segunda-feira, 30 de abril de 2012

Ozric Tentacles - Tantric Obstacles 1985

A band from another time, Ozric Tentacles served as the bridge from '70s cosmic rock to the organic dance and festival culture that came back into fashion during the '90s. Formed in 1983 with a debt to jazz fusion as well as space rock, the band originally included guitarist Ed Wynne, drummer Nick Van Gelder, keyboard player Joie Hinton, bassist Roly Wynne (Ed's brother), and second guitarist Gavin Griffiths (who left the group in 1984). The Ozrics played in clubs around London, meanwhile releasing six cassette-only albums beginning with 1984's Erpsongs. (All six were later collected on the Vitamin Enhanced box set, despite a threatened lawsuit from the Kellogg's cereal company for questionable artwork.) In 1987, Merv Pepler replaced Van Gelder, and synthesizer player Steve Everett was also added.

Ozric Tentacles' first major release, the 1990 album Erpland, foreshadowed the crusty movement, a British parallel to America's hippie movement of the '60s. Crusties borrowed the hippies' organic dress plus the cosmic thinking of new agers, and spent most of their time traveling around England to various festivals and outdoor gatherings. The movement fit in perfectly with bands like Ozric Tentacles and the Levellers, and the Ozrics' 1991 album Strangeitude became their biggest seller yet, occasioning a U.S. contract with Capitol. After the British-only Afterswish and Live Underslunky, 1993's Jurassic Shift -- featuring flutest John Egan, who would become known for his on-stage trance-dancing during the group's live performances, and new bassist Zia Geelani in addition to original bassist Roly Wynne, who departed the band in 1992 -- hit number 11 on the British charts, quite a feat for a self-produced album released on the Ozrics' own Dovetail label. The album was released in America by IRS Records, as was 1994's Arborescence. Neither album translated well with American audiences -- despite the band's first U.S. tour in 1994 -- and Hinton and Pepler left the band that year to devote their energies to their dance side project, Eat Static, releasing several albums on Planet Dog Records.

Ozric Tentacles returned to their Dovetail label for 1995's Become the Other, featuring new members Rad and Seaweed, who also appeared on 1997's Curious Corn. Ed Wynne's brother Roly, whose later life had been plagued with difficulties, committed suicide in 1999, a tragic development for the Wynne and Ozrics families. However, the band forged on, closing out the decade with the release of Waterfall Cities that year, and during the summer of 2000 the Ozrics resurfaced with Swirly Termination. The band also released Hidden Step in 2000, followed by the EP Pyramidion in 2002. Live at the Pongmasters Ball arrived in 2002 as well, their first venture to be released on both CD and DVD.

By 2004's Spirals in Hyperspace, Ozric Tentacles were largely guided by sole original member Ed Wynne, who was responsible for guitar, keyboards, and beat programming on the studio effort, which nevertheless included appearances from previous Ozrics contributors Zia, Seaweed, John Egan, and Merv Pepler, plus drummer Schoo (who had replaced Rad after the former's departure following a 2000 U.S. tour), Ed Wynne's wife Brandi Wynne on bass, and even space rock/electronica guitar legend Steve Hillage. Released in 2006, The Floor's Too Far Away continued the trend of Ozrics domination by Ed Wynne. A live appearance from June 2007 was documented in 2008's Sunrise Festival disc, and 2009 saw the release of a new studio album, The Yumyum Tree. Inspired by Lewis Carroll, the latter album featured, in addition to Ed Wynne in the leadership role, Brandi Wynne on keyboards along with bassist Vinny Shillito and drummer Roy Brosh. Yet another permutation of the latter-day Ozrics was a true Wynne family affair, with Ed joined by his son -- and the late Roly's nephew -- Silas on synths, wife Brandi back on bass replacing Shillito, and Ollie Seagle on drums. AMG. listen here

Jack White - Blunderbuss 2012

Jack White leaves such an indelible stamp on any project he touches that a solo album from him almost seems unnecessary: nobody has ever told him what to do. He's a rock & roll auteur, bending other artists to fit his will, leading bands even when he's purportedly no more than a drummer, always enjoying dictating the fashion by placing restrictions on himself. And so it is on Blunderbuss, his first official solo album, arriving five years after the White Stripes' last but seeming much sooner given White's constant flurry of activity with the Raconteurs, Dead Weather, Third Man Records, and countless productions. Here, he's once again placed restrictions on himself but they're not quite as clearly defined as they've been in the past, as when he's gotten great dividends by working with a limited palette. All the restrictions are entirely of a comforting variety: he's abandoned the primitivism of the White Stripes, something that came easily with Meg White bashing away on the drums, and has chosen a quieter, polished route, rotating in different musicians for different tracks. Jack still pulls out some standards from his bag of tricks -- clenched blues explosions, squealing guitars, and a cool breeze of electric piano -- but musicians matter and this bunch of pro players tightens and softens his attack (sometimes to its detriment, as on a clumsy cabaret version of Little Willie John's "I'm Shakin'"). When Blunderbuss gets furious, it's hard not to miss the chaos Meg brought to the Stripes -- with her at the drums, "Sixteen Saltines" would fly off the rails -- but it's a mistake to think of this album as a professionally produced White Stripes record as it relies as heavily on ideas White explored on his handful of old-timey acoustic cuts and the '70s guitar rock of the Raconteurs. If it resembles any Stripes album it's Get Behind Me Satan, the dark, odd 2005 set written in the wake of a breakup and filled with songs of paranoia and recrimination. This too is a divorce album with every song concerning love gone wrong, yet it's easy to ignore all the pain roiling underneath because Blunderbuss plays so sweetly, its melodies easing into memory and its surface warm and pleasant. Contradictions are nothing new for Jack White but he's never been as emotionally direct as he is here, nor has he been as musically evasive, and that dichotomy makes Blunderbuss a record that only seems richer with increased exposure. AMG. listen here

Die Antwoord - $O$ 2010

Representing the Lady Gaga Era’s dark underbelly, South Africa’s Die Antwoord are the real “Little Monsters” of their time, brought to fame by a series of videos that looked like David Cronenberg and Keith Haring were co-directing. On their debut album, $O$, the music is just as phantasmagoric, unsettling, and bursting with the same sick humor as their videos, but there’s also the same amount of care put into the product. Even as these incredibly busy hip-hop-meets-rave productions rocket toward the brink of chaos, the listener is harnessed in by layers of hooks and plenty of cheeky musical ideas. First, there’s the setup: a duo of South African’s trashiest trailer kids, including a lead male rapper, Ninja, who is obsessed with his namesake plus an albino kewpie doll, pixie-voiced back-up singer, Yo-Landi Vi$$er, who often channels her inner sex goddess even when she’s traditionally unsexy. A third, shadow member, DJ Hi-Tek, supplies much of the music, making wonderfully outlandish decisions like sampling Smile.dk’s sugary hit “Butterfly” for the massive “Enter the Ninja,” a hypnotic motivational track that should pump up any given mutant before they enter the ring. When “Scopie” - this album is chock-full of NSFW South African slang -- samples “Short Dick Man,” it’s clever, and borrowing from the Bronski Beat for the epic sex track “Beat Boy” is just one example of the album’s fascinating love of old synth music, from new wave to gabba hardcore with a little love thrown dubstep’s way. Jamaican dancehall is referenced on “Evil Boy,” which turns Little Red Riding Hood into a story of phallic bragging, as is dancehall’s iffy relationship with the “batty boy”, because Die Antwoord are hardly politically correct. Elsewhere, your mom’s private parts end up in a “Fish Paste” jar as an insult, and Ninja’s idea of a sexual encounter always requires post-coital mops and buckets. If it matters, none of this is real, and Die Antwoord are actually conceptual artists, presenting “exaggerated versions” of their “inner zef”. Whoever they are, $o$ is utterly unique and downright dazzling if you dream of a Grand Guignol hosted by P. Diddy. AMG. listen here

RPWL - Beyond Man And Time 2012

RPWL (Risettion Postl Wallner Lung - the band members) is a German progressive rock band. The band was formed in 1997 as a Pink Floyd cover band. After three years they started to make their own music based on their influences from their cover band era. Their debut CD, God Has Failed was met with international enthusiasm, praise and excellent reviews in all the major progressive rock music magazines.

The band wanted to make a statement with Trying To Kiss The Sun in 2002, which relied more on the band as a creative entity and less on their influences. Their 3rd studio album, Stock was released in 2003. It was formed of the tracks that didn't make it onto the first 2 albums, plus a cover of Syd Barrett's "Opel", which the band used at shows as a soundcheck.

In 2005 they released their 4th studio album World Through My Eyes. This was received well by fans and off it their first single was taken- "Roses" sung by former Genesis and Stiltskin vocalist Ray Wilson.

Later that year, the band released their 1st live album Live- Start The Fire. The double disc album contains the whole of the band's Rockpalast concert, again featuring Ray Wilson on lead vocals for "Roses" and one other track this time, "Not About Us", which is from Ray's one and only album with Genesis entitled Calling All Stations.

In 2007, saw the release of 9--a compilation including 5 previously unreleased live songs and 4 brand new solo songs recorded together by the band. Those studio-tracks are representing the different influences in the band. 9 was released in a limited edition of 999 CDs and was only available from their website.

In February 2008, they released a new album called The RPWL Experience, which diverted greatly from previous efforts. Martien Koolen of DPRP writes, "The southern German prog rock band certainly explores new musical horizons on this album as some songs even sound raw and unpolished." Proarchives.com listen here

Apparat - Walls 2007

Having made a considerable splash with the Ellen Allien collaboration Orchestra of Bubbles, Apparat returned to his own path with Walls, a remarkable album that ranks as his best yet. Beginning with the gentle string and vibes beats of "Not a Number" -- which in its own melancholy way, combined with the title, suddenly sounds like one of the most humanistic songs yet recorded, passionate in its elegant sorrow -- Walls takes a simultaneously familiar and unsettled path. While the continuing impact of disparate strands of music -- the fallout of My Bloody Valentine and its many imitators, the electronic obsessions of Warp, the stadium-ready melancholy of early Radiohead and its own horde of followers -- has resulted in a 21st century computer music of crushed sorrow; on Walls, Apparat transcends the downbeat limitations of the incipient form with astonishing grace. Hearing how what could be a standard filter-house volume build in "Limelight" becomes a fierce trap for a voice barely understandable, or how the post-Jeff Buckley/Thom Yorke woundedly sweet vocal on "Arcadia" actually means something working alongside the busily frenetic beats make the listener regard familiar approaches in a sudden new light. Meantime, "You Don't Know Me," which appears towards the album's conclusion, might actually be the best song on it. While there are a lot of songs that could be described as soundtracking a nonexistent film, this actually feels like it, strings and a handclap beat creating a pitch-perfect atmosphere to the end of a romantic movie. Raz Ohara's various vocal appearances throughout are nice additions but the highlight is "Hold On," where his perfectly in-the-moment R&B style contrasts the squelching bass and nervous but righteous groove to a T. AMG. listen here

Laura Allan - Reflections 1980

When you don't tire of an album after hundreds of listenings, you can crown it a "classic." Laura Allan plays zither and sings melodies of eternal inspiration and exquisite depth. A few refrains have lyrics, and they are pure poetry. "My heart is grateful--just to be, and nothing more. I am the joy, and the sorrow. The tear, the death, and blessed bird. As I am today, I am tomorrow: a child of God, flying out to love on this earth...." Though you'll probably remember only Allan's zither and angelic voice, other notables contribute to the magic: Paul Horn on swirls of flutes, Dallas Smith on Lyricon wind synthesizer, Geoffrey Chandler on synthesizer, and Kent Middleton on bells. Everything about this album seems to have been "Special Delivery" from Heaven; even the faint auto sounds in the background are totally forgiven, even embraced. Even if this album is available only on cassette tape, get it. It is available on tape only through Steven Halpern's Inner Peace Music. AMG. listen here

domingo, 29 de abril de 2012

Jonas Hellborg - Temporal Analogues of Paradise 1996

Here's another stunningly beautiful Jonas Hellborg album with another misleadingly dorky title (cf. Octave of the Holy Innocents, Ars Moriende, etc.). The dorkiness of the title is misleading because it's simply not reflected in the music, which, while decidedly virtuosic and occasionally even esoteric, is for the most part admirably grounded and accessible. With guitar hero Shawn Lane and drummer Apt. Q-258 (aka Jeff Sipe), Hellborg spins out two half-hour long improvisations (or, as they're called here, "movements"); the first is the more rockish, and also the less interesting of the two. Opening with a ringing tonic-dominant figure from Hellborg and a pummeling beat from Sipe, the piece quickly takes off into guitar-god territory as Lane lets loose -- his playing is genuinely inspiring, as pretty as it is jaw-droppingly virtuosic -- but on this track the trio doesn't ever hook into anything really transcendent. On the more lyrical and restrained "Second Movement," though, there is magic at work. Lane starts out in a South Asian modality and then gradually glides into a series of variations on achingly sweet diatonic themes while Hellborg supports him with solid but intricate bass figures underneath. Hellborg's solos are brilliant as well. The album is a solid success overall. AMG. listen here

Lena Horne - Seasons Of A Life 2006

Lena Horne had effectively retired in 2006 when Blue Note released Seasons of a Life, an album compiled for her by her musical director, Rodney Jones, and including unreleased performances recorded between 1994 and 2000. It's an effective capstone to her career, and shows that even at the age of 80, the former Cotton Club featured attraction had lost little of the verve and sophistication she exhibited throughout her career. The material comes from six different sessions, some live but most in a studio environment, including outtakes -- most of which sound like outtakes -- from her Blue Note albums of the '90s. Three of the performances come from the Blue Note project Classic Ellington, which allowed Simon Rattle and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to pay tribute to Duke Ellington in a classical context. (For this release, Rodney Jones appears to have merely excised the symphony to make these small-group performances.) Most interesting, however, are two tracks recorded with Herbie Hancock, the first a trio recording of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and the second a Horne-Hancock duet on "Willow Weep for Me." AMG. listen here

Keith Jarrett Trio - Somewhere Before (1969-1981)

While still a member of the Charles Lloyd Quartet, Keith Jarrett did some occasional moonlighting with a trio, anchored by two future members of Jarrett's classic quartet, Charlie Haden (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). On this CD, Jarrett turns in a very eclectic set at Shelly's Manne-Hole in Hollywood, careening through a variety of idioms where his emerging individuality comes through in flashes. He covers Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages" -- which actually came out as a single on the Vortex label -- in an attractive, semi-funky style reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi. "Pretty Ballad" delivers a strong reflective dose of Bill Evans, while "Moving Soon" is chaotic free jazz. By the time we reach "New Rag," we begin to hear the distinctive Jarrett idiom of the later trios, but then, "Old Rag" is knockabout stride without the stride. As an example of early, unfocused Jarrett, this is fascinating material. AMG. listen here

Doudou Ndiaye Rose - Djabote 1991

Doudou N'Diaye Rose has been called the "Jimi Hendrix of the drum skin." A virtuoso percussionist, Rose has proven equally effective whether he's working with a small ensemble or a symphony orchestra. According to www.runprod.com, Rose "has a passion for sounds and for harmonies; he loves to make his group reverberate like a tremendous rhythmical machine, which he controls with the hands of a master, using his baton to guide the musicians with an irresistible authority and natural charisma." Born to a Wolof family, Rose has inherited the status of griot or oral historian. Rose is reportedly the father of 38 children.
Unlike most drummers in the West African traditions, Rose has always tended to work with large ensembles. Yet their enormous power has mostly come with little loss of subtlety, as these recent recordings attest. This open-air set involving no less than 50 drummers and as many singers has a sweep and strength that take your breath away.AMG. listen here

INXS - X 1990

The seventh album from Australia's INXS basically sticks to the formula set up on Kick, mixing solid remixable dancefloor beats with slightly quirky production tricks, Michael Hutchence's rough-edged, bluesy vocals, and some good solid song hooks. The most immediate numbers are, of course, the two singles, "Suicide Blonde" and "Disappear," but other tracks stand out as potential hit material as well, including the anthemic "The Stairs." The biggest problems with the album are a tendency to play it safe, sticking to the tried and true -- echoing a line in the thumping "Who Pays the Price," when Hutchence sings "it's all been felt before" -- and the fact that there's very little in the way of subtlety on the entire album. All of the songs are designed for immediate radio contact -- they don't really give you a chance to grow into them, they just grab you by the throat and start shaking. "Know the Difference," as an example, threatens to be sneaky but immediately switches to an obvious assault instead. In the finish, the overwhelming lack of subtlety and sense of sameness overcomes the album as a whole. It's not that's it's a bad album. It's just nowhere near as good as it could -- and should -- have been. AMG. listen here

sábado, 21 de abril de 2012

Susan Tedeschi - Just Won't Burn 1998

The very idea of a lady slinging a guitar sets traditional blues fans swooning. But with the release of her debut, Susan Tedeschi slings, aims, and hits her target. What a talent! Singer, songwriter, player, performer, and more, the lady from Boston can do it all. Effective, she does justice to John Prine's classic "Angel from Montgomery" while making her own efforts known. Her tunes include "You Need to Be with Me," "Found Someone New," and the title cut. Leading her own band, she has what it takes to keep the boys in line while she wails away. Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith must be proud, and B.B. King must be impressed, since she has opened for that blues master on several occasions. Just a little taste of things to come, Just Won't Burn blazes a trail that Tedeschi is pioneering for herself and younger women in the blues world. A brave heart with spunk and plenty of soul. AMG.
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Prince - Planet Earth 2007

Comeback accomplished, Prince now settles into a groove with 2007's Planet Earth, his 26th studio album and successor to the two deliberate comebacks, Musicology and 3121. Those two albums were designed to storm the top of the charts but, more importantly, they were made with the intention of making Prince prominent again -- a gambit that worked since Prince worked hard, stealing the show at both the Superbowl and the American Idol fifth-season finale and turning into an in-demand concert ticket once again. Both records were recorded with the expectations of making a splash, and 3121 even made some overtures toward modern music, most noticeably in the sleek electro workout of "Black Sweat," which suggested that Prince had heard the Neptunes, even if he didn't pay them much mind. In contrast to such grudging nods at his progeny, Planet Earth doesn't attempt to make concessions to contemporary music, although it does make a point of addressing the modern world, whether it's in the neo-apocalyptic warnings of destruction and God on the title track or his offhand reference to "this digital age" on the sweet slow jam "Somewhere Here on Earth." Such passing asides are enough indication that, even if Prince may belong to his own universe, he surely lives in our world, something that's also apparent from his move to give away the album with Sunday newspapers in the U.K., a move that infuriated record labels in Britain -- since how can you sell something that's being given away for free? -- yet makes some sense in terms of sheer marketing. After all, Planet Earth is the kind of sturdy, highly enjoyable music that needs some manufactured hoopla around its release; otherwise, it will fade into the artist's prodigious back catalog because of its very nature. This isn't a self-styled comeback, it's an album that showcases a still-vital veteran relaxing and playing music that's not surprising, not fashionable, but not stodgy or fussy. That may mean that Planet Earth isn't much more than a quite good Prince album, one that hits upon his most accessible personas -- impish popster, funk-rocker, seductive balladeer, charmingly mystic weirdo -- and doesn't go much further than that, yet it still offers plenty to enjoy, either as sheer music (some of the synths are a bit glassy, but nobody knows how to make a record sound warm like Prince) or as songs. If there are no classics here -- or even songs that are as instantly grabbing as "Lolita" -- there are no bad songs either, with the very funny, tightly wound rocker "Guitar," the light, frothy "The One U Wanna C," and the NPG knockoff "Chelsea Rodgers" being as engaging as slow jams like "Future Baby Mama." There's no fluff and no fat, just ten strong songs delivered with just enough flair to remind you it's the work of Prince, yet strategically avoiding the indulgence that marginalized him throughout the '90s. Ultimately, Planet Earth is the sound of a working musician working, which makes it a bit of a passing pleasure, yet there's no denying that it is indeed a pleasure having him turn out solid records like this that build upon his legacy, no matter how modestly. AMG.
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Gil Scott-Heron - Ghetto Style 1998

This compilation features 21 tracks from Gil Scott-Heron's first three long-players -- Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970), Pieces of a Man (1971), and Free Will (1972) -- all for producer Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label. Although Scott-Heron's seminal recordings consisted of his radical street poetry set to a bombast of conga accompaniment, he honed his prose into socially conscious R&B. This would heavily influence rap music nearly a decade prior to its fruition in the early '80s and 1990s. The original recitation version of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" -- which comes off as militant as the more familiar instrumentally accompanied reading -- as well as the slice-of-life commentary title track "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox" appropriately represent Scott-Heron's first disc with an edgy political incorrectness taken directly from the soul of the American ghettos. Although the tone of his later work would become somewhat melodically tempered, the lyrical content remained in-your-face and wholly uncompromising. On the follow-up, Pieces of a Man, the artist is accompanied by a bevy of studio musicians and jazz heavies, including Ron Carter (bass), Hubert Laws (flute/saxophone), as well as Bernard "Pretty" Purdie (drums). This would also begin Scott-Heron's dramatic and fruitful collaborative relationship with Brian Jackson (keyboards), which would spawn several landmark and otherwise socially conscious discs, including the apropos bicentennial release It's Your World (1976). Jackson's delicate interplay on "Did You Hear What They Said" and "Or Down You Fall" demonstrates the musical cohesion that would continue to develop between the two. Although this is a European import, as no domestic compilation of this material exists, Ghetto Style (1998) is a highly recommended primer. AMG.
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Jane's Addiction - Ritual De Lo Habitual 1990

Ritual de lo Habitual served as Jane's Addiction's breakthrough to the mainstream in 1990 (going gold and reaching the Top 20), and remains one of rock's all-time sprawling masterpieces. While its predecessor, 1988's Nothing's Shocking, served as a fine introduction to the group, Ritual de lo Habitual proved to be even more daring; few (if any) alt-rock bands have composed a pair of epics that totaled nearly 20 minutes, let alone put them back to back for full dramatic effect. While the cheerful ditty "Been Caught Stealing" is the album's best-known track, the opening "Stop!" is one of the band's best hard rock numbers, propelled by guitarist Dave Navarro's repetitive, trashy funk riff, while "Ain't No Right" remains explosive in its defiant and vicious nature. Jane's Addiction always had a knack for penning beautiful ballads with a ghostly edge, again proven by the album closer, "Classic Girl." But it's the aforementioned epics that are the album's cornerstone: "Three Days" and "Then She Did...." Although Perry Farrell has never truly admitted what the two songs are about lyrically, they appear to be about an autobiographical romantic tryst between three lovers, as each composition twists and turns musically through every imaginable mood. And while the tracks "No One's Leaving," "Obvious," and "Of Course" may not be as renowned as other selections, they prove integral in the makeup of the album. Surprisingly, the band decided to call it a day just as Ritual de lo Habitual hit big, headlining the inaugural Lollapalooza tour (the brainchild of Farrell) in the summer of 1991 as their final road jaunt. Years later, it remains one of alt-rock's finest moments. AMG.
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Gentle Giant - Acquiring The Taste 1971

The band's second album is a major advance on its first, featuring superior singing, playing, and songwriting, as well as a more unified sound, without sacrificing the element of surprise in the first record. Many of the melodies and even the riffs here (check out Gary Green's first guitar flourish on "Pantagruel's Nativity") have a pretty high haunt count, and all of the musicianship displays an elegance seldom heard even in progressive circles -- but the record also, amazingly enough, rocks really hard as well. Elements of hard rock and Gregorian chants mix freely and, amazingly enough, well throughout this album. AMG.
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Killing Floor - Killing Floor 1969

Listening to Killing Floor's debut LP today -- essentially rearranged Chicago blues songs given a bombastic heavy rock treatment -- you cannot dismiss the impact and influence of Led Zeppelin's self-titled debut, which was released six months earlier, in January 1969. The band's fledgling label, Spark, decided to them record "original" material during sessions in Pye Recording Studios, so vocalist Bill Thorndycraft reportedly spent several days thereafter in the studio's restroom, where he reluctantly rewrote all the group's lyrics. The only song that didn't end up as an "original" was their cover of Willie Dixon's "You Need Love" (retitled "Woman You Need Love"), the same song later purloined by Led Zeppelin for "Whole Lotta Love." The next track, "Nobody By My Side," repeats the same two-line riff from Zeppelin's "How Many More Times," which had been purloined by Zeppelin from Albert King's "The Hunter." "Come Home Baby," a honky tonk blues original, features pleasant ivory-tickling by Lou Martin (this song was later covered by bluesman Jimmy Witherspoon on Spoonful of Blues). The hymn-like "Sunday Morning" features Martin on harpsichord. Much of the rest of the album continues along in the same fashion. There are the occasional sloppy mistakes, both in the playing and the album's production, but, all in all, Killing Floor is a fine collection of B-level British blues-rock. The cover artwork -- a photo depicting jail cell doors with symbolic red ink splashed around like blood -- was changed for the original American release on Sire. Killing Floor was reissued on CD by See For Miles (retitled Rock the Blues) in 1992 and by Repertoire in 1993. AMG.
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Santana - Sacred Fire, Live In South America 1993

For their third live album, Santana introduced a new bass player, Myron Dove, and added guitarist Jorge Santana (Carlos Santana's brother), and singer Vorriece Cooper to bring the band up to nine members. Adopting the mantle of Bob Marley, the band played "Esperando," which borrowed Marley's characteristic audience chant. Much of the album, however, is given over to repeating Santana's earliest hits -- "No One to Depend On," "Black Magic Woman," "Soul Sacrifice," -- which should please the band's new record label (it's always good to have versions of the hits in your catalog), but which makes the album inessential for fans. Sacred Fire spent one week at number 181 in the charts, the worst performance ever for a Santana album.AMG.
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Dick Heckstall-Smith and Friends - Blues And Beyond 2001

Saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith had a major role in the British blues boom of the 1960s, playing in the bands of Alexis Korner, Graham Bond, and John Mayall. In all of his work, and particularly in the late-'60s band Colosseum, he ventured into the little-explored territory where blues, jazz, and rock meet. In addition to doing session work, he's released some solo recordings. 1995's Celtic Steppes, funded by the Arts Council of England, was an ambitious world fusion outing. AMG.
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terça-feira, 17 de abril de 2012

Dave Cousins - Two weeks last summer 1972

Dave Cousins' 1972 solo album was very much like a Strawbs record of the period, albeit one in which his songwriting and vocals dominated even more than they did on other Strawbs releases from the era. The Strawbs connection is enhanced by the presence of soon-to-be Strawb Dave Lambert on guitar and backing vocals, and just-ex-Strawb Rick Wakeman on keyboards. A couple of other moonlighters from star bands (bassist Roger Glover of Deep Purple and drummer Jon Hiseman of Colosseum) are onboard too, as are, on a couple tracks, the wind septet of Robert Kirby, most known for his contributions to Nick Drake recordings. Like the Strawbs albums from the time, it shows a move toward a folk-rock/harder rock blend as compared to Cousins' folkier beginnings, though a few cuts mostly or wholly feature only Cousins accompanying himself on piano. Too, some of these songs -- such as "Two Weeks Last Summer," "October to May," and "We'll Meet Again Sometime" -- had actually been recorded with the Strawbs prior to inclusion on this release, even if the Strawbs versions didn't find their way into wide release until the CD era. It's not as good as the best Strawbs stuff, however, in part because it lacks as much of a group dynamic, in part because it doesn't have Cousins' most outstanding songs. All that noted, fans of Cousins and the Strawbs are pretty solidly guaranteed to find something to appreciate here, as the songs are very much in his tradition of haunting melodies and involved lyrics, sometimes with a story-spinning, remembrance-of-things-past bent. Lingering echoes of psychedelia are felt in the distorted vocals, foggy organ, backward washes of sound, and tinkling bells of the title track; the three-part "Blue Angel" is indicative of his taste for song-epics; and "The Actor" is an above-average hard rocker, Cousins' electronically treated singing sounding as if it's rising from a boiling pot. Long unavailable on CD, it was finally issued in that format on SDR Records in 2003.AMG.
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Dexy's Midnight Runners - Too-Rye-Ay 1982

For one brief moment, Dexy's exploded into America's consciousness -- and what a song to do it with! "Come on Eileen" combines ramalama rock & roll, soul delivery, and Celtic/country flavor into a perfect musical fusion and an irresistible U.K. and U.S. number one hit. Both the song and its video were such hits that years later, ska/punk band Save Ferris made a minor splash with its own version of the tune, while Garth Brooks appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit dressed as the capering, bedraggled Rowland. The rest of the album is nearly as successful, with quite a few numbers that should have matched "Come on Eileen"'s fame. Given that song's obvious debt to Van Morrison's similar fusions, it's no surprise that Dexy's tipped their hat with a great cover of Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said," another big British single. Throughout the album, Rowland's distinct, unique voice takes the fore, but the revamped Dexy's lineup proves it was the original version's equal, if not better. Given that only trombonist Big Jimmy Patterson remained, and even then only for two tracks, recruiting a new band able to create the "Celtic soul" Rowland dreamed about turned out to be exactly the right move. Excellently produced by Rowland and the legendary Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley production team, Too-Rye-Ay sounds like an old soul revue recorded on-stage, no doubt an intentional goal. Other highlights include the opening jaunt "The Celtic Soul Brothers," which just about says it all both in title and delivery; the slow swirl of "All in All," and the vicious ballad "Liars A to E." AMG.
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Dave Hole - Working Over time 1993

Hole's second disc features nine original compositions and covers of Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy, rendered in a vocal and guitar style somewhat similar to Johnny Winter's best blues work but with an edge of youthful vigor. "Biting slide guitar work" is an understatement. Hole can also play the thoughtful Roy Buchanan card on the likes of "Berwick Road.". AMG.
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quinta-feira, 12 de abril de 2012

Jan Hammer - The First Seven Days 1975

Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboard ace Jan Hammer offers up quite a thorough study in synthesizer technology with his second solo release, titled The First Seven Days. With the liner notes declaring "for those concerned, that there is no guitar on this album," Hammer makes it a point to further blur the distinction between the genres of jazz, rock, and classical music. Wishing to portray the first seven "days" of earth's creation, Hammer states that "assuming that each of these days lasted anywhere from one day to 100 million years, the scientific and biblical views do meet in certain points. These points were the inspiration for this album." His incorporation of the piano, electric piano, Moog synthesizer, Oberheim synthesizer, Freeman string synthesizer, and Mellotron vividly evokes images of bubbling cesspools and budding birthrights as his inspired version of the physical world sonically takes shape. While The First Seven Days is atmospheric in nature, with no proper pop sensibilities, its thematic construction yields nothing short of a classic narrative. AMG.
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Widespread Panic - Ball 2003

Politics aside -- this is the first-ever Widespread Panic record that hasn't had numerous versions of tracks available on the Internet; the band kept it under wraps until release time -- this is the most ambitious and refined album the band has ever issued. Widespread Panic is the only band from the whole jam scene that emerged from the south and the oft-spouted Allman Brothers' font of inspiration who remains interesting. Over the course of eight studio albums and three live outings, Widespread Panic has mutated into a unit who can make harmonic -- and even hooky -- sense of virtually any scrap of a musical idea. Ball is a refinement of the ambition of Don't Tell the Band. While that record featured exercises in everything from blues to Latin and fusion, Ball centers itself on solid rock & roll of varying textures and approaches. What it means is that for the first time since their self-titled second album, the band has hunkered down and practiced the craft of tight, well-scripted, rock-conscious songwriting. What's more, with the aid of producer John Keane, they execute the fruits of their labor with aplomb, grace, and elegance. There's the pastoral backyard view into the world of "Counting Train Cars" with whining, shimmering pedal steel and a high, lonesome harmonica, with frontman John Bell offering the lyrics as if he's in the middle of them, not projecting them. This is the kind of song the Counting Crows wish they could write, and that R.E.M. tried -- and failed -- to do for literally decades. Think of the Band if they were really from the south and had Dickey Betts and Sneaky Pete Kleinow. In addition, there's the bluesy, southern-fried rock of "Papa Johnny Road," with slithering guitars and a funky bassline accented by popping, single-string fills from a clawhammer banjo; here one can hear a trace of the Allmans, especially in Bell's delivery and the behind-the-beat twinned guitars. Elsewhere, the Richard Thompson-influenced guitar stylings of George McConnell's acoustic create a taut line crossed with Bell's near-British folk-styled vocal; while McConnell can re-create the beautiful octave drones and double-string runs of Thompson, Bell's singing is purely American, though he's going for Nick Drake or even early John Martyn; it's a striking, simple, and beautifully wrought song. There are also knotty, multi-faceted tunes that the Panics are (in)famous for, like the wondrously psychedelic "Meeting of the Waters" or the balls-out rocker "Nebulous," which cuts to the chase with John Herman's organ driving the entire engine. The record closes on a pair of contrasting tunes: the jazzy, almost loungy "Time Waits," haunted by Herman's B3 floating through the guitars and rhythms, and the near-anthemic stoner road song "Travelin' Man." No, we're not talking about a cover of the Ricky Nelson song; this is pure hippie-dream theory: "Been feelin' alright, for a coupla days/Either in a fog, or a sunny haze." Ringing, jangling guitars buoy Bell as he states his intention to live without purpose or destination. The killer flatpicking solo by McConnell in the bridge makes Bell's strident electric rhythm guitar seem more open, wide into the panorama that is the emptiness of all dreamers, where everything is connected. It's a very fine, laid-back rocker that carries out Ball on an up-note. Despite the fact that this is Widespread's "tightest" and most glossy record, it doesn't divulge its secrets easily. It needs repeated listenings to take it all in, and once that happens, it becomes an indispensable addition to their catalog. (Hint: Don't yank it out of the CD player right away when that last track ends.) AMG.
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Randy Holden - Guitar God 1996

A '60s guitar hero who never seemed to be in the right place at the right time, Randy Holden has attracted a small but intense cult following for his work with various California groups in the '60s. After a couple of surf singles with the Fender IV that featured his inventive reverbed fretting, Holden joined the Sons of Adam, a Los Angeles band that cut three decent garage-psychedelic singles. Holden's characteristic Jeff Beck-like sustain can already be heard on these, the best known of which is "Feathered Fish," which was penned by Arthur Lee of Love (although Love never recorded it). When the Sons of Adam broke up, drummer Michael Stuart, in fact, joined Love, while Holden joined the underrated punky San Francisco psychedelic band the Other Half. His searing, suspended leads are the highlights of their sole album (they also recorded a few single-only songs).

Holden is actually best known for his short stint in San Francisco's Blue Cheer, which bridged psychedelia and heavy metal. Holden replaced Leigh Stephens, but left during the recording of the third Blue Cheer album, New! Improved! (he appears on side two only). Holden then recorded an extremely hard-to-find hard rock album as a solo artist, Population II, for the small Hobbit label in 1970 before drifting out of the music business. Most of his work, however, has been reissued sporadically by small labels in the '80s and '90s. AMG.
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T-Bone Walker - Good Feelin' 1969

Recorded in Paris during November 1968, Good Feelin' was the album that rekindled public interest in the life and music of Aaron "T-Bone" Walker throughout Europe and even in some portions of the United States of America. The album begins and closes with informal narration spoken by Walker while accompanying himself on the piano. The band behind him on the other ten tracks includes guitarist Slim Pezin, pianist Michel Sardaby and Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango blowing tenor alongside Pierre Holassian on alto, Francis Cournet on baritone, and a trumpeter whose identity remains a mystery. With T-Bone's electric guitar sizzling in its own juice and the horns signifying together over soulful organ grooves and freshly ground basslines, all of this music is rich and powerful. Each track is delicious; a funky instrumental strut entitled "Poontang" is the tastiest of all. AMG.
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Thelonious Monk - Monk's Dream 1962

Monk's Dream is the Columbia Records debut release featuring the Thelonious Monk Quartet: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums). Jazz scholars and enthusiasts alike also heralded this combo as the best Monk had been involved with for several years. Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight -- almost telepathic -- dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equalled in any genre. By the early '60s, bop had become considered passé by artists as well as fans looking for the next musical trend. This is coupled with the fact that discerning Monk fans would have undoubtedly recognized many of these titles from several live recordings issued at the end of his tenure on Riverside. Not to belabor the point, however, but precious few musicians understood the layer upon layer of complexities and challenges that Monk's music created. On tracks such as "Five Spot Blues" and "Bolivar Blues," Rouse and Dunlop demonstrate their uncanny abilities by squeezing in well-placed instrumental fills, while never getting hit by the unpredictable rhythmic frisbees being tossed about by Monk. Augmenting the six quartet recordings are two solo sides: "Just a Gigolo" and "Body and Soul." Most notable about Monk's solo work is how much he retained the same extreme level of intuition throughout the nearly two decades that separate these recordings from his initial renderings on Prestige in the late '40s. Monk's Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast. AMG.
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sábado, 7 de abril de 2012

Canned Heat - House of blue lights 1998

A hard-luck blues band of the '60s, Canned Heat was founded by blues historians and record collectors Alan Wilson and Bob Hite. They seemed to be on the right track and played all the right festivals (including Monterey and Woodstock, making it very prominently into the documentaries about both) but somehow never found a lasting audience.

Certainly their hearts were in the right place. Canned Heat's debut album -- released shortly after their appearance at Monterey -- was every bit as deep into the roots of the blues as any other combo of the time mining similar turf, with the exception of the original Paul Butterfield band. Hite was nicknamed "The Bear" and stalked the stage in the time-honored tradition of Howlin' Wolf and other large-proportioned bluesmen. Wilson was an extraordinary harmonica player, with a fat tone and great vibrato. His work on guitar, especially in open tunings (he played on Son House's rediscovery recordings of the mid-'60s, incidentally) gave the band a depth and texture that most other rhythm players could only aspire to. Henry Vestine -- another dyed-in-the-wool record collector -- was the West Coast's answer to Michael Bloomfield and capable of fretboard fireworks at a moment's notice.

Canned Heat's breakthrough moment occurred with the release of their second album, establishing them with hippie ballroom audiences as the "kings of the boogie." As a way of paying homage to the musician they got the idea from in the first place, they later collaborated on an album with John Lee Hooker that was one of the elder bluesman's most successful outings with a young white (or black, for that matter) combo backing him up. After two big chart hits with "Goin' Up the Country" and an explosive version of Wilbert Harrison's "Let's Work Together," Wilson died under mysterious (probably drug-related) circumstances in 1970, and Hite carried on with various reconstituted versions of the band until his death just before a show in 1981, from a heart seizure.

Still, the surviving members -- led by drummer Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra -- continued touring and recording, recruiting new vocalist Walter Trout; he was replaced in 1985 by James Thornbury, who fronted the band for the next decade. After Thornbury exited in 1995, Canned Heat tapped Robert Lucas to assume lead vocal duties; they soon recorded The Canned Heat Blues Band, which sadly was Vestine's last recording with the group -- he died in Paris in October 1997 in the wake of the band's recent tour. Boogie 2000 followed two years later. AMG.
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Muse - Black Holes and Revelations 2006

Naysayers listen up: Muse refuses to be the "next" Radiohead. Since forming in 1997, the alternative rock trio has continuously battled comparisons to the famed Oxford group while ambitiously creating a sound of its own, mixing elements of glam, pop, and symphonic music into a rock hybrid. British fans have praised the group for years, despite Americans taking until Absolution to discover Muse and give them their rightful props. Whether or not you championed the grand dramatics of Absolution, Muse is a solid, unique band and Black Holes and Revelations defines those strengths with a passion. Rich Costey joins Muse in the co-production of this 11-song set; together, they create the band's most realized and meticulous album to date. "Take a Bow" sets the scene by layering full rock orchestration with waves of synthesizers and percussion, all of it building up to vocalist/guitarist Matthew Bellamy's aching performance of a world torn apart by its own instability. Though frequently compared to Queen's Freddie Mercury and Thom Yorke, Bellamy comes into his own as a vocalist here. He, drummer Dominic Howard, and bassist Chris Wolstenholme pull equal weight throughout, and Muse sounds like a complete band on Black Holes and Revelations. The sultry, swaggering "Supermassive Black Hole" and the razor-edged paranoiac "Assassin" are prime examples of how adamant Muse is about delivering the biggest rock & roll package possible, while "Starlight" proves they write a radio-worthy anthem without jeopardizing their own ethics. Bellamy howls "You and I must fight for our rights/You and I must fight to survive" during the riotous, Rush-like megalomania of "Knights of Cydonia," and it's true -- they've totally fought for their craft on this one. It may have taken four albums for Americans to get with the program, but with Black Holes and Revelations, the whole world should be watching.AMG.
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The Stranglers - The Men in black 1981

The Stranglers formed as the Guildford Stranglers in the southern England village of Chiddingfold (near Guildford) in 1974, plowing a heavily Doors-influenced furrow through the local pub rock scene -- such as it was. Of the four founding members, only Hugh Cornwell had any kind of recognizable historical pedigree, having played alongside Richard Thompson in the schoolboy band Emil & the Detectives. According to Thompson, their repertoire stretched from "Smokestack Lightning" and the blues, through to "old Kiki Dee B-sides," while their gigging was largely confined to the Hornsey School of Art, where Thompson's sister was Social Secretary.

The Guildford Stranglers were confined to a similar circuit. It was 1975 before they ventured into even the London suburbs, although once there -- and having shortened their name to the less parochial Stranglers -- things began moving quickly. The established pub rock scene was dying and promoters were willing to give any unknown band a break, simply to try and establish a new hierarchy. Thus it was that as the first stirrings of punk began to make their own presence felt on the same circuit, the Stranglers were on board the bandwagon from the beginning.

Their early songs, too, radiated the same ugly alienation that was the proto-punk movement's strongest calling card. Material like "Peasant in the Big Shitty," "I Feel Like a Wog," "Down in the Sewer," and "Ugly" itself were harsh, uncompromising, and grotesque, a muddy blurge of sound cut through with Dave Greenfield's hypnotically Doors-like keyboards that was possessed of as much attitude as it was detectable musical competence. One uses the word guardedly, but "highlights" of this period were included on the 1994 archive release Live, Rare & Unreleased 1974-1976.

By mid-1976 the Stranglers already had enough force behind them to be booked as opening act at the Ramones' first London show, and Mark P., editor of the newly launched punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue, conferred further punk approval on the band when he wrote, "their sound is 1976...the Stranglers are a pleasure to boogie to -- sometimes they sound like the Doors, other times like Television, but they've got an ID of their own." Further prestige accompanied the band's opening slot for Patti Smith in October -- and that despite most of the audience walking out long before the band left the stage; by the time the band set out on their own first U.K. tour, they had signed with UA (A&M in America) and were preparing to record their debut album with producer Martin Rushent.

"(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)," the Stranglers' debut single, made the lower reaches of the Top 50; Rattus Norvegicus, their first album, confirmed the group as one of the fastest developing bands on the entire scene -- even as the scene itself still puzzled over whether the Stranglers even belonged on board. "Old hairy misogynists" was a common accusation to fling in their direction, and it was one which the Stranglers themselves delighted in encouraging. In a more PC climate, their first U.K. Top Ten hit, summer 1977's "Peaches," would never even have been written, let alone recorded, while the bandmembers' reputation as sexual bad boys was only exacerbated by other songs in their repertoire: "London Lady," "Bring on the Nubiles," "Choosy Susie."

The fact that much of their lyrical prowess was built around the darkest hued of black humors never entered many people's minds at the time, but listen again to their finest moments -- "Hangin' Around," "Down in the Sewer," the mindless boogie of "Go Buddy Go," and the sheer vile joys of "Ugly" -- and try to keep an even halfway straight face.

Unfortunately, though the Stranglers themselves reveled in an almost Monty Python-esque grasp of absurdity (and, in particular, the absurdities of modern "men's talk"), there was an undercurrent of violence that not only permeated their music, it also, inevitably, spilled into their live shows. Their fall 1977 British tour was marred by some very ugly scenes, while a trip to Sweden brought them into violent confrontation with the Raggere, that country's equivalent of Britain's punk-hating Teddy Boys. Hugh Cornwell's choice of T-shirts (a Ford logo reworked to read "F*ck") brought the band into conflict with London's local council, while the group's decision to line their stage with topless dancing girls when they played a concert in that city's Battersea Park brought women's groups screaming down on them, too.

Yet despite so much controversy, the Stranglers' grip on the British chart seemed unbreakable. "Peaches" was followed by "Something Better Change" and might easily have been joined by a passionate cover of "Mony Mony" had the band not opted to hide behind the pseudonym of the Mutations, accompanying singer Celia Gollin on the number. (A second Celia & the Mutations single, "You Better Believe Me," followed late in 1977.) "No More Heroes," the driving title track to the Stranglers' second album, was another huge hit, although the album itself was a disappointment -- recorded in a hurry, with little time to write new material, it was largely comprised of older songs that had been passed over for Rattus. Within months, a new Stranglers album was on the streets, and this time they got everything right. Black and White was previewed by the hits "Five Minutes" and "Nice'n'Sleazy" (self-mythology in a nutshell), and was swiftly followed by one of the band's finest moments, a murderously slowed-down version of Bacharach/David's "Walk on By."

More importantly, Black and White was the last Stranglers album to even flirt with the socio-sexual shock troop imagery that fired their first records; with the live X Cert album (their first for IRS in America) rounding off 1978 with a final flurry of gruffness, the band was now free to experiment beyond even the most indulgent fan's wildest imaginings.

1979's The Raven saw them moving toward both psychedelia and radio-friendly pop -- "The Duchess," Top 20 that summer, was a classic tune by anybody's standards and, while a flurry of solo activity from Jean Jacques Burnel (The Euroman Cometh) and Hugh Cornwell (Nosferatu) raised rumors that the band was reaching the end of its lifespan, in fact it was their non-musical activities that came closest to bursting the bubble, after Cornwell was sentenced to three months imprisonment for drug possession in January 1980.

The band regrouped following his release and banged out two albums in a year, the concept Meninblack and the extraordinarily ambitious La Folie -- home of their biggest hit single yet, "Golden Brown." It reached number two in Britain, although two other singles from the same album, "Let Me Introduce You to the Family" and "La Folie" itself, contrarily proved among their least successful so far.

"Strange Little Girl," specially recorded for the hits compilation The Collection 1977-1982, returned the band to the Top Ten the following summer and, having moved from UA to Epic, the Stranglers rounded out 1982 with the "European Female" single and Feline album, defiantly pop-heavy albums flavored by the group's own special take on the then-prevalent synthesizer sounds. This phase of the band's development reached a nadir of sorts with 1984's Aural Sculpture, the least engaging of their albums to date, and the least successful -- it faltered at number 14, with the exquisite "Skin Deep" single drawn up one place lower.

Two years of near silence followed, punctuated only by a succession of under-performing British 45s -- American releases were even rarer. "Nice in Nice," a commentary on a six-year-old misadventure in the French city of that name, "Always the Sun," "Big in America," and "Shakin' Like a Leaf," drawn from the 1986 album Dreamtime, ensured the band remained very much a sideshow into the late '80s, but 1988 finally brought a massive turnaround in their fortunes. That January, a wildly churning cover of the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" powered the Stranglers back into the Top Ten, to be followed by a new live album of the same name.

Another long silence followed but, sticking with covers, the Stranglers were back to their best with ? & the Mysterians' "96 Tears" in early 1990, a taster for the album 10. A second hits collection, Greatest Hits 1977-1990, stuffed stockings across Europe that Christmas, but any serious attempt at a lasting revival was stymied by the departure of Cornwell for a solo career. He was replaced by John Ellis, a former member of fellow pub-to-punk graduates the Vibrators, and Sniff 'n' the Tears frontman Paul Roberts, and the new-look Stranglers re-emerged on the China indie in early 1992.

A new album, Stranglers in the Night, appeared that fall, together with the minor hit "Heaven or Hell"; by year's end, however, drummer Jet Black, too, had departed. He was replaced by Tikake Tobe and, in this form, the group recorded yet another live album, Saturday Night Sunday Morning, before Black returned for 1995's About Time. The group's studio set Coup de Grace was issued in 1998, after which Ellis left the band, to be replaced by Baz Warne. Their next album, Norfolk Coast, was a surprise success in 2004, spawning a Top 40 hit in "Big Thing Coming." After this record, Roberts departed and the group released Suite XVI in 2006. Six years later, they put out their 17th album, Giants.

Each of their UA/Epic albums was reissued with generous helpings of bonus tracks, while 1992 saw the release of a classic 1977 live show, Live at the Hope & Anchor, together with a collection of the band's (surprisingly inventive) 12" singles and a fabulous box set drawn from the 1976-1982 period, The Old Testament. Further live albums have since appeared, as has a remarkable document of the band's three BBC sessions, from 1977 and 1982.

That it is those earliest years that remain the Stranglers' most popular is not surprising -- from bad-mannered yobs to purveyors of supreme pop delicacies, the group was responsible for music that may have been ugly and might have been crude -- but it was never, ever boring. That people are still offended by it only adds to its delight -- if rock & roll (especially punk rock & roll) was meant to be pleasant, it would never have changed the world, after all. The fact that much of the Stranglers' message was actually hysterically funny -- as they themselves intended it to be -- only adds to their modern appeal. And the fact that their fans are still called upon to defend them only proves what humorless zeroes their foes really were.AMG.
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Kleiton & Kledir - Kleiton & Kledir 1980

Kleiton e Kledir are two brothers from the South region of Brazil who achieved national success still living in their hometown, a singular deed in a country which revolves around two cities, Rio de Janeiro RJ and São Paulo SP, and, more recently, Recife BA. With a style that blends their bucolic origins and the urban setting, they are completing 30 years together, having had several national hits. Their first musical experience was in the group Almôndegas, formed in 1972. The group achieved success, performing shows and appearing in TV programs. After the recording of their first LP in 1975 and the success of "Canção da Meia-noite," included in the soundtrack of the soap opera Saramandaia, Almôndegas split in the late '70s. Kleiton e Kledir had success in the last TV Tupi festival with "Maria Fumaça," recording their first solo LP Kleiton e Kledir in 1980. "Deu Pra Ti," from the second album, released in the next year, also was a hit. Other hits by the duo included "Vira Virou," "Fonte da Saudade," and others. In 1989 they tried to follow separate solo careers, but teamed again in 1996, recording Dois (1997), followed by Clássicos do Sul (1999). AMG.
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Céu - Caravana Sereia Bloom 2012

Caravana Sereia Bloom, the third album in seven years from Brazilian singer and songwriter Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças (aka Céu), sounds dramatically different than the breezy, electronically washed 21st century bossa and samba of her previous offerings. Both earlier efforts were influenced by the electronic music of Thievery Corporation, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and even Röyksopp, as well as the classic era of jazzy bossa and samba. Working with producer Gui Amabis, Caravana Sereia Bloom is a much more expansive and ambitious recording. Born from ideas incurred during an extended road trip through her native country, from São Paulo to the nation's northeastern region, and the inspiration of the road movie Bye Bye Brazil, it reflects -- musically -- much of what she heard in her travels, and has more in common with the ambitious, experimental spirit of the tropicalia era without being self-conscious. While Caravana Sereia Bloom is easily the most stripped-down record she's cut, it is also her most contemporary. Céu and Amabis employ programming and electronic sounds throughout; the emphasis here is on guitars, basses, drums, keyboards from synths to Wurlitzer, reeds, winds, and brass. No two tracks seem to come from the same root universe, but all reflect the fleeting sensations of life on the road. The funky carnivalesque jazz samba in opener "Falta de Ar" contrasts mightily with the neo-psychedelic surf guitar chicha of "Amor de Antigos." The ska-inflected cumbia of "Asfalto e Sal," with its bass drums, flutes, and hypnotic bassline, is an album highlight. "Contravento" is a rhythm collision of samba, lambada, and cumbia. It's among the most driving tracks here and colored beautifully by a multi-tracked tenor sax, B-3, percussion loops, drums, a taut bassline, and pulsing guitars. "You Won't Regret It," one of three English-language tracks here, is a cover of a vintage rocksteady tune featuring gorgeously layered vocals, trumpet, flügelhorn, sampled tuba, and grand rhythmic interplay. "Baile de Ilusão" melds 21st century brega and cumbia in a heady, sensual mix with a lovely melodic frame. "Fffree" is an abstract, completely solo tune, on which Céu plays organ, guitar, and bass and sings a brief, airy poem about the liberating quality of rootlessness. The 13 tracks on Caravana Sereia Bloom reveal an artist who is pushing the envelope of MPB, and is taking no prisoners in the process. AMG.
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Nina Simone - Forever Young, Gifted And Black Songs of Freedom 1966-67 (2006)

Forever Young, Gifted & Black: Songs of Freedom and Spirit is a textbook case for preparing a compilation by a single artist, thematically. These 11 tracks were recorded between 1967 and 1969, at the split seam in cultural and political history, where the African-American civil rights movement ceded its popularity -- among young people -- to the more visceral and visual Black Power movement. As an artist, Nina Simone was a presence and participant in both. Her influence continues to be an anchor and an inspiration to songwriters and singers from Alicia Keys (who wrote a short liner essay here) to Tracy Chapman, Robinella, Me'Shell NdegéOcello, and Lauryn Hill, to name a few. The compilation contains a smattering of her many songs that deal with struggle, equality, and perseverance. It opens with "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," issued as a single in 1969 (the CD is bookended by this version and a live one at the end). The song itself is timeless; it rings with assertiveness and conviction nearly four decades later. But this is merely the beginning. There are three unedited performances here, all of which were originally cut and reshaped by producers for various recordings. The first of these, "Why (The King of Love Is Dead)," was written by her bassist, Gene Taylor, after hearing that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The previously issued version was part of the "Martin Luther King Suite." Here, it contains full spoken and sung sections and is nearly 13 minutes long. To call it stunning and revelatory would be an understatement. Ditto the full version of "Mississippi Goddam," which was also part of the aforementioned suite. This is the first time either of these recordings have appeared on CD in full unedited versions. Likewise, "Revolution (Pts. 1-2)" is restored as one tune instead of two as it appeared on To Love Somebody in 1969. A couple of unreleased alternates are fine touches and offer different shadings, colors, and interpretive gestures to their album-issued counterparts: Simone's wonderful read of "Turn! Turn! Turn!," stripped to her voice, piano, and a pair of backing vocalists; and "Ain't Got No/I Got Life," cut for 'Nuff Said!, which contains a horn section. Other tracks here, such as Simone's reading of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," are strident, forceful, soulful, and deeply moving. Fans will want this comp for the unreleased material and for its thematic slant. Those seeking out Simone for the first time may look to other sources, but this is a side of the artist that was present in everything she ever recorded, and deserves the focus it receives here. In these dark times in the early 21st century, these are songs of hope delivered by a true American original. AMG.
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V.A. - Together Brothers feat. Barry White (OST) 1974

Barry White's soundtrack to the 1974 blaxploitation film Together Brothers doesn't match the quality of classic efforts like Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, Isaac Hayes' Shaft, or Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man, but it is an appealing and welcome release all the same. Mayfield's and Gaye's soundtracks, in particular, benefited from solid material throughout, whereas White's soundtrack does suffer from some plodding moments; "You Got Case" and "Stick Up" recycle past funk grooves, while the main theme "Somebody Is Gonna Off the Man" is ineffectively reconfigured throughout. An eerie, Morricone-style whistling and harp interlude on "Killer's Lullaby" intrigues at first but falters with a thin arrangement. The lightness of tone and many string-laden numbers on Together Brothers shouldn't be a surprise, though, since they reflect White's romantic soul style: ghetto streets flowing with champagne. In fact, on a majority of the tracks, White's spacious and silky arrangements and the Love Unlimited Orchestra's adroit backing are substantial enough to offset the album's weaker moments. The vocal version of "Somebody Is Gonna Off the Man" and the soundtrack's one hit "Honey, Please Can't You See" are classic examples of White's pop-soul style, while mood numbers like "So Nice to Hear" and "Can't Seem to Find Him" benefit from strong and varied arrangements; the latter features an effective three-way collage of funk, noir ambience, and orchestral bombast. Together Brothers is a must for dedicated White fans and a respectable title in the blaxploitation soundtrack catalog. AMG.
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George Thorogood & The Destroyers - The Baddest of George Thorogood & The Destroyers 1992

The aptly-titled The Baddest of George Thorogood and the Destroyers offers a dozen tracks that cleanse the church of rock'n'roll of all but its most basic elements: guitar, bass, drums, and a pile of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Rolling Stone licks. Delaware's George Thorogood has never quite captured his wildman live presence in the studio, but having all his best material gathered on one disc -- including "Bad to the Bone," "Move It on Over," and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" -- makes for a great party. Steve Morse's liner notes are brief but, like the songs, get right to the point ... cut to the bone, you might say. AMG.
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terça-feira, 3 de abril de 2012

Psi Com - Psi Com 1985

Psi Com had existed before a pre-Jane's Addiction Perry Farrell answered an ad in a Los Angeles weekly newspaper. However, it wasn't until he joined in early 1983 that things got rolling. Guitarist Vince Duran was already in place at the time of Farrell's entrance into the group. With the addition of drummer Aaron Sherer and bassist Kelly Wheeler, they recorded their sole effort, a 1985 self-titled EP. In September of that same year, the band split up.

Originally, a man named Rich, his wife Marisca, a man named Terry, and Duran comprised what was known as Psi Com. Being without a drummer, they placed a classified ad in the free weekly L.A. newspaper The Recycler. Farrell responded to the ad, not with the intention of becoming the group's drummer but instead as the singer. Rich agreed to let Farrell into the band as the vocalist in early '83. The ad for a drummer was left in The Recycler however, because the band was still practicing with the aid of a drum machine. Terry soon left the band and was followed closely by Rich and Marisca, who had personal differences with Farrell.

Shortly after the departure of the couple, Sherer called Farrell in response to the ad for a drummer. When Sherer finally joined Duran and Farrell, the trio played their first big show, opening for The Cult at L.A.'s Music Machine Club in the latter part of '84.

When '85 hit, the group realized that they needed a bass player to fill out the bottom end of their sound. As a result, they recruited their friend Wheeler, who moved into a house with Farrell near the University of Southern California.

In March of '85, Psi Com made plans to release a five-song, 12-inch EP. The band entered Radio Tokyo Studios in Venice, CA that spring and cut the songs "Xiola," "Human Condition," "Ho Ka Hey," "Words" and "City of Nine Gates." Ethan James manned the boards for the sessions, which lasted for one weekend. James was known for producing seminal punk group the Minutemen's most popular album Double Nickels on the Dime.

In July, Psi Com had 1,500 copies of their self-titled EP produced to release on their own label, Mohini. When the records were delivered from the pressing plant, the band was in shock, as more than half of the EPs were warped. Frustrated by the experience, the band drifted apart musically and personally, and by September, Psi Com was no more.

After the break-up, Farrell was still living in the house that he had shared with Wheeler. Farrell's new housemate -- a girl only known as Jane -- introduced him to her friend Eric Avery, who became the bassist in Farrell's new band, Jane's Addiction.

Wheeler spent his time performing with musician Dino Paredes, a bass player and vocalist from bands such as Berlin and the Red Temple Spirits. Duran and Sherer lessened their involvement with bands and only performed part-time with local L.A. groups. However, Sherer did go on to play drums on Mazzy Star's 1996 album Among My Swan. AMG.
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Ozric Tentacles - The Floor's Too Far Away 2006

When asked where to start in the Ozric Tentacles intimidating discography, it's safe to suggest a couple of key albums (Erpland, for instance) and 2004's Spirals in Hyperspace. You might have to make an exception for The Floor's Too Far Away, though. Without getting downright bad, the follow-up to Spirals gets too generic in some places, and too Eat Static in others. The biggest offenders are "Jellylips" and "Splat!," two dancefloor-ready, thumping techno tracks that seem to have chosen the wrong album to land on; they clearly belong to Ed Wynne's more electronic guises. On the other hand, there are a handful of very good pieces. "Bolshem" starts as a slow-rising opener, but after a couple minutes of synthesizer sweeps, it explodes into a typical Ozric romp that ends a minute later. It's a stunningly short (and effective) take on the group's M.O. Another highlight is "Etherclock," where Ed turns into a guitar shredder, to great effect. And "Disdots" is pure Ozric Tentacles, blistering with slithery basslines, cosmic synths, and driving drums. For this one and a few more, Brandi Wynne and Matt "Metro" Shmigelsky join forces with Ed. Merv Pepler also makes an appearance on "Armchair Journey." Elsewhere, it's all Ed Wynne all the time. Schoo, Seaweed, and mostly John Egan and his thousand ethnic flutes are out of the picture, which seems to streamline the project's sound even more than before. The Floor's Too Far Away is a hit and miss affair. AMG.
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Quiet World - The Road 1970

Quiet World was an English band that included Steve Hackett on guitar, his younger brother John Hackett on flute, Gill Cilbert on vocals, Lea and Neil Heather composers, John Heather composer, acoustic guitar and vocals, Sean O'Mally on drums, Eddy Hines flute and sax, Dick Driver string bass and electric bass, Phil Henderson arranger, piano, trumpet, organ, recorder and vocals.

They released their debut album The Road in 1970. Shortly thereafter, Steve Hackett left to join the progressive rock group Genesis as lead guitarist. Thanks to ChrisGoesRock!
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