly futuristic, experimental and innovative. Here was an album that’s been described as for jazz fans who didn’t particularly like rock, and an album for rock fans who who didn’t particularly like jazz. In A Silent Way was all things to all music lovers. The same could be said of Bitches Brew.

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Bitches Brew.

Just a few weeks after the release of In A Silent Way, Miles Davis and his band entered the studio to record the followup, Bitches Brew. Between 19th and 21st August 1969, six songs, Pharaoh’s Dance, Bitches Brew, Spanish Key, John McLaughlin, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down and Sanctuary were recorded. They would become a sprawling, ambitious and genre-melting album.

Many of the same musicians returned to CBS 30th Street Studio, in New York. Miles played trumpet and Wayne Shorter soprano saxophone. Dave Holland played double bass, John McLaughlin electric guitar, Joe Zawinul played organ, while Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock played electric piano. New faces included Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet, bassist Harvey Brooks, drummers Larry White and Jack DeJohnette. Adding percussion were Don Alias on congas and Juma Santos on shakers and congas. Producing Bitches Brew was Teo Macero, who heavily edited the album before its release in which was released in April 1970,

Deja Vu. That must have been Miles’ thoughts when Bitches Brew received mixed review. The critics didn’t get what was a revolutionary album. Nor did critics appreciate the looser, improvisational style of Bitches Brew. Another thing critics, especially jazz critics didn’t like, was Miles had apparently turned his back on jazz rhythms. Those critics that “got” Bitches Brew realised that here was an album that was about to revolutionise music.

Miles married avant garde, experimental, fusion, jazz, psychedelia and rock on Bitches Brew. Here was an album that was unorthodox, unconventional, revolutionary and innovative. Part of Bitches Brew’s innovative sound was the rhythm section. It featured two bassists double bassist Dave Holland and Harvey Brooks on electric bass. Two, sometimes three drummers and electric pianist would also play on Bitches Brew. Add to this a myriad of percussionist and and Bitches Brew was a musical pot pourri of sounds, layers and textures. This resulted in Bitches Brew giving birth to a musical genre, fusion.

Fusion would become one of the most successful musical genres of this seventies. This began with the album that gave birth to the genre, Bitches Brew. On its release in April 1970, Bitches Brew reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US Jazz charts. Bitches Brew was certified double-platinum. It became the most successful album of Miles’ career. So, given this success it was only fitting that Miles’ showcase some of Bitches Brew at one of New York’s legendary venues, the Fimore East.

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Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3.

Between the 17th and 20th June 1970, Miles Davis and his band took the stage at the Filmore East. To a packed and appreciative audience, Miles and his all-star band set about showcasing the third genre Miles had invented.

Previously, Miles had been credited with being one of the musicians who pioneered cool jazz and then modal jazz. While Miles’ role in the birth of these two genres may be disputed, Miles role in the birth of fusion is indisputable. He was there when fusion was born. Now was his opportunity to showcase his latest sound, fusion.

Whilst Bitches Brew saw Miles accompanied by a large band with two bassists and two or three drummers and pianists, he slimmed the lineup down for the four nights at the Fimore. 

It was a very different band that featured at the Fimore East. The rhythm section featured bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette. There was no guitarist. There were only electric piano. Chick Corea’s piano was pugged into the left channel. Keith Jarrett’s organ and tambourine was plugged into the right channel. Steve Grossman played soprano and tenor saxophone. Airto Moreira played percussion, flute and added vocals. The band that  took to the stage on 17th June 1970 was a mixture of new faces and old friends.

Disc One.

On 17th June 1970, Miles and his band took to the stage. After a brief introduction, the band launch into Directions. The Mask then becomes an eleven minute epic. After that, Miles returns to his fusion debut In A Silent Way, and showcases It’s About That Time. From there, Miles and his band deliver a show stealing version of Bitches Brew. It lasts fourteen magnificent minutes. It’s truly spellbinding. There’s nowhere to go after that, and the show closes with forty seconds of The Theme. 

Back in 1970, these five tracks would become the first side of Miles Davis At the Filmore. The tracks were heavily edited to fit onto one side of vinyl. With the advent of CD, there’s no longer the same time restrictions. We can hear the same tracks the way the audience did in 1970. There’s even room for two bonus tracks Paraphernalia from 1968s Miles In The Sky and Footprints from 1966s Miles Smiles. Just like the five tracks from Miles Davis At the Filmore, the music is totally transformed. 

Good becomes great, as Miles and his band of pioneering musicians combine musical genres. They combine elements of avant garde, experimental, funk, fusion, jazz, psychedelia and rock. As musical genres melt seamlessly into one, becoming a musical tapestry Miles freewheeling band innovate and create groundbreaking music. That was the case the next three nights. 

Disc Two.

The following night, 18th June 1970, Miles and his band played seven tracks. Six of the tracks were the same. Directions opened the show, before The Mask, It’s About That Time, Bitches Brew and The Theme. As an encore, Spanish Key became a ten minute epic, before a snippet of The Theme closed the show. Despite the same songs being played, the songs headed in a totally direction. There were twists and turns as songs took on new life and meaning. Songs were reinvented and Miles and his multitalented band captivated and compelled. Then they did the same the next night.

Disc Three.

As Miles Davis and his band took the stage on 19th June 1970, the audience wasn’t like he was used to. Many of the audience were rock fans, who’d been won over by In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Whilst he may have alienated some jazz fans, there were many more rock fans than jazz fans. They’d never been to a jazz concert before. That night on 19th June 1970, they popped their jazz cherry.

Just like the previous night Directions opened the show. It was followed by The Mask and It’s About That Time. Then Miles threw a curveball, with a beautiful, haunting cover I Fall In Love Too Easily. Never before had the track sounded like this. It was a mixture of Miles’ old and new. he breathed new life into a familiar track. After that a trio of tracks from Bitches Brew close the show. The ethereal beauty of Sanctuary gives way to a pulsating, dramatic version of Bitches Brew. Literally, it explodes into life as free jazz, funk, fusion, modal, psychedelia and rock combine. It’s a transformation par excellence. So is the bonus track, Miles Runs the Voodoo Down and Sanctuary, another track from Bitches Brew. Of the first three nights featured on  Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, the 19th June 1970, is without doubt the best.

Disc Four.

For his final night at the Filmore East, 20th June 1970, mostly, Miles Davis stuck to the same songs as the previous night. This meant Directions opened the show and The Mask gave way to It’s About That Time. Then came a slow and hauntingly wistful I Fall In Love Too Easily. The beauty continued with Sanctuary. Miles and his band kicked loose on Bitches Brew. The funk factor is upped on the nine minute version of Willie Nelson follows. It’s a blistering slice of uber funky music, where the rhythm section and horns become yin and yang. There’s no way Miles could’ve topped this, so just like each night, a brief version of The Theme closes the show.

Six months after the fourth and final show at the Fimore East, Miles Davis At Filmore: Live At The Fimore East was released in December 1970. It reached number 123 in the US Billboard 200 and number one on the US Jazz charts. Miles Davis’ career had been rejuvenated. He was enjoying commercial success, which for four long years, had eluded him. Now, into the fourth decade of his career, Miles was back.

Despite Miles being just forty-four, his career had lasted twenty-six years. He made his professional debut when he left high school as an eighteen year old. Since then, Miles Davis had proved to be one of the most innovative jazz musicians of his career. He was perceived as the Godfather and founding father of cool jazz and modal jazz. He’d been at the forefront of these musical genres. Twenty years later, Miles made musical history again.

Now he was the Godfather and founding father of fusion. He brought together jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock. To that, he added elements of avant garde, experimental, free jazz and modal jazz. However, mostly, it was jazz, funk, psychedelia and rock that inspired Miles as he sought to reinvent himself and his music. Miles had been inspired by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown. He met these artist through his second wife Betty Mabry. Having been inspired by these disparate influences, Miles fused them together on two classic albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. They’re two of the best albums of Miles Davis’ “electric period.” 

Tracks from In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew feature on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, a four disc box set recently released by Sony Music. It’s essentially Miles Davis At Filmore: Live At The Fimore East, which was released in 1970. The main difference is the tracks haven’t been edited. They can now be heard in all their glory. There’s even three bonus tracks on Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3. All this means that Miles At the Filmore-Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Volume 3, is the equivalent to having front row seats for the four nights as Miles Davis and his band make musical history.

MILES AT THE FILMORE-MILES DAVIS 1970: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 3.

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DISCO RECHARGE-JOHN DAVIS AND THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA-NIGHT AND DAY AND UP JUMPED THE DEVIL.

DISCO RECHARGE-JOHN DAVIS AND THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA-NIGHT AND DAY AND UP JUMPED THE DEVIL. 

One of the phenomenon’s of the disco era, was the arrival of the disco orchestra. Obviously, the best known and without doubt, best, and most successful was The Salsoul Orchestra. It was founded by Vince Montana Jr, in 1975 and played an important  part in making Salsoul Records disco’s most successful label. Following the success of The Salsoul Orchestra’s 1975 eponymous album, a whole host of disco orchestras were formed.

This included the THP Orchestra, the Mike Theodore Orchestra and the Charlie Calello Orchestra. Soon, they were signed to record companies and were releasing singles and albums. Sam Weiss, a veteran of the music industry, had just founded his own record label in 1976 and wanted his own own disco orchestras. 

There was a reason for this. Sam Weiss’ newly founded record label, SAM Records, had been setup to cash in on disco’s popularity. 

Sam Weiss founded SAM Records in Long Island City, New York in 1976. He was something of a veteran of the music industry. He’d been involved in the music industry since the late forties, when he and his brother Hy, founded Parody Records. Although the company wasn’t a commercial success, and soon folded, the Weiss brothers persevered. 

Eight years later, in 1954, the Weiss brothers founded Madison Records. It was primarily a vehicle for releasing R&B records. Soon, Madison was releasing soul, doo wop, pop, rock, soul and gospel. Madison continued right through until the late seventies. By then, Sam Weiss had founded Sam Records.

Realising that disco was about become hugely popular, Sam setup SAM Records.  He made no bones about it. SAM Records was specifically setup to cash in on disco’s popularity. So he set about signing artists to SAM Records’ roster. One of SAM Records first signings was the disco orchestra Sam wanted.

It was founded by John Davis, a Philly born musician, producer and bandleader. He’d recently formed his own disco orchestra, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. Sam signed John Davis and The Monster Orchestra to SAM Records. 

John Davis and The Monster Orchestra featured many of Philly finest musicians. Some of them were also part of The Salsoul Orchestra. This would continue to be the case. That’s why when John Davis and The Monster Orchestra released their 1976 debut album Night and Day, people would remark upon the similarities between the two orchestra’s sound.

Night and Day was released in 1976. It’s one of two albums to feature on the recently released volume of Disco Recharge, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra-Night and Day and Up Jumped The Devil. This is one of two double albums recently released by Harmless Records in their occasional Disco Recharge series.

As regular readers will remember, the Disco Recharge series was a regular occurrence. Mr. Pink dug deep into his disco vaults and rediscovered some hidden disco gems. The all of a sudden, the releases dried up. Releases were scheduled and cancelled. This became a regular occurrence. I was constantly asked by readers what was going on with the Disco Recharge series. All my attempts to find out what was going on fell on deaf ears.

After that, very few volumes of Disco Recharge were released. When they were released, many of my readers told me that trying to get a copy wasn’t easy. One of my regular readers who managed to get copies of the John Davis and The Monster Orchestra CDs. They kindly sent me copies of them as a belated birthday present. Disco one features Night and Day and disc two, Up Jumped The Devil. There’s also a variety of singles and remixes. These two albums played an important part in the SAM Records story, which began in 1976. 

Having founded SAM Records in 1976, the nascent label released it’s first release, Doris Troy’s Woman and The Ghetto. Later in 1976, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra released their debut album Night and Day.

Night and Day.

John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s debut album Night and Day was a mixture of six cover versions of Cole Porter songs and two original tracks. Tell Me How You Like It was written by John Davis who cowrote I Can’t Stop with guitarist Craig Snyder. These two tracks joined covers of I Get A Kick, Night and Day, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, In the Still of the Night, You Do Something To Me and It’s D’lovely. This was Cole Porter, but given a disco twist by John Davis and The Monster Orchestra on Night and Day. Helping John Davis do this, were some legendary Philly musicians.

Most of the musicians that played on Night and Day were members of The Salsoul Orchestra. They would also become members of John Davis and The Monster Orchestra. This includes the rhythm section of bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, drummer Charles Collins and guitarists Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Roland Chambers. Other members of The Salsoul Orchestra included percussionist Larry Washington, Don Renaldo who supplied the strings and horns and backing vocalists  the Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. Only guitarist Craig Snyder and John Davis, who played keyboards, flute and saxophone. He conducted the orchestra and produced Night and Day, which was released in 1976.

Before the release of Night and Day, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s first single I Can’t Stop, became SAM Records’ first ever twelve inch single. It reached number eight in the Dance Music/Club Play Charts. Much more successful was the other single, Night and Day. Not only did it reach number four in the Dance Music/Club Play Charts, but reached number one in the Disco charts. Despite this, the single Night and Day stalled at number 100 in the US Billboard 100 charts. That’s better than the album Night and Day did. On its released, Night and Day failed to chart. This was disappointing for Sam Weiss. He’d hoped to jump onto disco bandwagon with Night and Day, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s debut album Night and Day, is the John Davis penned Tell Me How You Like It. Charles Collins drums and Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman bass open the track, driving the arrangement along. They’re joined by Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s searing, guitar, layers of strings, percussion and punchy horns. This combination provides a funky, musical powerhouse. The Sweethearts of Sigma’s light, tender harmonies float in and out. They grow punchy, taking on an urgency. Soon, the arrangement becomes a musical juggernaut, driven along by Charles’ drums, Michael’s bass and Bobby’s guitar. Having got your attention, the Sweethearts of Sigma’s delicious harmonies continue to hold it as, their soulfulness proves the perfect foil to the orchestra’s fusion of disco and funk.  

When Cole Porter wrote I Get A Kick Out of You, he would never expect it to be given a disco twist. Cascading strings, a pounding rhythm section and high kicking horns unite before The Sweethearts of Sigma ensure the song swings. Their harmonies are tender and soulful, but grow in power and funkiness. Swathes of the lushest strings join their harmonies, which grow punchy, lick the horns. Bobby “Electronic” Eli adds a funky wah-wah guitar as the rhythm section provide a relentless and furiously, funky heartbeat. When this is combined with the Sweethearts of Sigma’s harmonies, the result is Cole Porter, but not as we know it. Instead, his music is given a delicious makeover, where funk, Philly Soul and disco unite.

Night and Day is the second of six Cole Porter songs. Percussion, wah-wah guitars and the rhythm section unite, before dancing strings and blazing horns enter, mixing funk and disco. Then, with a holler, the soulfulness arrives. It comes courtesy of the Sweethearts of Sigma. They add tight, impassioned harmonies, which grow punchy and powerful. With a whoop they take their leave, but you hope it’s not for long. Soon, they’re back, proving the perfect contrast the power and majesty of the orchestra. Like other disco orchestras, the sound is grand, laden in strings and horns, with a pounding, dance-floor friendly heartbeat. For me, the Sweethearts of Sigma provide a contrast and what is the finishing touch. This is the icing on a very moreish cake, one that’s delicious, one you long to eat at once, but instead, decide to savour its delights and subtleties slowly. After each listen, some subtlety or secret reveals itself and only then, do you discover just how rich a musical cake this truly is.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin is given a similar treatment to I Got A Kick Out of You. Layers of lush strings sweep and swirl, horns rasp and the rhythm section add a pounding, funky beat complete with Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s wah-wah guitar. At breakneck speed the arrangement unfolds, revealing elements of soul and jazz, plus plenty of funk and disco. When the Sweethearts of Sigma’s harmonies enter, they’re soulfulness personified. Their tight, impassioned harmonies are joined by percussion aplenty, braying horns, cascading strings and a funky Philly rhythm section. Sometimes, the harmonies become punchy and dramatic, highlighting and accentuating Cole Porter’s lyrics, It’s like the Sweethearts of Sigma are paying homage to Cole Porter’s genius, their delivery soulful and jazzy. Indeed, without their contribution this wouldn’t be anything like as good. So good is this track, that’s one of the real highlights of Night and Day. 

I Can’t Stop is a track John Davis cowrote with guitarist Craig Snyder. The song almost explodes into life. A thunderous, funky rhythm section, searing guitar, growling horns and the lushest strings combine. With a flourish of strings, Philly songbirds the Sweethearts of Sigma add soulful and heartfelt, then sassy and breathy harmonies. Their harmonies are replaced by washes of wailing Hammond organ, punchy grizzled horns and dancing strings. Later, the Sweethearts of Sigma add soaring, dramatic and punchy harmonies, before the rhythm section give a musical masterclass, fusing funk and disco. Bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman and drummer Charles Collins add a pounding, funky backbeat, while guitarist Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s playing is funky, flashy and confident. He uses his trademark effects well, as John Davis and The Monster Orchestra get Side Two of Night and Day off to an explosive, funky and electric start.

Bursts of dramatic horns open In the Still of the Night, before percussion, keyboards and luscious strings float in. Although still funky, thanks to horns and rhythm section, there’s a slightly more understated sound. The Sweethearts of Sigma’s harmonies are heartfelt and tender, floating in and out. Later, Bobby “Electronic” Eli shows how he got his nickname. He puts his effects and trickery to good use, before Sweethearts of Sigma float back in atop swirling strings. Then Bobby’s guitar, keyboards and the rhythm section give another musical masterclass, against a sensual, backdrop, complete with moans and groans. From there, the track heads to its dramatic climax.

Like other Cole Porter songs on Night and Day, You Do Something To Me is given a complete makeover. Staying true to the song’s heritage are layers of the lushest strings. They’re joined by growling horns, a pounding, thunderous rhythm section that provides the funk quotient. When the Sweethearts of Sigma harmonies enter, they’re light, tight, tender and timeless. You can imagine them singing the song in a jazzy style just as well. These harmonies float amidst the strings, taken on a journey where musical genres unite. Later, the harmonies become sassy and feisty, as funk, disco, Philly Soul and jazz unite. This seamless fusion of genres results in a track that’s dance-floor friendly, beautiful and laden with hooks. Thirty-six years later, the song still has a truly timeless sound.

Closing Night and Day is It’s D’lovely, which open with a Charleston sound, courtesy of the Sweethearts of Sigma’s harmonies. Woodwind, muted horns, lush strings and the rhythm section roll back the years, mixing delicious old time jazz sound with a dance-floor friendly sound. Rather than disco dancers, you think of flappers dancing in art deco dance-halls to an orchestra of musicians wearing dinner suits. It’s a musical trip down memory lane, complete with sound effects and the Sweethearts of Sigma’s harmonies give a thirties makeover. It allows the John Davis Monster Orchestra to close their debut album Night and Day with a vintage sound, that pays homage to Cole Porter, but with a subtle twist. In doing so, they paint vivid pictures of yesteryear, when Cole Porter was in his pomp. This seems a fitting tribute to one of America’s great composers.

Given the similarities with the personnel involved in both The Salsoul Orchestra and the John Davis Monster Orchestra, it’s no surprise that there are many similarities in the quality of music and the sound of Night and Day. This was very similar to what was going on with The Salsoul Orchestra. All that John Davis was missing was the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr. Instead, John Davis had a rhythm section of bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, drummer Charles Collins and guitarist Roland Chambers. They all played in The Salsoul Orchestra, alongside Bobby “Electronic” Eli, percussionist Larry Washington, Don Renaldo’s Strings and Horns and the Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. With so many of the same personnel, involved in The Salsoul Orchestra and the John Davis Monster Orchestra, what was needed was someone who was a visionary and innovator like Norman Harris or Vince Montana Jr. That’s where John Davis came in. 

He brought everything together, resulting in an innovative combination of two new songs and six cover versions Cole Porter songs. This became Night and Day, which marked the debut of the John Davis Monster Orchestra.  

Of all the Philly musical legends, three vocalists played a huge part in Night and Day’s success. They were the Sweethearts of Sigma. Their harmonies were key to the sound and success of Night and Day. Without their harmonies, Night and Day wouldn’t have been as good an album. Add to musical equation Don Renaldo’s Strings and Horns, plus the combined talents of musicians like Bobby “Electronic” Eli, Roland Chambers and Larry Washington, then Night and Day proved to be a majestic fusion of disco, funk, Philly Soul and jazz. Thirty-eight years later, and Night and Day, the debut album from the John Davis Monster Orchestra is one of the best albums released by a disco orchestra. No wonder. Night and Day is blessed with a truly, timeless sound.

Following Night and Day, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra went on to release three further albums between 1977 and 1979. The first of these was 1977s Up Jumped The Devil.

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Up Jumped The Devil.

For John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s sophomore album, Up Jumped The Devil, John decided to change tack from their debut album Night and Day. While Night and Day had been six cover versions of Cole Porter songs and two original tracks, Up Jumped The Devil featured original songs. John wrote five of the seven songs and cowrote You Gotta Give It Time and Once Upon A Time with guitarist Craig Synder. These seven songs became Up Jumped The Devil, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s sophomore album. These songs were recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios by some familiar faces.

When recording of Up Jumped The Devil got underway, many of the same personnel that featured on Night and Day were present. They would also feature on albums by The Salsoul Orchestra. This includes the rhythm section of bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, drummer Charles Collins and guitarist Dennis Harris. Larry Washington played percussion, while strings and horns came courtesy of Don Renaldo and backing vocals from The Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. Only guitarist Craig Snyder, bassist Vince Fay and drummer Jimmy Young hadn’t played with The Salsoul Orchestra. John Davis, played keyboards, flute and saxophone and sang the lead vocals. He conducted the orchestra and produced Up Jumped The Devil, which was released in 1977.

On the release of Up Jumped The Devil in 1977, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s sophomore album wasn’t a commercial success. It failed to chart. Only the title-track, Up Jumped The Devil was released as a single, but it never troubled the charts. Disco wasn’t proving as lucrative as Sam Weiss had hoped. Should Up Jumped The Devil Have been a commercial success though? That’s what I’ll tell you, when I tell you about the music on Up Jumped The Devil.

Up Jumped The Devil opens with the title-track, and single, Up Jumped The Devil. A pounding, uber funky, rhythm section, growling horns and percussion before John takes charge of the lead vocal. With The Sweethearts of Sigma, shakers, riffing, searing guitars and blazing horns for company, a dramatic slice of funk-tinged disco unfolds. Thunderous drums, sizzling guitars and grizzled, riffing horns prove the finishing touch and the perfect accompaniment to John and The Sweethearts of Sigma dramatic vocals. Having gotten your attention, you sense John Davis and The Monster Orchestra won’t let go.

We Can Fly sees disco combined with Philly Soul. Key to this, is his orchestra’s background. Many members of the orchestra and The Sweethearts of Sigma are from Philly. So, it’s no surprise the track’s Philly Sound, as the arrangement unfolds. The rhythm section and lush strings accompany John’s tender, soulful vocal. The Sweethearts of Sigma’s equally tender, soulful harmonies provide a perfect foil. Then chiming guitars, dancing strings, flourishes of keyboards and a pulsating rhythm section take charge, sweeping the arrangement along. Later, acoustic guitars weave their way across the arrangement. From there, the vocal drops in and out, teasing and tantalising, as disco and Philly Soul are combine seamlessly.

A thunderous, funky rhythm section opens You Gotta It Up. Then blazing horns, searing guitars and slap bass combine to create funk-laden backdrop. Urgent, sassy  vocals from John and The Sweethearts of Sigma add to the tough, funky arrangement. Hollers, whoops and handclaps punctuating the arrangement. Then chiming guitars, percussion, high, kicking grizzled horns and the funkiest of rhythm section are unleashed. An added bonus is a searing, riffing guitar solo that dances across the funk laden arrangement, as John Davis and The Monster Orchestra demonstrate another side to the their music, one I’d love to hear much more of.

Once Upon A Time soulfully and dramatically, closes Side One of Up Jumped The Devil. The arrangement is driven along by a funky, thunderous rhythm section, dancing strings and rasping horns. A flourish of keyboards signals the soulful entrance of John and The Sweethearts of Sigma. When they exit stage left, this is the signal for the drama to build. Blazing horns and the rhythm section take charge. Having taken the arrangement to a dramatic crescendo, the vocal returns. Then during a breakdown, percussion, horns and the rhythm section combine with breathy harmonies, before the arrangement bursts back into life, bringing the track to a soulful, dramatic close.

What was originally side two of Up Jumped The Devil is a three part disco medley. These medleys were hugely popular during the disco era. The Magic Is You (Main Theme) is the first movement of three. Hissing hi-hats, sharp, dramatic bursts of horns and flourishes of strings unite with percussion. Driving the arrangement along is the funky rhythm section and sizzling guitars. John’s vocal is powerful and joyous, with swathes of lush strings, growling horns and later, pizzicato strings for company. Providing the pulsating, uber funky heartbeat is a Philly rhythm section. They build the drama as a dance-floor classic unfolds. Adding to the drama are testifying harmonies from The Sweethearts of Sigma, sweeping, swirling strings and glorious riffing horns. What makes this medley even better, is there are two more parts to enjoy. 

You’re The One picks up where the previous track left off. Percussion, congas, keyboards and the rhythm section combine. Choppy, wha-wah guitars and layers of strings join the fun, before the unmistakably, sweet and soulful sound of The Sweethearts of Sigma enters. They add urgent, then cooing harmonies, before John Davis vocal enters. He’s quite happy to play second fiddle to The Sweethearts of Sigma, given their sheer soulfulness. They play a crucial role in the track, making this pulsating tracks one of the most soulful on Up Jumped The Devil,

Closing Up Jumped The Devil is Recapitulation, the last track in the three part medley. This is one of the five tracks penned by the orchestra’s innovative leader. Horns growl, lush strings sway, sweep and swirl and the rhythm section provide a thunderous, pounding and pulsating beat. It’s as if John Davis and The Monster Orchestra are determined to close the album on a high. This they do. The Sweethearts of Sigma add their soulful, joyous contribution. Their harmonies soar and quiver, as they accompany John’s vocal. Again he seems content to let The Sweethearts of Sigma take centre-stage. So too do his orchestra. They provide a dramatic, funky and dance-floor friendly arrangement. Urgent bursts of horns, wah-wah guitars, flourishes of dancing strings and the pulsating arrangement combine to create a soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly dramatic high to Up Jumped The Devil.

That Up Jumped The Devil wasn’t a huge commercial success seems almost unjust. After all, here was John Davis and The Monster Orchestra, one of the greatest disco orchestra’s in full flight. It’s a joy to behold. Only The Salsoul Orchestra bettered the sound of John Davis and The Monster Orchestra in full flight. What made John Davis and The Monster Orchestra such a success was that John was a musical innovator and pioneer, just like Vince Montana Jr, who’d founded The Salsoul Orchestra and Norman Harris. Another part of John’s success was that he surrounded himself with hugely talented musicians and backing vocalists. 

Many of these musicians and backing vocalists were from Philly, and played an important part in the success of Philadelphia International Records and later, Salsoul Records. They’d also feature on albums by The Salsoul Orchestra. Crucial to the success of John Davis and The Monster Orchestra musicians like the rhythm section of bassist Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, drummer Charles Collins and guitarist Dennis Harris. Then there’s percussionist Larry Washington, Don Renaldo and The Sweethearts of Sigma. 

It was The Sweethearts of Sigma who transformed a good album into a great album. The Sweethearts of Sigma were the voice of The Salsoul Orchestra and The Salsoul Strings. Their backing vocals feature on every great album of the Philly Soul era. So, their contribution was crucial. Indeed, they were the perfect foil for John Davis, who wasn’t the greatest vocalist. He was a good, but not great vocalist. However, with The Sweethearts of Sigma accompanying him, his deficiencies were well hidden. They took charge, adding The Sweethearts of Sigma provided the finishing touch to Up Jumped The Devil. Not only did  The Sweethearts of Sigma play an important part in the success of Up Jumped The Devil, but made it one of John Davis and The Monster Orchestra’s greatest albums and indeed, a real hidden gem and timeless classic of the disco era.

DISCO RECHARGE-JOHN DAVIS AND THE MONSTER ORCHESTRA-NIGHT AND DAY AND UP JUMPED THE DEVIL

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CAN-SOON OVER BABALUMA.

CAN-SOON OVER BABALUMA.

Forty years ago, in November 1974, Can released the sixth album of their career, Soon Over Babaluma. This marked the end of an era for Can. Soon Over Babaluma was the end of Can’s golden period. This golden period began with their debut album, 1969s Monster Movie and 1974s Soon Over Babaluma which like all of Can’s back-catalogue, is being rereleased on vinyl by Mute Records. For six albums, Can were one of the most innovative bands in musical history. They established a reputation as one of the most influential bands in musical history. Even today, forty-five years after Can released their debut album, Can’s influence is can be heard in music.

Founded in 1968, Can went on to become one of the most innovative, influential and groundbreaking groups in musical history. Their music is best described as a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, industrial, jazz, prog rock, psychedelia and rock. Known for their ability to improvise, Can became famous for what they referred to as spontaneous composition.

When Can headed into the studio they improvised. Feeding off each other, genres and ideas melted into one. It was spontaneous and off-the-cuff. Can played with freedom and in doing so, pushed musical boundaries to their limits and sometimes, beyond. Afterwards, the results would be edited and the result would be some of the most exciting music released between 1969 and 1979, when Can split-up. 

In total, Can released eleven albums between 1969s Monster Movie and 1979s Can. During this period, Can released classic albums like Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days and Soon Over Babaluma. This was music that’s bold, challenging, innovative, inventive and influential. Expecting the unexpected, a new Can album featured exciting, innovative and progressive music, where a fusion of musical influences and genres became one. For ten years and eleven albums, Can released cutting-edge music. Sadly, in 1979, Can split-up. Thankfully, they reconvened in 1989 for Rite Time. However, five years before Rite Time, Can released Soon Over Babaluma the album which marked the end of Can’s golden period. Before I tell you about Soon Over Babaluma, I’ll tell you about Can’s career up until then.

For a three year period between 1963 and 1966, Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt were privileged to study music under the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen. A true pioneer, Karlheinz Stockhausen was way ahead of time. He wasn’t just a visionary in terms of electronic music, but was fascinated by aleatoric music, where some element of piece is 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 spatialism, which would influence Can. Karlheinz was an evangelist, encouraging his pupils to investigate, examine and scrutinise each of these subjects. So it’s no surprise that once  Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt had finished studying, Holger became a musical teacher.

Having settled into life as a music teacher, Holger was enjoying life as a teacher. Then when he heard The Beatles’ I Am A Walrus in 1967, he was captivated by this psychedelic rock single. With the innovative use of bursts of radio and the experimental sound and structure, Holger went in search of similar music. Soon, Frank Zappa and Velvet Underground became favourites of Holger. Inspired by what he’d heard, Holger decided to form his own band in 1968…Can.

After his time studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen, 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 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. Unfortunately, record companies weren’t interested in the album. So the group continued recording what would become their debut album Monster Movies. However, David C. Johnson left the group at the end of 1968. He was disappointed at the change in musical direction. Little did he realise he’d lost the chance to be part of a groundbreaking band Can.

Monster Movie.

Monster Movie was the start of the Can story. It was 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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Soon Over Babaluma.

The final album in Can’s golden quartet was released in November 1974. This was Soon Over Babaluma, which was recorded at Inner Space Studios, Munich.

Soon Over Babaluma features five tracks penned and produced by Can. It marked a change in direction for Can. This was their first album without a lead vocalist. During this period, Can had released some of the most groundbreaking music of the late-sixties and early seventies. This continued with Soon Over Babaluma.

Can released Soon Over Babaluma in November 1974. It featured the ambient sound that Can pioneered on their previous album, Future Days. Critically acclaimed, and featuring 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, Soon Over Babaluma, which I’ll tell you about, brought to a close the most fruitful period of Can’s career.

Dizzy Dizzy opens Soon Over Babaluma. Moody and atmospheric describes the arrangement. A whispery scat, scratchy strings and drums combine with crystalline, sometimes, wah-wah guitar. Soon, Can are in the groove. From this groove, the song emanates. It’s as if this is an example of Can’s spontaneous composition. Through jamming, then with Holger editing the end result the song evolves. When he’s finished this is the result, an innovative fusion of musical genres. Everything from ambient, country, electronica, folk, funk, jazz, Kraturock and rock is combine as Can continue their quest to reinvent themselves.

Can spring a series of surprises on Come Sta, La Luna. Driven along by the rhythm section, the arrangement is slow and moody. Harmonies interject, and with the piano add drama. Then there’s the return of the sinister scat. It’s as if we’re eavesdropping on someone unravelling. Meanwhile sound effects, piano and the broody vocal combine with a myriad of percussion as the arrangement takes on a jazz-tinged, ambient sound. Other times, the music is dramatic, discordant and veers towards folk, jazz and rock. Gypsy violins, melancholy horns and percussion are all thrown into the melting pot, as the music becomes cinematic and theatrical. Multilayered, full of nuances and subtleties, it’s a pioneering, groundbreaking piece of art. Describing this track as just music, doesn’t do it justice.

Splash explodes into life, allowing Can the chance to showcase their versatility. Seamlessly and peerlessly, they combine musical genres. A myriad of musical influences unite. So do a multitude of instruments. Some are transformed. In the hands of Can, their sonic possibilities seem infinite. Instruments are reinvented as Can maraud their way across the arrangement. Driven along by a thunderous rhythm section, grizzled horns, screeching strings, blistering guitars and percussion Can push musical boundaries. Avant-garde, experimental and free jazz join forces with Krautrock and Latin are added to this lysergic, musical pot pourri. Groundbreaking, defiant and bold, Can go where no group dared go before.

Chain Reaction is best described as an eleven minute epic. With a sci-fi, cinematic sound, it’s as if we’re heading on a musical journey to another dimension. Drums pound, synths bubble and searing guitars herald the start of this journey. Can lock into a groove and explore it to its fullest. Crystalline guitars chime, while the drums provide the thunderous heartbeat. Percussion and sci-fi synths augment the arrangement as the arrangement makes fleeting visits to musical genres. Funk, jazz,  Krautrock, ambient and rock are all combined. As Can maraud their way through musical genres, blistering mating gun guitar licks are unleashed. Groove laden, edgy, funky, jazz-tinged, pioneering and cinematic, Chain Reaction is all this more.

Quantum Physics closes Soon Over Babaluma. Broody, moody and haunting, it’s akin to a track from a movie soundtrack. Over nine minutes, washes of eerie, haunting synths, ethereal, chilling vocals, crashing cymbals and dramatic drums play their part in the track’s cinematic sound. This could easily be the soundtrack to a film. The music conjures up pictures, that unfold before your eyes. They’re chilling, haunting, eerie, atmospheric and sometimes, sinister. Ambient, minimalist, experimental and post modern describes this track’s cinematic 21st Century sound. This seems a fitting way to end not just Soon Over Babaluma, but Can’s golden period, when they could do no wrong.

When it was released in November 1974, Soon Over Babaluma was released to critical acclaim. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. Granted it found an audience, but not the audience it deserved. Like most of Can’s albums, Soon Over Babaluma was more of an underground album, rather than a widespread commercial success. It seemed that history was repeating itself all over again. Can, didn’t enjoy the commercial success their music deserved. They weren’t alone.

Can followed in the footsteps of a whole host of innovative artist who didn’t enjoy the commercial success their music enjoyed. Among them are Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa, two artists who influenced Can. A small crumb of comfort for Can was that they went on to influence several generations of musicians. There’s a reason for this.

The music Can released was pioneering. Inventive, influential and innovative, although it was only twelve years since The Beatles released Love Me Do, this was a musical revolution. Rather than evolution, Can believed in revolution. The revolution began in 1969, with Monster Movies. Through Monster Movie, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days Can pushed musical boundaries to their limits. Sometimes, they were pushed to breaking point and beyond. The result was music whose influence has been far reaching.

A fusion of ambient, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, funk, industrial, jazz, psychedelia and rock, Can’s music went on to influence several generation of musicians. They were won over by Can’s genre-melting music. That’s the case on Soon Over Babaluma, which is being rereleased on vinyl by Mute Records. The music is bold, challenging, innovative, inventive and influential. As always, it’s a case of expect the unexpected. Can after all, are no ordinary band. No way. Their music is exciting, innovative and progressive, where a fusion of musical influences and genres became one. That’s how I’d describe Soon Over Babaluma, Can’s sixth album, which marked the end of their golden period of creativity and innovation.

CAN-SOON OVER BABALUMA.

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KEV BEADLE PRESENTS PRIVATE COLLECTION VOLUME 2.

KEV BEADLE PRESENTS PRIVATE COLLECTION VOLUME 2.

Back in the seventies and eighties, major record labels were reducing the money the were spending on jazz.  No longer was jazz seen as a priority. In the eyes of many record label executives, it was yesterday’s music. So, they weren’t willing to risk scarce resources on new jazz music. However, they were happy to reissue classic jazz albums and fusion. The lack of spending on new and innovative jazz artists would prove ironic. 

During the seventies and eighties, there was an explosion in interest in jazz music. In American schools and colleges, a record number of students were playing jazz. They went home, and listened to the new jazz stations that were springing up across America. These radio stations were community based and part of the democratisation of jazz music.

One of the effects of the civil rights movement of the sixties and early-seventies was that black Americans reclaimed jazz music. It had proved an important part of the fight for equality. Many jazz legends played an important part in the civil rights movement. This included Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Charlie Haden and Nina Simone. They inspired a generation of black Americans to become involved in jazz.

Some black Americans became jazz musicians, DJ and promoters. Some black Americans were inspired to found  radio stations and record labels. Many of these independent record labels would release privately pressed singles and albums. 

These privately pressed singles and albums were recorded by artists whose career was beginning. They sold their new releases at concerts. Sometimes they were played on the newly founded radio stations. It was like an underground musical revolution. Sadly, much of the music released during this musical revolution went almost unnoticed. Not any more.

A generation of DJs, record collectors and music lovers have dedicated themselves to discovering the best of these private pressings. This includes DJ, record collector,compiler and crate-digger extraordinaire  Kev Beadle. Kev has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the hidden musical gem. As a result, Kev has an enviable record collection. A tantalising taste of his record collection can be found on Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2, which will be released by BBE Music on 28th July 2014.

Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2 is the followup to the critically acclaimed Kev Beadle Private Collection. It was released back in March 2013, on BBE Music. This wasn’t Kev’s first compilation. Far from it. He’s a musical veteran, whose career began back in the eighties.

Ever since the eighties, Kev Beadle’s life has revolved around music, especially jazz and soul. Since then, Kev has worked in many roles within the music industry. Kev’s worked in A&R, promotion, managed labels and run his own, sadly missed label Clean Up. Like many DJs, Kev has added production to his ever expanding CV, under the pseudonym Messengers. Then there’s compilations.

During Kev’s career, he’s compiled compilations for Blue Note, Cadet and of course BBE Music. For Cadet, Kev compiled The Best of Terry Callier On Cadet, plus five of Cadet Grooves. Kev was also the man behind three volumes of Blue Note’s Capitol Rare. Then there was Kev’s BBE Msuic debut.

This was Nu Jazz Generation II, which  was released on BBE Music, back in 2000. Thirteen years later, Kev made his BBE Music comeback with Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection. There’s more to Kev Beadle than a compiler. This includes DJ-ing, which has been a mainstay of Kev’s career. 

Whether it’s DJ-ing on radio, or in clubs, Kev’s just as comfortable. Kev’s one of the longest serving DJs on Solar Radio, having spent thirteen years on the station. It’s club DJ-ing that many people will know the name Kev Beadle. Since the eighties, Kev has been spinning soul and jazz. However, he’s never afraid to investigate other musical genres, Kev will spin music from past, present and sometimes, the future side-by-side. Mind you, Kev’s musical influences prepared him for an appreciation of an eclectic selection of music.

For Kev Beadle, some of his earliest musical memories are heading to London clubs like The Horseshoe, on Tottenham Court Road, where Paul Murphy DJ-ed. After that, Kev would head on a voyage of discovery, tracking down hard-to-find tracks. Soon, Kev was on the other side of the decks, spinning the wheels of steel.

Soon, Kev was spinning at London’s legendary Wag Club. There he met Giles Peterson, Bob Jones, Chris Bangs. For Kev, this was the next step in his musical education. They enjoyed a good-natured rivalry, seeing who could break tracks. Then the next night Kev would be involved in, would make musical history.

Giles Peterson, Bob Jones and Kev started the Talkin’ Loud sessions at Dingwalls, on Sunday afternoons. The Talkin’ Loud sessions were the place to go to hear soul and jazz rarities. New tracks were discovered and soon, the Acid Jazz scene exploded. 

Out of this came the Acid Jazz label, which in 2012, celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. These Sunday afternoons at Dingwalls would become legendary. Open-minded, music hungry music fans, heard and enjoyed, old soul and jazz tracks being unearthed almost on a weekly basis. Out of these afternoons, a whole scene was born, with Kev Beadle at its heart. 

Since then, Kev Beadle has remained at the heart of London’s music scene. Although DJ-ing takes up most of Kev’s time, he still finds time to compile compilations. His latest compilation is the eleven track Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 2.

There’s no better way to open Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 2 than with Archie Shepp’s Song For Mozambique. It’s an introduction to one of the most innovative free jazz musicians of his generation, Archie Shepp. Song For Mozambique is a track from his 1975 album A Sea Of Faces. It was recorded in Milan on the 4th and 5th August 1975. By then, major labels weren’t interested in artists like Archie. European labels were. They recognised that he was a groundbreaking music. That’s apparent here as he combines elements of avant garde, free jazz, spiritual jazz and social comment.

Pianist Stanley Cowell’s career began back in the sixties. His debut album was 1969s genre-melting Blues For The Viet Cong. Twelve years and six solo albums later, Stanley was about to release his eighth album New World. It was released on Galaxy, an imprint of Fantasy in 1981. One of New World’s highlights was I’m Tryin To Find A Way. It has a joyous, dramatic and uplifting sound. Jazz-tinged, soulful and funky, it’s a hidden gem with a summery vibe.

The Janet Lawson Quintet only released two albums. Their debut was their 1981 eponymous album. Three years later, they returned with Dreams Can Be. It was released in 1984, on the Omnisound label. It’s the perfect showcase for Baltimore born scat singer. She was born into a family of professional musicians and made her debut on Eddie Jefferson’s 1977 album Main Man. This lead to her releasing a cover of Jon Lucien’s Dindi. Just like Dindi, Dreams Can Be is one of the real highlights of Janet’s discography.

Tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman released his debut album Morning Prayer in 1976. Six years later, in 1982, Chico released his eighth album Destiny’s Dance on Contemporary Records. Destiny’s Dance features Wilpan’s Walk, a nine-minute workout. It sees Chico accompanied by some top session players. This includes trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, bassist Cecil McBee, percussionist Paulhino DeCosta and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. Being accompanied by such a star studded lineup seems to inspire Chico. He delivers a series of blistering saxophone solos, as his band kick loose, matching him every step of the way..

Flautist, saxophonist and piccolo player Kathryn Moses only ever released two albums. Her debut album was her 1976 eponymous album. Three years later, in 1979, Kathryn returned with Music In My Heart. One of the most beautiful tracks on Music In My Heart is the title-track. An understated arrangement accompanies the ethereal beauty of Kathryn’s tender vocal. When her vocal drops out she plays flute. It floats above the Latin-tinged arrangement. Just the like the flute, it grows in power and drama. Later, Kathryn’s vocal makes a welcome return. She scats as this joyful fusion of jazz and Latin heads towards its crescendo, leaving you wanting more.

Originally, Seawind were called Ox and based in Hawaii. In 1976, they made the decision to move to Los Angeles. Partly, this was because of drummer Harvey Mason. He got them a regular gig playing at the Baked Potato in Studio City. Before long, they came to the attention of CTi Records who signed Seawind. They quickly released two albums, 1976s Seawind and 1977s Window Of A Child. After that, the left CTi Records. One of their finest moments at CTi Records was He Loves You, a track from their debut album. Elements of smooth jazz, fusion and soul melt into one during this beautiful ballad.

Unlike the previous artists, Paz are a British group. They released their debut album Kandeen Love Song in 1978. Released on Spotlite Records, Kandeen Love Song was produced by Dick Crouch, one of the founding members of Paz. He played his part in one of the finest British jazz funk albums. One of Kandeen Love Song’s highlights is Yours Is The Light. It’s a fusion jazz funk and Latin which even today, connoisseurs of British jazz fusion remember fondly.

From Britain we head to Brazil. That’s where Grupo Medusa were from. They released two albums in the early eighties. Their debut was Grupo Medusa, which was released in 1981. Ferrovias was released two years later in 1983. It’s another eclectic album. That’s apparent on the title-track Ferrovias. Elements of bossa nova, funk, jazz and even smooth jazz are combined beautifully by Grupo Medusa to create a laid back, Latin vibe.

It was in 1981, that Hungarian jazz group Dimenzio released their eponymous album. It featured Bamba (The Fool). Dimenzio take a different approach They deploy synths before taking the track in the direction of jazz. Not just any type of jazz. No. Fusion is combined with smooth jazz. There’s also hints of funk and Latin. It’s a genre-melting musical adventure. Dimenzio innovate and create a groundbreaking slice of dramatic, futuristic and haunting 21st jazz.

1973. That was the year that Cortijo and His Time Machine released their one and only album, Y Su Maquina Del Tiempo. It features Carnaval a pulsating salsa that’s akin to a call to dance.

Eight years after releasing his 1962 debut album, Miles Of A Genius, Barry Miles released his eponymous sophomore album. Released on Poppy Music in 1970, Barry Miles featured Hijack. Barry’s tight and talented band deliver a series of masterclasses during this early example of fusion. Stealing the show are Barry on piano and guitarist Jack Wilkins. Both play successful roles during this Hijack.

Closing Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2 is Appendix’s Autumn Song. Appendix are a Swedish group that most people won’t be familiar with. That’s unless you’re a fan of fusion. They were around during the seventies and eighties. Their only album was 1973s Space Trip, which featured Autumn Song. It was released in 1973, on the Amigo label. Although a fusion group, Autumn’s music focused more on jazz, than rock. That’s apparent on Autumn Song, an understated and beautiful, jazz-tinged ballad. Later, the music briefly becomes funky and futuristic thanks to a wah-wah guitar. When it drops out, the rest of Appendix create the minimalist arrangement that accompanies a heartfelt, soul-baring vocal.

Recently, there haven’t been many compilations of private pressing released. When there have been, they tend to focus on boogie, funk and soul. Sadly, there haven’t been any compilations of private pressings of jazz. That’s until Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2. It will be released by BBE Music on 28th July 2014.

Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2 is the followup to Kev Beadle Private Collection. That was the first compilation Kev had compiled in sixteen years. He hadn’t lost his Midas touch. Kev knew where the hidden gems, lost classics and rarities lay. 

That’s within Kev’s enviable and ever expanding record collection. Kev Beadle you see, is a prolific record collector. He’s been collecting records all his life. Just like DJ-ing, it’s been a labor of love for him. It allows Kev to introduce people to music that they might never hear. That’s the case on Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2. It’s a compilation that literally oozes quality. That’s the case from the opening bars of Archie Shepp’s Song For Mozambique right through to the closing notes of Appendix’s Autumn Song. In between, we hear a collection of lost classics, hidden gems and rarities. Kev has dug deep into his record collection to discover the dozen delights on Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2. 

Compiling a compilation like Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2 takes time. It also tales persistence and dedication. In Kev’s case, his persistence and dedication has paid off. Originally, Kev would start with a long list of tracks from his record collection. Gradually, he whittled that list down to just twelve tracks. That can’t have been easy. I’m sure deciding which tracks to include and exclude gave Kev many a sleepless night. Eventually, Kev settled on the twelve tracks that became Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2. 

The twelve tracks on  Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2 are a mixture rarities and hidden gems. Each track oozes quality. Kev’s taste is impeccable as he introduces us to jazz from America, Brazil, Britain, Hungary and Sweden. Many of these tracks you won’t have heard before. That’s until now. You certainly won’t forget them in a hurry. Not given the quality of music that you’ll find on Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 2, which is another journey into the world private pressings, with Kev Beadle as your musical guide.

KEV BEADLE PRESENTS PRIVATE COLLECTION VOLUME 2.

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MOGWAI-COME ON DIE YOUNG.

MOGWAI-COME ON DIE YOUNG.

It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since Mogwai released their sophomore album, Come On Die Young, in March 1999. Back then, Glasgow-based Mogwai were one of the best up-and-coming bands not just in Scotland, but Britain. Since then, Mogwai have established a reputation as one of Britain’s top bands. They’ve also established a large and loyal fan-base overseas. This includes in America. 

Since 2003s Happy Songs For Happy People, Mogwai have been making inroads into the lucrative American market. Their most recent album Rave Tapes, which was released in January 2014, reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200. It was Mogwai’s ninth studio album.

Rave Tapes is one of six studio albums and a three soundtracks Mogwai have released since Come On Die Young, which was rereleased by Chemikal Underground on 21st July 2014. 

The recently rereleased version of Come On Die Young is available in various formats. There’s the box luxury edition vinyl box set. It also features a variety of “goodies.” There’s rarities, unreleased tracks, an E.P. and a limited edition poster. Compiled by Mogwai, the Come On Die Young box set, which will be released on 4th August 2014, looks like a veritable feat. The version of Come On Die Young I’m reviewing is the Deluxe Edition, which features two CDs. 

Disc one features Come On Die Young in all its glory. The there’s disc two. It features a veritable musical feast, which opens with Nick Drake. The next courses in this musical feast include demos, an E.P, live tracks and The The Cava Sessions. There’s even a homage to a football referee.

Next up are demos like Waltz For Aidan and Rollerball. A welcome inclusion is The Cava Sessions. They includes Ex-Cowboy, Spoon Test and Punk Rock. Then the Travels In Constants E.P. is a reminder of Mogwai as their career unfolded. Kappa, Quiet Stereo Dee and Arundel. These tracks are a reminder that even in the early days of their career, Mogwai were a band who seemed destined for commercial success and critical acclaim. That’s not all. 

There’s also a live version of Cava, Helicon 2 and Satchel Pantzer. Then there’s Mogwai’s homage to the only man who could unite an already divided city, Hugh Dallas. Hugh for those unfamiliar with the vagaries of Scottish football, was a football referee. Mogwai’s homage to Hugh Dallas closes disc two of Come On Die Young, which I’ll tell you about. Before that, I’ll tell you about Mogwai’s career up until Come On Die Young.

Mogwai’s roots can be traced to Glasgow in April 1991. That’s where guitarist Stuart Braithwaite and Dominic Aitchison first met. Four years later, they met drummer Martin Bulloch and formed Mogwai, which film buffs will remember, is a character from the movie Gremlins. Mogwai was always meant as a temporary name, but it stuck and was on the label of their 1996 debut single Tuner. It was released to critical acclaim and the NME awarded it their single of the week award. Two other singles were released during 1996 Angels v. Aliens and Summer. By then Mogwai were a quartet.

Guitarist John Cummings joined the band in 1995. He’s also something of a maestro when it comes to all things technical and is described as playing “guitar and laptop.” He was part of one of the hottest bands of the late nineties, Mogwai who released two more singles in 1997.

These two singes were New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1 and Club Beatroot. Just like their debut single Tuner, New Paths To Helicon Pt. 1 was won NME’s single of the week award. This was the perfect time for Mogwai to record their debut album, Mogwai Young Team.

For Mogwai Young Team, Mogwai brought onboard Brendan O’Hare the Teenage Fanclub’s drummer. Another guest artist was Aidan Moffat of Falkirk based band Arab Strap. He added the vocal to R U Still In 2 It. The rest of Mogwai Young Team consisted of instrumentals. Mogwai Young Team was recorded at Chem 19 studios and produced by ex-Delgado Paul Savage and Andy Miller, one of Scotland’s top producers. Once Mogwai Young Team was completed, it was released on Scotland’s  biggest record label, Chemikal Underground.

On its release in October 1997, critics were one over by Mogwai Young Team. Mogwai were hailed Mogwai as a band with a big future. Mogwai Young Team was a groundbreaking album of post-rock, which sold over 30,000 copies and reached number seventy-five in the UK. The Mogwai Young Team were on their way. However, a few changes were about to take place.

A year later, Mogwai were back in the studio recording their sophomore album Come On Die Young. Much had changed. A new member had joined the band. Barry Buns a flautist and sometimes pianist, had played a few gigs with the band. They then asked him to become the fifth member of Mogwai. Violinst Luke Sutherland joined Mogwai, but not on a full-time basis. This wasn’t the only change.

Recording was split between New York and Glasgow.This time, they’d forsaken Chem 19 in Blantyre and recorded parts of the album in Rarbox Road Studios, New York. Some sessions took place in Glasgow’s Cava Studios. Producing Come On Die Young was Dave Fridman. When the recording of Come On Die Young began, it was a new look Mogwai.

Founding member Stuart Braithwaite played guitar and sang  the vocal to Cody. Joining Stuart in the rhythm section were bassist Dominic Aitchison, drummer and guitarist Martin Bulloch. New members Luke Sutherland played violin and Barry Burns played piano, keyboard, guitar and flute. A few session players were called upon. Richard Formby played lap steel on Cody and Wayne Myers played trombone on Punk Rock/Puff Daddy/Antichrist. Producer Dave Fridmann played on a few tracks. When Come On Die Young was finished, it would be released in March 1999.

On its release, in March 1999, Come On Die Young was released to widespread critical acclaim. Mogwai had overcome “the difficult second album syndrome.” However, as is always the case, there were a few dissenting voices. Some critics felt his production style resulted in a much more orthodox sounding album. However, I’d argue that Come On Die Young was part of Mogwai discovering their “sound” and direction. Come On Die Young is a much more understated, but also ambient, experimental, multi-textured and melodic album. There’s a fusion of ambient, grunge and post rock on Come On Die Young. Given the minor spat between critics, record buyers had the casting vote.

Released in March 1999, Come On Die Young reached number twenty-nine in the UK. Record buyers welcomed the change in direction from Mogwai. Come On Die Young had surpassed the commercial success of their debut album Mogwai Young Team. Mogwai it seemed  were now on their way to finding their sound and fulfilling the potential evident on their debut album on Come On Die Young, which I’ll tell you about.

Punk Rock opens Come On Die Young. A lone crystalline guitar meanders along, while a sample of Iggy Pop plays in the background. It’s an excerpt from an interview he gave on CBS on 11th March 1977, where Iggy talks about punk. Mogwai allow Iggy to take centre-stage, while they create an understated backdrop. However, it won’t be long before Mogwai take centre-stage.

Cody, like much of Come On Die Young has an understated, mellow sound. Stuart’s vocal is whispery, while chiming guitar, pensive drums and crashing cymbals combine ambient, indie rock, post rock. Adding the finishing touch is Richard Formby’s lap steel guitar. It shimmers and quivers, during this haunting, hypnotic opus. 

Originally, Helps Both Ways featured John Madden’s commentary from a A.F.N.L. game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, the sample hadn’t been cleared, so had to be replaced by a sample of another commentary. Just like with the Iggy Pop sample, it provides the backdrop for Mogwai as they create a maudlin, wistful backdrop. Drums crack, guitars chime and bass sits way down in the mix. Adding to the wistful, mesmeric sound is a flute. It floats in and out as this moody soundscape unfolds.

A brief snippet of a sample opens Year 2000. After that, the track is a fusion of musical genres with a futuristic, sci-fi influence. That comes courtesy of the feedback, synths and sound effects. Meanwhile, Mogwai rediscover their indie rock roots, as they drive the slow, broody arrangement along. Searing guitars join the rhythm section. They get into the groove and sometimes, unleash a spray of feedback during this genre-melting track. Seamlessly, Mogwai combine everything from avant garde, electronica, experimental, indie rock, Krautrock, psychedelia and post rock to create an innovative and futuristic soundscape that’s adventurous, bold and dark

Subtle, chirping guitars open Kappa. After that, bursts of thunderous drums interject. So do stabs of keyboards and driving guitars. Waves of music overpowers the rest of the arrangement. That’s no bad thing, because soon, Moqwai will be in full flight. It’s a joy to behold. There’s even a nod to Pink Floyd. Mogwai the strip the arrangement bare. Just the drums and chirping guitars combine. Soon, waves of dramatic music return. Bursts of feedback escape from the arrangement as Mogwai combine power, drama and subtle hooks.

Waltz For Aidan sees Mogwai dedicate the song to another Scottish musician, Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap. It’s their way of thanking Aidan. He contributed vocals on Mogwai’s debut E.P. and debut album 1997 Mogwai Young Team. A guitar chirps before the pounding rhythm section and crystalline guitar combines. Mogwai keep the tempo slow. The melodic and melancholy music floats along allowing you to hear its ethereal beauty.

May Nothing But Happiness is an epic track, nearly nine minutes long. Just like many tracks on Come On Die Young the introduction is understated. Chiming guitars set the scene. They’re joined by the rhythm section who create a dreamy, lysergic and mesmeric backdrop. Later, washes of keyboards sweep in and out, as Mogwai explore the song’s subtleties. There’s a strong Can influence. Just like Can, Mogwai seem at their best jamming. Things change when a driving guitar enters. It adds an element of drama, as Mogwai threaten to kick loose. Cymbals crash and there’s even a drum roll thrown in for good measure. Before long, normality returns and the track becomes a haunting, ambient soundscape. 

Avant garde. That’s the best way to describe Oh! How The Dogs Stack Up. Mogwai replicate the sound of crackly vinyl. A spoken word sample is combined with deliberate stabs of piano. Bells chime and then a  myriad of sound effects are unleashed by Mogwai. This adds an avant garde, experimental influence to a track that’s truly compelling.

Ex-Cowboy is another lengthy track. It’s nine minutes long. This allows Mogwai to experiment. Just like previous tracks, the introduction is understated. A searing guitar and bass combine before plodding drums enter. So do violins. They sweep back in forth. Cymbals crash as the drama builds and Mogwai head in the direction of grunge and post rock. Machine gun guitars, pounding drums and wailing feedback are combined with discordant strings. Then all of a sudden, it’s as if the storm is over. There’s a return to the understated, mellow sound. From, there, the two sides of Mogwai make reappearances during what’s a musical Magnus Opus.

A rumbling introduction opens Chocky. The drama builds and grows. You wonder if it’s about to explode. It never happens though. Instead, the buzzing, rumbling sound is joined by a lone, wistful piano. They may seem like strange bedfellows, but work well together. So do the rhythm and chirping, chiming guitars. Then there’s a spoken word sample that sits atop the arrangement. It adds a space-age influence. By now, the arrangement is being driven along by the guitars. Slow, melodic and melancholy, there’s a nod to Brian Eno and Pink Floyd, as Mogwai fuse elements of ambient, avant garde, experimental and post rock. In doing so, they create another genre-melting epic. 

A lone crystalline guitars meanders along as Christmas Steps begins to unfold. Understated with an ethereal beauty, the music washes over you cleansing your soul. However, the driving guitars and buzzy bass signals a change in direction. Is it time? Will Mogwai kick out the jams? They threaten to do so. Guitars and bass lock horns. Before long, drums pound and cymbals crash. Eventually, it happens Mogwai rediscover their inner rocker. When they slow things down, the violins make an entrance. After that, the track’s ethereal beauty returns and you’re wallow in its midst for the remainder of the track.

Punk Rock/Puff Daddy/An Chris closes Come On Die Young. It’s just two minutes long. Here, Wayne Myers unleashes washes of his haunting trombone. They sit atop the arrangement’s eerie, sci-fi sound.

Sophomore albums are notoriously difficult. Many bands have realised that. Some bands spend years and fortunes trying to record their sophomore album. A prime example of this were The Stone Roses. It destroyed them. Not Mogwai though.

Far from it. They didn’t struggle with the notorious “second album syndrome.” Instead, they rose to the challenge and created one of the greatest albums of their career. 

Come On Die Young saw Mogwai discover their “sound” and direction. It’s a much more reserved and understated album than their debut album, Mogwai Young Team. The music is also melodic, melancholy, dramatic, dreamy, wistful, lysergic and haunting. It’s the type of album where you need to let the music wash over you and discover its beauty, nuances, subtleties and secrets. With every listen, you hear something new and fresh. That’s the case even after fifteen years. 

On Come On Die Young, Mogwai combined musical genres and influences. Listen carefully and you’ll hear Mogwai combine everything from ambient, avant garde, electronica, experimental, grunge, indie rock, Krautrock, post rock and psychedelia. Mogwai have been influenced by a number of bands and artists. There’s a nod to Brian Eno, John Hopkins, Neil Young, Nirvana and Pink Floyd. Closer to home, I’d suggest the Cocteau Twins ethereal, fuzzy soundscapes influenced Mogwai when they were making Come On Die Young back in 1998 and 1999. A lot has happened since then.

Since the release of Come On Die Young, Mogwai have established a reputation as one of Britain’s top bands. They’ve also established a large and loyal fan-base worldwide. This includes in America. 

Since 2003s Happy Songs For Happy People, Mogwai have been making inroads into the lucrative American market. Their latest  album Rave Tapes, which was released in January 2014, reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200. That was Mogwai’s ninth studio album.

Rave Tapes is one of six studio albums and a three soundtracks Mogwai have released since Come On Die Young, which was rereleased by Chemikal Underground on 21st July 2014. 

Chemikal Underground’s newly rereleased Deluxe Version of Come On Die Young is a welcome reminder of Mogwai, as they embarked upon the musical adventure that’s their career. Come On Die Young is one of the finest albums Mogwai have released, so far. The sound quality on the two discs is outstanding, and the music seems to come alive. That’s not surprising. Come On Die Young is a timeless albums. I’d go as far as say that it’s one of the best Scottish albums of the last forty years. 

For a newcomer to Mogwai’s music, then Come On Die Young is the perfect introduction to their music. Two other albums would be a fitting companion to Come On Die Young. They’re Les Revenants, Mogwai’s 2013 soundtrack album and their most recent album, Rave Tapes. These three albums,  Les Revenants, Rave Tapes and Come On Die Young are the perfect introduction to Mogwai and show very different sides to their music.

MOGWAI-COME ON DIE YOUNG.

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LEWIS-A MUSICAL RIDDLE, WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY, WRAPPED INSIDE AN ENIGMA.

LEWIS-A MUSICAL RIDDLE, WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY, WRAPPED INSIDE AN ENIGMA.

Back in May 2014, Light In The Attic Records rereleased an album that mystery and conjecture continues to surrounds. Thirty-one years after Lewis released L’Amour, nobody was any the wiser who Lewis was. It remained one of the great musical mysteries. To coincide with the release of L’Amour, I’d been researching the mystery surrounding Lewis and his hidden gem of an album, L’Amour. Finally, I thought that maybe, just maybe the mystery was over. This mystery started back in 1983.

This was when Lewis released L’Amour.Very little was known about Lewis. Even his real name. Back then, Lewis was calling himself  Randall Wulff. Nobody knew if this was his real name. No-one thought to ask. All that was known is Randall arrived in Los Angeles in 1983.

When he swept in to town, Randall was sporting perfectly coiffured blonde hair and movie star looks. The man who called himself Lewis, lived the playboy lifestyle. Randall drove a white convertible Mercedes and booked into the Beverley Hilton. Randall dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. He lived the playboy lifestyle. Wine, women and song were constant companions for Randall. However, before long, the party was over.

Randall had arrived in Los Angeles with L’Amour already recorded. Not that anyone knew where L’Amour had been recorded. The sessions took place in the Fiasco Brothers Recording Studios in Vancouver. Randall had recorded there before. After that, Randall headed to Los Angeles. That’s where he readied himself for release  Lewis’ debut album, L’Amour. Rather than using his own name, Randall used the alias Lewis. This added to the air of mystery. So did the album cover.

For the album cover, Randall called one of the most famous photographers in music, Ed Colver. He’d made his name photographing punk bands. That was the past. By 1983, Ed was expanding his musical portfolio. So when Randall called, Ed agreed to meet him in the Beverley Hilton. 

When the two met, Ed wasn’t suspicious of Randall. Why should he be? After all, Randall was living in the Beverley Hilton, driving a Mercedes convertible and had a beautiful, model girlfriend. He’d also just recorded his debut album and was looking for someone to shoot some photographs for the cover of L’Amour. That would be Ed. Randall agreed to pay Ed $250 for the photo shoot and wrote a cheque for $250.

Ed shot thirty different versions of the photo that agreed on the cover of L’Amour. It was a head and shoulders photo of Randall. That photo epitomises eighties fashion and attitudes. Looking like the atypical eighties playboy, Randall looks mysteriously into the distance. However, just like everything else about Randall, this was all a facade.

When Ed went to cash the cheque for $250 it bounced. The cheque had been drawn on an account in Malibu. This was no help to Ed. So he headed to where Ed had met Randall, the Beverley Hilton. Staff at the Beverley Hilton told Ed that Randall had left. Randall, they told him, had headed to Las Vegas and then Hawaii. They didn’t have a forwarding address. For Ed this was a disaster. $250 was lot of money. So much, it took him four months to repay his bank. As security, Ed held on to the negatives to the photos for L’Amour, which was released in 1983. Two years later, came Lewis’ recently discovered sophomore album Romantic Times.

Romantic Times was released by an artist calling himself Lewis Baloue. It was recorded in the same studio as L’Amour and released on R.A.W. Records. The contact details given as  R.A.W. Corp. in Beverley Hills. Anyone buying Romantic Times must have thought  R.A.W. Corp was a multinational company. It wasn’t. Instead, it was merely a P.O. Box, where people picked up their mail. This had to be the work of Lewis?  Especially given the name of the record company and its parent company.

R.A.W. just so happens to be an acronym of Lewis’ real name. On its release in 1985, Romantic Times flopped. After that, most people forgot about Lewis.

Even Ed Colver. Despite being burned, Ed managed to recover from what was a crushing blow. The $250 he lost was $250 he could ill afford. Thirty-one years later, the story about Lewis was just a distant memory. That’s until people tried to solve the mystery of Lewis.

Ed was contacted in connection with the Lewis mystery. So were the engineers at the recording studio in Vancouver. Then someone claiming to be Randall Wulff’s nephew threw a spanner in the works. He claimed that he was able to throw some light on who Randall Wuiff was.

He claimed that Randall was the nephew of heiress of Doris Duke. She was heir to the Duke Power fortune and a legendary philanthropist. Growing up, Ralph’s nephew claimed, Randall lived with his Aunt Doris in Hawaii. However, the nom de plume Lewis, was a reference to his grandmother. At last, thirty-one years after the mystery began, Lewis had been unmasked. Or so we thought. Wrong. 

Not long after I posted my review of L’Amour, I was contacted by Lewis’ ex-girlfrind, Donna. The story she told me was very different.

“I  met Randall Aldon Wulff in the summer of 1975 or 1976 on the Oregon coast.  He was on a motorcycle trip and I was on a beach camping trip with my sister.  He was a Canadian,  the son of Gladys and Earl Wulff of Calgary, Alberta.  In the winter of 1976, Randy and I lived with Gladys and Earl in their home while we did painting jobs around Calgary trying to get enough money to get to Hawaii.  His mother, Gladys Wulff was a clerk in the Hudson Bay Dept store in Calgary, and his father, Earl, was a building contractor, who had recently been disabled by a stroke. I believe Randy was about 23, at the time and I was about 30 yrs old.  We went to Maui, Hawaii for about a month, ran out of money, and my father paid for our transport back to Calgary.  We soon left Calgary and moved to Victoria, BC Canada,  where we lived on St Ann Street i,n a rented house in Oak Bay. Then after 6 months to a year, we moved to a rental house on Hollywood Crescent in the Fairfield neighbourhood of Victoria.

We were constantly broke. Randy was collecting unemployment and I was unable to work legally because I was an American without a Canadian SI number.  What kept us together was our mutual quest for sex, drugs and rock and roll…  Randy was an attractive, sweet, artistic soul but uninterested in persuing an income through  the construction trades and unable to make any money softly singing his original songs and playing his guitar.  He was a good person but he was not well educated or very bright.  Unable to tolerate  our precarious financial situation any longer, I split up with him in 1977 or 1978 and he left Victoria.  I saw him again around 1980 when he returned to Victoria and called me. We met for dinner.  He was with his older brother, Larry Wulff, who had been living “up island” on Vancouver Island and they were travelling in a limousine and seemed to have lots of money.  When I questioned him about the source of his new found wealth, he gave me vague answers about “silver futures”…the stock market, etc.  I did not believe him and think there was an illegal source of new wealth…. Later in the 80s he sent me a vinyl copy of his LP L’Amour which I have since lost and I never saw him again.”

Later, Donna says “I came across the 2010 obituary of his mother, Gladys, who had remarried someone named Camden after Earl died… the Calgary newspaper obituary… listed “his surviving brothers, Gary and Larry and his sister, Maureen and significantly, Randall is not mentioned… which leads me to believe he is dead.” 

Is that the case? Are we any closer to discovering what happened to Randall Wulff? He’s the man who in 1983,  sporting perfectly coiffured blonde hair and movie star looks, swept into Los Angeles and took the town by storm. He lived the playboy lifestyle. Randall drove a white convertible Mercedes, lived in the Beverley Hilton and dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. Wine, women and song were constant companions for Randall. However, before long, the party was over.

After the cheque Randall wrote Ed Colver bounced, nothing was heard of the man who called himself Lewis.  Since 1983, the mystery and conjecture surrounding Lewis has grown. Everyone has their own opinion into who Lewis was and what happened to him. Earlier this year, it looked like the mystery had been solved. Sadly, that proved to be the case. At the time I wrote my review, I wondered if there wasn’t a twist in the tale. That proved to be the case, when Donna contacted me.

She knew Randall before he adopted his Lewis persona. Donna was able to confirm that Randall and Lewis were one and the same. Sadly, she was unable to shine any light on what happened to Lewis following the release of L’Amour. Maybe Donna is right, and Randall, the man who became Lewis is dead? However, we may never know what became of Lewis?  Maybe, mystery and conjecture will continue to surrounds Lewis and his hidden gem of an album, L’Amour? Especially given the latest twist in the tale.

Mystery surrounds what actually happened next. Two versions of the story have been told to me. The first is that a Canadian record collector found a copy of Romantic Times, an album released by Lewis Baloue in 1985 and sold it to Light In The Attic Records. That sounds the most likeliest outcome. After all, dedicated crate diggers who look long and hard enough, will always have the opportunity to discover that elusive rare albums. After all, surely it’s not as easy as finding a copy of Romantic Times on Ebay?

That’s the second version of the story behind  Romantic Times. Allegedly, a copy of Romantic Times was offered for sale on eBay. To say a bidding frenzy followed is to put it mildly. The price reached $1,725. This is similar to what happened when copies of L’Amour were discovered. 

Within a space of a few months, several copies of L’Amour materialised in Alberta, Canada. This surely, was too big a coincidence?  A number of people thought that. They suggested to me to try and trace where these copies of L’Amour came from? Maybe then, we’d be nearer solving the mystery of the man who calls himself Lewis.

Many people would like to finally solve the mystery of Randall Wulff. Especially Donna. She once loved, lived with and eventually left Randall. Donna would like to know what became of Lewis. She hopes that at last, finally, we “can learn about the life and perhaps, death, of” who Donna refers to as “Randall Aldon Wulff a.k.a. Randy a.k.a. Lewis.” So would I. For Donna’s sake. I’d also like to belatedly, solve one of music’s longest running mysteries, and discover what became of Lewis?

Having just written these words, it appears at last, the mystery of Raandall Aldon Wulff a.k.a. Lewis a.k.a. Lewis has been solved. 

Donna it appears, was right. Lewis it seems is dead. The when and where has still to be determined. 

All along, the clue to this mystery was in Lewis’ mother’s obituary.  Frantically, I started trying to find a copy of her obituary. Eventually, I tracked down a copy of the obituary of Gladys Camden of Calgary. That won’t  mean anything to most people. However, before she married her second husband George Camden, Gladys was married to Earl Wulff.

Gladys and Earl Wulff had a number of children. There’s daughter Maureen and sons Gary, Larry and Randall. In the obituary of Saturday October 30th 2010, Gladys was said to be survived by “her daughter Maureen, sons Garry and Larry.” Not only had Gladys outlived her two husbands but the enigmatic Randal Aldon Wulff who found fame and infamy as Lewis.

It had been a remarkable transformation. In the mid to late seventies, Randall was broke and struggling to make ends. By 1983, he was a a bon vivuer, playboy and seducer-in-chief. The man who called himself Lewis, had lived the playboy lifestyle. He drove a white convertible Mercedes and called the Beverley Hilton home. Lewis dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. They fell for his charms and charisma. Little did they know that a few years earlier, Lewis was painting houses to make a living. That was far from the playboy lifestyle he would later live.

Back in the seventies, Lewis was just a dreamer. Nobody thought he’d ever amount to much. He was charming and charismatic, but he could also frustrate people. That’s still the case. The reason for that is L’Amour, the album Lewis released in 1983. 

Mystery, conjecture and speculation surrounds L’Amour. It started when Lewis the playboy and seducer-in-chief swept into Los Angeles. In a city populated by beautiful people, Lewis, the man with the movie star looks fitted in perfectly. Every night a beautiful woman accompanied him to the smartest parties. All this was a front. 

Things came to a head when Lewis’ cheque to photographer Ed Colver bounced. Lewis shot through. Nothing was heard of Lewis after for a couple of years. 

Then in 1985 Romantic Times was released by a Lewis Baloue. This was the latest alias adopted Randall Aldon Wulff had adopted. Lewis adopted a much lower profile. Still he sported movie star looks and enjoyed his love of the finer things in life. Romantic Times features Lewis standing nonchalantly beside a sport’s car and private jet. This was the lifestyle  Lewis always wanted.

Rumours surrounding Lewis’ newly found wealth started doing the rounds. Was it really silver futures and the stock market? My sources have their doubts. Nothing can be proved though. That’s the case with so much about Lewis. 

Later, rumour has it that Lewis became addicted to Quaaludes. After that, Lewis found religion. It’s even been suggested to me that he recorded an album of religious music. Lewis’ supposed involvement with religion adds to the mystery surrounding Lewis. He would certainly have made a charismatic preacher. Charisma is something Lewis certainly didn’t lack. Lewis would’ve enjoyed the mystery that surrounds his whereabouts.

Finally, it seems, the mystery surrounding Lewis is over. It appears the man born Randall Aldon Wulf is dead. Tragically, he died before his mother. Ironically, mystery surrounds Lewis’ death. The where and when has to be determined. There’s a certain irony with. After all, mystery was a constant companion in Lewis’ life.

Maybe now that the mystery surrounding Lewis’ whereabouts has been solved, people will remember him for his music. His debut album L’Amour is a variously beautiful, ethereal, haunting, minimalist, poignant and powerful album. Lewis sings about heartbreak, hope and hurt. He delivers lyrics like he’s lived, loved and survived them. His vocal ranges from emotive, hopeful, needy and seductive. Other times his vocal is rueful, as he sings about love lost and the woman who broke or stole his heart. L’Amour and Romantic Times are reminder of a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician who could’ve and should’ve been huge star.

 LEWIS-A MUSICAL RIDDLE, WRAPPED IN A MYSTERY, WRAPPED INSIDE AN ENIGMA.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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?

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 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?

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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