sábado, 13 de maio de 2017

Nick Mason - The Fictitous Sports 1981

Columbia, apparently attempting to cash in on Pink Floyd's explosion in popularity, released this album in 1981 under Nick Mason's name when in reality he's simply the drummer in this incarnation of Carla Bley's ensemble; Ms. Bley composed all the music and lyrics for this project. It's possibly her most overtly pop-oriented album, with all eight songs featuring vocals by Soft Machine alumnus Robert Wyatt. The music, by Bley's standards, is fairly pedestrian if occasionally catchy, though the lyrics are often wryly amusing. So we have songs about failed car motors and a skeptic's encounter with a flying saucer, and one dedicated to unappreciative audiences titled "Boo to You Too." Though the band is staffed with several fine jazz musicians, the music has more of a rock or jazz-rock feel, largely due to the spotlight on guitarist Chris Spedding, who evidences slick, if relatively uninteresting, chops. To the extent the songs succeed, Wyatt can take much of the credit. His engagingly hoarse voice is capable of both wrenching sincerity and mordant humor; pieces like "Do Ya?," where he is asked to tortuously squawk the line "God knows I try!," would collapse entirely with a less convincing vocalist. The closing cut, "I'm a Mineralist," is the one that leaves a lasting impression. Conflating geology and minimalism, it includes lines like "Erik Satie gets my rocks off/Cage is a dream/Philip Glass is mineralist to the extreme," before launching into a note-perfect rendition of some pointedly bland Glassian measures. For Pink Floyd completists, this album might provide a glimpse into an alternate universe of which they were otherwise unaware, but fans of Bley's earlier masterpieces like Escalator Over the Hill are likely to emerge somewhat disappointed. AMG.

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Terence Trent D'Arby - Wildcard! 2001

Where have you gone, Terence Trent d'Arby? It's a question that must have entered the minds of even casual Terence Trent d'Arby fans during his six-plus-year absence from the spotlight following TTD's Vibrator. In fact, it was an extraordinarily eventful period for the artist, during which, among other things, he fought for and finally won his freedom from Sony, set up shop in Italy, experienced a profound personal and spiritual rebirth, altered his name accordingly, signed a deal with producer Glen Ballard's small Java imprint, spent much of 1998 recording three albums' worth of songs, had a creative falling out and parted ways with Ballard, started his own record label, spent several years putting the finishing touches on and whittling down a set of songs for a comeback tentatively titled The Solar Return of TTD, then finally re-emerged with the 19-track Terence Trent d'Arby's Wildcard! Those with the patience to stick by d'Arby were rewarded with this incomparably rich masterpiece, arguably his finest recording yet, and inarguably as bold, ambitious, and uncategorizable a return as anyone could have hoped for or imagined.  Let's call it Introducing the Hardline According to Sananda Maitreya. A record this adventurous rarely makes it through the red tape, so it is fitting that Wildcard! found its own way to the public. Fitting also that it introduces itself by way of the ebullient brass blowout "O Divina," quaint clawhammer banjo giving way to swooping, Chicago-esque horn charts and a gutsy, gymnastic tenor as sweet as Sam Cooke's was smooth. The song may be something of a throwback, but the rest of the album is decidedly forward-looking, whether reinventing R&B for the 21st century (the gauzy "Girl," mellow "Some Birds Blue," and the roboto-funk of "SRR-636*" and "My Dark Places," the latter like a futuristic Earth, Wind & Fire fronted by Al Green), staying a few loops ahead of the electronica curve (the Dallas Austin-produced "Drivin' Me Crazy" and "Ev'rythang," which can only be labeled -- if it must -- trip-hop), or extending the sensual jazz fusion of Vibrator's "Undeniably" on "Shalom." That still leaves copious room for honeyed pop like "Sweetness" (with a guest spot by Wendy Melvoin) and "Sayin' About You" and the creamy rock of "And They Will Never Know" and "Goodbye Diane." All that and the newly metamorphosed Maitreya gives a remarkably sublime vocal performance throughout. Wildcard! is soul music with a capital S and in the broadest, most stirring, and visionary sense. AMG.

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Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass - Passages 1990

A collaboration between an avant-garde modern classical composer and a traditional Indian/Hindi composer/performer seems as unlikely as ice hockey on the River Styx. However, Passages is a collaboration between Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar and it works quite well. Shankar's smooth style fits nicely with Glass' dissonant orchestrations. There is a great deal of technical data involved here. Both of these artists have long taken intellectual approaches to music. Thus, the liner notes are a bit heavy-handed. The music is brilliant. The symphony dominates the soundscapes, but Shankar's atmospheres are integral to the success of this project. This CD will appeal to fans of John CageTerry Riley, and Steve Reich. AMG.

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Prince - 1999 (1982)

With Dirty MindPrince had established a wild fusion of funk, rock, new wave, and soul that signaled he was an original, maverick talent, but it failed to win him a large audience. After delivering the sound-alike album, ControversyPrince revamped his sound and delivered the double album 1999. Where his earlier albums had been a fusion of organic and electronic sounds, 1999 was constructed almost entirely on synthesizers by Prince himself. Naturally, the effect was slightly more mechanical and robotic than his previous work and strongly recalled the electro-funk experiments of several underground funk and hip-hop artists at the time. Prince had also constructed an album dominated by computer funk, but he didn't simply rely on the extended instrumental grooves to carry the album -- he didn't have to when his songwriting was improving by leaps and bounds. The first side of the record contained all of the hit singles, and, unsurprisingly, they were the ones that contained the least amount of electronics. "1999" parties to the apocalypse with a P-Funk groove much tighter than anything George Clinton ever did, "Little Red Corvette" is pure pop, and "Delirious" takes rockabilly riffs into the computer age. After that opening salvo, all the rules go out the window -- "Let's Pretend We're Married" is a salacious extended lust letter, "Free" is an elegiac anthem, "All the Critics Love U in New York" is a vicious attack at hipsters, and "Lady Cab Driver," with its notorious bridge, is the culmination of all of his sexual fantasies. Sure, Prince stretches out a bit too much over the course of 1999, but the result is a stunning display of raw talent, not wallowing indulgence. AMG.

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Charlie Parr - When The Devil Goes Blind 2010

The rough-and-ready sound of Charlie Parr's banjo and guitar work is exactly the kind of aesthetic that's not meant to age -- or rather, is meant to make a sound appear somehow timeless however much it's captured on an optical disc read by lasers. Larger philosophical points aside, When the Devil Goes Blind finds Parr further honing his self-consciously traditional aesthetic, something that's not about radical reinvention, whether it's his half-holler, half-family circle singing or the general look of the release via such elements as the sepia-tinted cover photo, but which in its lyrics is clearly about radicalism of a classic American kind. Parr is obviously dedicated to his craft and it's often about the individual moment of skill and flair in the structure he works in -- the sudden up-and-down parts on "Where You Gonna Be (When the Good Lord Calls You)," the descending breaks between verses on "Up Country Blues," the slow introduction to "I Was Lost Last Night." He also knows that an album can work best with variety in the sequencing -- after a series of quick performances he takes the slower, more contemplative route on "For the Drunkard's Mother," which in its own way also feels like a sudden modernizing of the overall album, like a quiet moment from Pearl Jam circa 1998. (And while it's a bit much to say that Parr has developed an Eddie Vedder-esque yarl, there's a sudden shock at times on songs like "Mastodon" when you realize how close it can be.) Similarly, "1890" feels much more 2010, Parr's switch to a speak-singing and the gentle tones of the guitar achieving a calm delicacy even as he sings a harrowing lyric about Native American slaughter in the Old West. AMG. 

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Prefab Sprout - Jordan The Comeback 1990

Jordan: The Comeback is Prefab Sprout's largely successful attempt to embrace the breadth of popular music; wisely reuniting with producer Thomas DolbyPaddy McAloon freely indulges his myriad ambitions and obsessions to weave a dense, finely textured tapestry closer in spirit and construction to a lavish Broadway musical than to the conventional rock concept LP. Over the course of no less than 19 tracks, McAloon chases his twin preoccupations of religion and celebrity, creating a loose thematic canvas perfect for his expanding musical palette; quickly dispensing with common pop idioms, the album moves from tracks like the samba-styled "Carnival 2000" to the self-explanatory "Jesse James Symphony" and its companion piece "Jesse James Bolero" with remarkable dexterity. Dolby's atmospheric production lends an even greater visual dimension to the songs, which -- with their tightly constructed narratives and occasional spoken-word passages -- seem almost destined to someday reach the stage; indeed, Jordan: The Comeback is like an original cast recording minus the actors, or a rock opera without the silliness and bombast -- a truly inspired work. AMG.

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sábado, 29 de abril de 2017

Peter Murphy - Deep 1990

Perhaps the stars were right, or perhaps his American company, flush from the unexpected success of Murphy's former bandmates in Love and Rockets, just decided to give Murphy a well-deserved publicity push. Whatever it was, with Deep Murphy scored an honest to goodness American radio/MTV hit thanks to the tender, lively "Cuts You Up," a love song with solid energy and an inspired vocal. It was a perfect calling card for the album as a whole, with Murphy in excelsis throughout and his Hundred Men providing everything from the lush, acoustic guitar wash of "Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem" to the stripped-down Arabic-tinged funk/hip-hop punch of the commanding "Roll Call." Through it all, Murphy simply sounds like he's having the time of his life, singing both for the sheer joy of it and for the dramatic power of his commanding voice. He's even comfortable enough to do an open rewrite of Bauhaus' "In the Flat Field," renamed "The Line Between the Devil's Teeth"; it has almost the same verse structure, definitely some of the same lyrics, but still, it's something he could have only done in his solo days. Quite why nothing else on the album connected with the public as strongly as "Cuts You Up" is a mystery; its follow-up single, "A Strange Kind of Love," was a striking love song, with acoustic guitar and plaintive Statham keyboards supporting one of Murphy's strongest lyrics and performances. Regardless, Deep showed Murphy balancing mass appeal and his own distinct art with perfection. AMG.

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Carminho - Canto 2014

Carminho is a Portuguese fado singer who made her smash hit solo album debut in 2009 with Fado. Born Carmo Rebelo de Andrade and hailing from Lisbon, she is the daughter of fado singer Teresa Siqueira. She cites influences that include fado legends Lucília do CarmoFernando Maurício, and Amália Rodrigues as well as pop/rock legends Queen and the BeatlesCarminho made her recording debut in 2003 on Saudades do Fado: Tertúlia de Fado Tradicional, a collaborative album produced by guitarist Luis Penedo on which she is featured as a vocalist. Critically acclaimed, she won the Prémio Amália Revelação award in 2005 and was later featured prominently in the Carlos Saura film Fados (2007). Carminho debuted with Fado (on EMI) at the relatively young age of 25. Produced by Diogo Clemente, the album features musical backing by an all-star group of Portuguese musicians including Ricardo RochaJosé Manuel Neto, Bernardo Couto, Ângelo Freire, Marino de Freitas, and Carlos Barretto. Critically acclaimed as well as commercially successful, Fado reached number two on the Portuguese albums chart and spent a few weeks in the Top Five. Two songs were released as promotional singles, "Escrevi o Teu Nome No Vento" and "A Bia da Mouraria." AMG.

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Mary Jane Hooper - Psychedelphia Rare & Unreleased New Orleans Funk 1966-1970 [1997]

Sorely overlooked by everyone (save for major soul and funk fans) who enjoys soul music, the city of New Orleans was relegated to the backseat by their soul brethren in Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Nashville, somewhat unjustly. With the recent movement to unearth funk classics and rare vinyl, this wrong has been slowly corrected, most recently with Funky Delicacies' reissue of Sena Fletcher's finest performances. Recording under the guise of Mary Jane Hooper, this collection of singles recorded for Scram Records includes her most well-known hit "Psychedelphia" and is reason alone for beat junkies to consider purchasing this compilation. But there are several other hidden treasures among the pile as well; "I've Got Reasons" and "You've Got What I Want" are but two that could give "Psychedelphia" a run for its money, and Fletcher's version of "Harper Valley PTA" is a beautifully haunting take on the classic song. AMG.

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Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomide - Wake Up 1996

Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide made a  very powerful african music album. Enjoy.

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Calvin Russell - Sounds From the Fourth World 1991

Calvin Russell was the real deal, an authentic Texas-born cowboy whose face was a trail of hard-earned lines, proof of the rough mileage he'd put on his body in the years following his birth in 1948 in Austin. For someone who likes Texas and Russell's brand of country music, the act of researching his life and misadventures can often be challenging given that much of the information printed about the singing American cowboy -- including Russell's stint in jail -- is in French. Sometimes it's in another European language. Significant writeups in the language of his birthplace occur far less often, and that's because Russell found his greatest success, professionally and personally, far from home. He was a business owner and the proprietor of a Swiss nightclub, and his wife was Swiss. A good percentage of his albums were recorded in Europe.
The singer/songwriter was one of nine children born to his working-class parents, Red and Daisy. The family lived on an unpaved road, not far from the town's wrecking yard. His mom was a waitress in the same little café where his dad did the cooking. Calvin Russell, their fourth child, spent his youth putting together hot rod cars. Before he turned 13, he'd discovered the guitar. Within a year, Russell was playing with an outfit called the Cavemen. A wild time during his teens brought him to the attention of local authorities, who sent him to juvenile detention and, later, prison. At one point in the mid-'80s, he did time in a Mexican jail, where he spent his nights on a cold concrete floor. Upon his release, he headed back to his hometown, where his condition didn't improve much. He made his bed outdoors, in the small area beneath a house, in the dirt. Russell took to the open road on a motorcycle and began to write his songs in the Texas hill country. By 1985, he had a single to his credit. Thanks to a chance meeting with record company executive Patrick Mathe four years later at Austin's Continental Club, Russell landed a contract with the French company that would release many of his albums, New Rose Records. Russell later went on to sign with Sony after New Rose Records folded. New Rose's release of Russell's A Crack in Time album in 1990 caused a stir for the artist, and he started picking up quite a bit of attention. He went on to play festivals in Europe alongside such artists as the Kinks and Little Village. More albums followed from New Rose. Le Voyageur (1993) is a recording of live shows performed by Russell in such French cities as Rennes and Paris. When the record company was sinking and its assets frozen in bankruptcy proceedings, Russell was very close to having his career tied up in the company's legal woes. Dick Rivers, who had a career decades earlier in pop, rescued Russell when he purchased the singer/songwriter's contract. Soon, Sony found Russell and stepped into the picture. However, the remainder of the '90s and the first decade of the new millennium found a prolific Russell releasing a number of albums on both European and American independent labels far from the majors; his recordings included Dream of the Dog (1995), Calvin Russell (1997), This Is My Life (1998), Sam (1999), Crossroad (2000), Rebel Radio (2002), A Man in Full (2004), In Spite of It All (2005), Unrepentant (2007), Dawg Eat Dawg (2009), and Contrabendo (2011). Between recording dates, Russell could still be heard singing in the hideaway bars of Austin, preferring low-key gigs where he sang his own songs and lesser-known works from the traditional repertoire. Calvin Russell was 62 years old when he died of liver cancer on April 3, 2011 in Garfield, Texas. AMG.

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Morphine - Cure For Pain 1993

With their cult following growing, Morphine expanded their audience even further with their exceptional 1994 sophomore effort, Cure for Pain. Whereas their debut, Good, was intriguing yet not entirely consistent, Cure for Pain more than delivered. The songwriting was stronger and more succinct this time around, while new drummer Billy Conway made his recording debut with the trio (replacing Jerome Deupree). Like the debut, most of the material shifts between depressed and upbeat, with a few cacophonic rockers thrown in between. Such selections as "Buena," "I'm Free Now," "All Wrong," "Candy," "Thursday," "In Spite of Me" (one of the few tracks to contain six-string guitar), "Let's Take a Trip Together," "Sheila," and the title track are all certifiable Morphine classics. And again, Mark Sandman's two-string slide bass and Dana Colley's sax work help create impressive atmospherics throughout the album. Cure for Pain was unquestionably one of the best and most cutting-edge rock releases of the '90s. AMG.

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sábado, 15 de abril de 2017

Stephen Bruton - What It Is 1993

Long before launching a recorded career as a singer/songwriter, Stephen Bruton had amassed a daunting résumé. He had served as a sideman/guitarist, songwriter, or producer for such industry notables as Bonnie RaittDelbert McClintonBob DylanRay Wylie HubbardHal KetchumChristine McVieT-Bone BurnettWillie NelsonWaylon JenningsPatty LovelessJimmie Dale Gilmore, and Alejandro EscovedoBruton grew up in Ft. Worth, Texas, the son of a jazz musician and record-store owner. He got his first big break when Kris Kristofferson tapped him to fill a vacant band slot in the early '70s. After working with an impressive array of artists for over 20 years, Bruton released his first solo album in the early '90s. Later that decade, he signed to New West Records, the home of such Americana talent as Billy Joe Shaverthe Flatlanders, and Delbert McClintonBruton's fourth release, Spirit World, a mixture of blues, country, and rock & roll, came out in early 2002, followed in 2005 by From the Five. Sadly, Bruton died at age 60 from complications of throat cancer at the home of T-Bone Burnett in Los Angeles on May 9, 2009; Bruton and Burnett had been working together on the film Crazy Heart, an Academy Award-winning vehicle for actor Jeff BridgesBruton and Burnett co-wrote much of the music for the film, and Bridges' Bad Blake character was in fact inspired by BrutonBruton's death came shortly after he completed his work on Crazy Heart, and the film was dedicated to him. AMG.

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